TITLE: Tight Enough
AUTHOR: Little Red (mylittleredgirl at gmail dot com)
CATEGORY: DRR, ex-FRR-ness, angst, love.
RATING: PG-13? I think? I am so softcore, guys. I am creeping my way towards smut. Baby steps!
DISCLAIMER: CC. Fox. 1013. Dudes in suits.
SPOILERS: Nothing really plot-ish, except for any Follmer/Reyes backstory that I didn't screw up. This fic is set in Season 9, between "Audrey Pauley" and "Release."
SUMMARY: "We all figured you left when Brad Follmer started holdin' on too tight." "Maybe he never held on tight enough." Reyes tells Doggett about her history with Follmer, and Doggett learns more about her than he ever expected to.
"Everybody's story is more interesting than mine
It took me twenty-some-odd years to see I'd been born blind.
So I just feel my way to you, I try to keep you close
I'm never very good at getting what I need the most." -- Over the Rhine, "fairpoint diary" from "films for radio"
"What'd Follmer want?" Agent Doggett asked without looking up from his files. He'd crossed paths with the Assistant Director across the threshold of the elevator, but Follmer hadn't offered an explanation for his rare presence in the basement. A cool, "Agent," was the only greeting Doggett had gotten at all before the doors had shut.
"Monica?" When he got no answer, he looked up at his partner.
She didn't even seem to see him for a moment. She was leaning against her desk as though unable to stand and her fingers dug into the wood so strongly that it had to have been painful. He stopped in his tracks for a moment and watched wrestle for control of her breath.
He took another step closer to her. "You okay?"
She glanced up at him, and the anger and discomfort in her eyes took him by surprise, even though he knew it wasn't meant for him. He felt something burn in the back of his throat.
"Follmer -- he say somethin' to you?"
She smiled a plastic grin in an attempt to dislodge her expression, and her fingers dug into the desk harder. "He left that file you wanted," she jerked her head at Doggett's desk, took a breath, and walked around her own desk to her chair.
Doggett reached over and picked up the file, leafing through it without even looking at it, his eyes never leaving Monica's face. "Mon, if he did somethin' to you-" he couldn't disguise the raw threat in his tone.
"It's nothing," she assured him with a smile. "No need to get all chivalric on me."
He would have laughed and made some joke about being a Southern gentleman, if she didn't still look so horribly upset. He waited a moment to see whether she would cave and tell him what had happened. When that didn't happen, he returned to his desk with a sigh to look through the file Follmer had brought down, stealing glances at her every so often.
She had buried herself in a file, making angry pencil marks in the margin, but didn't appear to be truly reading it. Her teeth dug into her lower lip and when her pencil tip snapped she threw the offending implement against her desk with a force that made it skitter off and land on the floor. She started slamming drawers open and closed in search of another pencil or just because she needed to hear the frantic banging, he wasn't sure.
She fixed a glare on him. "I just can't concentrate." She looked just this side of angry tears, and he found himself reaching into his memory for the methods she used to comfort him when he was upset and didn't want to open up to her.
He glanced at his watch. "It's almost six," he offered. "It's probably enough to call it a week."
She nodded with an enormous sigh.
"C'mon, I'll buy you a drink." He put the folder down on his desk, hardly caring about the content or why he'd found it so important when he'd requested it. At her surprised expression, he continued his pitch, "To cool off?"
Reyes laughed then and gave him a real, if embarrassed, smile. "Yeah, okay. Do you want to drive? I'm not sure I won't run off the road," she shot a look at the broken pencil on the floor.
"Sure." He handed her her coat and relished her friendly, self-humouring smile before it was replaced by an expression of hurt and anger he hoped she would drink off by the end of the evening. He knew what being a good friend looked like -- heaven knew, she had modeled it for him.
It was rare she needed him to fish her out of despair. Their relationship, traditionally, only went one way: he would have emotions of a depth he couldn't put into words, and she would sit patiently beside him until he had worked through enough of the excess pain and hurt to resume life -- or, at least, what he called life in the wake of his son's death and his divorce. And, even after nine years of knowing her, seven years of friendship and a year of being partnered beside her every day, he honestly wasn't sure what to say to bring her out of her strange mood. She spent more time tearing the labels of her beer bottles into shreds than drinking the beer inside. He realized how quiet they were if she wasn't making an effort to start the conversation. That was her job, to start talking. He wasn't sure how to fill her role.
It didn't help that some large part of him didn't really want to hear any more about Assistant Director Follmer's liaisons with his partner than he had to. Sure, she hadn't been his partner then, but they had been friends and it had inexplicably eaten him up to see her with him. She transformed somehow, subtly, and he liked her better the way she was when they were alone than the way she was when Brad Follmer was there. He knew he had no right to pass judgments on her when he certainly hadn't made her any other offers, but he had always wondered what the hell it was she saw in that man. Sure, Follmer was confident, on his way to the top, and attractive (or so the female agents said), but he had never seemed to be Monica's type. He always saw her as being drawn to the last battered puppy in a long line of preened purebreds, a kind of diviner of goodness among the downtrodden.
Or, maybe, he only came to that assessment because of the way she treated him.
And maybe he had only hated Follmer so much because, as ridiculous as it was, he somehow couldn't stand it that he wasn't the most important man in Monica Reyes' life.
"Should I be asking you what's wrong?" she asked finally, studying her partner's pained expression with sad, forgiving eyes -- forgiving because she knew he meant well, no matter how inept he was at comforting her.
"Nah, I'm sorry Monica, I was just... thinking."
He paused for a moment, considering what and how much to tell her, and finally answered, "New York."
"Oh." She poked at the mouth of her beer bottle. "Me, too."
More silence. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to," he offered.
She smirked. "You haven't asked me anything yet."
He swallowed and decided that was as good an invitation as any. She was making it easy for him, this being a good friend thing, always giving him a hand even when he, by all accounts, shouldn't need one. "What'd he say to you in there?"
She sighed. "Nothing new. Just... needling at old wounds, I guess."
She met his eyes, blinked a few times, and added, "He wants to try again."
For some reason, the floor gave way at that image. He put the beer to his lips and drank half of it down at once to keep from saying anything he would regret. He wasn't sure he could stand it if that bastard was given free reign to touch her again, if he could show up in their office and kiss her right in front of him... "And?" he finally managed.
"And, nothing. We're over." She didn't sound as assured of that as he would have hoped.
He didn't want to answer 'good,' and couldn't up with any other appropriate response, so he watched her get slightly more distant and hold her bottle up to her lips without drinking. "I couldn't do that to myself again," she almost whispered.
Suddenly he forgot that he didn't want to know. He wanted to know everything, to reach inside of her and soothe whatever had been done to her the way she always comforted him. "What did he do to you?"
A flash of amusement shone in her eyes at Doggett's venomous tone of voice. She patted the hand closest to her and assured him, "I don't need you to break anybody's teeth in, but thanks for offering."
He laughed, because he hadn't offered out loud, but had offered all the same and they both knew it. "Well, the offer stands," he replied with a nod.
"He never intended to hurt me at all. He didn't, really. He's a good man, we just want different things, I guess. Or, he knew what he wanted, at the time, and I had no idea."
He nodded at her to continue, wondering whether she wished she were sharing this with Dana or some other woman, rather than him.
"I mean, Brad has a checklist of success." She put her bottle down and raised both hands, ticking things off on her fingers as she said them. "Good job, check. Position of power and respect, check. Money, check. Girl, check."
Doggett felt unexpected anger flood him at the thought that anyone had ever placed Monica into a little check-box, used someone like her as a place holder to make him feel like he had achieved everything he was supposed to.
Monica was reading his mind again. "No -- it wasn't like that. I mean, it was, at first. But I didn't mind."
"Didn't mind it being a relationship of convenience, I guess." She frowned. "I don't want you to think worse of me--"
"Monica, you know I couldn't do that."
Her eyes snapped up in response to his unintended honesty, searched his face for a moment, and continued before awkward silence could settle over them. "I mean, it wasn't just a sexual thing. I wanted to be with someone, but... I guess I wasn't ready to be emotionally committed. His job was always the most important thing, so he didn't curb my freedom at all."
Freedom. Her tendency to be drawn to moving trains, to be always in motion, always one step ahead of him, fluttering around the periphery of his life and occasionally darting into the centre of it. He doubted he could keep up with her. He clung to her with his fingertips, afraid that if he tried to grab hold of her for real the restriction would send her running the first chance she got. She had flitted about him for years, a constant, reassuring presence, tempting him to bridge the gap but probably also planning her escape route. He lost himself without her around -- he'd come face to face with that barely a month earlier when a car accident and a coma had nearly taken her away for real -- and it was better to have her assured presence at arm's length than to take a chance that brought the risk of losing her for good.
"I guess that's a good thing," he said, unable to meet her eyes.
"I thought so," she answered quietly. She poked at the bottlecap in front of her, pinching it between her fingers pensively.
They both started talking at once.
"I always-" She blushed slightly, and waved at him. "You go."
"Uh... well, he must've cared more'n just that if he's still... trying to get you."
The corner of her mouth quirked up reassuringly, although her eyes were sad and frustrated. She knew he didn't want to be asking her those questions, as much as he did want to. "After awhile, he rewrote his checklist. Instead of just being any old girl he needed... now it was me. I guess he just got used to us together." Her eyes told Doggett that wasn't all there was. "He did want me. He needed me, in some way. Not emotionally, not desperately, not with a... I was an important accessory in his life. Now it was: Job, check. Money, check. Monica, check. In that order, probably."
"I don't really think that's how it's supposed to work."
She sniffed. "No, I don't suppose it is. But it's what I thought I wanted at the time, I guess. I couldn't figure out why it wasn't working. I wasn't getting chained down at the heart -- he didn't really love me and I didn't really want him to. But he needed me, and he wanted me around, and he said so. And that was supposed to be enough."
Although her tone of voice didn't indicate that, he felt like that had been a direct slam at him. He searched his memory frantically for an instance when he'd actually sat her down and told her outright how desperately he relied on her continued presence to get through the week. It wasn't like him to pour emotion into words. He liked to think he showed his gratitude instead, but as he thought about it, more often than not he brushed her aside, dismissed her overtures of kindness, or was even downright cruel to her when he felt his precarious stability challenged. Could she really want him to say how badly he needed her around? Wouldn't that chain her down?
When he said nothing, she sighed again and took another drink. "Now it's been two years and he's still missing that little check. And the worst part is... I actually considered it."
"I don't know. It's not like I'm doing anything else." She made a face and shook her nearly empty bottle. "You want another?"
He didn't answer, just stared at her, trying to will her with his eyes to keep away from Brad Follmer, trying to wrestle down the urge within him to reach over and grab her, to tell her whatever it took to keep her from slipping out of his reach. He restrained himself because he knew that if he so much as touched her his uncontrolled possessiveness would scare her away.
"I wanted... I don't know what I wanted. I guess I forgot for a minute there how miserable I was those last few months with him. I don't think I ever want to get back on that checklist."
Doggett cleared his throat. "Yeah... we all figured you left when Brad Follmer started holdin' on too tight."
She swigged the last of her beer and stood up. "Maybe he never held on tight enough."
It had to be the longest red in the city, Doggett mused. Reyes appeared to be meditating on it. She breathed in time with the click of Doggett's left turn signal, a slight catch breaking her rhythm occasionally. He wondered what emotion caused that, and what he should say. The red of the stoplight above them shone through the windshield onto her face just enough to make her look sadder than she was. Their conversation spun through his head, key phrases flashing like beacons in his mind, directing him down a path he wasn't sure he could stand to go.
He used the long red and her distracted attention to stare at her. Something crashed against his ribs and parts of him wanted to forget about turning left to her apartment and to just drive straight on to whichever state they ended up, escaping their lives until they ran out of gas. A left turn led to her place, to the empty weekend without her, to the following week where, for all he knew, Follmer might actually convince her that they had a good thing and that, while he might not love her, at least he was willing to give her something.
He needed me, and he wanted me around, and he said so.
The words were out of his mouth before he could stop them. "I need you around, Monica."
A car horn behind him jarred him back to attention. He looked around in confusion for a second before she whispered, "Green light."
He turned the corner and drove a few blocks in absolute silence. He strained to hear her thoughts, wondering if she knew how much emotion waited behind those feeble words he said to her, and, if she did, whether she was planning to run from the car as soon as he pulled to a stop in front of her apartment or planning to try and ride out the storm. "Just thought you should know," he said after a moment, wishing with some part of his mind that he could take the statement back, but wishing equally hard that their relationship was such that he could say things like that without shocking her.
He pulled to a stop in front of her place and put the truck into park, unable to look at her. The silence was oppressive and he counted minutes by with his racing heartbeat. He could feel her eyes on him, studying him, felt her fluttering around him and wanted, desperately, to reach out and grab her.
Don't make things worse, John...
"Come in for a minute," she said. He turned to her, expecting to see a forgiving smile assuring him that his outburst would be forgotten, but instead seeing something that could only have been described as want. She took a breath as she caught his expression and fumbled for the door handle.
"Wait," he said, wanting to open the door for her, but she beat him to it and was waiting for him on the sidewalk by the time he got out of the car. As they neared the top of the stairs his hand found its way to the small of her back, a gesture of intimacy and possession that he rarely ever allowed himself. Her skin burned his hand through her jacket and he found himself closing his hand around the fabric. She tossed him a curious expression as she unlocked her door but didn't object.
"John, are you okay?" she asked as she slipped her coat off and threw it over the chair in her entryway. His fingers missed the fabric, and he was an inch away from pushing reason out of the way and just reaching for her.
"Yeah..." he couldn't place why his voice was so shaky.
"I didn't mean to tell you all that stuff, if it upset you."
"It didn't. I like you bein' able to talk to me like that, I guess. I want... I don't want you to think..."
They stared at each other in the entryway for what seemed like hours, exchanging apologies and reassurances silently. She reached for his arm after a moment, probably intending just to touch him comfortingly, the way she sometimes did as she fluttered around the periphery of his life.
The instant they met the evening turned into a clutter of moments and images, and he couldn't stop himself. He wasn't sure who started the first kiss, but there they were, tangled up in her entryway, trying to suck breath from each other as they poured years of waiting into a single, frantic embrace. His arms found their way around her back and crushed her to him. He tried vainly to order them to let go, that he was probably hurting or frightening her, that letting his desperation show through was the first and easiest way to send her disappearing into thin air and leaving him unable to exist without her. She didn't seem to mind his iron grip, only forced his jacket a little off his shoulders and buried her fingers in his hair, emitting a choked, pleading whine for him to continue.
She pulled him backwards out of the doorway and again tried to pull his jacket off. He refused to release her even to fumble at clothing, but just wanted to feel her around him, really there, as desperate for this as he was. She broke for air right as they tumbled onto her couch, gasping in shuddering breaths, her body shaking in his arms. She moved up onto her knees and straddled his lap without making him loosen his grip. "John," she whispered, burying her face in his shoulder and going nearly limp, letting him cling to her like a drowning man as she absorbed the magnitude of what had just happened. After a moment of just breathing, she asked with a smile he felt against his neck, "How did that happen?"
He untangled his brain from her arms wrapped around him and tried to answer. "Monica, I..." He wanted to tell her how much he needed her, in every sense of the word, but couldn't force the words past the lead weight on his chest which warned that he couldn't allow himself to get too close to her.
She pushed at his chest and his arms let go, allowing her to back away just enough to see him. Her face was flushed and she searched his features with a familiar look of concern. He almost laughed at how reassuring that expression was -- that not so much had changed from her doorway to her couch for it to be disastrous.
Monica kissed him again, gently, and traced her lips along his cheek and started down his neck before she pulled away again to check his reaction. She almost gasped in surprise.
"John..." she touched a finger to his cheek, stopping a lone tear from going any farther. He saw her eyes well up at the sight of it and worried that she was going to move away, but instead she stayed where she was, stroking his hair comfortingly, unwilling or unable to retreat from his personal space now that she had finally found her way inside of it. She pulled his head to her chest after a moment and he sighed, wrapping his arms around her again and holding tight.
"I don't want to lose you..." The words were muffled in her chest so that there was no way she should have understood them.
She did anyway. "You're never going to lose me," she murmured, running her hands up and down his back. Her hands stopped. "Is that why you... we... never did this before?"
He lifted his head and stared at her.
"Is this about Brad?" she asked, squinting as she tried to understand.
He shook his head. "No..." It was about him, and about her, and all the things he had never realized until she made some flippant comment that suggested maybe she was tired of her freedom, sick of fluttering around the edges of his life, that she was ready for someone to chain her down and hold on to her as tightly as he could.
She started to smile serenely and then thought better of it, instead closing the small gap between them and kissing him again. This time he let go of her long enough for her to pull his jacket off. After it had been tossed aside, she started undoing her own shirt buttons as though she worried he, in his years of frightened celibacy, had forgotten how. He ran his hands over newly exposed skin as she fought with his shirt, almost dizzy with the way she felt and pathetically grateful that she had let him get this close. She was exciting and soothing all at the same time, her lips making sparks go off behind his eyes and her hands warming and calming him with a kind of body heat he hadn't experienced in years. How long had it been since he had been really, intentionally touched -- beyond a handshake, a doctor's exam, or a casual brush in a crowd? It had been years. There were a few moments of accidental comfort and intimacy -- with Monica, more often than not -- but he had always been too panicked by the surprise to really take them in before they ended too soon. His partner's hands on him now, rubbing the mostly invisible scars on his bare chest, answered a need he hadn't even really acknowledged, and he silently pleaded with her not to stop.
Another tear escaped and she caught it with her tongue, gently kissing his closed eyes before returning to his mouth. He could feel her smiling as she kissed him, a strange sensation which suited her perfectly, and he wondered what other intimate quirks she had. His mind swam in disbelief as he kissed down her chest and her fingers dug encouragingly into his back. Emotion rolled over him in waves. He stopped when he could no longer breathe, and just rested there for a moment until he looked up at her, knowing all his fears were exposed in his eyes.
And, amazingly, he saw the same fears in hers.
"If we do this..." he breathed hoarsely, unable to finish his sentence. If they did this, he would be unable to control his possessive streak. He would cling to her for dear life, forcing her to stay in the centre of his world instead of darting in and out when she felt the whim. He would need her more completely than he ever had before, and wouldn't be able to control what scars he did and didn't show her. If she couldn't handle it, if she found something in him or his scars she didn't like, and ran away, he wouldn't be able to regain what little equilibrium he had. He wouldn't be able to be satisfied with what he had been calling life for the past nine years since the death of his son and his wife's subsequent departure. If they did this, he would never be able to let go of her.
She nodded slowly. "Okay," she said, not smiling, not making light of it, but accepting the terms he'd been unable to articulate. She sank her head down against his neck and wrapped her arms around him. She let out a breath, something between a moan and a sigh, as his arms pinned her. "Tighter," she whispered.
He held her, skin to skin, until he knew it hurt, but she didn't resist, only lightly kissed the skin of his neck in between breaths.
When he could trust his voice, he asked her, "Are you okay?"
He felt her nod slightly and she kissed him again, sounding almost like she was falling asleep. "Don't let go," she murmured in his ear.
He felt himself relax for the first time in nearly a decade. "I won't."
- end! -
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