Title: La Llorona (11/12)
Rating: PG (mild language)
Spoilers: Not really, but assumes everything through at least Amor Fati.
Summary: Mulder and Scully investigate a series of deaths in Albuquerque, NM.
Feedback: Yes, please. firstname.lastname@example.org
Archive: Not to Gossamer. I'll submit directly there. Yes to anywhere else. Just let me know, please.
The rain had stopped but the cool breeze still carried its perfume through the night air as they walked around the house and ascended the stairs. Scully opened the door to Mulder's room and followed him in.
He watched her face closely now, wondering why she hadn't said anything yet. Was she mad at him? She hadn't seemed mad before.
He did as he was told, taking the armchair by the window.
"Go ahead, Scully." He watched her set the bag on the table and slowly withdraw her stethoscope.
She quirked an eyebrow at him.
"I don't have anything to say, Mulder." She pulled his sweatshirt up and quickly ran through a very basic exam, listening to his lungs, taking his temperature, and finally listening very carefully to his heart, trying to avoid the sore spot on his chest as she checked for any irregularities.
Mulder searched her face while she worked, only turning away to try to hide the wince of pain as she touched his aching chest.
Satisfied that all was normal, she lowered his shirt and straightened, catching his eye as he stared up at her.
When she continued to keep silent, he finally spoke.
"You aren't going to scold me for being foolish and endangering my life?" He let her spread antibiotic cream on the scratches on his face and hands.
"Nope." She wiped her hands, sighed deeply and sat down on the bed. "What happened out there on the riverbank, Mulder?"
He blinked at her for a moment. Did she really want to know?
"I saw her, Scully."
She pursed her lips as she put her things away, then crossed her arms.
"Her! La Llorona!" he insisted. "Just like Hurtado said. She was there at the river. She tried to kill me, Scully!"
"Mulder, I meant, what happened to you?" She gently touched his chest. "How did you get injured?"
"She did it!" he repeated. "She touched me."
Scully said nothing but turned to pull the covers down on the bed. She didn't want to argue with him. Whatever had happened, he had been traumatized and she wanted him to get some rest.
"Lie down, Mulder. You should get some sleep. It's been a long day."
Mulder moved to the bed, stretching out and pulling the covers up.
"I saw her, Scully. I swear. I saw her." He searched her face to see if she believed him.
Scully sighed long and slow, then sat beside him on the bed. She cocked her head over and looked him in the eye. His earnest, eager face distracted her from her exasperation, and she decided to go with it.
"So, what did she look like?"
His eyes brightened a bit at the memory.
"It was a dark shape at first. I couldn't tell what it was. Then I heard Samantha calling me. She was down by the river, calling me to come and find her, help her." He paused for a moment as he remembered the heartbreaking sound of her voice, then shook his head as he continued.
"Then as she got closer, I could see her face. She was beautiful and...and...horrible. She...she..." his mouth worked as he struggled to find words to describe what he had seen. He buried his face in his hands as a shudder broke over his body. His voice came from behind his hands, small and quiet.
"I was so scared, Scully. I...it was...I couldn't move...she...touched me..."
His hand went to his chest and he curled around himself as if to hide from the memory.
Scully ran a warm hand down his back and rubbed soothing circles across his shoulders before she spoke.
"Mulder, I don't know what to say," she began quietly. "I don't know what actually happened to you out there, but what you're describing is almost exactly what that man, Hurtado, described this evening."
"Yes," he said. "It was just like he said. He was right about her."
"Mulder," she countered gently, "maybe it was just like he said because you went out there with those images in your mind."
He sat up and pushed her hand away.
"Are you saying I imagined it? That I'm making it up?"
"No, Mulder," she answered, keeping her voice gentle. "I'm just saying that you had a preconceived notion about what you were going to find out there, and that it may have colored your interpretation of..."
"I am NOT making it up! I did NOT imagine it!" he insisted. "Did I make this up?!" He pulled his shirt up to reveal the still-painful red mark on his chest. "How did that happen?"
"Mulder, are you sure..."
"I know what I saw, Scully!" he repeated, pulling his knees up and wrapping his arms around them.
Scully held her tongue, unwilling to fight with him right now. At last she put one hand on his knee and gave it a squeeze.
"We can talk about it in the morning when we've both had some rest."
He looked at her hand, feeling its warmth on his knee. He knew that she hoped that he would interpret things differently in the morning and he wanted to be angry about that, but he was too tired to keep it up.
"Mulder?" she prompted when he had done nothing but chew his bottom lip.
He nodded and stretched out on the bed, rolling away from her.
She resisted the urge to touch him again and rose to move toward the connecting door.
"Goodnight, Mulder," she whispered, closing the door behind her.
Mulder heard Scully's whisper and was tempted to turn around, but the door closed before he could make up his mind. He rolled over long enough to turn off the bedside lamp, then hunkered down under the covers. He wished desperately for a television to fill his mind with its thoughtless drone, to create a buffer between his restless thoughts and the noise outside his door, where the wind still moaned and rain spattered the roof sporadically.
He pulled the covers up over his ears and fought a losing battle with sleep.
She crossed her room, pulling her blouse from her waistband and unbuttoning it as she toed off her shoes. She didn't know what to think about what had happened to Mulder tonight.
She shook her head to clear it and slipped out of her slacks, shedding her blouse on the way to the shower. She left her underwear on the floor of the bathroom, too anxious to get under a pounding stream of hot water to care about being neat. She hadn't realized until just this moment how tense and tired she had become.
Mulder and his ghost...
She stood still under the water and let it's noise fill her head.
The rushing sound of water, trees rustling their branches together, footsteps running, crashing through the woods, a howling scream rising up as something splashes into the water...
"No!" A voice crying out in vain, "No, no, no, No, NO, NO!"
Too late...it's too late...
Darkness, rain, the river, clouds obliterating the moon...
She's calling me, she needs me, I can find her there...she's down there in the water...I can bring her back...
She's dead...she's dead...she's dead...
"Fox! Help me, Fox! Help me!"
No, no, no, no, NO, NO! Where? WHERE?!?!
Water swallows her, her arms flail uselessly, tangled in her dress, the water pulling her faster and faster, the shadow over her head...
"Mommy! Mommy!" Blackness beneath the water, underneath the bridge...
"Fox! Help me, Fox!"
"Samantha! Samantha, where are you?! I can't...I can't...Samantha!"
A beautiful face in the darkness, the most beautiful face...smiling, a soft hand reaching out...but the hand becomes a claw, the smile a grimace of fear, pain, and madness.
Someone begins to scream...
Scully shot out of the bathroom, snatching up her robe and tying it quickly around her wet body.
He was screaming.
She burst into his room to find him thrashing on the bed, covers tangled around his legs and slipping off the side of the bed.
One of his arms caught her in the shoulder and she grabbed hold of it.
"Mulder!" She fended off his other arm with her back and took his face in her hand. "Mulder, wake up!"
His whole body jerked up, almost launching himself from the bed, pushing Scully to her knees on the floor beside him.
His eyes were wide and wild, trying desperately to focus on something, anything.
"Mulder, I'm here," she said more softly, turning his face toward her. "Wake up, Mulder. It's okay."
He blinked rapidly at her for a few disoriented seconds until he seemed to finally recognize her face. He gasped in a breath and began to tremble.
She came up to sit beside him on the bed, putting her fingertips just below his jaw to check his pounding pulse.
"It's okay, it's okay," she whispered as she rubbed his arms and back, pulling him into a tight hug, giving him time to pull himself together.
At last his breathing evened out and he sat back, a little embarrassed at his behavior. He scrubbed at his eyes with the heels of his hands, then dropped his hands to his lap, silently distilling the images in his dream.
"There was a little girl." His voice was quietly husky, his brow beginning to furrow.
Scully took his hand. "What girl?"
He shook his head. "I saw her before, in the bathtub, under the water. She went under the water. And she...she was there...she...I don't know...she wanted to touch me, like the others. She wanted to...she wanted me to...and Samantha...I could hear her, Scully."
He finally looked up into her eyes, wondering if she could see the confusion in his heart.
"Mulder," Scully began softly, "was Samantha the little girl under the water?"
"No," he said firmly. "No. It was another girl. But she's not like the others. She drowned."
Scully took a deep breath, wondering if she should follow the thought that occurred to her. "Mulder, could she be...could you have been thinking of the legend, of how the woman threw her child into the river?"
"Scully..." He shook his head sharply, pressing his lips together in frustration. "This was a different girl, a real girl. I could almost see her face. She's not one of the victims; she didn't die in the same way. But somehow she's...involved."
"Mul..." Scully started to speak but fell silent when he held a finger up, his eyes slipping closed.
"Scully, on the way to Hurtado's house you said that you spoke to the families of all the victims except Kinsey. Tell me again what they told you."
"They all said that the victim left his or her home on the night of their deaths. They had all been upset in recent days, some of them referring to the deaths by the river."
"Manny Garcia was the first one to die. You said earlier that he had been talking about his daughter--the daughter he lost to SIDS twenty years ago. Tell me everything his wife said."
"She said that he first started acting a little strange after hearing something on the news about a little girl who drowned in the river. He was very upset that night and was restless and moody for the next few days. Then one night he left the house, saying something about their daughter. His wife couldn't quite make out what he said."
"Do we know anything about this little girl—the one who drowned? She's not part of this case, is she?"
"No," Scully replied, wondering where he was going. "There's nothing about a little girl being part of this case."
"We need to ask Sanchez about her. I think there's some connection..."
"Okay," Scully answered, patting his arm. "We'll talk to Sanchez in the morning, but right now I think you ought to try to get back to sleep. You've been through a lot tonight."
"Scully, I don't think I can go back to sleep right now." Mulder looked at her with an expression of discomfort and fear mixed with a plea for sympathy.
"I tell you what," Scully said, rising from the bed. "Let's get dressed and go downstairs. Maybe we can scrounge up a midnight snack."
He nodded his agreement and began to rise from the bed, realizing only as she left that Scully was naked and wet beneath her robe.
A few minutes later they entered the cozy living room of the old house. A fire burned in the fireplace and the newlywed couple they had seen earlier still snuggled on the loveseat. The only television on the premises was muted almost all the way down and Mulder gravitated toward it like a moth to the flame, taking up the remote to scroll through the channels as he stood in the middle of the room.
Scully slipped back toward the kitchen and was surprised to find Mrs. C de Baca still at work.
"Miss Scully," the older woman began, clapping flour from her hands and wiping them on her apron. "Is something wrong? Is Fox all right?"
"No, he's fine," Scully replied. "I didn't think you'd still be working at this hour."
"I was preparing the masa for tomorrow's tortillas," Mrs. C explained, indicating the large bowl of flour she had been working with. "Did you need something from the kitchen?"
"I was wondering if I could get a little something for Mulder to eat, just to settle him down a bit."
Mrs. C nodded and moved toward a cupboard where she took down two glasses and a plate.
"How about some apricot empanádas and milk? We use apricots grown on our own trees out back," she said with a smile. "Very fresh."
"That sounds good," Scully replied. "Can I help you?"
"Why don't you get the milk?" Mrs. C indicated the large refrigerator in the back corner and then set about arranging four plump pastries on the plate. She took two cloth napkins from a drawer and started out toward the living room, Scully following with the glasses of milk.
The newlywed couple had made their way out of the room once Mulder started messing with the TV, so he had turned the volume up and had settled himself on the larger couch where he had a good view.
After he and Scully had devoured the pastries, he settled on a late-night replay of a local channel's evening news broadcast. They were reporting on Kinsey's death and commenting on the APD's inability to even come up with a suspect, let alone put a stop to the killings.
"Mulder, why don't you find something else," Scully said, wishing he would give his brain a rest for a moment.
"Maybe you're right," he said. He began his channel surfing again, sipping the last of his milk and savoring the not-too-sweet taste of the pastry still lingering in his mouth. He had made a complete circuit of the channels and had arrived back at the news broadcast just as the weatherman was beginning.
"It looks like we'll be seeing the last of the monsoon rains tonight!" The cheerful young man with a bad haircut indicated a radar map of the state. "The seasonal pattern seems to be breaking up and we'll have clear dry skies for the next several days..."
Mulder turned to Scully with his mouth open, and she could tell that something had just clicked into place in his mind.