Merry, Bright, and All Things Good
By Christine Leigh
Summary: Mulder and Scully decorate their first Christmas tree. Canon through all things and then AU. Written for The Haven's Ornament This Challenge.
Spoilers: all things
"Mulder, can you hand me the small teapot, please? I think there's a spot here for it."
Mulder looked at the array of ornaments spread over most of the coffee table and wondered where it was. There were a *lot* of ornaments.
"It's right next to the edge on your left." Scully's voice was serious, but also carried a smile. This was the first Christmas tree she would share with Mulder in full, and watching him watch her decorating it had brought her great joy. She was standing on a ladder to do the top of the six feet-plus-a-few-inches tall tree, and having an assistant was a nice change from getting up and down the ladder repeatedly as she'd done all the years she had been by herself. She watched him pick up the white teapot with the red flowers. He was being so careful, she had noticed, in handling everything. He had a very gentle touch, which shouldn't have surprised her, but somehow did.
"Thanks." She hung it on a branch under the angel that rested on top. There was probably about an hour of work left to finish the job. Her assistant looked like he could use a break, though, so she got down.
"No more at the top, Scully?"
"Not this minute. Mulder, you know you're welcome to hang a few, if you would like."
When she'd invited him to come over while she decorated, she hadn't wanted it to sound like she was asking for help -- knowing full well that not everyone enjoyed the work involved in putting up a tree. However, he'd been quite happy upon receiving the invitation, and had been very good at helping her keep the strings of lights straight, and handing her ornaments and pulling hooks from the tangled ball of metal. All in all, she'd been pleasantly surprised. Their first Christmas together since becoming lovers would be special without decorations or trees, so having this experience with him was like the proverbial icing on the cake.
"Are we taking a break?" Mulder asked.
"Yes. I think I'm ready for one. Thirsty?"
"Let me guess. Eggnog?"
"Well, I do have some if you'd like it, but I'm actually more thirsty, thirsty. Water, tea, beer?"
"Shouldn't we save the beer and popcorn for later when we're through?"
"Okay, tea then."
"Sounds good to me."
Scully went to the kitchen while Mulder stood gazing at the tree. He'd seen a couple of her Christmas trees over the years, but hadn't really thought about them in any kind of context. He knew, of course, how important the holiday was to her. That they were here now, and together was a near-miracle when considered against the Christmas of Emily two years ago. Christmas eve last year had been good, but still wanting. After opening their gifts, she'd had to go. It had been another 'almost' on their long and convoluted path.
Scully returned with two bottles of tea. She handed one to Mulder and they sat on the couch.
"Mulder, I really appreciate your helping. It's wonderful having you to share this with."
He smiled and planted a light kiss on her lips.
"I'm passing my first Christmas tree test?"
"I owe it all to my teacher. She's the best, not to mention the sexiest and most beautiful."
"Well, she does appreciate her student body, that much I will acknowledge."
Mulder leaned in and kissed her again, this time not so lightly. They had no place to set their bottles, however, so it didn't go any further. As they broke the kiss, he envisioned the evening, and then the even later evening ahead. Suddenly, it was beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. He put an arm around Scully and they sat there for a minute or two in silence.
"Scully, you have a lot of ornaments."
"That's true. I do. I bought a few of them as far back as when I was in high school. And when Mom cleaned out her collection a few years ago, I took most of the childhood ones. I always looked forward to the day I'd have a tree of my own."
"Did you all have your own special ornaments growing up?"
"Of course. There were two kinds -- the ones we had as babies that Mom and Dad bought for us and the ones we made in school that no matter how ugly, seemed to show up every year. That's what those two papier-mache balls are. Melissa's was the blue one and mine the green. I re-glittered them about ten years ago, and that's all but gone, but I still hang them."
Mulder pressed her shoulder gently. It must have been quite a scene at the Scully house during those years. A happy, loving scene, he imagined.
"What about you, Mulder?" The question had just come naturally. And then she wondered if she should have asked.
"I remember one year, third grade I think it was, that we cut snowflakes out of different colors of paper and hung those on the tree we had in our classroom. When we left for Christmas vacation I took mine home and gave it to my mother. It was quite flimsy, but she hung it on the tree until it crumbled a few years later. Also, Samantha and I had matching Santa ornaments. They weren't traditional looking Santas, but their faces had small beards attached, so I guess that's who they were supposed to be. They were about three inches high and were simple in design -- just a head and body, and arms and legs. I don't remember if they were wood or plastic, but he was in a sitting position with his legs and arms sticking out. They were kind of sparkly. Sam's was a pinkish color and mine was red. It was a big deal making sure they were hung where we could see easily see them -- usually on opposite sides of the tree, as I recall."
Mulder hadn't thought about these things in a long time, and hadn't thought he would ever want to again. Things had changed, though, and he was enjoying telling Scully about it. Suddenly, he didn't mind remembering that it had been a happy childhood at points. He still hadn't gone through all of his mother's belongings and wondered if the Santa ornaments were among them. That was something to think about for next year, and he tucked it away.
"Did you want them on opposite sides?"
"I think it was an artistic decision -- it just looked better that way. But we'd sit there on each side of the tree making up stories about our respective Santas -- nothing too complicated -- "my Santa is going to wake up first on Christmas morning" or "Joseph likes my Santa best."
"Joseph likes my Santa best?" Now Scully was intrigued.
"Don't ask me why Scully, but Samantha loved the Joseph figurine in the Nativity that was under the tree. He was her favorite."
Scully just smiled. This was wonderful. She really hadn't thought a few years ago that she'd ever be snuggling with Mulder in front of her Christmas tree, let alone to be doing it while listening to him reminisce about Christmases past. And she was determined to bring him into their present Christmas even more, but was struggling with figuring out how to do so. Then she remembered something and it was as though a prayer had been answered. She got up.
"I need to get something from the bedroom. Be right back."
It was in the box it had come in twenty years ago. Ahab had brought it to her from Hong Kong. She opened the dresser drawer where she kept it and brought it out. She lifted the lid and looked at the little snowman from the Orient. He was ceramic and painted in the most delicate detail, yet was rather sturdy, always requiring a strong branch. He was kind of comical, with the friendliest face that had a spot of red on each cheek. He held a broom and had sprigs of holly all over his snowman body and wore a jaunty red and green cap. Scully hadn't hung the snowman on her tree since the Christmas before Ahab died. She would sometimes take him out and place him on her dresser, but never on the tree. She decided to change that tonight. She placed the lid back on the box and carried it with her to the living room. She sat down and held the box out to Mulder.
"It's for you, Mulder. From me."
"Scully, I don't know what to say."
"Well, I realize you may not even want it, but it's something that I would love for you to call yours."
"Scully, it's from you; I'll want it." Mulder took the lid off the box, and then grinned.
"An ornament? For me?" He lifted the snowman out of its nest. "Scully, this is beautiful."
"Do you like it?" He could hear the note of hesitancy in her voice.
"I think he's wonderful. But where did he come from? He's unusual."
"Ahab brought him to me from Hong Kong twenty years ago. I haven't hung him on the tree, though, for the past six years. I thought maybe tonight that you might like to. In a way he reminds me of you, Mulder. He's beautiful, and he makes me smile."
"Scully, I don't know what to say to that."
"There's no need to say anything, Mulder."
"Well, can I hang him?"
Mulder got up and Scully handed him a hook. He attached it and walked over to the tree. There was a spot that was at eye level for him and he considered that, but then he saw a space a little lower and chose that instead. This would put the little snowman almost in the center of the tree, facing the couch. He hung it on the branch and returned to sit next to Scully.
"Scully, I'm experiencing emotions that I haven't in more years than I care to remember. I never thought I'd have a participatory Christmas again. Thank you for that."
"You're welcome, Mulder. I never thought I'd have such a happy Christmas again, quite frankly. Thank you for that."
He bent to kiss her and for a few minutes their lips engaged in the most delicious preview of the evening to come. First, though, they needed to finish the tree. This time, they both got up.
"What about this pipe-cleaner thing, Scully?"
"Charlie made that. It was a reindeer, once."
Mulder took it and placed it toward the back. It wasn't entirely hidden, but almost. He sensed that he was getting into the swing of things. Sentimental would go on, but didn't have to be front and center. Of course, there were exceptions. *His* snowman, for instance.
"Scully, it means so much to me that you want me to have that ornament."
"You're the only person to whom I'd ever give it, Mulder."
"Scully, I think we're on our way to having a merry Christmas."
"I believe we are, Mulder. I truly do."
The lights twinkled, the ornaments sparkled, and the couple who were doing the decorating loved with all their hearts. This year Christmas would be merry, bright, and all things good.
~ End ~
Author's note: Samantha's Santa and the Snowman from Hong Kong are real ornaments that are part of my own treasured collection. Only to Mulder and Scully would I loan them out. Merry Christmas!
Archiving: If you would like to archive anywhere, I'd appreciate a quick note first. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Feedback: Always happy to receive it.
This story is (c) Copyright 2004 by Christine Leigh. "The X-Files" and its characters are the property of the Fox Network and Ten-Thirteen Productions and are borrowed here without profit or intent for profit.