Secrets and Lies

Skinner is the one who tells him she's at the hospital, urging him in his brusque tone to get over there ASAP as if she hasn't ditched him coldly just the other day. He drives to the hospital anyway, wallowing in his bitterness on the way there. As soon as he knows what the hell is going on he will give them both a piece of his mind. He plans to be assertive; he's fed up with these games. He refuses to be putty in their hands any longer. This has gone far enough. He and Agent Scully are supposed to be partners. Instead she keeps eluding him, going behind his back, taking unnecessary risks like some rebellious teenager, and then it's up to him to find her in some hospital and pick up the pieces. Well, he will have it no more. He's had it with her diva act.

He finds a weary nurse at the nurses' station and asks for Scully's room, as well as an update on her condition. The nurse tells him what little information she knows about his partner, as well as the woman she's been brought with, Mary Hendershot.

"Your partner is alright, Agent Doggett," the nurse offers a tired smile as she reassures him. "So is the baby."

"Pardon?" He's so exhausted he thinks he's misheard her. Perhaps she's confused, thinking this woman Hendershot is his partner. "I thought you said baby."

The nurse gives him a funny look, as if he's the one who is confused, possibly delirious. "That's exactly what I said," she says slowly, glancing at the forms she's still holding. "Your partner, Dana Scully? There has been some concern upon her admission, but everything checks out and her baby is just fine."

For just a moment, the shock floors him. This new discovery leaves him speechless. But as it sinks in – slowly – it begins to feel like the missing piece of the puzzle. Small details that haven't sat right with him before suddenly make perfect sense. That time when she ditched him all of a sudden to take "personal time" and he discovered her at the hospital with an acute abdominal pain. Their recent case in the Boston subway, where she asked him to be her eyes and ears in the tunnels while staying behind to supposedly supervise. Why she would go to Dr. Parenti's office, seeking advice following that guy Haskell's visit.

Just a few days ago he has accused her of keeping secrets and telling lies, but he hasn't expected to reveal a secret of this magnitude. She's been doing one hell of a good job hiding it from everyone. He wonders if Skinner knows about this, then figures that he must do – the Assistant Director has been watching her like a hawk since he's been assigned to the X Files, defending her every leave of absence every step of the way. He's been watching her back as if she were his daughter. If it wasn't so infuriating, he'd find it endearing.

And he is furious. More than that, he's offended. He's been such a fool. All this time he's been watching her back, risking his ass in order to earn her trust, to prove himself. Hell, he's still traumatized by that creature he pulled out of the back of her neck. She could simply tell him the truth and spare them all this awkwardness. Has she thought so little of him, that she couldn't do so? He has honestly believed they've been passed that.

He excuses himself and leaves the nurse behind as he trudges down the hall. He walks in with some trepidation, but his fears are in vain. Dreary as it sounds, he's become used to the sight of her, asleep in a hospital bed. Knowing what he now knows, it's frightening to think how many times she has put herself on the line. He looks her over, trying to see if she looks different to him now, but she looks exactly like the other day, when she left in a hurry with that woman in her car. She isn't showing at all, which tells him it must be very recently that she –

Then something occurs to him. He sits down heavily, his eyes wide with his sudden epiphany.

In a way he has suspected it all along, from that day he broke into Mulder's apartment and found her sleeping in his bed with his dress shirt all but wrapped around her. He never revisited the issue as they became partners, didn't dare to. But the more he thinks of it, it sure explains the pain he sees in her eyes whenever Mulder's name is mentioned. Not pain exactly; agony. He knows it firsthand, the absence of his own son still an open wound. He should have recognized the signs, should have known this isn't just a woman worried for her partner. Is that why she hasn't told him? Has she feared he will judge her, or not take her seriously?

When she wakes up and finds him by her side, she's so distraught over Hendershot's baby, so filled with conspiracies, that he doesn't dare to confront her as he has planned. They dance around the issue of her own baby, and he doesn't push her because he can't bear her wounded expression when she explains why she hasn't told him. He puts on a good act when he promises once more he will find Mulder, but the truth is that inwardly he's an utter mess. Something about her vulnerability weakens him. There's nothing sexual about it; in many ways he can relate with the searing loss she is experiencing. He has spent just a few days searching for his son and those have been a torture; he can barely imagine what it's like to be consumed by doubts and dread for months on end.

He urges her to try and get some rest, and she closes her eyes without protesting. Soon afterwards she's fast asleep again, breathing softly, and he steps out of the room. There's a bench right across from the door, and Skinner is there, his coat in his lap. They exchange weary glances as he sits by his superior.

"How is she?"

"She'll be alright. Nothing a good rest can't solve."

"Can I go in?"

"I wouldn't recommend it, sir, she's trying to sleep." He hesitates, then decides to just say it. "You should have told me," he tells Skinner, then regrets his tone. Although he has planned a fierce confrontation with the two of them, at the moment of truth he's too goody-two-shoes, fearing he might have spoken out of place. Luckily his boss doesn't berate him, just shakes his head in dismay. He obviously knows exactly what this is all about. "There was no need for this mystery, this secrecy."

"You're right. But it was not my secret to tell. I urged her to tell you, though, and she wanted to. I think she just wasn't sure how to go about this."

Even now, he's defending her. His loyalty is jarring. He has never seen anything like it. Nonetheless, he decides to push his luck. "Is Mulder..."

"I don't know." For a moment, the Assistant Director isn't looking at him, then changes his mind and their gazes lock. His eyes speak volumes. "I don't ask. But I have my suspicions."

"This makes so much more sense to me now."

"How so?"

"She's so desperate to find him. The stakes are higher than I realized."

"As I said, Agent Doggett, I don't know that it's true." Skinner pauses, then sighs, as if unsure how to continue. "Mulder and Scully have this... bond. I'm not sure how to explain it. From very early on there was just this pull between them. It's almost like... gravity. Like they're one entity, one mind. You need to be in the same room with them in order to understand. Even then it's baffling."

"Sounds like an X File in itself."

Skinner smiles warily. "It is, in a way, I suppose. What I'm trying to say is she would have been desperate to find him either way, regardless of the... situation. You should have seen him when she was abducted."

He doesn't know Mulder from Adam, but he can picture it clearly, the ghost of a man, fearing the worst but trying to hold on to what shred of hope still left inside him. He has read the files. He also knows about Mulder's sister, the whole mystery surrounding her disappearance. This man is no stranger to hoping against hope. He can definitely relate with the sentiment.

The Assistant Director glances at him sideways, then shakes his head. "I guess it's all too familiar to you, Agent Doggett."

He starts despite himself. He hasn't exactly kept the matter of Luke a secret, not as ferociously as Agent Scully has protected her own. He figures Skinner must have been privy to the case of his son; the information is all there in his personal file, after all. But it is the first time he acknowledges it, and while he has done so subtly, the notion is still strange. It is such a personal matter that for a moment he isn't sure how to respond. Eventually he clears his throat. "Hopefully in this case there will be a happier ending. I gave her my word. I will find him."

Skinner hesitates. "Maybe you shouldn't make promises you're not sure you're able to keep."

He knows his boss is right, but his words sting all the same. He feigns indifference, or at least attempts to. "Be that as it may, sir, Agent Scully needs someone to watch her back. Now more than ever. And I'll appreciate it if you could keep me in the loop from now on. No more secrets and lies. I'm getting tired of hospitals."

This is the closest he'll ever get to speaking his mind about their previous conduct, and while his tone is subdued and rational, polite even, he fears once again he may have said too much. Nonetheless Skinner nods. "Fair enough," he says. "I appreciate it that you want to watch her back. I know that she does, too."

"You're stuck with me until they order me away, sir."

He may not find Mulder, but sure as hell he's going to try. For Agent Scully, and her unborn child. For himself. For the memory of Luke. If it allows him to put closure on his own personal tragedy, he will cease the opportunity with all his might. But from now on in, he intends to leave the secrets and lies at the door.