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The E-Mail

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"You get the memo I sent you, Dave?" Mr. James said before Dave had even stepped off the elevator Friday morning.

"Um, not yet, sir."

"Well, never mind, I've got you here now. The message is, no more memos. We're gonna save on paper by switching to computers."

"E-mail, you mean?"

"Oh, so you did get the memo. Yeah, e-mail. It stands for...the new kind of mail."

"Yes, I know what it is, but I don't really think --"

"Too set in your ways, Dave? Afraid of the new technology? I didn't peg you as such a conservative sonofabitch."

"I'm not afraid of the new technology!" Dave protested, with the broad smile that he always put on when he was annoyed. "I just don't think the newest thing is necessarily the best for us, seeing as how this office is so small. Wouldn't it be easier to just go talk to people at their desks, or call them around the conference table if I need everybody?"

"Inefficient," said Mr. James, shaking his head. "You bring three people around a conference table, pretty soon they're talking about their weekend, complimenting each other's shoes, sharing recipes. With the e-mail people stick to business. You'll see, it'll be great." He patted Dave on the arm and headed for the men's room.


An hour later, Dave had sent an e-mail to newsroom staff announcing that internal office communications would now take place via e-mail rather than memos. An hour after that, Lisa was the only one who'd responded. Her response was,

Wouldn't it be a good idea to remind people they have e-mail accounts before you move all the communication to e-mail?

Dave wrote back,

Sending out a memo to remind people they have e-mail accounts would contradict Mr. James's direct order. Anyway, I can count on the office grapevine to get every other piece of news around within minutes, so why not this?

By the way, have any plans for tonight?

Lisa wrote,

I would have thought a man who's hiding a secret affair from his employees would be trying to discourage reliance on office gossip, not encourage it.

I need to wrap up the City Council story tonight, but I should be free over the weekend. Anything particular you had in mind? ;-)

Dave took a while to sit and savor the thought of that sly smile -- on Lisa's face, not sideways in green punctuation on the black screen of his computer. He smiled to himself, thinking about the kinds of things he might ask for if Lisa was in an offering kind of mood, and he was just about to start his reply when another message from her came into his inbox.

He was disappointed when he realized that this one was addressed to everybody in the office and not just him. Maybe some other general announcement. Dave frowned. This didn't happen with memos. Only he and Mr. James and a few other people in administrative jobs ever bothered to send those. So much for efficiency.

The message from Lisa wasn't what he was expecting. First of all, it was longer than any memo he'd ever seen. He skimmed the first few paragraphs -- something about a string of disappearances in upstate New York -- and realized it must be a feature story she was working on, though he was surprised she hadn't mentioned it before and wondered why she was sending the full text of it to everybody now.

Besides that, the style was much different from what he was used to from Lisa. Not the straightforward journalistic prose of most of her stories but something much more suspenseful at the start, and full of lush description as she went on. On the second page she started focusing on the two FBI agents who were investigating the case. How did she know about these people? Dave wondered. When had she had time to work on this? And why in hell was she lavishing so much detail on Agent Mulder's muscled arms and soulful green eyes?

Wait a second, Mulder, where had he heard that name before? And Scully too, Dave realized suddenly, she was that woman Joe was always talking about -- and had shown him pictures of on the Internet once or twice. Joe had tried to get him to watch the show but Dave had never paid much attention.

He was paying attention now though. For the next twenty minutes he was so caught up in the excitement of their adventure that he didn't have time to question why Lisa, a busy, intelligent, career-oriented adult, was putting so much time and energy into writing fiction about characters from a TV show. And then, once Scully had rescued Mulder from the mysterious paramilitary figures that had been sent to cover up the alien activity, she confessed that she'd been in love with him from the day they started working together.

The last third of the story, to Dave's astonishment, was all about the two FBI agents' slow and ardent lovemaking in a dimly lit motel room outside Schenectady. So ardent, in fact, that as Dave continued to read, even as he became aroused, he couldn't help comparing it to his and Lisa's own recent contact and finding the latter somewhat lacking. Well, maybe if he and Lisa were living through that kind of danger on their jobs the sex would be more intense too. Maybe if he started giving her some riskier assignments she would come five times in one night.

When he got to the end of the message Dave sat at his desk for another minute and then calmly walked to the door of his office and leaned out. "Beth, could you ask --"

"Lisa, Dave needs to talk to you!" Beth called out.

"Thank you," Dave said quietly, as Lisa came stalking across the room with her eyes on the floor.

Dave and Lisa usually exchanged at least a quick kiss once they were alone together in his office, but this time he sat behind his desk and she stood in the middle of the room, wringing her hands.

"That wasn't supposed to go to you," she said.

"Or to the rest of the staff, I assume."

"I had too many windows open at once. I needed to send that one to XFF, and I sent it to WNYX instead by mistake."

"And XFF stands for...?"

Lisa muttered something Dave couldn't quite make out.

"Sorry?"

"X-Files Fanfic," she said, tossing her head back and putting her hands on her hips -- apparently she was done trying to sink into the floor. "It's a mailing list."

"I see."

Some time passed.

"This is," Dave began, and stopped. "It's not that I have a problem with what you choose to do on your own time --"

"But I shouldn't have done it on the clock or used the office computers, I apologize, it was completely unprofessional and it won't happen again," Lisa said in one breath, and then added, "There's no way of calling it back, is there? Of stopping the people who haven't read it yet from opening it?"

Dave shook his head. "I think if I sent out another message --"

"Everyone would be extra sure to open it up. Oh, God, I can't believe I did this." She raised her hand to her forehead and looked as upset as Dave had ever seen her.

"If it makes you feel any better," he said, "I thought your story was very good."

"Thank you." Lisa relaxed a little as she said, "You wouldn't believe some of the stuff you see on Usenet, the grammar mistakes people think they can get away with."

Dave nodded. "So, do you... Are you into all that sci-fi stuff? Aliens and --"

"No! I mean, I never was before, or. It's the character development. Have you ever seen an episode?"

"No, Lisa." Dave was feeling a little less sorry for her now. "I've been a little busy running this radio station. And I always thought when you were tired at the end of the day it was because you'd been working so hard as a reporter, not because you were...expressing yourself creatively." He thought for a minute. "Besides that, I always thought when you told me you were busy Friday nights it was because you were actually, you know, busy."

"I am busy."

"I mean, is this something we need to talk about? 'Cause when I told you I'd always wanted to have sex on a spaceship --"

"You were joking!"

"Right, because it's ridiculous."

"I know that! Don't you think I know that? Do you think I wanted to become obsessed with this goddamn TV show?"

"Yes?"

"I had no choice in the matter!"

At that moment the door opened -- without a knock, of course -- and Catherine walked in, grinning from ear to ear.

"Catherine, is there something you need?" Dave asked.

"I need to shake this woman's hand." And she did. "Honey, that was one hot firsttime. Not bad at all, for a newbie. But listen to me, you need to quit fooling around with the het. Mulder and Krycek, that's where it's at. I can send you some links. I read this PWP the other day..."

"Catherine, could we maybe talk about this somewhere else, like where our boss isn't listening?"

"What, you want to try to keep this a secret from him now? If he wanted to fire you he'd have done it already. Anyway, Dave's an open-minded guy, aren't you, Dave?"

"Catherine, you're an X-Files fan too?"

"Oh, sure. X-Files, Starsky and Hutch, Star Trek -- I've been around. I don't do it on company time, of course," she added, casting a sidelong glance at Lisa. "Although I admit, sometimes when I get bored, in the broadcasting booth, I like to fantasize about Bill and Joe together."

"Joe does kind of look like Krycek, doesn't he?" Lisa said thoughtfully, and Catherine grinned again.

"Wait, wait, wait," said Dave. "Are you -- First of all, Catherine, you're talking about... guys? Like, guys doing what Mulder and Scully were doing in Lisa's story?"

"Do you find that notion threatening, Dave?" said Catherine.

"It's called slash," said Lisa. "And she thinks it's more interesting than what I do, or edgier or something, but it just happens not to be what I'm into..."

"Okay, fine," Dave interrupted. "I...I won't say I get it, but putting that aside, are you saying that Bill reminds you of Mulder?"

"Oh, sorry, Dave, did you want to be the hero?" Catherine said sympathetically.

"Well I am the boss. Not to mention being Lisa's, um..."

"Mulder isn't Scully's boss," said Lisa. "They're partners."

"Bill is a very charismatic, passionate guy," said Catherine.

"I'm passionate."

"Sure you are," said Lisa, "but do we really need to talk about this here?"

Bill walked into the office next, with Beth following close behind. To her credit, she seemed to have been attempting to keep him back, but now she joined them and didn't bother to close the door behind her. Bill was reading in his best radio announcer voice from the sheaf of papers in his hand, "Their hands reached for each other and clasped tight, and Scully moaned as at long last --"

Of the three people to wince and start shouting then, Lisa was the loudest. "Oh, Bill, it's. That's really not meant to be read aloud."

"Nonsense, it's just what this station needs. Whatever happened to good old radio drama?" Bill's face took on a faraway look and a vague smile as he went on, "I remember when I was a kid, all those nights I went to bed without supper, how I used to keep the radio on so I could escape from the trauma of my own homelife and live vicariously through the adventures of David Harding -- Counterspy! And Field Agent Sheppard from The FBI in Peace and War. Man, I wanted to be that guy." He clenched his fist suddenly and darkened his tone. "Though if I were Sheppard I wouldn't have been so decent and straight-laced. I would have torn those criminals limb from limb!" Bill nodded to himself and added, "Good times."

There were some seconds of alarmed, awkward silence before Joe, who'd come in while Bill was talking, said, "So are you saying you wish you'd been listening to alien porn instead?"

"It's not alien porn," Lisa said defensively.

"Bill," said Dave, "How did you get this so fast? I've never even seen a computer on your desk."

"I have people who alert me when there's something good. Listen, I really think we could do something with this. WNYX could stand a little shaking up."

"The general public isn't ready for fanfic yet," said Catherine. "Although, give it a few more years..."

"WNYX does not need shaking up," Dave said firmly. "We're a news radio station, not a...not a --"

"I think what Dave's trying to say," said Lisa, "is that it's best if we all just delete the e-mail and get back to our regular routine. After all, we have that City Council story --"

"I don't know," said Matthew. (Sometimes Dave wondered what the point was in even having his own office.) "I'm thinking we should do some kind of investigation about those disappearances Lisa was writing about. Maybe send somebody up to Utica."

"That was fiction, Matthew!" said Lisa.

"Hey, don't be so sure," said Joe. "There's stories they don't even put in that show 'cause if the truth got out it would be the end of the FOX network."

"What do you mean?" said Matthew, his eyes wide.

"Check it out. I know this guy, he's still got scars on his belly from when the aliens cut out the thing they gestated in him. Seriously, I got pictures!"

"We should do a story on this!" Matthew bounced on his feet in his excitement and tugged at Dave's sleeve. "Dave, don't you think we should do a story on this?"

"No, I don't, Matthew. In fact --" Dave raised his voice. "In fact, that's enough, everybody. I think Lisa's right. We've all got a lot of work to do and we should just do our best to put this behind us and move on."

Everyone kept chattering until Beth yelled in her much stronger voice, "Everybody shut up and get out!"

At that point they quieted down to whispers (Dave heard Joe tell Matthew, "See, this is how they keep it hidden!") and slowly filed out, leaving Dave and Lisa alone again.

"Are we going to put this behind us and move on too?" she asked.

"You know, I'm not so sure we should. I meant it when I said I liked your story. It was very...affecting."

Lisa smiled and said nothing.

"So...Miller," Dave said, liking the sound of her last name more than he'd expected, "are you still planning to stay here tonight to work on the City Council story?"

Lisa squared her shoulders and looked him in the eye. "Actually, I was planning to watch The X-Files tonight."

He took hold of her hand and asked, "Would you like some company?"

"Yes, Nelson, I think I would."