By Christine Leigh
Summary: A Christmas story.
Christmas Day 2001
The service was over and the church emptied except for the people filing up to where the Nativity was displayed to the left side of the altar. Surrounded by pine boughs and white poinsettias with tiny white lights threaded throughout the branches, it looked beautiful. This scene, combined with the scent of incense provided a few moments of calm to Scully, as she watched from the pew where she sat holding William. The two of them were as quiet as the unexpected snow that had fallen earlier in the evening.
Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve was a ritual from the past that Scully had kept observing through her adulthood, and since her cancer had gone into remission she had returned to attending Sunday Mass on a fairly regular basis as well. She would never be as devout as her parents had been, or as her mother and brothers were still, but her faith was important to her. She didn't know how she would have survived the year that was winding down without it, and had offered up her thanks tonight to God for bringing Mulder back and for giving them William. But mostly she prayed for Mulder's safety, and for the reunion of their little family.
She and William were each other's sole company this Christmas, Scully having persuaded her mother to go to San Diego. Maggie hadn't wanted to go without Dana and William, and didn't fully understand Dana's wanting to remain at home, but in the end agreed that it might be for the best. She knew that Bill and Tara would have welcomed Dana and their new nephew, but also realized that the strain of having to cope with things that were by necessity left unspoken, was something that Dana didn't need right now. So, Maggie had hugged them both tight, and left on the plane yesterday afternoon.
Scully was feeling lonely tonight, but the only person who could alleviate that wasn't available. There were many pretty packages under her tree at home, but the one thing she wanted wasn't there.
She bundled William up and they rose and worked their way toward the Nativity. She stood there for a moment taking in the familiar scene, and then knelt, offering one more prayer. Then she kissed the top of her son's head through his little woolen cap, and rocked him gently. They would get through this night, somehow.
There were two messages on the machine when they returned home. Scully hit the play button and went to turn on the Christmas tree lights while listening to her mother's voice.
"Honey, I know you've probably left for Mass, but I want you to know that we all miss you, and want to be the first to wish you and William a Merry Christmas. Love you. Here's Bill."
"I'm sorry you couldn't come, Dana, but hope you know that you were welcome. We all look forward to meeting William. Let's do it before he's old enough for kindergarten, huh? Tara and Matt send their love. We'll call again tomorrow. Merry Christmas."
"Scully, Melvin Frohike. I know it's late, but also know you're most likely out giving worship. I have the hooks. Gotta finish decorating that tree. Give me a call if you get in before three."
The second one was unexpected, not to mention perplexing. The guys had come by on Saturday to deliver gifts and spread holiday cheer. She hadn't thought she'd be hearing from them again until after the New Year.
"William, what is he talking about? Do you know? Has Mommy finally lost it?"
"gaaa, grrrr, GA"
"Okay, I hear you sweetie. But what are you saying?" Recently William had taken to finishing his vocalizations with an emphatic 'GA.' Scully hadn't figured out yet what it meant. She punched in the Gunmen's number. It rang six times before Frohike answered, to the strains of "O Holy Night," playing in the background. Go figure, she thought.
"Frohike, hello. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas, Scully. Thanks for calling back, and with an hour to spare."
"Is there a deadline?"
"Well, I don't know about you, but my folks always did the Santa thing while I was asleep. I know William's young, but we should start him off right, don't you think?"
She paused for a second, but then thought, why not? It was better than just sitting here feeling sad or trying unsuccessfully to sleep. What was with the hooks, though? They'd seen her fully decorated tree on Saturday.
"Of course, I don't know why I asked. So, you're coming over, and you have the hooks?"
"Scads. The tree won't know what hit it."
Scully looked over at the tree, which had been up for almost two weeks now.
"I'll expect you then, what, in half an hour?"
"I'll knock six times."
"Okay. See you then." She hung up.
"gaaa, grrl, gaa, GA!"
"Well, Mr. William, if we're going to play the Santa game, you have to go to sleep. Can you go to sleep for Mommy?"
"GA, GA, GA!"
"I'll take that as a yes." Scully picked William up and carried him to his corner of the bedroom. His area contained his crib, changing table, and a small chest of drawers for his ever growing wardrobe, on top of which Scully had placed a framed photograph of Mulder that she'd taken the morning he'd left on that too-long-ago day. She'd had it enlarged, and every day she would spend time with William looking at it and telling him who this was in the photo. It was the most important part of each day for the two of them.
She checked his diaper, changed it, and laid him down in the crib. He fussed for a few minutes, but then started to drop off as Scully hummed "Silent Night" to him. She continued for a few more minutes, and then headed for the kitchen to put some coffee on and fix a cup of tea for herself.
Scully opened the door after listening to the sixth knock and looking through the peephole. Frohike entered.
"Merry Christmas again, Scully." He handed her a medium-sized red box with a green bow.
"What's this? You were already so generous with the gifts on Saturday."
"Just a little something more. It's his first Christmas; spoiling kind of goes with the territory. Is he asleep?"
"Yes. He settled down just a few minutes ago. He was wide awake when we got back from Mass, and raring to talk. I still haven't figured out what he's trying to say, but he's been very persistent in saying it."
"Sounds like someone we know." This was out of his mouth before Frohike thought the better of it.
"I'm sorry, Scully. I didn't mean to remind you."
She placed a hand on his arm. "It's okay. It's pretty hard to not be reminded. Please, sit down." She motioned him to the couch. "The coffee's almost finished, or can I offer you something else to drink? I'm afraid there isn't much, but Mom brought some eggnog over and I think there's brandy on a shelf somewhere."
Scully went to the kitchen and returned in a few minutes with a tray bearing the coffee, her tea, and a plate of her mother's cookies. She set this down on the coffee table and joined Frohike on the couch. She was suddenly very grateful for his company. She sipped her tea.
"I'm glad you're here. Thank you for the gift, and all the others, too."
"You're welcome. I know he won't remember this Christmas, but the first one is important. And I know you'll take pictures, and I'd say from the look of it, that William should be impressed when he sees them one day."
She'd already shot five roles of film just during the past week of William here in the apartment by the tree, at the mall with his grandmother by the big Christmas tree, and at various other stops they'd made around town during the week. Scully was determined that Mulder would see as much of his son's first Christmas as was possible without him actually being there.
"Yes, there will be pictures." She took a cookie from the plate and nibbled a minute. She had told her mother that she'd never eat all these cookies and that the eggnog would just get thrown out eventually. Now she was glad that Maggie had been so insistent.
"So, did you bring the hooks?" She tried to sound savvy, but was in fact, clueless.
Frohike grinned, and then gave a little sigh. If she lived to be 102, and if it were possible for him to be alive to see it, he'd still think she was hot. He'd never met another woman like Scully before in his entire life. And he knew he never would. Mulder was one lucky dude.
"Good. Nothing like running out of hooks in the middle of decorating the tree. You don't know how irritated I was. I could have finished doing it before going to Mass if I'd had enough on hand."
"The tree looks great. It doesn't really need more ornaments, does it?"
"No, probably not, but I want to put them all on this year. I want it to shine all the way to the moon. It needs to be the best tree I've ever had." She was starting to get into this.
Frohike reached into a pocket inside his jacket and pulled out a small rectangular box which did indeed appear to contain hooks for hanging ornaments, and handed it to Scully. Then there was a knock at the door. Scully looked up from the box she'd just been handed, a small expression of worry on her face. Frohike got up and went to look through the peephole.
"Elves." He opened the door to let Byers and Langly in. They were dusted in white. Langly was shivering.
"It's snowing again. It'll be gone by morning, but it's too cold out there for man or beast right now." He moved over to the fireplace. "Can we light this?"
Scully had set it up for tomorrow, but it looked like she'd be building another one for then.
"Thanks." He grabbed a match and lighted the kindling beneath the big oak log. Soon there was a blaze going.
"Can I offer you coffee or eggnog?" Scully asked Byers, and the thawing out Langly.
"Eggnog sounds good." This from Langly.
"Coffee would be wonderful, Scully. Thanks." This from Byers.
"Would you like some brandy in the eggnog, Langly?"
"No thanks, I'll take it straight."
Scully went to get another coffee cup and the eggnog. Upon returning to her impromptu party, she found the three of them huddled by the fire in a discussion that ended the minute they heard her footstep. She poured Byers a cup of coffee and crossed to hand it to him, and the eggnog to Langly. Then she sat back down on the couch. Nothing was said while they all sipped at their respective beverages. Finally Scully broke the silence. "We were just about to finish decorating the tree when you two arrived. I guess we should get on it. I hope Santa has this down for his last stop.
Byers looked at her quizzically, and then said "Scully, the tree looks completed. What else is there, do you mind my asking?"
"She ran out of hooks before she finished, remember?" Frohike was sounding a trifle anxious as he asked this. There was a pause in the room. Then Byers looked as though he'd just remembered a long-forgotten secret.
"Oh, I see. I wasn't aware of all the details. Guess that's what I get for leaving town for a day."
Scully was bemused by it all, but she could feel herself starting to fade. It was time to get this show on the road.
"Well boys, are we going to hang some ornaments, or shall I save the hooks for next year?"
Before an answer could be given, there was the sound of a thud. They all looked at each other. That had definitely been a thud. Where had it come from? They all had heard it.
"Oh my God." William. They could hear him shouting his word, at the top of his lungs. Only it was different this time. Afterwards, she was amazed that she'd processed that fact. Afterwards, it occurred to her that if she hadn't been happy almost to the point of delirium, she might have been angry.
She retrieved her weapon, and was through the bedroom door in a split second, shaking all the way. And then she laughed like a crazy person. And then she cried. And lowered her gun.
"daaa, daaaa, daaaa, da, DA, DA, DA!" William directed this toward the tall, tired looking man who now held him, and who was grinning from ear-to-ear.
Someone besides Santa had come to town.
Or, as Scully wrote under the photograph that would soon be situated next to the one that inspired William's first vocal acknowledgment of his father:
"The most wonderful man in the world came home for Christmas."
"Does he usually sleep this long at one stretch?" Mulder couldn't believe that they hadn't heard a sound besides breathing from the crib for the last couple of hours.
"Four or five hours is the longest so far. This was a big night for him. Or early morning, rather."
After Scully recovered from the shock of seeing Mulder standing there with William in his arms, the two of them stood there just hugging each other and crying and holding their small son, who apparently recognized his father. After she'd taken a picture of father and son, William let it be known that he was hungry, so they went to the living room where Mulder sat and watched Scully feed him. He'd seen this a few times in the short period he'd had with them after William's birth, but he was awed by watching them now.
As for Scully, the last couple of hours had been among the happiest in her life. She looked at Mulder as though he were a ghost who would disappear if she blinked. They were laying facing each other on the bed, a quilt covering them. After they had finished with the crying, laughing, and feeding, they'd all gone to sleep for a bit. Now she and Mulder were staring at each other and speaking softly so as not to awaken William.
"Mulder, tonight during Mass, I prayed that we'd see you again soon, but I didn't dare hope it would be tonight." Her voice started to break. "I needed to see you so badly, and now to have you here." She couldn't go on without crying again, and she didn't want to spend however much time they had together in tears. She placed her hand on his cheek. He was really here.
Mulder took her hand and turned it over, gently placing a kiss on its palm. Then he took it and held it against his heart. When he'd received the message two days ago that it was going to work out for him to be here today, he'd had to move fast. So much had to be covered in so short a time. He hadn't said anything to Scully yet, but he had to be out of here by tonight.
"You must be hungry, Mulder." The look in his eyes told her yes, but not for food. But the growl in his stomach indicated that food might be a wise first choice.
"I have some chicken left over from last night and plenty of stuff in the freezer. Or maybe you would prefer some breakfast food?" She got up from the bed, reluctantly. She wanted to stay here in this room forever with Mulder and William. She wanted to pretend they were safe here for the remainder of time.
"Chicken sounds good." Mulder got up, too. He was hungry, not having had time to eat since yesterday morning. They wandered to the kitchen, Scully stopping to collect the tray of cups from the little party that had started this whole thing off. The guys had disappeared as suddenly has Mulder had reappeared. The fire was still going faintly, and the tree was on; all in all, it looked like Christmas morning. It wasn't snowing any longer, but it looked to be a dark day, with the sky remaining gray. Scully put some more coffee on, while Mulder just sat there at the kitchen table taking it all in. The smell of the coffee was wonderful, and the woman moving about preparing the food even better. He felt at peace. He'd be living off these scenes for some time to come.
His life since he'd left hadn't been harsh in the physical sense, but the drain on his emotions had been bad. He'd known it would be hard being separated from his new family, and he'd thought foolishly that he'd deal with it the same way that he'd dealt with all the other misfortunes that had come his way. He'd always been able to handle things. But this was different. He was different. A solitary existence was the last thing he wanted now.
The coffee was finished brewing. Scully poured them each a cup and sat down at the table. The chicken was heating in the microwave and a loaf of bread was warming in the oven. And there were plenty of her mother's cookies left, which they nibbled on while drinking their coffee.
"Mulder, the last several hours have been so strange, but in the best way." Scully smiled as she said this. She didn't want to focus on the fact that he looked significantly more thin than when he'd left. Or that he looked as though he could use a few months of rest. Mulder had always been able to function without a lot of sleep, but it was showing on him now, more than it ever had in the past. Still, he was the most beautiful sight to behold, and she didn't want to waste one minute on the negative aspects of their situation.
"When did Frohike contact you, yesterday?"
"No, tonight. There was a message on the machine when we got home from Mass. I didn't know what to make of it, but figured having company was better than sitting here the rest of the night by myself feeling sad, so I was glad to have him come over."
Mulder set his cup down and took her hand in his. "I didn't want to be apart from you and William today. I didn't know that being here would be possible until two days ago, and then we had to move fast. The guys outdid themselves on this one." He paused and looked at her face for a moment. Oh, how he loved her. What would he do without her? He didn't want to go there, ever again. "I'm so happy, Scully. I know that doesn't sound much like me, but it's true." She closed her eyes for a second. She loved him so. How would she ever let him leave again?
"How long do we have, Mulder?"
"I see." She got up. The food was ready. She served a plate of chicken for Mulder and took the bread from the oven and sliced it. She set the plate before him and watched as he ate. They didn't say anything until he was finished.
"You aren't hungry, Scully?"
"William might wake up, in what, another hour?"
"Probably. He was pretty tired when he finally settled down after you surprised him, so I don't think it will be any sooner."
"Scully, do you really think he was trying to say 'daddy?'"
"I know he was. He's been going on like this for the past two weeks. It was only tonight that I realized what it meant though. And, I could swear he was saying it as 'ga' with a hard 'g,' before now, but frankly Mulder, I don't know what I was hearing. But tonight it was definitely 'da.'"
Mulder grinned. "Scully, we're sitting here on Christmas Day, together, discussing what our infant son is trying to say."
She didn't say anything, couldn't really. Given where they'd started all those years ago, the reality of their situation was as strange as any X-File had ever been. She just looked at Mulder. He was here. That was enough. She rose from her chair and walked to where he was still sitting, and bent to kiss him. He pulled her onto his lap all the while never breaking contact with her lips. Death had been lousy the first time, but if it happened again this minute, he'd go out the happiest that he'd ever been. He stood, picking her up. Now she grinned, her arms around his neck. Wordlessly, they headed for the bedroom.
Mulder awoke to the sounds of William, and running water. He got up and put on the bathrobe that had mysteriously appeared across the foot of the bed. It was new and luxuriously comfortable. He crossed to see William.
"Da." Mulder extended a finger, which was immediately grabbed, and then noticed a note from Scully posted to the wall above the crib that said:
Mulder, I'm in the shower. Care to join me?
"Will, your mom is one fantastic, beautiful woman, do you know that? You spend so much time with her; I sure hope you do."
William seemed to be contented with these comments, so Mulder went into the bathroom, where through billows of steam, he located Scully and joined her under the pouring water. She'd just lathered up her hair and he couldn't resist putting his hands into it. Scully smiled as her head was massaged from behind by his hands. His hands. God, what would she do without those hands in the days and weeks to come? No, she thought. I can't think about that now. He's here now.
"Mulder, that feels so good."
"I wasn't going to tell you, Scully, but I've been working in a beauty salon. I think I've found my calling. Close your eyes." He rinsed the shampoo from her hair, and found the bottle of conditioner. He applied some and worked it in thoroughly. He loved doing this for her. He knew that the conditioner needed to stay in for a few minutes, so he turned her around gave her a long, deep kiss. He hoped the hot water would hold out. He wanted to stay here awhile. Oh yeah. Then, through the mist that filled the bathroom, he heard an amplified cry. Scully pulled away from him and rinsed her hair quickly.
"It's okay, Mulder. He's probably just ready to be fed."
"Why is he so loud?"
"It's the baby monitor." She motioned to where it was sitting on the counter. "You stay and finish your shower." She got out and toweled off. It had been heavenly while it lasted.
Scully had tossed a salad, and they'd eaten more of the chicken and bread. Now, she and Mulder were sitting on the couch looking at the tree. Christmas trees had always been important to Scully. Despite an absence in her life of almost every other traditional domestic activity, she always put a tree up. Sometimes it was only a tabletop, and sometimes it was like this year's -- a little more than six feet and decorated to the nines. It would stay up through the first week in January.
"There sure are a lot of presents here, Scully."
"Yes, there are. I think that William will look back on this as a banner year for presents. Everyone has been very generous."
"I thought that you would have gone to San Diego."
"Mom and Bill wanted me to, but in the end I couldn't bring myself to leave here. Even though you may have been in California for all I knew, the last time you were with us was here, so this is where I wanted to be this Christmas."
Mulder was quiet upon hearing this. He understood what she said; he'd have done the same if their situations were reversed. He was rather overwhelmed with emotion though, at hearing it. After sitting there a few minutes more, he got up from the couch and knelt, facing Scully.
"Scully, I'd have found a way to get to you in San Diego if you had gone there. I want you to know that. I wasn't going to let Christmas pass without seeing the two of you." She reached down and stroked his cheek again. Today she seemed to be rendered speechless much of the time.
"Scully, there's something else I need to discuss with you."
"What is it?"
"I wanted to talk with you about it before I left, but the moment just wasn't there. And now may not be quite the time either, but I don't want to let it go any longer."
Now her curiosity was peaking.
"Mulder, what is it?"
"Scully, have you thought much about where we'd be now, if I hadn't had to leave?"
"Do you mean, would we be living here, still?"
"No, I mean us. Where would we be with each other?"
"Oh." Now she knew where this was leading.
"Mulder, so much has happened in the last year. It was such a Jekyll and Hyde year. I'd like to forget at least half of it, but that would mean forgetting that I was carrying your child during that time, so I can't do that. I never allowed myself to think even a day ahead while you were gone. I'd have been insane by now if I had. And after you returned, I had to focus primarily on the final weeks of my pregnancy, and then things happened so fast. That you were alive and well was enough."
"Scully, I'd do anything to give you back the past year if I could. That I wasn't here during that time is something I'll always regret. On the other hand, I feel I'm the luckiest man alive to have had you in my life for the past nine years. I know there were times when you were ready to leave, and probably should have, and I love you all the more for sticking around. The life I had before knowing you, and then loving you was nothing, and the life I have now is so much more than I deserve. I want to come back to it, and to live it every day. To see you every morning, and to hold our child and watch him grow, that's what I want. And, Scully, no, I'm not crazy. I'm just crazy in love." He stopped and took hold of her hand.
"Scully, will you promise, one day, to marry me?"
She looked him in the eye as he asked this. It was heartbreaking almost, to see the look on his face. It was so earnest and tender. He looked about ten years younger as he spoke these words.
"Yes, Mulder. Of course I will." Then she threw herself into his embrace. This isn't a dream, a voice inside her head kept saying. You're with the man you've loved for so long now, and you've just agreed to marry him. This is the real thing. Now she was crying. So was he. What a fun couple they were. She laughed.
"Scully, was it a funny proposal?" His voice was teasing.
"Mulder, it was a beautiful proposal. I'm just on emotional overload right now. I don't know much of anything. Just keep holding me."
"I never want to stop. But a little variety is good." And with that, he kissed her. It was a kiss that could have gone on forever. But being that they didn't have much time left in this most precious day, he then stood, picking her up, and then laying her down on the couch. He then knelt again beside the couch, and gently started to untie her robe. He kissed her throat.
"Scully," his voice was low and soft. "I want to make love to you." He'd never seen her eyes so blue before; they shone brighter than any of the lights on the tree. She leaned up to whisper in his ear.
"Mulder, I forgot to tell you."
"I love you."
He'd left an hour ago. After they'd showered again and dressed, they alternated taking photographs of each other with William in front of the tree. And when Byers arrived, he took one of the three of them. The farewells this time were even more difficult, but so much had been borne that day, that it was impossible for either of them to not feel hope for their future, even as they were parting again. Years later, their memories of this first Christmas together would remain among their happiest.
There was never enough time to do everything, however, and as Scully sat by herself now, she remembered the gift that Frohike had handed to her when he'd arrived earlier that morning.
She picked up the red box. It wasn't very heavy. She slid the bow off and removed the lid. It was something wrapped in a lot of tissue paper. She continued to unwrap, and then found it. It was an ornament; a silver bell, about four inches high in size. It was beautiful. She held it for a moment, and then felt that there was engraving on the side next to her palm. She turned it around and read what it said:
To Scully and William,
She sat there for a few minutes, strangely, not crying. Perhaps she would later. She could still feel his arms around her and she wanted to savor that, so she didn't move for a bit. He hadn't known when his next visit might be. Soon, she could only hope. She picked up the box of hooks and took one out and put it on the bell. There was a spot near the top of the tree that would be perfect. Then she got up and went to see if William by chance, was awake. He was. She picked him up and carried him to the living room and then hung Mulder's ornament on the tree with the inscription facing outward.
"Daa, daaa, DA."
"Daddy will be back, sweetie. I don't know when, but he will, just as soon as he can. We were very lucky to see him, weren't we?"
William didn't say anything. Now he seemed mesmerized by the scene before him. Scully envisioned future Christmases and a little boy who couldn't wait to see what Santa had delivered, waking his sleepy parents. She would hold onto that. Today was just the beginning. And what a glorious one it had been.
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This story is (c) Copyright 2002 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.