Title: Gift Bags and Other Unmanly Sentiments
Author: Eisoj5
Rated: R for language
Category: VA
Spoilers: Existence
Keywords: Post-Ep, MSR
Disclaimer: Not mine. Chris's.

Summary: Doggett visits a post-Existence Mulder & Scully.

I raise one hand to knock on the door to Scully's apartment, my right hand occupied with a handful of flowers and a little gift bag I picked up from the Hallmark on the way over. I'm not too fond of Hallmark, nor am I pleased to be standing out here holding a gift bag of all things, but I was taught never to show up empty handed.

Scully opens the door, clad in a bathrobe which she tugs at a little self-consciously. I can see someone's feet sticking up at the closest end of her couch, and am thoroughly unsurprised to realize it's Mulder lying there.

"Agent Doggett," Scully greets me, surprise evident in her voice. She throws an anxious glance over her shoulder at Mulder, apparently worried about my reaction to these living arrangements. I have to smile. Even a blind man could see the two of them had something special, and frankly I'm happy for Mulder and Scully.

"Can I come in?" I ask, and she steps aside to let me in. I hold up the flowers, and she gazes at me in mild consternation. "You might want to put these in water," I say as she tentatively accepts them.

Mulder stirs on the couch, and Scully and I both look over at him. Her son is sleeping on Mulder's chest, the two of them covered with a light blanket.

"Didn't you have a meeting this morning with Kersh?" she asks, going into the kitchen and turning on the faucet.

I shrug, still looking down at the sleeping baby boy. "It ended early." I turn to see her picking up the bag where I put it on the arm of the couch and peeking inside. Scully pulls out the soft bear, dressed in overalls with "William" printed in block letters on it. That rare smile crosses her face as she looks at it.

"Thank you, Agent Doggett," she says sincerely. "I can't thank you enough for everything you've done. I know it's been difficult, having to put aside your doubts and trust in the sometimes outrageous things we've told you lately, but you really came through for us."

I shake my head, frowning. "Billy Miles and . . . the others found you anyways," I reply. I'd been mentally berating myself for calling Reyes from inside the FBI and giving away everything to those who wished Scully harm, and had feared the worst the entire night when I couldn't get ahold of Mulder.

She looks troubled for a moment. "I have to admit that I don't quite understand what happened last night. I was so sure they were going to take my baby from me, yet all they did was stand there and watch."

"At least Mulder got there," I answer, unsure of what else to say. I still can't comprehend all this nonsense about alien replicants, even though some part of me knows that Knowle Rohrer and Billy Miles and Gene Crane were not precisely human. Nobody gets ground up in a garbage truck, shot a whole bunch of times and simply walks away.

"You never got in touch with him," Scully says, a curious expression on her face. "He said there was a light . . ."

"And a hell of a lot of cars for a ghost town in the middle of the night," Mulder interjects. I look over to see him sitting up, holding William to his chest protectively. "Hey, Doggett," he greets me. "Nice flowers."

"Mornin', Mulder," I say, and out of the corner of my eye I see Scully moving to take her baby in her arms.

"You got him?" Mulder asks her, and as she smiles affirmatively, cradling her son, he gets up off the couch and goes in the kitchen. "Want some coffee, Doggett?" he calls over his shoulder at me.

"Sure," I respond, amused by the proprietary way in which Mulder behaves in Scully's apartment.

I look over at her, feeling sort of shy. "Can I . . ."

"Hold him?" Scully walks over to me, carefully hands William over. He's very small and warm in my arms. I hold out a finger and he grasps it tightly in his tiny hand, and I can't help but smile down at him.

"He looks kinda like you, Scully," I comment. "Blue eyes, red hair . . ."

"But his hair might get darker with time," Mulder interrupts, holding one mug and setting the other down on the end table for me. He's got this tiny, possessive smirk on his face. "Isn't that right, Scully?"

She's been hovering-yes, hovering-around me anxiously, and at his words she turns and gazes up at him in amusement. "Whatever you say, Mulder," she replies.

I try to wiggle my finger out of little William's grasp and find he's as stubborn as his parent(s). A lump suddenly catches in my throat and I remember holding my own son in my arms for the first time, touching his tiny hands and face.

Not gonna get all emotional. Really. I force down the memory and find myself being stared at by two sets of eyes.

"Agent Doggett?" Scully's got a familiar concerned expression on her face.

"Sorry." I attempt a smile. "Lost in thought, I guess."

"Unfamiliar territory?" Mulder cracks.

Scully rolls her eyes. "Mulder . . ." She turns back to me. "Are you all right?"

"I'm fine," I manage. Carefully hand William back to her. Act cool now, John.

Coffee's around here somewhere. Over the rim of the mug I see them looking at each other, sharing some sort of silent communication with their eyes.

"Am I missing somethin' here?" I ask after a moment.

Mulder glances over, shakes his head. "Nothing." He drinks his coffee.

Scully sighs, almost inaudibly, gently stroking her baby's face. He makes a soft sound, one of those little noises babies make when they're not crying or screaming, and it wrenches at my heart, and before I can stop it I feel moisture collecting in my eyes.

"Aw, shit," I mutter quietly and have to duck into the kitchen for a second to collect myself.

Fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck is the litany running through my head. Get a grip on yourself, dammit. You're a Marine. An ex-cop. An FBI agent. Tough it out. No losing it in front of them.

Somewhere in the back of my head there's a small voice reminding me that I was holding a Hallmark *gift bag* in my hand not too long ago. So much for toughing it out.

Angrily, I swipe at my eyes, sigh.

I know perfectly well why this is happening. It hurts to drive past the elementary school on the way home and see the kids playing there. It hurts to turn on ESPN and see the Little League games that sometimes get broadcasted. I guess I just never thought it would hurt to hold someone else's baby boy the exact same way I held Luke, all those years ago.

But I can hide it. I've managed to for four years, I can do it again.

I rejoin the little family in the living room of the apartment. They've been studiously ignoring me for the past few minutes, and I find Mulder waggling the bear I bought in front of William's face. My coffee's still warm, amazingly enough.

"See the bear?" Mulder chuckles as their son tries to bat at it with a small hand.

Scully laughs, looks at me. I smile a little, letting her know I really am okay. I circle around them to look down at William again, offer him my index finger, which he latches onto again. Mulder examines the bear critically, grins over at me as he sees his son clutching my finger.

"I think he likes you," he says.


Author's Note: (Constructive) Feedback is always appreciated at jscz@umich.edu. However, any Doggett-bashing emails and other related flames will be fed to my dragon. :) There is something of a sequel to this, called "7-9-01" and that can probably be found wherever you're reading this or on my own tiny site, www.reocities.com/jcfos2001. Thanks for reading!


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