Title: A Man Walks Into a Bar...
Author: Agent L
Classification: Doggett fic (come on, give it a chance - Mulder's in it too!) some MT
Rating: PG
Spoilers: Requiem and a tiny reference to The Pilot
Distribution: Archive anywhere, but keep my name and e-mail attached please!
Disclaimer: To Chris Carter, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Fox, and now Robert Patrick: I know they're not mine, and no money, gifts or even chocolate would be expected or accepted for this.
Feedback: Yes, please!

Summary: A chance meeting.


"If coincidences are just coincidences, why do they feel so contrived?" - Fox Mulder


John Doggett needed a stiff belt of scotch and a good baseball game. He'd been working 14 hour days, including weekends, for the past three weeks since Agent Scully had been confined to bed for the last part of her pregnancy. When he wasn't receiving orders and demands via e-mail, he was retrieving voicemail messages doublechecking on his progress on their latest case.

He liked Scully, though. He'd never been partnered with a woman before and had nearly walked out of Skinner's office when he'd found out she was pregnant, to boot. But Scully was a trooper. No, more like a storm trooper. She was at the office before he arrived in the morning and there for who knew how long after he left. He half expected to find a little cot and a stash of food somewhere in the basement one of these days. But the pregnancy had become increasingly difficult for her. She was a small woman to begin with, and she'd had a long bout with morning sickness that had left her underweight and prone to other physical problems. Still, she'd continued to come to work each day, brushing off his instinctive attempts to help her in and out of chairs and cars.

Finally, her doctor had laid down the law, and A.D. Skinner had threatened assigning a guard to her to make sure she carried out the orders. While Doggett hoped for the best for Scully and the baby, he couldn't help but have a selfish interest in her rapid recovery. The additional legwork was killing him.

After flying to Nebraska last week, he'd come up to Boston to track down a lead on a doctor who was allegedly conducting human cloning experiments - without the humans' consent - but the physician had skipped town and a fire had conveniently destroyed his clinic. Doggett had dutifully sifted through the ashes with the fire investigators, ruining his brand new suit and developing a serious attitude problem.

He rarely drank, having seen alcohol destroy too many otherwise good men, both in the military and in law enforcement. But sometimes a man needed the anonymity of a bar - the hell with that "everybody knows your name" crap - and a good, stiff drink, something to burn his gullet and let him know he was still alive. To argue the merits of the new rookie pitcher against the greats with a total stranger, to cheer a home run or a game saving catch.

The Minuteman Pub was larger than it looked from the outside, narrow and long instead of wide. Smoke hung heavy in the air. No politically correct designated smoking areas here. Suits mingled with jeans and t-shirts, construction workers leaned against the bar next to lawyers and accountants. A group of woman sat at one table near the front, celebrating someone's bachelorette party. One of them whistled at him as he entered, and he grinned.

John found an open spot at the bar and ordered a scotch, then struck up a casual conversation with a stockbroker next to him while some big-haired, sequin-clothed singer belted out the national anthem on the TV to open a Red Sox game.

The first inning had just started when John's attention was distracted by a commotion in one corner, toward the back, near the pool tables. A couple of drunks shouting at each other, nothing unusual, except that one probably outweighed the other by about 50 pounds. Goliath shoved the other man against the wall, then stalked over to the bar.

"Spooky's back again tonight," he growled. "I thought you kicked him outta here."

The bartender poured a draft. "Come on, Bud, he's not hurtin' anybody, and it's cold outside."

Bud grunted. "He's throwin' off my game."

The bartender smirked at Bud walked away. "A fly on the wall could throw off that guy's game."

Doggett stared toward the back room, where Bud's sparring partner had disappeared, as warning bells went off in his head. "Why did you call that guy 'Spooky'?" he asked, keeping his tone casual.

"He just showed up here one night a coupla weeks ago, so one of my waitresses let him in to get warm, and he told her some story about bein' abducted by aliens. She said it was spooky, and the name stuck." The bartender shrugged. "Seems harmless enough. He even helps out after closing, so I let him - hey, where you goin'?"

Doggett made his way through the crowded bar toward the pool room, unable to believe the coincidence that may have led him to finding Agent Fox Mulder, who'd been missing for nearly a year. The circumstances of his disappearance had been kept top secret, but John had heard the rumors about a strange light and weird goings-on in an Oregon forest. He didn't believe in aliens, but Mulder sure as hell did. The guy's office was full of UFO pictures and stories, and everyone knew the tale of his sister's alleged abduction

Spooky Mulder. He'd get a medal for this.

But the stranger had vanished. Bud was back at the pool table, showing off for some girl in a min-skirt. A couple of kids who probably had fake IDs were at the other table. Then Doggett noticed the side door.

He went outside, immediately wishing he'd brought a heavier coat with him. Spring came slowly to Boston and winter still held ruled the nights, despite the growing warmth of the days. He grimaced at the smell of garbage and urine in the alley, looking around with less enthusiasm now.

"Hello?" he called. "Is anybody here?"

Silence.

"Agent Mulder? Fox Mulder?"

A tall, thin man stepped forward, blinking in the garish orange glow of the neon beer sign nearby. Even from a few feet away, Doggett could see his shaggy hair was dirty and tangled, and looked as if he'd tried to cut it himself, with those blunt-edged kids' scissors. A few days' growth of beard shadowed the lower half of his face. His clothes were filthy - the ragged black sweater hung on him, and there were holes in the knees of his jeans, which had probably been blue at some point. Fortunately, he had some sturdy hiking boots that had probably saved his toes from frostbite, but that was about all that was in good condition about this man.

A far cry from the photos he had seen of the GQ candidate with his stylish haircut and well-tailored suits, but nonetheless, Doggett was pretty sure this was the long-lost Agent Mulder.

"Do I know you?" The voice rasped, rusty with disuse.

Doggett suddenly became aware that he was being examined as closely as he was examining the stranger. There was intelligence in the red-rimmed, hollow eyes.

"I don't think so." Doggett moved forward and the man stepped back into the safety of the shadows, but hesitated, like a stray dog who's been kicked around but still hopes for a kind hand.

"You called me Mulder."

"Is that your name?"

A long pause. "Maybe."

John fought to keep his excitement from showing. He could already feel the hearty slaps on the back, see the gratitude in Dana's eyes, but he couldn't make a positive identification on his own, and he didn't want to drag some homeless man in off the streets. Didn't want to be Spooky II. "Do you have any ID?" he asked casually.

The man laughed, a harsh sound that turned into a rattling cough before he responded a little breathlessly, "I must have left it in my other pants."

"Then how do I know you're who you say you are?"

"You said it, not me." With a shrug, he started to walk away.

"The FBI wants to know what happened to you, Agent Mulder."

"No they don't," came the soft reply.

"I do," Doggett said. "And your partner does."

That got the hoped-for reaction Mulder turned back toward Doggett, his face even paler than it had been. Vulnerability had replaced the world-weary expression. Curiosity warred with suspicion.

"You've seen Scully? Is she all right?"

Doggett nodded. "My name's John. Special Agent John Doggett. Why don't we get you something to eat, Agent Mulder?"

Mulder limped slightly as he approached, but ignored the hand Doggett offered. As they left the alley, Doggett joked, "Don't you want to see *my* ID?"

Mulder glanced at him with an expression John had seen on newly released prisoners of war and dying soldiers. Men with no hope; men who had been through hell and hadn't made it all the way back, leaving part of their souls behind.

"Never mind," he muttered.

They walked to the restaurant, which was just down the street from the Minuteman and boasted the finest clam chowder in New England - as did nearly every restaurant in Boston, John had noticed. Although the waitress frowned a little at Mulder's disheveled appearance and wrinkled her nose at the alley smell that now clung to both of them, Doggett showed her his wallet and she seated them in a dim corner, well away from the few other patrons. Mulder drank his water and John's before the waitress brought back the menus

Doggett did not believe in little green men or spaceships, or for that matter, anything he could not touch, see, hear or smell. His own belief was that Agent Mulder had gone down the rabbit hole for a while, and that the only aliens he'd seen had been in his drug-induced hallucinations. He'd seen enough junkies on the streets and on the force to know the signs. From a few people he'd talked to, he also knew that Mulder had been under a great deal of stress the previous year, and on top of that, to find out his partner was pregnant....

Doggett would bet all the seafood in Boston that the ragged sweater hid a wealth of needle marks.

"So...how long have you been in Boston?" he asked, keeping his tone conversational, not wanting this to seem like an interrogation. He'd seen Mulder's eyes slide toward the door more than once, measuring his chances of a quick escape.

Mulder shrugged. "Dunno." The waitress brought over a basket full of fresh baked bread and Mulder gave her a grateful smile before reaching out and grabbing a hunk of sourdough with a filthy hand. She hurried off.

"Do you remember how you got here? Where you were before Boston?"

Mulder shook his head, focused on stuffing food in his mouth. "Scully," he said, the word muffled by the bread.

"She's okay," Doggett said, pausing when the waitress delivered the clam chowder, which Mulder attacked as if the clams might escape at any moment. He suddenly realized that perhaps a rich cream soup might not be the best thing for a man who probably hadn't eaten a decent meal in weeks. "Uh...Mulder, you might want to slow down a little...."

His warning was too late. Mulder's face went pale green just before he scrambled out of the booth and into the nearby men's room. Fortunately, the area was nearly deserted, and the bathroom door was solid enough to keep the retching noise to a minimum.

When Mulder emerged a few minutes later with a mumbled apology, John tried to lighten the moment. "That's okay. I spent plenty of time outside bathroom doors waiting for your partner. At least I'm pretty sure *you* don't have morning sickness."

Mulder jerked away, his eyes dark with anger. "What's that supposed to mean?"

They had attracted the attention of some of the diners and the waitresses, one of whom said something to a large man in a white cook's uniform. He headed toward them with a cleaver in his hand.

"Let's get some fresh air." Doggett tossed several bills on the table and dragged his reluctant companion out the door. Mulder wasn't strong enough to break free, but John still had trouble hanging on to him as they moved down the sidewalk toward his car. "Mulder, listen to me. Dana is pregnant. I thought you knew."

Mulder continued to struggle. "I need to see her."

Doggett took a long look at the shabby, smelly man in front of him. "Look, it's late. Why don't we go back to my hotel room and get you a shower and some decent clothes. Maybe some sleep."

The suggestion wasn't entirely for Mulder's benefit. Doggett had been up for 14 hours, and the last thing he wanted to do was drive back to Washington tonight.

Mulder shook off his hand. "No. I've lost too much time already."

"Mulder, come on. She's not going to appreciate us barging in in the middle of the night. She needs her rest."

*And so do you,* he added silently as Mulder swayed on his feet, past the edge of exhaustion, running on sheer will. He glanced at his watch. "Look, it's nearly midnight. Why don't we - "

Mulder's knees buckled and he started to sink to the pavement. Instinctively Doggett grabbed for him, to save him from falling. Mulder sagged against him for a moment, then Doggett felt something press against his ribs.

His own gun.

A rookie mistake.

Mulder drew away, the weapon still snug against Doggett's side. "Now. Get in the car and drive."

A few minutes later they were headed back toward Washington...and Scully.

They drove in tense silence for a while. There was still too much traffic on the road for Doggett to risk trying to get the gun, so he gritted his teeth and waited for the right moment. Mulder began to relax as they left the city, but the weapon remained pointed steadily at Doggett's side.

After a few miles, Mulder finally spoke. "Is she...Is everything all right? Are there complications?"

"The doctor has restricted her to bed for the last several weeks, but I think it's more of a precaution than anything actually wrong." In actuality, John hadn't been privileged to any details, but why produce further anxiety in a man holding a gun to his ribs?

The other man was silent for a minute or two before he spoke again, his voice barely above a whisper. "So ... who's the father?"

Doggett had assumed Mulder knew. He was starting to wonder if his first assumptions about the agent had been incorrect. "You are."

Mulder shook his head and stared out the window. "I just can't - I don't understand..." His voice trailed off. "Does she...talk about me?"

Doggett bit back a laugh. Only every damn day. Mulder was the yardstick against which all other partners were measured and invariably fell short. "Let's just say I probably know more about you than I do about her. She seems to think I'm some kind of spy."

Mulder made a small, rusty sound that might have been laughter, and the atmosphere lightened a little. "Why is it," he said after a few moments, "that I can remember everything about her...But I can't remember one damn thing that happened to me over the past nine months?"

"Maybe that's for the best right now," John said quietly. He'd learned over the years that sometimes your brain chose the memories it needed to survive and blocked out the rest. If you were lucky.

Mulder had drifted into a restless sleep by the time they finally pulled up in front of the well-kept apartment building in Alexandria. John had called Scully when they'd reached the outskirts of the city, but hadn't told her who his companion was - just that he had some important information on one of their cases and needed to talk to her in person. She had been less than pleased with him - nothing unusual - but told him she'd be waiting.

"Hey. Mulder, we're here. Come on, buddy, wake up." Doggett hadn't retrieved his gun as he'd planned to do, but he did now, afraid that Mulder might accidentally shoot one of them as he returned to consciousness.

Mulder opened his eyes, blinking sleepily for a few moments before he seemed to remember where he was. He sat up and stared out the window like an anxious child. "Are we there?"

Doggett grinned and nodded. "She's waiting for you." He pressed the key Scully had reluctantly given him into Mulder's hand. Mulder looked at him with gratitude and a little embarrassment.

"Look, about the gun...I mean...Thanks for - "

Doggett shook his head. "Just go."

Mulder got out of the car and made his way up to the front door of the building. As Doggett watched him stumble toward the lighted doorway, he realized he'd been wrong. Whatever had happened to the man over the last nine months, Mulder hadn't left his soul behind, trapped in whatever nightmare he'd experienced.

He'd left it here, with her.

The End

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