No Matter What


monica_icon.gif phoenix_icon.gif

Scene Title No Matter What
Synopsis Phoenix finds his way to family.
Date May 17, 2019

Bay Ridge

The first dim ray of hope came in a postcard, a few months back, from Yellowstone of all places, a no-doubt Photoshopped shot of a howling wolf on the foreground of the Canyon, the waterfall in the background and the looming cliffs large around it.

Gracing the address section of the post card was merely the vague address of Monica Dawson, Yamagato Industries. Somehow it’s made it to her.

The message is nearly as short, nearly as vague: Alive. Long story. On my way home. JJ, AKA Phoenix.

The next came from Chicago. Another from Detroit. Another from Pittsburgh. Pinpoints in a map, showing the progress across the country, slow and arduous.

Eventually an envelope arrives, postmark local, arrives, with a plain white slip of paper within: I’ll be at Shore Road Park at 2 pm Friday. Can’t get into YP or I’d be on your doorstep now.

A lot could go wrong — the messages might not have made it. She might not believe them. She could be out of town. But at 2 p.m. Friday, he’s there, sitting on a bench, looking at the water.

It was hard to believe, at first. Monica didn't know who might be trying to pull something on her and her paranoia has been running high. But the more they came, the more she hoped it was really him.

The local postmark would have been enough to draw her out, but the note inside sealed it.

She walks through the park, mostly hopeful and only a touch suspicious. When it comes to family, her guard is always down. She draws looks— missing an arm does that. But she doesn't let it get her down. She pauses when she sees him, though, because she can't quite believe that he's sitting there.

When JJ — Phoenix — catches sight of her, there’s not the look of recognition she might expect, but instead a tilt of head and curiosity, the sort one makes when meeting up with someone they haven’t met in person before. He stands, and wherever he’s been, he looks healthy, if a little leaner than when she last saw him.

In 2011.

“Monica?” he asks, a bit tentatively, those pale green eyes casting an apologetic look to accompany the uncertain tone.

Monica steps toward him, that tone making her expression a touch sadder. For him, rather than because of him. She nods to answer his question, but her hand comes up to touch his cheek. She has to make sure he's real. She has to know he's okay. Or, as okay as he can be.

"You don't remember me," she says, her tone quiet. If he's lost his memories, it's a little more complicated than it is for most people. But she remembers to smile a beat later. "It's good to see you."

He smiles when she answers, closing his eyes as she touches his cheek. “It’s not just you,” he says quietly, “so it’s not personal.” He studies her, brows drawing together for a moment, as if he’s trying to remember, but of course it’s to no avail.

“Do I call you Monica or… ? I don’t think our situation was exactly normal,” he says, before realizing how he knows might be a question. Where he’s been.

“I was out west with the Guardians. Benji and Calvin came by. Small world, huh?” he says. “I told them I’d find a way to tell you, it’s just taken me this long to get here.”

"I think you mostly tried not to call me Mom," Monica says with a warm laugh, "Mon was thrown around a lot. But you can call me whatever you want to." Anyone who wants to think they're weird is free to do so, apparently. The explanation to how he knows without remembering gets a nod. "I'm glad they found you. I'm glad you're here. When you went missing— when we couldn't find you even after the war— I assumed the worst. I guess it's not so bad, being wrong now and then."

Her hand moves to his shoulder, then she moves to sit, gesturing for him to sit back down again as well. "How can I help? You need a place to stay. I have an apartment outside of Yamagato you can stay in. I mean, if— are you staying?"

Phoenix laughs at the revelation he had tried not to call her ‘Mom.’ “That had to be so strange for you. I’m sorry about that. And here I am making things weird again. That must be a secondary super power,” he says lightly. “Monica’ll work. Or Mon.”

One hand runs over his head, close shaven. “Speaking of names… no one knew who I was and the phoenix myth seemed to fit well enough, so that’s the name I’ve been using. I don’t feel any real resonance with ‘JJ.’ I hope you don’t mind if I stick with the new one,” he says quietly.

“As for staying,” he continues, slipping both hands into his pockets. “I’d like to. This civilization thing is pretty cool.” His green eyes sparkle a bit and his dimples show. “But I don’t have proof I exist as a human being. I thought I could maybe consult, with my ability — law enforcement or the like.”

"I'm very happy to have things be weird," Monica says with a chuckle, "you don't remember, but family is everything for us Dawsons. Doesn't matter to me how complicated it is." When he explains about his name, she nods, her smile softening. "I don't mind. Your name was complicated anyway. We'll blame your father." She refuses to hold her alternate self responsible. Except for maybe half.

She tips her head to the side when he goes on, a thoughtful expression crossing her face. "I have a friend at SESA who might be able to help with some of that. We had a timeline snafu recently, so they're prepared for this kinda thing. And maybe we could get you some consultation work there." She lifts her shoulders. It's an option. How she will explain her son from the future to Cesar is a whole other matter. But she's pretty sure it'll be fine.

Phoenix nods, a bright smile flashing across his face. “I feel that. I mean, I don’t remember things but I think I’m still who I am at my core. Whatever beliefs and principles I had, I’m pretty sure I still have, and that’s probably your doing,” he says, leaning forward and resting his elbows on his knees.

The mention of a timeline snafu makes his brows lift. “I suppose I should be surprised but after being told I’m from a future we came back to prevent from happening, I’m not really surprised at anything, I guess,” he says with a smirk.

“So… aside from children from the future popping up now and then, how are you?” The question carries a weight to it — not merely polite small talk but a genuine question he wants to know the answer to.

"Some version of me," Monica says with a lift of her shoulder. "If you ever want to try for some of your original timeline, some of your memories maybe, I have a dagger you brought me that was your mom's. I've kept it safe. And I tried to keep it so you could see it, if you ever wanted to. See it." His old life. His actual mom. His world wasn't full of many good memories, but she didn't want to erase it all the same.

Her smile dims some with his question, with the fact that it's a real question. "I've been better," she says, still trying to make the best of it. "I lost my job recently, but I think it might end up being a good thing for me. Once I'm settled again." She didn't used to want to be settled, but she's gotten used to it over the past couple years.

Phoenix nods slowly, as if he’s mulling it over. “Yeah, maybe it’ll jog something loose upstairs,” he says quietly. “And it’d be good to see … her.”

Since she’s considering the Monica of the future that had him a different person, so will he.

“It’s a bit ironic, right? Of all the people to lose their memory,” he says with a smile that’s a little tired but genuine. He can clearly see the humor in the situation. “Too bad I didn’t have all that much on me to go off of or I’d know more about myself.”

Regarding jobs, he adds, “I’ve probably lost one too, if it makes you feel any better.” He’s not wrong — not that his Frontline position still exists to go back to, but he was super fired from that while AWOL.

"It does," Monica says with a warm smile, "I hope it was as explosive as mine was." That's a joke, although only to herself. No one else here was around for the explosion part of her firing process.

"How about if I take you for a bite to eat? I owe you a few." In the days before the war, he took care of her more than she took care if him. "Then we can try to shake loose some memories, if you want. I wish I knew more about you, too, but we didn't have a lot of time to get to know one another. But. I know you're a good man. As JJ and as Phoenix. And now we have a chance to get to know each other better." She pauses, then tilts her head. "Is it Phoenix Jones or Phoenix Dawson? Or just Phoenix. Like Cher or Madonna. Or Spider-Man," she asks, her smile widening with her last words.

“You know,” Phoenix says, thoughtfully, a smile twitching his lips to the corner of his mouth, “I don’t actually remember.”

Understatement of the year.

He doesn’t remember walking away from his Frontline job when the president flew off in the sky.

The question about his name earns a shoulder. “I hadn’t really needed a last name, out west, but I guess I should probably have one if I’m getting papers and all.” His green eyes study her face for a moment, before standing in tacit agreement to getting a meal. “Do you want me to be a Dawson?” It’s asked almost shyly.

"I see you didn't forget how to be a smartass," Monica says with a chuckle, her head shaking indulgently. She has no idea where he got that from, of course.

She hooks her arm through his when he stands and starts them toward her pick for food. "Phe," she says, her smile more gentle, "you are a Dawson. No matter what." She squeezes his arm, reassurance mixed with lingering relief that he made it through the war. And that he made it back to family. "You have a little more family here, too. Your great grandma lives here, too. Maybe we can introduce you, when you're more settled." He doesn't remember, and she can't know for sure, but she can't imagine that his mother didn't tell him about Nana Dawson.

The nickname makes him smile, and it only grows wider with the rest of her words. Family… he may not remember it, but the word itself is welcoming and warm.

His subconscious surely remembers, even if he doesn’t.

“Phoenix Dawson, then. I like the sound of that,” he says, squeezing her hand on his arm. “Thanks for making this extremely weird and potentially awkward situation only slightly weird and not at all awkward, Monica.”

At least this time, it’s easier for him to avoid calling her Mom.

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