Title: Touched By An Angel
Summary: On a lonely Christmas Eve, comfort comes from unexpected places
Author's note: This story takes place in the three-month gap in Deadalive. I'm just assuming that Christmas was somewhere in that gap, and if it wasn't, well, continuity ain't my concern!
Dedication: As always, this story is dedicated to the wonderful Robert Patrick, who has inspired me to write this by bringing the character of John Doggett to life!
Thanks to Mischa for the kick-ass beta work!
The fresh scent of fir filled the room as John Doggett finished threading tiny coloured fairy lights amongst the twigs. Flicking the switch and stepping back, he noted everything was in place but the little angel that sat atop the tree. The silver tinsel reflected the blue, green and red of the flickering lights. The baubles hung from the tips of the twigs and a dozen or so presents were neatly wrapped beneath the tree. Somewhere down the street he could hear the faint sounds of carol singing.
Peering out the window he saw the snow had started to fall again. It was going to be a perfect white Christmas.
Nothing was perfect anymore.
Christmas had become a formality for Doggett. Something that was endured but not enjoyed. Not since he had lost the two people he most wanted to share it with.
Sure, the rest of the family usually came around. There was his sister and her family, the cousins and some friends, but he always felt like he didn't belong with them.
Every year he would watch the kids opening their presents amid shouts of 'Look what I got!' and 'Wow! Thanks Uncle John!'. He would think of the presents he would have bought his own son, the fun they would have had playing with all the new toys, and the smile on his wife's face as she watched them play.
He would smile and nod, even laugh at the corny jokes told year after year at dinner, but any enjoyment he may have felt was buried with his wife and son five years ago.
Sighing again, he reached into the little box that contained the angel for the top of the tree. He noticed for the first time, as he carefully unwrapped it from the folds of tissue paper, that it wasn't smiling.
Strange, he thought, for an angel. Weren't they supposed to be happy? Turning back to the tree, he had to stifle a gasp as he saw a figure next to the tree, the figure of the boy he saw every night when he closed his eyes.
"Luke?" he managed to gasp out.
The boy nodded and smiled, reaching his hand out towards his astonished father. The flickering lights of the Christmas tree cast the boy's face in rainbow shades.
Doggett stepped towards the tree and reached out his hand, his tear-filled eyes never leaving those of his boy.
Their hands were an instant from touching when there was a knock at the front door.
Doggett turned towards the door for a split second, then back towards the tree. The Christmas lights flickered on the empty space.
Dana Scully couldn't remember the last time she'd spent Christmas alone. As a child Christmas had been the family get-together of the year, with aunties, uncles, cousins and more. Even in the recent years when her family has dwindled, she had still never been alone for Christmas. She always saw her mother, and since her illness Bill had made a point of seeing her each year.
And then there was Mulder. How many times had she found herself curled up on his couch on Christmas Eve, watching monster movies? She bit her lip, struggling to hold back her tears. She would never spend another Christmas with her beloved Mulder. He was gone, and this time it was for good. He hadn't just disappeared on another crazy crusade, and he hadn't gone without her to investigate a haunted house. He had gone into the cold, dark earth, never to return. How was she ever going to live without him?
Her hand drifted to the ever-growing bump in her belly, wishing her baby was already born, wishing she could at least spent Christmas with someone... anyone...
Bill was down in Florida this year. His wife was due to have another baby any day soon, so Mrs Scully had gone down to be there for the birth.
Dana had insisted to her mother that she'd be fine, that she'd rather spent Christmas alone.
She just hadn't realised how lonely it felt to be alone.
Over in the corner, the Christmas lights flickered slowly on the tree. There weren't many presents this year, but a silver-wrapped gift in the corner caught her eye.
Agent Doggett had given it to her two days before as they left work for the Christmas break. She hadn't expected it, and didn't have a gift to give him in return, but he had insisted she take it, along with a quick Christmas hug.
She wondered what he was doing tonight; whether he was alone. Aside from his FBI profile, she realised she knew very little about her new partner. Family, friends, she had no idea what he did outside work, but she had the feeling he didn't have a family. Something about their line of work wasn't in favour of a healthy family life. She considered calling him and asking him if he would like some company. She thought he might take that the wrong way so she decided to just go over there instead.
It was past eleven at night, but she decided she couldn't turn up empty-handed, especially after him giving her a present. She stopped at a nearby bottle shop and purchased a bottle of Jack Daniel's. She had no idea what he drank, but she thought whisky was a pretty good bet.
The snow had started to fall as she took the highway exit to Falls Church.
When Doggett opened the front door he started in surprise to see his partner standing in the porch, bundled up against the biting cold. "Agent Scully," he said, immediately concerned. "Is something wrong?" She shook her head.
"Are you... are you busy?" she asked hesitantly.
"No, not at all," he replied, stepping back to let her in.
"So, what can I do for you?" he asked, shutting the door behind her.
She held out his present wrapped in a brown paper bag.
"Merry Christmas, Agent Doggett," she said, continuing sheepishly.
"Sorry about the wrapping. It was a, uh, hurried purchase."
"Agent Scully, you didn't have to buy me anything! thank you!" He smiled at her, pulling the bottle from the bag.
"My favorite!" he exclaimed. "How'd you know?"
She shrugged. "Lucky guess."
He gestured for her to follow him into the living room. They both sat down in the couch.
"Wow," she said, noticing the tree. "That looks great! Did you do that?"
He nodded, his face strangely sad. "Did you like my present?" he asked.
She pulled the small silver-wrapped out of her bag and held it up.
"Thought I'd open it here," she said.
She pulled open the paper to discover a box filled with tissue paper. Pushing the paper aside, Scully's eyes widened in surprise as she uncovered a child's baseball glove, slightly worn but still fairly new.
"I know it's a bit early for that sort of things," Doggett began, slightly embarrassed. "But I was sorting through some stuff and I couldn't bear to throw it out."
She looked at her partner to see that wistfully sad expression she saw so often.
"Whose was it?" she asked softly.
Doggett turned away from her, staring at the flickering lights on the tree.
"My son's," he whispered.
Even facing away from her, Doggett could feel Scully's shock at his last words. She didn't say anything and he was afraid to turn, to look her into her eyes. Afraid that he might see compassion, understanding, even pity. Afraid that if he did see any of those, he wouldn't be able to maintain his composure.
The last thing he wanted to do was break down in front of her. In the last few months she'd cried more tears than some people did in a lifetime. He wasn't going to contribute to her pain.
That was, until he felt her small, warm hand, gently rubbing his shoulder.
He turned and let his own eyes meet hers. Deep blue pools of compassion stared up at him, imploring him to go on.
"Where is he now?" she whispered.
Doggett reached out and picked up the tree-top angel, still sitting on the coffee table.
"Somewhere up there with them," he said quietly, nodding to the tiny winged figure.
"John," she breathed, her eyes still wide with shock. "I'm so sorry. I had no idea."
He shook his head.
"There's nothing to be sorry about, Dana," he replied, glad to have finally broken the name barrier, albeit temporarily. "I know I should have told you sooner, but I couldn't. I didn't want you to lose hope in finding Mulder."
She raised one hand to her mouth, her eyes going wide with shock. She wondered what had happened to his son, that he would relate it to Mulder's disappearance and death.
"What happened to him?" she whispered.
Doggett stared out the window into the snowy night, his mind in another place, another time.
"It's been almost five years now," he said, swallowing the lump that had begun to form in his throat. "But it still seems like yesterday when he went missing."
He looked over at his partner.
"Do you want me to go on?"
"Do you want to go on?" she asked.
He shrugged. "It's good to talk about it every once in a while, but I just don't want to upset you." He paused. "It's not a happy story." She considered his words for a moment, then shifted to sit sideways on the couch, so she was facing him.
"I'd like to know, John," she said, her hand moving to grasp his. "If you want me to know."
With his eyes closed, he began a story he had tried to forget. A story that played over in his mind every night when he closed his eyes. A story that he had never told anyone... ever.
It started out a happy enough story; family, laughter, love and fun. It turned nasty when Doggett, a Detective for the NYPD at the time, was assigned to a serial kidnapping case. The kidnapper was smart, leaving clues here and there, but never enough to help. He made maddening phone calls that taunted Doggett and were always cut off a few seconds short of getting a trace.
"Agent Reyes was assigned to the case to help," he said, with more of a grimace than a smile. "It was thought there might be a ritualistic side to the kidnapping, but I knew the kidnapper was just a plain psycho."
Doggett was putting in double shifts, going home only for quick showers and a change of clothes. Then one night his work came home with him, and the day after, his son didn't.
The search was as infuriatingly slow as the search for the other boys. No evidence was found that even gave a clue to the boys' whereabouts, let alone whether they were alive or not.
The kidnapper continued his phone calls, taunting the already fragile Detective to almost breaking point.
He was taken off the case and told to go home.
"I didn't," said Doggett, his faraway eyes telling Scully he was back in New York arguing with his superiors. "How could I sit at home and do nothing when my son was out there, frightened, maybe hurt?"
"They were just trying to do what they thought was best for you," Scully said in a soothing voice.
Doggett nodded and continued his story.
He kept searching for the kidnapper, using all the unofficial means he could think of to obtain tiny scraps of information that led nowhere. He didn't eat, he didn't sleep, and worst of all, he didn't find his son. Someone else did, though.
"It was early in the morning when there was a knock at the door," he said, his voice barely above a whisper. "It was the local police. They didn't even have to say why they were there. The look on their faces was enough."
Doggett lowered his head for a moment, willing the tears to stay back. He felt Scully squeeze his hand gently. Taking a deep breath he continued.
"The field was surrounded by huge fir trees," Doggett said, flashes of the scene invading his mind. "The tops of them were lost in the mist, and the grass was tipped with ice. Down at the far end, a group of cops stood in a circle. Monica was with them. She turned when she saw me, and motioned to the other cops to leave the scene."
Doggett lowered his head, staring intently at the carpet between his feet.
"If it hadn't been for the blood, I would have thought he was just sleeping. His face looked so peaceful, so happy. He looked like the last time I saw him, asleep in his bed when I got home late one night, his baseball glove still on his hand."
Scully looked at the glove she held, her eyes filling with tears. All that Doggett had given up to search for Mulder; all the times Doggett had worried about her, watched her back, protected her and her child without question. It all made sense now. She had misread it as arrogance and male dominance, when the whole time all he was trying to do was save her the pain he had endured. How could she have been so wrong about this man?
"We never caught the bastard," he said in a bitter tone, jolting her from her thoughts. "Even now, I have no idea who he was."
Scully moved a little closer to her partner and rubbed his arm gently again.
"God..." she whispered. "How did you tell...?
"She knew," he said, before Scully finished the question. "The moment to doorbell rang that morning, she knew he was dead, but she never saw his body. She never knew..." he paused, his breath catching in his throat. "She never knew what that bastard did to him. She already had too much to deal with."
Doggett rubbed his tired eyes with the back of one hand.
"That night I got home late. She was already in bed, in fact her mother said she hadn't moved since that morning when we got the news." Doggett paused again, took another deep breath and kept talking, eyes to the floor.
"I was so tired when I got home. Tired of work, tired of life. I pulled off my shoes, dumped my gun holster on the floor and crawled into bed next to my wife."
Once more Doggett stopped, this time leaning back on the couch and closing his eyes, willing the tears to stay away.
"I was woken up in the middle of the night by a deafening bang. As I sat up in bed I felt a spray of something wet across my face, like mist."
"My wife was lying next to me, my gun in her hand. The spray I'd felt had been her blood as she blew her brains out."
"God," Scully whispered again. She couldn't think of anything else to say. She could only imagine what he went through during those days.
"It was my gun," Doggett whispered, anguish as clear in his voice as on his face.
"Yes, it was. But it wasn't your fault," Scully replied firmly.
"She blamed me for Luke," he said quietly.
He took a breath and exhaled slowly.
He remembered his wife's hysterical screaming the night Luke had been taken. She told him it was his fault, that if he hadn't been working the case, Luke would have been safe at home. "Maybe she was right. If I hadn't been on the stupid case they would both still be here."
"You can't blame yourself, John," Scully tried to convince him. "Those events were beyond your control, and... I'm sure Luke doesn't blame you either."
He looked at her for a moment, then turned to stare at the Christmas tree, the lights still bathing the room in rainbow shades.
"I saw him tonight, you know," he said, looking back at her. "He was standing by the tree, reaching his hand out towards mine... It was so real."
He stared back at the tree, as if expecting his son to appear again at any moment.
"See?" Scully said. "He's still here with you. He doesn't blame you, and maybe that's what he was trying to tell you tonight."
He nodded, smiling a little.
"You think?" he asked.
"They're always here to tell you something."
He turned to look at her again.
"You've seen someone too?" he asked.
She nodded and shifted on the couch, bringing her knees up to rest her chin on them.
"I saw my father a few moments after he died, and I saw Melissa. I didn't believe they were trying to tell me something at the time, but now I know they were. Melissa was telling me I wasn't to blame."
Doggett remembered reading the X-Files report, where Melissa was shot when mistaken for Dana.
"I saw Mulder too," Scully said quietly.
It was Doggett turn to look at her questioningly.
"In Montana, in my motel room before we found..." she swallowed. "I knew, when I saw him in the room, that he was gone."
This time Doggett moved closer to Scully, his arm snaking around her shoulders. She gladly leant into him, and they both sat there in silence.
"Why didn't you tell me this before?" she asked, finally breaking the quiet.
He favoured her with a little smile.
"You never asked."
"God," she muttered half to herself, shaking her head. "I feel so stupid."
She saw his questioning look and sighed.
"All this time, ever since you became my partner, I've been acting like I was the only person who ever lost somebody they loved. I had no idea that..."
"It's okay," he said, cutting her off. "My worries were in the past, yours in the present. You had yourself and your baby to worry about, not to mention Mulder. I didn't want to add another thing to your list of worries."
She smiled appreciatively.
Doggett glanced at his watch just as the clock struck midnight.
"Hey, it's midnight. Happy Christmas, Agent Scully!"
She smiled up at him, still not removing her head from its place on his shoulder.
"It's Dana," she said. "And Happy Christmas to you... John." He liked the sound of that.
Scully stood up, stretching a little.
"Well, I suppose I should be going," she said reluctantly, reaching for her jacket and struggling with the sleeve.
He stood up as well, helping her with the offensive sleeve.
"Dana," he began hesitantly. "Are you doing anything for Christmas dinner?"
She shook her head.
"Mom and the rest of the family are in Florida with my brother this year."
"Would you... like to have Christmas dinner with me?" he asked, continuing hurriedly. "Because my sister's family was coming, but they can't make it, and I've got lots of food and I'd like someone to help me eat it."
She chuckled, imagining Doggett sitting by himself at Christmas dinner with a huge turkey in front of him.
"Sure, I'd love to," she replied.
His eyes lit up.
"Great! So... I'll see you tomorrow then," he said as he opened the front door for her. "And... thanks... for everything."
"Anytime," she said, stepping forward to give him a quick hug. "And thank you."
"Merry Christmas Dana," he said as she stepped onto the porch.
"Merry Christmas John," she replied, and headed out into the snowy darkness.
Despite the saddening memories that had surfaced with that night's conversation, Doggett felt strangely happy. Happier than he'd felt on Christmas Day for a long time, anyway.
Maybe it was because, after five long years, he finally felt like he belonged somewhere again. He truly felt part of the X-Files, not just a temporary girder to hold up the basement office.
And after five years of berating himself for not doing more to save his son, a vision and a convincing woman finally let him accept that maybe he did all he could; that it wasn't his fault.
It wasn't going to be a perfect Christmas, but maybe a happy one wasn't too much to hope for.
Yawning, Doggett noticed the little angel still sitting on the table. Before heading upstairs to bed, he picked up the angels and set it in its place on the top of the sparkling tree.
As he stared at the angel, he felt a strange warmth wash over him. He knew that his son was there.
Curiously enough, as the coloured lights shone on its painted face, he noticed the angel was smiling.
Author's Notes: Do I have a preoccupation with angst? Yes. Do I have a preoccupation with Luke? Yes. Do I have a preoccupation with Doggett? Oh yes. Do I have a preoccupation with using the word preoccupation? I do now. ;-)