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What Was Taken, What Was Lost

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PROLOGUE

David Tannahill wakes from a sound sleep into total confusion. First, because he doesn't typically wake in the middle of the night, not even when his wife's children are visiting and making noise at an ungodly hour. Second, because he's not in his bed at home... and third, because the room in which he's lying is bitterly, bitingly cold.

As his awareness sharpens, he takes in his surroundings- plush, four-poster bed, antique furniture, damask wallpaper- and remembers: he and Chelsea are on vacation, celebrating their fifth anniversary at Whitehall Manor. So that explains the furniture... but not the freezing temperature. He turns to Chelsea, to see if she's sleeping through whatever heater malfunction the resort is experiencing, and finds that she's not there.

Now truly confused, David sits up and grabs for his glasses on the nightstand, shoving them roughly onto his face. As the room comes into focus, the source of the plunging temperature is made immediately apparent. Across the room, the narrow French doors of the Romeo and Juliet-style balcony are standing wide open. Chelsea is standing motionless, clad only in her thin nightgown, staring out at the raging blizzard, snow and wind whipping her long hair into a frenzy.

"Chelsea, what the hell?" yells David, leaping out of bed. His wife makes no indication that she's heard him. She's not shivering, not doing anything, really, except staring off into the whirling snow, her head cocked slightly to the side, as though listening to distant music that only she can hear. David has never known Chelsea to sleepwalk, but he supposes it's possible that in the unfamiliar environment, her sleeping pattern has been altered. He begins to cross the room, intending to shut the door and gently guide his wife back to bed... but a sudden motion out of the corner of his eye stops him in his tracks.

A shadow moves across the full-length mirror standing in the corner of the room. David whirls around to see who's there, but the room is empty. Looking back, he sees Chelsea frowning slightly, as though listening to a persuasive argument, though David can hear nothing. Whatever the voice is saying, it seems convincing, however... because quite suddenly, Chelsea nods as if in agreement, climbs quickly onto the balcony railing, and dives off. Head first.

Halfway down, she comes back to herself, and begins to scream.

 

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CHAPTER ONE

 

"Suicides, Mulder. I don't see how suicides qualify as an X-File."

"Five suicides, Scully, and four extremely odd accidental deaths, all at the same resort. And all since its opening less than five years ago." Mulder glances across the car at his partner, who is leaning against the window, looking listlessly out at the passing countryside, just as she had done for the entire ride to the airport. And for their flight from DC to Syracuse. And the ride to Dulles Airport.

When it comes right down to it, "staring listlessly out the window" seems to be an apt description for Scully at any given moment, these days.

"They're still just suicides and accidents," Scully argues. "No hint of anything paranormal whatsoever."

"The husband of the most recent suicide reported seeing a shadow in the room, right before his wife dove off the third-floor balcony," Mulder points out, and Scully snorts derisively.

"Probably because he was worried the cops would assume that he pushed her," she says.

"Come on, you really don't think there's anything weird about this? A romantic getaway retreat opens up, and within five years, five guests- none of whom, I'd like you to note, showed the slightest hint of depression, mental illness, or suicidal tendencies prior to their visits- take their own lives."

"Sometimes people hide despair really well, Mulder," Scully counters. "The number of surviving family members taken completely by surprise by a suicide is relatively high."

"And on top of that," Mulder plows on, undeterred, "four other guests die in circumstances that are all bizarre, to say the least."

"Falling through thin ice isn't all that bizarre," says Scully, flipping open the file on her lap to a page in the report.

"It's pretty bizarre when it happens in the middle of the night," says Mulder. "And even more bizarre when the victim- who had no prior history of sleepwalking- wanders out onto the ice in his pajamas, directly from his hotel room." Scully bites her lip. "Or how about the woman electrocuted in her bathtub by a hair dryer that her husband swears up and down was plugged in on the dresser by the bed, and not on the bathroom vanity? Or the woman who got lost on a hike and froze to death within sight of the trail? Or how about the guy who went into the kitchen between meals and somehow managed to set himself on fire? You don't think there's anything weird about any of those?"

"All right, I'll concede that it's strange," sighs Scully, "but I still don't see why we have to go undercover for this investigation." She frowns down at the diamond on her left hand. "And I really don't see why we have to do it as newlyweds." Mulder tries not to be offended at the distasteful expression she's giving her wedding band. His own isn't bothering him in the slightest; quite the opposite, actually.

"Are you two the parents?"

The emotions that had shot through him at the ER doctor's question had come as a shock, almost as much of a shock as Scully's discovery of the little girl the doctor had been treating. Yes, he'd known he was love with Scully, had been for years... but the idea of sharing a child with her? It hadn't been something he'd ever considered before- at first, because he'd been so certain that she hadn't felt the same about him, and later, because he'd known it simply wasn't a possibility.

But suddenly, confronted head-on with the thought of raising that little girl with Scully....

Don't think about it, he tells himself firmly. There's no point. Not now.

"We need to go undercover because the police suspect that an employee at the resort is somehow responsible for the deaths," Mulder says, "and we'll have a better chance of finding out whether that's true this way than we would if we just drove up and started questioning people. And since we're undercover...." He shrugs. "It's a resort that caters exclusively to couples, Scully. It'd look pretty weird if we posed as brother and sister, wouldn't you say?" He glances over at her and meets her eyes before she looks quickly away, her face red. "Hey," he says softly, reaching out and taking her hand. He's encouraged when she doesn't pull away. "I know this is kind of weird, okay?"

"It's not weird," she says hastily, and he raises his eyebrows. "Well... maybe it's a little weird," she admits, smiling weakly.

"Listen, just so you know, I'm not...." He bites his lip and looks away, out the windshield at the deserted rural highway, but doesn't let go of her hand. "I'm not expecting anything. When we're talking to the people at the resort, the guests and the employees, we're Eric and Danielle Foster, but in private, no matter how small our hotel room is, we're as professional as you want us to be." He risks a glance at her and finds her pursing her lips. "Or not professional at all. Or somewhere in between." She arches an eyebrow at him, and he realizes he's babbling. "What I'm saying is... it's up to you. All of it. I'll even sleep on the floor, if you want." He tugs her hand over to his side of the car, presses his lips briefly to the backs of her fingers, and releases her hand. He holds his breath, nervous that he's overstepped... and lets it out as she cups his cheek gently, then brings her hand back to her lap.

"Thank you," she whispers, and he grins at her, the tension broken. It's a difficult balancing act, this new path they've started down, and Mulder has had more than one occasion to wonder whether it had been wise to make this move now, with Scully's grief still so raw and fresh, so close to the surface. Every now and then, he worries that sooner or later, she's going to realize that she doesn't really want this, that she's only been seeking comfort this whole time, and that coming to his bed that night had been a colossal mistake.

But if that realization is in her future, it hasn't dawned yet, and while there hasn't been a repeat of that first night, she touches him more now, stands closer, invites him over to her apartment some evenings without the pretext of work, and once or twice, while walking down the street (far, far from the Hoover building and certainly not while on a case), she's slid her arm around his waist and leaned her head against him. And when he's put his arm around her shoulders, she hasn't shrugged it off.

"So we get there, we check in, and we start trying to speak with people right away?" she asks. Clearly she'd like to get back to the case, to more neutral and stable territory, and he's willing to meet her there.

"Well, provided we don't hit traffic, which is unlikely, and provided the snowstorm that's threatening holds off," Mulder says, gesturing to the ominous clouds above them, "we should arrive shortly before dinner. Which gives us an opportunity to start talking to the waitstaff, at the very least." Scully flips open the folder in her lap again.

"Most of the resort staff are students at St. Lawrence University, which is about twenty minutes away." Scully looks out her window, at the endless fields and woods they've been driving through for over an hour. "I guess in an area this rural, the opportunities for part-time work are few and far between." From within the file, she withdraws a map of the region, squinting at it. "Canton, New York. I've never even heard of it. It's so far north, it's practically in Canada."

"A buddy of mine from high school went to St. Lawrence," says Mulder. "He said he used to get so bored on weekends, he was tempted to try to get arrested, just for a change of pace." Scully laughs.

"Small-town life," she says. "Can't say it's anything I've ever experienced. I'm so used to D.C. now, and before college, Dad was stationed in Norfolk and we were in the Washington suburbs, and of course before that it was San Diego-" She abruptly cuts off, looking away, and it's not hard to figure out why. San Diego is likely the last place she wants to think about right now, with memories of Emily so fresh in her mind. It's exactly why Mulder is glad for this case's location: the snowy fields of upstate New York are as far-removed as possible from the sunny beaches of San Diego. He casts about for something to say, but before he can think of anything, she continues. "Of course, the bases were sort of like small towns themselves, sometimes," she says. "In the way that everyone knew everything about everybody else. There were no secrets."

"That's the sort of small-town atmosphere I'm hoping for here," says Mulder. "If everybody knows everybody else, it's likely they know their animosities, their grudges, their feuds. Who's sleeping with whose spouse, and who has a drinking problem, or a drug problem, or issues controlling their temper." On his right, he sees the exit sign for Canton, and he takes it, hoping the directions he's gotten are accurate.

"Is this the part of the case that caught your attention, Mulder?" Scully asks, waving a piece of paper from the file. "These... sightings?" Mulder grins.

"You got me, Scully," he says. "Two sets of hotel guests reported encounters with an unknown entity. Alan and Patricia Farley, from Connecticut, were staying at Whitehall Manor during the first year it opened. They left after the first night, both claiming to have seen a spirit in their hotel room. And six months ago, Peter and Kelly Menendez were spending a week at the resort, and left halfway through."

"They had just lost a child," Scully comments quietly, reading over the report. Mulder winces: he hadn't wanted to bring the witness testimony up for just this reason. "Their baby daughter died three months prior to the trip. Sudden infant death syndrome."

"Yeah," says Mulder. "Mr. Menendez testified that the trip had been meant to give his wife time away from things. No guests under eighteen means no children, no babies." Scully nods. "Anyway," he continues, anxious to move away from the topic of dead children, "both couples reported seeing a strange, black shadow in their hotel rooms. The apparition had a fluid quality to it, but both couples reported that it had the vague shape of a woman, with long hair and glowing red eyes." He glances at Scully, who is frowning skeptically. "Two couples, four years apart, giving an almost identical description of a spirit in their hotel rooms? That can't be a coincidence. And I can guarantee you, other guests have seen it. These are just the two who were bold enough to say something to the owner about it."

"We should try and get their phone numbers," muses Scully. "It would be interesting to interview them by phone and see if their stories have changed at all."

"We might be able to get ahold of Mr. and Mrs. Menendez," says Mulder, "and we could probably find a number for Mr. Farley, but I don't know how willing he'd be to talk to us. His wife committed suicide not long after their stay at Whitehall." Scully raises her eyebrows.

"And I suppose you're going to tell me that the lingering effects of her encounter with this alleged spirit somehow drove her to do it, even though it didn't happen at the resort?" she asks.

"Uh, no," says Mulder. "Mrs. Farley's problems predated her and her husband's vacation." Scully is still looking at him expectantly, and he continues with great reluctance. "She, uh... there was a car accident, a few years before she ever came up here. The couple's two children were killed." He swallows. "Mrs. Farley was driving."

"Oh," says Scully. She closes the file sharply and goes back to looking out the window.

Whitehall Manor, it soon transpires, is so large that Mulder needn't have worried about being able to locate it. The resort is an imposing granite monstrosity, three stories tall, lined with tall, narrow windows. Some rooms have French doors leading to small balconies lined with flowerpots, empty in the winter chill. The driveway leads straight up to the front door, looping under a wide portico, where a valet attendant waits. Mulder pulls up and climbs out, and Scully does the same. She opens the trunk and makes to remove her suitcase, but a bellhop materializes from out of nowhere and beats her to the punch. The young man stacks their cases on his trolley and has them into the lobby before Mulder finishes giving the keys to the valet attendant.

"Fast service," he remarks to Scully, impressed, and she nods in agreement. He holds open the front door, his hand at the small of Scully's back... and after a moment, as the door swings shut behind him, he slides his hand from her back to her other hip. She looks up at him, eyebrows raised. "Newlyweds, remember?" he whispers, winking, and she blushes, but doesn't pull away.

A perky young woman who looks to be about college-age smiles at them as they approach the registration desk. "Welcome to Whitehall Manor!" she chirps. "My name is Sadie. Can I have your names, please?"

"Eric and Danielle Foster," says Mulder. "We have a reservation for a week's stay." Sadie scans the registration book and locates their names.

"Here you are," she says, reaching for a pen. "Oh! And I see that you're spending your honeymoon with us?" Mulder smiles widely and tightens his hold on Scully who, he's relieved to note, is smiling as well, and leaning into him. He feels her hand creep around his waist.

"That's right," he says. "Just tied the knot yesterday!"

"Congratulations!" says Sadie warmly. "You'll find a complimentary bottle of champagne in your room, compliments of Mr. Pekarcik."

"That's so kind," says Scully. "Is he the owner of the resort?" Sadie nods. "Please thank him for us."

"Oh, you'll have the chance to thank him yourself at dinner," Sadie assures them. "Mr. Pekarcik likes to greet all his guests personally on their first evening here." Mulder signs the guest register, then hands the pen to Scully. As she's signing, his attention is drawn to a display of brochures for local tourist attractions. He notices one on the history of Whitehall Manor and picks it up.

"Mind if I take one of these?" he asks Sadie.

"Please, help yourself!" she says. She hands Scully an old-fashioned brass key. "You'll be in room three-thirty-two, up on the third floor. Your bags should be waiting for you." Mulder thanks her, and with one arm still around Scully, they head for the stairs. He peruses the brochure as they go.

"Anything interesting in there?" asks Scully, as they start up. Mulder nods.

"This place has only been open as a romantic getaway for a little under five years, but the building is much older than that. It was built as a 'private health recovery resort' in 1902." Scully snorts. "What?"

"Out in the country, with this many rooms, in the early nineteen-hundreds, before the advent of antibiotics? They mean it was a sanitarium. For treating people suffering from tuberculosis." Mulder laughs.

"Yeah, I guess that doesn't read as well as 'private health recovery resort,'" he agrees. "Anyway, it was a sanitarium until 1931, when it was sold to the archdiocese of New York City and turned into a retreat for young Catholic women." He glances down at Scully, who gives him a knowing smile. "So basically, wealthy New York City families sent their daughters up here to avoid embarrassment when they found themselves... uh...."

"In trouble," Scully supplies. "So they shipped them up here for nine months, let the nuns lecture them on morality, adopted out the babies, and brought the mothers home when the danger for public humiliation had passed."

"Yup," agrees Mulder. "Then, in 1985, the archdiocese closed down the retreat due to lack of funding. It sat vacant for six years, until Gregory Pekarcik, a New York architect, bought it in 1992. He renovated it and re-opened it as a resort getaway for couples in the spring of 1993." They stop in front of room three-thirty-two, and Scully unlocks the door with the fancy brass key, pushing it open.

The room is spacious and well-appointed, with damask wallpaper, thick mauve carpeting, and furniture that Mulder is relatively certain is all antique. The bed is a massive four-poster, covered with a fluffy down quilt. A free-standing full-length mirror sits in the corner. Their room is one of those with a balcony, and beyond the tall, thin French doors, Mulder can see the snow-covered grounds, leading down to the lake, which is frozen over. Mulder notes the distance from the building to the water's edge: it's nearly two hundred yards. The man who had fallen through the ice, he reflects, would have had to have walked that entire distance barefoot, and then walked far enough out onto the ice to get to a point where he couldn't touch bottom. His feet would have been painfully, painfully cold. Had he been in some sort of a trance?

"Bathroom is nice," says Scully from behind him. "Big bathtub."

"Big enough for two?" Mulder asks, waggling his eyebrows, and Scully smiles at him.

"That bed definitely is," she says, nodding at the four-poster. "Which is a good thing, because there's no couch."

"I can take the floor, if you want," Mulder offers half-heartedly. "I bet we could request an extra quilt and I could use it as a sleeping bag."

"Why would I want that?" Scully asks. "It's fine, Mulder. It's a big bed. And it's not like we haven't shared one before." Once, Mulder thinks, and you were gone by morning, but he keeps that to himself.

"I know," he says out loud. He glances at his watch. "It's six-thirty. What do you say we head down to dinner?"

"Sounds good," she agrees, and follows him out of the room.

The dining room, on the first floor, is just as lovely as the rest of the hotel. It's spacious, with a marble floor, and a wall of windows that give a beautiful view of the lake and the surrounding woods. Outside, there's a patio that Mulder imagines allows people to dine out of doors, though it's covered in snow at the moment. They take a seat along the windows, and almost immediately, their server approaches.

"Good evening," he says. "My name is Damon, and I'll be your waiter tonight. Is this your first time with us?" Mulder nods.

"Yes, we're on our honeymoon," he says, and Damon's smile widens.

"Excellent!" he exclaims. He hands them each a menu. "Our specials tonight are at the top," he says. "The soup of the day is lobster bisque, and tonight, our chef is offering an excellent prime rib with mushroom gravy, duchess potatoes, and steamed asparagus with a butter sauce on top."

"That sounds amazing," says Mulder. "I think I'll have that. Medium-rare, please." Damon turns to Scully.

"And you, ma'am?" he asks. "Would you also like to try the special?"

"I'll have the soup," says Scully, "but I'd like a moment to go over the menu, please." Damon gives them a shallow bow and leaves. Scully raises her eyebrows at Mulder. "That's a pretty rich dinner," she observes.

"Prime rib on the Bureau's dime, Scully," he whispers, though no one is seated near them. "How can I resist?" She smiles and shakes her head, then returns to scanning the menu. When Damon comes back, she orders the broiled flounder with, predictably, fresh vegetables, hold the butter sauce. The food arrives quickly, and it's so delicious that all conversation ceases while they eat it. When they're done, they both lean back in their chairs, and Mulder groans, his hands on his stomach.

"Jesus, that was amazing," he says, and Scully nods her agreement. Damon approaches, his order pad in hand.

"Will you be having dessert this evening?" he asks. Scully shakes her head, and Mulder does the same. He's too stuffed to eat another bite.

"Just coffee, please," he says.

"Was your meal satisfactory?" Damon asks as he tucks his order pad back in his apron.

"Absolutely," says Scully. "The food was incredible."

"Yeah, it's enough to make me glad we didn't cancel our reservation and take a cruise instead," says Mulder. He watches Damon's face carefully, and sure enough, the young man blanches ever so slightly. "You know, because of the rumors?"

"What rumors would those be, Sir?" Damon asks, frowning in confusion, but Mulder isn't fooled.

"You know, with all the weird deaths," he says. He leans closer to Damon. "I heard a rumor that this place is haunted, that people have seen ghosts here. You know anything about that?"

"Oh, all hotels have rumors," says Damon, with a nervous chuckle. Mulder looks skeptical.

"You haven't seen anything weird, have you?" he asks, and Damon shakes his head.

"I'm pretty new here, Sir," he says. "I transferred to the local university last fall and started this job right after Christmas break." He bites his lip; then, after a moment's hesitation, he leans down ever so slightly. "But I heard," he says, his voice low, "that they have a really hard time keeping nighttime employees. Nobody wants to work the front desk in the middle of the night, because this one guy who used to do it said-"

"How are our latest guests doing?" asks a deep, booming voice, and Damon stands up straight, jumping back. "Is Damon here taking good care of you this evening?" A tall, lanky man with thinning brown hair and wire-rimmed glasses approaches their table.

"He's been excellent," says Scully warmly. "And the food has been just amazing." The man beams.

"Glad to hear it," he says. "I'm Gregory Pekarcik, the owner of Whitehall Manor." He shakes Mulder's hand, then Scully's.

"Good to meet you," he says. "I'm Eric Foster, and this is my wife, Danielle." Damon, looking anxious to be gone, gives them another bow.

"Let me go get your coffee," he says, and rushes off. Mulder is tempted to try the same line of questioning with Mr. Pekarcik, but he doesn't want to get Damon in trouble for circulating rumors- especially not when it's clear the young man has heard something that could be useful. He gives Mr. Pekarcik a broad smile.

"This place is beautiful," he says. "You bought it in 1992?"

"That's right," says Mr. Pekarcik. "My architectural firm made me plenty of money in New York, but I'd always wanted to own a bed and breakfast when I was ready to retire. I grew up in Canton, so I've known about this place my whole life, and when my parents called me and told me the bank was thinking about tearing it down because nobody wanted to buy it, I figured, why settle for just a bed and breakfast when I could have an entire hotel?"

"That seems like a pretty busy retirement," comments Scully.

"I like to keep busy," says Mr. Pekarcik agreeably. "I always knew I wouldn't be spending my retirement playing golf and lounging on the beach. This suits me much better." He shakes both of their hands again. "Well, I won't keep you from the rest of your meal. If you need anything, if you have any problems or complaints, please, ask for me at the front desk. I live here at the manor, so I'm always on-hand if something comes up."

"We will, thank you," says Mulder, and Mr. Pekarcik leaves.

Back in their room, someone has set out a bottle of champagne in a bucket of ice, along with two crystal champagne flutes. Scully picks up the bottle and reads the label.

"Dom Perignon," she says, impressed. "Not something I have that often, on my budget." She returns it to the bucket of ice with a regretful sigh. "Of course, we can't drink on the job," she says regretfully.

"Why don't we take it off the ice," Mulder suggests, "and when it's back to room temperature, we'll pack it in your suitcase and take it home with us." He smiles. "We can use it to celebrate the end of the case once we solve it and go home."

"A night with you, drunk on expensive champagne," Scully muses, blushing slightly. "Could be interesting." Mulder's grin widens.

"I can think of a few other potential ways to describe it," he says, and Scully's blush deepens. He takes the bottle of champagne out of the ice, carries it into the bathroom, and places it on the marble countertop to warm up, then returns to Scully, who's regarding the bed, lost in thought.

"Do you... uh... do you have a side?" she asks. "Of the bed?"

"You're talking to a guy who spends most nights on the couch," Mulder chuckles.

"Not when we're on the road," Scully counters. "In hotels, then. Do you have a side you prefer?"

"Nope," he says. "I'll sleep wherever you put me. How about you?"

"Left side, please," Scully says. She retrieves her reading glasses and a book from her suitcase and places them on the left-hand nightstand, then turns back to him. "I'm going to take a bath before bed, if that's all right," she says shyly. Mulder thinks, for a moment, about offering to keep her company- he's seen the tub, and it's definitely big enough for two- but somehow, he doesn't think that's what Scully has in mind just now.

"Of course it's all right," he assures her, and she disappears into the bathroom.

By the time she returns, clad in silk pajamas, her hair slightly damp at the bottom, Mulder is relaxing in bed in a t-shirt and boxers, his notes from the case on his lap. Scully hangs her towel on the coat tree in the corner, then goes around to the left side of the bed and climbs in, stretching out on her back under the thick, warm covers.

"Tired?" Mulder asks, and she nods, looking up at the ceiling.

"Yeah," she admits. "But you can keep reading, if you want. It won't bother me."

"Nah, that's all right," he says, gathering up the papers and returning them to the folder. He places them on the nightstand and switches off the reading light, plunging the room into darkness. With the moon outside hidden behind the clouds, the light filtering in is dim, blue from its reflection off of the snow and the frozen lake. Mulder can't make out Scully, lying next to him, but he can feel her warmth, can smell her familiar scent and hear her slow, measured breaths.

"Mulder?" she asks quietly, after a few minutes of silence.

"Yeah?"

"Did you...." She pauses, as though formulating her question. Scully gives weight and thought to every word; it's one of the things he's always loved about her... but sometimes, like now, the suspense is agonizing. "Did you choose this case for the same reason as Peter Menendez? Because you knew there wouldn't be any children here?" Mulder's breath catches.

"It's not why I chose the case, no," he says carefully. "Though that did strike me as a potential perk." She sighs.

"You can't protect me from this forever, Mulder," she tells him. "I'm going to see other people's children every single day for the rest of my life. There's no escaping that."

"I know that, Scully," he says. "And I'm not trying to protect you from it... not forever, anyway. I just thought... for our first case back... that maybe this would be ideal." He swallows. "For both of us."

It's the closest he's come to admitting just how deeply Emily's death had affected him. He's been cautious in his grief, afraid that Scully might take offense at his heartbreak over a child that wasn't his to mourn. She hasn't wanted to talk about it, and he hasn't pushed the issue... but it's been on his mind almost constantly, and he knows damn well it's been on hers.

The covers rustle softly, and Scully's hand creeps into Mulder's, her fingers lacing with his. She gives his hand a squeeze.

"Thank you, Mulder," she whispers. They drift off to sleep not long later, their hands still clasped under the blankets.

Outside, the snow begins to fall.