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Sand Castles

by Lara Means

     Subject: [glass_onion] NEW (XF):  Sand Castles (1/1) by Lara Means
     Date: Monday, August 12, 2002 10:22 PM
     
     TITLE:  Sand Castles
     AUTHOR:  Lara Means
     E-MAIL:  LaraMeansXF@aol.com
     WEBSITE:  http://larameansxf.tripod.com
     CLASSIFICATION:  VAR; D/R UST
     RATING:  PG
     ARCHIVE:  NO to Gossamer, Spookys; I'll submit directly to both.  
     YES to Ephemeral.  YES to mailing list auto-archives.  Anywhere 
     else, please ASK.  I'll say yes; I just like to know where the 
     kids are at the end of the day.
     FEEDBACK:  Please?
     DATE POSTED:  08/12/02
     DISCLAIMER:  I don't own them.  Heck, I don't even own my name.  
     It all belongs to 20th Century Fox.  No infringement intended.
     SPOILERS:  Empedocles, Release.
     SUMMARY:  Sand castles are strong, yet fragile.  So, too, is 
     John Doggett.

SAND CASTLES
written by Lara Means

It's time.

I think I realized it the other day when I took the box out of the closet. It's time to let him go.

What I'm not sure about is why I'm here at Monica's door. Why I don't just get in the car and go.

Why I need her to go with me.

When she opens the door -- barefoot, jeans, tee-shirt -- she's so damn open and welcoming, inviting, that it's all I can do not to stammer like an idiot.

"John, hi," she says. "What's up?"

"Hey, Monica. I wanted to, uh..." I notice a towel in her hand. "You're busy, I shoulda called first..."

She drapes the towel over her shoulder and ushers me inside. "I'm just doing dishes, and they can wait. Come on in."

I take a deep breath, then just dive in. "Barbara and I, we're gonna scatter Luke's ashes today." I guess words aren't like band-aids -- saying it fast didn't make it hurt any less. "There's this beach where we used to go sometimes..."

Monica takes my hand and gives it a squeeze. She's smiling, gentle and kind, and a wave of affection washes over me. I swallow past the lump in my throat, but I can't say anything else right now.

"I'm glad for you, John," she tells me. "You've got some closure now, and I think -- I know you'll never forget, but... I'm not saying this very well."

"You're saying it just fine." Better than I could if I were her. She nods and smiles again, and all of a sudden I know this is right. "Come with me?"

She blinks at me, then shakes her head. "I'm not sure that's a good idea."

"You were a part of it all, Monica."

"I was a part of his death. You should be celebrating his life."

"We have -- we do. But that's not what this is about." I take both her hands and look into her eyes. "I'd really appreciate it if you could be there."

There's a long moment where I'm pretty sure she's gonna tell me to take a hike and not drag her into my grief -- but she doesn't. Instead she looks at our hands, runs her thumbs over my knuckles, and nods. Simple as that.


We don't talk much on the long drive. We listen to the radio, and she sings along sometimes, but beyond that there's silence. It's a comfortable silence, though. That Monica and I are friends at all still manages to surprise me, given how we met. After she transferred to New Orleans, we stayed in touch --rather, she stayed in touch with me. I think in the beginning it was to make sure I was okay, that I didn't eat my gun or anything -- I was such a mess after everything that happened. I wasn't much good to anybody then -- my wife, my job, myself --but whenever Monica called, it seemed to make a difference.

The small parking lot at the beach is deserted except for Barbara's car. I pull in next to it and turn off the engine. I glance over at Monica -- she's staring out the windshield, watching the waves.

"Did you come here a lot?"

"Most summers we'd come at least once. We lived about an hour from here."

"It's beautiful... so peaceful."

I want to tell her about those summers, about teaching Luke to swim in the ocean, about building sand castles...

"I'll wait here," she says, catching me off-guard.

"Monica --"

"This is something you and Barbara need to do. I'll be right here when you're finished."

After a minute I nod, then reach for the box.


I spot Barbara standing near the water's edge, staring off like Monica was doing before. She looks up as I get closer, gives me a sad smile. She takes my arm, and together we move toward the waves. We don't speak as I open the box and let the wind catch his ashes -- I could almost swear I hear his laughter in the wind...

When the box is finally empty I turn to Barb. She wipes away her tears and squeezes my arm. "Thank you, John," she says, then starts to leave.

"Barbara." I hold out the box to her. She takes it, reaches up and softly kisses my cheek. Then she turns and walks away.

When I come up the slope to the parking lot, I see Monica leaning against the car -- and the grief hits me suddenly, hard and fast. My arms go around her, and hers around me. And the tears come.

She holds me tight, crooning little nonsense comfort words into my ear, letting me get it out. I try to pull away, to pull myself together, but I can't, not yet. Nine years' worth of pain and guilt and sorrow come pouring out of me, and Monica... Monica just holds me.


She drives us back home, letting me sit like a statue in the passenger seat the whole way. I don't know when I dozed off, but when she wakes me we're parked outside my house.

"What are we doing here?" I ask, trying to rouse myself.

"I didn't want you to have to drive home after that nap."

"Then how are you getting home?"

"Can I come in and call a cab?"

"Come in and let me make some coffee, then I'll drive you."

Once inside and after starting the coffee, I realize that we've been gone all day, and I'm starved.

"You hungry?" I call out to her.

"I could eat," she says, and I dig around for some food. I find a box of spaghetti and a jar of sauce, then put some water on to boil.

When I come into the living room, she's sitting on the couch looking through the photo album I left out last night.

"How's spaghetti sound?"

"Great." She turns a page in the photo album and looks at me. "I hope you don't mind."

I shake my head and she goes back to the pictures. She comes to one of my favorites -- a Halloween picture, four-year-old Luke dressed up like a policeman, like his daddy -- and laughs. "Did he always want to be a policeman?"

"Just a coupla times, then he moved on to be a cowboy or an astronaut. One year, I think he was six, he wanted to be Superman. We bought him the costume and for two solid weeks he ran around the house with the cape on, making flying noises."

"At least he didn't try to jump off the roof like I did." I give her a look. "I was Wonder Woman."

"Wonder Woman couldn't fly, not without her invisible airplane."

"Well, yeah, I know that now," she laughs.

She turns the page and points to another picture. "When was this?"

"Christmas he turned seven. He was just starting to wonder about Santa Claus, so Barb and I made sure to get him something he wanted that he didn't think we knew about."

"What was it?"

"A Nintendo. Christmas morning, he was the happiest kid in America." I look at the picture, at his wide grin and sparkling eyes. "Before the day was out he was kicking my ass at Super Mario Brothers."

Another page, another picture. "Is this where we were today?"

I nod. Luke and me, building a sand castle.

"He looks happy," she says. "You both do."

I look at her now, and I smile. "We were."

Then I hear the hiss of water about to boil over, so I excuse myself to take care of our dinner.

As I add the spaghetti to the pot and open the sauce, I remember that day -- it was our last day at the beach before he died. Barb got a little sunburned, Luke found a bucket full of seashells, we built that sand castle... It was a great day, a wonderful day.

"Hey," Monica says as she comes in, drawing me out of the memory. She lays her hand on my arm. "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to make you sad."

"No, you didn't," I tell her, and it's true -- I'm not sad. Reflective maybe, but not sad, not now. "It's just that, I think I forgot how to talk about him like this. But I'm glad --this is how I want to remember him."

She gives me a smile. "Then tell me more."

So, over coffee and spaghetti, I tell her stories about Luke. About his first day of school, his first haircut, how much he looked like his mother...

How he was my little boy.


I pull up to the curb in front of her building and get out, coming around to her side of the car as she gets out. I take her hands in mine.

"Thank you for today. Not just for coming with me, but for letting me talk about him."

"You're welcome, John."

"It's been so long since I've thought of him as anything but my murdered son. But today... you gave me back my little boy."

She kind of shrugs and looks away at that. I catch her chin with my fingers and turn her face back toward mine, then I do something I never thought I'd be ready to do.

I kiss her.

Gentle but firm, my lips on hers. The perfect first kiss.

After a few seconds I pull back and look at her, eyes sparkling, a big smile that I return. "'Night, Monica," I say as I caress her face.

"Good night," she tells me, then turns to go. She stops at the door and looks at me again, gives me a little wave, then goes inside.

In my mind, today was about an ending. About saying good-bye to Luke, to that life the three of us had together.

But now, I think maybe it's time for a new life. A beginning.

END


AUTHOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to Sallie and Mo for speedy and reassuring beta. Gratitude as always to IWTB for unwavering support and encouragement.

Written by Lara Means - http://larameansxf.tripod.com Lara's Favorites: A Rec Site - http://recsbylara.tripod.com CharlieFic: The Forgotten Scully - http://www.geocities.com/charliefic XFMU: Doggett & Reyes Fic - http://xfmufic.tripod.com X-Infinitum: Monthly Challenges - http://beyondthex.tripod.com


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Lara Means

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