Note: I’m temporarily posting this under my old pen name b/c fanfic.net has decided not to let me post under Heidi Patacki . . . so eventually this will probably be removed and re-uploaded or whatever you want to call it, under the correct name. Just wanted to prevent any future confusion . . .
A/N: I absolutely hate songfics, they are my arch nemeses (I actually had to look that up: the plural form of ‘nemesis’. I wanted to put ‘nemesi’. Shucks) But this song (Butterfly, by Weezer, from their Pinkerton album) was just too perfect for the idea I had, so I weaved it in. Le sigh. At least it isn’t a songfic to N’SYNC or Sara McLachlan or any of that hoo-ha. And I still refuse to name the fic after the title of the song. So there. Enjoy. ~
Room For the Holy Ghost
Yesterday I went outside
With my mama’s Nielson jar
Caught a lovely butterfly
John Doggett started thinking about his wife at times like this. It was the only way to save his humanity on these hot, indifferent streets. To remember his wife: her small hands shaking water into the sink after washing, the way her hair fell on the pillow when she looked up at him. And his son, his Luke. The way his boy’s hair stood, involuntarily spiked like his own, made him wonder if he would become the kind of man who cried at small moments as his son grew older.
But there was no crying where he stood then, in an abandoned hotel, a haven for the homeless, drugged-out and insane. Another homicide, another nameless kid’s blood spilled on another dirty floor. John wiped his brow. This city was taking its toll on him, after all. His father had only been a stockbroker while living here, but sometimes, when John looked in the mirror, he could already see the same lines of desolation on his own face.
He kept telling Raye, his wife, that he would get a less harrowing job at the FBI. At the bureau things were questioned, worked out, seen through – not just written down, marked and moved over, unspectacular acts of random violence that weren’t worth writing up for anything more than evil. The snake in the apple tree. John walked out of the hotel, boards cracking under his boots. He wondered for a moment as dust rose up under his footsteps, why he did he ever bother to shine his shoes?
Outside on the street, he didn’t feel any less claustrophobic. Street bums were being rounded up for ‘questioning’. He was tired of seeing cops take their passive aggressive, bottled-up shit out on these morons. He was tired. He ran his hand over his face.
" John," one of his colleagues, a small woman named Jesse with a permanent, short brown braid at her back called to him, " What’s the matter? Are they wrapping it up already?"
" They might as well," he muttered. And then, " No, not yet. I’m just . . ." he trailed off, looked at the gray sky. Jesse made a face. He knew that she was thinking whatever his problem was, it must be pretty bad. No one on the force had seen him riled by even the most grisly crimes.
" You need to knock off early?" she asked.
" I don’t know," he said, rubbing the back of his neck. " I think so. I feel like I can’t breathe." He looked at her, hoping she’d understand.
Jesse frowned, " Maybe you should talk to those EMT guys," she suggested, gesturing. John nodded politely, though he knew it was nothing the EMT team could cure. He needed to go home, to see his family, to hear his wife’s girlish collection of wind chimes moving in the breeze on their front porch.
So he left early, in a hurry, headed north toward the suburbs. He’d just gotten a raise from the NYPD this year, and they had moved into a new house in a nicer neighborhood. Sometimes he thought he’d gladly give it all up for a job as a shoe salesman or a butcher. He remembered the football scholarships he’d gone to college with before he’d joined the Marines. He laughed to himself at the idea of having followed a different path, trying maybe to break into professional football. No, it wouldn’t suit him. Even Raye admitted that, though she hated it, his job suited him. He was rock hard. Supposed to be, anyway.
He pulled into his driveway and noticed Luke’s bike lying abandoned in the front yard. He dragged it into the garage before going into the house – on any other day he’d let the kid have it for being careless with his things, but today he didn’t care.
John pushed his way inside and threw his jacket and briefcase on the sofa in the living room. He eyed the briefcase suspiciously for a moment – he never thought he’d have one, as a cop, but he wasn’t a mere cop now, he had this new title: ‘investigator’. Investigators required briefcases. He stepped out of his boots and left them on the floor near the coffee table. He heard Raye’s chimes moving in the wind outside.
" I’m home," he bellowed through the quiet house. " Early," he added, under his breath.
" We’re here," he heard Raye whisper from their bedroom. He followed her hushed voice inside, pulling off his tie. She was lying on the bed, reading while Luke slept at her side, his own thin picture book deserted beside him on the comforter. His wife smiled warmly as he walked further into the room, putting a finger to her lips. She was wearing her tortoise shell glasses – he loved that. The librarian look – it was somehow sexy on her.
John walked over and kissed her on the forehead before disrobing and heading for the bathroom. He couldn’t wait to have a shower, to wash the day away. New York City was all over him, he wanted every pore cleaned.
When he climbed out he felt revitalized – the window in the bathroom showed a still-cloudy sky, its menace darkening and threatening with the rumble of distant thunder. Good. He was in the mood for a thunderstorm – maybe a little rain would clean up this city. He snorted at the idea. One of Raye’s boring, white bras was hanging over the towel rack. He picked it up, brought it to his face and inhaled deeply. Raye was maraschino cherries and chrysanthemums. Why did it feel like he hadn’t seen her in ages?
He walked out in his boxers, smiled again at the scene in his bed as Raye continued reading while Luke slept, one arm draped across his mother’s stomach. John dressed in sweat-pants and a T-shirt. He exhaled – he could breathe again. Maybe his shortness of breath today was only a matter of his work pants being too tight. Maybe he would never go back to work. He knew that he would.
John turned to Raye, and she looked up at him, grinned slowly, and put the book away.
" You’re home early," she whispered. He nodded. " Help me get him in his bed," she said, sitting up a bit. John bent and reached for Luke, whose brow creased a little bit as he was being lifted. He half-woke, and looked at John.
" Daddy," he muttered, before falling back asleep. Raye giggled.
" He’s so tired," she said quietly, following John to Luke’s room. " They had Field Day at his school today."
" Oh, right," John said, placing Luke in his bed and pulling a quilt over his legs before kissing him on the forehead. He touched his son’s hair – so much like his own. Not just the color and thickness, but the place where his hairline rested on his forehead – it gave John goosebumps, sometimes. Genetics; inheritance was such a funny thing.
" How’d he do?" he asked as he and Raye crept out of the room, half-shutting the door as they went.
She shrugged, " You know," she said, waving a hand through the air and smiling, " Everybody’s a winner!" she winked. " I don’t think they do blue ribbons anymore. Its a form of discrimination against non-athletic kids - or something." John laughed, and put his hand on her back as they returned to their bedroom.
Raye flopped down on the bed and reached for him.
" C’mere, you," she beckoned, trying to hide a childish smile. He easily fell into her arms – they were so small. Not thin, but proportioned like a child’s, small bones. Both Raye and Luke were petite – sometimes he wanted to put them in his pocket and take them to work with him, so he could reach down and touch them when he needed to remember they were there with him.
" Baby," he said, curling up against her and breathing her in, " Tell me about your day. I’m trying to forget mine."
" Well," she said, smoothing his hair. He knew she was trying to decide whether now was an appropriate time to give him another speech about his need for a job change. She decided against it – told him instead about a day full of the small miracles that kept his life soft and warm to the touch – her job as the receptionist at the vet’s office in town, grocery shopping, dryer sheets, a scrape on Luke’s knee from a spill on his bike. John shut his eyes against the cloth of her dress, basking in her glow – he felt nostalgic for her, though she was right there in his arms.
He felt her touching his cheeks suggestively and he looked up. He knew she found his rough skin sexy – the calluses on his hands from growing up on a farm, the scars and tough spots earned during his time in the Marines. His skin was a negative image of her own – smooth and unctuous, glossy cream.
" Are you okay?" she asked, smoothing his eyebrows like she always did, pushing the hairs until they all went in the same direction. " You look kind of sad."
John shook his head, " Not sad," he said with a sigh, kissing the tight skin below her neck, " Just shell-shocked, I guess. Its such a damn . . . contrast, coming home to you and Luke from . . . work."
Raye’s eyes grew sympathetic, and she withheld her speech once more, knowing intuitively that he wasn’t up for it at the moment. Instead she pulled him closer, brought his face down to hers, and kissed him tenderly. John un-did a few buttons on her dress, moving his hand over her hidden skin.
" Johnny," she whispered, scooting so that her entire body was underneath his. He smiled down at her, propping himself up on his elbows. She was the only one he allowed to call him Johnny.
A storm rolled in while they were undressing. Rain blasted the windows, and they smiled at each other, thinking of the first time they’d made love, in John’s small twin bed at his old apartment, during a thunderstorm.
Raye pushed him on his back and let him moan and twitch helplessly as her tongue had its way with his neck and chest. She sat up and grinned at him wickedly, and he felt a shiver move through him. Their marriage had its ups and downs, its nights spent sleeping on opposite sides of the bed, untouching – but at the moment he could have sworn it was perfect, she was perfect. He still wanted her more than any other woman in the world.
She pulled a sheet up over them as she continued working her way down his body – a precaution that anyone with children in the house – sleeping or not - has to take. John pulled the sheet back behind his shoulders so that they were both enveloped in it – a tent, a small sky of white with faded blue flowers.
Her tongue moved softly over his left thigh, leaving him with his head pushed back and upward, his eyes pinched shut in terrible ecstasy. His thighs – she always caressed him there, teasing – she knew he was ticklish and that it was almost unbearable. But it made the relief of her soft tongue finally making its way up his shaft that much better.
John let out his breath as she licked him carefully – she had a pattern that she rarely strayed from, but he wasn’t complaining. Start at the bottom, move in a small, straight line to the top, linger at the ridge. She repeated this process until he was completely bathed in moisture, then she took the full length of him in her mouth.
" Raye," he moaned, unable to control himself. Thunder rolled loudly outside. He prayed it wouldn’t wake Luke, though the boy had always liked storms, and often sat at the window and watched them blow the trees around like so much fine grass.
" Yes?" she joked, grinning and raising her head to his. He grabbed her and rolled on top of her, twisting the sheets. She giggled as he kissed her furiously, lingering at her breasts and tummy.
" Raye, Raye," he mumbled in a kind of sexual madness that made his whole body throb, kept her name on his lips. He moved his face down to her crotch and buried his tongue in her folds, his erection pulsing harder against the sheets with her every gasp and moan.
" John," she cried before too long, reaching down, yanking on his shoulders and pulling him up to her. He kissed her gently as he entered her, pushing her dark, curly hair off of her face.
" Baby," she gushed, shutting her eyes and moving her hips with his thrusting. " God . . ."
John tried to keep his persistent orgasm at bay, but their love-making still didn’t last long. Raye didn’t seem to mind, though – he knew she was thinking of Luke, of the risk they were taking, naked and in love while their son was across the hall, sleeping indefinitely. How impractical! She squealed loudly and without thinking when he came inside her, though, and he smiled, grateful for the mask that the noise of the storm provided.
Raye sighed, loud and content, when they were finished, and wrapped her legs around his middle and her arms around his shoulders. John collapsed against her, all of his muscles relaxing at once. He wanted sleep, he needed it, he needed to fall asleep naked in his wife’s arms, if only for a few minutes before they had to get up and start making dinner for Luke.
Raye seemed to understand. She cooed soft assurances in his ear as he drifted off. He felt her hand in his hair, her short nails moving tenderly across his back, her lips on his cheek as she spoke in whispers.
John fell asleep there, with the slow rumble of the thunder moving away, the patter of the remaining rain, and the small voice his wife spoke in only to him soothing him into a place close to heaven.
When I woke up today
Looked in on my fairy friend
She had withered all away
No more sighing in her breast
It was dark in the hospital - even the lights in the waiting room had been significantly dimmed. John leaned over and wrung his hands nervously – he wished selfishly that he’d brought Luke with him for company. But he didn’t want to expose his son to this darkness, this grief. He knew it would come in time, but at the moment he wanted Luke to continue hoping for his mother’s survival, to continue thinking of the cancer as only a momentary roadblock.
He didn’t want him to know what he, and everyone else, even Raye herself – knew. This was the end.
John looked up and saw her youngish doctor walking out of the double doors where the patients’ rooms were. He looked down at his feet. He hated trusting Raye’s last, dwindling moments of life to someone else. He wanted to do everything himself. He was a doctor, technically. Not a medical doctor, of course – but he’d gotten his doctorate in Public Administration in college. He laughed darkly to himself. It meant nothing, here. He felt useless.
" Mr. Doggett?"
John stared at the doctor’s shoes. He didn’t want to look at his face – he’d be able to read her condition there, and he wasn’t ready. He shut his eyes. Raye was painted on the back of his eyelids, always, now. He thought often of all the cliché memories that a man with a dying wife repeats to brighten the dark spots – their wedding day, the birth of their son, dancing in the Rainbow Room for their tenth anniversary.
But he couldn’t remember how they’d met – he couldn’t remember the first time he laid eyes on Raye. What music was playing? Which dress was she wearing? Guilty tears crept down his cheeks as he pinched his eyes shut against the small, remaining light from the nurse’s desk.
John looked up at the doctor.
" Mr. Doggett," he said again, and John knew she was gone. He waited for it, though. He sat back in his chair. He looked at the doctor. The poor young man was faltering. Raye was a charmer. He had probably loved her, too, in his own small way.
" I’m . . . sorry," the doctor managed. He was staring at the floor. He was ashamed, he had failed her. John almost wanted to embrace him, wanted to pawn his pain off on this near stranger, feel pity for someone else instead of himself. Instead he jumped up, as if to strike him.
" What the hell do you mean?" he wailed, the tears not creeping now, but running, sprinting down his cheeks. He grabbed the doctor’s arms. " What do you mean you’re sorry? She’s gone? She’s just gone, without goodbye? How could you let me sit here? How could you let me sit here while she died?"
He realized he was shaking the young doctor, who was sobbing, too. All he could say was I’m sorry, I’m sorry. John released him with a shove. It was all useless, now. He collapsed on the floor, trembling. He tried thinking: morgue, coffin, funeral home, cemetery, earth. But he didn’t think he could get from here to there.
" Raye," he sobbed, barely audible. He had meant to scream her name, to shake the windows of the hospital, to have his painful cry reverberate through this whole sick city. But his voice was too weak. Raye had been his strength. Raye was gone.
I’m sorry for what I did
I did what my body told me to
I didn’t mean to do you harm
Every time I pin down one I think I want it slips away
Her ghost slips away
John woke with a heart-beat snatching gasp for air. He fumbled to move under the sweaty sheets, rubbing his eyes and pulling himself out of his dream.
" Raye," he said, reaching for her in the darkness, " I think I had a nightmare."
The woman his hands found sleeping beside him was not Raye Doggett. This though shook through him for a minute before he crashed back down to earth. He took his hands off of Monica and moved back to his side of the bed, shaking. Her hair almost looked like Raye’s on the pillow in the dark – a shoulder-length black mane flipped carelessly behind her. But Monica’s lacked the bounce, the curl of his late wife’s hair.
Doggett climbed out of bed. He thought of the curly hairs he’d found around the house after his wife’s death, months of their showing up on his dresser, his pillow. It had been more than a relief to move out of that house.
He went into the small kitchen in his apartment and pulled the milk out of the fridge. Though it was his milk, and though he had the urge to, he never drank from the carton. It still seemed rude, and he couldn’t break the habit of being polite in his own home, even though he now lived alone. He pulled a glass down from the cabinet and poured himself some milk. He walked back to the fridge to put away the carton, jumping a little bit when Monica suddenly wandered in.
" God," she said, taking the milk from him, " I’m so thirsty I could die." She drank right from the carton, unashamed, while he watched. Doggett frowned. Monica Reyes had helped him find his son. But not in the way he wanted to find him. He would always subconsciously hate her for that. It made their on and off affair kind of complicated, to say the least.
" Gimme that," he said, taking the milk back from her and going to get her a glass. " Didn’t your mother ever tell you that drinking from the carton is rude?" he asked, not trying to be cute, but truly curious.
" You were talking in your sleep," Monica told him, ignoring his question.
" About Raye."
" Hmm," he said, handing her the glass of milk. He wasn’t sure if he should apologize or not. " What did I say?" he asked. She stared at him, drinking her milk and watching him with big, sexy eyes – like a schoolgirl trying to seduce her teacher. Doggett resented her for her youth and beauty. Sometimes he thought she was the serpent in the apple tree.
" I don’t know," she said, finishing her drink with a sigh, " Just her name. That’s all I remember."
Her statement stabbed at Doggett, though he knew she hadn’t meant it to. That was his biggest fear, though – that eventually all he would remember of his wife was her name. Luke, too. Maybe he was trying to remember them too much. Sometimes he felt he should move on and let himself really love Monica, who was willing, but just the idea was like a slap in the face. It was more than a resistance to change. Raye and Luke were his life. If he let them go, he had nothing.
Monica walked to him in the dark kitchen, putting her hands on his bare chest. She was wearing a tiny white tank top and some equally tiny white underwear. The white seemed to glow against her olive skin. Doggett stiffened when she touched him. She frowned.
" Do you want me to go?" she asked, hurt and feeling confrontational. Doggett shrugged. He didn’t. He didn’t want her to know, though, that he still had a hard time being alone at night. He was afraid she’d think it was the only reason they slept together – a warm body to reach for in the darkness. He was afraid it was true, himself, afraid to think about it. He never meant to use anybody. And Monica was a good person, though she could be sloppy, though she did drink from the carton.
" Whatever," she muttered, walking back toward the bedroom. He followed, sheepishly. She was beautiful, and he wasn’t a fool – he knew that he was getting older, that he carried a lot of baggage, and that he was lucky to have someone. But he just couldn’t make himself accept Monica as part of his life – not even after three years of sporadic dating. She had cold hands.
Back in the bedroom, she was pulling on her jeans.
" Monica," he groaned, sitting on the end of the bed. " Its 3:30 in the morning. For Christ’s sake. Don’t go."
" No, you know, I’m tired of this," she said, her voice unsteady and unsure. She pulled up her zipper and buttoned her jeans, began searching the dark bedroom for her shirt, " I’m tired of this routine, I need to do some thinking, I don’t know . . . Where is my goddamn shirt? John?"
" What the hell do you have to think about?" he barked, " Think about it here – for crying out loud! I don’t want you out driving at this hour, its not safe."
" Hey, Mister," she said, pointing a finger at him, " I’m not yours to protect, okay? I’ll drive whenever I damn well please."
" What do you want, Monica, what do you want?" he asked, glaring, throwing out his hands, " You want a wedding ring? Is that want you want? You want me to marry you so I can admit that I fucking worry about you?"
" Oh, shut the hell up," she said, her voice cracking. She found her shirt and pulled it haphazardly over her head, twisting it around when she realized she’d put it on backwards.
" Come on, come on," he said, standing and letting his voice soften. " I’m having these . . . nightmares of sorts, these intense memories while I sleep. I’m sorry, I, don’t feel like myself."
Monica scoffed, " Like you even know what that feels like, John," she said, giving him an accusing stare, " You’re so fucking confused, you know?" she said, shaking her head at him in disbelief, " You know what’s the matter with you? It doesn’t take a goddamn psychologist. Your wife died, John, your son died. Maybe if you’d have let yourself mourn when it happened, you wouldn’t be having flashbacks now, huh?"
Doggett looked at his feet. He had mourned. Hadn’t he? Hadn’t he cried, hadn’t he spent nights awake, alone, sobbing? Sure. But he’d told himself he was weak. He’d told himself to get over it. Did it matter? Had it ruined him?
Monica sighed, and touched his arm. " Look, I’m sorry," she said, " That was . . . I just feel second best, John. Maybe I always will, with you. I feel like the consolation prize."
" Monica," he said, looking up at her, frowning, " You are the consolation prize." Her face dropped. He hadn’t meant it as an insult – but didn’t she understand that? Didn’t she understand that if had a choice, he would still be with Raye?
She slapped him: the perfect snap of skin-on-skin in the otherwise quiet room. Doggett wasn’t surprised. Monica was a reactionary. She didn’t hold back.
" Then why am I here, huh?" she shouted, teary, " Why am I here, John? Tell me why you keep me around, I just want to hear it from your mouth."
He tried to think. He couldn’t come up with anything – didn’t he love Monica, in a strange way? Didn’t he need her, to keep him human, to keep him from turning into a robot creation of the FBI’s?
Say it, he told himself, tell her.
He was silent.
" That’s what I thought," she hissed, " For sex." She shook her head. " I can’t believe what a fool I am. I tried to pretend that we were using each other, that it was mutual. But I can’t do that, John. I’m human, I have feelings. For you. Do you understand that? Do you even care?"
He sighed. She was so dramatic. He just wanted to get back in bed, to get some sleep before work tomorrow.
" Don’t go, Monica," he managed, his voice low. He reached for her, but she squirmed away. " Don’t go . . . I . . . need you," he finally got the words past his tongue.
She shook her head, stepping back, " All you need is a warm body, John," she said, grabbing her purse from his dresser, " You need a small woman with dark hair, someone to lie there so you can have your two or three delusional seconds with Raye before you really wake up and remember where you are."
John was actually taken aback. Did she really think that? How long had she had this theory, that she was a substitute Raye?
" God, Monica!" he said, narrowing his eyes, " How dare you? You know that’s not true."
She scoffed, " Do I?" she said, pushing past him and walking out of the room.
" Wait," he said, " Monica!" They had fought before, oh, had they fought. But this felt too real. He didn’t want her out of his life. He couldn’t put his finger on the reason, but he knew it wasn’t the sex, the warm body, the dark hair. It was Monica, somehow.
" I love you," he said as she was going out the door, and she stopped for a moment with her hand on the doorknob.
" It’s a little late for that," she mumbled, walking away. He went to the door and watched her going down the stairs. She stopped near the end of the last stairwell and groaned hugely.
" Ugghhh . . ." she moaned, and then she looked up at him. " I love you too," she spat, " Asshole."
With that, she turned and hurried out of the building. He heard her shoes click on the sidewalk outside for the few seconds that the lobby’s door swung open. He waited until the last traces of her movements were out of earshot before he closed the door and went back inside.
Smell you on my hands for days
I can’t wash away your scent
If I’m a dog then you’re a bitch
Doggett drove home from the hospital alone, silent. There were poisons, there was a vaccine. There had been some kind of mutating lizard man who’d tried to kill him and his temporary and former partner, Agent Harrison. And now he was driving home. Not thinking about it.
Raye would have laughed. She wouldn’t have believed his life now if someone had tried to explain what would happen to her husband after her death. But I could have shown her, Doggett thought. I could have shown her and she would have believed me.
But the idea of Raye knowing about this kind of stuff – this dark magic, this constant, invisible threat, would spoil her somehow. Raye was the kind of person who still silently believed – no, knew – that lightening bugs were fairies, that unicorns had once existed but had perished in the Great Flood because of their vanity. She didn’t have a problem with the unexplained, but her unexplained beliefs were silent miracles, not blatant, man-eating lizards. Her faith in the unknown spots of light in the universe could not be wrapped up in a prim manila folder with case notes and autopsy pictures.
Doggett sighed – he moaned, even. He was obsessing, Monica was right. Every instance, every coffee stain on his collar, every hand that went to his partner Scully’s pregnant belly, every lonely jerk-off in the shower, would be measured and mapped out in Raye’s reaction. Raye would have thought this, Raye would have said that.
He parked, and dragged himself up to his apartment. He dragged himself to the fridge. He hadn’t spoken to Monica in a few days. He still dreamed about Raye, every night lately. Would she have scolded him? Was she, from some divine resting place amongst clouds? Doggett wasn’t sure that he could believe in God or any of the theology anymore. What kind of God would take his wife and then his child, both brutally, each in a different kind of horrible circumstance? And why? So that he could stand here, in this stagnant apartment in D.C. – so that Monica could be his consolation prize?
He winced. He couldn’t believe he’d called her that.
Doggett gave up on himself and picked up the phone. He didn’t have a lot of friends he could call, but he needed to talk to someone. He dialed the first number that came to his mind – Dana Scully’s cell phone.
" Scully," she answered. She already sounded annoyed, as if she knew it was him calling and she didn’t have time for it. He was afraid she hated him sometimes, for allegedly trying to replace Mulder. She had given him that Apollo 11 medallion, though. Of course, he’d passed it on to Agent Harrison after her ordeal with the lizard-man . . . Maybe that had teed Scully off.
" Hello?" she demanded.
" Oh – Scully," he said quickly, " Its me." He knew she’d recognize his voice.
" John?" she said, sounding concerned now, which made him feel better. " What’s wrong?"
He sighed, " Nothing," he said, hurried, changing his mind about confiding in his partner. The poor woman had enough on her mind. And anyway, Mulder was probably over there with her, cooking a gourmet dinner or doing some other gallant thing.
" I . . . guess I was just worrying about you, that’s all," he said, knowing that he sounded like a buffoon. He was never good on the phone. " Everything’s okay? With the baby, I mean?"
" Oh – yes," she said, confused, " As far as I know," she added, her paranoia regarding her pregnancy showing in her tone. He felt guilty for even bringing it up.
" Are you sure you’re okay, John?" she asked. He told her he was, he just had the impulse to call. He apologized, she told him to forget it, that she would see him at work. Then she stopped herself.
" Well," she said, " Actually, I guess I won’t see you at work."
" Maternity leave," he reminded her, nodding into his phone. " You take care of yourself, Scully." He hung up before he had the chance to embarrass himself any further. What the hell was he calling Dana Scully for? He was just avoiding the obvious task at hand. He picked up the receiver again.
" Hello?" Monica answered her phone the old fashioned way, last names aside. Doggett smiled, then felt so guilty for hurting her that it burned.
" Mon," he said, " Get over here."
" Jesus Christ, John," she said, laughing cruelly. " What do you think I’m doing, sitting here waiting for your beck and call?"
" Well," he said, toying with the phone cord, " You answered on the first ring."
" Pssh," she said in a scoff, dismissing him. " You think I don’t have a life outside of you?"
" Monica –"
" Well, I’ll have you know I had a date last night," she told him.
" Oh?" he said, pretending to be open-minded about her dating other people. She deserved to, certainly, they had broken up and gotten back together too many times to take their relationship seriously. " How’d it go?"
" Humph," she said, " You’re acting like you don’t mind? That’s just fine, I have nothing to prove. It was shitty, okay? He wore a turtleneck, he ate his lobster with his hands." John held his hand over the speaker and laughed.
" Geez," he said when he’d regained his composure, " Anything but that."
" I mean," she said, " You’re not supposed to eat lobster with your hands. Right?"
" You’re not sure?"
" I have a feeling."
" Well," he said, " It does seem . . . rude. But c’mon, Mon. You drank milk right out of the carton at my place."
" What?" she asked, annoyed, " When?"
She was so unlike Raye, who catalogued everything she and everyone close to her did, and held it permanently, filed somewhere for easy access. Raye never forgot anything.
" Why’d you call me, anyway?" she asked, " Need another victim? I guess the pickings are slim, it always seems to be my life that you wreck."
" Cut it out. I haven’t wrecked your life," he paused, thinking of the consolation prize remark, " Look, I’m sorry about what I said the other night – I think you misunderstood me –"
" Alright, alright," she dismissed quickly. His heart tremored for her – if Monica didn’t want to use something as fuel for an argument, it must be really painful.
" Anyway, come over," he said again, " I’ll make you dinner or something." She laughed. " No, come on," he pleaded, " Just come over. I promise I won’t put my foot in my mouth the whole night – even if it means not talking."
" Hmm, sounds thrilling," she drawled, pretending to be bored with him. He tried to imagine what she was doing while she spoke to him on the phone: maybe sitting on her sofa with a quilt over her legs, surrounded by discarded mini-candy bar wrappers. Maybe he shouldn’t flatter himself. Monica. Whatever she was doing, he knew she had her hand in her hair, squeezing it into a clump like she always did when she was nervous. He wondered if she’d really had a date. He felt like kicking the guy’s ass, either way – eating lobster with his hands in front of Monica, like it didn’t matter. Who the hell did this turtleneck wearing bastard think he was?
Monica sighed on the other end of the phone. " And so it begins again," she said, hanging up. He knew that meant yes.
I guess you’re as real as me
Maybe I can live with that
Maybe I need fantasy
Life of chasing butterflies
John jogged down to the grocery store on the corner, hoping Monica understood that this was a spur of the moment thing, that he needed time for preparation. He bought a flank steak and some mushrooms and onions to dress it with, asparagus and rice.
He looked at the bundle of asparagus stalks as he pushed his cart down the wine aisle. He remembered Luke telling him that ‘asparagus makes your pee smell funny’ once when he was very young. John had given him his look of disapproval and told him he was being crude. Shit. The kid was just trying to get his old man to crack a smile.
I was too harsh with him, John thought, pulling a bottle of cheap red wine off the shelf. How was I supposed to know that all my careful rearing, all my strict lessons, would only go to waste – that he wouldn’t have the chance to grow up to be a good citizen?
For a moment he was frozen there in the wine aisle by his regrets. An old man in a floppy fisherman’s hat pushed past him, giving him a suspicious glance. The dark wine in the bottles turned to blood, and John shut his eyes.
He saw the vision of Luke lying lifeless in the grass that had burned itself onto his eyelids, the memory that had replaced the haunting image of Raye that had previously rested there. Monica had been there with him when they found Luke, though he couldn’t see her. He stopped seeing her forever that day, even when she had held him all night, done the best she could to comfort him with her cold hands.
He opened his eyes.
The dinner was a disaster, despite his best efforts. Monica arrived when he was only half-finished, wearing all black – a black halter top and flowing black pants, black sandals. She assured him that her underwear were black as well. He wished they could just make love and go to sleep, but he had to do this for her, had to show her that she was worth an overdone flank steak and some asparagus that would change the aroma of her piss. She finished the entire bottle of wine before he had a chance to take a sip.
" Fuck it," she said, laughing when the rice stuck to the bottom of the pan in a black mass. " Let’s go across the street," she suggested, turning off the burners, " We’ll get a piece of cheesecake or something. I didn’t want to hurt your feelings when you said you’d cook dinner for me, but I had already eaten when you called."
He kissed her. She didn’t want to hurt his feelings, even though he probably deserved it.
They walked down the stairs and out of the building, toward the little dessert and coffee place across the street. Monica was drunk. She held onto John’s arm and talked about the moon.
It was full and reddish-colored: " A vampire moon," Monica said, pointing.
" Let’s not talk about work," John muttered, not even trying to be funny. They both laughed.
As they were stepping from the curb to the street, John stopped. Monica felt his weight halt behind her, and turned, stepped back up beside him, looking quizzical.
John blinked, felt a rush of someone else’s energy move through him. " I just remembered how I met my wife," he said, dreamy.
" Oh," Monica said glumly, hocking what had previously been a Raye-free evening.
" No," he said, not wanting to disappoint her. Raye had so little to do with Monica. He didn’t want to compare them anymore: they might as well have been from different dimensions. He held Monica’s arms, held her in front of him, " Listen," he said. She raised her eyebrows.
" She was on vacation with her best friend, my cousin Courtney," he said, " They came to the farm on the day before they left for the beach . . . because it was the halfway point between their home and the ocean." He looked at Monica. There were tears in her eyes.
" Go on," she said.
" The farm seemed so boring while Raye was there," he said, narrowing his eyes, remembering in a gush, " Suddenly I wanted to see the whole world."
" With her?" Monica asked. John tilted his head.
" No," he said, " I wanted to see the world and then come back to her. And I did. She left for her vacation, I went off to college in California, and then joined the Marines. I traveled. There were other women, but I never forgot her. We met again – by chance, I guess, in Mexico City right before I got out of the service. I loved her so much. I loved her because she never forgot me, either – she actually remembered my name, and my face, even after more than ten years had passed. And the stars. She talked about the stars."
Monica looked up instinctively, but the Washington D.C. smog blocked out most of the nighttime sky. She looked back to John. " The stars?"
" Yeah," he said, touching Monica’s face tenderly, " She said they looked like a phony picture, to her – too pretty to be real. Something that had always been there above me, I took it for granted but she never forgot it. I remembered her, as a girl, looking up at the stars the whole night, while everyone else was playing cards and lighting fireworks. I knew I had to marry her."
" And you did," Monica said, wiping away tears. He kissed her cheek.
" I’m so glad I remembered," he said, " I felt like a fucking heel, forgetting. But ever since – ever since she died its like its been blocked, that one memory."
" Until now," Monica said, starting to walk across the street in her all-black ensemble, sobering up fast. John walked after her, and when they got to the other side, she stopped abruptly in front of the café.
" Hey," she said, not facing him, " If I survive Scully’s pregnancy and this whole mess, I’m going to see the world, okay? I want to see the world and come back to you."
John put his hands on her shoulders but she walked out of his grasp, toward the café’s door. He looked up and searched the sky until he found one star – probably Polaris, or even Venus, masquerading. But that was all he needed. One unexplained point of light, looking down from an idea of heaven that was growing on him, lately.
I’m sorry for what I did
I did what my body told me to
I didn’t mean to do you harm
Every time I pin down one I think I want it slips away
Her ghost slips away
~ Weezer ‘Butterfly’