Laura Palmer was dead. So was the man who murdered her. Her father.
Special Agent Dale Cooper woke up and knew today was the day he should pack up his toothbrush and leave Twin Peaks. He reached out and touched the pillow beside his own. Cold. A glance at the clock told him why. He'd slept over an hour beyond the time Harry would have left for the office.
The killer caught. No reason for the FBI agent to get out of bed. Strange that he'd slept through the alarm. He'd never thought of himself as a heavy sleeper. He got up, showered dressed, packed. What else could he do? The killer was caught. Dead. Justice had been served. Time to go.
He got into the car the Bureau had provided for him and put the key in the ignition, but didn't turn it. Where should he go? To the Double R Diner for a late breakfast? Straight out of town? Should he leave without saying his goodbyes? It would be easier on him. No doubt. But it seemed so impolite. And Dale was, above all else, polite. It had always served him well. Best not to start a new way of doing things now.
The diner then.
One last piece of Norma's incredible cherry pie and several cups of her damned fine coffee later, he'd said his goodbyes to the lovely owner of the dinner and her staff. They all seemed surprised to find out he was leaving. He found that odd. He didn't live here. He'd only come to do a job. The job was done. Time to go.
Next stop was Doc Hayward's office where he got rid of the diner's coffee and accepted some of the doctor's. Not nearly as good, but it kept his hands busy while they talked. Mostly about how Sarah Palmer was doing. Her daughter murdered by her husband. Dale couldn't begin to imagine her pain. But, of course, she could not imagine his either so he guessed life balanced out one way or the other.
When Dale returned to his car he considered his next destination. The Great Northern Hotel perhaps? He'd struck up a brief friendship with the owner's daughter during the two nights he'd stayed there, but they hadn't spoken in weeks. Besides, she would be in school now. No, no one at the hotel to say goodbye to. He thought hard and came to the conclusion that there really wasn't any place else he should go. Except one.
He didn't want to, but with a sigh, he conceded that he must and drove to the police station. No sign of Harry when he walked in. Must be back in his office. Hiding? He remembered how they'd made love last night and guessed they'd already said their goodbyes. He forced a brave smile onto his face – funny how he'd never really thought about how difficult that might be to do, but it was – and began his farewells with deputies Hawk and Andy.
Always a man of few words, Hawk gave him the usual pleasure knowing you and headed on out the door. Dale did notice the odd look he gave him and the slight shake of the head as he left, but people were often uncertain how to handle Dale's departures. He usually managed to strike up a casual friendship or two wherever he went, but tragedy normally brought him to a place and part of the healing process was his moving on. He never kept in touch. He'd never regretted that before and knew he would this time, but it didn't change facts. It was easier on everyone this way. They needed to heal. He needed to move on.
Andy cut into his thoughts. "This isn't right."
"Excuse me?" he asked. He must have missed something. Sure sign of distress. He never missed things.
"You leaving like this. It just isn't right."
"I don't understand," Dale said. "The crime has been solved. I have to leave. It's the way these things are done."
Andy shook his head. "It isn't right," he said, then followed Hawk out the door.
That left Lucy. Assuming Harry stayed hidden in his office. He turned to the receptionist and said, "Well, I should be on my way."
"Why?" she asked, her large wide-eyes reminding him of a deer's.
"You have to heal."
"How will your going let me heal?"
"I don't know. It's just how these things are done."
"Oh. But what about the sheriff?"
"He'll heal, too."
"Oh." She considered this for a moment, then shook her head. "No, he needs you to stay to do that."
Dale shook his head. "He doesn't want me to stay, Lucy."
"How do you know?"
"He didn't ask me to."
"Oh. Wait here for a minute."
"All right." Dale didn't want to wait. It was getting late and the only thing he had to look forward to for as long as he could foresee was lunch in a nice roadside dinner. But he was polite and she had asked him to wait so he waited.
Sheriff Harry Truman came out of his office. Dale didn't know what to do. He hadn't expected Harry to want to say goodbye. They'd done that last night.
Dale decided not to say anything.
Harry looked at him, then back to where Lucy was standing in the doorway. She nodded. Harry looked at him again. "I want you to stay."
Dale said, "All right."
It created a minor stir when Dale resigned from the FBI. He was very good at the job and had never had a life outside of it. But now he did so he resigned. He decided to write a book about what had happened. It was a good way to heal. To move on.
Every day he got up, jogged, showered, wrote, fixed dinner and made love with Harry. Other details varied. Some days he ate lunch at the diner. Some days he visited the few people who were glad he had stayed. He was careful not to go to the station often, but every Wednesday he made a point of taking Harry lunch. He stayed for one hour whether Harry was there or not. No more. No less. He wasn't in law enforcement anymore. He didn't want to get in the way.
Some days he went to the diner for breakfast and stayed until it was time to go home to fix Harry's diner. He'd sit in a back booth, drink coffee and write using his PDA and a fold up keyboard.
It took him seven months to finish the book. He didn't know what that meant. He thought maybe it should have taken longer. Especially since he changed things. He knew no one would accept what had happened if he simply told the truth. So he changed things. The not-Harry had an affair with Josie Packard and the character he modeled after himself fell for Norma's sister. Norma didn't have a sister. Harry had taken Dale to bed the night after Laura Palmer's funeral.
It was simpler that way. But novels shouldn't be about simple things. They needed to touch greater things. Dale wanted to write about those things and was afraid others wouldn't read his story if the male FBI agent fell in love with the equally male sheriff. But the book bogged down when he tried to lie. There was no end. Just a hero trapped in the Black Lodge with no one to save him.
It was too sad. And not anything he had experienced. He should have. He felt that strongly. The Black Lodge had wanted to test him, but it had not. Because he was in love with Harry, not a fictitious Annie who fell prey to its darkness. Harry had saved him somehow. He would never face the test.
He started the book over. He told the truth this time. Only he called the character who was not him Dana. A woman FBI agent fell in love with the male sheriff. Once he changed things, he finished in a week. The Black Lodge still waited, but he decided it would have to wait for another day. Another book.
He gave it to Harry to read. It took him two weeks. "It's good," he said.
Dale sent it to a publisher friend. The book ended up at the top of the best seller list.
His publisher asked for the sequel. Dale didn't want to write it. The Black Lodge had decided not to test him. He didn't know what to say beyond that. He wrote about other things instead. Trees. Cherry pie. Coffee. Harry. How much he loved Harry. He didn't send those things to the publisher. He knew he'd never do that again.
He'd had one story he'd needed to share. That was enough. He didn't need the money. What worked in investigations worked with the stock market. He wasn't rich, but he could keep himself in pie and coffee for the rest of his life without ever working again.
He was free. He was as happy as he'd ever been. He was waiting.
The phone rang. It did that often, but this time it sounded louder. Harsher. Dale didn't want to answer it, but Harry was home and Dale didn't want to look foolish.
It was Gordon. His old boss. He wanted Dale's help on a case in Montana. Consulting work. Dale didn't want to go. He was afraid to leave Twin Peaks. Afraid he would never find his way back if he did.
"I could be gone for several weeks," he told Harry. He thought that sounded awful. He wanted Harry to tell him to say no.
"I think you should go," Harry said.
"All right," Dale said.
Dale didn't wear a suit in Montana. He thought it was important not to look like he was the FBI agent. He kept quiet mostly and watched while others did the work. The case wasn't that difficult. Nothing like Laura Palmer's murder. Even if it was a lot like it. There was a dead girl. A missing girl. Sex and drugs involved. But no plastic. No one-armed man. No Black Lodge. It wasn't a challenge. Dale found the missing girl and solved the case in four days.
He called Harry every night. They talked ten minutes. No more. No less. Dale wanted to talk longer. Wanted to tell Harry how much he loved him. How much he missed him. But somehow even after two years together, he didn't think he had the right. So he talked about the case, asked about Harry's day.
When he called after the arrests were made, he told Harry it was over. He waited for Harry to tell him to come home. Harry said, "You're good at your job."
"I know," Dale said.
Dale held the phone to his ear for several minutes after Harry hung up. Harry hadn't asked him to come home.
Dale woke up the next morning and didn't know what to do. The case was over. He was supposed to leave town. But he wasn't the agent-in-charge. He didn't know how things worked with consultants.
If he had been in Twin Peaks, he would have gone to the Double R Diner for pie and coffee. He decided to settle on the local version.
The pie wasn't as good, but the coffee was drinkable. He sat in a back booth and wrote about a tree he saw once. It looked like a ballet dancer. Huge wooden leg kicked backwards, an arm sweeping forward. Frozen in time. Dancing forever. And it was an election year. Harry might not get elected with a male lover as part of the package. Twin Peaks needed Harry. Dale needed him, too, but that was okay because Dale had always known he was never meant to be happy. Not 'deep down happy all the way to his toes' happy.
Dale wasn't a stupid man. Not even about himself. He was eccentric. That was the nice word used by polite people. He'd heard the others, too. Crazy, weird, strange, loco, insane, bizarre. Dale guessed maybe he was. After all, he was sitting in a diner writing about a dancing tree and elections when all he wanted to be was home. But he didn't have a home.
Harry had told him to leave. He hadn't told him to come back. Dale sat and wrote.
Dale decided to give it a week. He did not decide what he was giving the week to, but he would give it a week anyway. He did not think beyond that. He got up each morning, showered, shaved, went to the diner and wrote. About how Harry's body felt pressing down on his. What it felt like to be taken by another man. To be kissed. Held.
How it felt to love when you knew, knew it couldn't last because he was wonderful and Dale was simply strange.
He wrote a lot about pain. He might not be allowed toes-deep happiness, but his toes knew pain.
And want. He wrote a lot about want. What he wanted. Then he felt selfish and ashamed. He was one man. The town needed Harry. What were Dale's needs compared to that? Besides, Harry hadn't asked him to come home.
'Harry didn't ask me to come home.' He wrote those words over and over. It was an end. To something. He didn't know for certain. But his toes were never going to be happy.
He'd give it a week.
On the sixth day Harry slid into the other side of the booth. Ah, Dale understood now. He'd been waiting for Harry.
Harry said, "You didn't come home."
"You didn't ask me to."
Harry shook his head. "I shouldn't have had to."
Harry got up and left.
Dale didn't understand so he followed. "I don't understand."
Harry stopped walking and looked at him. "We've lived together for two years. Why do I need to ask you to come home?"
Because it's an election year. Because I'm strange. Because I love you and my toes aren't meant to be happy. Dale handed him his PDA. "This is why." He kept the keyboard. Harry wouldn't need it to read what Dale had been writing.
He found another brave smile, then walked away. He understood again. He'd been waiting for Harry so he could give him his writing. His toes told him it was the right thing to do.
Dale went back to his hotel room and ordered a banana split from room service. He watched music videos while he ate it, then switched over to the Cartoon Network. Noise. He wasn't a big fan of background noise, but his toes said watching Bugs Bunny outsmart hunters, ducks, outlaws and assorted other guests was the right thing to do. He wondered if his toes were wise or if they were trying to deceive him. Harry was reading.
Or at least Dale assumed he was. Perhaps he'd had enough of Dale and merely adequate pie and coffee in a Montana diner. Neither Bugs nor his toes could reassure him he'd ever see Harry again.
He came close to pacing, but he wasn't the pacing type. He decided to write instead. He preferred using his PDA and keyboard – longer battery life – but he turned on his laptop and got busy. He wrote about Bugs Bunny, toes that acted like they knew things when they really didn't and waiting.
It depressed him. So he wrote some more about the dancing tree. The music it must be moving to, the other trees watching with envy wanting to join in the dance but not being able to move, the birds and animals watching. If a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound? If a tree dances in the woods does anyone applaud?
Swan Lake? Giselle? What was the music? He began listing all the ballets he knew. None of them fit the twists and turns of the tree's body. Operas? No. Popular music? Perhaps his tree moved to a more modern beat. No. Then he remembered the music Audrey liked to play on the Double R's jukebox. Slow, melodious, yet somehow light. Yes. His tree danced to that.
The door opened and Harry walked in. Dale's heart sank. He knew how fast Harry read and he'd not taken enough time to read more than a few days' worth of Dale's writing. Enough to judge. Not enough to understand.
His hand shook as he shut down his laptop, his brief euphoria over finding the tree's music gone. He didn't like seeing his hand shake, so he hid it under his other hand, then stared at them both as he waited. The room grew dark while he waited.
Harry sighed, but Dale couldn't bring himself to look up. "I thought you were ashamed of us."
Dale frowned. Those weren't the words he was expecting. "What?"
Oh. "It didn't work when I let me be not-me. It got all bogged down."
"Went off on some soap opera tangent. Lost its voice. Too many romantic entanglements."
"Why not just write about us?"
"I needed it to be about other things."
"We were part of those other things."
Dale shook his head. "When I write about us, that's all there is. The other things go away. I told myself it was because people wouldn't want to read about us, but the truth is I didn't want to share it."
"You were afraid."
He nodded. What was shared was held up to the light. Like a snowflake it could melt away.
"I told you I wanted you to stay and you did."
"I love you."
"You gave up too much for me."
"You make me happy."
Harry shook his head. "Man gives up everything for someone, his toes should be happy."
"No. A man keeps his own toes from being happy. It's not something someone else can give him."
"Maybe. But maybe I should have told those unhappy toes that I love them. That I don't want them to carry you out of my life. Ever. That I like being the sheriff, but your toes will make my toes happy with or without the badge and maybe they shouldn't go around assuming that folks don't like seeing our toes together."
Dale started to smile. Not the bright almost painful smile he often wore, but a genuine warm smile. His toes had been wise after all. "I love you."
"Then come home," Harry said.
"All right," Dale said.
Dale went home with Harry. He jogged, he wrote and he went by the station whenever he felt like it. He made dinner for Harry and they made love whenever they got the chance. Gordon called from time to time to ask for Dale's help. He usually went, but he always came home. To Twin Peaks. To Harry. And his toes learned they'd been happy all along. He'd just been too scared to see it.