Author's Note: At the end of "Area 51" we were all like, "Awww! Poor Monique!" And I noticed how Mendel was looking at her out of the corner of his eye, and I thought it would be interesting to see a conversation between these two, as they now face a similar romantic situation. Especially since, up until this point, we weren't even sure if Monique returned Randy's affection.
Affaires de Cœur
Randy stepped blithely out of the Humvee, apparently completely unaware of Monique's eyes boring into his back. He made his way into the base without so much as glancing backwards at her. Only Nick cast her a sympathetic look over his shoulder as he followed Randy and Elsie inside. Monique crossed her arms tightly over her chest and watched Randy vanish behind the door, but made no move to follow him.
"I know how you feel," Mendel said.
Typically Monique would have a sharp response to such a remark, but Mendel spoke so softly she turned to him curiously and found he wasn't even looking at her. Rather, he was watching Elsie as she walked with the others into the building. And his face was slack with what could only be sadness and disappointment.
But how could he know how she felt? Monique would not deign to relate to him. "I have no idea what you are talking about," she huffed.
Mendel cast her a sideways glance. "No?"
Was that skepticism in his voice?
"Absolutely none," Monique snapped. She turned away from him and walked out onto the pier. She leaned against the railing and stared out at the thrashing waters. After a long moment Mendel sidled up next to her, the tail of his lab coat snapping in the wind.
"I don't claim to know everything you're feeling," he said, "but it's pretty obvious to everyone how you're feeling about Randy."
Monique snorted. "I feel nothing about anybody."
Mendel sighed. "Do you have to make sympathy so difficult? I guess I was thinking we could talk. You know, like normal people for once instead of just teammates in some bizarre artificial situation where we pretend we have no emotions?"
Monique turned her head slightly away and thought about that. It was true though, she actually did want to talk…for once. She had even tried emphasizing to Elsie what she was feeling, which of course had been a mistake. Elsie may have saved Monique's life, but she was as snarky as ever. She and Monique had stood alone for all of one minute after Randy had sailed off on his rickety, makeshift, doomed-to-fail windsurfer in his desperate attempt to impress this Candice person by tranquilizing the giant armadillo that was running around Area 51.
"I have no idea what he sees in this person," Monique had vented, stupidly thinking Elsie would agree with her. "She is arrogant, rude, unpredictable, and has no consideration for the other members of her team!"
"Hm," Elsie said vaguely. "Sounds like somebody I know."
Monique had shut up after that. She was well aware of the fact that the others sometimes resented her for her temperament. And that she was officially not even working for them but for Philippe was a constant complicating factor on almost all of their missions. Nick was really the only one who understood that, as he was as close to a friend as Philippe would ever get. And Monique should have known Elsie was the last person who would sympathize with her. What did Elsie know about loyalty anyway? She was already double-hitting on Nick and Mendel and had numerous "old" boyfriends in several places and utilized an online dating service.
Randy was complicated. Monique had gotten used to the way he followed her around like a puppy, and he was the only one that ever bothered to compliment her when she turned out to be the only one who could get the team out of trouble (which was often). She had even started to like it. Working alone for most of her career, she was unused to the attention one got while working in a team. And the relationships one could form with the other members. The very complex relationships.
"What would you know about it?" she muttered to Mendel.
"Well, I don't think it would be a stretch to say I feel the same way about Elsie that you do about Randy," Mendel said. "And…well…about how Randy is acting…I get that from Elsie. A lot. Like all the time."
Monique looked at him with renewed interest. Now he was staring out at the water with a wistful look on his face. She had never thought of him like that before; like someone who wanted something so desperately but, no matter how hard he tried, could never obtain it. It had been fun before to laugh at his vain attempts to get Elsie's attention. But after today—after having Randy blow her off like that—she was beginning to understand.
These things were hard.
No wonder Philippe had told her, "There will be no room for relationships outside of professional ones." Monique had barely paid attention to that at the time. Of course she would have nothing but a professional relationship with her team. What else could there be? Besides, what had he meant by "no room"? Now, though, she understood. Right now Randy was taking up so much of her mind she doubted she could hit a rampant mutant monster if it was standing three feet in front of her.
Looking back at Mendel, she saw his sad face and drooping shoulders and realized she should say something. "I never understood—your…" she began awkwardly. He looked at her. She turned away, embarrassed. "Never mind."
"No, it's okay," he said with a sigh. "I didn't really expect you to. All I'm saying is that we're in the same boat. Metaphorically speaking."
Monique ran a hand through her hair, fingers desperate to do something besides idly clutch the railing. "What do you…how do you…when does it end?" she finally blurted out. "I have no idea what he sees in her. He changed so fast, and he became so—"
"Abrupt," Mendel interrupted. "I saw that. And I saw that it upset you."
Monique shot him a glare. He flinched slightly and his brow furrowed sheepishly. "I was not upset." Monique spit out the last word.
"Okay, be that way," Mendel said, irritated. "But I know what I saw, because I feel that all the time."
"You have no idea how I feel." Monique tried to shrug him off. "I was merely concerned by his too readily trusting someone we had only just met, and who had already shown herself to be a liar."
Mendel chipped some paint off the railing with his thumbnail. "Everyone else seemed okay with her. Nick said we just had to deal with her, because she was the only one who could help us at the time."
"We could have finished our mission much more quickly had she not interfered," Monique argued. "And she did not have to be so quick to judge, or so affectionate with Randy." She stopped dead, mortified. Now, of course, Mendel knew.
"See?" To her surprise Mendel did not seem at all triumphant, just sad. "It mattered to you. Nick just thought Randy was acting funny. And Elsie couldn't care less who Randy has a crush on, as long as it isn't her. Me, I was too busy trying to stay away from the monsters. But you were the one who…noticed, I guess, just like I'm the one that notices every time Elsie puts her hand on Nick's shoulder, or calls him 'Nicky' and then turns around and calls me 'Dr. Craven,' or when she cuddles up to him or asks his advice, or he asks hers, or when he looks at her and smiles at her or when she smiles at him and…"
Monique suppressed a shudder when she thought of Candice kissing Randy on the mouth, and worse, Randy's smile when she did.
"You do not have to worry," she said to Mendel, trying to hide her face from him by folding her shoulders up to her neck. "Nick is what you Americans call 'head over heels' in love with Ms. Timmonds. Elsie is just trying to anger her."
"And me." As soon as the words were out Mendel slapped a hand over his mouth. He glanced guiltily at Monique. She unfolded slightly and the shadow of a smile played briefly across her lips.
"You could be right about that," she said. "Dr. Chapman seems to enjoy tormenting the members of this team with her little antics."
"She does a good job," Mendel muttered.
Monique's fingers found the button on her sleeve and began repeatedly buttoning and unbuttoning it to the rhythm of the throbbing in her mind. The waves surged and fell in the water before them in a relentless cacophony with the barking of the gulls and the noise in her head. "You don't suppose…" she began, but let the sentence trail off, still too proud to seek advice from anyone but especially Mendel, of all people.
"Do I suppose what?" Seeing Monique fidgeting seemed to alert Mendel to his own, and he quickly pulled his hands away from the rail and folded them behind his back, discretely picking the paint out from under his fingernails. "That Randy is doing the same thing to you?"
"Why should I care what he does?" Monique shot back almost automatically. "It does not affect me."
"Right." Mendel said. "And you're perfectly fine with him going to see the Radicals with Candice and not you."
Monique's hands jerked into her pockets and she turned away, walking quickly across the pier towards where the HEAT Seeker was docked. She blinked in frustration as she tried vainly to stare down the setting sun. Finally she had to turn away, but hid her defeat with an indifferent shrug.
"I am not fond of their music," she grumbled.
Mendel cautiously walked up behind her but kept a respectful distance. "It's not the music that matters though," he said. "We saw you try to tell him that you wanted to go. With him. Because you wanted to spend that time with him." When Monique did not respond he took a chance and added, "And we also saw your face when he said he was going with Candice instead."
"It does not matter," Monique said quietly.
The seagulls hollered and the water sizzled and Mendel stood watching Monique's back as she stood stubbornly rooted in her own denial.
"Look, I know you don't want to admit it, but let's just make this easier," Mendel said wearily. "Tell me to shut up and go away, or say 'yes, I like Randy' and let's get this over with."
"I never said I didn't like Randy. I am very fond of Randy," Monique said, trying to be dismissive but aware of the way her voice trembled a little when she spoke. She hoped Mendel would not hear the tremor over the hissing of the wind. "I find him at times to be the most intelligent member of the team, and his assistance has proven invaluable in one or two situations."
"Yeah?" Mendel said encouragingly. "He really likes you, too, Monique."
She whipped around to stare at him. Mendel tried not to flinch again but he couldn't help it. "And you knew that. That's why you're upset," he went on.
"I told you. I have nothing to be upset about!"
"Like I have nothing to be upset about when Elsie wraps her arms around Nick's? Come on, Monique. We know you better than that."
"Well, why do you not bother with your own little matters of the heart, and leave me to mine—if I had any." She again turned her back on him and started walking. "Which I do not."
"Uh huh," Mendel muttered. He crossed his arms.
Monique paced along the edge of the dock with her hands folded before her and tried to forget everything she and Mendel had just said by focusing on an image of Godzilla diving majestically into the water. This was her mission: keep track of Godzilla. Not talk nonsense with her associates about how she was or was not feeling about a certain somebody for whom she had no feelings whatsoever beyond those required for a professional relationship and no, she was not upset by the fact that he was now attracted to someone else entirely and was no longer following her around like a puppy and had completely blown her off when she tried to make amends and that he didn't even seem to notice how flustered she was when he did, which was a good thing because she hadn't been flustered at all and she didn't care one way or the other who the heck he went with to whatever asinine concert he wanted, he could do what he pleased and she would not care, her stomach had not churned in the least when he grinned stupidly at that so-called scientist and how he had showed off to her and seemed not to notice when Monique stood next to him or tried to catch his eye, because she hadn't done any of that either, no not her, she wasn't the type to do anything of the kind, she didn't care at all what Randy did with his life, he could waste it on a bimbo if he wanted, what did she care, it wasn't like she cared about him beyond what professional relationship they had. By no means. None whatsoever.
"Why does it feel so much?" she said in agitation.
Mendel, who had waited patiently during this entire internal rant, said, "I have no idea. It makes little sense scientifically. Emotions seem to cause more problems than they fix. Theoretically, aside from raising families and such, human beings might be better off entirely devoid of emotion."
"It would make life much easier," Monique said, standing still and watching their boat rock back and forth on the tide. The wind seemed to have picked up a bit while they were talking, causing the boat and the dock to shift and moan forlornly.
"But it would be kind of boring, too, I must admit," Mendel said quietly. "When I think of Elsie, I feel like…I have something really important to work for."
Monique turned this over in her mind. "You feel the importance of working on your relationship with her?" she asked, looking back at him.
"No, I mean, Elsie motivates me to work hard and do a good job."
This was a new idea and an interesting one. Relationships as motivation. Philippe had not mentioned it as a possibility. He had only ever said that relationships (beyond professional ones, of course) would get in one's way and cause one to perform terribly—not better, as Mendel was suggesting.
"How does that work?" Monique asked, intrigued.
Mendel looked a bit confused, and he shrugged. "I'm not sure exactly. I just think about her when I work, and how pleased she is when I get things right, and how…um…displeased she is when I don't."
Monique nodded. "I see, as a negative reinforcement stimulator."
"Well, no, not exactly. But you're on the right track." Mendel's brow puckered. "I think."
Monique rubbed her hair again and thought about this. It was true that the safety of her teammates had often motivated her in the heat of combat to try just a little bit harder and push herself just a little bit more, if only because the others were sometimes too incompetent to fend for themselves. And she'd often looked out for Randy on those situations, knowing he was the only one reckless enough to get himself into some kind of predicament the others could not deal with. She wondered if the satisfaction she felt when completing a task in this manner was what Mendel was talking about. Knowing that, because she had done what she was supposed to, Randy would say something to the others to point out how well she had done it. Those sly compliments thrown her way had pleased her. She thought it was just because someone was finally acknowledging her superior capabilities. But after listening to Randy turn his attentions to Candice, casting her all his sweet encouragements and underhanded hints, Monique began to wonder. Was she really upset because Candice did not deserve his words half as much as Monique did? Or was it all because it was Randy who was doing it? She felt the now-familiar pinprick of discomfort in the nest of her stomach begin to throb again when she thought of him, and wondered how long she could go on denying that looking at Randy's face was, as Mendel put it, a positive motivator.
"It may be true, what you say," Monique said at last. "In which case, perhaps your relationship with Elsie could be a positive asset for you."
Mendel flung his hands in the air. "What relationship?" he said bitterly. "I doubt she views me as a positive reinforcement stimulator."
Monique couldn't restrain the smile that crept across her face when she thought of Elsie and her constant teasing of her teammate. "Perhaps more than you think," she said.
Mendel looked at her eagerly. "What? Am I missing something?"
"Dr. Chapman finds your company highly enjoyable. Anyone could see that," Monique supplied.
Mendel's shoulders sagged. "Yeah, but not as enjoyable as I find hers."
Monique shrugged and for the first time actually felt disappointment at not being able to give a clearer answer. She felt bad for Mendel, especially now that she knew more about how he had been feeling—was still feeling—about Elsie. And now he was reaching out to her after what had happened with Randy. After Randy ignored her for a full ten hours and then turned around and arranged the date that should have been with her with a completely different person—
Well, she hadn't wanted to go, had she?
She dug her hands deeply into her pockets and the collar of her jacket seemed to collapse over her face. "I was so used to it…" she muttered.
"What?" Mendel asked.
She shook her head. She could not convey to Mendel how much she had grown to like Randy clinging to her, and how she had felt that, no matter how many times she turned him down, he would simply come back later and ask again, or ask for something else. But it now appeared that this one time had been one time too many and he would not be asking again.
She had been so used to him and now that it seemed like he wouldn't be clinging to her anymore, she felt the emptiness. It was larger and colder than she had ever imagined it could be and she regretted having taken for granted his presence before.
"You don't think," she began abruptly, "he actually likes this Candice more than-" She stopped.
Mendel kneaded his right hand nervously with his left, eying her. He opened his mouth once or twice before speaking out loud, obviously sensing the danger of trying to finish Monique's sentence for her—especially if she had tried to say what he thought she'd tried to say.
"Than you?" he asked. "Randy liking Candice—more than you?"
Whether or not she actually nodded, or if it was just the rising wind blowing her hair and her collar, he couldn't tell, but he took her silence—or rather her lack of immediate and aggressive denial, which was her usual response—as agreement.
"It's hard to tell," Mendel said.
Monique's head snapped up and she threw him a fiery glare. He held up his hands as if to ward off the sparks. "I know that's not what you wanted to hear! Honestly, Monique, I don't know what he sees in Candice either. And if we're lucky, it's just a passing fad. Obviously none of us are that fond of her."
"She is a detriment to his character," Monique spat out.
"That's one way of putting it." Mendel let his hands fall back to his sides, seeing Monique's anger redirected. "And as you said of me and Elsie earlier, anybody could tell that Randy really enjoys your company."
It was stupid how much her spirits lifted when he said that. She almost wanted to ask him if he was sure, if he really meant that, but all she had to do was think of the number of times Randy had asked to be with her, or not even asked, and she knew that it had, at least, been that way.
"On the other hand, it's impossible to tell with Randy what's in seriousness, and what's not," Mendel added reluctantly.
Immediately her spirits plummeted sharply into her gut. "Meaning that…it might not have been sincere?" she asked, trying to keep the ache of disappointment out of her voice.
Mendel shook his head. "No one can doubt that he adores you…but whether that adoration is the type that you want, or the type that lasts…" he smiled sadly. "It kinda looks like we're still in the same boat."
Monique nodded. "Waiting for affirmation," she said bitterly. "That is, as you Americans would say, the story of my life."
How often she had waited for a sign from Philippe that would take her off this team and away from these "soft" Americans. And finally when the day had come, when it looked as if he would be re-assigning her, she had not wanted to leave anymore. Just as now, when she finally realized how much she missed Randy, he seemed completely disinterested in spending time with her.
"Well, I guess we'll just have to wait and see how things pan out." Mendel sighed. "I don't know if you've heard this one, but I'm going to risk a broken nose and say it applies to you. 'You don't know the worth of water until the well is dry'."
The throbbing in her stomach returned with renewed vigor. "I believe I have heard it before."
Mendel watched her closely. She was standing still again and looking out at the last glow of daylight behind the New York skyline. "Are you okay?"
For once Monique wanted to say no. But that would be impossible.
"I'm fine," she lied.
"Alright." Mendel obviously didn't believe her anyway. "Well, I'm going to head back in now, if you're sure you're okay."
Monique nodded. She wanted to thank him for walking her through this, but that too was bordering on impossible, and she regretted that the words never came out as she watched Mendel walk slowly back into the base. She saw him pause in the doorway and glance up at a window where he could see Elsie busily typing on her computer, and saw rather than heard the sigh that lifted his shoulders while sending the rest of him sagging. Then the door swung shut behind him and Monique turned back to the thrashing water. The velocity of the waves had increased somewhat as the wind picked up. Monique walked over to the railing and leaned on it again. The fine mist sprayed up on her face, and she used this as an excuse to draw a hand across her face and wipe her eyes.