Scully doesn’t think much about Agent Doggett.
She dreams about Mulder, naked and in pain, and not for the first time wishes she hadn’t put all her friendship eggs in the Mulder basket. She doesn’t have anyone now that he’s gone. (She forces herself to use the word “gone” and not “dead,” although there is that possibility, dropping into her stomach like a stone several times a day.) She has days where she’s grateful for the breakneck pace and absurdity of the X-Files. Nothing distracts or tires her better. Other days, she contemplates resigning. She doesn’t have Mulder’s obsession with the truth. She lived twenty-four years without it, she knows she can go back to being ignorant like the rest of the world easily enough. Most importantly, she doesn’t want to place herself in any situation that could leave this miracle baby motherless.
She hadn’t strongly considered what would come after she achieved those two pink lines on the home pregnancy test. Happiness had a way of washing aside the problems in your life and leaving in their place just-so solutions. A couple daydreams had skirted across her brain before Mulder disappeared. Mulder, lifting a freshly changed infant with its froggy legs off the changing table and cooing at it. Mulder down on his belly modeling how tummy time was supposed to work, flailing like a boogie boarder. But those didn’t count as strong considerations. Maybe he wouldn’t have wanted to parent the product of their lab-joined gametes. They’d only slept together a handful of times. It seemed she would never know now if they would have had a future together as a family.
Then there’s the information that Doggett imparts to her when they first meet, the rumors he’d heard that Mulder had never really trusted her and instead chose to confide in other women in the Bureau. She hadn’t believed it for a minute, but when she learned not long ago that Mulder had been dying the entire previous year (supposedly, anyway, she never knows what to believe with him), resentment slammed down on her like a slab of concrete. All that time together and he couldn’t entrust her, knowing the breadth of her doctorly acuity no less, with the knowledge of what may have been a fatal illness. After she had let him in on her cancer, the most vulnerable experience of her life. She begins to think maybe he never did trust her. She wants to give him a piece of her mind, but of course he’s gone like the will o’ wisp. She resents herself for missing him, which she can’t seem to stop doing.
Agent Doggett settles into the X-Files easier than he expects, given how much he hates the idea of the unit at first. The FBI’s job is to keep people safe and deliver justice for those whose lives and safety have been stolen from them, not to cotton to freaks who claimed to be alien abductees. Kersh is putting him through some kind of test, though, and he has to pass if he wants to get back to the Criminal Investigative Division. Doggett figures that what Kersh really wants is for him to delegitimize the X-Files project so it can be closed down for good once Agent Mulder is found—or not found as the case may be. He wishes Kersh had just spelled that out. Doggett doesn’t care for people who say one thing and mean another. Barbara was like that, passive-aggressive.
Doggett knows Mulder’s type. Zealous. Not living in the real world. Crazy guys like that, when they disappeared, didn’t want to be found. Prior to meeting Agent Scully, he expected her to be Mulder’s cult follower, but to his surprise she wasn’t fanatical at all. Sure, she dashes a cup of water in his face the first time they meet and, sure, she buys into some of Mulder’s screwball ideas, but he admires her independent thinking. She’s tough, too, with an admixture of fragility to her strength that he wonders about.
Though she never actually says so, he knows she and Agent Mulder must have been involved. The depth of her concern for him stretches far beyond what’s partnerly. He sees the shine of tears in her eyes sometimes and looks away out of respect until her composure has reasserted itself, pretending he hasn’t noticed. He wants this job, wants it so he can return to the CID once he’s proved himself, so he doesn’t press her too much. He’s made a living reading people and knows she’ll come around once she’s known him long enough. The taciturnity mostly doesn’t bother him.
Outside of work, he doesn’t think much about Agent Scully.
On Scully’s tenth week of pregnancy, the morning sickness vanishes and a new, more complicating symptom arises: a sex drive newly reawakened. She first notices it on the Metro on a Monday morning in October, taking the Green Line as she usually does. A tall young man sits across from her with his knees crooked, reading the Post . He has sandy blonde hair in a jaunty cut, wire-rimmed glasses, and is younger than she is, twenty-five perhaps. She isn’t into younger men; Mulder, at eight years her senior, had even seemed a little on the young side once and awhile. Blame Daniel, or whatever had attracted her to him in the first place. This young guy on the Metro, though … her ovaries do a quiet somersault at the sight of him. Him , they say. We’d like to reproduce with him, thanks .
It isn’t just him though, as it turns out. The too-old-for-her Aussie in his late sixties, the one with Science and Technology who shares an elevator ride with her three or four times a month, is suddenly not just slightly cute, but drop-dead handsome. His grey hair and salt-and-pepper beard are just the traits she’s been looking for in a man.
She tries to talk her ovaries out of it. They’ve fulfilled their purpose already. It’s sitting right between them. Unfortunately, they don’t respect reason and she finds herself noticing Skinner’s broad shoulders in a way she never has before when he calls her into the office later that afternoon for a status update on Mulder’s case. She can’t get out of the office fast enough, her skin doing the creepy-crawl.
It’s bad on the Metro ride home. She rakes her eyes over hands and Adam’s apples and sneaks glances at groins, thinking, Who said women aren’t visual creatures ?
She hopes the symptom will pass quickly once whatever bath of hormones this is levels out.
Agent Doggett is out of the office with a nasty cold on Monday and Tuesday, which comes on Sunday afternoon. He sits around in his pajamas with a tissue semi-permanently shoved in the worst nostril, catching up on crappy TV that he’s too tired to make time for during the week. He goes through an entire bottle of liquid Sudafed. Had Barbara been around, she would have diagnosed the “man flu” and made fun of him. Single life had its perks.
Maybe it’s to spite her that he goes back to work on Wednesday, before he feels like it. He’s thirty minutes late when he walks in.
“Morning,” Scully says, from behind the computer screen.
“Agent Scully,” he acknowledges, beginning to unloop the scarf at his throat. Outside, it’s forty degrees and spitting an icy rain. He forgot his umbrella. Nothing makes a cold feel worse than the cold and nothing makes the cold feel worse than rain.
“You’re sick,” she says, peeping out from behind the computer monitor.
“Just a cold,” he says, hanging his scarf on the rack by the door. He unbuttons his coat.
“You should have stayed home then,” says Scully.
“Too much to do,” he says.
“You sound awful.” She looks unconvinced.
“It’s not that bad.” Her sympathy somehow makes the cold feel worse than it is.
For reasons Scully isn’t entirely clear on, other than the fact that it feels like the collegial thing to do, she shows up at Agent Doggett’s door that evening carrying two grocery bags.
“Agent Scully,” he says, when he opens the door. His surprise is evident. There’s a tissue jammed into his left nostril and he has that saggy-eyed tired look common in all sick people.
“I brought you soup. Let me in,” she says, holding up the bags as proof.
“Okay, but you didn’t have to do that.” He’s wearing a T-shirt and pajama bottoms.
“What are partners for?” she says.
“I think they’re for working with, but I never say no to food.” He plucks the tissue out of his nose. “Sorry about that, by the way. Wasn’t expecting company.”
There are six cans of Campbell’s chicken noodle soup in the bags, a few pounds of Florida oranges, oyster crackers, and a tub of Vick’s VapoRub.
“Really, you didn’t have to,” he says, watching her unpack the bags onto the counter.
“You sounded terrible earlier,” she says. “I think you should stay home tomorrow.” It feels weirdly good to worry over someone again.
“It’s not that bad,” he says.
“How do you feel?”
“Tired,” he says, leaning back against the counter and gripping the ledge with the butts of his palms. “Little achy.”
“Maybe it’s the flu,” she says. For the first time, it occurs to her that it might not have been a good idea to come around and risk exposing herself and the baby.
“Don’t think so,” he says. “I’d be in bed right now if it was. My ex-wife used to call this the man flu, though.”
“I didn’t know you were married,” says Scully, momentarily tipped off-balance by the information. It’s unlike him to volunteer anything about his private life.
“Well I’m not anymore,” he says, his smile wry. “You ever been?”
She wonders how much he knows about what went on with Mulder. “Nope,” she said. “Old maid.”
“I hope you don’t mean that,” he says. “The old part.”
She doesn’t think she did, but the single motherhood she’ll probably face in less than seven months does daunt her. Everyone else she knows with children is happily cozied up in picture-perfect Cape Cod houses with their doting spouses. Maybe that’s why she’s lost touch with them all, now that she thinks about it.
“No, I’ve got at least two years to go before I can apply for my old-maid card,” she says, trying to make her smile tell him that, no, she didn’t mean the remark.
The groceries are unpacked. She notices how clean and tidy the kitchen is. The counters are spotless. There are fresh bananas in one of those metal suspended baskets, a plastic tub of vanilla whey protein next to the microwave.
“Thanks for dropping by,” Doggett says, which she interprets as her cue to leave.
On her way toward the door, she asks, “What are you doing tonight?” It’s a pointless question since he’s in pajamas and clearly staying in.
“Watching crappy TV,” he says.
“Some show, Two Guys and a Girl . It’s garbage.”
That makes her laugh. “Why watch it?”
“Too tired to read,” he says. “Can’t concentrate.” His hand on the doorknob pauses. “ Star Trek comes on at nine, though. Voyager . You’re welcome to stay.”
“Thanks, but I’ve got to get home,” she says. It’s her go-to automatic response, implying that there’s something important waiting for her and not just an unchecked habit of complete and total introversion.
“Well I appreciate the goodies,” he says. “Maybe I’ll take tomorrow off and rest.”
“I think you should,” she says.
“Night, Agent Scully.” He looks at her like he wants to say something more.
“Goodnight, Doggett,” she says.
During the drive back home, it occurs to her that there’s no reason she couldn’t have stayed.
Agent Scully is attractive, tough, and smart as a whip, but so are most of the women he’s known in law enforcement. Smartness and resilience are the unspoken requirements of women in these old boys’ clubs, which is part of the reason he suspects Agent Scully is so reserved with him. She’s had fair share of sexism, not that there’s anything fair about it. In sum, there’s nothing that different about Agent Scully.
Except now he thinks about her outside of work.