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An Unremarkable Dog

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It was the redheaded woman who rescued me. She couldn’t keep me, I suppose, so the tall man took me in. I know he only let me into his house because he loved the redheaded woman. I’m just a dog, I know, but I’m not stupid.

Before you ask, yes, I can see red. We don’t see colors the same way you humans do, but we sense them. And the redheaded woman exuded “redhead.” I’m not sure how we do it but it’s something in the attitude, and we are especially attuned to it.

I haven’t been alive for a very long time, but I have learned that you humans are funny creatures. You make a lot of noise at each other, and about each other.

You see, dogs don’t communicate the same way humans do. We react to feelings more than words. We can understand human intent almost entirely by instinct. But it’s hard for us to comprehend words or convey them verbally. We simply aren’t equipped with the tongues and lips we need to express them.

So dogs talk without talking, most of the time. We talk with our eyes.

The redheaded woman and the tall man weren’t like most humans; I knew that right away. They didn’t talk too much. They usually just looked at each other, a lot. It’s the reason I liked them so much from the very beginning: I could understand them in a way I hadn’t been able to understand other humans. It felt fated, like I was meant to be with them. I don’t think they realized it, but it gave the three of us a very strong bond from the start.

What I couldn’t understand was why they behaved that way. It wasn’t that I minded it; on the contrary, it was refreshing. What I minded was the impact it had on the two of them, because I think the truth of the matter is humans need to talk. You were blessed with opposable thumbs, and you were blessed with this gift of being able to communicate verbally. You’ve opened yourself up to nuance and subtlety, which we dogs can’t quite grasp because we never get to practice.

Remember what I said about being attuned? Well, I was, to the both of them. I sensed their love for each other, even though they didn’t seem to express it the way lots of humans did. Their actions seemed to be in quiet defiance of the emotions they were withholding.

These particular humans, who I came to learn were called Scully and Mulder, were not my first. First there was the man who took me to the lonely place, who talked quite a bit, mostly to himself. I didn’t like the lonely place. The humans there put me in a cage and there were other dogs around me, most of them just sad, or sometimes crazy. The people at the lonely place were kind, but they just didn’t seem to have much time for any of us.

Then the lizard man took me away from that place. He was kind as well and I enjoyed his company. His skin was rough but he was gentle, and the short time we got to spend together was pleasant. He talked to me and I learned things from him, especially when he left me alone in that room with the television on.

I like television. It opened up new worlds to me, like pictures of parts of the world I’d never seen, and humans interacting in ways I’d certainly never seen.

At first it was just humans mating. He watched that quite a lot. All different ways, some of which I’m pretty certain you can’t make pups by. I find it fascinating that there are so many varieties in which you humans mate. We dogs really just do it the one way. So… that was interesting.

But then the mating stopped and there were other things on the television: humans talking and yelling and hugging and dancing and smiling and… living. I really liked watching that. I didn’t understand a lot of what was happening, but there was a general feeling I got every once in a while when they all seemed so happy.

I liked that feeling.

Another thing you humans should know about yourselves is that you never tell us your names. You sort of leave it up to us to figure that out. And you rarely say them to each other, either. So it can take us quite a while to decode which words within the torrent of human language coming at us all the time are actually names.

The tall man and the redheaded woman weren’t like that. They said their names to each other all the time. Mulder. Scully. Scully, Mulder. Mulder, Scully. It was easy to pick up. These are obviously very silly names, but I liked the way they would say them.

And they called me Daggoo, so that is me, I guess.

It was really nice at first; they let me into the house and played with me, and yelled “Daggoo!” quite a bit until I started liking it, really liking it. They had kind voices. They smiled and laughed and the woman just looked and looked at the man and smiled some more. I don’t think she saw me watching her, and the man certainly didn’t see her watching him. But I saw it.

See? That amazing canine insight.

But then something terrible happened: she left, and the man was sad. Every few days she would come again, and it was as if she brought the happiness with her, and then she’d leave again, taking it away. I didn’t understand. They were happy when they were together, but day after day she would leave. And when he was sad, I’d crawl into his lap and lick his face.

In spite of this, I liked living with Mulder a lot. He was kind and gentle, and he kept me warm and fed, so I didn’t have much to complain about. He had a nice, big yard, with tall grass and lots of flying bugs to chase. He didn’t have a fence, either, so it was clear he trusted me not to leave him. And I had no desire to.

He had large hands and a particular way of scratching behind my ears, which I really loved. Humans don’t realize this, but the way they pet is like a fingerprint; it’s different for every person. Just one more thing we dogs can sense.

We fell into a nice routine, Mulder and me. Most days he would put on a suit and leave for the entire day. I had the doggy door, so I could go outside when I had to, and mostly I slept upstairs on the bed anyway.

But there was one day he got home very late and seemed to be sorry I’d been alone so long. The next day I met Dennis, who was a youngish human who came every day to feed and play with me. A couple times I even got to go to Dennis’s house, while Mulder was away for what I can only assume were some important human work activities.

I wondered about Mulder, a lot. He seemed lonely all the time, unless Scully was at the house. Lots of days he would tell me “Scully’s coming over, Scully’s coming over,” as he scratched me behind the ears and smiled. It was the happiest I saw him, when he said this. And I liked seeing Mulder happy.

That’s another thing about dogs you may not know: we live to see our humans happy. It’s really the only thing we want out of life. When you’re happy, so are we. And as much as I knew Mulder cared for me, when Scully wasn’t around, I wasn’t enough. He was hurting, and when he was hurting, so was I.

One night after many weeks of this, both Mulder and Scully came back to the house. They were wearing dark clothes and were both very sad (although Scully was pleased to see me), and Mulder was carrying a small jar, which he placed on the mantel.

They were here together, but they weren’t happy. Scully went upstairs and I followed, eager to play. But she went into the shower and I could hear her crying.

I’d never seen her go into Mulder’s bedroom before. Something must have happened that I couldn’t understand. But that night, all three of us slept in the bed, his arms around her with me snuggled in the middle. They may not have been very happy that night, but I certainly was. And in that moment I had my moment of clarity, my epiphany as you call them: this was exactly what I wanted. The three of us, together always.

I was certain this house I’d grown to love had been a home once, a real home, before I arrived. And I vowed I would do whatever I could to help Mulder get that home back. I would do what I could to get Scully to stay.

 

***

 

Many, many months went by, and I saw more and more of Scully. The more I saw her, the more I saw a smile on Mulder’s face. Some days they would throw my ball in the front yard. Other days they’d sit at the table with a bunch of red folders and talk a lot. Those times were the most I heard them talking.

The best times were when they sat on the couch and watched the television. Usually I snuggled with Scully because I missed her. She would scratch my ears and rub my belly and lots of times it would put me right to sleep. She was good at belly rubs. But before I drifted off, these were the times I could talk to her, because she’d look down at my face and tell me with her eyes what she was feeling. And I usually knew.

I wish things were different, she said once. I wish I could stay.

Stay, Scully, I implored her with my eyes. Stay.

She just smiled at me, and looked over at Mulder, who was entranced by whatever movie we were watching. It was a lot of snow and humans killing each other, I didn’t like it. But the way she looked at him… I didn’t understand. She loved him, and he loved her. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t just stay. I figured maybe a dog just wasn’t capable of interpreting the full spectrum of human emotion. With dogs, it’s very simple. We sniff you, we like you, and that’s that.

These two were anything but simple.

When the movie ended she was asleep, and I watched Mulder watching her. He caught me looking and grinned, and in that moment I think he understood what I wanted. He understood because he wanted the same thing.

 

***

 

“I think I’ve really lost her, pal,” Mulder said one night after he came home from work. He scratched my ears and sniffed a bit. His eyes were wet again. I hated that. “I don’t know. I just don’t know what else to do.”

Lost?

Dogs don’t know all the human words but this one I understood. Scully was lost? How could this happen?

We have to go find her! I shouted, but he didn’t understand me. It’s hard for us to form words, you know. He just sighed and tried to get me to calm down, but I wouldn’t. Scully was lost, and he was just... sitting there.

I pawed at the door desperately, but my little dog door was sealed shut for the night.

“You just went out, Daggoo. Come on, let’s go to bed.”

He headed upstairs and I couldn’t believe it. Why wasn’t he out looking for her? This didn’t make any sense. I followed him, because there wasn’t anything else I could do. Maybe he just needed rest. Maybe he’d wake up tomorrow with a clear head, and we’d go out and search for her together.

He went through his usual nighttime routine and I hopped up onto the bed next to him and cozied into my usual pillow, right next to his. I slept there every single day and night, except that one night she did.

“You know, boy,” he said into the darkness. “Scully was right. It’s been a lifesaver having you around, no matter what happens.” He wasn’t looking at me, I could tell, but he reached his hand over to my muzzle and I gave it a lick. “You’ve brought some much-needed normalcy to my otherwise abnormal existence. I know that’s what she always wanted, I’m just worried it’s too late now.”

I smacked my lips and panted softly, licking him once more.

“I’m feeling so much better than I have in years, though, and you really helped me with that. So thanks.”

Thank you, for giving me a home, I said with my eyes that he couldn’t see in the dark, then I fell asleep.

 

***

 

In the morning he fed me and did all the normal things he might do any old day. But I was confused. This wasn’t any day, this was the day we needed to go find Scully.

“I gotta go to work, buddy,” Mulder said, and he crouched down to scratch behind my ears the way he knew I liked. But I wasn’t having it today. I was mad.

Work? I barked. How can you work today of all days? Scully is lost! What’s wrong with you?!

“Daggoo!” he said sternly. “Down!”

I followed him to the door and tried to sneak out around him, but he pushed me back.

“Stay, Daggoo! Stay!”

He wanted me to stay, but he let Scully go. I didn’t understand.

He left, and I watched him drive away. Something wasn’t right. If he wasn’t going to find her, then I would. I may be just a dog, but my loyalty is fierce, the kind of loyalty to be reckoned with.

I ran out the doggy door, towards the gate, and past the boundary of my home. I ran, and ran, and ran.

I was going to find Scully and bring her home.

 

***

 

It had been months, maybe years even. We dogs don’t grasp time as a concept in the same way humans do. But I’d been searching for a long time with no trace of her, and I knew long ago I’d made a terrible mistake setting out on my own. In my haste to find Scully I’d gotten lost myself.

I had no concept of how utterly large the world was. The places I’d been were relatively small, and it was difficult to distinguish on the television which places were real and which were fantasy. If Mulder had gone out to look for me I was quickly realizing his chances of finding me were as slim as mine were of finding Scully.

I felt foolish, and most of all I was afraid and alone. It was getting colder and colder, and I missed Mulder and Scully terribly. I hadn’t had much interaction with humans in general because I was afraid they’d find me and take me to the lonely place again. So I avoided them.

One day I was near a gas station and saw a car parked there. The rear window was broken and it looked like it might be abandoned. It was starting to rain and I was so cold, maybe I wasn’t thinking entirely clearly but I found a way to hop inside. I just wanted to keep warm and dry, that was all. I burrowed underneath a blanket that was on the back seat and slept.

 

***

 

I awoke with a start because the car was moving. I was terrified. The human inside obviously hadn’t noticed me but I was sliding around and couldn’t help myself.

I barked. The car jolted.

“What the hell?” the voice came from up front and the human quickly pulled over. This was it, I thought. Surely he would take me to the lonely place and I’d never see my home again.

The car pulled to a stop and the man turned around from the front seat. As I looked at him, I noticed he was not actually a man, but a young man. Maybe even a kid. But his eyes struck me: they were familiar eyes.

They were Mulder’s eyes.

“Where did you come from?” the kid said, and he sounded kind and gentle. Who was he? Why did he remind me of Mulder? An overwhelming urge to trust him enveloped me. I’m lost, I told him. Please help me, somehow, help me get home.

Kid turned to the seat beside him and opened a bag, pulling out a smaller orange bag. He opened it and poured a pile of brightly colored puff things on the seat in front of me. Again, I can’t see color properly but I can feel it. These were entirely unnatural.

They were, however, delicious. I was so hungry they could have been garbage and I wouldn’t care.

Kid popped one into his own mouth and crunched. “You like Cheetos, huh?” He picked up an empty cup off the floor and tore most of it off to make what looked like a tiny bowl, into which he poured some water and offered to me. I lapped greedily, liking Kid more and more by the minute.

“Did you sneak in through the window? Someone shot at me. Broke it. I got away, though.” He seemed to be talking more to himself than to me, but I barked anyway in response. He sounded lonely, but so was I. Maybe he just needed someone to talk to.

He reached over and touched me for the first time, and as he scratched me behind the ears I was again reminded of Mulder.

Remember what I said? A fingerprint.

I didn’t know what was going on here. I could only presume I missed Mulder so much I was seeing him everywhere.

Kid held my tag in his hand. “Daggoo? That’s a funny name,” he smiled. He read the address. “Farrs Corner. Jesus, I have no idea where that is.”

He leaned over and pulled a book from underneath the passenger seat. It was a large book, with large colorful splotches and lots of writing. He flipped through it until he found whatever it was he was looking for.

“Wow, this is in the middle of nowhere. But it’s not too far away. Maybe an hour. You’re a long way from home though, buddy. How’d you get way out here?”

I started to tell him the story, but he just shushed me and told me to calm down. He put the book back and sighed. “I guess I can take you home. I don’t really have a plan. Just gotta keep moving.”

I barked in such relief. Home. I’d cry if my tear ducts worked that way. Kid turned the engine back on and we were headed home.

 

***

 

When a dog find his forever home, it becomes a part of him. So much so that I could tell we were drawing near from what I saw out the windows. The tall trees were familiar and even the sky felt like home.

Kid’s car slowed, then came to a stop. He read the address aloud and I knew I was home. Suddenly I saw his hands grip the steering wheel and he inhaled sharply.

“You gotta be shitting me,” he said. I couldn’t see what he was looking at from my vantage point in the passenger seat.

What? What is it? I barked. He picked me up and held me up to the window, and even with the rain pattering against it I could see a familiar silver car turning down the long driveway.

And in the passenger seat was Scully.

I started barking frantically, my nails tapping against the window. I wanted out, I wanted to go home.

“They’re your family too, huh?” Kid said as he scratched my head. “Imagine that.”

I had no idea what he meant by that, but the wheels in my doggy brain begun turning and turning until suddenly everything made sense: The eyes. The way he pet me. And the way that the universe seemed to always be showing me that everything meant something, that I had met Kid for a reason, and he me.

He was once Mulder and Scully’s pup. I hadn’t found Scully, Mulder had. But I’d found their pup. Maybe he was the reason they got so sad sometimes.

“Well, I guess now I know where they live,” Kid said, shaking his head. “I can’t believe this.”

I licked his face and barked, let’s go! Let’s go home!

He laughed and looked at me again, and I could now recognize why his big eyes looked like Mulder’s. “I can’t go with you, buddy,” he said. “Not today. I have… things I need to do.”

We looked at each other in understanding, and while I didn't know his reasons, I knew there was no way he was walking down that long path to the house with me. I licked him again.

“Think you can find your way from here?” he asked, and I barked in the affirmative. He opened the car door and set me on the ground, and I ran home.

 

***

 

At first I wasn’t certain things had changed between them. Scully being in the house wasn’t unusual. But I hadn’t been home long when I realized that something had definitely changed.

First of all, the mating began. That was new. It was happening so frequently I was starting to suspect it must be something humans do for fun, kind of like how I like to dig holes in the backyard, or eat bugs.

Fun. Who knew? Either that, or they really wanted to make pups. One night I witnessed Scully mounting Mulder, and I barked and barked to try and tell them they were doing it wrong, but Mulder threw a sock at me and told me to be quiet. Can't blame me for trying.

Secondly, it wasn’t hard to see that whatever they’d been holding back, whatever they’d been keeping inside, they weren’t anymore. They talked, they laughed. They touched. They were happy.

I finally had what I’d dreamed of: a real happy family.

My usual spot on Scully’s pillow became her own again, and I was happy to relinquish it. My new place became the foot of the bed, in which they were both sleeping again, which was what we’d all wanted anyway. I slept beneath Scully’s feet. She has little legs, you know.

After several days of this, just when it was starting to feel like the new normal, something happened. I was asleep on the bed, as I was most of the time, when I heard them talking to each other heatedly downstairs. I hopped down and stood at the landing, watching them.

“What if this is our last good chance?” Mulder was saying. He was holding his coat and was heading for the door. His eyes looked determined. I could only see Scully’s back but I could tell from her body language she didn’t want him to go.

“Just… come back alive,” she said. He looked fiercely at her, then nodded solemnly. He headed towards the door but then came back and kissed her, and she held him tightly to her. I had no idea what was happening but whatever it was was important.

“You’re in a different place than I am, Scully,” he said softly. “I want to get there, I do… this is just something I have to do. Okay?”

She nodded. “I understand.” Her hands went to his face in that way they always did lately, as if there was nothing in the world more precious to her. I didn’t understand the complexity of human love, how could I? But there was something about the way these two interacted that I knew was very special and rare. I felt lucky I got to witness it.

“I’ll call Dennis just in case, for Daggoo,” she said. “I have a feeling you might need me.”

He grinned. “Always.” He pulled her in again for a hug and then he was gone.

Scully watched him go, then sank down into the couch and sighed, her head in her hands. I realized this was probably my cue, so I made my way down the stairs and into her lap. She pet me gently and I looked up into her big blue eyes. They seemed bluer than ever, somehow.

“Hey, boy,” she said to me. I closed my eyes and panted as she stroked my fur, so happy to have her back. So happy to see her happy. But right now there was something else behind that happiness. I wish I knew what it was.

“Can you keep a secret?” she said. I barked in the affirmative, the ability to spill secrets completely lost on me in any event. “I’m pregnant, Daggoo.”

Pregnant. I wasn’t familiar with this word but I knew what she was telling me by the look in her eyes. She was going to have a pup, I just knew it. I was satisfied to have confirmation that they had, indeed, mated properly at some point.

I barked happily. A pup! In this house! This was all so wonderful that I was so confused why she looked a bit sad. And why she hadn’t told Mulder about the pup. Why she wanted me to keep it a secret.

And then I remembered Kid.

I wanted to tell her he was close by, that I didn’t know exactly where he was but that he was okay. But I could not tell her that. I’m only a dog, after all.

 

***

 

A couple hours went by, then Scully left. I was alone for a while, then Dennis came to feed me, then I was alone again. It felt like hours but I wasn’t sure. I only knew the sun had set long before they returned.

When they arrived home, the mood was somber. I ran up to Mulder but he didn’t seem very happy to see me tonight. I noticed his clothes were filthy. He went straight upstairs and Scully knelt down next to me, softly rubbing my ears.

“Good boy,” she said. “That’s a good boy.”

She sat and leaned up against the wall, making a face I didn’t like. She looked sad and confused. I nuzzled her belly, reminding her that whatever she was sad about, there was still something to be happy about. She held me by the face and smiled, and it warmed my insides.

“Thanks, Daggoo.”

After a few minutes Mulder came back, having showered and changed into clean clothes. He slid down the wall next to Scully and there we sat in silence, me on her lap, for many minutes. I could tell their minds weren’t silent, however. It was all in the eyes. You humans get a vacant look in your eyes when you’re thinking hard, and they both had it.

“I don’t know how to feel right now,” he finally said. “It’s like my heart has been torn out of my chest, slapped around, then hugged and replaced. Everything still hurts.”

Scully took his hand. “He’s alive, Mulder,” she said. “He’s out there right now. Maybe someday he’ll come back. When he’s ready.”

Mulder turned his head. “I know you’re right, that… we weren’t ever his parents. Not to him, at least. But he’ll still always be our son. I don’t care what that cigarette smoking bastard said.”

They were talking about Kid, they must be. Had they actually found each other?

Scully nodded. “I know that.” She took his hand and held it across her stomach.

“How long have you known?” he asked her.

“I just found out for sure this morning. I’ve suspected for a couple weeks.”

“Suspected…?”

“A woman knows these things,” she shrugged. “Especially the second time around.”

“I’m scared, Scully, and I don’t want to be,” he admitted.

Scared? Why would he be scared?

“He can’t hurt us anymore, Mulder,” she said firmly. “He’s dead.”

Who was the cigarette smoking bastard? What had happened to them? This was all so new to me. I hadn’t heard them talk this way before. For the first time in my entire time knowing them I realized I didn’t really know them at all. They’d had hard lives, long before I was even a thought. Long before I was even a speck. I knew they were a complex pair, but I had no idea how complicated things truly were for them.

Scully had said Kid was still out there somewhere. And I knew he knew where we lived. He could find us again at any moment, if he wanted to. The hope I felt was enormous, and I could only wish they felt it too.

She leaned against him and they both sighed, her hands covering his on top of their pup, and his other hand lightly stroking my ear. I wanted to believe we would all be okay.

 

***

 

Months passed, and although dogs have little grasp on the concept of time, as I’ve mentioned before, I knew time was passing because Scully’s pup grew. It grew and grew inside her belly and as time went on the happiness in our home grew right along with it.

Mulder and Scully were at home all the time now, and I was thrilled. The summer months passed lazily and while they’d occasionally disappear to do important human stuff, there were long stretches of time when it was just the three of us, lounging around, playing in the yard, doing things together.

At night they would spend lots of time mating, and after getting enough shushing and objects thrown in my general direction I figured out they wanted to be alone when they were doing that. Sometimes it takes a while, but we dogs do learn, eventually. I didn’t mind because I could always hear them laughing and they were happy, I knew it.

One day I noticed the empty room at the end of the hall was changing. There was new furniture and what seemed to be a cage of some kind, but it was a very nice looking cage, with stuffed animals inside. I wanted them, badly, but Scully kept saying “No, Dag, those are for the baby. Go get your alien.”

Alien was my stuffed animal. It was my favorite stuffed animal because it was the first one Scully ever brought me the first time she visited us. It was less about the alien and more about the huge smile that broke out across Mulder’s face when I held it in my teeth.

Then finally, one crisp fall day, it happened. Mulder and Scully had been gone for quite some time, and when they returned they had a bundle in tow.

Scully sat down on the couch, the bundle in her arms. I approached cautiously, knowing to be very gentle with the pup, and that they would introduce us when they were ready. But Mulder scooped me up and sat on the couch next to her.

“Hey, boy, we want you to meet someone,” Mulder said. He was grinning from ear to ear. I’d never seen him more happy in the entire time I’d known him. He held me close to him but leaned in so I could better see the tiny bundle. Scully lifted it up and adjusted the blanket a bit until I could see a tiny sleepy face.

“This is Lily, Daggoo,” Mulder said softly.

Lily.

Never before in my life had I learned a human’s name so soon. It stirred up an emotion inside me, a bond to this tiny pup that was new and exciting and immediate.

I barked happily, but they shushed me with smiles, and I quieted down quickly. The pup was sleeping, and in my excitement I’d forgotten. But it didn’t stir, and I rested my head upon the bundle. We all sat there in silence.

I reflected upon my life so far, and the lives of Mulder and Scully and how remarkable they must have been. They were lives I wasn’t a part of, and would never know the truth of. Past lives, in a way. But here and now, they were happy. They were content. I hoped this was enough.

After a moment I looked up at Scully, and she looked back at me.

Stay? I asked her with my eyes. She smiled at me and spoke back.

Yes, Daggoo, her eyes said. We will all stay.