-------- 9 ------------

Nobody was around.

The theatre was dark and empty, the crew having shut down for the night, the actors having returned to their New York flats, most in the less expensive part of SoHo or on the upper west side.  The creaking sounds of an automatic heater clicked on, and the noise of artificial air pumping into the room afforded cover for Sarah Jamison’s echoing footsteps.  She glanced around once, then twice, then swatted a long brown curl out of her eyes.   Her breathing deepened and she approached the orchestra pit, meeting Ben Plunket halfway.

“Have you decided what to do, yet?” he asked, his eyes darting around nervously. His arms folded over his chest and he watched Sarah with rapt interest.

“How the hell am I supposed to know?” she hissed, taking a third look around. “I didn’t think Amanda would call the goddamn FBI!”

Ben rolled his eyes and took a step closer, leaning one arm to rest lazily against the conductor’s podium.  He shook his head and regarded her... the silly, naive girl he had sought after… for a long time, and sighed.

“What did you expect, Sari?” he asked, trying to control his emotions.  “You told me what she had in mind.  You TOLD me that she was out to get this… whatever----this twisted revenge on her old classmates or something.  Why didn’t you do your damned homework?!”

“I did,” she insisted.

Ben shook his head.

“NONE of this should have happened, Sari,” he said, gravely,  “No role in ANY play is worth this shit.”

Sarah shook her head, violently.  “It wasn’t FOR the goddamned, part, Ben!” she spat, angrily.  “I’m not Tanya fucking Harding…”

Ben held up his hands in a surrendering type gesture and Sarah closed her eyes for a  moment.  She needed to get ahold of herself. She needed to think.  She needed…. Needed SOMETHING…

Sarah narrowed her eyes and shifted her feet, watching the side entrances and back seating for spies and observers.  The last thing she needed was to go to jail.  Then she bit her lip and looked back at Ben, sorrow in her soft eyes.

“It wasn’t supposed to happen like this,” Sarah managed, softly.  “I HAD no choice.  Do you understand that?  She was going to expose me, Ben. She threatened me—my life...  She found out about everything and she ordered me to help her. I told her I needed some time but she just went ahead and STOLE what she wanted from me.  I had NO IDEA what she had that day!  It was… God, Ben!  Afterwards, it wasn’t like I could expose her!  She’d expose me!  This wasn’t a choice—I’m not a murderer!  Jesus, do you think I wanted this?”

Sarah ran nervous fingers through her hair, taking a deep breath.   Her limbs felt heavy and weak, and her head hurt with the power of a dozen hammers.  It wasn’t supposed to have happened like this, she thought miserably. It wasn’t supposed to have gone down like this…

Sarah bit her lip, then stuttered, “I… I'm sorry, I… wasn’t…. I mean…”  She paused, clenching and unclenching a fist, then continued, “I wasn’t even going to tell you about any of this, but…” she smiled, softly.  “I couldn’t imagine keeping it from you, and I needed to tell someone.”

Ben forced back a smile and shivered involuntarily.  In the dark, looming shadows of the empty theatre, Sarah couldn’t tell if he had done it because he was simply cold or just plain repulsed.  At this point, she couldn’t blame him.  She was repulsed, herself.

“More people are going to die,” Ben told her, gravely, “you know that, right?”

Sarah closed her eyes and sighed.  “I know,” she answered unhappily.

“Those dippy women Mandy invited for the play, Agent Scully…”

“I know,” Sarah repeated, annoyed, as if she knew no other words.

“You have to stop it, Sari.  You have to get back control.  Somehow, you have to get that necklace back.”

Sarah’s eyes overflowed and her lower lip quivered. Her breathing hitched and she clenched a fist.

“I can’t,” she whispered, miserably. “The risk to me is too great. If Amanda wants it, Amanda gets it. And if Amanda wants Agent Scully to die, well then there’s nothing I can do anymore.  I can’t control it….”



It was the first sensation that registered.  The first thing Mulder could think of after Scully left the room. Damn it, his head hurt.  Miserably.  Like a hundred hammers smashing repeatedly onto his skull, refusing to relent even now, in the oppressive stillness of his room.

 But  to say that his head merely hurt, to say that it throbbed would be a supreme injustice.   For, the pain that made its way through his face, under his cheeks, inside his jaw, down his spine, spiraling to every pore in his body did more than hurt or throb.    It tore him apart.  Ripped him.  Perhaps so badly that he couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think.

Every time he lost Scully, be it emotionally or physically, his head hurt.  First like an ache, an emptiness. But then like this; this horrible ripping feeling, this intense searing, as if he were being torn right down the center.  It wasn’t anything he could explain, at least not rationally, other than to describe the illusory image that his very soul were being sheared in two.  Scrapped away, slowly.

She was a part of him.  Sewn into his being, his core.

So was he losing her now?  After all they had been working towards, all they had gained from each other, was she finally shrinking from him?  Had she finally gotten inside so deep, too deep, that she needed to leave?  To disconnect?

If she did, he thought nervously, then surely, like a light switch, he would turn off.  It wasn’t a theory.  It was a certainty.  A fact.  A glaring one.  And maybe it was that; that complete and utter dependency on her, on her presence and her science, her intellect and now her love, that scared him even more than the thought of her leaving him.   Maybe it was the knowledge of his need for her to be with him; the categorization of a weakness, that frightened him more.

Mulder shook his head and let it fall into his hands.  He felt stupid, ineffectual.

Luckily though, the high pitched whining of a cell phone jarred him from his thoughts.  Sighing, Mulder reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out his Nokia, flipping open the bottom half with little more than an errant thought to the action.  He closed his eyes slowly, took a breath, and was about to speak his name onto the other line when he heard it again; that shrilling cellular ring. That familiar, loud, whining, shrilli..  It was like a broken dog whistle, a damned unbearable one that only humans could hear, but it wasn’t his cell phone making the shrill.

Mulder shook his head for the second time and cursed his headache.

Stretching his tired limbs like a weary child, he slumped out of his chair and crossed the room, his eyes falling upon the origin of the ringing.  Scully’s coat.  Great, he thought.  Just great.

 Mulder took a breath and reached down, fumbling around the suit-jacket that Scully had left inside his room after the wake of her hurricane like rage.  The mere thought of that, of her and her temper, sent the rolling pain behind his eyes back in oceanic waves.  He groaned.  If, by some chance, he died from the discomfort, he would be sure to have someone write on his tombstone, “because thou was an idiot, thou guilted himself to death due to the rage of thy partner. May he rest in peace.”  His posture sagged again.

This time, flipping open Scully’s identical black cellular, Mulder closed his eyes and sighed, hearing the other line crackling as the phone he held sprung to life.  He sunk to the bed in exhaustion and managed, in a drone and deadpan voice, “One giant, jackass speaking.”

There was a pause after that, then a male voice stammering, “Oh.  Sorry, buddy. I must have the wrong number…”

To that, Mulder let out a steely chuckle that was more mirthless than anything else, and replied, “no, if you're trying to reach Dana Scully, you probably don’t.  If you’re trying to reach NASA, however, I’d have to agree with you.”

Another pause, more nervous than the first, then, “So this is Agent’s Scully’s line?”

Mulder rolled his eyes.  “More or less,” he replied, dully.

The other man seemed to consider this as he inquired, “oh.   Are you her husband?”

Mulder laughed again and this time the ache that bounded through his body seemed to take on an almost maleable form.

“Not even close,” Mulder answered, trying to keep the bitterness out of his tone. “Try her partner.”

The other man breathed.  “Right,” he said, slowly.  “Mulder, right?  Agent Scully mentioned you.”

To this admission, Mulder’s eyes brightened and he didn’t pretend to understand why this made him feel better. Maybe it was just the idea that she had mentioned him, that she thought of him, perhaps as much as he thought of her that did it.  Or maybe his head just hurt a whole fucking lot and he was losing it.

“She mentioned me?” Mulder couldn’t help but ask, feeling none the worse for the wear.  “What’d she say?”

“Not much.”

Mulder frowned.  He wasn’t exactly sure why he wanted to know. He just did and felt like being a pest anyhow.  Besides, they had only gotten there yesterday and had bypassed the usual channels.  There simply hadn’t been time to visit the field office or even the local PD for that matter.  He hadn’t known that Scully had spoken to anyone in New York about the case, let alone the local authorities.  And to know that she had spoken about himself, specifically was… well, it left him at somewhat of a disadvantage, even if the threat was more internal than actual.

“She tell you anything?” Mulder persisted, as if annoyed by the other man’s vagueness.

A loud, irritated sigh emanated from the other end. Mulder could only assume that the man was now just as annoyed, if not more so, than Mulder was at having to endure speaking at all.

Then, either out of either indifference or sheer boredom, the anonymous man answered with a sigh, “Real damning stuff.  A breach of federal security if you ask me. I think she said, ‘I have to call my partner, Agent Mulder.’  She might have even winked.”

Mulder rolled his eyes and rubbed his temples.   NYPD, he thought sourly.  From the accent and the drawl of the way the words “federal security” and “agent” rolled off the guy’s tongue, the distaste for FBI involvement in an otherwise non-federal case was evident.  The local PD, as far as he had observed, had not gone to great lengths to mask their mistrust and basic disgust for anything as “arrogant” as the federal government.  Fibbies, or whatever it was they liked to call them these days.  But if it hadn’t been for the NYPD’s large and fairly accomodating morgue and forensic facilities----facilities where Jennifer Green’s body had automatically been sent----this wouldn’t have been a problem.  Dealing with them, that was.

Of course, Mulder never got that lucky. He was also in no mood for a battle with a particularly sarcastic local PD.

“And you are?” Mulder didn’t try to hide his impatience.

“Detective Lauglin,” came the brisk reply, the tone now changed from polite and nervous to undoubtly more annoyed and frustrated. “Look, I’m kinda busy.  Is Ms Scully around?”

Mulder cracked his neck, weary and suddenly craving sleep.  Sleep and Scully lying beside him.  His headache reared harder.

“I’m sorry,” Mulder managed sarcastically into the phone, feeling the need to put emphasis on his partner’s rank in lieu of the way the man had addressed her.  “But SPECIAL AGENT DOCTOR Dana Scully is not by her jacket at the moment. You can leave a message for her at the beep, or if you like, press one to---“

“Message,” came the bristled reply, and Mulder knew that his partner would, later on, probably have his head for speaking like this to a fellow law enforcement officer---especially one she had to work with.  He tried not to think much about it.

“Always obliged,” Mulder drawled, achingly sweet, still rubbing his temples.  He could almost see the detective over the line, nodding, eager to get off and curse under his breath.

Without preamble, Lauglin barked, “Tell Agent Scully that the toxicology reports on Jennifer Green turned up something anomolous, but so far, there’s a negative on Lisa Ripley.”

At that, Mulder frowned.  Scully had ordered toxicology reports, he thought.  But when?  When had she ordered them?  And why?  If she was so sure this had all been nothing more than a glaring coincidence…

Because she doesn’t, a part of his brain easily supplied.  She won’t say it, but she has just as bad a feeling about this case as you, maybe even more so.  Even if she doesn’t even understand exactly what she’s looking for yet, she thinks it.  She's not dumb. She knew these people.  She had been to school with them. She’s probably supressed feelings about them for years; out of guilt, out of anger, out of sadness…

Suddenly, Mulder felt like the world’s biggest bully.

“And tell her,” the man continued, pausing to say, “You writing this down?”

Mulder fought the urge to throw the phone against the wall and replied, in a low, false sounding drawl, “Oh yeah.” He mimed writing in the air for a moment.  “And if you think that’s impressive, you should see the way I brew her coffee.”

There was a snort of distaste from the other end, then, “Whatever.  Just tell her that the substance we found was some sort of manmade compound. Some sort of powder residue on the upper chest area.  Our pathologist said it looked like rye grains.  He was thinking ergot mixed with some sort of spoor, perhaps absorbed through the skin. No needle marks. No signs of ingestion.  Weird.   You got all that?”

Mulder frowned again, trying to contemplate that last bizarre bit of information, and replied, distracted, “Yeah.  Rye grains mixed with spoors, got it.  Anything else?  Coffee? Tea?”

There was no answer and Mulder vaguely heard the click on the other line signaling the end of the highly charged conversation.  He didn’t care much though.

His brow furrowed again, his brain turning wheels around and around, as he dissected and cut apart the new pieces he had just been handed.  Pieces to an odd and seemingly unsolvable puzzle.  Fleetingly, Mulder remembered what Ed the lighting guy had said about Jennifer, about her flights of fancy and her disturbing, if not slightly bizarre and perhaps looney behavior.  Had she been on someexotic kind of drugs, he wondered. High?  Had she merely hallucinated being pushed?

Well, one thing was for sure, Mulder certainly didn’t know enough about rye grains or spoors to allow him to form a coherent, well formed opinion or an hypothesis all on his own.  He would need more background information and scientific speculation, a medical opinion at least, to help him out. He would need… well, he would need Scully. He would need her help, like always.

And thus, he exited the room in search if his fairly pissed off, if not supremely intelligent partner, and his head began to throb with renewed force.

If there was one thing Mulder had learned from this, from his newly intimate relationship with a colleague, it was that he could, theoretically, have his cake and eat it too.  He just needed to be prepared for the wretching, agonizing, horrible food poisoning that followed.

Mulder shook his head.  “I’m never eating cake again,” he mumbled to himself, half caught up in a torrent of conflicting thoughts, wandering out the door.

It slammed shut behind him.