Title: Black and White Make Red
Summary: Familiar elements make an unexpected equation.
Notes: Many, many thanks to the Beta Brigade: Summer, AnnaSquirrel, Lara Means, Sable, Loa, and especially alanna.
Mulder’s ghost had been popping up everywhere lately. Doggett would be driving to work and suddenly Mulder’s ghost was in the passenger seat. He would be shaving and suddenly Mulder’s ghost would be standing next to him at the sink. He would be reading in the office and suddenly Mulder’s ghost would be at the other desk.
At first Doggett wasn’t sure he was seeing a ghost. The first time, in the office, he still had some hope they would find Mulder alive. The vision, he hoped, was just the result of his strange experiences that weekend. Overtired, he thought. Overworked. Over-worried.
But after they found the body and buried Mulder, Doggett had to be honest: he was seeing Mulder’s ghost. A ghost who looked a great deal like the yellowing newspaper clipping of Mulder that Scully kept pinned to a corner of the bulletin board, but Doggett put that to coincidence.
Doggett didn’t want to know if he was the only one seeing visions of Mulder. It wasn’t the kind of thing he could ask Scully or Skinner. Especially Scully. Oh, he could just imagine *that* conversation: “I keep seeing your dead partner everywhere I go. By the way, I died myself but I’m better now.”
Some things were just better left unsaid.
However, the solution seemed simple. He ignored the visions of Mulder, and eventually Mulder’s ghost went away.
He always came back, though. Always.
After a few weeks Doggett got bored with this. It was hard to sit silently next to a constant companion. And if I’m crazy, he thought, I’m crazy.
One night at his house he was reading when Mulder’s ghost appeared at the other end of the sofa. Doggett looked at him, read a few pages more, then shut his book. He said, “So what exactly is it that you want?”
Mulder’s ghost looked surprised. Perhaps he had thought it would take longer for Doggett to acknowledge him. Perhaps he hadn’t expected Doggett to acknowledge him at all.
Mulder’s ghost smiled and reached out his hand to touch Doggett’s forehead. Doggett expected to feel nothing, but instead felt this:
*- She stands before him on a rainy night, her robe dropped to show him the bumps on her back that have so frightened her. Part of him fights desperately to not be aroused by the sight of his new partner in her underwear. Part of him surges with protective tenderness. And when he tells her it is only mosquito bites and she throws herself in his arms, he knows there is nothing about this woman that will be easy.*
*- He had been frustrated with her intrusion, ready to scare off this smartass kid they were sending down, with her thesis on Einstein and impeccable credentials. Wait until she got a look at Spooky Mulder in all his glory.*
*- But he can’t scare off this tiny little thing in sensible shoes and an off-the-rack suit. Her handshake is firm, her smile is genuine. She means it when she says, I’m looking forward to working with you, and he knows she means it, he knows there isn’t a dishonest bone in her pretty little body.*
*- He does not want to like her but almost at once he does—she is so cute and determined—and smart, so smart. He doesn’t want to trust her but he learns to, in time .*
“She needs time—you need time too—but you’ll see it, Doggett, I need you to see it.”
The vision left Doggett breathless. Yes, yes, he could see.
A few days later it happened again. Doggett was alone in the office and Mulder’s ghost appeared, leaning against her desk. He smiled at Doggett and Doggett smiled back.
“Show me more,” he said eagerly.
*-She is dying. She is so brave, so strong, so faithful. She is like a tragic heroine.*
*- He goes to her room one night, kneels at her bedside. He buries his mouth in her bedding and screams silently, screams out the grief he can never allow her to see.*
*- And it isn’t a day later when she takes his hands and says, The tumor has shrunk. She squeezes his hands, smiling. I’m going to be all right, Mulder.*
“More. Tell me more.”
*- He has to get her out of this terrible icy place. He is afraid but he can’t let her die. Not after everything she’s already been through. He has to save her and bring her home, he has to make her safe.*
*- He has nightmares for months afterwards about the ice not breaking, the vaccine not working, about it all being a lie—but she chokes and coughs and all this goo comes out of her mouth. She whispers, she breaths this tiny little word, she says, “Cold” and all he wants to do is make her warm.*
“More. I want to know more.”
*-He wakes to find her slipping into bed beside him, pressing warm naked flesh against his side -*
“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa!” Doggett said, holding up his hands and getting to his feet. “No. Not that. That’s none of my business.”
When he looked back to where Mulder had been sitting, the ghost had disappeared.
Doggett let out a deep breath. He owned a few porn movies, he had a few skin magazines stashed away, but when it came to people he actually knew—well, he didn’t want to know.
For weeks every night when Doggett went to bed there was a new dream waiting for him. Every time he was alone there was another vision. Even when he dozed off, weary from their hard days, Mulder had another story for him.
Mulder showed him cases and conversations, depicting for Doggett a partnership that was devoted and fulfilling, a woman who was intelligent and tender. Again and again he said, “Do you see, Doggett, do you see why she means everything to me? Do you see why she’s the center of the universe? She’s a woman I have killed for, that I would die for—have died for—do you see why? Tell me you see why.”
“I see it,” Doggett said, “but I don’t understand. Why are you telling me this? What do you want from me?”
But Mulder’s ghost would only respond by showing Doggett more.
Day by day it was getting more difficult to be around Agent Scully. Not that her company was hard to bear, but how do you say to someone who hasn’t always liked you that you know their most treasured and intimate moments? She would be speaking and he would want to blurt, “Oh, like that time when you and Mulder—”But he restrained himself. Explaining how he knew these things was out of the question. Even if she was confiding in him a little more, even if she sometimes briefly held his hand, he knew she would never believe him.
The dreams and visions made it hard to sleep. Sometimes he nodded off at his desk—or worse, in the car—and he had to shake himself awake again.
“Are you all right?” Scully said to him, waking him from another dream of her. “Are you feeling sick?”
She touched the side of his face. It took all of his will to not snatch her hand away. And to not press his face into her hand and let her cool, soft flesh calm him down.
“I’m all right,” he said, moving his face away. She looked hurt and let her hand drop.
Restless, Doggett rode his bike until his knees ached, but it didn’t help. He came home and threw himself onto his sofa. He didn’t even have to open his eyes to know he wasn’t alone. “No,” he said. “No more. I can’t take it anymore. You loved her. Okay. I get it. I don’t see what good it does me to know this.”
“I need you to do something for me. You have to see why it’s important.”
“But I *do* see! I see it! I know!” He sat up on his couch, glaring at Mulder’s ghost. “You have a love that transcends death and time and all that magical mumbo-jumbo. You’ve made that clear. But why tell *me*?”
Mulder waited patiently, his expression mild.
“I know she’s special. I know she’s unique in all the world. I knew that from the first moment I met her. You didn’t have to tell me your history for me to know that.”
The ghost looked doubtful.
“So? What? Is this about the baby? I know about the baby. And believe me, I’d do anything she asked to take care of her and that baby.”
“What if she didn’t ask, Dogge
Doggett didn’t know what to say.
“What if she didn’t ask? Couldn’t ask, was afraid to ask? What if she needed you and never said a word?”
Doggett swallowed. “She doesn’t need me. She’s got her mother, Skinner, the Lone Gunmen guys—they’d do what you’d do. They’d lay down their lives for her.”
“That’s not what I’m asking.”
“Then what are you asking?”
“I want you to make her happy.”
“C’mon, Mulder,” Doggett said, hardly believing it. Not believing it at all.
“I want you to protect my child. I want you to keep Scully safe. I want you to be the father my baby needs, that I can’t be.” He smiled at Doggett kindly. “She’s been thinking it lately, you know. She’s been punishing herself for it—you’ll have to help her stop that. She’s been thinking she could be happy with you.”
“And you know it’s true.”
“No,” Doggett said again, and pressed the heels of his hands to his eyes. “No. No. No. No. Go away, Mulder. Go haunt somebody else. Go away.”
“No one else in her life would love her like that. They’re my friends and I love them, but I know them, too. They’re good men. You’re the best man. You’ll be the lover, the friend, the father. You were a good father before.”
“Do you want to know what it’s like to be loved by Dana Scully?”
“Oh, God—”Doggett moaned, cringing but unable to stop seeing what Mulder showed him.
*-she’s beautiful this night—she’s had an epiphany about the choices you make that lead you to where you are—she says, My path leads to you, all my paths lead to you—she is like a goddess in her nakedness -*
“No,” Doggett whispered.
*-like a goddess: pure as a statue, warm as a hearth fire, soft as a baby cat, juicy as a peach -*
“No. Please. I don’t want to know.”
*-she holds you in her arms and tells you how much she loves you. She says, I love you, Mulder-*
Mulder was quiet for a long time. Doggett finally dared to remove his hands from his eyes and looked at Mulder, who had buried his ghostly face in his phantom hands.
“I’m sorry,” Doggett said quietly. “I’m sure you miss her. I know she misses you. But if you want her to be happy there’s nothing I can do.”
The ghost looked up at Doggett and something—Doggett was never sure what—flashed from his eyes or his hands or maybe from the air around him. It surrounded Doggett, enveloping him in a swirl of emotions and sensations, filling the empty places inside him. He heard snatches of words, saw rapidly shifting images, felt hands on his skin. Doggett was knocked onto his back where he lay for a few moments, trying to get his breath.
When he could sit up again Mulder’s ghost was gone. In his place was a longing deeper than hunger or thirst, a desire for something—someone—her presence, her scent, the sound of her voice—
“Scully,” Doggett whispered. He grabbed his jacket and hurried out the door.
Black and White Make Red 2
“I know it’s late,” he said when Scully answered his knock.
“It’s a long ride from Falls Church,” she said mildly, eyeing his bike shorts and t-shirt.
“I drove. Can I come in?” he said, sure she would say no. He felt wild-eyed, unpredictable as a storm.
Apparently Scully saw none of this: she stepped aside to allow him into the apartment. She was wearing overalls and a tank top, her hair pulled back in a sloppy ponytail. “What are you doing with yourself tonight?”
“Something’s been happening that I need to talk to you about.” He started to take off his jacket, then paused. “Did I interrupt something? Are you busy?”
“I’m wallpapering the baby’s room. You can help me.” She led him to her spare bedroom, now in the process of becoming the nursery. She had already sponge-painted the walls a soft buttery yellow about halfway down the wall and pale green to the floor. She was now papering a border printed with pastel-colored balloons around the room where the two colors met.
“This is nice,” Doggett said. “Very gender-neutral.” She smiled at him over her shoulder as she lined up another strip of paper with her pencil markings on the wall. He smiled back uncomfortably.
“Come hold the other end of this. Please.”
Doggett came to the wall and held the other end of the paper. They worked in silence for a while as she unrolled paper and spread glue. She had the stereo playing from the front room, tuned to classical station. He couldn’t name any of the pieces they played, but he didn’t want to ask. She seemed to prefer the silence between them.
“Do you want something to drink?” she said when they reached the end of another length of paper.
“Sure, what have you got?” The small room was hot and a bit stuffy. Perspiration dotted Scully’s forehead and upper lip, and Doggett wiped his face with his forearm.
“Several things that are painfully good for you.”
“Whatever you’re having is fine.”
“That’s very trusting of you. What if I were having prune juice?”
“Then I’d have prune juice.”
She smiled at him again, the quiet, half-puzzled smile she often gave him, and went to the kitchen. Doggett smoothed his finger along the edge of the wallpaper border for a moment, then followed her. She had taken two bottles of Snapple out of the refrigerator, and held them both out to him. “Pink lemonade or white grape?”
“White grape, please.” He took the bottle and twisted the cap, which let loose with a pop.
“So what is it that you wanted to talk to me about?” Scully uncapped her own bottle and drank. “If this is about Kersh’s vendetta against you—”
“It’s not about Kersh. You think he has a vendetta against me?”
“Don’t you think that’s why he keeps you down in the basement with me? I think he feels threatened by you. Sometimes I think it’s not the evil we have to fear—it’s the mediocre who really get in our way.” She drank her juice, looking out the window.
“I hadn’t thought about it. Evil or mediocre. Or Kersh.” He swallowed a mouthful of juice, knowing that she was waiting for him to get to the point. “I don’t know where to start.”
“The beginning is a good place.” She put the cap back on her bottle and walked into the front room. “I’m going to sit. I have the feeling this is going to be a long story.”
“Yes . . .” He followed her. The beginning, he thought, but which beginning? Yours and Mulder’s or yours and mine?
Scully tucked herself into the corner of her couch, her legs drawn awkwardly onto the seat. She stroked her belly with her fingertips, and Doggett thought she seemed bigger than he had noticed recently, rounder and softer. Maybe it was the clothes. The overalls emphasized the belly just as her work clothes hid it.
He sat on the edge of her coffee table. He took a deep breath. “Before we found Mulder I followed a lead to Pennsylvania. He’d been there a few weeks prior to his disappearance, following a folktale . . . which turned out to be true.”
Her voice was soft. “A folktale? I don’t understand.”
“Have you ever heard of a soul eater?”
He could see her think about it, searching her encyclopedic memory. “I’ve heard of a sin eater,” she said slowly. “It’s something like a scapegoat. Someone who would bear the sins of the community, sacrifice themselves to appease the gods.”
“Well, this soul eater was literal. I mean, I don’t know if he ate the soul—that’s beyond me—but he would eat the body.”
“Agent Doggett,” she began.
“I know how it sounds but I swear it’s true. He’d eat the body and absorb its illness, and then regurgitate the body, whole. Healed. Mulder went to Pennsylvania to be healed.”
Scully closed her eyes and her jaw trembled. “Don’t tell me Mulder let this creature—*eat* him,” she said with revulsion.
“No. I was told when he saw the suffering this man had to bear, he couldn’t add to it. He tried to release the soul eater. But it didn’t work. And when the townspeople found out—I found a woman wh
o one day was dying of kidney failure and the next was fine.”
“The body sometimes will heal itself spontaneously—nobody really knows why. I still don’t know exactly why my cancer went into remission.”
“Agent Scully, I *found* her. The soul eater had a—a lair, I guess, underground, with a rough human shape in the floor, and I found this woman, who I thought had been murdered, alive and covered in goop, lying in that shape. He had eaten her, regurgitated her, and healed her.”
Scully set her bottle of juice on the coffee table with a slow, deliberate movement. “Why are you telling me this?”
“I’m not done yet.”
She nodded, and he took a moment to drink, parched from talking so much. He capped his bottle and set it aside, stood up and pulled up his shirt. Scully inhaled but said nothing as he stepped closer to her. “I tried to save him,” he said quietly, tracing the pale round outline of a scar on his chest. “I tried to take him away. When the townspeople found out, they shot me.” Scully gently touched the scar and Doggett said, “I died.”
“Agent Doggett,” she whispered.
“I died, and the soul eater took my death and died himself. So I’m here . . . and I’m not exactly sure why.”
A tear sparkled on her eyelashes. “Because he returned your compassion,” she whispered, and let her hand fall away.
Doggett lowered his shirt. “I tried to write a report about the whole thing. Skinner asked me not to. He was worried about how it would look for you and for Mulder and, hell, maybe even for me. So I didn’t. I didn’t know how I’d explain it, anyway. So I was sitting there in the office, trying to understand that I’d—Jesus, that I’d *died*—and I looked up and there he was.”
“The soul eater?”
“No,” Doggett said, “Mulder.”
All the light went out of her face, as if she’d shut the doors and windows to her mind, locking him out entirely. She pushed herself up to stand and turned her rigid back to him, going into the kitchen. She put the bottle of juice back in the fridge and held onto the door handle.
“How dare you,” she whispered, and then whirled around and shouted, “How dare you!”
“Agent Scully, please. God’s honest truth. I saw him standing there.” Doggett closed his eyes for a moment, preparing himself. “And I’ve been seeing him everywhere ever since.”
Her lips pushed out in a deep, trying-not-to-cry frown. “How dare you make up stories like this. It’s cruel. I never thought of you as cruel.”
“I’m not making this up.”
She wrapped her arms around herself. “Please go.”
“But I haven’t told you everything.”
“I don’t want to hear any more.” Her voice broke on the last word. “You expect me to believe that Mulder is—is alive—following you around -“
“No, not alive. He’s haunting me. That’s the only way I can explain it. I’m seeing his ghost.”
Her breath hitched and she began to cry—great, gulping sobs that sounded painful and raw. She backed up against the counter, holding herself, and Doggett thought she’d never looked so tiny and alone. He went to her and put his hands on her shoulders, and then slid his arms around her and touched his lips to her hair.
“God, I miss him,” she moaned, her voice ragged. “I miss him. I miss him.”
“I know. I know. He misses you too. God, he misses you too.”
“The worst part about it,” Scully said quietly, “is the finality. While we were looking for him I could convince myself that when we found him he’d be weak and hurt, but it would be like every other time I found him. I would bring him home and nurse him back to health. But dead is . . . dead. There’s no pretending he can be saved now.”
They were sitting on her kitchen floor, leaning against the cabinets. Her head was on Doggett’s chest. He held her hand, his other arm around her shoulders. She had cried until she was spent, and then they just sat in silence while he held her.
He could think of nothing to say now, either.
She went on after a moment, “Usually a haunting is associated with powerful emotions—the pain of a violent death, desire for justice or revenge, or even just the fear that goes along with dying. Mulder and I—”She paused. “I’ve seen ghosts before. One’s never followed me around, though. Ghosts tend to haunt places, not people.”
“So are you ready to commit me?” Doggett asked, and Scully breathed out a soft laugh.
“I don’t think you’re crazy. I’m just trying to understand why Mulder has chosen you.”
“He tells me stories,” Doggett said, and Scully lifted her head to look at his face. “He shows me things.”
“What kind of things?”
He hesitated, and said neutrally, “Things about you, mostly.”
“Like . . . explaining old cases to you?”
“Not exactly. More like explaining you to me. I think that’s why. He wants me to understand you.”
Scully furrowed her brows and lay her head on his chest again. Doggett closed his eyes and leaned his cheek for a moment against her hair. “I don’t think I’m that difficult to understand that you’d need a glossary.”
“It’s all about context,” Doggett said. He played with the damp curls at the back of her neck. “Like the context of your relationship with Mulder. The entire time I’ve known you you’ve been in the context of being pregnant and being without Mulder. I think he wants me to know you in more regular circumstances.”
“My relationship with Mulder wasn’t exactly a regular circumstance. We never did anything the easy way.”
“Well, seeing you the way he sees you has been an eye-opener, I’ll tell you that.”
She raised her head again. Her lips trembled as she whispered, “How . . . how did he see me?”
Doggett smiled and touched her cheek with his fingertips. “I think you know that already.” She dropped her eyes, looking disappointed, and he said, “He thinks everything of you. He loves everything about you. He loves your amazing mind and your pretty face and your little smirk . . .” He touched his thumb to the corner of her mouth, where she was indeed smirking a little bit. He said, “I’ve been in love before, but this—knowing how he feels about you makes me wonder if I’ve ever really felt anything. It’s that powerful. It’s like a kick in the head.”
Scully got laboriously to her feet, shaking her head at his mute offer of help, went to the sink and splashed a little water on her face. She turned to Doggett and leaned on her elbows against the counter. “What are you saying, exactly? ‘Knowing how he feels’? Are you—”She stopped, confused, and whispered, “You’re not saying you’re in love with me. Are you?”
Doggett felt as shocked as she looked. But that would explain it, wouldn’t it? The longing for her, the need to be with her even at this late hour? How good it felt to hold her? The burning within him to do everything he could, anything she would ask?
He said, “Yeah. I think I am.”
“Oh, God,” Scully said, and covered her face with her hands.
“I know it’s all wrong. I know it’s the last thing you want right now.” He had to explain it to her, even though he wasn’t sure how he could. “Something happened tonight that I’ve never—nothing like it has ever happened to me. It was so strong it knocked me flat. I think Mulder—”He paused to gather his thoughts. “I think Mulder gave me his love for you. Literally sent it into my body. Into my soul.”
Scully said nothing, still hiding her face. Her shoulders quivered. Doggett got to his feet and cautiously approached her. He touched her shoulder and she shuddered and moved away.
“I’m sorry,” he said, keeping his voice low. “I don’t want to make this worse for you. You’ve had such a bad time . . . you will be okay, won’t you?”
She lifted her face but kept her hands over her mouth as she whispered, “I don’t want to believe it.”
“I don’t know what to think, either.”
Scully put her hands on his face and peered into his eyes. “But it’s you. Just John Doggett. Not possession. Not some kind of ‘Being John
“I’m pretty sure it’s just me.” Her hands felt so good he had to close his eyes and simply enjoy the sensation. “I can’t tell you exactly how or why. I only know I have to do what my heart is telling me to do.”
Scully whispered, “And what’s that?”
“Take care of you. Look after you. Love you, if you’ll let me.”
Her hands fell away and pressed lightly for a moment against his chest. “Love me?” He looked down at her while she focused on his chest. “I don’t know . . .” Her breath began to speed up. “I don’t think—I don’t know -“
“Sh, it’s okay,” Doggett said. “Don’t panic.” He took her hands in his and impulsively kissed the inside of her wrist. She inhaled and still refused to meet his eyes. “Nothing’s going to happen that you don’t want. Ever.”
She looked up at him at last. “What if I don’t want this? Any of this? Will you respect that? Will you leave if I ask you?”
“Yes.” It would kill him inside, he thought, but he would leave if she asked.
“Then please go. I can’t deal with this. It’s too much. It’s too strange. You’re not—I can’t—please go.”
Doggett released her hands. “If you need anything,” he said, “anything, I’m only a phone call away.”
“Agent Doggett,” she whispered.
“Don’t be afraid to ask. You can ask me for anything, okay?”
“What exactly do you expect me to ask you for?”
“Whatever you need. Company or a driver or a fearless spider -killer.” She laughed quietly, as he had hoped she would. He gave her lips a brief kiss. Her eyes widened but she didn’t push him away, at least. “Good night, Agent Scully.”
He walked to the living room and picked up his jacket. Sorry, Mulder, he thought. Sorry you can’t be here. Sorry I can’t be you.
He had one arm in his jacket and was halfway out the door when he heard a tiny, “Wait.”
He didn’t turn but he waited, pulling on his jacket.
Scully approached him, her footfalls silent on the flooring. She put her hand on his back for a moment. “He tells you things,” she whispered, “and I suppose he’s told you everything because he’s thorough that way. And somehow he’s made you fall in love with me. Am I understanding this correctly?”
“I don’t think you can *make* somebody love somebody —”
“John,” she said patiently. Or impatiently, it was hard to tell.
“Okay,” he said, “this is what I think.” He didn’t know what he thought. He said, “He wants to touch you.”
She stiffened and drew in her breath. Doggett said, “He wants to touch you, Agent Scully. He wants to hold you and kiss you and tell you he loves you. He wants to feel the baby move and tease you about it and cry over it and he wants to tell you how happy he is. He wants—”This was the hardest thing to say. “He wants to be able to make love to you again.”
Doggett could feel her breathe. He wanted to look at her—give her a good, long look, for Mulder’s sake—this strong, pretty woman who was so easy to love and who fought so hard against being loved.
“I’ll be on my way,” he said gruffly. “Sorry to bother you so late.”
Her voice, soft and hesitant, stopped him. “Agent Doggett. John. I want to let him.”
Black and White Make Red 3
Her couch was more comfortable than the kitchen floor. He had thought for a second she intended to lead him to her bedroom, but instead they were here, side by side, leaning against each other. Probably the wiser choice, he thought, than her bed.
“If it’s is too hard for you,” Doggett murmured, “tell me to stop. Anytime, tell me to stop.”
“No—no, I want to. Really. If Mulder needs to touch me to be at peace—” A shiver ran through her and she pressed her face against his sheltering arm. “I’m all right,” she muttered. “I am.”
Doggett thought he hardly knew what he was doing but he was too happy to question it. He stroked her shoulders. He wanted to touch her more fully—undress her, touch her everywhere—but she was being generous enough with herself already, he couldn’t ask for more. This is for you, Mulder, he thought. Be happy with this. Be satisfied.
He said quietly, “Is it okay? Are you ready?”
She nodded. She grasped his forearm. The nails of her other hand dug into his waist.
Doggett put his hand on her belly. *He* knew what it felt like—to touch the woman carrying your child—but Mulder didn’t. She’s warm, he thought. The belly, it’s firm. Her skin is probably silky and pale. By now when the baby kicks you can see the movement under her skin.
He swirled his hand over her abdomen, his eyes closed. Scully sighed. Her hand rested lightly on the back of his neck.
“I thought I was pregnant once before,” she said quietly. “I hoped I was. We tried IVF and for a few days I thought it had worked.”
“I know,” Doggett whispered. “I know. You grieved, really grieved. And Mulder grieved with you.”
“Yeah.” She lowered her head. “It’s one thing, knowing you know the case files. *This* is very strange.”
“I don’t know what to make of it, either, you know.” He stopped his hand on the uppermost curve and studied her face. She was biting her lip and there was a flush in her cheeks. He had never wanted to kiss anyone so much in his life. This is torture, Mulder, he thought, are you sure you meant this as a gift?
Scully swallowed. “I don’t know what to do here, John,” she whispered. “I’m thinking things I shouldn’t—that aren’t fair to you, that aren’t right for any of us.” She placed her hand on her belly too, beside where his rested. “I can’t be selfish right now.”
“You know I’d lay down my life for this baby, if it came to that.”
“Okay,” she said, “but what about the every day things? I don’t need a white knight, John. If I need anything, I need a—a dad. I’m not even sure I need that badly enough to ask it from you. From anybody.”
“Parenthood is a group effort,” Doggett said. “You need at least one set of extra hands.”
“Are you offering?” she said calmly. “Are you willing to raise another man’s child as your own? Are you willing to put up with me and all my –” She searched for the word a moment. “My difficulties? Or did you just wake up in love with me and come running over here, without thinking about the implications and the consequences and what, exactly, it is that you want?”
“Okay,” Doggett said, “okay, I did just come running over here—but Dana, I’ve been through this. I know that kids aren’t cute and adorable all the time. I know they have tantrums and they vomit ‘way too easily and they have nightmares when you’re trying to have a romantic evening and sometimes you want to just hand them off to the next passing stranger. I have no illusions. But I also know you want what’s best for your baby and I honestly think you could do a lot worse than me.”
“I’m not in love with you.”
She was honest, he had to give her that. “I know.”
“So do you really want to do this to yourself? Do you really believe this is what Mulder is asking of you? Because I don’t believe it. You went through an unbelievable trauma in Squamash and the lasting effects -“
“This was not caused by trauma. This is not an elaborate ploy to get you into bed.” Her cheeks reddened at his words. “This is what I feel. This is what I know. And if it means just watching over you for the rest of my life, just being one of Mommy’s friends to your kid, then I’m willing to do it.”
“But you do want to have sex with me.”
He could be blunt, too. “Yes.”
Scully leaned her forehead against her fingertips and sighed. “The strange thing . . . the strange thing is, I want that too. I’ve found you attractive -“
“Oh, thank you,” he said lightly, though his fingers crept between hers and grasped her hand.
“John . . . I can’t make you any promises. It’s not right. It would be like leading you on, and that’s not me.”
“I see,” Doggett said. He eased his arm from beneath her shoulders and got up from the couch. He paced for a moment, scru
bbing his hand through his hair.
“I’m sorry to disappoint you,” Scully said softly from the couch.
“Yeah, well . . .”
“Are you going to leave?”
“Do you want me to?”
“No. I do like it when you’re around.” Their eyes met before hers darted away. “But I refuse to turn to someone for convenience or out of fear. I refuse to use you.”
“Maybe in this case I wouldn’t mind being used.”
“Until you grow to resent me because you’ll always think I want someone else.” She held out her hands to him—beseechingly, he thought, as if she wanted only to make peace. “John. Please. Come here a moment.” He sat beside her on the couch again, holding her hands. “It’s sweet and generous and giving of you to want to help me, but you can’t, and I won’t ask you to.”
Doggett nodded, looking down at their hands. All right. He’d come to her on impulse, no plan, no thoughts, just desire for her presence. He couldn’t expect her to feel the same intensity just because he did. She still needed time—he had to allow her that.
“I’m sorry, John,” she said, and he looked up. She leaned forward and kissed him gently. Her lips were sweet and soft. He returned her kiss with another, and then they both paused and looked at each other. Her mouth opened as if to speak, but instead she grasped the back of his neck and tugged him forward, just enough to kiss him again.
It was harder this time, firm and hungry. Her lips opened and her tongue pressed against his mouth. Doggett opened his mouth and groaned as her tongue stroked his tongue and teeth.
I shouldn’t be doing this, he thought as one hand closed over her breast and his other arm supported her back. This is a terrible idea, he thought as he pressed her against the back of the couch and insinuated one leg between her knees. She’s going to slug me in a second, he thought as one of her perfect hands slid up under his shirt and her fingers toyed with his nipple. No, no, no, he thought as he groaned, “Oh, yeah,” into her mouth.
“Wait, wait,” she moaned and at once Doggett stopped kissing her and pulled back.
“What? What is it? Is the baby okay? Are you okay?” He put his hand on her belly, expecting to feel a rippling in her muscles at the very least.
“I’m fine. The baby’s fine. I’m sorry to scare you. There’s something digging into my back. I just wanted to move . . .”
Her hand was still up his shirt. He was still clasping her breast. He flexed his fingers and gingerly smoothed the bib of her overalls. “I—uh—I think I got carried away.”
“I think we both did.” She pulled her hand from his shirt. “Physical attraction can be very powerful.” She sighed and pushed herself to her feet. “It’s late. I’d like to sleep.”
“Right.” He got to his feet too. He picked up his jacket again. It felt so final. “I’ll see you Monday. Sleep well, Dana.”
“Good night, John,” was her soft reply.
When Doggett arrived home he sat for a while in his car, looking at his darkened house. He hadn’t thought about it for a long time, but he admitted it to himself now: he missed being part of a family. He missed the solid warmth of a child asleep on his chest. He missed calling out “Hello!” when he came home and getting eager “hellos” in return. He missed going to bed with someone he loved, who loved him in return.
He sighed, got out of his car, and trudged up his front walk. As much as he would love to open his door and find Scully there—as much as he would love to go to bed with her every night—as much as he would love to help raise her baby into a happy and well-loved child, into a strong and confident man or woman—he saw no way to make it happen. Scully didn’t want him.
The house seemed to echo with emptiness when he opened the front door. He shut it behind him and clicked the lock. He kicked his foot against the rug in the entryway.
“Mulder, you bastard,” he said. “You knew what this would be like. You pined for her for seven years and now I get it all in one wallop.”
There was no answer. He was not surprised.
Doggett climbed the stairs to the upper floor, craving a bath and bed. Sleep, he thought, would put things into perspective again.
He undressed on the way to the bathroom, letting his clothes lie where they fell. It would disgust his drill sergeant and shock his wife, but neither of them were around to judge. He turned on the shower and tested the water’s heat on his palm. When it was hot enough he got under the spray and stood for a while with his head tilted back, letting the water cascade over his body.
“What do you think, Mulder?” he said. “Is it just the timing? Or would she react the same if I’d told her this five years from now, or last week?”
He soaped up his washcloth. “I suppose it could have been worse . . . though I would have preferred it to be less humiliating.”
He stopped scrubbing, considering, and said, “I think you knew. You knew exactly what would happen. You knew Scully loves you too much. You knew there’s nobody else for her. You know she’d gravely say thank you and then kick me out on my ass.” He shook his head, sighing, and bent over to wash his feet. “I should have seen it. You couldn’t have arranged it better. She’s got somebody to look out for her the rest of her life, and she won’t be unfaithful to you. You’ve got it made, and I’m a sucker.”
Doggett stuck his head under the water and shook it back and forth rapidly, growling. Not love, stupid, he thought, infatuation at most. Lust. A little lust. Maybe a whole hell of a lot of lust. He rested his hands against the tile, bracing himself.
“She is gorgeous, Mulder,” he muttered. “Just . . . pretty. Just perfect. Quiet and perfect.”
He yanked the taps to cold and gasped at the icy water. Jerking off while thinking of Scully was too weird. He hadn’t done it yet—though he’d been sorely tempted—and he had no desire to start.
Still . . . her mouth had been so sweet beneath his.
Doggett turned off the water and climbed out of the shower. He grabbed a towel and walked nude to his bedroom, toweling his hair. He was too tired to even read tonight—he’d just climb into bed and try to sleep, and if Mulder had any mercy at all he wouldn’t send him any dreams tonight.
He threw back the sheets and got into bed, letting the damp towel crumple on the floor too. He made himself comfortable among the pillows and sheets. “Just let me sleep, Mulder,” he muttered. “I just want to sleep.”
Black and White Make Red 4
Doggett was dreaming about a woodpecker when he woke up and realized someone was knocking on his door. He sat up slowly and rubbed his eyes, and when the knocking continued he got out of bed and put on a pair of pajama bottoms. The house was so quiet and dark he knew it was still several hours until dawn.
He got his gun—Scully’s paranoia was catching—and pushed the curtain aside to peer out. Even in the darkness he knew her shape.
He stood for a heartbeat, wondering that she would come to him—and at this time of night, too—and then opened the door as she lifted her hand to knock again. “Hi.”
“Oh. You are awake.” Scully smiled at him uncertainly.
“Yeah, there was this knockin’ . . .” She looked even more uncomfortable, so he touched her arm. “Relax. It’s okay. Are you all right? What are you doing up this late?”
“I don’t sleep much anymore. Can I come in? I want to talk to you.”
“Oh, yeah, of course.” He moved aside and she came into the house. He flicked the switch for the entryway light. Scully was wearing the same clothes as she had been earlier, and even more curls had worked out of her ponytail. “You look tired.”
“Thank you,” she said tartly.
“Hey. It’s early. It’s crazy-early. I’d offer you coffee but you don’t drink that—you want some hot cocoa?”
“I don’t need anything.”
“Orange juice?” She was always drinking orange juice, on the road, in the office.
She nodded, closing her ey
es for a moment. “Orange juice. Thank you.”
Doggett went into the kitchen and poured glasses for both of them. Five twenty-six—what was she doing awake at five twenty-six in the morning? “What do you mean, you don’t sleep much anymore?” She had sat down at the table, pulling out a chair where she could prop her feet up. He set the glass on the table in front of her. “Why don’t you sleep?”
Scully drank a long swallow and set the glass back down. “I have nightmares,” she said simply. “I don’t like to sleep.”
“Dana—sweetheart—you can’t just not sleep.”
“I know that. I do sleep, a little. But it’s hardly worth it. I close my eyes and see—” She shook her head and drank more of her juice.
“What do you see?” He sat backwards in the chair where she’d rested her feet on the rungs, looking at her intently. “Tell me what you see, Dana. When you close your eyes.”
“Why is it important?”
“Because it is.”
Scully put her heel on his knee. “I’m sorry I woke you.”
“I’m not.” He wrapped his hand around her ankle. She wore little cotton shoes with rope soles, and no socks. China-doll shoes, he thought. He traced the strap across her instep. “Little tiny shoes for these little tiny feet . . . I bet you’ve got pretty feet, Dana.”
“John . . .”
“Are you going to tell me or are you going to stall?”
“You tell me something first.”
“What kind of thing?”
Her gaze was steady, holding his so that he couldn’t look away. “Is it real? This whole Mulder thing. Is it real or are you trying to pull something on me?”
He grasped both her feet. “It’s real.”
Her toes wiggled in his hands and her eyes dropped. “Sometimes you say things,” she said quietly, “and you’re so certain, so . . . forthright . . . you never lie, do you? Hardly ever.”
“I don’t like to.” Her feet were hot. He wanted to take her shoes off. “I don’t like to lie to you. I think I’ve done pretty well with that.”
“I think so too. I’m sorry I haven’t been that honest with you.” She started frowning again, and sniffed, biting her lip.
“Don’t cry, Dana. It’s okay.”
“I have nightmares about what they did to Mulder,” she blurted, and covered her face with her hands. She took her feet from his hands and bent forward, but, he was relieved to see, did not cry. After a moment she lifted her head. She said calmly, “Ever since his abduction I’ve been having dreams about what they did to him. The torture they put him through. I didn’t have to see his body to know. I already knew. Every ounce of blood, every inch of flesh they tore . . . I’d already seen it.” She stopped and let out her breath with a shudder.
Doggett rose and got a paper towel from the roll that hung on the wall. He handed it to her silently and Scully whispered, “Thank you,” as she dabbed her eyes. She said, “It’s not fair, you know.”
“What isn’t?” He took his chair again.
“You get to see all the beautiful things. You get to see us fall in love. I didn’t even see it. It just happened.” She fixed her gaze on him again. “Do you know what it’s like, knowing you’ve loved your entire lifetime’s worth in one night?”
“That’s not true,” Doggett whispered.
“John,” she said, shaking her head.
“You know it’s not true. I know it’s not the way you want it—I know if you could choose you’d have Mulder here with you, and I know if he could be with you he’d treat you the way you want to be treated, he’d make up for all that lost time. He’s not here.
“But I am.”
Scully’s lips parted and she looked at him with despair. “John, I don’t know what to do or say. I want you—I want you in my life—I want you in my bed—but I don’t know if I can love you.”
For several minutes they sat in the silent kitchen while Scully wiped her face and Doggett studied his feet. He put his feet next to hers on the floor. Her feet were so small.
“Dana,” he said, “listen to me. I know you’re hurting for him. I know the grief is hard. But he wants you to be happy, don’t you know that? You can be happy without him.”
“Happy with you,” she stated, raising her eyebrows.
“Maybe. I’ll never give up trying.” He smiled at her and reached over to cup her cheek in his hand. “Maybe happy on your own. I’d hate to see that, though. You deserve to be loved.”
Scully lowered her head. “I was loved. And it’s so hard to live without.”
“Nobody says you have to.”
Her head lowered further still and she said, “But what about you?”
Doggett raised her face with one finger beneath her chin. He looked at her steadily and said, “I will believe.”
She smiled and lowered her head again, watching her hands as they twisted the paper towel in her lap.
“Dana,” he said. “Dana, I’m not Mulder.”
“I can’t be Mulder. I don’t want to be Mulder.”
“I’m not asking you to be.” She leaned forward and put her hands on his knees. “I am asking you to be honest with me. Do you really want to be what I need, John?” She whispered, “Are you strong enough to live this life? Be the man I need you to be?”
Doggett set his jaw. “Yes.”
Scully nodded and got her feet. Doggett stood too. His breath deepened as she put her hands on his waist and rose up on her toes. She kissed him. She combed her fingers through his hair and kissed him. She kissed him until they had to stop to breathe, and Doggett pressed his mouth against her forehead, panting.
“Okay,” Scully said, with an air of finality. She kissed his chin. “Okay.”
This is it, he thought as they kissed, this how everything begins, this is how you become a better man than you are.
He undressed her slowly, amused by the too-small tanktop and panties she wore beneath her overalls. He took her hair down from its ponytail, finally running his hands through her soft curls and kissing her hair. Her body—her pale skin, her full breasts, her round belly—stunned him wordless.
They lay side-by-side on his bed and kissed for a long time. He didn’t want to stop kissing her, ever, everywhere.
Scully kissed Doggett’s hand and smiled at him. “You’re thinking too much.”
“All I‘m thinkin’ is that I understand.”
“Yeah.” He lay down, nestling his head against her breasts. “I do.”
Scully wrapped her arms around his neck. “It’s not going to be all sunshine and daisies, you know.”
“I can be—difficult.”
He chuckled and kissed her breast. “You’ve mentioned that. I think I’ve done okay so far.”
She laughed too. “That you have.” She sighed then, playing with his hair, and went on, “But at least you know what to expect with a newborn. One of us should have some experience. I didn’t babysit much, growing up.”
“You’ll be a great mother,” Doggett said, leaning his head on his elbow to look at her. “You’ve got what it takes. Intelligence, tenderness, kindness . . . a whole lotta love . . .”
“The greatest of these,” she murmured and put her hand on top of his as it moved lazily over her torso. She moved his hand up to her breast. He palmed it and played with her nipple, watching her eyelids slip closed and a flush bloom in her cheeks and neck.
“It’s your pace, Dana,” he whispered, letting his hand move of its own accord. “It’s your choice. I want you—I can’t believe how much I want you—but I can wait until you’re ready.”
“I want you too,” she said simply, opening her eyes again, and she looped her arms around his neck. “I thought I shouldn’t—but you touch me and I—” She stopped, biting her lip to hold back a smile.
“What?” He kept his voice to a whisper.
“I feel like I can live again.” Her eyes sparkled like stars.
He liked that. He liked that very much. He cupped her face in his hand and kissed her. “Then that’s my goal, isn’t it,” he said. “To make sure you stay happy to be alive.”
Her smile was deep and she brought his face to hers. “Kiss me again,” she breathed. “Keep kissing me like this,
She didn’t have to ask twice. He kissed her again and again, slowly, the way she seemed to like, stroking her face and her side and the warm roundness of her belly. “Oh, you’re such a pretty thing,” he murmured.
Her body was a miracle to him. He still couldn’t believe he was here, lying naked in bed with a naked Dana, talking lover’s talk, touching her. She was much softer than he’d imagined. Even silk has a rasp to it. Scully’s skin made no sound when stroked by his fingertips.
Hands stroked over him languidly. Thumbs traced his muscles, fingers glided along his bones. A frisky, nimble tongue played with his. Teeth nibbled his lips. Light fingers danced along his cock.
And between where their bodies were pressed together prodded the knees and elbows of the baby, as if to remind them of their priorities.
Doggett kissed Scully’s tummy and told the baby, “Don’t be jealous, little guy. I love you, too.”
He tasted her dips and valleys, her peaks, her warm, salty places. He touched her plump berry of a clitoris, holding her with his other arm. She shuddered, her fists pressed against his chest, and moaned into his ear. “Oh,” she gasped when he found a particularly good place with his fingertips. She clutched his hair. “Oh, more . . . please . . . oh, that’s good . . .”
He stroked her until her entire body shuddered and her gasps faded into sighs. Her head fell against his chest. He murmured, “You okay? Doin’ all right?”
“Mm.” She nodded, tickling his chest with her hair.
He stroked her curls for a moment, then withdrew his hand. He sucked her juices from his wet fingers. He wanted to call her baby. He wanted to tell her she was sweeter than the first time he’d ever kissed a girl.
But he just said, “You’re doin’ all right,” and caressed her shoulders. Was it like this for you, Mulder? he thought. Did you want to just lie here, hold her, please her anyway you could?
And though there was no voice like he was accustomed to, Doggett knew the answer. Of course it was.
I get it, Mulder, he thought. I get the whole thing. I get why you loved her and why she loved you. It’s not just because she’s beautiful, and it’s not just because she’s so smart. It’s not just because she’s held your life in her hands, or because you’ve brought her back from the dead. You were made to love her.
And so was I.
He buried his head in her breasts again, overcome. God, God, what am I doing?
Scully interpreted his despair as something else, and started kissing his hair. “Help me,” she whispered. “We need to get my hips up.”
“It’ll be okay.” She smoothed his face with a gentle palm.
Doggett raised himself up, balancing on his elbows. He looked into her clear, patient eyes, and sighed. “Yeah,” he said, turning his face into her caresses. “Yeah, it will be.” He kissed her hand.
He helped her stack his pillows beneath her hips, raising her and spreading her open. He moaned at the scent of her, at the sight of her flushed and swollen genitalia, her damp curls. He wanted to bury his face in her, and he would have if his own body wasn’t quaking with the need to be inside her.
“Mm . . .” She reached out her hands to him and grasped his shoulders. She pulled him close until their eyes met and their foreheads and noses and lips.
“Say my name,” Doggett murmured against her mouth.
“John,” she replied, her voice soft. She traced the line of his ear.
“Just checking,” he said, which made her laugh and then sigh as he eased into her. Her nails dug into his shoulders and she closed her eyes. Doggett closed his eyes as well, lost in the sensations. Hot—soft—tight—her passionate mouth, her roving hands—
He’d left a girlfriend behind in New York and there had been no one serious since, just a few women who were convenient and forgettable. Scully, he realized through the haze of lust, was the exact opposite of those women: there was nothing convenient about his prickly partner, nothing forgettable about her kisses, her conversation, her body or her mind.
And it had been years since he’d made love to a pregnant woman, he thought with a slight smile, and he soothed the baby’s kicks with his palm. He grunted, “I don’t think he likes me.”
Scully gasped out, “He jumps—your voice—”She broke off in a moan and tried again, “He jumps when he hears your voice. He’s used to you.”
“Yeah?” This pleased him so much he wanted to bestow kisses on her abdomen, but that would mean he’d have to stop moving and while he didn’t believe in perpetual motion he thought he might get pretty damn close.
Her nipples tasted of perspiration and milk. Her mouth was still faintly lemony from her juice earlier, tart and citrusy, but tasted more and more of him. Her skin tasted of salt. Her hair curled around his fingers. Her lips touched his again and again.
“Oh, you’re so pretty,” he told her. “You’re so pretty, Dana. You’re so—” He groaned. Mulder, he thought, knew what to say to her, how to make love to her with words as well as his body, but he didn’t. He could only show her.
Scully didn’t seem to mind, though, if her responses were anything to go by. She raised her hips to him, her movements small and concentrated. She hummed in her throat, tiny “mm, mm”‘s of pleasure. She held his face, stroked it. She whispered his name and her voice was so tender, so soft.
Her second orgasm was as quiet as the first, manifesting itself in the grip she held on his shoulders and inner tremors of her body. She gasped out loud and fell back against the pillows. Still she held and fondled his face, and she breathed, “Oh, John . . . you fuck me just right.”
“Huh,” Doggett grunted. He thought vaguely, Hey, she said fuck—and he groaned, “Dana,” and came hard, arching over her, his hand under one of her knees.
For some minutes he lay on his side, panting, his head buried between her breasts. Her heart beat steady and quick. I should say something, he thought.
“You—uh-” He cleared his throat. “You okay?” He winced. Fuckin’ genius, he thought.
“Yes.” She was fiddling with his ears, rubbing her knuckles against his chin. “Are you?”
“Yeah.” He propped himself up on his elbow, looking into her eyes. Scully smiled at him faintly and put her arms around his neck. He lowered his head to kiss her. “I want to make this work, Dana,” he whispered.
Their faces were too close for him to see her expression, but he could hear her uncertainty. He kissed her. “I really love you. Try to believe that.”
“I know,” she said again, but this time he was looking into her eyes once more and could see the worry mingled with hope.
He kissed her once more and helped her get comfortable again, pushing the dampened pillow to the floor and cradling her in his arms. He smoothed her hair back from her face and kissed her lips. “Okay?”
“Yes.” She laid her hand flat on his chest.
“You’re safe here, Dana.” He kissed her forehead.
“I know,” she said, and this time she sounded like she really knew.
Doggett dreamed he and Mulder were skipping stones. They were at a creek from his childhood, where the Georgia clay was red as blood and the water was clear and cool.
“Promises are only as strong as the people who make them,” Mulder observed. His stone skipped five times before sinking.
“I intend to keep my promises.”
“So did I.” He raised an eyebrow at Doggett and threw another stone.
“Is this real?” Doggett said, picking up a stone. It was warm from the sun, smooth in his hand.
“Once you held a stone like that one. The stone in your hand isn’t real but your memory of how it feels is.” Mulder weighed a stone in his hand. “Memories make us, Doggett. They make us real. Someone who isn’t remembered doesn’t exist.” He looked at Doggett intently. “I want you to remember me, John. I want you to remember me to my baby.”
“Scully’s afraid of rememberi
ng. The pain is too much for her right now. But someday it won’t be. Help her remember, when the time is right.”
“I will.” He paused. “I’m afraid of disappointing her.”
“So was I.”
“I’m afraid of not being enough. I’ll never take your place, I know that.”
Mulder laughed. “No, you won’t. But that’s okay. Her heart’s big enough for the both of us.”
“All three of us,” Doggett said, and threw his stone, not counting how many skips it took.
“Right,” Mulder said. “All three of us.”
Still dreaming, Doggett turned onto his side and slid a hand over Scully’s belly. He muttered, “All three of us,” and fell deeper into sleep.