Title: That Brings Us Back to Doe
Author: PepperjackCandy
Rating: PG
Pairing: John/Stella-ish
Category: Drama
Spoilers for: all 21 eps (but mostly the The Rising)

Disclaimer: I own nothing.

Feedback: Always welcome, either by lj comment, e-mail or using the review system at And so we pick up our story pretty much where canon left off.

"Please, Tommy, don't leave me!" Theresa whispered, clutching John tighter.

All John could see, however, was Digger's face, until the spell was broken by the light of a helicopter flying overhead.

John leapt to his feet, scrambling out of the hole that Digger had left through as the helicopter disappeared into the distance. "Digger!" He shouted fruitlessly at the sky.

The whole way back to Seattle, he ignored Frank, and Jamie, and Sam, and even Theresa. All he could see was Digger's face, and all he could feel was the stocking cap clutched between his fingers.

Morning found John awash in a sea of art supplies. Paint, clay, chalk, charcoal. . . and he had no idea where to start.

He picked up the stocking cap for the millionth time, thinking about Digger. About Karen. About holding Karen's dead body in his arms, so cold . . .

Those bastards killed Karen, he heard clearly in Digger's voice, hatred in his tone. False hatred. Self-hatred?

He looked across the room, where Karen's painting hung from the wall. Come on, Karen. You're the artist. What do I do?

As simply as that, it hit him. He picked up a piece of charcoal and went to the wall next to Karen's painting. He drew a tall structure, with a disk at the top.

The Space Needle? The CN Tower? he wondered as he drew.

Finally, the finished product stood in front of him. The Tower of the Americas in San Antonio.

Digger appreciated irony. So when he found a piano bar on the Riverwalk, he went in, sitting at the bar as the piano player warmed up.

Just as long as he doesn't play My Funny Valentine I'll be fine, Digger thought as the piano player broke into It Had to be You.

Digger snorted.

"Awful early to be drinking," the bartender said, walking up to him.

Digger slapped a fifty onto the bar. "I want to get drunk fast. I think I'll start with Scotch. Neat. And before you ask, no, I'm not driving."

The bartender placed a tumbler of Scotch on the bar in front of him, and Digger took a deep drink.

And another.

When the bartender returned to refill his glass, Digger spoke again, "You ever hear the story about the guy who got on the back of a tiger, then he couldn't get off, 'cause the tiger would eat him otherwise?

"Well, at my ex-wife's request, I got on that tiger, and I think it's gonna eat me anyway, even if I stay on it."


Digger knew he should shut up, but he needed to talk this out. And besides, he'd listened to enough tales of his customers' woe over the years. He was owed some quality crying-in-his-beer time.

"Yeah. I just lost the most important person in the world to me."

"Your wife?"

Digger snorted at the suggestion. "My son."

John walked through the precinct office, purpose in his stride, until he came to Jamie's office. "Could you get Frank in here, please?"

Without taking her eyes from John, Jamie buzzed Frank's desk, "Frank, John and I could use you in here."

Moments later, Frank arrived, "Hey, buddy . . . ."

"I'm going away for a while. I don't know when," he added silently, or if, "I'll be back."

Frank nodded. "Sounds like a good idea. You've been through a lot lately. Theresa's at Mercy General. You might want to stop and say good-bye before you leave."

The name Theresa circulated through John's brain for a moment. Finally, he said, distractedly, "I'll be sure to do that."

He turned to leave.

"Hey, Doe," Jamie's voice stopped him.


"Don't be a stranger. You need anything, just call."


As John rounded the final corner on his way towards the main entrance, he ran smack into Stella, making her drop the file she was carrying. On instinct, he bent to pick it up. When he stood, he was face-to-face with her, and didn't quite know where to look.

John may have been naïve, but he wasn't stupid. He knew that Stella was attracted to him, and the attraction was mutual. But now that he knew he had whatever Theresa was. Wife? Girlfriend? He wouldn't -- couldn't -- act on his attraction for Stella until he'd tied up all of the loose ends in his life. So many loose ends. And right now the most important of them was apparently in San Antonio.

"I heard. About what happened last night. I'm glad you're all right."

John smiled, warmed by the concern in Stella's voice. "I'm fine. Thank you." There was so much he wanted to say, but he couldn't. Not until he knew who he was. Not until he'd sorted things out with Digger.

"I just . . . ," he knew he was going to start stumbling over his words, so he cut it short. "Digger," he said, pointing towards the exit.

Stella nodded as if he understood, "I'll see you later, then."

Nodding, he said, "Bye," and left.

"All parents think their kids are something special, you know? But Tommy, he really was something special. We missed it, though. He ran away from home when he was 20. Took us more than ten years to track him down.

"So one day last year he comes walking into my place, sits down at the piano and started playing My Funny Valentine. That's his mom's favorite song. So I figured he was there to make amends, you know? Turns out he had amnesia. Couldn't remember me at all.

"So we've been working together on getting his memory back, but it isn't coming. And then last night everything sort of went to hell, so here I am in San Antonio, waiting for things to cool off."

Immediately upon landing at San Antonio International Airport, John caught a cab, asking to be taken to the Tower of the Americas. Once there, he stood outside the parking lot and thought.

He could see a map of San Antonio clearly in his head. Tower of the Americas here, Institute of Texan Cultures there, U.S. 281, Convention Center. None of them seemed likely places for Digger to have gone, so he headed north, towards the Alamo.

Digger was so drunk by the time he left the bar, that his ability to remain vertical amazed him. Somehow, he ended up at street level, looking up at two Marriott hotels. He blinked, hoping that he was seeing double, but the two buildings, across the street from one another, looked nothing alike.

Marriott River-something my ass, He thought irritably.

John looked for Digger at every intersection; it didn't take very long to find him. He was standing in the middle of the sidewalk along Commerce Street looking upwards, a vague, lost expression on his face.

Not wasting any time, John walked to Digger, grabbing his wrist. "Hello, Digger," he said with false geniality, "I think we have some things to talk about."

Digger's eyes took a moment to focus, "Hello, John." He smiled drunkenly. "Do you know which hotel's mine?"

"Where are you staying?"

"The Marriott."

John saw that the hotel on their side of the street was the Marriott, but as he was about to direct Digger that way, he suddenly realized that there was a Marriott on the other side of Commerce Street as well.

And Digger was drunk.

Sighing, John came up with the name of a Riverwalk restaurant that had a small party room. Half an hour, and one room-rental fee later, the two men were alone.

"So, let's start at the beginning. Who are you really, and what do you want with me?"

"You won't believe me," Digger slurred drunkenly.

"Try me."

The older man heaved a huge sigh, "My first name is Thomas. Thomas James Duncan. Senior."

John nodded for him to continue.

"Your real name is Thomas James Duncan Junior."

"You do know this is the second time your people have done this."

"Done what?"

"Given me a 'family.'"

"I promise you. When we're done here, I'll go with you back to Seattle, and you can have your buddies down at the police station do a DNA test. You will trust them, I expect?"

"A DNA test . . ."

Digger waited for that to sink in, then started his tale. "I married your mom because she was pregnant. My first wife. The worst marriage of them all, but the only one I wouldn't trade for anything."

The affection in Digger's eyes took John aback.

"Anyway, you were smart. More than smart. Brilliant. A genius. It shocked the hell out of both of us, because, well, we were both smart, but nothing along your lines. We sent you to the best schools we could. You became an Eagle Scout.

"But then, just after you graduated from high school, you disappeared. Ran away.

"Later, much later, we found out that you'd gone to college under an assumed name. At the time, though, I called in just about every favor I could, including an old friend with the NSA. When I described you to him, he said that you sounded like you had some kind of psychic talent, and that if you did, he would be obligated to have you evaluated by their remote sensing program."

Digger chuckled, "I just realized that if I had asked him to look for you, our government's remote sensing program would be alive and well.

"Anyway, we never saw you again. Alive, that is. Fourteen years later, a young woman named Theresa turned up on my doorstep. Theresa Duncan. Your wife.

"You'd gone underground after graduating from college, where you found a community of telepaths. You met Theresa, and she helped you hone your skill. You and she got married, and you became a regular, upstanding citizen, got a job and everything.

"But something went wrong. To this day, we don't know what. You died. It may have been an attack of some kind, or possibly your brain just shut down.

"Theresa panicked and came to me at The Sea. So I called in another favor. A friend was investigating the Phoenix Group, and I knew that they were following a prophet who had predicted his own resurrection. Rumor had it they had a lead on a man who could perform resurrections, a Morris Lathenham.

"I infiltrated the group, used my skills from my years in the service to worm my way to the top, and when they tracked down Lathenham, I cornered him alone and convinced him that you were vital to the Phoenix Group's objectives. I figured Lathenham could resurrect their prophet after I got my son back.

"So, late at night, we went out to Horseshoe Island. We stripped your body naked, and Lathenham told me that there were no guarantees. And even if it worked, you wouldn't be 'our' Tommy anymore, because 'our' Tommy had already crossed over to the other side. You'd be getting a new soul. Maybe reincarnated, maybe brand-new, but either way, it wouldn't be Tommy's.

"He waved the staff over you, said something in a language that I didn't recognize, and then disappeared.

"I ran to your side, but you didn't have a pulse. No respiration. Nothing. So I took the boat back to the mainland and tried to go on with my life.

"Two days later, you waltz into the place and play My Funny Valentine, your mom's favorite song. I hoped you were, well, you after all. But you weren't. You were John Doe. Tommy really was gone.

"Turns out I bit off more than I could chew with the Phoenix Group, too. When Lathenham disappeared, they wanted me to get him back. And when I said I couldn't, they threatened both you and Karen."

"And you did a really great job of protecting her," John sneered.

"Letting them take her was a calculated risk."

"A calculated risk? And what was she? Collateral damage? An acceptable loss?" John's voice got louder with each question, until he couldn't stand it anymore and had to stand. He faced away from Digger, running a hand through his hair.

"Of course not, John. But what they wanted to do would've been worse. They were going to kill Karen outright, and if you didn't give them what they wanted, go on to your other friends. Frank, Jamie," he paused for emphasis, "Stella."

A chill ran down John's spine as he realized that he might have lost everyone he cared about, not just one. And to lose Stella before there'd even been a chance of something between them. . . .

Digger broke into his thoughts, "How long 'til we go back to Seattle?"

The next morning, John knocked on the door of Stella's office.

"Come on in, John," she greeted him with a tentative smile.

"Are you free for breakfast?"

"Sure," she stood and locked off her computer.

"What's up?" She asked as they walked down the hall together.

"Are you Hindu?"

Stella laughed, not embarrassed, but warmly, "Buddhist."

"Ah. Karma is inherited like a flame passed from one candle to the next. But, if there is no soul, or self, then doesn't the new person inherit someone else's karma?"

"Well, most Buddhists agree that something is passed from one life to the next. Some think it's the personality of a person, others, just something sort of indescribable.

"Why are you suddenly interested in reincarnation?"

John told Stella everything that Digger had told him, emphasizing Digger's statement that Tommy Duncan's soul had passed over to the other side.

"Sounds more like a walk-in than reincarnation," Stella opined, stirring her coffee.

"I didn't have an appointment?"

Stella laughed, "It's more of a New Age thing. A person's soul leaves his or her body, and is replaced by a new, often more enlightened, soul."

"Well," John grinned, "at least I got enlightenment out of the deal."

"What's going to happen to Digger?"

"That depends on how the DNA test turns out. If I am his son, then the DA's prepared to deal. He's got kids of his own, and said that he'd do anything to help them, like Digger did. Digger'll still have to go to prison, but in exchange for information, he'll be put in a medium-security facility. They offered him the witness protection program, but he refused.

"I didn't just bring you here to discuss reincarnation. I'm attracted to you, and I think that you might be attracted to me, too."

She nodded, smiling, "I am."

"See, you're good with computers and I've always thought of myself as a kind of computer, and now that I know more about myself, I'm not so sure about that.

"What I'm trying to say is that I have to go away for a while, and I don't know what I'll be like when I get back. Or even when I'll be back. But if you're still unattached when I get back, I'd like to try dating you."

"I'd like that, too."

John paid the bill and they got up to leave. As they emerged, about to head off in different directions, she put her hand on his arm.

"Your dad. Digger. He refused the relocation program because he wants to continue having a relationship with you. He may have been Tommy Duncan's father, but he is now John Doe's friend."

They shared a smile, and John hailed a cab to take him to the airport.

Hours later, John was standing outside Lucas Doya's home in a steady downpour.

Lucas answered at his second knock. "John! What are you doing here? Get inside before you get soaked clean through!"

John stepped inside, and after shedding his drenched coat and shoes, he began to explain. "I'm . . . Well, this body . . . I need you to help me learn."

After a few hours of testing, Lucas sat John down. "You don't need to learn to turn this on. You need to learn to turn it off. Everything you 'know' seems to be coming from other peoples' minds."

"So I'm what? Rummaging through others' minds for . . . street names, building layouts, the binary code to DOS?"

Lucas nodded. "People pick up all sorts of things subconsciously. You may have assembled the binary code to DOS from hundreds, maybe thousands, of individuals who had glanced at the code maybe once or twice, plus a few who'd actually studied it for a while.

"You're probably the most powerful psychic I've ever met."

It took a while for this to soak in.

"But if everything I know, I've stolen from others' minds, then what is there that's really . . . me?"

"That's why we have to turn this off. So you can learn."

It was an uncomfortable truth, but John hadn't come all this way to be told comfortable ones. He nodded. "Whatever it takes."

Six weeks later, John was able to honestly answer I don't know to almost any question he was asked:

"Who took the gold medal in men's individual foil fencing in the 2000 Olympics?"

"I don't know."

"What's the oldest pinniped ever recorded?"

"I don't know."

"What is the oldest park in the United States?"

"No clue." John grinned as he said this.

"Well, it sounds like you're as clueless as the rest of our citizens now. Go forth and fill your brain up with your own knowledge."

Whistling tunelessly, John went to the guest room to pack.

On the flight back to Seattle, John realized that wherever he had gone before, he'd been followed by the murmuring of hundreds, even thousands, of the thoughts of the people surrounding him.

The silence he now lived in was relaxing, if somewhat unsettling.

He landed in Seattle and took his suitcase home. Then he went to the Police Department.

He'd hoped to find Jamie and Frank to find what had become of Digger, but his feet instead led him to Stella's office.

"Hey," he said quietly.

She spun around. "John," a tentative smile curled her lips upward.

He returned it more warmly. Crossing the room, he hugged her lightly. "Well, this is me. I'm keeping the name John Doe."

"And the rest?"

"I don't know." He shrugged. "I thought I'd go to school, see what I can learn, what appeals to me," silently he thought of the community of telepaths that Digger had told him about and wondered if he could do anything to help them.

"How about . . . us?"

"Oh, that thought definitely still appeals to me." He smiled at her.

When Stella didn't grin back, he said, "And you?"

"Yeah. Me, too." She gave him a little half-grin. "Now you'd better go find Frank and Jamie. They've got contact information for Digger, and they've apparently got a new case for you to work on."

"But I'm not . . . ."

She shrugged, "Well, you wanted to see what appeals to you. This seems as good a time as any to get started."

"Yeah. Lunch?"

"It's a date."

Kim Young-Ho, Korea

Ringed Seal, Phoca hispida: 43 years, collected on Baffin Island and based on growth layers in the teeth

Boston Common, Boston, MA (San Pedro Springs Park, San Antonio, TX is second)