Title: 12 Scenes of Christmas Past and One of Christmas Future
Author: ML
Episode References: Spans the series and both movies; specific episodes listed at end
Rating: all ages
Disclaimer: No infringement intended, nothin' but love for ya
Synopsis: the title says it all.
Notes: No betas were harmed in the writing of this fic; all errors of commission or omission are my own.

x-x-x

1. Christmas Time is Here: Christmas 1993

The tree looked perfect. Dinner was just about ready. Dana Scully surveyed her apartment, warm and welcoming with its tree in the corner and decorations on the mantel. The hearth glowed, and soft choral music -- her father's favorite -- played softly.

As she finished setting the table, she wondered what her new partner was doing for Christmas. Not spending time with his former Oxford girlfriend, that seemed certain. She could easily have ragged on him for his behavior during the L'Ively case, but he was pretty good at self-punishment.

Mulder's reason for telling her not to come to Boston, to wit: "I'm kind of anticipating having my hands full" was possibly the lamest excuse she'd ever heard. She'd seen what they were full of, and frankly, he could do better than that upper-middle-class twit.

Keeping him out of trouble was becoming a full-time job, not that she'd ever complain to anyone about it. She was a field agent at last. She'd figure out how to keep her partner in line.

She looked at her watch and lit the candles. She knew that her parents would be on time. Ahab was never late for anything. She wasn't worried; everything was ship-shape and Bristol fashion. He'd find no fault with her quarters.

The thought made her smile, although it was fleeting. Her father hadn't yet reconciled himself to her career choice. Mom was working on him, but he would have to make up his mind in his own time. Coming over for dinner tonight was a step.

Steady as she goes, she thought. In time he'll see that I've made a good choice.

~*~

2. Deck the Halls: Christmas 1994

The cardboard boxes sat just inside her front door, a reminder that Christmas was closing in.

She dropped her keys into the tray by the door and ignored the boxes, hanging her coat up in the closet and continuing into her bedroom.

Mulder had offered to let her take it easy when she got back from wherever the hell she'd been. She'd rejected his suggestion. The work kept her going, kept her from thinking about the unthinkable. She wasn't ready to examine what had happened to her.
She might never be ready.

The light on her answering machine wasn't as easy to ignore as the boxes when she emerged from her bedroom. She calculated the odds that ninety per cent of the messages would be from Mulder, and the rest from her mom.

Surprisingly, the first message was from Melissa. "Hey Dana, let me know when you're back in town. I have a gift for you."

Without even listening to the rest of the messages, she called her sister.

"Dana, where've you been? I left that message for you a couple of days ago."

"I was on a case in Boston," she said, rolling her head from side to side, trying to work out the stiffness in her neck and shoulders. "I just got back."

"Did you catch the bad guys?"

"Well, we solved the case." The field notes at least made sense, even if Mulder objected to her leaving out the vengeful spirits he insisted were part of it.

"How's Fox?" Scully said nothing, and Melissa sighed and corrected herself. "How's Mulder?"

"He's fine. He's still in Boston." Visiting his father, she didn't add. Mulder hadn't wanted to tell her that. She recalled his hangdog expression when he told her, as if the fact that he had a father to visit would make her feel bad.

"Mom said you weren't going to San Diego for Christmas this year."

"I have a lot of catching up to do at work," she said evasively. She'd implied to her mom that she didn't have enough leave time to make the trip. "I thought you were going, though."

"Not after I found out you weren't going. I didn't think you should spend Christmas alone."

"Missy...did Mom buy it?"

"She didn't argue with me. I think she agreed with me."

"Fibber," Scully said with a smile.

"Takes one to know one," Missy said in a sing-song voice. "Are you going to be there for a while?"

"I guess." She looked in the refrigerator and realized that she was out of everything. "I have to go to the store. Why?"

"I thought I'd come over and help you decorate your tree, unless you've already done it."

Scully bit her lip. "No...Actually, I didn't think I'd do one this year."

"Well, I think you should. Come on, it'll be fun. I'll bring the wine."

"I didn't get a tree."

"Okay, I'll bring the wine _and_ the tree. Now get to the store and get something to eat that goes with cheap red wine. I'll be there in an hour."

~*~

3. Oh Holy Night: Christmas 1995

"I'm so glad you were able to come to Mass tonight," Mrs. Scully hugged her daughter as they waited for Bill to bring the car around.

She hugged her mother back, scanning the crowd over her shoulder. She told herself that she was keeping her eye out for Bill.

The snow wasn't yet falling, but the air was heavy with the promise of it. After the close warmth of the church, outside it seemed almost unbearably cold and sharp. She drew a deep breath, feeling the ache in her nose and throat. No stars were visible; just the moon, peeking around the edge of a cloud.

_How is it that you're able to go out on a limb whenever you see a light in the sky, but you're unwilling to accept the possibility of a miracle? Even when it's right in front of you._

_Dana...open yourself up to extreme possibilities only when they're the truth._

_Maybe they weren't meant for him to see. Maybe they were only meant for you._

"Dana, are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Mom, just tired. We've been doing a lot of traveling lately."

"Are you sure that you won't come back to the house tonight?"

"I still have some wrapping to do. I promise I'll be there for roll call at six."

The car came around the corner and pulled to the curb. Scully helped her mother into the car. Tara was already in the back seat.

"Get in," Bill said. "I'll drive you to your place."

"I can get a cab."

"You are going home, aren't you?" he asked suspiciously.

"Yes, if that's any of your business."

"Bill..." Tara remonstrated softly.

"Good night," Scully said firmly. "See you in the morning." Right on cue, her cab pulled up behind her mother's car.

The apartment should have been dark. She was sure she hadn't left any lights on, and she certainly wouldn't have left the lights on the tree. Had she? The tree twinkled silently before her. The angel watched over the tree serenely.

Her answering machine twinkled, too, but she was pretty sure that its message was not peace on earth. She sighed and pushed the playback button.

"Hey Scully," Mulder's voice rasped out. "I know you're probably with your family tonight. I just, uh, wanted to wish you a Merry Christmas. I'll see you in the office next week."

She started to dial his number, and then thought better of it. But she didn't erase the message.

~*~

4. In the Bleak Midwinter: Christmas 1996

"Are you going to San Diego this Christmas, Scully?"

She glanced over at Mulder. He wasn't even looking at her. Mulder was full of surprises. She had no idea that he kept track of where she went for Christmas. His question seemed casual, but she suspected that it wasn't.

"No, Bill's at sea, and Tara's spending Christmas with her family."

What are you doing for Christmas, Mulder? She'd asked every year, and every year she got the same non-answer. She wasn't going to ask this year. Instead, she added, "I'm staying home this Christmas."

"Okay. I was just wondering." He didn't look up, but she knew him pretty well.

Mulder had been on restricted duty since the Roche case. There would likely be an OPR hearing after the first of the year. Until then, he was riding the desk.

Skinner had told Mulder that he was lucky he hadn't been fired outright. Privately, Scully felt that Roche had committed suicide by cop. She suspected that Skinner thought so too, or Mulder would no doubt be out on his ass already.

She glanced over at him. He appeared to be studying his monitor, but his eyes had an unfocused look.

He really needed to get out of his head. She gave in.

"Mulder," she said softly, and he looked up almost guiltily. "I know you don't celebrate Christmas with your family, but why don't you get out of town for a while?"

He shook his head. She wasn't surprised. It was his usual response to her suggestion that he set the work aside, however briefly. She had to try, anyway.

"Please tell me that you're not going to spend Christmas working."

His silence was more telling than any denial would be.

Oh, Mulder. Time to bring out the big guns. "Did I tell you that my mom's going to be gone over Christmas this year?"

He raised his eyebrows, and smiled ever so slightly. "Ooh, Scully, are you suggesting we call everybody and have a party at her house while she's gone?"

"Not exactly." She'd really had to talk her mother into going on a cruise with some of her old friends. Mom hadn't wanted to leave Dana alone, but she'd promised that she would spend Christmas with friends too. Never mind that the "friends" she'd had in mind were favorite books and videos. Desperate times called for desperate measures.

"You shouldn't spend Christmas alone, Scully," Mulder said.

Pretty soon he'd start blaming himself for her being alone. She realized that in this case his tendency for self-blame might work in her favor.

"So it's okay for you to spend Christmas alone but not me?" she asked.

"Well, you could come help me out in the office."

"I'm not going to spend Christmas in the office, Mulder. Even for you."

His face fell, but he rallied quickly. "What are you suggesting?" He wiggled his eyebrows a little, trying to play along.

"I'll make you a deal. I'll help you out, but you have to promise to take Christmas Day off. You can come over and drink eggnog and watch old movies."

"With you?" He seemed completely taken aback by this.

Maybe this was a bad idea. Maybe he was reading more into it than she meant. But she'd gone this far, and she wasn't going to back down now.

"I don't want to spend Christmas alone, Mulder. I won't make you sing Christmas carols or deck the halls. I just thought it would be nice to have some company. Even yours."

"Well, when you put it that way...yeah, okay. I could come over if you want me to. I don't want you to be alone either."

Scully smiled. "Thank you, Mulder. You can bring the eggnog."

~*~

5. What Child Is This? Christmas 1997

"You don't have to go back to the house if you don't want to," Mulder said. "I'm sure they'd understand."

Understanding is the last thing they'd do, Scully thought.

Aloud, she said, "No," Her voice was hoarse and low. She felt scoured by grief, inside and out. "I should at least say goodbye."

Mulder ducked his head closer to hers. His body shielded her from the others at the back of the chapel. "Do you want me to drive you?" he asked very softly, his lips almost brushing her ear. "I can wait outside."

It rankled that Mulder was not welcomed by her family. He obviously felt it too. She was sure they'd be happier without either of them there. Bill and Tara and even Mom wanted to be unreservedly glad about Matthew's safe arrival, and that wasn't possible with her there, moping around.

"I'll do whatever you want, Scully. I'm here." He seemed to hesitate, hovering at her shoulder, waiting for her to decide. 

She turned away from the casket, away from Mulder, clutching her necklace in her hand, her nails biting into her palm. There were things about her life that her family would never understand, but Mulder did.

_I've never let myself get too close to people. I've avoided emotional attachment...it just seemed like a bad thing... something that wouldn't last._

Blindly, she reached her hand out. She felt Mulder's fingers enclose her own, and then his arms surround her. She buried her face into his shoulder, and let the sobs come.

_...but I don't feel that anymore._

~*~

6. All I Want for Christmas: Christmas 1998

Was this a good idea? It seemed like a good idea fifteen minutes ago, when she'd walked out her front door; now she wasn't so sure.

In fact, she wasn't really sure about anything just now. She'd finished her Christmas gifts faster than she'd ever done, using stick-on bows and decorated boxes and bags instead of her usual careful and precise wrapping job. She told herself it was so she could get a few hours of sleep before her early-morning command performance at Mom's.

Instead, she found herself on the streets of Alexandria, headed to Mulder's.

She drove slowly and carefully though the roads were practically empty.   There were little flurries of snow, but not enough to affect her driving. Christmas lights glimmered on houses and in windows. At this late hour, hardly a creature was stirring.

Bing Crosby's version of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" started playing, and she twisted the knob on her car stereo so hard it came off in her hand.

She was fine. Mulder was fine. The whole episode in the old house was some kind of hallucination.Wasn't it? Of course it was. She'd checked herself over thoroughly when she got home; she had no gunshot wound. Her clothes were not torn or bloodstained. The only evidence remaining that she'd been inside the house at all was a few
cobwebs in her hair.

She used her key to get into Mulder's building. "This is stupid. This is stupid." she muttered under her breath. She got into the elevator anyway and pushed the button for the fourth floor.As she got closer to Mulder's door, she could hear his TV. She breathed a sigh of relief. She could go home now and get some sleep. She still had --
she glanced at her watch -- about two hours before she had to drive to Mom's.

Instead, she knocked on Mulder's door. After a moment, she heard the TV go off.

Mulder opened the door cautiously.  His face lightened when he saw her. "I couldn't sleep," she said sheepishly. "Can I --?"

Without a word, he ushered her into his apartment. She was reassured just to see him standing there, whole and solid and not a scratch on him. He seemed as bemused as she by the events of the evening.

She had her gift to Mulder inside her coat; her nominal excuse for coming over. She was just about to pull it out when Mulder beat her to the draw, shyly proffering a gift to her.

In the unwrapping race, it was a dead heat.

"Thanks, Mulder. It's just what I always wanted." He'd given her a tube of Hershey's kisses. He knew where she kept her stash in the office and raided it from time to time.

"I noticed your supply was getting low," he said innocently.

He held his prize in both hands. He had only said, "Thanks," but she could tell by the expression on his face that the bootleg copy of "The Star Wars Holiday Special" was a hit."Why don't you watch it, make sure it's okay," she suggested.

He didn't need any further encouragement. He jumped up and slotted it into his VCR.

Five minutes after it started, Scully was asleep on his shoulder.

~*~

7. It Came Upon a Midnight Clear: Christmas 1999

She'd never been so glad to be called back from personal time.

"I suppose it's your partner," Bill groused.

"It's my boss, actually," Scully replied coolly. "He's calling Mulder back, too."

"What is it, aliens landing on the White House lawn?"

She simply stared through him the way she used to when they were kids. It infuriated him then, and it did now.

Mom told them both to quit it and Tara rolled her eyes at Bill.

"Do you need a ride to the airport?" Bill asked grudgingly.

"No thanks, I've called for the shuttle," she said. "It'll be here soon."

"It must be something important, huh?" Tara asked.

"I don't have any of the details. I couldn't divulge them if I did."

"We probably wouldn't want to hear the gory details anyway," her mom said with a shaky laugh.

"Don't worry, Mom, I'll be fine. Tara, can I put Matty down for his nap?"

Tara willingly let her take Matthew upstairs to the nursery.

Scully climbed the stairs with her nephew in her arms, humming softly under her breath. He was two years old, but he still liked to be carried, especially by his Auntie Dana.  

Bill was of the opinion that Matthew was ready for a real bed, but he'd had to compromise with Tara on a modified cot with safety bars. Scully lowered the side of the cot and let Matthew climb into bed himself.

"Do you want a story?" she asked.

Matthew yawned. "Sleepy, Aunt Dana," he said. He was such a good boy. Tara said that she waited daily for him to start shouting "NO!" to everything, but for now he minded pretty well.

"How about a song?" she teased.

"Don't sing, Auntie Dana!" he crowed, making her laugh. Last year, she'd tried to sing him to sleep with "Joy to the World" but he'd cried and cried. It was now a family joke, and Matty was in on it.

"You goin' home, Aunt Dana?" Matty asked.

"Yes, sweetie," she said. "But I'll come back and see you soon."

"'Kay," he said matter-of-factly. "Night-night." He gave her a sweet kiss, and then he rolled over and folded his hands under his cheek.

When she looked at Matthew, she knew how the Grinch felt when his heart expanded.

She sat on the edge of the bed, watching his breathing slow into slumber.

"Matty," she whispered, "some day you might have a little sister or maybe -- maybe a cousin. You'll be nice to her, won't you?"

Being around Matthew had reawakened her desire to have a child. She'd felt it last year, seeing Tara with Matthew during Christmas at her mom's. If she could have found a plausible reason to skip Christmas in San Diego this year, she would have, knowing that it would only create yearnings in her again.

She gave Matthew a final kiss and stood up. Her mother was standing in the doorway.

Without a word, Scully passed her and went out into the hallway. She knew what was coming.

"Dana honey, I wish you wouldn't let Bill get to you so."

"He doesn't. I just don't see any reason why I should put up with his trying to boss me around."

"He can't help it. He feels like he has to hold the family together."

"That's not his responsibility." Sometimes, Scully thought, it's better when we don't see each other. She didn't mention Charlie. He kept in touch, but he nearly always had an excuse for not coming for Christmas.

"I know, Honey. I just want everyone to get along. When I'm gone..."

Scully hated it when her mother played the guilt card.

"I know, Mom," she said. What she left unspoken was that once Ahab had died, everything had changed. Bill couldn't take his place, no matter how much he wanted to, no matter how hard he tried. But she couldn't say that out loud, especially not to her mother.

She hugged her close. "I love you, Mom," she said. "I love Bill too, and I'm not running away from the family."

Everyone assumed that she was married to her career. No one considered that she might want a life outside of work. She'd given it a lot of thought lately, and had even expressed those thoughts to Mulder. He hadn't gone screaming into the night, although his view of what a "normal life" constituted was somewhat different from her family's.

Hers was different too. She'd only recently begun to realize that. Now she needed to do something about it.

~*~

8. Do You Hear What I Hear? Christmas 2000

Clump, clump. Her shoes dropped on the carpet and she lifted first one foot, then the other, to massage her insteps. She pressed her hand against the small of her back as she trudged to the bedroom.

The mirror in her bedroom reflected essentially the same image it had for the past several years. Too thin, deep shadows under her eyes. Her belly was hardly showing. And yet she had all these symptoms: swelling feet and ankles, backaches and exhaustion. The doctor had given her a stern warning about taking better care of herself.

Skinner had told her in no uncertain terms that she wasn't to go out in the field without a full clearance from her doctor. He'd covered for her with Doggett, going out on calls with her nominal partner himself.

She changed into her sweats and came back out to the living room. As usual, the light on the answering machine was blinking frantically. Unfortunately, she knew the one message she wanted to hear wouldn't be there.

The first two messages were from Agent Doggett, spoken in very level tones, but obviously questioning where she was. The next was from Skinner, letting her know he had taken care of Doggett, and to concentrate on getting better.

Next was her mom, wanting to know if she would be there on Christmas Eve for church, or was she just coming in the morning?

Her mom again, reminding her that Charlie and Sarah would be staying, and they'd have her old room. If she was staying over, would she mind sleeping on the sofa?

Would Mom mind if she decided not to come at all? Could she call in sick to her own family?

At some point she'd have to tell Mom about the baby, but Christmas didn't seem like the right time.

A third essage from her mom, asking if it was too much trouble to get that spumoni that everyone liked so much. And that Sarah, Charlie's wife, was lactose-intolerant, could she get something she could have as well?

She didn't want to answer questions from the family. If she waited until after Christmas to tell Mom, Mom would take care of telling everyone else. It was cowardly, but although she could face up to liver-eating mutants and batmen, she didn't think she had the strength to defend herself against Bill and his judgmental attitude right now.  

The next message was another from Agent Doggett, apologizing for calling her before, and asking her to disregard his previous messages. An awkward pause, and then he added, "I hope you're feeling better."

Skinner seemed to think that John Doggett was on the up-and-up, but did he really know? What hold did Kersh have over Doggett? Would he toe the "company line" or would he follow his instincts?

Doggett was a good agent, but she wasn't sure that's what she needed. If he was just a good agent without an open mind, he was definitely not what she needed.

Was this how Mulder had seen her all those years ago? He'd called her a spy to her face, accused her of taking little notes to report on him. He didn't seem to like her; he certainly didn't trust her. But on their first case together, he began to warm to her. Trust wasn't built in a day, but she'd proved herself to Mulder. Just as Mulder had proved himself to her.

She didn't have that kind of time now. Every day, every minute that Mulder was missing made it that much more likely that they wouldn't find him. If she didn't look for him, who would?

There was a little silence at the beginning of the next message, and her breath caught in her throat. Then Frohike's raspy voice said, "Greetings of the season, Agent Scully. We just wanted to let you know that we're on the case, but there's nothing new to report."

She smiled sadly. The Gunmen might be her only hope if the FBI decided that Mulder's case was no longer a priority. They'd never stopped looking, and they never would.

Neither would she, but she needed all the allies she could get. She sat down with a sigh and dialed her mother's number.

~*~

9. O Bambino: Christmas 2001

"Smile for the camera, William!" The photographer jiggled his favorite stuffed toy, but William was having none of it. He sat quietly in Margaret Scully's lap with an expression so much like Mulder's during one of Skinner's lectures Scully didn't know whether to laugh or cry.

How did she let her mother talk her into this?

"He's a very serious baby," the photographer said.

It was on the tip of Scully's tongue to contradict her. The truth was William was suspicious of strangers. He didn't smile for just anyone.

He smiled for her. He had many different kinds of smiles, and they all reminded her of Mulder.

"Dana, maybe he'll smile for you. Come on, sit with us. Be in the picture. Three generations of Scullys?" her mother coaxed.

She shook her head. "No, Mom, I think it should be just you and William." They'd already had this argument; why was she bringing it up again? The photographer looked a little askance.

She'd always had to walk a tightrope with her mother between full disclosure and need-to-know. Should she tell her everything, even though her mother wouldn't believe most of it and the things she did would scare her half to death? Or tell her nothing, and let her draw her own wrong conclusions?

"His father is away," her mother said to the photographer in explanation. "Dana doesn't want to take a picture without him in it too."

The photographer smiled her professional smile. "I know it must be hard. Was he deployed recently?"

Scully shot a warning look at her mother and said, "I'd rather not talk about it."

"Well, maybe when he comes back you can come in for your own family portrait," the photographer suggested. "In the meantime, let's see if we can get this little guy to smile." Unlike her mother, she seemed to know when to quit.

Scully stood at the photographer's shoulder. William seemed to track her movements. She held up his Yankees bear and said, "William, look what Momma's got."

William looked up and laughed, his mouth open in a broad, gummy smile, and the photographer said, "Got it!"

Scully turned away so that no one could see the tears in her eyes.

~*~

10. Santa Claus is Coming to Town: Christmas 2002

She'd always worked hard. She'd spent hours on her feet in autopsy bays, spent hours poring over crime scene photos and reading reports. There really was no such thing as an eight hour day or a five day work week when they were on a case.

None of that compared to standing on her feet in front of a cash register for twelve hours, smiling mechanically, wishing each and every customer a Merry Christmas, counting back change, handing over receipts, explaining the return policy, rinse and
repeat.

As God was her witness, she would never be impatient with a store clerk again.

"Miss Diana," Mr. Patel approached her during a momentary lull. How she hated her alias.

"Yes, Mr. Patel?" he always treated her courteously, unlike some of the other bosses she'd had. One had actually propositioned her in the stockroom, but a quick knee to the groin had taken care of that. Mulder never knew, and that was a good thing.

"Miss Diana, it's Christmas, you know," Mr. Patel said. "After tomorrow we will not need all the staff."

Her heart sank. It wasn't a great job, but it was a job, and they'd not been easy to come by without references or much of a job history. Her cover was that she'd been recently divorced and had been out of the workforce for a while. This satisfied some people, but it had only enflamed the manager at the last place; hence the knee to his groin and her
immediate resignation. In another life she would have had him up for sexual harassment, but that was the kind of attention they needed to avoid right now.

"However, I'd like you to stay on," Mr. Patel continued. "You could be head cashier, maybe even third assistant manager before long. I could give you five cents an hour more."

What a proud moment, Scully thought. I always knew I could distinguish myself. "Thank you, Mr. Patel."

They were busy right up to the last minute, but finally the last customer was rung up. She closed out her till, keeping one eye on the parking lot. She said goodnight to her co-workers and Mr. Patel locked the door. A chorus of "Merry Christmases" back and forth, and everyone headed home.

"Miss Diana, do you have a ride?" Mr. Patel asked. It was ten minutes after midnight, officially Christmas Day.

"Yes, he's just a few minutes late," she said. He was never late.

Mr. Patel looked uncertain. "You should not be waiting alone out here."

"I'm fine." She gestured to the gas station across the street with its lights blazing. "I'll go wait over there. Goodnight, Mr. Patel." She started walking across the street. As soon as Mr. Patel drove off, she walked back to the front of the store.

Another five minutes passed, then five minutes more. She paced back and forth, watching the cars come and go at the gas station across the street, looking for one particular car.

Where was he? Maybe the car wouldn't start. Maybe he'd had to work longer.

He said he had some errands to run after work. She'd assumed he had some Christmas surprise up his sleeve and so hadn't questioned him.

He'd promised he wouldn't do anything dangerous. Not without her to back him up.

At twenty-five after twelve, she told herself she'd start walking toward their apartment if he didn't show in another five minutes. She'd probably meet him halfway.

She missed her cell phone. "Mulder, where are you?" she whispered into the cold night.

At half-past midnight, she saw the beat-up Nissan compact pull into the parking lot.

I won't be angry, she told herself, no matter what.

Mulder pulled up next to her, keeping the engine running. "Get in, if I turn it off, it'll die
again."

"Where the hell have you been, Mulder?" she had to speak loudly over the rattling of the engine.

"Car trouble, among other things," he said, grinding the gears.

"What other things?" she said suspiciously.

"I had to go get some things I had in storage," he said, keeping his eyes on the road.

"Mulder, you promised --"

"I promised I wouldn't do anything dangerous. It wasn't dangerous, Scully. I went in, got my stuff, and came right back here. Then the damn car wouldn't start. I had to find someone with jumper cables, and you try doing that late on Christmas Eve."

She understood his anger and frustration; she was feeling the same thing, but she forced herself to stay calm. "Where did you go?"

"I just went to the next town over. We finally moved close enough to the place I put things for safekeeping, uh, before, uh, Mount Weather."

"What did you leave behind that was so important?" And how is that not dangerous, Mulder? She wanted to yell.

"Everything," he said. "Access to my accounts, new IDs, contacts, you name it. I didn't want to have anything on me that might be used against me or anyone else when I went to Mount Weather."

"Why didn't you tell me that's where you were going?"

"Because I knew you'd try and talk me out of it."

"You're damned right I would have." The anger was beginning to win. "How could you take such a risk? For all we know, you're on the Ten Most Wanted list."

"You saw the news stories, same as I did. I'm presumed dead in a fire fight in New Mexico. They were eyewitness accounts, Scully."

"That story could have been planted to give us a false sense of security, Mulder. It's happened before."

"Have a little faith. Maybe it was a little risky, but I thought it was our turn to catch a break."

"I can't even begin to express how disturbing I find it that you'd consider risking your life based on the theory that it's your turn to have a lucky break."

"I didn't," he insisted. "Look, someone once told me that every life, every day, is in danger -- it's just life. And the only way to change the odds in our favor is to take a risk now and then."

"I should have gone with you," she said stubbornly.

"It was safer for me to go alone."

They rode in silence for a while except for the sound of the car chug-chugging. Mulder had to rev the engine at every stop so it wouldn't die.

He broke their silence first. "You know what this means, Scully? No more working at the Ninety-Nine Cent Store or the Stop-n-Save. Maybe we could find a place where we could stay for more than a couple of weeks. And, we could work on getting you
cleared."

"Just me, Mulder? Not you?"

"I think that might be a little harder. You didn't breach security at a restricted military facility. You weren't convicted of murder." His expression was bleak as he said the words. "And, as far as anyone knows, you had nothing to do with my escape. Once you're in the clear, we can work on me."

He pulled into the parking lot of their apartment building. He pulled into a parking spot and didn't turn off the engine so much as he just let the car die. The sudden silence was deafening.

He gave her a lopsided grin. "I hope you like your present, Scully. It's not much, but it's the thought that counts, right?"

"Mulder, I -- I don't know what to say." The urge to yell at him and shake him faded. The anger was there, but tempered with the realization that his most bone-headed moves were often motivated by his concern for someone else. Lately, they'd mostly been about her.

He shrugged. "You'd have done the same for me. Hell, you have done the same for me. You stormed the gates of Ellens Air Base. You sprung me from prison." He paused, and then added, "You're here with me."

"I don't want to leave you," she said quietly. "I won't go back without you."

Mulder really smiled at that. "And I don't want you to go. I just want you to have a choice."

"Mulder..." she couldn't help the tears. "I do have a choice. I choose to be here, with you."

"Don't cry, Scully. Come on, let's go inside. I splurged: there's pizza, and ice cream for
dessert."

They entered their tiny studio apartment and Mulder turned on the one lamp. For once he'd made up the sofa bed. A tiny plastic tree stood on the battered kitchen table.

"So this is the Christmas surprise you were working on." She smiled a watery smile.

"What, the pizza and the ice cream?"

"You know what I mean," she said. "You took a huge risk. Thank you." She kissed him and hugged him tightly. "But I didn't get anything for you, Mulder."

"Yes, you did."

~*~

11. Baby, It's Cold Outside: Christmas 2004

She'd worked so many double shifts lately she'd almost forgotten what day it was. Working in the children's ward of a Catholic hospital, however, she'd have to be especially oblivious to not know it was getting close to Christmas.

It had been threatening to snow all day. It had just started as she left the hospital, but it must have gotten a head start in the higher elevations. In town it had been a mix of freezing rain and snow; here it was just snow falling in large flakes that began to accumulate on her windshield.

All she wanted for Christmas was a long, hot bath. And a foot massage. That should thrill Mulder although she was sure he had something else planned. He'd sent a message from his "stealth email" account, carefully coded, to confirm what time she'd be getting home. For someone who'd always claimed to be technologically impaired, he'd
learned a lot of tricks from the Gunmen.

At long last she pulled into the driveway. She had a glorious thirty-six hours before she had to be back at work.

The house looked completely dark. They didn't leave the porch light on, but she could usually see a little light seeping through the front window. Scully tensed up, and instinctively reached for a gun that was no longer there. She opened the front door cautiously.

"Mulder? Are you there?"

"What's up, Doc?" Mulder's voice floated in from the kitchen. "Don't move."

Mulder's voice sounded calm. She expelled a small breath of relief. "Mulder, are you okay? Why is the house so dark?"

"I'm fine, everything's fine. Hang on a second." His voice was closer; she could see his outline faintly, crouching in the doorway leading to the kitchen. "Ta-da!" he said triumphantly, and suddenly the living room was festooned with strings and strings of colored lights. Mulder stood up, grinning.

Scully stepped forward, looking all around her. Mulder had been busy in the two days since she'd been home. There was a small tree in one corner. Tinsel rope had been strung along with the lights, reflecting the colors and casting a cheerful glow over the dingy room.

"Oh --" she started to say, when the lights flickered and went out.

"Crap." She heard rummaging around, and then the beam of a heavy-duty flashlight illuminated a spot in front of her.

"What happened?" she asked.

"The extra lights must have tripped a breaker." Mulder followed his beam of light and handed her another flashlight.

He led the way down to the cellar, making sure to wedge the door open before they descended the rickety stairs.

Scully held the flashlight while Mulder flipped breakers back and forth.

"Do you know which one it is?" Scully asked.

"I'm more of a trial-and-error guy," Mulder said.

"Wait a minute and I'll go upstairs and yell when the lights come back on." When she got to the living room she yelled, "Okay, Mulder, try another one."

Nothing happened. She waited a little longer.

"Mulder?"

Footsteps stomped up the stairs. "What?"

"Nothing's happening." She trained her flashlight around the room. "No lights."

"I don't think it's a blown circuit, Scully. Maybe there's a more widespread power outage."

Scully called NOVEC's outage center. Eventually after cycling through the many prompts, she discovered that the outage in their area wasn't expected to be fixed until the following day.

Mulder groaned when she told him. "You know, it's things like this that make living 'off the grid' more and more attractive, Scully."

"Do you have an emergency generator on your Christmas list?" Scully asked.

"I do now." Mulder shut the cellar door. "You know, I liked this house when we first saw it. It lured us in, and since then it's just been one thing after another."

"It was empty for a long time before we moved in," she reminded him. "It wasn't exactly move-in ready. Besides, it's not the house's fault."

"Yeah, I guess." Mulder's good mood had fizzled.

"At least we have a gas stove." She shivered, "and a fireplace."

"Good thing I chopped all that wood."

"Who'd have thought you'd be so handy with an axe, Mulder?"

"Yeah, lumberjack is my next career."

"You've got the flannel shirt. All you need is a beard, and you'll look the part."

"Don't tempt me," he said. He put his arms around her and rubbed his freshly-shaven cheek against hers. "Merry Christmas, Scully, such as it is."

"Mmm. Is this the rest of my Christmas present?" she whispered in his ear.

"I had big plans, Scully. Now it looks like we'll be lucky just to keep warm."

A sudden memory made her think of a way to salvage the situation. "Do we still have those sleeping bags?" she asked.

"Yeah, they're in the closet in the spare bedroom. Why?"

"Someone once told me," she said, drawing a line down his chest, "that the best way to keep warm was to get into a sleeping bag, naked, with someone else who was also naked." She kissed him. "I think now is our chance to test that theory."

For a moment he gaped at her like a fish. Then he recovered himself and said, "Don't move, I'll be right back."

She heard him pounding up the stairs, and smiled.

~*~

12. We Wish You a Merry Christmas: Christmas 2008

"Dear Ones:

"It's been another outstanding year for Team Stephens. Laura started her second semester at Smith, and grows livelier and lovelier with each passing year..."

The downside of coming out of hiding is the dreaded Christmas Letter. Scully tossed the latest one on the pile.  

Her mother must have been working overtime sending out their address to all and sundry. If anyone was looking for them, with ill-intent or otherwise, they needed to look no further than Margaret Scully's address book. Telephone, telegraph, or tell Mom, Scully thought sourly.

The sound of the back door whooshing open and then being kicked shut roused her from her uncharitable thoughts.

"Honey, I'm home!" Mulder called. He walked into the kitchen from the mud room, surrounded by an aura of cold air. He pulled his knit cap off, his hair crackling with static electricity. "I'm thinking I need to grow my beard again," he remarked. "It's damned cold out there."

"Fine, I'll stop shaving my legs, too," Scully retorted.

"Ooh, sexy," Mulder smirked, unfazed. "Dare you." He gestured to the letter. "What's this?"

"It's a Christmas letter."

Mulder picked it up and scanned it. "Do you know these people?"

"Friends of the family," Scully said. "Mom has been giving out our address like candy canes."

"You're not worried about that, are you? You said yourself that if anyone was really trying to find us, they probably could have."

"No, it's not that," she sighed. "It's just -- well, it's symbolic of a different kind of life."

Mulder was silent for a long time, and she feared he was taking her comment completely wrong.

"I'm not saying it's a life I want," she added. "I made different choices. My mom still doesn't see it."

"Yeah, I get that. I don't know how she can help it, though. How much have you really told her over the years? About our work, what we've seen."

"I can't imagine telling her about some of our cases. Anything I told her was suitably edited.  She'd never have believed some of them anyway."

"That's exactly my point. So, now that we've miraculously resurfaced, she's not going to look too far under said surface. You're a doctor, you're married to your former partner, and everything is 'back to normal'."

"Except it isn't," she said. "It's a given that our normal isn't her normal, and I wouldn't have it any other way. However, we can't ignore that continuance of anyone's 'normal' in the future -- not just for us, for everyone -- is still uncertain."

"You can't blame them for ignoring something they know nothing about. We seem to have switched sides again, Scully. You're making my usual argument."

"I don't see you settling for the 'status quo' any more than I am, Mulder."

"Of course not. Maybe we should send a little letter of our own. Take a letter, Ms. Scully."

"Someone has been watching too much 'Mad Men.'"

"You can dictate and I'll write, if you like."

"No, I want to hear this."

"Okay then." Mulder cleared his throat theatrically and began to dictate:

"'Dear to Whom It May Concern:

"'The Mulder-Scully Collective has been busy since Dana sprang Fox out of jail seven years ago. Besides being the center of a global conspiracy, Dana took time to update her medical license and is now considered to be one of the finest pediatric neurosurgeons in the country'."

"Don't you think that's exaggerating just a little?"

"Which part, the global conspiracy?"

Scully rolled her eyes.

"To continue: 'After many years of playing house husband, Fox has now found himself in demand as a profiler. He consults part-time for the FBI while organizing the resistance to the coming alien apocalypse.'"

"Well, that should get their attention," she said dryly.

"I'm thinking we should include an application form if they want to be part of the Resistance," he said. "We might get some new recruits."

"Be serious, Mulder."

"I am," he said with a straight face, "partly serious, anyway. Even though we've got the old gang back together, more or less, we could use more help."

"I don't think we'll get them from a Christmas letter. Most people probably barely read them, and the ones that do won't take it seriously."

"You never know until you try."

"I never thought of you as an optimist," she said.

"It's the new me," he said. "Freedom is a heady brew. Hope and change is in the air. Trust everyone."

"Keep it up, Mulder, and I'll begin to think you're a shape-shifter."

"Does that mean you don't want to send out the letter?" He pulled a pout. She couldn't help but smile.

"I think you're thinking too small," she said, suddenly struck with an idea. "Write up an
application and post it on those chat groups you're a member of. Ask them to help spread the word. You've heard of the term, 'viral marketing'?"

"Yeah..." he said slowly, "it's just not the kind of virus I'm used to hearing about from you. I like it, though. I think it's the germ of a great idea."

Scully rolled her eyes again. "I can't believe you just said that."

"I got a million of them," he grinned. "Do you think it's too soon for me to have my own website?"

~*~

13. Happy Xmas/War Is Over: Christmas 2022

The room was lit only by the desultory flames of a low-banked fire. There were no strings of lights, no tree, no holiday music, either cheerful or melancholy.

It was perfect, or at least it would be shortly. She heard the back door open and boots stomping on the mat.

A moment later Mulder entered with an armload of wood. "I'm getting too old for this, Scully."

"You say that about doing anything you don't like to do," she observed. "You know all you have to do is say the word, and you'd have people lining up to chop wood for us."

"They did," he grinned. "All I had to do is go out back and haul it in." He dumped the wood on the hearth and flopped onto the sofa next to her.

"You big faker," she said affectionately, ruffling his hair.

He nuzzled his cold nose into her neck. "How much time do we have?"

"The chopper's not scheduled to pick us up until tomorrow afternoon," she said. "I think they want a couple of photo ops of us here. They wanted William and Melissa, too, but I said I didn't think it was a good idea."

"William is old enough to make up his own mind about it. I agree about Melissa, though. She should stay put with the family at the Vineyard. I'm sure your mom is spoiling the heck out of her."

"Don't remind me," Scully said, rolling her eyes. "I shudder to think what Mom's promising her for Christmas."

"Time enough to worry about that later," Mulder said. "Don't we have better things tothink about right now? How long has it been since we've had some time together, just the two of us?"

"It's been a while."

"It's been too long a while. It's been so long that I've been having almost fond memories of our years of enforced solitude."

"That's good, since we sent the car away and we're going to have almost 24 whole hours of enforced solitude."

"Really? No emergency calls? No last-minute change of plans? No requests for interviews, autographs, a pound of flesh?"

"Everything we could plan for, we did," she said. What she had hoped would be a simple return to their old house had practically turned into a state visit. "We've been promised no interruptions, except for emergencies."

"I think word got out about our little visit. There were several people hanging around the front gates."

"I've been told on any given day that a lot of people come here. They leave notes. They take photos. Some have tried to break into the house, which is why there's a full-time security detail here now. With the anniversary, there have been more visitors than usual.  Some are camping out in anticipation of the dedication."

"They're going to get awfully cold out here between now and then. The ceremony isn't until after Christmas, right? And it's going to be broadcast?"

"Yes, but there will always be people who want to be eyewitnesses so that they can say, 'I was there'."

"It's just a house, Scully. A run-down little house with bad plumbing, although it does have a kick-ass security system."

"It's 'just a house' the way the Liberty Bell is just a bell with a crack in it. It's a symbol now. It's where the Resistance was born."

"Not really."

"Well, close enough. And when the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

"Catchy. Did you make that up?"

"No, I heard it in a movie a long time ago."

He got up to poke the fire and throw another log on the embers, causing a flurry of sparks to fly upward, fading out as they rose. "All things considered, I think things turned out pretty well, don't you think?"

"Better than you expected, or better than you hoped?"

"Let's see: we're both still here, a little battered, but in one piece."

"Mm." Scully nodded.

"And the world didn't end."

"No, it didn't."

He leaned in for a kiss. "We saved the world, Scully."

"Yes, we did."

They sat in companionable silence, watching the fire.

When the clock struck midnight, Mulder turned to her. "Happy Alien Apocalypse Ending Day, Scully." He kissed her soundly.

"It's Alien Menace Liberation Day, Mulder," she corrected him when she could speak again.

"For awkwardness, there's not much to choose between them. But at least it's not 'Liberation from the Alien Menace on Earth'. Who'd want to celebrate a holiday whose acronym is LAME?"

"I like that; there's a certain ring to it." Scully said. "Let's call President Skinner right away. Maybe he can issue an executive order to change it."

"Nah," he said. "I have much better things to do." He gathered her up in his arms. "Just between you and me, I call it 'Mulder was Right Day.'"

"That's not at all immodest, is it?"

"Come here and show your appreciation of the conquering hero, and I'll show you mine."

"I only put up with this because you're the father of my children."

"Not because of my personal charm? My mordant wit? My alien-destroying talents?"

"If I recall, there was a little matter of an anti-viral that helped out with that, too."

"I'm not dismissing your considerable talents, Dr. Scully. Everyone knows you're the true hero of the day. And by 'everyone,' I mean me, too."

"That's more like it," she said, relaxing back into his arms. "Not that you didn't do your part, just as important."

"'Resistance Leader' does have a sexy ring to it, doesn't it?"

"It certainly works for me," she agreed. "Though 'Special Advisor to the President' has a nice ring to it, too."

"What a long, strange trip it's been, Special Agent Doctor Surgeon General Scully," Mulder took her face in his hands, his eyes serious. "Any regrets?"

She met his gaze and took her time replying, watching him watching her, savoring the moment.

"There are a few things I'd like to forget," she replied. "But I still wouldn't change a day. Not if it led to this moment here with you."

"Me too Scully," Mulder said. "Me, too."

The unexpected serious turn took them both by surprise.

Mulder recovered his equanimity first. "Where's the champagne? We should be toasting."

"We're not champagne people, are we Mulder? I have it on good authority that there's beer in the fridge. And pizza. And ice cream for dessert."

"That's more like it. Don't tell me you have a copy of 'Caddyshack' too?"

"Not on your life. I'm sure we can think of better things to do." She got up and sashayed into the kitchen, confident that Mulder would follow.

~ end ~

 

Author's Notes: As the episode inspiration for each vignette, I chose the ones that aired the closest to Christmas. For Season One, however, I couldn't ignore "Beyond the Sea," although "Fire" was the closest before Christmas and it is referenced too. You might also catch a very brief self-reference to "Isolation" in #12.

Here's the list:

1: Fire/Beyond the Sea
2: Excelsis Dei
3: Revelations
4: Paper Hearts
5: Emily/Christmas Carol
6: The Ghosts Who Stole Christmas
7: Millennium (with a dash of "Per Manum")
8: Via Negativa (also a bit of "Within/Without")
9: No specific reference (maybe foreshadowing
"TrustNo1" a little bit)
10: The Truth from S9
11: Pre "I Want to Believe"
12: Post "I Want to Believe"
13: Reference to a hoped-for 3rd movie? We'll see...

I am so indebted to the "Inside the X" website for
its transcripts.
http://www.insidethex.co.uk/

Feedback, good or instructive: msnsc21@yahoo.com

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