By Christine Leigh
Summary: Season one. Mulder helps Scully shop for a Christmas tree.
Spoilers: Reference to Fire.
December 17, 1993
He had to admit that it was a cute tree. It wasn't a Charlie Brown by any measure, but he sensed that her loyalty to the two-foot evergreen in the back seat could match that of Charlie's for his little tree any day. Mulder wasn't much of a celebrator of Christmas, but this small detour into the world of someone who is, actually made him feel somewhat full of cheer for a moment. He looked at Scully. Yep, she was definitely in the spirit, and if he were to be completely honest with himself, it wasn't just the tree that had brought on his present mood.
It was one week before Christmas eve and all the roads into D.C. were clogged as they drove home after a long day. The clock had been striking seven when she'd mentioned that tonight she was going to get her tree.
"You do a tree?"
"A real tree - lights, ornaments, all of it?"
"Well, well. Santa Scully."
She smiled. Mulder looked like a little boy.
"Just a small tree - a tabletop."
They were quiet for a stretch of highway. As they crawled, he remembered other trees. He'd last been home for Christmas his first year back from England. After that year the holiday had gradually fallen off his map. Diana hadn't been a traditionalist and other than his time with her, he'd been alone during the holidays.
"Scully, there have to be several tree lots between here and home."
"I imagine so."
"Do you have a special place you go?"
"No. There's a lot at the grocery store near me that I was going to head for tonight. They're usually open late.
Mulder had an idea, but didn't want to make the mistake of insinuating himself into a situation where he didn't belong. With almost anyone else, this wasn't an issue. He'd come to like and respect his new partner over their months together, though, and he didn't want to overstep. He stole a quick glance. That did it. She was checking a list. All she needed was a Santa hat to complete the picture. He leapt.
"Scully, how about dinner and a tree?"
"Food and a tree lot. There's no reason for you to get home and have to go back out for a tree when there are plenty of places between here and there to find one."
"Mulder, that's very nice of you to offer, but I don't want you to go to any trouble."
"Scully, aren't you hungry?"
"And tonight's tree night."
"It's a week before Christmas."
"And it's no trouble, Scully. If you don't mind the company."
She didn't mind. In fact, she liked the idea. The flower went right on unfolding. He really did look like an eager little boy.
"Mulder, thank you. That is a terrific offer, and I think I can handle the company. How about dinner first?"
"Sounds like a plan."
They chose the first coffee shop where they could find a parking space. The decorations were plastic, but the food was good, and amazingly they didn't have to wait long. They probably smiled more while consuming their meal than they ever had before in each other's presence. Anyone observing them probably thought they were a couple out for a quick bite before heading out to finish their shopping. Possibly two children were at home.
"Does all your family gather for the holiday?"
"Almost. This year it will be my brothers Bill and Charlie, and my aunt and three cousins on Christmas Day at my parents' house. And, Bill is bringing his fiancée, Tara."
"First time meeting Tara?"
"Yes. Bill's over the moon. I'm very happy for him."
"Sounds like a full day."
"It will be."
"You love it, I can see."
"I do, Mulder. Christmas has always been a very special time for my family."
"That's nice. I'm glad to know someone who's celebrating the traditional way."
"Do you go home for Christmas, Mulder?"
"I have, but not in recent years." He saw Scully looking at him and wondering. She knew about Samantha; he'd shared that bit of his family history with her on their first case, and he heard the compassion in her voice as she asked this. There wasn't anything more to say on the subject. It was what it was, or wasn't in this case. Neither his father or mother had called yet this year. He'd call his mother next week if he hadn't heard from her. "It's all right, Scully. It's what I know. A couple of days off work is a fine gift. How about some eggnog before we go?"
"Mulder, I don't think I could eat or drink anything else right now. That was a delicious club sandwich and I ate it all."
"Okay." He motioned for the check. "Tree time. Shall we check that big lot we passed finding this place?"
"Yes. I'm sure they'll have my tree."
"It's so small."
"It goes on top of a table, remember?"
"What about that one?" Mulder walked over to a five foot, practically perfect, tree.
"It's beautiful, Mulder, but my table would collapse. Another year, perhaps." She picked up her little tree to carry to the cashier. Mulder looked at his tree. They'd had an eight footer one year, as he recalled.
"Ready to go, Mulder?"
She stood there amidst all the trees and cut boughs of pine that were tossed in piles all around and looked for all the world like the true spirit of Christmas Present. He'd carry this image with him to pull out during his solitary holiday.
"I'm holding you to it, Scully. Some year, a big tree."
Yes, it was a cute tree, as was its owner. Mulder wondered what she'd say if he told her that. Scully didn't seem like the type of woman who would appreciate being called cute, but the fact is that this was how she had been tonight.
An hour and a half later and they were at the curb outside her apartment. Scully got out of the car and retrieved her tree from the back seat. This had been the most fun she'd had buying a tree in many years. Ethan had tried to join her the year they were together, but then had to work late, so she'd gone alone that night as she always had. No, tonight had been special. It was an unexpected gift - one that she wanted to hold and savor as long as possible, and she hoped she knew how to do that. She leaned over and tapped on the window. He lowered it.
"Mulder, about that eggnog. Would you like to join me for a cup?"
"Are you sure? I mean, don't you want to get to your tree?"
"I want to share a cup of eggnog. With you."
"Thanks. I'd enjoy that." He turned off the ignition and got out.
"Scully, I think it might snow."
"That's what they say. And it's much colder."
"It's a cute tree."
"I think so."
"Thank you for sharing your tradition."
"Merry Christmas, Mulder."
~ End ~
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 2006 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.