Title: Still, Still, Still
Author: Tess and Jacquie LaVa
Rating: NC-17
Keywords: SAR
Category: MSR
Spoilers: General through S9
Distribution: Ask and ye shall receive
Disclaimers: Not ours; never were; sadly, never will be. Characters contained in this story are the property of Fox & 1013 Productions

Summary: It's Christmas, and they can't bear the separation one more day.

"Still, still, still... One can hear the falling snow..."

December 23, 2001 6:45 p.m.

The man, tall and lean with dark hair, curls one arm around the woman and holds an umbrella overhead, protecting her and the tiny, snowsuit-clad bundle cradled in her arms from the freezing rain that is falling from the heavens above. The woman, her distinct cinnamon-colored hair tucked under a woolen cap, struggles to match his much longer stride, careful not to jostle the sleeping baby as the three hurry across the short distance toward the waiting car and shelter from the elements.

She quickly settles the babe into the car seat provided by the rental car agency, then slides into her own seat. As she fumbles with her seatbelt, she turns her head. His face is lit by the dim green glow of the dashboard as he fiddles with the controls of the heater. When a blast of warmth begins to take the chill off the air in the car, his relieved smile is a flash of white in the darkness.

"All set?" he asks. His voice is hushed in deference to the child who sleeps and dreams in the seat behind them. She glances over her shoulder, constantly confirming the child's safety. When she nods, he slips the gearshift into drive and they pull out of the parking lot. She consults a map dug out of the glove compartment and quickly directs him toward the highway. The compass on the dashboard tells them that they are heading north - finally heading north - and she heaves a thankful sigh that they are on the last leg of this journey.

The decision to make the trip had been a sudden one. Information had fallen into his hands leading him north to Canada and she would not be left behind. Carrying false identification and a generous amount of cash hidden in what, to all outward appearances was a bundle of dirty diapers; they had set off two days earlier. Their route was circuitous as they sought to throw off anyone who might be following them and they had traveled by plane and bus and finally by car as they zigzagged east and west, south and now north across the states that bordered the Atlantic Ocean.

Earlier her heart had been thrumming with anticipation and worry, but now her eyelids droop with weariness brought on by two days spent traveling with a sometimes-fractious four-month-old, while constantly looking over her shoulder for any unseen danger that might be following them. As the car's tires cover mile after mile drawing them ever closer to the U.S./Canadian border, she gives in to the pull of sleep.

He glances to his right and his lips curl upward in a fond smile. She is slumping heavily in her seat and were it not for the safety belt locked firmly over her torso, he is convinced that she would slide to the floor in a puddle of exhaustion. Stray wisps of hair escape the confines of the cap that covers her head and dark smudges of color beneath her eyes bear witness to the worries and fatigue that have plagued her not just since they had left Washington, DC, but for the last four months.

Initially, he had been reluctant to bring her along on this trip. He had an agenda of his own... answers to be sought and had and he had chafed with the knowledge that her presence and that of the child would slow him down from discovering his truth. He had cited the possible dangers of the trip and the frustrations of traveling with a small child, but his arguments had died under her determined but pleading blue eyes, and in the end she had her way.

The headlights of the car illuminate a road sign that tells him they are closing in on their destination. He glances down at the speedometer. Traffic is light; they will be there in less than an hour's time.

A gentle hand squeezing her shoulder through her woolen coat rouses her. She straightens in her seat and rubs her hands over her face, peering blearily through the window. She had slept right through the border crossing. The streets are crowded with holiday revelers bundled up against the cold weather in brightly colored parkas and mittens. The trees that line the streets glitter with hundreds of tiny, white lights. People bustle in and out of the hotels, restaurants and shops, the buildings both quaint and tacky. She can hear a roaring sound in the near distance muffled by the steady thump-thump of the car's tires and its windows rolled up against the biting cold. She watches people streaming past the car as they pull into an outdoor parking lot. She jams her hands into her gloves and winds her scarf tightly around her neck before climbing out of the car.

"Thank you, John." She smiles and takes the baby from his outstretched arms, pulling the hood tightly over the child's tiny head. A warm blanket, knit by her mother's patient hands, further protects him from the sharp gusts of wind that swirl around them.

"Ready, Dana?" he asks as he curls his arm around her waist again. She flashes a hesitant smile at him, gratefully accepting the warmth of his body against her own; together they set off. The noise is louder now, a thunder of powerful sound that accompanies the excited crowds and strolling carolers. It is in this throng of tourists and holiday merrymakers that they hope to lose themselves and throw off any relentless pursuers that may have tracked them this far.

They push into the crowd and hurry toward the center of town. As they round a corner, a small gasp is pulled from her at the sight of the majestic falls brilliantly lit in the darkness. The sound of the water relentlessly plunging over the rocks is overwhelming and her throat tightens at the sheer beauty of this amazing wonder wrought by God's powerful hand. She adjusts the blanket over the baby, shielding him from the mist that perpetually hangs in the air. She chances a last glance at the glories of Niagara Falls before allowing John to lead her away.

Their rapid pace slows as they reach their destination. A large crowd has gathered around a massive Christmas tree and they push their way to the center of the throng. Peering out from beneath his hood and blanket, the baby's eyes reflect the thousands of glittering, twinkling lights that drip from the tree's boughs. A choir climbs onto a dais and Scully rests her cheek against William's head and closes her eyes as the soft, gentle strains of "Silent Night" sweep over them. She is swaying with the music and her throat is tight as she reflects back on a year fraught with terror and fear and deep, deep loneliness. One tear tracks silently over the chilled skin of her cheek and she swipes it away with a gloved hand. Scully determinedly pushes down tears that threaten to choke her. Tonight is not about sadness. It is supposed to be about joy and love and hope for the future.

A heavy hand settles on her head and she tilts her chin up. His beloved face smiles down at her and she gasps as she throws one arm out to pull him into her embrace.

"Mulder!" Her voice is a whisper against the soft wool of the scarf that is wrapped around his strong throat. The tears that shimmer in his hazel eyes belie his happy grin. Even with the heavy stubble that darkens his cheeks and jaw, he is more handsome than she remembered. A lock of hair tumbles over his forehead in a way that she remembered from long ago when his hair had been longer.

She clutches him tightly and William squawks indignantly at being squashed in his parents' desperate embrace. Scully laughs tearfully and loosens her grip - but doesn't let go - as her eyes rove hungrily over his face.

He's been standing in the square for hours, waiting. The wind kicked up and blew shards of icy snow into his eyes - he didn't notice. The tips of his toes began to stick together with the humid cold being manufactured in his not-warm-enough Doc Martens. It didn't matter. The thermo-lined leather gloves on his hands became ineffectual about six groups of tourists ago...

He could have cared less.

Everything in the world that kept his body and soul warm and nurtured was out there somewhere, making a direct path to him. It's all Mulder could think about, since receiving notification from John Byers that he was coming north - and bringing Scully and William with him.

Scully never knew that all this time the Gunmen had been in frequent contact with him. That was because Mulder had refused to let them say a word. The cut- off from his family had to be total and complete if he was going to protect them, as well as keep himself alive for them. It broke his heart to know that a word or two from any of the guys could have eased her fears so easily - but they didn't dare say those words. Their devoted silence meant the world to Mulder.

It had been so dangerous to call them. He'd taken a horrible chance. His rationale was that he had to get some plans in the works before much more time flew by - and so he took that chance; made the call on a day and an hour when he knew they would have just completed a thorough sweep. It was still so dangerous - but he'd had to make the call, after receiving the coded email from Byers telling him that a trip north was in the cards for him - to search for Suzanne Modeski. Byers had gotten a tip; a clue as to her whereabouts... and he had to try. Try and find her; try and connect with her. So he'd told Mulder, in a coded email, on the off chance there was a slim opportunity for them to meet up even if that meeting would extend no longer than five minutes. Mulder's voice had been muted and pleading on the phone.

"Byers, you HAVE to bring Scully and William with you. Please. I know you'd be taking a dangerous chance. I know I shouldn't ask. But Jesus... I need them, need to see them..." Mulder hadn't meant to beg. Standing in a small phone booth outside a run-down Mom and Pop store, out in the middle of nowhere - he had tried to be strong, to resist the pull of longing. He'd really tried...

But no amount of inner strength in the world could have stopped him from begging John Byers to bring his loved ones with him when he headed north in search of Suzanne. John had been hesitant... afraid to bring Scully and the baby on a potentially dangerous trip; reluctant to slow down his own quest for the woman he loved. But he had agreed to talk to Scully. He'd reported back to Mulder that there had never been any question in her mind about coming to him; that she'd cast aside her own fears and practically begged him to bring her to Mulder.

That level of trust was so precious to him.

Now he stands in the square and he holds his family tightly in his arms. Scully's tears wet his scarf and drip onto what little of his throat is exposed to the elements. He manages to free up one hand, and reaches out to clasp Byers' gloved fingers in a gratefully hard grasp, which his friend returns with affection. Scully raises her head from his shoulder and her teary eyes regard Byers with equal affection and gratitude. Reluctantly Mulder looses his hold on her, long enough to allow her to embrace Byers and kiss his cold cheek.

"John - thank you. For everything, so much more than either of us can repay. And thanks for this, too!" Scully runs her palm along Byers' clean-shaven jaw; he'd sacrificed his beloved beard in an attempt to make himself less recognizable. Byers grins into her hand and then bends down to return her kiss.

"You three... take care of each other the next few days. Have the best Christmas you can - but don't wait too long to return them to DC, Mulder - I've got a feeling you'll be watched closely. I don't want to know how you send them back; the less I know, the better! Whoever may have been following behind us, Mulder... they have to think she and William have just been on a holiday trip." He squeezes Scully again, drops a kiss on William's little cheek - impulsively hugs Mulder, hard, adding, "I have to leave now. I don't want to wait any longer to find Suzanne. I've waited much too long already."

Byers lets go of Mulder and spares all three of them one last smile. With a quick glance around to assure they are not being observed, he turns and melts into the bustling holiday crowd. In less than five seconds he has melded completely. Scully and Mulder both watch him leave, Scully with a worried frown on her face that he knows must be mirrored in his eyes.

Taking William from Scully's arms and hitching the baby more securely against his shoulder, Mulder curves his free arm around Scully's waist, still in awe of the fact that he can actually do it. Jesus... she really is here - she really is touchable and kissable and he's just so grateful. Uncaring of the thicker snow falling down or the increasing cold night wind - or the utter danger of being out here in the open - Mulder leans down and catches Scully's soft mouth; kisses her deeply. For endless seconds their lips cling and move upon each other's. Oh, he's missed this, so much... the magic of kissing Dana Scully has been a sweetness he's craved for way too many months.

After long seconds more, kissing with passion in the middle of the tourist district of the Falls... Mulder finally releases her mouth and murmurs regretfully, "We have to move along, Scully. It's dangerous to stay here. Come on." He leads her out of the square and across the street into a parking lot illed with cars. Toward the end he picks out a nondescript Ford, nodding over at it, "My clunker. It's a heap but it's warm and it has great snow tires." He ushers his family to the car; unlocks and opens the door. Inside, there's a baby car seat buckled into the center of the back seat. The sight of it brings tears to Scully's eyes. Mulder can see her struggle to blink them back, as she eases the sleeping William into the seat and fastens him in. The single duffle bag and diaper bag she brought with her is stowed in the trunk next to an odd assortment of boxes and whatnot.

Once Scully is safely inside Mulder buckles his belt and they're off. Easing his way through the throngs of raucous holiday revelers still enjoying the sights and sounds of the holiday square, they make it out of the city limits. It's still fairly early in the evening - not yet nine o'clock - but it's very dark out and as they venture further and further out of the populated areas the traffic thins out to almost nothing. It's best this way - easier to see if they are being followed. Mulder knows he's being paranoid. He has good reason to be...

Next to him Scully leans her head against the passenger side window; she has stripped off her gloves and her left hand clasps Mulder's thigh, covered by his free hand. They twine their fingers through each other's and although there is verbal silence in the car neither feels an overwhelming need to talk. Low in the interior of the car the radio plays Christmas music and Mulder catches himself humming little snatches of it. It has started to snow again and will probably do so all through the rest of the night. The further north they go the heavier the snow will become. It's a harsh environment, this part of Canada - but so very beautiful.

After thirty minutes of silence, punctuated by holiday melodies and the occasional squeeze of Scully's hand, Mulder is desperate to know what she's thinking. He chances taking his eyes off the slippery road long enough to steal a glance at her face, still pale and tired-looking - but still the loveliest sight he's seen in many months. He clears his throat and the sound causes her to swing those sleepy eyes his way.

"Scully... you have to know how much it means to me..." That's as far as he gets before she utters a small gulp of distress and leans over his way, straining against her seatbelt until she can reach his cheek; until she can kiss the dark stubble there. Her free hand manages to curve itself around his neck and her ragged whisper feathers against the cheek she just kissed.

"Mulder, God. I know. I can't tell you how much it means to ME - the chance you're taking, for William and me -" She swallows audibly and presses her forehead down on his shoulder, adding, "I thought we'd never see you... I thought I'd lost you... I've been so lonely, Mulder!" Her voice breaks on his name and she buries her face in his parka and weeps. Mulder grips her hand and murmurs brokenly to her, leaning his head in to rub his cheek against her bright hair. He's dying to pull over, stop the car - take her into his arms and kiss her senseless. The two or three kisses they shared in Niagara Falls were not nearly enough to sustain him on their long journey - but they will have to last; he can't stop, not even for five minutes. He soothes her as best as he can with the caress of his cheek upon her hair and the impassioned words he speaks to her.

"Scully, oh Baby... I can't express how miserable I've been - how isolated and lonely, too. I want to stop this car and hold you - God, you can't know how badly! - but we have to keep driving." He can feel her nod against his shoulder; she straightens up and he releases her hand long enough for her to wipe at her eyes and pull a tissue out of her pocket to blow her nose. She turns around and checks on William, who's snoring soft little baby-snorts into the warm interior of the car. Turning back to face front, Scully links fingers with Mulder again, and her low query is shaky but her voice is in better control.

"Where are we going, Mulder? You never said." Mulder meets her eyes again, briefly, and smiles tenderly at her.

"No, I didn't. On purpose. It's better if you don't know, Baby. Truly, it is." Scully nods and then her next words cause him to chuckle out loud.

"Okay, then. I won't push it. By the way, Mulder... you do realize that you've called me 'Baby' twice in just a few minutes... don't you?" He nods and another chuckle slips out.

"Yeah, I do. Don't you like it? If you don't like it then I'll call you something else. Maybe 'Honeybunch', or 'Cutie-Pie'..." Now it's Scully's turn to release a small chuckle of her own, as she considers her options and weeds out the worst of the endearments.

"No, it's okay, Mulder. I like 'Baby'. I like it a lot. It makes me feel safe, and loved." His reply is a soft affirmation in the cozy confines of the car.

"Oh, Baby... you are. Safe, and so very loved."

It is the change from smooth asphalt to bumpy gravel under the car's tires that awakens her. Scully straightens in her seat and twists her head to check on William. The baby is wide-awake, contentedly sucking on two fingers and staring out of the car's windows. They had only been driving a short while when her eyelids began to droop again. She had fought against sleep - not wanting to sacrifice one precious moment of this stolen time with Mulder to something as mundane as sleep - but the Christmas music softly playing on the radio and the familiar, comfortable sensation of having Mulder beside her in the car worked against her.

Glancing at the illuminated clock on the dashboard, she notes that she has only been sleeping for about an hour. Feeling a bit muzzy-headed, she stretches in the tight confines of her seat.

"Where are we?" she wonders aloud. Mulder has both hands on the steering wheel as he negotiates the Ford along a narrow gravel road winding up a steep hill.

"We're almost there," he reassures her. Scully dips her head down, peering through the windshield. The sky has cleared and in the moonlight she studies their surroundings. In the distance she can see the glimmer of lights coming from the small houses that dot the hills around them. The grassy fields and valleys are covered with snow, the pristine blanket of white marred only by the footprints of rabbits and deer and other wildlife that share this remote area with the humans who have decided to make it their home.

The road curves again and Scully can see a small cabin sitting like a sentinel on top of the hill. She sees the warm glow of a light spilling from the windows as Mulder pulls the car alongside the cabin and stops. Pushing her door open, Scully climbs to her feet and stretches muscles that ache from two days of non- stop travel. The air is hushed and peaceful around them and moonlight bounces off the carpet of white illuminating everything with that odd light that only snow can bring.

He's found himself a magical place, she thinks as she turns to watch him gently lift William from the car. Father and son take a moment to study each other and unbidden tears once more spring to Scully's eyes as William plops his head down on Mulder's shoulder, snuggling close to his father and popping two fingers back into his mouth.

"Let's go inside." Mulder starts for the cabin and Scully grabs William's diaper bag out of the car and hurries after them. Mulder pushes the door open and steps aside to allow Scully to enter first.

"I'm renting it," he tells her as she turns around to take in her surroundings. The cabin is not large by any measure, but it isn't cramped or tight either. Cozy, she thinks. The wooden planks of the walls have mellowed to a golden hue and soft carpets are scattered across the smooth floor. A pot-bellied stove glows warmly in the kitchen, but the reassuring sight of modern appliances tells Scully that it is meant more for warmth than for cooking. She can't imagine Mulder cooking on such an antique... then again, she can't imagine Mulder cooking, period.

A heavy table and four sturdy high-backed chairs sit in the middle of the kitchen, which opens directly into the living area. A slightly worn sofa in a dark blue and green plaid with a matching loveseat and chair are grouped together near the fireplace, which stands dark and cold at the moment. Handing William to her Mulder crouches and quickly has a small fire dancing merrily in the hearth. The room has a decidedly masculine feel to it. There isn't much in the way of decoration to the cabin. No pictures hang on the walls and shutters, not curtains, hang alongside the windows. But tucked in the far corner of the room is a Christmas tree. It stands ever so slightly crooked, and strand after strand of colored lights are its only ornamentation. Its heady, woodsy fragrance scents the air. Scully glances down to see her baby's dazzled eyes desperately trying to focus on the tiny pinpoints of light and she moves closer to the tree. Mulder's fingers are tucked into the pockets of his jeans and his face holds an uncertain expression.

"It's beautiful," she tells him and her face holds the same dazzled expression as their son's. Blue eyes meet hazel and she feels a longing for him every bit as intense as when there were hundreds upon hundreds of miles between them instead of only a few feet. The moment is shattered as William arches his back and lets out an irritated wail.

"He's hungry," she says and walks over to sit on the loveseat and wrestle the baby out of his snowsuit. She shrugs out of her own coat and reaches for the buttons on her shirt with one hand as she lifts the baby in her other arm. Suddenly feeling awkward, Mulder spins toward the door.

"I'll get your bag," he mutters as he yanks open the door and steps out into the cold. He returns a few minutes later and stops at the sight of Scully and William sitting on his sofa. He'd only had two days with them before fate and their enemies had driven him away. Now he drinks in the sight of mother and child safe and warm in the place where he lives but which only truly became his home when they walked through the door.

Scully cradles William in one arm. A tiny, blue-socked foot pushes rhythmically against the palm of her hand in a game they play each night. His rosy lips are latched tightly around her nipple and teensy fingers flex open and closed against the softness of her breast in concert with his suckling mouth. Mother and son watch each other with eyes the identical shade of blue. Four months later and she continues to be amazed by the sight of this miracle in her arms. She has come to treasure these quiet moments with William. Late at night, sitting in the rocker in his nursery, cuddling him close and feeling the rhythmic tug of his mouth on her breast, she was able to let everything else fall away. For those few moments each night, when the streets were silent, she allowed the rest of the world and all of its worries and loneliness fade into the background.

But tonight, despite her focus on the child in her arms, she is intensely aware of his father standing on the other side of the room, watching them. Holding out her hand, she beckons to him and he comes to her.

"Wow! When was the last time he ate?" Mulder laughs and pokes a forefinger toward William. The baby is startled and her nipple falls from his mouth. His lips are wet and he blows a milky bubble, which provokes his father into laughing again. William's forehead furrows in a manner reminiscent of Scully. He lets out an agitated cry over his interrupted meal and Scully guides the baby's mouth back to her nipple. Once again slurping happily at his mother's breast, William accepts his father's proffered finger, squeezing it tightly in his little fist.

Finally sated, William's eyes grow heavy-lidded and his lips fall slack around the nipple in his mouth. Mulder reaches with eager hands for his son and Scully eases the child into his waiting arms. Mulder handles him with all of the awkwardness of a new father, gingerly lifting William to his shoulder.

"Just rub his back," Scully tells him as she fastens the cup of her nursing bra and buttons her shirt. Mulder's hand is huge against William's back. He pushes to his feet to walk the perimeter of the room, whispering to the baby until he elicits the long- awaited burp. William fidgets in his arms for a few seconds before he nods off to sleep, his little bottom sagging heavily against Mulder's forearm.

Scully is curled up in one corner of the sofa, enthralled by the picture they make standing near the twinkling Christmas tree and she takes a mental snapshot of the moment to take home with her at the end of the week.

She's startled out of her reverie by the low rumble of his voice.

"Are you hungry?" He looks over the top of William's head inquiringly. Scully shakes her head.

"I'm more sleepy than hungry," she says. Mulder nods and snatches up the duffle bag, slinging it over his other shoulder and hands her the diaper bag.

"Let's go up, then." He holds out a hand and helps her to her feet. Cradling William carefully against his shoulder with one arm, he holds Scully's hand and she follows him up the stairs.

"There are three bedrooms and one bathroom," he explains as they climb toward the second floor. He pushes open the door to the bathroom so that she can see it and then leads her to the master bedroom.

A queen-sized bed with a simple oak frame and headboard is centered in the room and covered with a thick, downy comforter. Matching oak nightstands and a bureau compliment the bed. The room boasts another fireplace and tall windows look out over the snow-covered meadows. In a corner she spies two armchairs that have been pushed together. A small blanket has been spread and tucked over the cushions and another is draped over the back of one chair, creating a cozy little nest.

"I wanted to get one of those portable cribs," he began apologetically, "but they don't carry items like that in the village nearby. I hope this is okay." He carries William toward the makeshift crib and hesitates, awaiting Scully's approval.

"It's perfect," she declares. She takes William from Mulder and lays him on the bed, rooting through the diaper bag for a clean diaper and his pajamas.

"I'm going to go down to turn off the lights and bank the fire," Mulder tells her. Scully smiles up at him and draws William's wet diaper away from his body. She quickly puts a fresh diaper on the baby and snaps him into his fleecy pajamas. She lays him in his "crib" and tucks the blanket carefully around his tiny body.

She can hear Mulder moving around downstairs as she carries her toiletries bag to the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash some of the grit of two days of travel from her face. By the time Mulder returns to the bedroom, she is bundled into warm pajamas and snuggled under the covers. He moves quietly around the bedroom, tossing his wallet onto the bureau and stripping out of his clothes. Moonlight streams through the window, gilding his naked body in silver for a moment before he draws a pair of flannel pajama bottoms over his legs and shrugs into a long-sleeved T-shirt. She feels a momentary pang that she is too tired to do more than sleep with him in this big, warm bed. It's been over a year since they last made love. Mulder had returned to her at a precarious time in an already troublesome pregnancy and had left two days after William's birth. If pressed, she can recount the exact number of days it has been since last she held this man's body within her own.

Mulder slides under the covers and immediately pulls her toward him. Scully rests her head on his chest and thinks that tonight, sleeping in his arms will be enough. They have a whole week together. A week in which to make new memories to sustain them until the next time they manage to snatch some time together. And she is determined to make every moment of this week count.

She crooks one leg over his thighs, instinctively finding that most comfortable of places in his arms and lets out a delicate yawn.

"Good night, Mulder. I love you."

His sighing drowsy reply makes her fall asleep with a smile on her face.

"Love you back..."

"Sleep, sleep, sleep... 'Tis the Eve of our Savior's Birth..."

When the dawn light just begins to break over the mountains looming in the distance, Mulder carefully pushes aside the covers and eases himself out of bed. He tiptoes over to William's little "crib" and carefully peeks in, meeting the wide-eyed stare of his child. William has a thumb in his mouth and kick in his tiny feet... and judging by the smell wafting over Mulder's twitching nose, one hell of a load in his britches. The odor is strong enough to make his eyes water -

Mulder finds himself delighted by the opportunity to perform something as blessedly normal as changing his son's poopy diapers.

Five minutes later, father and son are in the bathroom, on the floor. William's little bare body wriggles and his grin is wide and gappy in his chubby face as Mulder cleans up the last of his mess and rinses him with a soft washcloth. The diaper isn't overly difficult to figure out, and William is angelic in his behavior as his father struggles with the tabs. Finally the diaper is secure and the child is dressed once again in his fleecy sleeper, which survived leakage, thank goodness. Mulder hefts him up and carries him into the kitchen, sitting him in his baby seat and propping him on the scrubbed oak table. Poking his head into the refrigerator Mulder contemplates breakfast while William crams a fist into his mouth and sucks on it, creating an acceptable substitute for his mommy's nipple.

As he scrambles eggs and toasts wheat bread, Mulder coos to William and makes funny faces at him, eliciting more toothless smiles and an occasional baby-giggle. It's a moment of magic, one that Mulder would like to capture in a glass dome and keep forever. He could shake the dome when he finds himself lonely and isolated; see the way his adorable son smiles while tiny bits of snow float around his downy head... Then he shakes his own head in self-derision, thinking that he needs to be concentrating on the joy of this day rather than agonizing over the uncertain and bleak future. His soft murmur to William causes the baby's little arms and legs to windmill in excitement.

"Okay, Buddy - let's go feed Mommy." Unsnapping William's safety straps, Mulder lifts him from the baby seat and swings him into his arm then picks up a filled plate with his other hand, and heads upstairs to awaken Scully.

The bedroom is cool and dark, but after depositing the plate on the nightstand Mulder snaps on the bathroom light and a soft glow shimmers over the room as he gently places William next to Scully's sleeping form. The baby's gurgling and cooing has his mother awake in a hurry, head popping off the pillow and looking confused for a moment before her eyes glance down and she sees her son grinning up at her, waving his arms and kicking his legs. Mulder perches on the edge of the bed and watches the way her eyes light up and the eagerness of her arms as she scoops William into her embrace and snuggles him close. The baby immediately begins to root for a nipple, and Mulder chuckles at the show of greed. Scully hurriedly bares a breast for him and this time Mulder doesn't turn away at the intimate sight of his son being nourished at his mother's breast. In the pale morning of their bedroom it's such a natural place for him to be - sitting close to the woman he loves while she feeds their son from her own body. He picks up the plate of eggs and toast and his smile is decidedly wicked as he forks a hunk of still- warm breakfast and brings it to Scully's lips.

"Morning, Scully... open up. You need your nourishment, too." Her answering smile warms him from the inside out as she murmurs a reply before opening her mouth and allowing Mulder to feed her, the suckling baby cuddled between them.

"You made me breakfast... thank you, Mulder..."

The morning is slow to evolve and truthfully Mulder wouldn't have it any other way. He's been on the run for months, moving from place to place. He hasn't had much of an opportunity to just relax, not even in his sleep. It's seemed as if he always had to be on his guard, watching and waiting. Waiting for someone to recognize him. Waiting for the crash of his door at night and the stomp of feet, coming for him. Worse yet, waiting to hear that final horrifying rumor, that these mysterious "They" finally gave up on him and zeroed in their efforts on Scully, and William...

He plays with William's little bare toes while Scully putters around in the bathroom, finishing up. William is ecstatic to be lying on the bed, naked and unfettered except for his diaper. The room is very warm and Mulder can well understand the pure fun of wriggling down into cozy flannel sheets. He gets a grip on tiny toes and plays "This Little Piggy" with the gurgling baby, knowing full well that Scully stands in the doorway watching them, and her eyes are probably blurry with tears -

Just like his.

Later in the morning while Scully unpacks her things and puts them away and William takes his nap, Mulder heads outside to chop more wood. They probably have enough stockpiled in the woodshed but there's no sense in taking chances. The day is very cold out but clear with a watery sun providing mostly visual warmth. Mulder splits enough extra logs to assure they make it through a month or more, and tries not to think about the fact that there will be plenty of wood left over when they leave in a week.

A week... Jesus. Mulder leans on his axe and wipes off the sweat from his forehead. How the hell is he going to be able to let them go in a week?

"Mulder?" He snaps out of his funk to realize Scully is standing in front of him looking up at him with her worry lines in place. She cups a palm around his cheek and Mulder finds himself leaning into her soft hand. "What are you doing... planning on heating the entire countryside?" Her chin points toward the huge pile of split logs and Mulder follows her gaze and his chuff of laughter is rich with the acknowledgment that he went overboard again.

"Guess it looks like a lot, doesn't it? But we don't know how cold it's gonna get. I've never been in this part of Canada so far into the winter season, so better to be safe than sorry - and I sure as hell don't want to be chopping wood in the middle of the night because we ran out!" Resting the axe up against a stack of logs, he pulls Scully into his arms and snuggles her as close as he can with several layers of down, thermofill and flannel between them. With a sigh she rests her head under his chin as her arms curl around his waist. They press together and rock a little in their heavy boots. And as if on cue it starts to snow softly, the storm clouds having moved in just as silently as the drifting crystallized flakes.

For Mulder it's another magical moment that he wishes like hell he could keep forever. Their opportunities of holding each other like this have been so few and far between. The platonic affection they enjoyed as partners evaporated into nothingness the first time he peeled the clothes from her trembling body and whispered his love to her as she absorbed him into her very soul. And as with anything pure and perfect and priceless, that episode in their lives occurred with the rarity of a flawless diamond. They knew it, even as they rose and fell against each other; even as they'd gripped and clasped and kissed and climaxed.

Their reunion, before William's birth, was wracked with confusion and pain and worry - danger and so much uncertainty. In reality they had almost no time together as a romantic couple and even less as proud parents - before Mulder had left. Now they have a week and the desire to cram everything into those minutes and hours is strong.

But right now, this minute... there's a gentle snowfall and the still of the day is absolute and muffled by the mountains surrounding them and the silence they keep sacred between themselves. And yes, they need to talk. Badly.

But not now. Not this minute. Maybe later...

Later comes, and with it a hungry William awakening from his nap and demanding his fair share of mother's milk. While Mulder clears up the remains of their soup and sandwich lunch, Scully curls on the sofa in front of the roaring fireplace and nurses their son. William is especially greedy and demands a pull from each breast, so Scully indulges him by switching back and forth between nipples. Mulder walks into the living room in time to see her working a loud burp from William's stuffed little tummy. The sound ricochets around the quiet room and Mulder laughs aloud, startling his son. He pulls his family into his arms and settles down into the sofa cushions, thinking that now might be a good time to talk...

"You want to talk, don't you?" Scully's soft voice is firm and her eyes are clear and staring directly into his. Mulder nods, and drops a gentle kiss on her lips, before he replies.

"I think we should. I hate to break the mood but a week is gonna fly by so fast - and there are things we need to decide." He lays the now-sleeping William into the folds of an afghan placed at the end of the sofa, and moves a corner of the low coffee table in front of the swaddled baby, just in case he moves around. With their son secure Mulder faces Scully again, and takes her fully into his arms, locking his eyes with hers.

"Scully... I can't come back yet. I don't know how long it's going to be - if ever - before I can return to you. The guys keep me posted on what's going on. Don't ask me how; the less you know the better. And I hear things... about William." At the mention of their son Scully's eyes get round with shock and she pushes away from him, enough to fully see into his earnest face.

"Things. What kind of things, Mulder? What?" He sighs.

"I think you already know, don't you? Our son is special. Beyond the fact that he's our son and therefore a miracle in our eyes, he's also a miracle in other ways. What makes him a miracle may also make him valuable in much the same way as Gibson Praise. I'm not telling you anything you don't already know... and we have to face facts. What I have heard so far is only rumor, faithfully reported by the guys. Right now the bulk of those we fight against haven't got a clue about William - but sooner or later they will." As he speaks Scully's blue eyes fill with tears and she swallows hard and ruthlessly forces them down. Now isn't the time to show any weakness...

"I know, Mulder. I know what William is capable of; I've seen it for myself. And I know we're probably living in the public eye on borrowed time. I've told myself I won't exist in fear and in the shadows; won't bring our son up to be afraid." Mulder strokes her bright hair as she struggles to keep her voice level and calm. "I can't deny that I need for you to come home. It's been the hardest four months of my life, Mulder - It has just about killed me. But to keep you safe, I could put up with anything -" He interrupts her, taking her by the shoulders and gazing into her blurry eyes.

"Could you put up with a disappearing act, Scully? Could you leave it behind, if it meant keeping our baby safe and relatively free from harm? If it meant that we could be together, could you say goodbye to your family and our friends, the way I've had to do?" He watches her reaction carefully. He knows she's thinking about her mother, first and foremost. He knows the depth of pain a separation like that could cost her... But this is his life, too. And he's drowning in the loneliness and the loss of the two people in the world he cherishes and adores. He's been drowning for four months -

"What are you saying, Mulder? You want to keep us with you, on the run the way you've had to live?" She pulls from his embrace and jumps to her feet, the jerking of the sofa awakening William who immediately begins to fuss and snuffle. With a hard sigh Mulder scoops him out of the afghan nest and props the fretful child against his shoulder, rubbing a soothing palm over his little back. As the baby quiets under his father's gentle hand, Scully begins to pace.

"I've thought about it, you know. Jesus, you have no idea how often I've thought about it! But how can I do it, Mulder? What sort of a life can we offer a baby, running like that? How many places have you lived in the last four months? How many days have you stayed in each place?" At the silence from the man who suddenly can't seem to meet her eyes, Scully plunges on.

"And my mother, Mulder... how can I deprive her of William? He's the only grandchild she gets to see on a somewhat regular basis. She's given up on Charlie ever having children and she barely makes it out to Bill's to see the kids. There's no easy way to simply say 'Yes' to you!" Her voice breaking up, Scully scrubs at her face hard with fingers that visibly tremble, and Mulder finds himself on his feet, bearing down into her personal space with William now gurgling happily against his neck.

"I'm not asking you to simply say 'yes' to me, Scully. There's nothing simple about this. Yes, I've been on the run. A lot. I've stayed maybe a couple of weeks at the longest at any one place and I've zigzagged all over the goddamn continent to insure I stay invisible. I've been lucky so far. And I've hated every second of it. This isn't living, Scully... it's a slow death." Mulder rocks from side to side in an attempt to lull William back to sleep, and drops his voice to an intense murmur.

"I can't do this any longer. Maybe it's only been four months but it feels like a fucking lifetime. I've already missed way too much of William's life - and I ache for you, Scully. I go to bed at night in pain and I don't sleep. I wake up in the morning and I'm exhausted and sore and miserable and lonely. I've lost a hell of a lot in my life but the sadness of those losses pales in comparison to the utter despair I felt when I shut that door between us and left with a suitcase in each hand."

His own eyes moisten with tears when he sees the effect his words have on Scully's already stretched emotions. But he's reluctant let this go; afraid to let the decision waffle in the air while they waltz around it and attempt to maintain normalcy during the next several days. He hates that he is pushing her. But the trusting and sweet weight of his child is in his arms and the love of his life stands before him with worry etched into her beautiful face. And Mulder feels like an utter shit for pressing his advantage...

But this is his life. And hers. He hoists William closer and leans his cheek on the baby's fuzzy little head. When he speaks again he can see for himself how the poignancy of his gesture hits Scully like an arrow.

"Look... I know this is monumental to try and process, all in just one sitting. I know you have far more in your life right now to consider, than just me. You have your family to worry about and that burden was already lifted from me, so to speak." He swallows hard, and his voice drops to a raspy whisper.

"You and William are the reason I exist, Scully. That's it. That's all there is - all that matters now. I'm going to lay him down for a little while, see if he goes back to sleep. Maybe we should just forget about this for a little while; do something together. Nothing needs to be decided immediately."

When she sighs and nods wearily, Mulder smiles a little, in relief. He leans into Scully and places a nibbling little kiss on her lower lip, then straightens and winks at her, turning toward the stairway. Carrying the sleeping baby up to his nap, Mulder thinks to himself that regardless of the rest of the days' activities this subject will weigh heavily on their minds, especially Scully's. He snuggles William down into the middle of their bed and places pillows all around him, securing his movements. Leaving a light on and the door open in case the child awakens, Mulder heads back downstairs, rubbing at his tired eyes.

This is his life he's fighting for. This time it's too important for mere acquiescence. He won't lose them...

Not again.

The rest of the day passes quickly as Mulder does his best to entertain both Scully and William. The radio in the kitchen is tuned to a station playing holiday standards. Bing Crosby's rendition of 'White Christmas' inspires Mulder to bundle his family into layers of warm clothing before taking them outside. He holds William close to his chest, protecting the baby from the gusts of wind that whip around them and send the falling snowflakes into a crazy, swirling dance.

His free hand is wrapped firmly around Scully's as they tromp through pristine tracts of snow. Mulder pauses when a small herd of deer carefully picks its way out of the woods surrounding the cabin and steps into the clearing. He turns to the side and tries to direct William's attention toward the deer. The baby's cheeks are pink with the cold and he is more interested in chewing on the drawstring securing the hood of his snowsuit around his face than he is in watching the deer. Mulder whispers to the baby who merely squeals and slaps one mittened hand against his father's face. The deer bound back into the woods at the sound of William's happy shriek and Mulder turns to Scully with a look of amused exasperation. He finds her eyes fixed on him and William. The fur trim of the hood covering her bright hair frames her face. Her eyes are a clear, startling blue. Her cheeks are reddened from the cold and Mulder decides he's never seen a sight more lovely - as he finds himself inspired once again.

She waits in breathless anticipation as he lowers his face to hers. Their lips are cold when they touch but the heat of their shared breath warms them. Scully raises up on her toes and curves a gloved hand over the knit cap that covers Mulder's dark hair as she deepens the kiss. For a moment, they are oblivious to everything around them but William won't be ignored for long. He lets loose with another high-pitched squeal and his flailing arm knocks Scully's hood askew. She feels Mulder's lips curve against her own and opens her eyes to find him smiling down at her. They break apart and make their way back to the cabin.

Inside, they quickly change into dry clothes. Mulder stretches out on the sofa and he and William settle down for a nap. Mulder's large hands rest protectively on the baby's back as William sprawls on his tummy. The baby shifts around seeking a comfortable position on his father's chest and two of his fingers find their way into his mouth as he tumbles into sleep with Mulder following soon after.

Scully brews a cup of tea and curls up on the loveseat, an afghan thrown over her legs. She had allowed Mulder to distract her from their earlier conversation but now, sitting quietly as the shadows lengthen around the cabin and darkness falls; while William and Mulder slumber peacefully on the sofa, she can do little else but think.

What's the right decision? Scully wonders. If it weren't for William, she would never have allowed Mulder to go off on his own. She would have followed him wherever life and fate took him, just as she had always done. Surely he knows that. She stares through the window into the growing darkness as the snow continues to fall and from all angles thinks about the situation they have found themselves.

She would miss her mother - there was no doubt about that - but despite her earlier words, she not will allow leaving her mother behind to color her decision. When Margaret Scully married into the Navy, she had left her own mother behind. Over the years, she and the children followed husband and father from naval base to naval base; Margaret's primary focus centered on keeping her family together. She, better than anyone, would understand her daughter's decision to put her own family first - if that is the decision eventually reached.

Scully rubs her eyes and looks moodily around the room, staring at the tree in the corner for a minute before allowing her gaze to fall on Mulder and William once again. She had a picture of them just like this, taken the day after they had arrived back in D.C. after William's birth. Mulder had been caring for William, affording Scully the opportunity to take a much-desired shower. When she came back into the living room, she had found Mulder and the baby sprawled across her sofa, sound asleep. She'd snatched up a camera and snapped a picture; unaware at the time that it would be one of the few pictures she would have of Mulder and their son. Later, when reality had set in, Scully had taken picture after picture of father and son. She had gone through an entire roll of film in the short time they had together while hastily helping Mulder pack his belongings and make frantic arrangements for his disappearance.

Scully sighs and stands, padding into the kitchen on feet clad in heavy woolen socks, to begin preparing their Christmas Eve dinner. She has always found the rhythm of household chores helps to clear her head so that she can think. She hopes that today will be no different.

She hears Mulder and William stirring in the living room a little more than an hour later. The snow has stopped falling and the moon appears and disappears behind the storm clouds that are making their way to the coast. The living room is dark, with the exception of the twinkling lights on the tree and the fire dancing in the hearth, but the kitchen is ablaze in warm light.

"Can I help?" Mulder asks in a sleep-roughened voice. Scully wipes her hands on a towel and take William from Mulder's arms. Securing the baby in his infant seat, she smiles.

"Sure." She nods toward the counter. "Potatoes need peeling."

They work together and in due time they sit down to a holiday meal of roasted chicken, potatoes, fresh and frozen vegetables and biscuits from a can of refrigerated dough. They speak quietly of everyday things like William's sleep patterns and where Mulder had gone to purchase the ingredients for their dinner. They work together when they finish eating to clean up before moving back into the living room.

Scully lifts William from his seat where he has been patiently awaiting his own dinner and sinks down onto the sofa to nurse him. She can feel Mulder's eyes on them and she knows that he is wondering if she has come to any decisions. She also knows that for tonight at least, Mulder is willing to let the topic rest.

"That's for you," she says and points to a square box gaily wrapped in foil paper under the tree. Mulder is startled; he hadn't noticed the gift until now.

"You don't want to wait until tomorrow?" he asks curiously. She shakes her head.

"No. Open it now," she requests softly. Mulder crosses the room and retrieves the package from beneath the tree. He returns and sits on the floor near her feet, facing her.

"Your gift is upstairs," he tells her as he starts to climb back to his feet. She holds out her hand and motions him back to the floor.

"Later," she says. "I want you to open your gift now. Please?" Mulder rests the box over his knees and tears the heavy foil paper away in three large pieces. He removes the lid from the box and pulls back the tissue paper, lifting out a large book. He pushes the empty box to the floor and cradles the book on his knees, riffling through the pages quickly, gasping softly as the contents flash before his eyes.

Mulder glances up with a questioning look on his face and sees her gentle smile. He pulls the book cover open again and studies each page carefully. The first page bears a photocopy of William's birth certificate. The second page bears the imprint of tiny hands and feet memorialized in ink and paper. The third page holds a photograph of Scully holding William in her arms as she herself is wrapped in Mulder's arms. A picture taken by her mother when they weren't looking...

The fourth page holds the picture of father and son sleeping together on the sofa in Scully's apartment. The rest of that roll of film graces the next few pages in varying sizes from that of a regular snapshot to a wonderful 8 x 10 photograph of Mulder easing William into his bassinet.

More pictures follow.

"There are over one hundred and twenty pictures," Scully tells him. From the day Mulder was forced to leave, Scully has taken pictures of their son, capturing each day of his life on film to be placed into this book as a gift to his father. In her neat, Catholic schoolgirl penmanship, she has inscribed the date in the upper right hand corner and kept a written account of every milestone in his short life. "Today, William smiled for the first time," is accompanied by a photograph of a gummy smile and unfocused eyes looking somewhere toward the camera and the sound of his mother's voice.

Mulder knuckles a tear from the corner of his eyes and smiles when reaching a picture of William in a blue plastic tub getting a bath. He can almost hear the gurgling laughter and splashing water.

"I didn't want you to miss out on his life," Scully tells him quietly. She smoothes a hand over the downy tufts of reddish-brown hair covering William's head and eases the drowsy baby away from her breast, lifting him onto her shoulder.

"I knew at the time that it was a poor replacement for the real thing," she says apologetically. "I told myself it was better than nothing." Her hand rubs in soothing circles over William's tiny back. "I know now that I was wrong." As her eyes meet his Scully adds in a murmur, "I need you to just listen, Mulder - okay? Don't speak. Listen..."

Mulder nods, eyes fastened on her face hopefully, hungrily - as he awaits her next words.

"I don't want you to have to get to know your son through pictures. But Mulder... there is more to being a good parent than simply keeping him safe," she tells him. "It will be difficult enough to move from place to place with him now, but when he gets older... even in another year or two... he's going to need more." Mulder nods eagerly and Scully presses on. While she was cooking dinner, she had more or less arrived at her decision, but she needs to talk it through with Mulder now to be sure that it's the right one.

"We have to provide stability and that means things like the same bed in the same home every night. Children need constancy and things that we alone cannot provide him."

She closes her eyes, savoring the solid weight of her baby in her arms, his sweet, warm breath blowing against her neck in even puffs as he sleeps safe and secure. When she opens them again they lock on Mulder. She's got to make him understand.

"He'll need to go to school - I know we could home school him if necessary - but he needs friends and structure and to learn to get along with other people. If he's going to survive, he'll need to develop social skills as well as to learn how to protect himself. We need to figure out a way to give him all of those things, Mulder."

Mulder nods again and rises up onto his knees in front of her. He trails his fingers over her cheek and lowers his lips to press a kiss into his son's hair. He doesn't speak yet, for he promised her he'd listen - and he knows she has more to say. Instead he climbs onto the sofa with them and gathers his family into his arms.

Scully rests her head on his shoulder. "I don't think that I can raise a happy and healthy child if I'm miserable," she admits softly. "And I have been miserable without you, Mulder." She swallows around the lump lodged in her throat and blinks a tear from her eyes. "I need to be with you... WE need to be with you," she amends. Mulder's arms tighten convulsively around her as relief pours through him.

"But, Mulder..." Scully twists her head to meet his eyes. "I won't just disappear without explaining things to my mother," she warns him. "We have to figure out a way for me to get word to her." Until she met Mulder, her mother had always been the one person in Scully's life on whom she was able to lean and put down her burdens and her heart is breaking at the thought of having to leave her behind. Her eyes are filled with sadness with the realization that she may never see her mother again and she makes no effort to hide the pain that darkens her expression.

"The guys..." Mulder offers softly, but stops when she shakes her head.

"No. I may never have a chance to talk to her again," Scully whispers in a choked voice. "I won't say goodbye to her through a third party." She grips his shirt in her fist. "Please, Mulder..." Her voice is pleading... breaking. "We have to think of a way." He nods in agreement. He can deny her nothing and she asks for so little from him... in return giving him the ONLY thing that he wants.

"I promise, Scully. We'll find a way." He smoothes his fingers over her cheek again and she releases a shaky breath.

"Okay," she says as she buries her face in his neck. "Then we're staying with you," she promises. They embrace, staying very close while William curls in sleep between them - and then Scully raises her head and her eyes are moist with emotion but her words are meant to tease.

"So, Mulder... you gonna sit on my present all night? Can I open it now?"

His eager steps bouncing up the stairs toward the bedroom has her laughing aloud.

As he rummages through one of his duffel bags for the hastily wrapped gift, Mulder finds himself sinking to the floor as a new flood of relief sweeps through him and renders his legs rubbery and useless. Aftershocks, he decides. He tries to tell himself that he was never worried for a moment; that Scully would choose her family over him. But of course, he was - frantic and worried and very scared.

He could withstand any amount of daily shit tossed his way, if Scully shared his life and his love. He'd put up with seven years of several varieties of it in his need to stay in the basement and keep her as his partner. Looking back on their personal and professional history Mulder knows without a doubt that he may have started with a quest to find his sister but he ended with the discovery of the love of his life and the sure knowledge that she deserved so much more than his devotion.

But she has chosen him... as a mate. As a father to their child. The future they make between them will be very difficult, and lonely. He knows what homesickness is and he hates the thought that Scully will suffer it whenever she craves the sight of her mother and brothers.

He also knows what it feels like to never feel safe. To wonder when he'll finally be found - and what will happen to him when he is. Now he's asking Scully to enter that unsafe world, and all he can feel is elation layered upon the worry that he's determined to tamp down, minimize. She loves him - that's all that matters. That's all there is...

Shaking the worry from his mind Mulder finishes digging in the duffel bag and pulls out a box wrapped in gold paper and tied with a red ribbon. As he carries it downstairs he refuses to think about the future in any terms except glowing.

In the living room William is cocooned in the afghan, sleeping soundly. Scully sits and stares into the fire; Mulder can see her pensive expression break into a smile as he joins her on the sofa, and holds out the box. She takes it and turns it around in her hands, meeting his serious stare with one quirked eyebrow.

"I like the paper, Mulder. Can I rattle it?" Her voice is mischievous, and Mulder returns her smile as he shakes his head regretfully.

"No, you can't rattle it! It's fragile. Just open it, okay?" With an eager nod, Scully tugs at the ribbon and tears at the paper, to reveal a simple shoebox- sized crate made of wood. There's a brass latch on the lid and as Scully runs a curious hand over the smoothness of the wood, Mulder urges softly, "Open it, Baby..." She smiles at the endearment and her fingers are a little wobbly as she gently flicks the brass latch, and opens the crate.

Inside there's a handful of shredded manila packing paper and nestled beneath is a pouch made of what appears to be steamed wood, shaped into a cylinder. The wood is soft and supple and almost has the texture of leather. Burned into the outer flap is her name. Fascinated, Scully pulls at the cord holding the pouch together and it falls open to reveal a hexagon-shaped antique bottle. Inside the bottle is a tightly rolled up scroll of what looks like parchment paper. A small cork seals the bottle; Scully carefully lifts it out of its protective nest and holds it up, turning it around in her hands.

"Mulder... I don't believe this. Where did you get this? Is that bottle as old as it looks? Can I open it?" The questions shoot from her and Mulder chuckles as he replies.

"Believe it, Scully. And it's none of your business where I got it... and yes, the bottle is genuinely old... and you can certainly open it! So why don't you do just that?"

A few seconds later Scully is in tears as she reads the scroll of parchment paper that was rolled up inside her very own 'message in a bottle' that Mulder had commissioned for her. The words he wrote months ago are still as fresh in his mind today as when he penned them late one night when the loneliness and need for her had about doubled him over...

'There is a time of the night when stars are obscured by the clouds that hide the moon -

And I lie in a bed somewhere and remember. How delicate is the satin skin under your left ear.

How just the bend of one elbow can be a work of art.

How a small lopsided smile can make my entire year.

How your touch makes me rise so far above the atmosphere that I have to look down to see Heaven.

How I love you - need you - want you with an urgency bordering on pain.

How I am thankful, so thankful - that you're safe somewhere, and caring for our son.

And if we should keep this distance always; if we should never see each other again... I'll know that I've at least had one perfect moment of your love.

One perfect kiss. One perfect hand in mine; one perfect coming together of hearts and minds, and bodies. One perfect child.

I'll know I've had these things - and I'll rejoice that of all the men in this world that could have had that moment... you gave it to me.

You gave it into my hands willingly, and perfectly - and I will never feel anything but so very loved, because of this gift.

I love you...'

"I've been carrying this around, for about a month. I almost sent it, a couple of times. Once I almost jumped in my clunker and drove into DC and to your place, thinking I could just sneak it into your bedroom while you were asleep. Maybe prop it on your pillow, awaken you with kisses, make love to you all night long... Kiss William and then just slip away before dawn." Mulder's voice is hoarse with emotion as he explains about the gift in Scully's hands.

"But I didn't dare run the risk of endangering you and the baby... so I stayed away. Decided to just mail it to you in time for Christmas. I was getting it ready to pack up when Byers called - and the rest of the story you already know." Mulder holds her gaze, watches her eyes fill again - holds out his arms and feels her climb into his lap and his embrace. Clasping her tightly against his accelerated heartbeat, Mulder pushes his face into her neck and swallows a huge lump of emotion stuck somewhere in his throat.

"I wanted you to know what's in my heart, Scully. In case I never got to see you again. I was going to have one made for William, too. Something he could open when he starts to read - say, in a year or two." At her teary snort of laughter, Mulder squeezes her tightly, and added, "I needed you to never be in any doubt of the depth of my love for you, and our baby. I wanted you to have something tangible that you could hold in your hands."

When Scully raises her head and stares into his eyes, framing his face in her hands, the words she speaks echo everything he is feeling, thinking.

"Mulder... I have that tangible love of yours; he's snuggled into that afghan next to you. I knew exactly what was in your heart the night we first came together, and I have never doubted it for a moment since. Not even when you were returned and those days before William's birth were so dark and confusing. I may have been unsure of a lot of things but never of you." Keeping one hand against Mulder's cheek Scully picks up the scroll with the other and her eyes are glistening as she adds, "I love this, Mulder... it's the best gift I have ever received. Well, besides the gift of your love... and of your son."

The kiss they share is slow and soft and filled with the promise of a night brimming with sweet reunion. For a little while longer, they snuggle on the sofa, their slumbering son between them and their gifts to each other side by side on the oak coffee table.

Time passes slowly as the realization of the certainty of their love and commitment - not to mention the enormity of their decision and how it will impact on their lives - hits them. Fear wars with excitement and anxiety battles with hope, but in the end it is tentative joy that wins the day.

Scully shifts William into the cradle of her arms. "He'll sleep through the night, I think. He can open his presents - well, YOU can open his presents and show them to him, 'Daddy' - tomorrow," she whispers teasingly... lovingly. Mulder smiles and nods; they look down at this miracle child of theirs and share a sweet moment known to new parents throughout the ages.

"Let's go up," Mulder murmurs. He climbs to his feet and takes the baby into his arms as Scully stands beside him. Entering the bedroom, Scully rummages through the bureau for William's pajamas and motions to Mulder who lays the baby on the bed. He watches in fascination as Scully pulls off William's clothes and changes him into a fresh diaper and clean pajamas without once waking him. She lifts William from the bed and brings him to his father for a good night kiss, happily given. Scully brushes her own lips over the baby's silky cheek before laying him into his makeshift crib and covering him with a blanket.

She returns to the bed and stretches out on top of the covers. Her head turns on the pillow and she meets Mulder's eyes as he sits perched on the end of the mattress. His gaze is adoring, eyes glowing with need... She holds out her arms and Mulder eagerly moves toward her. She pulls him down until he is stretched out on top of her. She parts her denim-clad legs and as he settles more fully against her, she wraps all four limbs around him.

It feels so good - and it's been much, much too long since the warm cradle of her body has encompassed his.

Long moments pass and they do little more than embrace; her hands running up and down the length of his back; his lips feathering over her temple in the softest of kisses. She can feel her body actually liquefy under the weight of him; his hardening in response. Nervous excitement coils in her stomach, disrupting the tranquility of only a moment earlier.

Mulder can feel the slight tremor running through her. Nervous butterflies... he can relate for they assail him as well. The baby whuffs in his sleep and Mulder wonders if they should stay up here where possible disruptions could break the tentative and fragile mood already established.

"Maybe we should go back downstairs," he whispers with a glance over his shoulder toward the sleeping baby. She shakes her head and tugs his shoulder to bring his attention back to her.

"No. Let's stay here where it's warm and cozy."

Mulder shrugs, deciding to tease her a bit. "I seem to remember that you can be a screamer..." he says in an innocent voice. Scully's eyes widen and an attractive blush stains her cheeks.

"Mulder!" she hisses. She slaps one hand lightly against his shoulder and returns the grin he sends her way with a cheeky smile. She leans up a little and brings her mouth closer to his.

"Then I guess you'll have to do your best to find a way to keep me quiet," she says with a challenging look in her blue eyes. Mulder's head immediately swoops down to cover her mouth with his. He knows all the best ways to mute his woman - and he's waited months to show her...

Her lips part eagerly to allow him entry and their tongues meet and mate in a battle for control. The kiss is both carnal and gentle and Scully thinks that she could happily kiss him forever.

She had spent years fantasizing about his mouth and she had only had a few short months to learn that yes, his lips were as velvety soft as she had imagined them to be. And yes, his kisses were at times heartstoppingly demanding; breathtakingly gentle and oh so tender. Hungry one moment and worshipping the next... she had never been kissed that way before - never.

In the months when he'd been missing, and again over the last four months, she had not forgotten what it was like to be kissed by this man. She had fed on her memories of the way he had tasted... of coffee when he stole a kiss from her in the office... of salt from a kiss shared over a bowl of popcorn and a movie... of toothpaste when he would crowd her up against the bathroom door in the mornings, making them almost dangerously late for work...

Now she is once again wrapped in his arms, and she doesn't have to rely on memories as she reacquaints herself with the familiar weight of his body crushing her into the bedcovers, with the fullness of his lower lip, the silkiness of the lining of his cheeks, the sleekness of his tongue tangling with her own. Their kisses are languid, their explorations leisurely and thorough. And soon... the unhurried pace is not enough.

Mulder's hand slips beneath the hem of her shirt, pushing the flannel material up only to encounter the waffle-weave of a thermal undershirt. His low curse is muffled against her jaw as he tugs her undershirt free of the waistband of her jeans. Her stomach contracts under his exploring touch and she gasps softly as his fingers glide over her ribcage to toy with the elastic edge of her bra.

"Naked," he groans near her ear. "I want you naked." Scully nods and struggles to rid herself of the unwanted items of clothing. She skims the straps of the unadorned nursing bra down her arms and tosses it onto the floor next to the bed along with the flannel and thermal shirts. Her nipples pucker both from the cool air and the heat of Mulder's gaze. He cups her breasts in his warm palms. What before had been perfect handfuls, now threaten to overflow his large hands. He swipes a thumb over one rigid nipple and immediately a droplet of milk pearls on the tip of her breast. The sight of that one drop is as arousing to him as it is sacred...

He has to have that miniscule taste of her - has to know the one thing about her that only his son knows...

Mulder's eyes darken and Scully holds her breath as he lowers his head to her breast, his tongue darting out to lift the bead of milk into his mouth. At once another droplet wells up and Mulder's tongue rasps gently over her breast to lap it up. He can feel her body tighten in his arms, and for a moment he's so overwhelmed by the significance of what he's doing that he forgets she may be uncomfortable by his actions. He presses another gentle kiss into the damp, milky skin, then lifts his head and meets her wide, uncertain gaze.

"You sustain life, Scully. William's life, and now mine. I had to know what it was like, to receive that kind of nourishment from you - and I feel all the more cherished now, having shared something this amazing with you, and with our son."

These words are whispered softly to her before he lowers his lips to her breast and draws the nipple into his mouth. Her womb contracts and a low, pleasant throbbing begins to pulse between her legs in concert with the gentle tugging of his mouth on her breast... and she surprises them both as she bursts into tears.

Mulder lets her nipple slip from his mouth as he raises his head to look at her in concern. "Scully?" His worried face hovers over hers and she forces a trembling smile to her lips.

"It's okay," she whispers. "I'm okay. I'm just... it's just... it's been so long, so hard to be apart from you with only a memory of what it felt like to be held, and kissed, especially there... and God, loved like this... just like this!"

She pulls him back into her arms and he cradles her close. Her hands clutch at him tightly and the strength of her embrace is a welcoming home that he's needed so very badly.

They hold onto each other for a moment or two, and then ease apart slowly. "Your shirt is wet," she exclaims quietly as she looks at the twin damp patches on the front of his shirt where her breasts had been flattened by their tight embrace. Strangely, she doesn't feel embarrassed, not at all. She feels... pride. Pride in being not only someone's mother, but also someone's woman, his necessity - HIS reason for being. Bending close, Scully places her mouth over one of the damp spots on Mulder's shirt, and tastes what her body is capable of creating. And under her mouth Mulder's heart now beats loud as thunder. She smiles into him...

"You'd better take it off." Her tears have been replaced with a suggestive smile and Mulder happily tugs the shirt over his head in an effort to comply with her demand. She slips her fingers under the waistband of his jeans, dipping them teasingly into his belly button. Their eyes meet again and they begin tearing the remainder of their clothing from their bodies in dual urgency.

There is a chill in the room that the fire burning low in the hearth cannot completely dispel but already a fine sheen of sweat coats their bodies. Scully's fingers trail over Mulder's lightly muscled stomach before brushing over the tip of his penis. She wraps one hand around his quivering flesh and can feel his pulse beating beneath her fingers. A corresponding throbbing is centered between her own legs. Her thumb swirls over the satiny head and a drop of slippery white fluid wells beneath her finger. She wants nothing more at this moment than to taste him the way he had tasted her.

For Mulder the need to connect with her after so many starving months is almost his undoing. Her hand on him feels wonderful but it only gives him a small portion of what his body is screaming for. And he remembers the last time they were together, all those months ago, their bodies aligned in the most erotic fashion... he wants to begin that way. It's only fitting, he thinks -

When Scully begins to slither down his body, he curves his palm around her arm and stops her. She raises her head to protest and Mulder lifts a finger to her lips, shushing her before she can speak.

"Like this," he murmurs into the stillness of the room. She shudders with excitement as he maneuvers them on top of the mattress until they are positioned to his satisfaction. His breath is a warm puff of air against the soft skin of her thighs while his musky scent fills her nostrils. Another droplet of moisture beads on the tip of his erection and this time there is nothing to stop her from tasting him as she delicately lifts his milky essence with the tip of her tongue.

That simple touch is almost too much for Mulder, and he fights to keep it together, to keep from exploding. Months of enforced abstinence have taken their toll on his control. During the time they have been apart his need for her, and her alone, superseded even his desire to find any sort of substitute release... he'd been determined that the next time a hand sought him, it would be hers, and not his. And he's so glad he held out; so glad he waited... because now, everything within him; everything he has, is hers. All of him, every drop of him...

Scully groans as his fingers comb through the nest of auburn curls between her legs, exposing her to his own exploring mouth and her concentration wavers at the first lapping stroke of his tongue. Her fingers dig into the strong muscles of his thigh as in turn her tongue paints a wet, swirling design over the smooth head of his penis. Her focus is split between the lovely, languorous sweeps he delivers over her wet and swollen flesh and the feel of his arousal between her lips. Mulder's scent and taste fills her mouth, nose and lungs. Delicious... addicting. She wants more, so much more -

She lets him slip from her mouth and raises her face to see the intensely erotic sight of his dark head buried between her pale thighs. She turns her face into the hard muscles of his leg, bucking her hips sharply when he slips one finger into her tight opening and gently bites down on the center of her pleasure. Her breath escapes her in a wordless gasp. She opens her eyes again and she sees his flesh straining toward her, demanding her attention. Her lips close over him as she draws him back into her mouth. Their hands knead, mouths probe and explore; the pace is languid and then demanding as they drive each other closer and closer to the brink.

Scully's toes begin to tingle and she knows she is close... so close. Mulder's tongue flicks over her flesh and she squirms as the prickling sensation builds and builds. His fingers lock onto her thighs in a punishing grip as he holds her still under the onslaught of his mouth. She wants to soar into release... she wants to bring him with her... she wants him buried deep inside of her.

He wants to feel her, shuddering wildly underneath his mouth... convulsing madly around him as he pounds into her, worshipping her with his last shred of resolve... he wants to be everywhere at once, inside the heat of her mouth and deep inside the furnace of her body. He wants it all. And before this night, he'll have it all... His tongue moves quicker... harder.

"Wait!" Scully raises her head and Mulder's hips jerk involuntarily toward the lost heat of her mouth. She knots her fingers in his hair and pulls sharply. He turns his head to rest his cheek on the smooth skin of her thigh and meets her eyes. Flushed cheeks and swollen lips, moist with her wetness...

God. She had almost forgotten the utter beauty of this man, in the full-blown throes of his passion.

His hair is mussed and falls wildly over his forehead, giving him a disheveled and amazingly attractive look. His eyes are heavy-lidded and slumberous; he nods in response to her wordless plea before pulling himself up the length of her body. Their lips meet in a hungry kiss and she tastes herself and him as his tongue plunges into her mouth.


"Now," she gasps when they break apart to pull air into their starved lungs. Mulder leans back against the pillows and helps her to climb astride his body. Her knees settle on either side of his thighs and she braces her hands on his shoulders for support as he sinks the first inch or two into her body. She squeezes her eyes closed and bites her lip... it's been so long. Mulder lightly rests his hands on her hips, allowing her to take the lead as his hot flesh penetrates hers. Finally, she is stretched to the point of fullness and he is buried deep, deep within her.

Neither of them moves. Not right away. It's enough to stay very still and absorb the matchless feel of this long-awaited connection. And they remember this feeling; oh, they remember it very well even though it's been over a year. Clinging and wet and hot and soft and hard and joyous and sweet, so sweet - everything they need and all they'll ever want and it has to last all night... has to last them forever.

Scully takes a moment to admire their joined bodies, gleaming wetly and burnished by the firelight before she pushes up on her knees, letting him slip nearly free of her body. She wants to watch the face of the man she adores, as she moves down upon him...

"Fuck," he whispers as she reseats herself in his lap, grinding her hips into his. He's not going to make it past a few strokes, at the slow and torturous pace she sets for them. It's killing him and he is loving it, though he can't help but growl at her when she bites back a smile at his low-uttered curse. Once again she rises above him and falls again. Her hands dig into his shoulders and his fingers grind into the soft flesh of her thighs... she knows she will be bruised tomorrow and doesn't care. She cares only about the burning ache centered between her legs and the look of pleasured pain on Mulder's face. Together they find the rhythm they like and remember so well as Mulder pushes himself into her and she falls against him over and over again.

The tension builds and Scully laughs softly with the sheer joy of having this man within her body after months of lonely isolation. She pulls her hands from his shoulders to push her heavy, sweat-dampened hair away from her face and moans low in her throat when Mulder lunges forward to take her breast between his lips again. A sharp arrow of pleasure spears through her from breast to womb and the intensity of his counter-movements leave her breathless. But she doesn't need to breathe...

Her mouth opens in a silent gasp of surprised delight as a wave of ecstasy explodes between her legs and radiates through her whole body. Her inner muscles clench and release around him as tiny contractions race through her - and Mulder frantically rolls her beneath him.

He's dying for release but he can't bear to have it end, not yet - he hears himself chanting hoarsely into the damp hair at her temple, "So good it's so good been too long, Baby too long..." His flesh pumps into hers - driving, pounding, searching - and her hands curl over his hips as she pulls him deeper with every thrust of his body against her. She turns her lips to his ear and whispers words of love and encouragement to him.

"God, yes... so good, Mulder. So good. Missed you... missed us." She scrapes her teeth over his beard- stubbled jaw and pulls his earlobe between her lips. Her words are meant to enflame him, and they do; they make him tighten and thrum within her.

"Come now... please. Come for me..." Her hand slips between their bodies to lightly scrape her nails over his balls. His chest is heaving and his movements are growing more and more erratic. Suddenly, he stiffens in her arms and muffles his hoarse shout in the soft flesh of her throat. She feels his seed pump into her and bathe her with its welcome heat. As he grinds his hips into her, she blinks, unprepared for the tiny pop of pleasure that bursts between her legs once again, sending a tingling aftershock into her toes and fingers.

Mulder collapses in her arms, his weight pressing her into the dampened sheets. She feels wonderful beneath him, her slight body a cushion and a comfort, a true coming home for him. He doesn't worry about being too heavy for her, for he remembers slender arms and strong legs winding around him and trapping him, all those months ago when their lovemaking had drained the strength from their bodies. With an effort, she turns her head on the pillow and feathers her lips over his. He answers her tender kiss with one of his own and feels as well as hears the words that spill from her.

"Oh God, Mulder," she gasps in joyful exhaustion. "I love you. So much... so much..." Her voice trails off as tears clog her throat and she wraps aching arms and legs around him, vowing never to let him go again. The smile wreathing her face grows even wider when his full weight relaxes upon her and he drops his head onto the pillow next to her, face turned her way, noses touching. They stare into each other's eyes, almost having to cross them to maintain focus, so close on their respective pillows. Somehow they manage to wriggle underneath the warm bedcovers without letting loose of each other; Mulder draws the blankets up around their shoulders and turns them sideways until they lay curled together, her head tucked under his chin. Their breathing slows and thickens as sleep overcomes them; Mulder mumbles out one sleepy request as they tumble deeper into velvet darkness.

"Marry me... soon." He feels a smile curve her lips against his neck, and an equally-sleepy reply.

"Okay... when?"


"Dream, dream, dream... Of the joyous days to come..."

Outside it has begun to snow, with a wind whipping up and blowing fat icy flakes against the window. In his little makeshift bed William Mulder sleeps with three quarters of a fist crammed into his mouth and his little bottom sticking up in the air. Mulder has covered him up for the second time, the first being an hour ago when he awoke for a diaper changing and a fast suckle.

Mulder had brought him into bed and had propped Scully on his chest as she nursed their son, almost asleep sitting up. Mulder held her upright and found himself dozing off while William fed and Scully yawned and relaxed against his bare chest. Once William was replete with milk - and a quick burping and dry bottom - Mulder had taken him back to bed and rubbed his little back until he'd fallen asleep again. He'd stumbled back to bed and curled himself around Scully, letting out a contented sigh as he sank back into unconsciousness.

Now in the banked glow of the fireplace William awakens and stares up at his father with big sleepy eyes. Sucking like mad on his fist - kicking his little fleecy feet - such a good baby. Mulder picks up his son and cuddles him close, loving the baby scent of him, the sweet weight of his sturdy little body as he rests against his father's shoulder and continues to eat his hand.

Carrying him over to the window Mulder looks out into the dark nothingness, eyes following the path of one snowflake after another as they dance in front of the cold glass. Randomly falling with no specific purpose... rather the way he's been living, these last months without Scully and William. Random... no purpose. He thinks to himself that even snow has to have some sort of purpose... something to work towards, besides staying in its natural condition, which would be frozen. At least they have purpose when they hit the ground; they serve to insulate and cushion. They have a job and they do it well.

He can't help but think that it's time he embraced his purpose. He's been running for his life for months, instead of finding a way to turn and face it, taking back a measure of control. Maybe it kept him safe; maybe it protected Scully and their child. Maybe he could protect them in a remote place, under the cover of assumed names and contrived identification. He'll never know until he tries, and Scully has promised to stay with him. He in turn has promised his life to her.

He knows it will be difficult. No, just about impossible. They'll have to find a place to raise William that is secure from the threat that hangs over their heads even now, in this holiday season. All sorts of sacrifices will have to be made, starting with the loss of family and friends. What small contact he kept going with the guys will have to stop. No more Skinner. Likewise, any lingering remnants of their DC lives.

They'll be a threesome, and he can only pray that it'll be enough for them - enough for Scully.

"Hey. Whatcha doing, guys?" A soft voice at his shoulder; Scully has awoken and joins him at the window. She winds her arms around his waist and presses close, resting her cheek against the smooth skin of his back. She's warm and naked and smells like sleep and lingering sex and just delicious Scully. She feels his stomach muscles quiver when she scratches her nails lightly over his hair-roughened skin and she ducks her head around his arm to smile up at him and the baby. William coos happily at the sight of his mother and Scully lets her arms drop from Mulder's waist to take him, chuckling when his greedy little mouth immediately roots for a nipple. She shifts him carefully and lets him find nourishment and security at her breast. Mulder wraps his arms around them both and the silence between them is broken by their son's little baby- grunts as he feeds and Mulder's low murmur as he answers her question.

"Just hanging out, Scully. You know, what men do in the middle of the night. Well, don't know for sure what William may be doing in those jammies of his but I'm hanging out." They both look down at his nudity, deciding that yes, he definitely hangs out - and Scully cups her free hand against him and smiles at the sigh that escapes his lips at the feel of her warm little hand.

"You're thinking hard, Mulder. I swear I can smell your brain, churning and thinking." She tilts her head so that she can see him more clearly. "Are you afraid?" At his slow nod, she swallows hard and drops her gaze to the child in her arms. William's tummy was quickly filled with his pre-dawn snack and now he is nuzzling, more than nursing at her nipple. She smoothes a finger over the back of his hand where it rests against the plump fullness of her breast.

"Me too."

The wind gusts outside of the windows and she shivers when cool air slips through a crack in the windowpane to caress her skin with icy fingers. Mulder steps away to gather a blanket from the bed. He flings the blanket over his shoulders and returns to wind his arms around Scully and William, cocooning all three of them in fleecy warmth.

Scully studies their reflection in the window. Mulder - tall and strong - at her back, as always. William - tiny and helpless - in her arms. She - small and determined - sandwiched between them. She sees a family... her family. And knows that it is past time that they begin to live together as one.

"It won't be easy." She watches in the window as he shakes his head and drops his chin onto her shoulder.

"No." His arms tighten around her waist as he draws her even closer to him, sharing his body heat. "It won't be easy."

"What will we live on?" She worries for a moment about mundane things like paying to keep a roof over their heads and buying diapers. Things that she has always taken for granted in the past.

"I have money that I can get to," his reflection reassures hers. "And I can get a job... we can get jobs." He shrugs. Money is not a top concern to him. He'd stashed money away for years in case they ever needed it and he could easily access the money... had, in fact, been accessing the money for the last four months, as needed.

She nods and lets go of that worry. If Mulder says that money is not an issue, she believes him.

"Is there any way that we can check up on them... even if they don't know it?" Mulder knows that she is thinking of her family and the few friends they have back in DC. He meets her sad gaze and her heart splinters when she reads the truth in his eyes.

"It has to be a clean break," he whispers and she nods. Her throat and jaw tighten painfully as she forces back the tears that threaten again. It takes a few moments for her to regain enough control to speak normally.

"Do you think we'll ever go home?" She feels his chest rise and fall against her back as a heavy sigh escapes him.

"I don't know, Scully," he murmurs quietly, truthfully. "I hope so."

Inside the cozy cabin, the little family is warm and safe. They are together and she knows that when they are together, anything is possible. Scully looks beyond their reflection and into the darkness outside of the windows. The snow continues to fall and the world outside of their cabin is hushed and still. The clouds part and for a moment the stars overhead are visible, their light brilliant in the icy tranquility of the winter wonderland surrounding them. She closes her eyes and makes a wish on the first star that she sees. When she opens her eyes, the clouds have again obscured the stars, but she sends up her wish on a heartfelt prayer.

After all... tonight is a night for miracles.

She lifts William onto her shoulder and the baby immediately knots his fingers in his mother's long hair.

"I believe, Mulder," she tells him as she settles their child more comfortably against her shoulder as he drifts back into slumber. "I believe that someday we'll go home." She tears her gaze away from the window and lifts her face to his. In his eyes, she sees a promise that they will try to get back to all that is dear and familiar. And in his eyes she sees a promise of a lifetime of love and protection. On tiptoes she brushes her lips over his, sealing the promise with a kiss.

Inside the cabin, the man, tall and lean with dark hair, curls one arm around the woman, protecting her and the tiny, pajama-clad bundle cradled in her arms. The woman, her distinct cinnamon-colored hair tangled in the fingers of their child, is careful not to jostle the sleeping baby as the three hurry across the short distance toward the bed where the mother and father curl their bodies protectively around their child.

Outside, the snow falls gently. The promise of dawn and a new day is still a few hours away. Every living creature is tucked away in a warm bed or den. And the night is still, still, still.

The End

Still, still, still, One can hear the falling snow. For all is hushed, The world is sleeping, Holy Star its vigil keeping. Still, still, still, One can hear the falling snow.

Sleep, sleep, sleep, 'Tis the eve of our Savior's birth. The night is peaceful all around you, Close your eyes, Let sleep surround you. Sleep, sleep, sleep, 'Tis the eve of our Savior's birth.

Dream, dream, dream, Of the joyous days to come. While guardian angels without number, Watch you as you sweetly slumber. Dream, dream, dream, Of the joyous days to come.


Char: What's better than writing a Christmas holiday fic? Writing one with your most favorite partner in the world! When Tess told me she wanted to write a holiday reunion fic, I jumped up and down for joy, anticipating wonderful reuniting, "De Love" style, not to mention some sadness and angst and romance to die for. Well, not only did I get all of that, but I also got a chance to once again write Mulder to her exquisite Scully. As always Tess is a joy to write with and a true, true friend. Thanks, Partner Mine!

Tess: After trying my hand at a Thanksgiving fic - I was swept up in the holiday spirit and decided to write a Christmas-themed reunion fic. I was thrilled when Jacquie agreed to write it with me. Fanfic is a favorite hobby of mine, but I never enjoy the writing experience more than when I'm collaborating with Char. It really is a complete pleasure and never fails to bring a smile to my face.

My special thanks, as always, go out to Aly for maintaining a website for my stories and to the gang at IWTB.

To all of our readers, it is just about a year now since Jacquie and I started writing stories together and each has been so well received by so many of you. Our thanks and best wishes during this holiday season and a happy and healthy New Year to each of you and your loved ones. God Bless!

We always love to hear back from you with any thoughts and comments you may have on our stories at:

char@chaffin.com and tnv099@aol.com

If you like what you read, please visit our web sites!

http://char.chaffin.com www.www.envy.nu/tessfiles

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