Fox took a deep breath and began for the third time to read the first page of the thick sheaf of papers before him on his desk.
He glanced at his watch and saw that another twenty minutes had gone by. He worried the end of his pen with his teeth. He had to read this thing within forty minutes -- he had to, or he'd be taking it home with him over the weekend. On second thought...
On second thought, maybe he'd take it home anyway. Maybe he'd take the file for the Salerno case, too. Maybe if he took both of them he'd be able to distract himself for those two interminable days. He shook his head as if to clear it and directed his gaze to the top of the page and tried again.
Slowly he became aware that one of the people passing by his desk had stopped, and he lifted his head to see Diana standing there, watching him with that humorless half-smile of hers.
"It only used to be Wednesdays, Fox, but it looks like it's Fridays now too. Are you okay?"
"This is part of what makes you a good agent, Diana," Fox remarked, his voice tinged with sarcasm. "Your keen powers of observation." He rolled the edges of the top few sheets in his hands. "To everyone else in this room it appears that I'm sitting at my desk reading this case file. You, however, have noticed that what I am really doing is plumbing the well-charted depths of my own personal hell." He dropped the papers onto the desk and slumped forward, his face in his hands. "Oh, God, Diana. My divorce was final today."
"Oh, Fox. I'm sorry."
"Thanks," he murmured, his eyes still downcast.
Diana moved closer and leaned over the desk. "Are you going to be alright tonight?"
He was about to answer that he'd be fine, when it struck him suddenly that he wasn't sure. She seemed to read his hesitancy as clearly as if he'd spoken.
"Come pick me up at home. Can you make it by six?"
He raised his head slowly and met her eyes. He nodded. "Yeah. ...Yeah, I can."
"Good," she said simply, and straightened up. "I'll see you at six, then."
He wavered at the top of the steps and then felt Diana's hand on his arm, steadying him, as they descended.
" 'M not that drunk," Fox muttered. "I'm... I'm..." He searched for the words, but they eluded him for a moment. "...pleasantly buzzed."
He looked up and met Diana's amused, skeptical gaze. "Semantics, Fox," she said. She held out her hand, palm upward. "Keys."
He fished around in the bottom of his pocket until he found them. Aiming carefully, he dropped them into her hand. Diana linked her arm through his and led him to the passenger side of the car; he leaned against it while she unlocked the door.
"In you go," she said as she pulled the door open. He sat down heavily and swung his legs inside. The door closed with a thump that made him wince.
He was still fumbling with the buckle of the seatbelt when Diana slid into the driver's seat. She leaned over and wordlessly fastened it for him.
He leaned back in the seat and laid his head against the headrest as Diana started the car. They drove in silence for a few minutes. He closed his eyes.
"When does it end?"
He heard her sigh. He waited.
"I think it only really ends when you decide to let it go, Fox," she finally answered.
He said nothing more. The motion of the car was soothing, and he lay back and let himself drift. Eventually he was aware that Diana was pulling off the road and parking; he stirred and looked out the window and saw that they were back at her apartment.
He struggled briefly again with the seatbelt, and once again she reached over to help him.
"You know," she said, regarding him thoughtfully, "I don't think I can let you go home like this." And, to his surprise, she laid her hand on the inside of his thigh.
"Diana," he murmured, "is this really a good idea...?"
When she leaned closer and began to kiss him, it didn't seem like such a bad idea after all.
She couldn't breathe -- couldn't breathe. She was paralyzed. She tried to look around, to find Mulder; she knew he would help her. But he was -- he was -- She strained desperately, but every muscle in her body was frozen; panic mounted, but her throat was too tight, and she couldn't even scream --
Scully jerked awake with a choked cry. She sat up in the bed and reached out, fumbling frantically for the lamp; she switched the light on and fell back against the pillows, gasping.
She had been... where had she been? Outside, somewhere; it had been dark, and there had been moonlight on the water, and some kind of music, and Mulder...
She shook herself and closed her eyes. Just a crazy dream, because he'd been acting so strange, taking her to that damned lake...
Her eyes opened wide. The lake. The moonlight... She began shivering again. Mulder... She rolled over, hugging a pillow, but it was no use; some kind of foreboding was making her stomach churn, and it was getting worse by the minute. She couldn't stay in that bed another moment. She swung her legs over the side and got to her feet, and found herself heading toward the door.
It was ridiculous. She wasn't going to run to him just because she'd had a nightmare. But it hadn't felt like a dream; it felt like being there, like seeing it... She stopped, but when she did, the swell of panic that rose in her made her tremble. She had to see Mulder. Something was... She had to see him now.
She was through the door and in the hallway almost before she knew it, and instantly saw that his door was ajar. She forgot caution, didn't even think about going back for her weapon; she foolishly rushed to his door and threw it open and stumbled into the room, swatting at the light switch next to the door.
"Mulder?" she called hoarsely, knowing he wouldn't answer, knowing he'd gone. "Mulder!"
He wasn't in the bedroom, wasn't in the bathroom. She rushed back to her room, and hastily pulled a pair of sweatpants and a t-shirt right over her nightgown; she shoved her feet into her sneakers. She snatched up her gun and thanked God she'd driven back here last night as she grabbed the car keys. She bolted out of her room. She couldn't wait for the elevator; she took the stairs two at a time, and ran outside into the night.
The lake. That damned lake. Every instinct within her screamed Mulder's name. She jumped into the car; she jammed the key into the ignition and heard it roar to life. The tires spat gravel against the underside of the car as she dropped it into reverse and floored the accelerator; they squealed on the pavement as she turned and sped away.
"Wait for me, Mulder," she said aloud, remembering the feverish light in his eyes as he'd looked out across the water in the evening. "Wait for me."
Afterward, she would never quite be able to remember how she found her way so unerringly to the lake; whatever was guiding her, she had no choice but to trust it. She covered the eleven miles in just a few minutes, although it seemed endless, and finally made the last right-hand turn onto Garland Road.
Please, Mulder. There -- there was the entrance. Please. She shut off the car's engine and the lights; the sky had cleared during the evening, and the full moon overhead showed her what she'd wanted so desperately to see. She flung herself from the car and sprinted toward the solitary figure standing near the shoreline.
He was standing there in the moonlight, wearing only a light jacket over his pajamas. His eyes were fixed on something far away out on the water. His jaw was clenched and his fingers were curled into tight fists, and she saw that he was shaking, his whole body consumed with the effort to resist, to remain where he stood, not to be drawn forward. She reached out and pulled at his shoulders and tried to turn him away from the lake; thrown off balance, he stumbled and fell heavily to his knees. He craned his neck to keep staring over his shoulder at the moonlit water.
"Scully!" he cried, his voice breaking, "Don't you hear it?" He reached toward her blindly and she knelt down beside him, wrapped her arms around him; he clutched frantically at her shirt. "The music -- "
"I don't -- " Scully started to say, but then, softly, at the very farthest reaches of her hearing, she thought she did -- she thought she heard it; a faint melody, that piece by Debussy that she'd always loved. Then, just as quickly as it had come, it was gone; it had vanished in the rustle of the breeze through the leaves. In that same instant Mulder groaned and collapsed against her; for a moment she struggled to hold him up, and then he regained his balance and sat quietly on the ground, hanging his head.
The park was silent save for the night sounds of the crickets and frogs. Scully felt Mulder shivering, and she pulled him closer, rocked him, stroked his shoulder soothingly. In a few minutes he was steadier, and stirred against her.
"Scully..." he breathed, lifting his head and shaking it.
"I'm right here," she murmured. "Are you all right?"
He turned, looking at her as if she were something curious and foreign, something he had never seen before. But he nodded his head, and moved as if to get to his feet.
Scully stood, and helped him up. "Let's get out of here, Mulder," she said softly. He put his arm across her shoulders and leaned on her as they made their way slowly back to the car.
"Mulder," she asked, "how did you get here?"
He shuddered against her, and murmured, "I don't remember."
Scully opened the passenger-side door; Mulder got in and put his face down in his hands. She crouched down next to him and put her hand on his arm. He lifted his head and gazed dully at her, his face half-hidden in the shadow from the car's dome light.
"It's okay now," she murmured, stroking his arm; he sighed, sagging against the car seat, and looked down at his feet. She followed his gaze and saw for the first time that he had no shoes, and that his feet were bruised and dirty. She put out her hand to wipe at the mud on one of them and found instead that he was cut and bleeding. She lifted her head and met his eyes; she reached up and smoothed the damp hair away from his forehead.
"We're going home tomorrow, Mulder," she said, and he nodded slowly. "It's over. I'm taking you home."
Scully's clock went off at six-thirty, but she hadn't slept much. She reached over and picked up the travel alarm and pushed the switch to turn the beeper off. For a few more minutes she laid still; she got up, then, and slipped her feet into her sneakers and went quietly across the hall to Mulder's room, and let herself in.
He was sprawled across the bed almost just the way she'd left him nearly three hours earlier, stretched out on his stomach, his face half-buried against the pillow, sound asleep. She leaned over him and laid one hand on his shoulder; he shifted a little and let out a long sigh, but did not wake.
Scully studied him for a few more minutes, and then reached out to pick up his alarm clock. It was set for seven. She turned it over in her hands; then, nodding to herself, she reset it to nine o'clock and put it back down where she'd found it. She took a few soft steps toward the door, and paused, and looked over her shoulder at Mulder as he slept. She turned back. Leaning over him again, she gently stroked his tousled hair with her hand. He didn't stir. She straightened up and crossed the room and let herself out again, closing the door silently behind her.
The night clerk at the desk in the lobby had openly, wordlessly stared at three-thirty in the morning when she'd led the barefoot, half-sleeping Mulder across the lobby and into the elevator, but after all the things she'd done and seen in the past six years Scully was immune to the stares of strangers. She'd propped Mulder up in the corner of the elevator and steadied him when its lurch made him sway precariously. After she'd somehow half-carried him down the hall and into his room, she just aimed him at the bed and watched him collapse there. He hadn't even stirred at the sting of the iodine when she'd carefully washed his battered feet. She covered him with a blanket; she sat down on the edge of the bed and watched him for a little while, concerned. When she was satisfied that all he was doing was peacefully sleeping, she got up and went across the hall to her own room, hoping to sleep, too.
At quarter after nine she opened Mulder's door and peered inside. "Mulder?"
"Mmmm... Scully..." he answered, yawning. She came inside and closed the door. She sat down again on the edge of the bed, and Mulder rolled over and stretched. "I was asleep," he murmured; he sounded surprised.
"You sure were." She smiled thinly. "I almost had to carry you up here last night to put you to bed."
Mulder blinked and looked up at her, plainly puzzled.
"Mulder, don't you remember? I found you at the lake, in the middle of the night."
His eyes widened. "The lake..." he breathed, lifting his head. "Scully, I heard music. I saw -- " And she saw, for the briefest instant, the expression of wonder that passed over his face. He turned his head quickly, and when he looked up again and met her gaze, his eyes were guarded, and it was gone.
She found his hand and gently closed her fingers around his. "What did you see?" she whispered.
Mulder hesitated, and then said slowly, "I'm not sure, Scully. ...I'm really not sure." He laid back against the pillow and closed his eyes again, and Scully, suddenly self-conscious, let go of his hand.
She opened her mouth to speak, and then waited; she studied him, wondering if he would understand later when she told him, wondering how angry he would be. She really had been going to tell him about the phone call. She had opened the door just those few minutes ago planning to tell him, but now, looking at him lying here, and remembering last night...
"Mulder," she said tentatively, "there's a flight out of here at one-thirty. Should I...?"
He sighed. "Yeah..." He opened his eyes; he sat up, yawning again. "You're right, Scully." He glanced over at the little alarm clock. "We should just make it."
She settled into the car seat and fastened the belt, feeling the thump as Mulder dropped the suitcase into the trunk behind her. He closed the trunk lid and she waited for him to get into the car beside her; when a long moment had passed, she craned her neck and looked around to see where he was.
She saw him standing a few feet away from the back of the car, his back toward her. He was gazing out in the direction of White Rock Lake, of Claire's house, although they were far away.
Scully turned around to face forward again. She looked down at her hands, folded in her lap, and waited.
Mulder came up alongside the car, limping a little; he opened the door and slid into the driver's seat. He thumbed through the keychain until he found the key he wanted.
She found that she wanted to comfort him, but that would mean admitting to her own private investigation, admitting she had known for days who Claire had been to Mulder. It might mean having the conversation she wasn't sure she'd ever be ready to have. So she only reached across the car and laid her hand over his as he put the key into the ignition.
"You've done everything you can for her, Mulder," she said gently. "Let her go."
He turned and stared at her. She saw the question in his eyes, but refused to acknowledge it with her own; at length he nodded slowly and looked away.
Perhaps, she thought, I should at least give him the chance.
"Mulder," she asked softly, "Is there anything... Is there something I don't know about this case?"
He looked over at her again; there was a long pause. Mulder sighed.
"No," he said at last. His expression was unreadable. "No, I don't think so." He dropped his gaze. "Let's go home, Scully."
He turned the key and started the car.
File #X - 597534-587
Agent of record: Dr. Dana K. Scully -- ID #2317-616
I was informed of Karen Gathis' death at 8:00 AM on the morning of May 20th in a telephone call from the medical examiner, who extended an offer to me to assist in the autopsy. In light, however, of the physical and emotional toll the investigation of this case had already exacted upon Agent Mulder, I deemed it prudent instead to accompany him back to Washington and to have the autopsy results forwarded to me immediately upon its completion.
Gathis was found dead in her bed at Green Oaks by nurse Julie Standley during the routine 3:00 AM check. Standley, who had also performed the 1:00 AM check, observed nothing unusual at that time; evidence suggests that death occurred quite late in the two-hour interval left unaccounted for.
Unfortunately, in other respects, the autopsy results are inconclusive and even conflicting. The toxicological screen found the expected levels of the prescribed medications which had been administered to Gathis; none of the drugs have known interactions. Death was apparently caused by some type of asphyxiation. There was no trauma evident on the body to suggest any kind of assault. Several indications - the presence of a fine white foam at the nostrils and mouth, extensive haemorrhaging in the middle ear, and the presence of diatoms throughout the body, as well as the diluted quality of the blood - suggest death by drowning in fresh water, although this is contraindicated by the absence of water in the lung tissue and the obvious fact that the deceased was found in bed in a hospital and not, in fact, anywhere near water of any kind - even a bathtub. The body, as well as the bedding, was dry when Gathis was found, and it is reasonable to think that, given the recent proximity of death, there would have been ample evidence to that effect had she been removed from her bed, drowned, and the body subsequently returned.
It is tempting to draw parallels between Gathis' belief in a "lake spirit," the local legends concerning the same, and the series of drownings which have taken place in White Rock Lake, the most recent being that of Dr. Claire Turner. Unfortunately, no such conclusion will withstand the scrutiny of meaningful scientific investigation. However much I may be inclined in this instance to concur with Agent Mulder that Dr. Turner was acting under the influence of an outside force when she took her life in White Rock Lake, the greatest part of the evidence for this is anecdotal and cannot be substantiated.
At this time, Claire Turner's death remains on record as a suicide, and that of Karen Gathis remains unexplained.
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