Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Country Of The Crespescule: Catch a Falling Star

Disclaimer: Alas, alack, they are not mine. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

Title: Country of the Crepescule: Catch a Falling Star
Author: Dryad
Rating: NC17
Spoilers: post-Existence, AU
Archive: Yes please. A note where would be nice.
Summary: The horror, the fascination, the nausea, the envy, the guilt

"But the stars throng out their glory
And they sing of God in man;
They sing of the Mighty Master,
Of the loom His fingers span,
Where a star or a soul is part of the whole,
And weft in the wondrous plan."

Robert Service/The Three Voices/The Shooting of Dan McGrew and Other Poems (Dover Thrift Editions – only a dollar!)

~*~ 1 ~*~

It started at dinner that first night. They were all at the table, Bill on one side of Maggie, herself on the other, Dana to her left and Fox across from Dana. William was asleep in his crib, and she’d had the foresight to give Matty his dinner before the Simpsons double bill started, so he was out of her hair for at least an hour.

She dropped her fork on the floor, and reaching to get it, she glanced up to see Dana’s bare toes working Fox’s crotch. Hastily straightening up, she wiped her fork on her napkin and dug back into her salad, wishing she didn’t blush so easily.

"So I told Herman that if he really wanted to learn how to sail, I'd be more than happy to take him out," Bill said. "I spoke to Mr. Clifford about using his boat, so I won't have to rent anything from the harbour. Besides, Mr. Clifford's boat is quality work."

"Martin's taken me out the Sunbeam a few times," Maggie said. "She's a little beauty."

There was a short silence which left Tara wondering if everyone was thinking the same thing she was – had Maggie gone on a date? She pushed aside the olive on her plate and stabbed at a bit of red pepper instead.

"I didn't know you'd sailed with him," Bill said, disapproval strong in his voice.

Maggie shook her head. "Oh, last summer when it was too hot to garden and too hot to be indoors. We toodled around, went up the Chesapeake, places like that."

Bill stared at his mother for a long moment, then snorted softly and fell back to his food.

Tara hoped that if she were ever widowed, Matty wouldn't treat her as if she were some kind of precious object, to be sheltered from the vagaries of life, like love and companionship with men other than his dead father.

"You all right, sweetie?" Maggie asked.

She nodded. "I'm fine."

But the truth was, she wasn't fine, hadn't been fine in a long time. What was worse, she didn't know what was wrong with her. It was as if a sheet of glass had been wrapped around her, seperating her from the rest of the world. And no one seemed to notice. Even Matty, whom she and Bill had fought so hard to get, could drift from being the best thing in her life, from being her life, to nothing more than a thing she had the responsibility for.

Confession was of no help. Priests were ignorant fools who had no understanding of how she felt, the monotony of her days, the frustration of her nights. A good girl, she dutifully said her prayers, and went to Mass once a week, sometimes more if Bill was feeling particularly pious, or when she felt the need to get a few moments to herself.

"Dana, are you and Fox doing anything for Thanksgiving?" Maggie asked, reaching for their empty dinner plates.

As usual, they looked at one another before Fox said, "We were thinking of heading out to the Vineyard."

The Vineyard. Tara had never been there. Like everyone else she knew it was a summer playground for the wealthy, for Presidents and their families. She knew so-called ordinary folk had houses there, brought up their children in chilly New England towns. Rare surprise had filled her when Bill, via Maggie, had told her of Dana's inheritance after Fox's death.

Bill had been ecstatic over Dana's new-found wealth. "Just think about it, Tara, two houses on Martha's Vineyard, and one each in Connecticut and Rhode Island! I could transfer to New Haven, Norfolk, Anapolis, hell even up to Portsmouth!"

Although it was like a pot of gold falling into their laps – assuming Dana would be willing to share - Tara couldn't work up much excitement. She felt sorry for Dana, and knew from bitter experience that money meant nothing when a person died. Besides, Fox hadn't been dead for very long.

The rest of the evening passed uneventfully. She watched William while Dana helped Maggie with the dishes, usurping Tara's normal vacation duties. Fox was playing a card game with Matty, and Bill was reading the paper and watching the news. She didn't know why he bothered, he was hardly the world's greatest multi-tasker.

When someone suggested a game of Trivial Pursuit, she made excuses about giving Matty a bath and putting him to bed. Thankfully he was all tuckered out, asleep before she'd even opened the Violet Fairy Book. She wished she could take a bath as well, but there were too many people in the house and she didn't want to be a bother. So she settled down in the bedroom she and Bill had been assigned, intent on finishing the Ann Rule book Caroline had given her. True crime had never really been her thing, yet the stories were fascinating in their horror.

"What?" Tara mumbled, trying to roll onto her back. "Wha's it?"

"Hey, I was just wondering if you were asleep," Bill muttered. "The light was on when I came in."

She blinked up at him blearily, his intentions clear by the hand insinuating itself between her thighs. "I was reading."

Bill stopped groping long enough to grab the book, frown at the cover, and toss it over his shoulder. "Come on, there's more important things to do other than read."

~*~ 2 ~*~

In the morning she begged off on the trip to the mall, pretending she had a headache. Maggie felt her forehead and told her to lie down on the couch and take a nap, even though it was only nine. Of course, as soon as the car pulled away she was back inside, leaning against the closed front door with a heavy sigh. It was good to be alone, even if only for a few hours.

Upstairs, she discovered that the sheets were indeed stained, even though she'd cleaned up as best she could, afterwards. Bill had a habit of cuddling immediately after sex, when she preferred to roll over and go to sleep. It was nothing personal, just that he was always too warm. She changed the sheets and started a basket of laundry before returning to bed with a cup of chamomile tea and her book.

Yawning widely, Tara sat up. She stared at the clock for a long moment, wondering how on earth nine had turned to two fifteen. She managed to rub sticky eyes, stand, and stretch, all in one movement. Now what she needed was the toilet.

She was halfway down the hall when she heard the soft murmur of voices coming from one of the bedrooms. Heart pounding, she tiptoed as quietly as she could to the door, which was not quite closed all the way, and slowly peeked through the crack.

Dana and Fox, the two of them facing the window, sitting in the reclaimed rocking chair Maggie had cleaned the previous year.

Tara wiped her brow with one shaking hand, relieved beyond all expectation. But what were they doing home so early? She held her breath and turned to hear better.

"Come on, Scully, you can do it."

"No, I can't, it's not going to happen."

For a few seconds the only sounds was the creak of the rocking chair as it moved.

"Mulder...stop...stop, damnit!"

What the hell? Tara looked through the crack again. Dana's bright hair tumbled over Fox's right shoulder, but rather than sitting sideways on his lap, her back was against Fox's chest. It didn't look like a very comfortable position for him, and while Dana wasn't exactly what anyone would call fat, Tara had seen her in tank tops and shorts, and she was more muscular than one would think. Muscle was heavy, as Tara knew only too well.

"What's the problem, here?"

"I don't know. I'm just, it feels weird, doing this here."

"In a rocking chair?"

"You know what I mean."

Well, that was a first. Who knew Dana Scully could whine?

"Being in your parents house?"

The chair rocked back and forth a bit more vigorously. Tara was on the verge of stepping away when Mulder continued.

"It's okay, Scully. No one's here, you can be as loud as you want. We don't have to worry about William waking up or anyone walking in on us."

"I just don't think I can do this," Dana answered petulantly.

"Christ," Mulder groaned. "I'm practically creaming my jeans."

Tara was torn between horror, fascination, and guilty arousal.

She should walk away.

She should walk away immediately.

She should pray to God to remove such shameful behavior from her very being.

She didn't move.

And when a very feminine moan was echoed by an equally masculine growl she bit her lip and crossed her arms, forcefully keeping her hands from betweeen her legs.

The chair stilled.

Tara drew back a little when Dana eventually stood up and stretched, but moved closer when it appeared that Dana hadn't noticed her staring wide-eyed into their room. Thank God the hallway was dark.

Her sister-in-law grabbed her primrose yellow skirt with both hands and and hiked it thigh high before kneeling on the bed, facing the wall. She looked over her shoulder with a self-satisfied smirk. "Well come on, what are you waiting for?"

Mulder didn't shift, but Tara could just imagine the look on his face. She figured it probably matched her own – utter disbelief.

Finally he stood as well, unzipping while he took the few steps to the bed.

Okay, that was enough. Standing back against the wall, she decided she didn't need to see them having sex when sound would suffice. She wasn't sure what it said about her that she wished they would make more noise apart from loud breathing and the slap of flesh meeting flesh.

"God, that's good," Mulder said hoarsely.

How she wished it was that good for her. It wasn't that Bill was a bad lover so much as she didn't know any different. Aw, that didn't even make sense to herself. But from what her girlfriends told her, from she'd seen in the movies and read in books, surely there was something more in it for her? Sometimes she felt so stirred and agitated when they had sex, yet when it was over, she was so frequently left as energized and desperate as when they had started. She wasn't a stupid woman...so why couldn't she tell Bill what was wrong? Was it so bad to be jealous of Dana and Fox and their pleasure in one another? Or was she simply made different?

Abruptly she realized all sound had ceased and looked through the crack once more. They were finished, Dana rearranging her clothing, Mulder lying on his back, one arm over his eyes.

"I need a nap," he muttered.

Dana snorted, grabbing a baby wipe from the open container on the dresser and refreshing her underarms. "No chance, we're supposed to meet Mom at The Quarterdeck at four."

~*~ 3 ~*~

There was no question they knew Tara was in the house, because she had pleaded another migraine when Maggie suggested they give 'the kids' a few hours to themselves. She felt bad staying behind, intruding on their undoubtedly much needed free time, but this was her home too, now, she needed respite just as much as they did, maybe more.

They had each other, she had herself. And sometimes she had Bill, too.

The morning passed quickly enough, Dana and Fox spending time in the garden doing whatever while she was in the kitchen preparing dinner. Maggie said she was a good cook, and she tried to cook at least one meal whenever they were together, including a fancy, time-consuming dessert or three. Cheesecake was her favorite, but Maggie liked every variety of pie, and was very fond of bundt cake. Especially if there was rum or Scotch whisky in it.

Apart from the cooking, dinner was ready. She had a ham pricked with cloves sitting atop sliced oranges in a baking tray, a spinach and ricotta lasagne in the freezer, and in the fridge were braised leeks, glazed carrots, and homemade coleslaw. On a whim she'd made cinnamon rolls in addition to an applecake and tapioca pudding.

Lunch was on the table, simple fare of soup and sandwiches, but Dana and Fox were nowhere to be found. Tara wasn't at all hungry. She'd nibbled on toast and tea at breakfast, and the tasting of her beef barley soup had been enough to last her until dinner.

She had just laid out the last dish when laughter caught her attention. Creeping to the closed double sliding doors which divided the living room from the dining room, she fingered them open just the slightest bit. The curtains were open, showering Fox and Dana with bright midday light.

Once again Dana was sitting on Fox's lap on the couch, this time facing him. Her skirt – a dark blue patchwork affair - was spread out over their legs, yet it wasn't enough to hide the fact that Fox's hands were underneath. She gasped and clutched his shoulders, then grinned. "You are so bad."

He chuckled. "You started it."

"You tickled me first," she sputtered, twisting first to one side then the other.

"I could stop, move on to something else...?"

"Don't - oh – oh - don't you dare!"

"Y'know what I think? I think you miss the excitement."

Dana stared at Fox rather blankly, Tara thought.

"Ex, excite - "

Surely they'd had enough of that already in their lives?

"Get on the floor, Scully."


Fox withdrew his hands, took Dana by the waist and put her on the floor, then covered her with his body.

Tara couldn't hear what he said to Dana, but Dana was emphatic in saying 'no' repeatedly. Nonetheless, when Fox started pulling up her skirt, Tara felt the need to be elsewhere.

She returned to the kitchen, wringing her hands and wishing there was an easy way to go upstairs without being seen.

Ten minutes passed on the oven clock.

Then she heard him. Bill. Voice raised, arguing with...Maggie, judging by the tone. Keys were unlocking the front door, bags were being shifted from hand to hand and Tara fair flew down the hallway to the foyer. Tara glanced into the living room ojust long enough to see her in-laws on their feet, Dana tenderly cupping Fox's cheek, although her expression was very stern.

"Hi," Tara said brightly, kissing Maggie on the cheek like they hadn't seen one another in years. "How was your day? Where's Matty?"

Bill set three paper bags on the floor. "Matty's at the Purefoys. Shelley's got her nephews in and invited him over for a pool party."

"How's your head?" Maggie asked, hanging her coat on the stand. "Did you get any rest?"

"Yes, thank you," Tara said. Belatedly she realized that making a huge meal was probably not a great indicator of someone who'd spent the morning on a bed in a dark room.

"Are Fox and Dana here?"

"Um," she hummed anxiously.

"We're here," Dana called. "William was sleeping, but I'm sure he's awake now with all this racket."

"I'll look in on him," Bill said, treading up the stairs with an elephant's weight. "And can you make me a sandwich? I'm starved."

Maggie touched Tara's arm and smiled gently. "I'm going to go change, I'll be down in a few minutes."

Left alone with her in-laws, Tara smiled nervously. "I hope you're hungry, lunch is ready."

Dana's lips quirked up in the smile that passed for pleasantry between the two of them. Then she turned to Fox. "Go wash your face."

"I'll, um," Tara turned and fled back to the kitchen, someone following hot on her heels.

"Are you alright?" Dana asked, getting herself a glass of water.


"It's just that you've been so ill while we've been here. I'd be happy to recommend a doctor if feel the need."

Tara shook her head and gazed at the floor, unable to meet Dana's eyes. "That's okay. I'm just a little under the weather."

The glass of water appeared in her vision. "Tara...I, I know we're not close, not the best of friends. Most of this is my own fault, I've not been...I'm not the type of woman who makes friends easily, and with my job...it's been easier to let things pass. I, I hope that you feel you could come to me, however, if you ever wanted to talk."

Tara nodded, unable to speak, barely able to swallow past the lump in her throat. She waited until Dana left before throwing the water into the sink. It was all she could do to keep hold of the glass.

She wanted to scream, to rage, to destroy.

It was too late, it was all too. Damned. Late.

She had to leave.

She had to get out.

Vision blurry with tears, she made her way to the foyer, grabbed a coat and her keys, and left.

Cinnamon Rolls


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, I found a link to this while working through my email backlog. I like it very much; it's a plausible take on Bill's and Tara's relationship and a sympathetic look on Tara herself. The ending felt real -- I thought it was very strongly told throughout and reached an inevitable conclusion. I love it when characters we barely know from the show are fleshed out and given voice this way.

I do love your Country of the Crepescule stories (but alas, suck at giving feedback *g*). Are you going to post this story to the usual places eventually? Seems a shame that many who'd enjoy it won't discover it here. :)


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