Title: Orion
Author: Pteropod
E-mail: beth_monster@yahoo.com
Distribution: Please let me know - I'll probably be
Category: Post-ep (Closure), M/S UST
Rating: PG
Spoilers: SUZ/Closure, Orison
Summary: "They are traveling home after burying Teena
Mulder at sea."
Disclaimer: These characters belong to Chris Carter
and 1013 Productions, not to me. Bummer.
Feedback: Yes, please.


Orion tilts in a bright southwestern dance as the car cuts
across the edge of New England. The light pulls her
attention through the windshield and she leans forward,
trying to find something familiar in the heavens. This
day, this week, have been strangers, and she's exhausted
from the strain of trying to stand upright on top of a
shifting life. Peering ahead she can pick out Orion, and
off to the right the Big and Little Dippers. She remembers
something about "arc to Arcturus" from a planetarium show,
but that would mean looking behind her and anyway that's
the extent of her celestial repertoire. She's vaguely
ashamed that she doesn't know more of the constellations,
as if she isn't living up to her heritage. Her father let
the stars guide him across an empty ocean, but she relies
on roadmaps and well-marked highways and feels somehow

They are traveling home after burying Teena Mulder at sea.
Home in the broadest sense means D.C., but beyond that
it's anybody's guess. The past week has knocked her flat
time and again. Now that she's regained her feet she's
keeping her knees bent and body supple, ready to follow
whatever motion finds her.

Teena Mulder's will requested cremation and a scattering
of ashes off Martha's Vineyard. The request didn't
surprise Mulder, and he told Scully that he could
understand his mother's desire to return to the last
place where her family was intact. Scully heard the
quiet desperation in Mulder's voice, and turned away so
that he might not notice when she didn't answer.

Mulder is asleep now in the passenger seat, each intake
of breath catching to make a sound just less than a snore.
He is twisted toward her, with his left hand tucked under
his cheek and his head bobbing closer to her with every
pothole. Her lips curve in a small tired smile at the
way his face has slipped down and nestled into his
shoulder. She's pleased that he's conquered insomnia
tonight. Sleep is always a goal; as they roll down I-95
she thinks that, subconsciously, they cling to the idea
that if they could just get enough REM cycles their wounds
would close and they'd have a shot at becoming whole
again. At starting over with regenerated cells and the
ability to see something beyond the holes left by loss
after terrible loss. She knows it's absurd, more than
absurd, yet when Mulder shifts in his seat and seems to
be waking she whispers, "Shhh, just sleep," as she runs
her hand down his sleeve.


Scully was taken aback by Teena Mulder's will. She had
pictured the satin lining of a coffin and a well-manicured
cemetery plot, a self-contained end to a self-contained
life. Cremation seems like a gesture of ease with the
prospect of returning to dust, of a soul let loose to fly
across the ocean. Even after nearly a week of adjusting
to the idea Scully remains unable to connect Mrs. Mulder's
papery cheeks with the earth or the sea. She has spent
days swallowing an impotent rage, and is glad the imagery
does not match. Her one prayer during the memorial service
was for an increased capacity to forgive. Even this
afternoon, while watching the urn empty itself over the
southern edge of the Vineyard, Scully could see only
Samantha's adolescent diary and the tracks of Mulder's

The service was held yesterday in a Lutheran church in
Greenwich, with sparse attendance. Mulder couldn't say
when his mother had found religion -- that religion, at
least - but she'd been at that church for at least five
years and the minister spoke with surreal enthusiasm about
her faith and generosity. The population of the pews was
overwhelmingly female and old enough to be retired, or at
least a member of AARP. Women from the bridge group and
the book club, the garden society and the investment club.
The men in attendance were mostly supportive arms in dark
suits, letting their women grieve for lost companionship
and the reminder of their own mortality. Nobody spoke of
suicide, and Mulder and Scully were the only people under

CGB Spender slipped into the back of the church just after
the service started. Mulder sensed him immediately, and
gripped the edge of the pew until his knuckles turned
white. CGB nodded slightly as Scully whipped around to
face him, as if to say that he knew the situation was
awkward but what could he do? Scully pried Mulder's hand
from the pew and they grasped at each other's fingers
until the service ended. The cigarette bastard was long
gone by the time they reached the back of the church, and
Scully had to excuse herself to the ladies' room so that
Mulder wouldn't see the way she shook with anger.


They've been traveling for hours. They left Chilmark at
three but it was nearly four-thirty by the time they got
to Woods Hole on the steamer. The distance was nothing,
less than nothing, but the off-season steamer schedule
wasn't accommodating and Scully was sure she'd be able to
beat the boat on her own power. After they got to the
mainland Mulder made it as far as New Bedford before
pulling over and making a soft, bleary-eyed apology for
not being able to concentrate on the road. Scully got in
the driver's seat and has been there for hours, hours
already, listening to the tires beat out a steady rhythm
of "home .. home .. home" against the seams of the


Until the diary Samantha hadn't been quite real to Scully.
She'd been the loss of Mulder's childhood encapsulated in
a twenty-six year old photograph, a story told in an
Oregon hotel room at the beginning of a partnership.
Mulder's sister, Mulder's tragedy, the hole in Mulder's
soul. Since hearing Mulder choke out the words and seeing
the self-aware little girl handwriting, Scully has been
unable to forget all the times she wanted Mulder to stop
looking. She wanted him to stop chasing a fantasy, but
he was looking for someone real all along.

Now Mulder believes that Samantha's road ended with old
souls and billion-year-old starlight and a better place.
He told Scully about it during the middle of the night
after they met the nurse. He narrated in a broken whisper,
slowly spilling out the story of walk-ins and Amber Lynn
LaPierre and Samantha grown tall and beautiful running
toward him bathed in joy. They sat on his bed in the dark,
and Scully reached for his hand when he finished. They
sat, silently, for the better part of an hour before Scully
leaned over to rest a soft kiss on his temple and whisper
that he should get some rest. She went back to her own
dark room and gulped huge wracking sobs into her pillow
before falling asleep.

Scully doesn't believe, can't believe, that Samantha
turned into starlight, although for once she wants to.
The idea doesn't even fit into her head. The stars
themselves have always intimidated her with their physics
of big numbers, their enormous masses separated by
unthinkable distances. She prefers infinitesimally small
to infinitesimally large, and can make something
recognizable out of the improbability of quantum mechanics
but is secretly flabbergasted by the thought of solar
systems and galaxies and distances measured in light
years. She can't wrap her brain around starlight souls
but Mulder's capacity for belief is gargantuan. It's big
enough to hold his freedom, and she's grateful for that.


They've conquered Connecticut and the messy sliver of New
York when the fuel light blinks on. Scully hates the idea
of stopping in Newark. The city brings up memories of
sewage and fluke monsters and endless layovers at the worst
airport this side of Cote d'Ivoire, but she's not sure
they'll make it down the Turnpike to Elizabeth. She
doesn't know this car, doesn't know how many miles she can
drive with the fuel light on. She'd been trying to book
a flight out of Providence when he touched the back of
her elbow and whispered a soft, "Let's just go. Please..
Drive." She pushed the END button on her cell and followed
him silently to the rental car.

The question of Newark is answered when Mulder opens his
eyes and mumbles, "Gotta pee." After seven years en route,
the travel vocabulary has become succinct and unembarrassed:
"coffee," "map," "food," "gotta pee." They know the
requirements of each other's bodies so well that the words
are hardly necessary, except in cases like tonight when
sleep takes precedence over other metabolic needs. Scully
curves off the highway toward a Mobil station and glances
over at Mulder. He's still registering his surroundings,
and it hasn't yet occurred to him to ask where they are.

"We're in New Jersey. Newark. We're almost out of gas."

Mulder sits up and yawns. "New Jersey has cheap gas. All
full service. Only good thing about New Jersey."

"Don't forget the beast women." This is an old joke, an
easy joke.

"Oh right. The beast women." A silent moment, then "God,
that was a long time ago." He smiles. "Be right back."

Mulder gets out of the car and walks stiffly toward the
bathrooms. When he returns Scully has already paid for
the gas and gone to the restroom herself. He stands
shivering outside the locked car, a 99-cent bag of
sunflower seeds in his hand. Scully locks all her doors
now, ever since Donnie Pfaster came back and ran her a
bath. She wouldn't let herself move to a new apartment,
but she changed all her locks and then changed them again.


"I wasn't worth living for."

They've reached Philadelphia, and Mulder's voice is barely
audible over the noise of the road. "I didn't want to know

Scully knows grief like the inside of the coffee cup she
drinks from every morning, but this is an ugly stranger and
it's the fifth day that she hasn't known what to say. She
reaches for his hand instead, and tugs it gently onto her


"I wanted to kill him, at the church."

Wilmington now, and Orion still dancing above.

"I know. So did I." Her words are a surprise to both of
them. She doesn't talk about killing, not anymore.

Mulder continues, his voice soft. "I would've
shot him, right there, if it hadn't been for you."

"I know."


She pulls into the breakdown lane and stops abruptly just
outside of Baltimore. Mulder jerks upright, alarm in
every line of his body.

"What's wrong? Are you ok?"

"Falling asleep. I want to walk around for a little bit
and wake myself up."

"No, no, it's ok. I'll drive. You sleep."

Scully is already drifting by the time they pull back
onto the highway.


She's in a warm place and the touch on her shoulder is
an unwelcome confusion. She curls deeper into herself
but the touch comes again, this time accompanied by
Mulder's bemused voice.

"Scully, we're here."

"No. S'warm."

"Yes. We're here. You'll be warm inside." The touch
is more insistent.

"Oh." A deep breath, let out slowly. "I'm.. I'm up now.
Sorry." Eyes open.

They're parked outside her apartment building, and the
clock reads 1:38am. The street has a dead-of-night
stillness as they get out of the car, disoriented bodies
propelled by stiff muscles. The air is cold, much colder
than it was in Newark, and breathing is almost painful.
Mulder lifts Scully's bag out of the trunk and holds it
awkwardly against his side. She reaches to take it from
him but is overcome by a yawn. By the time she recovers
he has turned away and begun to speak.

"Scully, I... Thank you for coming with me."

"Of course, Mulder. Of course."

"No -- listen. I took you for granted all week." The air
is cold and sharp, and she stares at the patterns made by
his breath. "I'm sorry. Thank you for everything." His
voice is raw. "I just want you to know that I..." She
waits. "I.. Thank you."

The night is cold and still, and Orion is no longer visible
above but her knees are bent and her body is supple. She
turns to the car and pulls Mulder's bag out before slamming
the trunk shut. Mulder starts and spins toward her, eyes
full of questions, but she speaks before he has a chance to
ask them.

"Come in with me. It's cold out here."

-- end --