Title: Ride
Author: onemillionandnine
Rating : R for disturbing themes, language, and sexual remarks -
Definitely NOT a Christmas tale for children
Category: V, UST
Archive: oh, sure, whenever, wherever, I put it on the internet for chrissake, I might as well have rented a billboard

Disclaimer: Mulder and the Gunmen aren't mine , not even a little, but it's December 23 so theoretically I could find them under the tree in a couple of days. I hope someone remembered to
poke air holes.

Summary: A holiday adventure for Mulder during Scully's Christmas in San Diego

Thanks to: MaybeAmanda for lightning beta with deadly accuracy

It wasn't the most picturesque haunted house ever. There were avocado green appliances in the kitchen and weathered posters of KC and the Sunshine Band and The Bay City Rollers in bedrooms filled with rat-chewed bare mattresses. But then, things were rarely picturesque in the real world.

For example, despite the similarities at first glance, the figure looming over Fox Mulder could not, under any circumstances, be described as a Right Jolly Old Elf. He was taller than Mulder by half a head, with a long wavy white unkempt beard. A painted buckskin coat warred with his massive belly, but it wasn't the gut of a gentle sedentary life; he made Mulder think of an old biker, with scarred knuckles and muscle under the fat of too much beer, too much ham. The smell of tobacco, liquor, and leather floated like an aura around him. For a second, Mulder caught a whiff of not-quite-pleasant animal smell as well.

"Don't tell me I'm on the naughty list again," Mulder quipped, trying to alleviate the tension of two strangers meeting unintentionally in the otherwise empty house.

"Pfffttt," the figure answered from under his fur hood. Stomping the snow from his feet, he looked up. "You're small potatoes on the naughty scale, Mulder."

"How do you know my name?"

More stomping followed. "I know a lot of things."

"Who are you?" Mulder asked after a moment.

"Who do you think I am?" The figure pulled back his hood, revealing a mane of long wavy hair to match his beard.

Mulder knew who he looked like, in an off-kilter slightly skewed way. "It would be a bit much to believe you're Santa Claus," Mulder said. "Even for me."

"I suppose I could go the mysterious 'I am known by many names' route, but that about sums it up," the man said. "Call me Santa."

It took Mulder a second to realize that the stranger was missing an eye. One socket stared ahead blindly, shrunken and puckered.

"Can you give me a good reason to believe you?" Mulder asked willing himself to remain suspicious and not stare at the hole where the man's eye should have been.

The large man shrugged. "Doesn't matter to me whether you believe or not; most people can't even see me."

"Is that a fact?" Mulder asked in a voice he usually reserved for Skinner.

"Yes, it is," the man said distractedly. "Usually I can come and go and all people have is a vague feeling, maybe a smell in the air." He cast his glance into all the dark corners. "I must have the wrong room."

"Wrong room?" Mulder asked.

The look he received made it perfectly clear the buckskinned figure had no intention whatsoever of giving him an answer.

"What are you doing here?" he asked, but Santa Claus had turned on his heel and headed upstairs.

Mulder had no choice but to run after him. For a large man with a lot of girth, the stranger moved with surprising speed.

"So how come I can see you, Santa?" Mulder shouted as he took the steps two at a time in an attempt to catch up with the towering man.

"I'm not sure," the low voice ahead of him said. "Perhaps you keep Christmas better than most."

"Oh ha ha," Mulder answered.

"Why is that funny?" the stranger asked. "I think you do and I would know."

"But I don't." Mulder protested. "I don't keep Christmas at all."

Santa stopped on the landing at the top of the stairs and turned to face Mulder "Let's see. Since your wife left, you've spent every Christmas Eve investigating purportedly haunted houses like this one, looking for ghosts. Every other day of your life, you search and you search and you don't even know what you're searching for."

"Says who?" Mulder had finally caught up.

"Says me. The X-Files. Ha! X stands for the unknown. But if you don't know what you're looking for, Special Agent Fox Mulder, FBI, how will you know when you've found it ?"

"How did you-?" Mulder started

"He sees you when you're sleeping," Santa started in a lush baritone, "He knows when you're awake-"

"- oh, right, you're Santa -" Mulder said, rolling his eyes.

"-He knows when that hot little partner of yours asked you what you wanted for Christmas your first thought was to ask her to sit on your face."

Mulder's mouth shot open, but before he could speak, from behind him came a great black flapping of wings and a rush of hot air. He felt his feet begin to slide out from under him. He would have fallen if the large man hadn't reached out and grabbed him by the collar.

Two identical young black men, unremarkable except for the amazing darkness of their skin, now stood on either side of Mulder. "Zwarte Piet," the bearded man said solemnly. "If they had been here a few minutes earlier, I wouldn't have wound up in the wrong room."

"No, of course not," Mulder replied, as if it made sense.

The tall man frowned. "'Santa Claus conquers the Martians,'" he said at last. "Make time to watch it with Emily. I think she'd appreciate it."

"Emily?" Mulder asked. "Who's Emily?"

"You ask a lot of questions, Mulder. I don't have the time to answer any more of them. My duties await, and contrary to legend, I work every night of the year."

"What duties are those?" Mulder asked.

Instead of answering, the old man, now seeming even older, walked away, opening a door that barely hung on its hinges.

"There you are," Santa said.

Mulder peeked around the door frame. Inside, huddled in the corner was a tiny figure, a girl somewhere between the ages of 5 and 7. Her hair was a muddled blonde, both unwashed and unbrushed. Silver duct tape crisscrossed her pink fiberfill coat.

"Tamara's mother is out turning tricks," Santa said, "but she's not very professional about it. She's doing it, none the less, so she can afford a real meal and maybe a toy for the child."

Mulder nodded.

"As I said, she isn't very professional, Mulder. A professional would know to get a little high before a John than very high after. Tamara's mother is overdosing as we speak. She isn't coming back for the child. No one is."

Mulder reached for his cell phone. "I'll call-" he began.

"No need," Santa answered as he entered the room.

"What are you...?" Mulder gasped as Santa lifted the child in one hand, curled like a kitten, more like the carved figure of a sleeping child than a living breathing little girl.

As Santa opened his great black bag in some terrible satire of the Christmas images Mulder had seen all his life, spreading its terrible maw for the sleeping girl.

A moment of clarity came too late for him. A vortex made of two black birds descended upon him and Mulder, desperate, lunged forward, and dove, head first, into the sack

He had paid no attention to the bag before, but now it appeared to contain all time and space. As his body flew toward it, he saw stars, not the sort of stars that were preceded by a blow to the head, but the every-night-out-the-window kind of stars, with the sort of depth that can't be faked and only comes with millions of miles of distance and --

-- and the sack was rimmed with gold. How had he missed that?

Just past the edge of the bag Mulder saw the Martha's Vineyard of his childhood; Samantha exhausted in a sea of spent wrapping paper and grey sky out the front window. He saw his adult self and a silent little brown haired boy. He saw a somber blonde girl, no older than four, with a Mr. Potatohead in her hands. His hands reached for the sides of the bag as he watched Scully pull a sheet over the child's face.

Chaos overtook him.

He screamed.

It took some time before he was able to make any sense of anything that was happening. There was hot fur in his face and calls from all around him, deafening and angry. At first he was unable to sort them out, but soon he realized they were the screams of hunters, the barking of dogs, and he was clinging to the back of a reindeer, but a bigger, sleeker, more menacing reindeer than he was aware existed. The sound of its hooves rang out like an angry bell.

He looked forward through the massive horns. The mob of hunters was huge and motley. Some rode reindeer just as he did, while others sat astride donkeys and horses, even ostriches and swans, while the most beautiful woman he had ever seen rode a hog the size of an elephant.

It was like a merry-go-round, he thought. Only live. Only dangerous beyond description. Only insane.

Finally sure enough to relax his grip on Ol' Blitzen, he craned his neck. Santa was at the head of the pack, on a huge spotted horse that, no matter how hard Mulder looked, appeared to have more legs than any horse ought to.

Mulder willed the beast he rode forward, toward Old Nick at the front of the group. It was a strange sensation, now, almost as if the animal had become his legs. His heart beat hard in his chest when he realized they were chasing something; something real.

He caught sight of a hart just beyond the snapping dogs as he reached Santa' s side. Tamara sat in front of the old man, between his huge belly and the neck of the terrifying beast he rode, but she didn't seem at all afraid. Mulder heard her laugh out loud, gleeful and shrill, the sound rising above the din of the hunt for a split second. Then she clapped her hands.

Santa turned to Mulder. In that instant, his face was not the face Mulder had seen before; what faced him now was a death's head wrapped in creased and weathered skin, wrecked yellowed teeth like broken piano keys smiling at him. Tamara beamed beatifically.

"Merry Christmas," the low voice said.

In terror, Mulder raced ahead of the hunt. He came, for the shortest of seconds, in sight of the deer. Bambi's father didn't have anything on this guy. He glowed with a light Mulder had seen attributed to gods and saints, but never to an animal. It was the truest example of majesty he had ever seen.

He found himself bewildered in the face of it, though it was lost to his sight again in seconds and the rest of the hunt was soon beside him.

Again he surged forward on his reindeer, but this time it took much longer, hours it seemed, to break from the pack and catch sight of the hart again. And as he did so, he saw, in a twinkling, something he could not believe.


The hart had transfigured, and become Scully.

Special Agent Dana Katharine Scully, MD. In her black pants suit, and the white shirt with the wide lapels, gold cross laying flat against the hollow of her throat.

She looked him in the eye with all the keen intelligence at her disposal, and even the power of thought left him. In a flicker, it was the hart that stood before him again.

Now he knew it was a holy thing, the only holy thing he'd ever seen face to face.

He felt dizzy. The sound of hooves and hounds and screams reaching out for him Mulder looked down to realize that all this time he had been flying, his mount running on air. Behind him little Tamara let loose a shrill banshee cry of joy.

What was he looking for? What had he been looking for all these years?

He let go of Blitzen and fell and fell and fell for a very long time.

It was a very headachy Mulder who awoke on a couch in Takoma Park, Maryland to find six eyes staring at him. Or maybe it was twelve. His vision jumped. No, just six. That was plenty.

"So who was it, dude?" He was clearly able to make out Langly's low twang and lank hair as his eyesight cleared slowly. "NSA? CIA? FEMA?"

"McDonald Douglas?" Frohike asked. "Time/Warner/AOL?"

"Are you all right?" Byers asked, worry in his voice.

"What? No Merry Christmas?" Mulder groaned.

"Whoever it was they musta used some primo shit, muchacho. You snored all the way through the holiday," Frohike snorted.

"And the day after," Byers added.

"how did I-" Mulder started, then, wisely stopped.

"We found you knocked out in the alley Christmas morning," Frohike said.

"Banged up plenty too," Langly said.

"I guess that beats banged out and knocked up." Mulder squinted.

Langly rolled his eyes. Frohike half-laughed, half-coughed.

"So, what happened?" Byers asked.

"If I told you I was sure, I'd be lying. But I think I took a ride with Saint Nick," he said, breathing in the smell of fur and gingerbread that still clung to his shirt.

The gunmen only stared in reply

So Mulder spoke again rubbing his forehead. "For some strange reason I keep waiting for the short kid with the crutches to say 'God bless us, everyone' but that might be the wrong story."

"Would you like an aspirin?" Byers asked.

All Mulder could do was nod.

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