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Examine the Files

1

The introductions

There were too many reasons for Sharon to be there, reviewing files, looking over profiles. She did not work for the U.S. government, however. And it was not as if they wanted her. “Wasn’t there someone else in the Bureau they could have used?” she thought as she tried to process all of this information. Sharon worked as a researcher and analyst for software companies, and had the opportunity through work to travel. She was also an avid reader, which did not make her, well, a hot date. She avidly read and always questioned the government. So she took the chance to travel when she wanted to, and she got the chance to read stories at her leisure about what the government seemed to be covering up. She knew they were just stories. She thought that they had to be. There was a part of her that knew that there could be no evidence to support any of these stories.
Which made her current position in life confuse her. The Federal Bureau of Investigations wanted to take her from her job, pay her more, and give her only a brief amount of time to learn about who she was going to be the assistant of. She knew full well the name “Fox Mulder”, she knew that most people thought of him as a man with nothing else on his mind other than bogey man from outer space. She had read of him at length before; she knew about his longing to find his sister, who disappeared in what looked like (in his opinion) an extra-terrestrial experience. She had learned of “spooky” from past readings, but she gathered that the people that wanted her had only wanted her intellectual mind and her reasoning ability.
The F.B.I. gave her one more piece to the puzzle. In reading about Fox Mulder, she never knew about his partner, Dana Scully, because his partner was only mentioned minimally. She learned from reading that Dana Scully was originally going to medical school, and that Dana had the intellect and the engineering ability to contradict the majority of Fox Mulder’s arguments. The reason why the F.B.I. needed Sharon, however, was because Dana Scully quit the F.B.I..
It wasn’t as if she wanted to leave working with agent Mulder, it was just that there was too much for her to be going through considering her sometimes perilous situations and her fear of what dangers she put her own family through. Which, from the notes she received to read from the F.B.I., was all that she could gather.
So the F.B.I. needed someone else, someone to fill the shoes of Dana Scully, so to speak. Someone that was intelligent, someone that did not know the nickname “Spooky”, and someone that had no opinions about extra-terrestrial existence. Well, Sharon knew of the nickname “Spooky”. And her opinions about extra-terrestrial existence, were, well, difficult do make concrete and verbalize. Well, Sharon had her own set of opinions on life in outer space, but she thought that this was something that the government did not need to know about. In the mean time she would read more about Mulder.
He hated his first name. She inferred that in some of the articles she had read about him in the past, but she knew from reading now that Scully and Mulder referred to each other by last name only. When Sharon had access to some of their files in doing her research, she learned about Scully’s bout with cancer and her potential inability to have children. And Sharon learned about Scully’s sister dying in a shooting accident as well. Sharon was gathering that Scully had been through a lot, and that even for an F.B.I. agent, maybe Scully got to the point where she did not want to put herself through any more danger. Sharon also learned that Mulder and Scully never dated. This amazed her. Sharon saw photographs of Scully, even from her F.B.I. badge, and she was a pretty woman.
She looked at Scully’s personal information listed for a moment. She was short, Sharon thought. Being tall was always a problem Sharon had, she could never wear heels, and she was often taller than her male dates.
She tried to keep her mind focused on her new job, and her new research. She thought for a moment about whether or not she would have to placate Mulder when she met him, or if she would have to prove herself to him. While she continued trying to learn, a few agents walked into the room.
“Special agent Damen, would you like to meet your new partner?” one announced. Sharon stood up, tried to act as professional as she could. She started a slight smile as she answered, “Yes, thank you.” The agents told her as they took her though a maze of hallways that Mulder was usually late for appointments, and today was not an exception. They told him to show up in agent Skinner’s office at ten in the morning, and it was approaching noon.
This was when she started feeling like the new kid on the block. She followed two other agents as they guided her to Skinner’s office. There was a receptionist there, but no one else waiting to see agent Skinner. Sharon knew as she walked down the halls of this building that she should not be here, that it just seemed too easy for her to get a job here.
She looked up when she heard the door sliding open for Skinner’s office. She was getting used to referring to people by their last names here, looking at the way Mulder and Scully referred to each other. She thought it was funny, that she didn’t even really get the chance to talk to him in the past, and she is already referring to him in her own mind by his last name. Sharon looked at him and started to show a grin. She noted that the man working on a few papers at a desk in the office was an older man, and he looked somewhat disinterested in the fact that Sharon walked into the room.
Skinner looked up from what he was doing. “Sorry your new partner kept you waiting. I got off the phone with him just a minute ago, and he said he was walking right over.”
“That’s not a problem,” Sharon answered. “And if there is anything you need from me, please let me know.” Skinner looked up and started to smile. He wasn’t used to people being so courteous to him in his office. A small intercom beeped from his desk. The receptionist in the front room said that Mulder was here. Skinner told her to let Mulder in. Sharon thought for a brief moment that this was her last opportunity to try to make sure that the first impression she left on him was not terrible. She straightened her jacket. She tucked her dark hair behind her left ear.
The door swung open. A man walked in that matched what she had seen in photographs. He seemed a bit tense to her, that he had something else on his mind. She also thought that he was good looking. Scully must have had a hard time not dating him. Then again, Scully looked like a good-looking woman from the photographs Sharon saw; Mulder must have had a hard time not dating her. Well, this would be something she would have to learn more about through him in time.
Mulder walked in and looked at both Sharon and Skinner. Sharon thought for a moment that she would have to get used to being called “agent Damen”. or just “Damen”. Skinner broke the silence and started to speak first. “Special agent Mulder, I wanted to call you in to take this chance to introduce you to agent Sharon Damen.” Skinner stepped back and looked at Sharon. “agent Damen, this is agent Mulder.”
Sharon couldn’t read Mulder’s face. She stretched her hand out, in an effort to make the introduction more formal. He shook her hand back and started to smile faintly.
“It is a pleasure to meet you, Mulder,” Sharon spoke, and Mulder replied, “Likewise. Want to see the office we’ll be working from?”
Sharon smiled and answered yes before she turned to look to Skinner for approval. “You two get out of here. You have some work to start her on, Mulder?” Skinner asked. “There’s something I’ve gotten a few calls on that I would like to look into. Maybe Damen can help me out,” Mulder retorted as he took a step toward the door. Sharon spoke to Skinner before she left the office with Mulder. “Thank you for this opportunity to meet him, Skinner. I’m sure he will have me to work in no time.” Sharon turned to the door and followed Mulder out the door.
He led her through a few hallways to an elevator when he said that the X files were usually shoved into the basement because no one in the F.B.I. wanted to take them seriously. They actually walked into the basement (she thought he was kidding when he made the basement reference) and he walked in first into their office space. There was a single desk, a lot of file cabinets, and a poster on the back wall that said “The Truth Is Out There”. She tried to soak in all she could about the office, knowing that this would be where she would spend the majority of her time.
“It seems dark in here,” Sharon said, knowing she would need to read a lot in there.
“It’s Damen, right?”
“Yes.”
“I usually use last names. I’m not a fan of first names. I hate my own first name, even.”
Sharon was getting that there was at least some joviality in his voice and that he wasn’t trying to close her off entirely to working with him. “Gotcha,” she answered, trying to act a bit more friendly in how she talked.
She didn’t know how to address him, or how comfortable he felt with her. She felt very awkward at times. He continued showing her parts of the office, and explained to her that they would probably be out of the office most of the time when they are actually “working”.
Mulder spoke again about the first work they had to do. “There are some people I have to meet up with tonight, about something that was missing last week from the Arreltown murder scene. It might be something worth following. Do you want to work with me on that one?”
“Sure, I can update myself on what has been going on with the murders and the crime reports and anything you have on it as well.”
“Great. But I think something else is in order before we can do a ton of work on this.”
Sharon paused for a moment. “What?”
Mulder told her about a bar and restaurant that was about a mile from where their office was, and that if they needed lunch he could get the chance to learn more about her. She agreed. They left within fifteen minutes for food.
They grabbed a booth at Tony’s diner to get some food when they arrived for lunch. There were two pool tables at the other side of the diner. It was approaching one in the afternoon by the time they sat down.
“So you weren’t an agent before this, right?”
“No,” Sharon answered. “I was doing research for a software company.”
“Why did you choose to leave?”
“Better pay, actually. I know that sometimes working for the government doesn’t pay well, but I was getting paid so poorly where I was before. And the subject matter fascinated me.”
“Yeah, I think they picked you because of the research you do. They need someone to ground me.”
“Well, I’m not trying to ground you, Mulder. I probably inherently agree with more of what you are striving for than the agents that took me on knew.”
The chips and salsa came for them to start nibbling on. “But I want to hear more about you,” Damen said. “How are you doing after all the changes that have been going on with you field at work?
Damen started eating a chip while Mulder answered. “You’ll have to be more specific than that, Damen. If you have a question, ask it.”
Sharon paused to finish her chip before asking. “Why did Scully leave?”
She knew at that moment she caught him off guard. “You should have known I would ask that question eventually.”
“I didn’t think you’d ask it so fast,” Mulder answered.
“You mean, on the first day?”
Mulder smiled. He paused, the way Sharon did before, before he started talking about her. “Now, you’ve got to promise me, Damen, that we’ll play a game of pool if I tell you.”
“My dad used to have a pool table,” Sharon told him.
“Well, usually I’m a better shot when I’m drinking. Don’t ask me why on that one, but I’ll have to prove I can beat your ass at pool after meeting up with Swanson tonight. We’re supposed to be meeting him at a bar anyway.”
She knew it wasn’t a date, but she thought this would be a good chance to get to know Mulder better. She took him up on his offer and he started thinking of what to say about Scully.
“Scully wanted to contradict me with reason all the time,” Mulder explained as they were served their food. “But I always replied that there are things that science cannot yet explain, and that with every decade that does by we learn more and can explain more. She had the background to test theories scientifically, so in a way she kept me grounded.”
“Your alter-ego, in a way?”
“In a way. She did always wear a cross around her neck, though, that her mother gave her, and it always stated to me that people can go out on a limb for their own faith.”
“That faith inherently means that there is no reason involved.,” Damen answered.
“And your beliefs on religion?” Mulder asked.
“I’m an atheist, but I believe that religion can be a very useful tool to keep people from doing bad all the time,” Damen answered. “But I thought I was asking the questions, and you were answering.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll get to meet Scully sometime in the next few weeks, because I try to convince to her come back to the F.B.I. when I see her. You can see how we work together then. But in the meantime,” Mulder said as he pushed his plate away from his seat the the booth, “You owe me a game of pool.”
Sharon smiled. It had been a while since she had played, but she thought she could still hold her own. She started to get up as Mulder signalled to the waitress that they were going to the pool table.
Sharon started thinking about it. In these circles, she would have to get used to thinking of herself as “Damen”. Sounded like Damien, and it was only one letter off. Sharon. Damen. She walked over to the pool table to play a game with Mulder. She knew, just from her first day of work, that this was going to be a fun ride. There was a lot of work to do, and a lot to learn, and maybe Mulder would trust her enough to let her work with him. Only time would tell, as she broke for their game Mulder set up. “That was a good break,” Mulder noted. As she thought before, this was going to be a fun ride.
Mulder’s cellular phone rang while they were playing. She listened while she was shooting pool. When he got off the phone, Damen said, “So we’re supposed to be meeting him at 6:30, later than you had originally said, and he has more paperwork to verify what he was talking about.”
Mulder looked up. “You were listening?”
“I know I’m the new employee, but I’ve got a photographic memory,” Damen answered. “You know that the photos he had could very well be doctored, even in a darkroom before they ever get to photographic paper. I used to do that kind of work myself in the darkroom.”
“I know. Damn, there is a part of you that’s like Scully.”
“Well, don’t let that get around,” Damen answered. “It also helps that I was a photography minor in college.” She paused before telling Mulder the table was his. “And yes, the table is yours, and you better get to work, because I’m about to win the game.”
Mulder looked at the table while she picked up her net cellular phone and dialed one of her friends. “Yeah, hi, Steve, it’s me, Sharon. I was wondering if you could do me a favor.” She paused to let him talk before she continued on the phone. “Well, I need as much information pulled that you can muster up for me on the murders that have been going on at Arreltown, and I would also like you to rummage through any info you can Get on Eric Swanson.”
She paused again with the phone. “No, it’s just someone I have to meet up with, so I want to know in advance what I’m getting into.”
Mulder finished his shots while she got off the phone. “How did you know Swanson’s name was Eric?”
Damen answered, “You referred to him as Eric once in the conversation on the phone earlier.” She looked at the pool table. “You left one ball of each of ours on the table. And by the way, My friend is e-mailing me info about the murders and Eric this afternoon. We’ll see what he comes up with in the next two or three hours.”
He made his final shot, hitting the four ball into the side pocket. She left the cue ball in a perfect line with the eight ball for the pocket. Damen called her pocket and made the shot. “Maybe you’ll prove me wrong another time with pool,” Damen said, “but we’ve got to get back to work now. I can start researching this all this afternoon and get ahead of things.” They both reached into their wallets for bills for lunch and left to go back to the office.
Damen sat at the laptop computer that was handed to her, down from the computer that Scully used while she was working. She was able to get on line to her personal account as well as her governmental accounts and she had a stack of information waiting for her about both the murder problems and Eric Swanson. She read information for two hours. “Five people killed,” Damen said. “And the police don’t have an idea for a motive.”
“Well, this Swanson said he managed to get some pictures of-”
“Wait,” Damen demanded to make sure that she could gather information without having it fed to her through Mulder’s tinted glasses. Mulder stopped and looked at her for a moment, as if she seemed like she actually was Scully. She wasn’t trying to be Scully. She was just trying to make sure she could keep her soul in tact through this introduction period with Mulder. She paused and waited until Mulder stopped before she would start talking about her theories and what she had learned. “I know people say they saw a light source from right behind the house. That night, a lot of things could have caused that light to appear. I know what you’re going to think it was. It could even be something much more directed to the actual murder. So for the moment I am going to put the ‘Mulder Theory’ on hold.” Damen paused. Mulder leaned forward in his chair and got a bag of sunflower seeds to eat while he listened. Damen saw him do this and knew that if he was not even going to stop her when she had paused, she must have earned some respect somehow from him. “Now, there has also been a theory or two going on about an occasional noise near the main hole cover on the south-west side of the house. This could very possibly be something worth pursuing, whether or not it was a non-human doing the sludge-snooping on the night of the murder. It is definitely something to consider. But I have been reading over these reports from the police departments talking about who has to be the likely candidate for this act, and is it an act of serial killing. They have a couple of people up for it, and there is one thing I have noticed in their lists of men and their victims. Remembering how a map works, there are only a few people from the police reporter’s and police lists that can come close, but we still don’t have a motive. We do have a motive if someone drove them to do this, though. Only two out of the thirteen people on this list have religious ties... The one thing that I noticed was that one of the men, who knew these women, worked in a record store. He was a manager.”
Mulder looked at her when she paused for a long enough period of time. “And?” he finally said. “Being a record store manager doesn’t make you want to kill people.”
Damen smiled. “It depends on what his musical tastes were. I e-mailed the friend I called earlier and asked him to send me anything he could about this Thompson guy from the list. Thompson used to be in a band, used to dabble in drugs in his younger years, nothing like an addictive person or personality or addiction here. The band work that he was doing died a couple of years ago and he lost contact with some of his friends and became more obsessed with generating electronic music and listening to artists that didn’t even have the money to produce albums anymore.
Mulder waited for the pause long enough to speak. “So what are we talking here, “techno” music?”
“The material Thompson was generating was partially sampled, partially electronic, and partially classical. He owned a few instruments and could actually play very well. He liked being able to put in a bass line that could potentially damage your ear drum. My friend couldn’t even find anything out about the bands that Thompson listened to since.”
Mulder had to ask. “Who is this friend of yours anyway?”
“Oh, it’s a friend of mine. Steve. Talented. A computer geek. He can find out what the cops aren’t telling you most of the time. So I had a theory - and it’s a long shot, but I could try it -”
“Oh, do tell,” Mulder said in a bad voice, mocking her attempt to get more information.
“Steve was going to e-mail me back and tell me if this Dave Thompson shops, or if he goes to bars. If it was a bar, I could do this with no problem - just try to talk to him, tell him I hate this music, what does he listen to, you know, that kind of talking. See if he’ll tell me anything. It’s worth a try, if he even goes out in public.”
Mulder leaned back in his chair again and stopped himself from shoving more sunflower seeds into his mouth. “So are you going to suggest to me that we may have a musical murderer on our hands?”
“Well, it is my first day, and you don’t let me finish, and you don’t have to be hard on me.”
“So then, what is it about this music? He hits just the right chords to make him want to kill?”
“It could always be a biological reaction to certain combination of chords playing. He has even created a few in instruments on his own, according to what I have read. It could be something that only certain people have a certain reaction to when hearing this music by these other artists that nobody else even wants to listen to. It could be a chemical combination between something he ate or was given to him as he grew up, combined with the music.” Damen paused. Mulder just stared at her.
“Well, it could be any of that,” Damen said, to fill the void of silence. Damen’s cellular phone rang.
Sharon talked on the phone for a minute, then handed her phone over to Mulder. “It’s Scully,” Damen said. She turned back to her computer to see if she had any follow-up information in where this potential murderer hung out. Or if there was any additional information on the bands he liked, while Mulder talked. She tried not to think about the way that Mulder’s voice didn’t change at all when he talked on the phone with Scully. She barely got any opinion of Scully in the amount of time she got on the phone with her.
Mulder got off the phone. “Scully and I were going to meet after I got off work Friday. If you want to come, you are more than welcome.”
Damen paused. “If you want me there.” She paused. “I can show up late, if you want to talk to Scully at all without me around.”
Mulder looked up at her. “You know, in some ways you are like her, and in some ways you are different. You’re analytical, you’ve got a tinge of red in your hair -”
“My hair is brown, it just turns red when it starts to get light in the sun. And I’m not as short as she is -”
“I know, I said you were different. You’re coming up with an idea that I probably would have only thought about later in the game. We can have people here checking on whether or not those victims bought anything recently from that music store, giving them a closer link. And your willingness to go out to try to talk to this guy if he goes out -”
“Well, if we need to get information, he may be our best source, and Steve e-mailed me that he goes to a corner bar from his house after his late shift on Thursdays.”
“Well, Scully would never have stated she could go to a bar and do some detective work. That was my point about your differences.”
Damen paused. “Well, today is Wednesday, so I can go to that bar after he gets off of work. Your call.”
Neither spoke. Damen had to break the silence again. “And I don’t know if you trust me yet, Mulder, and I don’t know if you think I have motives in destroying you through working with you.”
Mulder popped the last of his sunflower seeds into his mouth. “Well, you’ve got some damn good ideas, and you’re willing to follow up on them. Maybe I could battle you at pool at the bar tomorrow.”
“Or we do do that after you meet with Eric Swan tonight. They have a pool table where we’re all meeting, right?”
Mulder started to smile again. Damen knew that she was developing trust with him, whether or not Mulder would vocally admit it. She also knew that she would get her chance to meet Scully.
And that she should buy some sunflower seeds to leave in the office for when Mulder runs out. And that she could beat him at pool whenever she wanted.
Tension mounted, the first case was solved, and Damen waited to meet Scully.


2

Finishing a Case and Feeling the Tension
Tension mounted, the first case was solved, and Damen waited to meet Scully.

Damen told Mulder that instead of going with him to the bar, she would go home and try to get a little work done before meeting up with Eric Swanson.
***
Then, suddenly, without explanation, all she could think was that it was strange when it started to happen to her. She didn’t know how this had come to be; all she knew was that everything was happening all at once. She was bending over to shoot a game at one of their rounds of pool and Mulder came up from behind and brushed his hip along hers. Damen stopped her shot and looked up at him.
“Oh,” Mulder said while he was holding back a smile, “did I interrupt you?”
Damen looked at him for only a brief moment and went back to preparing for her shot. Mulder let her prepare for a little while longer before he spoke again. “Because I wouldn’t want to do anything to spoil your shot,” he finally said.
She realized that Mulder was trying to play a game with her, to screw up her ability to beat him at pool, so she thought she would play along. She stood up and slowly turned herself around to look at him. She kept her head on an angle and let her hair start to fall over her face.
She figured that if Mulder was going to try to use flirtation as a playing card, well, she knew how to play that game well . . . She rested her body weight on one leg, letting her hip show, standing like she was a girl wanting something from a guy, and she said, “Oh, you know I’ve been wanting something.” She looked at him for just a moment longer, letting the tension form in their silence and their stares, before she reached for the chalk for the pool game. Mulder walked over to get and ran his hand along the chalk before she got the chance and then turned back until his eyes met hers. It was as if they were in a room alone, and not that there was a full bar of people there with them.
“There are so many things that feel so good to the touch that we forget about,” Mulder said to her as he kept his voice low. Damen looked at him, knowing that her words would only break the moment. Mulder ran one of his hands along hers, guiding her hand to the chalk. At the same time he reached his other hand behind her neck and leaned toward hers so they could kiss.
The next thing Damen knew was that she and Mulder couldn’t get their hands off each other. He kept one hand at the small of her back and the other hand at the back of her neck while he kissed her. He pulled back from her lips long enough to ask, “Where would you like to go next?”
Damen started think of all of this. Why are they doing this? Yes, he’s cute, but is this going to affect how we work together? Two sides of her brain were having a battle; one wanted her to continue with him, the other knew she should stop. She didn’t know how to answer that question. Her mind started to panic as she looked and saw two different sides of Mulder.
Then she woke up.
***
She got to her home on time from work that evening and went straight to bed. The chaos of her dream and the alarm clock were both making her instantly alert and awake.
And frightened.
She got dressed, noting that she still had time to get ready and stuff a cheese sandwich in her mouth before she met Mulder at the bar Wednesday night. When Mulder noticed that Eric Swanson wasn’t in the bar yet, Damen noted that he didn’t get a beer yet and asked, “What kind of beer do you drink?”
Mulder looked up at her. “Something hard, none of that sweet beer, and after this meeting, when I kick your ass at pool, I’ll be buying the beer.” Damen smiled as she got up to make her was to the bar. Hearing Mulder state that he was going to “kick her ass” at pool that night made her think about her dream before coming out to do work here, instead of doing research the way she said she would.
A stocky man with gray-white hair came up to their table and started talking to Mulder while she got the beers. Damen walked back and tried to understand what passed in the conversation as Swanson handed a manila envelope over to Mulder. “Hope I’m not interrupting,” Damen said as she put the beers down on the table so she could make a formal introduction. Swanson got up to shake her hand as they met.
After introductions were made, Swanson talked to Mulder about what information he had. Damen started looking through the contents of the envelope, knowing that Mulder could fill her in on the conversation later. About half of the contents of the envelope were photographs, poor ones at best, in black and white, of the post-murder scenes. There were a couple testimonies listed where witnesses mentioned when cars circled before the murder that was playing music. She thought that this may be a lead they were looking for, as long as the F.B.I. would be able to follow up on it, define the kind of car it was or what the license plate of the car was, or who was driving the car.
Damen managed to get from Swanson that he occasionally took pictures, and that he has his own darkroom in his house basement. Which made her think that the photos he was supplying were pointless for investigation.
It was nearly eight in the evening when Swanson left, so Damen asked Mulder to give her his opinion of the information. “Well, you had to catch him talking about a car going by before the murder that was playing unrecognizable music.”
“The music could have been his own, if we’re both talking about Dave Thompson,” Damen added. “And a witness or two in the reports Swanson kept here noticed the music as well. Maybe the Bureau can find out anything about the car.”
Mulder paused before speaking. “Well, let me call the Bureau now, to see if they can get any reports on the car or the witnesses. In the meantime “ - he dropped all of his change to the table - “set up a table for a game of pool.”
Damen smiled. They ended up playing pool at the bar for at least two hours, and the more Mulder drank, it was true, the better he actually got at playing pool. They were neck and neck in winning games as they talked about people to talk to in order to solve this case. In the back of Damen’s mind was the fact that Mulder brushed up against her while she was trying to make a shot. It reminded her too much of the dream she had a few hours earlier.
And in the back of her mind she was also thinking about meeting with Thompson tomorrow. She got a scan of his face in the computer from the F.B.I. records of people so she would know who to look for tomorrow at the bar. “Are you thinking of going to the bar tomorrow to see Thompson as well?” Damen asked Mulder.
“I’ll let you know,” Mulder answered. They finished their last game of pool, left a meager tip at the table, and proceeded to their homes, where Sharon would try not to think about all the subjects going on in her mind. What to think about Swanson’s information. How to act around Thompson. Whether to think anything of the possibility of Mulder.
The next day at work was filled with research for Damen to work though, and Mulder continued to work on getting information about the cars that circled the murder scene the day of the murder. He was away from his desk most of the day when his desk phone rang. Damen picked it up. “Agent Damen . . . Yes, hello, no, he has been at another lab most of the day today; is his cellular phone off?” Damen looked over as she said those words and saw that his phone was at the side of his desk and was switched off. She turned it back on. “Yes, he left it here, but if there is anything you would like me to do . . . Well, as far as I knew, Friday was still on for the two of you. Well, he doesn’t have anything listed on his calendar here, but otherwise Saturday seems fine. I can have him get back to you on it . . . It is a pleasure talking to you, Ms. Scully, I would really like the chance to get to know you better . . . Well, thank you, I think I’m free then too, so I could make it with Mulder. I promise, I’ll give him the message and have him call you. Would you want me to look for any additional schedules or calendars he has -” Damen said as she opened a lower file cabinet drawer and found what looked like far-too-personal video tapes, then quickly closed the drawer - “Oh, okay . . . “
Before Damen could say her goodbyes, Mulder walked into the room. She handed him his cellular phone which was turned off and said her good-byes to Scully as she took the stack of files from Mulder’s other hand so he could talk to her.
The most that they could gather from the day was the following:
1. Damen would try to meet up with Dave Thompson that night at a bar near his work,
2. Mulder would not give her an answer as to whether or not he would be at the bar as well,
3. Mulder and Scully and Damen would meet together Saturday morning at around eleven,
4. The police had no leads whatsoever on whom the murderer could be,
5. The music could not be identified from the car that went by the murder scene beforehand, but one of the cars was Dave Thompson’s, and
6. Mulder refused to believe that Damen could beat him at pool.
After she talked to her contacts about getting references to some of the bands that Thompson listened to, and after Mulder contacted some of his friends outside the Bureau about the case (all she could hear was a single name, as she tried to pronounce it phonetically to figure out who it was, “Fro-hic-kee . . . Fro-hic-kee . . . Fro-hic-kee . . . “) she prepared to leave for work and told him that she would be at the Thompson bar at about ten-thirty or even in the evening.
Mulder wished her luck.
She reminded him to call her if he got any information; he told her to do the same.
And so she left.
***
Hours later, after she got some information about what kinds of bands he had listened to, she walked to the bar herself, wondering if Mulder would show up there on chance, even though he earlier over the phone said he was going to work at his apartment for the night. She scanned the room, tried very successfully to look irritated, saw only one man in the corner that looked like Thompson, and she made her way to another nearby corner. She threw her purse on the chair, asked the bartender for a shot of bourbon and a pint of Old Style beer, brushed her bangs out of her face with her fingers, and then sat down. She glanced up only once in passing while the music played on the music box, continued to look irritated, then looked back down as the bartender brought Damen the drinks she ordered.
Damen pulled out a five to cover the drinks, then pulled out all of her quarters to make a choice on the music box. She took the shot of whiskey; she then thought for a moment about drinking the beer to chase it down. She knew that drinking the beer would only make her look like she was trying to cover up the taste, so she waited on drinking until after the made her music choices. Damen passed the pool table and looked at the music selections in the music box. She continued to look disgusted and turned around to make her way back to her seat. When she did, she noticed Thompson looking at her. She thought this was her moment to make her move.
She walked by his seat before she stopped to ask him a question. “Do you like any of the music here?” she asked.
Thompson looked up at her for a moment before he spoke. “I usually come here for a drink only after my last shift at work.”
Damen smiled. She was hoping the “pissed-off” look she was giving was getting her anywhere. “It looks as if your day was worse than mine, so I’ll leave you alone.” Damen walked back to her seat.
She sat at her seat for a while and noticed that this Dave guy would occasionally look at her. There was next to nothing else he could be watching in the bar, so she spoke up at him while she remained seated. “Is this place normally this dead?”
She first talking started their conversation. “Are you normally so angry?” he asked back.
“Tough day at work, a gut interested in me too, and I have to pay rent for the next month.” Damen paused. “And I just wanted to get away to hear some music I liked, and there’s not even any good music here?”
“What are you looking for? I work at a record store.”
Damen thought this was her chance. “Well, there’s ‘Post-Axing’, ‘Weeds and Flowers’ . . . There are other ones that are more acoustic than electronic, but the record stores haven’t carried them for a while.”
Dave’s eyes lit up and he got up to walk closer to her. She stood up when he started to come closer. “Well, I have a few of those in my own collection, and yeah, they haven’t produced an album in a while. You know, I even write music and -”
“Really? Is it anything like the other stuff that I was looking for?”
“Well, I’ve never tried to get a contract or anything, I just like doing it. I even created a few instruments to come up with the right sounds for certain songs, and -”
Damen and Thompson were standing and talking when she noticed Mulder walk into the bar. Thompson had his back to the bar. “Is something wrong - I didn’t even get your name, so . . . “ Damen made a point to not bring identification, in case Thompson found her story out. “I’m Alex.”
Thompson looked at her quizzically. “Alexandria is the full name, and I get nicknames Alex, Allie, Andrea, Andy . . . I like Alex, so that’s what everyone calls me.”
Dave smiled. “Well, I’m Dave, but now you have to answer what the matter is?”
“Oh, I just saw a guy that was interested in me walk into the bar. I don’t think he noticed me, so maybe I won’t have to deal with it.”
Dave turned around to look at Fox when Mulder looked up at them both. Dave turned back to her. “Sorry I turned around and messed it up for you . . . I suppose you’ll have to go over there to talk to him. Sorry.”
Damen paused to look at him before she spoke. “I’ll live. I’ll also be back in a minute, as long as you have a tape of your stuff for me to take with me. And thanks.”
Damen walked toward Mulder and started to speak before he got the chance. “He thinks you’re interested in me, and that is why I was having a bad day and used that as a stepping stone to meet and talk to him. He talked about music and I told him I wanted a tape of his music because he looked at you, making you look at us.”
Mulder looked aver at Thompson. “He’s pulling a tape out of his jacket. If it is his music, what he is creating may be enough to get an analysis on it, which may be enough to ask him in for questioning. “
“If that all happens . . . “ Damen added.
“If that all happens he will be in our custody and we can sample his chemical responses to the music as well.” Mulder looked at her.
“What are you looking at?”
“I don’t know if this all has ever been this easy, solving a murder case. Now . . . Am I supposed to act like I’m interested in you?” Mulder smiled.
Damen thought about the adult tapes he had in the office and his lack of a social life. “Do you know how to even act interested?”
“Who says I would be acting?”
This made her blush before she tried to change the subject. “Any news on what the murdered people bought in the record store?”
“Very light pop. Crap like Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Bette Midler.”
“What, you don’t like that stuff?”
They both smiled. “Well, I should get back to the table. I’ll see how quickly I can get the tape. If you wait here, you may be a reason for me to leave when I get the tape.” Damen stood up and walked back to Dave’s chair, where he lay down after she left him to talk to Mulder.
Mulder could see that Damen got the tape from Thompson, and waited for Damen to leave. Ten minutes after Damen left, Thompson went to the bathroom and Mulder saw from going the bathroom earlier that there was no window to the street level the front door was near, so he left to meet up with her. Damen was waiting in the car, holding the tape in her hand.
“I couldn’t play it, in case it is not a chemical reaction that only certain people can understand.” Mulder looked at her. She looked down at the tape again. “Maybe it makes us all killers.”
“Maybe we should go, so Thompson doesn’t see us.”
Damen drove him to another bar while he called some friends saying that he needed a copy of a tape that he was otherwise bringing to the Bureau. Two friends of Mulder’s met them at the new bar, and they told him they would make two recorded copies without listening to it and return it to him in the bar within two hours.
“So the girl with the car gets stuck into carting you around, huh?” She smiled before he insisted that she go home and he would give her the third copy, the original, in case she was confronted by Dave again.
***
The rest of the next day was spent researching chemical reactions that occur in the brain when specific audible noises are detected. Damen spend most of the day at her computer, and Mulder was waiting for people from the lab to tell him what he already knew the answer was. By the end of the work day they called in Thompson to ask him about the music he was playing and listening to. Due to eyewitness accounts and chemical reactions that are caused with some people and that music, he was being questioned for his accountability during the times of those murders.
He did not have an alibi. Damen and Mulder talked about this over french fries and beers Friday night.
“I noticed Dave saw you when he was first brought in this afternoon.”
“Well, I would have had an alibi, too. You work for the government, and I am a researcher for computer programs. I could tell him enough about the Unix systems alone that you would never think I was wrong.”
“I’m assuming that you wouldn’t be?”
“Exactly.” Damen smiled, and Mulder looked at her as if to ask exactly what she was thinking.
“Yes, I have that much control over my emotions and I am that good of an actress. I think it’s an art.” Mulder smiled with her when she said this.
“Couple that with your good looks and a pretty good job of faking it at pool,” Mulder said as he got up to claim the pool table, “it almost makes you a worthy adversary.”
Damen smiled as he walked away, The rest of the evening was spent the way their other pool session was spent, with him drinking, with her drinking, with his game getting better, with her game getting worse. Occasionally she would see Mulder trying to make a shot that was almost impossible and she would try to talk him through it, through the training she received from a lifetime of having a pool table around. Occasionally he would see Damen attempting a nearly impossible shot; he would comment on it, she would tell him that she is trying harder shots to improve her game. He would watch her try and try to talk her through how a shot should be made.
A handful of times he even stood behind her to practice making a shot. All she could think of when he would do this to her was the tangled web they are weaving, that she has had odd glimpses into his personal life, that she is supposed to have a business relationship with him, and that she is feeling his hip against hers are she is trying to make a shot in pool.
At one point, when Mulder was trying to tell her to lower her body to the table so she would be closer to eye level when making her shot, at that one point all she could feel was his chest against her back and his arms around her arms to make the shot. She turned her head and his face was right next to hers; their lips were only inches apart. She had to consciously think: “don’t let this happen to you, Sharon, don’t make the first move, let him do it -”
When someone hit the table, they were playing on and said, “So are you gonna play pool or what?”
Mulder and Damen both turned and looked at the man at the other end of the table. They had no idea how long they were looking at each other.
And they had no idea who was willing to make the first move.


3

The Meeting, the next case and the intrigue

When Saturday morning rolled around Sharon got dressed two or three times in her apartment, looking for something sensible to wear for her meeting with Mulder and Scully. She knew that Scully was going back into research in medicine and was starting to work at a private doctor’s office; she also knew that Scully had not talked to Mulder about the X files. Sharon still couldn’t figure out if Scully wanted to still be a part of the cases, or if Scully felt anything about Mulder.
Damen knew that she felt things about Mulder herself, even when she knew she shouldn’t.
Damen said she would pick Mulder up at ten so that they could get to the cafe to meet Scully by ten thirty. Damen got a jacket as well as a sweater to throw on over her blouse so she could be prepared for whatever Mulder was wearing for the early lunch. As soon as she pulled up to his apartment she phoned him to let him know she was downstairs. He told her to come up to his apartment. She took the keys out of the ignition and started to make her way to his home to wait for him.
She noted that he lived in apartment 42, which was the answer to the meaning of life that she saw in a movie years ago. She wondered if this number had the same meaning for Mulder. She got to his apartment and knocked. She heard him yell to come in. When she walked in she saw an apartment with no substantial furniture. She saw a basketball on the floor near his desk. She even noted the edges from tape marked in an “x” on the window by his desk. She figured that in time she would ask him about this.
Mulder came stumbling out of his back room with some jeans and a t-shirt on. White. She noted this mentally and decided to wear the sweater instead of the jacket when she got the choice back at her car. Mulder started talking; Damen hardly heard a word, so Mulder finally asked her what she was thinking.
“You don’t spend much time in this place, do you?” she asked as she looked around his apartment. Mulder smiled at her question, knowing she was getting to know him all to well, even when they had only worked together for less than a week, smiled at the thought and then grabbed his jacket and made for the door. Damen followed.
***
As they pulled up to the diner, Mulder said that Scully was there. “How do you know?” Damen asked, and Mulder said he recognized the car she was using.
Mulder and Damen walked into the restaurant, where a hostess waited to seat them Mulder looked around the main room while Damen asked the hostess, “We’re here to meet a Dana Scully. Do you know where she is?” The hostess guided them to her table. Damen noted, after looking at Scully as they walked towards her, that she was seated facing the front of the restaurant so that she could see if they were coming.
Damen let Mulder take the lead in seeing her before she would introduce herself to Scully. They spoke for a brief moment before Scully turned to notice Damen, so Damen spoke.
Dana Scully, it is a pleasure to formally meet you,” Damen said as she extended her arm to greet her with a handshake. “I am Sharon Damen.”
Dana smiled and shook her hand back and said as they all sat down at the table, “So this is what they replaced me with?”
Mulder answered. “Well, they weren’t looking for a Scully clone, and I think there’s a case we are going to have to check out about a bank robbery involving a woman who has the chip in her neck.”
“So they handed it to you?”
“Well, they could have handed it over to some other guy to take care of it, but -”
“Well, what has been going on with you otherwise?”
“There was this murder case about a guy to had a chemical reaction to certain sounds is created instruments -”
Damen interrupted him. “If you’ll indulge me, I would like to hear about what has been going on with Dana.” Damen looked over at Mulder, then looked back. “Unless you wanted to tell her about the story.”
Dana looked up at both of them. “Well,” she started, “I got into the schools I wanted to in order to complete my medical education. Classes for them don’t start until the fall though, so I have a few months to kill.”
“What about work?” Mulder asked.
“Don’t even think you’ll convince me to go back to the Bureau, but I saved money from working with the F.B.I. before that I have plenty to live on until I got to school. I should be interning there, working for professors and the like, while I am going to school, so I should financially be fine.
“Is that what you wanted to go into?” Damen asked.
Scully paused for a moment before answering her question. “Well, that is what I originally was going to school for.”
Mulder cut the tension with another innocuous question. “How is the family?”
“When I visit them, everything seems good. I think my mom and my brother are happy that I’m not in the Bureau after what happened to my sister. I think they like to make sure that everything is safe, so they don’t want anything to happen to me.”
“Do you get to see your brother much, and your sister-in-law and their little one?”
“They’re usually stationed somewhere that I can’t even get to, so I don’t get to see them too often. I think they’re afraid, in part, of having me deal with their child after I found out I couldn’t have any.”
Damen looked over at Mulder after she said this. She tried to remember if there was any of this referred to in the information she read before she started working. She wondered if there was any connection between that and the chip that was found in her head after she was abducted. They had ordered food and the waitress made sure they all had coffee at the table before Damen asked, “Been dating now that you’re not at the Bureau? I’m sure that working here full time put a cramp in your social life.”
“I really haven’t had much of a chance to think about meeting people. I never liked the idea of meeting men in bars anyway...” Scully turned towards Mulder to continue speaking. “So what is the new case you are working on?”
“I just heard that there was this woman named Stacy that held up a bank. The teller said she specifically remembered that Stacy seemed scared and she told the teller that some men just kidnapped her boyfriend and that she had to get this cash in order to let her boyfriend free.”
“I head about that on on television,” Scully answered.
“They checked out the healthy of both Stacy and her boyfriend after this all happened, those two don’t have the money, because Stacy told the police that the kidnappers told her to put it in a certain bag in a certain dumpster and leave immediately following the robbery.”
“Which she apparently did?”
“Apparently.”
“So why is this an x file again?”
“She was a member of the MUFON group, a new member, so -”
“So they brought it to you,” Scully finished. “When did you hear about this?”
Just now. Will have to look over files today.” Mulder turned to Damen to finish his thought. “Since you used to be a researcher, you might be able to help me and get information on this one. I might be calling you today or tomorrow.”
Damen looked at the both of them and smiled. “Not a problem. I don’t have any plans this weekend.”
The rest of the morning was spent with Mulder and Scully talking about past cases, and Damen tried to mentally absorb what she could from them talking about the past. By the end of the meal, Mulder tried to throw in a comment about how she should be back working with the F.B.I., and she would always catch his attempts and discount them. They came up with a plan to meet together next weekend, and Scully talked with Damen about meeting up in a bar bar some weeknight the following week.
They said good bye to each other, and Sharon spent the rest of Saturday catching up on the work that she didn’t have time to do in her home during the week. She couldn’t get everything done for the weekend on Saturday, but she figured she would have time to work on it Sunday.
***
Mulder called Damen on her cellular phone Sunday morning.
“Damen, hope I didn’t wake you -”
“No, I was up. What’s going on?”
“Well, they’ve forwarded a file to me about a woman who was forced to rob a bank as their cover because some people kidnapped her boyfriend and held him hostage for her to do it. They have interviewed her over and over again for a week, but everything seemed clear.”
“This is the one you were talking about with Scully,” Damen said. “Did she previously report that her boyfriend was kidnapped?
He was kidnapped less than an hour before she had to go forward and rob the bank. She also said she was worried about what they would do to her boyfriend, so she went ahead and did it.”
“Any leads on the burglars?”
“No. She had to drop the money she stole off in a certain dumpster outside the bank and someone else came by very shortly afterward and picked up the bag and drove off.”
“So where is she now?”
“About to leave the country with her boyfriend.”
“Oh, that doesn’t sound suspicious,” Damen said sarcastically.
“Well, they say this was traumatic, and they had money saved to go away anyway.”
“Like Scully asked, so... why is this an X file?”
“Damen, I don’t know. She had the chip in her neck like other tested women in the past from the MUFON group, a chip like Scully had, so they pushed this case on to us.”
Damen thought for a moment about having the money to travel and getting the money for the bank robbery, which seems the obvious answer to this case. “So what are the names of this happy couple again, and when so we meet them?”
“Stacy and Ed. In New York. And we have a flight to meet them before they leave for their trip to some unknown destination. I’ve got my friends looking into what flight tickets they could have bought. Meet me at the airport in a half hour?”
***
Damen met Mulder at the airport, after she had already confirmed their flight plans. They were both leaving for an early flight. Mulder told Damen about everything he could while they were in the air, and Damen thought the entire time that she should act like she was just tagging along with Mulder, that she did not work for the F.B.I., so that she wouldn’t be so well-guarded when they arrived at their apartment to talk to them. She posed this idea once to Mulder and he did not seem too interested in thinking about it. This is when she decided in her head to make the introductions and she would not give her title in working with him.
The rest of the time of the plane she talked on her phone with her friends who tried to tell her as much as they could about these two. Stacy seemed pretty mild-mannered; Ed is the one who had a lass than perfect track record. She tried to tell this information to Mulder while they were in the air and while she was still on the phone. He looked back at her with a look on his face that said that this doesn’t prove that they did anything wrong. She knew that this was possibly something to consider when they appeared at their doorstep, however.
On the ride from the airport to Ed and Stacy’s, Mulder asked Damen to talk to Stacy about the chip in her neck, that Damen should use the excuse that she had a friend that had the same scar in her neck. Mulder said he would talk to Ed, figuring that the man could talk to the man, and the woman could talk to the woman.
That implied hint of sexism sat in the back of her mind, but she did not want to bring it up to Mulder.
They got to the door and Damen asked if she could knock. Mulder let her. The door started to open and the woman opening the door seemed very saddened, very stressed. Damen started by saying that she didn’t mean to interrupt anyone, and when Stacy didn’t show much of a reaction, Damen told her that they weren’t trying to tell anything, that they just wanted to ask some questions. Stacy seemed apprehensive, but let them in and asked who they were. Mulder introduced himself, said that he worked for the F.B.I., and before he got the chance to introduce her, Damen crept in and said that she was Mulder’s girlfriend, and that they were just out for a drive when Mulder said he wanted to stop by.
Damen noted almost instantly that Stacy didn’t like the fact that Mulder worked for the F.B.I. and she hoped that maybe their lack of knowledge about Damen’s association with the Bureau would be helpful to them later in the day.
It was.
Stacy called her boyfriend into the room, assuming that Mulder wanted to ask them questions. Ed was visibly angered by the visitors, and Damen did her best to say that they were just stopping in. She looked over at Mulder once, and she could read in his eyes that he was also still processing the fact that she said she was his girlfriend, and not that she was also an employee of the Bureau. Either way, Ed’s anger at the interruption could not go unnoticed.
“Didn’t we answer enough questions this weekend?” Ed asked.
Mulder started a conversation with him. “It seems that you have, sir, but there are still so many holes in the story that we thought that maybe there were some pieces of the puzzle you weren’t telling us about that could make this clearer for us.
“We said everything we knew,” Ed said as he paced back and forth, while Stacy wandered to the back of the room by herself. Damen was beginning to think that should could take the time to talk to Stacy about the cut in her neck before Ed’s discussion with Mulder got more and more heated. Damen stood up to go over an talk to Stacy When Ed started walking toward her with his hand in his pocket. Both Mulder and Damen caught Ed’s motion, but Damen did not want to pull her weapon yet because she did not want to reveal that she had a weapon.
Ed pulled his weapon first, and Mulder followed. Ed started talking immediately, first to Damen, then to Mulder.
“What do you think you’re doing, young lady?” Then Ed turned his head toward Mulder as he kept the gun pointed at Damen. “And do you want me to do something to you little girlfriend?”
Mulder kept his eyes fixed on Ed and Damen kept her eyes on Stacy. She reached around to a drawer near where she was standing so she could point a gun at Damen while Ed could take care of Mulder. They all sat in silence for a brief moment. Damen finally spoke. “I was just going to talk to Stacy,” Damen said.
Ed looked at both Mulder and Damen and told Stacy to keep her gun on Damen while he took Mulder’s weapons.
***
Ed did most of the asking once Stacy and Ed pulled their guns out on Mulder and Damen. Damen was able to continue to act as if she was just there with Mulder, that she was not an agent for the F.B.I., so she thought she cover was good for the moment. Damen held on to Mulder’s arm for support while they stood in their living room. Damen looked at Mulder, hoping her look would be enough for him to be clear on her idea that she was willing to play this role if it would save them. It would also mean that they wouldn’t check Damen for a weapon. They already pulled Mulder’s gun and did not ask Damen for her weapon.
“Why do you hang around with this guy, Sharon?” Ed asked while Stacy sat in a chair in their living room with her gun on them.
Sharon looked at Mulder and said “Should I tell them?” And Mulder started quickly talking back quietly. “I don’t want you to get in trouble.”
“Well I might as well tell them the truth, they’ve got the guns, and I don’t like guns, and -”
“This is why I didn’t want you to come with me,” Mulder answered. She knew at this moment that he understood the value of him being the Bureau agent and Damen being the girlfriend. “I thought this wouldn’t take long and nothing was going to happen,” Mulder continued.
“You don’t like guns?” Stacy said to Sharon, stopping their conversation.
“I don’t like having guns around,” Damen answered. “I’ve never shot a gun.” Damen looked back at Mulder in the silence before turning back to Ed to answer his original question. “I’m with him - because I’m his girlfriend.” Damen looked back at Mulder, hoping her answer wouldn’t change Mulder’s reaction. It didn’t, which was a good thing. Everyone sat in silence for a moment before Damen spoke, “We’ve only been dating for a few weeks, a month, and -”
“I don’t believe you,” Stacy said.
“Yeah,” Ed continued, “you two have been close to each other but -”
“Kiss him,” Stacy said.
Stacy saying those words stopped the conversations entirely. Damen didn’t know how to react. Damen, Mulder and Ed looked at Stacy. Ed turned back to Mulder and Damen. Damen thought that this was not how she wanted things to be, but she knew she could do it and she slowly took one step closer to him. She turned back to Ed and Stacy, then turned back to Mulder after a moment and made one more step so she was right next to him. She put one hand on his chest and one hand on the back of his neck as she moved her head closer to his. Mulder knew that this had to be done, and he put his hands on her arms to hold her. Damen turned her head and opened her mouth and they started to kiss. For a moment it was like they were in a bar in D.C. playing pool and they took a break and no one else was watching them. Damen quietly moaned as they kissed; Stacy and Ed watched. Damen and Mulder finally pulled away from each other.
“That was a long kiss,” Ed said.
Damen paused before she responded to that comment and said, “Well, if it is our last kiss, I wanted it to be worth something.” She looked back at Mulder. Everything flashed though her head again, how much she liked him, that she loved how he looked, how she knew he had no social life, how she loved the intelligent analytical side of him, that he had pornographic video tapes in his office drawer.
And that kiss was all in the name of work.
Damen started to speak while she looked at Mulder. “But I was wondering if I could ask a favor,” Damen said. Ed and Stacy looked at her. “I would like to use the washroom, if that is okay.”
Ed looked at Stacy for a moment, then back to Damen. “Stacy will watch you,” Ed said. With that Damen thanked them both and she let go of Mulder’s hand as they the two women went toward the back of the apartment so Damen could use the washroom.
“Well, we would be safe as soon as we left the country,” Stacy answered. “Now your lover had to throw a monkey wrench into our plan.”
Stacy let Damen into the locked room by herself. Stacy let her use the washroom by herself Damen looked around, tried to adjust the gun at her hip and the gun at her ankle for back up, as well as make sure her stun gun was working. She slid the stun gun into the back of her jeans and flushed the toilet as the started the water running right before she opened the door so Stacy could come in while Damen washed her hands. Damen couldn’t think of anything to say but knew she had to say something to her. “I don’t know much about Mulder’s work, but did you think this would be an easy job for you?” Damen asked as she finished washing her hands. Damen arched her back to see in the mirror whether or not you could notice the gun sticking out of her jeans.
Stacy looked simple as she walked into the bathroom. She didn’t hold any emotion in her face, not rage, not happiness, not concern that she left Damen in the washroom by herself. Damen continued to wash her hands.
Stacy did not answer the question posed by Damen. “Why do you go out with that guy?” Stacy asked.
“I don’t know,” Damen answered, but she knew she had to come up with something pretty quick for a better answer. “He’s very private about his work, but he is also amazingly intelligent and I think it’s adorable.” Damen turned the faucet off and started to shake her hands dry instead of using a towel behind her. “So... what are you going to do with the money? Go to another country?”
Stacy looked at her. Damen continued. “I’m assuming you’re going to kill us or something so you might as well tell me.” They both sat in silence. “And you don’t seem to happy either,” Damen added.
Stacy stopped as Damen started to straighten herself up from leaning over at the sink. “Well, this is what we both wanted,” Stacy answered, referring to Ed and herself.
“But it is what YOU wanted?” Damen asked.
Stacy looked at her. She didn’t know how to respond.
“People want things for themselves,” Damen continued, “but they can be roped into doing things for other people too. My question was: is this what YOU wanted, or is this what Ed told you would be a good thing?” When Damen said this she knew it was working because Stacy showed some emotion, like this was not what she wanted, but at this point she had no choice.
Damen reached her one hand into the back of her jeans, prepared to use the excuse that she was drying her hands on her pants, but Stacy didn’t say a word when Damen did it. Damen continued to act like a concerned friend but extremely quickly moved the stun gun to the back of stacy’s neck where the woman passed out on the floor.
Damen cleared the gun of pistols and placed then in the medicine cabinet in one of the water cups there. She then walked out and was prepared to make her speech. Ed and Fox both looked over at her when she was alone and Damen started to speak.
Damen made a point to look markedly confused as she began to speak. “Someone should go check on her, but... I don’t know what happened... but Stacy passed out in the bathroom. I didn’t know what to do...”
Ed realized in one instant that Damen could have taken stacy’s gun but didn’t, and that Stacy was on the floor in the bathroom. Damen could have tried to make a run for it. Ed charged to the bathroom and Mulder followed. Damen stood behind hin and gave hin the gun from her hip while Ed wasn’t looking. Ed looked up at them while he was crouched over Stacy on the floor. “Are either of you a doctor?”
Mulder and Damen looked at each other, and Mulder started speaking. “My partner is, but she isn’t here, Ed. I’m sorry.” Damen did not speak, knowing Mulder was talking about his ex-partner, Scully.
Mulder and Damen looked at each other one more time before they decided to make their move. Mulder and Damen both had guns, because Ed never checked Damen for a gun, so they knew the outnumbered him, and Damen gave Mulder her spare gun when Ed was not looking. They were able to turn on him and get him to calm down. Ed tried to take stacy’s gun, but Damen had previously removed the bullets and knew there was no competition.
***
Mulder and Damen had a flight planned for the next morning to get back to their homes, so they had rented a small hotel room for the right outside of the city. They barely spoke when they were alone together; when they were together before all they did was talk about the case and how much was left to be done on the case and how quickly and easily it otherwise wrapped up. The only personal (yet work related) note she could tell him was that she was sorry it was not an “X file” in the sense he was familiar with, but it was something to do and they did their job well.
They both got into their separate rooms and closed the doors. Sharon looked around and tried to decide whether or not to to unpack her things. She sat down and was looking through the television guide left at her table when someone knocked at her door.
Damen walked up to the door and asked. “Who is it?”
“It’s me,” Mulder answered. “And I’ve got a gift for you.”
Damen opened the door. Mulder was leaning against the door frame and had a bottle of Merlot in his hand. “I didn’t bring glasses, but I thought you might like the wine,” he said as he started to walk into her room. Damen was impressed that Mulder had a bottle of wine, and that it was Merlot, and not something as simple as white zinfandel, which men usually think women would like. She saw the piece tag from the bottle and noticed that it was from a shop less than a block away, so she knew he didn’t put any real foresight into getting this bottle of wine for them. She was also thinking that Merlot wasn’t half-bad. “Where did you get the wine from?” Damen asked as she closed the door behind him when he came in.
“It was a gift, but I normally don’t drink wine, so I thought you might want some.” He handed her the paper bag with the bottle in it; she noted that the bag was not creased and that there was a receipt in it. She was touched that he had enough foresight to buy it for her. She started pulling the cover of the wine off as Mulder got the glasses out.
They sat in there for two or three hours, talking and drinking a pretty sweet wine, and not once talking about work. Eventually Mulder talked about work, but it was about the kiss that she gave him for the case earlier that day.
“Why did you do it?” he asked.
“Wanted to make it look like we were really dating.”
“I’m not good at acting,” Mulder answered as he stared at his glass.
“Well, I used to do it, I used to be an actress in high school, so I have no problem with it,” Damen answered. She paused before she spoke again. “Why - were you acting when you kissed me back?”
Mulder looked up from his glass. “If you’re such a good actress, I’m afraid to answer that question.”
“Your response tells me the answer to my question... and I wouldn’t lie to you,” Damen said. “You’re one of the few people I couldn’t lie to. But I want to hear it from you - what was it - was it with how long the kiss lasted, or the way I turned my head, or -”
Mulder got on to his knees from sitting on the bed so he could move closer to her. “No,” Mulder started, “there was more passion in it, more intensity. It was like you meant it when you kissed me.” Mulder paused as Damen looked up at him before Mulder put his hand on the back of her neck and continued speaking. “It was just the way it felt to be in someone’s arms, I think.” He moved closer as he spoke. “It was like this,” he said as he turned his head and he guided her head with his hand on her neck and started to kiss her.
Damen did not know if Mulder was joking or not. She did not know what he was thinking. But she could not resist him. She had already set her drink down on the corner table next to the bed so she wrapped her arms around him after she realized that he didn’t stop kissing her.


4

The Final Pages and the Fear

It was dark in the hotel room. Damen was awake enough to remember where she was, what had just happened with the case with Ed and Stacy, and what had happened afterwards. A sound woke her up; she knew with a motion of her arm that Mulder was not there in the bed with her. It was completely dark in the hotel room, but she got her bearings as quickly as she could, remembered exactly where she left her gun, and sprung up to get it. In the dark she heard all other motion stop in the room and she demanded, “Who are you?”, but said it more as a command than a question.
She waited.
“... Mulder, Damen.”
She recognized his voice. “Are you alone?” she asked.
“Did you want me to bring a few friends in here?”
“Did you have to be a smart-ass?”
Mulder instantly retorted in the dark, “Did you have to point your gun at me?”
She didn’t know what to think when she realized that it was Mulder trying to leave the room.
***
When she fell asleep on his arm an hour before, Mulder couldn’t help but stare at the ceiling. He knew he couldn’t see anything up there; it was too dark in the room and all he could really identify through the drawn curtain was the faint glow of the neon glow of the motel sign.
Mulder didn’t know what he was looking for.
Maybe he was looking for his sanity. Maybe he was looking for a quick, simple answer that would explain away everything he had ever wondered about.
His mind naturally wandered to Samantha. He wished he knew her. He could still imagine what she looked like, he could still her as a grown-up. He didn’t know what he would be able to do if he saw her; he has been repeatedly fooled that he doesn’t know if he has even ever seen her as an adult.
He tried to snap himself out of it and instinctively his thoughts went to Scully. No, he never slept with her, there were a few moments where he wanted to start a relationship with her, but it never worked out for them.
He then wondered if he and Scully were never meant to be together.
Mulder’s thoughts were interrupted with Damen’s voice. “Mulder?” she asked as she lowered her gun after he turned on the lights.
Mulder’s mind then jumped to what had just happened between the two of them. Thoughts about Samantha or Scully instantly disappeared from his mind as he noticed that Damen was holding a sheet to cover her body as she stood next to the bed. “You know,” Mulder said, “they had to teach you at the bureau to be careful with that weapon. You never know who you might point it at...”
“I could say the exact same thing to you,” Damen responded.
They both smiled as she sat down on the bed. Damen still held the sheets around her. Mulder wanted ever and sat town on the bed next to Damen.
“I didn’t know if you’d want me here.”
“So you left?”
“Damen, I didn’t know what to do.”
“So you thought you’d sneak out in the middle of the night after having sex with your partner from work?”
“Well, if you didn’t want me around, I --”
“Mulder, usually when you sleep with someone, I hate to have to fill you in on this one, but usually when you sleep with someone you actually stay the night. Then you can play ding-dong-ditch in the morning.”
“Ding-dong-ditch?”
“Well, you know what I mean, Mulder.”
Mulder sat for a moment before speaking. “I didn’t know what to say.”
Damen looked down at herself before she answered him. “Well, you could answer some of MY questions... this could be a sort of interrogation, if you’ll allow me that.”
Mulder pulled one of Damen’s tricks and looked down before speaking. “Well, what do you want to know?”
Damen paused. “So I get to play interrogator now?”
Mulder sat in silence and started to smile. They were both aware that Damen was a researcher and had a good way of getting information out of people. So Damen started. “I know you just bought that wine. Why?”
“The wine was from --”
“I know better, mulder. No one donates a bottle of wine to us, we are not supposed to receive gifts from anyone related to work, and the bottle had a price tag from the store at the corner.”
Damen waited so that she could see a reaction from Mulder. The reaction was slight, but there, and she spotted it. “I used to be a researcher, you know, and I’ve been trained to have an eye for details.” Damen paused again before she repeated her question. “So why did you get the bottle?”
“Wanted give you some element of relaxing at home, I guess.”
“You don’t know what I do at home, Mulder, and you don’t look like the type that wines and dines women. So tell me, flat out, why?”
Damen looked at Mulder and waited as he sat in silence. He finally spoke. “Because I was going to sleep with you.”
Damen almost did a double-take when he said that. “What?” she finally asked.
“”It was a sort of test that I wanted to go through with for us.”
“What, to see if I was good in bed?”
“Damen, that’s not it, and you know it. I think I view women in two different ways, specifically. One is that a woman is someone I respect, someone I can talk to, and the other way is for more of a mindless screw.”
“So which do I fall in to?”
“That’s the thing... You’re definitely someone I can respect. I value what conversations I have had with you, and I would like to be able to talk to you like that more. But I find myself attracted to you as well, and I wanted to know if you were just someone that would fall into category two instead.”
“So... which is it?”
“You think I can come up with an answer to a question like that easily, Damen?”
“Hey, I’m the interrogator here, Mulder, and I’m the one asking the questions. You could just say you don’t know.”
“Well... This is my dilemma. I still like talking to you, and I’ve got to admit that, well, the other stuff was good too.”
“The other stuff? The OTHER stuff?”
“You know what I mean, Damen.”
“Well, have you been able to draw any conclusions about me since this morning? Is you conundrum remedied at all now?
“Well, I first have to admit that I like your use of conundrum instead of dilemma there... But to answer your question, I like you as a person, and I still think that you’re sexy. It’s strange, but I actually feel like I want to kiss you, you know, the way a guy wants to kiss his girl.”
Damen smiled. “Am I your girl?”
“Damen, I don’t even know what that term really means.”
They both smiled at each other.
“I don’t know what it means either.” Damen paused before she made her next statement. “But if you wanted to, you could still kiss me.”
Mulder looked up at her and she slightly shrugged her shoulders. “Well, I’d tolerate it...”
Mulder started to laugh and Damen smiled. Mulder Slid closer to her on the bed, put his hand at the back of her neck and kissed her.
After he kissed her, Damen pointed the head of the bead out to suggest that he can stay. Mulder moved to the top of the bed, kicking off his shoes in the process. As Mulder got comfortable sitting at the head of the bed he gestured to Damen to some and sit with him, which she did.
“So now what?” Mulder asked.
“Well, we could talk about something other than cases.”
“Sometimes that’s all I do, Damen. But if I can become the interrogator, seeing that you have read up on me, I can ask you for information about your life.”
“So what do you want to know?”
“Anything. Spill the beans, Damen. Tell me the first thing that pops into your head.”
Damen didn’t know where to start. “No one ever wants to hear my stories.”
“Well, maybe I’m asking.”
Damen got up and walked over to a hand-written notebook and brought it back to the bed, throwing it in front of him. “You want to know about me? Here are some of my entries into a notebook.”
“A diary?”
“I wouldn’t go that far.”
“A journal?”
“If you’re going to be that way, I’ll take it back.” Damen reached forward for the notebook and Mulder grabbed it before she had the chance to take it away. Without trying to look at it too much, he caught some pages from past entries.

passage one:
Sometimes people just don’t want to hear about complaints. People would rather just process thoughts than actually think. When I meet people who are in charge of pro-life movements, they are actually against anti-religion, or anti-life, or anti-thought movements. These are the types of people who would like to defend racism, or other things that seem to represent some people but not all people.
I don’t understand how some people can support a life-decision, but not a like-philosophy. There is no consistency in that argument. Seldom do I see consistency in anyone’s argument.
This is my life.

passage two:
1. The man that I had dated for over a year had a heart attack and passed away. I do not think I have entirely recovered from it; I feel I still hold some anger about it. I even resent the family for taking the painting that he finished of me for me the day before he died. either way, that alone is a stepping stone that I cannot get entirely over...
2. I started dating another man, one that seemed intelligent, caring, and in many ways very much like myself. It was strange because he was a friend of my long-time friend and man that I used to date, so I couldn’t even talk to people about dating this man...
either way, he seemed to show less and less interest in me as time wore on, so I had pretty much given up on hopes for that relationship...
the plot thickens to where I was at the point where I was planning on going to europe. I had places listed and a vague game plan when I was in a car accident. Visiting my parents on the road another car hit me from behind because they did not watch the road. They were speeding. I saw them coming (apparently through eye-witness reports) and turned my wheels away from the motorcyclist in front of me. I was stuck at the traffic light. This car hit me into oncoming traffic where another car hit me. The records state that there were skid marks from my tires for 108 feet...
I was sent to the trauma unit of a hospital immediately and was ina coma for about two weeks. No one knew if I was going to live; they even asked my mother when she came to the hospital if she could “identify a body”, which seems to me to be the most offensive thing a mother can hear about her youngest daughter...
I was in the hospital for two months. No broken bones, except for my skull, fractured in three places. They even watched to make sure that my one eye set back into my head where it was supposed to. They had a tube into me for the first half - which was 4 out of 6 weeks - of my hospital stay. I had to learn how to eat and walk all over again. I didn’t even want to eat at first; the thought of food seemed strange when I hadn’t needed it for so long...
by dinner time and the ensuing hunger pangs, I ate. I had to tell myself to eat, that I had done it before, that I can do this...
for the first 4 months out of the coma I had to get used to walking. I have lost some balance from the accident; going up or down spiral stairs are not as easy for me as they used to be. My vision has also been worse since the accident; when I did not need to wear my glasses much before, I have to wear them more now...
in light of all this, my sister tells me that I was eating ravenously and that my vision is 100 percent better. I didn’t realize that she could read my mind when I was bringing myself to eat in the hospital, or that she could see for me, that she was just that clairvoyant...
I apologize for my sarcasm. But my problem with all this is that no one - I mean NO ONE - around me knows what I have been going through, and no one can read my mind. All that is left is for me to pick up the pieces...
picking up the pieces isn’t easy when I have pushed people away for all my life. I think people have been used to my needing no one, so they are leaving me alone now. I must be fine. I didn’t even have any broken bones...
but as I am sure you are aware, my spirit was almost broken, which can be worse than putting a cast on to heal a broken bone after six weeks.
It has been just over a year since I have been out of the hospital. In that time I have ben trying to get my life in order, because there are a lot of things you start to think about when you almost lose your life. Get your will in order. Organize your finances. I am a writer, and I have used pen names, and if I had died no one would have known that there pen names were my own creation.
Okay, I know there is more. But I am going to take a turn here and talk about something else. Everything seemed to be going wrong for me. Even the only friend that came to be there for me, the man I referred to earlier, he even wanted to have some time alone, and I did not even have a car, since my car was wrecked. When I was NOT looking for someone to make everything better for me. someone came along.
Does this all make sense at all? probably not. But on some levels it was helpful for me to start to get it down. I doesn’t resolve anything, but it is a start, at least for myself...

Just from skimming the beginnings of these sections, he knew he would have to read them in depth later.
***
Damen was laying back down on the bed, this time with her head on Mulder’s leg. Hid cellular phone rang while he was sitting there and it almost made him jump while being a pillow for Damen.
Sharon picked her head up and looked at him. “Go ahead, answer it...”
Mulder looked at her and she could read that he did not know who could be calling him early in the morning on a Monday. Mulder answered the phone and talked to a gentleman from the bureau. All Damen could gather was that Mulder was talking to Skinner.
She listened to half of the conversation.
“Yes sir ... No, I’ve had no idea, sir ... Well, I’ve communicated with her, but ... No, she never gave me any indication ... Actually, I tried to convince her to ... Did she explain why she made the change? I know that her family did not like her with us ... And yes, I know what she has been through since she started ... Well, no, I don’t know what Damen will do ... When I talk to her I will see what she thinks of this all ... Well, she hasn’t been with the bureau long at all, sir ... Well, I’m sure there is ... “
Damen tried to gather all she could from listening to Mulder’s disjoined conversation, and all she could guess was the Scully was coming back. She knew Mulder hadn’t talked to her often in the past few weeks, and Damen had only met up with Scully once. Damen heard from other agents at the bureau that Scully seemed a bit, well, up-tight. But Mulder trusted her, and Mulder liked her.
“What work will she be doing at first, sir? I know there has to be some training ... Do you think she would be up for that, sir? ... I know, please forgive me for suggesting ... Of course I trust the opinions of the ones who assign her ... No, we should be back in to town this afternoon, the flight leaves here in about four hours, so I can talk to you about it this afternoon.”
Mulder hung up the phone and did not look at Damen. Damen’s eyes never left him and waited for him to break down and look at her.
He didn’t.
Damen finally spoke up. “So Scully is back?”
She waited for Mulder to respond. He had already gotten up and was pacing during his entire conversation with Skinner. He finally stopped his pacing and turned to face Damen. She knew that when he looked at her he would have to tell her that she is no longer working for the Bureau, and that if he cared about her he wouldn’t want to tell her that. Damen was bracing herself for it before he even looked at her.
Mulder looked at her squarely, and all she could infer was that he didn’t know how to react. He didn’t know what he should tell her, or even what he should be thinking, which seemed almost surprising to Damen.
Finally Mulder started to smile. Damen followed him with the smile, knowing at that point she was correct. “Yes, she’s coming back,” Mulder said. “We’ll get briefed on it when we get back into the office.”
“Have you heard from Scully?” Damen asked.
“I’m beginning to thin that I should just wait to see her in the office before I talk to her...”
“Is she going to be your partner again?” Damen asked.
This was the question that Mulder was afraid of answering. She knew she struck a nerve. Mulder paused, giving Damen a chance to fill in the silence. “This is what you were interested in, isn’t it, Mulder?”
Mulder responded immediately. “The trouble is, I’ve now got the Damen factor to worry about.”
“The Damen factor?”she asked.
“Well, before it has been a concern of mine to see Scully back to work.”
“And is it still?”
“Of course. Now I have an added worry, though -”
“And that would be?” Damen asked.
“Well, I have to make sure you can be at a nice place for working.”
“And you’re worried about what I am going to do?”
“I was saying that this was difficult before, and now I seemed to throw a monkey wrench into things.
“Mulder, I can get a job... wait, is the Bureau going to keep me on in the first place?”
“I’m sure you would. Would you want that?”
“I don’t know. I liked the research work that I was doing before, and I could probably go back to where I was before with a bit of a raise... and I wouldn’t have to worry about being shot at or anything.”
“Or having a gun to worry about, for that matter...”
“my point is, Mulder that I like this kind of work, and I like doing the research that I was doing before I came to the Bureau. If I can be a reference for you and Scully in your future work that would be great for me.”
“And you’re not worried about a job for you?”
“I’m sure I can get one. It’s not a problem. And aren’t you supposed to be thinking about you and Scully?”
Mulder smiled. “Yeah you’re right.”
“So... all that needs to be covered in all this is... are you going to see me again after I possibly leave the bureau?”
Mulder was pacing again but stopped when Damen asked that. Damen was repeatedly stunned by this stares and his looks when she asked such direct questions, but after all that had happened in the last day, she was even more surprised by his looks. She watched him as he walked over to where she was sitting on the bed. He bent his legs so he was crouched down in front of her and started asking her questions.
“Can you tolerate he?” he first asked.
“Yes.”
“What if you don’t see me constantly?”
“Fine.”
“Would you be disappointed if we stopped working together?”
“No.”
Would you be angry if I needed some of your references for future work?”
“I would expect it.”
“Do you want me to kiss you?”
“Of course.”
“Do you have the plane tickets?”
“And the schedule. We have to leave in three and a half hours.”
Mulder liked her answers as well as her punctuality and her directness.
“I’m going to kiss you now.”
Damen didn’t move, save the one eyebrow that started to rise and the smile that started to form on her face. Mulder saw it as a look that almost said she had been expecting that all along.


5

The Good-Byes

“I feel like a heel for not spending enough time with you here,” one of the lap reps told Damen.
She looked at him and smiled. “That’s okay. I barely got any time to get to know anyone here anyway...”
Someone else chimed in that worked on defense cases that happened to be nearby when Damen was saying her good-byes to people. “Are they sending you to another building to do bureau work?”
“They offered, but I told them I would rather go back to doing research work.”
Mulder walked by as people were talking to her. “Was it the safety issue?”
“No, I think it was the security issue. I liked being able to know where I was going to do the kind of work I like to do. It’s not that I didn’t like working here, it’s just, well, a little more settled at my last job.”
“You didn’t have a problem getting back to your old company?”
“Oh, they offered me back, but that would require a move again, but I have been offered a better job here for an extra fifteen grand.”
“Can’t sneeze at that,” one of her co-workers told her. Damen started to see Mulder walk away, so she added to these men, “And besides, working with ‘Spooky’ is a little much, even after only a week.”
The men she was talking to started laughing, and Mulder turned back and started to smile before he turned back to the hallway to go back toward the office. As the men started to quiet their laughing and Mulder got further away from the group, Damen noted, “But really, working with Mulder was great, and if it’s possible to break through that shell he seems to keep over himself, it would be nice to talk to him after I get out of here.”
After she managed to break away from the people she was talking to, she stopped in Mulder’s office before going to see Skinner. Mulder leaned back in his chair, keeping his elbows on the arms of his chair, and keeping his hands at his face, as he watched her walk through the doorway.
“What are you looking at?” Damen asked.
Mulder started to grin. “I just know I won’t see you walk in like that again. I’m just... absorbing that.”
Damen smiled. “Well, you can see me again, if you actually want to call.”
“The problem is, I will get the energy to call you,” Mulder said.
“Well, I’ve seen your apartment, but you haven’t seen mine. You’re always welcome over for actual food.”
Mulder smiled. Damen walked up and pulled out the reserve bag of sunflower seeds she had saved for when he ran out. “In the meantime, you can keep your hands busy with this.”
Mulder saw the other bag of seeds in her purse. “Is there another bag in there for me?”
“No, it’s for me. Your habits are already growing on me.” With that she turned away and did not look back from his office, knowing that she would drop her badge off with Skinner and leave this building as a visitor, someone that is not a government agent, like she had done a month before.


Copyright Janet Kuypers. All rights reserved. No material may be reprinted without express permission.


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