Disclaimer: As my friend Nurilay would say, "WTF!! Don't tell me now you actually read fanfiction CC…"
Time line: This is a post 'Audrey Pauley', isn't that original or what?!
A/N1: Once Again!! This came out in the end to be co-authored with JaneDoh. I mean, the gal is more than a beta: she puts up with me and my impulses to carry through infinite plot ideas, corrects my mistakes, fills in the blanks and even writes scenes too.
A/N2: This fic is in reality a sequel to 'The Space Between'. The purpose of the aforementioned story was to explain the behavior of John and Monica in the episode 'Audrey Pauley', whereas this story goes more in the line of AU, but they are intrinsically linked. This addition to the story would ruin the canon of the show so has been posted separately.
Thank you Kate, you passed on to me your enthusiasm for a sequel.
John Doggett received the message loud and clear. Fate wasn't just knocking on his door; it was breaking it down. This was meant to be.
He made his way to Agent Reyes' doorway steadily, in a false attempt at self-reassurance. He had already made up his mind; he wouldn't leave her just like that; with an insipid 'goodnight' after all he had come to realize about his own feelings.
He had always known the day would arrive when he would be forced to take a chance, but he hadn't imagined it would have to be so soon. So soon? In terms of time, it was too late. In his mind, he was afraid he had already lost her forever. He was here to take a final shot: to put it all into one simple chance and hope to God it really wasn't too late to gain her back. He promised himself he wouldn't shelter behind his emotional cowardice this time. He would tell her…he needed herto understand.
When he reached the first closed door he'd have to cross that night, a shiver of doubt travelled down his spine. He felt too damn old to play the role of the impetuous heroic character of a cheap romantic movie on the last get-the-girl-back scene. He succumbed, and lowered his head down to have a glance at his left hand. And there it was: her forgotten overnight bag…there was no excuse to turn around and leave now. He had the perfect plot to approach her. "It's now or never," he breathed nervously.
He pressed the button to the intercom and waited, anticipation and nervousness battling equally within him. After half a minute with no response, he pressed the button again, more firmly this time as though that would somehow convey the importance of his presence.
Surely she was back in her apartment by now; was she ignoring him deliberately?
He turned to face the street, a sense of loneliness overcoming him as he stared at his empty vehicle. He unconsciously gripped the bag tighter, his knuckles whitening slightly, as he leant back against the door.
From where John was resting, he was unable to see that Monica was almost mirroring his actions, but leaning against the inner wall. She had yet to make her way to the lift, head hanging in thought. But as she finally decided that yet another chance had slipped by, she noticed his silhouette splashed on the opposite wall and surrounded by the soft light emanating from the porch.
She cautiously turned her attention to the door and focused on the figure that was throwing the shadow. What is he doing?
He had made his way up the stairs - as though he was wanting to see her - but he was facing the street. Monica slowly twisted the lock and pulled the door inwards causing John to stumble backwards slightly. Her confused stare was met by his bewildered one.
"What are you doing, John?" She was so lost by what was happening that she failed to notice the excuse clutched in his hand.
"Mon. What are you doing? I thought you were in your apartment?"
They stared at each other for a few moments longer, unsure who would break first. Monica didn't want to admit she had been standing in the hallway for so long, because even she couldn't understand the reasoning for it, so she drew her eyes away from his waiting gaze. As she looked towards the floor, she noticed his reasoning for coming back.
"My bag. I totally forgot." John inwardly thanked his lucky stars for dissolving the awkwardness of the moment before he had needed to say much else.
"Yeah. I just noticed it before I was going to drive off so thought I'd better return it." He kept looking at her as she tilted her head up.
"Well, that was lucky. I don't think I could have survived without my favourite PJs." Her warm smile had its ever-present calming effect on him.
"I almost considered keeping the stuff," he started playfully, "but I don't think any of it would fit me." She laughed then. An honest laugh, which made John smile at the return to the feeling of ease between them.
"Thanks, John." She moved her hand towards his to retrieve the bag but his hand moved almost imperceptibly away from her. Her hand stopped its motion, hanging awkwardly in the air as she looked at him questioningly.
"I'll carry it for you." He looked at her intently and saw a slight softening in her features. "I mean, you are still recovering...I can't let you start lifting heavy things now, can I?" It was a convenient excuse. He knew it. And she knew it. But neither of them would admit it.
For once, John was giving a little, and Monica was not going to let the opportunity slip by. She chewed on the inside of her cheek before speaking. "Actually, I have been feeling a little dizzy at times." The mischievous glint in her eye remained as her hand then moved towards his free one, clasping it gently.
He looked down at where their fingers were locked together before giving her a broad grin. "Well, I'll have to make sure you make it upstairs. We don't need you back in hospital."
"That's so considerate of you, John," she concluded, as she pulled on his hand slightly, leading him towards the lift.
The wooden front door of her spacious loft apartment cracked open slowly in the middle of the solitude and the dark. It seemed as though the sombre mood of the apartment matched the reason behind the temporary absence of its owner.
The two agents made their way inside in complete silence, as though not to disturb the calmness reigning at the moment. John placed the bag in a corner, oblivious to the fact that he was dumping the only pretext that was justifying his presence where he longed to be.
Monica's hand that was still holding his own forced him to face her again. They stood by the door, wrapped in a false atmosphere of peace. "Well, I guess you made it safely," he whispered softly, trying not to show in his voice any of the symptoms that may reveal his current state of desperate nervousness. His heartbeat had already succumbed to it, drumming so rapidly in his chest that he was sure Monica would be able to see each beat through his shirt.
Their hands remained linked, their eyes locked. And in spite of the dim light stemming from the quiet city - which barely allowed them to distinguish each other from the shadows - she could see the vulnerability in his eyes; she could actually feel his weakness through the subtle sweat emanating from the palm of his hand. This fact alone made her smile. She wanted desperately to assure him that she felt ittoo, that he shouldn't be afraid. Her thumb caressed his skin gingerly; an almost imperceptive brush. But as she tried to convey her understanding she couldn't help but wonder if part of that cold sweat wasn't actually hers.
They were reaching that last critical moment; the inevitable cross of paths where they would be forced to choose a direction, each opposite to the other. Neither of them wanted to be the one to make the ultimate decision, and so, they stretched out time as long as they could to just live the moment, forgetting for a minute about all the different consequences each selected fork could bring them.
But the time had arrived.
Any more seconds of silence, and the comfort in which they both had taken refuge would turn against them and throw their chance into inescapable oblivion.
He dropped his head down, exhausted and dejected; then exhaled a long exasperated breath. "Why is this so difficult?" he wondered aloud absent-minded, as he raised his glance again to meet her captivating chestnut eyes.
She gave his hand a firm squeeze. Any weakness or nervousness, any doubts or fears dispelled before her with the silent cry of help straining through his eyes. As always, she felt compelled to help him, to comfort him. "Things are only as complicated as we make them," she responded softly.
Even though her final words faded in the air, he could still hear them as they lingered in his head. It was as if he could now see everything perfectly; realize the simplicity and beauty of love and passion.
A moment of clarity.
No more deferrable terms, no more reasonable doubts. He now knew he could simplify his life.
He leant forward ever so slowly; the patience in his movements didn't denote doubt, just determination. She remained paralyzed; captured by the moment; unable to hear the rumble of a solitary car passing by in the distance. She could only hear his newfound calmed breathing and her dangerously increased one. He let go of her hand to cup her face tenderly with both hands. And just when she was processing the idea that he was indeed caressing her cheeks, tracing incoherent patterns gingerly with his thumbs, his lips touched hers.
The exquisiteness and delicacy of the first contact took them by surprise. It wasn't that they hadn't pictured it, far from it. He hadn't spent a single minute in the last three days without imagining what it would be like to finally kiss her. She had dreamt countless nights about it too. But in this instant, the line between fantasy and reality couldn't be stronger. Nothing in this world could have ever prepared them for the actual feeling; the electric softness, the overpowering peace.
The overwhelming sensation further ignited the passion buried deep within them. The initial tenderness gave away to the insatiable hunger. He kept on holding her face to his, worried that she would somehow break the kiss. He had discovered he couldn't yet tell her everything he felt…so he needed to show her.
Her arms encircled him strongly, her hands running up and down his spine. She decided to deepen the kiss, so she opened up her mouth to his, devouring his lips and caressing his tongue. She hoped that would express what she knew was true, that her need for him was as much mental and spiritual as physical.
They wanted to stay like that forever, embraced in each other's warmth, but the need for oxygen was stronger than their disposition. They groggily broke the kiss, both a little drowsy, and gasped for breath as he pressed his forehead against hers.
"Well that wasn't so difficult after all, was it?" she managed to say between her efforts to ease her breathing back to normal. He chuckled slightly at the irony of it all; he just loved her sense of humour. They both knew how difficult it had been for them to finally get to that stage and he loved her even more for making such an arduous moment in his life a little more light-hearted and easy to carry through.
He pulled back just enough to look at her face. He had grown serious again all of a sudden. He wasn't a man of many words, he never had been; so he just brought one of the palms still cupping her face to gently brush some locks of hair away from her face. His deep blue starry eyes were gazing into hers, making it feel as though her feet weren't touching solid ground anymore. "Stay." That blissful emotion made her whisper it without even thinking about it twice; a single word that held the whole world and the promise of pleasurable heaven. And that one word was all it took for a smile to appear on John's face; a sincere, honest smile that conveyed acceptance. And he leant in once more to seal his response, hoping to restore her belief that he wouldn't ever disappoint her again.