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What's Been Going on Now That You Have Gone

Chapter Text

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.

“What kind?”

“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.

Chapter Text

Scully’s sex drive goes dormant on Tuesday, Wednesday, into the weekend, and she thinks Monday must have just been a fluke. New pregnancy symptoms have appeared. She’s burping a whole lot now. Commercials featuring children move her to tears, even if said children are grinding spaghetti into their hair or spilling cranberry juice on ivory carpets. She’s ravenous for pasta, donuts, and bread, the higher the carb count the better. Her breasts are starting to vacate her C-cups, wobbling over the tops of the cups like Jell-O, which she is not ready for. She resigns herself to going bra-shopping, but next weekend because she’s too fatigued to get off the couch. She indulges by ordering medium veggie pizza and starts sobbing halfway into her first slice because this is a Mulder Thing that they used to do together. Her only friend. The father of her child.

In her dreams, he’s splayed out naked on an operating table and she feels every nerve ending of his agony when he screams out her name.

By the following Monday, though, her fatigue and too-small bras are secondary concerns because she’s back to feeling miserably like a cat in heat. It seems that every other guy between the age of twenty and sixty turns her head. She’s getting a sense for maybe the first time in her life of how attractive men find her and she can’t help but glow when she realizes it, a glow that has nothing to do with her fecund condition and everything to do with sex. The fact that she can’t have any of them makes her howl inside. Seduction has never been one of her talents. If it had been, she would have confessed herself to Mulder five years ago rather than five months ago.

She’s been mourning his disappearance for many different reasons, but this burst of passion makes her doubly wistful because he would have provided an outlet for it. She misses his hands, his lips, his boyish immaturity, the dimples above his butt. She misses how thick he was inside her. She wishes she had more memories of them in bed to draw from, because masturbation doesn’t solve the problem. She tried last Monday, twice. The orgasms were good, but not satisfying. She was pinned beneath the spell of some kind of cock-lust that only a flesh-and-blood lover could satisfy.

I will die an old maid and never feel a man inside me ever again, she thinks, self-pitying as she walks through the scanner in the lobby of the J. Edgar Hoover Building and makes her way to the basement.

Agent Doggett is already there sitting at their joint desk, Mulder’s desk, and when he looks up at her, her eyes are a sparkle of blue.

Not him too, she thinks, getting a cold, curdling sensation. She never has to see the strangers who catch her eye she again, but Doggett is at her side forty hours out of the week, give or take.

“Agent Scully,” he says. He’s eating a bagel as he reads a pile of papers.

“Agent Doggett,” she acknowledges, hoping he can’t tell that anything is amiss.

“Everything okay?” he says.

Damn his cop’s sixth sense.

She forces one of those terrible, straight-lipped smiles that never fool anyone. “Just feeling a little under the weather. It’s nothing.”

“You sure?” he says. His voice is still a couple notes deeper from his receding cold. “Hope I didn’t get you sick.”

“No. We barely had any contact the other day. It’s not like we were kissing.” She knows she’s put her foot in her mouth even before she sees the frozen look on his face. Goddamn these hormones to hell.

“No, I don’t suppose we were,” he says, still looking taken aback.

The rest of the day, they work in silence over their piles of paper. When she thinks about where they might find Mulder, her thoughts scatter like gulls into the horizon.



Reason #1: She’s his colleague.

Reason #2: She’s Mulder’s girlfriend.

After that, he can’t think of any reason why he can’t take her out to a movie.



By Wednesday, Scully is ready to crawl out of her skin as well as her constricting bras. She’s emotional, she’s tired, she’s horny, and she can’t stop burping. Pregnant brain proves to be real indeed, because she can’t concentrate on a bit of work. When Doggett isn’t using the computer, she opens a few important files then clicks over to Minesweeper, making sure to mute the volume. She tells herself she’s letting Mulder down, but in truth she doesn’t know where to look for someone who is supposed to be aboard a spacecraft. It could be anywhere in the world right now. Anywhere in the universe, for that matter. Crying her body dry of tears hasn’t helped, so she’s putting her faith in Agent Doggett until some new insight strikes.

The minutes leading up to 4:30 drag by. She stares at blue ones, green twos, red threes and blows herself up every forty seconds. She was good at this game before she got pregnant. While she uncovers eight-bit mines, Agent Doggett is back and forth between the file cabinets with his suit jacket cast aside and his shirtsleeves rolled up all day, a sure sign that he’s onto something important.

Nothing she does these days is like the Scully she used to know. She considers whether the hormones are re-calibrating her into a superior version of herself. They’re doing an excellent job of making her more empathetic (that’s probably the oxytocin) but she’s not sure what biological purpose her scatterbrainedness and obsession with sex serve. That’s as far as she gets with that particular line of inquiry because Agent Doggett appears at her shoulder.

“Working hard?” he says.

She doesn’t even try to click away from Minesweeper, but instead groans and sinks her head onto the desk. “You caught me.”

“Thought you might want to take a look at this,” he says, shoving a folded section of newspaper under her nose.

She expects another story about a UFO sighting or abductee testimony, but instead it’s a movie directory. She flips the paper over and opens it up, but there are no obvious clues. “What am I supposed to be looking at?” she says.

“No, no,” he says, turning the paper back to its original configuration. “This page.”

“This page,” she confirms, pointing. She’s puzzled. “It’s just movies.”

“Any one catch your eye?”

“No,” she says, scanning. She tries for a few seconds more, then looks up at him. “I give up.”

“See any movies that you like?” he says.

“Any movies that I like?” There’s something she’s not getting here.

“Agent Scully, I’m asking if you want to go out to a movie,” he says.

“Agent Doggett?”

“Tomorrow night.” His features are set and he’s got that unreadable cop expression on his face, the one that ensures she isn’t going to be able to tell what this is about.



Agent Scully doesn’t want to see Meet the Parents (Doggett is relieved) or the one about the little boy who’s a ballet dancer (double relieved), but the rerelease of The Exorcist , explaining that her mother never let her watch it when she was growing up. ‘Tis the season, he figures, with Halloween a couple weeks away. He shaves and puts on jeans, a long-sleeved green shirt, and a dash of cologne, trying not to overthink his appearance.

At the multiplex theater, Scully orders a diet soda and a small popcorn and he orders a large non-diet and a large popcorn with extra butter, guessing that she’ll want more with the way her appetite has been lately. When he first met her, she sat at the desk picking at salads and fruit cups. Lately she’s graduated to impressive quantities of sandwiches, potato chips, and donuts.

They settle into their seats, a few rows back from the center. The theater is mostly empty. He did see The Exorcist once, back when it first came out.  He must have been fourteen or fifteen. Probably scared the bejeezus out of him, but he can’t remember. It isn’t too bad the second time around. Horror films don’t bother him like they did when he was a kid. He knows the actors get to go home afterwards alive and whole, unlike the people on whose dead backs he’s built a career. Agent Scully seems enthralled. He sneaks glances at her. She’ll be gripping the cowl of her sweater and holding it up to her nose at one moment, as if to shield herself, and clamping down on his upper arm with a gasp the next. Like he anticipated, she wants more popcorn and finishes half the bag for him. The best moment is when the little girl crab-walks backwards down the stairs. “Shit!” says Agent Scully and grabs his lower thigh. She leaves her hand there for a few seconds as terror paralyzes her. The pressure of it feels good. When the film ends, she slides down bonelessly in her seat and blows out a breath. “That was intense.”

It’s dark and cold when they exit the theater around six-thirty. Agent Scully had wanted to see an early showing to avoid the teenaged Saturday night crowd that would talk and cackle their way through the movie, spoiling it. “That was so fun,” she says, as they head toward his car. “I haven’t been that scared in ages.” His chest puffs a little when he hears this. When they reach his truck, he opens the passenger door and sweeps her in with an arm. She looks at him before she gets in, something unsaid in her expression.

“You hungry?” he says, as he climbs behind the wheel. She answers in the affirmative, what he’d hoped for, and he says, “What sounds good?”

“You pick,” she says.

“Okay.”

He navigates through the Saturday traffic, mostly cabs taking tourists out to restaurants and bars. Agent Scully turns the car into a confessional while he drives, piping up, “I’m actually Catholic.” He didn’t peg her for religious, but it kinda fits with the way that she asks for his faith in all the preposterous cases they’ve worked on together.

“Oh?” he says. “The movie offend you?”

“I’m not that kind of Catholic,” she says.

“What kind are you?” He stops at a traffic light and looks up at it, waiting for it to be green.

“I don’t go to Mass every week.”

“Yeah?”

“I believe it’s a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body,” she says.

“Go on.”

“I don’t believe in transubstantiation.”

“Transub what?” he says.

“That the Host turns into the literal flesh of Jesus Christ when the priest blesses it. And the wine turns into his blood.”

Doggett wants to ask if she isn’t sure the religion she’s talking about is actually voodoo, but it would be rude.

“And I think priests should be able to marry. My priest doesn’t agree with me on that.”

The light turns green. He goes.

“I don’t think birth control is a sin, either,” she says.

He’s sort of relieved to hear her explain herself. When she said she was Catholic, a red flag had rippled in his mind. Catholic-lite isn’t too bad.

“Why are you Catholic then? I mean, if it ain’t rude.” He glances over at her.

“Not rude. My mom raised us Catholic. For a long time, I didn’t think I believed and …” She paused. “Then I did again, I don’t know.”

“I think it’s something you either have or you don’t,” he says. He turns onto Columbia Road. “Faith, I mean.”

“Do you have it?” The question is curious, but not judgmental.

“No,” he said. Even if she had wanted to, his mom didn’t have time to teach them that stuff, raising two boys and working full-time.

“Mulder didn’t either,” she said, and that surprises him, the guy who believed in goat-suckers and haunted houses drawing the line at God. “I think it bothered him that I did.”

“Doesn’t bother me,” says Doggett. He takes a right into a parking lot and slows to a stop. “We’re here, Agent.”

“What’s ‘here’?” she says, squinting at the pig-shaped neon sign encircling the word BBQ. “Barbecue?”

He feels fleetingly anxious. “That okay?”

“Yes,” she says. “It sounds great, actually. I’m starving.”

“Good.”

Agent Scully releases herself from the seatbelt and opens her door before he has a chance to get it for her and he wonders if it was a misstep opening and closing it for her when he picked her up at her apartment and when they were at the movies. The restaurant is crowded, but they snag a small table for two. A waiter materializes and hands them two laminated menus.

Scully laughs. “The Federalist Pig?” she says.

“Best brisket in D.C.”

“I like the name.” Her red hair cups her face as she leans over the menu and he finds he has to look away. He scans the menu, even though he already knows he’s getting the brisket.

It’s over-loud in the joint. The laughter, conversation, clinking dinnerware, and Top 40 pop music is at total odds with patrons crouched over racks of meat like hyenas on the savannah. He gets the brisket and a bottle of Sam Adams, Scully orders a half-rack of spare ribs.

When he’s home later that evening, one arm crooked behind him on the pillow, the image of Agent Scully bent over her plate peeling meat from the bone with perfect white teeth, her fingertips smeared with sauce, stays with him. There was this totally incongruous pop song playing in the background while they ate, the female singer warbling lines like baby don’t be shy , you better cross the line , and all I want is you . He can usually eat a brisket in a single sitting, no problem, but he ended up taking half of it to go.

He’d put on a Buzzcocks singles record to drown out the all I want is yous in his head when he got home, but it turned traitor on him, too. As he was stripping out of his clothes getting ready for bed, he heard,

Ever fallen in love with someone

Ever fallen in love, in love with someone

Ever fallen in love, in love with someone

You shouldn't have fallen in love with?

He tries to wind down by picking up the copy of The Art of War he’s been rereading—he’s in the middle of “The Plan of Attack” chapter—but the words drift off of the page as he watches Agent Scully in his mind’s eye trying to clean her fingers with a napkin. She ate all six or seven ribs, plus her side of coleslaw. The feat was a heroic and a little obscene.

Ever fallen in love with someone?

On the drive back to her apartment, they talk about the bombing of the USS Cole . Even though he’s pretty sure he’s never mentioned it to her, she knows he was a Marine and wants his opinion as ex-military.

“Catch the fuckers who did it,” he’d told her. He caught the raise of her eyebrow in the flash of passing streetlight, so he’d shrugged. “Give guys like that an inch, they’ll take a mile. What happens if they take it to US soil?”

They talked the rest of the way about how the bombing might affect the outcome of the election, which was coming up fast, but once he’d put the car in park on her street, the conversation dried up.

“I had a lot of fun tonight,” Agent Scully had said.

“Good.” He’d found his throat was sandy.

“Thanks for dinner and the movie. I get to pay next time,” she’d said, smiling.

Next time was good. He swallowed. He would have liked to kiss her, but it didn’t seem right. He settled for clapping a hand on her shoulder and squeezing it before she got out of the car. “Goodnight, Agent Scully.” She’d touched his hand lightly before sliding out of the passenger seat.

“Goodnight, Doggett,” she’d said.

He rolls over on his side and sets Sun Tzu on his bedside table, giving up. The Buzzcocks keeping posing a question in his head and it’s past midnight before he falls asleep.

Chapter Text

It’s Friday and the date bobs invisibly between them like a buoy, anchored to a deeper thing Scully dares not examine. She’s glad they haven’t had to travel out of state on a case lately; she doesn’t think she could control herself.

Controlling herself during the movie wasn’t difficult. For two hours, she was sucked into a universe where Linda Blair projectile-vomited pea soup at priests and Agent Doggett didn’t exist. In the car with Doggett afterwards, though … that was hard. She could smell his cologne and wanted to lean into his neck for a better whiff. Mulder didn’t wear cologne. She’d reassured herself with the thought that she wanted to fuck half of the male population of Washington D.C. at this present moment in her life and her escalating feelings toward her partner didn’t mean anything, but then he unbuttoned his jacket at the barbecue place and she saw him wearing a Kerry green pullover with a zipper at the throat and her hormones begged to differ.

That night in bed, telling herself she would not masturbate after a date with her work partner, she looked the situation from a logical viewpoint. It was natural for her to like Doggett. He had many of the same characteristics that made Mulder such a good colleague and friend. He was smart and observant. He was protective of her and gentle, but recognized that she could handle most conflicts without a man’s intercession.

When Doggett was dropping her off last night, she’d thought that he’d wanted to kiss her, but lying in bed later she couldn’t be sure. There were equal arguments to be made for the date being platonic and it being more-than. He could have just been repaying her for bringing him food when he was sick. However, the coy way he’d asked her out tipped the scales in balance of the more-than argument. It suggested forethought. Also, he’d paid for the movie and dinner.

She sighs, tipped back in her chair.

“Okay, Agent?” says Doggett, from his position in Mulder’s chair.

She shakes her head.

Doggett says, “Anything you want to talk about?”

“I don’t think so. It’s complicated.” She stares at the ceiling, still studded with No. 2 pencils.

“I can do complicated.”

She looks at Doggett. She can’t decide if he’s playing the good colleague or if this is more-than. Regardless, she can’t tell him about the pregnancy. She can’t tell him what else is on her mind, either.

“It’s personal-life complicated,” she says, and hopes it will suffice.

“Well if you need an ear …,” he says.

His ears are elfin, folding out at the tips. She bites her lip and returns to the papers in front of her, pretending to go back to work. It’s going to be a long day.

 

Agent Doggett is first in the office on Monday and brings along a second bagel for Scully.

He’s on the “Positioning” chapter in The Art of War now, which talks about not creating advantages for your enemy, only he’s not clear on who the enemy is in this situation between him and Agent Scully. If the enemy is Agent Mulder, then Mulder has no advantages, whether he’s in an alien hovercraft or down in Colón, Panama. Gone is gone. Doggett considers the possibility that he could be his own enemy, which would make him both an army of one and an enemy of one. Nothing said stupid like trying to date colleague, after all. It would help if he knew what his strategic opportunities were—that’s another part of positioning—but he only ever sees Agent Scully in the office these days. They haven’t had a case for a couple weeks. So he positions himself on the opposite side of their desk with the bag of bagels and waits.

Asking her out on a second date wouldn’t be so hard if he’d had a clear sign that she liked him or lumped him, but true to form she’s been pretty closed-off. It mildly astonishes him that years of reading people’s body language has failed him in this instance. If he had to go with his gut, he’d say that she shows interest in him, but that doesn’t necessarily mean she wants to take it further. She might be determined to stay faithful to Mulder, in which case Mulder is the enemy and filled the strategic gap years before he got there.

“Agent Doggett,” Agent Scully says, and he jumps and looks behind his shoulder. The weather has climbed back into the mid-70s, so she isn’t wearing a scarf or coat today. She sets her purse down by the door and walks over the desk.

“Morning.” He looks down instead of up as she swishes past him, but that’s the wrong move because her legs are clad in nude hose. What he wouldn’t give. He clears his throat and offers her the bag of bagels. “I got an extra.”

“Thank you,” she says, cocking her eyebrows a centimeter and taking it. She opens the bag and looks inside. “Can I have the sesame?”

“Yeah. Got some cream cheese for you, too.”

“Thanks.” There’s a lull in the conversation as she slathers the bagel in cream cheese and takes a big bite. “I really shouldn’t,” she says, chewing. “I had a bowl of oatmeal already.”

“You don’t have to watch your figure,” he says. The comment is out before his brain can tell him to abort.

Her eyebrows pinch together. “Who says I’m watching my figure?”

He shrugs. “You used to. Well, I thought you used to. You don’t have to,” he says. “I guess it’s not my place to say. Sorry.”

She gives him an are-you-feeling-okay look, but goes back to eating the bagel and booting up the computer. For the last two weeks, Doggett has been going through all of Agent Mulder’s files about abduction for any kind of pattern. He does it because that’s what he’d do if the X-Files was real and not make-believe. So far, hundreds of files and dozens of pages of his own notes haven’t yielded any clues to Mulder’s disappearance. The reason for this is obvious. Mulder planned his own disappearance and there’s no such thing as spaceships. He knows this. The military’s oldest page in the book is sowing rumors of a conspiracy when any civilian gets too close to its projects and experiments. Sometimes they’ll make the conspiracy terrestrial, sometimes extraterrestrial. Doesn’t matter. There are always enough rubes willing to believe.

It’s only 8:30 on a Monday morning and the entire rest of the week stretches ahead of him. Something’s gotta give.

“I can’t do this today,” he hears himself say.

“Sorry?” says Scully.

“This investigation.” He pierces her with a look. “Agent Scully, I have no idea where Agent Mulder is. I feel like I’m going in circles.”

She sucks in her upper lip. He can tell it’s not what she wants to hear and he regrets not keeping it to himself.

“If you have any ideas, I’m wide open,” he says. He’s careful. “I’m not trying to let you down.”

“You’re not thinking of quitting?” she says, voice soft.

“The X-Files?” he says. The question catches him off-guard. “No. And I’m not giving up on Mulder. I just don’t know what else I can do right now. I got no leads.”

“It’s okay,” she says. “We keep going.”

“Why don’t we—” He’s not forming the question right. “After work. My place.” It just comes out without him meaning it to. Once it has, he fights the urge to explain it or excuse it.

For two or three heart-pounding beats, Scully doesn’t say anything.

“Okay,” she says.

It’s as easy as that, not even enough time to hold his breath.

“I’ll make shrimp scampi,” he says. “We’ll brainstorm.”

“I know how you feel,” says Agent Scully. It’s a weird non-sequitur. He thinks she means the whole frustration about Mulder thing, but maybe she means that other thing, the one that’s been on his mind for over a week now.

“We both need a break,” he agrees, even though that’s not what she said.



Scully rings Doggett’s doorbell at seven o’clock. She dances foot to foot as she waits for him to open the door. The evening has a portentous weight to it. She feels like she can guess what’s ahead, but it’s hard to tell through the effluvium of hormones. They could be making her imagine that this dinner is more than it is. Doggett answers the door, wiping his hands on a dish towel.

“Hi,” he says. “Come on in.”

Scully can’t help but grin when she sees him. He takes her jacket and hangs it on a hook in the foyer and accepts the bottle of sauvignon blanc that she picked up at the liquor store on her drive into Alexandria. He’s wearing a skin-tight white T-shirt and jeans, a picture she files away for a future daydream.

“Fifteen minutes ‘til dinner,” he says. “Can I pour you a glass?” He waves the bottle at her.

She’s about to say no, thinking of the baby, but there’s no harm in one glass. “Just a little, please.” Doggett stands in the kitchen and jimmies it open with a pocket corkscrew, biceps bulging as he wrestles out the cork. With him in front of her like that, Scully can’t think of anything to talk about, not the weather or the election or the upcoming World Series. She looks at her surroundings instead, trying to add more information to her sparse mental file on his life. Untoasted garlic bread waits on the counter and music plays softly on a stereo in the living room. She thinks it’s The Clash. There’s a candle burning on a low bookshelf in the living room. This is a candle dinner.

Doggett’s fingers brush the backs of hers as they exchange the hard-fought glass of wine. An involuntary thrill rushes up from her groin and blooms in her belly, a miniature mushroom cloud. Stupid progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, etc., she thinks.

“Trick is timing the shrimp, pasta, and garlic bread,” Doggett says, tucking the dish towel into his back pocket. “We’ll see if I can get the hang of it.”

Scully swirls the wine, which has the greasy silver tint of everclear. “Can I help?”

“Nah. You just stand right where you are—” She’s leaning against the counter perpendicular to where he’s working—“and be ready with the fire extinguisher if I fuck this up.” He jabs over his shoulder with a wooden spoon. There is indeed an extinguisher mounted on the side of his refrigerator. She sips the wine. It’s a sour variety that makes her mouth water.

“Do you cook much?”

“I can,” says Doggett. “I don’t usually have a reason to.”

Which means Scully is the reason to. Doggett shakes linguine into the silver pot of boiling water and gives it a few stirs. He pulls open the stove door. “Forgot to set the timer on the stove. This feel like 350 degrees to you?”

She wanders over and waves a hand close to the heat. “I think so.”

“Good.”

Instead of going back to her original position, she lingers a couple feet from the stove.

“You’re gonna give me performance anxiety,” Doggett warns, looking at her sideways as he tips a stainless steel fry pan around to melt two thick pats of butter. There are segregated piles of garlic and fresh parsley on a nearby cutting board. When the butter sizzles, he scoops up the garlic on the edge of a chef’s knife and tosses it into pan. Scully notes that the cookware is all high-quality, not the college-grade stuff that most men schlep from place to place until they get married.

This is her third time in Doggett’s house and for the first time she realizes how nice it is. There’s woodwork everywhere, polished to a high shine, from the chest-high wainscoting to the box beams on the ceiling. It seems like a big commitment for a single guy.

“Your house is nice. Did you buy it with your wife?” she says. Non-pregnant Scully wouldn’t have pried. Pregnant Scully is all about prying.

Doggett snorts. He stirs the linguine, stirs the sizzling garlic. “You kidding? Barbie would have been on this thing like a fly on shit after the divorce, pardon my language. I’m lucky we could only afford to rent in New York.” He dips down to slot the sheet with garlic bread into the stove.

“It’s a nice place,” she says.

“Thanks,” he says.

His nipples are taut under the shirt and Scully tries not to be distracted. They’re going to talk Mulder over dinner, after all. Mulder has become such a sad, tender, hopeless subject that she’d almost rather they not at this point.

“Timer,” says Scully.

“Thanks.” Doggett sets it to six minutes and pours a few glugs of wine into a glass measuring cup. The liquid steams when he pours it into the frypan. Scully takes a drink.

“Are we watching Two Guys and a Girl later?” she says.

Doggett guffaws. “I wouldn’t subject my worst enemy to that. We can see what else is on though, if you want.”

It’s not quite a flirtation, but it’s a hopeful sign. She takes another drink.

Doggett’s timing on the dinner is perfect. He has just enough time to brown the shrimp on each side before he has to drain the pot of linguine and pop the garlic bread under the broiler for some extra crispness. “Go sit down,” he says, and she flushes. Being ordered around by him is pleasurable. She finds the table set with a white tablecloth, cutlery, and water glasses. After a minute, Doggett carries a plate to her. The portion is generous and the five pounds she’s gained lately rebuke her as she sizes it up. Doggett joins her with his own plate a few moments later.

“Are you a Yankees or a Mets fan?” she says, thinking of the World Series as she saws into a jumbo shrimp. “This is delicious by the way.”

“Thanks,” Doggett says, chewing, and, “Neither. Not a baseball guy.”

This is a new and surprising fact, one that she has to prod. “Oh?”

“Just never got into it. Football, either. I wasn’t that type of kid.”

“What type of kid were you?”

“Read a lot of books. Got beat up a lot. That kinda kid.”

John Doggett’s the proverbial enigma wrapped up in a mystery. “What else don’t I know about you?” she says.

“What else don’t I know about you?” he says, turning the question back on her.

She fishes in her memory banks. “I like horror movies.”

“Nice try,” he says, poking his fork in her direction. “I know that one.”

“My favorite book is The Wind in the Willows ,” she says.

“Good book,” he says. “What else?”

“I once owned a dog who ate the face off his previous owner,” she says, enjoying the pop of his eyes.

“Whoa. And you felt safe with this Cujo?”

“He was a Pomeranian, actually. And most dogs won’t eat you unless you’re dead. This lady was.”

“Most dogs,” Doggett repeats slowly. He twirls some linguine onto his fork. “What happened to him?”

Scully pooches her bottom lip to foreshadow the sad ending. “I was on a case with Mulder and an alligator got him. Poor Queequeg.”

“Jesus,” Doggett says. “What else don’t I know about you?”

She laughs and they eat quietly for a minute or two.

“Uh, well my first serious boyfriend was twenty-five years older than me.” She’s not sure what makes her say it, except that she craves his reaction.

His fork stops mid-air. “Twenty-five?”

“I met him in med school,” she says, as if that makes it better and not infinitely worse.

Doggett looks like he wants to cross himself. “Please tell me he was a student and not a doctor.”

She laughs hesitantly. “Um, he was the attending physician.” The way he asks makes her feels cheap.

“And that didn’t strike you as possibly a bad idea?” says Doggett, his eyebrows bunching up the skin on his forehead.

“I was nineteen,” she says, feeling defensive.

“Agent, that guy was a predator!” Doggett’s jaw is practically hanging open.

“I guess I shouldn’t tell you that he was married, too,” she says, stirring what remains of her linguine and not meeting his eyes. She was still attracted to Daniel when she encountered him earlier this year, but doesn’t wholly disagree with Doggett. Learning that Daniel had been living in D.C. the past ten years just to be close to her made her feel strange.

“Yikes,” says Doggett.

“You’re thinking I have bad taste in men,” she says.

“I didn’t say that.”

“I didn’t say you said it, I said you’re thinking it.”

Doggett dabs at his mouth with his napkin and lays it down on the table. “Maybe we oughta switch the subject.”

“I’m sorry,” she say. She swirls what’s left of her wine and tips it back into her mouth.

“No, don’t be,” he says. “You were just a kid. I should be saying sorry. It ain’t my place to judge you.” He taps his fork on the edge of his plate, contemplative. “I just know the type of guy who does that is all, who goes after young girls. Met enough of them to last me a lifetime when I was on the force. They’re slime.”

Scully always felt like Daniel’s equal and never considered the power imbalances in the relationship, but when Doggett frames it this way, yeah, it is a little creepy.

“I’m not saying I’m perfect either with that stuff. That’s not what I’m saying.” He seems anxious not to offend.

“No, I see where you’re coming from.” The absurdity of the conversation hits her and she laughs. “How did we get on this, anyway?”

“Dunno. You tipsy?” Doggett says, winking.

“Not from one glass of wine, no,” she says.

“You wanna be tipsy?” he says, raising his eyebrows. “There’s more wine.”

That was definitely a flirt.

“I can’t, I’m—” She almost mentions the pregnancy. “I’ve got to drive home.”

“Ready for dessert?” Doggett tries.

She shakes her head. “Too full.”

There’s an awkward pause.

“Are we calling it a night then, or …?”

“Agent Doggett, I’m not offended,” she says, realizing that he’s worrying about what he said about Daniel. “Unless you’re trying to get rid of me.”

He shakes his head. “Huh-uh. You can stay as late as you want.”

She likes the sound of that. Another period of silence.

“You wanna talk about Agent Mulder?” says Doggett.

Mulder again. That sad, tender place within her, like a blister. She sighs. “I don’t know what there is to say,” she says. “Do you want to talk about Mulder?”

“I don’t have anything new, but we can talk about it if you want.” His voice is gentle.

“That’s okay,” she says, meaning no. “It just makes me sad. I don’t want to be sad right now.”

Doggett nods. “What can I do to make you happy?” His Adam’s apple bobs.

The sincerity starts to choke her up, but she swallows past the knot in her throat. She doesn’t want to be sad tonight, after all. “Dinner was a good start,” she says.

“What else?” he says.

Her skin prickles. Pregnant Scully wants to answer the question honestly, but she says, “I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

“I got shitty TV and a record collection.”

“Is this The Clash?” she says, inclining her head toward the direction of the music.

“Uh-huh. That’s a CD, though, not a record.” He’s standing now, picking up his plate. He collects hers too. “Get enough to eat?”

“Yes, very full. It was very good,” she says.

“I’ll send you home with the rest,” he says.

She examines him as he walks into the kitchen, back to her. The jeans aren’t as tight as the T-shirt, but her imagination does a fine job of caulking in the gaps. She’s a sodden, mixed-up mess of emotions and desires. Pregnancy, she thinks, is truly a condition of madness. “Can I pick out a record?” she says, after Doggett has rinsed the plates and returns to the dining room.

“Sure,” he says.

She scoots back her chair and follows him into the living room. She’s mesmerized by the decor, not quite believing that it’s all been curated by a heterosexual man. Antique vases in earth tones stud a credenza. There are framed watercolors and prints on the walls. The blinds are wooden. Books are heaped in piles next to the fireplace and stacked rows deep in the built-in bookcases flanking it. “You have good taste, Agent,” she says.

“Thanks.” He’s bent by the CD player, taking out the disc. His shirt has ridden up, exposing a stripe of tanned skin that she can just see herself licking.

She sits in an armchair and fans the stack of magazines on the side table, wanting to add to her Doggett esoterica. There are current issues of Esquire and Gourmet —and a bare breast on another cover. She glances over at Doggett, sees that his back is still turned, and tweaks it out of the pile. Oui: For the Man of the World . The topless woman on the front cover flashes a come-hither look. Her hair is cut in a sharp bowl. Scully heats, not at the image of the woman but the image of Doggett looking at the woman. The article titles are lurid and laughable: “Geeks Get Off: How Nerds Get Nailed” and “Clitoral Tutorial: Tongue Twirling Tips.” A giggle bursts out of her and Doggett looks up. She’s caught.

“Whoops,” she says, sliding the magazine back to the bottom of the pile and straightening the stack. She tries to compose her features, but it’s a fight with the phrase “clitoral tutorial” in her head.

Doggett walks over, flapping the CD. “I left a nudie magazine there, didn’t I?” he says.

Scully giggles. She’s having fun. “I’m sorry, I was being nosy.”

“My fault for not cleaning up better,” he says. “You didn’t need to see that.”

“It’s okay,” she says.

“Sure?” he says, standing over her. “I don’t wanna make you uncomfortable.” He clears his throat, looking more concerned than embarrassed.

“Really,” she says. “I’m an adult.”

“Yeah? Some gals get touchy about that stuff,” he says, then catches himself. “I’m not saying you’re some gal. Or that we’re—”

“Agent Doggett,” she says, squeezing his hand which is hanging limp at his side. “Stop worrying.”

There’s a definite electricity in the room now. He squeezes back. “Okay.”

“Where are your records?” she says, dropping his hand.

He inclines his head toward a shelf against the east wall of the room. “Pick your poison.”

The clock above the record table reads eight o’clock. Scully squats on her haunches. Three months from now, she thinks, she won’t be able to do this. There will be a belly in the way. Pulling out records and reading sleeves, she reviews how taken aback Doggett had seemed by her stories about Queequeg and Daniel. She wonders if he thinks she’s some madwoman. She’s not sure that she isn’t.

The records are neatly alphabetized, Buzzcocks, The Damned, Dead Kennedys, The Jam. She recognizes some of the bands, but doesn’t know any songs. Finally, when she gets to the Ps, she spots a name she’s familiar with.

“This one,” she says, holding it out to Doggett.

“You a Procol Harum fan?” he says, studying the sleeve.

“Not exactly, but I know that one song,” she says, standing. “The other records are punk, right?

“Yep,” Doggett says. “I was big into the scene when I was a kid. Eighteen, nineteen years old. Used to go to CBGB all the time. Great times.”

Scully can tell it’s a good memory by the wistfulness in his eyes. She tries to picture him with a red mohawk wearing a jacket studded in safety pins, but a young rebel doesn’t jive with the serious authority figure before her. “You’ll have to show me a picture later.”

“I can do that,” he says. He’s sliding the black disc into place on a turntable near the record shelf. “This is the US release, by the way.” When she makes a confused expression, he says, “You’d care about that if you were a record collector, Agent.”

“Dana,” she says. “We’re not at work.”

Doggett drops the needle and speakers hidden in the corners of the room hiss to life. He draws the name out jokingly—“Dayyyyy-nuh”—then clucks his tongue. “Feels weird.”

“C’mon, it can’t be that weird, John,” she says, testing out his forename on her tongue, but he’s right. It is weird.

The music pulses, undulating keyboards and slow hi-hats. It’s like velvet personified. She’d forgotten that the song was this sultry.

“Care to dance, Dana?” says Doggett.

There it is. The big move. She finds it hard to breathe. “Okay.”

He holds out a hand. She takes it and he draws her in, his other arm around her waist. She doesn’t want to look at his face yet, so she stares at their laced fingers, marveling that it can be this easy. His thumb is rubbing the side of her pointer finger. She’s hooked her arm around his shoulder without thinking, fingers brushing the warm nape of his neck and the fine hair there. She can barely believe she’s getting to touch him.

“Forgot the fog machine,” he says into her hair.

“This date is ruined, John Doggett.” Her voice is muffled by his chest. There’s his heartbeat under her cheek, soothing in a way that she can’t describe.

“This a date?” he says.

“You tell me,” she says. They sway in place on the floor.

“I was hoping it’d be,” he says, in soft tones.

She closes her eyes. It’s exciting to be this close to him at last, but also relaxing, almost meditative. For now, she just wants to hold him. She misses being held.

“What about you?” says Doggett. They begin to move in a slow circle.

She nods. “I hoped so.”

“Good.”

“What do you think this song is about?” she says, head still resting against his chest.

“Mmm,” says Doggett, thinking. “It’s a guy. In love with a girl. And he’s trying to protect her. What do you think it’s about?”

“I think it’s a love song. The guy’s a poet.”

“How’s it end?”

She shakes her head. “Not happily.”

“Why not?”

“I think she doesn’t know how much he loves her. She’s young and stupid. I picture her as one of those self-absorbed girls, the really pretty ones. She’s too self-absorbed to care.”

“You’ve got a good imagination.”

She looks up at him at last. His eyes are blue. She studies them and he swallows hard.

“You’re making me nervous,” he says.

“C’mon, I’m not that scary.” She gives him a non-scary smile to demonstrate.

“I don’t know about that,” he says.

“What if I did this?” She tips up on her toes and pecks him on the lips. His muscles tense. “Still scared?” she says.

“Dana, like you wouldn’t believe.”

She closes her eyes and stretches up again, but pulls back when she finds his lips still unyielding.

“Is everything okay?” she says, excitement sinking. Maybe he’s too honorable to let this go further.

He unlaces their fingers and presses the flat of her hand to his chest. “Feel this?” His heart is pounding.

“It’s only me,” she says.

“That’s the problem,” he says. His arms encircle her and she rearranges hers across his back. They pendulate in a slow circle again.

“How can you be nervous? You’re ex-NYPD,” she says. His shirt smells of laundry detergent and a warm, manly undertone.  

“Yeah, but I never kissed any of my crooks if that’s what you’re implying,” he says, giving her back a friendly pinch.

“You’re going to have to get over it.” Flirting with him is easy, easier than she thought it would be.

“You bossing me around?”

She looks up at him. He wants to kiss her, she can tell. “Yes.”

“Hmm.”

The keyboards and the singer build to a crescendo and the hi-hats crash. It’s perfect. Doggett cradles the back of her neck and moves in. She pushes her arms higher up his back so she can get a good angle. She takes his top lip and he takes her bottom, and it’s the best kiss she’s had in a long, long time.

When they pull back, he grins and says, “Boss me some more.”

“Use your tongue this time.”

She doesn’t have to ask twice. He groans as he gives it to her, fingers digging into her back. Three weeks’ worth of unfulfilled desire liquidizes her body and her heart does a skippy dance.

The music has trailed off and faded into a different song, but she hardly notices. She is tasting John Doggett’s tongue. After a couple minutes, the angle starts to strain her neck and she releases his mouth. He pulls her close and rests his chin on the top of her head.

“What now, boss?” he said.

There’s only one thing on her mind. She steps back and tugs at his hand. “Let’s find your bedroom.”

She remembers that it’s upstairs. They were investigating a cult case a few weeks back and she couldn’t reach him to let him know that their suspect had died. After eight years on the X-Files, nothing made her more anxious than her partner not answering his phone during normal daylight hours. She’d found the door of his two-story bungalow open and let herself inside, getting a flutter of dread in her gut. Nine times out of ten, an unlocked door meant an intruder had been on the premises. And when she called for him, she got no response. She’d checked in all the first-floor rooms, then mounted the stairs. She heard Doggett moaning even before she reached his bedroom door. At least he’s still alive , she’d thought, but to her relief he wasn’t injured, just sweating and tangled in his sheets, having what looked to be one heck of a nightmare. After she shook his shoulder and he came to, he’d credited her with saving his life. She remembered thinking that the case had really affected him. It was one of the few times he hadn’t seemed completely skeptical of other possibilities. She’d never expected to be back in his bedroom so soon, and for present reasons.

They have to stop and kiss in the dining room on their way to the bedroom, then stop and kiss at the foot of the stairs.

“I wish I hadn’t eaten so much,” she says, looking up the stairs and considering what’s ahead.

Doggett, who seems to have gotten over his case of nerves, is running his hands up and down her spine. “Why’s that?” he says, kissing her temple. His hands are warm.

“I’ll be bloated,” she says.

He snorts. “You? You’re the tiniest thing I’ve ever laid eyes on.”

She grumbles, thinking about pasta belly on top of those new five pounds. Doggett crouches and slips an arm under her butt before she can do anything other than scream out. He hefts her up and she scrambles for his neck, clinging to it like a heroine in a historical romance novel.

“John!” she protests.

He grins. “See? Light as a feather.”

He begins walking up the stairs and she Johns him again, but this time she’s laughing. “You are insane,” she says.

“Where to now, m’lady?” he says, when they arrive upstairs.

“You tell me,” she says, scanning her surroundings from his arms. It’s dark.

“How’s this strike your fancy?” He turns right and there’s his bed shining in the moonlight like a scene out of a movie.

“Getting tired of holding me up?” she teases.

“Nah,” he says, eyes twinkling. “But we can’t hide the cannoli from this position.”

“Hide the cannoli?” she says, and shakes with laughter. “John Doggett, this date is over.” She’s laughing so hard that it barely registers when he swings her onto the bed. He climbs over her shaking form, boxing her in with his forearms. “Oh god, I can’t believe you said that.” She laughs and puts her hands over her eyes.

He bends his head and says into her ear, “At least I didn’t suggest playing in the box that the kid came in.”

“Oh please stop,” she says, a fresh round of laughter bubbling out of her. She’s starting to get tears in her eyes.

“Wanna hear some more?” he says. “We could stir guts.”

“I have stirred real guts and it is not sexy. Please do not bring guts into this bed,” she says, wiping tears.

“It’s my bed,” he says, grinning down at her.

“No guts!” she says.

“What do you propose instead?”

“How about pillow talk that doesn’t involve organs and Italian pastries?” she says. She hasn’t laughed this hard in months.

Doggett plops down to the right of her and moves her onto her side so he can draw her close, spooning her. “I’m out of practice with the dirty talk,” he says.

“You don’t say,” she says. Her giggles subside and she holds his big hand, stroking the back of it and noticing his nails are neatly cut.

“I know what I’d like to do,” he says.

“Oh?” she says. Her skin heats up a degree or two.

“Like to fuck you,” he says, into her neck.

She whimpers involuntarily. “Go on,” she says, arching her neck.

He sucks it, tongue laving, breath pushing hot out of his nostrils. “Hadn’t gotten past that part. Anything you were hoping for?”

“I want to see you in this,” she said, lofting his wrist to indicate his gold watch. “With nothing else on.”

“Yes ma’am.” He applies his mouth to her clavicle.

She’s greedy for him and her body, the primal part of it that doesn’t understand she’s already made a baby, tells her that she can’t wait much longer and to dispense with the foreplay. She usually loves foreplay. And she does love his mouth on her skin. But it’s not enough.

“John.” She wriggles onto her back and pushes him back so she can sit up.

“You okay?” He looks so worried that she has to plant kisses all over his cheeks.

“Yes. I want to fast-forward a little bit.”

Doggett’s eyes flash and he wets his lips. “Okay.” His voice sounds more gravelly than usual. He slips off the side of the bed and stands and starts to unbutton his jeans.

She reaches for him. “Can I?”

He removes his hands and holds his palms up in surrender. “Be my guest.”

She hooks her legs over the side of the bed and pulls him between her knees by his belt loops. She’s now mouthwateringly close to the tracing of his erection against the denim. She pulls down his zip and tugs the jeans around his thighs, and he takes an open-mouthed breath above her. Even though her hormones are telling her to get a move-in, she has to pause to kiss the golden hair around the hollow of his navel. There’s no fat beneath the skin, just muscle. She helps him step out of the jeans and makes him peel off his socks; when she said nothing but the watch, she meant nothing but the watch. He leans down and steadies himself on her shoulders so she can remove his shirt. He has a smallish tattoo on his left forearm, a symbol she can’t make out in the shadows.

“Better get the last part over with. You’re making me antsy again,” he says.

“Why?” She smiles up at him, allowing herself the indulgence of cupping his buttocks.

“Because I dunno what’s going on inside that red head of yours,” he says. “Us guys are—sensitive, you know.”

“About?”

“You know what,” he says in a don’t-give-me-that-bullshit tone, narrowing his eyes.

“This?” she says, addressing the object on which his boxers are hanging, flaglike.

“Dana …” His tone is scolding, but not serious.

She pulls the boxers down and he kicks them off his toes.

Nothing but the watch.

The sight is just as good as she expected. He seems to pick up that she just wants to look at him for a moment and takes a couple steps back. Sensitive my foot , she thinks, smiling. There was no way on earth she was going to believe that he was insecure about that . Every inch of his body is unbelievable. She’ll take her time with it later, though.

She shifts and they trade places without exchanging a word. She starts unbuttoning her blouse, unable to think of anything except sinking down on that glorious penis.

“Slower,” Doggett urges. His hands are flat on his thighs and he’s watching her with predatory eyes.

She raises an eyebrow and stills her fingers. “ Oui ,” she says.

He doesn’t catch the joke. His eyes are riveted on her as she detains the activity of her fingers. The blouse is still open in no time. Not quite sure how to proceed with the striptease, she pushes her breasts out a little as she draws her arm from each sleeve of the blouse, hoping the effect is sexy. A moment of inspiration makes her turn around when she pushes the jeans off her hips, knees bent in a little Betty Boop curtsy. She’s starting to get the hang of this. Stepping forward and straddling his left leg between her knees, she pushes the bra straps down over her shoulders.

Doggett makes a fuzzy noise in his throat.

Scully reaches an arm behind her and releases the hook-and-eye clasp. She holds the bra to her chest as she wriggles her arms out of the straps and Doggett’s eyes track her chest, expectant. She steps a little closer and lets the bra tumble from her chest at his eye-level.

“God, woman,” he rasps. He stares his fill. When his eyes flicker down to her groin, she grabs the cue, hooking her thumbs into her underwear and shimmying it down a couple inches. She lets the effect linger for a few moments before exposing another inch, the fluff of her pubic hair peeking over the top of the cotton. Again, she allows the image time to percolate before pulling her underwear all the way down.

“Dana.” Doggett reaches for her, but instead of kissing or tonguing or touching when he has her around the waist, he merely rests his cheek against her ribcage. His chest isn’t quite heaving, but the breaths that lift it are deep.

“Can we?” she says.

He nods. He leans into a bedside drawer, feels around, and comes out with a wrapped condom. As a doctor, she knows not to assume someone’s STI status, so she doesn’t object to the courtesy. She’s surprised when he nudges the condom between her fingers, though.

“Will you?” he says. “Turns me on.”

For that confidence and the jet of heat it sends between her legs, he earns another kiss with tongue. She slits open the foil and presses the folded condom to the head of his penis, rolling it down with short strokes. He groans.

“On your back,” she says, leaning in so she can whisper it.

He draws his knees up and moves into the center of the bed. She follows and climbs astride him. They look at each other for the space of a few seconds, then she takes him in hand. He sucks in a breath as she rubs him against herself, passing some of her lubricant to him. She glides down. His hands fly to her hips and he moans.

He fucks her fast and hard, making the most amazing sounds. For the first time in three weeks, she feels fulfilled. She feels so good. He’s so good inside her that she wants it to last all night. This is all I ever want , she thinks, feeling like a woman, like a lover, like Gaia. This is her purpose. This is why she was put on the earth. Long before she’s ready to release her body’s claim on him, Doggett shouts his release, gripping the flesh of her waist and buttocks so hard that in the morning she knows she will find bruises.

Chapter Text

Scully is lying across his chest in a patch of moonlight and he’s stroking the side swell of her breast, feeling drunk with satisfaction, when she says out of nowhere, “I’m pregnant.”

He’s so stunned, he can only manage, “You’re kidding.”

“No.” Her blue eyes are searching his, looking for something. Maybe pardon.

He groans and pulls his hand away from her breast. “Is it Mulder’s?” Fifteen seconds ago, he didn’t want to be anywhere else in the world. Now he feels like slinking under the bed and hiding from her.

“Yes, but it’s not like that.” There’s indignation in her voice.

Sure. That’s what all women said before breaking your heart.

“I said it’s not like that.” She pulls out of his arms.

“I heard you the first time.” He sits up.

“Why are you being a jerk about this?” she says, looking incredulous.

The accusation angers him. He’s the one who should be upset. “How’d you think you’d feel, if you were me?”

She falls quiet and considers the question. “You’re jealous of Mulder.”

“Yeah? Why wouldn’t I be?” he says, not trying to disguise his bitterness. “You’re the most gorgeous lady I’ve met in my life. I would never have done this if I’d have known you were having his kid.”

“I told you, it isn’t like that,” she says, voice flat.

“So what is it like?” he says.

“Mulder and I aren’t together. We never have been. I mean, it’s never been official,” she says. “I wanted to have a baby and I asked if he would be my donor.”

His brain does that dopey “oh” thing.

Oh .

“I can’t get pregnant on my own. I had to do in-vitro.” She looks sad.

Now doesn’t he feel stupid.

“God, I am so sorry, Dana,” he says. “C’mere.” She lets him pull her into a hug and he kisses the top of her head. “I had no idea.”

“Didn’t you? I thought you read all the files in the office.” Her breath warms the crook of his shoulder.

He nods. “Yeah, but not the parts that were getting into your medical stuff. I skipped over them. Didn’t seem right.”

Scully sighs. “When I was kidnapped, they harvested every single one my eggs. Mulder found them in storage somewhere, I don’t know how,” she says. “God, I know how crazy that sounds. I know it doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Nothing about the situation, frankly, makes a whole lot of sense. He remembers the file about her kidnapping. Mulder alleged that the government was behind it and Scully had signed off on the conclusion, seemingly without a second thought. Doggett knew the government was capable of a lot of nasty things, but he had a hard time wrapping his head around that one. Scully was one of their own agents. But the unbelievability didn’t seem to matter in the present moment, not when he had her naked in his arms and she was pouring out her vulnerabilities to him.

“You should have told me,” he says. “I would have been more careful with you just now.”

“It’s completely safe for a woman with a healthy pregnancy to have sex,” Scully says, smiling and stroking his back.

“But I sort of grabbed you.” He touches her. “Right there.”

“Those are my hips. They’re nowhere near my uterus.” She laughs. “Don’t be sorry, I’ve needed that for weeks now.”

“What did Mulder plan to do? After the baby?” he says. He has so many questions.

He feels the brush of her eyelashes as she closes her eyes against his skin. “We never got a chance to talk about it. I didn’t think the in-vitro had worked. I took three pregnancy tests and they were all negative. I was completely devastated. I only found out the night he went missing.”

“That you were pregnant,” he says.

“Yes.”

He strokes her hair. “That’s tough. You could have told me.”

She squeezes him. “I didn’t want to scare you off or to have you treat me like I can’t do my job. It’s bad enough that Skinner knows. He’s been acting like I’m made of glass.”

“Skinner knows?”

“Yes, and he is sworn to secrecy.” She lifts her head and he looks down at her. “You are too. I haven’t even told my own mother.”

“Stick a needle in my eye,” he says. He makes a conscious effort to suppress his upwelling of questions. “You up for some dessert? I got cherry pie and ice cream.”

They sit on the couch with their bowls, the vanilla ice cream melting into a white slick beneath the slices of pie, and watch the nightly news. Scully has pilfered his boxers and T-shirt, and he’s pulled on a pair of clean pajama pants. Sitting next to her is comfortable and he likes watching her eat. When she’s done, she curls up in his arms and his heart swells. It throws him for a loop how fast things can change. That morning they’d been two trepidatious colleagues. He wonders how long it can last. If Mulder knew that Scully was pregnant, he might catch the first plane back to Ronald Reagan from wherever it was that he was hiding out. Of course, it’s ridiculous to presume that he has any claim on Scully over Mulder. She likes him fine, but not like she likes Mulder.

He knows that this thing with her can only end in heartbreak. But when she falls asleep in his arms full of ice cream and cherry pie, he’s happy to take her on temporary loan.



Agent Franz knocks on the frame of basement door the next morning and although they’re nowhere near each other, Scully and Doggett both jump. Guilty thoughts , Scully thinks.

“Knock-knock,” Agent Franz says with a smile. “Didn’t mean to scare you. Are you guys coming tonight?”

“Pardon?” says Doggett.

“To my Halloween party.” She narrows her eyes. “You didn’t forget.”

“‘Course not,” Doggett says. His blue eyes are guileless.

“So are you coming?” says Agent Franz.

“Absolutely,” Scully says. “Seven o’clock, right?”

“117 West Maple,” says Agent Franz, giving them a wink.

“Nice save,” Scully says to Doggett, when they’re sure Agent Franz has gone.

“We really going?” he says.

“We probably should. I never go to her parties.” She likes that there’s a we now.

“I don’t have a costume,” Doggett says, tapping a pencil on the desk.

“Lots of ideas in the files,” says Scully, gesturing at the file cabinets.

“Hah! Like they don’t think I’m weird enough for working down here.” He points the pencil at her. “What about you?”

“Oh, god. I don’t know. I think I have a poodle skirt somewhere. I haven’t been to a Halloween party since college.”

“Oh.” He sounds disappointed.

“What?”

“Well …,” he says. “I was kinda hoping for something sexy. Sexy nun, maybe.”

“John.”

“What?” His face is open and innocent.

“You’re terrible.”

“I am a red-blooded man, Agent Scully. I make no apologies.”

The red blood was in plentiful evidence that morning when she’d woken up to the sound of his alarm at 5:30 and he’d pulled her close, thrusting against her backside. She’d wanted to, god had she wanted to, she’s been squirming all morning thinking about it, but there was rush hour traffic to consider. Doggett suggested they save a few minutes showering together, but she knew they’d be an hour late to work if that happened. Reluctantly, she’d played the adult. There was kissing on the way out the door, though, which somewhat made up for the deferred sex even if she did have to wear her outfit from the day before again.

Generally, Scully feels a lot less guilty about the whole situation than she’d expected to.

Yes. Having sex with Doggett makes her feel disloyal to Mulder. That goes without saying. Even before Mulder was abducted, though, it was so hard waiting for him. Living in the moment and having her desire slaked by a funny, good-looking, intelligent man, after being resigned to spending the rest of her pregnancy miserable and sex-obsessed, makes her giddy with joy. Maybe it’s just the hormones talking, but she feels like she deserves it after seven years of near starvation.

“I have a costume idea for you,” she says to Doggett.

He looks skeptical, but at six o’clock he’s paging the intercom outside her building half an hour earlier than she’d told him. She’s still tying a floppy black bow in her hair and hasn’t applied her lipstick yet.

He’s wearing his trench coat with the belt drawn, but it isn’t long enough to cover his calves and she can see he’s obeyed her command to wear long johns.

“Hi,” he says, looking her up and down. His expression is appreciative. She closes the door and he grabs her by the waist and twirls her so that the poodle skirt lifts like a parachute. When he puts her down, he bends down to give her a long kiss. It’s a good one, wet and urgent. His teeth bump hers. It makes her consider unzipping the poodle skirt and tearing the blouse off without undoing the buttons first, but she spent a long time ironing both.

“John,” she says, as he sucks a path down the side of her neck. It still feels strange to call him John.

“Hmm?”

She strokes the short hair at the back of his head. “We aren’t going to make it out of here tonight if you keep doing that.”

“Might be my point,” he says, moving up to breathe the words hotly in her ear and smiling.

Everything south of her navel goes to jelly. “John.”

“That’s my name.”

“I just spent an hour dyeing two pounds of medical gauze with tea and drying it.”

“And your point?”

She’s never been kissed behind the ear before, but it’s heavenly. “Later,” she says, putting her hands on his chest and pushing him away, even though it goes against her body’s every instinct.

“Now’s good,” he tries.

“Later.” She’s firm.

“Alright.” He steps back and unties the belt of his coat. Any other man might have looked absurd in a white T-shirt and long johns, but John Doggett looks like sex incarnate.

“If it weren’t Halloween, I woulda arrested myself for going out like this,” he says. He glances at the pile of medical gauze on her kitchen table. “I assume you’re planning to mummify me?”

“Brain hook and all,” says Scully.

Doggett holds out his arms, scarecrow-like. “Better get started then.”

She doesn’t start with his arms, though. She knots a loop of gauze at his left ankle and wraps her way up his leg. His calf isn’t a problem but the doric column of his thigh, strong and muscled, gets her. If she had known wrapping Doggett from head to toe in gauze was going to be so erotic, she would have let him choose his own costume. Or blown off the party entirely.

“You’re a little quiet down there,” says Doggett. “Everything check out, Sweet Little Sixteen?”

“So far so good,” she says. It’s not like her to feel this lecherous. Pregnancy is so weird and unpredictable, it should be its own X-File, she thinks.

She gets the first leg wrapped and then the other, managing to keep her composure around his second thigh, but the next area is her undoing. She hadn’t taken into consideration how she was going to wrap up his groin and butt and still retain her sanity.

Doggett with his cop’s psychic powers has noticed. “Painted yourself into a corner?”

“I should make you wrap this next part yourself,” she says.

Doggett laughs. “I wouldn’t dream of it. This was your idea. I’m just going to stand here and be good.”

“Oh, you think I’m that weak?” she says, smirking at him. “I will have you know I’m a doctor. I can be completely professional.”

A smile ripples across his lips. “I’m keeping my mouth shut. Just leave me an opening to pee, okay?”

If he hadn’t turned it into a challenge, she probably would have lost control. Last night had been fast and frantic, with very little touching and exploring. Tonight she not only has to wrap every inch of his legs, she has to touch both of his buttocks and criss-cross gauze around his genitals. As she expects, he gets an erection almost as soon as she moves into sensitive territory. She doesn’t want to give him the satisfaction of caving first, so she pretends it doesn’t exist. After several torturous minutes, she arrives at the plane of his abdomen. Then she wraps toward his chest, knotting when she runs out of a roll and grabbing another. The muscles of his shoulders and biceps prove to be sexually difficult too, as does the golden chest hair peeking out the collar of his V-neck T-shirt. He’s closed his eyes now and the erection hasn’t gone away.

“How are you doing?” she teases. They haven’t said a word to each other for the past ten minutes.

“Doing just fine,” he says, a bald-faced lie. “How are you doing?”

“Me? I’m great.” She ties a knot at his left wrist.

“Good.”

The other arm now. It’s as exquisitely shaped as the arm of Michelangelo’s David. She wraps three horizontal strips, crosses them with an X, does three more horizontal strips, then another X. When she’s done, she kisses the butt of his palm. In response, he cups her face and runs a thumb along her cheekbone. He’s looking into her eyes and what she sees there shoots splinters of fire down her pelvis.

“I need to go put lipstick on,” she says.

The thumb on her cheek brushes her lips.

Before her reason has a chance to catch up with impulse, she’s letting herself be pushed back on the kitchen table amidst spare rolls of gauze. Doggett is between her legs and his hands are on her thighs, up under her skirt. His tongue is in her mouth and so is his desperate, panting breath. He’s rasping, “Want you. Want you so fucking bad.” The last of her resolve abandons her. She wants to be taken like this. Needs to be taken like his. He’s guiding her pantyhose down her hips and she’s extricating his penis from his long johns when there’s a knock on the door.

They spring apart, Doggett with an oh-shit expression on his face. The first person she thinks of is Mulder, even though the thought is absurd. Still. Far stranger things have happened.

“Coming!” she says, scrambling off the table and straightening her nylons. Doggett is disappearing toward the bathroom. She feels drunk and unsteady as she hastens to the mirror to check herself out before she answers the door. The bow is askew and her hair is mussed. She fixes both, glad she hasn’t put on lipstick. Doggett’s assault on her mouth would have destroyed it.

She peers through the peephole and is surprised to see her neighbor Bonnie.

“Trick or treat!” a boy and girl say in unison, when she opens the door

“Dana,” says Bonnie with an apologetic smile. “I hope we’re not imposing. Alexis insisted you told her you’d have candy.”

“Alexis told you right,” Scully says, with a smile. With pregnancy brain has come uncharacteristic forgetfulness. Even though there’s a bag of mixed miniature candy bars on her counter, she completely forgot she was expecting them. “Here, come on in for just a second. I’ll let you take a handful.”

Alexis is a ballerina and Zac is Batman. They troop through the door without a moment’s shyness.

“I like your costumes,” she says to the children, stepping back into the kitchen. To Bonnie, she says, “Where are you going next?”

Bonnie tells her about the route they plan to take through the neighborhood while Alexis twirls around her mother’s legs and Zac touches things he isn’t supposed to in the hutch where Scully stores dishes. She hears the toilet flush and the bathroom door opens moments later.

“Hey,” says Doggett, when he sees them. Scully’s relieved to see that he’s decent.

“Mummy!” Zac says, pulling his Batman mask up onto his forehead to get a better look.

“John Doggett,” he says, holding out his hand to Bonnie. “I’m Dana’s colleague.” To Zac, he says, “What’s the latest in Gotham City?”

“Is that your boyfriend?” Alexis says, tilting her head up to look at Doggett and scrunching her nose.

“Alexis!” says Bonnie, in the middle of shaking Doggett’s hand.

Scully’s mouth quirks.

“Nah, we’re just friends, kiddo,” Doggett says.

Bonnie doesn’t look like she buys the “just friends” for a minute. But Scully can tell she’s intrigued by him. She’s only ever seen Scully with Mulder.

“I got Mr. Freeze. I got the Penguin. Now I’m going to get the Joker!” says Zac, to Doggett’s question.

Doggett whistles. “Joker’s the worst one out of all of ‘em. You gotta be careful with him, Batman. Keep your wits about you.”

“You want to pick out some candy?” Scully says, mindful of the time. She opens the bag of miniature candy bars and the kids dive in, not heeding their mother’s protests. “Don’t worry,” she says to Bonnie. “I think you’re my only trick-or-treaters.” Bonnie protests about the sugar, but there’s no stopping Alexis and Zac. Their mother finally pries them away from the bag and herds them toward the door, and Scully and Doggett see them out.

“That’ll be you someday,” says Doggett, when they’re gone.

“Yeah, I guess you’re right,” Scully says. It doesn’t seem real. She wonders if Mulder will be back by the time their son or daughter is old enough to pick out a costume for themself and she wonders if Doggett will still be around then. “You’re good with kids,” she says, thinking of the way he’d engaged with Zac.

A look passes over his face. “That’s what they tell me,” he says.

She doesn’t know what the look is.

“Ready to go?” he says, putting a hand on her shoulder.

She nods, thinking about a child of Mulder and Scully on Halloween night in the distant future.

Chapter Text

Agent Franz’s place is crowded and noisy. Doggett only half-recognizes the attendees, dressed as pirates, flappers, cowboys, witches, and in one case a giant banana. He shepherds Scully in with a hand on the small of her back and Agent Franz meets them at the door. She hugs Scully and takes their coats.

“C’mon, there are drinks in the kitchen,” she says.

They thread their way through the crush of costumed bodies. The music gets louder as they pass the living room. Genesis is playing and an Elvira is dancing with the banana. He figures he should probably take the hand off the small of Scully’s back, but it feels good to mark her as his in a small way, even if she isn’t.

“I’ll just take a Coke,” Scully says, in the kitchen. The kitchen island is laden with drinks and finger foods. Scully makes a beeline for the orange-frosted cupcakes with tiny paper ghost toothpicks jabbed into them.

Agent Franz hands him a cold beer, a Corona, and he sucks half of it back gratefully. It’s hot in the house. “Nice mummy costume,” she says to him, smirking.

“Agent Scully’s idea,” he says.

Scully’s taking a bite of cupcake and waves to indicate responsibility. She’s adorable in her bobby soxer get-up and his heart soars. Even if she’s just his for tonight, it’s worth it. He tips the beer back again, enjoying himself.

“I’m glad you came,” says Agent Franz to Scully. “You never came when you worked with Mulder.” Scully frowns over her half-eaten cupcake and Doggett can tell she wants to object, but Franz has moved onto the next topic. “So where is Mulder, anyway?”

“That’s an open investigation, Agent Franz. We couldn’t tell you even if we wanted to.” The voice belongs to AD Skinner, who is reaching across the island to help himself to a beer. He’s dressed in a Roman toga with a purple sash, one shoulder and part of a pectoral muscle bare. There’s a sprig of laurels behind one ear.

“Skinner,” says Doggett, giving a nod. He didn’t expect to see him here.

“I know, I know,” says Agent Franz. “I shouldn’t ask. I’m bad.”

Scully is staring at Skinner with her lips doing a funny contortion. Doggett can tell she’s trying not to laugh. “Plato?” she tries.

“Caesar,” says Skinner drily, who can tell he’s being mocked.

“Julius or Augustus?” says Doggett.

“Augustus,” Skinner says.

The doorbell rings and Agent Franz goes to answer it, which Doggett is grateful for. Conversations about Mulder, especially when there’s alcohol involved, can only go badly. Now it’s Madonna on the speakers in the living room, bubbling about being a material girl.

“Why do we have to listen to this crap?” says Doggett, noticing it. “Wasn’t living through it once enough?”

“Only boys that save their pennies make my rainy day,” Skinner says, deadpan.

Scully howls and they both gape at her. Then they start laughing too. When Scully’s recovered, she says, “I didn’t think I’d be having this much fun.”

Skinner smiles. “I’m glad to see you two out,” he says. “Case going okay?”

Doggett shrugs and sets his empty beer on the island. “Not much new to go on.”

Skinner nods, tilting his own Corona to his mouth. Doggett grabs another one. “That’s okay. Something’ll come up,” Skinner says.

As the night wears on, Doggett forgets about Mulder. They talk Roman history with Skinner. Scully has two more cupcakes. Doggett tells her about the hamster-pelt Gucci suit mentioned in yesterday’s Post and she laughs so hard she cries. It’s good to see her let go. Later, she dances with Skinner on the living room floor to Duran Duran’s “Rio,” pink poodle skirt twirling around her calves. Two female agents from CID that Doggett hasn’t seen in months strike up a conversation with him while he’s watching Scully dance with their togaed assistant director. The agents are dressed as some kind of sexy fairy things and are very drunk and flirtatious. Buzzed himself, he enjoys the attention, but even the two of them together aren’t half as captivating as Dana Scully.

“Agent Doggett?”

He’s in the middle of story about tackling a drunk, belligerent suspect and the fairies are giggling. Scully has appeared at his elbow. He can see at once that she’s jealous and he feels a little guilty.

“Doing okay?” he says, rubbing her upper arm.

Her forehead is shiny from dancing. “Want to dance?”

“I’d love to. Pardon me,” Doggett says to the fairies, who exchange looks.

In the living room, Scully puts her hands on his shoulders and he’s thinks the move is probably a little too much. She wasn’t touching Skinner. People are going to start talking. Nonetheless, he won’t deny her and both of his hands go to her waist. The Genesis song (he isn’t sure which one, they all sound the same) fades. The next song up in the Eighties Tunes You Never Wanna Hear Again in Your Life playlist is “Wake Me up before You Go-Go” by Wham!, which he has always deeply hated.

“This song is garbage,” he tells Scully.

“Don’t care,” she says, grinning.

They shimmy across the carpet and with Scully hanging on his neck, he decides the song isn’t as terrible as he remembers. He can’t dance for shit, but his two left feet don’t seem to matter to Scully. She rocks her shoulders and hips from side to side in time to the music. With her in close proximity again, he’s starting to think that it may be time to leave the party. When the song ends, he bends to whisper as much in her ear. He notices Skinner watching them as they collect their coats and slip out.



“Why’d you have to wrap me so much?” Doggett says, against her lips. He has her pinned against the credenza in the foyer and doesn’t seem to care that all the neatly lined vases on top of it have fallen over. “We’re never going to get this stuff off.”

She’s drunk off him. Every blood vessel in her body feels dilated. “Find me some scissors,” she says.

He rummages in the kitchen and comes back with a pair. “I’m not sure how I feel about handing these over,” he says, teasing. “Sure you’ll be careful?”

“Promise,” she says, taking them. “Upstairs?”

“Upstairs,” he says.

There’s cloud cover and no moonlight tonight, and Doggett turns on the table lamps on either side of his bed.

“Lay down,” she says.

He raises his eyebrows, but he’s smiling again and she can tell he doesn’t mind following orders. When he’s positioned on top of the blanket, which is tucked and straightened with military precision, she crawls into the bed and kneels at his feet.

“Careful where you’re cutting,” he says.

“Ha ha,” she says, rolling her eyes. She slides the shears under the gauze at his ankle and cuts an upward path. When his calf in long johns is uncovered again, she stops to massage it. It’s thick and muscular. “Do you run or lift weights?” she says.

“Weights,” he says.

“You know, I don’t know very much about you at all,” she says. “You got to ask me questions yesterday.”

“All you have to do is ask,” Doggett says.

She realized last night that his bed is full-sized, a bed for one, which stirred her to pity for some reason. His bachelor’s bed is yet another detail in the Doggett mystery. Although she peeked at his file when he was first assigned to the X-Files, she doesn’t know where he grew up, how long he was in the Marines, or when he traded his NYPD badge for an FBI name tag.

“What do you like in bed?” It’s a question that the old Scully probably wouldn’t have had the courage to ask, but pregnant Scully doesn’t waste time guessing.

Doggett laughs and knits his hands behind his head. “As long as there’s a pretty lady doing it, I like it.”

“No preferences?” She works the scissors up his thigh.

“Oh, there are preferences. I’m just not picky.” His tone is jocular.

“Which you’re not going to tell me,” she deduces.

“There are ways of finding out,” he says.

Scully moves the scissors to his hips, careful not to catch the fabric of his long johns or the flesh beneath. She fans out the gauze when she’s done to make sure she’s cut it all. Left leg down. She’s surer of herself and the right leg goes quicker. Doggett has grown quiet and is watching her.

“Am I finding out yet?” she says, when she catches him.

“I’m not saying,” he says.

She threads her fingers under the gauze and protects his groin with her hand. The metal of the shears is cold on the backs of her fingers as she slices. Doggett squirms and lifts his hips just a little. She’d been upset when she saw him holding court with two floozies in Agent Franz’s kitchen. It hit her then that she didn’t just want to be in his bed, she wanted his undivided attention, too. Carrying Mulder’s baby means that, in fairness, she can’t claim John Doggett. And yet … She wants to know what the twelve-years-older Doggett was doing in the 1980s when she was busy being a dumb teenager who listened to Wham!, The Pet Shop Boys, and other garbage, as he’d called it. She wants to know why he’s divorced and if he’s dated anybody since. She wants to know where he grew up. She wants to know why he joined the Marines. She wants to know his favorite foods, his favorite TV shows, and his hobbies. She wants to know how many women he’s been with. Most pressing for the present moment, she wants to know what will make him writhe with pleasure.

Under her hand, his penis is twitching to life, palpably swelling. She finishes trimming away the gauze and smooths it aside, then puts her hand back where it was. This time, the lift of his hips is unmistakable. He presses himself into her hand and gives a soft groan. He’s so sexy that she can’t take it. She puts her hand on the warm flat of his stomach to protect it and snips into his T-shirt. She’s four or five inches in before what she’s doing registers.

“Hey, what are you doing?” he says, raising himself to his elbows.

“Expediting things,” she says.

“Dana, that’s my shirt,” he says, sounding flabbergasted.

“I know,” she says, biting back a smile. She pauses to look up at him. “If it’s that big of a deal, I’ll buy you another one. Do you really want to wait any longer, though?”

He gives up, shaking his head.

“Okay.” She plants her knees on either side of him and straddles his hips. His stomach is exposed, the hollow of his navel and the sparse dusting of golden hair. Inch by inch she uncovers him, up to his dusty pink nipples and the arch of his collarbones. She snips through the collar and parts the shirt on either side of him. When she’s done, she lowers her pelvis, applying just enough pressure to extract a groan from his throat. She tosses the scissors on the floor and runs her hand over his forehead and through his hair.

“What do you like?” she says.

“You. I like you,” he says, squinting like her touch is torturing him.

“Do you like this?” She runs her finger over the curve of his ear, then licks down it from his hairline to the lobe. She sucks the lobe when she comes to it, rocking her crotch on his erection.

Doggett sighs. “Baby.”

The pet name turns her on and she grinds harder. She continues sucking his ear and he grabs her by the hips and grinds back until they’re fucking through their clothes. It’s wild. She closes her eyes and rides him, nose buried in the heat of his neck.

“Off. Off,” Doggett says in her ear. He nudges her up so he can squirm out of his ruined T-shirt. Scully takes the hint and works on the buttons of her blouse. Between her legs, Doggett peels himself out of the long johns. He’s naked beneath. She can’t help riding him again once she’s cast the blouse aside, needing the relief even though contact has been broken only for moments. “C’mon, you too,” he says, panting. They get her out of the skirt and nylons. She works on wriggling out of her underwear while Doggett struggles with her bra clasp. The bra is tighter than usual; she still hasn’t bought any new ones. Finally he gets the bra off and his big hands magnetize to her breasts. He holds both of them at once and mutters a reverent oath under his breath.

“Go easy,” she says, putting her hands over his. “Sensitive.”

He nods to indicate he understands. He swallows. “I keep thinking you’re going to come to your senses,” he says, rubbing his palms over her nipples.

“About what?” She knots her hands behind his neck.

“About me,” he says.

“I like you,” she says, bringing her face in and letting her tongue meet his. He tastes like beer, but she doesn’t mind. She rocks forward and he pushes back. He looks down at his penis, crushed between their abdomens.

“What?” she says. “What do you need?” She needs to hear him articulate it.

“I need to be inside you. Need to fuck you,” he says in her ear, breath hot. “Wanna make you come.” He slides his tongue across her ear and she can’t wait one more second.

“John.” She moves off of him and lies on her back and reaches for him.

“Wait.” He leaves her for a moment and roots in the drawer of his bedside table. He unwraps the condom and she sheaths him with it, making him groan rustily. He doesn’t use his hand to position himself, just lowers himself and slips inside her like it’s nothing. They breathe, adjusting.

“So good,” he says at last, swivelling his hips, giving it to her. “So good, baby.”

She moans and cards her hands through his hair.

Doggett tangles his fingers in her pubic hair as he fucks her. His finger slips down and searches. He finds her clitoris almost immediately, but it’s one too many sensations on top of the sight and the sound of him and the feel of him inside of her body. She removes his hand.

“No?” he says, forehead crinkling with worry.

She smiles. “Not now. Right now I just want this.”

“And this is good?” he says. That’s the partner in Doggett coming out, always wanting to make sure she’s okay, always wanting to make sure he’s pleasing her.

“So good,” she says, running her hands over his well-muscled biceps. “You’re so sexy.”

His kiss is tender. “Good. Good position?” he says.

“Good position,” she says.

He watches her face with a hawklike intensity as they fuck. He’s more careful than the previous night. She wonders if it’s the knowledge that she’s pregnant or he just wants to be more deliberate their second time. Either way, she knows that it’s good and all she’s been wanting since her hormones started going haywire. He kisses her cheeks as he drives into her. Long before she’s ready, which is to say approximately four minutes later, his breath hitches in his throat. “I think I’m gonna…”

“Yes.” She lifts her hips up to take as much of him inside her as possible and the rhythm of his hips falters.

“Oh God. Oh Jesus. Yeah,” he says as he comes, beautiful in his profaneness. “Yeah.”

When the last twitches have rippled through his abdomen, he remains there on his forearms with his head drooping, breathing hard. He’s half pulled out of her and the condom is cold and rubbery, and she thinks about how she’d like to feel him without it next time. She rubs his back, which is hard, muscled, and slick with sweat. His sweat lingers in the air, piquant, and she finds it intoxicating. She’s read that attraction to the sweat of a particular man is a primitive signal from the cavewoman brain that this male would make a suitable, genetically distinct mate to reproduce with. Her brain hasn’t gotten the memo from her pregnant uterus yet.

With a groan, Doggett pulls out of her and rolls over for the box of tissue by the side of the bed. She excuses herself to the bathroom to urinate and clean herself up. On her way back to the bed, she picks up his boxers from the floor and pulls them on. He is lying beneath the blanket with an arm crooked behind his head. He grins ear to ear when she lifts the covers and snuggles against him, and she realizes how infrequently she’s seen him smile. His arm comes around her and she kisses his cheek. A warm satisfaction suffuses her.

“I can’t stay tonight.” She trails a finger down his ear.

Doggett doesn’t open his eyes. “Mmm,” he says.

“I can’t. I don’t have a change of clothes. I’m not going into work in a poodle skirt.”

“Mmm,” says sleepy Doggett. “You should start packing a bag.”

Only two days into whatever this is and he’s already telling her to pack a bag. Even if he’s just joking, and it doesn’t sound like he is, the suggestion gives her a fluttery-happy sensation in her stomach.

“Was that good?” she says.

“Hah! Was that good?” he says, to tell her he can’t believe she’s asking it. He opens his eyes. “You knocked me out, kid.”

“When’s the last time you had sex?” she says. “Before last night.”

He considers it. “Last year? I had a one-night stand with some lady. Some lady I met at a bar. We’d both had one too many. Wasn’t anything I’d write home about. You?”

Her.

Late July. Mulder’s couch. The pale aquamarine glow of the fishtank. The sticky spot on the leather couch afterwards. Mulder walking naked around the living room, whistling. He hadn’t gotten dressed afterwards and she hadn’t minded one bit.

“Early July,” she says.

“With Mulder,” Doggett says.

“With Mulder.”

He doesn’t ask, but she feels the question hanging between them all the same: what happens when Mulder returns? She doesn’t know. Doggett and Mulder are like a statue of Janus and she can’t see both faces at one time. She can’t imagine the two of them existing in the same place, even though Doggett has said he knew Mulder before his disappearance and the twain must have therefore met. So far, pregnant Scully hasn’t thought about what happens when Mulder returns, which is very different than non-pregnant Scully would have acted. Whatever she’s doing with Doggett has lifted some of the sadness and despair, and she feels like she deserves it after seven straight years of near-death encounters on the X-Files.

“You miss him a lot, don’t you?” Doggett says, breaking the stillness.

“Yes,” she says. She can feel him thinking. “You’re wondering about you and me.”

“Can’t blame a guy for wondering,” he says.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” she says. “I like you.” To prove it, she slings her leg over him and clambers on top of him, putting her head on his chest and holding him close. His hand settles on her back. “I like you a lot, John Doggett.” She looks up and runs her hand through his hair, meeting his eyes. “I know I’m a mess.”

He laughs softly. “I was married to a mess. You’re not a mess.” He strokes her cheek. “Life’s just dealing you a tough hand right now. But we’ll get him back. We’ll get Mulder back.”

The words send a small ripple of pain through her. She wants Mulder back, but she also wants to lie here with Doggett for the next one hundred nights.

Chapter Text

It’s barely been forty-eight hours and Skinner knows that he’s fucking Scully. That, Doggett supposes, is why Skinner is the assistant director and not a lowly agent like him. As he stands there in front of Skinner’s desk, he can’t help but feel like a sixteen-year-old being lectured by his old man.

“I just want to make absolutely clear that you’re not going to let this get in the way of finding Mulder,” Skinner says.

Doggett isn’t in the mood for it. “For your information, I have never stopped looking for Agent Mulder.”

Skinner sighs. “I’m not saying you have. I’m just saying …” He looks embarrassed. “Don't get carried away.”

Doggett scoffs. Maybe he’s a little hungover from the previous evening’s beers, maybe he’s just irritated that Skinner could have a point. “I’ll keep it in mind,” he says. “Anything else?”

“Take care of her, alright?”



Doggett returns from his meeting with Skinner looking pissed.

“What?” Scully says, pausing in the email she’s writing. “What did he want?”

Doggett stops in front of the desk, hands in his pockets. He frowns at her. “He knows already.”

“Knows what?”

“‘Bout you and me.”

She allows her brain a few moments to process this new information: her assistant director knows she’s screwing her new partner. “Damn.” She presses two fingers to her temple. “How?”

Doggett laughs, rueful. “Mulder might not have put it down in a file, but I’m pretty sure Skinner’s a mind-reader.”

“It could be worse. Right?” she says, trying to think of what Skinner would be so worried about. “He can’t control what we do outside of work.”

“No, but he’s got it in his head that I might stop looking for Mulder because I don’t wanna give you up.” The look he gives her is unusual in its stoniness.

Asleep in her own bed earlier that morning, she dreamed of Mulder. He wasn’t naked and splayed on alien machinery this time, but pursuing someone in a disused warehouse they’d been in once several years ago. She could only catch glimpses of him through the scaffolding of pipes. She followed him up flights of metal stairs, but lost him. “Mulder?” she’d said. “Mulder!”

It had felt so real that she’d cried for the first time in weeks when she woke up.

“You are, right?” she says to Doggett. She’s not sure what makes her say it.

“Are what?” he says.

“Looking for Mulder.”

His lips part and he looks incredulous. “Really?” he says, lifting his eyebrows. “You too? Why’s everyone think that I’ll forget to do my job if I sleep with a pretty lady a coupla times?”

“You can’t get angry with Skinner just for asking,” she says, feeling indignant. “We haven’t made any progress on the case since August.”

Doggett’s face tells her it was the wrong thing to say. “Didn’t we have this conversation last night?” he says, his voice rising. “Didn’t I say we’d find Mulder?”

“Yes,” she says, “I’m not saying—”

“Well save it,” Doggett says. “I’ll be in the library if you need me.” He turns his back to her and pulls the door closed behind him when he walks out, not needing to slam it to communicate his anger.

The rest of the afternoon is miserable. She finishes up her email to Boston Police Deputy Chief Karras. The BPD has called with a case of a transit officer who had been found on an M train with one arm and half his face eaten away within minutes of boarding a train to pursue a suspect. Although Boston is only an eight-hour drive away and she probably would have driven the distance with Mulder, she books two one-way plane tickets for seven a.m. the next morning. She can’t imagine sitting there in silence with Doggett in a car if he’s still in a sour mood. He only returns to the basement long enough to grab his coat and hear their flight details. His “night, Agent Scully” is curt.

On the commute back home, she replays their confrontation and weighs Skinner’s concern. She tries to be objective and not think of how electrically good Doggett is in bed, even though it’s difficult to forget. In eight years, Skinner’s instincts have seldom been off, so if he thinks a sexual relationship with Doggett might compromise Mulder’s chances of being found, then there’s probably something to it. Just because she hasn’t gotten the sense that Doggett is being underhanded doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have his own motives. She considers what she knows. At the end of the day, Doggett answers to Kersh, and Kersh would be only too happy to see the permanent back of Mulder. If Mulder were here, she muses, he’d make a preposterous leap, like maybe Doggett and Kersh conspired together to disappear him themselves and Doggett getting close to her is a way of coaxing her to forget about him. Mulder’s preposterous leaps had a way of being true nine times out of ten. He would encourage her to trust no one, least of all Doggett, whom she’s known for just two months.

By the time she walks into her apartment, she feels terrible. She wonders if prioritizing her own foolish sexual urges has jeopardized Mulder’s safety. For the first time in weeks, she has no appetite and lies on the couch instead of making dinner, sipping a diet Snapple. She half expects Doggett to call and apologize, but her cell phone and landline are quiet for the remainder of the night. As far as she remembers, her sleep that night is dreamless, disrupted only by the painful gnaw of her stomach at two a.m. She gets up and forces herself to eat some cottage cheese, realizing that whatever John Doggett’s real motivations are, she can’t let her feelings get in the way of the baby’s health.



He doesn’t know why she’s gone cold on him all of a sudden. Maybe Skinner said something to her.



Even with her new reservations about Doggett dragging down her spirits, she allows herself to hope that all will be forgiven when they meet up at the airport Thursday morning. It isn’t. Doggett reads a paperback book while they stand in the security lines and remains nose-deep in it for the duration of the ninety-minute flight. She stands by feeling upset and uncomfortable as he signs for a rental car at Logan, then drops her off at Boston General Hospital to autopsy the victim, with a cool, “Gimme a call when you’re ready to be picked up.”

The cause of the victim’s death ends up being myocardial infarction due to coronary occlusion. In layman’s terms? Scared to death, probably by whatever ate his flesh off. The manner of death is therefore natural, not homicide, though by the time she strips off her gloves three hours after starting the autopsy she still can’t explain the missing flesh. She calls Doggett after she scrubs up and deposits her blood and tissue samples with the lab, feeling oddly restored after disassembling and reassembling an entire body.

“John Doggett,” he says, in that New York accent that she’s come to find three parts endearing and five parts sexy.

“It’s me.”

There’s a pause. “Yeah?”

She relays her findings. Doggett is tied up and can’t fetch her, so he asks her to catch a taxi to the Transit Operations Center. Twenty minutes later, a staff member at the Center is directing her to the trainyard. Doggett is standing amidst the stationary trains arguing with two men, who introduce themselves to her as Deputy Chief Karras and Lieutenant Bianco. Like so many men in law enforcement, they turn out to be utterly unreasonable. Karras just cares about his four p.m. commuters, while Bianco is confident that an acid attack killed the victim. In the recent past, she and Doggett would have presented a united front against this assholery, but to her irritation, Doggett is being obsequiously tolerant of Lieutenant Bianco’s acid theory, even after she breaks in to inform Bianco that the autopsy showed no such thing. The men pretend to consider what she has to say, then go back to their discussion. A bolt of fury hits her at Doggett ignoring her and joining them. She half wishes she had the courage to turn on her heel and fly back to D.C., leaving him and his new clever cop pals to figure the case out on their own. But if the theory she started formulating in the taxi ride is correct, there could be a contagion in the tunnels, putting thousands of commuters at risk.

“Find that suspect or don’t, but you’ve got five hours,” Karras says, with an air of finality. “That line goes back into operation at four p.m.”

Scully follows them down the stairs to the M platform that the transit cop had boarded yesterday before his death, feeling like a little sister as she trails them. An engineer and female CDC doctor are waiting on the platform. The presence of Dr. Lyle, who specializes in pathogens, tells Scully that her theory about a contagion isn’t off-base in the slightest. Fucking Bianca. Fucking Doggett. It just gets better when she learns that Karras expects all of them, excepting himself, to canvass the tunnels until they locate the suspect. Whether they’re after a perp or an invisible contagion is immaterial, she realizes. It’s dangerous for her and she’s pregnant. Pregnant and bone-tired of being an obedient woman.

Gear is handed out and she just stands there, daring someone to ask her to put it on. Doggett is the one to approach, holding out a black Kevlar vest and a headset.

“Here you go,” he says. There’s nothing in his expression to read but the same neutral professionalism he gave her when they first started working together.

She looks up at him. “You’re going in without me.”

His eyebrows shoot up. “What?”

“I’m going to be much more effective analyzing the situation from up here,” she says.

The barest hint of concern flits across his face. “Yeah, but I’m just a tag-along here. This is your thing. You have all the experience.” His voice is low and insistent.

She pretends not to care. “What I need down there are eyes and ears,” she says, figuring that someone needs to monitor Karras the hothead, anyway.

Doggett looks down for several seconds. She can tell he’s trying to work out why she’s staying behind. Finally, he lifts his eyes to hers and nods. “Okay,” he says. He hands her the twin of his headset. “I’ll be your eyes and ears.” He pauses. “Although I wish someone would tell me what the hell I'm looking for.”

It’s around noon when Karras leads her up to the control room. She settles in front of a screen for what she can only assume will be hours, wishing she’d thought to grab some tea after leaving the hospital. Doggett’s view as he descends the steps into the tunnel pops onto her screen and she relays to him that the third rail has been turned off and that he’s clear to proceed.

“Hope you got yourself a nice clear picture,” he says, sweeping his gaze across the empty tunnel.

“We got you every step of the way,” she says.

She watches him take the lead of the small group (of course he takes the lead) and wind his way through the dark tunnel. It’s situation normal, except he falls silent for too long and she has to ask if he’s still reading her.

“Like a songbird,” he says, and that’s when chaos erupts.

Shouting. “ Get it off me !” in another voice. A wild camera angle from Doggett, flashlight beams bouncing everywhere. Her heart scrambles into her throat.

“What’s happening?” she says, surprised to hear that she sounds calm.

Doggett angles his head down so that she can see what appears to be a burn on the back of the engineer’s neck. They deduce that it’s from seawater. Toxic seawater. It hits her then that Doggett is at risk down there. As much as she’d love to punish him for ignoring her this morning and being buddy-buddy with the old boys’ club, seeing him maimed like that body in the hospital morgue isn’t what she had in mind. It’s the prospect of a contagion, not a madman, that’s terrifying. An ex-Marine can handle a madman.

However, the situation isn’t done deteriorating. Doggett wanders minutes later into a section of decommissioned tunnel, looking for their suspect’s hiding place. No sooner has he arrived there than his camera angle goes wild again, Dr. Lyle yelling, “Look out!” Scully glimpses the ceiling, then panicked faces staring at her from the screen, looking down at Doggett. He’s been attacked by someone or something. She can hear him wheezing. He’s had the wind knocked out of him. When he gets it back enough to roll over, images of raw, seared flesh and yellow rib-cage fill the screen. Her mind can’t make sense of it at first, but she gets it some seconds later. It’s their perp. He has the same tissue damage as the transit cop in the morgue. She puts her hand to her forehead. This is going from bad to worse.

The “worse” is confirmed when Doggett gets to his feet and ventures deeper into the unused section of the tunnel. He trains his camera on three plastic-wrapped bundles that the engineer has spotted and talks her through what she’s seeing: the bodies of three male victims. All have had parts of their flesh eaten away.

“We may have a contagion here after all,” she says, mind racing.

Contagions don’t wrap bodies in plastic, though. She turns around to look at Karras, who is staring at her. Whatever this is, she realizes, Karras, this unimaginable asshole, is covering it up. He doesn’t want them down there. And if he doesn’t want them down there … Her stomach does a cold flip and she turns back to the screen.

It gets worse. Doggett and company discover that there’s someone else down there with them, not the perp. They take off after the person, only to be stopped when the engineer’s arm goes up in sparks. His flesh crackles blue-white and Scully shouts at Doggett to get some fresh water on the injury. The water arrests the electrochemical reaction. It’s not a contagion at all. It’s a biochemical weapon. At the realization, she has to fight the urge to excuse herself so that she can go vomit up the banana she had for breakfast. Working for Kersh or not, Doggett is her partner and her responsibility. She let her personal feelings get in the way of that and it may have put him and the three people down there with him in serious trouble.

She doesn’t want to take her eyes off Doggett’s screen for a single moment, but watching him like a hawk doesn’t keep him safe and the true extent of her powerlessness is evident within the next fifteen minutes. Doggett and Lieutenant Bianco have resumed searching when Doggett’s audio goes dead. Scully repeats his name, but gets nothing. She can see Lieutenant Bianco on Doggett’s screen, looking wary and tense. They’re having an argument. Without warning, the camera angle upends and fixes on the ceiling. Doggett is down again. This time, he doesn’t get up.

“Did your lieutenant just attack my partner?” she says, whirling on Karras. Karras looks back at her with a rattled expression and stammers. He must not have expected it to go this way.

Doggett could be mortally injured. He could be dead. She wants to call Skinner and get an entire squadron of agents down there to rescue him, but the Latin phrase that she’s lived her entire medical career by twinges her conscience: primum non nocere . She’ll just put more lives at risk if she sends agents into the tunnels. If Doggett’s been exposed to the biochemical agent or contagion or whatever the hell it is, he’s a danger to them. Instead of calling Skinner, she coordinates a quarantine unit, watching Doggett’s too-still screen as she answers their questions. She tries her mic every thirty seconds. “Agent Doggett. Agent Doggett.” After calling him John for two days straight, his formal title tastes strange on her tongue.

Just when she’s ready to go into a full-blown panic, he comes back to life. “Yeah,” he says, low and raspy. “Yeah, I hear you.” The camera moves.

She releases a breath. “I started fearing the worst,” she says.

She’s ready to send the quarantine team after him, but Doggett stops her. Lieutenant Bianco is infected by some kind of bioluminescent agent and looking for a way out of the tunnels, and Doggett wants to catch up with him before he can spread whatever has infected him. As if that isn’t bad enough, when Doggett looks down at his hands they’re glowing with green patches.

She survives the next hour and so does Doggett, but barely. He locates Lieutenant Bianco and a boy of about ten. Scully can’t believe there’s a kid down there. The boy isn’t infected and all at once she figures it out, a big old cartoon light bulb above her head. Perspiration activates the contagion. It is a contagion and not a biochemical weapon. The kid is pre-pubescent and sweatless. She solves that problem only to realize that Karras, who is no longer in the room with her, has started the trains. There is a six-hundred-ton train beginning to barrel through the tunnel where her partner is standing. She doesn’t have time to walk him to safety step by step. She doesn’t have time, in fact, to say anything other than, “Get out of there. Now !”

His camera shorts out and all the breath goes out of her lungs. All she can think is, I’ve killed him . Not Karras has killed him , which in retrospect would have been true, but I’ve killed him .

Chapter Text

“Agent Doggett! Talk to me!” she says. Her throat is tight.

A long pause and that low rasp. “Yeah. Yeah, I’m here.”

“Thank God,” she says.

She needs to see him with her own eyes and make sure that he’s whole and sound, but she isn’t able to, not until the quarantine unit has gotten him into a decontamination shower. Not only that, but since Doggett is out of commission, she gets to be the lucky agent in charge of Red Tape and Paperwork Hell. There are documents to fill out for the CDC with Dr. Lyle, a report to file with the transit police, another to make for the Boston Police Department. The only bright spot is getting to tear Karras a new orifice from which to defecate when he pokes his head into the office where she’s working. Probably she could have gotten her point across without so much screaming, but she feels so much better afterwards. Another layer of tension peels away when word comes from the hospital that Doggett is fine. He has a mild concussion, so they’re keeping him for observation until the evening. As soon as she’s done with paperwork and debriefings, she can collect him.

It’s close to eight o’clock by the time she gets to the hospital in their rental car. As she approaches room 718, she can hear a familiar voice saying, “Nurse? Nurse!”

She steps in. Doggett is getting out of his hospital bed, looking wrathful. He drops the expression when he sees her. A periorbital hematoma rings his left eye.

“Where do you think you’re going?” she says.

He shrugs, maybe a little sheepish. “To go find the nurse. I could have been dying in here.”

“Well you’re not,” she says. “The decontamination shower did its job. You’re clear of the organism. The doctor released you to go under supervision.”

“Under supervision?” he says, sounding doubtful.

“Didn’t they tell you that you had a concussion?” she says.

“Yeah, but—”

“But no,” she says. He opens his mouth to argue and she says, “I’m a doctor. Remember?”

“Yes, Dr. Scully,” he says, and sighs. “Can I get out of here?”

“Yes.”

“Okay.” He backs up in a funny crablike way and it takes her a moment to realize that he’s keeping the open back of the gown from her. He snags his black jeans and withdraws behind the half-drawn curtain that shields the bed. The guardedness hurts her feelings. Not knowing what else to say, she fills him in on the last three-and-a-half hours. The engineer and Lieutenant Bianco are in surgery and all traces of the organism are gone, which means that Karras’s recklessness will go unpunished.

“No,” says Doggett, emerging from behind the curtain reclothed in his white T-shirt and jeans. He’s rebuckling his belt and the watch on his right wrist shines in the fluorescent overhead light. “What about those bodies?” he says. “There are three bodies down there.”

Scully shakes her head. “Infected by a pathogen of unknown etiology.”

“You’re saying all that bullshit I went through and nobody’s head’s gonna roll for it?” he says, incredulous.

She holds out his button-up shirt and he takes it. “No,” she says. “Not a charge is going to stick.”

He stares at her as he buttons, brow furrowed. He’s not happy with the news.

“They have you to thank, though,” she says. “And not just for saving their asses.”

He continues staring. She wishes his eyes weren’t so sublime and blue. He says slowly, “No. You figured it out. I was just your eyes and ears.”

She worries her lower lip. “I should have been down there with you,” she says. “It was stupid of me not to be.”

“No,” he says. “I know you’re trying to be Miss Tough Guy but”—he looks down at her stomach—“you’ve got more than one person to think about now. You didn’t know what kinda crap was down there or what it could’ve done to the baby.”

“I put you at risk,” she says. If anything, she just feels more guilty now that she’s talking to him in person.

“I put me at risk,” he says, firm. “That’s the job I signed up for.”

She sighs. His reassurance doesn’t make her feel better. He could have died down there. As it is, he’ll have that black eye for at least two weeks. A concussion isn’t nothing either, mild or not.

“Hey,” he says. His voice is gentle.

She doesn’t want to meet his eyes. She feels like if she does, she might cry. “Let’s go home,” she says, looking at her shoes.

He’s silent for a few moments. “Okay. Where’s home tonight?”

She scuffs the floor with a toe. “I can drive us back. We could get a flight, too,” she says, hazarding a glance at him. “But if you’re not feeling well, we could get a hotel.”

“I’d prefer a hotel,” Doggett says, unhesitant. “Feel a little pukey.”

“That’s your concussion,” she says.

“Concussion,” he says. She can tell he doesn’t really buy it.

She leaves him at the nurses’ station so she can get the car and pull it outside of the main doors. “I can walk fine!” Doggett calls after her, as she goes down the hall. Nevertheless, a persistent nurse is chaperoning him out five minutes later and opening the passenger door for him, even though she looks twice as frail as she does. “You didn’t have to do that,” he says to the nurse, as he gets into the car. “But thanks.”

He buckles in. Scully takes the nearest exit for I-93, the adrenaline crash coming over her as she merges. Doggett, naturally, picks up on it.

“Holding up?” he says.

She shrugs, keeping her eyes on the tail lights in front of her. “More or less.”

“You wanna talk about what’s going on?” he says.

She knows he doesn’t mean about the day’s events. She shakes her head.

“You don’t have to,” he says, “but I’d like to know what’s going on. Just so you know.”

To this confidence, she’s lock-jawed. She’s so tired that she doesn’t know if she could even put her misgivings from the day before into words. “I’m fine,” she says after a few minutes of silence, the flimsiest of feminine lies.

“You look dead on your feet to me. I suggest taking this next exit,” Doggett says. He thumbs at a blue sign before it whizzes by, its colorful rectangular boxes advertising a selection of hotels.

She nods. “Alright.”

The Holiday Inn is the closest hotel off the ramp. She parks and they walk into the lobby together.

“One room?” says the front-desk clerk.

Doggett defers to Scully. “Up to you,” he says, without any expression to let her know which is the right answer and which is the wrong answer. She decides that with his concussion, she needs to keep him under observation.

“One room,” she says.

“I have a two-queen suite or a king,” says the clerk.

“Queen, please,” says Scully.

She hangs out in the lobby while Doggett, neither looking nor acting like a person with a mild concussion, carries in their bags. She’s too tired to argue with him about it. The elevator ride up to the fifth floor is coversationless. She commandeers the key and lets them into the room. Behind the blinds of the picture window, the lights of Boston sparkle. Doggett gets the luggage racks out of the closet and sets them up. He puts her suitcase on one and his duffel bag on the other. She sits on the foot of the bed nearest the window as he turns on lamps.

“Dana, we gotta talk this through, whatever’s bugging you,” he says, walking over to where she’s sitting. His legs are spread and his hands are on his hips. She stares at his belt buckle, not having the inclination or energy to look up at him. “Skinner say something to you?” he presses.

“No.” She’s not sure why she’s acting this way.

“Then talk to me. I know something’s wrong.” His hips move out of her sightline and he sits next to her. “You want me to guess what’s wrong? I don’t like when women make me do that.”

Scully stares at her shoes again and thinks that she should kick them off.

“Fine,” Doggett says. She looks over to his knees. His hands are knitted between them. “You’re in love with Mulder, you’re pregnant with his kid, and you don’t know where I fit. Or maybe you do know where I fit and you’re just afraid to tell me that sleeping with me was a mistake. That it?”

His first guess is the right one, but she says, “I’m just tired.”

“Yeah and not telling me something.”

She realizes she’s not going to evade an ex-cop’s interrogation, so she says, “Mulder makes these leaps.”

Doggett scoffs. “Yeah. Agent Mulder’s famous leaps. I’m familiar with ‘em.”

“I started thinking about it. You and me, you working for Kersh, and it’s been two months and we haven’t found Mulder.”

“I’m not connecting the dots,” he says.

“Mulder would think …” But she can’t say it aloud. It already sounds stupid enough spelled out in vaguenesses.

He sighs. “That I’m all part of some grand conspiracy to keep him disappeared and I’m seducing you to keep you distracted,” he says. He flexes his fingers. “When are you going to let him stop living rent-free in your head, Dana?”

“Sorry?” she says. She’s annoyed that he figured out the answer so fast and that he apparently thinks she’s brainwashed by Mulder.

“There’s nothing wrong with your own instincts,” he says. “You should give yourself more credit. The last few cases, that was all you. That wasn’t Mulder. You don’t have to be him.”

“You’re making a lot of assumptions,” she says. She scuffs her right heel out of her shoe.

“Then tell me, don’t make me assume,” Doggett says. “But don't bullshit me either. Making a leap isn’t always a good thing. What if I said that rat bastard Karras is in on some kind of conspiracy too? Would you believe me?”

“You don’t think he could be?” she says. She slides her foot out of her shoe and hazards a glance at him.

He’s looking sideways at her, so calm she could scream. “No. I don’t think so. I think those guys were just doing their jobs and saving their own asses. I’d l like to get my hand around Karras’s throat same as you, but this isn’t some government conspiracy. People are fuck-ups. They don’t do the right thing sometimes. So what? We move on.”

She’s still hung up on the suggestion that Mulder is living rent-free in her head. “Mulder opened me up to possibilities,” she says. “I have seen so many things I cannot explain.”

“You really think I’d do that to you?” he says, sounding weary. “That I’d get in the way of finding Mulder to keep you to myself?”

“I don’t know,” she says.

“I don’t like Kersh any more than you like him, okay? I go where he asks me. That’s all. I’m still looking for Agent Mulder. I’ll give you all my notes when we get back to the office and you can tell me if I missed anything or I’m following dead ends.”

She’s pretty sure he’s telling the truth. But she’s still annoyed. Doggett touches her balled-up fist, which she wasn’t aware of clenching. His hand covers it, paper defeats rock.

He continues. “I didn’t plan for this, you know. You were just …”

“What?”

He sighs. “Forget about it. I’m going to take a shower. Wash off whatever they decontaminated me with.” He stands up, releasing her hand. She grabs his before he can walk away.  

“No. What were you saying?”

He looks down at her. He sighs. “That I wasn’t planning on getting close to you. Actually, I figured you’d be a crackpot when Kersh assigned me.” He sees her expression and squeezes her hand. “I know, not fair of me.” He takes a deep breath. “Look, I’m not asking for anything. You’re having Mulder’s kid, I get that. I just think you oughta do what Dana wants sometimes and not what Agent Mulder wants. Your life is going to change big time in a few months.”

“What does Agent Doggett want?” she says, looking up.

“For you to trust him,” he says. “You don’t gotta fuck me. But you do gotta trust me.”

“If I want both?” she says, feeling timorous.

“Trust first,” he says. “You have to trust that I’m doing my job and I’ll keep doing my job. Whatever’s between you and me, that doesn’t change.” He pulls his hand out of hers. “Sorry, I have to get into the shower before I puke or pass out.”

He leaves and Scully sits on the foot of the bed staring into space. Through the thin hotel walls, the shower spray drums and Doggett groans wearily. What does Agent Scully want? In her present hierarchy of needs, food and sleep are first. She wants Mulder back. She also wants Doggett in her bed and by her side during cases. She’d like an end to this emotional roil, too, if God is answering prayers tonight.

She kicks off her other shoe, finds a brochure for a pizza joint on the solitary desk in the room, and orders a large half-cheese, half-pepperoni, with caffeine-free sodas and cheesy breadsticks. The pizza would have been Mulder’s idea and the caffeine-free soda is her touch. She hangs up the phone and feels like arguing to Doggett: good friends change us. Good friends should change us. There’s nothing wrong with that. Keeping an open mind isn’t a flaw. She’s tempted to resume the conversation when he’s done with his shower, but changes her mind when he emerges. His face shines with a combination of perspiration and water. The black eye has deepened in color. He flops down on his back on the adjoining bed and groans again, eyes squinched shut. Scully tries not to pay attention to the fact that he’s wearing only a towel and things she likes—nipples, biceps, navel, the damp curl of armpit hair—are on full display.

“How are you feeling?” she says, making a conscious effort to revert to doctor mode.

He puts an arm behind his head. “Like that train down there hit me.”

“What are your symptoms?” She rises from the desk and sits next to him.

“Light’s bugging me, I still feel pukey, and I could fall asleep right where I am.”

“I ordered pizza,” she says. Out of habit, she lays the back of her hand to his forehead even though a fever is not a symptom of concussion. Despite the CDC’s assurances, she’s still a little wary of infection from their mystery organism. His forehead is warm and damp, but she chalks it up to the shower.

He shakes his head. “Not hungry.”

“Can I get you some Tylenol?”

He opens his eyes a slit and looks at her. “Sure.” She digs in her purse for the bottle and fills up a clear plastic cup with water. Calculating his body weight in her head, she shakes out three pills. Doggett rises to his elbows to take them. They sit in silence for a minute, but it isn’t tense so much as it is exhausted.

“I’m sorry if I did anything to make you think I’d dropped Agent Mulder’s case,” Doggett says. She looks at him, but he’s fallen back on the bed again and his eyes are closed.

“I’m sorry I accused you of colluding with Kersh,” she says, laying a hand on his arm.

Doggett smiles. “I’ll forgive it this time.”

“Friends?” she says.

“Friends.”

“More than friends?” she says, pushing it.

“More than friends,” he says, with a laugh. “But not tonight. You’d have better luck raising the dead.”

When the pizza delivery person knocks on the door, Doggett rises to a sitting position with effort and excuses himself to the bathroom. Scully pays for the food with her credit card. The expense will be reimbursed by the Bureau and Kersh will find a way to bitch about it weeks from now. She sets the pizza and breadsticks up on the desk and helps herself to a slice of cheese, but Doggett, freshly clad in sweatpants and a T-shirt, isn’t tempted.

“At least sip some 7-Up,” she says. “It’ll make you feel better.”

He sits back against his headboard drinking soda while she surfs channels with the volume down low and eats a second slice of pizza. She only realizes that Doggett has fallen asleep when she hears a snore and turns to see him with his head drooped to one side and his arms limp. Before she finishes off another slice of pizza and the entire serving of breadsticks, she pulls the spare blanket out of the closet and covers him. He’s still in the same position forty-five minutes later when she goes to kiss him on the forehead before she turns the lights off and crawls into her bed. Her last thought before she falls asleep is how lucky she is to have found another partner willing to put his life on the line for her.

Chapter Text

They tumble into a relationship before Doggett can have second thoughts. Every day that Agent Mulder doesn’t turn up is a gift, and he says a silent thank-you when three weeks pass by with no further leads. In that time, he and Scully share sandwich lunches at the Art Sculpture Garden almost every day, walking from the J. Edgar Hoover Building and sitting on the stone lip of the lake-sized fountain in the middle of the park where until recently tourists dangled their bare feet. If the weather is too cold, they find a cafe. One day, they bag up Mulder’s fish with water from the tank and drive them across town in Scully’s lap so they can live at her place until Mulder returns. Scully stows a Pet Shop Boys CD in his truck and he doesn’t mind too much because the songs remind him of her. He takes her out to movies. They cook recipes out of his Gourmet magazines, coq au vin , rigatoni, and stir-fried bok choy. In mid-November, she develops the tiniest of pregnancy bumps and interrupts him in the office to lift up her shirt so he can see. Her glow when she shows off her stomach reminds him of happier days with Barbara. He’d like to hold her hand or kiss her cheek when they’re in public, but they’ve both decided without consulting each other not to draw attention to the fact that they’re now sleeping together almost every day.

Every day. It makes him feel like he’s eighteen again. He’s never met a woman who wants sex this month, and he embraces the gift with arms open and tongue and fingers ready to do her bidding. The first time he goes down on her is so good that he doesn’t get a shred of work done the next day, too busy rewinding the incident in his head and fighting the urge to repeat it right there, in Mulder’s old basement haunt. He’d sank to his knees on her bedroom carpet and she didn’t say any of the usual apologetic things, like “I haven’t showered” or “I’m sorry I didn’t shave my bikini line.” She just let him lick between her legs like it was all she’d been waiting for her whole life, and when her body shook beneath his hands, it felt like one of the greatest accomplishments of his life. “Will you touch yourself?” she said afterwards and, looking up at her, he came so fast and so hard that he clung to her leg afterwards to catch his breath.

He stops reading Sun Tzu because he can’t focus on war with love taking up his free time. He’s reintroduced to the beauty of cliches, like live in the moment. He tries to obey them because he knows another cliche is just around the corner: all good things must come to an end.



When she arrives on the doorstep of Bill’s new home in Richmond on Thanksgiving Day, Doggett in tow, Scully wonders if she’s made a mistake. Her invitation was a spur-of-the-moment kindness. Doggett had nowhere to go and that upset her, so she asked Bill if she could bring a friend from work. The ostentatious trappings of the house make her wish she’d just stayed at home and heated up a Lean Cuisine. The house is five years old and a study in ugliness and excess: four-car garage, pillars supporting a portico that rises clear to the roof, a glitzy chandelier in the foyer, and a spiral staircase stretching up to the second floor where Matthew has not one, but two playrooms. Even the humble basement is equipped with a home theater, rec room, and bar. Doggett doesn’t seem fazed, though. He smiles and makes small talk with Bill as they get a tour of the cavernous house.

Bill perks up when he hears that Doggett used to be in the more respectable CID branch of the Bureau and has only been on the ignominious X-Files for a few months. She should be pleased that her brother has taken a shine to her new partner, but it just makes her think of how he always despised Mulder. He’s probably ecstatic that Mulder is still missing.

At six o’clock, the six of them—Bill, Tara, Matthew, Maggie, Scully, and Doggett—sit down to dinner at a table that seats twenty. Tara serves a perfectly browned turkey and the side dishes are impeccable, but it only reminds Scully that holidays were happier when they weren’t so flawless. In years past, Ahab would carve the turkey and auction off the high-value drumsticks by making one or more of them promise that they would help hang him Christmas lights and put up decorations the next day. Melissa played the peacemaker, soothing the tension that always seemed to ripple between Scully and Bill, or Bill and Charlie, or Scully and Charlie. Maggie was just happy to have all of her children under one roof again, feuds or not.

Bill isn’t Doggett’s only admirer. Maggie probes like a Regency-era mother into his career and his home ownership. “Don’t forget to ask about his 401(k),” Scully says, rolling her eyes as she takes a bite of mashed potatoes.

“Don’t be silly,” says Maggie. “I assume he has one.”

Doggett starts to answer, looks at Scully, and closes his mouth.

Tara changes the subject. She thanks Doggett for his service ( Oh brother! Scully thinks) and asks to hear about his experience in the Marines. He seems embarrassed, but obliges. Even Matthew, squirming in his booster seat, seems to adore him. She can tell Doggett is loosening up and she wants him, she sincerely wants him, to be at ease with her family. She just hadn’t expected full-blown adulation.

Attention remains fixed on Doggett as Maggie serves pumpkin pie and ice cream. No one seems to notice Scully. It’s probably best anyway that her sulk isn’t a spectator event, so when Tara looks over at her at one point, she simply offers a smile and stays busy with her second slice of pumpkin pie. There are five new pounds in the past two weeks, ten in total. She’s thought more than once that the baby must be a boy, her appetite a reflection of the fact that he’ll be tall and brawny like his father. She’d planned to announce her pregnancy at dinner, but decides against it when she imagines the questions that will follow. So when’s Mulder coming back? What do you mean you weren’t a couple? Who’s going to take care of the baby when you go back to work? Are you going to settle down and find a different career? Have you thought about buying a house?

Dinner concludes when Matthew has a meltdown. He doesn’t want to eat his pie, but he also doesn’t want Tara, who’s begun clearing the table, to take it away. Bill tucks him under arm in a football hold and his wails echo through the house as he’s carried upstairs against his will. Scully offers to help clean up, but Tara and Maggie exchange looks and assure her they have it under control. “Go sit down,” Maggie encourages her. “You two had a long drive.”

She and Doggett relocate to the living sofa, maintaining a partnerly distance of eighteen inches or so. “Having a good time?” says Scully.

“‘Course,” says Doggett, with an easy smile. “You got a nice family.”

“Good,” she says. “They can be a little much sometimes.”

Doggett laughs. “I don’t mind.”

Her eyes roam around the living room, taking in the decor. The accents are tasteful but impersonal and all of the art is from big-box stores. The house is the exact opposite of Doggett’s cozy old one, with its natural woodwork, antique vases, and framed prints.

“Everything okay?” he says. “You’ve been a little quiet.”

She shrugs. “I’m okay. I miss my dad and Melissa. I wish you could have met them.”

Doggett glances to the dining room to make sure the coast is clear and kisses her on the cheek. “I know. Me too.” He reaches across the gap between them presses her hand.

“Sorry about all their questions.”

He chuckles. “It’s alright. They’re nice people.”

“Except for Bill,” she says, lowering her voice. “Bill is an asshole. He voted for Bush. Don’t let him fool you.”

He laughs. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell him I voted for Gore. Everything else okay?”

“I’m tired too.”

“You could try to nap,” he says, patting her thigh.

“Trying to get rid of me so you can get some embarrassing stories out of my mother?” she says, arching an eyebrow.

“I don’t need to get rid of you to do that.” He leans over and kisses her on the mouth. Her heart swoops. “No, Bill wants to play me at foosball. Can’t let an asshole go undefeated.” He winks.

Scully pulls her knees up and arranges herself on the couch’s numerous throw pillows. “Maybe I will take a nap.”

Doggett squeezes one of her sock feet, which she’s nudged against his thigh. “Less talking, more doing.” He stands up. “I know you need the sleep.”

She does. She’d woken up at two a.m. with heartburn. Her gracious, valiant partner had stumbled out of bed in his boxer shorts and brought back the antacid and ice water she’d asked for. Waiting for the heartburn to subside as Doggett drifted off next to her, she’d started thinking about what her life would be like if Mulder never came back. Five months from now, it could be Doggett getting up in the middle of the night to fetch a crying baby for her to breastfeed. (Or warming up a bottle if she has trouble with her milk supply.) Seeing the way he’d interacted with Matthew during dinner made it seem a little more than fantasy.

She dreams of being on a fishing boat in the middle of the ocean. Ahab has his line cast over the starboard side. Melissa doesn’t want to thread her hook. She makes an impassioned plea for the nightcrawler’s right to life. Mulder is steering. When Scully looks back at him, he just rolls his eyes. “You caught enough for the day,” Melissa tells their father. “Let’s just go home.”

Scully sits next to Mulder. She complains to him about Melissa and Ahab’s argument, but he only shrugs. Ahab is the boss. They can’t go inland until he decides he’s done. Scully would just as soon have stayed home. She doesn’t want to touch Mulder because she’s not ready to announce her pregnancy yet and any public display of affection would draw Ahab and Melissa’s attention and they’d find out.

Doggett emerges from below deck. Dread blankets Scully at his arrival. She didn’t know he was here. Fuck. He’s going to tell Mulder they slept together while Mulder was gone and then Mulder will be done with her. She thought she’d avoided this. Doggett looks at them and almost says something, but she catches sight of a wave building on the horizon. A tsunami.

“Mulder!” she says, grabbing the wheel of the boat and reeling them in the other direction. Doggett dashes toward her. Ahab and Melissa have disappeared from the boat, in the way dream people often do; they were never there to begin with. It’s always been just her and Mulder with the wave bearing down on them, until Doggett appeared.

“Dana?”

Scully jumps. Her body feels like it goes six feet into the air. “Mom! God, you scared me!” She sits up. The room is dark except for a standing lamp in the corner of the room. “What time is it?” It takes her a moment to adjust and remember that she’s at Bill’s house with Doggett. “Where’s John?”

“He’s in his room. It’s half past midnight.” Maggie sits on the couch beside her, lifting Scully’s feet and laying them in her lap. She’s dressed in a long-sleeved pajama set.

“Why didn’t you wake me up?” Scully says, rubbing an eye. Her fingers come away with black specks of mascara.

“Well I would have, but John said you could use the sleep,” she says.

Scully yawns. “Yeah, but I didn’t want to sleep for five whole hours!”

“John said …”

“Okay,” says Scully. “But what are you still doing up?”

“Oh, you know,” says Maggie, looking a little pained. “I can’t sleep in a strange bed.”

“You miss Dad,” Scully says.

Maggie nods, her expression sorrowful. “And Missy.”

“Me too,” Scully says, getting an instant lump in her throat. She’s talked to Doggett about Ahab and Melissa, but hasn’t told him about the circumstances of Melissa’s death. She still feels responsible. Knows she’s responsible.

“Dana, I know you’re dating,” Maggie says. The words land in the darkness like lead pellets.

“What?” she says. She doesn’t understand.

“You and your new partner,” she says.

“How?” Her first thought is that Doggett told her, even though they’ve never affixed a title to their relationship.

“Dana, I’m your mother ,” says Maggie.

“We’re not dating,” she says. Even if her mother couldn’t read her like a page, she knows the denial is too late.

“Well, whatever you call it these days,” Maggie says, and Scully remember the arguments they had about pre-marital sex when she was seventeen with her first boyfriend: she was setting a bad example for her little sister, sex outside of marriage was a mortal sin, blah blah blah. She knows her mom still follows the Church’s line of thinking on that. When she’s quiet for too long, Maggie says, “We like him. He’s very nice. I just wish you’d told me you’re seeing somebody.”

We. Maggie, Tara, and Bill all whispering together, relieved that she’s moved on from crazy Fox Mulder.

“I don’t know if I am,” she says. “I haven’t forgotten about Mulder.”

“I didn’t think that was going anywhere,” says Maggie, face drawn into a grimace. “You were with him for a whole decade and it never went anywhere.”

“Seven years, Mom,” says Scully. She’s started to feel irked. “ And who says?”

“It wasn’t going anywhere the last time that I saw him,” Maggie says, skeptical. “Anyway, where is he now?”

“He didn’t leave, he’s missing,” says Scully, indignant. Even as she insists that Mulder didn’t leave, Doggett’s words during their first meeting echo unbidden. We don’t know our partners as well as we think we do, Mulder confided in other women at the Bureau, Mulder was dying for a whole year.

“I’m not here to argue,” Maggie says, holding up her hands. “I just think he could have treated you better. I want my daughter to be with someone who treats her like she deserves to be treated. Someone who isn’t putting her life in danger every month.”

“Mom,” says Scully, glowering.

“He’s nice, Dana, and I can tell that you like him. That’s all I’m saying.” She gently removes Scully’s feet from her lap. “I’m going to try to get some sleep before Matthew wakes up. He was up at five o’clock this morning.”

“Goodnight,” Scully says, as Maggie rises. If thirty-two years have taught her anything, it’s that she knows when her mom thinks she’s won an argument. No point in pushing back.

Maggie leans down and kisses her on the forehead. “Goodnight. I love you.”

“I love you too,” says Scully, feeling resentful. But she gives Maggie a hug.

She stays on the couch with her thoughts for awhile, thinking about the dream and the way that her family fawned over Doggett.

He’s sleeping when she lets herself into his room upstairs, lying on his stomach hugging the pillow with one arm. His arms look like burnished gold in the glow of the small beanpot lamp on the bedside table. It’s hard to deny that she softens with affection and thankfulness whenever she lays eyes on him. It’s been weeks since she looked at another man in the subway, even though her libido hasn’t receded in any measurable way. She sits on the edge of the bed and rubs her hand between his shoulders to bring him awake. After a few seconds, he murmurs and rolls over.  

“Hey,” she says, when he opens his eyes.

“Hey,” he says, sighing the greeting. “Time is it?”

“A little past one. I can’t believe you guys let me sleep that long. You should have woken me up.” She runs her hand through his sleep-mussed hair.

Doggett yawns. “Even if I could have gotten away from your family,” he says, voice slow with sleep, “you needed it.”

“Yeah, and now I’m going to be up until God-knows-when,” she says, tugging his earlobe.

“Don’t blame me now,” he says, with another jaw-splitting yawn.

“I’m not.” She lifts his hand and kisses it.

Doggett gives her a keen look, seeming to shake off some of his torpor. “What’s on your mind? Something’s up.”

Scully purses her lips. Nothing ever eludes the ex-cop. “Mom thinks we’re dating,” she says.

Doggett’s forehead crinkles. “Are we?” he says, after a moment.

“Are we?” she echoes.

He shrugs. “Ain’t my call.”

“What if it was?” she says.

“You know the answer to that,” he says.

“Do I?” she says, surprised

“Yeah, I think you do.”

Which means … Her heart beats faster. Which means it’s not just about hiding the cannoli, although she’s had a suspicion it wasn’t since the first night they spent together.

“Can you date someone knowing it might not last?” she says.

“Dana, you’re acting like I don’t know this has been for-a-limited-time-only from Day 1.” He doesn’t look sad, but he doesn’t look thrilled either. Resigned would be the right description.

“I’m sorry.” Apologizing won’t change things, but it’s impossible not to.

“I knew what I was walking into,” he says.

“I do like you,” she says.

“I know you do.” He doesn’t say this with blame, which makes her feel even more guilty. Lately, the moments where she wants to make him promises that she can’t keep have come more and more frequently.

The only consolation prize she can offer are kisses on the thin pink line of his lips. She tries to imbue each one with her real feelings, to let him know that she wishes this could last. He smiles under her mouth and pulls her closer, stroking her hair. He’s just barely awake, but she’s as bright-eyed as a lark. She can’t kiss him and not feel like she’s self-immolating, not yet. His body is still too new. She pulls down the comforter so she can get a better look at what he’s wearing. It’s just his usual T-shirt, but she knows what’s underneath.

“You’re not serious,” he says, lifting his head off the pillow.

“Why not?” she says, insinuating her hand under his shirt and running it across the expanse of his stomach. The hair there is soft and his skin warm.

“I dunno, the fact that your whole family’s sleeping down the hall, maybe?” he says.

“I can be quiet, can you?”

“You're insatiable,” he says, closing his eyes, which means yes. Bingo.

She goes to his jeans, draped on a chair, and opens his wallet for a condom. They’re still using them because he doesn’t want to pass anything to her or the baby if any trace of the subway organism is still in his body, even though she isn’t worried about it. When she wrestles the condom free from its position next to a fold of bills, a creased photo comes with it. It’s a family photo, a man, woman, and young boy. She replaces it immediately, knowing that she’s come across something intimate. The man in the photo is Doggett. She crawls back into bed and draws the comforter up to their waists. He doesn’t know she’s seen the photo. His lips search out hers and by the time he breaks for air, she’s forgotten it.

“Come here,” she says.

“Anyone ever told you you’re bossy?” he says, climbing on top of her.

“Once or twice.” She cups him through his boxers. He’s so hard for her. “No noise,” she says.

“Jesus Christ, woman,” he says, eyes flickering closed.

The sacrilege is sexy. They take their underwear off, roll the condom onto him, and guide him into her. The masculine weight of him above her is exciting, as is the fact that he has to breathe hard through his nose because she told him to be quiet. His thrusts are firm, but slower than usual. He’s trying to avoid making the bed squeak. She notices that his face is screwed up in concentration, almost pained. John Jay Doggett , she thinks. I adore you .

He slips a hand between them and finds her out, finger tucking itself under her clitoral hood like she’s taught him and rubbing in small clockwise circles. Very soon the pressure builds in her and escapes, a dazzling burst that never lasts half as long as she wishes it would. When she comes, he follows. He can’t make any undue noise, so he whispers a stream-of-consciousness profanities in her ear. She hugs him close as he sinks down on her, overcome.

Chapter Text

The room is cold and smells like sex, and she’s warm in his arms underneath the blankets. He’d be completely relaxed if it weren’t for the fact that her big brother could bust in on them at any minute.

“Can I ask you something?” she says.

Oh boy. “Ask me what?” he says, stilling the fingers that are tracing shapes on her breast. He doesn’t know what it is about her, but she likes dropping bombshells after they’ve just done the deed.

“Why didn’t you tell me you have a son?”

Of all the accusations he’d expected, this wasn’t one. It clicks. She’d gotten into his wallet for the condom.

“You saw the picture,” he says.

It’s the Sears one where they’re sitting in front of a Christmas tree, the last portrait they took as a family. Luke is in Barbara’s arms, laughing at a long-forgotten joke from the photographer. He’s standing above Barbara with a hand on her shoulder and their smiles aren’t quite in it. They were already arguing by then, but not as bad as they did after Luke died.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Scully says. “Does your ex-wife have custody?” Her voice is sympathetic and coaxing.

He closes his eyes. He knew they’d have to have this conversation someday, he just didn’t figure on it being tonight.

“He’s dead,” he says. No good way to sugarcoat it.

“Oh,” says Scully. She says it like someone has hit her in the stomach. “Oh John, why didn’t you tell me?” He glances down and her eyes are filled with tears.

“Figured you knew,” he says. “When we first started working together.”

“I didn’t,” she says, touching his face.

“Yeah, I figured that out after awhile.”

“Why didn’t you say anything then?” she says. “Why aren’t there …” She leaves the sentence hanging, but he senses she was going to ask why there aren’t any photos, not on Mulder’s desk, not on the walls of his own house.

“Guess I just didn’t want to be the dead-kid guy again when I got assigned to you. Everyone in the CID knew,” he says. “There’s always this … this kind of pity when you talk to people. They pretend they’re not thinking about it, but they are. ”

“I had no idea.” She sniffles. “How?”

He doesn’t want to go over this part, but he can’t avoid it. He’s told it so many times, it’s become his shortest sad story, not “baby shoes for sale, never worn,” but pretty close.

“He got picked up while he was riding his bike. I found him three days later, bullet in the back of his head. Never caught the perp,” he says.

“Oh, John.” She hugs him and cries. It’s the first time he’s seen her cry since he found her shut in a room with Gibson Praise and a puddle of goo near her feet, sobbing that she’d shot a child. He’d known then that she needed comforting, so he held her in his arms, even as he wondered what in the hell was going on. He holds her like that now. When the worst of her tears have blown through, she asks in a stuffy voice, “How old was he? What was his name?”

“Seven,” he says. “Luke.” She doesn’t ask the next obvious question, but maybe she can guess the answer: body shows signs consistent with sexual trauma.

“I’m so sorry. I am so, so sorry,” she says. She lifts her cheek from his shoulder. “When did it happen?”

“Ninety-three.”

“I’ve never seen any pictures of him at your house.”

He’s grateful that she words it as a statement and not a question. It feels less like an accusation. “I‘ve dated on and off,” he says. “ ‘Oh, you have a son?’ Nothing spoils a first date like talking about your kid who’s been murdered. Didn’t want to keep explaining it over and over, so I took them down a few years ago.”

There were essentially two ways guys who’d survived combat dealt with what they’d seen. One was finding a shrink and spilling their guts. The other was keeping a lid on the pain until it went away. Him, he’d never thought talking would do him much good. That was part of what bugged Barbara so much. She wanted to go back over every detail of Luke’s life from birth to death and he just couldn’t torture himself like that. He saw his energy being better spent on catching and and breaking the fucking neck of the bastard who did it.

“John,” says Scully sadly.

“I guess that makes me a bad father, huh?” he says.

“No. You survived.” She cradles his face and kisses his cheeks, his forehead, his chin.

He holds her to him and they lie there. He wonders what she’s thinking. Now that she knows, he can hang the photos back up after work tomorrow.

“You were so good with Matthew today. It makes sense,” she says.

“I like kids,” he says.

“You were good with Zac, too. My neighbor’s son.”

“He seemed like a good kid,” he says. He doesn’t know what else to say. He doesn’t much like talking about kids anymore. He’d never have another. It was a foolish risk to take, giving away a chunk of your heart not knowing if it would disappear forever. God knows that it could.

“You’re a good man.”

“I don’t know about that.” He’d hid his son away like a dirty secret and he’s fallen for the woman who’s carrying Agent Mulder’s baby. He can think of a few ways he could be better.

“I do know about that,” says Scully, turning his face to look at her.

God, why does she have to be so pretty? He swallows.

“I wasn’t very nice to you when you were assigned. You didn’t treat me any differently than you treat me now, because you’re good,” she says, stroking his cheek.

“Really?” he says, giving her a wry smile. “I don’t remember me getting you naked when we first met.”

“John,” she admonishes, returning his smile. “I mean at work. You always looked out for me, even when I didn’t want you there.”

“It’s my job,” he says.

“I’m just saying I wasn’t very friendly. I wouldn’t have blamed you if you hadn’t done your job.”

“That’s not me,” he says.

“I know it’s not you.”

She touches to fingers to his lips and he kisses them. Somehow, telling her wasn’t as bad as he’d thought it would be.  



On a Friday in mid-December, Scully digs her camera out of a cluttered desk drawer to document her last Christmas season without a child, knowing the apartment won’t look this nice and orderly for at least the next fourteen or fifteen years. She tries to get the important elements in the frame, the nativity on the table behind the sofa and the electric candles in the windows. Her tree is set up, the PVC branches fluffed and hung with her favorite ornaments. She’s hung a baugh of fake evergreen over the lintel and the cabinet by the door. The jam cookies in the oven have five minutes to go. Big flakes have been falling outside, the first big snowfall of the season. Everything is perfect, except for the cavity where Mulder should be.

Last Christmas Eve, she’d gone to his apartment so they could exchange gifts. She can’t remember what they got each other, just that there had been laughter, togetherness, and Die Hard on the TV. If absences were wounds, Mulder’s had been a gash the size of a ditch when he first went missing. In the three months since, it has scabbed over and narrowed. She’s healing whether she wants to or not, and the healing makes her feels more defeated than anything. There hasn’t been a single soluble lead in over three months. At work earlier, she’d asked Doggett what he really thought had happened to Mulder. She guessed that they weren’t on the same page about it and she was right.

“You want my honest opinion?” he’d said. He always gave her an out.

“I do,” she’d said.

Doggett’s theory was that Mulder had vanished of his own volition and didn’t want to be found. He wasn’t trying to convince her, he’d said, but she asked and he was giving it to her straight.

“I don’t think Mulder would leave me like this,” she’d objected.

Doggett had showed her his palms, as if to say, Hey, you asked . “I’ll follow any leads we get. Even extraterrestrial ones,” he’d said.

The more she’s thought about it, the more she wonders if Skinner actually did see Mulder board an aircraft of extraterrestrial origin. Of course she believes that he thought he saw it, Skinner isn’t a bullshitter, but the X-Files has shown her three dozen different ways that the human mind can trick itself (or someone else). Perhaps there is an alternative explanation, as Doggett says. Maybe Mulder himself had staged whatever it was that Skinner saw. Even though she’d told Doggett that Mulder would never leave her like this, hadn’t he left her plenty of times before? He’d gifted her with his near-death on almost every other case they investigated. She’d bailed him out of hotel rooms in Rhode Island, witnessed the aftermath of his near drowning in the Bermuda Triangle, cured him of incurable diseases.

But there’s a cavity where he should be and she wishes he were here. She wishes he’d been there for that morning’s ultrasound. The kidney bean of a few week ago had a distinctive baby silhouette now. “No abnormalities,” her obstetrician had said. “All normal.” Scully had walked out of the office holding the envelope of precious black-and-white images to her chest and wiping away tears, feeling so grateful to God that she stopped by Immaculate Conception on the way home to light a candle and say a prayer. If Mulder would just reappear again, the baby could be the thing that finally changed him. It’s changed her so far.

There’s a knock at her door and she sets the camera down on the arm of the couch. “Come in!” she calls.

“You should know better than to leave your door unlocked,” Doggett says when he appears, locking the deadbolt behind him.

“I was hanging the holly right before you showed up, so I decided to unlock it,” she says, lifting her lips to receive his hello kiss.

“Still,” he says, pecking her. He makes his way into the kitchen and deposits the grocery bags on the counter. “Looks nice in here,” he says, as he returns to her side in the living room. He hugs her from behind and kisses her cheek. “What’s in the oven?”

“My Grandma Edna’s jam cookies. I’ll let you have one if you behave.”

He puts a finger in the V of her sweater and stretches it out. “Who says I’m misbehaving?” he says, as he looks down her shirt. She’s in a D-cup bra now and know that her breasts have never looked more irresistible.The timer goes off.

“You have a funny definition of behaving, John Doggett,” she says, ducking out of his reach so she can get the cookies out of the oven.

In the kitchen with her, he begins to put away the groceries she asked him to pick up: orange juice, apples, oatmeal, yogurt, eggs, carrots. “Where do you want these?” he says. He’s holding up three chocolate bars.

“John.” She grins and he grins back. “Somewhere up high where I can’t get them easily,” she says.

“Careful what you wish for,” he replies. He stretches up to the cabinets that she can’t reach and she shakes her head and smiles. There’s rarely a plan when she invites him over. Sometimes she’ll suggest a specific movie for them to watch, but more often than not they’ll have sex, eat dinner, and surf channels. Everything with him is so comfortable that it astounds her sometimes. They’ve managed to skip straight to the easiest part of the relationship, maybe out of a heightened awareness that the expiration date is will come up sooner rather than later.

“You need me to test one of these or anything?” Doggett says, indicating the cookies.

“Don’t burn your mouth,” she says.

He takes a bite and pronounces the cookie incredible. She puts away the rest of the groceries while he samples another. Whatever this relationship with him is, she often reasons, it’s not cheating. It would only be cheating if she and Mulder had been decided to commit to each other, and they never had.

“Is it still snowing?” she says. “How were the roads?”

“Yep. I’d say there are about five inches alread,” he says, popping the rest of the cookie in his mouth. “Roads could’ve been better. Store was a nuthouse.”

“Are you staying tonight?”

“If you want me to.”

That’s one of his quirks. He’ll leave his duffel bag in the car and only bring it in once he’s sure she wants him to stay. A couple times she’s sent him home, but mostly she likes when he stays. She’s getting used to waking up next to a man again.

“If the roads are bad, you should,” she says, placing her hand on the back of his neck and bringing his mouth down to hers. He tastes like vanilla.

“Mmm,” he says, stroking the side of her tongue with his.

They wind up on the couch where she can straddle his lap and doesn’t have to crane her neck to kiss him. He’s wearing the green pullover that he wore on their first date, the one with the quarter zip. Jeans, too. She loves him in jeans. His neck is warm and smells like cologne. He sighs when she nips it. As he presses her closer, she reaches over his shoulder for the camera.

“Hmm?” he says, when she leans back. His eyes fall on the camera.

“I was taking pictures before you got here. I want to remember what things looked like before the baby,” she says.

She leans forward and kisses him. Then she pulls back and clicks the shutter, capturing his pleasure-drunk expression and half smile.

“Hey,” he says, narrowing his eyes, but the smile on his face has broadened. He snatches the camera from her before she can react. Her mouth is half open in surprise when he snaps a picture of her. In the next picture she’s mock pouting; in the one after that, she’s realized he’s taking a series and is grinning. He winds the camera after each photo.

“Here,” she says, taking the camera back. She slips between Doggett and the back of the couch, their bodies jammed uncomfortably together. She tips her head back so it’s next to his, aims the camera toward them, and takes a photo. She looks over and catches him with tongue out. “John!” The next photo captures their laughter.

“Wait, my arms are longer,” he says. As he orients the camera, she presses her lips to his cheek. They kiss on the lips in the next photo. Make silly faces in the next. Then the camera runs out of film. Scully winds the camera up, thinking she’ll take the film to be developed tomorrow morning.

“Photo shoot over?” Doggett inquires, shifting her back into his lap.

“Affirmative,” she says. “Where were we?”

They were at the kissing part, but she feigns ignorance as he jumps ahead to the unbuttoning part. She looks down, enjoying the sight of his deft fingers opening her cardigan. He smooths it off her arms once the last button is freed and begins tugging the tank top out of her jeans. Bing Crosby is singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” on the stereo, so soft she can barely hear it. When Doggett has her tank top off, she doesn’t let him proceed to her bra, but pushes him onto his back with a hand. She skates a hand over his groin to find that he’s more than ready. She will, thank you, have herself a merry little Christmas.

Her fingers make quick work of his belt. She rubs him a little through the jeans, making him moan, before unbuttoning and unzipping him. In general, he’s much less noisy than Mulder, so every hard-won noise is a surefire way to ratchet up her arousal. She pushes the green pullover up to the bottom of his ribs and kisses his stomach. He strokes her hair as she moves lower, kissing warm skin just above the elastic of his boxers. She frees his penis from his boxers and teases him with a hand for a minute, coating his glans with its own fluid. He rewards her with another long groan. “Dana,” he pants.

By the time she gets around to putting her mouth on him, his breath is pushing hard and greedy out of his throat. She likes going down on him just as much as she likes him going down on her. It’s the way he whimpers, laid helpless with a stroke of her tongue, and the way he smells, sharp and musky. “ Ungh ,” he says. He sounds close already. It’s another endearing thing about him, that he doesn’t have Mulder’s stamina. She can drive him to the edge with the slightest thing. With that thought, she swallows him down as far as she can, causing him to pry her off with a choked, “Not yet, not yet!”

“If you say so,” she says with a smirk.

“I do say so,” he says, returning the smile.

She allows him to get her onto her back and he covers her with his big, heavy form, thrusting against her hipbone a couple times before grinning and yanking her down the couch by her belt-loops. She loves this man. She’s not she how it happened, but she knows it right now as much as she knows anything.   

“‘s your turn,” he says, quickly undoing her buttons and peeling the slacks off her legs.

He nips at her inner thigh, the fleshy part that she can never seem to firm up with any quantity of squats, but she doesn’t care because she knows he thinks she’s perfect. His breath is hot against the dampened crotch of her underwear. Instead of pulling them off, he hooks a finger into the crotch, brushing her labia minora and making her mewl, and pulls the fabric aside. She waits for the swipe of his tongue, but it doesn’t come. She opens her eyes to see him watching her with a half-smile on her face.

“What?” she says.

He shakes his head. “Nothin’. Just thinking about how lucky I am.” He lowers his eyes and extends the tip of his tongue to that consecrated place, diverting her focus. She’s the lucky one here. He strokes her labia majora as he pleasures her. It always seems idle at first, but the finger will inevitably wander to her vagina, skirting the outside, and her heart with thump quicker as she waits for it to find its destination. He’s an accomplished tormenter, maybe better than she is. The finger is there now, teasing as his tongue coaxes her to the cliff of ecstasy.

His cell-phone rings, still stuffed in the back pocket of his jeans. She groans. “Don’t you dare answer that.”

Her knight in shining armor extracts the phone and sends it skimming across her living room floor like a stone on a pond. The finger making tracings around her vagina slips inside her and the pitch of her groan changes.

“I’m close,” she says.

Doggett murmurs, flicking his tongue faster.

“Really close,” she adds.

He slips a second finger in her. “C’mon, baby, come for me,” he says, voice scratchy.

“John,” she says. As the tension bursts, she grabs the soft thickness of his hair and moans. He fucks her with his fingers and his tongue until it’s too much for her to endure and she pushes him away, quaking with the aftershocks.

Over on the dining room table, her phone rings. Doggett looks up, alert. “Maybe you oughta …”

“No.” She needs to have him inside her. Before he can protest, she pulls off her underwear, wrestles his jeans down to his ankles, and pulls his boxers around his knees. She rides him aggressively and he holds her in place, not protesting, his phone ringing again. They know that multiple calls in a row means just one thing, a case. She doesn’t want a case over Christmas.

“Fuck, baby,” Doggett says, flipping down the cups of her bra so that her breasts bounce in his face.

He fucks her so well that she could almost, almost come from it. She slides her hand under his pullover and undershirt and rubs one of his nipples erect.

“Dana,” he says. His voice is desperate.

She traces his lips with the finger of her other hand and rides him harder. He cries out when he comes and she thinks absently about what the neighbors will think as he collapses against the throw pillow, his chest heaving. She folds herself to rest her head on his chest and he slips out of her. His fingers play in her hair.

“We should probably get that,” he says.

“Mmm,” she says, not want to move. “I’m not ready for another batboy case, are you?”

“Could be Mulder,” he says.

Her stomach feels queasy at the thought and she straightens up. “I need to clean up.” In the bathroom, she wipes his semen from between her legs, the pregnancy and Mulder suddenly at the forefront of her mind. She meets Doggett in the kitchen. He’s wearing only the Kerry green pullover and he looks grimmer than usual. His hands are clenched over the back of a kitchen chair. He wastes no time cutting to the chase.

“They found Theresa Hoese, that lady who disappeared the night before Mulder. Out in Montana. She’s in pretty bad shape. Skinner wants to know if we can fly out there tonight.”

This is a snapshot that would be striking, but she doesn’t want to immortalize it with a camera: both of them almost naked in her kitchen realizing that their relationship has just ended.

Chapter Text

Doggett stands at the bedside of the ruined woman “circling the drain” (the doctor’s words) and knows that after the torpor of the past three-and-a-half months, Mulder’s case is back to normal speed. Theresa Hoese is the break and there’s evidence at long last, the iinjuries inflicted on her, plus a witness and a size nine-and-a-half Nike footprint. It’s a relief to have leads to focus on because Scully is already pulling away from him. He figured she would. Just didn’t know when and where the shoe would drop, but at least now that it’s in free fall he has something to keep him busy.

As soon as Scully, Skinner, and he walk out of Theresa’s hospital room, he calls up Monica. The main reason is that cults are her forte and he’s ninety-nine percent sure that’s what they’re dealing with here. The other is that he knows he’ll need a friend as soon as Mulder is located and that other shoe lands. Monica can be kind of a moonbat, but he’s gotten comfortable with her over the years and likes her company. She’s easy to be around.

From the hospital, the three of them drive to Richie Szalay’s place. None of them talk. Wouldn’t take a psychic to know that they’re all processing what the doc said. The insides of Theresa’s checks have tissue damage. Worse, someone had busted her chest open and taken out pieces of her organs. The doc warned them she might not last through the night. Nothing says they’re not going to find Mulder in the exact same shape.

Richie turns out to be a UFO nut, says he was following one the night that Theresa Hoese was picked half-dead out of a field, but even nuts can have their uses. In Richie’s case, he hands them another lead. It’s talk in Internet chat rooms that’s brought him from Portland to Montana to look for flying saucers. Ding-ding-ding, Doggett thinks. That’s how these freaks find each other. Fifteen years in law enforcement and he never tires of how neatly the pieces can fall into place once they get a break in a case. He’s thinking about this when he exits Szalay’s apartment, wondering how soon he can get the Gunmen into that chat room Richie mentioned.

Scully’s footsteps quicken behind him and he turns around. He can see right away that she’s upset. They stop and look at each other.

“You refuse to believe that anything other than a man could have done this,” Scully says.

Leave it to her to cut right to the chase. He studies her face, weighing how he’ll reply. He decides to leave the There Is No Such Thing As UFOs lecture for another day. He says, “It’s not worth arguing about. The point here is to find Mulder.” He hopes she can see the reason in that.

She isn’t happy. “And for months, we have been looking for a break, which is what we’ve got here,” she says.

“What we’ve got is hope. But let’s be honest, Agent Scully, about what no one wants to say.” Might as well put it out in the open.

She’s taken off guard. “What do you mean?” she says.

“That Agent Mulder came out here and joined up with a cult.”

“I will not believe that for a minute,” says Scully. Her voice is cold.

Realization dawns and he draws his eyebrows together. “Bad as you wanna find Mulder,” he tries, “you’re afraid to find him too.”

The look on her face tells him that he’s right. Why’s she afraid of finding Mulder, though? Surely it doesn’t have anything to do with John Doggett? He rejects the notion as soon as it occurs. Wishful thinking.

Whatever she had planned to reply doesn’t come because Skinner walks out of Richie’s door and puts an end to the conversation. There’s plenty to fill the rest of the day and they don’t resume it. He and Skinner drop Scully back at the hospital to look further into Theresa Hoese’s case and head over the Helena Police Department themselves to do some more research. They commission some Web sleuth-work from the Gunmen, examine the Helena detectives’ file on Theresa, and spend the rest of their time getting filled in on the cult north of town. Theresa’s condition hands them probable cause to search the cult’s compound and Skinner arranges for an enhanced SWAT team to fly in as soon as possible. At six o’clock, they head out again. Skinner drops him off at the airport so he can meet Monica.

They’ll send each other postcards every once and awhile, but he hasn’t actually seen her since leaving New York. They exchange a long hug and he tags along her as she picks up her baggage, hops on a shuttle, and collects a car from the rental place. It’s good to see her again. Dinner is the first Italian place they drive past. He hasn’t eaten since breakfast and is famished, so he’s happy to let her catch him up on the last six years of her life as he inhales lasagna and garlic bread.

“But you,” she says after awhile, laying down her fork and smiling. “I want to hear what you’ve been up to after all this time.”

He takes a pull from the bottle of Sam Adams the waitress has just brought, thinking of men with bat wings, Indian mystics who inhabit the colons of their victims, and parasitic larvae mistaken for the Second Coming of Christ. “I think I’ll give you the Readers’ Digest Condensed version,” he says, but fills her in on all of it, the bizarre cases, Agent Mulder’s disappearance, reading decades’ worth of unexplained bullshit in Mulder’s files. She doesn’t have any questions about Scully besides whether he likes his new partner, which suits him just fine. She’s more interested in the X-Files, which she pronounces her “dream job.” He orders another beer. With his stomach full of pasta and bread, it won’t even go halfway toward a buzz, but it tastes good.

“Earth to John,” she says.

“Sorry?”

“Long day?” she says, smiling again. “I was saying, ‘Tell me more about Agent Mulder.’ ”

What he knew about Mulder before meeting Scully was mostly grist from the rumor mill, but he tells Monica all the same. Over the years, he’d ended up in a few meetings together with Mulder. He had the tendency to float some wackadoodle idea out of nowhere once everyone else in the room’d had their say. Doggett had always thought that for a guy who went to Oxford, Mulder didn’t seem too bright. The entire Bureau knew him as the guy who was convinced his sister had been kidnapped by aliens. Doggett has pictured Luke when he first heard that and tried to put himself into that situation, being a grown-ass man and blaming a tragic child abduction on little grey men.

“Sounds like you don’t have a very high opinion of him,” says Monica.

Doggett shrugs. “Doesn’t matter what I think. Gotta find the guy.”

“And you’re pretty sure he’s tangled up with a cult.”

“Makes the most sense to me,” he says. He hopes that Monica’s on his side in this.

He pays for their dinner (well, the Bureau pays for their dinner) and walks with her out to the car. He takes the wheel because he knows where the hotel is and she’s staying in the same one as Skinner, Scully, and him. He’s got a hunch that they're going to find Mulder this trip and he hasn’t come to terms about what that means for his stint with the X-Files and the thing with Scully. If it’s true that Mulder’s run off to join up with a cult, Kersh might want to keep Doggett where he is until he’s fired Mulder. Doggett knows full well that Mulder’s been booted off the X-Files twice already and the third is guaranteed be a charm. With Mulder out of the way, John Doggett the independent observer gets to conclude that there’s no such thing as spacemen and Kersh gets to decide that keeping someone on the payroll to investigate cases like this is a waste of the taxpayer’s dollar. Doggett can see the future laid out as neat as that. He’d figured previously that with any luck, Kersh would just kick him back to the CDI after closing the X-Files and he’d live happily ever after. That was before he’d gotten to know Scully.

“Earth to John,” says Monica.

“Sorry,” he says.

“Don’t apologize,” she says, in that bright cheery way of hers. “I’m sensing that there’s something you’re not tell me. You’re—”

“Tired?” he says, because it’s not a lie.

“No, something else,” she says. “You seem troubled.”

“Troubled is my middle name,” he says, taking a right turn. It’s too dark to see the distant Big Belt Mountains, the foothills of which the cult is situated on. Forty-eight hours from now, he’d be out there somewhere and, with any luck, Mulder would be with him.



The dead man, Gary Cody, presages something awful. Scully is not prepared for the way that something hits her as she narrates her visual examination of his body into the voice recorder. The Helena Police Department don’t need a trained pathologist like her to see that his body shows the exact same pattern of torture and mutilation as Theresa Hoese. She hasn’t made the Y-shaped incision yet, but it’s been started for her by his torturer, straight down the medial line of his sternum. Skinner and Doggett are waiting in the corner of the room like mourners at a visitation and she feels like the grieving widow staring down into the coffin, although why their grim demeanors should make her feel this way, she doesn’t know. This man isn’t Mulder.

She moves around the body. There’s little livor mortis that she can observe, which is unusual given that Cody has been dead at least two days. His face is covered in bruises and open wounds, his lips are dark and bluish. The rest of his skin is grey in color, like the blocks of stoneware clay her art teacher used to pass out in junior high. Her voice suddenly cracks on a word that she’s barely aware of uttering and her face gives way. Skinner snaps to her rescue. “Dana.”

She will not cry. She will not cry. “I’m okay,” she says, taking a deep breath and blinking aside the tears. She doesn’t look at Doggett, who’s been watching the proceedings with his fist under his upper lip. She can’t think about him right now. The news of Theresa Hoese has brought Mulder back into full focus. He’s her number-one priority.

As Skinner and Doggett leave the room and she makes the first cut in Cody’s skin with the scalpel, she wishes Skinner had objected a bit harder and stayed.

However, the initial shock of seeing the body does wear off and the autopsy unfolds per usual over three hours. Small portions of every organ except the brain, down to the small intestine and the heart and lungs, have been excised. She doesn’t know how on earth Cody could have been alive after this, but the partially healed incision over his sternum confirms that he was, at least for a short time. Cause of death is heart failure due to septic shock. No doubt he was infected after his chest had been opened and his organs sampled. She staples him back together along the Y-incision, replaces the skull cap and folds the scalp back into place, then staples up that incision too. By the time she’s washed up and put her medical gown in a bin, it’s well past five o’clock.

When she opens the morgue door, there’s Doggett sitting on a plastic chair in the waiting area just to the left of the doors. His elbows are on his knees, his head rests on his folded hands, and his brows are knit. He lifts his head when he sees her.

“John.”

“You okay?” His face is engraved with concern.

“I’m okay,” she says.

Although it’s been less than forty-eight hours since the call about Theresa Hoese, things between them couldn’t feel more different. In that time, “okay” has also taken on a different meaning. In this case, it means that she’s not about to fall apart at the seams like she was earlier. Doggett wants to press it, she can tell, but like Skinner he takes her at her word. If she wants to pretend she’s okay, they’ll pretend too.

The FBI has set the raid on the compound at thirteen hundred hours. Under normal circumstances she would find time to at least wolf down a yogurt cup, but her stomach doesn’t stir. The worry seems to have paralyzed her digestive system. She’s afraid to find Mulder dead. There isn’t any sense in trying to convince herself she isn’t, yet he’s come back from the brink so many times, a cat with nine times nine lives. She fears the truth about his disappearance, too, fears that it will expose untruths that will erode the foundation they’ve built together over the past seven years. Strange that Mulder’s guiding principle, The Truth, should give her so much trepidation.

“I think you oughta hang back on this raid,” Doggett says, cutting into her thoughts. They’re walking out to the car from the morgue.

“What do you mean?” she says.

Doggett’s eyes flicker to her face, then straight ahead. “You’re four months pregnant.”

“And?” she says, waiting by the passenger door while he pulls car keys from his pocket. She notices that he doesn’t try to get the door for her. They get inside and buckle in.

“This raid could get dangerous. You don’t know how these people are gonna react,” he says, turning the key. He looks over his shoulder as he backs the car up.

“And?” she says. She doesn’t need a lecture from him.

“And what if it turns out like Waco?” he says, with a sigh. “Are you gonna put your life and the baby’s in danger?”

“It is my job to find Mulder,” she says.

The rest of the drive back to the hotel is unbearably  tense.

Later than night, she gets behind the wheel of a government SUV at a quarter ‘til eleven. Doggett, Skinner, and Doggett’s tagalong friend Agent Reyes, who thinks that this is a run-of-the-mill cult case, pile into it with her. She steers them into a convoy of black vehicles and they drive down a dark two-lane road with no center lines. She drives because she wants to feel like she has control over something. She knows the ways in which she’s compensates. She’s not stupid.

The raid is chaos.

At the first sight of the SWAT team, cult members scatter like rabbits in headlights, zigzagging every which way. Scully draws her gun and pushes her way into the nearest building. People sleeping in rows of twin beds shoot upright. Some scream. Scully blots out all of these details, thinking only of getting a glimpse of Mulder’s face among all the unfamiliar ones. He’s got to be here. She shines her flashlight on every bed. He isn’t. Injured somewhere?

She dashes into another building, ignoring the three occupants, who are not Mulder.

She throws open doors. Where she finds him at last is in an empty bedroom. There he is, standing near a window in almost total darkness. She begins to say his name, but realizes that something is the matter. There’s something wrong with his right arm. Her mind doesn’t have the description for it at first.

Translucent. His arm is translucent.

“Agent Scully.” She turns and sees Monica Reyes, turns back to Mulder.

No one is there. The room is empty. At that moment, she understands that untruths should have been the least of her worries.

Chapter Text

“Agent Doggett! Agent Doggett!”

He whips around. The agent who called his name is summoning him with the sweep of a hand. He’s found something in a clearing a few hundred yards from the enclave.

Doggett jogs over to where several other agents have gathered and sees that what they’re ringed around is the body of a man. His throat tightens. It’s been seven years since Luke was killed, but he’ll never get used to the sight of law enforcement clustered around a body. The body is bare at the shoulders and wrapped in a military-issue blanket. A row of puncture marks line the cheek. The face is very, very ashen and the body is very, very still. Doggett knows a dead body when he sees it, but he stoops to check for a pulse anyway, finding that the body is stone-cold. Even in the darkness, he can see signs that it has been horrendously abused.

It’s Agent Mulder.

All this time he’s been with this cult, getting the life tortured out of him. All this time they could have been saving him. He straightens up, feeling like socking one of the agents in the face.

“Agent Doggett!”

Skinner is running toward him, trench coat flapping around his calves. Doggett realizes that Scully can’t be far behind. He can’t let her see Mulder like this.

“It’s Mulder. He’s gone,” Doggett says, as Skinner arrives.

Skinner gapes. The pain on his face is so naked that Doggett has to look away. Skinner checks for a pulse, too. They both have the same hope. When he stands up, they look at each other. Skinner’s jaw works.

“Go find Agent Scully. Don’t let her see him like this,” Doggett urges. To the agents gathered around the body, staring dumbly, he says, “Get a hold of the coroner. And you three—” He looks at the men in question and jerks a thumb toward the compound. “Don’t you let any of these sick fucks get out of here. Make sure every single one of them is accounted for.”

He understands Waco now. He’d torch this place if he could.

He and several others guard the body. Now that he’s found him, Doggett is determined not to let Mulder out of his sight. The other agents are buzzing about the raid and the cult. One calls Mulder a “crazy bastard” and even though Doggett agrees with him, he shoots the guy a look and says, “Watch your fucking mouth.”

The situation is bad enough, but it soon goes to worse when he hears the approach of hurried footsteps. He breaks away from the circle of agents and Scully says, in a thin, desperate voice, “Where is he?” She’s running toward him, Skinner following close behind her. That goddamn idiot.

Doggett catches Scully by the arm, but she looks past him to the ground. “How bad is he, how bad is he?” she says. “How bad is he hurt?” She tears out of his grasp and the circle of agents breaks to admit her.

“Why in the hell did you tell her?” Doggett yells, wheeling on Skinner.

“She has a right , Agent,” Skinner says, burning him with a look.

Huddled over Mulder’s body, Scully is saying in a rising pitch, “No. No.” It’s the manifestation of a horrible, unearthly emotion he's only ever heard around dead bodies.

He can’t take it. He bends and grabs Scully around the waist, pulling her away. He wants her to accept an embrace, but she fights it like a feral cat. “He needs help! He needs help!” She’s frantic, out of her mind.

“It’s too late!” he says. But she’s broken out of his arms again and run off into the trees and toward the compound. He turns back to Skinner. “I hope that was worth it,” he says, feeling savage.

“Watch it,” Skinner says, his words a growl.

Moments later, blinding white light sweeps through the forest, preventing further confrontation. He and Skinner shield their faces, trying to make out the source. Helicopters , Doggett thinks. They’ve arrived in response to the earlier call for back-up. When the light disappears just as suddenly as it flares up, plunging the forest back into darkness, they struggle to make sense of it.

The entire night is one endless clusterfuck from that point forward. Local police arrive to transport the cult members to jail, but even with the FBI vehicles, there aren’t enough cars to make a single trip and they have to be transferred in shifts. Jeremiah Smith has escaped in the confusion. Worst, Scully won’t leave the battered shell of Mulder’s body or let the coroner transport it to the hospital until the coroner agrees not to do an autopsy. The coroner, of course, has to argue about it, oblivious to who she’s up against. “There are clearly signs of foul play, you cannot legally …”

All Scully says is, “Try me. I’ll keep him overnight if I have to. We’re doing the autopsy in D.C. You are not touching him. If I find out you have touched him, I will kill you.”

The whole scene makes him sick to his stomach. He had a similar reaction when they found Luke. His son was a crime scene; he could not touch the crime scene. The crime scene had to lay alone in the morgue without its favorite blanket for comfort. It had to be butchered by the medical examiner and taken to the funeral home to be prepared. By the time he got to touch the crime scene, in a casket that was too heartwrenchingly miniature to comprehend, it wasn’t his boy anymore, but a cold wax dummy. He would have done anything not to have the crime scene subjected to all of that.

In the end, Scully leverages her status as an FBI agent, a doctor, and the executor of Mulder’s will to get her way. The coroner agrees that the autopsy can be performed in D.C. and Doggett hopes for the love of all things holy, if there is anything holy in the world, that Scully won’t try to do the autopsy herself.

As the clutch of people in the area begins to thin, he’s torn. He wants to join the search teams for Jeremiah Smith or work until dawn processing the evidence so that he can catch Mulder’s murderer faster, but he also doesn’t want to leave Scully alone. Skinner decides for him.

“Stay with her tonight,” he says, laying a hand on Doggett’s shoulder.

The ride is completely silent when drives her back to the hotel. He’s glad. He doesn’t know if he could take her crying, not with his own wounds seeping. He expects crying when they open Scully’s hotel room and step into the silent darkness together, but she’s stoic.

“You don’t have to be here,” she says, as he turns on a bedside light. “I’m fine for now.” She has an eerie calm about her, like a church statue. He knows that she’s in shock.

“Don’t ask me to leave you,” he says. “Not tonight.” When he swallows, there’s a lump.

“Are you okay?” she asks. She walks over and feels his forehead with the back of a hand.

He shakes his head. Tears are stinging his eyes. She puts her arms around his waist and he pulls her close. “I’m so sorry,” he says, in a whisper.

“I know,” she says. “I know.”

“I could have saved him.”

Shhh .” Scully squeezes him.

He takes a deep breath and hears it shudder in his throat. He’s failed Scully, failed Mulder, failed himself. He never gets there in time.

“It’s okay,” Scully says.

“I let him down,” he says. His tears are dropping into Scully’s hair, wetting her scalp at the part. “I let you down.”

“No.” She squeezes him harder.

They hold each other for a very long time. Mulder, that big, dumb dreamer, is dead. Even though he never knew Mulder that well, the news is going to take some getting used to. Scully and he don’t shower and he doesn’t grab his bag from his own room. He undresses down to his underwear and crawls into bed with her, holding her close. He doesn’t think sleep will come, but it does.

 

This is not happening.

She is not standing by Mulder’s open grave on December 30th and his body is not in that shiny black Cadillac of a coffin, which she did not pick out herself two days ago

She did not stand over his sheeted body in a Quantico autopsy bay, faking her way through his autopsy for three hours using Gary Cody’s information while Doggett paced back and forth, the room quiet except for the echo of his slow footsteps and her voice. After all that Mulder had suffered, she couldn’t bear the thought of him (not that he’s dead) undergoing even more mutilation by the pathologist’s scalpel or the embalmer’s trocar. He had stayed untouched in cold storage until last night when he was taken out and shipped to the funeral home. There was little work for the director or his assistants when he arrived because there was no open casket, which she’s sure Mulder would have hated. She forbid them to touch him, other than to dress him and position him.  

The laymen’s term for this-is-not-happening is shock, but Scully doesn’t feel in shock so much as she feels tipped upside-down, like she’s walking on the ceiling. Her apartment looks the same. Her street looks the same. Business in D.C. goes on as usual. Everything is in its place except for her.

And Mulder? she thinks, looking down at the coffin poised on straps on top of the grave. This is so weird . The mourners listening solemnly to the Catholic priest recite the ashes-to-ashes line are a motley crew. Byers is impeccable as always, but Langley and Frohike are dressed in scruffy suits. Her mother and Charlie are arrayed next to Skinner, who is at her elbow waiting for her to break down; she can sense it in his concerned glances and light touches on her arm. Doggett is also nearby, but gives her plenty of space. He’s been on the periphery since they flew back from Montana with Mulder’s body, watching her for signs of cracks. She’s glad of the distance. As she adjusts to Mulder’s gaping absence, she prefers not to think very hard about any one person or subject.

There isn’t a single representative from Mulder’s family in attendance, not a great-aunt or a second cousin. He is the last of the Mulders, except for the expanding bump beneath her coat, which she has so far been able to keep hidden from everyone but Skinner and Doggett. The day that she stood over Mulder’s body in the autopsy bay, soft flutters rippled through her abdomen. Not really attending, she’d thought it had been gas. The flutters have persisted through the past several days and she knows now that it’s the baby. Baby Mulder.

As the coffin creaks out of sight, she stoops to collect a handful of dirt. It is hard and cold and lands on the coffin lid with a solid sound that makes her wince. Skinner puts an arm around her. She must looks like she needs it, even though she isn't crying. It’s not that she fears breaking down in front of all of these people, most of whom are here for her benefit more than Mulder’s, she can’t cry. She didn’t cry the night they found Mulder and she hasn’t cried since. She wonders if the grief has already leaked out over the course of eighty odd months with him. Until this happened (which it is not, it is not happening), she hadn’t realized how much the fear that Mulder would someday end up dead has overshadowed her life. She wept countless times for his near fatal injuries and disappearances. A part of her is relieved that she doesn’t have to worry anymore. She should feel horrible about that thought, but just like crying, the feeling eludes her.

What she would have liked through all this is to go back to work, but Skinner won’t let her. He’s forcing her to take vacation time. She’s been in her apartment watching TV and reading science journals, while Maggie makes endless soups. When they’ve cooled, she pours them into plastic storage containers and stacks the containers in Scully’s freezer, as though this arsenal of food will heal her daughter’s grief. Scully almost slips and remarks that the soup will be nice when the baby comes. She hasn’t told Maggie, but maybe Maggie already knows. There’s a baby-names book somewhere in the apartment. Scully doesn’t think that her mother has seen the ultrasound photos, tucked in the November issue of Scientific American , which is shelved upright on the desk.

People trickle away from graveside, hugging her as they say their goodbyes. Frohike tells her to call them if she needs anything and Byers and Langley nod. “You want to go for some food, honey?” says her mom. Scully looks into the chasm of the grave. The doctor and scientist in her knows that Mulder is in there, her love, her best friend, her reason for living, but it still doesn’t seem real. It is, therefore, not happening.

“That’s fine,” says Scully.

“You’re invited,” Maggie says to Doggett and Skinner.

Scully looks into the grave one last time. Unless she jumps in there and unlatches the casket lid, she will never see Mulder on this earth again. Though she’s been living without him for months, deep down she never believed that she wouldn’t see him again. She waits for the grief to descend at long last, but it doesn’t. Skinner’s arm is around her shoulders and a track of tears glistens on each of his cheeks. Doggett hangs behind as they walk to their cars, looking grimmer than she’s ever seen him. She rides to the restaurant with Bill, Tara, and her mom. Bill puts his arm around her as they walk into the restaurant. A pattern, Mulder , she thinks. It’s hard to comprehend that he won’t be around for her to relay this bizarre experience to him.

The restaurant serves garden-variety American cuisine. There must be two hundred items on the menu, from soups and sandwiches to steaks and seafood. It seems inexpressibly stupid that there are so many choices when there are so many people out there dead in the ground, robbed from making decisions ever again. What does it matter? Why a Reuben when there’s already a Philly cheesesteak and tuna melt? How could it possibly make a difference? She orders a vegetable soup and salad. Everyone at the table is assiduously avoiding the subject of Mulder’s death, but it hangs over them like a miasma. The presumption of grief allows her to stay quiet and she’s grateful for it. She doesn’t feel like talking. Skinner, Bill, and Maggie take care of the conversation. Doggett sits diagonal to her and watches her throughout the meal. She takes a few bites of her soup and feels full. She’s beginning to half believe that this is an X-File and she’s accidentally torn through the fabric of time and space and fallen into a parallel universe. If she can find the rip, she might be able to recover her own timeline.

If there is a rip, she doesn’t locate it that night. Or the next morning.

Maggie stays overnight with her again. Even though she’s handling Mulder’s death just fine so far, it is comforting to have her mother in her bed. It makes her feel like a child again, safe, protected. She feels so calm and anesthetized, in fact, that she wonders if Maggie has been slipping some kind of sedative into the soup.

In the morning, though, she persuades her mother to leave. Maggie protests, but Scully reassures her. “I’m okay, Mom. I just need some time alone.”

Not a lie. She needs to try to stretch her mind around Mulder’s death and the task seems to be best accomplished alone. Maggie protests and protests, but Scully wins out. Once she’s departed, Scully lies on the couch and turns on the TV. She wonders if Mulder’s revenant will appear like it did in Montana and like Ahab’s did right after his death. It doesn’t. (Maybe because this is not happening.) She skims through channel after channel of reruns and infomercials and remembers that it’s Sunday morning. She could still make it to church, but anymore her faith feels as remote as her tears. In spite of what she thought she believed, she can’t envision Mulder in heaven. Frankly, she doesn’t know if she even buys that there’s a heaven anymore. What use would Mulder possibly have for heaven? For eternal contentment and peace? That isn’t who Mulder was. (Is.) And purgatory and hell seem even more far-fetched. She turns off the TV, feeds his fish, and goes back to the couch, where she falls asleep.

She’s groggy when she comes awake. It feels like a Tuesday morning, but in reality the daylight is fading and it’s the last evening of 2000. Without anything worth watching on TV, she isn’t sure what to do with herself. All of the options—reading, taking a bath, digging through her collection of VHS tapes—seem stale. She prods at Mulder’s absence again, trying to make herself believe that he’s really gone for good. She touches her abdomen and thinks about the pregnancy, which she’s felt increasingly detached from. The past couple weeks, she can go for hours at a time and not remember it. None of it seems real, not Mulder’s death, not the pregnancy, not even God.

God died with you, Mulder . The thought makes her sad, though not sad enough to cry.

Her doorbell rings. When she gets up and looks through the peephole, she sees Doggett. He walks in, wearing his trenchcoat and a scarf. There’s a brown bag in his hand.

“Thai,” he said. “Thought you might be hungry.” His eyes search her face.

“Thank you,” she says, closing the door behind him.

Two weeks ago, his appearance would have her heart skipping into her throat. Now, she just feels indifferent. She follows him into the kitchen. He shrugs his coat and scarf off, sets the table with dishes, and opens the bag. In the containers are chicken pad Thai, massaman curry, fried rice, and a side of spring rolls.

He pulls up a chair next to her. “How are you holding up?” he says, brows pinched with concern. “Help yourself, by the way.”

She spoons some curry that she doesn’t feel like eating onto her plate and takes a spring roll. “I’m okay.”

“What’s ‘okay?’ ” he probes.

“Holding up,” she says, knowing full well she’s just echoing him.

“Okay,” he says, using a fork to lift and drop some pad Thai on his own plate.

He doesn’t believe her and she doesn’t care. She feels the texture of the curry, but not the taste. The color has gone out of the world. They eat.

Doggett says, “I thought you might need some company. Your mom told me you’d kicked her out.”

Scully shakes her head. She hadn’t known that Doggett had her mom’s phone number or vice versa. “I’m fine.”

“I’m not here to argue with you,” he says pointedly. “You don’t want company, just say the word.”

She shakes her head again. “It’s fine.” Two-word answers are easier and less exhausting than trying to explain her feelings.

“I’m worried, Dana.” A softer tone of voice.

She lifts her eyes to his. “I know.”

He pins her with those sincere blue eyes. “I don’t think it’s really hit you yet.”

“I don’t know,” she says. “I feel drugged.”

“Are you?” he says. “Have you seen your doctor?”

“No.”

“It’d make me feel better to sit with you tonight. Is that okay?” he says. She can tell he’s being very careful.  

“I’m not doing anything,” she says, stirring but not eating the last bite of curry.

Doggett drops his eyes. “I’m gonna take that as a yes.”

After he puts away the containers of Thai food in her refrigerator and rinses the plates, they sit on the sofa. The twenty-four inches between them tells her they’re back to being partners again. That’s the way she’d prefer it. She lets Doggett pick the channel and he settles on the NBC Sunday night movie, While You Were Sleeping . Sandra Bullock’s character saves a handsome man she’s been lusting after from an oncoming train, and Scully thinks of Doggett, down in the dark Boston train tunnels where she couldn’t rescue him. The hospital staff mistakes the man, now in a coma, for Sandra Bullock’s fiance and she’s too polite to tell them she isn’t, especially when his family hears how she saved his life. The Shakespearean twist is complete when Bullock falls in love with the man’s brother. It’s sweet and feel-good, just as all rom-coms should be, and she doesn’t give a damn about it one way or the other. It keeps her mind from running in circles and exhausting itself. That’s all.

By the time the film ends, it’s 11 p.m. “I’m gonna get a glass of water. You need anything?” says Doggett.

“I’ll take a water,” she says.

When he comes back, he says, “I know this is hard.” He sets both glasses of water on the coffee table.

“It isn’t,” she says. She hadn’t meant to be so frank, the words just tumble out.

Doggett nods. “Yeah. And that’s bothering the hell out of you.”

She shrugs. “Is it?”

“It is.” He sips his water.

“It doesn’t feel like it’s happening.” She rolls the glass between her palms.

“That’s the way it feels to some people.”

“Is that the way it felt when Luke died?” she says.

“Uh-uh,” he says, looking straight at her. “No, that felt fucking real alright.” A bitter laugh. A pause. “I’m thinking of some of the homicides I did when I was on the force. The families. You had certain members, they just hadn’t come around to really believing it yet.”

I want to believe , she thinks, the image of Mulder’s basement poster in her mind’s eye. “What made them come around?”

“Dunno. Some of ‘em I never got to see again, some of ‘em started to accept it and call every goddamn day for an update. Who knows?”

Dr. Dana Scully could find out herself. She could look up the symptoms in a medical database on the Web or in one of her books from grad school. It would be outlined for her and she could be assured that she isn’t alone, that her response to Mulder’s death is not as unique as it feels. She has no desire to. She picks up the remote and switches the channel. For the better part of the next hour, she and Doggett watch the televised New Year’s Eve festivities in silence. Bands she doesn’t care about croon and dance their way across the screen. She wishes now that she hadn’t let Doggett in. She’d prefer to be alone.

Three minutes to go. In Times Square, Rudy Giuliani and Muhammad Ali are staring up at a ball lit orange, then green.

As if it happened minutes and not a year ago, she sees herself standing in the hospital waiting room next to Mulder. On the waiting room TV, the ball sinks under a horizon of lit-up numbers spelling out 2000. Fireworks erupt, streamers explode, and revellers kiss for the camera. She’s thinking that even if Y2K does come true, things don’t seem all that bad. It’s a new millennium. Those people are happy. Life will go on, come Y2K, nuclear war, or alien invasion. She glances over and is shocked to see Mulder’s face moving toward hers. He’s kissing her. He’s smiling. There is only this moment, his mouth and smile and eyes. There is only Mulder. My love. Oh my love, oh my love, oh my love.

Her vision is swimming, blotted out. All she can see of the 2001 celebration on the television is blurry colors. She doesn’t know where the horrible noise is coming from. It sounds like whoever is making it is being torn in two. For a moment, she wonders if she has penetrated the rip in space-time, fallen into it and ended up somewhere worse instead.

It hits her. She’s the one breaking into halves. Doggett has his arms wrapped around her back as if he’ll prevent it. It’s too late for that.

My love, my love, my love.

It’s January 1st, 2001 and there are no more Januaries for Fox Mulder.

Chapter Text

He knows what she’s going through, but there’s not a single thing he can do about it.

He tries to convince himself that he should stay away and respect her need for space, but there’s always an excuse that draws him back. She won’t feel like being out in public with her grief so fresh, so he offers himself for errands. Groceries. Oil change. Fish food. Half the time he drops by, Mrs. Scully is there. When she is, he only lingers long enough to drop off whatever he’s brought or to say hello. He doesn’t want to be an imposition. If she’s with her mom, she’ll be fine. He’s much more concerned with Scully spending too much time alone. It hasn’t escaped his notice that she doesn’t seem to have any friends, unusual for a woman in her early thirties, but isolation is the curse of the X-Files.

Speaking of the X-Files, Kersh wastes no time in summoning Doggett to his office and offering him that golden ticket back to the CID. Dollars to donuts the bastard wouldn’t have blinked an eye if Doggett confessed responsibility for Mulder’s death. The important point is that Mulder is gone for good, just like Kersh wanted. Doggett turns down his ticket. He doesn’t like the idea of a pregnant, grief-fragile Scully manning the department all by herself. He’s already decided to see the job through until she takes her maternity leave. Kersh’s smile fades when Doggett tells him. He grants an extension on the offer, but reluctantly.

Some guys would probably call him stupid laying his career on the line for a woman he isn’t even kissing anymore, let alone fucking, but he’s nothing if not loyal. Doggett the dog. Semper fidelis, stultus e fidelis. He can’t stop hearing that fucking Buzzcocks song in his head.



William, 1995. Tena, 2000. Samantha, 1979. There isn’t a year after Mulder’s name yet, but they’re all there under the headstone together. That’s what a casual cemetery visitor would think, anyway, one who didn’t know that Fox Mulder chased Samantha Mulder’s ghost his whole life, never finding her final resting place. Scully puts a gloved hand on her stomach, wondering again if her baby will be just as obsessed and haunted as its father.

She’s come here hoping to find some essence of Mulder, but as she stands on top of the disturbed soil, frozen and packed, she feels no connection to the gravesite. Wherever he is, it isn’t here. She wipes snot and tears from under her nose, dirtying her other glove. It was stupid of her to hope in the first place that Mulder has moved into some great beyond and will try to reach out to her. She’s waited for him to appear in some dark corner, semi-translucent, and closed her eyes during baths, opening them at random intervals to catch him. When waiting doesn’t work, she goes looking. His apartment is dark and dusty, the electricity having been turned off in the first couple months after his disappearance. Water drips from the tap in his kitchen and bathroom sink so the apartment’s pipes won’t freeze over the winter. She’d found out in the weeks following his disappearance that he’d paid an entire year’s rent to the landlord and his lease isn’t up until late spring. It was a highly unusual thing to have done and must, she thinks, fit somehow into the foreknowledge of his own death. Maybe he wanted to give her time to grieve before she had to execute the terms of his will. He left her everything, just like he’d told her many times in the past. Left her everything and she wants nothing. When his ghost doesn’t show up in the apartment, she locks it again. Any longer and she might have been tempted to bury her face in the shirts in his dresser drawer and the suits in his closet and get permanently lost. There’s no point in tormenting herself like that. The grief doesn’t need any encouragement.

She wipes her nose again and pulls the cuff of her right glove back from her wrist. It’s four o’clock. If she leaves now, she’ll be able to make the Saturday evening Mass. She might find the needed relief from her pain there.

The traffic is light. She’s early. She walks into the church at a quarter-‘til dips her finger in the font of Holy Water, and blesses herself. Her throat aches. She’s one of only five other people in the church. Three are kneeling. Saying their post-confession penance, she realizes after a moment. She chooses a pew toward the back of the church and genuflects.

She should go to confession, too. It might make her feel better. She watches the confessional out of the corner of her eye, thinking about what to confess and what to leave out. The pregnancy doesn’t seem like a sin—how can Fox Mulder’s baby be a sin?—but it is out of wedlock. The sex with John Doggett is a sin, no doubt, the cardinal sin of lust and the mortal sin of extramarital sex. It might fall into the category of adultery and fornication, too, depending on how God categorized her previous relationship with Mulder. Her use of contraception with Doggett is a definite sin. As far as sins not respecting the flesh go, she hasn’t been attending Mass every Sunday (mortal sin) and she has taken the Lord’s name in vain (venial sin, possibly mortal). That seems more than enough to start with. When the door opens, she stands. No ornate wooden confessional at Immaculate Conception, just doors inlaid in the cream stucco walls.

Once inside the reconciliation room, she decides to stay behind the screen. The priest gives a friendly hello. She kneels and crosses herself. “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned. It’s been—” She hesitates. She can’t remember when last she went to confession. “... years since my last confession.” The silhouetted face behind the screen doesn’t move. Her face has grown hot. This feels all wrong and not just because she can almost hear Mulder giggling in her head. Rec room. Get it, Scully? Maybe she didn’t channel the Holy Spirit enough beforehand. Her Sunday school teacher had told the class how important it was to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance before confessing your sins. Hers were always simple back then. She argued with Bill or she was mean to Melissa or Charlie.

“Do you have a confession to make?” says the priest, prompting. His voice is kind.

“Yes, I don’t know if I believe in God anymore, Father,” she says, forgetting the venial and mortal sins. The admission just tumbles out.

“Oh?” the priest says curiously.

Asking her to explain why she no longer believes in God is just as pointless as asking why she believed in the first place. She could tell the priest what she told Doggett, that she’s used birth control, supports a woman’s right to choose, and thinks that transubstantiation is nonsense, but in her heart’s deepest core the faith is simply not there any longer. All of the sacred mysteries have fallen away, the joyful and the luminous and the glorious. Logic and reason didn’t extinguish the light, it just burnt out on its own. The best she can offer is, “A dear friend died. The father of my baby.”

“I’m so sorry.”

The priest is quiet. She can feel the blood pulsing in her ears. A thin gold crucifix hangs above her, Christ sagging on it. She wonders what it would have taken to remove his body from the cross. Would they have hacked the cross down like a tree and caught it as it fell? Or propped a ladder against it? How did they pry the nails loose? The effort must have been tremendous.

“It’s common for people to lose their faith after the death of a loved one,” says the priest.

“Maybe God is punishing me.” That, of course, has occurred to her a lot over the past few weeks. The triad she made with Doggett and Mulder must have been too sinful to escape God’s correction.

The priest is quiet for a long time. “Even Jesus thought he had been forsaken. We know he wasn’t.”

She’s not sure of that anymore. After his friends wrapped his body in scented linen and laid it in a tomb, he might have stayed dead.

“He is still with you,” says the priest, as if he hears what she’s thinking. “Even if you don’t feel him now.”

A lump has formed in her throat. She can’t find a way to tell a man of the cloth that she no longer believes in the resurrection of the flesh. Jesus was just a man after all, a forsaken man who rotted just like Mulder is rotting.

“Remember Job,” the priest says.

“Job was a better person than I am,” she says in a hushed voice, a tear rolling down her cheek.

“Will you pray with me?” says the priest.

“I don’t know if I can,” she says, the sentence coming out in a sob.

Hail, Holy Queen ,” says the priest, soft and gentle. “ Mother of mercy, our sweetness and our hope. To thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve. To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears …”

She drops her forehead onto of the armrest of the prie-dieu and weeps.

“... and after this our exile, show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus, oh merciful, oh loving, oh sweet Virgin Mary .”

“Amen,” she says, in a whisper.

“Peace I leave you; my peace I give you. Go in peace. God is always with you.”

Only when she walks out into the cold dark evening does she realize the priest assigned no penance.

Chapter Text

Blue-eyed, brown-haired Martina would like to fuck Doggett. She shifts her cleavage to make him notice, like he hadn’t already, and asks if he’d like to come to her flat for a drink. Once upon a time, he would have been interested, but now he’d rather just sit alone in the dark corner of this Bamberg pub with his Weihenstephaner beer and conflicted feelings. Martina does eventually leave him alone, but not before giving it a good try. Once upon a time, he would have admired her tenacity. It might have changed his mind. Not now.

Forty-eight hours later, he’s sitting in the basement of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, still feeling hungover from the Weihenstephaner, and the reason he couldn’t fake interest in Martina walks in late at 8:30. 

“Hi,” she says, looking surprised to see him.

“Hey,” he says, trying to project casualness. In the bottom drawer of Mulder’s old desk he’s stashed a scalloped paper valentine reading Ich liebe dich. Most Germans don’t celebrate the holiday, but that didn’t stop him from walking into the shop with the valentine in its window and buying a box of chocolate to match.

Scully unbuttons her coat. He takes a sip of coffee and looks at the computer screen, trying not to stare. She’s wearing the first maternity top he’s seen her in, a fitted royal purple blouse that leaves no ambiguity as to her pregnancy, which suggests she’s probably out of the closet to Mrs. Scully and everyone else by now.

“I didn’t expect you back so soon,” she says, sitting opposite him and crossing her legs. “How was Germany? What did you find out?” She’s friendly, but the distance is still there.

He clears his throat. “Y’know. Usual UFO nut. This one just had an accent.”

“Hmm.” 

“How was the library?” he tries. 

“Oh, the Folger? I liked it.” The corner of her mouth quirks up, as if she’s drifting into a pleasant memory. “It’s like a cathedral to Shakespeare. They let me look at all the broadsheets and I didn’t even have to wear gloves.”

“Really,” he says. He couldn’t care less about UFOs and old dusty documents. He wants to know how she spends her nights now, if she’s back to her lonely old-maid existence just like he’s back in his well-worn bachelor routine, if this is all there is now. What he says instead is, “Find anything?”

“The witnesses reported seeing a giant black sphere, some tube-shaped objects, some circles, all having this huge battle. It’s printed in this type called black letter, so it was hard for me to read. I spent seven hours copying it. What did the guy in Bamberg say?”

Doggett shrugs. Fifteenth-century space battles seem about as real to him as King Arthur. “Lights in the sky. A black circle. Same old horseshit.”

Scully’s expression changes. She’s standing up. 

“Where you going?” he says, confused. 

She looks weary, sad. She grabs absently at the nearest file folder, thumbs through the contents, and tucks it under her arm. “I think I’m going to work up in the library today,” she says. 

He feels panicked. “What? What’s the matter?”

She looks at him, disappointment written on her face. “Don’t you ever take this seriously?” Her eyebrows move inward. “I mean, this is your job .”

“Huh?” he says, drawing back in his chair a little bit. “I just flew over 6,000 miles to check out this case. How am I not taking this seriously?”

“Because you’re always acting like this is some kind of joke,” she says. Tears shiver in her eyes.

“Since when is believing a requirement of the job?” he says, flabbergasted. “We try to explain unexplained cases. I found an explanation for this one. It’s bullshit. Some Kraut with a screw loose.”

“Do you think that what happened to Mulder is bullshit?” Scully says. Her tears are so big that they bypass her cheeks and fall onto the carpet. “He died on one of those things. They tortured him.”

He’s speechless. Several witnesses in the Montana cult have already signed affidavits stating that Agent Mulder showed up to the compound in August. Two of them are also willing to name a man called Absalom as Mulder’s torturer. It’s all heading for a grand jury next week, baddabing-baddaboom. Scully knows this. 

“Dana,” he says, holding up his hands. “I respect you. You know I do. But what we want to be true doesn’t always match up with the facts. I’m gonna go where the evidence leads me.” He waits for her response, but there isn’t one, only her tears. “You can follow or not,” he says.

“I’ll be in the library.”

She slips out the door. He sits there, stunned.

Mulder might be six feet under, but the guy is still in Scully’s head. It makes him think that maybe he was right about her to begin with. Maybe she is a crackpot. Maybe they both had that Procol Harum song wrong. Maybe the truth was plain to see and his eyes have just been closed. The biggest X-File right now, as far as he’s concerned, is how two people like Scully and him, so damaged, so hurt, could have been so happy together for as long as they were.

He puts the unsigned valentine into a random female agent’s mailbox in the building mailroom before he goes home that night; at least someone will get a little joy out of it.


Scully doesn’t think much about Doggett, but once and awhile he drifts into her thoughts. Tonight it’s because she has failed to put a crib together, and she gets this forlorn feeling that it’s exactly the kind of task he would have done for her, sparing her the mistake of attaching the mattress support at the wrong height, then finding out an important bracket is missing when the crib is almost done. She tries not to cry. She can contact the company for another bracket. She’s still got nine weeks until William is born. It’s not a big deal. Nevertheless, she finds herself plopping down in the middle of the nursery and bursting into tears.

What bothers her most is that the hard part isn’t supposed to come until William is born, but all of her expectations so far have disintegrated. She’d wanted to do so many things before she became a mother, like paint the nursery and install carpet on the hardwood floor to cushion William when he’s old enough to clamber out of the crib or run riot throughout the apartment. She couldn’t paint the nursery because it would have meant exposing William to paint fumes. She had to settle for an area rug in the nursery because it was too hard on her back to bend over and try to lay tack strips and wrestle a huge roll of carpet into position. She could have hired someone for the jobs, sure, but that wasn’t the point. She wanted to do these things for her son because Mulder couldn’t and to prove that she could, that she didn’t need Doggett’s help or any other man’s. She’s been a woman without a man for years now; there’s no reason she can’t be more self-sufficient. Instead, the only tasks she’s been half-good at this far are the motherly ones, the hanging of the framed illustrated turtle prints on the wall, the folding of the neutral-hued onesies, the buying of a crib set that somewhat matches the turtle prints.

On top of her small failures, the grief washes in like a tide at least once a day, now bringing with it doubts about Mulder. A few days after Mulder died, Doggett’s questions floated in on the waves. “How well did you really know him? How far would Mulder go? Did you know that he confided in other women at the Bureau?” She couldn’t answer them. Before he disappeared, she would have sworn that Mulder trusted her more than anyone else in his life, even the Gunmen, but now that he’s dead, she remembers the painful discrepancies she’d tried to shove aside during his disappearance. The fact is that Mulder believed that he was dying and never told her. He’d lied to her about his busy May weekends the previous year, telling her he was heading up to Quonochontaug to help his cousins get the Mulder summer cottage ready. After he died, Skinner hadn’t been able to find a single first cousin to contact about the funeral service. Then, of course, there were the car-rental receipts that Doggett had discovered in August, showing Mulder’s regular round trips of over 300 miles. 

The discrepancies torment her. The rental-receipts. The pre-carved tombstone. Mulder’s year spent visiting doctors. Other women at the Bureau, potentially his young, bubbly confidants.

Had he ever loved her? Had he trusted her? Would she ever know?

Sometimes she thinks she’ll hunt down the women that Mulder supposedly poured his heart out to, other times she’d prefer not to know the truth. She hides from the Truth now. With Mulder dead, all of the fun and urgency has left the X-Files. She doesn’t want to pour overtime hours into cases that endanger her life anymore, especially when Doggett will only shoot down her explanations. She’s decided to quit the X-Files once she goes on maternity leave. She’d always mean to be a doctor, a doctor of the living, not an FBI agent moonlighting as a pathologist. Maybe that’s what she’ll do when she resigns. 

Only as February has faded into March has she begun to find her way back into life. William is her savior, anchoring her to past, present, and future, connecting Mulder to her, William Mulder to William Scully, and weaving filaments around everyone in between. She’s amazed that one child, now kicking and pirouetting within her, can represent so much. He gives her the courage to believe that her life can be different. True, it might be a couple years before she can save up for that Cape Cod house. True, she might not have a husband to go with it. True, she might not become a real doctor immediately. None of those things matter. She has William, even if she doesn’t have his father, who strikes an Elvis pose in a framed picture on William’s dresser. She’d gotten the picture from a roll of film in her desk drawer that she developed only recently. Most of the photos of Mulder, which she’d taken after they’d slept together a few times, weren’t very good. They were blurry or Mulder’s head was cut off, so she had to settle for the Elvis pose. The photos are the other reason she’s thinking of Doggett tonight; the ones at the end of the roll of film were the ones she took with him in December. Somehow, these pictures seem much further away than the photos of Mulder, as if she’d taken them years and not months ago. She’d shoved them in a drawer in the living room. Once she had been a creature of sexual appetite, but not any longer. Her sex drive is dead like her faith is dead like Mulder is dead like her faith in Mulder is dead.

She wipes her eyes on her sleeve and staggers to her feet. Tomorrow she’ll phone the manufacturer about getting a bracket so she can finish the crib. When she looks around the nursery again, it doesn’t seem as bad as she thought, barring the lopsided crib. She reassures herself that she’s enough for William. She knows he’s enough for her.

Chapter Text

After being on the X-Files for almost seven months and reading through every single Manila folder in Mulder’s file cabinets, Doggett thought he was done being surprised. That’s before Skinner wakes him up with a phone call at a quarter ‘til three in the early hours of a Monday morning in March telling him some dead guy named Billy Miles has come back to life and it’s got something to do with Mulder. 

He pulls on an unironed suit in a stupor, slugs back half a cup of cold coffee, tosses his coat on, and takes George Memorial Parkway into D.C. In the dead of night, the drive is less than twenty minutes. Rain spills from the sky. He has time to think about Skinner’s words on the way to meet him. The clear implication was that if Billy Miles guy is alive, Mulder could be alive too. Total craziness. Doggett’s seen how Skinner has handled Mulder’s death these past few months and it hasn’t been well. He’s tense and short-tempered. Doggett’s pretty sure those dark circles under Skinner’s eyes aren’t a coincidence, either.

He pulls into the underground garage of the J. Edgar Hoover Building, nodding to the lone attendant in her box, and parks next to the only car inside with its headlights on. He opens the passenger door. It’s immediately clear that the director is agitated.

“You told Agent Scully any of what you told me?” Doggett asks, buckling in. 

Skinner avoids his eyes as they head toward the garage exit. “No.”

“My strong recommendation, sir, is that you don’t. You’re not careful, you’re gonna reopen wounds that still need a lot of healing. You know that as well as anybody,” he says.

“I appreciate your concern, Agent Doggett, but I wouldn’t have told her anyway,” Skinner says. “Certainly not where we’re going.”

“Where are we going?” he says, growing suspicious.

“Mount Olivet,” Skinner says, giving him a momentary glance.

Doggett knows that name from somewhere, but the coffee’s not kicking in fast enough. He looks to Skinner for a clue. 

Skinner mumbles the answer. 

Doggett chokes in surprise. “‘Scuse me?”

“C’mon, Agent Doggett, you heard me,” Skinner snaps. 

“Yeah, I thought you said, ‘Where Mulder’s buried.’ But that can’t be right because that’s fucking crazy. I thought we were going to see Billy Miles,” says Doggett.

Skinner shakes his head. “No.”

They’re out in the rain now, heading north.

Doggett closes his eyes. He can’t believe this. “What makes you think you’re gonna find anything other than a dead body in that grave, huh?” he says, trying to keep his cool. 

“The police are telling me that this is Billy Miles that they found. They found the body last night. IDed him just a couple hours ago through dental records.”

Something isn’t adding up. “I still don’t get it. So he was supposedly abducted at the same time as Mulder. So what?”

Skinner tightens his mouth. “If this is Billy Miles, if he’s still alive, then there’s a chance …”

Doggett thought he had heard crazy. He thought he was done being surprised. He can’t seem to do anything but shake his head. “No offense, but you need to let go of Agent Mulder,” he says. That earns him a killing look from Skinner, but he doesn’t care. “Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, sir. If this is Billy Miles. We don’t know that.”

 Skinner grunts. 

“What if Scully hears about this? What’ll happen then?” he says.

“She’ll just have to accept that I was acting in good faith,” Skinner says. 

“You don’t—”

He considers telling Skinner how often Scully has run to the bathroom during these past few months and how he’s pretty sure it doesn’t have anything to do with her smaller bladder, judging by how often she returns with swollen eyelids and freshly applied mascara. She’s just begun to smile again. Yeah, she’s still keeping him at a distance, but that’s not important. What’s important are those smiles and the way she strokes her belly. These signs tell him she’ll get through this after all, even if he doesn’t care for her strategy of sticking it out alone.

Skinner parks the car. Doggett can already see activity toward the rear of the cemetery where the newer graves are. There’s a spotlight in the darkness and rain, and in that spotlight a backhoe dipping into a grave. When he sees that, he knows that the game is up. Scully isn’t stupid. She’s going to be able to tell immediately that the earth over Mulder’s grave has been disturbed. 

He gets out of the car. “We’re opening up more than a grave here,” he says to Skinner, as they head for the spotlight and the backhoe.

“I respect that,” says Skinner, “but under the circumstances I think not digging it up would be far more regrettable, don’t you?”

“No!” he says. “I think this is insanity.”

“Yeah, well personally I couldn’t live with the doubt.”

“That what? That we buried a man alive? We found Mulder, you and me together. We saw the same body. Mulder wasn’t just dead, he was dead for days. Had to have a closed casket. For crying out loud, the body was too far gone and that was three months ago.” Part of him still thinks that he can reason Skinner out of this and that they can leave right now, tell the backhoe operator to put the earth back where it was. Maybe with all this rain making such a muddy mess of the ground, Scully won’t notice. 

Skinner tries to give him some explanation about Billy Miles being in the water for months and his heart slowing down. How his being alive is scientifically impossible. Or possible. Doggett doesn’t know, because as they approach the grave, he flashes back to Monica standing next to him on a cold autumn morning, orange-yellow oak leaves on the ground and their breath in the air. The backhoe scooping out Luke’s grave. The horror that came next. 

He forces himself back to the present. His skin has broken into a clammy sweat. 

“... for all intents and purposes, he was dead,” Skinner is saying. “It’s a fluke that the doctor even noticed.”

Doggett shakes his head. “I don’t believe it,” he says, standing at the lip of the grave and looking into it. “And I don’t believe we’re even standing here.”

He’s forced to believe it because an hour later, they’re pulling up to the doors of the US Naval Hospital morgue in A.A. County. He sips from some burnt-tasting gas-station coffee, his stomach hurting. The hearse that they’ve been tailing parks and the attendants get out. They carry the black coffin up to some automatic doors and he and Skinner follow them into the pathology lab where a crowd of people awaits: reporters and thrillseekers who work in the office from the looks of it. The attendants slide Mulder’s coffin onto the shiny silver autopsy table. 

“What the hell is this?” Doggett says.

A man greets them. “Arthur Gaffin, county coroner.”

“I asked you to keep this low-key,” Skinner says to him. 

The coroner looks untroubled. “Word spreads,” he says, nonchalant. “Exhumation’s big news any day of the week and you had the body moved to another county to a specific pathologist.”

Skinner isn’t buying it. “I want these people out of here.”

Doggett takes a stop toward the crowd. “All right, listen up, ladies and gentlemen. As much as you're here to see the horror show I'm not letting that casket open up until we get some privacy.” He silently dares them to try him, but there must be something in his voice because they trickle out of the room without argument, leaving Skinner and him with the coroner and the attendants.

The coffin has an earthy odor to it, from the frozen dirt warming up during the drive over, Doggett guesses. As much as he hates to admit it, this part is making him uneasy. It won’t be his son in the casket this time, of course, but the image blinks into his mind regardless. He clears his throat.

“I don’t expect to find anything in this box except a dead man,” says the coroner. “It’s not going to be Curse of the Mummy , okay? No claw marks on the lid of the coffin.”

“Cute,” Doggett says, his mouth set. He has to agree with the guy, though. “I’ll say it again: insanity,” he says to Skinner. 

The coroner and an attendant spring the latches on the split-lid coffin and the upper portion rises. Doggett’s stomach churns around its pseudo-breakfast of coffee and sweat forms on his upper lip. He’s grateful when Skinner steps forward for the first look. After a few moments, he forces himself over to the head of the casket with the assistant director.

Mulder looks much the same as he did when they buried him, although there’s a white film on his face along with several pitch-black splotches. Mold. He looks and smells like death warmed over, just as Doggett had predicted.

All he can think about is how he’s gotta walk into that basement office in a few hours and tell Scully what they’ve just done. 

“There you have it,” says the coroner, looking a little bit smug. “Dead as the day he was buried.”

Skinner sighs. “It was worth a shot, we had to check. If Billy Miles ...”

“Wait,” Doggett says. Mulder definitely isn’t breathing and he’s as still as a statue, but he swears he just saw a slight tremble beneath Mulder’s jaw. “There’s no fuckin’ way.” He’s in no mood to touch the body, what with its mold and its awful stench, but he does it for Scully, pressing two fingers to the cold moist skin and waiting. He looks up the clock on the walk and watches the second hand. Thirty seconds pass.

Skinner has a wild expression in his eyes. “Well?” he says. 

Doggett shakes his head. “Nothin’.”

Skinner sighs, grief in his breath. 

Doggett is one second away from withdrawing his fingers when he feels it. Movement. “Jesus,” he says. He presses harder. 

“What?” the coroner says, moving closer. 

“I swear I just felt something. “You,” he says. “Get on the other side of him. Put your fingers on the other side of his neck.”

They wait. A little past the thirty-second mark, he feels it again. “There!” he says.

“I felt it!” the coroner says at the same time. 

“Get his shirt open!” says Doggett. “You got a stethoscope? Go get a stethoscope!” he says to the attendant.

Walk ,” Skinner booms out; the attendant has taken off at a run, but skids to a stop. “We can’t let this get out,” he continues, calmer. “If the reporters stop you, tell them he’s dead just like you thought. Don’t let them see the stethoscope.”

The coroner has torn open Mulder’s suit jacket and dress shirt. He lays four fingers on Mulder’s chest, over the ugly wound that the cult members made cutting him open. “His heart is definitely beating,” he says, voice choked with excitement. 

Skinner has his fingers on the other side of Mulder’s neck. “I felt it too!” he says. 

“Jesus Christ,” Doggett says. To say that his mind is reeling would be an understatement. He’s thinking back to the fake autopsy with Scully trying to remember what she did and didn’t do with the body. Did she feel for a pulse? Did she use a stethoscope? The body was under a sheet most of the time. She paced around the autopsy table and rattled scalpels and scales to make the whole charade sound more believable, but he doesn’t remember her checking for a pulse.

The attendant eventually comes back with a stethoscope, face completely pale. They take turns on the stethoscope and time the pulse. It thuds every thirty-six seconds. 

“I don’t believe it,” says Doggett. 

Skinner seems to come back to himself. He steps back from the casket. “We need to get him to the emergency room without being seen.”

There’s some worry about closing the coffin lid on Mulder again, but they have to do it or else this will be all over the morning news, headlined “FBI Buries Own Agent Alive.” They load the casket back into the hearse and circle the hospital until they’re sure most of the reporters have dispersed. From there, they park by a side door. Emergency-room staff are waiting. They carry the casket through labyrinthine corners and into a room where he and Skinner can’t follow. He can only hope that Mulder’s heart is still beating inside that box.

Chapter Text

Skinner calls her just before dawn. Nothing about phone calls at that hour is out of the ordinary. They usually start with We Found a Body and end up slightly left of the Twilight Zone. Her previous experience does not prepare her to hear this one, though. 

Mulder’s body has just been exhumed.

Mulder’s body has just been exhumed and he has a pulse. 

She doesn’t remember dressing and speeding to the Naval Hospital at Annapolis or tearing through the doors. Her memory resumes only when she’s outside of Room 115. She spies Skinner in a circle of men wearing suits. 

“Is it true?” she gasps out, running toward him.

“Slow down,” Skinner says, turning around to meet her. 

“No, I want to see him,” she says, feeling dizzy. 

“I know you do—”

“No, I need to see him, dammit!” she says, slapping her hands against Skinner’s chest.

He seizes her by the shoulders. “You’re not going in there,” he says, slow and soothing like he’s talking to a child. “You can’t.”

It’s like she’s in the middle of a magnitude-9.0 earthquake and there’s no stable ground for her to stand on. Nowhere is safe. Nothing is solid. “Tell me it’s true,” she says, searching Skinner’s eyes for the truth. “Tell me.”

“Scully,” he says. She can tell he wants her to calm down before he talks to her, but there has never been a woman more desperate and terrible as she is in this moment. In the same patient, almost patronizing tone, Skinner explains to her that Billy Miles is alive, a patient in this very hospital, and for that reason they had to exhume Mulder’s body to see if he was also alive.

Alive. The word is the epicenter of the quake.

Skinner warns her not to get her hopes up, because neither Mulder nor Billy Miles are breathing on their own. Furthermore, Billy Miles’ tissues and organs show signs of decomposition. He doesn’t know if Mulder has the same problem. She rides out the aftershocks in silence. She’s still trying to process it all when Doggett walks out of Room 115, closing the door behind him. He looks surprised to see her and his eyes pivot to Skinner.

“What did they say?” says Scully, approaching him. 

Doggett stares at her and doesn’t say anything. The news must not be good. 

“I need to see him,” she says. Tears flood her eyes.

“I know,” he says, holding her gaze. “But I wish you wouldn’t.”

She bites her lip and her chin wobbles. She doesn’t know what she’ll see in Mulder’s room, but because she has to locate the epicenter of the earthquake, she opens the door.

Mulder.

In this liminal state, he looks more vulnerable than he ever has in life or in death, lying on his back with tubes coming out of his mouth and a ventilator breathing for him. His muscles are wasted, half the size they were the last time she saw him. She goes to him and lays a palm on his chest. He’s as cold as a cadaver and has the scent of one too, but she doesn’t care. There’s breath in his lungs and a heartbeat in his ribcage: fifty-six beats per minute, according to the vital-signs monitor. It’s a miracle. It’s a dream. She must be dreaming. She’s overcome and sprawls across his torso. The fabric of his hospital gown dampens under her tears as she cries and cries.

God answers prayers, she thinks. God resurrects. Their friend Mulder had fallen asleep, but God has woken him up.


Doggett’s shitty day gets shittier when Kersh summons him from the hospital to his office around five a.m. to simultaneously offer him his old position with the CID back again and lecture him about Mulder.

“How was I supposed to know Skinner was gonna dig him up, huh?” he says, when Kersh has finished telling him off. “They already had the grave half dug up when we got there, out to the cemetery.”

“Well, I want you to drop it,” Kersh says, curt. 

“Huh?” 

“This Mulder thing,” he says. “I want you to drop it.”

“Drop it?” He’s not sure what Kersh is asking. 

“You know the tune: if it looks bad, it’s bad for the FBI. I’m throwing you a rope. Don’t go and hang yourself with it now.”

He manages to ‘yes, sir’ Kersh with a straight face, but once he’s clear of his office, he mutters, “You shady son-of-a-bitch.” Whether Kersh is asking him to back away from Mulder’s case or something more sinister doesn’t matter to him. Kersh can get fucked. He takes the elevator down to the basement, thinking he’ll do some work, but he ends up just biting his lip and staring into space. There’s no case as interesting or urgent as the one unfolding at the Annapolis U.S. Naval Hospital right now. He fights the impulse to call Skinner for an update. He wants to check on Mulder’s condition, but he’s also concerned with how Scully’s holding up. He’s still not sure if exhuming Mulder was the right thing to do. If he dies now, she won’t just be back to square one with her grief, she’ll be at negative fifteen. It’ll kill her. The best that the doc he talked to could figure is that Mulder entered some kind of stasis, like a hibernation, and the warming temperatures might have made his body come out of it. The decomposition could be an unprecedented form of slow gangrene caused by being underground sealed up with a bunch of bacteria. Lots of mights and coulds. Whatever it is, Doggett’s sure that the cult members from Montana will be able to provide some answers.

He sits there for a little while longer, then thinks, fuck it. Fuck Kersh. Even though he told Skinner he’d be at the office for the rest of the morning, he grabs his keys and heads out.

Dawn breaks on his way into Annapolis. Yesterday morning, Mulder was dead. Yesterday morning, he was teasing Scully about the “little J. Edgar” in her belly and she was smiling. Things between them haven’t been what they were, but they’re more or less back to where they were in September and that’s not nothing. Not that he’s been counting on more. Or he was pretty sure he wasn’t counting on more. Now that he’s parking outside the hospital again, however, there’s a bitter taste in his mouth that has nothing to do with concern for Scully’s emotional well-being. He doesn’t like it one bit. He thought he’d set those feelings aside.

Skinner isn’t around when he gets to Room 115. The only people about are the three plainclothes FBI agents, dressed in suits and looking as non-plainclothes as can be. He nods to them and opens the door to the room without knocking.

Mulder smells worse than he did a couple hours ago, like a two-day-old decomp on a ninety-degree day. Scully has pulled up a chair to his bedside. One hand is holding Mulder’s and the other is resting on her big belly. The whole spectacle is painful to see, the smell suggesting the possibility of Mulder coming back from this is hopeless. Maybe if they’d caught him before his body started breaking down it’d be a different story, but it’s clear to him standing here that Mulder is nothing more than a dead man with some fluke cardiac activity.

“You can’t do this to yourself,” he finds himself saying to Scully.

She looks at him with a rigid expression. “You asked me not to come in here, Agent Doggett. I hope you’re not asking me to leave.” 

The ‘Agent Doggett’ is a pointless formality designed to make him stand down, but he stays firm. The sounds of her howls on New Year’s Eve still haunt him. He can’t stand to see her go through that again.

“My concern’s for your wellbeing. That’s all it’s ever for,” he says, stepping deeper into the room and stopping at the foot of Mulder’s bed. “I thought this was a bad idea from the start, I told Skinner so, worrying about the effect it might have on you.”

Scully looks distrustful. “You mean finding Mulder alive?”

“I know you talked to the same doctors. I’m sure you asked them what his chances are,” he says.

The chair creaks as Scully heaves herself to her feet and crosses the room. “Agent Doggett.” He knows he’s in for it. She draws herself up to her full five-foot-two and gives it to him. “However I felt about you when we first met, you changed my opinion with the quality of your character and of your work. Now, I am thankful to know you and I am thankful for your concern,” she says, in a tone that tells him she isn’t, not at all. “But no matter what Mulder's chances are the choice not to open up that grave was wrong. And not because of me personally but as my partner on the X-Files. Now, the truth may hurt, but it’s all that matters.”

“What truth?” he says.

“That you didn’t want to open the grave because of me.”

“That’s what I told you,” he repeats. 

“I mean because you didn’t want any competition,” she says. Her eyes are bright and wrathful. She gives the insult time to reach its full potency before saying, “Please leave us alone.”

A flare of anger ignites in him, a match dragged against sandpaper. “Look, Agent Scully , you don’t have to talk to me for the rest of your life, but you’re damn well gonna hear me out now,” he says, taking a step closer to her. “You owe me. I had no idea Mulder could still be alive.”

“You saw Billy Miles, so you knew that it was possible,” she says, matching his fury. “And you kept it from me, deliberately.”

“I saw nothing,” he says, feeling ferocious. “I saw some guy with a bad skin condition lying in a hospital bed. Nothing says that guy is Miles. There’s not a shred of proof. I dunno who made that leap, but it’s bullshit.”

“There are dental records,” she says. “They match Billy.”

I don’t care ,” he says, so angry he’s beginning to tremble in spite of himself. “Dead guys don’t come back. I don’t care what some X-rays say, it doesn’t happen.”

“What about Mulder?” she says, in a yell. “How do you explain Mulder?”

“Hello? Did we talk to the same doctors? Because I heard them say he went into some kinda stasis.” He knows he’s getting too close to her face, being too aggressive, but he can’t help it. “They’ve probably already got people from Harvard Medical and who-knows-where-else flying in this second to look at him, write papers about him. It’ll be in The New York Times tomorrow. You gonna argue with doctors?” It was a dumb, rhetorical question because of course Dana Scully was going to argue with doctors. “Don’t forget we have agents out in Montana interviewing those cult freaks right now too to see what they did to him to put him in this state. There’s an explanation.”

“No,” she said. Her voice is cold. “No. You know and I know that’s not what happened.”

An even greater fury seizes Doggett. He’s had enough of humoring her Mulder-esque theories and letting her tell him what he thinks. “You can speak for yourself, but you don’t have a goddamn idea what I think,” he says. 

“Oh yeah?” says Scully. “What about deliberately trying to prevent the exhumation because you couldn’t stand to give me up?”

Without meaning to, he grabs her shoulders and gives her a single rough shake. “I would never— never —in a million years be that much of a selfish bastard,” he says, making her look him in the eyes. “Never in a million fucking years, you hear? How was I supposed to know?” He lets go of her, knowing he’s gone over the line.

Her lip trembles. “Billy Miles,” she says.

“We’ve been over that!” he says, waving his arms. “It’s a bunch of bullshit.”

“Well, you put your skepticism over Mulder’s life,” she says. Her eyes swim with unspilled tears.

“No. No I didn’t. I was thinking of you.” He can’t stand to see her cry, but the tears start anyway. He closes his eyes and massages his forehead with a hand. “Goddammit, Dana. Just—” He lowers his hand and blows out a breath. “Try seeing it from my point of view for a minute. Please. We both saw him, his body. He was dead, cold as ice. He had no pulse. Three months later, Skinner wants to dig him up on the most insane hunch I’ve ever heard in my life. What am I supposed to think? You already buried him once. You’re starting to get on with your life. You’re getting ready to have a baby. I was only thinking about …”

“It was still wrong,” Scully insists thickly, through her tears. 

“Well no shit !” he bellows. “But pretend you’re me for one second, okay? You ever see a body dug up after it’s been in the ground for months? Someone you love, I mean? ‘Cause it’s all you see when you picture them from now on, is that body that’s been in the ground. I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy.”

Some of the anger seems to leave Scully. She’s quiet, taking in his words. She wipes her cheek with her sleeve and says, “I didn’t know they exhumed him.”

“Yeah,” he says, bitter. “Yeah, they thought they missed some evidence. Turns out they didn’t. I wasn’t going to let them take my boy out of that ground without—” His voice catches in his throat. “Without being there for him. I wish I hadn’t.” He and Barbara had Luke cremated afterwards; he couldn’t risk seeing the ruined body again.

Scully’s hand stretches out to comfort, but he steps out of her reach. He doesn’t want her pity. He clears his throat. “I’m done. I’m gonna ask Kersh for a transfer,” he says. 

“John.”

He looks over her shoulder at the stinking, withered body of Mulder in the bed. That Scully can’t see what he sees, that she has hope, absolutely kills him. 

“I hope they can figure something out for him.” He rests a hand on Scully’s shoulder before leaving the room, but he’s not interested in trying to read what’s on her face, so he doesn’t look her in the eyes. 

He walks out of the hospital, not knowing where he’s headed. The March sun is dazzling. It promises awakenings: tree buds, cherry blossoms, new life. He’s got no doubt that leaving the X-Files is the right decision, but damn it hurts.

Chapter Text

Billy Miles dies, but Fox Mulder doesn’t. Dana Scully gets her miracle.

It takes experimental antiviral treatment, her suggestion, but hours afterwards, they’re able to extubate him. Thirty-six hours later, his hands twitch and his eyes roll open every so often. His pupils respond to light. The gangrenous areas of his body are shrinking, replaced with new pink granulation tissue. She and the other doctors have never seen anything like it.

On Tuesday, March 16th around six o’clock in the evening, he returns. 

She’s sitting on his right side holding his hand when his hand flexes in hers. His head falls to the side and his eyes open. They fix on hers. She’s stunned. 

“Mulder?” she says.

His eyes close and he raises his left hand to his face, touching his eyelids, nose, and forehead. He looks at her and croaks, “What happened?” 

“Oh my god, Mulder,” she says, bursting into tears. She laughs and reaches out to stroke his hair. “Oh my god.”

He turns his arms up to examine the IV cannulas and hospital bracelets. “Guess it must have been bad, huh?” he says in a croaky whisper. 

She nods and laughs through her sobs. “Mulder.” She lays her head on his shoulder and his arms encircle her. “I can’t believe this.”

“It’s okay,” he says, even though he doesn’t know the half of it. 

All the loss of the past seven months, but especially the past three, comes pouring out of her and she weeps. It doesn’t occur to her to press the call button for a nurse or run shouting through the halls. Time has frozen. “I’m—so—happy,” she says through sobs. Mulder strokes her hair with the hand wearing the pulse ox. He doesn’t ask any questions. Perhaps he’s too tired or perhaps he senses she needs to shed these tears. She’s also willing to bet that he has no idea that he’s spent the better part of three months under six feet of earth, next to the caskets of his mom and dad. For him, this is just one of many miraculous awakenings over the past eight years. Maybe he takes them for granted.

The door to the room creaks. She looks up to see Doggett, the last person she expected after their argument a few days ago. Their eyes lock and a look of pain washes over Doggett’s face. He holds her eyes for a few seconds. His mouth drops open as if he’s going to say something, but instead he quietly closes the door. Mulder hasn’t noticed. 

“It’s alright,” he says, making her forget Doggett and the sting of their fight. “I’m alright.”

William digs his foot into the upper right quadrant of her abdomen. “Mulder,” she says, sitting up and grasping his hand. She pulls it down and puts it on William’s foot. 

Mulder is confused for a beat or two, but then realization comes. “Scully, how long have I been out?” He presses down and William kicks back.

She laughs through her tears. “Way too long.”

“The fertility stuff. It worked?” he says. He’s starting to sound more like himself, as if a fog is dissipating.

“No,” she says. “Not the in-vitro. It was us.”

Now it’s Mulder’s turn to get tears in his eyes. His voice cracks. “And everything’s okay? With the baby?”

She puts her hand on top of his. “More than okay.”

She knows there’s a lot of healing ahead. There are physical therapists and follow-up appointments. There are months of psychotherapy. There are FBI gag orders for all the medical personnel involved in Mulder’s treatment. This isn’t even adding in the adjustment to parenthood. 

But it doesn’t matter. There is Mulder and there is her. 

 

From the moment he steps foot into Kersh’s office, his resignation is doomed. He has Mulder to thank. Kersh asks how the recovery is going and Doggett says fine, it looks like Mulder will pull through, and Kersh tells him in no uncertain terms that Mulder is fired from the X-Files, that is, if he manages to claw his way back from the grave. Even if Doggett isn’t the biggest fan of Mulder and his track record of impulsive decisions, this premature firing is spiteful in the extreme.

“Did you have something to say?” Kersh says, folding his hands and looking cool as a cucumber.

“Ah, no,” Doggett says, absently scratching the side of his cheek. “Just wanted to give you the latest.”

Motherfucker. Now he can't go back to the CID. He won’t let Scully risk her life and the baby’s trying to handle the X-Files on her own.

“The X-Files will be getting a new agent when Agent Scully is gone, by the way,” says Kersh. 

“You mean for her maternity leave?” 

“No. Agent Scully has put in her resignation. She won’t be coming back after her maternity leave.” Doggett is surprised by the news, and the look in Kersh’s eyes tells him that he enjoys detonating these little bombshells. 

Years in law enforcement have given Doggett nothing if not a good poker face, though. “Who’s taking over?” he says, not missing a beat. 

“Agent Reyes,” Kersh says. “I believe you’re acquainted.”

“Monica?” says Doggett, voice rising a couple notes. So much for that poker face. “When? How come she didn’t tell me?”

Kersh shrugs. “She’ll be joining on June 1st. Keep up the excellent work, Agent Doggett.”

This wily asshole. There’s not a single thing he can say to it, either. He knows when he’s beat. He gives Kersh a deferential “sir” and retreats from the office, taking the elevator back down to the basement that he was so sure he’d be leaving just as soon as Mulder was out of the hospital. 

The first thing he does once he’s closed the door behind him is dial Monica’s number.  

“Hello?” she says. 

“What the hell?” he says. 

“Sorry?”

“When were you gonna tell me you were joining the X-Files, huh?”

“Oh. John. Kersh told you,” she says, not sounding very surprised. “I was going to call you soon, I did want to call you today, but I’m still unpacking. I was going to ask you after I was done if you wanted to come over and see my new apartment.”

“No! You’re in town? I want you to get your ass over here right now and tell me what in the hell you’re thinking,” he says, furious at her nonchalance. 

“I thought you’d be excited,” she says, some of the cheerfulness fading from her voice. 

“No, I’m not,” he says flatly. “I’ll be waiting here when you get here. Basement.” He hangs up on her. He’s not sure why the news has him so bothered, except that his plan to ditch the X-Files is looking further and further away by the minute. In his head, he’d pictured returning to the CID as soon as Scully took her maternity leave and handing the X-Files back to Mulder. The fact that Monica’s going to be single-handedly responsible for this extraterrestrial mumbo-jumbo now pisses him off. For one, the job’s a helluva lot dangerous than it has any right to be. For two, it’s a waste of time and money. He was looking forward to finishing that chapter of his life.

He opens the case file on the desk in front of him, which he isn’t convinced that Stephen King didn’t call in. It’s about a haunted doll in Cheshire, England threatening to burn people’s eyes out. Mulder would have landed on the other side of the Atlantic hours ago to check it out, but the only useful lead Doggett is getting out of the case is “burn.” He’s tempted to put the file in the trash can and go find a lighter. All the shit going on in this country, all the homeless on the streets and all the veterans in need, and the government wants to pay an FBI agent to fly overseas and investigate a hunk of Made in China plastic that’s supposedly developed murderous tendencies. It makes him ashamed to be a part of it. 

He’s still in a bad mood when Monica taps on the door.

“Hey,” she says, swinging herself into the chair opposite him. 

He grunts. 

“John, why are you acting like this? I thought you’d be excited,” she says, frowning. She’s wearing black slacks and a khaki coat over a black sleeveless top. The fact that she’s wearing a nice outfit when she’s just been unpacking is funny. He has to give himself a little mental shake for noticing it. Stop profilin’ your friends , he thinks.

“I’m acting like this because this job’s a load of horseshit and you’re wasting your time,” he says. 

Monica looks hurt. “You know how much I’ve wanted to do this.”

“Yeah, but that doesn’t make it worth your while. This job’s goddamn dangerous.”

“So was the NYPD,” she says, glaring. 

“We were helping people on the NYPD. All you do on the X-Files is put your life at risk for nothing.”

She folds her arms. “So you can't tell me that there was a single unexplained case worth investigating? You figured out everything there is to know in a few months?”

“C’mon, I didn’t say that,” he says, leaning forward and putting his elbows on the desk, the desk he still thinks of as being Mulder’s even though he’s been here since late August. He has seen a thing or two he can’t explain and he’s smart enough to know what he doesn’t know, but that doesn’t mean that he or anyone else should be jumping to wild conclusions involving spacemen and shadow governments.

“What are you saying?” she says. 

He sighs. “I’m saying that if you put your life on the line, I want it to be for a good reason. Not some conspiracy theories spun by a bunch of crackpots.”

Monica glares some more. 

“Go ahead, tell me I’m wrong,” he says. 

“Well you are.” She folds her arms more snugly and he catches a whiff of perfume. 

They stare at each other for several long seconds. 

“Why don’t we go get coffee?” he offers. Maybe he can talk some sense into her once he’s plied her with a latte and a pastry. 

Monica’s smile returns and there’s a detente. She can’t help being sunny. “Lunch?” she says. “I’ve been up since 5:30 unpacking.”

“Lunch,” he agrees. 

In the garage, Monica chatters about her new place and climbs into his truck like they haven’t just been arguing. That’s Monica. Disagreements with her never lasted more than a few minutes back when they worked together. She’s just too nice to stay mad. He listens with half an ear, trying to envision her working the X-Files. They might be a bunch of baloney, but Monica’s always liked studying strange beliefs and teasing apart mysteries. She was a good agent and she’d probably be able to handle herself. But doing a dangerous job like this alone is crazy. A thought flickers through his mind and he immediately puts the kibosh on it. Nuh-uh. No way he’s staying on after Scully’s time is up.

“Where to?” he says, buckling his seatbelt. 

“Oh!” she says, and has to think about it. “Um, that Italian place in Brentwood? It’s on Franklin Avenue.”

“You got it,” he says.

“Ew, how old is this French fry?” Monica says, digging something out from under her shoe. Clearly, he’s not the only one doing some profiling this morning.

He raises an eyebrow. “This an investigation?”

She cocks her head. “Is that a challenge? Alright, let’s see. You cook when you’re in a good mood and eat fast food when you’re stressed out. Right now you’re stressed out.” She bends over and pulls a Wendy’s soda cup out from under her seat.

He shrugs as he turns onto the 9th Street Expressway. “So sue me. What else, Sherlock?”

She digs in the door pocket and comes up with a roadmap, a handful of CDs, and some Butterfinger wrappers. “You haven’t listened to the Buzzcocks, The Stooges, or the Circle Jerks in awhile because the CDs are all the way over here where you can’t get them. Oh, and you must be really stressed. You never eat candy bars.”

“What’s your point?”

Monica punches the power button on his stereo and the Pet Shop Boys come blaring out with a synth-heavy chorus of What have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this ? He automatically turns it down, but the damage has been done. 

“That’s different,” she says, looking befuddled.

“Not mine,” he says, feeling embarrassed. “My partner’s.”

He can see that Monica has questions, but she pauses her investigation for the time being and he’s grateful. Nothing’ll make his bad mood worse like talking about Scully.

Ten in the morning is too early even for early birds and they’re one of only two other people in the restaurant. Monica orders a salad with a cup of soup and a glass of red wine. He gets grilled porkchops with Parmesan butter and a glass of Jack Daniels. 

“What?” he says in response to Monica’s look, once the waiter has walked away. 

“Whiskey?” she says. 

“Red wine?” he says. 

“Yeah, but …,” she says. 

Truth be told, she has a point. He told himself he wouldn’t drink when the thing with Scully busted up, even though nothing had sounded better than a big bottle of something. He did plenty of drinking when Luke was killed and he split up with Barbara, but once he came to, the hurt and the pain were still there, not to mention his monthly military pension was taking a hit. It was pointless. Not good for you.

Still. He has a feeling whiskey will hit the spot right about now. He confirms it a couple minutes later when the waiter returns. It goes down as smooth as gasoline, stinging his throat in the best kind of way. Monica swishes the wine in her glass and watches him. 

“What?” he says. 

“You’re unhappy.” She frowns and sets her wine down without tasting it. 

“What’s new?” He could deny it, but Monica had always had this sixth sense about things. Besides, he’s enjoying the way that the whiskey is burning in his empty stomach.

“You haven’t been like this since your divorce,” she says. 

He lifts a shoulder. “Just going through a tough spot.”

“Which you don’t want to talk to me about.”

“Not you,” he says. “Anyone. What’s the point? Like they say, this too shall pass.”

“What can I do to help?” she says. She’s so damn earnest.

“Flag our waiter down so he can get me another?” he says, cocking his head at his empty tumbler. 

“Haha,” she says mirthlessly, glowering at him. 

“Geez Louise, Monica,” he says. “I just don’t wanna do this interrogation thing, okay? It’s nothing personal. I’m happy to talk about anything else, just not that.” He sees too late that it was a mistake to take her out to lunch. He doesn’t want to be lectured. He doesn’t want her on the X-Files. He doesn’t want anyone he cares about anywhere near the X-Files. She looks upset, but there’s nothing he can do about it. He’s not in the mood to play ball. 

She reaches across the table and takes his hand. “John.”

“Yeah.”

“John.”

He raises his eyes to hers. “What?”

“It’s okay. Whatever this is, it’s okay.”

“Sure.” He doesn’t believe it. 

As they eat their lunch, they go over Mulder’s miraculous recovery. Monica’s heard the broad strokes from Kersh, but not the details. True to form, she doesn’t question a word of the tale. It’s in her nature to believe. 

He orders another glass of whiskey with his meal, then another with dessert, then another for the road. He’s starting to feel it now. It makes him feel warm and carefree. This bullshit with Scully and the X-Files is no big deal after all. The restaurant is playing Simon and Garfunkel and outside the city smells and looks like daffodils. He settles the bill and walks out with a whistle on his breath. Monica is giving him disapproving looks, but he doesn’t care.

“Where to now?” he says. 

“Are you okay to drive?” she says. 

“Am I okay to drive? Monica, it’s noon, what do you mean am I …”

“No.” She leans in and dips two fingers into the pocket of his slacks. 

“Whoa, wait a minute,” he says, caught off guard by her chutzpah, but she’s already pulled out his keys. 

They get into his car. He feels a little embarrassed, but mostly he feels warm from the whiskey. He sheds his suit jacket and rolls down the window. 

“I don’t know how to get to your house,” Monica says, hands on the steering wheel. 

His allocated hour for lunch is long over, but he says, “Let’s go to your place. Show me your new apartment. It’ll give me a chance to sober up. Not,” he adds, “that I am intoxicated.”

Monica shakes her head, trying not to smile. “I should not be encouraging this.”

He whistles. She starts the engine and he punches the stereo. Since you went away, I been hanging around. I been wondering why I’m feeling down. Since you went away, it should make me feel better, but I don’t know … Fuck it—the Pet Shop Boys are singing his song right now and he doesn’t give a damn what Monica thinks.

Her new apartment is in a second-story Victorian row house in Shaw. Cute place. Boxes are strewn throughout the rooms, half-unpacked, like she couldn’t make up her mind to do one or two at a time. It’s a perfectly serviceable apartment with a couple neat features, like a stained-glass transom window, but it’s hardly worth inviting an old friend over to see in this chaotic condition. Monica seems to sense this. 

“I know it doesn’t look like much, but I like it,” she says. “I’m happy to be here.” She smiles and sits on a stray barstool in the kitchen. 

He finds its mate and straddles it, grateful to sit down. He doesn’t totally trust his balance right now. 

“So are you ever going to tell me what’s going on?” Monica says. 

“Ever, maybe. Right now, no. I told you, not important,” he says. 

“You're hurting for her, I know,” Monica says plainly. 

“Hurting for who?”

“For your partner. Dana.”

He could play dumb, but he decides to be half-truthful. “Why wouldn’t I? She’s been through hell since Agent Mulder left. Think about it. You get the news your partner’s dead, then find out he’s somehow come back to life after being dead for three months.”

“No, I mean you’re hurting for her. She’s causing you pain. You’re not talking right now.”

“Who toldja that?” he says, wary. 

Monica’s face is open and earnest. “Nobody. I just—”

“Sense things, yeah. I know.” He rubs his brow. “Trust me, it’s not a big deal. She’s going on maternity leave in a couple months and I’ll be going back to the CID.”

He can see in her face that she’s guessed more than she’s letting on and that certain questions are now cycling through her head. 

“The baby ain’t mine, if that’s what you’re thinking,” he says. 

She nods. “I was wondering.”

He stands up. “I don’t know how you figure this shit out.” He studies her. “You sure you haven’t been talking to anybody?” He can see Kersh telling her, although how in the hell Kersh found out, how in the hell anyone besides Skinner found out, he doesn’t know.

Monica shakes her head. “No. I just figured it out.”

“Yeah, well. It’s not like I planned it.”

Monica stands up, too. She clasps his hands in between hers and looks into his eyes. “Look, it’s okay.”

“Sure,” he says. “It’s fine.” 

Monica hugs him. At first, he thinks he doesn’t want it. His first instinct is always to lick his wounds alone. But it feels good. Comforting. These are the same hugs from when Luke died. Monica was his rock then, with the distance between him and Barbara. 

Maybe that’s why he takes her to bed. Or she takes him. Later, he’ll struggle to remember who started it. He remembers her hand inside his slacks, her teeth tugging at his earlobe, her laughter as they land on her bed, sans sheets or pillows. It feels good to forget himself in her body, and make no mistake, she has a great one. He gets her to come from penetration alone, which leaves him feeling like Superman.

“Gosh,” she says, panting and smiling. “Gosh, we’re good.”

“Yeah, we’re pretty good,” he says. He rolls off of her and onto his back. Just like that, whatever impulse came over him is gone and in its place regret and shame. 

Monica notices and props her head in her hand. “What’s wrong?”

He sighs. “We shouldn’ta done that.”

“Why not?”

He shades his eyes with a hand, wishing himself somewhere else. It’s all coming together, her outfit, the perfume, the invitation to see a barely unpacked apartment. “‘Cause it’s wrong,” he says. “‘Cause we’re friends.”

“I thought we were having fun,” she says. 

He’s tempted to blame it on the whiskey, but there’s a good chance he would have made the same decision stone-cold sober. 

“I’m not saying it wasn’t nice, I’m saying I should know better.” He sits up and crosses his legs. “I’m sorry.” He lays a hand on her arm and tries not to look at her unclothed body.  

“I don’t get it,” she says. 

“Monica,” he says. He gives her a searching look. “Monica, I think you do.”

She crosses her arms.

“I think I should go now,” he says. 

“My car’s still in the garage,” she says. 

He winces mentally. 

They drive back to the J. Edgar Hoover Building in silence. He can’t think of a damn thing to say to break the ice. Part of him feels like he just walked into a trap, but if he did, he went looking for trouble and deserved getting his foot caught. Monica doesn’t say anything when he pulls up next to her car. She just gets out and closes the door, and he feels horrible. It’s not just the sweaty-junky feeling of the whiskey leaving his pores, either. 

One thing’s for sure. Nothing’s gone right since he accepted the assignment with the X-Files. It’s like the damn department is cursed.

Chapter Text

On March 26th, Mulder comes home. Home is Scully’s apartment, at least until his electricity is turned back on and they move the fish back. The going-home outfit of jeans and a sweater that she chose from his dark apartment is too big and he’s borrowed a belt from one of his doctors. He looks thin, tired, and old, but he’s alive and cracking bad jokes. Also, she’s never seen anyone so happy to see fish.

“Hey guys.” He taps on the tank. A fish swishes away from the sound. “You hungry? You look hungry. I bet Scully put you on health food- diet while I was gone.”

“Mulder,” she says, giving his arm a friendly punch and dropping her mail on the side table.

“Just looking out for my children,” he says, unscrewing the cap on the fish food.

“Your children,” she says with a straight face.

“Being a fish dad is a serious responsibility.” He opens the fish food and scatters flakes along the surface of the water. “For example, I had eleven fish last I checked and there now appear to be nine.”

“Well, one didn’t survive his transport and the other didn’t like the new water, apparently.”

“See?” Mulder says. “I’ve got a head-start on parenthood.”

This is what her life has been lacking, his absurdity. “Mulder.” She hugs him from behind, leaning her face into his sweatshirt and breathing in his warm scent, but she can’t get as close as she wants with her big belly in the way. “I missed you so much.”

He turns around and enfolds her. “It’s okay, I forgive you for killing my fish.”

She giggles. “Stop.”

He stands back and drops his hand to her belly. “I’m still not used to this being between us. Is he awake?”

She shakes her head. “Not right now.”

“Well, you know what parents do when the kids are asleep,” he says, pulling her close again.

“What’s that?” she says, even though she knows. He’s pressing kisses to the side of her neck and his lips are warm.

“Give you one guess,” he says.

“We just walked in the door,” she says.

“And?” he says to her neck. His lips move onto her ear.

“And you just got out of the hospital.” For some reason, his persuasion isn’t working, but she can’t grasp why.

“And?” He licks the outline of her ear and she feels her dormant sex drive stir, but only vaguely.

“I’m just worried that you’re not up for it,” she says, making up a reason. “I want to make sure you’re okay.”

“Oh, I’m up alright, Scully.” Mulder shifts his hips so that she can feel his erection against her flank.

“Mulder ...” She doesn’t mean it this time, though, and he can tell.

He finds her hand and pulls her to her bedroom. Maybe she’s thrown off because she hadn’t expected their reintroduction to lovemaking to be this fast. She’d pictured days of him languishing on the couch, and having waiting on him hand and foot. Also, she feels only slightly smaller than a blue whale at the moment, which isn’t helping. Clearly neither of these misgivings matters to Mulder, who is stripping off her maternity top and nudging her onto the bed.

“You’re so beautiful like this,” he says. He shows her the meaning of “this” by sitting on his knees and brushing the slope of her belly with the flat of his hand. “I’m so lucky.” He hugs her and drops his head to the upper part of chest, kissing her breastbone and squeezing his eyes closed. She slides her fingers into his hair and lets him hold her. When he looks up, his eyes are filled with tears. He wipes them away with a middle finger. The tears suggest that it’s too soon for them to do this, but as he unhooks her bra, she reasons that it might be healing for both of them.

“Are you sure you want to have sex with a whale?” she says.

Her bra lands on the floor. Mulder whistles, eyeing her breasts. “Sorry, what?”

“The heaviest mammal in the world, Mulder.” But her self-consciousness is vanishing with every second he stares at her like that.

“You look amazing. Are you sensitive? Can I ...?” He looks from her breasts to her face, a childlike gleam on his face.

“Yes, but not too hard.”

He proceeds to caress her breasts like he’ll never get a chance to see a pair again. She might not have been in the mood a few moments ago, but he's got her attention now. “Okay?” he says, glancing up.

She nods. “You can go harder, you won’t hurt me.”

He obeys, massaging and rubbing his thumbs across her hyperpigmented nipples. She’s a little sensitive, but in a good way. “Mmm,” he says. He withdraws one hand and grabs the hem of his sweatshirt, working it awkwardly over his head and wriggling one arm out. She sees with a pang how truly thin he is, his stomach hollow and the undercurve of his broad ribcage visible. The awful scar starting at the dip in his throat and racing down his sternum is a painful shade of red. Now it’s her turn to get teary.

He snaps out of his reverie and touches her jaw. “Okay?”

She nods and runs her hand over his shoulder and down his arm, no longer thick with muscle like it used to be. ”You’re so thin,” she says.

He echoes her nod. “I’m okay. Do you want to wait?”

They probably should, but he’s rekindled her libido with what he was doing a minute ago. “No, I’m fine. We’ve just ... It’s completely different than the last time we did this. I’m pregnant and you’re—”

“Back from the dead!” he says in a jokey Dracula accent, making wiggly claw fingers.

She brushes his hair from his forehead and looks into his expectant eyes. “Okay. I’ve never had sex when I was this—” She almost finishes ‘when I was this pregnant,’ but Mulder doesn’t need to know about Doggett. She turns it into, “When I was pregnant.”

“It’s safe, right?” says Mulder. He leans forward to kiss her again and his chest brushes hers. It feels good.

“Of course.” They kiss, his tongue finding its way into her mouth.

“What position?” says Mulder.

“I don’t know.”

“On top?” he says hopefully.

“No.” No, because Doggett flashes into her mind again. The last time she was on top, it was with him. “How about”—she eases herself onto her side—“How’s this?”

Mulder spoons up behind her, cupping her breasts. “Great idea. Keep ‘em coming.” He moves against her and she presses back. They rock together like that until Mulder is out of breath. He folds down the stretchy band of her maternity slacks and works her underwear down her legs, and she’s so wet already that it takes nothing for him to slip inside her. She gives herself permission to be transported, melting into that headspace where she doesn’t have to worry about anything except her own pleasure. Mulder’s hand roams all over her breasts, but just as often falls to her stomach as if he can’t quite get used to her new contours.

“Mmm, wait a minute,” she says. She can tell by his breathing that he’s getting close already and she doesn’t want to miss her turn. She scoots to the edge of the bed and pulls her pocket vibrator from the drawer of the table beside the bed. “Okay, you can go back to what you were doing.”

Mulder chuckles into her shoulder and kisses the nape of her neck. “I’ll wait for you to catch up.”

She positions the vibrator and Mulder assists by making the unexpected move of placing his hand behind her and sliding two fingers into her. She gasps. Before he went missing, the sex had been long and slow. This is moving fast. “Caveman sex,” Mulder called it once before. 

“Mulder,” she says, shoving her body back to deepen the angle of his fingers.

“Mmm-hmm,” he says. 

The three months that he was dead and she didn’t spend worrying having orgasms hits her like a bullet train. She thinks of the word wellspring as she comes with Mulder’s fingers pushed inside her. When she’s done, he thrusts himself back in and comes almost immediately, no condom, no consideration, just caveman. She loves it.

When they’ve both cleaned off and redressed, she reheats some of her mother’s frozen Italian wedding soup in a saucepan and Mulder sits on the couch changing the channels. She’s happy, although there’s a faint vinegary aftertaste to her joy that she can’t quite identify. Probably, she thinks, it’s just normal readjustment pains, which anyone would go through after grieving a death and experiencing a miracle when they’d lost all hope. Mary and Martha must have felt this way when Lazarus awoke, uneasy, not quite trusting, afraid that it was all a dream.

“Thanks,” says Mulder, when she hands him his soup and sits down next to him.

“How do you feel?” she says.

“Tired.”

He looks it. His complexion is still grey and the scars on his cheeks won’t let her soon forget that he was almost permanently lost to her. For a moment, she has the sudden, overpowering fear that he’ll crumble to ash in front of her eyes and that she’ll wake up to find him dead after all. She blinks back tears before he notices.

“You’ll tell me if you start feeling worse? It’s no problem to get you back to the hospital,” she says.

“I’m fine,” Mulder says, through a mouthful of soup. He sees the look on her face and sets down his spoon so he can cup her cheek. “Really. I’m fine.”

“I’m not going to lose you again?” she says. Her eyes fill up again.

“Scully.” He hugs her and puts his chin on the crown of her head. “Scully, not in a million years.”

“Okay.” She inhales and it’s still Mulder’s own smell, not the sweet odor of decay that he had during those forty-eight hours in the hospital. She heard somewhere that smell is absent from dreams, so this must not be a dream.

He lets her go after awhile and they finish their soup while watching the seven o’clock news. “God, who elected this guy president?” Mulder says, pointing at the TV screen. “When I first saw him on TV in the hospital, I thought it was just the drugs.”

She groans, remembering hanging chads and the grueling recount. “You’re better off not asking how it happened.”

“What else did I miss? I feel like that guy in the fairy tale with the long beard,” he says. “What was his name? Rapunzel?”

“Rumpelstiltskin,” she says, laughing.

“Huh? I thought that was the one where the elf forces the girl to weave her own hair or something,” he says.

“Oh, you’re right. The beard guy is Rip Van Winkle.” She laughs even harder. “Rapunzel.”

“Boy, we’re going to be parents?” He laughs with her. “We suck, Scully.”

“We’ll just tell X-Files instead of fairy tales,” she says, putting her hand on her stomach. William’s foot presses into her palm.

“Guaranteed lifelong trauma,” Mulder says, placing his hand on top of her.

“Probably unavoidable since he’s getting stuck with us. Here.” She slips her hand on top of his. William kicks at Mulder’s hand.

Mulder shakes his head, applying gentle pressure. “I still can’t believe it. I must have super sperm.”

“All of that practice with your VHS collection paid off.” She giggles.

“You better not have gotten rid of it while I was dead.” He taps the tip of her nose.

“Speaking of things that will traumatize William …”

“I’ll have you know that I can keep my hobbies completely separate from my responsibilities as a father.”

She laughs again. Beneath Mulder’s hand, William is practically swimming laps. Just a month to go now. “Your hobbies.”

“My hobbies,” he says. He pulls his hand away from her stomach and fiddles with the handle of the spoon resting in his empty bowl.

What?” she says, noticing that his smile has died away.

He shrugs. “Just thinking.”

“Oh?”

“Things are going to change fast.”

She rests her hand on her stomach. “Yes, that’s true.” She senses that there’s more. 

Mulder looks sideways at her and gives her a half-smile. “I’m not just talking about giving up my VHS collection, either.”

“You’re not ready,” she says, guessing. 

He shrugs again. “Ready or not, here I come, right?” 

She feels a little hurt, even though she knows he has every right to feel the way that he does. For Mulder, barely any time has elapsed between those first weeks of sex the previous August and the biological outcome.“You don’t have to … you know.”

“Scully, no,” he says, grasping her hand. “Look at me.”

She does. His eyes are sincere. 

“I want to do this,” he says. “I’m just saying that you’ve had the past seven months to think about this and I’ve never even changed a diaper.”

“I’ll teach you,” she says, squeezing his hand. “There’s a lot I won’t know how to do either. We’ll figure it out together. If you want.”

He gives her the same half-smile. “I want to. I do. I just have a lot of questions, I don’t know where to start. Like how are you going to feed him? What if he has a disability? Who’s going to watch him while we’re on cases?” He pauses, letting the silence stretch. “What if he’s Cancer Man’s kid?”

“Mulder.”

“Not that I would blame you, he is irresistible, I’ve always said so.” 

She laughs in spite of herself. “To answer your questions, breastfeeding, but I have formula samples and a couple bottles just in case. All of the ultrasounds have been normal. He’s healthy My mom has promised to be on-call and we’ll be lucky if we can pry her away from him. He is not Cancer Man’s kid.”

What she leaves out is that there will be no more cases. Kersh accepted her resignation two days ago with barely disguised delight and encouraged her to apply for an open teaching position at Quantico until she could transition back into the medical field.

“Do you want me there?” says Mulder, switching back to serious.

“I do,” she says. “But it’s up to you, in the end.”

“I don’t mean that.” He demonstrates by bending over and kissing her belly. “We just haven’t talked about”—he waves a hand—“you, me, the apartments, the bills, the fish ...”

She nods. 

“... the X-Files.”

“The last thing you should be worried about right now is the X-Files,” she says. 

Mulder looks perplexed. “Why?”

“Look at you.” She tugs at his baggy shirt. “You need to rest. Gain some of your weight back. The X-Files isn’t going anywhere.”

“That’s what I’m worried about,” he says. His eyes have a familiar fervor in them. “Kersh. I bet he’s already made plans to close them once you have the baby.”

There’s something to his hunch. With Doggett off the X-Files and her time with the X-Files ticking down, Kersh is probably getting ready to execute his move. She suspects that’s why he’s been so nice about her taking two weeks off to supervise Mulder’s recovery. 

“As your doctor, I forbid you to worry about it. You need to be resting. Okay?”

“Okay,” he says, in such a way that she knows that this isn’t the last she’ll hear about it. 

“Mulder.” She kisses his cheek. “We’ll figure it out. But I want you to work on getting better first.”

He cracks a listless smile. “Sure, Dr. Scully. Whatever you say.”

He falls asleep early that night, around eight p.m. She comes to bed at ten-thirty and can’t sleep. In the glow of the bedside lamp, she watches him inhale and exhale. He’s alive and the doctors expect him to make a full recovery, but she can’t shake the sense of foreboding that’s been creeping up on her all day.

Chapter Text

The ghost of a Russian poet is trying to warn Americans of a catastrophe toward the end of 2001. Back in America, Pennsylvania to be precise, a paranormal specialist has been kidnapped by a demon and is being held captive in the spirit realm. 

Doggett shifts his attention between the two case files on the desk in front of him. Maybe he’ll get lucky and someone will call about a case that involves the real world, saving him from deciding which of these two sad hoaxes to tackle first. Of course, the alternative is going back to the haunted-doll case. He taps his pencil on the paper. The poet is named Sergei Yesenin. Doggett types the name into Yahoo! He doesn’t find any poems by the guy, but discovers that Yesenin penned his final poem in his own blood, then hanged himself. Admittedly, the details pique his interest, but not enough to fly to Moscow to interview the sad sap who’s hallucinating an acquaintance with the guy. 

The basement door creaks. He looks up and sees Scully slipping through it. 

“Dana,” he says, tensing. 

“Agent Doggett,” she says. She sounds surprised. 

He pretends to be deep in his work and pencils “sad hoax” on a sticky note. 

Scully hangs her jacket and purse up before sitting in the chair opposite him. He didn’t know when she’d be coming back to work. It’s not like he’d been practicing what to say when she did. But now that she has, all of those smart one-liners have deserted him.

“How’s Mulder?” he says. 

“I’m confused,” Scully says, brows knitted. “I thought you quit. Kersh said you were transferring.”

“Nah. Not yet.” He finds himself looking everywhere but at her face: the door behind her shoulder, the black file cabinets, Mulder’s poster of the man on the moon. He wondered if Mulder thought the moon landing was faked. He realizes that he can ask him now that he’s come back from the dead.

“You don’t want to talk,” Scully says. 

“Doesn’t matter what I want,” he says, finally hazarding a quick glance at her. “Go on, shoot.”

She sighs. “I owe you an apology.”

“It’s okay,” he says, hoping she’ll leave it at that, but she doesn’t.

“I’m sorry for saying what I did in the hospital. It was unprofessional. I know you were only looking out for me.”

He shrugs, uncomfortable. “How’s Mulder?” he says again. 

“Mulder?” The corner of Scully’s mouth turns up a little. She looks amused and a little harassed. “Ready to come back to work already.”

Doggett tenses further at that. She clearly doesn’t know he’s been canned. He’s not about to break it to her.

“To be honest, I  wasn’t expecting to see you this morning. After our argument. I thought you said …,” she says

He shrugs again. “Job’s dangerous. Didn’t want you and the little guy coming up against something you can’t handle. Like demons or haunted dolls.” He gestures to the case files in front of him. 

“Haunted dolls?” 

“I could use a partner on this one, actually. I don’t actually think it’ll put you in any danger, but you’re nicer on the phone to these people,” he says. 

“Okay,” says Scully. 

Just like that, they’ve moved past Sun Tzu’s contentious ground back into open ground, and he’s grateful. He doesn’t want anymore fighting.

Also, he’s relieved to find out that she thinks the haunted-doll case is just as much bullshit as he does.



“He did what?” Mulder looks from Scully to Skinner, seeking an explanation. 

“I tried pulling every string I could think of,” Skinner says. “No dice.”

Mulder looks half amazed and half in disbelief. “When were you going to tell me this, Scully?”

She finds that she doesn’t appreciate his tone after a long day investigating haunted dolls and demonic possessions with Doggett. “I didn’t know,” she says.

Skinner comes to her rescue. “Kersh didn’t tell me until this afternoon.” He stands in front of her couch where she and Mulder are sitting, his arms in white shirt sleeves folded against his chest. 

“I can’t believe this,” Mulder says.

“Look, why don’t you …” Skinner looks toward the ceiling, his words trailing off as he gives it some thought. “Why don’t you just wait this out,” he finishes. “You’re not ready to go back to work anyway. Maybe by the time you're back in shape, we’ll have this worked out.” 

“Not good enough.” Mulder bounces his leg. He’s wearing flannel pajama pants and a T-shirt. Dressed in them and with most of his muscle mass gone, doesn’t look like a man who’s about to wage war, but Scully knows better. “I knew that motherfucker would do this,” he says. 

“You still have a job with the FBI, he’s just moving you to Human Resources,” Skinner reminds him. 

“Kersh wants to put me behind a desk? That is not what Kersh wants.” 

The indignation in Mulder’s eyes is familiar. Scully used to find it inspiring, galvanizing. Now it just puts a knot in her stomach. 

“Oh, I agree,” says Skinner. “It's more than that. He wants to punish you, to hurt you.”

“Well, what are we going to do about it?” she says. She means it more in the sense of there’s nothing we can do about it , but Mulder misinterprets. 

He brings one foot up onto the couch and hooks his hands around his knee. “You’re going to give birth in a couple months. You can talk as tough as you like, but you know and I know and Kersh knows that in a little while you’re going to have more important things to worry about than the X-Files staying open.”

Skinner paces. “They’re not closing the X-Files. Kersh aims to keep them open with Agent Doggett running them.”

“Agent who?” Mulder says, turning to her. 

She flushes. Not quite meeting his eyes, she says, “I had a partner for the last several months.” Mulder looks at her with incredulity. She hopes the flush in her cheeks isn’t as noticeable as it feels. “He was assigned to help me find you.”

Mulder looks at her for a few seconds, processing the information. At last, he says, “Mission accomplished.” He rocks his knee. “Does he know what he’s doing at all, this guy?” He sounds casual, but she knows he’s upset, suspicious. 

“About the paranormal?” says Skinner. “Not much.”

“Huh,” says Mulder. “Well, that’s another mission accomplished. Kersh replaces me with someone who doesn’t know anything about the X-Files, Scully goes on maternity leave, and that’s it for the X-Files.”

Skinner frowns. “Don’t throw in the towel yet. I’m sure I can persuade him, I just need a little more time. Listen to Scully. You need to work on getting better first. Alright?”

“No. Not alright,” Mulder says, sounding steely. “If I wait too long, it’s going to be too late.”

“Mulder,” says Scully. 

“C’mon, Scully. When had Kersh ever cut me a break?”

“I have to go with Agent Scully on this one. A month ago, you were six feet under. Work on getting better. The X-Files can wait.” He stoops to put a hand on Mulder’s shoulder. “I mean it.”

Mulder claps his hand on Skinner’s forearm and gives him a weak smile. “I’m not making any promises.”

“I have to head home now. Take care of yourself, okay?” says Skinner. 

“Sure,” Mulder says.

They see Skinner to the door and Scully locks it behind him. In the long term, it’s probably for the best that Skinner came over to tell Mulder the news about Kersh firing him in person, but all the same she wishes he would have waited another week or two. The ember that she noticed in Mulder’s eyes yesterday when he spoke of the X-Files has kindled.

“How are you?” Mulder turns to her and folds her into his arms. He nuzzles the top of her head. “How’s Billy?” he says, meaning William. 

It’s a silly joke, but she thinks of the grey, wrinkled amphibious body of Billy Miles, floating at sea for days, and that brings to mind the image she’d conjured of Mulder decomposing in a coffin, in the days after his exhumation when it wasn’t clear if he would die or live. “Don’t call him that, please,” she says. “It makes me think of Billy Miles.” She hugs the solid, warm weight of him. From corpse to corporeal.

“I’m sorry.” He kisses her head.

Even if he understands that he came close to sharing Billy Miles’s fate, it isn’t as real for him. It can’t be. He didn’t see or smell the unrecognizable body lying in a hospital bed in a room three doors down from his. He doesn’t remember anything about being buried, a fact for which she is intensely grateful. 

On the subject of his not remembering, she has had her doubts about the doctors’ theory (and at least two dozen of them examined Mulder) that his body must have been in a hibernation state previously undocumented in the scientific literature. She remembers the iciness of his skin as he lay on the forest floor: it was the temperature of every decedent she had ever examined. She also remembers livor mortis under his skin, though mild. Had he been dead after all? If he had, who or what was responsible for his resurrection? Was it divine intervention? Extraterrestrial means? What had the cult members at the compound in Montana done to him before he died?

“You’re not going anywhere, right?” she says. 

“Staying right here,” says Mulder. 

Between them, as if to back his father up, William kicks. She wishes that she had their confidence. 



Since putting the pictures back up, Doggett’s had to get used to seeing Luke’s face on a daily basis again. It’s been hard to comprehend that that little boy with his mother’s brown eyes and full lips and his father’s big ears would have turned fifteen in January. Life might have been different if Luke were still here. He could still be living in their apartment in New York and working for the NYPD. He and Barb might have worked things out for their son’s sake. He would have been teaching Luke to drive and worrying about subjects like alcohol and drugs. He would have been planning out an uncomfortable conversation about safe sex and respecting women. There would have been conversations about good grades, too, and maybe some about college. There would have been football or soccer or baseball games after school. 

Instead, his boy’s now been dead longer than he was alive, seven years on this earth and eight years off it. In place of a moody teenager is one-and-a-half pounds of ashes in a box, which he and Barbie had always said they’d scatter if they found the right place, but they fought and fought and never got around to it. The box resides on the top shelf of his bedroom closet with a baseball mitt, a worn stuffed animal, and a couple of Luke’s other prized possessions. 

It’s evening now, two in the morning, and the box rests in his lap. It weighs barely more than Sammy, the eight-week-old kitten he brought home for Luke’s seventh birthday. He wonders fleetingly how Sammy’s doing now back in New York with Barb. That damn cat would now be older than his son ever was. All of his failures can be summed up in this one engraved box. He never caught the perp, never found out why his boy had to be killed execution-style after being sexually abused. He’s always suspected it was because of him. Maybe the perp knew him, knew that he’d get the truth out of Luke and then kill the bastard with his bare hands once he did. That never happened, though. Not only did he fail to protect his son, he never got to bring justice to him either.

He’d lied to Scully when he said that pictures of Luke were absent because he was sick of answering questions from one-night stands. He put the pictures in storage because they were a constant reminder of what he’d lost, not just Luke, but a home, a wife, the American dream, the whole enchilada. He hadn’t wanted to live like that. It’s only been a few days and he’s being eaten up inside again having to look at that beautiful smiling face. His boy. Even so, he doesn’t want to put them away again. Talking to Scully last Thanksgiving made him realize that he owes Luke this much.

He’s not a praying man, but before he replaces the box and slips back into bed, he sends one up that Scully’s own little boy will stay safe and whole after he’s born.