Actions

Work Header

A Last Wild Push Before the Bell

Work Text:

DeadAlive I

John Doggett waited patiently in the doctor's office, the big, papery 'gown' allowing most of his backside to be exposed. The nurse had already been, done the basic stuff, like taking his blood pressure. He was waiting for the doctor. He'd waited half an hour in the waiting room, until they'd taken him back and given him the paper gown. He'd waited another twenty minutes to interact with the nurse three minutes. Then he'd been waiting half an hour since then for the doctor. It was a basic office, with the beige tile floor you would expect and the posters on the wall for the heart disease medication, the cabinets full of supplies, and the sphygmomanometer on the wall. There was an adjustable lamp and Doggett knew for a fact that you could pull stirrups from out of the table he was sitting on.

Finally, his doctor appeared, distractedly looking at a thin, file. He was a young, vague looking Beta, a glasses wearer and hair starting to thin already though he was still in his twenties. Heavy smoker, too, if the nicotine stain on his fingers was any indicator. This wasn't Doggett's usual guy, but this was a big practice, so he wasn't surprised to see a substitute either. "So, what were you here for today, Mr. Doggett?"

"My suppresser pills. The office said they wouldn't renew my prescription again. By the way, what happened to Dr. Schultz? The guy I usually see."

"I'm sorry. Dr. Schultz has left the practice," the doctor said, so sharply and suddenly that Doggett knew that the Schultz had been fired from the practice, for bad, bad reasons. Like the doctor had been caught selling narcotic prescriptions for cash reasons. Or sexually abusing an underage patient reasons.

This new doctor scanned the chart again, seemed to find a pertinent portion of it and read it more closely. "Not so much as won't, but can't. The suppresser you've been taking has been withdrawn from the market. Long-term studies have discovered some serious problems with it."

"Problems?" Doggett frowned, causing the wrinkles in his forehead to come into distinct relief. Genetic, those wrinkles. His father had them too. Made him look a lot older than he really was. Summers out in the sun when he was young hadn't helped either. He looked a lot older than his early forties. This doctor, compared to him, seemed like a baby though. When had doctors gotten so much younger than him?

"Especially with long term use, like in your case. I see from your file you've been on that particular medication since you were thirteen."

That was true. At the first sign of Doggett as presenting as Omega, his father had marched them down to the doctor's office and had his son put on the strongest suppresser drugs available at the time. No son of Doggett senior was going to be any kind of Omega. They'd been a part of Doggett's life, three pills a day, ever since. And it'd worked. Doggett had never shown more than the slightest signs, maybe he got a funny look from an alpha every now and then, but that was it. He passed perfectly as a Beta. No one knew except his doctor and the pharmacists who filled those prescriptions. His ex-wife knew, of course. But not the FBI or anyone he worked with there. Not a single friend. They worked and as far as Doggett could tell, he'd never had the slightest side-effect from them.

"What problems? I've never had a problem in twenty-eight years."

"Infertility, mostly. About eighty percent of Omegas who have been on the drug more than ten years then gone off the drugs have lost their heats completely. They've become effectively beta."

It'd be a relief. No more pills, no more worries, just the less-complicated life of a beta. Not that there was anything wrong with being Omega, Doggett told himself. He was proud that he'd gotten over those prejudices. They struck him as old-fashioned, like prejudice against race or religion. That was his parents and grandparents generation. No, he had no problem with what he was. He was what he was and he knew it. That didn't change the fact that it would complicate his life considerably to go off the suppressers and become a full blown Omega, with going into heat about every three months and everything that entailed.

"I can't really see a downside to that, honestly. You think it's likely that's what's happened to me?"

"It's more complicated than that, Mr. Doggett. There are many issues, potential problems with it. From what I understand, it's more like an artificial menopause. It's been known to render an omega all but sexless. Most suffer from a complete lack of sex drive. For the few omegas that do regain their heats, they mostly suffer from infertility. I'm going to write you a referral to a gender specialist. You can discuss with him which of the other suppresser drugs might be a fit for you."

The doctor seemed about ready to shut the file and walk out. He hadn't even examined Doggett, hardly even looked at him. This whole two hours nearly had been a total waste. Two hours he hadn't really had to spare honestly, what with Scully pretty much a mental wreck since they'd buried Mulder. She was about six weeks out from maternity leave too and then he'd be alone down in that basement. Doggett glanced over at the clock again. Too much more of this and he'd be late for his meeting with A.D. Skinner and D.D. Kersh. He'd really been hoping he could get in, get his prescription, and get out. It shouldn't have been a complicated thing. It never had been before.

"A specialist? You're refusing to treat me? You sure you can't just write something up for me? I don't really have time for another appointment. My job keeps me on the run. I'm almost out of pills and believe me, if I don't have time for more medical appointments, I really don't have time for going into heat or anything like that."

"I'm sorry, Mr. Doggett. It's not so much as I'm refusing to treat you. I'm really just not qualified in this case. The care of an Omega's reproductive system is a complex endeavor. I'm surprised you don't have a gender specialist already. There is no way that you should have been prescribed such strong suppressers, year after year, without the appropriate tests and exams. From what I can tell from your files, you haven't even had a pelvic exam in over a decade."

Make that never, actually, Doggett thought. No one had ever been up in his business, so to speak. Maybe he should have made the time before today. That was true. You heard about all the possible complications, the much higher chances for reproductive cancers. But he'd been busy and it'd been easy to get his prescription renewed by his GP without needing that done. Until now. Why'd things have to be so complicated?

"I mean," the doctor continued. "If I understand this correctly, you've never even cycled in your life. That's not healthy for an Omega, nor even natural. Until now, you've been living a kind of half life, with a significant part of you dead to the world."

It was the pitying look in the doctor's eye that fixed it, more than the words. Gender specialist or not, he was going to be finding a new doctor. Right now. Who was this kid, who'd probably been in nursery school when he'd been fighting for his country in the Marines, to tell him what was natural or right?

__________________________________________________________________

DeadAlive II

In another medical office, across the city, Walter Skinner sat on the exam table. He hadn't yet put on his necktie for the day and his gray suit jacket was draped over the side chair, but they hadn't asked him to change into one of the gowns, thankfully. The sleeve to his blue, pinpoint oxford shirt was still rolled up from when the nurse had taken his blood pressure.

"Are you sure I can't convince you to go off the suppresser drugs, Walter?" Cameron said.

Dr. Cameron Jacobs was his gender specialist. A petite, blond Beta, and newly married, she wore a huge sparkling diamond on her finger with lots of smaller diamonds clustered around it on the wedding band. He'd been at her wedding a few months back. She was a friend, or more realistically, she had been the best friend of Ari, his bonded Omega mate.

Bonded Alphas and Omegas wore rubies instead of diamonds He looked at his own finger, where such a ring had once been. Ari had died about five years ago, but they had already been on the way to a dissolution of their bond. He'd never expected their bond would have suffered when he started with the suppressers. To help his career, he'd said, but it had turned a passionate and loving relationship into something tepid, more like roommates than pair bonds. Only after Ari had been killed in a car accident in an attempt to discredit him and get him dismissed from the Bureau had Skinner realized just how much he still loved him. The past five years had been like a living death almost, like he'd been buried with Ari.

"It'd help quite a bit with the signs of aging you're experiencing: the balding and graying, the loss of muscle mass. You'd look and feel years younger. Heart disease, blood pressure, risk of cancer, the risks to all of them could be reduced by simply going off those pills. And your increasingly more problematic prostate will be helped. Suppresser pills are the number one cause of benign prostate hypertrophy in older Alphas. And surely, in a job like yours, a commanding, Alpha presence would be an advantage."

"Most people think that, but a cool head is a bigger asset in my job than a commanding presence. And I'm not sure it's something I want just yet."

She nodded sympathetically as he said this, "I understand you have your reasons. I can imagine how you feel. You can't imagine going through a heat with anyone else but Ari. I miss him too, Walter and when Steve died, I couldn't imagine marrying someone else. You have to get back on the horse sometime, if only for the sake of your health. I'll write your prescription but promise me you'll consider going off it next year."

A few minutes later, Walter Skinner was walking out the door, the prescription tucked into his jacket pocket. It was a short walk down 9th from the offices of his gender specialist to the J. Edgar Hoover building. He arrived in plenty of time for his meeting with Kersh. Now, this was a time when he wished he could indulge in alpha behavior. He savored a very brief fantasy of putting Kersh in his place. Kersh was another Alpha, to be sure, and one who felt no need to suppress it, but he was a weak Alpha, with a strength of personality not much greater than that of a Beta. Skinner, if he'd allowed his true nature to show, would have been able to put Kersh in his place just by the strength of his scent alone and the natural posturing of an Alpha. There were Alphas, then there were Alphas.

As Skinner had pretty much expected, Kersh handed him his ass. As he silently listened to his dressing down, he tried to remember everything his father had once taught him about gentle strength and the virtues of cool temperament and how a wise man listened to ten words for every single word he spoke. Kersh finally ground to a halt, after having gotten to the point of the meeting: what they were going to say to Agent Doggett at his upcoming review, after the closing of the case of Mulder's disappearance. Kersh reminded Skinner of nothing so much as a garbage disposal that had finally chewed its way through a particularly stubborn lemon peel.

Skinner nodded, feeling like something inside him had died. These little deaths, so frequent, but they didn't matter. What mattered was that he lived and went on to fight another day. He responded mildly, "Of course, Agent Doggett deserves a commendation. He's done exemplary work in finding Agent Mulder and on the X-Files."

He wondered to himself if Kersh's goal wasn't to keep Doggett on the X-Files afterall, despite his ostensible recommendation that the agent be given a promotion out of the basement. It was phrased in such way that Doggett would almost certainly do nothing else but dig his heels in and refuse to be removed.

 

__________________________________________________________________

 

DeadAlive III

 

Doggett walked away from the meeting with Kersh and Skinner feeling just as confused and unsettled as if he was dealing with an X-File. One time, not that long ago, he'd have jumped and jumped fast at the thought of getting out of the X-Files. But he'd just more or less refused, not just a chance out, but a promotion. What was going on with him? He made his way to his office, through the file storage area, with its smells of musty paper, and dust. Not far beyond that was the office he shared with Agent Scully, but that still, for all that the man was dead and buried, felt like Fox Mulder's office. Maybe it was just all the pictures and posters.

He glanced again, quickly at the biggest poster. I want to believe, it said. But that was just thing, wasn't it? He didn't want to believe, not in the kind of crazy that came from these cases he'd worked. He'd seen things he couldn't deny, not after having seen them with his own eyes, but damned if he was going to be anything but dragged kicking and screaming into believing anything but the evidence of his own senses.

In any case, Scully was here, standing just beside that poster. She was well on her way to being hugely pregnant, but looking rested, calm and put together for all of that. Despite everything she'd been through, the medical problems, the loss of her partner and probable father of her baby, she looked well.

"Hey, good morning, Agent Scully. How you feeling today?

"I'm fine. How are you feeling?" she asked.

"Me? Good. But then I don't got a little J. Edgar to lug around," he said. And thank God for that much. He'd never so much had a heat, much less had a chance to get knocked up, but he was sure it wasn't for him. Still, every now and then, when he looked at Scully, there was this funny twist in his chest, just a momentary one, so he knew it wasn't anything medical, just some emotional storm passing through in an instant, blowing in and blowing out just as fast. The suppresser drugs, they smoothed out most of the high and low tides of Omega nature, but they weren't perfect. Like now, he felt that funny twist and he hid it by sitting down at his desk and leafing through a folder.

Scully, being Scully, couldn't leave him alone, couldn't leave it alone. Wanted to talk about just one more thing that he'd rather leave alone. "A.D. Skinner just called. He told me about your meeting with Kersh."

"Well, whatever he told you I'm still going to be here to drive you crazy with questions and nagging doubt."

Sometimes, just only sometimes, he wished he could tell her the whole of it. Not just about his doubts, but why he clung to them. He wished he could tell her about the little boy he'd raised, who he'd called his, who had been born to his wife, but not fathered by him, in the genetic sense. Doggett wished he could tell her about his appointment this morning and how unsettled it had left him. Mostly though, he wished she'd leave, take off for an autopsy or something, so he could have the office to himself. To get a chance to take his afternoon pill and call that gender specialist the GP had insisted he should see.

"You'd be crazy to stay, Agent Doggett. This is a huge career opportunity for you."

"It's not my career he's got in mind," Doggett said, thinking now about Kersh, and how backed into a corner the man had made him feel. There were things going on with that man and with this office that he mostly only let himself feel as vague suspicions, but that he was going to talk about now

"What do you mean?"

Doggett looked at Scully's belly. Its curve was generous. She grew bigger each day, it seemed, and she was within spitting distance of being full term. And gone.

"In six weeks, you go on maternity leave. Kersh transfers me out, guess what? He gets to lock that door over there for good."

"You don't owe me anything, Agent Doggett."

That was mostly what he couldn't figure out. Why did he care? He knew he did, but the part of him that thought any sense these days told him he shouldn't. "They put me down here to find Mulder. I found him. So what? We still got an open file on this case and I got big questions."

Scully smiled and laughed softly.

"What?"

"I heard the same speech come out of my mouth seven years ago," she said. Then she lowered herself into the chair at Mulder's desk. Still, after three months of the man in the ground, it was his desk. "Get out while you can, Agent Doggett... or you may never get out at all."

Scully then applied herself to reading some files that she must have placed on that desk earlier and didn't seem any more inclined to move than Mohammed's mountain. Eventually, he made his way out of the office and into the men's room to take his mid-afternoon pill. He supposed he could have just taken it at his desk, but he assumed that Scully, being a doctor, might be curious about the pills he was taking and why he was taking them. Better to avoid questions. He'd always taken the pills in private, ever since he left home. Before he left home, he'd taken them under the watchful eyes' of his parents. They'd never trusted him to take them on his own, as if they thought he wanted to let his true nature through.

He'd taken these three pills a day, everyday for about as long as he could remember. He was hardly able to remember the time before he'd started taking them. They were currently little blue pills with a line in the middle, but years ago, a generic had become available. Before then, they were pink diamonds, had cost his parents a pretty penny. He'd heard the murmurings about the costs that he wasn't supposed to hear. His father had been a good provider, but insurance hadn't paid for much beyond a few doctor's office visits. And besides, even now the insurance companies didn't consider the pills a medical necessity. He still paid out of pocket, even on the generous government insurance plan.

Doggett stepped into one of the stalls before taking the pill bottle out of his pocket and shaking the pill out into his hand. He swallowed the little blue pill dry and shoved the amber bottle back into his pocket. But not before he made an estimate of the pills left. The bottle was about half full, so he had maybe twenty pills left. Just under a weeks worth. An imp in the back of his mind told him that he should just stop taking them now. A week's worth of pills was hardly worth it. He'd probably been rendered sexless already. He'd never had much of a sex drive to speak of and it seemed even less these days. Just go off the pills, see what happens, his mind told him. But though his hand closed on the amber bottle in his pocket, for just a moment, as if he was going to draw it out, he didn't act on his impulse to flush the pills.

A few hours later, Scully was still firmly ensconced at Mulder's desk. She'd moved on to updating the journal she kept. Doggett made his way to one of the upper floors and found a conference room that wasn't in use. He dialed the number on the referral and after a moment on hold, found himself talking to a receptionist.

"Yeah, I need to make an appointment with Dr. McCloud. I have a referral from my GP's office."

After getting the usual info, like his name and number, the receptionist responded, "I have an appointment available at three p.m. on June first."

"That's the soonest you've got?" Doggett asked. That was months from today. With only a week's worth of pills left, it was impossible that he wait that long for new ones. He thought it seemed like a pretty sure thing that the suppresser pills had burned out his ability to cycle, but he sure didn't like the risk of going into heat for the first time at age forty-one.

"Look, my suppresser pills were taken off the market and my GP won't prescribe anything new for me. Claims it's too dangerous. I've gotta have something."

"I'm sorry. That's the soonest appointment we have for a new patient."

"This is kind of an emergency. I didn't know and now I've got less than a week's worth of pills left."

"I'm sorry, but the doctor is very busy. There are only three doctors of his specialty in the city and ten in the tri-state area. You're very lucky we have openings for new patients at all at the moment. If there is truly an emergency, you can go to an emergency room, but there is no way I can squeeze you in sooner."

"Do you have a cancellation list maybe?"

"My list is already twenty patients long, Mr. Doggett."

Doggett sighed. "Fine. I'll take the appointment on June first. Thanks."

He briefly wondered about telling Scully about his predicament. She was a doctor, that meant she could write prescriptions right? But that meant one more person knowing, maybe pitying him. He couldn't stand the thought of her looking at him differently. Not that he thought Scully would treat him differently, but she would know. He'd always prided himself on being strong for her. He liked to think that he had her back and that it was worth having him at your back. No, he wouldn't ask Scully. He didn't really have the kind of relationship with her where he could ask for help with personal things. True, he had her back and she had his, but they'd saved each others lives more times than they'd had a friendly cup of coffee together. Maybe tomorrow, if he had some time, he'd try and find a new GP, maybe get some stopgap pills that way.

That night, when he finally got home, he automatically went to take his evening pill. Instead of taking it right away, he stared at a while, until the phone rang.. It was Barb, his ex-wife, just wanting to see how he was doing. She did that a lot. She called him about once every two or three weeks. Sometimes, he called her if she hadn't called him. They were almost friends again, talking to each other at least. Doggett had always thought that if there had been any other kids, they'd either never have divorced or reconciled by now. As it was, he wasn't going to ask her to take him back. She didn't deserve that. She was still young enough. She had a chance to remarry and end up with a man who could easily give her more children, if she wanted.

"How's tricks?" she asked.

"You know. Terrible as always. Bunch of bullshit I can't really talk about," he said. "To make things worse, they took my suppresser pill off the market and the doc won't prescribe a substitute for me. I have to see a specialist to get something."

"The duolevelin? I'm not surprised. You see all those lawyer's commercials and it was all over the news last month. The manufacturer is going into chapter seven from all the lawsuits. I guess it made an awful lot of people sterile and a bunch of people have died over the years too. You should have stopped taking those pills a long time ago, John."

"Barb, didn't we agree we weren't going to talk about that?"

"No, you agreed we wouldn't. Those pills won't ever make you into the son your parents wanted you to be. I don't understand why you think you have to keep taking them. You'll never get the approval you want from them. Nothing you do will ever please that woman because she's sick in the head. There's nothing wrong with you or who you are, no matter what your parents wanted you to think."

"And I don't know why you think its so wrong that I'd want my dad to be proud of me."

"Rather than be proud of you, I wish he'd loved you just the way you are. Like I do."

"I just can't see why you think me being an active Omega would be so great. You know if I do that, my career is going nowhere."

"Then quit the FBI. Come back to New York. The NYPD is the most progressive in the country for Omega non-discrimination policies. Work for them again. It's not too late. You could meet someone. Have a baby. Have a life."

"Speaking of which, you met anyone yet?" he asked. That usually shut her down when she got on a tear like this.

"We weren't talking about me, we were talking about you. Anyway, I'm glad you'll be off those pills even if you just go back on a different brand. I worried about you."

"I'm fine, Barb. No need to worry about me," he said. They talked a little more about inconsequential things: last weekend's race; Mrs. Grimaldi, the neighbor who'd always been so kind to them, now growing older and alone; Barb's job and any gossip about the NYPD coworkers they both knew.

Once he hung up with her, he ended up spilling the pills on his counter and counted them. There were a lot less than he thought. Only about fifteen, including the one for tonight, less than five days worth and no chance of getting more anytime soon. Impulsively, he swept them all back into their amber bottle and shoved the whole bottle into a cabinet. The thing was, he might never want to hear it, but Barb wasn't wrong. He'd always taken the damn pills, but it had never made his dad proud of him. In the end, he'd never been the Alpha or even Beta son that his dad thought was his due. Doggett had always been just an Omega in his father's eyes. The pills didn't change that.

He'd been on these pills for damn near thirty years now. If they were as dangerous as the doctor said, chances were, his whole hormone system had crashed and burned long ago and he'd just never known it. Dad, though he'd been dead many years now, would have been happy to know that his son was like as not, in no danger ever again of showing as Omega in public. Something burned deep at the pit of his stomach at that thought. He'd always told himself that he'd been fine with what he was and how things were. Except, it wasn't fine. He'd never had a heat and now, like as not, he never would. It was suddenly clear to him that he was furious about that. That his father had killed something deep and important in him when he'd been very young and left a shell to live the life of a man. He could finally own that twisting feeling when he looked at Scully. It was pure envy. She was having a child, and he never would.

He grabbed the amber bottle from the cabinet. He dumped the pills in the sink and ran water over them until they dissolved and ran down the sink. He tossed the amber bottle. Screw his father and mother. He was going to let the cards fall where they would and if he never got his cycle back, well that was that, but he was going to at least try it. There were ways it could be handled if it came to him, right? Hell, maybe he'd just decide to have himself a baby if he had a chance before it was too late.

Later that night, he got the call. He'd been fast asleep, but by the second ring, he was reaching for the phone. Some things you couldn't help, they got ingrained into you. Like waking up right away after years of middle of the night calls. He didn't look at the clock. He could tell that it was about oh dark thirty from how tired he still was.

"Yeah," he croaked into the phone, more or less awake but sure not wanting to be.

"It's Skinner. I need you to meet me at the Bureau in about twenty minutes."

"For what?" Doggett answered, realizing as he asked, that the answer didn't really matter. Skinner called. Skinner needed him for something. So he'd go. There was a certain loyalty to the man that went far beyond what made sense, far beyond what was owed as to the man as his boss. It didn't matter that it was late, or rather, very early. It didn't matter if it was official Bureau business or not.

Skinner said, sounding as urgent as Doggett had ever heard the man sound, "I got a call from the police. Pathologist down in Wilmington, North Carolina. Fishermen pulled in a dead body 50 miles offshore which they've now ID'd as Billy Miles."

"Billy Miles?" he asked. The name meant nothing to him, but he was already half thinking about what he was going to pull on, whether his go bag was ready to throw into the car, whether it'd be necessary or not.

"Kid from Oregon. He was abducted same time Mulder was last May," Skinner said.

Okay, so there was some Mulder connection. Kersh and the other heads at the Bureau had wanted that case shut, tied up, and shelved. Because Mulder was dead and buried, as far as Kersh was concerned, the case was as good as dead too. Nice to know that Skinner had questions too. He'd sat there in that meeting, silent. Doggett understood now. The man hadn't been silent, he'd been silenced. So, there was some other lead, some thread they could pick up, even if it was just a dead body.

"So what's the big hurry now?"

"Now he's alive."

Skinner's implication hung in the air. If this Billy Miles character who'd been taken, like Mulder had been, had been dead and was now alive, was it possible that Mulder, who was dead, had some chance of coming alive again. Doggett bit his tongue though there was a lot he wanted to say. This Billy Miles character might have only seemed dead when they'd rolled him into that pathologists office, whereas Mulder wasn't just dead and gone, he'd been buried for months. That people didn't just come back being that dead. They couldn't.

It didn't matter. Skinner had called and asked. He'd go, without question, despite thinking that it was one of the bigger pieces of bullshit he'd come across in the whole pile of it that was the X-Files, only because it was Skinner who asked and not anyone else.

"Right. It's going to take a little longer than twenty minutes to get downtown, even in the middle of the night, but I'll be there," Doggett said, getting out of his warm bed. Anyone else but Skinner had asked, well, he wouldn't be so fast getting out of it. "I'll be there in half an hour, maybe forty minutes."

Then he hung up. He'd have just enough time to throw some clothes on, run a comb through his short hair and toss a little instant coffee down his throat. Skinner hadn't mentioned anything about flights or packing a bag, but Doggett grabbed his go bag anyway. More often than not, when one of these things started, they worked it more or less round the clock. It'd be good to have a fresh shirt and pair of socks at the office. No time for a shower, but he might be able to grab one later at the Bureau gym. He checked the time. He hadn't actually been asleep that long when Skinner had called. It was just about one in the morning as he was walking out of the door. The traffic was better than he thought and he pulled into Bureau garage just about thirty minutes after the start of Skinner's call. He parked and got out of his own vehicle and looked around for Skinner. A moment later, a black Bucar pulled up next to him. Skinner was in it. Doggett got in. Skinner pulled out right away, in a hurry to get to wherever it was they were going.

"You told Agent Scully any of what you told me?"

"No."

"My strong recommendation, Sir: Don't. This thing pans out or not, you're going to reopen wounds that still need a lot of healing. Not to mention the fact that she's had a difficult pregnancy. You know that as well as anybody."

"I appreciate your concern, Agent Doggett, but I wouldn't have told her anyway. Certainly not where we're going."

"Where are we going?"

Skinner looked at him but didn't answer. Doggett then took a look at their surroundings. They'd just turned from Constitution onto 14th, which would lead in short order onto 395. They were, without a doubt, heading out of town, south. They were, no doubt, heading to North Carolina, where Billy Miles waited, and more importantly, Mulder's grave waited. Exhumations were never pleasant. This was bound to be more unpleasant than most. Doggett settled back into his seat. It was a long drive down to North Carolina and no doubt once they were down there, things would only get harder.

It was just barely still night once they pulled into the familiar graveyard. Just three months ago, they'd been down here to bury Mulder. He'd drifted to sleep for a while on the drive down and Skinner had let him sleep. Waking up just outside of the town limits, he was still slightly fuzzy brained as they drove through the cemetery. He remembered Mulder's funeral, such as it had been. There'd been no proper funeral at all, just the graveside service. He remembered what a kick to the gut it had felt. Not that he'd had any personal feeling for Mulder, per se. He'd been on the trail of the man so long and gotten so close to finding the man alive. To have found him, but found him dead, that was the ground glass in his belly. Well, that and seeing how much it broke Scully down into a million little pieces.

Finally, Skinner stopped the car and as they walked towards the grave, Doggett said, "I'll say it again. We're opening up more than a grave here."

He'd actually only said it once during their long ride down, but he thought it definitely bore repeating. If Scully found out that they'd opened Mulder's grave for no good reason, or even for what was a good reason that didn't pan out, Doggett didn't think Scully could stand that.

"I respect that, Agent Doggett, but under the circumstances I think not digging it up would be far more regrettable, don't you?"

"No. I think this is insanity."

The one reason, the only reason he was here was that it was Skinner that was asking the question. He didn't respect anyone else enough for this bullshit. He could hear the heavy equipment not that far off. They had a backhoe out and they really were digging up a grave that should have remained sealed.

"Yeah, well, personally, I couldn't live with the doubt."

"That what? That we buried a man alive? We found Mulder, you and me together. We saw the same body. Mulder wasn't just dead, he'd been dead for days. Had to have a closed casket. For crying out loud, the body was too far gone and that was three months ago."

"The kid they pulled from the ocean, Billy Miles, from the extensive tissue necrosis, they think he could've been in the water for months. Heart beat, rate of metabolism-- it slowed to imperceptibility. I mean, the body had rigored. For all intents and purposes, he was dead. It's a fluke that the doctor even noticed."

"I don't believe it. I don't believe I'm even standing here."

A few more minutes of standing in the chill of the very early morning and they had Mulder's grave out of the earth. Skinner made his way over to the coffin and laid his hand on it. You could tell he wanted to rip it open right here. Thank God, he didn't. Doggett thought it was entirely too early to deal with that kind of smell. Three months in the ground was enough to practically liquify a person except for the bones, depending on conditions. Any way you looked at it, this was not going to be pleasant. Bodies never were. In fact, he was surprised that it didn't smell more right now. Usually, even with a well sealed casket you got a big old whiff of eau de corpse, but all he smelled at the moment was the pleasant tang of fresh dug ground. Of course, that probably just meant it'd be worse once the coffin was unsealed. Anaerobic environments and corpses were a bad combination.

"Just what are you really expecting to find here, sir?" Doggett asked. He stood behind Skinner and put a soft hand on the bigger man's shoulder. "Are you sure this is a question you want to ask?"

"I can't not ask it, John. Not if there's the slightest chance."

Right, well, he'd gone off the edge of bigger cliffs at the behest of Skinner, Scully or Mulder's sake before. He'd seen things that should have been impossible and faced monsters. He could do this again for Skinner. He squeezed Skinner's shoulder briefly then stood taller and spoke to the exhumation crew.

"Right. Let's get this back to the coroner's office."

And wouldn't you know it? In the end, after all was said and done, it turned out the bastard was alive. They dug Fox Mulder out of a three month old grave and not only was he walking and talking, he came back to the FBI.

________________________________________________________________

DeadAlive IV

 

Skinner knew what he had to do. Sometimes, sacrifices had to be made. Mulder, he was all but dead and leaving Skinner regretting they'd ever opened that grave in the first place. But he couldn't expect that Scully could make the choice that had to be made, a Sophie's choice of the worst kind. But the necessity for that choice had been made clear to him by Alex Krycek, a man who held life or death over him as casually as it were a choice between the blue plate special or the usual. It was Mulder's life or the life of Scully's baby. And if he were not to choose the vaccine and Mulder's life, that there would be grave consequences. Mulder would come back either way, but if Skinner chose the wrong way, Mulder would come back as not human, as some kind of monster.

Skinner locked the hospital room and started. He disconnected anything he could, not sure exactly what he was doing, but with Mulder in such a precarious state of life, one or another of the tubes or leads would be crucial and he would die for real this time. Mulder would understand. Skinner knew that this would be the choice Mulder would make if he could. Mulder had had his time. Mulder had been buried as dead already while Scully's baby had such potential for life.

"Assistant Director?" someone shouted at him through the door, then started banging on it loudly.

Skinner hurried. With this banging on the door, medical personnel would be alerted and he'd lose his chance. They wouldn't, no, couldn't understand. The kind of decision he'd come to, to sacrifice one life for another, that was a battlefield choice. Here in the confines of the hospital, there was only one possible decision: keep struggling for life until there is no other option, no matter the consequences. Even when, like with Mulder, that life danced so close to the edge of extinction.

Doggett called out again, "Open up. It's John Doggett."

He didn't wait for a response, but a moment later, the door had been kicked open. Skinner kept working and pulled the last of the tubes from Mulder. The monitors were beeping like crazy, as if angry at having been disconnected. It didn't take long for Doggett to look around and take in what had happened.

"What the hell are you doing?"

"You don't understand."

Doggett slammed him up against the wall and for a brief moment, all too brief, Skinner forgot about what he was doing, why he was doing. He forgot about anything except for the fact that John Doggett smelled very, very good. Not at all like the Beta scent that Skinner had always noted on him and dismissed. This was Omega, cleanly and clearly enough that even Skinner's suppressant dulled nose could pick it up. John Doggett was Omega? It couldn't be, but here was the proof, right before his nose. The man must have suppressed it artificially until now. Why had he stopped though?

Skinner forgot about all of this as Doggett shouted at him, "You're killing him!"

Drawn back to reality, back to this horrible situation, Skinner said, "I had no choice. He wanted me to kill Scully's baby."

"Who?"

"Alex Krycek-- for the vaccine. It's the only way he'd give it to me … but I couldn't trust him. I couldn't do that to her," Skinner said.

"Where is he?" Doggett asked. You could see that he was already planning, already trying to form a course of action.

"He can't be far away," Skinner said. "He was just here."

Skinner left Mulder as he was. Perhaps Doggett could get the vaccine out of Alex Krycek, probably not. At the very least, Krycek didn't have the Damocles' sword hanging over Doggett that he did over Skinner. Doggett would probably be safe enough. Krycek was dangerous, but he was just one man. Skinner waited several minutes in the hallway, down from Mulder's room. He watched Scully go in and surprisingly, there was no panic, no screams from her as she realized that Mulder was dead again. Instead, another doctor was called in, and then a few more. Something was happening in there, but it didn't seem like what should have happened. Mulder was eventually rolled out of the room and down to the surgery unit. Skinner followed at a distance.

Doggett appeared before him in the hallway. Skinner looked to him hopefully.

"Agent Doggett. Agent Mulder's in the O.R. Did you get the vaccine?"

There was no mistaking that look. He had failed. There would be no vaccine. There would only be one life saved and Skinner could only hope that he'd done enough to ensure that it was the right one.

"Listen to me," Doggett said. "You weren't wrong. He wasn't to be trusted."

In the end though, it was okay. He'd made the right decision. Though he couldn't have known it at the time, according to Scully, the life support had been incubating the virus. Taking Mulder off of it had allowed them to save him. His core temperature had dropped but none of his other vitals. She'd been able to administer courses of anti-viral medications and Mulder had recovered. Skinner left Scully at the hospital to watch over Mulder and returned to the Hoover building. He ran into John Doggett who was obviously on his way down the hallway after having had a meeting with Kersh.

"Agent Doggett, a word, please," Skinner said. His own office wasn't far away. He led them there and in a moment, John was settled in front of his desk and Skinner behind it, feeling slightly more in charge, with the big desk between them, with all the usual accoutrements of his authority around him.

"If this is about the thing with Mulder, you made the right decision. It's pretty clear that this Alex Krycek character can't be trusted. I don't know what kind of game he's playing, but its one I don't want to find myself dealt into."

"Mulder is well on his way to recovery," Skinner said, thinking about how he'd last seen Scully holding his hand, Mulder still asleep, but breathing normally. Looking like a sick man, but a man that was alive. "That's not what I want to speak with you about. You're Omega, Agent Doggett."

The look that passed over Doggett's face was not quite describable. There was a huge portion of shame, but also surprise and longing. Then just as quickly, Doggett got his emotions under control and his face was back to the stony, stoic, but also somewhat melancholic expression that was his usual look. If it had been anyone else in the Bureau having this conversation with him, it might be the conversation that was the beginning of the end of Agent Doggett's FBI career. Though you couldn't, not by Federal Law, discriminate against Omega agents, it was generally understood, an unwritten, unspoken rule that Omegas were not field agents, because of what might happen if they went into heat while in the middle of a case. They didn't rise in the FBI hierarchy, only because they couldn't take those important roles limited to field agents. Things weren't as bad as they used to be. In the forties and before, Omegas were not allowed to work for the Bureau at all. By the seventies, they were allowed, provided they stayed on the new at the time suppresser drugs. Discrimination against Omegas had once been official Bureau policy, despite the fact that J. Edgar Hoover himself was rumored to have been Omega and even borne Clyde Tolson a secret love child.

"My suppresser drug got taken off the market suddenly," Doggett said. "My regular GP won't prescribe anything and so I've got an appointment, soon as I can, with a gender specialist. Until then, I'm off the supressors. It won't interfere with my work. I won't go into heat. That's why they took the pills off the market. They stop Omegas from having heats even after they're off the pills. I'll be back on the pill, soon as I can. Listen, my career has taken enough hits as is, with this X-Files thing. There's no need for this to become a thing."

"Not at all, Agent Doggett," Skinner said. He understood. While you'd think that a man's advancement at the Bureau would be improved by his Alpha status, that wasn't the case. Reliability and cool-headedness counted for more than you would think. Could one rely on an Agent who could be reduced to mindless lust by the mere scent of an Omega? Despite that, you found more Alphas among the rank and file of the Bureau that you did in most careers. Any field of law enforcement or the military tended to create clusters of Alphas. It appealed to their need for danger and risk taking. You didn't often find Omegas in those fields though. Agent Doggett was apparently a bit of an outlier.

"So long as you're back on the pills in a short time, I don't think this is something that need affect your career," Skinner concluded.

"I appreciate your discretion with this thing, Sir," Doggett said.

"Not at all. Thank you for your hard work on this Mulder thing. You should take a few days personal time."

Doggett gave a wry, half grin. "Nah, looks like according to Kersh, I've got to figure out how three agents are going to work out of the basement office. Maybe it's time to rearrange a little furniture."

"It won't be for long. Agent Scully goes on maternity leave soon. I'll let you get to work then."

___________________________________________________________________

Vienen (They're coming)

 

Agent Mulder, when all things were said and done, was a gigantic pain in the ass.

Doggett's day had started normally enough, with a nice helicopter ride out to an ocean based drilling platform, but it had ended with him and Mulder having to jump off the side of that platform, to the water surface, fifty feet below. You tried to keep a straight body line to reduce the impact and the water had been churning, which helped reduce surface tension, but none of that changed the fact that at that distance, hitting the water felt like hitting concrete. It just felt like that, it wasn't an equivalent impact, of course, or else he wouldn't have walked off the rescue chopper. He probably wouldn't have made it out of the sea alive.

But he still felt lightly tenderized on the chopper ride back to Galveston and he felt worse by the time they'd set down on the helipad. He just about staggered when he got his feet down on solid ground. Must be an effect sort of like sea legs, he thought, but he didn't feel any more steady as they walked to the terminal building. Agent Mulder took him aside as soon as they were inside.

"What's wrong with you?" Mulder said, then he sniffed, before touching Doggett on the forehead so briefly that he didn't have time to protest. "Never mind. You should get a hotel room tonight. There's no way you'll make it back to DC before it hits in full force."

"Before what hits?" Doggett asked, confused. What the hell was Mulder talking about?

"Your heat. I'm not sure why you didn't take a suppressor if you knew it was coming on. It could have been deadly if it had happened while we were on that platform."

"My what?" Doggett asked, even more confused. The doctor had said more likely than not, he wouldn't get a heat. He'd sort of figured, that if he was going to get one, it would take months and months for all those years of hormone pills to clear out of his system.

"Your heat," Mulder said, then did a double take. "You're one of those Omegas who suppress your whole life. You're a virgin. You've never had a heat before. If you did, you'd recognize the symptoms. Fever. Weakness, especially in the legs, irritability. And soon, since you're unmarked, a scent that will be all but irresistible to any Alpha around you. You wouldn't have brought anything to help yourself through this since you weren't expecting it."

"What do you mean, help myself through this? I'm just feeling under the weather. This can't be a heat. I'm heading back home, soon as I can."

"The nose doesn't lie, Agent Doggett. And mine is telling me that you've got less than an hour to get behind a securely locked door unless your plans for the evening include getting raped on the street by the first Alpha you come across. Not that it'll be much better without even some sex toys to help you get through."

Doggett wanted to land a punch right in the middle of Mulder's smug face. Except he didn't, because for some reason, he also wanted to kiss Mulder. The man, he couldn't deny it, was handsome. He had full lips and a strong jaw line. And gorgeous, expressive eyes that were looking at him right now with compassion and kindness. He smelled good, despite the salty, seaweedy, polluted water smell over laying the deep spice and musk. Mulder reached out to touch Doggett on the jaw and said, "it's too late for even an emergency suppressor drug. You'll need an Alpha to take care of you and get you through this. Someone you can trust. Unless you know someone in Galveston, it looks like that someone is me."

"What are you talking about, Mulder? Are you coming on to me?" Doggett was pissed again. If he didn't misunderstand Mulder, the man was proposing to fuck him. "Take care of him" during a heat, indeed.

"You and I can walk into a hotel room together and for twelve hours, I can give you what you need. In the morning, we can walk out of that room and agree never to say anything about it again. Or you can walk into a hotel room alone and you won't be able to leave for three, four days, maybe longer. You'll hardly be able to walk for the pain. You'll hardly be able to think, sleep or eat. They always say the first heat is the worst. I'll be careful with you. I think you need me."

As Mulder had been talking, something deep inside Doggett had...moved. Like it had jumped inside of him, contracted. And it had started to hurt in someplace that he hadn't even been aware of having. It was sort of like bowel cramps, but lower and even more intense than that. It didn't let up, instead, growing stronger with each moment. He couldn't help gasping at it.

"The cramps have started? You've got less time than I thought," Mulder said. "Maybe half an hour."

He took Doggett by the hand and started to lead him through the airport. Eventually, they made it to the cab stand and even though there was a long line of people waiting, Mulder bullied his way to the front of it, claiming it was an emergency, that his friend needed to get to the hospital right away. He was able to bundle Doggett into the first cab that pulled up to the stand and ordered the driver to take them to the nearest hotel. It ended up being one of those mid-size airport Hiltons you saw all over. He usually ended up in some place smaller and cheaper. They were a little too costly to get away with expensing on the Bureau. Doggett was hardly aware as Mulder arranged for a room with the front desk and accepted the keycards. He was dragged up the elevator and shoved into a room. Mulder turned on the lights and pointed Doggett in the direction of the bathroom.

"Go shower," he told Doggett. "I'll be back in a moment. I want to get us some water and ice while I'm still sort of thinking straight."

Not even sure why he was doing it, following Mulder's instructions like this, Doggett started to strip his ruined clothes off. He hadn't remembered actually telling Mulder yes, but it had already seemed to pass beyond the point of the inevitable and the foregone conclusion. He and Mulder would fuck and if Mulder was right, it would take care of this gnawing, squeezing pain in the middle of him, in the parts that he didn't ever like to think of.

He stepped into the shower and it seemed to help for a while, soothing the cramping slightly, but he still felt weak. More than that, he had this growing sense of emptiness in the same place that had been cramped. He also had, he noticed, wondering how he'd missed it filling, a rock hard stiffie, like he hadn't had in years, not since he was a young man. Hell, he hadn't had one like this since he was a young teenager.

It'd never been so bad you could call it erectile disfunction, but he'd never, even at sixteen, gotten very hard. It hadn't bugged him much, honestly. He'd just figured he was one of those people without much of a sex drive and that was that. It was something that hadn't bothered Barb and since the divorce, there hadn't been anyone to be bothered by it. It had been the suppresser drugs, he realized suddenly. They hadn't just smacked down the heats. They'd smoothed out anything approaching sex at all.

He didn't have long to contemplate his stolen sex drive. Now that it was back, it demanded things. It was apparently an all or nothing thing and right now, it was all. He tugged at his dick in the usual way that had always brought him a quick but tepid orgasm, but he couldn't do it the right way. His dick was just too sensitive at the tip. He stroked the shaft a bit and that was better but it still didn't feel right. He just kept brushing the overly sensitive tip by accident

Doggett heard a noise. Mulder entering their room again. He froze, suddenly thinking of what was about to happen. You learned about it, in a clinical way, in sex ed class, along with the usual way babies were made by Betas. You heard the jokes too, about knots as big as a baby's head, and about Omegas just not able to stop themselves from begging for those knots. Then there were the lurid sex scenes in movies, not necessarily porn, but regular movies loved the Alpha-Omega romance for the drama of it. He'd never thought any of that would apply to him in any way.

Mulder was about to enter this bathroom, then presumably, enter him. Someone, something, was about to be put into the small, always protected cavity that he'd guarded so carefully all his life. Something huge. The thing was, right now, it didn't sound as bad as he'd always feared. That was the place that was itching for touching, not his dick, despite the hard on.

"Agent Doggett," Mulder called out from the other side of the closed door. "Last chance to say no. Your odor's getting too strong. I won't be able to stop myself in a moment or two."

Doggett shut off the water and got out of the shower, still dripping. He walked to the door.

"If I send you away, what happens?" he asked.

"Best case scenario, not much. Four days of misery and you go home with your virginity intact."

The thought of four days of need and pain like this was too much to bear. "And if I'm not lucky?"

"Some random Alpha comes by, attracted by your scent. Maybe he manages to break down the door, maybe you open it to him yourself. It seems pretty likely you're going to get tied tonight. It can be me or you can take your chances."

"What's to stop some Alpha breaking down the door anyway while we're doing it?" Doggett asked.

"My scent. No one would dare interrupt an Alpha with a scent as strong as mine. Look, I know you're probably scared shitless on top of all of the other hormonal garbage you're going through right now. You've never done this before. But it's what you need, I promise. I will take care of you."

Doggett threw open the door. No one, not even the Alpha that was soon going to tie with him, got away with calling him scared. "Shut up, Mulder, and get on with it."

Mulder tackled him to the floor with the first kiss. Doggett found himself automatically yielding. He opened his mouth to Mulder's tongue and his legs just as reflexively as if the doctor had hit him on that spot under the knee cap and his leg would shoot up. There was no thinking about it. The kiss didn't last long, but trailed down Doggett's neck in a series of little nibbles and bites that made his cock jerk and set off an awareness of that place down between his legs. He was wet, he thought. He had never been wet there before. Mulder's hands spread Doggett's legs and lifted his cock and balls out of the way. Doggett tensed up. He thought Mulder was going to put a finger or two inside him, but he didn't. Instead, he buried his face there, sniffing deeply then licking with broad, slow strokes of the tongue. Mulder bathed the area from his asshole right to the base of his ball sack, lavishing attention on Doggett's most ignored body part. He thought he would be ashamed to be touched there, but it felt fantastic.

"It's beautiful, it really is, the sheer breadth of human sexuality," Mulder said, pausing as if to admire Doggett's secret parts. "How the reshuffling of the same forty-eight chromosomes give rise to such different results. Every set of genitals slightly different. I'd never have guessed it to look at you, but you have gorgeous labia and you taste amazing."

"Less talking," Doggett said. "More screwing."

And as if he were outside himself, watching someone else do it, he ground himself against Mulder's face. Mulder, even though he was about the same size as Doggett, grabbed Doggett by the hips and flipped him over easily and held him down. It shouldn't have been possible, that Mulder could manhandle him like that. Mulder had thrown him against a wall before, under much different circumstances. Mulder wasn't that much stronger than Doggett. Things were different at this moment though.

"You want this. I want this," Mulder said. "You will get what you need. I promise you that. But trust me to take care of you the right way."

It was then that Mulder penetrated him the first time, just with one finger and Doggett could have wept with relief, feeling something in there where it ached and itched. Mulder took his time, rubbing and pressing up on the back wall more than working in and out, like he was stretching Doggett. It didn't matter, Mulder was also touching something in there that gave him sensations like he'd never had before and it felt so amazing. Eventually, Mulder added a second finger and Doggett hissed at how good it felt, almost filling him up. Every sensation was drawn out, magnified somehow. The bathroom floor felt icy on his forehead, the carpeting in the room proper, intensely scratchy under his knees. The room light was almost too bright to stand. The third finger Mulder added made him squeal a little as he was stretched beyond what felt like he could manage at the same time that he knew it was not enough. There was one thing that would satisfy him fully and it wasn't any number of fingers.

"More," Doggett begged, knowing that Mulder was holding back. "Just fuck me already."

"You have a hymen," Mulder said. "I'm trying to stretch you. I don't want to just break it. I could hurt you."

"Just do it already, damnit."

He didn't though, but kept fucking Doggett with his fingers, slowly. Damn it, how did the man keep himself in control like that? Shouldn't he have just plunged in and taken what he must have wanted? Weren't Alphas supposed to be in as much thrall to the mating hormones as the Omegas? At last, the fingers did the trick or maybe it was just that the internal part of him had been rubbed enough. He reached that point of inevitability and every muscle in his body tensed and then he was thrown right out of his own body with his first orgasm. At least that's what it felt like. He came back to awareness still on the floor, still with Mulder's fingers inside him. There was a puddle of dampness underneath him, thankfully mostly on the bathroom floor and not the carpet.

"C'mon, you. Bed." Mulder said, removing his hand. He flipped Doggett onto his back and then offered both hands to help him up from the floor. That was the first glimpse Doggett got of Mulder's erect cock. "No fear, no shame tonight. Just me giving you what you need."

It shouldn't have seemed that big. It was only about eight inches long, but it was about as big around as a woman's wrist, maybe a bit bigger. That. That thing was going to go inside him, where three fingers had just seemed like the upper limit.

"Just how big is your knot, Mulder?" Doggett asked, reaching out for the monster, wanting to touch it, to gauge how thick it really was.

"General rule of thumb, an Alpha's knot is about the size of his fist," Mulder said and he demonstrated, folding his fingers and thumb in to create a fist. Doggett swallowed hard and the thought of something the size of that fist inside him. "Stories of knots the size of bowling balls and babies heads are just stories. But you can still see why I'll take my time with you as much as I can."

Indeed. Mulder laid Doggett down on the bed, then lay next to him. He took Doggett's hand and and placed it on his cock, guiding him in stroking it a few times. Doggett wasn't sure what he'd been expecting, but the cock was hot and heavy in his hand. The skin was soft, almost velvety. Mulder breathed heavily as Doggett tried a few things he liked, tugging the skin of the shaft over the head as he ran his hand along it. Mulder let this continue only a few minutes before removing Doggett's hand. Then he knelt between Doggett's knees and began finger fucking him again until Doggett was about to weep for the lack, because three fingers was just not enough. There were parts of him that wouldn't be satisfied until something much bigger was there, rubbing them all at the same time.

Finally, Mulder turned Doggett over to his knees, face and chest pressing down to the bed. Mulder kind of lifted him by the hips a little while moving closer. First Mulder's cock touched him, then impossibly, it slid inside him with inevitable force. It was huge, just as huge as it looked, but even though it burned a lot, it was as if Mulder's cock didn't belong any place else in the universe. The tip seemed to bottom out against something deep inside Doggett that about made him leap. Mulder held himself still for several minutes, though he seemed almost quivering to begin thrusting. Doggett didn't have such self control and he ineffectually tried to bear down on it, even though the angle was such that he had no purchase, no real way to move. Mulder had full control at this moment.

"This is what you need, isn't it?" Mulder said. All Doggett could do was nod. He could feel himself pulse around Mulder's cock and his hips start to jerk. He was coming again, with a whimper, even though Mulder wasn't doing anything except being there. A big gush of fluids came out of the place where he was being penetrated. He wasn't ready, even though a huge cock was in it, to call it what it was. Mulder did.

"See, all it took was my cock in your pussy to make you come," Mulder said, holding Doggett's hips and finally, starting to thrust. "Your body needs this. You have a vagina. It's meant to have cocks in it. This is who you are."

Doggett wanted to shake his head, he wanted to deny this. This wasn't what he was. He didn't do this. He didn't let other men fuck him. He didn't have a pussy. He had a slit that was a kind of biological accident that couldn't be medicated away. It sure as hell wasn't meant to have a cock in it. Who he was wasn't determined by his biology.

But he couldn't deny the fact that he'd come more times in the last five minutes than he had all year and he couldn't deny the fact that it was somehow like coming home to himself. Mulder, like he had been today out on the oil rig, was right. Doggett hadn't liked that truth any better than he liked this one, but not liking something didn't make it any less true. He'd always believed the evidence of his senses, even if it seemed impossible at the time. And his senses were telling him that this is what he'd been missing all his life. The lack of this was what made everything feel so flat and empty. This was who he was. He shouted, coming again as Mulder increased the tempo of this thrusts and then slammed himself against Doggett with a grunt.

It happened then. The thing he'd feared most about this whole mess. As Mulder was thrust deep inside him, he began to grow bigger, harder. This was the knotting. He didn't think he could stretch any more and the penetration slid into that gray border between extreme pleasure and pain, slowly sliding towards the pleasure end of the spectrum, bringing him to the edge of orgasm again. Mulder's cock twitched inside him and there was a sense of explosion and wetness. Mulder was coming inside him. The sensation brought Doggett over the edge. Again, he came so hard that it felt like he was thrown out of his body.

As he came to awareness again, part of him thought it should be worried about Mulder coming inside him, but the rest of him knew that without this part, it wouldn't be right, wouldn't be satisfying. This was a necessary part of it. It was hard to explain why, but he needed this cum. If Mulder had worn a condom or something, he'd feel the lack of this. Mulder guided them down, twisting in a careful collapse so they could lie down side by side on the mattress, still connected. Mulder held him closely, one arm wrapped around Doggett's stomach, one around his neck lightly and buried his face into the back of Doggett's neck. He sighed, happily, perhaps.

Doggett's head was a little clearer for the moment. He took in the state of the room around them. The bedsheets were ruined. Not only were they drenched, but there was a pink tint to them. Doggett, despite Mulder's care, had bleed. Mulder's clothes were scattered. His own clothes, presumably still in the bathroom. The curtain was wide open, the room lights on. If there were any one close enough to see, they'd put on quite a show without realizing it. Were still putting on a show, because Doggett didn't think either of them were in any state to close the curtains or turn off the lights for some time.

"Mulder, we gonna be like this for long?" Doggett asked. The stories, of course, told of knottings that lasted hours, with orgasms every few minutes, of Omegas being pumped full of impossible amounts of cum, quarts and quarts of it.

"Half an hour," Mulder said. "Forty-five minutes, tops. Don't worry, I won't drown you in cum either. The average Alpha ejaculation in heat intercourse is only about forty-five milliliters, which is huge compared to the five milliliters in an average Beta male's ejaculate, but nowhere near the cups and cups of it normally depicted in pornography."

"Porn's fake? Gee, who knew?" Doggett snapped. He was uncomfortable. Not physically, but uncomfortable with the intimacy of this moment. Before, when his need had been so raw, so all consuming, it hadn't mattered that it was Mulder here with him. He hadn't even noticed that the curtains had been opened. Now, it mattered.

Mulder seemed to know. He held Doggett more tightly, rubbed his stomach lightly and squeezed his shoulders. He kissed Mulder on the back of the head and muttered things about how this was okay, and that he would take care of things. Sadly, this worked to calm Doggett enough that he didn't fuss when Mulder began stroking his cock, starting to take another orgasm from him.

First thing Doggett did when Mulder was finally able to slide out of him was dash over to the window, even as he felt come dripping down his legs, and shut the curtains, blocking out any signs of the outside world. Mulder meanwhile had dug out the information folder from the desk and was flipping through it.

"You want any food?" he asked. "I figure it'll come during the next period of lucidity, if your timing is about average. You've probably got only a few minutes before you're begging for it again. Here, drink this. You'll need it."

Mulder held up a bottle of water that he must have gotten earlier from the vending machine down the hall. Doggett was about to refuse, just to be contrary and because he was cranky. This all might have been very, very necessary, but he didn't like it. He didn't like being thrown around by his hormones like this. He didn't want to be a soggy ball of need and desire. He would have refused the water, but he realized he had a powerful thirst. Looking at the rumpled, soaked bedsheets, it would appear that stories about the amounts of lubrication Omegas leaked weren't an exaggeration. He chugged the water.

"Yeah, order something for me," Doggett said between pulls on the bottle. "Whatever. I don't think it matters what."

"Steak and eggs, I think. You'll want protein," Mulder said and wordlessly handed Doggett a second bottle of water as he reached for the phone. Mulder arranged the order, asking it to be sent up in about an hour and half and it seemed like he ordered half the menu as well as several more bottles of water. How did the man talk so calmly and assuredly on the phone, as if nothing out of the ordinary were happening here in this room? It was all Doggett could do just to hold it together. He couldn't imagine having to talk to anyone but Mulder.

"Now, come here," Mulder said, as he put the phone down.

Doggett finished his second bottle of water before he came to Mulder's open arms. "You shoulda had 'em send up clean sheets. Might be too late. I think we ruined the bed."

"Special Omega room," Mulder said. He stood up and took Doggett's hand, then led him back over to the bed. He stripped the sheets off completely and threw them on the floor. The mattress had some kind of casing over it, soft on the outside, but definitely a little crinkly underneath. "Waterproofed mattresses. Sheet use surcharge. You can leak all you need. You're starting again. Look at you. You need me again already. It's okay, John. There's no shame between us tonight. You can be weak, because I'm here and I have you."

Mulder was right. Fluid dripped down his inner thighs and he felt an ache and an emptiness. Mulder pressed him back down onto the mattress, face first, so that with every breath, he drew in the odor of their last coupling. Doggett didn't, couldn't protest as Mulder mounted him again without any foreplay, without asking. He rutted back against Mulder and they began again, Doggett lost to himself.

The night passed in a kind of haze. Sometimes there were moments of lucidity. The room service arrived during one and Mulder saw to it that he ate. Most of the time had been spent fucking. Sometimes, he passed out from sheer exhaustion, only to wake finding that Mulder already had his massive cock plunged into him, actively fucking him. At last, they both passed out at the same time and slept a few hours. When he woke, Doggett felt clear headed like he hadn't all night, not even during his more lucid periods of the heat. It was over. His heat was finished. Light peeked around the curtain. It was already daylight again. Doggett checked the alarm clock. Eight in the morning. He wondered what had happened to his watch, if it even still worked after its plunge into the sea. Mulder still slept the sleep of the just, not stirring as Doggett crawled out from under him.

Mulder, Doggett mused, was definitely a grower, not a shower. Flaccid, their cocks were about the same size. Doggett took in the hotel room. Off to the side was the remains of their room service meal. Mulder's clothes still scattered around. The sheets and the pillows were piled by the bed. They reeked, of sex, of fluids. Doggett grimaced. This whole room reeked, and he was the worst of it. He was kind of crusted up with dried come and other fluids. Shower time, he thought. At some point during the night, either he or Mulder had been lucid enough to hang up his clothes over the shower rod. They weren't clean, but they were dry and they'd serve to get him home. The jeans were kind of stiff and smelled of salt, so was his jacket. He dug his cell phone out of the pocket, amazed it was even still in there. He tried to turn it on and got nothing. Completely destroyed. He'd thought to tuck his watch away in a pocket and amazingly enough, it had survived its dousing in the Gulf of Mexico.

He showered, washing away as much evidence as he could of the night of his heat, scrubbing at himself with the tiny bar of hotel soap. He felt odd. Part of him felt frail somehow, like he'd been broken somehow, but another part of him couldn't be contained. It was like to burst out of him, like he'd just had some kind of triumph. He felt between his legs, under the scrotum. His labia. His vagina. If nothing else, he could own them after last night, call them what they were. He was tender there, more than a little sore. That area had taken so much use, it wouldn't let him forget about it. He wondered how he could go back on the suppressers, knowing now how much they took from him. On the other hand, this was all too much. It wasn't like he could go back to Mulder for his next heat and it wasn't like he was about to go to a stranger to take care of him. Nor was there someone on the horizon in a permanent kind of way who could take care of it for him. He was pretty sure he didn't want there to be someone.

He shut the water off, still feeling confused, and grabbed a dry towel. Drying off, he walked into the main part of the hotel room. Mulder had pulled the curtain open partially and was staring out into the distance. They had, Doggett finally noticed, the airport view and they were near the top floor of the building. Nothing but acres and acres of runways below. Probably no one had been close enough to see them through the window.

"Shower's free, Agent Mulder," Doggett said.

"After all that, I'm still Agent Mulder to you?"

"Last night didn't happen as far as I'm concerned," Doggett said, rubbing his head with a towel.

Mulder seemed hurt for just a moment, but then he acted relieved, "Needless to say, you can't talk with Dana about this. I don't really know where I stand with her, but I can't let anything get in the way of my chances with her. I'm glad I could help you out."

"But this goes no further and it never happens again," Doggett said.

"According to the information folder, there's an urgent care clinic not far from here. We should stop and get you emergency contraception. Just in case. I don't think either of us want any consequences from last night to follow us into the future."

They tidied themselves and the hotel room as best as they could. Piled all the sheets, blankets and pillows in one big heap on the bed. Put the room service tray in the hallway. Then, as ready to face the day as they could be, they went downstairs to check out. Grabbed a cab to the clinic that Mulder had found. Doggett read a magazine while waiting until someone could see him, ignoring Mulder even though the man had sat right at his elbow. Doggett filled out the insurance forms and medical information sheets when asked. Eventually, after being exposed to a ton of kids with sneezing and hacking coughs, he was led to the back and offered a paper gown. The nurse came it, did all the usual things, asked the usual questions. Finally a middle aged man with a tag that identified him as a doctor walked in.

"Mr. Doggett, I see here that you're looking for a prescription for emergency contraception."

"Yeah, my heat came on suddenly last night. I'm not on anything. I wasn't planning on having sex. The guy didn't use anything either."

The doctor looked at the medical chart on his clip board, taking in everything Doggett had written down. "I see here that you had previously been on the duolevelin suppresser for over twenty-five years, but you discontinued that recently."

Doggett explained that situation and ended with, "So you can imagine, the last thing I want is a little reminder of last night."

"I'm not going to prescribe the emergency contraception, Mr. Doggett," the doctor said. "It's highly unlikely you can conceive after having been on that drug for so long. And there could be complications with the high doses of hormones in the emergency pill when your body is still coming down from the whammy that was duolevelin."

"I wasn't supposed to be able to go into heat either," Doggett protested. "I don't want to take any chance."

"The drug interactions between the duolevelin still in your system and the emergency pill are possibly severe, especially in a man your age. We're talking blood clots, stroke and heart attacks. In one case, a man lost all liver function when a blood clot lodged in the hepatic artery."

In the end, though he argued more, he didn't get the prescription he wanted out of the doctor. He wondered if there'd recently been a run of malpractice suits to do with that particular drug which made doctors super antsy about anything to do with it. Like his GP back at home had been about prescribing a stop gap drug. Doggett put his own clothes back on and went out to where Mulder was waiting for him.

"You get what you need?" Mulder asked.

"Doctor says the chance of me getting pregnant at this point is somewhere between zip and zilch with high chances of me dying if he gives me the pill I wanted, so I guess I'm not getting it."

Mulder just seemed relieved. They got on with getting back to the airport, back to DC and back to their normal lives and whatever waited them there.

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Alone

Afterwards, things hadn't gone back to normal though. Scents were brighter, more intense. He couldn't eat some foods any more because they just smelled too strong, and the scent of coffee suddenly turned his stomach. Every sense seemed heightened, actually. And he couldn't go back to ignoring those parts of him that he had in the past. It was as if they'd been awakened by Mulder and couldn't go back to sleep. He found himself clenching internal muscles he'd never been aware of before, feeling the seam of his pants as he sat and walked. He'd never felt so different. It was as if one person had gone to the oil rig and another one had returned. It felt wrong somehow and yet like a new normal. Three weeks passed and things didn't settle down. And he couldn't stop worrying that something of long lasting consequences had happened to him in Galveston. To put his mind at rest, he'd stopped on the way in to work that morning and had bought a pregnancy test. He wasn't even sure if it would be accurate given the suppresser hormones still lingering in his blood, but maybe he'd feel better if he ruled it out.

Before he went to the basement office, he stopped at the men's room. Followed the directions on the box exactly. Waited in the stall and cursed out loud when the second line appeared in the window. His life as he had known it was over. Even if did get an abortion, his life would be forever changed. It might save his career and his dignity, but he'd still have been pregnant. He might go through with the pregnancy, but that meant losing his status as a field agent. They couldn't fire him, but he'd be locked in some office, listening to wiretap or calling lists of names for background checks. No matter what he did, his life was ruined. Someone came into the restroom, stood at the urinal, did his business. This was no place for him to a freak out, with only the partial walls of the stall around him. Doggett capped the test stick and shoved it in his pocket along with the package and the second, unused test. Better to go to his office. Scully wasn't supposed to be in today. He'd have it to himself.

Except he didn't. Scully was there, boxing up a few things from her desk. He suddenly thought about how the both of them were carrying the child of the same man most likely. He'd gotten no definitive answer from Scully on that front, but all signs pointed that way. Doggett smothered his freak out down and put on his best game face. There was no point in letting even a little of this slip until he'd figured out his plan, like if he was even going to keep this baby. He could at least go back to acting like normal if he didn't let anyone know of the abortion. And he reminded himself. Scully was not his rival. He didn't want Mulder.

As he walked into his office, he greeted her, "Agent Scully."

Scully smiled brightly, but he could tell that she was covering her sadness. A faker could always tell another faker. But that was the way they were, wasn't it? They were always fine for each other, never with a need or a sadness.

"Can I take your coat?"

"I'm not staying, Agent Doggett. My doctor told me to take my maternity leave. In fact, she insisted on it."

"That's not bad, Agent Scully, you could use some time for yourself."

Honestly, this pregnancy had been tough on her. She looked wrung out most days, even now that she had Mulder back. Women were supposed to glow with pregnancy, instead, Scully just looked like she was about to collapse. If it had been up to him, she'd have gone on leave months ago. Scully took something out of the box she'd been packing up.

"What is it?"

"It's a medallion commemorating the Apollo 11 space flight. I'd like to give this to you, Agent Doggett."

"Thanks."

He looked at it. It was about 2 inches in diameter, with a gold edge. The picture was the moon surface with an eagle touching down, and the earth in the distance. It meant pretty much nothing to him, a chunk of base metal with some fancy engraving on it, but nothing more. On the back it read, "Commemorating Apollo 11 and its mission to the moon. July 1969." He vaguely remembered the moon landing. He'd been a kid and though his parents had put him in front of the television, telling him that he'd always remember that day, mostly what he remembered was being impatient that he couldn't go out and play. The astronauts had never captured his attention. Even from that early age, the game he loved to play was cops and robbers. He'd always been the cop.

"Because?"

"Agent Mulder gave it to me a few years back. It symbolizes team-work, partnership. It means no-one gets there alone. And after this past year and everything that we've been through, it just," she paused. "I wouldn't be here without you."

She stood next to him and threw her arms around him. He hugged her back, not tightly, because he was very aware of her pregnant belly. He couldn't help but wonder what it would be like if it were him with that belly. Would it get in the way of everything? Scully didn't let go of him for several seconds, much longer than a social hug. It was as she was trying to tell him something. Then she peeled herself away and walked to the door.

"Agent Scully. This pregnancy leave - it's just a leave, right? I mean, you are coming back eventually?" he asked. Would she be back in time to take over the X-Files again by the time he would have no choice but to step down, should he chose to keep this baby? Or would Kersh just shutter the X-Files for good. He'd sure screwed the pooch in that regard. He'd stuck with the X-Files because he'd found questions and those questions wanted answers. He'd never find them if he kept this baby. As Scully left, he looked around the office. Somehow, even though Mulder was gone from the FBI for good, for weeks now, it still seemed like his office. It still had that damn poster. He'd thought about taking it down, but it hadn't seemed right somehow. He heard footsteps behind him. She was coming back for something. He turned around, happier than he thought he'd be not to have her go.

"You're not gone five minutes, Agent Scully, and already I'm starting to feel a stranger in my own off ..." he'd started. But it wasn't her. It was a blonde woman, blandly pretty, dressed in a charcoal gray pantsuit.

"I'm sorry?" she asked.

"Can I help you?"

"I'm here to help you, actually," she said. "I'm Leyla Harrison. I've been looking forward to meeting you."

Puzzled, because he didn't know this girl from Adam and wondered just how she could help him and with what, he said, "Uh-uh?"

"I've got a case here. An X-File, I think. At least the local PD can't explain it. A murder last night in up-state New York. I've booked us on a flight to Buffalo, Niagara. Here's the crime report."

"I'm sorry, Ms. Harrison. Who are you?"

Leyla Harrison smiled bashfully at him, "Oh, gosh. They didn't tell you? This is so embarrassing. I, uh, I'm your new partner."

And with that, they went up to Buffalo, on a wild, uh, lizard chase. Which is, more or less, how he had ended up in a big hole in the ground, more than half blinded with some kind of venom, with a violent lizard man creature intent on killing him and Leyla Harrison. With Mulder in the same hole, somewhere in front of him. He could hear where Mulder was, but not see him. Not exactly the man he wanted to see, but at least he knew he could trust him to get this right. Whatever happened, he'd have just the one chance, no doubt.

"Agent Mulder."

"Agent Doggett. I don't have a weapon. I'm coming to get yours."

There was a sound from above. It was Stites, the lizard man. Apparently, if you turned into a lizard man, you didn't just get the venom, you could walk on walls and ceilings too.

"Or, I'm not."

Doggett took out his weapon. Stites was getting impatient. He'd strike again soon. With Mulder unarmed and out of reach and Harrison completely disabled, he was the only one who had a chance of taking this guy out. If only he had the slightest idea where Stites was. But all he could really see was light and that was really just gradations of grays. Nothing would come into focus.

"Mulder, I can't see. Mulder, where is it?"

Mulder's voice directed him, telling him where Stites was, but Doggett still hesitated. Not because he didn't trust Mulder, but because this was his only chance and because in these close quarters, a missed shot might well ricochet off something and hit Mulder, Harrison or himself just as easily as Stites. Mulder told him to aim for the sound of his voice and of course he protested. No way was he going to aim at Mulder. The risks were just too great. They argued briefly, but when the moment came and Mulder told him to fire, he sounded dead sure. There was a certitude in his voice that allowed Doggett to do what Mulder said and he pulled the trigger twice, aiming directly at the sound of Mulder's voice. Something dropped to the ground, a human sized body. He couldn't tell where exactly it had fallen from. He had to know whether he'd Mulder or not and he called out the former agents name. Mulder was at his side instantly, putting a hand on his shoulder and squeezing lightly, just letting Doggett know that he was there.

 

Mulder said, "Right here. Right here, Agent Doggett."

Soon, he was led out of the hole in the ground and shortly, bundled into the back of what had to be an ambulance from the sounds and smells of it. There were kind EMTs who told him every move they were making. Gauze was wrapped over his face and even though he protested that he wasn't hurt other than his eyes, they insisted he ride in on the gurney. A short trip into town and he was rolled into an ER. Eventually, someone came in and shoved what felt like a clipboard at him.

"We just need a medical history, Agent Doggett," the voice said. It was tired, cranky and female. Some kind of nurse no doubt, and at the end of her shift.

"I can't see. I was blinded," he said, indicating the gauze bandages on his face.

The nurse sighed heavily. "Right. I'm sorry. I wasn't thinking. Just a few questions then. Gender?"

"Omega," he said, though it was tempting to lie, like he sometimes did in emergency rooms. But then he remembered the tiny life inside him, the one he was so undecided about. There could be drugs that would hurt it, blight it before it even had a chance to grow. Maybe it wouldn't matter, but maybe it would.

"Date of last heat?" she asked, sounding bored. He named the date, then she asked, "Is there a chance you could be pregnant?"

"I had a positive home test this morning," he said, the first word of this he'd breathed to anyone.

"Those are pretty inaccurate this early. We'll do a blood draw."

Then there were more questions and eventually, procedures like the promised blood draw and the usual, then finally, someone came and unwrapped his face. They bathed his eyes with something that burned like hell at first, but eventually became cool and soothing. Things became clearer and clearer and eventually, after many, many rinses, his face was wiped off again and he could see just as clearly as ever.

They kept him overnight, just for observation and as he expected, he got no rest in the hospital room, waking him every couple of hours just to demand he pee in a cup or take his temperature or whatever medical nonsense was demanded of him. He didn't actually see a doctor until the morning. She turned out to be a perky young woman, a little on the chubby side, but her long black hair reminded him of Monica.

"Congratulations, Mr. Doggett. I guess no one told you yet, but we confirmed that you are pregnant."

Hearing it again, officially, was like a kick to the gut. There was no doubt. He couldn't say to himself that the test was probably wrong. This was as real as it got.

"I'm sorry. I'm an idiot," the doctor said, no doubt seeing his face fall at the news. "I shouldn't assume everyone who is pregnant wants to be. I'm sorry."

"Can you prescribe me something?" he asked. "I hear they have an abortion pill. Four pills and it just flushes it all out. I tried to get emergency contraception and I was refused. Said I shouldn't be able to conceive anyway."

The doctor scanned his chart then said, sounding at least a little sorry about it, "I'm sorry, but with your medical history and the duolevelin, I just can't. It's just a much more powerful dose of the emergency contraception."

"I get it. If you give it to me, I die a horrible death of stroke, heart attack or pulmonary embolism."

"I'm sorry. You should be able to get a surgical termination from your regular gender specialist. It's not as bad as it sounds. It's actually an easier time to do it surgically. I probably shouldn't tell you this, but I had a chemical abortion when I was a teenager. The actual drugs are different, but the process is the same. I had cramping and bleeding for a month afterwards. Recovery is much faster with a surgical termination."

When the doctor finally left him, he dressed to go, gathering his few things, nearly gagging at the smell of his old, worn clothes. He would have killed for a hot shower, a few hours uninterrupted sleep and fresh laundry. Mulder and Scully walked into the corridor the same time he did. He asked them a few friendly questions, wondering if were Scully's time. As he did, he thought about how this dot that had taken up residence inside him was Mulder's, conceived that night that they were both supposed to forget about and never talk about. He remembered Mulder's words about how neither one of them wanted any consequences to follow them, and how Mulder wouldn't stand for anything that would get in the way of him and Scully. At this moment, they seemed ridiculously happy together. It turned out they were just there to visit Agent Harrison. His gut twisted a little with jealousy as he realized they hadn't come by to see how he was doing, but he shoved that down. Scully probably assumed he wouldn't want the attention, because he never had before.

"I want to return something to you that I think you deserve to keep," Mulder said, holding out something gold and shiny.

It was that damn Apollo 11 medallion. Must have fallen out of his pocket at some point during the investigation. He hadn't even thought about until now. Scully had said it meant that no one gets there on their own. But that was just thing, wasn't it? Because there was no room for him in between the Mulder and Scully duo. He didn't even want to be there if there was. It wasn't like, seen in the cold light of day, not addled by his heat, that he found Mulder even slightly attractive. He didn't think he found anyone attractive without the heat hormones honestly. He would always be alone. He belonged with no one. He would have do this alone. Make this life or death decision. Live with the consequences one way or the other. All on his lonesome. He had to say something, give some good excuse for not taking the medallion and its false promise of teamwork and togetherness.

"I appreciate the gesture but if it's all the same to you, there's someone else who should have it."

He watched from the hallway as they gave Leyla Harrison the medallion. She cooed over it, obviously over the moon about it. Over the course of their investigation, it had been obvious that not only had she been disappointed to only work with him, but it wasn't just the X-Files experience she had wanted. She was a fan of Mulder and Scully themselves and even though she was still sick in her hospital bed, she was exploding with happiness to just to talk to them. Harrison started asking them something about some X-File and suddenly Mulder and Scully started doing that thing they did where you knew without a doubt that they were meant to be together. They seemed like part of a larger whole at this moment as they bantered about just what had happened. He could never hope to have a part of that and he didn't think he should want it. As they debated with each other over whether what they'd seen was an actual spaceship or not, he turned away and started walking down the corridor. Alone. Always alone.

_____________________________________________________________________

Alone, II

 

Skinner had come to check on his agents before he had to hurry back to DC. Harrison was still admitted and would probably have to remain in the hospital for another day. She would be fine, even though her little taste of the X-Files had proved too much for her. She would not be returning to that department even though it was her chance to break out of accounting and into field agent status. That was fine. Agent Doggett deserved a partner equal to his measure and not some mousy little girl from accounting.

As for Agent Doggett. He got to the man's room to discover it empty and find out that he'd been discharged not long ago. Skinner looked at the bouquet of flowers he'd brought. It'd seemed like a nice gesture, just a random bunch picked out from the hospital gift shop. He'd gotten Harrison a bunch from the same bucket and left them at her room. He usually sent flowers when he knew someone was in the hospital. It was maybe a little awkward that the only thing the gift shop had had left were spray roses, one bunch in yellow, one in red. Harrison had gotten the yellow bunch because he wanted to avoid even the slightest whiff of impropriety. That left the red bunch for Agent Doggett, who, being more or less a man, probably wouldn't even think about red being for romance.

He caught up with Doggett in the hospital lobby as the man was about to leave the building.

"I see they've released you," Skinner said, inanely, not able to come up with anything more cogent in the face of the fact that the man looked devastated.

"If it's alright with you, sir, I'm going to take a few days once I get back to DC and submit my report. Maybe a week or two."

"That's fine. You deserve the time. Nothing is pressing," Skinner said. Actually, he could think of about five different cases that could stand to see Doggett's attention, but none of them were urgent, just cold cases that had been sent his way, and the man had just gone through a traumatic experience. It hadn't been clear immediately that they'd be able save his eyes. There'd been a strong chance that Doggett would have come out of this permanently blinded. Even so, that wasn't enough to explain the waves of sadness that seemed to roll off the man.

"I bought you flowers," Skinner said, thrusting the bouquet at Doggett. "It seems a little silly now that you've been released. They were the last that the gift shop had."

Doggett actually seemed to brighten a little at the ridiculous gift. He shoved the bouquet under his nose and sniffed. He explained, "Since I had to go off the suppresser pills, everything just smells more. Good things smell better. Bad things smell worse. I could hardly stand to put on yesterday's clothes, but my bag didn't seem to make it to the hospital with me."

"I'm sure the agent I delegated to see to your rental car will get it back to DC," Skinner said, thinking pleasurably of the tidy clean up that he'd put in motion. It was one of the few perks of being an Assistant Director. When he arrived on the scene, people snapped to and got busy. Things happened when he wanted them to and practically all he had to do was look slightly cross. "Have you booked your flight back yet?"

"Not yet," Doggett said.

Skinner invited Doggett to come along with him. He wasn't sure how Doggett had intended to get himself home without a rental car to take to the airport, but Skinner saw that they both got home with the minimum of fuss. A few hours later, they were high over the Atlantic seaboard.

"Business class," Doggett said. "Nice. The perks of being an AD."

"One of the few," Skinner said. He'd flown coach plenty of times in his life and even before airline seats had begun shrinking, it hadn't been comfortable. Between his broad shoulders and long legs, it was a recipe for misery.

A while later, Doggett said, "So, it looks like it's just me on the X-Files for now."

"We'll find you a partner eventually, Agent Doggett. As you can see, not just any agent is a fit with the X-Files. I'd rather have you work alone for a little while than put an unsuited agent at risk. You know the dangers that come with the territory."

"They seem a lot more manageable when I've got someone I can trust at my back," Doggett said, and that sadness Skinner had seen earlier was back, in his voice, in the way his shoulders slumped. He just seemed to wilt in his seat.

"I'll do what I can to help you," Skinner promised, wishing he could banish Doggett's sorrow. He knew what it meant to be alone in something that was deadly and dangerous. Mulder had shown him over the years that he didn't have to face things alone, that there were those he could trust, those who would be there to catch him when he fell. "I can't become your partner, but I will help you with your investigations whenever I can. I've got your back. You can count on me."

"I appreciate that, sir," Doggett said. "I really do. You think I got time for a quick nap."

"Go ahead. A hospital is about the least restful place around, isn't it?"

Doggett slouched down in his seat and closed his eyes. It wasn't long before he was breathing slow and deep, fast asleep. Skinner had thought to do a little work on the flight, but instead, he watched John Doggett sleep, wondering just what it was about the man that stirred him somehow. Even now, under the hospital odors that clung to him and even with his suppresser stunted nose, Skinner could smell the Omega odor, sort of like musky and sweet, something like honey and whiskey, but more animal. The man wasn't attractive looking, that was for sure. He wasn't pretty like an Omega should be, but he had the most gorgeous scent to him. He wondered that no Alpha had ever broken through the man's reserve before, gotten him to go off the drugs and claimed him in a bond. With even the merest hint of that scent, it should have been enough for that. Perhaps the suppresser drugs had done their work too well with this one. He found himself glad that Doggett had had to go off them.

Not that he could be the Alpha to claim Doggett. There was just too much impropriety there. He was the man's boss and that would be a great way to get himself hauled up before OPR. But without the suppresser drugs, Doggett would have a chance to meet the right Alpha. Maybe the man would have a chance at happiness, the way Skinner had had his too brief happiness with Ari. Thirteen truly happy years and four miserable years still hadn't been enough.

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Essence

Doggett spent the last weekend of his time off doing those important little chores. Right now, he had the race on and he was cleaning his gun, trying not to think about anything too hard. He'd taken three full weeks. Skinner had seen that he'd gotten a week of medical leave and he'd scraped up every bit of personal time and vacation time he hadn't taken in some time. That should have been enough time for him to make up his mind, but it hadn't been. He hadn't tried to get a doctor's appointment for anything sooner than the gender specialist appointment that was still coming up in about three weeks. What was he going to do? Walk into Planned Parenthood and get an abortion like some teenager? Did they even do abortions for Omegas?

So he tried really hard not to think about the baby inside him, now maybe about the size of a grain of rice. It was hard not to. He had a little mild cramping. He just figured it wasn't anything to worry about, just the new occupant starting to do a little redecorating inside him. There was a knock on the door. It was Mulder, just about exactly the last person he wanted to see. Still, he did his best to greet the man civilly.

"The last person I'd expect to see knocking on my door on a Saturday morning-- Agent Mulder."

Mulder gave him a brief look that seemed to call in mind all they'd been through together and said, "You can drop the "Agent," Agent Doggett. It's just plain old Fox Mulder now."

"Right," Doggett said. He supposed it was kind of ridiculous to call the man who'd made you pregnant by his title and last name. Doggett knew that if he decided on the abortion, Mulder would never know, but if he'd decided to keep the baby, eventually Mulder might wonder if he was the other daddy. Best to just keep things easy and friendly sounding, either way. Nothing had happened that night that he couldn't handle. "You want to come in, Fox? I was just watching a race.

"That's what I was doing. Slightly different race though."

Mulder picked up the remote and switched the channel to a news report with footage of a burning building. It was a medical research clinic in Germantown, Maryland that had burned down in an accelerated blaze. Most likely it had been arson. The place was Zeus Genetics. Mulder asked him if he recognized it and he admitted he did. It was the place where Scully had believed they were doing tests on women, putting alien babies in them against their will, if you could believe that. It hadn't ever been fully explained and it looked like someone was trying to make sure it never would be. It looked like they'd succeeded too. There'd be nothing left but ashes, a fire that burned that hot. And so he found himself heading out to the site with Mulder, then calling in the troops, getting the evidence crews to start sorting through everything that was left. He ended up pissing a lot of people off, both at the Bureau and that doctor that Scully had been seeing for a while. A couple of days later and they still hadn't found much, just a bit of unidentified biological substance fused to silica and some teeth. And no matter how much Mulder might have thought it, unidentified did not mean alien.

Later Monday night, they ended up back at Dr. Parenti's and that was when he discovered that Billy Miles couldn't die. He shot the man multiple times in the chest, dead on. He saw Miles thrown back just a little from the impact, but he kept on walking. There was a moment when he was sure he was going to die, but he must not have been Miles intended target, just something that was in the way. Neither he nor Mulder died, though Mulder would have a hell of a headache from getting thrown through that glass window.

Later, at Scully's house, patching up Mulder, was when the bleeding started. He wasn't even sure what it was at first, just moistness where there shouldn't be. They were talking about Billy Miles and what he could possibly be when Doggett felt a slight trickle. As soon as he could, he excused himself to the bathroom and dropped his pants. There, on his boxers, was a small, reddish-brown stain. Not a lot of blood. Just a drop, really. There wasn't time to worry about it though. It wasn't long before he got a call from Skinner wanting him to come down to this warehouse downtown. He hurried over and there was a whole other world of trouble, with Duffy Haskell's head separated from his body, found in a massive illegal human cloning operation. Between talking to Skinner about that and Scully's scare and talking to that Lizzy Gill woman, there was no time to think about himself.

That was was the thing of it, wasn't it? He just had no damn time. How could he possibly think about a baby when many people depended on him already. He had to do everything he could to keep Scully and her baby safe. Convinced of nothing else is this mess but that Scully was in danger, he called the one person he could think of trusting to help, Monica Reyes. While waiting for her to arrive, Doggett finally did have a chance to escape to the rest room again. He was still bleeding, not much, but the stain had spread.

Resting his head against the cool metal of the stall dividers, Doggett had a moment to think. Why had this baby come about? He and Mulder had shared a moment in time of sheer necessity. It was meant to be nothing, nothing meaningful at least. They were meant to forget about it, never speak of it. But something had come of it. Some essential part of each of them had joined and from that, a new soul, a new person was coming into existence. He was almost, while thinking about this, at peace with it. He didn't believe in fate. He didn't believe in destiny. He didn't even believe in grace. But he knew that sometimes by sheer damn random chance, the universe dropped something in your lap and it just happened to be the exact right thing for the right time. The universe was big enough for that random chance. He thought maybe this might be the right thing and the right time. He couldn't have Mulder. He didn't want Mulder. But he had some essence of him, hopefully the very best part of the man. His decision made suddenly and perhaps at the worst time, he gathered himself up again, to do what needed to be done. He hoped that the little bit of blood meant nothing. It'd be a hell of thing to lose this baby, he thought, just right when he'd decided to keep it. He'd see a doctor, just as soon as Scully was seen off.

He stopped in his office. There was one personal thing Scully had kept in a cupboard there that she hadn't taken with her. It probably had slipped her mind, seeing as she hadn't needed them for about nine months now. He grabbed one of Scully's emergency pads. He contemplated the directions and wondered how the hell he was going to make it work with the boxers, then he just sort of shoved it between his legs and hoped for the best. It didn't look like he'd get the time to get home and change until he'd seen this thing through.

 

______________________________________________________________________

Existence

 

When he finally got home, very late on Friday, there could be no denying what had happened. Despite his old friends Knowle Rohrer and Gene Crane turned into ruthless killing machines, chasing him through the hallways of the Hoover and Skinner sent to the hospital for a concussion, Doggett had seen to it that Scully's baby was safe, born in the same town that had been his birthplace. Mulder had retrieved Scully from that remote location in time to save her from bleeding out after what sounded like a difficult birth complicated by total lack of facilities. He didn't even quite know exactly how to categorize everything that had happened, but he'd tried. He'd taken the time to write a report and submit it to Kersh's office even.

The only thing he knew for certain was that in the week since Mulder had first shown up at his door Saturday morning, he'd lost his own pregnancy.

He'd been bleeding, more or less constantly, since Monday. The blood leaking out of him onto the pad had turned from brownish-red to bright red and for a while, there was fairly steady flow. One time, early Thursday morning, he'd found a dime sized clump of something that looked like a clot or like tissue. Seeing that had turned his stomach and had been the thing that convinced him that it was all over. The baby he hadn't been sure he wanted was gone.

He hadn't really let himself think about it at the time, not with the supersoldiers trying to get to Scully and Knowle Rohrer having secret meeting with Deputy Director Kersh. He only grudgingly had conceded that he'd allow it into his life. It had seemed like the right thing, like a chance he had to take, but now that chance, that choice had been taken from him. It was too late to go to the emergency room and do something about stopping it from happening, if anything could have been done. Too much was happening. He had had to see this thing through. And it was almost like it wasn't real, like it wasn't happening to him.

When he got home on Friday, he thought about calling someone. Monica or maybe Skinner, but then he realized he didn't know what he'd say to either of them. He thought about going to the emergency room, but it seemed like it was too late. And he'd have to explain to a bunch of strangers again just what he was and what had happened. He didn't think he could stomach doing that just now.

Compared to what they'd all just been through, this red stain in his shorts seemed so little and inconsequential. Just a small clump of tissue and a smear of blood. The child's existence had just barely begun when it had ended. Not much life there, nothing really to mourn, he told himself. Not even his hopes and dreams for it, because there hadn't been any. To think that there had been a chance for it, really, was just deluding himself.

He didn't have any more pads, them not being anything that he normally had any use for and he'd finished off Dana's emergency supply. The bleeding seemed to have tapered off already. He grabbed his oldest pair of sweats to sleep in, shoved a folded wash cloth between his legs and grabbed an old towel to lay over the sheets while he slept.

And it was sleep he needed more than anything else, he thought. He'd worked this thing round the clock and he hadn't gotten more than a cat nap here and there since Monday. He was already starting to feel the bruises from when Crane had just about ended him. They were deep red marks at the moment, but he could tell that they'd be just about pure black when they fully developed. As he looked at them in the mirror, he touched one and had to wince. There could be no doubt that Crane had intended to strangle him. Skinner had saved him with some clever driving and some accidental help from Knowle Rohrer. He wondered if Skinner was asleep and decided that yes, the man probably was asleep. It was late and any sane person would be asleep by now, especially after the week they'd had.

Feeling more exhausted and more battered than he had any right to feel, Doggett finally took to his bed.

______________________________________________________________________

Nothing Important Happened Today I

He'd bled more, but that didn't surprise him. There didn't seem to be any more little clumps, so he'd probably passed the worst of it already. And there didn't seem to be any fresh blood at the moment. Nothing for it but to get out of bed and get back to work. He had this investigation of Kersh to follow through on. He'd always suspected that Kersh's antipathy to the X-Files had gone deeper than just covering the Bureau's ass from looking ridiculous. He'd now seen a secret meeting between Kersh and a man who turned out not to be a man at all, but something out of science fiction. Kersh was dirty. Kersh was using his position with the Bureau to align with dangerous forces and Doggett was going to get to the bottom of it.

He had spent the whole weekend in bed, more or less. He had been just barely able to get out of bed to take care of business in the bathroom, maybe sometimes downstairs to get some food and water, and then he had to crawl back into bed, exhausted by the effort. By the time the third morning rolled around, he got out of bed, feeling not much better, but he didn't have much choice in the matter. He'd used up all his leave time previously and didn't have so much as a single day of personal time accrued. The bruises had developed, as he expected, into deep purple marks all along his torso. The bleeding had all but stopped, except for dark red-brown spots here and there. The worst of it had passed. Not much point in seeing a doctor about it now, he thought. No time. He had to get this investigation of Kersh rolling.

His day was just one pile of shit heaped on the previous pile he hadn't had time to clear away. First Monica showed him how the security tapes had been altered, covering the whole damn thing up with, what was that phrase Mulder used in his reports? Plausible deniability. Well they had it, up the wazoo. Mulder himself had gone missing. His apartment cleared out, Scully and Skinner claiming to have no idea where he'd gone. Skinner, of all people, who should have known how important this thing was, had warned him off it. Skinner wasn't talking and that felt almost like a betrayal. That was the worst of it, Doggett thought. You thought you could count on people and then you couldn't. Skinner should have known that nothing was as important as digging this conspiracy out. That was the only real way that Scully's baby could be safe.

The next day, Scully had asked him to leave her apartment and not come back, treated him like he was some kind of enemy. The only lead they had was this Carl Wormus and his plunge off a bridge. Yeah, he might have been stretching jurisdiction a little when he got them to send him the body and had Scully autopsy it, but it was all he had. In less than forty-eight hours, all his good solid leads had turned into grasping at straws. Hell, he'd stooped to calling everyone he could think of from his Marine days, anyone that might have known Knowle Rohrer. Mostly that'd come up with bupkis too.

Later that night, the Gunmen showed up. He'd been expecting them, had called them in and asked for a favor actually. It'd been a while since he'd seen them, though he'd talked with them on the phone a few times. He got the feeling they were busy with something big of their own, so he hadn't bugged them until now. Honestly, with the way things were going at the Bureau, he didn't know who he could trust and who'd be willing to help him out. He'd been warned by Skinner about the dangers of going after one of their own, but he hadn't figured it'd cause quite this much trouble trying to get co-operation from the computer people and the evidence people. He had no choice but to get the guys' help.

When he looked through the peephole, it was Frohike and Byers at the door. Langly waited on the edge of the porch, back to the door.

"Collecting for the unemployed and needy," Frohike said.

"Thanks for doing this," Doggett said as he opened the door.

"It's not like we've got anything better to be doing these days," Byers said. "Are you okay, Agent Doggett? You look a little peaked."

"A little under the weather but I'll be fine. A lot's happening. I'm just too busy to take any downtime."

Actually, he pretty much felt like crap, with aches all over his body. He thought he might be running a bit of a temp, but he didn't have a thermometer in the house. He'd almost never been sick before, injuries from work not counting. He wasn't about to run out to the drug store now, in the middle of this thing. He'd shoved a few aspirin down his throat earlier before the Gunmen had arrived, but they weren't really working. He'd power through this. The few times he had been sick, he always just kept working because you might as well be miserable and useful as be just as miserable, but a lump on the couch.

At this, Langly turned and walked up to the door. He was, not hugely, but definitively and roundly, pregnant. Langly was Omega. Well, that kind of figured, no real surprise there. He'd not given any sign of it before, but obviously, you didn't have to. Look at himself. He was surprised at the ache that passed through him, like a physical pain almost, that radiated out from his center to his whole body. He crammed it down though and put on his best game face. There was no time for this or thinking about what that ache might mean. He had big game in his sights and it looked like this Carl Wormus thing was the trail that would lead him there.

"You pregnant, Langly?"

"Totally up the duff," Langly said, sourly. "It's all Mel's fault."

"And how is it my fault that someone doesn't want to take suppresser pills because they make him cranky?" Frohike snapped back. "And had the doctor take his IUD out because it made him bleed like a girl on her period?"

"Someone might have gotten a vasectomy like I told him to or even worn a damn condom, because he might have thought twice about the wisdom of knocking up the one of us three that could have waltzed right into a decent paying coding job at a time when we're dead broke, especially when that one of us has also previously definitively stated that he did not want to ever have babies."

Frohike was the Alpha in the group? That little gnome had knocked up the tall blond? it made a sort of sense. More sense than that it had been Byers, who was about Beta as they made them. More than that, this bickering between the two was something that had been going on for a while, it seemed. It had the sound of an one of those long standing arguments between old married couples that never quite got resolved.

Byers stepped past the arguing pair into the house, leading Doggett by the elbow into the living room. "Let me show you what Langly found, Agent Doggett. Those two may be at it for a while."

Out in the hallway, Mutt and Jeff kept arguing about this thing.

"You didn't have to keep the baby. How many times do I have to tell you this?"

"Like I'm going to abort your baby, Mel," Langly said. "Like that ever is going to happen. Just let me bitch about it."

"Let's just on with this," Frohike said.

"Not until you apologize for being an asshole," Langly demanded.

Byers set up the laptop on the countertop bar between his kitchen and the dining room office. He pulled up a photo of Wormus and some files, then said, "We were able to hack into the Department of Interior's mainframe and get the EPA files you wanted. On this man Carl Wormus ..."

"And?" he asked. He was just too tired for this bull crap. He wanted the goods and it was like he couldn't even think clearly enough to ask the right questions. Meanwhile, Langly and Frohike must have patched it up because they walked up behind him.

"Hey, what are we mind readers?" Frohike said. "That's all that you asked us to do."

Byers asked, much more kindly, "What exactly was it you are looking for, if we may ask?"

"I don't know. I was hoping you'd find something."

"If he had any secrets he took 'em to his grave. Nothing hinky in these files except for some rabid obsession with water."

"With water?"

 

____________________________________________________________________

Nothing Important Happened Today II

Skinner got the call in the early morning. John Doggett calling him. Wanting his help even though Skinner knew, and Doggett had to know, that the best thing for everyone was if he just left this alone. Some rocks, you didn't want to turn over. You wouldn't like the creepy crawlies you found underneath.

"Sir, you remember when you said you'd do what you could to help me with the X-Files?" Doggett asked. "When you promised you'd have my back and that I could count on you? I need your help on this thing and you just have to trust me."

He'd made that promise. And with Doggett calling him on it, he had no choice but honor it. And he knew the man well enough to know that maybe their ideas on the methods and means diverged, but that in the end, their goals were exactly the same. They both wanted to make sure that Scully and her baby were safe. More than that, he found that he just couldn't say no to the man, not when he was asked like this.

So, less than a hour later, Skinner drove to Falls Church and picked up Agent Doggett. The Gunmen were there, making themselves at home in Doggett's house. Byers was half heartedly washing dishes, his suit coat off, sleeves rolled up and tie thrown over his shoulder. Langly was picking through the contents of Doggett's refrigerator. Frohike had even taken the liberty of cooking in Doggett's kitchen. He was standing over the stove, cooking eggs or something.

"Chilaquiles?" he offered a plate to Skinner as he was dishing up. There was a mess of something salsa-ish with a pile of scrambled eggs on top. Skinner shook his head no. There was no reason to doubt that Frohike couldn't manage a simple egg dish, but Skinner had already eaten. "Agent Doggett is just upstairs getting cleaned up. We had a busy night hacking."

"Something mucho hinky is going on at that water plant," Langly said, still poking through the fridge. For some reason, even when he was done with looking in the fridge, Langly continued to stand behind the door. Hadn't his mother ever scolded him about letting all the cold air run out of the fridge? "I wish the paper was still running. We'd have a hell of an article on chloramine, based on what we found in Carl Wormos' files."

Doggett entered the kitchen. He wasn't wearing a suit, but jeans and a t-shirt with a windbreaker. He looked pale and even more exhausted and strung out than when Skinner had last seen him. He looked almost alarmingly pale, like anemically pale. More than that, he smelled ill somehow. Skinner couldn't pin it down to a specific kind of odor, not with his Alpha nose suppressed, but the man was ill, he knew beyond a doubt.

Frohike offered a plate of eggs and salsa to Doggett, "Chilaquiles?"

Doggett got a pained look on his face, as if he was about to vomit. He actually put a hand over his mouth for a moment before he got it under control. "No thanks, Frohike. My stomach's not real settled this morning. C'mon, Skinner, let's get this shit show on the road."

"Are you sure you want to do this now, Agent Doggett? What's going on with you? You don't look well."

"It's nothing important," Doggett said, stubbornly. "But if we don't get on this water plant thing, the evidence is going to disappear on us."

Once in the car, headed in the direction of Maryland, Doggett said, "You mind if I try and get a little shut-eye on the way? With the guys in my living room all night, I didn't get much sleep."

"That's fine, John," Skinner said.

Doggett reclined his seat and closed his eyes. Skinner kept his eyes on the road and navigated his way through the heavy morning traffic into DC. They were all the way to the Potomac before Skinner realized that something was truly wrong with Agent Doggett. As he'd slept, Doggett's legs had spread slightly and as Skinner looked over, about to wake him to consult on which route to Maryland he thought best, he noticed a dark red patch on the crotch of Doggett's jeans. He was bleeding enough to leak through. He tried to wake Doggett but couldn't. Skinner pulled over and parked. He shook Doggett's shoulder and got no response. The man wasn't so much sleeping as passed out. And he was extremely warm to the touch. Not just slightly feverish, but burning up, well over a hundred degrees. Skinner added up the blood and its location with the other known facts and came to a very nasty conclusion.

He grabbed his phone and called Cameron on her personal cell phone.

"Walter?" she sounded surprised. It'd been some time since he'd called her or spoke with her, other than the last appointment at her office. "What can I do for you?"

"One of my agents, more of a friend. I think he's having a miscarriage and it's gone very wrong. He's bleeding, with a very high fever and is non-responsive. He passed out in my car. Which hospital should I take him to? I can reach any of the city hospitals easily. I'm just about to cross the Potomac."

"And you feel personally responsible for this agent? Were you the one who got him pregnant? You still can you know, even with the suppresser."

"I didn't, but I do feel responsible for him. I think he's in a very bad state at the moment. I should have seen that he was ill long before this. You don't get this bad in a single day."

"Bring him to George Washington Hospital where I teach. I'll meet you there," she said. "They won't be able to find a gender specialist on call for him at any other hospital. An OB can probably muddle their way through a D and C on him without killing him, but he'll be better off under my care. And OBs tend to get a little hysterectomy happy when it comes to Omegas."

Doggett, meanwhile, hadn't so much roused as he'd woken into delerium. He started to thrash and was muttering about Scully and Mulder, nothing that made any sense. Skinner told her he'd meet her there, gave her the details and hung up on her. He called in, asked for a police escort and pulled out into traffic as fast as he could. His escort picked him up a moment later and he was on his way over the bridge, traffic parting in front of the uniform car. They were met at the emergency room door by a crew with a stretcher and Doggett was taken out of his car and rolled in.

Skinner parked. Doggett had hemorrhaged much more than Skinner had thought. He'd bled right through to the car seat, a big, bright red patch. The Bureau had an account with a car detailer that was good about getting things like blood out of car upholstery. He called his PA, let her know what was happening, why he wouldn't be in. Directed her to have this car picked up from its spot near the entrance and another one on call for him. He made his to the emergency room desk.

"Where's Agent Doggett?" he demanded of the charge nurse.

"Are you the husband?" she asked.

"What? No. I'm his boss," he said. "How is he?"

True to her word, Cameron walked into the emergency room just then. She had a white coat draped over her shoulder but she was dressed in what looked like yoga clothes. He'd obviously called her away from a workout. She gave him a quick squeeze on the shoulder and put on her white coat, then went to speak to the nurse briefly.

"Come on back, Walter," she said, leading him through the doors that separated the treatment area. "Does he have a regular gender specialist?"

"Not that I know. He mentioned something about having to wait a while for an appointment with one."

"There are ridiculously few of us. It's a specialty that pays too little for the amount of extra training involved, not to mention the malpractice insurance is through the roof. Right, what have we got?" she asked as pulled aside the curtains that separated the beds. A nurse was hanging an IV bag full of ruby red blood. Another bag full of clear fluids had already been hung. She addressed the man in blue scrubs who was obviously the ER doctor. He greeted her by name, obviously aware of who she was.

"I'll be taking over from here. If you've called an OB to do the D and C, cancel it."

There was a flurry of medical terms thrown around and then she gently pushed Skinner out of the area, saying to him, "I'm going to do a quick exam on him down here, then we'll be transferring him to the ICU. It looks like an incomplete miscarriage. The blood tests haven't come back yet, but he's in septic shock with a fever of 104.5 and plummeting blood pressure. I need you call any family he has and get them here quick. He might not make it through the day. You said he was walking and talking just hours ago? He must be one tough son of a bitch to let himself get to this state before passing out."

Agent Doggett was tougher than she would ever know, Skinner thought.

Then she closed the curtain on him. He went to make his phone calls. As far as he knew, Doggett had no family. Agent Reyes was the name on his emergency contact number in his personnel file. If there were any other family members, they were estranged. Skinner, of course, could have dug down into Doggett's background check. He thought about it, then decided to let sleeping Doggetts lay, so to speak. He called Agent Reyes.

"What can I do for you, sir?" she asked. "I was on my way over to Agent Doggett's house. I have important information for him on the Carl Wormos case."

"He's not there, Agent Reyes," Skinner said. He explained the situation to her and finished with, "Does he had any family? Someone who should be called?"

"His father passed away years back. His mother is still alive, but they're estranged. She didn't even come to his son Luke's funeral. He never mentioned siblings or close cousins. Maybe I should call his ex-wife. I know Barb still cares for him despite the divorce."

"There's something else you need to do for me, Agent Reyes. We were on the way to the Greater Maryland water treatment plant when Agent Doggett collapsed."

He gave her the information she would need to pick up the case and run with it, everything that Doggett and the Gunmen had told him about what they'd found in Carl Wormos' files. She accepted the information without hesitation and hung up quickly after promising to do her best.

Skinner made his way up to the ICU ward. Before he could get there, Scully called him.

"Sir, I just heard from Agent Reyes that Agent Doggett is in the hospital. What's his condition?"

Skinner explained as best he could about the septic infection, without revealing the source of the infection. He figured Doggett would want his privacy to be kept. His reputation was on the razor's edge at the moment. Even a hint of his Omega status could tip it over to complete ruination.

"Did he have a miscarriage, sir?" Scully asked.

"How did you know he'd been pregnant, Scully? I just found out myself."

"Mulder and I keep no secrets from each other, Sir. One night, about seven weeks ago, when they were in Galveston, after the oil rig, Agent Doggett suddenly and unexpectedly went into heat. Rather than let Agent Doggett suffer or fall into the hands of a stranger, Mulder took care of Agent Doggett that night. Supposedly, Agent Doggett had some kind of condition that wouldn't allow him to conceive, but miracle conceptions seem to run endemic to the X-Files. I feel so horrible. The way I spoke to him when he came looking for Mulder and knowing now that he might have been miscarrying at that very moment, suffering the very thing I feared for so long. And there I was with my living child in my arms."

"I know I can't ask this of you, Scully. You've just had a baby, but what Agent Doggett needs now isn't your regrets or apologies. He needs this investigation to succeed. Agent Reyes will need whatever help you can give her."

"Anything I can, Sir," Scully said, then rang off.

Cameron was waiting for him at the ICU. "It's a missed miscarriage, Walter. The embryo is dead, but still attached to his uterus. There's a massive infection. He'll need a D and C, but I want to attempt to stabilize him some before I attempt it. We've got him on a motherlode of IV antibiotics. I need to know, was he on some kind of suppresser medication before his last heat and what kind?"

Skinner explained what he knew, what he'd remembered Doggett saying about his pill being taken off the market, not being able to get replacement right away.

"Taken off the market recently? It was probably duolevelin. Most GPs are idiots!" she said. "I need to go order another blood test. You can go in and see him but he's not really conscious. We've got him sedated."

Before he could go in to Doggett's room, Skinner's phone rang. Kersh.

"You need to rope Agent Doggett in and get him to call this investigation off," Kersh said, without so much as a greeting. "Brad Follmer is getting ready to rope him in for you and it won't be nearly so pleasant. I'm telling you this as a kindness, Skinner."

"Agent Doggett's not going to be any investigating anything for a while, Alvin," Skinner said. "He collapsed this morning. He's in the ICU right now. So, frankly, I have a lot more worries this morning than seeing that your ass is covered."

Skinner hung up and went into Doggett's room.

 

______________________________________________________________________

Nothing Important Happened Today III

The last thing he remembered was feeling like crap in Skinner's car, but he came to consciousness again in what was obviously a hospital room. He wondered how he'd let himself get so bad he'd ended up here. He was tied up to about a million machines, had the intubation tube down his throat and everything. He still felt like crap, but at least he was alive. Everything else could be figured out later. He'd have thought he'd be bored without even the TV on to make noise, but honestly, just keeping alive seemed to be about enough for now. Medical people came in and did medical stuff. He couldn't keep track of it all. He just laid back and took it, not that he could have done anything about it. No one asked him anything. They acted as if he was unconscious or something. In way, he kind of was. It was like he was in some sedated, half waking, half sleeping state.

Skinner sat down in the chair next to his bed. He didn't say anything, just sat there. He'd brought a vase of flowers and plunked it down on a table near Doggett's bed. Doggett had always been more of a card man himself, but he found it in him to appreciate the gesture. And Skinner just sat with him and didn't talk, didn't ask him anything. Sometimes, that was the right choice, just being there with someone. Skinner sat with him for hours and his solid, strong body just being there was somehow a comfort to him. As the hours passed, he slipped into and out of awareness. It wasn't like falling asleep and waking up. Things didn't track right. Events just sort of happened and then nothing for a while. Sometimes, he just felt so hot, like he was being burned in a fire and sometimes he was chilled to the core, just couldn't get warm and he tried to beg for more blankets, but he couldn't because his body wasn't cooperating at all.

The sky he could glimpse through the window turned dark before Skinner finally stood up. "I have to go, Agent Doggett," he said. "I'll be back as soon as I can. Scully is here to sit with you for a while."

Scully took Skinner's place. She put a card on the table next to Skinner's flowers.

"I don't know if you can hear me or not. I've spoken with your physician," she said. "She's going to attempt the D and C tomorrow morning. You've had a missed miscarriage. Despite all the bleeding, the embryo is still implanted in your uterus and you won't get better until it's removed, but since the D and C will spread the bacteria into your blood, she wanted to make sure you were a little stronger first. I feel so terrible, Agent Doggett. You did so much to insure that my baby was safe and I didn't even realize you were pregnant. You should know that nothing you would have done could have saved your child. The drug you were on for so many years was the cause. Its full effects on your endocrine system will linger for months."

He hadn't even thought about the cause of this yet. He was aware, of course, that he'd lost the pregnancy. He hadn't wondered why, just assumed it was some fault with the embryo itself. When Barb had been trying to have Luke, she'd had a few miscarriages. It'd turned out it was chromosomal. His sperm was weak and malformed because of the Omega thing, he'd been told. When he'd thought about it at all, he'd assumed the problem was him and his genes. But it had been the damn suppresser drug. The one that had caused him to go into heat so suddenly and made the doctors refuse him emergency contraception.

"I wish Mulder could be here," she said, sadly. "I know he'd want to be by your side for this. For all his flaws, I have never known a man so kind as Mulder."

She knew? Scully knew that Mulder was the father? How could she know when the man had all but sworn him to secrecy?

"Mulder told me about your night together in Galveston. I don't expect monogamy from him. I love him but I don't expect that I can own him. I'd be lying to say I was completely free of jealousy, but I do the best I can. I think any jealousy is more that you shared something with Mulder that I never will be able to. My biology limits me. I don't care though. I've been so very wrong. I've acted in ways that are inexcusable. A wise writer once said, when someone shows you who the they are, believe them. And you have shown me again and again that your bravery, honor and integrity are second to none, but I haven't trusted you. I've kept secrets from you and that has been wrong of me."

She reached out and grabbed his hand.

"It's too late for me to see that your baby stays safe, like you did for me, but I will see that you make it through this alive."

Even after what Scully said, it didn't occur to him that he was in actual danger of losing his life, until Barb arrived in the middle of the night. He'd been drifting in and out of consciousness like he had been all day and suddenly Barb was walking in. She exchanged a few words with Scully that he couldn't hear, then Scully was gone and Barb was there. They wouldn't have called her unless it was bad. She wouldn't have come unless they thought he was dying. Barb sat with him through the rest of the night, mostly not saying anything, just holding his hand in hers. He was glad she was here. Luke's death had made things pretty clear that there were ways they just weren't compatible, but he still loved her.

It'd never been the heart pounding, strike of lightning kind of love between them, not even in the early days. Their love might not have been romantic, but they'd been the very best of friends once. They'd had each others backs. They'd had goals they'd shared. They'd liked the same things mostly. They'd wanted to build a family together. They'd had hundreds of little threads that kept them sewn together. Luke's death had snapped all but a handful of those threads. He was glad those few threads had stayed connected. He was glad she was here with him, so he wouldn't be dying alone.

 

_____________________________________________________________________

Nothing Important Happened Today IV

It had been a long night. Reyes, Scully and himself had investigated a ship that had seemed to contain another of the secret human cloning facilities, but in the end, they'd brought away nothing. They'd just barely escaped with their lives before the bomb went off. They hadn't been able to prove for Scully whether her baby was normal or whether he was part of this supersoldier cloning program that supersoldiers like Knowle Rohrer and Shannon McMahon seemed intent on wiping out all traces of. As happened so often with X-Files, all the evidence was gone or led nowhere. He left Agent Reyes to return to the Bureau and start her report. Scully finally went home to her baby at his insistence. Only Skinner's repetition of the fact that Cameron was about the best doctor around for gender issues convinced her that she didn't need to be there at the hospital herself. She seemed to feel she owed something to Doggett. Skinner returned to the hospital.

A pretty blond woman was sitting next to Doggett's beside, though Doggett's bed itself was empty. She had been asleep sitting up, but she woke when he walked into the room.

"Hello?" she asked. "Who are you?"

"I'm Walter Skinner," he said. "Who are you? Where is Agent Doggett."

"They took him down for surgery about half an hour ago. They were supposed to wait a while longer for his condition to stabilize, but he didn't improve any over night. The opposite. He was starting to circle the drain. They decided that immediate surgery was his best chance. John mentioned you once," she said. "I'm Barbara Doggett. John's ex-wife. This is hard. I always used to hope, to pray that John would find the strength to go off his suppressers, but I never expected this. I would have thought the other father would be here for him. I know that just because an Omega shares a heat with someone doesn't mean anything, but you'd think a decent man would come for this, regardless."

She paused and colored slightly. "It's not you, is it? I hope I didn't put my foot in my mouth there."

"No, it's not me. Agent Doggett and myself have worked closely on many cases. I consider him to be a friend as much as an employee. But I did not make him pregnant," Skinner said. He thought about Scully's earlier confession of Mulder's paternity. Mulder would be here if he could, Skinner knew. He would stand up and take the responsibility for this. But it was just too dangerous for him to be in sight right now. There were forces that wanted either Mulder or Scully's baby dead. It only made sense for Mulder to run wherever had had run to.

"I know the man though. He's an honorable, decent man and he would be here at Agent Doggett's side if there were any possible way he could," Skinner said. "Can I get you a cup of coffee while we wait?"

They ended up in the cafeteria, each with a cup of the foul brew that passed for coffee in places like this. Skinner considered the substance purely medicinal after a night like he'd had.

"I know this is going to sound strange, given that I was the one who divorced him, but I still love him so much. He just pushed me away when our son died. He closed himself off so much that being in the same room with him was like being alone. I thought if it going to be like that, I might as be alone for real. After he was gone, I thought about trying to reconcile with him. I think he wanted to, but I realized over time, that the kind thing to do was to let him be. If he kept trying to be my husband, he'd never have a chance to be the person he really is."

"He's a good man and I'm proud to say I know him," Skinner said. "His work is exemplary. He's one of my best agents."

"You make him sound like a boy scout. The truth is he can be such an idiot. His doctor said he must have been bleeding and walking around with this for a week and a half, maybe two weeks. He thinks he can just power his way through anything bad by sheer will power. Do you know how much time he took off for our son's funeral? None. He arranged his work schedule so that the day of the funeral was his normal day off and he went right back to work the next day."

"A lot of men are raised to believe that kind of thing is a virtue."

"John used to say his father bragged that he went back to work the Monday after his first heart attack. The only thing is, his father died of his second heart attack before he turned fifty. I'm afraid that if John doesn't learn to take care of himself, he'll be dead before fifty too."

"He spent the last two weeks working on two very important cases. If I'd had any clue he was so ill, I would have seen he was taken care of. I'm sure he was doing what he felt needed to be done. I have faith that Dr. Jacobs will see him through. She's my own doctor."

"You're..." Barbara began. "No, you're Alpha, for sure. Omegas don't lose their hair. I wish you weren't John's boss, but his husband. I'd feel so much better knowing someone like you were taking care of him. I'm afraid that what he was doing, not going to the doctor like he did, was punishing himself for losing this one too. It's like he feels he can never suffer enough for what happened to Luke. A baby could have been such a second chance for him and instead, it's another reason for him to heap coals on his own head."

"We should go back upstairs. He might be out of surgery soon."

Skinner stopped in the men's room on the way up to the ICU. When he was done with his business, he went to wash his hands. Another man stood at the row of sinks, when Skinner swore he'd been alone in the room a moment before and he hadn't heard anyone come in. The man wore a bright Hawaiian shirt and had bushy eyebrows and a mustache that were black when his disgustingly thick hair was nearly white. The man was washing his hands enthusiastically, with plenty of soap foaming all over them.

"Cleanliness is next to Godliness, they say," the man said. "Now, you, my friend, have the look of a worried man. I realize, hardly an astute observation in the rest room closest to the ICU, but no doubt, someone you love very much is very sick."

"He's just a friend," Skinner said automatically as he turned on the water at his own sink.

"Some of the purest love in the Universe is between friends. But I can tell, that's not how you feel about this man. It's in your face."

When he'd first seen the man, Skinner had assumed he'd be irritated by him, but that wasn't the case. He wanted to talk to him. The man's smile was warm, not smirking or smarmy. "What I don't understand is why God lets a good man like him suffer. He's dying of an infected miscarriage. He doesn't deserve this. He already lost one child. And why allow a child to be conceived only to end that life after just six weeks in the womb?"

"We're each dealt one hand. We each get one lifetime. Sometimes that lifetime is a hundred years, sometimes it's six weeks. Sometimes, you're dealt such a bad hand and there's nothing to do but fold right away. It's how you play the game, the choices you make, that really matters."

"I've always believed in God, but at the moment, it's kind of hard. Everything seems so random to the point of cruelty."

"God doesn't play dice with the universe."

"No?" Skinner asked, because it certainly seemed that way.

"No. I've got it on good authority that God plays checkers and cards. And I've always thought those who get such bum hands get a chance to play another, better hand later. Here, have a CD. I love music, especially the stuff that lasts. Music can help at times like this. It soothes the soul."

The man pulled a shiny, silvery CD in a plastic case out of a pants pocket and set it on the mirror ledge. It was unlabeled. No doubt it was pirated music.

Skinner didn't know what to say to this, so he rinsed and then grabbed paper towels. When he looked up again, the man was gone, without another word, without even the sound of the door. Skinner blinked. He tried the door. Just as when he'd come in, it still made the same slight creaking noise on opening. No way could that man have gotten out without making at least some noise. Puzzled, he dismissed the strange feeling of having missed something big as just the results of no where near enough sleep. The worst of his sleep disorders had abated, but running on little to no sleep could bring out symptoms sometimes. He just grabbed the CD and headed to the ICU.

Cameron found them as soon as he walked up to the ICU. "Good, there you are. He's back in his room. It's possible he may worsen for a while. The surgery was necessary but it spreads the bacteria through the blood. We're pumping all the antibiotics he can stand through him. He will make it through this, Walter, but there may be another bumpy day on the road to recovery. The next twelve or so hours will be critical."

If anything, Doggett looked worse than he had the day before. They'd placed a central line, whereas yesterday, it had just been the regular IV lines. Doggett seemed so still as to be dead. He'd have been sedated because of the intubation and the central line. Only the monitors assured Skinner that Doggett was still alive, their regular beeps and numbers. Barbara's eyes filled with tears that she wiped away quickly. "I'm going to get a little sleep. I was up with him all night," she said. "You'll sit with him, won't you?"

"Yes, of course. You get sleep. I'll call you if his condition changes," Skinner said, finding his seat. He put a hand briefly on Doggett's. The skin was dry and hot.

Cameron waited until the ex-Mrs. Doggett had left before she said, "Once he gets through this critical stage, he's going to need someone like you. Best thing you could do, if you care for him, is throw out those pills today."

"It's impossible. He's my employee."

"Then what are you doing here at nine a.m. when you'd normally be sitting behind your desk? Didn't you say you supervise hundreds of agents? Do you sit at the bedsides of all of them? This one is special to you and you can't deny it. You know Ari wouldn't want you to be alone for the rest of your life. He'd want you off those damn pills. Walter," Cameron said. She indicated Doggett's still form. "This is the result of years and years of suppresser pills. Maybe you end up here when that coronary hits you or the stroke, but I can almost guarantee you'll be here in ten years or less if you don't get off them. They were never meant to be taken long term."

"I'll think about it, Cameron," Skinner said. "But quit doctoring me. I will admit that John Doggett is not just another agent to me but that doesn't mean its possible, what you say."

"He will need an Alpha," Cameron said. "I think you want it to be you, I think you'll regret it if you let another Alpha take him and I think you can make it happen if you put your mind to it. When have you let FBI policy stand between you and your objectives? You always find a way."

She left him then, with promises to check back later. Skinner took the chair by Doggett's bedside and thought about what she said. Was Cameron right? Would he regret it if he let another Alpha have Doggett. He tried to imagine Doggett on the arm of his friend Denis over at the IRS and then suddenly he flashed on the thought of Mulder and Doggett during that night in Galveston. He imagined Doggett crying out in bliss under Mulder. He thought about them tied together by Mulder's knot, Mulder's semen spilling into Doggett. He cringed at the thought. No, it was a stab to the heart, the jealousy. He didn't want anyone else to touch Doggett that way. Ever. He wanted Doggett for himself. Would Doggett want him though? If Skinner were the Alpha around during one of Doggett's heats, there'd be no question of Doggett accepting him, but that in itself was not enough to make a bond like the one he'd once had with Ari.

Nevertheless, despite his doubts, Skinner took Doggett's limp hand into his and held it. He remembered times in Vietnam, holding the hands of men blown to bits until the medics got there, talking to them. It seemed to help, to tether them to life. And maybe God heard him, like it was some kind of prayer. He hoped that God heard him now and took notice of their small lives. Skinner had never been religious, but he had seen too much not to believe in God. It was the only way he could explain certain things he'd seen in Vietnam. Skinner swore that he saw the strange man from the bathroom earlier poke his head into the room, but by the time he looked up, he was gone already. Later, when Cameron came back to check on John, this time, at the head of a small group of fledgling doctors, Skinner threw an amber bottle at her. She caught it, read the label, then smiled at him. She and the fledgling doctors babbled medical speak at each other while checking Doggett and his chart.

Finally she said, "And this is a perfect example of what I was saying before. Even if you have no pre-existing bond and the Alpha is exuding their pheromones at diminished capacity due to suppresser pills, the Omega has benefitted from the simple presence of an Alpha. We have stronger vitals all around. Our patient, instead of the expected temperature spike, has a lower temperature by a half degree. Alpha and Omega complement each other and mutually benefit from each others presence. Never, if at all possible, separate them. All right. Let's move on to our next patient down on the delivery floor. A much happier situation. Mr. Rockford who is in the early stages of labor and should deliver his baby by the end of the night."

They moved on, but Skinner wondered. Had Doggett wanted his child? He'd spent his life suppressing his Omega nature. To suddenly fall pregnant must have come as a huge shock. Had he been hiding his miscarriage because he hadn't wanted his pregnancy to be known by anyone and been relieved when it had come? Would he want to try and go back on some kind of suppresser pills after this was all over? Cameron would just talk him out of it, like she finally had him. What if Doggett decided he wanted another chance to have a child and the drug ended up denying him that chance? He knew just how devastating infertility could be. It had been a great sadness in Ari's life that they couldn't have children due to Ari's early hysterectomy. Skinner stroked the back of Doggett's hand with a thumb, feeling the residue where there had previously been medical tape. And he didn't let go of that hand for hours.

 

______________________________________________________________________

Nothing Important Happened Today V

The first thing he saw when he woke was Walter Skinner, dozing in a chair next to his bed. The first thing he noticed was that Skinner was holding his hand. His first impulse was to yank his hand away, but it really didn't feel that bad. The touch was nice, because otherwise, he pretty much hurt all over. He felt better than the last time he remembered even vaguely though. He half remembered being intubated, and Barb being there and thinking he was dying. Now though, the intubation was gone. He just had the nasal cannula on and he could breathe on his own, more or less easily. Obviously, he wasn't dying now. Someone had found Skinner a recliner and Skinner was stretched out about as comfortable as you could get on a chair, his glasses off. Doggett looked to the window. Dark outside, so it was sometime in the night or early morning hours. He tried to drift back to sleep but couldn't really. Slowly, the window turned purple to gray then blue as a new day came. Skinner stirred as the room lightened.

Skinner reached for his glasses with his free hand and put them on. "You're awake," he said. He didn't let Doggett's hand go.

"Yeah," Doggett said. His voice sounded even rougher than it normally did. "How long was I out?"

"You were in the ICU four days. They just transferred you to step-down last night."

"You can let go of my hand. Doesn't look like I'm dying any more."

"I could," Skinner said. "But I don't want to."

Doggett shrugged, as much as he could lying down and aching like he did. Skinner's hand was...nice. It was warm and strong. Comforting.

"What happened to me?" Doggett asked after a while. "We were headed to Maryland, last I remembered."

"You collapsed in my car," Skinner said. "You had a missed miscarriage that went septic. John, why didn't you go to the doctor? You must have realized what was happening."

"I don't think I really did. I thought it was over. The bleeding had stopped and I figured it was all out and there wasn't anything to be done. Then I went from feeling more or less okay to falling over pretty fast. Sir, does anyone but you know why I'm in here?"

"Barbara. Scully. Myself. Your doctors. Anyone else was just told of the sepsis, not the source."

As he thought about it, he could sort of recall Scully talking to him. He didn't remember what she'd said though. "What happened with the Carl Wormos thing? Did anyone go to the water plant?"

"Agent Reyes has made a report. I'll see you get a copy as soon as you're up for it. She concluded that no evidence could be found against Kersh. Don't think about it right now. You've got more important things to focus on."

"I don't want to think about that. I lost my baby. Maybe my only chance at one. I'd rather think about work. Except my career is pretty much over because I'm not going back on the pills. I can't do it anymore, Skinner."

"Focus on getting well. Think about the rest later. Get some sleep if you can," Skinner said.

So they sat in silence a long time, holding hands. Doggett thought he would have minded that part. Skinner was his boss. He'd never thought much about wanting anything from Skinner other than a good review and the loyalty he needed to do the work. Skinner had proved himself again and again in that regard. Doggett wondered how long Skinner had been by his side during this. It kind of looked like he'd camped out here, pretty much. This wasn't like he'd stopped by before heading into the Hoover building. He didn't give an impression that he was about to get up and go into work any time soon. The suit and tie were not present, but Skinner wore some kind of mock turtleneck and black jeans. No sign of work brought from the office either, no briefcase, no laptop.

"How long have you been here with me?" Doggett asked.

"Most of the time since I brought you in," Skinner said. "Agent Reyes needed some assistance with her investigation, but other than that, I've been here."

"You could go home now."

"I could, but I don't want to," Skinner said. "Did you want me to go?"

"I didn't say that," Doggett said. Actually, he didn't want Skinner to go. He couldn't explain why, but he needed him here. "Is Barb still here? She did come, right? I sort of remember her."

"She's at her hotel, getting some rest," Skinner said. "She's been sitting with you when I couldn't. I took some time off, but my job doesn't ever really go away."

"Why are you here, Skinner?" Doggett asked. Not only was Skinner here when he didn't have to be, he'd taken vacation or personal time to do it.

"Because I want to be."

And that was enough, really. Doggett eventually drifted back to sleep, feeling assured by this answer. The next couple of days passed like this mostly. He woke and Skinner would be there. They might talk a little. Sometimes, there was this music playing from a small portable CD player, something soothing and classical sounding that usually put him right back to sleep. Skinner would hold his hand. He'd fall asleep again. Sometimes, they forced him out of bed, whether to be rolled down the hall for some test or another, or more frequently as the days passed, just to get him moving again. By his seventh day in the hospital, he was shuffling down the hallway pretty well under his own power, Skinner by his side, holding on to the IV pole. They were still stuffing him pretty well full of IV antibiotics and other drugs, but he was hoping they'd let him go soon.

Eventually, on the eighth day, his doctor gave him a long exam and consultation. They'd brought him to an examination room, one with a table with the dreaded stirrups. He was about to get the pelvic exam that he'd always dreaded. Actually, it probably was far from his first. No doubt, with this thing, they'd checked him out down there plenty. This time, she had her students with her again, though she'd often stopped to check on him without them. She seemed to be some kind of personal friend of Skinner's.

Right now, she directed him to put his legs in the stirrups and scoot down. He was draped over the legs but he'd never felt quite so naked with his legs open and his business out in the breeze. "You don't mind if we do this with the interns here, do you? These are tomorrow's generation of gender specialists. There aren't nearly enough of us and they need all the training they can get."

"It's fine," he told her, even though he'd really rather not be putting on a show like this. He sucked it up, figuring it was for the greater good.

"Okay, everyone, notice we have a great example here of the Omega gender here. No ambiguous genitalia at all. Near perfect hermaphroditism. I'm going to start the exam with his testes and scrotum, which appear to be larger than average for an Omega," she said.

Doggett kind of tuned it all out after that, as much as he could. He couldn't help flinching a little as she inserted the speculum and opened it, even though she'd warmed it under water first. She was all over him. He'd probably never received such a thorough exam. She even rubbed his chest in a purposeful way, as if looking for lumps or something.

When it was all done, she addressed him. "You're healing well. You should be ready to leave the hospital in a day or two. Now, as far as your treatment in the future, we'll need to address the reasons why you were on suppresser drugs for twenty-eight years without a break. That will affect our choices for going forward."

"Sorry, doc," he said. "You guys can look at my hoo hoo all you want, but I'm not going to talk about that in front of the crowd."

"Okay. No problem," she told him. She addressed the students. "This is common. You'll find few patients want to speak to you except in the closest of confidentiality. As long as our society discriminates against Omegas, some of your patients will be in hiding about their gender. For others, it's just that they see their sexuality splashed all over the movies and TV, but never in an accurate way. They become intensely private about it, for fear of what people might believe about them. Whatever the reason, you must respect your patients' wishes for privacy above all else. I think we'll call the lesson for the day. Mr. Doggett, I'll drop by your room later."

She did, when he was sitting up in bed, struggling to get through the jello and the few other foods they had deemed him well enough to eat. Most of his food aversions had gone away with the pregnancy but his appetite hadn't really returned. Barb and Scully were there, encouraging him. They'd sent Skinner away earlier to shower and change clothes.

"Ms. Doggett, Dr. Scully, if I could have a moment alone with John," Dr. Jacobs said, and the two main women in his life left him alone to have a conversation he'd been kind of hoping not to have.

"Now, as I said before, I need to know the reason for your long term suppresser use and whether it's gender dysphoria."

"What?"

"Do you believe you are really a Beta male, born wrongfully into the body of an Omega and you're using the drugs to correct that?"

"No. That's not really it at all. My dad put me on them when I was thirteen. He didn't want an Omega son. Then there was the Marines. Then I went into law enforcement. It's pretty much impossible to make a career in law enforcement without them, especially at the FBI. But you know, its kind of been the opposite of what you said. It's like my whole life has felt wrong, like I was in the wrong body but now I'm not taking them, it seems like I'm suddenly in the right body for the first time. I don't want to go back on those pills or anything like them."

"I see no reason you would have to, even short term. I believe that you would find it very healing to remain off the suppresser pills and that is what I will recommend you do. Now, you must have lots of questions for me."

"Yeah. They were telling me this miscarriage was caused by the duolevelin. Is there a chance for me to have a baby at all or did it screw things up permanently?"

"In your case, the duolevelin hasn't caused any organic dysfunction to your sexual organs, but it lingers in the blood for months and it is completely incompatible with normal fetal development. The good news is the duolevelin will metabolize completely, eventually. If your goal is conception, we can come up with a plan. I believe I could get you pregnant within a year, year and a half."

"What are we talking here?"

"Monthly blood tests until I can confirm the duolevelin is gone. In two or three weeks, I'll want you to come to my office and I will insert this," she said. She pulled a small plastic bag out of the pocket of her white coat. Inside was a little string with what looked like five copper beads on it and a complicated knot thing on top. "Well, not this exact one. This is a demo. It's the tocofix IUD. Your regular heats will probably return in two months, maybe three. This will stop you from getting pregnant until you're ready for it. It was just approved last year but they've been using it around the world as the contraceptive of choice for Omegas for years. Once the duolevelin is gone, we take the IUD out, easy as you like and assuming you have an Alpha to do the deed, you'll be ready to try to conceive. If there's no Alpha, there are donor procedures available but it's a lot harder a procedure than for Beta conception. Easiest just to get it right from the source."

"You really think I could have a baby?"

"Absolutely it's a possibility. I will be able to say more definitely with further tests after you're fully healed. And there are always risks with a late life pregnancy. We'll talk about those later, but for now, I will give you a tentative yes."

"When I was younger, all I wanted was a big family, then when Barb and I tried, she had so many miscarriages. We ended up having to use donor sperm and only had the one child."

The doctor sighed. "That's another side effect of the pills. A lot of doctors tell Omegas that being Omega gives them weak sperm, but it's the pills. A full Omega like you should be able to both father children and birth them. Given time, you might also regain the more male aspects of your fertility, as well as your sex drive, full, normal heats on a predictable schedule and the normal desire to bond with an Alpha."

"Aren't I already starting to bond with Walter?"

"This is just the start. It'll get deeper, until it seems like you're reading each others thoughts even. It's not. It's the pheromones and hormones that you pass back and forth to each other, by odor, by touch. By his semen. An Alpha's semen is a powerful source of them. Beta endorphins, oxytocin stimulators, vassopressin, serotonin and dopamine precursors, other chemicals that can help regulate your heat cycles. And that's just every day normal semen. You should see the chemical profile of semen from an Alpha during heat sex. That stuff is more potent than cocaine."

"So, you're saying, I start having sex with Walter, I'll get addicted to him."

"Not quite. It's more like, you know how people who are depressed don't have the correct levels of serotonin in their brains and prozac prevents the serotonin they do have from going away. Being around an Alpha and having sex with him will get you to what should be normal for you. The semen he'll produce when you're in heat could be addicting, but considering you'll be exposed to it only about four times a year or less, its safe enough."

"So, I start sleeping with him, Walter becomes my own personal Dr. Feelgood. What's in it for him?"

"Besides as much sex as he wants with you, you do the same for him, in subtler ways. Alpha and Omega complement each other. They're good for each other. And there's love."

"You make it sound like so much chemical soup in my head. How will I know if I'm really in love with him when he'll be pumping me full of feel good drugs all the time?"

"Love is a chemical reaction, John. In everyone, not just Alpha and Omegas. That doesn't make it any less real."

"So when's my next heat?" Doggett said, changing the subject. He didn't want to get derailed into any kind of deep discussion about what love was and was not. He was a realist and didn't believe in souls or spirits, but there had to be more to love than just two people tripping the right neurotransmitters in each other.

"That I can't say for certain. You might have as much as six months. It might be two weeks from now. Since you've had a heat, we know you won't be one of the ones who don't get them, but everyone reacts differently when getting off the suppresser drugs."

"What happens if it comes before you've put that IUD thing in me?"

"You lock yourself in your bedroom alone with some sex toys, get your Beta best friend to watch your door so you don't let in random Alphas and ride out the three days. Honestly, its more likely to take two or three months though."

"And regular sex?"

"You'll need to wait at least a few weeks, maybe a month, to heal up. I'll let you know how you're doing when you get the IUD placed. I'm pleased with your progress. How about going home tomorrow?"

That sounded like just want he needed. Except it turned out it wasn't him going home alone she had in mind. She wasn't going to release him unless he had someone to take care of him for a while. Barb, Scully, even Monica volunteered, but he knew any of them would drive him crazy, fussing over him. Then Skinner spoke up, not forcefully, but with quiet authority, "John will be coming home with me."

Skinner ended up coming to stay with John instead, but it amounted to much the same thing. Once John was home and installed on the sofa, changed into an old soft t and sweat pants, he saw the wisdom of someone staying with him for a while. It'd taken everything he had just to make the trip home from the hospital. Skinner didn't fuss too much. He took care, quietly, competently. Instead of pestering, asking if he wanted this or that, Skinner would just set drinks on the coffee table about the time Doggett was thinking about wanting one. Skinner quietly set about tackling the mess the Gunmen had left in his kitchen and doing what other tidying needed to be done. Doggett was ostensibly reading this book that according to Dr. Jacobs was about everything he needed to know about being Omega. Mostly he was just watching Skinner work.

"What's this all about, Skinner?" Doggett asked as Skinner stood in the hallway sorting out the bills and other good mail from the pile of catalogs and circulars that had gathered over the course of the ten days he'd been in the hospital.

"I've cleaned your kitchen and done two loads of your laundry and I'm still Skinner to you?"

"Fine. What is this about, Walter?"

"What do you mean?" Skinner said as he glanced at the envelopes.

"You've hardly left my side in weeks. Now you're cleaning my house. What's going on? You in love with me or something?"

Actually, Doggett pretty much had the bigger man's number, but he wanted to hear it from the man's mouth, stated clearly and without equivocation. He'd pretty much known the day he'd woken in the hospital, Skinner holding his hand. Doggett knew where they were heading, or at least where he wanted them to be heading. This was just the negotiation about what route they'd take to get there. And how long it would take.

"That's about the size of it, John. I love you," Skinner said as he gathered the junk mail into a neater pile and carried it off to the kitchen for disposal. He reappeared again a moment later. "Do you object? Do you want me to go home?"

"I didn't say that," Doggett said. "I have to think about this. Just one thing, why do you smell different than you used to? That mean what I think it means?"

"I was on Alpha suppressers for years. I stopped taking them about nine days ago. That's my normal odor you smell. If it smells agreeable to you, that indicates a strong natural compatibility between us. The better I smell to you, the more compatible we are."

The thing was, it wasn't just agreeable. Skinner smelled fucking fantastic. Like better than Mulder had during their night in Galveston. Like the best thing he'd ever smelled. It made him want to get closer to the man. It made him notice the man in ways he never had before. Skinner had found the vacuum and was taking care of the floors. He'd gotten the hallway, the living room and the dining room while Doggett thought things through and wondered when something would happen between him and Skinner. It just made sense, really. Skinner obviously had feelings for him. And you would never have thought a man could seem so attractive just cleaning house, but Skinner worked in a methodical, competent way that seemed to indicate decades of doing his own housework and liking to have things neat and orderly.

Anyway, if Doggett wanted to stay off the suppresser pills, he was going to have to figure out what he was going to do about his heats. There were services you could hire to send an Alpha when you needed, apparently, but there was just no way Doggett was going to stoop to what amounted to prostitution as far as he was concerned. There were clubs you could join to meet screened, healthy Alphas, like computer dating services, but for heat sex. There were personal ads to do the same, with more risk. There was the random pick up. But according to Dr. Jacobs, the safest, best bet was to find an Alpha to pass your heats with on the regular. A lot of people had an 'arrangement'. Maybe most of the rest of the time, they didn't have sex. Sometimes the Alpha and Omega each had a different primary relationship and only came together for the one thing. But, she'd said, the chances of conception during heat were best when the Alpha and the Omega had a regular thing going. He and all Omegas, she claimed, were designed to seek out a bonded relationship with an Alpha. He could definitely do worse than Walter Skinner.

When the vacuum turned off and Skinner started to wrap the cord up again, Doggett asked him a question.

"You were married before. Or bonded, I guess. That's what you call it, right?"

Skinner stopped working and paused. "It amounts to the same thing, more or less. When you get the license at the courthouse, it still says certificate of marriage, like when a woman marries a man. Yes, I was married for seventeen years. His name was Ari and he died in an accident about five years ago. Not every year of our bond was a good year, but knowing I could come home at night and sleep next to him was how I got through the day."

"And you'd want to do it again? With me?"

"I've come to the conclusion that I love you, John. I think I must have loved you for some time, but I didn't know how I felt until you almost died. If it were up to me, I would come home to you every night and do my best to make you happy. And work to make the world safe, not for Scully's baby, but for yours. I don't want to presume, but."

"You think you want to be the one to give me that baby," Doggett said.

"Like I said, I don't want to presume," Skinner said. "but I hope you'll be willing to give me a chance."

"Did you have any kids with this Ari?" Doggett asked. Given AD Skinner's age, he could well have children grown to the age of adulthood already. Hell, had Luke lived, he'd be a teenager these days.

"No. We desperately wanted that, but in the first year of our bond, Ari got sick. It was cancer. Ovarian cancer. He escaped with his life, but he had a complete hysterectomy. We looked into adoption, but almost no one wants to give a child to an Alpha-Omega couple, especially when one of them has had cancer. We had careers instead."

"And you think maybe I could be your last chance for a kid of your own or something? Because it ain't a sure thing that I'll ever recover enough to have a baby."

All his life, he'd wanted nothing more than to be Daddy to someone and all he'd ended up with was was a dead child and a miscarriage. Four miscarriages if you counted the ones Barb had. He did. Dr. Jacobs had given him reason to hope, but there were reasons to walk carefully here.

"If having children were my only concern, I would have divorced Ari years ago and remarried. I loved Ari for his own sake and I love you for yours."

Doggett didn't have time for a response to this. The doorbell rang. Skinner answered it and after some negotiation that Doggett didn't really pay attention to, ended up admitting Langly into the house. Skinner ended up going upstairs. Langly must have asked for a moment alone with him. It was the first time Doggett had ever seen Langly without the full complement of stooges.

"I got you a card," Langly said. He shoved an card envelope at Doggett.

Doggett opened it as Langly continued to talk. It contained a pretty standard sympathy card and he didn't look at the soppy printed message, but Langly had written a lengthy inscription by hand and signed it. Doggett set it aside for reading later.

"We kind of blackmailed Scully to tell us what happened to you," Langly said. "Don't worry. We haven't told anyone else. Your secret is safe with us."

"Not necessary, Langly," Doggett said. He was walking on the edge with this thing here. He'd always said he wasn't ashamed of who he was, but the thing was, his whole life had been spent as if he were deeply ashamed. He'd hid. He'd just about died because he couldn't even picture going up to some emergency room doctor and admitting that he needed help. Or calling people he should have trusted asking for that help. He'd had enough of shame and secrets. "I'll be telling anyone who asks that I had a miscarriage. Why should I keep it a secret? What'd you want again, Langly?"

"I feel like a dickhead. You were having a miscarriage while we yammered on like idiots, not doing anything. Only Byers seemed to see something was wrong with you. And I was bitching like a little girl about being pregnant while you were losing your baby. So, this is me apologizing. I don't do it very often. Ask Mel."

"It's okay, Langly. You being not thrilled to be pregnant has nothin' to do with me losing my baby. And the doctor says that there wasn't nothing that could have been done to save my baby. Even if you guys had somehow got me to a doctor that night, it was too late by then. The infection was already septic and my baby was dead."

"Well, just call me if you want to talk with someone who's been there," Langly said, then took his leave.

Doggett picked up the card and read the inscription. "Hey," it read. "I just wanted you to know you're not the only guy around who this has happened to. I've been there. This isn't my first time pregnant, just the first time it lasted long enough to show. That's part of why I haven't wanted to get pregnant, because it sucks so much when it ends this way. And that's why I'm so sorry I was bitching about it in front of you, because I remembered how miserable I was when people would say something and it was a punch in the gut, but they just didn't know anything was wrong. If you want, call me at the phone number on the envelope. It's a burner cell even Frohike doesn't know I have. It's as secure as anything is these days."

Doggett was strangely touched. He hadn't thought Langly had said anything that bad, he'd been kind of numb at the time. He still felt kind of numb, like he wasn't quite sure just how much misery was dwelling in him. He hadn't sounded its depths yet. He'd been mourning Luke for years now and hadn't ever come to the bottom of that particular well of sorrow and he suspect it just might be a little like that for this missed chance.

Much later in the day, the Gunmen came over as a whole. They bore gifts-- plastic containers and casserole dishes of food.

"The last thing you want to be thinking about right now is cooking," Frohike said as he held his casserole dish forward. Skinner moved forward to take it all. Doggett hadn't quite found it in him yet to leave the sofa, except for a few very necessary trips to the little boys room.

"We understand from Agents Scully and Reyes that you've been very ill and were hospitalized for several days," Byers said. "We stopped by once while you were in the ICU but I would be surprised if you remember that."

"Don't worry. I didn't cook any of this," Langly said. "It's all Mel's doing."

"How's the littlest Gunman doing, Langly?" Doggett asked.

"She's doing just fine," Langly said. "How are you doing?"

"We shouldn't stay long," Byers said. "You're in need of your rest. Please, don't hesitate to call us again if you need assistance."

"We'll see ourselves out," Frohike said. "No need for you to get up."

They'd gone before Skinner had returned from stashing things in the kitchen. When Skinner got back in the living room, Doggett said, "Has someone seen that they've gotten their consulting fee? I think money is kind of tight for them right now. They mentioned something about their paper going under."

"I'll see to it, Skinner said. "Agent Reyes might not know about the arrangement and Scully is just too busy."

The Gunmen were friends of the X-Files, true, and sometimes the rewards they worked for were less tangible, like a scoop for that rag of theirs, but in the end, they were experts at certain things and just like if you had a lawyer friend, you didn't expect them to represent you in court for free, Doggett wouldn't want the guys to do their thing for free. Doggett hadn't been sure what their arrangement with Mulder had been, but he'd always seen that they got a reasonable fee for their help, regardless of their friendship.

"So," Doggett said. "How do we start this? Do we go on dates or something?"

He didn't say what he thought. That they had already gone beyond dating, that this was something that could be far deeper than that. And that it wasn't a question of if, but of when and how much would he allow Skinner in.

"If that's how you'd like to begin," Skinner said as he settled into the arm chair closest to the sofa. It wasn't quite close enough to hold hands or anything, being as Skinner was nearest to Doggett's feet, rather than head. Skinner twisted a little in the chair, toed off his shoes, then stretched out his legs so they rested on the sofa, near to Doggett's feet. Doggett moved and scooted a little, so his feet were touching Skinner's. They were warm and it felt better than he would have thought to be playing footsie with the big guy.

Skinner added, "I've laid out my hand. The next play is yours."

"Yeah. I know. These past months, my whole life has exploded on me. Everything has changed. It's like I woke up a different man one day."

It was more than that. It was like one day he'd discovered that the hard shell that had protected him all his life was going to strangle him to death if he remained in it a moment longer, so he'd burst out of it, but now he stood outside of it, still new, raw and vulnerable, even as he knew that things were so much better out here. He knew that Skinner wasn't some predator, looking for a tasty bite, but someone who had shown himself to be a stalwart protector of the weak. He could risk showing a little of this new vulnerable side to Skinner, it would be okay.

"No, not a different man at all," Skinner said. "Just a man stepping out from behind his walls for the first time. I know walls. Believe me. I know."

"Were you telling the truth, that you got no way to get ahold of Mulder, that you don't know where he went?"

"That is the truth, John. I don't have so much as an email address or burner cell phone number. Scully might though I don't know what would be enough to get it out of her."

"I just want to tell him what happened. He's the baby's other father. We had a night together in Galveston. My first and only heat," Doggett said, closely examining Skinner for his reaction, thinking it might be important. Doggett found himself glad to see that there was a slight flinch and clench of the jaw, which might be jealousy when Doggett mentioned the night in Galveston, but otherwise nothing. Skinner already knew of the baby's parentage. But how?

"I know. Mulder told Scully about your night in Galveston and Scully told me during the time it wasn't clear you'd survive," Skinner said. "Are you hoping he'll come back to you?"

"No!" Doggett said. Then a little less violently, "I just wanted him to know. I'm not attracted to him outside of the heat. He doesn't even smell good to me. You on the other hand smell like the best thing ever. Like whiskey and honey and I don't even know. Like frying donuts and the best perfume. And not like any of that. I guess this is sexual attraction. I don't know. I don't think I've ever really felt it before. The pills do a number on you. I don't think I ever realized how much. Can you come here. I want to try something."

Doggett untangled his feet from Skinner's and struggled to sit up on the sofa. Skinner stood and approached Doggett, but knelt down beside the sofa so they were more or less at the same height at Doggett's promptings. Doggett wrapped his arms around Skinner's torso. God, the man was a rock solid mass of muscle. What felt even stranger was realizing that that was the sort of thing he was attracted to. It was like a whole new way of seeing something. Like the day his parents, long after everyone else in the world had one, had brought home their first color television. It was like seeing all his old favorite shows bursting into Technicolor for the first time.

Barb was the kind of woman the kind of man his father had wanted him to be was attracted to. She was pretty. She was kind and had a soft voice and delicate frame. But Doggett wasn't, never had been, nor ever would be the kind of man his father wanted him to be. He wasn't quite sure yet what kind of man he actually was, but at least he was discovering what kind of person that man would be attracted to. It was looking like he was attracted to stoic, quiet men with broad shoulders and deep voices, who weren't pretty or even strictly speaking, handsome.

Doggett nestled his face into the crook of Skinner's neck and breathed deeply. It was the same scent, but intensified. Then he turned his face and planted a brief kiss on the side of Skinner's neck, relishing the feel of hard flesh under his lips. A few inches to the left and lips were touching his and they were kissing.

It wasn't like any other kiss he'd experienced. Not even thinking about the difference between how masculine and hard Skinner was compared to Barb, the difference was like lightning bug and lightening. Kissing Barb had always been pleasant. He'd always liked the feeling of closeness of body to body and of lips gliding over each other. But with Skinner, it was like someone had created a direct wire connection between lips and cock and everything. It was like one of those sudden, chemical reactions. He had to push Skinner away after just a minute for fear of an explosion of one kind or another and he just wasn't ready to deal with it yet. Sex, when it happened between them, was going to be big. If nothing else, he hadn't gotten a medical clearance for it yet and he didn't want to tempt himself to go against medical advice.

"Yeah," he said, slumping back against the sofa arm again. "That's what I figured. I like kissing you, Walter Skinner."

"I'm glad. Because I don't want you to kiss anyone else ever again," Skinner said.

"You know, if I do this thing my career at the Bureau is over. Not that it wasn't on the skids before. But me getting into some kind of relationship with you and having your baby? That's coffin nails for both our careers."

"I know, but honestly, I can't bring myself to care at the moment. Everything seems clear to me and what matters most to me at this moment is you. For years, my career has only mattered to me so much as I could use it to help Mulder and the X-Files. I'd leave it behind in an instant for you."

"That'd just be stupid, Walter," John said. "If one of us quits the Bureau, the logical one is me. Not that I want to be a stay at home dad or anything, but at your pay grade, we could definitely afford it. If the baby thing doesn't work out, I could probably find a local PD to hire me. Or maybe another agency. ATF or Treasury."

"Don't you think we'd better have that first date before we decide which of us is going to be the stay at home daddy?"

"When you first met Ari, how long did it take before you knew you wanted to bond with him?" Doggett asked.

"I knew the instant I laid my eyes on him. September 1973. My first semester at school. Ari was the lab assistant for my freshman biology class. He was pre-med. It took me four years to convince him to marry me though."

"You know what I said earlier about feeling like a new, different man? It's like I'm laying my eyes on you for the first time. And I don't have four years, Walter."

"Are you asking me to marry you?" Skinner asked.

"That's pretty much the size of it, Walter," Doggett said. "Maybe we should go through a heat together before we pick out rings, but I'm as sure about this as I've ever been about anything. I know it seems sudden, but it doesn't feel that way. And I think maybe I've loved you a while too, but I just couldn't see it clearly, because of the pills. It's like I can see my whole life clearly for the first time and I know what I want."

"Yes," Skinner said. "I will marry you. I won't make you wait four years."

And it was settled. Skinner stood up from where he was still kneeling. Instead of taking his seat on the air chair again, he took one end of the sofa. Doggett laid down again, his head in Skinner's lap. If a month ago, someone had told him that he'd be putting his head down in Skinner's lap, he'd have laughed at them, but at the moment, it felt natural. Skinner grabbed the TV clicker and said, "TV, John?" Then he passed Doggett the clicker.

It wasn't just their first kiss that night, but it was their first night sleeping in a bed together, first time they'd just watched television together, first time they'd shared a meal that wasn't a hurriedly grabbed something while working a case together, first time they'd done anything, knowing that something bigger than them had commenced. Something very important, at least just to the two of them, had happened today, Doggett thought.

Doggett had another week and a half of recovery before Dr. Jacobs released him to go back to work. While he'd been resting and getting better, Doggett had read Monica's report, hardly believing half of it, what with his old Marine buddy Shannon McMahon claiming to be a supersoldier, and the ship that was supposedly a secret genetics lab. He could only shake his head, knowing that it was all only as half as strange as some of the things they'd come across before. Futhermore, Doggett trusted her to tell the truth, at least the truth as she saw it and Walter had backed up what she'd written. Seemed like Monica was a good choice to stay on and keep the X-Files open. She'd taken to it like a duck to water. And wouldn't you know that the perky Agent Harrison had pronounced herself ready to give the X-Files another try? So he didn't have to worry about Kersh closing the door on the X-Files, just because he wasn't coming back.

___________________________________________________________________

Daemonicus

 

The day Doggett went back to the Hoover, his first stop was Deputy Director Kersh's office.

Kersh didn't bother to hide the fact that he took a big sniff of Doggett. Being scented like that was something Doggett was still getting used to. There were more than a few Alphas scattered through the Bureau. Alphas made up less than five percent of the male population, but about twenty percent of the males in the Bureau. The type of work attracted them, just like in the police and the military. If an Omega wanted to meet a quality Alpha, he could definitely do worse than work in one of those professions.

Kersh didn't say anything but his eyes opened just a little wider as he took in Doggett's new smell. He'd be reading in that smell not just that Doggett was an Omega, but that Skinner was now a regular fixture in Doggett's life. Doggett was scent marked by Skinner and every Alpha and Omega he came across would know that. He suppressed a little frisson of pleasure at the thought of that. Even though they hadn't yet had sex, he was Walter's.

As for Kersh, Doggett realized for the first time that the man was an Alpha. Oh, people said things, but truth was, a Beta or an Omega who'd been as deeply suppressed as he'd been couldn't know for sure who was an Alpha and who was just a Beta who played the posturing game really well. But there was no mistaking an Alpha for Doggett now that he was off the suppresser drugs for good. The man smelled better than Doggett would have expected, but nowhere near as good as Skinner did. There was something lighter and less intense about the scent. It lacked the deep musky notes that Skinner's scent had.

"What happened to you, John? I'm given to understand you were on the edge of death for a while," Kersh said.

Doggett swallowed and gathered his courage. He hadn't told anyone else other than Monica and she'd been so kind it'd been easy. Kersh wouldn't be easy, but then, he didn't have anything to lose here and he was in the mood to burn bridges. "Had a miscarriage, sir, and it didn't all come out, so it went septic."

"One could say many things about Walter Skinner, but I would never believe that he would be that careless with his Omega's health."

"Wasn't his baby. I wasn't his yet when it happened," Doggett said. That was kind of weird still, even as much as it was true, that he belonged to someone. Especially to Walter Skinner.

"I'm glad to see you've made a full recovery."

"I'm still working on full recovery, sir, but I'm up and around."

"I understand you signed off on Agent Reyes' ridiculous report. Super Soldiers, a Navy ship, a woman at the Department Of Justice who drowned two men, all disappeared now, but which constitute a conspiracy like a cancer in the US Government. But, not a mention of my name, John?"

"No sir, we found nothing on you, nothing damning we could honestly include in the report. But cause I got nothing to lose, let me say that I know that your hands are dirty on this thing Sir, filthy."

"That's why you're here? To take a last wild push before the bell?" Kersh sneered.

"No, just dropping off this," Doggett said. He dropped the single page letter in its envelope on Kersh's desk. Then he took off his service weapon and his badge and put them on Kersh's desk.

Kersh opened the letter and scanned it quickly before refolding it and putting it back into its envelope. "You're resigning for personal and health reasons? Effective immediately?"

"I nearly died partly because I was too ashamed of what I am to ask for help when I needed it. That clarifies a lot, sir. You start to see things differently. Mostly, I don't want to work for an agency that sees me as second class."

"Real change comes slowly, John," Kersh said. "Revolutions happen, but mostly that means that the same system is run by a different hegemony. Thirty years ago, there would have been no question of you staying. Two hundred years ago, there was serious debate as to whether you would have counted as a full legal person."

"What are saying, Sir? If I stick around another thirty years, you'll let me out into the field again?"

"Not at all, but the doors will only open tomorrow if someone is here pounding on them today. Obviously, if you'll stay, you can no longer remain on the X-Files. It would be very inappropriate for you to continue working under Walter Skinner but a position could be found under another AD that would take advantage of your particular abilities. I'd hate to lose a man of your talents."

Kersh pushed the letter back across the desk at Doggett. "Think about it more. The X-Files office is too crowded for three, but I'll call down to Brad Follmer and let him know I expect him to find a place for you."

"Honestly, sir, I'm hoping to try for pregnancy as soon as I can," Doggett said, not picking the resignation letter up yet.

"From Agent Reyes' report, I gather motherhood has not slowed Agent Scully down, so I anticipate you'll be able to manage. The standard maternity leave would apply to you as well, and I understand the medical benefits package is excellent, covering nearly everything, even though Agent Scully elected not to take advantage of a hospital birth."

Doggett picked up the letter and put it back into the breast pocket of his suit. "I'll think about it, Sir."

"I'll have AD Follmer call you later today to discuss when you'll return from leave," Kersh said. "Of course, there is the expectation that you'll regularize your relationship with AD Skinner within a reasonable amount of time."

Of course. A properly bonded Omega was considered to be far more socially acceptable than an unbonded one. The heats still happened, but they tended to settle into a schedule that could be timed almost to the hour when the Omega was well bonded. And there would be no question of which Alpha would take a bonded Omega in the heat. Even now, just that he'd been marked by Walter's scent, no other Alpha would dare touch him.

"We'll be sure to send you an invitation to the bonding celebration when it happens."

"Then that will be all, Agent. The X-Files office should be empty today. I understand Agents Reyes and Harrison have gone to West Virginia to work on a multiple homicide with a possible Satanic ritual connection."

Well, that was right in Monica's wheelhouse. She'd do just fine, Doggett thought. He picked up the gun and holster he'd put on Kersh's desk and clipped it back onto his belt. He grabbed his ID and clipped it back to his lapel. Then he went back down to the basement for perhaps the final time. Even if he ended up staying with the Bureau, his time on the X-Files was over.

Once down there, he found a small box and started clearing out his desk. He didn't have nearly as much bric a brac as Scully had taken away that day, not long ago, when she'd started her maternity leave, but he had a few things. You always accumulated things. There was a random red rock from a certain cliff face out in the southwest where he'd watched a creature he thought was Mulder fall hundreds of feet to the desert below, to just walk away. In a little plastic baggy there were a few clippings of something that looked like tiny bits of wire, but were in fact whiskers from a man made of living metal. And somehow, an Apollo 11 medallion had just appeared in his desk drawer. It wasn't the same one that had been given to Leyla Harrison, because that one had a slight nick on the edge that this one didn't. This one was brand new. He shrugged and tossed it in the box.

As he finished up, there was the noise of someone trying to unlock the door, then succeeding in re-locking it. Eventually, the would be entrant figured it out and opened the door. He recognized the flash of red hair immediately.

"Agent Scully, how you and the baby doing?" he asked as he pulled out a piece of paper, a photo of a drawing done by Billy Underwood, a boy who'd been dead for years at the time he'd done it. They'd given the original to his parents, but taken a photo for their files. He'd kept an extra copy for some reason.

"We're just fine, Agent Doggett. What are you doing here? I was under the understanding that you were going to remain on medical leave until you resigned from the Bureau."

"I was here today to hand in my resignation letter. Kersh doesn't want to accept it. He wants me to stay and work under AD Follmer," Doggett said. "What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be out at Quantico?"

"Agent Harrison requested that I look at a particular X-File on demonic possession for her and since I was in town today, I said I would do that."

"Monica's looked into hundreds of Satanic ritual cases before and never found the slightest evidence that it was real," Doggett said. Of course, when she'd been in New Orleans, the locals seemed to call her in every time they found a Marilyn Manson poster at the scene or maybe a leftover Santeria or voodoo charm.

"The suspect emitted a substance that is possibly ectoplasm. It's still being analyzed. Regardless of whether this is Satanic, there is true evil at work. Four people are dead so far."

"How's Agent Harrison holding up?"

"Honestly, I think she's scared out of her wits, but she's learned to put a good face on things. Agent Doggett, I wrote to Mulder and told him what happened. I have an email address for him, nothing more. He wrote back and requested that I give it to you. Know that if it were at all possible, he would come home and talk to you himself. He deeply regrets that he wasn't there for you."

"I'm not ready to hear from him yet. Maybe in a while," Doggett said. "I'll let you know."

As Scully got the file she needed, then let herself out, Doggett felt the now familiar ache that was something like a void in his chest. No, it wasn't that he even wanted to talk with Mulder. It was about the baby. Thinking about Mulder would forever make him think about losing the pregnancy, which would make him think about losing Luke. He recognized that the mental connection maybe wasn't quite fair and maybe he could break it someday, but he wasn't there yet. Maybe someday if he managed to have a normal pregnancy with a healthy baby at the end.

He thought about how ridiculous it was to be ready to pin anything on demonic possession when there was so much evil abounding in the world already. Even evil that was unintentional. The drug companies that made the suppressers didn't intend to kill his baby, but they had. The suppressers were supposed to be a good thing, helping people like him get by for short periods when it just wasn't possible to let himself be totally subject to his biology. The drug companies had perverted that though, pushing them as something you could take for years and years, even when they knew the deadly costs. The pushed them as a solution to something that shouldn't have been a problem. To hide and cover yourself with that kind of chemical false front wasn't the real solution to living in a world that considered him to be some blend between menace to society and sexual freak. And he thought it was a real evil for some faceless corporation to be making big money from the fear of people like him.

John stared at his little box of mementos thinking of how little he had to show for such a long period of his life, but it didn't matter now. He had the future to look forward to now. There wasn't just the chance for a new life with Walter, there was new hope for his work, maybe the chance for a family. The Apollo 11 medal had ended up on the top of his small pile. Maybe Scully had put it in his desk, maybe Mulder. But they were right, you didn't get there on your own.

He scented Walter before he heard the man.

"John, I just talked to Kersh. About the new developments in your career. You're staying?"

"Yeah, I'm stayin'."

He had no idea what AD Follmer would set him to doing, if he'd be stuck at a desk or what, but Kersh was right. If he didn't stay, pounding at the door for what was right and for the answers he needed, who would?

"You're good with this?"

"Yeah, I'm good."

 

__________________________________________________________________

Epilogue

This time, when the heat symptoms appeared, he knew them for what they were. It'd be a little too much to say he was ready for them. But the weakness of the legs, the flush to his face, he'd expected them to show up any time in the next couple of days, because of the vaguely tender, not quite cramping feelings he'd been having in his pelvic area for the last couple of days. His sense of smell had intensified until he could tell anyone's last meal, even if they'd covered it up with mints or teeth brushing. The chemical reek from new carpet down the hallway was chokingly close and he'd had to avoid the copy room because of the chemical miasma. Thankfully, the part of DC he came into contact with most days was clean. He couldn't imagine how gag inducing it would be to walk around, say, New York City like this. They kept the garbage out on the sidewalks there. More problematic though, was his awareness of every Alpha in the building and just how thick the musk was in the Hoover.

He'd warned Walter not to get into anything too involved at work, that it could come any time.

Doggett had already called Skinner and was wrapping things up at his desk when AD Follmer came looking for him, file folder in hand. It wasn't like he was knocking off that early. Just after lunch on Friday afternoon, rather than five. Still, he wanted to get home and get started before the symptoms got so bad as to be incapacitating. He figured he had two, maybe three hours before the cramps started, but he'd read that if you started intercourse before the cramps came, they wouldn't come.

Before Follmer could speak or even got too close, Doggett said, "I'm taking the rest of the day off for personal reasons."

Follmer took one step closer then immediately took a step back when he must have gotten a whiff of Doggett. No one would bother Doggett, of course. Skinner's scent was way too strong on him for that, but Doggett would be making every Alpha in the building uncomfortable before too long. "Of course. This can wait until Monday morning. You'd best be going."

Walter chose that moment to appear. He stood behind Doggett and wrapped his arms around him. He didn't actually growl at AD Follmer, but something in the tightness of his arms suggested that he was just barely holding it in. Heat pheromones could bring out the animal even in a man as civilized as Walter Skinner.

"Easy, big guy," Doggett said, smiling at the thought that it was him that brought this out in the big, bald guy. "AD Follmer was just dropping off a file. I'm ready to go. Take me home and take care of me?"

Wordlessly, Walter took Doggett's hand and just about dragged him to the elevator. Doggett wouldn't have been surprised to have Walter pick him up by the midriff and throw him over his shoulder, to carry him out to the car. He wasn't that much smaller than Walter, but the heat pheromones had been know to drive an Alpha to frenzied strength, making them capable of feats they wouldn't have been during normal times. Walter kept it together though, sadly. It was early on in the heat though, Doggett thought.

Once they'd reached the car in the parking garage, it was tempting to start kissing the man. He tried to reach for Walter but the man pushed him away and said, "I have to drive us home still. You kiss me now, I'm not sure I'll be able to wait."

So Doggett sat on his hands for the long drive out to Virginia, regretting for the first time that he hadn't spent the extra money to get a place in the city proper. The suburbs had never seemed so far away.

At least Walter had been prepared. As soon as Doggett had announced that his heat would come any day, Walter had put a towel and a vinyl tablecloth into the car, to protect the seat. The tablecloth might have been a little bit of overkill but Doggett could feel himself soaking through his pants and onto the towel. Walter had stocked their fridge foods that could just be pulled out and eaten. He'd stocked gatorade and energy bars. When Doggett had commented that it looked like Walter was preparing for a siege, Walter had said, "You never know how long a heat is going to last until it's over. Most of them last just the twelve or eighteen hours, but Ari was in heat once for five days. We were both hospitalized for dehydration and exhaustion by the time it was done, because we were't prepared."

Doggett hoped to God that this heat was on the short side of things, even if Walter was prepared for the long haul. He found it hard to believe that someone had literally fucked themselves into the hospital. Doggett was aware suddenly of how much more experience at this that Walter had than he did.

"I'm a little nervous here, Walter," Doggett said, looking at Walter's hands on the driver's wheel. "You know they say an Alpha's knot is about the size of their first."

"So?"

"Your hands are a lot bigger than Mulder's."

Skinner gave a wry half grin, "It's not the size of an Alpha's knot, but how he uses it. I've never had any complaints before."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. By the time it goes in, you won't be thinking about anything but how good it feels. You'll be fine, John. You seem to enjoy me during regular intercourse."

The books Doggett had read suggested that many, if not most, Omegas preferred to avoid vaginal intercourse except during their heat cycles. That was a load of horseshit as far as Doggett was concerned. Other kinds of sexual activities felt good too, but when Walter slid home, thrusting deep into Doggett, it was heaven. And what would happen soon would feel even better. It might not have been their first time having intercourse, but it would be the first time they shared heat sex. He tried to imagine it. His first heat, spent with Mulder, had been pretty amazing, a revelation even, and it had been with an Alpha he'd respected but honestly hadn't liked that well. A heat with Walter, the Alpha he loved, was looking like it would be something special. Still, he remembered just how full and stretched he'd felt with Mulder's knot in him, especially at first.

Walter seemed to understand and he stretched his arm across the back of Doggett's seat and rubbed the back of his neck, a soothing gesture.

"It's just that this is our first real time together and I don't want it to go wrong," Doggett said.

"Heat sex isn't more real than other kinds of sex, John. It's just more intense. And I can't imagine any possible way it could go wrong, unless maybe we get in a car accident and we die before it happens."

"You know, if it weren't for this thing in me, you'd be knocking me up tonight probably," Doggett said.

"I know. And someday soon, the IUD will be gone and I'll give you the baby we both want," Walter said. He moved his hand from the back of Doggett's neck to his lower abdomen. "For now though, practicing for it will be fun."

"Fun?" Doggett asked. "It doesn't seem like it could be. A lot of things, but not fun."

"Definitely it's fun. I'll show you. And it's ecstatic, wild and intense. But it doesn't have to be desperate and dirty, like the heat you passed with Mulder."

Luckily, at mid day, the traffic was light and they rolled easily across the Potomac and into Virginia. They made it to Doggett's house, now the home they shared, in less than twenty minutes. Walter pulled into the driveway and stopped the car. When Doggett got out, he was surprised at the size of the wet spot he'd left on the towel. It was bigger than a dinner plate. His pants were soaked through.

"My suit is going to be ruined," Doggett said. He reached for the towel. It'd probably get pretty ripe if it was left to bake in the car for a couple of days.

"We'd better get you out of it then. The dry cleaners can work wonders," Walter said, reaching for Doggett's hand, to tug him towards the door. Doggett thought he'd play a little hard to get, see if he could tease Walter into cavemanning him into the house, so he resisted a little and then pulled Walter back and into his arms. Walter wasn't expecting that, so he stumbled slightly and ended up pinning Doggett against the car. Doggett took advantage and planted his lips right on Walter. Their lips glided over each other for a moment, then Walter deepened the kiss, seemed to demand Doggett open his mouth. The man kissed with a fierce devotion that made Doggett melt. Doggett felt weak, not just in the knees, but all over, like he couldn't stand up. He felt aware of every square inch of his skin, just how much clothing covered it and just how intolerable that felt at this moment.

And Skinner, damn him, had the self control to break their kiss. He looked Doggett up and down, saw how he was pressed back against the car, hardly able to stand, beginning to come undone. He smiled fondly at Doggett and said, "Let's get you in the house and upstairs."

Doggett found himself being lifted up, one of Skinner's arms around his shoulders, the other under his knees. He put his arms around Skinner's broad shoulders and didn't protest Skinner's Alpha strength, just let himself be carried up the steps and across the threshold of his house. At least Skinner was a little out of breath by the time he got Doggett into the house, because it could have done Doggett a big of ego damage to be so easily man handled otherwise.

 

End