Fandom: X-Files (Season 9)
Pairing: Doggett/Reyes friendship & UST
Spoilers: "Audrey Pauley"
Challenge: snarky_freak wanted stubbly!Doggett. She posted with this icon, which may or may not be related:
It's 11:30 p.m. local time (1:30 a.m. DC time), and it's hitting that point of too late after too busy a day where reality starts to fade around the edges for John Doggett.
He doesn't think the same is true for Monica, at least not normally -- he hears her rattling around the hotel room next to his at all hours often enough -- but even she looks pleasantly sleepy curled up against the headboard on the other half of his bed. Every so often, she'll take a sip from the beer bottle in her hand, so he knows she's not actually asleep.
Monica's a little bit drunk -- he knows it without her having given any real outward sign -- and he's beat from the past four days, and he supposes that's why neither of them have taken the wise step of declaring an end to the evening. They've been quiet for going on half an hour, watching the weather channel on mute for indications about whether the incoming storm will delay their flight home.
They talked about work for a while, both necessary and unnecessary topics. They scraped together questions about lives outside of work, enough to pretend they had lives outside of work, until Monica tossed a bag of potato chips from the vending machines at his head and declared that they should "give it up."
"You don't really care what my yoga instructor's sister has been up to," she accused, eyes sparkling the way they do after a few beers.
Instead, they talked about hobbies they should take up, Monica leading the suggestions farther and farther afield until the mental images of her taking up both quilting and "jousting on the weekends" made him practically laugh beer out his nose.
He thought about asking her if she'd gotten a pet yet, but didn't. That feels a bit like a cursed subject, and the last thing he wants to do is remind her about a near-death experience she no doubt wants to forget as much as he does.
Then they stopped talking. He likes that best. Monica is a lot of things -- 'infuriating' is high on the list on most work days -- but she can also be the best kind of company. She's quiet when she wants to be, and relaxing. She doesn't put pressure on him in social situations.
Except sometimes -- those times when she looks at him with eyes that scare the hell out of him and it seems like she wants him to do something.
He doesn't really think about that, at least, not when he can avoid it. John likes this better, likes a comfortable best friend sharing a six-pack to celebrate the end of a week-long case in the middle of nowhere. A Monica who doesn't need anything else from him, and who doesn't make him need anything else from her.
They're breaking a lot of rules, he realizes belatedly. Not the really big national-security rules, but still, things you can get suspended for. They're in this motel on government money, and the rules about male and female FBI agents not drinking together in motel rooms are pretty hard to misinterpret. He's not much for breaking regulations normally -- despite what the rest of the FBI thinks of him after Kersh and the rest of this year -- but Monica is, as usual, the exception to the rule.
They're sharing a bed, even, though it seemed pretty innocent when they first sat down on top of the motel quilt to watch the TV and seems only slightly less innocent now that he's thinking about it. That thought is easily overridden by another one, though -- they should do this more often.
"This is nice," he says. He turns his head towards her and smiles. She looks rumpled, her clothes and hair, and he'd be lying if he said his stomach didn't tense a bit at the sight.
She's his best friend, sure, but she's also...
Well, she's a lot of things. He doesn't really put words to them. She's enough of an oddball in all ways that he's long since given up categorizing her as anything except 'Monica.'
"It is," she agrees. She arches her back to the tune of muffled pops before sliding farther down the headboard. She smirks. "A bottle of beer, a bag of chips, and thou?"
He snorts. A woman after his own heart. In college, before he got married, that would've been his dream date. He supposes it still is, more or less. "Can't think of anything better," he assures her.
They're quiet again for a long few minutes as he watches the color patterns signifying snow swirl across the television. He glances back when he starts to feel her stare on his face. "Yeah?"
She looks a little dreamy with alcohol and the late hour before her brow furrows. "You need a shave," Monica declares, a propos of nothing and therefore perfectly in line with the sort of behavior he has come to expect from her.
He can't quite come up with a good answer. He's not sure she expects one. "Usually do that in the morning."
"It is morning, in DC," she says with a yawn. She still doesn't call DC home, not even after almost a year there as his partner. John feels a bit guilty about that, but more because he's never said anything to her about it or even apologized than for shanghaiing her in the first place. He's too selfish in this one regard to consider giving her an out, even though he knows she wouldn't take it. She's too loyal for her own good.
Monica pops a chip into her mouth and shrugs. "It's okay. I need to wash my hair."
He shakes his head and calls her crazy for probably the eighth time that week, if not that day. It's starting to feel like less of an insult -- or even a statement of fact -- than a term of endearment. He thinks, by her smile as she rolls her eyes, that she takes it that way, as well. "You're crazy."
She snags a lock of her hair between two fingers and sniffs it. "I'm not kidding."
She's still pinching the lock of hair and holding it away from her head, practically in invitation, and he's only a foot and a half away, so it's not completely bizarre that he leans in and takes a whif.
Her hair smells faintly like smoke. It's from the restaurant they were in earlier, he knows, but it reminds him of a small-talk topic of personal conversation he actually is interested in.
"How long has it been since you've had a cigarette?"
"Checking up on me to see if I've kicked the habit?" She evades him with a sly grin. It might work on other guys, but he doesn't usually let her get away with it. Usually. "Honestly?"
"Two weeks ago," she admits. "That case at RPI kind of got to me."
He'd known that at the time, known that she'd taken the brutal assault of young coeds -- by a "ghost" or otherwise -- to heart, but he hadn't known what to say at the time or even if his interference would have been welcome. He thinks it probably would have been.
"And a few times after my accident," she adds. She shrugs, the sheepish contrition on her face having faded to something more serious. "It's gotten to the point where smoking makes me feel sick, though. I think that's a good sign."
"Yeah," he says, and feels the familiar pang -- like a kick in the chest -- that he gets when he thinks about that night, those days, how horrifyingly empty it felt to imagine the rest of his life without Monica.
He rarely imagines the rest of his life with Monica, but then, he doesn't have to. She's always there, for nights like this, unplanned and yet necessary.
He's thought about it a few times, though, since then. He'd like to have this more often. He thinks about making her dinner -- none of that vegan stuff either, not when he can give her something real to eat -- and quiet evenings in her company, not saying much and not being alone.
He's thought about kissing her, too, an idea which makes him feel a bit warmer lying next to her.
A bottle of beer, a bag of chips...
Her eyes are drifting closed, and he thinks that, if he's quiet enough, she will fall asleep where she is. He'd like that -- having her breathing next to him all night. He's tired, too, and could claim it was an accident. She's Monica -- she won't care, even if she knows better.
He catches her beer bottle before it tips over far enough to spill, and her eyes flicker open, deep and brown and dangerous.
"I should go," she says on a breath, though she nestles deeper into the pillow and closes her eyes again.
It amazes him how much she trusts him, though it's not really a surprise. She has fallen asleep in his presence before, on stakeouts, but this is different. It's not so different, though -- they're still John and Monica, Doggett and Reyes -- and that and the beer and the fogginess of the late hour lets him say it before he changes his mind. "You don't have to go."
"'kay," she mumbles, and her breathing immediately starts to even and slow.
He doesn't fall asleep as quickly. It's just Monica, he thinks, and that makes it both more and less frightening at the same time.
On impulse -- one from the same source as the impulse that allowed her to stay -- he brushes a wisp of hair off her face, imagining what it would feel like to do that every night, in his own bed, for real. Another thing to try not to think about when his fleeting fantasies get the better of him.
A ghost of a smile passes across Monica's features. Busted. Not as asleep as he thought, though she doesn't open her eyes.
He could kiss her, he realizes, gaze settling on her lips. Now, while he's tired and she's tipsy and they're both comfortable and close and half-asleep. He could put that fantasy to rest and get a hundred more in exchange, just by touching his lips to hers. A goodnight kiss. A test. A promise.
For a minute -- more than a minute -- the urge feels like a tangible pressure in his chest. spurred on by the weight of years and by almost losing her still not too long ago.
She sighs, probably really asleep, and that makes up his mind for him. He doesn't kiss her, feeling some of that tension wash away from him as he makes that decision.
He doesn't want to change this.
He does, but not now. A kiss would make this night mean something different, make him afraid and her God-knows-what, would push to the forefront all the complications he hasn't quite figured out yet.
He wants this now, this feeling of total comfort next to her, so he's almost surprised when he leans in enough to brush a kiss to her forehead.
Her skin is soft, and smells of secondhand smoke and something Monica, something as unique and undefined as the rest of her. It feels good, this quiet contact with her.
More than that, it feels... almost normal. Not something new, just an extension of the relationship he's already so comfortable with.
She smirks, still asleep, and snuggles deeper into the pillow when he lays the spare blanket over her as gently as he can.
With a smile, John clicks off the TV and settles in, part of him hoping their flight really will get postponed due to weather.
He can kiss her for real in the morning.