TITLE: The Longest Shadow
AUTHOR: winter baby
FANDOM: The X-Files
SUMMARY: If she could just hold on long enough.
+  The Longest Shadow  +
Samantha's grave lies at the end of a long and narrow path, in a small corner of the cemetery with the rest of her family. Three perfectly symmetrical headstones lined up in a row – Mom, Dad, Daughter – all silently proclaiming their fragile mortality. And at the same time taunting you, saying that this would be you someday. That this would be him too.
Behind their graves are a row of delicate trees, planted carefully to create a frail border between them and the outside world. The branches cast dancing shadows over the tombstones, and they shed their leaves even now in the spring, covering the ground like green carpets. The path that leads to their tiny and dead universe is made of gravel, cold gray pebbles that crunch as you make your way. You morbidly imagine that they would crack and crumble beneath you, flinging you down into the bitter ground with the rest of the lifeless that lay there.
-Tread slowly here, the voice in your head instructs. People are dead and there's no running allowed.
The sunlight is filtered through the tree branches, shadows gently falling to the ground like rice paper. You pass row after row of tombs, and finally reach the end of the lane. There they sleep in their quiet little corner, all of the Mulders except one. You finger the smooth rock in your hand and place it on top of Samantha's marble gravestone.
-Is this your tradition? the voice asks you. You, a little Catholic girl. Does the Jewish God allow you to do that?
There is no body in Samantha's grave of course, only a tombstone with her name on it and the years of her brief life. You wonder if there would come a day when you would also have to plant an empty grave next to Samantha's, a lonely headstone with no dead corpse underneath the dark soil.
-Only if I never come back, the voice says.
He's been gone a week now, and you've been dutifully waiting for him at his sister's grave ever since then. You are convinced that he will return not to his apartment or even yours, but to the cemetery. Because with Mulder, everything eventually leads back to Samantha.
The warm breeze carries on it the scent of flowers from neighboring tombs, sweet and thick in the air.
-Can you smell them? he asks. Tulips.
Like the ones that were laid out for Samantha.
Her funeral was a lonely day, the gray clouds hanging dangerously low in the sky. You and Mulder were the only ones that attended the service. You were the only ones left alive who still cared. You remember that his face was a cold mask and his body was as still as a statue. And when you held his hand, the flesh was frozen as if he were already dead. A hollow man, filled with an emptiness that frightened you. You wondered if he would ever be whole again.
A funeral for my gone sister, he said when you asked him why, because my mother would have wanted me to, because this is my closure.
You gently push the rock off of Samantha's headstone with your index finger; it lands on the green grass with a soft thud. The quiet of the cemetery settles over you now, and you hear only the leaves rustling in the wind.
Then his voice comes to you, like a floating whisper in the air, like the murmuring of a ghost in your ear.
-What kind of flowers will you have at my funeral? You close your eyes slowly, the brightness of the afternoon fading away into the darkest corners of your mind. Will they be tulips like hers? Or will they be bleeding hearts like yours?
The coldness comes from inside of you, a shiver passing through your entire body. You tightly wrap your arms around yourself, hoping for that long-forgotten warmth which never comes.
-Tell me, his voice persists, I want to know. The day I die, will I be there? Will my rotting corpse be lowered into the ground as you cry for me?
You clutch your red hair with desperate hands, trying to force him to leave. You look like a mad woman, silently fighting the voices in your head and ultimately losing.
-Or will you be here forever, he asks, waiting for me? Always alone, like you are now.
Your trembling body gradually becomes still as his voice dies away. You drop to the ground, your knees crushing thin blades of green grass. With fragile fingers, you trace the letters depressed into the crumbling granite of the tombstone.
Samantha, you whisper each syllable carefully and slowly, like a cold prayer. And of course no one answers, not your lost partner or his dead sister. You are alone now, the leaves falling around you like rain and the sun's light hidden behind a small tree.
You rise from the ground and back away slightly from the grave. How many times have you found yourself in that position, pleading to a ghost? You have nothing but workless days now, time to recuperate, and you spend all of it here in a cemetery. Your mother is worried about her daughter who prefers the company of dead people to live ones. And you hate to admit it, but it worries you too.
His voice mocked you, told you that you would always be alone. And maybe he is right. It has only been a week so far, but not even god himself knows how long this could drag out. Months, years, centuries.
You try to imagine yourself ten years from now, but no matter how hard you fight against the image, all you can see is yourself like you are now; granted an older and more weary version of yourself, but still in the exact same spot, in the exact same position, forever waiting for him.
You carefully step around Samantha's headstone and bend down to pick up the rock that lies there on the ground. You clutch it tightly in between your fingers and palm. It is cold and smooth, and in its cracks, it holds your secrets. You gently place it back on top of Samantha's tombstone.
It rocks back and forth on its round base and threatens to fall off as you watch it with careful eyes, but it stays. It barely stays.
The winds are warm and the sunlight shines brightly overhead, but you find yourself locked in a cold world. You are tempted to turn around and run, to never come back here, but his voice haunts you like it always has, pleads with you like it always will.
-Wait for me.
You listen intently to the sighs of a gone man you cannot see or touch but could always feel, and let the sun's light fall over your face like so much grace.
You will wait for him tomorrow, and all the days that follow.
[ end ]
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