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Draw Down the Moon

Draw Down the Moon 18

“I know it’s not much to go on,” John said, pitching his voice low to keep from waking William, who was asleep against his shoulder. “Dana thinks there’s something in the files that will help her and I’m afraid if we don’t find something she’ll just . . . give up.”

Monica and Skinner had listened in silence, and now Monica said, “I could talk to Agent Harrison, too. She knows the files better than anyone.”

“That would be great, thanks.”

Skinner said, “I’ll drive you home, John. You look like hell.”

John looked down the hall towards Dana’s room. No word had come, only nurses and doctors and equipment, more going in than coming out. “I can’t leave her.”

“John, you’re exhausted,” Monica said. “And you said yourself, William needs to sleep in his own bed.”

“I know.”

“And so do you,” she said, earnestly. “You’re not well either, John. You’re no good to her if you collapse.”

“But what if she asks for me? What if she asks for me and I’m not here?”

“John. You need rest,” Monica said in a voice no one could argue with. She stood in front of John and held out her hands. “Come on. Give me Willie. The sooner we leave the sooner you can come back.”

Reluctantly he handed her the baby and stood to follow them out. He stopped at the nurses’ station, to tell the nurse on duty he would be back soon.

They were on their way to the elevators when the door to Dana’s room opened and Dr. Crowton hurried after them. “Mr. Doggett, just a moment, please.”

They stopped walking and John waited for the doctor to catch up to them. “I was just going home to get some things for the baby.”

“I won’t keep you long. I have some news for you.”

“Have the seizures stopped? Can I see her?”

The doctor nodded but s
aid, “She’s very weak and she’s resting right now. But we’ve gotten the results of her blood tests back, and I’ve had a colleague in Obstetrics examine her too. Mr. Doggett, your wife is pregnant.”

“Oh, John!” Monica exclaimed, sounding pleased, and Skinner clapped him on the shoulder. John didn’t know what to say—he couldn’t even think.

“This has vastly reduced the medications we can use to help her, but it also makes the issue of her fever even more pressing. I’ll be blunt, Mr. Doggett: I don’t know if we can save the baby.”

John stared at the doctor and stammered, “But—but we took a test.”

“Yes, Mr. Doggett, I understand. However, home tests are not infallible. When did you take it?”

“About a month ago.”

“Our ultrasound suggested she’s about six weeks along—that test must have had a flaw. The fetus is at a very vulnerable stage. I need to ask you a hard question, Mr. Doggett.”

He looked at William in Monica’s arms. He capped William’s head with his hand. He said quietly, “My wife was once told she would never children. When William came along it was beyond amazing. It was miraculous.”

“I understand, Mr. Doggett—”

“I don’t think you do. What does Dana say? It’s ultimately her decision.”

Dr. Crowton said seriously, “Dana is not in a state to make decisions right now.”

It was up to him, then—what his heart said, what his mind knew. Thoughts crowded around him, the loudest one a dark whisper in his ear. *This is your way out.*

God help me, he thought. God, help me.

He said, “Do everything you can for my wife . . . but try to save the child.”

Dr. Crowton slowly nodded. “We’ll do our best. You’ll be at home?”

“Just for a couple of hours.”

“I’ll let you know if anything changes.”

“Thanks.” The doctor left them, and once again the three of them headed out of the hospital. As if they knew there was nothing to say, both Monica and Skinner were quiet except for Monica’s soft murmurs to William. In the elevator Skinner put his hand on John’s back, but no one said a word.

***

John took a shower, but decided to wait to shave until he’d slept a little. Monica had said she’d give William a bottle and put him to bed, but when John looked in the nursery the crib was empty. Toweling his hair, John went downstairs to find them.

At the bottom of the stairs he saw Skinner’s broad back, but in the late-night dimness it was hard to tell what he doing, standing there—until John realized that the soft sounds were not William’s but Monica’s, that Monica and Skinner were kissing each other at the foot of his stairs while William slept in her arms.

John closed his eyes, for a moment wishing hard for simplicity and comfort like this, then opened them and cleared his throat. His friends broke apart with guilty looks. Monica hastily wiped her mouth.

“I gave William a bottle but he didn’t seem to want to go to sleep so I was walking him and then he did fall asleep and I was just going to take him upstairs—”

“I’ll put him to bed,” John said dryly, going down the stairs. “You guys go home. It’s late.” He took William from Monica.

“I could stay,” Monica said, “if you need me to.”

“It’s okay. We’ll be fine. We’ll be back at the hospital early anyway.”

“But we don’t mind staying,” Skinner said.

“It’s okay. Really. Go home. Hold each other tight,” he added quietly, making Monica blush even harder and Skinner look both nervous and proud. “Good night,” he said, and went up the stairs and into the baby’s room.

He laid William carefully in the crib and stood there a moment, watching the baby as he slept. He was ruddy and plump, even-tempered, utterly innocent, completely full of love.

He loved this boy. Loved him because he loved Dana—but loved him because he was helpless and sweet and bursting with potential, and all the other nameless reasons one should love a child.

“Who are you?” John murmured as he slowly stroked William’ s head. “What are you going to be?”

William’ s lips pursed and he punched his hands in the air.

John sighed, made sure the windows were locked tight, turned on the baby monitor and left the nursery.

Monica was sitting at the top of the stairs, her arms wrapped around her knees. She got up quickly when John approached her.

“John, I don’ t feel right about leaving you alone.”

“It’s not necessary. I’m just going to sleep, and William’s fine. He’ll want another bottle in a few hours and then we’ll head back. No need for you to be up at all hours too.”

She bit her lip and followed him to his bedroom. “Then at least let me explain.”

“You don’ t need to explain anything to me. I get it. You and Skinner—it’ s obvious, now that I think about it. Why not? You’ re both smart, driven people. It should be interesting. It should be . . . good.”

“I hope so,” she said quietly. “I just don’t want you to think we’re ignoring your pain.”

John almost chuckled, and had to hug her because she was so gentle and strange. “Don’t worry about it. Get some sleep. The sheets in the guestroom haven’t been changed but the bed’s comfy.”

“He looks at me like you look at Dana,” she said abruptly. “He looks at me like I’m special.”

He didn’t know how to answer that. “You’ve always been special.”

She smiled gratefully but said, “I’ve just fallen in love, John, let me share it with you.”

“Monica. I know you’be happy. But my wife may be dying so please forgive me if I don’ t feel like celebratin’ with you. If we get through this we’ll take you two out and get you silly-drunk on the best champagne. But first we have to get through tonight. Okay?”

She put her hands on his face. “If you need me, I’m here,” she said seriously, and let go. He watched her, puzzled, as she went down the hall to the guestroom where Skinner was waiting.

He shook his head and went into the bathroom, hung up the towel that he had draped over his shoulders, and crawled into his bed.

For some time he lay waiting to sleep, but after an hour or so he threw the blankets aside and clicked on the light. He shoved his hands through his hair.

I don’t know what to do for you, babe, he thought. I don’t know how to help you.

A glint caught his eye, and he lowered his hands to look at the bedside table. Dana’s handheld lay on his stack of books. I shouldn’t, he thought. It’s hers, it’s private.

Of course, they were always sharing things with each other, notes and appointments and games. He hesitated, then picked the handheld up and turned it on.

Everything on the main screen looked familiar: address book, date book, memos, to-do list, expenses, mail. He opened the date book.

There were no surprises among her appointments: “lunch w/J” for Wednesday, “Wm @ MD” and “Library books due” on Friday, “Mom & Olive @ O’Shaunnessy’s” for Sunday afternoon.

He went back a few days, and noticed that she had made journal entries, most on days when he could remember nothing unusual happening. This is a serious invasion of her privacy, he thought, but opened the most recent entry anyway. He had too many questions not to.

*J took a dozen pics of Wm sucking his toes. 1 M in bdrm.*

*Busy day. 2 E: bdrm & kitchen. 1 L: stairs. Heard M in nursery. Wm giggling a lot—I think he sees more than I do.*

*Blender turning itself off and on in kitchen, even after I unplugged it. Wasn’t sure who was doing it, but finally I told the children I was too busy to play and it stopped.*

*L at Wm’s crib. Wm is never afraid. M in bdrm. Nothing broken but J’s clothes messed up again.*

*No visits today but a strange smell in the house. Had J look at the furnace. Nothing amiss. Not surprised.*

*Sang while bathing Wm today and I swear he was trying to sing back. 1 E in bdrm, E and L together on stairs.*

*Why never Missy or Ahab? Miss them too. 1 E today.*

An entry that chilled him:

*Dreamt my cancer came back. Blood & pain. Even wors
e with Wm to worry about. J comforted me but I’m not sure I can ever make him really understand.*

Then what he could admit he was really looking for:

*2nd test also neg. Counted the days a hundred times. I don’t feel pregnant—why does E keep saying I am?*

John sat staring at the entry until the handheld turned itself off. He put it back on the nightstand. He lay down and turned off the light.

***

The children were sitting on the floor, coloring on big pieces of butcher paper. Luke had regular Crayolas but Emily had a big toddler-sized crayon wrapped in her fist. Their faces were serious as they drew, and the hall was quiet except for the sticky sound of wax on paper.

John sat cross-legged on the floor between the children. “What are you guys drawing?”

The children looked at each other, and Luke handed him his sheet of paper. The figure, with its vivid red hair, was obviously Dana— but he had drawn black wavy lines to indicate heat around her body, and strange flame-filled eyes on her skin.

“That’s Dana,” Luke said matter-of-factly as he leaned against John’s side. “And that’s him, see? He’s always watching.”

John put his arm around Luke, staring down at the strange picture. “What is he watching for?”

“His chance.”

“He doesn’t know about the baby,” said Emily as she climbed into John’s lap. “He can’t find out.” She put her drawing into John’s hands and leaned her head on his shoulder. “If he does, it’ll be bad.”

“But how do I help her, Emily? I don’t know what to do. She’s so sick.”

“She’s weak from fighting him,” Emily said. “She’s tired. She needs your help.”

“But how? What should I do?”

She pointed to her picture. She had drawn Dana and himself, and a baby with a shock of red hair clearly meant to be William; and around the three of them she had drawn bands of white and yellow like a shield between them and the man of flame.

“You do that,” she said and kissed his cheek. He could smell her, honey and clean baby skin. He closed his eyes.

When he opened them a moment later the crayons, the pictures and the children were gone, and Monica was kneeling in front of him, murmuring his name, her hand on his cheek and worry in her eyes. His headache, which had been fading when he went to bed, returned with such force that he gagged.

“John, you were sleepwalking,” Monica said as she helped him to his feet.

“I was dreaming—or maybe not—the children were here—”

“Sh, John, sh,” she soothed him as she brought him back to his bed. “Rest now. Everything will be better in the morning. It was just a dream.”

“Monica.” He lay down as she helped him, on his side with his back to her. “What if her mother is right—what if you were right? What if I pushed her too fast and she’s so unhappy it’s driven her to this? What if—Mon—”

“Sh,” she murmured again. She rubbed his back with her palm. “Has Dana been any happier, the entire time you’ve known her, than since you got married? Do you really think she would be better off without you, just her and the baby? I don’t. I think you’re the best thing that’s happened to her in a long time.” She lay down beside him with her chin on his shoulder and her arm around his chest. “You have made her happy. That’s a wonderful thing, John.”

“I feel like I brought this on her,” he said, and wiped his eyes with the back of his hand. “She said in the hospital that the person—the whoever—that’s doing this to her hates me. If she’s right, if someone is torturing her because of me, if she loses the baby because of me—oh God, the baby—”

She hugged him. “John. We’ll fight him. We’ll find a way.”

John let a few tears fall before wiping them away. After a few minutes he said, “You know something, Mon? We’re having a baby.”

“I know.”

“I thought I didn’t want this, but I do. I want it for her, but I want it for me, too. I want us to have this baby.”

“I want this for you too.”

They lay quietly for a few minutes more, then Monica said, “Are you okay now?”

“I’m better. Thanks.”

She kissed his cheek. “Okay. Sleep.”

“Sleeping.” He smiled at her faintly and she touseled his hair as she got up from the bed. When she was gone he pulled up the blankets and closed his eyes. He thought about Walter and Monica comforting each other, and sighed. He laid his head on Dana’s pillow and closed his eyes, inhaling deeply and missing Dana everywhere.

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