Welcome To The Harem

Sand Castles by Lara Means
Summary: Sand castles are strong, yet fragile. So, too, is John Doggett. D/R UST. Empedocles, Release.

TITLE: Sand Castles
AUTHOR: Lara Means
E-MAIL: LaraMeansXF@aol.com
WEBSITE: http://larameansxf.tripod.com
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.
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.


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

"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.

x x x x x

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.

x x x x x

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

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.

x x x x x

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

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

"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.

x x x x x

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

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.



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