Title: Best Intentions (1/1)
Author: J.S. Michel
E-mail: jsm25@hotmail.com
Classification: Doggettfic.
Keywords: Scully/Doggett friendship, implied MSR, William, future.
Spoilers: Existence
Rating: R for language
Archive: Sure, just let me know and include this header. 
Disclaimer: I don't own 'em. 
Feedback: Yes please.
Completed: June 2001
Summary: Ten years after Existence.


As a baby his ears had stuck out a little and his parents, worried 
about his appearance, had taped them to his head.  His father had 
always been self-conscious about his own ears; wanted to spare his 
son if he could help it.

For three years he'd put up with it, until one night, without 
warning, he'd rebelled against the bedtime ritual; after a week of 
his protesting his parents had had the good sense to finally put 
away the tape, fabric Elastoplast stuff that his mom had snipped 
into little strips with her sewing scissors; "more expensive than 
Band-Aids but it lets your skin breathe, John."  

They'd concluded they'd done what they could, and that completely 
streamlined ears just weren't worth hassling him so much.

Years later, inspired by his wife's playful ear-nibbling, he'd 
recounted the story of his Ears' Formative Years. Snuggled together 
in their darkened New York apartment, his parents' actions sounded 
so ridiculously neurotic.  

"Didn't even do much good, did it?" she'd mumbled affectionately.  

He'd chuckled, breathing in her intoxicating warmth as his mind 
drifted briefly to their four-year-old, sound asleep in the next 
room.  Jesus, the stuff well-intentioned parents did sometimes.  He 
was glad he could find it funny; knew his folks had meant well.  


"Yeah," he mumbled sleepily into the handset.

"Meet me at the Gunmen's right away."

John turned on the lamp and squinted at his watch on the night-
table.  Four-fuckin-thirty.  "Good mornin' to you too, Mulder.  
What's up?"

"Pack a bag.  Hot weather."

Click.  Dial tone.


He stumbled to the closet and pulled out his duffel bag.  Threw in 
some clothes, pulled on clean jeans and a T-shirt.  Hoped Scully was 
doing okay.

"When the hell is it all going to end?" he'd once asked Mulder.

"I don't know.  Maybe it doesn't..."  


"Open up, Langly."  One of these days he was gonna wake up and find 
himself too old for this bullshit.

The door slid open, then closed behind him.  Langly and Buyers were 
clucking over their surveillance equipment like a couple of mother 
hens.  A large duffel bag sat by the door.  John immediately looked 
for Scully, caught a glimpse of her off in a corner talking softly 
with Mulder, his hands on her shoulders.  She didn't look happy.  
Will was here too, hunkered over a computer keyboard beside Frohike 
-- probably learning all about how to punch through the CIA's 

Langly announced him:  "What took you so long, Dog Dude?" 

Scully looked up from her quiet conversation, met his eyes from 
across the equipment-cluttered room.  Mulder glanced up too, 
followed her gaze.

"What's goin' on?" John frowned at them, though he could make a 
pretty good guess.

"You got gas in your tank?" Mulder asked him tersely.

"Yeah."  Here we go.  He glanced at Scully as Mulder went to Will.

"What's this one do?" Will was asking Frohike.

"Whoa, not that one," Frohike shook his head.  "Your mom'll kill 

"Will," Mulder interrupted gently before Frohike could corrupt the 
boy further.  Will sighed and slid off the gas-lift chair.  The ten-
year-old shoved his hands in his pockets, staring moodily at the 

Mulder crouched so they were eye-level; or would've been eye-level, 
if Will had looked up.  "You listen to your mom, all right?  And 
Agent Doggett too.  Remember, don't draw any attention to yourself.  
Got it, Bud?"

Will shrugged.  John could almost feel the boy tense as Mulder 
pulled him into a quick hug.

"See you soon, okay?" Mulder added, his face falling slightly at 
Will's indifferent response.  John looked away uncomfortably, 
focusing on a broken floor tile, suddenly wishing he hadn't been 
programmed to document everything so goddamn closely.

With a final squeeze of Will's shoulder Mulder stood up, pulling a 
thick envelope from his jacket and handing it over discreetly.  John 
took it without a word and slipped it in an inside pocket. 

"Scully'll fill you in," Mulder said simply, nodding towards the 
door.  Scully was there beside him now.  

He watched Mulder squeeze Scully's hand for about half a second and 
felt vaguely voyeuristic about it; it was about as intimate as they 
ever got in public.  Old habits died hard, presumably.  

Scully was picking up the duffel bag with one hand, her other hand 
on Will's shoulder now as Langly released the door for them.

The reality of the situation hit him -- what fuckin' reality, John? 
-- and he reached to relieve her of the duffel.  Found himself 
leading the way up the maze of stairs to his pickup, wondering where 
the hell they were going this time as he heard Langly's computerized 
door snick shut behind them.


New Mexico.  After an hour of driving it was all he'd learned, and 
only after she'd wordlessly pointed to it on the map.  

"Why?"  he finally asked.  They'd never had to go so far before.

She glanced over her shoulder at Will, who was strapped into the 
back seat engrossed in his Game Boy.  "Later," she cautioned 

He studied the road ahead.  Nodded.  Okay then.  Just relax and 
enjoy the drive, huh?

Remembered a trip down to Georgia, different truck, different 
lifetime.  Luke, a few years younger than Will was now, similarly 
glued to some electronic game in the back seat.  The love of his 
life in the passenger seat beside him, humming softly to the radio.

Don't do this to yourself.  Don't.

He switched on the radio.

Static.  He scanned up and down for a minute, finally gave up and 
took a stab at the CD, wondering what the hell he'd left in there.  

The sound of "Dixie" filled the cab.  Scully raised an eyebrow that 
made him feel like he'd just pulled a banjo from under the seat and 
yelled 'Yee-Haw'...

"Civil War soundtrack," he mumbled.  Damn good but maybe not quite 
what he'd had in mind.

"Turn it off," Will grumbled from behind.  

"William," Scully reprimanded her son sharply.

He turned it off.  Bad idea anyway.

The first day was always the hardest, he'd learned.


Lunch.  Gotta eat.  He pulled into a road-stop Taco Bell and thumbed 
quickly through Mulder's envelope.  "Lotta fajitas," he mumbled.  He 
remembered reading those files that long-ago week-end, had wondered 
how much of Mulder's rumored Vineyard inheritance had already been 
spent on chartered Norwegian boats and flights to Antarctica.  

But apparently there'd been lots to spare.  He wondered what the 
hell Mulder had planned for them this time, a hop on the Concord?  

He split the wad into two roughly-even piles, slid one across the 
seat to Scully.  She shook her head.  "I'm okay."  Patted her breast 

Jesus.  How much cash did they have between the two of them?  He re-
divided the wad up into six, distributed the money in various 
pockets, saving a few dozen of the smaller bills for his wallet.

"You two okay stayin' here?"  

She nodded, her hand moving to the bulge of her holster.

He didn't like leaving them, would have preferred a drive-through 
but that would mean getting off the highway and wandering around the 
nearest small town, something they wanted to avoid.

"What can I getcha, Will?" he called over the headrest.  "Taco?  

"I hate Taco Bell," the boy grumbled without looking up from his 


"What about you?" John asked her.  "Salad?"

"Salad," she nodded, just repeating what he'd said, her mind 
somewhere else.  He knew it probably didn't matter what the hell he 
got her.  She rarely ate anything those first couple of days.  

"Keep the doors locked," he cautioned as he stepped out of the 

He waded through the parking lot full of happy families on holiday, 
waded back with two sackfuls of food, hoping there'd be something in 
there that somebody'd like.  

Ended up dumping most of it, of course, after watching Scully push 
cucumber and tomato wedges around a plastic tray for twenty minutes.  
But Will had eaten a soft tortilla and a side of rice, a definite 
minor victory, after which he escorted the boy to the men's room, 
still wondering what he was supposed to be looking out for while 
Will muttered something about privacy.

They walked back to the pickup truck together.  

"Skinner says you're a real good shot."  It was the first complete 
sentence Will had spoken since they'd left D.C.

John shrugged.  "I'm okay.  Why?"

"Maybe you can teach me to shoot sometime."

"Sure," John nodded, "when you're older, if your folks say it's 

Will seemed to consider this.  "How old were you when you got your 
first gun, Agent Doggett?"

"Uh, I was eight.  But it was my dad's old hunting rifle.  An' I 
lived in the country."  Well, sort of.  Like it really made a 
goddamn difference.  He'd also had a BB gun when he was five.

But since then he'd encountered twelve-year-old sentries in West 
Beirut, seen two of them caught by an explosion on Wafik Al Tibi 
Street and the image of a kid Will's age firing a gun evoked 
bewildered brown eyes in baby faces and the stench of burning flesh,  
the front of the building crumpling in an endless slow-motion 
second; his own eyes reddened and watery the rest of the day, 
presumably from the acrid clouds of disinfectant sprayed over the 
rubble from a passing truck.  Small sneakers had smoldered in the 
ashes 'til nightfall, eight-year-olds being trained out in the camps 
to fill them, learning to leap bonfires while brandishing rifles 
half their size...

He glanced over at Will.  "Why're you interested?"

"I dunno," the boy shrugged.  "It'd be pretty cool, and maybe then 
everybody'd stop worryin' about me."

Christ.  It was so he could take a leak in private.  


Five hundred miles, three escorted bathroom breaks and one untouched 
salad later they reached their valhalla for the night: pink neon 
blinking through ragged yellow and brown drapes.  Travel Lodge Motel 
Cable Vacancy.  

Arby's had been Will's suggestion, so supper had gone over slightly 
better than lunch, though John was convinced the boy had hated 
Arby's on their previous trip.

"Shower time, Will."  

"We're watching the game.  I'll shower in the morning."  He glanced 
to John for support.

John looked over at Scully. She looked like he felt: dusty and 
exhausted.  "Do like your mom says," he nodded to Will.  "I'll keep 
you posted if anything happens." 

Will hauled a sneaker-clad foot onto the dingy motel bedspread, 
plucked at the laces for a few minutes, his attention still riveted 
on the Yankees.

"William..." Scully warned.

"I'm just taking my shoes off," he protested.

Finally he complied, and in less than three minutes was again 
sitting next to John, hair dripping into his eyes, catching the end 
of the game while Scully took her turn in the shower.

"So where we going, anyway?" the boy asked with what John suspected 
was feigned indifference.

"I dunno all the details yet."  The truth, unfortunately.

Will gave him a humorless laugh, glanced at him skeptically.  
"That's just great.  So we're all just runnin' around blindly 
following Mulder's secret plan?"  He stared back at the TV.  "I was 
supposed to pitch this afternoon, you know."  His voice was flat, 
refusing to betray emotion.  "My team was counting on me."

John sighed.  That explained part of the moodiness, at least.  
"You're dad's just lookin' out for you."  

"He's a nutcase."

"Hey, I don't wanna hear that B.S.," he frowned.  Jesus, like he 
hadn't thought that about Mulder a hundred times himself.  "And 
since when do you call him 'Mulder', anyway?".

"Better'n 'Spooky'," Will mumbled under his breath.  

John felt a sharp pang of sympathy for Mulder, remembering how proud 
Luke had been of his dad the policeman.  It was one of the things 
he'd clung to, that Luke had been proud of him, had believed in him.  
He clung to it still, even though he knew it intensified the feeling 
that he'd somehow let his son down.

Luke had been younger, though; Will's strained relationship with 
Mulder was a recent thing.  Just a few years ago they'd had to 
listen to three hundred miles of "Where's dad?" from the back seat.  
Maybe by high school a father who was a cop would've been about as 
cool as one whose nickname was Spooky.

He studied the boy, trying to figure out what the hell to say. "You 
know, your dad saved my life more'n a few times.  I gotta lotta 
respect for him."  Will stared at the TV, unmoved.  "Why're you so 
mad at him, Will?"  

"He drives me crazy." 

"Everybody's parents drive 'em crazy." 

Will looked away from the screen at last.  "Yeah, well, when you 
were a kid, d'your old man go on about alien invasions?"  John saw 
an angry spark in his eyes.  "Did he make you keep a packed knapsack 
under your bed?   Just in case?  Practice twenty different ways to 
sneak outta the house, make you memorize pages of emergency 
scenarios?  People and airports and bus lines and a whole other load 
o' crap?  Just in case?  Did your dad check the back o' your 
baseball coach's neck, just in fuckin' case?"  

John recognized fear and insecurity just under the bitterness.  
"No," he had to admit.  "Nothin' like that.  But... every night he 
taped my ears to my head so they wouldn't stick out so much."  

Will was caught off guard; frowned at him suspiciously.  "You're 

"You think I'd make that up?"   

Will peered at him with a hint of amusement now.  "Didn't do much 
good, did it..."

"Yeah, I heard that one," John shrugged mildly, relieved to see some 
of the boy's anger defused.  His wife's soft laughter echoed in his 
mind as it had in their tiny apartment so long ago, and he wondered 
if Will and his future wife would laugh like that some day over 
Mulder's paranoia.

They watched the game in silence.

"D'you believe that stuff he says?" Will asked after a minute, his 
tone more subdued now.

John shifted uncomfortably.  "I believe he's doin' what he thinks is 
best for you."

"Yeah, but d'you *believe* him?"

You're way out of your territory here, John.  He glanced at the 
bathroom door, partly wishing Scully'd come and bail him out, partly 
relieved she couldn't hear.  "Your dad's seen a lotta stuff I don't 
think I'll ever understand," he said quietly.  "This isn't about 
what I believe.  This is about respect, an' I respect your dad."  

He saw Will nod in bitter satisfaction.  He felt like he'd just 
stabbed Mulder in the back, but he couldn't lie to the boy.  

They watched the Yankees for a minute.

"Agent Doggett, you sure I wasn't adopted?"  

John stared hard at his profile.  "Damn sure," he sighed.

"You're first on the list, d'you know that?" Will volunteered 
softly, his eyes fixed on the game.  "My list of emergency contacts. 
Right ahead o' Skin Man and Agent Reyes."

"Yeah?"  Wondered, feeling vaguely flattered, which one of them had 
made up that particular goddamn list. 


"Mulder thinks someone's looking into his medical history."

"Any idea who?"

They sat at the foot of the second bed, the muted TV flashing 
frantic disembodied news bites at them.  Will was asleep; or so they 
hoped.  John wouldn't put it past the kid to be faking it -- could 
hardly have blamed him for it either.  A good way to learn stuff, he 
remembered from his own childhood.

She shook her head.  "We don't know.  There was a break-in at the 
pediatrician's office yesterday.  Monica and Skinner are looking 
into it.  Looked like a simple B&E, computer equipment missing, but 
Will's files haven't turned up in the mess.  He just had bloodwork 
done last week, and it seems those samples have been misplaced from 
the lab."

He frowned, knew how much she clung to the hope that all that shit 
surrounding Will's birth had just been a bunch of science-fiction.  
The boy seemed normal enough, all things considered.  But every once 
in a while something like this would happen and John would be 
assigned bodyguard duty, the three of them lying low somewhere while 
Mulder, Skinner and Monica checked things out: a few days, a few 
weeks.  Occasionally longer.  

The fact that none of the scares had panned into anything almost 
made the whole damn situation worse.  A lifetime of living on a time 
bomb that might turn out, in retrospect, to be nothing more than 
over-protective paranoia.  

How many more ball games would this kid miss out on?  

"So what's in New Mexico?" he asked.

"Friends who helped me out when... when Mulder was shot -- a long 
time ago. Farmington, a Navajo reservation."

He nodded, recalling now.  She'd shot Mulder for his own protection.  
Damn but this family had a weird way of looking after one another.  
"I remember the case.  The code talker, isn't that right?"  

Scully nodded.  

"You're not worried anybody else who remembers him might think to 
look for you there?"  he asked.

"The code talker is long dead.  I doubt anybody will look there 
again.  Besides," she shrugged tiredly, "we're running out of new 
places to go." 

Yeah.  This was, what, the eighth scare in three years now?

"Will's been doing some homework, John.  He's starting to realize 
this isn't exactly normal..." 

No kidding.  "How much d'you figure he knows?" 

"I don't know," she shook her head.  "Probably a lot more than he 
lets on."

John nodded.  The boy was no dolt.  Between the brains he'd 
inherited from his parents and the stuff he'd been gleaning from the 
Gunmen he was pretty well set up to find out a whole lot of 
information.  Dollars to donuts that "Spooky" reference was only the 
tip of the iceberg.

He leaned over to open the mini-bar and grabbed two beers from the 
door.  He sat back on the bed, handing her one of the cans as she 
watched him quizzically.

"Happy anniversary," he mumbled, popping the tab on his own can.  
Her surprise was obvious.  "Not the evening you'd planned, I'm 
sure..." he apologized.

She smiled faintly.  "We've almost given up on planning these 
things," she sighed.  She opened the beer he'd given her, tapped her 
can to his.  "I can't believe you even remembered."

"Well, I was there," he shrugged, recalling the small civil 
ceremony, Margaret Scully rocking a crying Will while Mulder and 
Scully exchanged their vows.  He'd been checking into the motel this 
evening when he'd noticed the date, which, for reasons best left 
unexplored, was somehow etched in his mind.  

"Nine years, what is that?  Wood?  Plastic?" he continued casually. 
"I've never gotten those things straight, but I'm pretty damn sure 
it isn't beer, I remember that much."

"The beer'll do just fine," she smiled, raising the can to her lips.  

He unmuted the TV and they watched the news for a while, a five-
second brawl in Belfast interrupted by a quick insurrection in 
Indonesia, miraculously cut short by every friggin' nation's 
ultimate desire to sport the brightest brites.  

People around the world risking their lives for something they 
believed in, only to get trivialized on national news as filler 
between laundry detergent commercials...

Singing potato chips danced across the screen, and he hit the mute 
button again in quiet annoyance.

She seemed lost in thought, and he guessed she was thinking about 
Mulder.  He studied his beer, trying not to dwell on the strangeness 
of the situation.  His whole life had become so goddamn weird since 
he'd met her.   

After a minute he felt her eyes on him and looked up.  "How many 
years were you married?" she asked gently.

"Uh, fifteen.  But separated for most o' the last two."

She sipped her beer.  "Would you ever consider it again?"

He thought for a moment.  Couldn't help wonder why she was asking.  
"Yeah," he answered truthfully.  "I would."  He glanced over at her.  
"It was, you know, it was nice.  We were happy."  Still would be, he 
suspected, if life had dealt them a kinder hand.  

He could see the sorrow in her eyes.  "Anyway," he shrugged, "it's 
kinda moot.  Takes two, an' my dance card ain't what it used to be."  

She raised an eyebrow at that, gave him an amused look he couldn't 
quite decipher before she looked down to stare at her beer.  "The X-
Files aren't exactly conducive to that kind of thing, are they..." 
she sighed.

He threw her a mischievous glance.  "Only rarely.  And we can't all 
be shaggin' our partners now, can we?"

Jesus, she was actually blushing.  Three points, John.  A renegade 
part of his brain wondered how her mouth would taste, in a world 
less complicated.  

She watched the silent TV screen in embarrassment, then looked over 
at him.  "Thank you," she said softly.  "Not just for this," she 
glanced at the beer, "but... for everything.  For sticking through 

He shrugged dismissively and concentrated on the TV; took another 
swallow of beer.  Yeah, you're a regular goddamn Boy Scout, John.  

His wife's words, late one night, early in their marriage when he'd 
been on leave for a week.  She'd asked him if he'd considered 
leaving the Corps, said she was tired of worrying, tired of missing 
him so much. So he'd mentioned his interest in the FBI, or a local 
PD.  Maybe highway patrol.  "Jesus, John, you're a regular goddamned 
Boy Scout," she'd grumbled.  "Can't you come up with something less 
noble that'd let me sleep at night?"  So he'd shrugged and suggested 
Produce Clerk, the job he'd had in high school.  Told her he'd 
nearly sliced his thumb off trimming lettuce once, but maybe she 
could manage to sleep with that and he could probably bring home 
bruised fruits under the table.  

She'd stared at him wordlessly.  He'd grinned and pulled her closer 
and she'd sighed, exasperated, before kissing him in affectionate 

A year later he'd been wounded, and after the long rehab and a few 
years at Syracuse he'd applied to the NYPD.  At least she'd see him 
every day, he'd reassured her.  

She'd allowed it.  They both knew he was born for this type of work, 
and she had been willing to put up with it for him.  

God, he'd loved her.  

He drained his beer, glanced over at Scully who was staring at the 
scrolling national forecasts.  

Nine years, he thought.  You happy, Agent Scully?  

He'd wondered for some time now, though he wasn't sure what the hell 
he'd do with the answer if he ever decided to ask her; like he'd 
told Will, he really did respect Mulder.  He couldn't help but 
respect someone who'd be true to his beliefs even when the whole 
world yelled 'loony' from the bleachers.

But he also knew Mulder pushed people pretty hard, knew even 
Scully's astounding patience with the guy was tested time and time 
again.  About a year ago she and Will had spent nearly a month at 
her mother's.  Not the first time, either.  But somehow she and 
Mulder always managed to patch things up, managed to give it another 

He knew she loved the man.  That much had always been clear.  But 
was she happy...?  

New Mexico scrolled by.  Hot and sunny.  No shit.  Scully yawned 
sleepily, and John turned off the TV and tossed out the two empties.

They'd reached a comfort level which permitted them to brush their 
teeth over a shared motel sink to save time, synchronizing their 
foamy rinses like an old married couple.  Except afterwards he 
watched her slip between the sheets next to a softly-snoring Will, 
while he turned out the night-table lamp and crawled into the other 

The motel room flickered every few seconds, pink neon winking at him 
through those shit-colored curtains.  

Despite the day's long drive sleep wouldn't come.  He propped 
himself up on one elbow and watched her for a moment, just an arm's 
reach away, her hair fanned out softly against the white pillowcase. 

Her reading was on the night-table between them.  It was a book he 
recognized from previous journeys:  Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching.  He 
reached for it, flipped through it idly, curious to know what 
comfort she found in these pages. 

Words of wisdom, bathed in neon pink:  "Be empty.  Watch everything 
just come and go.  This is enlightenment."
Enlightenment, John.

Shit, a decade on the X-Files, he had to be one of the most 
goddamned enlightened people around. 


Another trek through a parking lot, returning with coffee, orange 
juice and two artery-clogging country-deluxe breakfasts.  And a 
cranberry muffin for Dr. Scully's dissecting pleasure.

The morning had dawned steamy and overcast.  In contrast Will had 
woken up cheerful until the moment he'd found out John had forgotten 
to pack his glove.  A time-honored tradition on these excursions: a 
few minutes of catch before breakfast, Scully somehow buying the 
excuse that he -- John -- needed to burn off a bit of steam before 
another day on the road.  

He'd offered to play despite the missing mitt but Will had ignored 
him, sulking in front of the TV.  It wouldn't have been the same, 
they both knew.  The kid was developing quite an arm.

As he crossed the asphalt he caught a glimpse of a man outside their 
door.  John frowned and quickened his pace, skirting the row of 
parked cars, but the man had already wandered over to the 
neighboring room and inserted his key.  Just another confused 
tourist.  Too much paranoia in the air.

John reached their own door and let himself in, setting down the 
breakfast stuff.  The room was empty, the blaring TV unattended.  
From the bathroom he heard the sound of water running.

He knocked loudly on the bathroom door.  "Where's Will?"

She opened the door immediately, concern flooding her face.  "He was 
watching TV."


He rushed out, gun drawn, Scully close behind him. Pounded on the 
neighboring door where he'd seen the suspicious man go in.  "Federal 
Agent!  Open up!"

Scared the man shitless.  No sign of Will.  

"Call the front desk," he told Scully.  "I'll check outside."

He checked the pickup truck, scanned the parking lot.  Nothing.

He ran towards the diner, went around the far side of the building, 
blood pummeling his ears as he scanned the dark recesses between the 
garbage bins.

Voices from around the side.  Will's voice.  

He raced to the corner, skidded to a stop at the sight of the kids.

Baseball.  Jesus Christ.  "Hey!" he yelled.

Will's pitch went wild.  The two other boys froze, staring wide-eyed 
at the gun in John's hand.

"Get your friggin' butt over here!" he hollered to Will. "What the 
hell you thinkin'?"  The freckle-faced batter dropped his Louisville 
Slugger and raised his arms in surrender.  

Will's mortified look cut John to the bone.  

He re-holstered his service weapon, took a breath, ran a hand 
through his hair.  Took Will by the shoulder and marched him back to 
find Scully, feeling like a goddamned asshole truant officer.

Christ, he hoped Will could laugh about this one day.


"Good thing you didn't make a scene," Will had grumbled accusingly, 
not looking at him.  "Wouldn't wanna draw attention to ourselves."  
It was the last time he'd spoken to either of them all day after 
Scully had chewed him out.

What bothered John most was that the kid was right.  And in a few 
days they'd be contacting Mulder, probably find out the whole 
pediatrician thing had been a badly-timed combination of lab error, 
clerical blunder and unrelated computer theft.  Get called back to 
D.C., where Will would have to tell his teammates he'd had a fuckin' 
runny nose, sorry guys, I'll try to make it next time.

Different bedspread, same damn musty motel smell mingling with the 
remains of their pizza.  Scully, apparently revitalized by two 
veggie slices which hopefully marked the end of her fast, was now 
intent on reorganizing the contents of her duffel bag.  Will was in 
the shower, a long one tonight.  Still sulking.

"How'd I get picked for this assignment, anyway?" John sighed, 
sprawled tiredly in the room's only armchair.

Scully glanced up at him sympathetically.  "Because Monica can't 
accompany him to the men's room."

Great.  He had a dick.  "An' to think I busted my butt in college," 
he grumbled.  She gazed at him with amusement and he smiled back 
faintly.  She'd finally caved in to the heat.  Scully in cut-offs 
and a tank-top was a rare sight but always damn-well worth the wait.

"Skinner and Monica aren't... used to kids," she explained, looking 
down at the duffel bag now.  

He watched her fold a T-shirt.  She added it to the neat pile 
sitting next to Will's worn baseball cap, and the image brought back 
a stack of small shirts on a half-emptied dresser, a small Yankees 
cap resting beside an open box marked Goodwill as he'd tried to 
decide whether he could bear to think of another boy wearing that 
hat; as he'd tried to decide, sitting alone in an empty apartment, 
how much good will he still possessed. 

"Will likes you," she went on.  "He looks up to you.  And Mulder 
trusts you."  

Right.  He closed his eyes wearily and stretched his legs.  He sure 
as hell hadn't scored any points with Will today.  And Mulder's 
trust -- shit, he didn't even want to think about that one too hard.  
Knew Mulder's trust didn't come easy.  

He opened his eyes.  "I don't ever remember Will bein' so pissed 

"It isn't really you he's angry with," she reassured him.

He considered this; nodded.  Hesitated a moment, then plunged in.  
"He's gettin' older, you realize.  In a few years he's gonna be in 
high school, be captain of the baseball team, have a girlfriend or 
somethin', some damn good teen-aged reason not to wanna drop 
everything at a moment's notice to go farting across the country 
with his mom and some old G-man.  Don't you think one of these days 
he's just gonna say 'enough'?"  

It wasn't really any of his business, he knew.  

But there were seven-year-olds in New York City who would never play 
ball again, whose mothers attended their graves instead of their 
games, while not so far away kids who'd had the fortune to make it 
to eight were being trained in guerrilla warfare, baby-faced kids 
who'd been taught that the future depended on how well they could 
leap bonfires with rifle in hand...  

He owed it to Will not to just stand by in silence.

"I know that, John.  God, I know that."  She put down the shirt 
she'd been folding, looked over at him with concerned blue eyes.  
"But it would kill Mulder to think he hadn't done everything he 
could.  After Samantha..."  she shook her head.

He nodded, knew he couldn't really fault Mulder for this.  How 
overprotective would they've been of Luke if they'd had a suspicion 
of what was to come?  

"Maybe I'd do the same in Mulder's shoes, I dunno," he admitted 
quietly.  "But it still doesn't make it right.  How many years you 
been livin' like this now?  Don'tcha think you deserve..." he looked 
around the shabby room, "...more'n this?"

"I could ask you the same thing," she countered.  "How many years 
have you been living like this, John?"

He blinked, caught off guard at the conversation's sudden turn. 
"This isn't about me," he said carefully.  "I'm just doin' my job."

"And you do it very well," she nodded.  He saw the corner of her 
mouth twitch with a hint of amusement.  Like any of this stuff was 
on some job description somewhere.  "But eleven years on the X-Files 
is a long time.  You don't owe me anything.  Or Mulder."

"Still hopin' to get rid of me, huh," he deflected mildly.

"No," she met his gaze with a small smile.  "Just making sure you 
know that you could do a lot better than..." she sighed and looked 
around the room as he'd done a minute ago, "...better than this."

He shook his head, chuckled softly.  "I been in worse places."  He 
looked down, stared at a stain on the carpet for a long moment.  

When he looked back up she was still watching him.  What the hell, 
John, just goddamn ask her.  "You and Mulder," he ventured quietly.  
"You happy?"

Oddly she didn't seem surprised at the question.  "We're, uh, we're 
working on it."  She sounded weary.  "Trying to make it work.  I 
don't know, some days are better than others, and we keep hoping..." 
she trailed off, shrugging almost apologetically.

He had to respect that, was grateful she'd given him an honest 

He could sympathize, knew what it was like not to want to give up on 
something you'd poured your whole life into. He'd never forget that 
year he and his wife had tried so hard to salvage their marriage; 
remembered feeling like everything he'd ever cherished was just 
slipping away despite their best efforts, until finally, painful as 
it had been to admit, they'd both realized they were doing 
themselves an injustice.

"It's not somethin' you wanna give up on without givin' it your best 
shot," he agreed quietly.  But if it turned out it wasn't ever going 
to work, he sure as hell hoped she realized it sooner rather than 

She studied him thoughtfully and he looked away in self-defense, 
wondering how transparent he was.  Wondering how much she already 
suspected.  Monica had figured it out a long time ago, had gently 
called him on it and then been decent enough to keep it to herself.  

The noise of the shower stopped suddenly; their sound-proofing was 
trickling down the drain, signaling the end of Adult Conversation.  

By the time Will emerged from the bathroom Scully had finished her 
organizing, transferring neat piles of clothing into the duffel bag 
now.  Will turned on the TV, still ignoring them both.  

John hauled himself out of the armchair.  He reached into his duffel 
bag and pulled out a worn baseball glove.  "Hey," he called softly 
to Will.

Will glanced back.  "Where'd you get it?" he asked with his patented 
indifference.  But there was a spark in his eye.

John shrugged.  "Found it in the parking lot."

"Wait a second," Scully interjected.  "He's supposed to be grounded, 
John.  Plus it's already dark out and -- and you've already 
showered, Will." 

John and Will exchanged long-suffering glances.  She frowned in turn 
from one to the other, then finally sighed in defeat, protesting 
only when Will scattered her neatly folded clothes in search of his 
own mitt and ball. 

"You found it in the parking lot?" she repeated softly, more than a 
little skeptically, as John was about to follow Will out the door.

He stopped, glanced back at her sheepishly.  

"C'mon, Agent Doggett," Will's impatient voice sounded from outside.

She dismissed him with a wave of her hand.  "Never mind.  I'll deal 
with you later, Agent Doggett," she grumbled.  

He gave her a contrite smile and headed out after Will.

Will threw the ball to him from the far side of the lamp-lit parking 
lot, a strong, accurate shot that landed right in the center of his 
glove; John could see the look of satisfaction in the boy's face.  
As he got ready to return the ball he spotted the curtain moving in 
their window, knew she was watching them.  Making sure Will didn't 
get kidnapped, or beamed away or something.  

Or maybe she was just watching them play.

He'd spotted the glove sitting on a suitcase as he'd been walking 
back from the motel lobby this evening.  The tourist unloading the 
Toyota had thought he was a kook even after some hard cash had 
materialized, but John didn't give a shit.  If the guy had had a 
football he would've bought that off him too.  Put a little of 
Mulder's inheritance to good use for a change.

He threw the ball back to Will, crickets chirping all around them in 
the evening air.  

Part of him had to admit he'd miss these friggin' road trips when 
they eventually ended.  He often wondered, more than a little 
regretfully, if it might be the closest he'd ever get to family life 

His wife's amused voice echoed softly:  You're a goddamn Boy Scout, 

But he knew he'd have made a terrible Produce Clerk.


Author's notes:

Because many otherwise-healthy marriages simply don't survive the 
death of a child, I've chosen to assume that Doggett is divorced 
rather than widowed and that up until his son's murder his marriage 
had been a strong and loving one.

My dad actually taped my ears to my head until I was three (you 
think I'd make that up? :)  Though my dad had better results than 
Doggett's dad, I still always thought it was weird until one day I 
heard George Lucas' dad had done the same thing to him, and I then 
decided I belonged to a warped but privileged circle.

The Lao Tzu lines are from the Timothy Freke interpretation, the 
Lebanon memories were based on descriptions from Rosenblatt's 
Children of War, and the Ken Burns Civil War soundtrack just cries 
out "Doggett" (though "Dixie" is track six, not one; Doggett must've 
hit shuffle by mistake :).  

Thanks for reading.  Feedback, as well as grammar/typos, appreciated 
as always.

J.S. Michel (jsm25@hotmail.com)