In Trutina

By Seema (seemag1@yahoo.com)

Disclaimer: Characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No profit/infringement intended.

Author's Note: For Christine, on her birthday. She asked for Doggett/Reyes fic, and the muse was more than happy to oblige. My thanks to Liz Logan for the beta. HTML version is here: http://seema.org/xfiles/trutina.html

****

The postcards come from all over the continent. The postmarks, however, never match the destination pictured on the front and Scully never dates the card itself. Today's postcard is faded, smudged with dust, and he knows instinctively the Grand Canyon, even on the cloudiest and rainiest of days, is never that shade of dark brown. He turns the postcard over in his hands. As always, Scully wrote in blue ink. However, this time he can tell she was rushing; there are dots of ink, squished letters and crossed out words. The strong handwriting he remembers from the two years they were partners has long disappeared, somewhere between Nevada -- the first postcard came from Reno -- and the Grand Canyon.

The note itself is economical in the information given out: "We are fine. We enjoyed visiting the Grand Canyon very much. The weather is beautiful. Wish you were here. W & K." This is simply her way of keeping in touch and he appreciates -- even respects -- her recognition that he does care, in fact, what happens to her, to Mulder. Doggett runs his fingers lightly over the 21-cent stamp and then narrows his eyes to look at it more carefully.

The postmark reads Missouri. St. Louis.

The previous card -- one of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas -- bore a stamp from New Orleans. Scully sent the postcard of the Chicago skyline from Boise, and the one before that -- a picture of the Mariposa Grove in Yosemite -- came from Houston.

He once mentioned to Monica he wanted to map out the places Mulder and Scully have been. Of course he'll never do that, because there might be a pattern obvious in the madness and who knows who's watching? So instead, he puts the cards in a shoebox, which he shoves into the back of his closet. Every now and then, he'll open his edition of the Rand McNally atlas, flip through the maps of each US state and Canadian province, speculating where they'll go to next.

He turns slowly and goes back into the house. Reyes -- no, Monica, because she is here, and his -- Monica is setting the table for breakfast. In her pajamas and robe, she looks natural, as if she's always belonged in his kitchen, in his *house, and in this -- his -- life. Her dark hair is tousled, her eyes still rimmed with sleep.

"John," she says. "Good morning."

He loves the way she says her name. Slightly clipped with an inflection on the first letter and a breathless finish. "It's another one." He tosses the card onto the table. "Bet that photo was taken in the seventies." He keeps his tone light.

Monica glances at the postcard. "At least." She points at the tiny figures in the background. "Sixties, even." Her lips curl up in amusement. "Somehow, I never pegged the two of them as the sightseeing types." They don't mention Mulder and Scully by name on purpose; someone might be listening.

"Me either." The image of Mulder with a camera around his neck and Scully posing awkwardly for pictures at every vista point is incongruous with their outwardly stiff and professional demeanors, to say the least. He shakes his head. "But they sure get around." He gets the orange juice out of the refrigerator as Monica artfully arranges toast on a white plate. As he puts the jug of orange juice down on the table, he says to Monica, "Sometimes, I envy them."

Monica sits down at the table. "How is that?"

He shrugs. A casual, fluid gesture. "Because now that they are together, they have nothing to lose."

"What are you talking about? They've lost everything." Monica stares at him with incredulity as he sits down in the chair opposite of hers. "Do I have to read the laundry list to you?"

He holds up a hand. "Let me finish. They have nothing *more* to lose and everything to gain by--"

"By what?" Her eyes are wide and luminous, all trace of sleep gone. "They're running, John. They're going to run until--" she pauses, swallowing hard --"*it* happens."

"Colonization? It's okay to say the word." It amazes him just how *calm* he can be when talking about the subject. A part of him knows it's true, that he's seen phenomena he cannot explain; at the same time, the rational, logical part of his brain says all of this is nothing more than a mind-game, that there are no aliens with a black oil virus and no super soldiers either.

In his new life, the one without Mulder and Scully, he and Monica work routine cases. They look for missing persons, and occasionally, investigate telemarketing fraud. In other words, it's career back to normal for Doggett and Reyes. Sometimes though, as he shifts through the endless stack of paperwork, he longs for the uncertainty of the unknown. The passenger side floor of his Ford Taurus is littered with discarded coffee cups and wrappers from donut shops -- tangible signs that his life is now punctuated by stakeouts, not aliens. It surprises him just how much, when he's sitting and listening to a wiretap for hours, just how much he misses the crazy theories, the inexplicable, the fantastic.

"I know it's okay to say the word," Monica says, breaking into his thoughts. "Doesn't mean I want to."

They stare at each other and after a moment, he picks up the butter knife and starts spreading margarine on his toast. His eye keeps wandering back over to the postcard. He can imagine Scully sitting at yet another desk in yet another hotel room, hurriedly scrawling out the note. He has a feeling they must keep the curtains closed, that they rarely venture out. He knows Scully must buy her postcards in drug stores and not in a tourist traps disguised as souvenir shops, and this is why the colors are faded and old, the cards dusty. He seriously doubts -- even though he tells Monica otherwise -- Scully and Mulder are sight-seeing their way across America. He knows those two; they are drawn by the truth. God only knows what brought them to the Grand Canyon, to St. Louis, to a myriad of locations. The brief notes reveal nothing at all.

His only other contact with them is through email. On the tenth of every month, he receives an email from Mulder containing only the address of a Western Union branch or affiliate, wherever it is Doggett is to wire money on the thirteenth. The email address -- usually a Hotmail or Yahoo one -- changes each time. With Mulder-style humor, invariably the subject line reads "V*I*A*G*R*A for u" or "JohnD, add inches now!" Given that his inbox is now stuffed with spam, John Doggett is no longer amused, but he understands why Mulder chooses to send his emails this way. That familiar refrain constantly echoes in his mind: someone could be watching.

"John." Monica rests her hand warmly on his. "You're quiet this morning."

He offers her a pensive smile. "I'm thinking about Mulder and Scully and what they thought of the Grand Canyon."

"I'm sure they loved it." Monica presses her lips together in a straight, flat line as she reaches for the box of granola cereal. "I've never been to the Grand Canyon." Her eyes take on a distance look. "Carved through rock over the millennia by forces stronger and greater than you or I could ever comprehend or imagine. I would love to see it one day."

"I didn't know you wanted to visit the Grand Canyon." He watches as she pours the cereal into her bowl.

"You never asked." She takes a sip of her coffee.

He falls silent as he contemplates the woman sitting in front of him. How long have they known each other now? How long has he known he's loved her? It's hard to quantify a feeling, hard to specify the exact moment when he knew -- just *knew* -- about Monica. He feels caught, off-kilter -- just how many things does he *not* know about Monica? Her wants/needs/dreams? What other questions has he neglected to ask her during all of these years they have known each other? He concentrates on chewing his toast thoughtfully.

Yes, he wants to make up for lost time with Monica, for all of those moments he held back when he should have reached out. But at the same time, he wants to be slow, to be sure. He thinks of Scully, of her complete and intense certainty of her feelings for Mulder. Doubt never entered Scully's mind during those long months spent searching for Mulder and she never once wavered from her devotion to a man who might or might not be dead, might or might not be abducted, might or might not be forever running, might or might not, might or might not... the list goes on. It is that strength of conviction, that pure and unadulterated knowledge, that Doggett both envies and respects Scully for.

"John?"

He looks pensively across the table. "What?"

"A penny for your thoughts."

He puts his finger on top of the postcard, blocking the tiny figures. He takes his fingers away and sees the prints left behind. "I'm thinking about the people in this picture. What they were thinking and feeling when the photographer took this shot. Or if they even knew that one day they'd end up on a postcard."

"You're a terrible liar, John Doggett." He likes the way her lips turn up at the corners, the way her cheeks puff out. Her eyes crinkle at the edges with laughter. He like even more the way she stretches out in her chair, languid and easily, demonstrating just how comfortable she feels to be here. Here with him. "You can't even see those people clearly. They are black specks on the horizon, nothing next to the awesome power of the Colorado River." She leans forward. "So?" The teasing note in her voice is unmistakable. "Out with it."

He considers, takes a deep breath and then says slowly, "I'm thinking of you."

She laughs, and tips her head to the side. "Case proven. You'd make a terrible poker player." She reaches for the orange juice and the tips of her fingers brush his knuckles. "You're no X-File, John Doggett." At her words, he involuntarily flinches, and Monica eyes him in concern. "What is it?"

He shakes his head. "No, really. I'm not lying. I *am* thinking about you."

She stares at him in disbelief. "In what way?"

He glances out the window. It's a cool day, slight breeze from the east, a few clouds in the sky. Perhaps later they'll go for a walk, walk off the Sunday breakfast. If only Sunday could melt into Monday, but before the afternoon is done, Monica will pack her bags and return to her own apartment. They will see each other in the morning, but make no mention of the twenty-four hours spent together over the weekend. One thing at a time, he reminds himself. It's too early to ask Monica to move in with him; they've only been together a few months. And he's not quite sure he's ready for the rest of the Bureau to know about their relationship yet.

"John?" Monica asks gently. She brushes her fingers lightly against his cheek. "You're so far away. Come back."

He takes a deep breath. "I'm glad you're here and that we're having breakfast together," he says honestly. He doesn't finish the thought, that he'd like this to be a forever thing, that he likes -- wants, needs -- the comfort of this moment to be repeated day in, day out. But he's not into grand gestures or speeches; that's more Mulder's style, not his. *That* conversation will have to wait for another day.

She smiles back. "Me too."

He watches as she pours milk into her cereal. It's an ordinary gesture, something he's seen her do a hundred times before, but today, it seems different. He thinks maybe it wouldn't be so bad to take a tour of the Grand Canyon, or go to Las Vegas and bet it all on a single hand of blackjack. But he knows his duties will keep him here in D.C., waiting for the postcards that say nothing, that give nothing away. He'll wait, with Monica, for the inevitable, for the noun she doesn't want to say. He wonders how Mulder and Scully will wait. Perhaps with a stack of postcards already written, never to be mailed. He reaches over to grab the latest postcard and stares at it for a long moment.

"I bet they just passed through," he says finally. "I bet they never stopped to even look."

Monica nods. "You're probably right."

"I always thought places like this were more magnificent when you saw them with someone you cared about." He jabs a finger in the direction of the Grand Canyon. "That's all." He shakes his head. "They never stopped. They just drove right through."

"Yeah."

They sit in silence. He finishes his toast; Monica downs what's left of her coffee. Finally, she looks directly at him.

"John," she says, "whatever else they are doing, they're not counting the years, months, days, hours, minutes, seconds until *it* happens. They are taking every day as it comes, living it fully, living it *together*."

He curls his fingers around the handles of his empty coffee cup. "And?"

The tips of her black hair caress her cheekbones as she leans forward. "That's what you meant earlier, isn't it? When you said they had nothing to lose?"

"Something like that, yeah."

"Ah." Monica looks out the window, resting her chin in the palm of her hand. "I'd like that. Reckless abandon, no regard for the consequences, just to *be* with the person you love." She looks back at him. "But I guess not everyone can live life like that." She attempts a smile. "It's only possible if you're running from the men behind a vast government conspiracy."

Silence again. He shifts uncomfortably in his chair and he's aware of the flush of color in Monica's cheeks. He feels embarrassed, sad, because he now knows Monica knows the truth. That he views their new relationship as something fragile, of short duration.

"I'm sorry," he says finally.

She shakes her head. "Don't be. We're not them." Her face takes on a wistful expression. "I do miss them though."

He takes a deep breath, sharp. "Yes."

Once again he contemplates tacking up a map of North America to the wall and marking out the places Mulder and Scully have been. Not seen, he clarifies silently, but *been*. He ponders making that offer to Monica, telling her he'll take her anywhere she wants to go, anything she wants to see. They'll see it together and for that reason, it'll be grander, more significant, and more poignant because it will be the first -- and last -- time for them. But he swallows the thought down with orange juice and turns his attention back to the window. Small steps, he thinks, so maybe not today or tomorrow or even next week, but soon.

For a moment, he can think of this as an ordinary Sunday, an ordinary life, a life in balance. And maybe, for this moment, this *simple* moment, away from government conspiracies and the endless speculation of who's watching, who's listening, he can relax.

He watches Monica stir her soggy cereal with her spoon listlessly.

"Hey," he says quietly.

She raises her head to look at him.

"We're gonna be fine," he says. He's not quite sure what he's referring to -- life after colonization, the uncertainty of their new relationship, or perhaps just them as individuals -- but it doesn't really matter. He needed to say the words. Not just for her, but for him as well. She smiles.

"I know." The confidence and strength in her voice, the conviction behind those two words, reassures him.

He reaches across the table, their fingers curling together into a joined fist. The postcard falls to the floor.

~ the end

My website: http://seema.org