Classification: Post-ep. John Doe; DSR
Rating: PG-13 for adult language and situations
Archive: XFMU; SHODDS. Otherwise, ask and ye shall receive.
Disclaimer: The characters you recognize aren't mine. Those you
Summary: She thinks about memory as a tidal pool, filled with
fantastic life and treacherous waters.
Author's Note: A sequel to "Changing Constellations"
and "Untouchable Face." It's probably good to read those first. I
wanted to write something post-John Doe because the Doggett angst was
just too delicious to pass up. This is not what I planned. It just
sort of . . . happened. Special thanks to Coolbyrne, beta reader
"And who am I
that I should be vying for your touch?
Who am I?
Bet you can't even tell me that much."
- Ani DiFranco, "Untouchable Face"
She has red hair and a familiar face, but her name is stubbornly
lurking just out of his reach.
He remembers, but in the way one remembers junior high civics
lessons. He knows facts and figures by rote, but anything more
substantial escapes him. The U.S. government is made up of three
branches - executive, legislative, and judicial. Monica Reyes is his
partner; she has brown hair. Walter Skinner is his boss; he's the
bald guy. He feels like writing these things on his hand.
Her hand on his arm is gentle, comforting. She's not his wife. He's
sure of that. His wife is blond. Was blond. May still be blond but
is no longer his wife. His knowledge ends with the color of her hair.
She doesn't speak but takes his chin in hand and runs light fingers
over the cuts on his face. It hurts, but he doesn't mind. Physical
pain is a welcome distraction, and her hands seem as familiar as her
"I don't think any of these need stitching," she murmurs absently.
She's a doctor then. Something tells him he doesn't like doctors,
but he seems to like her. "I'm going to have to cut this shirt off,"
she says half to Monica.
"No." He's startled by the force in his own voice. The shirt is a
cast-off relic and dirty enough to warrant burning, but it's his.
He's no longer a fugitive, no need to hold on to worthless things
just to have something to hold on to, but loneliness is a hard habit
Her hand rubs his shoulder gently. "I brought clean clothes for you."
He's confused by her tone and by the tidal wave of anxiety he feels
beneath her calm facade. Maybe she is his wife. But her hair is
red, and he remembers blond hair.
He remembers colors. Colors and numbers. His house is brown, full
of polished wood and green plants. Its number is 517, but the street
name is missing. His social security number is 236-41-1865. 1865 is
the year the Civil War ended. One side wore blue, the other gray. 41
is the number of years his parents have been married. His mother has
brown eyes and his father blue, but he doesn't remember their faces
or their names. The sum of two, three and six is eleven, which is
how old his son should be. His son had blue eyes and a red bicycle.
"We need to do a MRI and a chest x-ray," Red is saying to a nurse he
didn't notice was in the room.
More shoulder rubbing, on bare skin this time. Red must move quickly
and know him well enough to notice his look that signals
distraction. Monica with the brown hair looks like she wants to
cry. He looks down and there are huge black and purple bruises on
his rib cage and smaller scrapes and contusions on his arms and chest.
"We need to make sure your ribs are just cracked and not broken," she
says soothingly. "And check for a concussion since you've sustained
one if not more severe blows to the head."
She doesn't need to ask him if he remembers her. His eyes tell her
plainly that he does not. So she lets fear own her and does not
explain. She does not say, 'You held me when I cried. You loved me
when I didn't deserve it. You live on the periphery of my life and
haunt my dreams.'
She does not tell him that she loves him even though for four hours
in the cramped quarters of a commercial airliner, she clutched the
armrests and swore she would, if only he was alive.
Amnesia and near death never changed the rules before, and they won't
this time. But she longs to make a giant funeral pyre from the
rulebook, burn herself clean with fire and rise like a phoenix.
"Careful, Johnny, put your hand out real slow with the palm up. You
have to show him you won't hurt him. Don't ever try to force an
animal to do something; that's when you get hurt. But once you get
this here dog to trust you, he'll do anything for you."
"Where are you keeping your brain these days, boy? I never would
have thought you stupid enough to spend all night drinking and then
try to play sober for me."
"Dear God, I've never been a religious man, but I've tried to be a
good one. Please let him be all right."
He is lying on a gurney in an institutionally green hallway, counting
ceiling tiles and trying to pull memories out of his scrambled brain.
His father and his blue eyes are dead. Three years ago in the
spring, the old man put in a full day's work and had a stroke in the
middle of the night. It took seven days for his body to die, but as
John sat at his bedside, he knew the old man was already gone. He
remembers a black Labrador puppy, picked from a neighbor's unexpected
litter, and his father's huge work-roughened hand guiding his small
hand on the red leash. And after a stupid drunken stunt, his father
holding his head while he retched and not telling his mother in the
morning. He remembers a military hospital, hot tears falling on his
battered face and a desperate plea to a God the old man never
believed in. He can't remember his father's name.
"You don't know my name." It's not a question. Red has brought him
yet another glass of water. She says he's dehydrated.
"You have red hair," he says. "And a son." No, he corrected
himself, I have son. Had a son. She has one and he doesn't, not
"Yes," she says. "You know Monica's name."
"She told me her name."
"She's gone to straighten out your documents so we can take you home
"I'm not staying here tonight."
"If your MRI comes back clean, I won't admit you," Red bargains. She
shuffles through a handful of pages.
"I had the Lone . . . some friends of ours scan and send some
pictures to help your memory." She lays color copies on his blanket-
"Recognize this?" She asks.
"Who are these people?" She holds up a photograph of three men with
He shrugs and looks at the ceiling tiles.
"Your brothers," she says. "Are they older or younger?"
"I don't know. I remember numbers and colors."
"Okay, then when is your birthday?"
"11/5/59," he answers. "2/23/64 is someone else's."
He stares at the ceiling and absently massages his temple. "Mark,
Paul, Matthew," she says. He raises his eyebrows at her. "Your
brothers. All younger."
He shrugs again.
"What are your parents' names?" She asks.
"My father's dead," he says. "What's your name?"
The x-ray technician chooses that moment to return.
She thinks about memory as a tidal pool, filled with fantastic life
and treacherous waters. If given the chance to remain safe at shore,
how many would be content to gaze at the perfect surface and never
know the wonders within? How many people are brave enough to accept
reliving a life full of pain?
She is afraid if given the opportunity, she would choose to forget.
She thinks perhaps she has already forgotten that which is worth
remembering. Her life is measured out in secrets and suspicions.
She pushes away anything that might bring happiness and wallows in
the mud of remembered pain.
She understands with perfect clarity her cowardice. If she had half
his measure of strength, she would take his hand and wade boldly into
the waves. She would set the past free and seek her future instead
of chasing the reflected existence of another.
"Orders are orders, sergeant. We've turned the refugee camps over,
and the IDF has guaranteed the safety of non-combatants. Our job is
"Sarge, these bodies . . . they're kids. Shit, I'm going to be sick."
"Christ, get a medic. This Marine is alive."
The water swirling in the drain is red with his blood and brown with
weeks' worth of accumulated dirt. The dirt on his parent's farm is
red, thick with clay. He sees bright red arterial blood dripping
down green fatigues to pool in pale sand. Lebanon is brown sand,
green hills and water in electric blue and green. 10/23/83. 6:00
a.m. His serial number was 7008-68298, and his rank was E-5. Half
his platoon died that day. He doesn't remember light or sound from
the explosion, only being unable to breathe. Blood, wet and red
pooling underneath him and the absolute terror of feeling no pain.
The water sluicing down his body is starting to run cold and rinse
clean in the drain. He steps out and towels off awkwardly. Red was
right. His ribs are cracked. They protest zealously when he tries
to raise his arms or reach too far. He's left with the shame of
being a grown man who can't put on his own shirt.
She is hovering over the hotel room's tiny table, arranging wrapped
sandwiches and soft drink containers, but looks up when he steps into
the room. He's noticed they have this strange sort of radar. Their
eyes seem to find each other in a room without effort. He's
embarrassed by his partial nudity, but she seems unfazed.
"Monica brought dinner," she says. "She and Skinner are watching the
Capitals' game in his room if you want to join them . . ."
"I can't get my shirt on," he interrupts her small talk with a rough
tone and feels his ears burn as her eyes sweep across his chest.
She takes the t-shirt from him, rolls it carefully, and then slides
it up his arms and over his head with deft hands. They brush over
his chest and arms, straightening fabric, and feel familiar. He
knows he doesn't like casual physical contact, but her touch doesn't
bother him. He wonders if the color of her hair is lying to him.
Women dye their hair after all. But somehow he knows she is a
"Piece of cake," she says with a glimmer of a smile. "Usually, my
son tries to kick me when I do that."
Light spikes behind his eyes making him wince away from her. "Your
son has red hair, or he will when it grows in," he said. "And he has
a stuffed turtle. It's green and brown with designs on the shell in
yellow and red."
"It was a gift from you," she says, turning away to fuss with the
food. "He makes me carry it everywhere."
"Are you going to tell me your name?"
"I think it's better if you remember on your own."
She doesn't tell him that she is terrified she'll drop the little
animal on the street or leave it in shop one day. She doesn't tell
him that her son chews on the turtle's left hind leg and howls like a
wounded animal if the toy isn't tucked into the right side of his
crib at night. She doesn't tell him that she's jealous of that small
gift because he never gave her gifts. He only gave her himself, and
she threw that gift away.
She's angry that her hands didn't shake as they roved over his body.
Or she's angry that he didn't react to her barely disguised caress.
It's been just over ten months since she's felt his hands on her.
315 days ago they made love in the cool quiet of his wood-paneled
bedroom under pale yellow flannel sheets. Her favorite place on his
body is the oval of soft skin in the shadow of his left hipbone.
When she touches him there, it becomes the epicenter of a tremor that
flows through his frame, and his all-seeing eyes turn warm and sleepy
She's torn between wanting to tattoo her name in blood red on that
place and the desire to leave it perfect and unmarred. To leave
something on him perfect and unmarred.
"Put that damn tie on and get in the car." The slap across his face
is painful, but the loathing in his mother's voice outstrips it by
far. "I don't think church everyday of the week would help you four,
but I'll take what I can get."
"Brothers and Sisters, hear the words of your God and fear his
wrath! 'I looked and there was a pale green horse! It's rider was
Death, and Hades followed with him; they were given authority over a
fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, famine, and pestilence, and
by the wild animals of the earth.'"
"One of you broke this fucking lamp, and if you don't admit it,
you're all going to answer for it."
He remembers the amazing clarity of a Southern sky, a shade of blue
to rival the Mediterranean at its best. His parents' house is white;
their barn is black fading into gray as the years pass. In the
spring, purple wisteria climbs the live oaks and grows along the
The old wooden church is stifling with the heat of midday and the
frenzy of the faithful. Sunlight streaks through multicolored
stained glass, and he can feel his heart beating behind his
forehead. The world is graying out around him, and he hears a
hundred hidden thoughts from the press of bodies around him. The
preacher molests his daughter. The sheriff beats his wife. His
mother hates this life and would welcome apocalyptic fire with joy.
San Antonio's airport is as bright and hot as the country church.
He's given up pressing a hand to his forehead in order to ease the
pain of returning memories. Instead he lets his eyes fall half
closed, counts the tiles on the floor and tries to classify other
passengers by their shoes.
His provisional passport tells him he lives on Red Maple Lane in
Falls Church, Virginia and he was born in Hot Springs, Georgia. His
brothers are Mark, Paul and Matthew. Their birthdays are 6/23/61,
12/29/63 and 7/28/65. He protected them from their mother's rages,
and he doesn't call them often enough. His parents are Hannah and
Jed, buried next to each other in consecrated red clay.
"Hey, Red, who won the World Series this year?" He knows the score
was 3-2 in the final game and the sixth game was a near route at 15-2
with a record 22 hits, but he has no idea which teams played.
She looks at him disapprovingly over the magazine she's pretending to
read. "The Arizona Diamondbacks beat the Yankees," she says. "And
don't call me Red."
He shrugs but has no intention of stopping, not until she tells him
her name. He has had multiple opportunities to slide a sideways
glance at her passport or airline tickets, but her attitude irritates
him. If she wants to play games, he'll play along. Lost in Mexico
and in his own mind, he was still an investigator, so he'll piece
together clues like a good cop. But he won't guarantee she'll like
"You hit baseballs like a girl," he says. "You swing from your
shoulders instead of your hips. But you like it anyway."
"I never told you that." Her eyes are ice blue with wariness, and he
is ashamed to discover that he takes pleasure in her discomfort.
"You talk with your eyes."
She sniffs a little. "You're supposed to be a skeptic. You don't
believe in psychic abilities or the paranormal."
"I don't give a damn what I'm supposed to be," he growls. "Your
partner taught you to play baseball. And you don't miss him as much
as you think you should."
"Why don't you stay out of my head?"
"Why don't you tell me your name?"
"You know, the librarians frown upon kicking the card catalog."
"Detective Doggett, I've decided to abscond with the company payroll
and go on the lam with the mailman. If you're home by 7, I'll
consider letting you bring me in. Love, your wife."
"I'm not going to do this anymore, John. I can't, I won't and I
shouldn't have to."
He remembers the blinding brilliance of sunshine on snow, and his
wife's blond hair tucked under a blue baseball cap with orange
Her name is Alison. They met in the graduate library at Syracuse.
She made fun of his Marine issue buzz cut. He mocked the "stop
nuclear proliferation now" pin on her backpack. Then he asked her to
lunch, and she threw a snowball at him on the quad. They were
married for ten years and had one cherished child. She was the love
of his life, but that life ended when their son died. They divorced
without contest four years, one month and twenty-one days ago.
From the window of the plane, he watches the afternoon sun turn the
clouds into a snowbound continent, and he imagines climbing its
undiscovered peaks and trekking deep into its valleys.
In the seat next to him, Red is pretending to read again. But he can
hear her racing thoughts and the misery his comments about her
partner provoked. Instinct orders him to comfort her, to apologize,
but something holds him back. The truth, he decides. The truth is
he is not sorry the man has gone away. And he is not sorry she
doesn't miss him as much as she thinks she should. He is sorry she
uses it as a reason to crucify herself.
She is thinking about supernovae. She wonders about tiny, helpless
planets caught in the moment when a star reaches critical mass and
burns itself out of existence in one terrifying flash. Science is
her first love, but she wants to know if planets have souls, if they
know fear and feel pain. As complex as their structure, surely they
must have some sort of intelligence. If they were able to choose
between remaining with their star, accepting instantaneous death, and
wandering alone and bereft, what would they choose?
She is not helpless, but she is a coward.
She is afraid to stay and afraid to leave. She is afraid her star
won't go nova without her and afraid she won't be alone and bereft in
the dark of night.
At his house, she finds her mother waiting with fresh groceries and
her sleepy child, but the older woman leaves hastily when she notices
neither of them would react well to mothering.
And now she is making dinner, playing devoted mommy and loving
companion. From the kitchen, she can hear her son jabbering happily
to himself. He doesn't make letter sounds yet, just squeals and
giggles. Then he makes a sound, an ascending minor third, that
means "pick me up now or I'm going to spend the next half-hour
screaming at the top of my lungs." But by the time she washes food
debris from her hands and turns back to the living room, she finds
the impending crisis averted, her son and his turtle happily touring
the room in the crook of Doggett's arm.
He holds her son easily, cradling him against one broad shoulder even
though it must aggravate his bruised ribs, while his other hand runs
across the bookshelves. The blunt tips of his long fingers trace
their way over paperbacks and thick non-fiction books. There is no
dust on the shelves.
The baby waves chubby fists in greeting as she approaches but squeals
angrily when she slips a hand under his back to lift him out of
Doggett's grasp. "Well, aren't you fickle?" She says and leaves him
in place, settling for smoothing the front of his playsuit.
"No," she says honestly. "You're not."
"'Torpedo Junction,' 'Citizen Soldiers,' 'The Rape of Nanking'." He
recites the titles as his hand runs over their spines.
"Do you remember reading them?" She asks.
His index finger hovers over the first book. "U-Boats sank 259 ships
off the East Coast in 1942. The U.S. Army took 11,000 casualties in
the three weeks after D-Day. 300,000 Chinese civilians were
slaughtered when the Japanese army occupied Nanking," he says,
closing his eyes and reciting by rote. "No, I don't remember reading
"You remember numbers and colors but not my name," she says.
"Maybe I don't want to remember," he says. "Maybe I'm sick of this
shit. Maybe I want cash out, go back to Mexico and live in a shack
by the beach."
He's testing her, she knows that. Trying to force her into revealing
her name and her relation to him. She looks at the floor for a long
moment before jerking her head up stiffly. "Sand makes you obsessive-
compulsive," she says archly.
"Then I'll move to New Zealand and herd sheep."
"Is that supposed to be a threat or an ultimatum?"
"Why? Is that something I do?"
"Your son's name is William," he says quietly. "You get pissed when
people call him Will, but when no one is around, you call him Willy."
William squeals happily at the mention of his name and grabs a
fistful of Doggett's shirt to chew on. John hooks a finger under
William's chin, deftly liberating the captured fabric and before the
boy manages a whimper replaces it with the turtle's left hind leg.
"I just want to know what a normal life is like."
"There's no such thing."
"Do you ever think about stars?"
"I won't leave you."
"It's the best offer I've ever had."
She knows he wasn't really threatening to leave. It's stupid to
believe he would honor a promise he doesn't remember making, but she
knows he will. And she knows he's frustrated at feeling, but not
Outside the sun is setting, shadowing half the living room and
bathing the rest in red and gold. He is sprawled on the couch, dusk
blurring and fading the hard edges of his frame, watching the walls
and keeping his own counsel. Her son is asleep in his baby seat.
The silence feels like spun glass and the whisper of her bare feet on
the carpet could shatter it.
She stands in front of him, blocking the rest of the room. "I want
you to remember me," she says.
"Because you remember Monica smokes too much and Skinner was a
Marine. You remember your mother was a cruel, hateful woman, and you
remember asking your wife to marry you. You remember my son's
turtle, but you don't remember me."
"How do you know what I remember?"
"You talk with your eyes too," she says. "You remember the good and
the bad and completely irrelevant, but you don't remember me."
She starts unbuttoning her shirt, slowly deliberately.
"What the hell are you doing?"
"Making you look at me."
He blinks but does not turn away.
"I have three brown moles above my left breast." She says and pulls
the fabric aside for him to see the small marks stretching like half
a constellation from the beginning swell to her collarbone. Then,
she turns around and lifts her shirttail free. "I have this huge red
scar, almost like a burn, on my lower back because fifteen months ago
someone decided I'd make a good host for a slug." She turns back
around and unbuttons her jeans. "I have a tiny white scar just below
my hip from an appendectomy when I was twelve."
She stands in front of him with her clothes hanging open and doesn't
feel exposed because there is no answering recognition in his eyes.
"You're a beautiful woman," he says, but doesn't move to touch her,
doesn't call out her name.
She starts to turn away before the tears begin to fall, but he stands
and catches her with a hand on her shoulder. Almost tenderly he re-
buttons her shirt, his knuckles brushing against her through the
fabric. His rough fingertips graze the fragile skin of her abdomen
as he fastens her jeans.
"I said I wouldn't leave you. And I won't."
She closes her eyes and rests her forehead against his chest. "I
love you," she says to the steady beat of his heart under her cheek
and thinks there are things the heart remembers even when the brain
forgets. And decides to hell with tidal pools and supernovae. To
hell with fear and caution, suspicion and secrets. He gave himself
to her once, and she threw him away. Why has she been expecting him
to offer that precious gift again? Why should she wait when she has
the same gift to offer? "I love you."
She won't erase the memory of her defection, but she will replace
it. She has given him too few good memories, and although she can
not promise they will be only good from now on, she will at least try.
He tilts her chin up and threads his fingers through her hair. His
eyes are still shadowed with grief and confusion, but his hands feel
like they've never left her. And she doesn't care what he doesn't
remember. He can call her Red for the rest of her life, if that's
what he wants.
"My name is . . .