Title: After William
Author: Dogg'N'Scull
Written: 2002
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Season Nine to be safe
Classification: Implied MSR, DSR Undertones, A, slight AU
Archive: Yes, just please let me know
Disclaimer: You know the scoop, I don't own em...

Author's Note: This story is based on the assumption that when Scully gave William up for adoption, she did not discuss it with anyone, particularly Doggett, who has just found out what she's done. It is also written in the present tense, something I've never really tried before, so it's a bit of an experiment... I think it works okay.


Two days. Five hours. Seventeen minutes.

She watches the second hand on her grandmother's clock make its slow, agonizing way around the face to meet the minute hand.

Two days. Five hours. Eighteen minutes. The apartment is silent except for the steady tick-tick-tick of the clock. His smell is fading already, replaced by the stagnant, lifeless air of a place un-used.

Two days. Five hours. Nineteen minutes.

She rubs the fabric of the little flannel blanket between her fingers. Not his favorite one - no, she'd sent that one with him. Now she wonders who would have received more comfort from it.

Two days. Five hours. Twenty minutes.

She tells herself it was the right thing to do, she had no other choice, that he will understand. But when she closes her eyes, all she sees is his cold, accusing stare.

Two days. Five hours. Twenty-one minutes.

Knocking, crisp and insistent rouses her. She walks to the door like she's in a dream. Two eyes, like cold steel, meet hers, their accusation unmistakable and she stifles a gasp. But it's not Him. No. It's Agent Doggett, and he is angry. She steps aside to allow him entry and as he steps by her she can feel the energy coiled within him. His eyes sweep around the room, falling on the baby blanket on the couch, and then he turns, cutting her with his stare.

"Is it true?" he asks, his jaw tight. He is very angry.

She didn't expect this from him. She thought Of all people, she thought he would be able to understand. She thinks she should be angry with him for his presumption, full of indignant, self-righteous anger but instead she welcomes his rage like a punishment she deserves. She can only nod in silent answer.

His hands are balled into fists and they tremble at the force he is applying to them. She wonders for a brief second if he will strike her. She is not surprised when a part of her wants him to.

"How??" he asks, full of disbelief, angst, raw emotion.

She is suddenly surprised by how much she wants to make him understand her choice. She speaks, finally, the first time in two days.

"I had to," she pleads with him to understand.

"That's crap!!" he explodes, throwing his jacket to the floor.

She stares at him wide-eyed, un-used to such anger from him. She's heard of his temper, but has never witnessed it first hand before now.

"You told me he was a miracle," he says fiercely. There are tears in his eyes.

"He was. He is-"

"How could you give away a miracle? How could you take your child, your *son*, and give him away to strangers?" he yells, trembling.

"To save him! To give him a chance to live!" She can feel her eyes watering, fights to hold off the inevitable breakdown. She hasn't cried yet, and she doesn't want it to happen in front of him.

"You gave him away because of an unknown, *possible* threat of danger. Jesus, Dana, that's *life*!"

"It was more than that! You know it was! They want him. Alive or dead, it doesn't matter. So many people want him!" she chokes, tears falling steadily.

"Everyone but you." The words slip out before he can stop them.

She gapes, open-mouthed at him. "That's not true! God, I love him! I want him more than anything! But I can't guarantee his safety with me. He's invisible now. I've given him the chance to live a normal, safe life! You have to understand that. Please!"

"No one can guarantee anyone's safety. I know that more than anyone! How are some strangers supposed to protect him from these aliens or whatever when they go for him now? How can anyone else protect him better than you can?"

"They won't go after him now," she says, barely more than a whisper.

"What?"

She looks down, unable to meet those eyes again. "They won't go after him now because he doesn't have what they want anymore."

He stares at her. It is his turn to look stunned. "Then why? For God's sake, Dana, why? Why the hell would you give him up if he's not in danger anymore?"

"Because he will *always* be in danger if he's with me," she cries, imploring him to understand. "They won't be able to find him now that he's normal, but no matter where I go, because of this *thing* in my neck, they will always know where I am! And they would still come for him, just to be sure."

He stares at her, silent for a long moment as she weeps, finally understanding. "Or to manipulate you. Or Mulder. Any of us."

"I had the opportunity to save my son's life. How could I not take it?" she says, tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Dana," he says, pulling her to him. She buries her face in his chest as he tightens his arms around her. "I'm sorry," he says, finally admitting what he'd known all along, that, had he had the chance to give up Luke to save him, he'd have done the same thing. He feels her shudder and its like something in her has let go as she begins to sob, clutching him to her.

"I miss him. I want him back so much!"

He holds her, knowing she needs the release. His heart aches for her and he berates himself for his insensitivity. He should have known that she would have had a good reason. The right reason. He's known her long enough to know that.

"I want to die," she whispers, and he squeezes her tighter, fearful.

"It'll be all right," he says into her hair. And then the words she desperately needs to hear, "You did the right thing, Dana. You did the right thing."

A sob tears itself from her throat and she sags in his arms, her legs going limp. Of necessity, he lowers them both to the floor and cradles her in his lap. This is the second time he's held her like this, he reflects. He hopes, for her sake, that this is the last time it will be necessary. He knows that likely it will not. Sorrow has been a constant in her life. Not for the first time he wishes he could take some of it away, to alleviate its burden, but he doesn't think she'll let him. He doesn't realize that she already has.

"Will he understand?" she asks him finally, her throat raw from the tears.

He strokes her hair and answers truthfully. "I don't know. In the end, I think he will. But it may take a while."

She presses her face into his chest, inhaling the scent of safety. Her breath hitches and she asks in a small voice, "Do you think he can forgive me?"

He tightens his arms around her, sure that he is feeling his heart break. "There's nothing to forgive. He loves you," he tells her simply. I love you.

She shakes her head. "I'm not sure that will be enough," she sniffles, pulling back to sit next to him.

He reaches out and cups her face, unwilling to lose the sensation of touching her. "It will." It will or I'll pound it into him myself.

She stares at him, trying to comprehend what she sees in his eyes, but is unable. Her gaze drops to his tear soaked shirt and she smooths her fingers over it. "I've ruined your shirt," she says, her voice still heavy with tears.

"'Doesn't matter. That's what shoulders are for." Reluctantly, he lets his hand fall.

She smiles at him through moist eyes, marveling at the way he can so easily sway her emotions. She wonders if he has always had this ability or if this is something new. "They're good shoulders," she says.

He shrugs. "They're adequate," he replies without meeting her eyes.

His response bothers her and she frowns, concerned by what she hears in his voice. "What makes you say that?" she asks, sliding her hand up to cover his right shoulder.

He looks over at her slowly, pain in his eyes. "They're not the ones you need."

Her mouth opens slightly, surprise overtaking her features. And suddenly she thinks she understands what she saw in his eyes moments ago. She's surprised, but as things fall into place in her memory, she is not all that surprised, after all.

He pulls his eyes from her searching gaze, clearing his throat, aware he has, with one small sentence, revealed too much.

"John..."

He closes his eyes. He doesn't want to see her pity.

"John," she says again, and he sighs. He can't deny her request and turns back to her, resigned, but she is smiling at him. Not a sad, pity-filled smile. A smile of... thanks.

She is flattered, and a little honored that he would have these feelings for her. She doesn't feel that she deserves them from him. She's been hard and unfair with him so many times. It is a testament to the kind of man he is that he has seen through all that and stuck by her just the same.

"I do need you, John," she tells him. "You're the only one I can depend on anymore. Even when I can't depend on myself, I know you'll be there. Those shoulders have been there for me," she says, gripping them, "More times in this last year and a half than all the other shoulders in my life combined." She's silent for a long moment, her hands falling back into her lap where she stares at them. "I don't deserve to have someone like you care about me. I know that sounds like a hollow excuse-"

He is shaking his head but she persists.

"It does. It is." She is the one who looks away now. "If you knew how much I wish we could-"

"Dana, don't," he pleads.

She hangs her head, remains silent. They sit that way for a time, in the middle of floor in her living room, nothing but the ticking of the clock breaking the silence.

"Are you gonna be okay?" he asks at last.

She draws in a deep breath and releases it. "I think so," she says, nodding.

He nods too and, with a groan at his protesting muscles, he gets to his feet. "I should be going, then."

She looks up at him, something like regret in her eyes. Slowly she stands and follows him to her door. She takes his hand in hers and squeezes it.

He returns her squeeze, reaching out with his other hand to cup her cheek once more, and as she leans into his palm, he bends forward and places a kiss on her forehead.

Her eyes close at the first touch of his lips. They linger against her and the ache in her heart grows stronger.

He forces himself to pull back, and she follows instinctively, her face tilting up, lips parting in invitation. A million reasons for and against race through his mind. It takes everything he has to resist covering those lips with his own, but he knows must. With a final caress of her cheek he turns and opens the door.

"Thank-you," she says softly.

He pauses in the door, half turning back to her. He's not really sure what she's thanking him for, but he nods anyway. Then, without another look, he slips away.

Her heart pounds painfully as she turns the lock on her door, the click as it slides home sounding cold and final in her ears.

She sighs. The clock chimes the hour.


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