All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue
Summary: Mulder decides it's safe enough to come back for William's first Christmas.
“Maybe you can solve/Solve my mystery/Wrap me in your arms and whisper/You miss me/ Weatherman says it’s miserable/But the snow is so beautiful/All I ever get for Christmas is blue/It would take a miracle/To get me out to a shopping mall/All I really want for Christmas is you/Let them ring the bells/They won’t miss us/I’ll be drinkin’ down your kisses…” ~Over the Rhine, “All I Ever Get For Christmas Is Blue”
Scully held the wine glass in her hand, letting the condensation dampen her fingers. The loneliness was bad tonight, and she half-wished that she’d gone to her mother’s. Although she would have been subjected to Bill and Tara’s perfect family, at least she wouldn’t have been alone, wallowing in her own misery. On nights like this, it was easy to be angry at Mulder for abandoning her, for leaving her to raise their child alone.
On nights like this, anger was easier than sorrow.
Glancing at the clock, Scully realized that she had just enough time to bundle William up and drive down to the local parish for midnight Mass. William’s diaper bag was ready—it was always ready, just in case they had to leave at a moment’s notice—and it didn’t take long to change her clothes and throw on her coat.
Scully gave thanks that William was such a good-natured baby; he stirred once as she bundled him up, opening his eyes sleepily, then immediately closed them again once he was secure in his carrier. Keys in hand, she set the car seat down in the hallway to lock the door behind her, then froze as she heard footsteps.
How was it that she could recognize his walk after he’d been gone for months? How was it that she could sense him coming even though she had no expectation of his arrival?
She turned slowly to face him. The expression on his face was a classic mix of sheepish and hopeful. “Hey.”
Scully cleared her throat. “Mulder.” He looked good, better than good, really. His face was drawn and tired, exhaustion obvious in his eyes—but she wanted him with a passion that surprised her.
“I hope this isn’t a bad time.” He held up his single, small bag. “If you were leaving—”
“I thought I’d go to midnight Mass.”
“Do you want some company?”
Mulder had never been particularly supportive or encouraging of her faith, but Scully wasn’t going to say no. If he didn’t mind accompanying her, she’d be grateful for his presence.
She couldn’t ask what had brought him around, or how long he was going to stay. She was too afraid of the answer.
“Sure.” Scully stood silently while Mulder took her keys from her hand, opened the door, set his bag down inside, then locked up again.
“Can I?” He was so tentative, gesturing towards William’s carrier, as though she would deny him the opportunity to carry his son.
“Of course.” She didn’t know what else to say to him. Scully knew that any question she might ask would have the potential to open a can of worms that couldn’t easily be closed again.
When they were outside her building, under the stars, Scully ventured, “I haven’t heard from you for a while.”
“I was following a lead.” Mulder’s words were vague, but she didn’t know whether it was because he’d forgotten how to confide, or he was withholding the information to protect her.
Scully was tired of being protected, no matter how necessary it might be. “What kind of lead?”
“It’s better if you don’t know.” His tone was reproachful, as though she should have known better than to ask—she probably should have.
She kept silent after that, watching as Mulder clumsily strapped William’s car seat in with the movements of a man who was doing it for the first time. Scully almost pushed him aside to do it herself, but they weren’t in that big of a hurry, and she thought it was good for Mulder to work at it.
He’d had so few chances to be a father, and he might never have another.
Scully shook that melancholy thought off as she slid behind the wheel, waiting for Mulder to climb into the passenger seat. His long legs were folded up, his knees nearly to his chin, before he adjusted the seat.
When she giggled, he gave her an annoyed look. “Who took the car the last time?”
“Mom helped me pick some groceries up,” Scully said, unrepentant. She was absurdly pleased when his hand reached for hers, intertwining their fingers in a tight grip. Scully drove one-handed the few blocks to the church, wondering if she was dreaming.
Just in case she was, she concentrated on his roughened skin and his strong fingers. She just wanted to remember this moment.
This wasn’t exactly what Mulder had planned. He’d believed that Scully would drop everything to welcome him with open arms. He’d thought that she would open the door, greet him with a kiss, then they would do what any two lovers would do after months apart.
Mulder certainly had no desire to go to church, but he’d asked a lot of Scully, and it had seemed to be the right thing to do when he saw that she was on her way out.
It felt right—not necessarily going to church, but doing this with Scully and William. He felt like they were a family.
On the road for the last few months, Mulder had nearly forgotten what it was like to not be alone, to have someone watching his back. He wished he had time to get used to having her near, but the fact was that he had a window of a few days at most. After that, he would have to leave again or risk Scully’s life, and William’s.
If not for the baby, Mulder would have asked her to go with him, but he couldn’t begrudge her the child, not when he’d known it was her dearest wish.
He was the one to carry William inside, still secure in his car seat. His son was sleeping peacefully, and Mulder envied his ability to ignore the world; at the same time, he hoped that William could keep his innocence always, that he would never know the losses that Mulder had.
Maybe that’s what being a parent meant: wanting better for your child. Mulder hadn’t had the best examples, and he wasn’t at all certain that he could be a good father, not the way he’d been certain that Scully would be a good mother.
He followed her into a pew and set William between them. Stretching his arm out across the back of the wooden bench, Mulder allowed his fingers to brush Scully’s shoulder. It was cold enough inside that she hadn’t removed her coat, and Mulder felt the rough wool. She glanced over at him, smiling, her blue eyes alight with joy.
Mulder could count the number of times he’d seen her that happy in the last five years on one hand—with fingers left over. He wished it was in his power to cause her to wear that expression all the time.
For a moment, Mulder wished that he could forget everything he’d discovered in the last ten years, forget the government conspiracies and the threat of colonization, and simply have a life. Maybe he’d eventually grow bored with it, but he’d really like to give it a try.
Allowing the words of the service wash over him, Mulder followed Scully’s lead, standing, sitting, kneeling. When it was over, he led the way out, pausing only long enough to allow her to introduce him to the priest. She called him a “friend,” and Mulder supposed that was close enough.
How could they be anything else when he was forced to spend so much time away?
“I hope you don’t mind,” she said once they were in the car.
“Introducing you as my friend. I thought it would be less complicated.”
“No, it’s okay.” It wasn’t, of course, but neither of them could change the circumstances.
William woke as they were nearing Scully’s apartment building, beginning to fuss in the backseat. “He’s probably hungry,” she said in response to his questioning look.
Mulder wanted to ask if she was still breastfeeding—he knew that she probably wasn’t, that it would be close to impossible while she was working. He wanted to know all these details that he’d missed.
“Where’s your mom this year?” he asked, resorting to small talk.
“She’s at home. Bill and Tara are there. I’ll go over tomorrow.”
Mulder couldn’t help the grimace. He and Bill didn’t exactly get along, but he wasn’t about to let Scully out of his sight during the brief period of time they could spend together.
“I’ll call her in the morning and tell her that I’ll be over in a few days.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Mulder protested. “I don’t want to spoil your Christmas, Scully.”
She gave him a sharp look as she pulled into her parking space. “All I really wanted was you to be here, Mulder. You’re not ruining anything.”
Mulder was strangely embarrassed by her words, but he didn’t say anything. Scully pulled William out of his car seat, leaving it buckled in the backseat. “Leave it,” she said as he reached for it. “We won’t need it.”
He deferred to her expertise in the matter and followed her inside. She went about the business of feeding William with a sureness that he envied. The baby was sucking on his bottle with a contented expression by the time Scully looked at him again.
“I’m sorry,” she said suddenly. “Did you want—”
“No. I’ll watch.” He just wanted to watch her, to look his fill while she was there with him, not knowing how long it would be before he saw her again. “You’re a natural.”
“I’ve had some practice.”
“No, you’ve always been a natural with kids, Scully.”
She gave him the strangest look, then smiled. She was definitely up to something. “Get over here, Mulder.”
He obeyed, moving from his spot near the door to sit next to her on the couch. Mulder supposed that Scully’s apartment was as close to “home” as he was likely to get, but he still felt like a guest there.
“Here.” She transferred William to his arms without disturbing their son, and the baby settled into the crook of Mulder’s arm as though he had always been there. “I’m going to change into something more comfortable.”
Mulder couldn’t take his eyes off of his son. William looked like Scully, but he thought—maybe—the baby had a little bit of Samantha in him, too. “Good thing you don’t look like your old man,” he murmured.
“Oh, I don’t know. I like the way his old man looks.” Scully reappeared next to him, wearing silk pajamas and a robe. She rested her cheek on Mulder’s shoulder and touched William’s cheek. “How long can you stay?”
Mulder closed his eyes, hating himself for his answer. “Not long enough.”
Scully said nothing, but she didn’t have to. Mulder rested his forehead against the top of her head and breathed in their smell—Scully’s shampoo and that sweet, indefinable scent of a baby. For that brief moment, it was enough.