Vignette-within-an-ep, rated G.
Spoilers: Sein und Zeit/Closure
Archive at will, but please provide a link back to my site at www.foxsongfiles.net
Beta thanks to MaybeAmanda and Char Chaffin..
The title and the mood are snagged from a track on Robert Fripp's 1979 album 'Exposure.' I understand that the CD version was trimmed down a little from the original vinyl, but in whatever form you can get it, I rec it most highly.
"The X-Files" TM and copyright Fox and its related entities. All rights reserved. Neither this work of fiction nor its author are authorized by Fox. "North Star" lyrics copyright 1978 E.G. Music.
Summary: 'I wait for beginnings / She waits for the end'
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" 'They did more tests today, but not the horrible kind. I was awake and they made me lay still while they shined lights in my eyes. They asked me questions, but I always lie now and tell them what they want to hear just to make them stop. I hate them and I hate the way they treat me -- like I'm an old suitcase they can just drag around and open up whenever they want to. They know I hate them, but they don't even care.'
"This is 1979. She's fourteen years old here." He pauses a moment, digesting it. He had been eighteen then, determinedly unaware; he had beaten the memories down. He had been eighteen, and about to turn his face away and flee to Oxford. He does not know whether he would have been brave enough then, had he dreamed there was another chance, to take it. "Fourteen years old."
He reads on. " 'Sometimes I think my memories were taken by the doctors, but not all of them. I remember faces. I think I had a brother... with brown hair... who used to tease me. I hope... someday he reads this and knows I wish I could see his face for real.' "
Scully, beside him, looks fixedly down at her hands, folded on the table. He wants her to speak, to draw him back, to offer him an excuse to stop reading. He aches to hear her voice. But she is silent, and he reads on.
"And, um... and then, ah..." He turns the pages a little more quickly, lets his gaze skim across the childish script. Words jump out at him, familiar phrases that belong in his casefiles, not in this sad little book. "She's, ah... talking about running away... She wants to run away so that they stop doing the tests. ... And then it just stops."
He stares at the page as if he expects it to reveal something more if only he knew how to look. He is surprised when he feels Scully's cool soft fingers close over his own.
"Let's get out of here," she says.
He nods. She withdraws her hand and picks up the bill. He closes the diary and pushes it toward her as well, not trusting himself to keep it; he will spend the rest of the night sitting awake, the little book open across his knees, if he has it. Without a word she picks it up and slips it into her bag. He stands; his hands find the pockets of his coat, and tuck themselves inside.
He follows her to the register at the front of the diner, but he doesn't wait with her. Instead he keeps walking, going through the door and out into the night, and he stops on the sidewalk at the edge of the parking lot, and he lifts his head and looks up at the sky.
It is a clear night. Only a few wisps of cloud here and there obscure the view. The stars are faraway jewels overhead; the Milky Way is a glittering path that seems to beckon him to walk it. He thinks he can distinguish a few of the constellations he knew by heart when he was a boy; he picks out the North Star, there, at the tail of the Little Dipper.
The sound of Scully's footsteps draws up alongside him and stops.
"You know," he says, his voice strained by the way he's still craning his neck to look upward, "I never stopped to think that the light is billions of years old by the time we see it. From the beginning of time right past us into the future. Nothing as ancient in the universe. ... Maybe they are souls, Scully. Traveling through time as starlight, looking for homes." He pauses, and though he only means to take a breath, it escapes as a sigh. "I'll always wonder what my mother saw. And I wonder what she was trying to tell me."
There is a long moment of silence, and he begins to think she might try to answer. But instead she finally says, "Get some sleep."
It's so like her. He knows it's not meant unkindly, but still he wonders why he expects anything else anymore. He gives an odd strangled laugh as he drops his head forward. "All right," he says. He extends an unthinking hand toward her as she passes before him, but he does not try to touch her; she doesn't seem, in the starlight, like the kind of thing one could touch. He doesn't watch her as she walks away. He doesn't have to. He knows she thinks he is watching, and he knows that, because she thinks so, she will not look back. The sound of her boot heels on the pavement fades away.
He looks back up at the stars, and he lets his mind wander. He is not sure how long he waits, but when he lowers his head again, his shoulders and the back of his neck ache. He takes one hand from his pocket and rubs his neck as he walks slowly across the parking lot toward the motel. Overhead he feels the stars watching.
When the door closes softly behind him, the silence within the room is different than the silence he left outside. It is less alive. He feels alone. He is consciously deferent to the stillness as he toes off his sneakers, lays his jacket on a chair. He keeps his hand closed around the room key and lays it down carefully on the bureau, muffling the sound of metal meeting wood. He strips off his shirt as he pads across the carpet to the bathroom, gropes with cautious fingers for the switch; ducks his head, blinking, in the sudden harsh light.
He squeezes toothpaste onto the brush and begins to scrub at his teeth, staring into the mirror, examining the man he sees there as if he is a stranger.
He had expected it to feel different when he found Samantha. He sees now that in some way he had put himself on hold, as if finding her would wipe away the years and the darkness, would make him someone new. As if, when he found her, he would be able to pick up the scattered pieces of himself and start afresh. Now he thinks Scully knew better all along.
We're so different, you and I, he thinks of Scully. Even when you were right next to me, when I always thought we were striving toward the same goal, you were so far away. All this time, I've been waiting for beginnings, and you've been waiting for the end.
Like Samantha had waited for it to be over, waited for the end.
Like his mother.
Waiting for the end.
He drops his gaze from the mirror, drops the toothbrush into the sink, wearily twists the faucet and leans forward, cupping his hands under the flow of water. He rinses his mouth and splashes his face. When he turns off the water and the light he is grateful for the return of the quiet and the dark.
He drops his jeans by the foot of the bed, pulls down the blanket, and crawls in. He stares at the ceiling for a few minutes before turning onto his side, where he can see the window. The shade is open and he can see the sky. He thinks he can make out a few bright stars, and he fixes his gaze on them, somehow comforted.
As the sun rises, he hovers at the threshold between sleep and waking; he hears soft words spoken near his ear, but when he wakes, he will not remember what was said.
I stand in the hallway
She stands in the hall
I stand at the doorway
She stands at the door
I lean in the window
She leans on the wind
I wait for beginnings
She waits for the end
-- 'North Star,' Robert Fripp & Joanna Walton