It Had To Be You

by Rose Campion

pairing: M/D
disclaimers: They're mine! All mine! Uh-oh, did I say that in my out loudie voice? I meant to say they belong to Fox network and etc. etc. No profit made, etc. etc. warning: Don't take this story too seriously. It's meant to be a piece of fluff based off a scenario I saw on the cover of a romance novel. Starts out as vaguely canon, but soon turns AU-ish. Just relax and go with it. Rating: Unapologetically NC-17
Archive: sure, just let me know where
Summary: This story was originally meant as an answer to a challenge on Diandra Hollman's DoggettTorture site- Doggett falls victim to an exotic disease. I'm pretty sure this is not what she had in mind though. "Your infection appears to be bacteria of an unknown kind. Their purpose appears to be to excrete substances into your bloodstreams...The goal of the researcher appears to be to induce concupiscence in the human male."

"Some others I've seen might never be mean Might never be cross or try to be boss
But they wouldn't do
For nobody else gave me a thrill
With all your faults, I love you still
It had to be you, wonderful you
It had to be you."

Part 1:


Anyone who thought that a career in law enforcement was nonstop excitement and adventure had obviously never spent a single day in court, Doggett thought sourly as he sat through the bench call, waiting, then waiting some more.

The criminal court building in Buffalo had to be one of the gawdawfullest ugly buildings ever made, too. Modern, with all the charm of a brick, and built decades ago. It was all concrete and glass with nubby, tweedy gray carpet. Modern did't wear well, at least not when it came to the kind of wear that a court building stood up to. The overall effect was grubby and despressing. Kind of like they were preparing criminals for prison. The courtroom had these improbably uncomfortable benches as the only available seating, solid as rocks, set at angles that seemed designed for maximum discomfort for a tall man like himself. And that was just the seating of the jury box where he was waiting currently with the other law enforcement officers. The jury had not having been sent in from the jury assembly room yet. The seats for those called to court looked even less comfortable.

The worst part about court was that you couldn't do anything but just sit there, listening to the judge. You couldn't work on files or write up reports like you might normally do during empty time. And it could be hours before they were through with all the preliminary crap, and even when they got around to the case he'd been called for, it would probably be only to hear that the case was continued. He'd have to come back, travel all the way back to bleeping Buffalo, NY. He supposed that maybe a continuance wasn't such a bad thing. He wasn't looking forward to trying to convince a judge and jury that Herman Stites, recovered finally from his chest wound, was really some kind of murdering lizard creature. Yeah, that was going to play real well. It was uncharitable of him, but he'd almost been hoping that Stites wouldn't recover, partly from natural anger that Stites had attempted to put him and Agent Harrison on the dinner menu, but partially because he knew what the trial would be like.

He paused from his woolgathering to look up. He caught sight of the last person he'd hoped not to see. Shit. Mulder. What the hell was he doing here? Mulder settled himself into one of the concrete benches that the accused, the witnesses and the rest had make do with. Doggett caught sight of a sheet of white paper in Mulder's hand. He didn't have to read it to know what it was. A supoena. Mulder was being called as a witness in the case too. It might have been schadenfreude, Doggett thought, but at least Mulder had to suffer through this as well. Be called back for each and every continuance, and at his own expense, no doubt. Mulder wasn't on the government's tab any longer.

Mulder, Doggett was surprised to see, hadn't dragged out a suit for court. Instead, he'd chosen jeans and a T-shirt for this appearance. A gray T-shirt that clung in all the right places. Damn, why did the man have to look so elegant in such crappy clothes? And he pulled it off in such a way that Doggett felt like a stolid dolt in comparison, even though he was wearing his second best suit.

Doggett shifted in his seat uncomfortably. It'd been a while since he'd sat down and this morning's coffee was beginning to filter through his system. He looked up at the DA and then the judge. Determining that he wouldn't be needed, at least not for a while, he stood up. He walked out of the courtroom, into the hall and then into the men's room. He didn't notice Mulder following him.

It happened just as he'd finished draining the little lizard, right as he was about to give it a shake, then zip himself back up. He heard Mulder's voice yell, "Down!"

Then not a half a second later, he was being tackled right to the ceramic tile floor of the men's room. Gross. The floor was a little...sticky. He didn't want to think about what he was lying in at the moment. With Fox Fucking Mulder on top of him. What the fuck? He was so enraged at being thrown to the floor that he almost missed the screaming in the hall outside and the shots being fired. And the guy standing in the doorway of the men's room, looking exactly like the archetypal Black Ops agent from Fox Mulder's every paranoia induced nightmare.

This was a terrorist attack of some kind? How the hell had they gotten those submachine guns past the metal detectors? What the hell was happening?

Another black ops guy joined the first in the men's room. He was carrying was looked like an aeresol can of some kind, unlabelled. This one had a gas mask on. With motions and muffled words, he made it clear to the first black ops guy that he should get out of there. Before Doggett could react, throw Fox Mulder off of him and do something, anything, the second Ops guy pulled the cap off his aerosol can and sprayed both Doggett and Mulder liberally with something that smelled sickly sweet, kind of like room deodorant. Floral meadow scent. Doggett choked on the cloying scent of it, not able to stop himself from breathing it in. Mulder was coughing and hacking right along with Doggett.

Doggett swore he heard the Black Ops guy snicker. Then the can was tossed into the corner of the room with an empty sounding clatter. Doggett crawled to his knees, then to his feet, intending to tackle the retreating terrorist, but something was wrong. He felt weak, hardly able to move, like every ounce of his strength had drained right out of his feet. Mulder was still on the tile floor, curled up on his side, hacking away. Doggett decided to downgrade his intended run to a walk, then even as he took a few steps, his body decided that the floor was a much better place to be at the moment. For the second time in less than a minute, he crashed to the dirty, nasty tile floor of the courthouse men's room. He didn't have long to think about how awful this was, though. Darkness claimed him.

When Doggett woke up again, he was in a hospital bed, more or less comfortable. The space he was in wasn't like any hospital room he'd ever been in. It was a big room, but he was inside a big plastic bubble of sorts. A smaller room made of clear plastic sheeting walls inside a larger space. He looked around and saw what looked to be a complex ventilation system. Shit. That must have been some kind of biohazard that the Black Ops had exposed him to. He was in some kind of isolation tank.

Strike that, he thought as he looked around. Not quite in solitary isolation. There was another hospital bed in the plastic bubble. He looked at the occupant. Of course. There had been one other person exposed to whatever biohazard it was. Fox Fucking Mulder.

He didn't know why the other man stuck in his craw the way he did. He had thought that they'd come to some kind of mutual respect after that oilrig thing, but every time he saw the man, it was like fingernails on the blackboard. He got pissed off just thinking about the man. He didn't like to think about why that should be so. That was poking into the dark, uncomfortable thoughts that he tended to shove in a little boxes, wrap up with duct tape, label 'do not touch' and push into the storage cabinet that was his subconscious. No, some things did not bear examination.

That's what he did now. All uneasy thoughts shoved back into their storage, he focused on how he was feeling. Not bad actually, considering he'd apparently been infected with some unknown biohazard. Tired enough that the idea of getting out of bed was definitely meeting with mental resistance, but other than that, he didn't feel achy, feverish or in any kind of pain. Okay, he might be drugged, he thought. That might explain his current inability to get up. But he didn't think he was too bad off. He didn't have the fuzzy, disconnected feeling of most of the really good drugs. He didn't think he was really sick, though. Maybe this was all just precaution. He supposed it was possible that he was in the hands of the black ops people, a prisoner. Well, he'd deal with that eventually. For now, going to sleep again seemed to be the order of the day. He drifted helplessly into the hands of exhaustion.

When he woke up again, he was still in the same hospital bed, feeling a lot better though still kind of tired. The idea of sitting up wasn't as much of an anathema to him and he did that almost immediately. See, it wasn't just him that was awake, but the little general was standing up and saluting. A really prime specimen of morning wood, enough so that it was causing the light blanket he was covered with to tent up. And Fox Mulder was just over in the next bed, sitting up. Thankfully Mulder wasn't looking in Doggett's direction. Though at the noise of Doggett changing position, he looked over. Doggett bunched up the blankets in his lap for better concealment, because it didn't appear that his woody was thinking about deflating anytime soon.

"Mornin', Sunshine," Mulder said, ruefully. He didn't look best pleased to be here either. No, the man was decidedly in full pout mode, looking moody, his lip sticking out slightly.

"Where the hell are we, Mulder?" Doggett asked. "This doesn't look like any hospital I've been in before. Do you think we're in the hands of those terrorists?"

"Worse," Mulder said, with a grimace.

"Worse?" Doggett asked. "Who?"

"The CDC," Mulder said with a sourness that could only have been born of experience. "We're in high level isolation. That must have been some kind of highly contagious biohazard we were exposed to back at the courthouse. I haven't been awake long, just a minute before you. But this isn't the first time I've ended up in one of these units."

Almost on cue, a bunny-suited figure walked into the air lock arrangement that was their door to the outside world. It took a few minutes for the air he heard pumping to fully cycle through before the inner door opened. The figure looked funny, even more than the usual way that people looked in those big, white plastic suits. The suit bagged around the ankles and wrists, as if the person, a decidedly short but round person, was wearing a suit far too large for him or her to accommodate her girth. It took him a moment to decipher that the figure was Agent Scully, still hugely pregnant. The characteristic way she supported her back as she came to a stop in the middle of their beds gave it away, even before she turned to face him.

"Well, both of you are looking very good, all things considered," she said. She didn't sound amused. Not in the slightest. And Doggett couldn't say as he blamed her. To travel all this way again, in her state. The woman certainly got his nomination for sainthood.

"So that means we'll be free to go soon," Mulder asked, hopefully. "I feel fine. Not sick at all."

"Not so fast, Mulder," she said. "You're both still highly contagious with a biological organism of unknown type. The CDC scientists are working on identifying it, seeing if they can isolate and neutralize it, but for now, you'll have to remain in isolation."

"What happened in that courthouse, Agent Scully?" Doggett asked. "And shouldn't you be on your maternity leave, not exposing yourself to unknown organisms?"

Scully turned to him and graced him with a smile he could barely see through the clear faceplate of her big, white helmet. "I'm fine, Agent Doggett. The CDC precautions are more than adequate. It appears that Herman Stites had some friends. The attack was a successful rescue operation. Assistant Director Skinner and myself are investigating possible government connections into Stites' research. In any case, we captured one of the attackers and, using information gained from him, we were able to track down the laboratory of one Emmanuel Lobel, one of Stites colleagues. He's a cryptozoologist specializing in microorganisms. He appears to be the scientist who created the organism. The laboratory was abandoned, the files mostly trashed, but we found a hard copy notebook that must have been overlooked."

She would have poured over that notebook already, looking for a cure, looking for any information.

"So, what's the skinny, Agent Scully?" Doggett asked before Mulder could. He wanted to hear the unvarnished truth. If he was going to buy the farm from this thing, whatever it was, he wanted to hear it flat out, right away. He thought Scully knew him well enough that she wouldn't candy coat anything. "Is this some kind of time delayed thing? We get really sick later on? What are we up against? Liquefying organs, like with that Ebola thing?"

"Nothing that exotic or deadly, Agent Doggett," Scully said. And then Doggett got another look at her through the faceplate and damned if the woman hadn't turned a bright shade of pink. She tried to keep her voice completely business like, but you could tell it was a real effort for her. It was almost as if she was going to break down and laugh any minute now. What the hell was up?

Scully got it under control a moment later, then continued, still blushing, but her voice as if she were delivering a particularly dull report to a convention of pathologists, "Your infection appears to be bacteria of an unknown kind. Their purpose appears to be to excrete substances into your bloodstreams. Some of these are fairly pedestrian- testosterone, other human hormones. Others we can't as yet identify. The goal of the researcher appears to be to induce concupiscence in the human male."

Doggett was a little slow to catch on, not recognizing the word, but Mulder got it right away. He breathed a heavy sigh, then said, "As if the average male really needs any help in that department."

Then Doggett got it. He might not have been quite as quick as Fox Mulder, but he got there soon enough. He had to plow through the connections from a to b to c, but he was no dummy. Shit. Well, that would explain why his morning woody had failed to subside thus far, as well as the urges he'd tried to suppress to touch himself right through his blankets. He glanced over at Mulder and noticed that the blankets were definitely scrunched up over the other man's lap as well. His life had been weird and impossible ever since he'd been assigned to search for Fox Mulder, but he'd never anticipated that his life could get this weird and this impossible. Shit. Of all the Goddamn things. And with Mulder sharing this isolation room, not to mention the CDC breathing down his neck, it wasn't even as if he was going to be able to jerk off to ease some of the tension.

"Tell me you didn't just say what I thought you said, Agent Scully," Doggett said, ashamed to hear how much it sounded like he was pleading.

He had to admit that she finally had the decency to look ashamed, or maybe he was just imagining that she did. Those bunny suits did a good job at concealing a person's expression. "I'm sorry, Agent Doggett," she said. "I believe you heard me correctly. You can be assured that the CDC scientists are going to be working around the clock finding a cure for your condition."

She said this with such blithe assurance that Doggett thought that she meant that they'd be working around the clock, if she had to keep her weapon pulled on them to insure it. Still, Doggett found himself wondering if maybe they could move him into quarters that had a shower. A cold shower. Maybe, just maybe, that might do the trick of pulling the plug on his woody, which if anything, was getting more and more painful.

"Scully, uh, not to complain, seeing as our room tab is going to be on the government," Mulder began. "But I don't suppose you could see about moving us into accommodations that are a little bit more private than this."

"I've already looked into that, Mulder," she said. "Especially once I realized the possible symptoms of the, uhm, infection. But these isolation rooms don't come cheap. And with budget cuts, the CDC just doesn't have a second unit available right now. I'm afraid you're stuck together until the CDC scientists determine you're no longer infectious. I know that probably puts a damper on the most obviously convenient way of easing your symptoms, but I'm sure you'll figure out something."

Then Scully got a funny look on her face. Doggett recognized it from when his wife had been pregnant. The sprog had been moving, probably, and she was trying to figure out if it was just that, or if it were the start of something bigger. "I think its time for me to get out of the bunny suit and go sit down, guys," she said after a while.

"I think that's a good idea, Agent Scully," Doggett said, keeping his voice sounding light, yet concerned. "Maybe you should go on home. I'm sure we'll be fine."

Scully put her hands to her back again, as if massaging a backache. Maybe it was the start of her labor. "I'll be back later," she said. She turned to Mulder and gave him a brief hug, then started making her way to the air lock. The entry process repeated, the air cycling out, then in again. A moment later, they were seemingly alone. Doggett, though he would normally attribute the thought to getting as paranoid as Mulder, found himself wondering about the presence of hidden video monitoring. The CDC would want to keep an eye on what was going on with their most infectious diseases while keeping away from direct contact. The obvious solution was closed circuit television.

Mulder was looking over longingly at the door, then he looked ahead, shaking his head. For some reason that Doggett couldn't even begin to understand, this truly pissed him off.

"Mulder," he snapped. "There are over five billion people in the world. Of all the people I could have gotten stuck in this situation with, it had to be you!"

Mulder's face went blank and stony for a moment. Doggett had made a discernable hit then. Score one for him. Then Mulder's eyes flashed and he snarked right back, "Don't think I'm exactly thrilled to be stuck in here with a real tightass like you."

The altercation might have continued, but they were graced with another visit. They both stared sullenly as a bunny-suited figure entered their isolation cell. The person wasn't Scully, returned for some reason, but a sandy, washed out looking scientist type. A real pencil necked geek sort. He looked embarrassed to be there, but he gamely cleared his throat and began, "Um, Mr. Mulder, Agent Doggett. I'm David Lamont, one of the senior researchers in this department. Dr. Scully suggested I discuss the terms of your quarantine with you."

The sound of dire inevitability in his voice, with a timbre of terror quavering in it, suggested that Scully was not in a mood to be messed with. Scully on a tear was enough to put fear into the heart of even the bravest man. This geek scientist type would have been a pushover for her. She probably didn't even have to make the hint that she was armed with a 9mm and not afraid to use it. She'd probably just stepped on his toes until he was the one apologizing.

"Well, you could start by letting us out of here," Mulder tried. "We're not sick."

"I'm sorry," Lamont said. "You're very unusual patients for us, in that normally when we see patients who need to be in this kind of isolation, they're on the verge of death, rather than seemingly healthy as you are. But both the non-contamination protocols, and instructions from higher up are quite clear. We can't let you get out to spread this disease. There also remains the possibility that more, uh, um, uh, serious symptoms might manifest themselves later on in the course of the infection. And we've been working with cultures of the bacterium in the lab. It does appear to be resistant to any antibiotic we could throw at it, including the big guns like vancomycin. So you can imagine the seriousness of the situation. Dr. Scully had some suggestions for how we can make your confinement more, um, comfortable.

"Someone will be in shortly with a television. We should be able to provide a variety of reading materials. And there was some concern about your privacy given the, erm, um, ah, nature of your condition," Lamont said. "After some...ah, discussion, we've agreed that, considering your continued health, that video monitoring is completely unnecessary, and that we could have checks on a scheduled basis, and that we wouldn't come to the unit otherwise unless you were to call us."

"Well, that's a start," Mulder said, in a snit. "Are you sure there aren't two units available?"

"I'm afraid not, Mr. Mulder," the man said, apologetically. "I can understand your concerns, but there just aren't any more facilities like this one available at the moment. We can provide some screens to set up between the two beds, but that's the extent of what we can do at the moment."

A short while later, with more apologies, the pencil neck was gone. Mulder licked his lower lip, looked at Doggett as if he was going to say something. No, that wasn't quite it. Like he was thinking...

No. Mulder sure as hell wasn't going to be doing any thinking about him of that kind. He was going to have to make that crystal clear. And if Doggett had to defend his virtue, he was pretty sure he could beat Mulder. The other man might be in good shape too, and few inches taller than Doggett, but Doggett was sure he could take Mulder.

But Mulder turned away, shaking his head violently, as if he was stopping himself from thinking certain things. "I think we need to come to some kind of agreement, Agent Doggett," he said. "Some kind of ceasefire. We're stuck in this together, for the duration. It'll be easier on the both of us."

"That depends," Doggett answered. "What kind of agreement did you have in mind?"

But as soon as he'd said that, for a long minute that Doggett just couldn't seem to help, his mind went straight to the gutter. Utterly in spite of himself. It had to be caused by this...disease. That could be the only explanation for the sudden images that came to mind of Mulder's mouth, wrapped around his cock, his own mouth around Mulder's. His already full cock twitched a little at the mere thought. Jesus. He was not going to survive this if he didn't get himself under control. He could have slapped himself, but instead, he settled for shaking his head. It was just the disease, he told himself. That was all. No reflection on him. The disease was making him hornier than he'd ever been. And Mulder happened to be the only one around- that was all.

It was just like his time in the Marines. Nobody but other guys around, and him being young, dumb and full of come, of course he'd fooled around a little when the opportunity presented itself. Didn't mean a damn thing. Once that time in his life was over, so was that type of fooling around. He'd gotten married, loved his wife, loved to make love to her, and besides, even then, he'd grabbed pussy whenever he got a chance. There wasn't a person in the world who could accuse him of being light in the loafers. Queer as a three-dollar bill. Playing for the other team. Putting from the rough. He shook his head again once he caught his thoughts meandering. Luckily, Mulder didn't seem to notice his little mental field trip.

"I'm thinking a simple agreement to pretend not to hear certain noises through this screen that they're supposed to give us. I think we both know what I'm talking about here without me having to spell it out," Mulder said. "In essence, we'll just not talk about the elephant in the living room. It's the only sensible thing we can do. I don't know about you, but I'm just about dying over here."

Suddenly all the delicate talk and pussyfooting around got to Doggett, drove him to the edge. He snapped, "Just say it, Mulder. You want to jerk off over there and you want me to not notice, right? I don't see why everyone's sensibilities are so damn sensitive that they can't come out and say it."

"Fine. I'd like to masturbate and I believe I'm accurate in guessing that you would as well," Mulder said, surprisingly mild. Doggett would have thought that considering how he'd snarled, that Mulder would have responded in kind. But when he didn't, Doggett found some of his ire melting away. Mulder's mouth quirked up in a half smile and he added, "You don't suppose they'd let us have phone access, would they?"

It took Doggett a second to figure out that one. Until he remembered combing through Mulder's phone bills, looking for clues when the man had gone missing. Mulder had a predilection for phone sex in addition to a video selection that had to be seen to be believed. It had a little bit of everything, enough that even though Doggett had poked through the whole thing, he couldn't have even begun to guess at Mulder's preferences and kinks. He had come to the conclusion that either Mulder was just a generalized pervert or he'd anticipated people searching through the collection and so he'd hidden his true preferences like hiding a tree in the forest.

There was some sudden kindness in Mulder's eyes, something in the way that Mulder smiled that Doggett found himself softening to. As if Mulder was making some kind of concession for peace. They were, after all, like it or not, in this together. Doggett decided that it would make it a little bit easier if he at least stopped antagonizing Mulder. He didn't have to like the man, but then again, he'd gotten along plenty with people he didn't like.

"You know, I'm thinking at this point that a 1-900 number ain't necessary. Just a few minutes alone," Doggett said. His cock twitched again, even at the mere thought of a bit of privacy to stroke himself to release.

The wish for a bit of privacy had to wait though. Suddenly a near swarm of people in isolation suits was in the larger room and another one of them was entering their little plastic bubble. It was Scully again. As she approached them, Doggett noticed that she looked tired and her face was slightly flushed, as with effort, but she also looked pleased. She also carried a white paper bag that looked like it came from some carryout place. There were a couple of grease stains on it, indicating something no doubt unhealthy, full of grease. Doggett had been wondering about that. He was starting to get hungry, but there'd been no sign of so much as a hospital tray brought to them. Though admittedly, it was another hunger that had been occupying his mind for the most part.

"Congratulations," she said to them. There was a slight smile, definitely triumphant, on her face. "I've gotten them to admit that the isolation bubble can be reconfigured within the larger room. I've just gotten you two a bathroom. They weren't going to admit that it could be done, but I stepped on a few toes."

"Scully," Doggett protested. "You shouldn't be worrying about us. We're big boys. We'll be fine. You get off your feet and worry about J. Edgar Jr. there."

Still, despite his sudden worry for her, he was immensely pleased. A bathroom meant a door that he could shut on Mulder. It meant privacy. It was, without a doubt, a one hundred percent improvement on their predicament.

"Scully! I'd kiss you, but it seems I'm a diseased pariah at the moment," Mulder said, big smile on his face. Then he pointed at the bag. "If there's ice tea in that bag, it must be love for sure this time."

"Sorry, Mulder," she said, pushing the bag at him. "It's fate again. Coke. I'm sorry. I didn't go. I sent someone else."

"Coke's just fine, Agent Scully," Doggett said. Honestly, he didn't think he'd taste a thing, but he figured he'd have to eat something. Fuel for the furnace, that kind of thing.

She opened the bag and handed him a foil wrapped burger and a bag of fries, then the promised coke, in a foam cup with a lid. "The next time it'll be something a little more healthy," she said. "We're kind of bending the rules by bringing this in."

"I truly appreciate it," he said.

Meanwhile, as they'd talked, the isolation suited people outside of the bubble were starting to move things around. Scully left them with promises to come back the next day. Meanwhile, as the CDC workers built a plastic tunnel linking the isolation room with another door, Doggett picked at his French fries. They were too salty and already mostly cold by the time he'd gotten them. Besides, he was just too distracted to eat. If it had been bad earlier, by now his erection was just demanding attention. The feel of the cloth from his hospital gown was starting to feel like torture. Good torture, but torture. Like that song from the eighties- hurt so good.

The minute that they'd been given the thumbs up that they could use the bathroom, and the crowd of CDC workers had departed, leaving with them the promised television and screen, having taken with them a couple of video cameras, Doggett jumped out of his hospital bed and said, "Dibs on the john."

God, but wasn't it just agony to feel his erection bob up and down as he walked past Mulder's bed towards the connecting tunnel. And embarrassing to see how he tented out the front. And he could definitely feel a bit of a breeze up the backside of it. He wasn't sure what was worse or which he should attempt to conceal.

"Hey," Mulder said as Doggett passed. "Give me about five minutes. Oh, and Scully slipped us a gift."

With that, Mulder pulled two small tubes out from under his blanket. It took Doggett a little while to recognize them as hand lotion. He offered one to Doggett. Floral scented, he thought. Lilac, to be exact. The sort of thing a woman might carry around with her. It was sure to reek with the "stink so pretty" perfume that he hated, but that didn't stop him from accepting the lotion from Mulder.

"I think Scully thought we might do ourselves some damage from overuse or something," Mulder said, jokingly.

The way Doggett was feeling at the moment, that might not be such a joke. He'd heard guys talk about being so aroused it hurt, but he'd never experienced it himself, not even in the height of adolescent hormone overdrive. This was like what it had been like after necking for an hour with his first girlfriend, Joanie, on the couch in her parent's rec room, parents gone. And then her telling him he had to stop, just as he'd been sure he'd gotten her warmed up enough to stick a hand under her shirt. That feeling. Times ten. No. Times twenty. It was enough to make him feel like simply getting his rocks off once was not going to be enough. And he didn't like that feeling of being out of control of himself. Not one bit.

Still, Mulder didn't have to share. And besides, Mulder had taken the "Summertime Rose" scented lotion, which was sure to stink even worse than the lilac, so he had that much to be grateful for.

"Uh, thanks, Mulder," Doggett said. Then he started for the bathroom. Only the uncomfortable feeling of his bobbing cock stopped him from running.

The bathroom was small, just a toilet, small vanity and sink, and a single stall shower of the kind you'd see in hospital rooms normally. More of just a showerhead and drain in the floor. Still, it had a door. No lock on the door, but Doggett thought he could trust that Mulder was fully occupied with pulling his own pud by now. There were towels. Doggett decided that he'd do it in the shower; hopefully the water would drown out any noise he might make. At this point, he wasn't quite sure if he'd be able to stop himself from making noises. All bets were off in that regard.

He almost didn't make it to the shower, but thankfully it took just seconds to rip off the gown. The water was hot right from the get go. He pulled the shower curtain closed. He was surprised that he didn't spurt from the first touch, or even just from the pressure of the water that blasted out of the showerhead. He wrapped his hand a little more firmly around his cock and started pulling, sliding his hand back and forth on the shaft. Oh, God, but that felt good. Better than he could say.

As he worked himself, his mind drifted, images floating freely through his head. First just memories of random sexual encounters. Not Barb. That'd been too painful right after the divorce and he'd pretty well trained himself to avoid those thoughts. But there'd been other women, both before and after Barb. But before long, his mind started looping on this one guy he'd traded blowjobs with a few times while he'd been in the Marines. Richards was his name. Last name that was. What had his first name been? That was harder to remember, but Doggett pulled the name Mike out of memory and that sounded right. Richards had been a real hot number, not quite a body builder type, but he'd been a football player in high school. It was in the shower when it happened usually. Just like this. And it'd been, despite the weirdness of it being another guy, some of the most scorching hot sex he'd had up to that point, because of the risk of getting caught, and because of the thrill of having such a muscled stud being the one kneeling in front of him.

Doggett stopped moving his hand once he realized what he was thinking about. And furthermore, Richards had somehow become Mulder in his fantasy. That he'd been picturing himself running his finger's through Mulder's brown hair as he plundered a talented mouth. Richards' lips had been full like Mulder's, Doggett remembered. No, he couldn't be thinking things like that. It hadn't meant a thing, it had just been convenient and he certainly wasn't going to allow Mulder to touch him like he'd allowed Richards. He focused his mind on...yeah, that first girlfriend of his, Joanie, and how it had felt when she'd finally given it up to him.

Still his mind drifted, and as he gripped himself that one, last hard time that sent his whole body shuddering and spasming, he hardly noticed that his mind had fixated on Mulder again. That full mouth soft and hot on him. Mulder kneeling in front of him. Not as muscular as Richards had been, but Doggett had seen enough of Mulder to know that the man's body was nothing to be ashamed of either. The man's hair was probably as silky as a woman's.

Relieved of the pressure finally, he slumped back against the wall of the shower, dumbly watching the stream of hot water wash away the last of the semen that had covered his hand. Still, despite his post-orgasm torpor, he was horrified. Without the pressing need, he remembered just exactly what he'd been thinking about as he'd been jerking off. Oh, hell, he thought to himself. Please, tell me I did not just whack off to the thought of Fox Mulder sucking my dick.

If the shower washed away the physical evidence of what he'd done, it couldn't clean away the memory of what he'd been thinking. It's just proximity, he rationalized. But the fact of what had just happened kept rolling around in his relaxed, empty mind. Big, loud, empty and utterly undeniable.

It just had to be Mulder, didn't it?

Doggett finally decided he had to pull himself together. Thanks to the resources of the CDC, there seemed to be limitless gallons of hot water, but a man couldn't hide in the bathroom all day. It was cowardly. Behavior unbecoming a man. He'd have to go out there eventually and look Mulder in the eye. He'd brazen it out somehow, even though he knew he was going to just look at the man and instantly think about those things he'd thought about.

And damn, his little stint in the shower had just taken the edge off of things. As he thought about looking at Mulder again, his cock started to stir with interest. Okay. This was just not funny. He was old enough that once a night was all he should be good for. Not like when he was eighteen and he was raring to go again almost as soon as he was done. No, this was worse than any adolescent haze of hormones he remembered.

Couldn't the doctors give them anything? Surely there had to be something that acted like an anti-Viagra.

Suppressing his anger at this whole ridiculous situation, he turned the water off and reached for a towel. As he dried himself, he couldn't totally avoid touching his dick, but he assiduously left it alone. He got the feeling it'd be really easy to slip into another...opportunity to be thinking about Mulder in a way that Mulder really shouldn't be thought about. Once dry, he reached for his hospital gown again. He hated the damn things, but it was all the clothes he had at this point, so on it went. For damn sure he wasn't going to walk back into that room wearing nothing but a towel.

Then, back into the main part of the isolation bubble. Mulder was stretched out on the bed, dressed, Doggett noticed, in surgical scrubs. Before Doggett could open his mouth to ask, Mulder said, "Scully thought we would be more comfortable in scrubs. There's a pair for you on your bed. It's not much, but at least my ass isn't out hanging in the breeze."

Mulder's ass, Doggett thought, definitely didn't bear thinking about.

This time, as Doggett walked past Mulder, he pulled the gown tight around him, so that he was sure he was fully covered. True to Mulder's word, there was a set of blue hospital scrubs on the bed. He pulled on the pants first, under the hospital gown. Even though he was behind the screen they'd brought in, he still felt tremendously exposed.

But when he peeked around the screen, Mulder was sitting up straight on the bed, hands to his side, watching a basketball game on the television. Mulder stared at the screen with seeming rapt attention. More intense attention than could be attributed to the game. And during their brief conversation, Doggett had noticed that Mulder didn't once look him in the eye. Could Mulder possibly...Then he cut off that thought brutally. He wasn't going to go there. He'd be fine, so long as he could keep this suddenly little fixation of his under lock and key. It was just the disease talking. If he just rode it out, he'd be fine.

Denial, a little voice at the back of his head nagged, is far more than a river in Egypt.

Still, for the moment, he decided he could pull back the screen a little and watch the game. Not that he was a huge basketball fan, but it was a distraction. He almost didn't notice Mulder and just how good looking he'd suddenly discovered that the other man looked for whole seconds at a time. He found he had to sit up straight in bed, his hands to the sides, just like Mulder's. He put them too close to his body and he suddenly found them...drifting.

It was fine though. It really was. For a while.

Then Mulder jumped out of his bed and started pacing the fifteen feet confines of the isolation bubble. It was only about eight good paces for Mulder, the side to side accomplished quickly. That meant Mulder walked in front of Doggett's field of vision about once every ten seconds, blocking the view of the basketball game, that if he were honest, wasn't very effective at keeping his attention to begin with.

"For Lord's sake, Mulder," Doggett said after about thirty repetitions of this back and forth. "Sit down already. You know, you make a great door but a terrible window. I'm trying to watch the game here."

"Let's have a little bit of the truth here, Doggett," Mulder said, stopping dead center in the middle of Doggett's view. Damn but the man's lips were full and gorgeous. Even in the hospital scrubs, Mulder seemed elegant, the loose blue garments emphasizing his slim body by contrast.

"I'm watching the game," Doggett complained. This was shaping up to be one of those little conversations that nobody in their right mind would want to be having.

"I don't think you're watching the game any more than I was, Agent Doggett," Mulder said.

"I was. Do you mind?"

"Then what's the score right now?" Mulder demanded, even as he grabbed the remote control and clicked off the television.

Doggett rummaged through his short-term memory and came up with only Mulder's lower lip and the luscious curve it made as it swooped across his face. Basketball was not to be found. He couldn't even remember the teams playing. It was infuriating and frustrating. Never, not once, had he been so fuzzy headed. Such a space cadet. No, not spacey. It was so not fair that he was so horny that Mulder's lips were far more of a distraction to him now than Stacy Adams' round and lush breasts had been back as a high school sophomore. Just not fair.

He didn't say anything to Mulder, just stared furiously at the blanket.

"I rest my case, Agent Doggett," Mulder said.

"You got a point here, Mulder?" Doggett asked. "Because otherwise, I'd like to get back to the game."

"My point is that maybe this would be easier if we stopped arguing and started to try and get along. I know we can work together. We've done it before."

Doggett's mind immediately drifted to wondering what Mulder might have in mind by "working together" in this particular instance. He shook his head to clear it but it didn't work. He just couldn't stop obsessing over what it would be like to kiss down the side of Mulder's throat and to lick that gorgeous hollow right where Mulder's throat met his chest. The man's skin would be slightly salty, Doggett thought. And he would smell slightly too, because he hadn't yet showered. Mild masculine sweat. Mulder was still talking, oblivious to Doggett's obvious wool gathering.

When Doggett finally tore his mind away the sheer perfection of the curve of Mulder's lips and centered it on the words coming from that mouth, he heard Mulder say, "I have to conclude that it wasn't generalized concupiscence that the designers of this bacteria had in mind, but specific attraction between people who are exposed to it at the same time. It's the only way that I can explain..." Mulder paused, took in Doggett's more or less moon-faced stare and asked, "have you been listening to me, Agent Doggett? At all?"

"Yeah, Mulder," Doggett said. "You were saying that..."

What had Mulder been saying? Something about how he believed that the biohazard they'd been exposed to was meant to cause not generalized desire, but specific desire. For the person you were exposed with at the same time with. Shit.

At least that explained it. He wasn't going nuts. It was the disease that was causing his thoughts to drift every second to fantasies of boinking like crazy with a man he didn't even like when you came down to it. And why he wasn't fantasizing about any number of pretty women he could think of. Or why Scully, even as pregnant as she was, had utterly failed to spark the slightest bit of lust from him when she'd come in.

"Never mind that. Quit circling the airport and just get to your point, Mulder," Doggett said, already afraid of the conclusion that Mulder was certain to draw but unable to not ask for it.

"My point is this," Mulder said. And then he closed the short distance between them in a few steps, put his hands on Doggett's shoulders before Doggett could scramble out of the way, leaned in close and said, "Time for us to consider some extreme possibilities. Because I think that this is a case where Rosie Palm and her five sisters are just not going to cut it."

And then he bent down and placed his lips firmly on Doggett's and started to kiss him.

It was like electricity to Doggett. Literally. Like sticking his finger into a socket. The shock traveled up and down his spine. It was an instant chemical reaction- all conscious thought, all anger at his situation, all of that, turned into heavy precipitation and settled to the bottom, out of sight, out of mind. All that was left was the urgency to get as much of Mulder, in any way possible, as he could.

Mulder's lips savaged Doggett's mouth, rough, taking whatever they wanted from the kiss. Mulder's cheeks and chin were stubbly, but Doggett hardly noticed. Mulder's hands were still on his shoulders, but his own scrambled ineffectively, grasping about for some part of Mulder to stroke, to hold on to. Then, instinctively, he put his hands on top of Mulder's, then threw himself back onto the bed, drawing Mulder after him. They landed in a sprawl, their mouths separating, but Mulder pulled himself up again, and almost before Doggett could catch his breath, Mulder's mouth was back on him. His mouth was slightly open from gasping and suddenly his mouth was filled with Mulder's tongue.

They didn't even take their scrubs off. Mulder started grinding his erection against Doggett's. The man was rock hard, and through the scrub pants, he seemed huge. The crash of body against body was delicious torture. It was as if he'd been teased for hours, and now that his dick was being given the slightest bit of attention, he was nearly over the edge. They didn't talk at all, the sensations of their bodies too urgent for that. This was simple animal rutting. But at one point, Mulder tore his mouth away from Doggett's; causing Doggett to open his eyes, see what the problem was. He saw that Mulder was staring at him. Staring with such raw, unguarded lust that at that instant, Doggett felt himself going over that familiar edge into the territory where he couldn't control his body. He ground up against Mulder again and again; finally coming with a loud groan, only to realize Mulder was in the middle of doing the same.

Mulder collapsed on top of Doggett, and for a moment, buried his face in the crook of Doggett's neck. Doggett could hear him draw in a long breath, as if trying to gather in some of Doggett's scent. Doggett, for his part, felt lucid again for a moment. But now was just starting to get the screaming mimmies, thinking about the fact that he'd just brought himself to orgasm, not just in the same room with Mulder, but using the other man's body to do it.

As if sensing Doggett's sudden tensing, Mulder looked up and said, "Look, it's the bacteria. You can't help yourself, any more than you could help sneezing if you had a cold. You may as well give in. How about we make a deal- nothing leaves this room. Once we're out of here, we don't talk about it. It'll be like it never happened. But while we're in here, anything goes. Think you can handle that, Agent Doggett?"

"Oh, I can handle it just fine, Mulder," Doggett said. He thought about other encounters he'd had with men, nothing as hot as what had just happened. But he'd never had a problem separating one horny moment into its own compartment. He'd gone back to working with those guys the next morning, not even really thinking about the blow job he given them the night before. "But seeing as your come is soaking through your pants and onto me, I think we're a little past "Agent" don't you? My name's John."

"John," Mulder agreed, then went back to sniffing Doggett, scooting down a little even so that he could burrow his nose into Doggett's armpit. Then, his hands starting pulling up the edge of Doggett's shirt, and soon, they were at it again.

Scully had rushed through the suiting up process. She had significant news about how the bacteria behaved, the way there were two similar, but slightly different strains of them, one which Mulder was dominantly infected with, one which Doggett was. And when those two strains met, there was some kind of synergistic chemical reaction between them, causing them to produce a chemical most analogous to naturally occurring endorphins. This might induce certain forms of behavior in the two of them. They'd want to know that kind of information instantly.

Luckily, she paused to look in on the isolation chamber before she started the entry process. Oh. She could feel herself turning scarlet underneath the white plastic suit. "Guess you figured it out yourselves," she muttered, then went to go strip the heavy, uncomfortable suit off.

It actually made a certain kind of illogical sense to her. The two of them had sparked off each other from the instant they met. The reaction had been so strong. Opposites attracting was more than a simple truism. That she'd seen Mulder engaged in such...activities with another man was no surprise to Scully. She'd invited him to her bed once, and while he'd taken her up on her offer, hadn't it been an unmitigated disaster? So much so that neither of them spoke about it again.

No, the surprise, if there was any, was to see Agent Doggett. So stoic. So masculine. Her last, best hope for a bit of testosterone around the X-files office. Last seen licking Mulder's neck and chin with every bit of the intensity that she'd come to expect from him.

Scully waddled back to the lab, alternately wondering if the infection could make people do things that weren't, at some level, something they'd be willing to participate in anyway, or if Doggett and Mulder had some deep seated attraction to each other from the start.

AD Skinner was waiting for her in the lab. A surprise. She'd been in phone contact with him, of course, but she would hardly have expected him to come up. She'd rather that he hadn't come up actually. She'd been exceedingly vague over the phone thus far about the actual nature of the infection and the symptoms it caused. It was such a sensitive matter that she'd really hoped to avoid discussing it with the big man altogether.

"Sir?" she asked, making her way to a stool. She eased herself onto it, glad to be off her feet. Another couple of weeks left and she could hardly wait. Like quite possibly every woman who was near nine months pregnant, she was entirely ready to be not pregnant, by any means necessary.

"You didn't have to come down, sir," she said. "There's not much anyone can do other than try not to get in the way of the CDC scientists."

"I just wanted to see that my agents...and former agent were all right," Skinner said. "They're doing okay?"

She smiled wryly, thinking of the clinch she'd last seen the two men in. "Trust me, sir, they're feeling no pain," she said.

"Can I see them?" Skinner asked.

Ix-nay on that. "I don't think that's such a good idea," she said, quickly. Doggett, at least, would want to have a job to come back to, once this infection was over. And probably wouldn't forgive her, not ever, if she was the one who revealed to the world that he was currently engaged in slipping Mulder a good stiff one. "They're in very closely contained isolation. No visitors allowed at all."

Despite herself, the brief moment she'd seen of them had branded itself into her brain quite well. They seemed to be having a marvelous time. Not just satisfying mindless animal lust, though to be sure there was a lot of that going on, but actually having real fun. If she wasn't so damn pregnant, she decided, she might be giving some serious thought to seeing just how rigorous the infection control systems of the CDC were. Skinner, she thought, looking at the broad shoulders that his suit jacket could not conceal, might make an ideal candidate for co-infection. Or maybe Dr. Mattias Garcia, one of the CDC doctors she'd been working with. His handsome Latin looks could certainly bear to stand a little closer examination.

"Of course," Skinner said. "That was only partially why I'm in the area. We have another lead. It's believed that Dr. Lobel has a secondary residence, just over the border in Canada, on the shores of Lake Ontario. I'm here to coordinate a raid with the RCMP. Our source hinted at a second laboratory at the site."

A second laboratory. They might not have had time to trash it before fleeing. There might be leftover research there, more notes maybe. Maybe, even, possibly, the antidote to this mysterious bacterium that was acting like love potion number nine. She knew that both Mulder and Doggett would be so grateful to be cured of this ailment. Well, maybe once they got over the initial shock of her taking away what was probably the best sex either of them had in a long time. Or at least that was how it seemed when she'd gotten her brief glance at them. Yes, they had definitely been having fantastic, curl your toes and roll your eyeballs back in your head sex.

It was definitely enough to make a girl jealous. "Sir, that's wonderful news," she said. "You'll let me come search this lab as soon as the site is secure?"

"Agent Scully," Skinner said, firmly. The tone that lead up to the 'I won't be argued with' tone. Another minute or two and she'd see the clench of the jaw, maybe even the little look away to gather his temper before speaking. "You are on maternity leave. It's bad enough you won't leave this lab. You belong at home, in familiar surroundings, at a time like this."

"Sir, my partner and Mulder are both ill," she said. "My place is here. And besides, I can't think of a single place where I'm more surrounded by doctors."

"Very well," Skinner agreed, deciding he wasn't going to argue with the pregnant woman. "Keep me updated on any new developments in their condition. Anything, no matter how small."

Part 2- Limerance

The past couple of days had gone by in a very pleasurable haze. Or at least Doggett thought it had been a couple of days. He wasn't quite sure, between the fact that they couldn't see the sun and the fact that their usual pattern of behavior seemed to be having sex until they just about passed out from exhaustion, then after a short period of sleep, get up and have more sex. He didn't even care at this point that the CDC scientists must have been watching at least a little. Nobody came in to the isolation room when they were awake and at it, but when they'd wake up from their naps, there'd be trays of food in the room, fresh scrubs, piles of fresh sheets for the beds. They even slipped them a tube of lube and a big box of condoms. The food was mostly ignored, same for the fresh changes of scrubs, but a couple of times, Doggett had gotten it together enough to insist that he and Mulder change the bed sheets. Gotten a lot of abuse, those bed sheets had.

Sometimes, one or the other of them noticed that they were saturated with the reek of sex musk and insisted on a shower. That's where they were at the moment. Of course, it inevitably seemed to lead to more sex.

Doggett was leaning back against the tile wall, Mulder kneeling at his feet. For all that Mulder had protested that he had been a virgin when it came to sex with men, his enthusiasm more than made up for lack of experience. He couldn't seem to deep throat Doggett's whole cock yet, but he lavished avid attention on the cockhead and the first couple of inches, and stroked the rest of the cock with a skilled hand in time to his mouth.

It was just like his fantasy had been, the first one in the shower, with him running his hands through Mulder's wet, brown locks, the endless rivers of hot water pouring over his shoulders. Mulder's hair was just as silky as he'd imagined it. He'd been looking up at the showerhead, the tile on the wall, his head thrown back. He had been driven so incoherent by Mulder's touch that about the most sensible thing he'd been able to get out in days was, "Oh, yeah. Good. That's good."

Then instantly, everything changed.

Not in the physical sense. No, it was like a thunderbolt, but one that didn't make any noise or light. Just one that struck him right down to the soles of his feet. Mulder was still there, sucking on Doggett's cock, but suddenly Doggett felt compelled to actually look at Mulder. The man was beautiful when he did that, Doggett thought. No, just plain beautiful. Not just physically either. Everything about him seemed perfect suddenly; from his stubbornness to the way his hair was hanging in wet strings on his forehead. The way he suddenly met Doggett's eyes and sort of smiled around Doggett's cock.

Oh, shit, Doggett thought. If he didn't know better, he'd have said he was in love with Mulder, and that was a real problem. No. It couldn't be. It was just the lust speaking.

It was a problem that he happily shut away into a little box, wrapped up with duct tape and slapped warning labels reading things like "Dangerous to your peace of mind" and "Do not go here" then shoved to a storage unit somewhere in the back of his mind. To cover his sudden moment of confusion, he put his hands on Mulder's shoulders and pushed him away slightly, so that his cock popped out of Mulder's mouth. Doggett said, when he could speak coherently again, "Want to fuck you. Now."

Mulder nodded then stood up from the tile. He turned around and braced himself against the shower wall. This wouldn't have been the first time one or the other of them had been fucked by the other in the shower. That warning about not bending over to get the soap was definitely needed in this particular shower.

"No," Doggett said, even as he started caressing Mulder's perfect ass, one hand on each gorgeous globe of it. It was firm, muscular and smooth under Doggett's hand as he kneaded. "Onna bed."

"Oh," Mulder said, backing into Doggett's hand, sinuous and eager as a cat in heat.

To stop himself from being diverted from his intentions, Doggett forced himself to rip his hands off Mulder's ass and turned the water off. It was a long, impatient minute until they could towel themselves off slightly and make their way to the bed. Mulder threw himself face down on the bed, waiting for Doggett's attentions and humping himself against the bed. Doggett climbed into bed next to Mulder and began an easy exploration. The previous explorations of the past couple of days had definitely eased the way in that regard and as Doggett's index finger slipped in, Mulder started breathing heavily and backing onto Doggett's hand.

After a short while, Mulder started whining, "Fuck me already."

Doggett was ready, no, more than ready, his cock so stiff it nearly hurt, a condition he'd gotten surprisingly used to lately. Mulder was obviously impatient for it. No, starting to beg for it with little whimpers.

"No, on your back," Doggett said, surprised at his boldness. It'd been an almost unspoken agreement that though they might fuck, it wouldn't be up close and personal, face-to-face. They'd only fucked standing and with Mulder on his hands and knees. But at this moment, something in him, something he wasn't willing to take too close a look at, was demanding that he look Mulder in the eye as they did this. It took Mulder a moment. He'd frozen in place, his barely verbal imprecations ceasing for the moment. Doggett was afraid he'd pushed it too far, asked something out of Mulder that the man wouldn't be willing to give, even considering how the man had given it up so easily when it came to everything else. Then Mulder chuffed out a great big breath and rolled over onto his back.

If Doggett hadn't been exactly a virgin when it came to fucking other guys, he wasn't exactly experienced either. And he'd never been or done it in this position. But he carefully positioned himself, first slicking his cock with lube; condoms forgotten in the heat of the moment and kneeled between Mulder's legs, then lifted those long, gorgeous legs up so they rested on his shoulders. It seemed to take forever, but Mulder's body welcomed him as he slowly plunged deeper and deeper. Mulder's face was turned away from him, scrunched up slightly as if in pain. Doggett stopped halfway in and asked, "You okay?"

"Just fuck me already," Mulder said, then turned to face Doggett, looking him intensely in the eyes.

They were green at this moment, Doggett noticed. A dancing, bright green. The look on Mulder's face was challenging, demanding. They hadn't done much kissing since the first time they'd given in to the demands of this seemingly insatiable lust for each other. It was too personal, too intimate it had seemed. They might have been fucking each other, but kissing was off limits, by another unspoken agreement. Now, though, Doggett impulsively bent his head down and pressed his lips to Mulder's, demanding and getting a kiss. Mulder gasped, but he didn't turn his face away from Doggett. As Mulder breathed in, Doggett pushed all the way inside, seating himself to the hilt. When he was in all the way, Mulder turned his face away, as if the kiss and the eye contact were too intense for him on top of everything else. Doggett let Mulder turn away, but he wanted more, suddenly. More than just this animal lust. More than a few wild days that he could explain away as being caused by an entity outside of himself. But he wasn't going to get it. Better to settle for what he could get and ignore the thumpings going on in that little box he'd duct taped so well and shoved out of sight.

With a moment's pause for Mulder to adjust, Doggett pulled out slightly, then slid back in. And again. It took a moment to find the right rhythm and balance as he took his weight off one of his hands so he could reach in between them and stroke Mulder's cock. Almost immediately, Mulder began to jerk, and his internal muscled clenched down in sweet, delicious pressure. Mulder's eyes closed and his face scrunched up. Mulder moaned and tossed his head back even as warm fluid spurted over Doggett's fist. Doggett found himself thrusting harder, unable to stop himself, unable to think about if he was being gentle enough for Mulder. The urge was unbearable, compulsive. His orgasm was torn from him even before he was ready for it.

He slumped down on Mulder, groaning slightly as he popped out. Mulder's legs came down from his shoulders. Doggett lay on top of Mulder for a few minutes, between Mulder's legs. He buried his face into the crook of Mulder's neck, smelling the musky scent of semen, sweat and sex, and a certain odor that was somehow uniquely Mulder. It was an incredibly heady mixture and he wondered how long he'd be able to get away with lying just exactly like this, sniffing it in again and again.

Mulder whispered something that Doggett could just barely make out as, "Bastard!"

"What?!" Doggett asked, suddenly alarmed. "Did I hurt you?"

"I didn't want to want this as much as I do," Mulder said, running his fingers through Doggett's still damp hair. "I didn't want to like you."

Scully was grabbing some sleep. The first day or two, she'd been at the CDC facility constantly. But once she'd realized that the pair of them, now that they'd latched on to each other and didn't seem to see anything or anyone else, were in no pain- far from it, she'd felt justified in getting a hotel room and some sleep. Monica Reyes had shown up, claiming to be worried about John. She was in the next room and that meant that Scully felt she could sleep a little easier, knowing help was close at hand.

The call came in the middle of one of Scully's mid-afternoon catch-up naps. She struggled for a while to achieve a sitting position but quickly decided it was too much bother at the moment. She reached for the phone and took the call still lying down.

"Agent Scully," the voice on the other end of the line said. It was Skinner, sounding vaguely pissed off, but then he did most of the time, Scully thought. Though to be fair, most of the time she and Mulder had interacted with him, they were in some kind of trouble and he was pulling their asses out of it. For some reason, she remembered kissing him in that elevator that one time. Neither of them had said another word about it, but it remained floating between them, silently.

"AD Skinner," she said, hurriedly rubbing sleep out of her eyes with one hand, holding the phone with the other.

"We've brought Lobel in and we're starting the extradition process," Skinner said. "He should be ready for interrogation in a day or two. I was hoping you could be there. Most of our agents would be out of their depth. I hope this is no hardship on you."

"Of course not, sir," she said. As if they were going to be able to keep her out of the room. All intellectual curiosity about how he'd done it aside, she wanted to be sure that charges stuck like glue to the bastard that had made her Mulder and her new partner engage in such...aberrant behavior. This illness might not seem to be deadly, but it was still desperately disruptive to both of their lives.

"Thank you. Sorry for disturbing you, Agent Scully, but I thought you would want to hear as soon as possible. I understand from Agent Reyes that you were getting some rest. I should let you get back to it," Skinner said. "I'll be in touch when we need you."

She slid the receiver back into its cradle and tried to get comfortable. She gave it up as a game lost when she realized that before she could possibly relax again, she was going to have to empty her bladder. The baby's weight these days seemed to be coming down squarely right on top of her bladder, making her feel like her back teeth were floating sometimes.

She sighed and started the long, wearisome process of getting out of bed, wondering to herself why she ever thought she wanted to go through with this.

"Too late now," she said to no one in particular as she achieved vertical positioning and headed to the bathroom.

Ever since he'd had the realization in the shower, it was like he'd been starting to wake up, but into a strange landscape that resembled nothing like the world he'd left behind. The lust was no longer all consuming, instead, something far more worrying had taken its place.

The mere sight of Mulder could cause his heart to skip a beat, making him draw a breath in at the bittersweet twist of his guts. Somehow, and he wasn't willing to remove the bacteria from the list of possible causes, he'd fallen in love, hard with Fox Mulder and it was getting so bad that he couldn't deny it, couldn't brush it off.

He wasn't afraid of anything, but it was with foreboding and unease that he looked to the inevitable time when the quarantine would have to be lifted, and when he would no longer have the excuse of the bacteria to blame for wanting to make love to Mulder, like he was now. He almost wasn't sure he'd want a cure, even if they came up with one. Not if it meant that giving up this heartbreaking, heady, infatuation. It was a better high than any drug, legal or illegal, he'd ever tried in his younger days.

Actually, he was pretty sure he didn't have the excuse of animal lust at the moment, even though he was currently plunged balls deep into Mulder's ass, holding still a moment to give Mulder a chance to adjust to his presence. It was no longer an uncontrollable urge to fuck that had gotten him to his current position. No, he'd wanted to make love to Mulder. Had decided when he woke up that he was going to take advantage of the other man's sleepy state to nudge him into intercourse. Not that Mulder seemed to be complaining in the slightest at the moment.

They were sort of on their sides, Doggett behind Mulder thrusting gently but insistently. Doggett had Mulder's hands wrapped in his. He guided one of them down to Mulder's cock. He positioned them so that Mulder's hand was on top of his, his hand on Mulder's cock, letting Mulder guide his strokes.

Doggett liked this position best of all, even though he couldn't see into Mulder's eyes. Perhaps because he couldn't see into Mulder's eyes, because since that first time, Mulder avoided looking at him during sex, even if he insisted that he be on top. It seemed to be just too raw and sensitive to Mulder. But this way, with them on their sides, neither of them was on top. It was an easy position on their bodies, easy to control his thrusts. One hand was free for Mulder's cock, without turning it into a demonstration of his skills at one armed pushups. It was nice. Relaxed. Easier to be tender this way. He nibbled on Mulder's earlobe, licked the man's neck.

Mulder's responses to his strokes grew to a frenzy and Doggett slowed down wanting to draw this out. They might have been sexual partners for only a few days, but Doggett knew Mulder better than he had any of his previous lovers, other than his wife. Slowing down at this point would cause Mulder to whimper and he did. He tried to get Doggett to increase the speed of the hand on his cock, but Doggett was firm, insistent.

"Let me come already," Mulder said, frantically, as if this was some kind of torture. Maybe it was, but Doggett needed to draw it out. He just had this feeling that this strange idyll would be over soon. And when it was, he'd never be able to do this again. Damn straight he was going to make hay while the sun shone.

"Not yet," Doggett said, and took his hand off Mulder's cock, moved it back up to his nipples, rolling one of them in his fingers. It was hard, like the stone in a cherry. Mulder hissed out a breath at the touch and Doggett slowed his thrusting more, fully in control of himself, even as Mulder was not. He moved his hand away from Mulder's nipple, stroking his flank softly as he sought Mulder's hip. There he rested his hand.

"Please," Mulder begged.

Doggett didn't listen, but kept his own sweet time, drawing out the inevitable for long minutes, until Mulder resorted to pleading wordlessly, with moans and grunts, backing up against him, until Doggett gave in and just starting thrusting hard. They came hard, at the same time almost, Mulder dragging Doggett over the edge with him.

They both slumped onto the bed. Doggett scooted a little so Mulder could back out of the wet spot, but he held Mulder firmly, not letting him sneak out of cuddling. Ever since the first time they'd had intercourse face to face, Mulder had tried to avoid cuddles afterwards. Again, something too intense for him. But if Doggett couldn't imagine ever saying the words to Mulder, then he was, at this moment, going to make his body and its movements say it for him. Mulder gave one last, half-hearted struggle, then submitted to being held.

They fell asleep together like this and when he woke, Mulder was still there in his arms, but Scully was in the room as well, looking embarrassed, not quite able to meet him in the eye. She was, notably, not wearing one of the white isolation bunny-suits.

"This means the confinement is over, Agent Scully?" he asked.

Mulder woke up and scrambled out of Doggett's arms with a whoop. He grabbed Scully and you would have thought he was going to dance her around the room, except for her immensely pregnant state.

"What's the good news, Scully?" Mulder said.

"Lobel was placed under arrest three days ago. Under interrogation, he confirmed what the CDC scientists had started to discover, that after a short, highly infectious period, there is no risk of you spreading the disease. Apparently the residual effects of the bacteria will remain with you for a while longer, but you're of no danger to anyone else. The CDC has lifted your quarantine."

So it was over and Scully's words were like a knife to his heart. What Mulder said next twisted the knife.

"Well, I know I'll be glad to see the last of this plastic bubble," he said. "Scully, John and I promised each other that anything that happened here remains here. Can I ask you for the same promise?"

Scully nodded. "You didn't even have to ask. That goes without saying, Mulder, Agent Doggett."

It surprised him how much it hurt, that it was ending this way, but he found it in him to nod seriously and said, his voice even more rough than usual, "I appreciate that, Agent Scully. Did they find Stites with his buddy Lobel?"

"No, but there's a man hunt out for him. We couldn't prove the government connection to a degree of reasonable doubt, but there are all the hallmarks of agreements with certain, deeply secret government agencies," Scully said. But they all knew that it was over, that Stites probably wouldn't be found. He was probably out of the country by now, maybe on his way to continue his work in South America.

And then it was over. Oh, there were more examinations by CDC scientists, almost a whole day of being poked, pricked and prodded, and not in a good way. He didn't see Mulder again. Instead, when the scientists released him from their clutches, it was Monica waiting for him, with her game smile and her friendly eyes.

"Hi, John," she said around a small piece of gum. She was on another quit smoking kick again probably. "You're looking good for a man who was just in the Ebola ward. What happened to you? Nobody would tell me anything."

"Well, it wasn't Ebola," he said, with a grimace. "But I can't really talk about what happened to me."

"Oh, while the doctors were dealing with you, Scully went into labor," Monica said. "Mulder's with her already. Sounds like things are going fine, though."

What he felt was a whole mlange of conflicting emotions that sort of blurred into simple miasma. Of course, now that the baby was arriving into the world, Mulder would be taking his rightful place at Scully's side. Doggett wouldn't even be able to mention their days together, much less make any kind of claim on Mulder. Even as he ached at the thought, part of him understood the rightness of it, believed that Mulder belonged with Scully, needed to take up his responsibilities as a father. At least from the way Scully behaved, Doggett was pretty sure Mulder was the father, though it'd never been stated overtly.

Monica decided that he needed to be taken in hand as he stood there; staring blankly at the wall, still dressed in his hospital scrubs. "Let's get you to the hotel. You look like you could use some sleep maybe."

"No, that's not it," Doggett said, deciding he was going to put a good face on it. If he didn't matter to Mulder, well, he could at least pretend that Mulder didn't mean a damn thing to him. "Let's go to the hospital and wait for J. Edgar Jr. to make his entrance. I don't suppose you've got any real clothes for me, do you? I think maybe they probably incinerated the suit I was wearing."

"'Fraid not, John," Monica said. "I didn't stop in DC on my way up. Maybe we should go buy you something to wear then think about getting you home."

She would have thought it was paradise, the attainment of everything she'd ever thought she'd wanted once, having Mulder here with her and at their side, a baby- theirs. Or so she thought, despite nagging doubts about the timing of it. There certainly weren't any other eligible candidates.

But no. She sometimes thought that it might have been easier to go it alone. It wasn't so much that Mulder was like a second child. Not at all. He was thoughtful, responsible. Always glad to hold the baby, change a diaper, soothe a cry. He held their child like the baby was some great treasure, tenderly in his arms, occasionally just burying his nose in the wisps of sparse hair William had been born with. Mulder would breathe in then, drawing in big sniffs of William's baby smell. It should be perfect. She loved William. He loved William. She loved him. He, she thought, loved her. But it didn't work like that.

It was that she couldn't forget the times she'd seen him with John Doggett in the isolation bubble. Not so much the times they'd been in the middle of carnal acts, but the times afterwards, when they were sleeping in each other's arms, or other times, how engaged, how happy, how intense Mulder had seemed when he stared at John. As if he'd thrown off every bit of his post abduction torpor.

Yet here he was, as distant to her as if he was still on the alleged UFO that had taken him away.

She was watching him now changing William's diaper. "Hey big guy," he said. "How is daddy's big boy? Feeling better now that you have a clean diaper?"

And that was easily more than anything he'd said to her except as an answer to a direct question. It wasn't personal. Mulder could get like that when he was focused on something. It was just Mulder. He was busy thinking, no doubt processing his experiences. He wasn't likely to go talk to someone about them, but it must have been quite the shock to discover something about himself that he must have been willfully denying for a long time. It wasn't intended as a slight to her, but it sure felt like one.

Which is why when went to lay William down in the crib; she followed him into the nursery. She knew he intended to plant himself in the recliner and watch William sleep. Brood was more like it. Every night since they'd come home, he'd slept in either that chair or on her couch.

"I know you told me you can't talk about what happened in that isolation ward," she began, taking a much greater effort to be gentle than she actually felt. "But let's talk about now."

She would have continued, but the phone rang. "I'll get it," she said, because Mulder had been in the middle of putting William in the crib, hovering when the phone rang. He seemed relieved to be saved from the conversation she'd planned. She hurried into the other room just in time to get it before the answering machine picked up.

"Agent Scully," Doggett said. "I was just getting off work. I'm practically in the neighborhood. I wanted to know if you wanted me to bring you something for supper. I remember how much of an effort getting that on the table can be with a new baby in the house."

She looked up at the clock. Not quite seven yet. She hadn't even begun to think about cooking yet. William had been up once an hour all night last night, or so it had seemed. The day had just kind of fled on her, consumed by the simple acts of taking care of William and thinking about Mulder. She looked around at the kitchen, normally so neat and clean. Now, dishes had seemed to grow on the countertops like mushrooms grew in the lawn after spring rains. She'd have to do a good half hour of dishes before she could even start thinking about cooking. That was a truly kind offer of Doggett. She told him so, even as she thought about seeing him kiss Mulder. Doggett was a good man. He'd proved that again and again, taking care of her, looking out for her interests, even when it later became clear to her that she'd treated him like dirt. He was a good man and now he was offering to bring her dinner. She was so grateful she could almost cry. And despite her struggles with the idea, she thought that if she couldn't have Mulder, as it was becoming to be more and more obvious, then she would gracefully let him go to Doggett.

"So, I can be by in half an hour, little longer. That good for you?" he asked.

She looked around the place, said yes before she could think better of it then decided that the little talk with Mulder she'd been planning would have to wait. If William was asleep, they could get a lot picked up in half an hour. And who knew, maybe if she forced Mulder into Doggett's presence, she wouldn't have to have that talk. She thought about not telling Doggett about Mulder either, fearful that it might scare the man off. Doggett had notably made himself scarce ever since they'd gotten home, this being the first time she'd heard from him since.

Scully decided to tell him about Mulder being here. That kind of scenario worked in bad romance novels and nowhere else. "Agent Doggett, Mulder is here. He's been staying with William and me," she said. "I know you two don't see eye to eye."

Doggett paused. Eye to eye wasn't the real problem now, was it? He'd heard earlier in the day from Monica that Mulder had been staying with Scully. Just hearing the sound of the man's name had twisted something deep inside him. He'd thought he'd done a good job of pretending he didn't care these past couple of weeks, though he hadn't fooled the only one who really counted- himself. Even so, he knew that he just couldn't stay away any longer. He had to at least see the man, even if it was a torture, seeing him with Scully. Not seeing him was worse.

This was worse than any adolescent crush, worse than being broken hearted when Joanie, his first girlfriend, had dumped him on his ass. He'd never understood the word lovesick before, but now he was pretty damn sure if you looked up the word in the dictionary, there'd be a big picture of him, damn fool that he was. And yet, it was an amazing kind of agony. It made him feel giddily glad, just to be thinking about how he and Mulder could never be. It confused him and, if there was one thing he hated, it was being confused.

"I figured as much, Agent Scully," he said. "I think you can trust us to act like big boys and behave ourselves in front of you."

"I just know there was an, um, awkward situation between the two of you recently and I thought you might want to be warned that he was here," she said.

"I'll be right over," he said, hanging up his cell phone. A few more blocks and he'd be at that polish sausage place he liked so well. If he remembered right, they also had salads. Rabbit food, he thought, but remembered Scully favoring them for lunch, when she wasn't on one of her yogurt kicks.

Exactly half an hour later, he was pulling his truck into a parking spot about half a block away from Scully's apartment. He grabbed the brown paper bags from the passenger seats and made his way up the street to her building. The front door to her building wasn't locked. He sometimes thought about talking to her about that. It didn't seem like good security to him, but he'd never said anything. It seemed like overstepping.

Doggett found her door easily enough and knocked on it. Scully opened it. She looked exhausted, her hair pulled back in a simple ponytail. And for the first time, he noticed that she usually wore makeup. He noticed now because she wasn't wearing any at the moment and she looked like she was about twelve years old. An immensely tired and pale twelve year old. Still, her ponytail was a neat one and her clothes, though simple black sweats, were clean and neat. Doggett remembered that for the first couple of weeks after Luke was born, Barb had worn the same sweatshirt and an old pair of plaid pajama bottoms for something like ten days running.

"Come on in, Agent Doggett," she said, opening the door all the way, and stepping out of his way.

"Where should I put this?" he asked.

"In here," she said, walking through a living room that looked suspiciously clean for someone with a newborn in the house. She led him into the kitchen where Mulder was standing at the sink, doing dishes. He wore an old denim shirt that looked like it was so worn it must have been as soft as velvet. The sleeves were rolled up to keep them out of the water. Mulder turned around slowly at the sound of their approach.

"John," Mulder said, his eyes opening slightly wider for a moment. Mulder's jaw clenched so hard that the little muscle on the side of his cheek became visible for a minute. Then Mulder's face shut down, went stonily expressionless.

Shit. Mulder was pissed to see him, Doggett thought. He nearly bailed right then, but decided he was going to be brave. Be a man.

Doggett set the brown paper bags on the table and started unpacking things. He pushed the salad in Scully's direction, then pulled out a big foam cup next and sent it in Mulder's direction. "Iced tea, right?" he asked.

Mulder nodded mutely. Then the baby started wailing. Mulder jumped up before Scully could even turn her head in the direction of the cries. "I'll go," he said, disappearing.

Well, Doggett thought. That went shittily.

A moment later though, as he was saying to Scully, "I'd better get going. Got an important appointment with some satellite tv," Mulder reappeared, the baby gently cradled in his arms.

"The big guy here wants what only you can give him, Scully," Mulder said, passing the little bundle off to Scully. She sighed, pushed her salad away in the middle of her first bite, and took William. She pulled up her sweatshirt and pointed the little one in the general direction of the milkbar.

"I'll see you, Scully, Mulder," he said, turning to go. He definitely was the sore thumb sticking out in this little domestic tableau, the third wheel. Which item in this picture does not belong?

Then Mulder surprised him. As Doggett turned to go, Mulder said, "I'll see you out."

Doggett was about to protest, say that he could let himself out, but he caught the intense way Mulder was staring at him. Okay, he could handle this, he told himself. Mulder obviously had something to say to him that he didn't want to say in front of Scully. No doubt Mulder was going to ream him a new one for daring to show up at all. Well, he could deal and Mulder was just going to have to get over himself. Doggett shrugged and made his way to the door, Mulder in his wake.

Mulder followed him to the truck. The street light overhead was burned out. The truck itself cast a deep shadow on the passenger's side and Mulder stepped into this shadow, as if waiting for something. Rather than walking around to the driver's side, Doggett followed Mulder into the shadow and suddenly found Mulder's arms wrapped around him tightly. God, the man felt heavenly and smelled even better. Before he could even think, his dick took total control of the situation, which was okay, because Mulder's dick seemed to be thinking along the same lines. Mulder's lips were hard on his, fleshy and firm. He devoured rather than nibbled- plunder and conquest, pure and simple. They were instantly grinding groin against groin. John gasped at the pressure on his hard cock, especially as Mulder's hands slipped down to his ass. Mulder pulled Doggett closer with every thrust. Doggett's mouth was effectively gagged by Mulder's tongue, but if it hadn't been there, anyone would have heard his moans. It was quick, hard and dirty, over before they'd hardly begun and Doggett would be driving back home to Falls Church with soiled and damp dress pants. At least Doggett didn't have anyone waiting at home who he'd have to explain that one to, unlike Mulder, who'd have to explain to Scully. Oh, hell, Scully!

Mulder was still wrapped tightly in his arms, head resting on his shoulder. Mulder was breathing heavily, hot and warm against his neck. "They said the bacteria would have residual effects. It could be months before it goes away entirely and our endocrine systems go back completely to normal," Mulder said, even as he pulled himself away from Doggett.

Oh, God. What had they just done? Doggett was torn. On one hand, Doggett would take Mulder any way; any how he could get him. On the other, he was still panting from the suddenness of it, his pants damp, standing out on the street corner and thinking about how Mulder was already starting to make motions of heading back into the house and Scully's life. And that made him feel dirty, used. He'd just been a release for Mulder, one step up from a good jerk off session, if that. The ache that seemed his lot in life these days was back already. This was agony. When he was with Mulder, he was sure it would be better to be alone, rather than face that, but once he was alone, he was sure that being without Mulder was the worse pain. He damned Lobel and Stites again for being the ones to subject him to this humiliation and hurt.

"Mulder," he said, feeling angry suddenly. He clamped down on it like he often did, his voice a bit sharper, but not much, he thought. Mulder was still in arm's reach, so he gave the man a little shove in the direction of Scully's apartment. "You go back into that apartment, go be a daddy to that baby and a good whatever it is that you are to Scully. We can't do this anymore, residual effects or not. It was over the instant we stepped out of that isolation room. I'm cutting you off. You know as well as I do that our dicks aren't out of control anymore."

"No, of course not," Mulder said, icily. "It's over. It was wrong of us to give in to it. I don't think it would be a good idea for us to be alone together again."

You were the one that wanted to walk me out to my truck, Doggett thought, but he didn't say it. "Goodbye, Mulder," Doggett said. He walked around to the driver's side of his truck and opened the door. He got in, but even as he started the truck, he couldn't think of anything but how empty that other seat looked with nothing more in it than the current book on tape he was listening to. He drove away into the night, not looking back, not caring if Mulder got back into the apartment safely or not and wondering if maybe a six pack might dull some of what he was feeling.

When Mulder came back to the apartment, he went right to the bathroom where he'd been keeping a suitcase full of his clothes. He came out wearing not jeans, but sweatpants. It might be argued, Scully thought, that he was just changing into something more comfortable for the rest of the night. But the fact remained that even changed into new pants; the man reeked of the musk of sex like a Nevada cathouse. She had visions of a quick make out session in the cab of Doggett's big, white truck. Despite that, Mulder's mood was black, not soaring like you'd expect after what must have been really hot sex. He nearly slammed the bathroom door behind him, reaching out with a hand just in time to stop it as he thought about the presence of William nearby. When he was changed, he went back to the kitchen. He started by pouring the iced tea that Doggett had brought him down the drain, then tossing the cup in the trash. Then, the rest of the food Doggett had bought, other than her salad, followed. Finally, he started washing dishes, tossing them around with such blatant disregard for the dishes' safety that she decided she had to take action immediately, if only for the sake of the glassware.

"Here, you hold him," she said, offering her son to him. William was sleeping, tiny and precious, and only her trust in Mulder allowed her to hand him over to such an obviously angry man. Mulder slammed one last mug onto the rack then dried his hands on a dishtowel. He took over William with seeming calm. She then picked up the abandoned dishtowel and said, "And I will wash dishes. Now, tell me what happened out there between the two of you."

"I can't talk about that, Scully," Mulder said. Then he pleaded, "Don't try and make me. I just can't."

"You were gone fifteen minutes," she said, more sharply than she intended. "You walk back in here smelling like a cat in heat. Something happened. Now, I can understand you made promises to John not to discuss what happened in the isolation unit, but this is now. I have grown to trust you like no other. Please trust me enough to tell me what's going on with you and John."

"I can't, Scully," he said. At least he was ashamed enough to not be able to look her in the eyes. Instead, he was looking out the window into the darkness.

"You're in love with him," she said, not even sure if this was true, but throwing out her shots, trying to see what would get him to react enough to let the truth slip out.

"I am not in love with him!" Mulder protested.

"Something, some strong emotion is going on between you two," she challenged. She thought she'd scored a palpable hit.

"It's not love," Mulder said. "It's limerance."


"Limerance. The emotion that people usually confuse with love. I love you, Scully," Mulder said, softly, tilting his head down at their son when he said this. "You're my east, my west, my true north. My one in five billion. That's love. Limerance is the psychological state of deep infatuation. It's what people think about when they describe someone as lovesick. It's hormone driven and short lived. Mad attraction, nothing more. Sometimes people in limerance learn to love each other, but the majority of the time, it's just limerance. A few months go by and all the hormones dry up and then it's over."

"Mulder!" she said, hardly even sure she knew how to respond. She felt like doing a bit of mug tossing herself. "I love you. You love me, but you're not in love with me, you never have been. And I don't think you ever will be."

Their "courtship" if you could even call it that, had been so gradual, so hesitant as to be almost non-existent. There had never been any of this limerance in it, just a slow unfolding of trust and regard. Deeper than any friendship she had ever had, but nothing like the exhilaration of true, romantic love. Such a shame that it had taken her until now to notice that. She did remember what it was to feel that kind of love, and by God, this was not it. It was madness, true, but it was the most delightful delirium she'd ever experienced. And here was Mulder admitting to feeling it for John, and in the same breath, denying that it was real or that it meant anything. If he hadn't been holding William, she would have thrown a mug at him. Only her love for him allowed her to do what she knew she had to do- not just let him go gracefully to another, but to give him a good, hearty shove in that direction.

"That's not true," he said. "It doesn't have to be the agony and the ecstasy to be true love."

She was just going to have to show him. She put her mug on the rack and walked over to where he stood. She stood up on her tiptoes and tilted her head up until their lips met. This kiss was sweet, short and decidedly chaste. She broke it off when it became clear that it was generating no heat beyond a lukewarm friendliness. Then she said, "Now, compare that to kissing John. Tell me which one is true love."

Mulder, like he so rarely did, didn't have an answer for her. At least not right away. He walked into the living room and made his way to the new rocker and sat down. He held William against his chest and rocked for a long time. She decided not to press him, but to let him come to his own conclusions. The distant look in his eyes, as if he were focusing on something about ten miles away, was a definitive indicator that the wheels of profound thought were spinning at about a thousand RPM. Thankfully, William slept the whole time and she grabbed a cat nap on the sofa.

By the time William's cries woke her up again, hours had passed. It was the early hours of the morning and the room was lit only by the eerie, bluish glow of her TV. Mulder handed her son to her. "I just changed him," he said. "I suspect he needs to have his tank topped off again."

She sat up on the sofa, sleep vanished in an instant. Funny how deeply programmed certain biological responses were. The urge to reproduce and all the related behaviors of watching out for an infant seemed to be almost instinctual. The cries came and suddenly she was leaking milk. She pulled up her shirt and her child, little more than a bundle of needs and urges, rooted into her chest, seeking nourishment. It all seemed beautiful and natural. Until he actually latched on and his mouth felt like a close first cousin to a vice clamp.

"You know, Scully, for a minute, let's assume that your basic premise is correct, that I am in love with John Doggett," Mulder said. "Let's consider the extreme possibility that this can be believed to be the real McCoy, and not a mental confusion caused as a backlash from an extreme hormonal event. It still doesn't change anything, because he sent me back into the house, told me to go back to you."

Scully sighed. Of course John would do that. "He's very protective of me," Scully said. "He wants what's best for me, and he probably thinks that you're what's best for me. All I can say is thank God Monica is staying up here so he can have someone else to be his surrogate little sister, because I've already got enough big brothers in my life, thank you very much."

"It doesn't matter, he sent me packing," Mulder said. "Maybe he's still hopped up on the same kind of crazy hormones that I am, but he doesn't love me."

"Mulder, the man brought you iced tea," she said. She was pretty sure that it was basic decency that led Doggett to offer to bring dinner, but that once she'd mentioned that Mulder was here, wild horses couldn't have kept him away. She hadn't missed the crestfallen expression on his face at Mulder's coldness. "And I'm pretty sure he wasn't here to see either me or the baby."

Part Three- Anodyne

At four in the morning, there is shit all on the television, even with the full package on the mini-dish, Doggett thought. He wasn't normally given to insomnia. He could sleep with bombs coming down around his ears, but tonight sleep proved as illusive as proof about Mulder's supposed aliens. He flicked through the successive string of infomercials again and contemplated the equation of effort to get up, go to the kitchen and get another beer versus the payoff of having another beer. He had seven empty brown bottles on the coffee table in front of him. He'd torn off the label of each of them and the labels were in little crumples surrounding the empty bottles. He wasn't feeling drunk, except in the slightly disconnected way that one felt when they were seriously lacking in sleep. No, he'd tackled those bottles slowly over the course of the night, about one an hour, so he wasn't more than the tiniest bit tipsy, just the edge of things blunted down slightly. Drinking didn't solve any problems, but at least it gave one something to be worried about until they went away on their own.

His doorbell ringing came as a big surprise and he just about jumped out his chair. He tried to ignore it. No one he knew should be ringing on his door at four in the morning. It rang a few more times and he decided he couldn't ignore it. He scraped himself out of his chair and pulled himself to his feet. It took another minute to attain the front hall and arm himself. Gun at ready, safety off, he looked out the peephole. Mulder, unmistakably Mulder. Of course Mulder would show up at his door at four in the morning. Just exactly the man he didn't want to see. Especially when he'd almost tricked himself into a state of mind where he wasn't quite thinking about Mulder.

Doggett contemplated his firearm briefly, then sighed and put the safety back on, then holstered it. Only then did he answer Mulder's insistent ringing. "Okay, okay," he said, reaching for the deadbolt. "Keep your...I mean, hold your horses."

Once the door was open, and he didn't open it far enough for Mulder to walk into the apartment, he asked, sounding even more irritated then he felt, "What are you doing here, Mulder? Because if this is your idea of a joke, or you think maybe you can get a booty call out of me, I'll strangle you myself."

"Scully threw me out of her apartment," Mulder said, not looking him in the eye. Actually, it seemed as if Mulder's running shoes must have been the most fascinating thing in the world, the way he was staring at them. "I didn't know where else to go. I couldn't stand the thought of going back to my apartment alone. Can I come in?"

It would have been so easy to just open that door and let the man in, then worry about the inevitable consequences later. It would have felt so right in that think only of the present moment kind of way. He could imagine pulling Mulder into his living room and taking him on the living room sofa, just bending him over the arm of the leather sofa. He could imagine dragging Mulder into the house and never letting him out. Taking the man into his arms and never letting him go.

But in the real world, Scully would come to her senses and get over whatever little spat they'd had that had caused her to kick Mulder out. Women who'd just had babies could be temperamental, Doggett knew full well, and Scully had a heck of a temper when it was fully roused.

"I don't think that's such a good idea, Mulder," Doggett said.

"John, please, let me in," Mulder pleaded.

"Go back to your apartment. In the morning, talk to Scully after she's had a little sleep," Doggett said firmly. "You belong with her, not here with me."

Then he shut the door, thinking he was closing it on Mulder forever. Mulder kept knocking, again and again. The door muffled his begging, but there was definitely some noise going on out there. "Mulder, don't make me have to show you to your car," Doggett said, loudly enough through the solid door that Mulder should hear him. And soon enough, the noise did stop and Doggett was able to get on with the business of anesthetizing himself well enough to get through the weekend of nothingness.

Walter Skinner had fallen asleep in front of his television and was startled awake by the knock on his door. He sighed. It hadn't been a good sleep night for him anyway, which is why he'd landed on the sofa in front of the TV. But a knock on the door in the middle of the night was never a good thing. No doubt it meant the end of his sleep, whatever it was. He could think of only a couple of people bold enough to disturb him in his lair, and only one of them he might be glad to see.

He hurried to the door and looked through the peep hole. He was in luck, like he'd been hoping. Generally speaking, if he had to have his door knocked on in the middle of the night, he'd rather have it be Mulder, rather than the Smoker or Alex Krycek and his little toy of death, though thankfully both of them had made themselves scarce lately. Still, it was with trepidation that Skinner opened the door to Mulder.

"Come in, Mulder," Skinner said, thinking he was doing an admirable job of keeping the irritation out of his voice. "Mind if I ask why you're here at..."

He stopped to check his watch.

"Four-thirty five in the morning?"

"Scully kicked me out of her apartment, Walter," Mulder said, sheepishly, barely muttering.

Though it was hard to tell with Mulder staring at his shoes, Skinner thought there might be some evidence of previous crying in his eyes, red rimmed eyes and the like. Okay, time to Boy Scout up, do the good deed and invite the man in. It was less than half an hour from his usual wake-up time anyway.

"I'll put coffee on," Skinner said. "Lock the door behind you."

Skinner went straight into the kitchen without waiting to see if Mulder was following his instruction. At least this part of it was automatic. Grounds. Filter. Water. Slide the basket in place. Switch on. Yes, there was the comforting gurgle of the maker, and suddenly the kitchen filled with the warm, fragrant odor of coffee. Why did it always have to smell far, far better than it actually tasted, Skinner wondered vaguely, before he turned to face Mulder.

Mulder had perched himself on one of the stools of the breakfast bar and was seemingly engrossed in the pattern of the granite countertop.

"What happened, Mulder?" Skinner asked. He'd thought that everything between Scully and Mulder would be happy now that he was back, that the baby was born and was normal as any infant. It seemed an inevitable conclusion that they'd be together forever. Skinner had been looking forward to the wedding invitation.

"It started out as a discussion and got kind of out of hand. She accused me of being in love with someone else," Mulder said.

"Is there any veracity to this claim of hers?" Skinner asked. He really didn't want to be involved in this, but now that the man had showed up at his door, he didn't have any choice in the matter. Then the coffee maker, always blessedly quick, gave its final gurgle and Skinner could jump up and start grabbing mugs.

As Skinner handed Mulder a filled mug, Mulder said, finally, "I suppose, seen in some lights, my actions could lead someone to come to that conclusion, sir. But I love Scully. We fit together like a hand in a glove. It's like an old pair of shoes, so comfortable you never want to give them up."

That didn't bode well for things. Not that Skinner's track record as far as relationships went was anything to boast about, but he knew enough to recognize that any relationship where one partner described the other as a pair of old shoes was not one that the poets would be writing about for the ages. Mulder wanted the truth and it was far too early in the morning for Skinner to worry about if he was being too blunt with it.

"She's right, Mulder," Skinner said. "You're not in love with her. I can't speak to her accusation that you're in love with this other person, but I'd say it sounds like you're not in love with her, however much you love her. I know from experience that kind of love is not enough to keep a partnership from dissolving. Mind if I ask who..."

"I'd rather not say," Mulder said. He grimaced, as if thinking of something particularly painful and nasty. "It's a person of our mutual acquaintance and I believe that this person wouldn't appreciate you knowing. Especially as my first stop on the way here was to this person's place and they made it clear in no uncertain terms that they didn't want anything more to do with me."

Skinner listened carefully, not so much to the content of the message, but to the way Mulder phrased it. Very careful not to let the gender of the "person" slip out. Skinner wondered suddenly if the interloper was not another woman, but a man. He'd never had conscious suspicions about Mulder in that regard, but suddenly, things made a certain sense, small clues finally sliding into place. Again, it was too early in the morning for Skinner to care if he was being too blunt.

"Are you gay, Mulder?" Skinner asked. "Is that the problem between you and Scully?"

"I've never wanted to believe that about myself, sir," Mulder answered. Again, he bowed his head, looking down at the counter, unable to look Skinner in the eyes. "But in recent weeks, I've been forced to face the truth about myself. And I can't say I'm entirely comfortable with it, but the facts are pointing that way."

"Mulder, if you even think you're gay, the last thing you want to be doing is making commitments to Scully, until you've worked through all of this confusion. She was right to kick you out, I think. Though she might have waited until the daylight hours."

Skinner checked his watch again. Time was creeping up and, before long, he'd have to start getting ready for work. But this conversation had gone much further than Skinner was ready to deal with and it seemed like a good place to leave it for now.

"I've got to get ready for work. It's Saturday, so I should be back by two or three in the afternoon. You can sleep on the couch, or there's a guest bedroom, upstairs, to the right. Make yourself at home until you feel comfortable going back to your apartment."

Then Skinner left him, walking upstairs to take a shower, wondering just who Mulder might have fallen in love with. Maybe one of the Gunmen? It never even occurred to Skinner that it might be John Doggett.

Doggett finally woke at about noon, in his chair, beer bottles still lined up on the coffee table in front of him. He rose with a groan, not quite hung over, but not looking nor feeling his best. Maybe it was just sleeping in the chair that caused his neck ache and the subsequent headache. He switched off the TV, now playing some cartoon. Then he got to work gathering beer bottles and crumpled labels. Mulder hadn't really come to the house last night, had he? Part of last night seemed like some really bad dream.

But his memory seemed outright smug when it pointed out to him that not only had Mulder come to his front door and begged to be let in, Doggett had sent him packing.

Doggett got to the business of ignoring his crowing memory and cleaning up his house. Half an hour later though and he realized the one problem with being so naturally neat. He ran out of chores to do to keep himself occupied. And it was raining out, denying him both lawn mowing and car washing.

Well, there was always the choice of workaholics everywhere- the office.

An hour later, he was dressed, dosed with aspirin for the headache and sliding through light Saturday traffic. A short time later he was pulling into the Hoover garage, mostly, but not entirely empty. He was far from the only one with workaholic tendencies in the joint. He passed AD Skinner on the way to the elevator. Skinner looked to be on his way home.

"Agent Doggett," Skinner said, after nodding a greeting. "I wouldn't have expected to see you here on a Saturday."

"I might say the same to you, Sir," Doggett said. For one mad, insane minute, Doggett contemplated spilling his guts and telling Skinner the whole thing. Luckily before he did, the rational part of himself told him to keep his yap shut. That would go over real well, he thought sourly. See, sir, the reason I'm here is I can't get Mulder sucking my cock out of my mind. The way the man looks when he sleeps. The certain way his hair slicked over his forehead at times. Even the way he had held William, as if naturally good at baby wrangling. Not at all awkward like so many men. You see, sir, I've got a major dose of infatuation when it comes to Mulder and I thought I'd see if a little work would clear my head. Uh-huh. Skinner would understand. And was that a pig I just saw flapping its wings overhead?

"I'd sink unless I got in a little quiet time to get my paperwork done, Agent Doggett," Skinner said.

"I'm just going in to review a little paperwork myself," Doggett said. "I'm not entirely caught up after my little enforced holiday with the CDC."

The instant he said that, Doggett knew he'd made a mistake. That little adventure was one thing he was truly hoping he'd never have to discuss with AD Skinner. Or anyone else, for that matter.

"Indeed," Skinner said. "I'm still awaiting your report on that. Your reports always do such a good job cutting through the voodoo, rather than adding to it like Mulder's often did. I was hoping maybe you could explain to me what happened in that court house and afterwards. Everyone I talk to about it is so busy talking around themselves I haven't a clue."

Stuck my foot in it good that time, Doggett thought and desperately cast about, looking for ways to backpedal.

"I really can't add much, sir," he said. "I wasn't really myself for most of the time. That time is really pretty much a haze to me."

Only a haze of lust. Of love so intense he could hardly remember anything else. Damn straight he wasn't going to say a thing about it to AD Skinner. He wanted to keep his job, first of all. Not to mention the respect of the man.

Skinner seemed ready to take his leave, but then something must have occurred to him. Something seemed to click behind those opaque brown eyes and he focused them intently on Doggett. "I'm just wondering if you had any insight into any problems Mulder and Scully might be having. He ended up on my couch early this morning. Mulder claims that Scully thinks he's in love with someone else. Any idea who this might be?"

With that, Skinner stared at him, right in the eyes. Damn, the man had a stare like a ton of bricks. Direct as the flight path of a 747. Shit, Doggett concluded. He knows. Everything. And he's pissed about it. Doggett had known from the beginning that Skinner was protective of Scully and Mulder, beyond what you'd expect for a simple boss subordinate relationship. There were definite personal layers to that relationship, and no doubt Skinner would have, not an earful, because the man could wither a person with a well chosen phrase and glare, but certainly something to say to the person who chiseled his way in between Scully and Mulder.

"Can't say as I do, sir," Doggett said, lying. It grated on him to have to lie, but on the other hand, assuming that this conversation with Skinner was inevitable, the last place he wanted to have it was this dreary, grubby parking garage with the echoes off of concrete all around him. "They seemed as comfy as bugs in a rug last time I saw them. Last night. I dropped off a bit of dinner for them."

"Well, as of this morning at five-thirty, Mulder has been sleeping on my couch," Skinner said. "And I'm hoping to roust him as soon as possible."

Skinner was no Fox Mulder, that was for sure. But he didn't get to be an AD in the FBI for no good reason. Still, it shocked him a little when he ran into Agent Doggett in the parking garage and in a few, short words, suddenly knew in his guts that this was the person Mulder was in love with. And there was something fragile looking around the eyes of Doggett, something that couldn't be hidden despite a very good poker face, when Skinner asked him a few, piercing questions. The man was experiencing a world of pain, all of it mental. Like many men, Doggett was here today to bury his troubles in a pile of paperwork.

After a few minutes of talk, Skinner spoke as directly as he could, without out and out asking, 'hey, do you want to bump uglies with Mulder or what?'

He stared at Doggett, hoping the man would get the message. Said a few more choice words, then listened to Doggett's reply, knowing somehow that the man was lying. Skinner pretty much left it at that. He wasn't going to be able to get anywhere with Doggett, at least not within the confines of the Hoover building, and perhaps not at all without maybe some liquor or something to loosen his lips. Skinner took his leave quickly after that.

Skinner pulled his Bronco out of the Hoover garage and turned it towards Georgetown. His first stop, before heading back to his apartment to pump Mulder for more information, would be Scully's place. No doubt, if anyone had the full story and might be willing to share it, it would be Scully. Glancing at himself in the rearview mirror on the way, he thought to himself, you're just about the strangest excuse for a cupid that anyone might come up with in a fever dream. But in his own quiet way, Skinner was a naturally tolerant man and all in favor of love wherever it might be found. His respect for Mulder over the years had grown into a great fondness and he'd liked Doggett from the start. To see them both hurting was what seemed intolerable in this situation. And besides, if Mulder's heart truly belonged to another, well, that might open up a range of possibilities he hadn't felt free to consider before. He had just a couple stops he had to make before he reached Scully's house.

The knock on her door was unexpected. She fully expected Mulder to be utterly absorbed in whatever it was he was doing with John right now. "Whatever" didn't bear thinking about. Luckily, William was sleeping at the moment and the light noise of the knock didn't seem to wake him. With only a minor thought to how she must look at the moment, she hurried to answer the door, expecting one of the neighbors or perhaps a salesperson who'd managed to slip in the main apartment door. She certainly wasn't expecting AD Skinner, who happened to be bearing a gift wrapped box and a bouquet of wildflowers.

"For you," he said, handing her the bouquet, then he handed her the box and said, "For William."

"What a surprise, sir," she said. This was certainly a surprise. Though their relationship had very much warmed up over the past several years, she still thought about the only time he'd been to her apartment that she knew of- when she'd caught him leaving, probably having searched it for the DAT tape. How far they'd come since those days. "Come in. Please, come in. To what do I owe the honor?"

"Purely social, Agent Scully," Skinner said.

A short while later, they were settled across from each other at her kitchen table. The coffee maker was burbling gently, the aroma of coffee softly filtering throughout the bright, pleasant room. The flowers had been fitted into a vase and sat on the table. She opened the box and looked bemused but not unpleased as she pulled out the set of boxing gloves, the smallest size Skinner could find, but still, it would be years and years before the baby would be a big enough boy to put them to use.

"You have to start them when they're young," he said.

"I think it's a little too early to tell if he's going to have a killer left hook, sir," she said, with a faint smile that she couldn't help, as she put the pair back into the box. "But thank you."

"And I figured you probably have more baby blankets and onesies than you can use," he added. They talked a while longer, nothing more than small talk really, and it was in the middle of this that he smuggled in his question. "Just what is going on between Mulder and John Doggett?"

He wasn't going to catch her slipping up though, just because he slid the question in with such ease. Cagily, she said, "I'm not sure what you mean, sir."

For a moment, he fixed her with that stare of his, letting her know that he saw through her reply and that he was about to cut through the bullshit. "I'd like to know what has gotten Mulder sleeping on my couch and Doggett walking around looking like someone kicked his puppy. I thought you might have some insight, Dana. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with what happened in that CDC isolation room. When I asked him about it, Doggett's face had an expression you might see on a deer caught in car headlights. But nobody will give me a straight answer."

Scully decided to take a chance. She was a little surprised to hear that Mulder wasn't over at Doggett's house after all, but not that much. No, that would have been too easy. Doggett could be a stubborn man, just as stubborn as Mulder. It was part of why they were such a good match for each other, she thought. Skinner seemed to be saying that he'd guessed what was going on. And while she truly felt that Mulder and Doggett belonged together, with the new baby, she just didn't have the time or energy to play matchmaker. Maybe Skinner could fill that role.

"I think, sir," she said. "The problem is that there was nothing straight going on in that isolation room. Which would explain why everyone is tripping over their own feet not to tell you."

Melvin Frohike was not having the best of days. Or rather, not the best of nights that was still continuing into the day time hours. Their main server had done a total belly flop. Meltdown, possibly with the hard drive beyond recovery. He was poking around inside it, seeing if the ghost could be resurrected. Langly was busy repairing a minor problem with the video card in their backup system that, until last night, hadn't seemed worth fiddling with, but at the same time as the other system went down, it had broken completely, making the server unable to display anything on a monitor. John Byers was busy nursing their back-up, back-up system and attempting to put the paper to bed. It was due at the printer two days from now and unless they got the main server or the backup server going, it just wasn't going to happen. The backups on the back-up, back-up system were a couple of days out of date and several key articles in the layouts hadn't been put in at that point.

Then came the bell. Someone at the doorway of their lair. The lion that beat inside the heart of the diminutive man prepared to roar. He was a pussycat most of the time but at times like these, his fiercer side made itself known. John Byers glanced anxiously over at Frohike, then looked Langly in the eyes. An unspoken communication passed between them.

"I'll get it," Langly said. "I've nearly got the new card in here."

The blond man put his tools down and went to answer the door. He came back in a moment or two, Mulder in tow.

"Mulder?" Byers asked, surprised. Frohike himself was approaching the point of terminal irritation and couldn't do more that growl. "This isn't the best of times for a social visit," Byers explained. "We're experiencing a few technical difficulties with the paper."

Langly, meanwhile, had ensconced himself back at his work bench and a moment later said, "Speak for yourself, Byers. Another couple of screws in the case and this baby's back on-line."

A moment later, he demonstrated, turning the system on. The screen brightened from black, but for just a little while. Then, seconds later, the picture started with a wiggle, finally disappearing altogether.

"Is there anyway I can help, guys?" Mulder asked.

"Sure," Frohike said. He tossed a mess of impossibly tangled cables at Mulder. "Untangle these."

Mulder looked at the cables doubtfully, as if he wasn't sure doing that would help. Truth be told, it wouldn't, but it would keep him out of trouble, Frohike thought. Mulder started to open his mouth as if he was going to say something to that effect, but Frohike's inner pussycat gave forth just the deepest low grumble, a precursor to a roar and Mulder wisely kept his mouth shut. They all worked in silence for a while, Mulder at his make-work, the others at their appointed tasks.

"This is bullshit," Langly said, finally, after going through two more video cards. "I'm going to the parts store and getting a decent video card. There's a reason that guy on the dock sold these to you ten dollars for a dozen, Frohike, and it ain't because he liked your pretty face. They're crap, total crap."

With that, Langly stormed off. Byers saved the document he was working on and cleared his throat. Then he announced, "I'll go with him. Someone should see that he stays out of trouble. You know how he can be when he's worked up like this."

Shortly, Frohike and Mulder were left alone, which from the relieved looked on Mulder's face was what he clearly wanted anyway. And Frohike's inner pussycat was starting to purr anyway, because it was starting to look like he should be able to resuscitate what was on the hard drive, and once he got the new one in situ and a replacement power supply and fan just to be on the safe side, they'd be back in clover. So, for the moment, Frohike was inclined toward magnanimity. "What did you want, Mulder?" he asked. "And shouldn't you be with the lovely Agent Scully in her time of need?"

Mulder looked up from the medusa like Gordian knot of cables and said, "The lovely Agent Scully kicked me out of her apartment and is currently not speaking with me."

"Why?!" Frohike was shocked and disappointed. He knew that his own suit would never be seen as anything but a joke by Scully, but he'd always been satisfied to know that there was Mulder by her side, even if Mulder didn't love Scully the way he loved Scully. He'd called the man a real redwood among sprouts once and he still meant it. Still, if Mulder had broken Scully's heart in any way, Frohike didn't care that Mulder was bigger and taller. Frohike would still kick his ass. Like a knight of old, his heart was true and his courage was great and that would have to do.

"Because I am, to quote her, a stubborn, idiotic bastard who will not face the facts that are sitting right in front of me as plain as the nose on my face," Mulder said. At the end, he touched his nose, as if reminded about how sensitive he could be about it.

Ah, that was funny then. Mulder coming to him for relationship advice. That was like going to your local priest for directions about how to hotrod your car, or to the plumber for tips on playing the ponies. Now, if Mulder had asked about romance, then, Frohike might be able to help him out, even though he had hung up his Casanova days long ago.

"What does she think you're being stubborn about?" Frohike asked, though he suspected, even without hearing the full story, that Scully probably had a point. She usually did.

"She thinks I'm not in love with her. That I'm in love with someone else," Mulder said.

"Are you?" Frohike asked, pointedly.

Mulder didn't answer. He tugged at a particularly stubborn portion of the knotted cables again and again, starting at it, not looking up at Frohike. After a while, he said, "So, until things cool down, can I hang around here? I spent last night at Skinner's but I don't want to impose on him too much."

A few wheels and cogs meshed inside Frohike's head, things that, outside of context had been weird facts and suppositions, but now made sense. "First of all, she's right. You're not in love with her. If you were, you'd be knocking down her door, begging her to take you back, not mooching on your friends when they have work to do. Second, is this other person John Doggett?" Frohike asked.

Mulder looked horrified, and for an instant, Frohike thought his intuition had gone awry, but then, the way Mulder was about to fluster, only confirmed his suspicion. "What are you talking about, Frohike? And what makes you think that?"

"The two of you have so much juice between you that I should just squeeze you and call you Tropicana," Frohike said. "It's obviously someone you know, who you think you might be able to trust. Someone new to your life, rather than someone who has been around a while, because I know I would have heard about it earlier. And with you, Mulder, it would have to be the extreme possibility."

Mulder was shaking his head, but he didn't deny any of this.

"I can't tell you anything specific about what happened in the isolation room, sir," Scully said. "They extracted a promise from me not to talk about it. But they didn't extract any such promise from me about the present. And I believe that whatever happened in that room, they had fallen in love by the time they walked out of it. And that means that both of them are facing uncomfortable truths about themselves. I'm not sure about Agent Doggett, but Mulder never thought of himself as gay."

Skinner listened carefully to her, then asked, "And how do you feel about all of this?"

"Relieved, surprisingly," Scully said. And that was very much true. "I'm glad that the problem has nothing to do with me, but only exists because I lack the proper equipment. I want Mulder and John to be happy and I think they might have a chance of it together. So, what do we do next? I thought that forcing Mulder to confront his feelings by kicking him out would be enough, but apparently it's not. I wonder what happened."

"According to Mulder, before he came to my house, he stopped by John's and John wants nothing to do with him any more. I don't think that's true."

"John is noble," Scully said. So noble she wanted to slap him sometimes. "And he probably thinks he's breaking Mulder and me up, when in fact, Mulder and I never were. Someone is going to have to convince him of it. I wonder if he'd believe me."

"You should probably talk with John then," Skinner said. "And I'll have another talk or three or four with them both. Until they start to see reason. I think I'm going to go back to the Hoover and see if I can track John down and drag him out of the basement."

"Good plan, sir," Scully said. They talked a while longer, small talk mostly, a little bit about what had happened last night when John brought over dinner. Then Skinner left, leaving Scully alone with a sleeping William. Thank God the baby slept so well. She'd totally lose her mind if he didn't, she thought. Without Mulder here, the apartment was tidier than it had been, but still, there were things here and there that she'd left. She neatened things up now, putting things away. She paused at her desk and unlocked the locked drawer. She sat down at the desk and pulled a small, unlabeled, amber bottle out of it. And she smiled, thinking about how easy it had been to smuggle it out of the CDC lab. She wondered if Skinner was the right one, and if so, how she was going to lure him to someplace isolated enough where she could release the bacteria in good conscience. Of course, after William was old enough, she could leave him with her mother for the week.

The phone rang. Lost in her thoughts, she startled a little. Scully put the vial back into the drawer, and careful to lock it first, went to answer the phone. Frohike was on the other end of the line.

"Agent Scully," he said. "I have something that belongs to you."

"Mulder you mean?" she asked. "He's his own person and always has been."

"One in the same. He's not actually here at the moment. We sent him out to pick up takeout, but he's underfoot all the time. We're trying to get the paper finished. Can't you see your way to taking him back even temporarily?"

"You know, the man has an apartment," Scully said. She knew it was hard for Mulder. He'd lost so much that it was easier for him to be around other people than be alone. "I don't see why people are acting like I threw him out to live on the street. If he's such a bother, just kick him out."

Frohike paused for a moment. She could almost hear the cogs meshing in the devious little man's brain. He was pulling a master plan out of the air from somewhere, but what plan? And to what end?

"I'll get back to you on that, Agent Scully," he said, then hung up.

She shook her head and got back to doing a quick bit of housekeeping before William showed any signs of waking.

Skinner drove back by the Hoover building. He cruised through the garage until he saw Doggett's truck, then he pulled into his usual parking spot.

It was easy enough to track the man down to the basement. Doggett had left the door open and Skinner had a chance to peek around it before confronting the man.

Doggett was sitting at the desk that used to be Mulder's, not working, but staring at the wall, engaged in some heavy thinking apparently. His brow, normally slightly wrinkled, was in heavy duty furrow mode, resembling something more like a plowed field than a forehead. He had a snowstorm of paperwork out on the desk, but wasn't touching any of it, his pen still in his hand, but his writing hand supporting his chin.

Skinner knocked on the door. Doggett snapped back from whatever reality he had happened to be visiting and stood up. Skinner pushed open the door all the way and walked in.

"AD Skinner," Doggett said. "I thought you'd left long ago."

"I came back. Can I have a few personal words with you, John?" Skinner asked, hoping that the other man would not take offense to the familiarity. And that he'd allow enough of it for Skinner to get what he was going to say out in the open. It'd be stepping on quicksand here, possibly, but they'd all been through so much together that perhaps they were allowed more familiarity than they would have otherwise.

"Not here," Skinner added, as Doggett's face clouded. "Let's go for a coffee."

Skinner watched Doggett struggle with himself for a little while, as if trying to think of a way to avoid this. Then he resigned himself. The paperwork storm was gathered into a quick pile and just shoved impatiently into the inbox as if Doggett was saying to himself, 'let's get this over with.'

Skinner gave directions to a small restaurant not far away, but for some reason hardly ever frequented by Bureau folk. He liked it primarily for that reason, though the prices were reasonable and the cooking was passable. Still, a lunch hour without interruptions was worth any number of gourmet meals.

Doggett ordered coffee, black, no sugar, and nothing else. Then he waited for what he obviously thought was his doom silently.

Skinner knew, Doggett thought again and again, like a knell. Skinner knew. Skinner knew.

But oddly, Skinner didn't seem as unhappy about the whole thing as Doggett thought. At least not compared to the look he'd given Doggett earlier. Perhaps the man was just saving it for after he'd tricked Doggett into admitting that he was home wrecker.

The waitress brought them both coffees and then wisely, left them alone with one of those thermal carafes so they could refill their own cups. Doggett forced himself to stop fidgeting with the handle of the short, squat white mug and he actually drank some. The coffee was smooth and mellow, not too strong, but somehow Doggett anticipated getting acid indigestion from it anyway. Anything he put into his mouth at this point was bound to turn into pure acid, just from the sheer nervousness.

"John," Skinner started after a while, when it became obvious that Doggett wasn't going to open up this conversation on his own. "You know this is a strictly personal conversation. Nothing whatsoever to do with the place that we both happen to work. Not a word of it will get back there."

John nodded cagily. Part of his mind wanted to squeak with relief, roll over and give up the story now. Part of him was yammering that Skinner would understand, that this was exactly why Skinner had brought him here. But that wasn't very manly, and Doggett was feeling like he needed every scrap of masculinity that he could come up with at the moment, because it was one thing to suck dick and like it and another thing altogether to fall head over heels in love with another man. And besides, he told himself, the reason Skinner really brought us here was to read us the riot act about coming between Mulder and Scully. And I'm just going to take my licks like a big boy, then crawl away to my cave.

"I appreciate that, sir," Doggett said. "It's a delicate issue and my reputation around the Bureau just doesn't need any more low blows these days."

"Your personal life is just that, John," Skinner said. "I'm talking to you right now as a friend. Someone who admires the person you are, not the work you do."

Doggett braced himself. He could feel it coming. It took all his courage not to flinch. The big guy wouldn't pull the punches. Except when expressly ordered not to be, Skinner was nothing if not direct and honest almost to the point of brutality.

Skinner continued, "I was speaking with Agent Scully about why Mulder ended up on my couch. She believes that you and Mulder are in love with each other."

"I can't speak for Mulder, sir," Doggett said quietly. He wasn't going to admit anything, but he wasn't denying it either. He stood up, coffee forgotten. "You have my word that I'm an honorable man and I'm not going to do anything that will come between them. Mulder came to my door last night and I sent him back to her and I'll keep doing it as long as I have to. I'm no home wrecker."

With that, Doggett turned and fled. He heard Skinner call, "John!" after him, but he didn't stop for it. Call him a coward, but he couldn't face those brown eyes a minute longer, not when the man was looking to him with such honesty, with the expectation of deep integrity and with the sense that he'd be so disappointed with you if you failed to live up to that expectation.

Doggett wove through the closely packed tables, making his way to the door, dodging the stray waitress here and there. Skinner must have been very familiar with the place, because he managed to cut Doggett off at the pass, suddenly appearing as Doggett was about to reach for the handle to the big plate glass door. Skinner's hand reached the handle first and he opened the door for Doggett. They walked out to the parking lot together, and Skinner didn't say anything until they'd reached Doggett's truck.

"What if I were to say to you that Scully and Mulder never were a couple, and still aren't? Not in the usual sense," Skinner said.

"Doesn't matter," Doggett said. "That boy of theirs needs a father."

"He could have two," Skinner said, with quiet confidence.

Doggett just stared at Skinner. Two fathers? What was that about? That was what made this all so impossible. Because sex was one thing, but family and responsibility always came first, at least in any kind of way that counted.

Besides any infatuation with Fox Mulder to the contrary, John Doggett did not love men, not in that way. It was not on the agenda. He wasn't even sure it was excusable, not for him. Maybe that was, what did they call it, homophobia. Maybe he was just too old-fashioned. Men fell in love with women and got married and that was the way it was supposed to be.

"I don't know what you're getting at here, AD Skinner," Doggett said. "But leave it be. It's nothing to do with you."

Then Doggett got into his truck and drove away, nursing a broken heart. The last thing he needed was for Skinner, of all people, to rub in something that couldn't even be an option.

The battle had been lost, but Skinner wasn't about to roll over onto his back, show his belly and concede the war on the basis of one minor skirmish.

All was fair in love and war, and this was both.

John had made it quite clear that he didn't welcome any intervention, but that didn't mean he wasn't going to get it. Skinner would just have to be cagier. More circumspect. Skinner decided a strategic retreat to ponder his next move was in order. He'd struck first, while the iron was hot, but without pausing to consider the besieged's defenses.

He sought his own truck and decided to go for a little drive to clear his head. Mulder could wait. Perhaps a little time stewing in his own juices would do him a world of good.

Skinner pulled out into early evening traffic and headed out into the territory beyond the beltway. Urban townhouses melted into suburban homes and eventually, these grew further and further apart, until they became interspersed with wide open farms, patches of forest. The verdancy around him was like a balm to the soul.

Soothed, he started reviewing the evidence at hand. The subjects: two men. Evidence supported that they were both currently single, and had been for some time. One could make an honest supposition that each of them was lonely. Both men were intensely honorable, good men. One believed in old-fashioned values, one of them unconventional. But both of them practically burned with integrity. In some ways, though you wouldn't think it at first, Fox Mulder and John Doggett were peas in a pod. The longer you thought about the pair of them together, the more the twisted logic of it made sense.

Skinner drummed his fingers on the steering wheel as he drove and considered just why the pair of them seemed so afraid to admit to this.

Skinner would have said the both of them were fearless. Doggett quietly courageous and Mulder usually charging in like a bull where angels feared to tread. But the denial he saw in both of them seemed like fear of the truth, plain and simple.

It was a truth that other people seemed to have an easier time with than the men did themselves. Scully had accepted that Mulder was gay with much more aplomb than Mulder himself. And his latest encounter with Doggett proved that the man was unwilling to consider a life with Mulder. He must have been terribly afraid to think of himself as gay.

The trick, then, would be to somehow get Doggett convinced that life without Mulder was more intolerable than a life where he admitted to the world he was gay.

Right. Simple. One brilliant plan coming up. Skinner found himself wondering just exactly what happened in that isolation chamber. He got the feeling that he'd never get the whole story. Not even ten years from now over a bottle of something very alcoholic.

She'd hardly ventured from her front door since she'd gotten home, but Scully thought it was time for a venture to the outside world. She'd failed to hear anything more from either Skinner or Frohike on Operation Lovelorn, as she'd started to think about it. That must have meant no progress. She wasn't expecting any. John Doggett was going to be one tough nut to crack, Mulder the same.

Time for her to make another limited excursion into the battle. She decided it was time for a surprise visit.

She dressed William in an onesie and little pull-on pajama pants, topped his head with a knit hat, strapped him into the car seat and headed out into the early evening.

It was a quick drive to the suburb where Doggett lived. She parked in front of his house, taking note of his truck in the driveway. Doggett's house was lovely, Scully had often thought. The kind of place you'd want to raise a family, complete with a white picket fence around the yard. John kept the place well kept up, somehow managing to find the time for lawn mowing and all of that, despite their sometimes ridiculous hours and travel schedules. She could picture Mulder here with John, William visiting on the weekends.

She sighed. No time like the present. Gathering William, she made her way up to the house. As she got closer, she discerned the rising buzz of a lawnmower. It was coming from the backyard. It had been raining earlier, but the sun had made an appearance midway through the afternoon and it must have been enough time since then for the lawn to dry. Scully wasn't sure. She'd never mowed a lawn before in her life. There were always her brothers at home and she lived in an apartment all of her adult life. Must be nice, she thought. The cut grass smelled fresh and full of life. The early evening was warm and pleasant, just enough light left for the task at hand, but the sky was deepening to night.

Instead of walking up to the front door, she diverted to the side walk, following the sound of the mower. Doggett came into sight momentarily, pushing a growling mower, cutting perfect swathes into a green velvet lawn. He wore an old, tight pair of cutoffs, an FBI t-shirt with big sweat stains around the pits and in the small of his back. His legs were perfectly muscled, she thought. Not too huge, not skinny little chicken legs like lean men had sometimes. He caught sight of her and nodded, then cut the mower off.

For that moment, Scully could definitely see what Mulder saw in the man. He didn't necessarily seem pleased to see her though. He was about to open his mouth and she thought he was going to send her away.

She made a pre-emptive strike. "No, John. I am going to talk to you about Mulder. And you are going to listen. Understood?"

Skinner pulled into his garage at the start of twilight, just as the light started to grow soft. He hurried up to his apartment, convinced that the only thing that would work was a combination of brute force and trickery. Force a confrontation between John and Mulder; get them to understand that they did love each other and that any other barriers that they perceived as standing between them were not insurmountable.

He wasn't quite sure how he was going to trick Mulder into seeing John, but he'd come up with something. One of his talents was thinking on his feet. You didn't get to be an AD if you couldn't.

He'd expected that the apartment would have taken on a certain Mulder clutter level, but everything was just like he'd left it and the place was decidedly empty. He found the note immediately, on the coffee table, with Mulder's unmistakable handwriting. "Didn't want to impose any longer. Gone to stay with the Gunmen. Thanks for your patience, Mulder."

Ah, so he thought he was going to avoid the upcoming confrontation, did he? Skinner was not discouraged, not in the slightest. There was some wily left in the old AD yet and he was prepared to use it.

Skinner was on the phone immediately. He wouldn't have said that he was good friends with Melvin Frohike, but the time since Mulder's abduction and eventual return, had definitely proved that the two men thought on similar lines on many issues. They definitely read from the same page when it came to Mulder, that was for sure. Frohike would understand and no doubt, be a willing accomplice or even a co-conspirator.

The phone was answered by a distorted sounding, "Lone Gunmen." This indicated that it was Langly, perhaps the most paranoid of the three, given his issues with having his image bounced off a satellite. "Langly, this is Walter Skinner. I need to speak to Frohike. And turn off the tape."

A moment later, Frohike was on the line, not sounding particularly gruntled. "What did you want, Skinner?" Frohike asked, impatiently.

"Is Mulder still there with you?"

"Cluttering up the place like a pile of the last decade's calendars."

"Good. I need to call in a favor from you. I need you to get Mulder to my place and hand him over in such a way that he has no avenue of escape," Skinner said. He wasn't sure how much Mulder might have told Frohike and he didn't want to spill the truth if Mulder wasn't ready to share it with the Gunmen.

Frohike must have had some idea because he said, "I assume this is in regards to Operation Chemical Reaction?"

"Indeed," Skinner said. "What's needed at this point is to force the proximity of two agents. The chemical reaction is sure to happen."

"When did you need me to deliver the package?" Frohike asked.

"I believe immediately will be better than later," Skinner said. "Can I count on you?"

"Consider it done," Frohike said. "Give me maybe an hour to make some arrangements."

Doggett listened to Scully. She seemed a little overwrought, to say the least. When she had said, "And you are going to listen. Understood?" she had pointed her finger at him almost as if she were aiming a gun. He suddenly remembered the rumors that she had once shot Mulder and decided that maybe they weren't rumors. Her other hand was holding the handle of the baby bucket that William was sleeping in. The female was definitely the more dangerous of the species, and a female with her little ones much more so. He couldn't dismiss her easily like he had Mulder and Skinner. Besides, she didn't look like she was going anywhere and he wasn't about to manhandle a woman and a couple of weeks old baby back to her car.

Still, the truth was what it was. And even if Scully thought she didn't want him, Mulder's place was with her. "I can't see as there's much to say on the matter," Doggett said.

"Excuse me, did you listen to me? I said I am going to talk, and you are going to listen. I will decide if there's anything to say," Scully said. "Invite me in."

She stared at him until he found his lips saying, without quite having received permission from his brain to do so, "Please, why don't you come inside?"

"Thank you," Scully said. She handed him the baby bucket, complete with William inside it. The sprog was sleeping hard and deep, hardly making a motion as the bucket swung during the handover. His clenched fists must have been smaller than the size of a walnut and the fingernails he hid would be tiny flecks. The hair that he didn't have was currently hidden by one of those little knit caps and Doggett was reminded of another tiny baby, one who would have been a teenager these days, had he lived. Why was Scully doing this? Did she know that Skinner had suggested the crazy ass idea that this baby have two fathers, one of them him? Did she want to tempt him that way?

He knew for sure that she was doing exactly that when they got inside. He showed Scully to his living room. She sat down on his leather sofa and, at her direction, he put the plastic baby bucket down on the coffee table. She unbuckled the tiny bundled package from it and then, instead of holding William herself, handed the baby to him. Doggett couldn't see any way to avoid it. Just suddenly, the baby was in his arms, fait accompli.

William woke slightly and though he didn't break out into crying, he groused slightly, starting to flail his hands just a little. William's head was in the crook of his elbow and his other hand was free, so he found himself offering it to the child. The instinct to wrap those tiny hands around a finger was strong and Doggett could then see exactly how tiny and perfect those fingernails were. And how surprisingly strong those little fingers could grasp.

"Now," Scully said. "I want to make one thing perfectly clear. Mulder was never my lover. I might have entertained delusions once that I could make that so, but I was cured of them instantly the one time that I attempted to turn him into my lover. All empirical, objective evidence points to one conclusion, that Mulder is gay, even if he hasn't admitted this to himself yet."

"Agent Scully," Doggett began.

"Please, I think it's Dana by now," she said.

"Dana," he tried again. "A man can have sex with another man and not be gay. That's something that's not cut and dried, just because you saw him doing things with me."

"Oh, I've believed that of Mulder since long before you were even in the picture," Scully said. "And, as I was saying, since I'm certain that Mulder is gay, that removes him from the potential pool of husbands or lovers for myself. Now, you seem concerned that Mulder should be with me to be a father to William. As far as I'm concerned, Mulder need not be romantically involved with me to do this. Perhaps it's even better this way."

"Dana," he tried to start again. What could he tell the woman that would convince her that all around, this was just a bad idea? He'd had a hard enough time convincing her of anything when they were working together. He suspected that now that they weren't working together, to convince her of anything would be next to impossible. "That's not the only objection I have to you and Skinner trying to shove the two of us together. I'm not gay. I don't love men, not that way. I ain't light in the loafers. Not a bit. I am not a fag. I don't pitch for the other team. I'm not queer as a three dollar bill. I'm not fruity, swishy or a queen. I don't even have the slightest interest in interior decorating."

With that, she looked around his well-appointed living room. Her eyes lit immediately on his fern. Then the eyebrow quirked slightly upwards. She glanced around the rest of the room, taking in the quietly masculine, harmonious atmosphere of it. Okay, so maybe he picked out the furniture and the shutters. It just made sense for them to match. Same with the rug. And the fern had been a housewarming gift from the neighbors and so what if he had a knack for keeping it alive? It looked good where it was. That was apropos of nothing as far as where his true interests lay.

"John," Scully said softly. "Nobody has accused you of being anything less than masculine. Your manhood is not in doubt here. I just know the way you look at Mulder and the way he looks at you, and it's beautiful. He never looked at me that way. You obviously feel something deep for him. And since I can never have him, it would make me happy to know that someone who's as good a man as you are loves him."

"But I don't love him!" Doggett protested, knowing that he was lying. Lying like a rug. Like a low down dirty dawg. Like a politician in front of the Senate subcommittee. Like President Clinton talking about Monica Lewinsky. Like a used car salesman.

"John?" Scully asked, sweetly, holding out her arms. "Give William to me."

He did, vaguely aware of the ache at having to relinquish that soft, slight weight. Scully put William in his baby bucket and buckled him up.

"You know I don't swear very often, if ever, right, John?" she asked. He nodded. With all they'd gone through, he'd only ever heard slightly off color words come out of her mouth. Must have been her Catholic girlhood showing through. "Good. Because that is the biggest fucking load of horse crap that I've ever heard. Total bullshit and I'm surprised you have the cojones to try and pull that one on me. Now, I'm going to take you to Mulder. And if you can look him straight in the eyes and tell him that, and I do mean straight in the eyes, and he doesn't see through you, then maybe, just maybe I might let it pass. But I don't believe you for one stinking second."

Frohike decided to consult Byers about the best way to deliver the promised package with the minimum of fuss. As clever as Frohike was, Mulder, like his namesake was just as wily, so simple guile might not be sufficient. Similarly, simple brute force would fail against a man both taller and younger.

Langly and Mulder were busy playing some shoot everything that moves video game complete with ninja babes and euro-goons. It was one of the games Langly had worked on over the years, contracting for one of the big game companies, so Langly had the obvious edge, but Mulder was catching up through dogged determination while Langly was obviously coasting. This, actually, was another good reason to cooperate with Skinner's plan, whatever it was. Because Langly was supposed to be working, not loafing about, amusing himself. Anything to get Mulder out of the house and out from under foot.

Thus assured that Mulder's attention was elsewhere for the moment, Frohike turned to his soft-spoken, suited compadre and said, "I think we need to take another look at the router cables again, Byers."

He made a significant look to the next room, then mouthed the words, "Need to talk without Mulder hearing," at Byers.

Byers looked like a startled rabbit for a moment, then confused, then he caught on and nodded. "I agree. I'm not sure we've got the network quite up to snuff yet."

They both went into the other room, even though the cables in question did no more than run through the room without stopping. The place though was so festooned with assorted electronic junk that there was no way Mulder would know what went where and what was functional and what was mere detritus from earlier incarnations of the network. The only map of the whole network as it currently existed was in Frohike's head, though both Byers and Langly had large sections of the electronic geography committed to memory.

Once they were in the next room, Frohike indicated with a jerk of the head that they should go to the next room beyond, the kitchen. Once there in the clutter and the mess, with the disgusting kitchen sink and all, they were free to talk.

"Do you believe in love, Byers?" Frohike asked.

Byers' confusion returned, but he nodded. Of course the man did. Byers' whole life had changed irrevocably because of love. A one minute glance at a little blond chickadee had turned the man's world and universe on its head, had turned him from blind sheep to a tireless crusader. Though he never said a word about it, you could tell that the man was still hopelessly in love with that chickadee, though God alone knew what trouble she was getting up to these days.

"Mulder is in love, and not with the lovely Agent Scully," Frohike said.

"I assumed his presence indicated some...domestic dispute between the pair of them," Byers said. The man looked like he was positively itching to be in the kitchen when it was in this state. Though Byers himself was neat by nature, his tidiness was simply King Canute holding back the ocean of the other two men's sloppiness. Finally, he gave up, and though he wasn't on kitchen duty at all this week, he slipped off his jacket, rolled up his sleeves and began excavating the pile of dishes from the sink, so that he could fill it and begin washing.

Frohike took pity on the man and started to help. "Oh, there's a dispute between them alright. But she's not mad about the fact that he's in love with someone else. He's denying that he's in love at all with this other person. I think that this is one time where Scully is right and Mulder is wrong, but he..."

"Has always taken his own path, and damn the consequences. And he knows what he knows," Byers finished for him. Frohike liked that about being around his two companions. Years together had them thinking alike, to the point of being able to finish each other's sentences. Byers, especially, was close to both of them. Sometimes, some lonely, drunken nights, Frohike pondered to himself about asking Byers to take a walk on the wild side with him, blond chickadee or not, Agent Scully or not.

"But the tragedy of it all is not just that Mulder is in love with this person, but this person is in love with him. Happiness would be theirs, if only they would reach out and grab it," Frohike said. By this point, the sink was empty enough that they could start filling it with hot water and soap. Byers added only a tiny amount of soap, causing Frohike to grab the bottle and add a whole dollop more.

"I knew you were going to do that, no matter how much I put in it," Byers said, mildly. As he started in on the glasses, he asked, "This person. Anyone we know?"

"John Doggett," Frohike pronounced solemnly.

"That's a surprise," Byers said.

"I know. I never would have figured Doggett in the three dollar bill crowd."

"Oh, not Agent Doggett. Mulder," Byers said as he ran a rag over a dish. He had to scrub hard at a few caked on spots.

"How do you figure?" Frohike asked.

"When he was first working that case, the one with the Native American symbol, we did the teleconference with him. Afterwards, I found myself wondering why he would have noticed that Langly didn't have any pants on. Since then, I've just observed any number of little things about him. Which gender he looks at first when meeting new people. The intensity of how he looks at them," Byers said. It figured that Byers, out of anyone, would have been observant enough to notice that about the man.

"In any case, Skinner has a plan. I believe Agent Scully is in on this caper too. We're going to force a meeting between the pair of them and see what happens. All we have to do is deliver Mulder to Skinner's place and see that he doesn't escape."

"We'll need to get Langly involved in this as well. And I know just how we're going to do it," Byers pronounced. Byers dug in one of the kitchen drawers and came up with a big roll of silvery tape. He handed it to Frohike. Then he pulled another roll out of the same.

Frohike could feel the smile forming on his face. "I like how you think, my friend."

A short time later, Mulder was still in front of the video game. Well, not in front of it so much as in it. He and Langly were playing the virtual reality version of the same game. No, not a full immersion VR, just a helmet and gloves one. Mulder was sitting in one of their office chairs, off in Ninja babe land. Langly had stepped up his game play just a notch or two, so that he was no longer coasting, and Mulder had to work very hard to keep up, but not so much that Mulder would start to lose, pout and lose interest in the game. Mulder's attention thus fully captured, Byers and Frohike each approached him from a different flank, pieces of tape from the roll pulled off and at ready, the roll itself within easy access, ready to dispense more if need be.

At the very same instant there was a climax in the game, Langly entered the cheat code that made a false "game over!" flash within Mulder's vision. Byers and Frohike swooped in and grabbed Mulder by the data gloves, then deftly applied the duct tape to his arms, then fastened them to the chair arms. Frohike ducked down to duct tape Mulder's kicking legs. It took a good bit of doing to fasten those, but Frohike applied enough tape that there was no way Mulder could kick free. At the same time, Langly was ripping off Mulder's VR mask and the data gloves. Within seconds, Mulder was well and truly taped to the chair, protesting with all the impressive vocabulary list of invective at his command.

"Trust me, Mulder," Frohike said. "This is for your own good. We're just going to take you on a little drive, then we'll let you go."

"Listen, you obscene, little leprechaun," Mulder said, furiously. His face had turned red with the struggle. "Set me free right now or I'm going to drive one of those garden gnomes up your ass."

Frohike sighed, but decided against gagging Mulder. Tempting as it was, Frohike thought it might not be good for Mulder's state of mind. This was pushing it far enough. Besides, he'd heard far, far worse threats in his day. If this was the best that he could do, Mulder was a piker compared to his ex-wife.

"The car's ready," Langly said. "Let's go."

If the neighbors thought it was odd to see the three of them pushing a yelling man duct taped to a standard office chair to where their VW Microbus was parked, nobody said anything. And they wouldn't.

"So, all I have to do to get you off my case is look Mulder in the eye and tell him I don't love him," Doggett repeated. It was another lie, true, but he wanted so badly to be out of this mess. He'd hardly been able to eat or sleep since this whole mad affair had started. His work had suffered. He just wanted it over with and it seemed that getting Scully off his back about it was at least a good place to start.

Scully nodded.

"Okay, let's get going," Doggett said. He didn't even stop to change out of his lawn mowing clothes. No time like the present. He reached for his keys and headed for the front door, Scully hurrying behind him. "Where is Mulder right now?"

"At the Lone Gunmen's headquarters," Scully said. "Where he's been moping for you, even if he won't admit that's what he's doing."

The call Skinner was waiting for finally came.

"Hey, Skinman," said the voice. It was Langly, the most obnoxious one of the three, from a generation without respect as far as Skinner was concerned. Skinner strangled down a grumble. They were being immensely helpful in his little plan to get Mulder and Doggett together. And at least it wasn't Wally he was being called. Langly continued, "We've got the package. Where do you want delivery?"

"Drive around back to the service entrance, I'll be down to meet you in a minute," Skinner said. In the background, he could hear Mulder cursing quite clearly, though tiredly, as if he'd been at it some time. There was also some muffled thumping, as if Mulder were still struggling against his fate. So, Mulder hadn't come willingly. It wasn't exactly what Skinner had in mind when he'd asked for the Gunmen's help. But in the end, Mulder would almost certainly forgive them all. Skinner started moving quickly as he spoke. Just a minute to pull on a pair of shoes and he was out the door.

Momentarily, he was at the truck dock of the service entrance. The Gunmen were waiting in their disreputable looking van. They had the side door thrown open. Inside, Skinner could see that it was taking both Langly and Byers to hold Mulder down, for all that the man was duct taped securely to a computer chair. Never had the phrase "madder than a wet hen" been illustrated quite so well. Not that the man didn't have reason for it, but still, as they said, desperate times call for desperate measures. Frohike was still at the wheel, and the van was still running, as if they were prepared to make a quick getaway if necessary.

"Did you plan this, Skinner? You son of a bitch!" Mulder managed to yell before Byers clamped a hand over his mouth.

Skinner had been planning to park Mulder in his apartment and then find some way to fetch Doggett over, perhaps using Scully to trick him into coming. That would never do, not with Mulder in his finely-pitched fit of fury. But that was okay. He was used to plans changing as soon as they hit the field. He looked doubtfully at the van. With three men and another in a desk chair, it was already crowded. Still, maybe they could use some help holding Mulder down, maybe calming him. Skinner hopped down from the concrete landing of the dock to the alley level, then approached the van.

"Mulder," he said, using the velvet glove over steel fist voice that he'd used on Mulder many a time during the time they'd known each other. "This is not some kind of betrayal or trickery. We're just looking out for your best interests here. We want to see that you're happy. We're going to go over to John Doggett's house, and you're going to talk to him."

"I have nothing to say to the man," Mulder spat out. "Now, can we end this humiliating, not to mention, panic-inducing little charade?"

"If we cut you out of the chair, will you give me your parole that you won't leave until you've talked to John?"

"I said I have nothing to say to him," Mulder said, but this time, instead of anger, it seemed that he was more sulking. His volume had dropped and he didn't try and thump the chair again. "I don't know why everyone of you thinks I'm in love with the man. You, them, Scully. I'm not in love with the man and I have nothing to say to him."

"Fine, then, Mulder," Skinner said, suddenly inspired. "All we require is that you go to John's with us, look him directly in the eye, and tell him that you're not in love with him. If you can do that, we'll be satisfied. Then we'll let you go."

"Whatever," Mulder snapped nastily. He thumped the office chair for emphasis. "But we're not going anywhere until I'm out of this chair."

"You'll give me your parole?" Skinner asked.

"Whatever it takes," Mulder said.

"Hop right in, Wally," Langly said. Skinner winced visibly. At the same time, Byers produced a pair of scissors from somewhere and started cutting through Mulder's bonds. While Byers did that, Skinner hopped into the little van and found a seat. Langly shut the van door and then Frohike pulled out of the drive with a squeal of tires. Somewhere inside the diminutive man beat the heart of a Dale Earnhardt, only Skinner quickly found himself wishing that perhaps this inner stockcar driver wasn't allowed out to play. Especially not at the wheel of a van that was never meant for speeds greater than, oh, fifty miles an hour, from the way it chugged and shook as they took to the highways.

Earlier, they'd been caught in a gaper's delay- people slowing down to look at a really spectacular accident in the opposite lanes of the highway, so it took them over an hour to get to the Gunmen's headquarters in Maryland. Why did people have to slow down to look at such a terrible thing anyway? Doggett had firmly kept his eyes on Scully's car ahead of him and on the road, avoiding looking at what was probably a real mess. There were multiple ambulances and cop cars, some still arriving as they crawled past.

Eventually though, they turned off the highway and into the somewhat seedy neighborhood that the Gunmen's place was located. It was fully dark by then and several of the streetlights were broken. Looking around at the environs, Doggett decided that armed FBI Agent or not, he hoped that Scully never came to this neighborhood by herself at night. It looked desolate and abandoned. There were hardly any lights on in the other industrial buildings surrounding the warehouse that the Gunmen rented. Just the sort of place you could get away with a crime, because nobody'd be around for miles to catch you. Or so it seemed.

Scully parked and Doggett found a place for the truck nearby. They both got out. Doggett offered to carry the baby bucket for her, but she declined. In the near darkness, it was hard to see, but Scully's lips were pursed with worry, and eventually she said, "I don't see their van. I wonder if they went out for something."

Scully led the way to their front door, a battered metal slab. Doggett had never gone to the Gunmen before, they had always come to him, or on occasion just shown up in his office when he wasn't expecting them. She rang the bell a couple of times, then a few more. They waited. And waited a good bit longer. No sign of the Gunmen or Mulder. Doggett didn't know if he was relieved or not. Surely he wouldn't be off the hook just because they weren't home. "I wonder where they are, and if they took Mulder, or if he's someplace else," she said. She pulled a cell phone out of her pocket and pressed a button to speed dial, then listened to it. A moment later, she pressed the end button to the call and said, with an arch of her eyebrow, "I couldn't reach Mulder. He must have his phone off, but when is that a surprise?"

Doggett knew that they Gunmen each had a cell phone. Probably multiple phones. But he suspected they were too paranoid to tell anyone the phone number, perhaps not even Scully. So he was surprised when Scully dialed another number, failed to reach anyone, and said, "No answer from Frohike either."

Skinner had only been to Doggett's house once or twice, but it was just like he remembered it. White picket fence around the outside. The front lawn, visible in one of the streetlights and also the porch light, looked like it had been neatly mowed recently. They pulled into the driveway alongside the house but failed to see the man's big, white truck. The lights on the inside of the house were all off too. Maybe Doggett wasn't home for some reason.

"Looks like Dogboy's not home," Langly said.

"Fine. Looks like I can't have the little talk with the man that you think is so important," Mulder said, justifiably simmering with resentment. "Just let me out. I'll walk back to my apartment from here."

Never mind that Falls Church and Alexandria were a good twenty minutes away from each other by car on the highway.

"Uh-uh," Frohike said. "Just hold your horses, cowboy. You're not off the hot seat until you have that little chitchat. I'm going to try and call Scully and see if she's seen him. Does anyone have Doggett's cell phone number?"

"I'll try it," Skinner said, getting out his phone. They'd gotten out of the van by then and were standing on the driveway next to the house. He dialed Doggett's number. Seconds later, from inside the house, he heard the ring tone from a phone. "It looks like wherever John went, he forgot his phone."

"I got Scully's voicemail," Frohike said. A moment later, he added, "She's not at home either. I wonder where she could be?"

"We'd better get out of the driveway and on our way," Byers said. "We might draw the suspicions of the neighbors, standing around like this."

"I wonder if they went over to Skinner's?" Scully asked. "Skinner was talking about some scheme he was going to organize with the Gunmen to work on the Mulder side of all of this."

She dialed the phone again, and this time, she looked relieved. She must have gotten an answer.

"Sir?" she asked. "Where are you? Do you have Mulder with you?"

She paused. William started crying in the bucket and she shifted uncomfortably to kind of swing him back and forth. Doggett wanted to take the child in his arms and comfort him, but he suspected he was still in the hot seat with Scully and any attempts in that regard would be rebuffed firmly.

"Well, I'm glad to hear you have the package. I have the other one right here with me. Where should we meet?"

She listened for a while, then said, "Yes, sir. I know the place. We'll be there soon."

When she hung up, she said to Doggett, "Back in the car and follow me. We'll be meeting up in a place about midway between here and Falls Church. It seems that Skinner and the Gunmen had the same idea as I did, and they're at your house with Mulder."

Sooner than he'd have liked, Doggett found himself sitting across the table from Fox Mulder. The cause of all this trouble and fuss and misery. The personal thorn in his side. The man he didn't love. The man he couldn't love, because John Doggett didn't fall in love with men.

Just keep telling yourself that, Johnny, he thought to himself as he looked straight into Fox Mulder's eyes. At his side was Scully. They'd manipulated him into a booth and he was scrunched between Scully and the wall, with Langly at the end of the bench. It was crowded; a bench that was meant to contain two comfortably, but apparently could fit three if they were willing to get tight and cozy like this.

There was no way of escape, not even the ignominious plan of ducking under the table and crawling out through his companions' legs. Byers was sitting on a chair pulled up to the end of the big booth. And even if Byers wasn't in the way, Doggett was sure that the others would stop him. He was trapped. Down to the wire. Between a rock and a hard place. He was just going to have to look Mulder in the eyes and end this thing. In public. With witnesses. No. With people he loved and respected watching as he told a bald faced lie. Not that he hadn't been lying enough recently, but this galled him and he hadn't been thrilled about earlier lies either.

Mulder, similarly, was jammed into a booth, bookended between Skinner and the wall, with Frohike on the end of the bench. Mulder was doing anything to avoid looking him in the eye, though mainly staring down at the table top. Funny how fascinating the mottled laminate must be to him, because Mulder had hardly lifted his eyes from it in the ten minutes since they'd sat down. The waitress finally came by with their coffee, though Langly had gotten a big coke and Scully a mere glass of water.

"Are you ready to order?" the waitress asked. She was a plain faced girl, but looked sweet and innocent, possibly a college girl. She looked kind of confused at the motley crowd that they must have looked like. Doggett still had on his raggedy mowing clothes. Langly was wearing a t-shirt for some group called the Misfits. Skinner meanwhile looked fresh and crisp in a blue and white checked oxford shirt and dress pants, kind of like he'd gotten back from some fancy golf outing.

"Not quite yet, we'll need a few more minutes," Scully said, smiling at the girl. Scully then turned back to nursing William.

"Oh, okay," the girl, her name was Mary Sue, according to her name tag. "You let me know when you're ready."

Once the girl was gone, Scully looked, not to Doggett, but to Mulder. "Now or never, Mulder," she said. "You look that man in the eye and tell him the truth. Same for you, John."

Mulder looked up reluctantly. When he did, Doggett tried to look away, but he wasn't quick enough. Suddenly his eyes were locked on Mulder's. Mulder's eyes were mostly green, Doggett thought. Big, soulful, beautiful eyes. They'd seen a lot of sadness, those eyes, just like he had. Mulder's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed hard. Doggett unconsciously did the same. Their eyes never broke contact for long, silent seconds. Then minutes. Nothing else seemed to exist except for those eyes and Mulder's face. His big hands. Doggett's memory of those hands on his body. The curve of those lips.

He was going to have to do this. It was ridiculous. Impossible. He had to.

But he couldn't. He couldn't look the man in the eye and say that he didn't love him. Because it wasn't true.

Doggett didn't realize how much time had passed, he and Mulder staring at each other as if daring the other to speak first, until Mary Sue, the waitress showed up and cleared her throat softly, tentatively. Both of their heads snapped around to glare at her for breaking into the silent conversation they were having. The poor waitress nearly wilted under the pressure. "I...umm. Uh, all your friends left and I just wanted to know if you still wanted to order something."

Doggett looked around. They were sitting in the booth alone. He vaguely could recall at some point prior Scully saying, "I believe our work here is done, gentleman." And then the five other occupants of the booth shuffled out and away. But it had failed to make a lasting impression on Doggett. No, what had been important at that moment was the way that Mulder's irises were rayed through with warm dark gray and how amazingly large his pupils had seemed in the dim light of the family style restaurant. This was inevitable, wasn't it? It seemed he was doomed to love Fox Mulder and there wasn't a cure. It had to be him, nobody else. He might as well give in.

Mulder, at least, was able to think on his feet clearly enough to come up with a response. "Did our friends stiff us for their drinks?" he asked.

"No, sir," she said. "They paid up for your coffee too, but if you want to order something, the kitchen closes in fifteen minutes."

Doggett could see Mulder decide he was going to be charming. The wry grin came out, and a second later, it turned into a full blown smile. Mulder said, "Well, John, since this appears to be our first date, I'll buy. I'm thinking you look like a cheeseburger, well-done, with the cottage fries and more coffee. Am I right?"

In response to that smile, Doggett could only shake his head and smile back. "Close enough for government work," he said. "And I'm thinking you look like a patty melt and iced tea. Am I right?"

The waitress jotted down their orders and scurried away. After she was gone, Mulder asked, "But what about dessert?"

Doggett pinned Mulder with a meaningful stare and said, "That should be obvious."

Mulder swallowed hard again. His eyes opened wider and so did his pupils. He seemed entranced at what Doggett was hinting at.

"But there's something I got to say to you, Mulder. Before we take this any further than dinner," Doggett said. Mulder nodded. "I'm not putting up with any of that crap like you put me through last night in front of Scully's apartment. Nobody uses me or makes me feel cheap. Got it?"

Mulder nodded.

"And no more lies," Doggett added. "I'm gonna start by telling the truth. Something I should have said right off the bat. I love you, Fox Mulder. God knows why, but it had to be you. And I'm pretty darn sure you're in love with me too."

"Of course I do," Mulder said. He reached out for Doggett's hand and even though they were in public, his voice was so earnest, so softly honest that Doggett let Mulder grab his hand and hold it between his. Mulder's hands were so warm. They were strong too. Doggett could feel muscles move over the bones when Mulder grabbed him, all controlled strength and gentle power. Mulder's voice dropped low and it almost seemed as if he was going to cry. Definitely his eyes glistened with unreleased tears. "What did everyone think? What did you think? Of course I love you."

With his free hand, Doggett reached to touch Mulder high on the cheek. Then he slipped that hand around to the back of Mulder's head and pulled him in close for a kiss. Doggett kept his eyes open for the kiss, not wanting to miss a glorious second of it. One tear spilled from Mulder's eyes during the kiss. Their faces were so close together that Doggett felt it touch his own cheek, a little dot of warm moisture. They couldn't hold the kiss for long. It was a long way for both of them to be leaning over the table and the hard edge of the laminate topped table was cutting into Doggett's belly uncomfortably, so he broke the kiss and sat back down, but he kept hold of Mulder's hand.

Even though they couldn't keep the kiss up for long, it felt glorious. Perfect. Like the pieces of a puzzle snapping together. Like peanut butter and chocolate. Exactly right. He couldn't deny, not a minute longer, that he and Mulder were meant to be. More than that, having told the truth and had the truth told to him, it felt like he could breathe again. None of what had gone before mattered- Mulder's denials, his own denials, and his refusal to believe certain things about himself. Mulder's paranoia and belief in the ridiculous seemed like just any other issue they'd have to work through. None of that mattered, not in the glowing light of just being here with Mulder, loving him. He might have been tempted to just grab Mulder's hand and get the heck out of there for obvious reasons. But there'd been plenty of sex before, and time for plenty of it in the future. Definitely it was on the agenda for later tonight as far as Doggett was concerned. But for now, this was nice, a revelation even. Just sitting there with Mulder, no recriminations, no arguments, was delightful. Everything in his life now made complete sense.

Their food had come eventually, and they ate the indifferent food. Mulder even fed Doggett a few fries by hand. But it was a dim memory compared to the brief embrace of lips that they'd shared before. Or compared to walking across the parking lot to Doggett's truck, Doggett's arm seemingly finding its way around Mulder's shoulders on its own. Mulder hummed as they walked, a happy sound, vaguely tuneful. It took a minute, but Doggett chuckled as he figured out just what song Mulder was going for. It was some eighties thing, something he hadn't remembered in a long time.

"Doctor, doctor, give me the news, I got a bad case of loving you," the song lyrics went. "No pill's going to cure my ill; I got a bad case of lovin' you."

"You want to go to my place or yours?" Doggett asked. "Your place is closer and at least we should stop by your place and check on the fish. You haven't been home in a while from what I hear."

"Sure, my place is fine. Whatever," Mulder said. He was definitely looking antsy, as if he couldn't wait for them to get to the nearest convenient horizontal surface, or even a somewhat convenient vertical surface. Doggett could have taken advantage of this, drawn this out to get back at him for some of the torture he'd been put through. He could have made Mulder grovel for the things he'd put him through. But somehow, that didn't seem quite right. It wasn't the night for that. And, truth be told, only the constraints of civilized behavior stopped him from taking Mulder right there in the bed of his truck. That and the fact that he didn't have the knees of a younger man anymore. Beds definitely had certain advantages to them.

In the truck on the way to Alexandria, Mulder's hand kept snaking from Doggett's knee upwards, tracing a slow, torturously pleasant path from patella to flexor muscle to hip, then inwards. Doggett nearly jumped out of his seat and veered the truck across the road as Mulder brushed his fingers across the tight denim of Doggett's cut offs. And they were tight, uncomfortably so. Doggett was suddenly reminded of how it'd felt in that isolation chamber, to be that hard, that much in need of release. He breathed slowly to gain control of himself. Down the highway at sixty-five miles an hour was not the time to come in his pants like a kid in an adolescent hormone frenzy.

No words were needed. Mulder recognized the folly of teasing Doggett at highway speeds. He backed off, kept his questing hand strictly to the outer portion of Doggett's thigh. Their hands and arms brushed when it was time for Doggett to shift the truck. A shiver didn't just go up and down his spine when every time that happened. No, that shiver barged right in and trounced right up and down Doggett's spine wearing football spikes.

It was a wonder then, that they pulled onto Mulder's street all in one piece. Parking, as would be expected when you really wanted a close spot, just wasn't available. They parked three blocks away. As Doggett was locking the truck, Mulder embraced him from behind and started to go to town on the back of his neck, kissing and gently sucking the sensitive skin there, roving to the back of Doggett's ears. Mulder's fingers wandered through his hair, rubbing it upwards. Doggett melted against the door of his truck like chocolate in the sun.

Mulder's chuckle was not so much heard but felt like a delicate breeze across Doggett's neck. "C'mon, guy," Mulder said. "Race you to my building."

Then Mulder took off at a sprint. Doggett couldn't help but grin. Then he hurried to follow after. It was going to be a good night, he could just tell.

Doggett woke hours later, the sun just starting to shyly peek into Mulder's windows. He was lying on his stomach, sprawled out over Mulder's bed. Mulder himself was draped all over Doggett, a heavy but pleasant weight. His head used Doggett's left arm as a pillow, his arm across Doggett's back, his legs hooked into Doggett's legs. This was the most pleasant waking in a long time that Doggett could remember. It was a bright, warm Sunday morning. Nothing to do. No one to go see, not unless they wanted to go round up Scully, Skinner and the Gunmen and thank them.

Nah, there was plenty of time for that later. For now, happy to be used as Mulder's pillow, Doggett buried his face back into the sheets and closed his eyes again. Sleep now, he told himself. Make love again when you wake. Then be happy, deliriously happy. He could handle that.

Part 4:


Doggett had been waiting on Scully's ring at the door for about twenty minutes. When she finally showed, she looked flustered, her hair slightly askew, as if it'd been ruffled and then smoothed only by her hands. But as planned, she had Billy and all his assorted impedimentia with her. Billy, impatient toddler that he was, ignored Doggett and instead rushed into the house. Billy climbed up onto the couch and stared at the fish tank which was a current source of fascination to him. He was safe enough there for the moment, so Doggett turned back to Scully.

"Sorry I'm late, John," Scully said, apologetically. "Billy's nap ran over. He didn't wake up on time."

Actually, from the looks of it, Scully had been otherwise occupied at the time she should have woken Billy from his nap to get him ready to go. She had to hustle to even get them out the door. Doggett didn't mind, because Scully was positively flushed with that certain glow and who was he to deny someone their happiness. Besides, from Billy's weekends here, he knew all about grabbing time where you could get it.

"No, problem," Doggett said. "Plans running smoothly otherwise?"

Scully nodded, "Walter's on his way up to the cabin already. He should get there in plenty of time to get things up and running before dark. I've just got to stop and do some shopping."

Skinner and Scully, now that had been a surprise, but they seemed madly happy with each other. Doggett wondered about that sometimes. There had been no sign of it. Then coincidentally, both of them had taken a long weekend vacation together about a year ago. They left separately, but came back together and had been inseparable ever since.

"You're a dear to do this," Scully said as she handed up a tote bag with Billy's toys. Not that Billy didnt have a whole room in the house devoted to him.

"It's no problem," Doggett said. And it wasn't. Not in the slightest. Having the kid over was about the second best thing he could think of. "Fox said to say hi. He's at a meeting with an editor that might be interested in that crazy book of his."

"That's great," Scully said, handing over the last bag. "I've got to go or I'll be stuck in traffic."

While Scully pried their son away from the fish tank to hug and kiss him goodbye, Doggett stood by and watched. He thought about Mulder's book- a fictionalized account of their meeting, falling in love and getting together. Who would believe it was true? Bacterial love-potion number nines, poison spitting reptile men, an acquaintance started by a multi-state manhunt for a man supposedly abducted by aliens. And yet every word of it was true. The strangest thing was that compared to the depth of love he felt for Fox, all of that faded into the background. Didn't matter. Because like the books say, true love does triumph over all, even the ridiculous circumstances of its origin.


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