Fandom: Twin Peaks
Title: Bearing Reality
Warnings: Weirdness, reality-bending, possible AU, spoilers up through "Dispute Between Brothers"
Written for: jasmasson
Summary: Sometimes, the mystery finds you first.
Diane, these past few days have been deeply strange. I apologize for the lack of communication; there was much to be done in the wake of Leland Palmer's death, and I have had much to think about.
Our perceptions can stray so far from reality. We see black and white, light and dark, male and female, good and evil. This is the oil and water in which we swim. It's necessary for us to differentiate between things, to compare them; it's unavoidable, most of the time. It also blinds us to the rest of existence, to everything that hovers between those extremes.
Sometimes, we find a way to see beyond our binaries.
Sometimes, the mystery finds us first.
Cooper slept like stone the night after Leland's confession. As a student of humanity and his own psyche, he expected a flood of images, of scents and textures and emotions, the soul vomiting out its reactions to such horror. He'd been eager for it, in fact. The slime that had seemed to ooze over all those listening, first to the bragging of evil, then the father's babbling of truth, troubled him more than anything this chimerical town had yet subjected him to. Or at least, it had unsettled him, like stirring up silt into clear water.
It would have relieved him to dream.
Instead, the slow drip of water woke him in dark night.
The problem with night, Cooper thought as he stubbed his toes against his desk chair, is that it is filled with useful, mundane things rendered silent and deadly by the dark. He pushed the chair out of the way and limped carefully to the bathroom. The faucet would turn no further; the leak was clearly a matter for the hotel repair staff.
He stood in the dark for several long moments, breathing slowly. Cold seeped into the soles of his stocking feet. The muscles around his wound ached. Drops of water against the porcelain basin became a metronome.
Yet he could no longer be lulled to sleep. The echoes of the drops grew louder in his ears, making themselves obvious like a dog that wants to be followed.
Cooper had felt, these past weeks, that he had been a slow learner. So he stood silent a few seconds longer, waiting for any message to unravel itself. When he found himself wrapping his jacket around his shoulders, shoving his feet into his shoes, and reaching for the doorknob, it wasn't really a surprise.
Neither was the fact that Harry Truman sat alone in the darkened cafe, nursing some drink between his hands. “Cooper,” he said, frowning. “Hey. You couldn't sleep, either?”
Cooper took a seat beside him at the bar. “Nope. Leaky faucet.” There were questions that could be asked, answers that could be proffered... but Harry's drawn face mirrored his own internal disquiet. All he finally said was, “What are you drinking?”
Harry held up a bottle of beer. “You want one?”
Cooper nodded. Harry went behind the bar and rummaged through the fridge, then handed him an ice-cold bottle of his own. They sat next to each other in the night, sipping slowly, without saying a word.
The day after was long enough to test the most enduring soul.
Sugar-crusted donuts and the smooth paper of written reports lured Cooper toward slumber as the afternoon wore into evening. Even coffee, that most magical of beverages, could not negotiate between him and heavy-eyed exhaustion. He practiced shaking it off―getting up to go for short walks, challenging Harry or Andy to impromptu push-up competitions (until his belly cramped too badly), scrawling haiku on napkins before plunging back into the official words he must use to describe blood and terror and a glimpse of a life beyond this one.
He woke to a hand on his shoulder, shaking him. “Hey,” Harry said. “Coop. We gotta go. Hurry.”
Cooper sat up slowly. “Ooh. Don't let me fall asleep at this desk again, all right?” He tilted his head, trying to stretch out the kinks, and only then realized that the station was dimly lit, as if by flickering flames. “Whoa. What...?”
“Come on,” Harry said. In the dancing light, he looked demonic--or perhaps angelic, in the warrior sense. A certain otherworldliness, terribly out of place. He jerked a thumb towards the door and was suddenly Harry again, whose favorite drink was a light beer. “Stay with me, huh?”
Cooper looked around as they headed for the door, but the light seemed to have no beginning, no source. It wasn't even really casting shadows. “Is there a fire?”
“Not yet,” Harry said, distractedly.
Fear would not help them now. “Lead the way,” Cooper said, and Harry did.
The door opened, and the night outside was a full moon on snow.
It looked like the ocean. Waves of frozen white stretched before them without footprint or tire track until they broke against the line of trees. Frigid wind cut through his shirt and jacket as if they weren't there.
The flickering light behind them vanished. Cooper turned, and the door was shut―not the door to the hotel after all, but to the headquarters of the Bookhouse Boys. Dead and silent, it shut them out with the stark white light and the looming murk of the forest.
“Cooper,” Harry repeated from behind him. “We can't stay here.” He shuffled his feet in the snow, rubbing a hand across his face.
“Which way?” Cooper stepped towards him, taking in his friend's agitation and the still expanse around them.
Harry groaned, then ran both hands back into his curls and stared at Cooper. “I don't know,” he said, and his voice cracked. “I have no idea. I don't... I've lost the way.”
The words echoed around them, as though the snow, the earth, the wind and the cold air were expanding into eternity, stranding them at the center. Cooper took a deep breath, then reached out and grasped Harry's arm, hard. “Yes, you do. There maybe be others who have seen things here, who know paths that were forgotten long ago. But I don't believe anyone knows this town's soul the way you do.”
Harry stared at him, breathing hard, then nodded sharply. “If that's true...” He cleared his throat. “All right. Come on, then.” He started walking.
The snow stretched on forever, crunching underfoot, yet it was barely a hundred yards before they stepped between two trees and stumbled into the loose earth of.... “I didn't realize there was a quarry here in Twin Peaks.” Cooper scuffed his shoe into piles of damp shale.
“There used to be.” Harry scowled. “An old shale quarry, out past the mill, but we filled it in years ago. Too many pets fell in the deep end after a rainstorm.” He turned around, a full circle, and Cooper followed suit, breathing in the earthy air, seeing the shadows of tree branches against the bright prickle of stars above them. “Are we dreaming right now? Is this some kind of... is this like your visions?”
Cooper squatted. Scooped up shale in his hand, turning its roughness over in his fingers. “Fire, air, earth... It certainly feels real, and yet....”
“I know where we need to go next,” Harry said, and although the confidence he lacked earlier now dripped from his voice, he was breathing deeply, nervously.
He reached out and grabbed Cooper's wrist. Cooper dropped the stones to return the grasp.
It was the soft dimness before sunrise, and they were standing on the edge of the river. Cooper looked up the water to the mill, barely visible in the mist. “This is where...”
“It's where we found her.” Harry let go of his wrist, wiping shale mud on his pant leg. “Wow. It even looks like the same morning.” He stood quiet, then added, “This is where I got lost.”
The early chill began to settle into their bones. Cooper eased his stance, let his shoulders relax and closed his eyes, breathing steadily, deeply. He was sure Harry was staring at him, but then he heard Harry's breathing begin to match his. The wind hummed a melancholy tune along the branches; water rushed past, tumbling and splashing; a bird called and was answered by another farther off. Under all this, their breathing created a counterpoint rhythm, something belonging to nature, yet drawing them into a space beyond nature, beyond time, to...
“To a place beyond peace,” Harry said, suddenly. “Beyond...”
“What is lovely and terrible,” Cooper added. “Beyond light and dark.” And from out of an old storehouse of poetry, read before Quantico, he pulled an unattributable line: “Humankind cannot bear very much reality.”
Harry laughed―a choked, surprised chortle, not the full-bodied amusement Cooper's heard before. “It's like being a kid,” he said. “The grownups tell you that money and taxes and who marries who is what's real. But we always knew better. The woods were real. The monsters... were real.”
“The warrior angels were real.” Cooper opened his eyes, and was not entirely surprised to see the station conference room, reports scattered across the table, warmth seeping around his knees from the wall heater.
Harry, standing beside him, raised a hand.
Andy and Lucy were arguing out in reception. Something about cold coffee, and then Lucy's high-pitched voice shot up in volume, demanding to know “where the sheriff is, anyway?!”
When Cooper looked at Harry, he was grinning. Coffee and donuts, after a brush with true reality.
That sounded like it would hit the spot.
The sun streamed down into the road on the outskirts of town. Sarah Palmer's hem was caked with mud, the heel broken off one shoe so that she limped along, arms wrapped around herself. As Harry and Cooper climbed out of their car, she saw them, tried to run, and sprawled full-length in the dirt.
“Mrs. Palmer.” Cooper knelt beside her. She shuddered and flinched away from him.
Harry stepped in, sitting down at her other side and putting a firm arm around her shoulders. “It's all right, Sarah. No one's going to hurt you.”
She laughed, with an edge of despair that made both men shudder. “That's right, no one can hurt me now. It's too late.” She bolted upright, shaking her fist at the trees beyond the road, at the places where Laura had been raped and murdered, at everything vile and malicious in the world. “You're too late, do you hear me? There's nothing left for you to do!”
Sarah wilted forward, sobbing, her curls hiding her face. Harry pulled her against him. “That's right, Sarah. You tell those sons of bitches. Tell them to get the hell out and never come back.”
Cooper glanced at him; the venom in his voice was strong, but then, so were the events of the past few weeks. Harry had every right to be angry, to want to punish the forces that had imposed themselves on innocent lives.
But that anger could be dangerous. Cooper eased a little closer. “Come back to the house. Please. We'll get you some tea, make a fire....”
Sarah was rocking slowly in Harry's arms, head butting against his shoulder. He looked at Cooper, shook his head. “She's not gonna hear you. How 'bout you go get Doc? I hate to drug her up again, but if it's that or chasing her down the road every half hour....”
She began keening, throwing back her head, casting shrill sorrow up to the heavens. For a moment, Cooper was back in the cell, soaking wet, arms aching from the weight of thrashing limbs, hearing Leland's hoarse voice sob out his sins.
When he looked up, shaking the memory away, Harry's cheeks were wet. An overflow of pain, of horror, of the wretchedness of these past two days. “Get the doc,” Harry choked out, unable to free a hand to wipe away the tears.
Cooper nodded. He touched Harry's hand where it rested on Sarah's shoulder, and she fell quiet. A shiver passed through all three of them, an echo of that place beyond peace, of Leland's white light and the empty sky beyond.
It was not all right. But as Cooper left Sarah Palmer in Harry's arms, down in the mud, under burning-bright sunlight, it seemed a little more all right than it had a minute before.
You see, Diane, I believe a mystery is exactly that... something beyond our complete understanding, too large or complex to be confined to rigid definitions. When mystery calls to a person, nudging and prodding and tying him into knots, it is not something that can be doled out to others or chronicled as a coming of age.
Sometimes it can be symbolized, as in the roughness of embroidery on a Bookhouse Boys badge handed from the leader of the order to a new initiate.
That initiate does not need to understand to know that he has been accepted. That he belongs.
Now that this case has ended, I think I'm going to take a much-needed vacation. After that... who knows?