|Firelight 01. September||Firelight 02. Tricks and Treats||Firelight 03. Be Thankful||Firelight 04. So This is Christmas||Firelight 05. An Ending and a Beginning||Firelight 06. Happy Birthday G-Woman||Firelight 07. One Cold Night|
Title: Firelight 01. September
Summary: Scully wants to finds a little warmth at home.
Thank you To Lynn my beta reader. I appreciate the time she gave up to do this for me.
She'd always liked the area surrounding her apartment. The whole neighborhood consisted of older buildings and the area had a village-like feel. Her redbrick building had character and style. The apartments it contained were larger than the modern ones. It really suited her she thought.
The thing that attracted her to this apartment in the first place was the open fireplace. Of course, the apartments were all centrally heated now, but the fireplace remained in each, adding grace and elegance.
Scully had always used it as a focal point in her living room. There was always a pretty fire screen and a seasonal arrangement of silk or dried flowers in front of the grate. In winter there were usually pine boughs decorating that area; she had even invested in a log carrier and fireplace tools. The tongs and poker reminded her of quibbling with her siblings over who should tend the fire.
This Saturday afternoon, she was putting the finishing touches to an autumnal display when she heard a knock on the door. There was only one person who ever knocked like that and she was half expecting him.
"Come on in Mulder. It's open."
She heard him come in, close the door behind him and come over to where she was kneeling.
"I've brought that file over," he said.
He's always got to justify coming over here, she thought.
"That's fine, Mulder. Just put it on the table over there. We'll have a look at it later."
He came over and sat down on the couch behind her, while she was finishing up.
"Does that thing work Scully?" he asked, indicating the fireplace. "It reminds me a little of when I was small."
"You know, I've never given it a thought. I'll ask Mr. Kuczynski; as landlord, he should know."
He sat quietly on her couch, while she tidied up the area where she'd been working.
"You in any hurry, Mulder? It's just that I promised Lily, my neighbor downstairs, that I would take her Labrador for a run this afternoon. She's a lovely lady, but not as young as she was. I've been taking Jack out with me when I go jogging on Saturdays."
"Oh, I see, the secret life of Agent Scully."
Scully got up, dusting her hands off on her denim clad thighs.
"Very funny, Mulder. Are you coming?"
She walked over to the closet to put on her walking boots. As she bent down to tie them up, he thought how pretty she looked in that olive colored top she was wearing with her washed out jeans. The color brought out the fiery lights of her hair.
"This I've gotta see," quipped Mulder. "Where're we going, anyway?"
As she walked towards the door of her apartment she called out behind her.
"You'll see. Just grab that old blanket out of the closet, will you?"
He did as he was asked and followed her out into the hallway.
As they walked down the stairs, she filled him in on her jaunts with the dog. She owed Lily a favor, and besides, she needed the fresh air and exercise and Jack was good company.
Jack was very pleased to see her, and most enthusiastic about her partner. He jumped all over Mulder, almost knocking him to the ground. They finally got him into the back of the car and onto the blanket.
"I think you've made a friend there, Mulder," she said with a chuckle, as she glanced over at him. He sat in the passenger seat, with Jack hanging over his shoulder, his wet nose stuck in Mulder's ear, drooling all down his jacket.
"Yuk! Scully, this is gross. It's bad enough when you do this. At least you don't smell as bad as he does."
"Get off, dog breath!" he addressed the dog.
"Thank you, Mulder, for those few kind words."
She tried her best to look aggrieved, but she couldn't Help a smile as she saw the look on Mulder's face. They arrived on the outskirts of the woods a short time later. Scully opened the back door, and Jack was out and running.
"Hey, is he okay to run off like that?" "Yes! He always does that when we first get here; don't worry, he'll be back soon."
They started off after Jack.Clouds of leaves spiraled down from the rowan and beech trees. The brown, velvety ground deadened their footsteps. They were soon amongst the trees, rustling through The multicolored leaves.
The sun glinted and reflected off her titian hair, turning strands of it to liquid gold, shiny chestnut and fiery red. Her hair appeared to be a living, transmuting thing. He had never seen anything so breathtaking. Mulder wished he could capture this moment.
Scully seemed to have different ideas. "Come on Mulder," she yelled at him as she took off after the dog. "Race you!"
Later they couldn't decide who'd started the leaf fight. Before they knew what was what, they were both in the thick of throwing great piles of the russet, gold and red leaves at each other, laughing and giggling like little children.
Attracted by the noise they were making, Jack joined in this fun. He chased each of them, woofing his joy at this unexpected treat. Mulder and Scully laughed till their sides ached and tears ran down their faces. She decided to go one better than just throwing leaves at her partner. While Jack was distracting him, she ran up behind Mulder. Holding a handful of soggy leaves, she jumped on his back. Jack came to her aid and between them, they downed Mulder. She sat astride his back and stuffed the leaves down the neck of his t-shirt.
"Aw, c'mon, Scully, that's not fair!" he whined.
"All's fair in love and war," she laughingly replied.
"Oh, really! This is war."
With that he twisted around, grabbed her by the waist, and rolling, he pinned her beneath him on the autumnal carpet. He lay over her, supporting his weight on his forearms, framing her head gently between his hands. The laughter left them as he looked into her azure eyes. His eyes drifted down to her mouth. As if by impulse, he reached out to touch her cheek with his fingertips. His head was about to follow suit when a great weight landed on his back, almost knocking all the breath out of him.
"Jack! Get off, you stupid mutt!" Mulder gasped.
Scully twisted out from beneath him, her face a brilliant red, which was not all due to the exertions of their fight. And then she realised that she had placed her hand on her cheek, just over the spot where Mulder had touched her. That fleeting touch had felt almost as intimate as a kiss, and had shaken her more than she wanted to admit. She couldn't help wondering what it would be like if Mulder *had* kissed her.
Mulder could feel her self-consciousness as she made a great performance of trying to brush the leaves out of her hair.
That animal has lousy timing, thought Mulder.
Softly he said to her, "C'mere, let me help you with that."
He could see her trembling as he gently pulled the remaining leaves out of her hair. The carefree atmosphere had come to an abrupt end.
To cover her embarrassment, she suggested he help her pick wild mushrooms.
"No, not *those* wild mushrooms Mulder," she said with a shy smile.
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
His challenge was a sure fire way of getting Scully's mind off her embarrassment!
"Look Mulder, I might not have been an Indian Guide like you, but it's amazing what you pick up in the Girl Scouts. Aside from that, Ahab used to take me mushroom picking when I was a little girl. He said I had a natural talent for finding the best ones."
"Oh, so you mean you were a bit like a truffle hound then!"
She turned and glared, eyebrow skyrocketing.
"Ouch! What was that for?" he yelled in mock indignation, but he'd managed to lighten the atmosphere. "Just so long as you don't poison us!" he added.
She didn't dignify that with an answer. Scully took out a small plastic sack she had in her pocket.
"I see you've done this before."
"Shut up, Mulder, and start picking."
Under Scully's guidance, they collected the mushrooms. He was surprised at the extent of her knowledge. Yet, knowing her the way he did, why should it surprise him? She must have interests other than 'slicing and dicing'. Even after all this time, how little I *really* know her, he thought.
After a while Mulder whistled to Jack, who came bounding back to see what else he could get involved in. Mulder found a large piece of wood, and threw it for the dog to fetch. Jack was all for this new game.
The sun was beginning to set by the time they exited the wood and walked towards the car.
"What are you going to do with all those mushrooms Scully?"
"Wait and see," was all she'd say.
By the time they got back to the building, returned Jack to his owner, and trudged upstairs to her apartment, the sun had set.
As they came in, they both kicked their boots off. Scully smoothed her hands down the sides of her jeans and cleared her throat, suddenly nervous now that she and Mulder were alone.
After all the activities of the day, she had to look a mess. Her hair had been rumpled even before Mulder had made it worse, her jeans and T-shirt were wrinkled and smudged with soil and what little makeup she'd applied that morning had long since worn away.
Eyeing Mulder, she wondered how he could look so good. Not that he could look bad, no matter what the condition of his clothing, she thought wryly. She didn't put on the lights but instead lit the dozen or so candles she had scattered around the living room. She went over to the CD player and put on a disc. She slid her fingertips into her jeans pockets.
"Can I get you something to drink? Coke, coffee, iced tea? It's getting close to dinner time. I was just going to make some soup. Do you want to stay?"
She didn't give him a chance to reply.
"I'm making some of my Mom's mushroom soup. It was my Grandmother's recipe."
"I'd love to," he said. "If you're sure."
"I won't be long."
"Take your time. I'll just sit in here while you perform your culinary miracles."
It gave her a funny feeling to see him making himself so comfortable in her home. He *did* look so at home here.
She turned and headed for the kitchen reminding herself how foolish it was to start fantasizing about things that were never meant to be. He sat on her couch and looked at the colorful display in the hearth.
Her choice of music was not what he expected. It was quiet and very haunting. He stood up to see the CD box.
'Dream catcher' by Secret Garden.
One of the artists was Irish. The music was very beautiful and haunting. There was something about the lyrics. He sat back down on the couch and tucked his feet up. Letting the music wash over him, he realised how 'Scully' this album was; he'd never given the spiritual side of her nature much conscious thought. There was a lot about Scully he *hadn't* thought about or simply assumed.
As he listened to the soothing music, he looked into the fireplace and remembered times when he was little and the family would on occasions gather around the fire and toast marshmallows. Those times were so rare, so precious to him. They hadn't lasted long. Thinking about it, they must have been over before he reached the ripe old age of ten.
When Scully came back into the room only a short while later, she was surprised to find that he'd fallen asleep. She was more shocked to see the single tear on his cheek, glimmering in the candlelight. She was hard pressed not to give into impulse, and kiss it away. He looked so sad there, like a little lost boy.
She resisted the temptation and went back to finish cooking the mushroom soup.
When it was done, she called to Mulder, "Come on sleepy head, time to wake up." He opened his puppy dog, hazel eyes and gazed at her. For a moment she gazed back at him, before she broke the spell.
"Mulder, come and eat."
She'd found a bottle of wine to go with their simple meal. After they'd eaten, he had to admit that the soup had been very good, quite unlike anything he'd tasted before.
"C'mon Scully, let's live a little There's a very good rerun on tonight. Let's watch it!"
Scully had always been a sucker for that sappy smile of his. "Hmm, is it one of *those* films, Mulder?"
"No, I promise , Scully. You'll like this one." They spent the rest of the evening on the couch watching the classic comedy film. Gradually as the film progressed they seemed to get nearer and nearer to each other on the couch, finally coming to rest against each other. Her musical giggle was so contagious that Mulder spent much of the evening laughing, something that he had not done for such a very long time. They were both so relaxed with each other.
It had been a thoroughly delightful day. When the film finished Mulder found himself wishing that he didn't have to go home to his lonely apartment.
There was no reason for him to stay any longer. He should leave her to get some rest. Why was he so damned reluctant to do so?
He unwound himself from the couch. "I'd better be going. I have some paperwork to catch up on tonight."
"Oh." said Scully. "Um, I suppose you're right. I've got some things to see to as well. Do you want another drink before you go Mulder?"
"Err, thanks Scully, but no, I'd best be on my way. Thanks for today; I enjoyed it. And we seem to have survived the mushroom soup!"
He ruffled her already disheveled hair, the gesture both casual and affectionate.
"See you Monday, Scully." She smiled and nodded, while smoothing her hair with one hand. Mulder sketched a salute as he passed her on the way to the door.
"Yeah. Later, Mulder."
She would have to do this again, Scully decided as the front door closed behind Mulder. Maybe next time he would stay a little while longer.
The plan came to her about ten days later, Mulder came back into his office just as she put the telephone receiver down. She looked like the cat that swallowed the canary.
"C'mon Secret Squirrel, what gives?"
He didn't move fast enough to avoid the punch she aimed at his shoulder.
She couldn't have really meant it though, as she was still grinning and the blow hadn't actually hurt. She could pack a punch when she was *really* serious.
"For that Mulder, you'll have to wait till Saturday to find out. That is, if you're game!"
"Aw c'mon Scully, I'm sorry. Please tell-l-l," he whined. But she was adamant. He'd have to wait till Saturday.
By the time Mulder turned up at her apartment on Saturday, the chimney sweep had already paid his visit. As far as Scully was concerned, it was all systems go.
"Hey Mulder, you're right on time. I need your Indian Guide skills, let's hope they've improved since last time."
Mulder looked perplexed.
"C'mon Mulder, you know how to build a fire, don't you?"
"Scully?" He looked at her as though she'd totally lost it.
"It's okay Mulder, really! I've checked with Mr. Kuczynski; the chimney swept; the logs have been delivered. What else do you want?"
Mulder still seemed a bit dubious.
"Look hurry up and get that fire ready. I'm going to get our supper ready to cook when we get back. We've got Jack to exercise before the fun can start."
That seemed to inspire Mulder. They had done all their chores and were ready to go within half an hour.
Their trip to the woods was fun, and would have been quite uneventful had it not been for Mulder's idea- or was it Scully's? Anyway, between them they had found some giant pinecones. They started throwing them to each other. Jack, never one to bypass a game, joined in. It soon developed into a game of 'monkey in the middle'.
As could be expected, Jack got more and more excited as he tried to get the cone from either Mulder or Scully. Things would have been fine had she not been standing next to the ditch and if Jack hadn't chosen that very moment to take a flying leap at her. As small as she was, she really didn't stand a chance. In the next instant she was lying in the ditch, on her back, in the thick, dark muddy water. Mulder rushed over to help her. How he stopped himself from laughing he didn't know.
She glowered at him. "One smirk, just one tiny smirk Mulder, and I swear you'll be able to join the Vienna boys' choir." He got her gist.
He helped her stand up, all the while trying to keep a straight face, until he saw the look of humiliation and hurt pride, and all the hilarity left him.
"Come on Scully, let's get you home. Just as well Jack's blanket is in the car. You wrap up in that and keep warm; I'll drive us home.
Even Jack seemed subdued on the drive home. Mulder told her to get herself upstairs; he would return Jack to Lily. Scully didn't need any urging to comply.
By the time he got up to her apartment, he could hear her in the shower. He didn't know what to do to help. Mulder was really sorry that the afternoon had ended on such a sour note. They'd been having such fun!
He went to light the fire that he'd set before they'd gone out for their disastrous walk. Having done that, he picked up the muddy clothes Scully had dumped outside the bathroom.
On impulse, he decided to rinse the mud out of them for her. It would probably piss her off still further, but he needed to do something to show her he was sorry.
Having done that, he put on the coffee maker. Maybe a decent cup of coffee would cheer her up. The now blazing log fire certainly made her living room look different. It had always been cozy, but now, it just looked like home.
He went over and turned the thermostat on the central heating right down, before the place got too hot.
Just then Scully came out of the bathroom, dressed in her fluffy white terry bathrobe, her hair bundled up in a white towel. He'd been right in assuming she'd be royally pissed off with him.
She looked at the fire blazing in the hearth.
"Mulder, what gives you the ri__?" She stopped.
Seeing the whipped puppy look in his eyes, her anger evaporated.
"Um, thanks Mulder, err __um is that coffee I can smell? Her voice was soft.
Mulder looked very unsure of what he should do next.
"Um, if you come and sit by the fire, I'll bring you a cup," he suggested.
She didn't know why she felt so put out, other than she'd wanted today to be special for Mulder. The events of the afternoon weren't his fault.
"That stupid dog!" she fumed.
She turned towards him. "I'm sorry Mulder. You don't deserve this. Thank you for doing all this for me. I *do* appreciate it *really*!"
"I'm sorry, I was out of line..."
"Mulder! Jeez, will you stop apologizing for everything that happens. It's really beginning to piss me off!"
" I'm sor... Please Scully. Please don't let's start bickering. Don't let's spoil the afternoon. I was having so much fun."
"You're right, Mulder." He looked so relieved, and gently he touched her cheek.
"Thank you Scully. Um __Do you want me to do anything else?"
Scully took a deep breath.
"Tell you what Mulder, you get in that kitchen and heat up the soup, while get dressed. Then we'll go from there, okay?"
"Okay. You trust me that far Scully?"
"I trust you with my life. You know that Mulder; I'm even prepared to trust you with the soup."
The sun was dropping beneath the horizon and the room was dark now, save for the light thrown by the flames; Scully turned and lit the candles that were scattered around the room. Soon the room was bathed in the soft light of fire and candle. The wonderful fragrance of pine logs mixed with the spice and vanilla of the candles.
By the time he had sorted the soup out, Scully was back in front of the fire wearing soft gray sweats. The fire crackled in the hearth, the logs hissing and spitting; sending showers of golden sparks up the chimney every now and then. They sat side by side on the couch, drinking their soup. Scully got up to go to the kitchen. She came back with a tray loaded with sausages, sweet corn, potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil and sliced bread. Mulder looked at her questioningly.
"I thought we could have an indoor 'cook-out,'" Scully told him sheepishly.
He grinned. "Sounds like a plan!"
Scully put the potatoes in the fire.
"Let's hope they don't burn! You do the sausages, while I do something with this corn."
He set to work with the long handled toasting fork, spearing a sausage and beginning to grill it.
They cooked, ate, talked then cooked some more. The fire cast dancing shadows around the room. Mulder loved the way Scully's eyes sparkled in the firelight.
He reminisced about the very rare occasions his family gathered around the hearth. It didn't seem to Scully that they ever did much together, and what they had done had ended a long time before Samantha's abduction.
Poor kid, he'd never had much of a childhood. When all the other kids his age were running around being irresponsible teenagers, he'd assumed the mantle of adulthood and with it, he'd taken on guilt for anything and everything.
Maybe if her schemes worked out she could restore some of that childhood exuberance to him.
As the evening wore on, they spent more and more time just gazing into the flames, dreaming dreams. Gradually they drew closer together on the couch . It was so comfortable. They managed the whole evening without bringing up a single work related topic. Their earlier upset was forgiven and forgotten.
What drives us to be constantly at each other? she thought.
Mulder seemed at peace, he was so relaxed. She was enjoying seeing him like this.
One by one the candles guttered and went out, leaving the pair in the soft glow cast by the glowing embers. Scully pulled the afghan that was at the end of the couch, over them and snuggled up to Mulder. He gently put an arm around her, and pulled her against his chest. She was quite content to lay there, and he didn't seem to mind holding her. Neither one questioning or analyzing; each just accepting this moment in time.
They gazed at the red and orange of the embers, at peace with each other and the world. Gradually sleep overtook them.
Title: Firelight 02. Tricks and Treats
Summary: All Hallows Eve
Thank you To Peggy who has turned a mediocre story into something much better. The emails flew across the Atlantic thick and fast. Thanks Peggy, you're great!
She'd planned a fun night, but how to get Mulder there?
This past month they'd not had a chance to spend much time together, outside of work. Even weekends had been taken up with assignments, the cases very mediocre, and both requiring too much paperwork.
Each time dragging through Saturday and well into Sunday. By the time their plane had landed on both occasions, they'd grab three or four hours sleep, before having to report to Skinner first thing Monday morning.
For every day it took to solve a case, there was at least two days worth of paperwork.
Scully worried that this weekend might prove to be the same, with them being sent off to some hick town on yet another wild goose chase.
She'd taken it as a personal challenge to put some fun into their lives, especially into Mulder's. For this reason she was now agonizing over how to get him to her apartment.
The evening was planned, the preparations made, and she'd worked late a couple of nights to make sure that everything was ready. She could ask him outright, but she needed it to be a surprise.
Now, how to ...? She had it! All it would take was a cryptic message. A few key words, a phrase here and there. He'd home in on them, wouldn't worry about the rest of the text. By the time he did, he'd already be with her. This was a touch of pure genius.
Mulder was out of the office. She'd leave the message on his computer, then head off home to finish the preparations, sure he'd take the bait.
Two hours later, Mulder walked in through the door of their deserted basement office. "Looks like Scully's finished for the day. Wish she wouldn't do that to me." He muttered to the empty room.
His computer hadn't been shut down. The UFO screensaver was dodging around the screen. He moved the mouse to activate the screen and saw he had mail.
"Sightings of strange beings yadda yadda yadda, mysterious phenomena yadda yadda yadda malevolent forces..."
He didn't take in much more of the message. Swiftly he shut down his computer. He tried phoning Scully; her cell phone was switched off and the landline engaged. Damn!
He'd just have to go over there.
Scully's apartment was bathed in candle and firelight. There was a smell of baking and a pumpkin stood awaiting sculpture. Mulder realized he'd been set up.
"Am I that predictable, Scully?" He asked with chagrin.
She smiled at him.
"All work and no play makes Mulder a dull boy."
Mulder looked at her in disbelief.
"Take your coat off. We don't have much time. The pumpkin's gotta be fixed before it get too dark. We need the protection. You of all people should know *that*."
He still wasn't sure what to make of this. What could he do? He just did as he was told.
They set to work on the enormous pumpkin, scooping out the pulp and seeds.
"You do the carving, Scully, you've got more experience with the scalpel."
"No can do, Mulder. This is your creation. I did mine earlier, otherwise we wouldn't have any pumpkin pie."
"Scully! How did you know that's my favorite? "
"I don't know, I must be getting psychic." She grinned.
Scully went to turn some of the side lights on so that he could see what he was doing.
"No Scully, don't! I like this room in candlelight, it looks special. I'll bring the pumpkin over to the fire, and work on it there."
She humored him.
Watching him at work was a revelation. Like with everything else he ever did, he was so intense about this. She smiled .
He looked like a little boy. A lock of hair had fallen forwards and he was chewing on his bottom lip in concentration. She had to stop her hand from pushing that lock away from his eyes.
Wishing she could freeze this moment in time, she went out to the kitchen to check on the cooking and to bring a candle for his creation.
Her family had always celebrated Halloween, although strictly speaking, it was a pagan feast.
It was her Irish immigrant ancestors that had helped popularize the revels. The Scully family celebrations had embraced many of the Celtic traditions.
In the 'old country' they would have scooped out turnips to use as jack o' lanterns, and there were the traditional bonfires, to keep spirits from returning home.
They would have to make do with the fire in the fireplace.
Now that it was finished and the candle in it; Mulder's pumpkin looked very ghoulish.
"That'll frighten anything off Mulder!"
He stood at the window looking out into the gloom while Scully went back to the kitchen. Eerie sounds crept through the dusk: a human sort of hooting, then laughter, then a scream and three glittering clusters of light bobbed away from the building next door.
"Scully, look!" said Mulder.
Scully came to the window. She squinted at the bobbing lights and suddenly exclaimed, "Come on!" He looked at her perplexed. The three lights moved up the road towards this building.
Suddenly it dawned on him, "Trick or treat! Hey Scully, you got any candy?"
"'Course, Mulder. I've got the best candy in the neighborhood. *C'mon* Mulder," she said pulling him towards the door, "Come and see."
She turned out the light in the kitchen and hastily blew out the candles. The apartment was in darkness save for the flickering flames in the hearth and the ghoulish face of the pumpkin.
"Shh," she cautioned Mulder as she opened the door leading to the unlit hallway.
"Why are there no lights on in the hallway?" whispered Mulder.
"Because it's Halloween."
"That explains it all," Mulder said, a note of doubt in his voice.
"Just watch Mulder. Here, you hang on to the bowl with the candy, and don't filch any of it," she added as he went to put a bit of candy in his mouth.
"Honestly Mulder, you're worse than a kid at times; go on have a piece, I wouldn't want to spoil your fun."
As they looked towards the stairs in silence, she felt this hand rest on its habitual place in the small of her back. And suddenly they saw them. The figures were shrouded in ghostly white sheets. The eerie light that bobbed up and down casting spooky shadows on the hallway walls and ceiling, came from the hollow pumpkins that they held.
Each pumpkin had a glowing carved-out skull face, each more scary than the next.
Mulder knew there were children beneath the white sheets, though he couldn't see their faces in the mysterious fluttering light. The three figures moved closed to them and a voice croaked "Trick or treat?"
Scully smiled at them. "Hi, guys."
One of the figures said "Hi, Miss Scully!" and pulled the sheet away from his head. "Have you any candy for us?"
Now that they were close up, Mulder could see that each carried a bulging sack decorated with bats, skulls and other unsavory objects.
Another sheet came off another head. Now Mulder could make out two boys, with pale curly hair. "Treats for the ghosts," said Scully. Turning to Mulder beside her, she said "Ghosts meet Mulder, he's a special friend of mine." "Mulder, meet Joe and Alex."
"Hi!", the boys grabbed for candy, and when the smallest ghost let the shroud fall back, Mulder saw a serious little girl with pale hair like the others, but without curls or a smile.
"Hello, Mr. Mulder," said the polite little voice.
Scully knelt down before her and pulled her closer. "It's just Mulder to his friends, sweetie."
"This is Minna. She and her brothers live downstairs, two doors away from Lily. You remember, the one with Jack."
"How could I forget?" grinned Mulder.
Minna took a piece of sticky candy and began to munch. "Do you like my costume ," said Minna executing a little twirl.
"Hmm, yes. Very scary," said Mulder with a smile.
When the children had finished their snacks, Scully filled their bags up with the candy. "Have you finished your haunting for the night?" she asked them.
"Yes Miss Scully, we always leave you till last." "Why's that?" "'Cos you've got the best candy," Joe told her. "Go home then, boys, and make sure you take care of little Minna here."
"Okay and thanks for the candy."
With that the three of them went back down the hallway, struggling a little now, with the sheets, pumpkins and now the extra bags of candy.
Mulder leant against the door jamb and gazed wistfully after them.
"You know Scully," he said in a tight voice. "I remember being their age and having to take Sam out trick or treating with me. I felt so embarrassed having to take my baby sister with me, but it was the only way Mom would let me go. I wish..."
"Yeah, I know Mulder." Gently she took him by the hand and lead him back inside.
"Come and sit by the fire while I sort our meal out." She relit the candles and then left him gazing into the flickering flames of the fire as she went to put the finishing touches to their dinner.
The leaping flames crackled vigorously in the hearth, but all the brightness and warmth in the room seemed to drain away when she was no longer there. Without conscious thought, he got up and followed her into the kitchen.
"Can I help, Scully?"
She hadn't cooked anything exotic. It was only colcannon, but for Scully this was her childhood.
"This is colcannon. It's a traditional Irish potato dish, that's served on Halloween. Usually there's four charms put in it-a gold band for marriage and a sixpence for wealth. Mom would use a dime instead. Then there was a thimble for spinsterhood and a button for bachelorhood."
Scully paused to taste the dish, then held the spoon to Mulder's mouth so he could try a bit too.
"When we were children, my sister didn't much like colcannon, so Mom would wrap a lot of loose change in greaseproof paper and put that in the dish to make sure we ate it. It was a clever move, we would fight to see who could get the most money."
Mulder tried to picture to scene. "It's another of my Grandmother's recipes. In Ireland they use kale, but Mom and I substitute cabbage. Do you like it? We're having boiled ham with it."
As she filled their plates, she reminisced some more. "We'd make a volcano shape out of the hot colcannon and put butter in the middle of the crater and watch it melt and flow down the side. There was a rhyme we used to say. How did it go?"
Scully pondered for a moment.
"Did you ever scoop a hole on top
It's funny what you remember from your childhood, she thought.
She glanced over at Mulder wistful face. "Me and my big mouth," she muttered under her breath. "Come on Mulder, let's eat."
They ate in a companionable silence. Scully was amused to see Mulder playing with his food, just as she had done as a child.
After a while he found himself telling her a little about how his family had celebrated Halloween. His Dad had been away a lot, and although there had been traditional food and usually trick or treating, there wasn't much of the *family* element.
Scully told Mulder about one occasion when her siblings had been persuaded to take her along with them. She must have been in second grade then.
Bill and Missy had dared her to overturn one of their neighbors trashcans. She, wanting to be 'one of the gang' did just that. When Mrs. Jacobs had complained to their parents the following morning her mother had gone ballistic.
Scully had to go and do chores for Mrs. Jacobs for a week. Bill and Missy thought they'd got away with it, and Scully would have never split on them.
"I don't know to this day how Mom found out, it must have been 'Mom radar'. Bill and Missy didn't think it was quite so funny when she grounded them for a week." "Your mother is a very wise woman, Scully."
"Yeah. Actually I enjoyed doing the chores. I would go along to help out for a long time afterwards. Despite the age difference we became good friends."
He ate the colcannon and ham and the pumpkin pie that followed, finishing every thing down to the last crumb just as Scully had done.
His child like enjoyment of the moment upset Scully.
She stood in front of the kitchen sink as she waited for the coffee maker to finish. Having excused herself she'd gone to make their coffee. She found it very difficult to deal with how sad and lonely he must have been as a little boy. How sad and lonely he seemed now.
She had hurt him with her memories, albeit unintentionally. She'd been so lucky. She'd had a wonderful childhood; her Mom was always there for her.
She wanted so much to make things better for Mulder, to let him experience some of the things she'd taken for granted but she was afraid.
It was irrational, but that didn't make it any better. They both seemed to have a block about expressing their feelings in words. She worried that she might be overstepping the boundaries, yet she didn't know where they lay. She worried he might take her efforts the wrong way and that she might hurt him.
She came back into the room carrying the mugs of coffee. Mulder seemed to sense her unease.
"Do you want me to go, Scully?"
"Mulder...Look, I'm sorry. I didn't mean...please ... please, I don't want you to go."
She looked at him "Let me try to explain..."
"It's okay, Scully." Looking into his puppy dog eyes, she knew that it really was okay, that he really *did* understand. And like a bolt of lightening she knew that he felt the same as her. He smiled gently at her and patted the couch beside him. "If I'm gonna stay, can we watch another rerun?" The uneasy moment had passed. Scully smiled back at him with love in her eyes. He had a knack of banishing her fears with just a look or a smile.
"The things I do for you," she teased.
Mulder surfed the channels until he got to the one he wanted, Scully sat down near him on the couch. Half sitting and half reclining, she reached behind her for one of the large cushions and tugged it quietly into position where she could lean back against it.
They sat for awhile in silence, each in their own individual space, watching the film. She stretched out her hand to him and he laced his fingers with hers. They seemed so comfortable together. This felt so good, so right.
Being Halloween, it was of course a spooky film that Mulder had chosen.
The wind moaned outside. A sudden fierce gust shuddered the broad windows. He continued to watch the screen with single-minded intensity.
This was what made him so successful at solving cases; this ability to fix his attention on the task in hand. Scully glanced around cozy the room and then broke the silence between them. "You want some popcorn, Mulder?"
"Nah, I'm too full, but don't let me stop you." He grinned at her. It didn't stop him from dipping into the bowl of Halloween candy every now and then. She didn't move from where she sat.
Outside the windows the world was black. He could see their reflections in the glass, the two of them all gilded and rosy in their own little cocoon of firelight.
Scully knew that the gloom that had wrapped itself around her in the kitchen had nothing to do with the season or the darkness outside. It had everything to do with an emptiness inside herself- an emptiness that had seized her without warning and that was now just as suddenly dispelled by his calm presence. No, she did not want him to go, she didn't wanted him to ever leave her but that in itself scared her. She was afraid to rely on him, afraid of not being in control. She needed him so desperately and was afraid that one day he might not be able to be there.
Mutely Mulder held out his arm to her. In one dreamlike movement she slid up the couch and into his embrace. She leaned her head against his shoulder, her body relaxing against him. This felt so good, so right. This is where she wanted to be, needed to be. She would enjoy today and let tomorrow take care of itself.
Mulder's attention appeared to be fully focused on the screen again, as he absentmindedly stroked her hair. She snuggled against him, like a lazy cat and felt her mind drift.
As she watched the flickering of the candle in the pumpkin face, she was glad that she'd persuaded Mulder to come over today. He didn't really need a lot of persuading. Maybe he was enjoying these evenings as much as she was.
This was one thing she could give him, one way she could repay him for all the wonder he put into her world, the only way she could show him how much he meant to her.
They stayed there a long time, she wasn't paying attention to the film, simply enjoying being held in his embrace. Her hand went up to cover and stroke the arm that held her so securely to him and she felt his lips on her hair.
It was to thoughts of Thanksgiving that her eyes finally glazed over and fluttered shut.
She was unaware of the indulgent smile Mulder gave her a little while later, as he tenderly wiped the tiny bit of drool from the corner of her mouth.
"You're always doing this to me Scully," he told her softly as he snuggled her even closer to himself and covered them over with the afghan.
Her only reply was a soft snore.
Title: Firelight 03. Be Thankful
Summary: It's Thanksgiving.
Thank you Peggy for another great beta-reading job, you keep me from getting myself into trouble. You're worth your weight in gold.
Scully learned a few weeks back, that this year, for the first time in many years, visiting with Mom over the holiday season wasn't going to be an option.
Most years Mom held open house but this year, because Bill was away at sea, Charlie doing his own *thing*, and Scully as reliable as ever, Mom had booked up for a eight week trip to the 'old country'.
There were still many links with Ireland, especially in County Wicklow. Mom announced that she was going to show her cousins how we celebrated Thanksgiving. The nearest they have to this is Harvest festival, which did not even come close. She was going to stay with cousins till just after Christmas, and then tour around a bit. The weather wouldn't be a problem as generally speaking it is very mild in comparison to Washington DC.
This had come as a bit of a pleasant surprise to the family.
"It's time you lived your life a little and left us to our own devices, don't worry Mom we'll all be fine." Scully told her mom over the phone, just before Maggie left for the airport.
Barring some bizarre last minute case, it looks like Mulder and herself would be spending the holidays alone and apart.
Scully planned to spend thanksgiving with Mulder. Let's hope he doesn't decide to go haring off on some bizarre case somewhere, she thought, a few days before Thanksgiving.
Mulder liked their firelight evenings. He all but jumped at the chance when she tentatively suggested yesterday, that he might like to come over for Thanksgiving dinner. He didn't want to appear over keen, but those quiet intimate times were so special to him. He wasn't so obtuse that he hadn't worked out what Scully was trying to do for him, but he wasn't about to spoil the fun by letting on.
There had been flurries of snow during the day, but not enough to settle. Now, as evening drew near Mulder could feel the temperature dropping. He pulled his fleece closer around himself as he exited his car outside Scully's place. The cold air sent a shiver down his spine.
The sky was clear and already the full, silver moon was rising with it's accompanying star. That star, which heralded the coming of the night had always enthralled him. It was so bright, so beautiful. He turned and walked towards the entrance of the building, past the winter naked trees with their shimmering dusting of snow.
He was welcomed by the smell of the apple logs and the roast dinner that was in the oven. As he crossed the threshold, another shiver shook him.
"Hi, Mulder. You cold? Come over to the fire. I'm just making some Latte, do you want some or would you prefer iced tea?"
He decided to go with the Latte. They drank their coffee, basking in the companionable quiet, Mulder getting warm and Scully finally sitting down after cooking all day. When they'd finished she got up to see to their meal, then she paused and grabbed his hand pulling him up.
"C'mon Mulder, as you're doing half the eating, I don't see that I should be doing all the work."
"You want me to carve the turkey, Scully, why didn't you just ask."
"It was more the peeling of the potatoes that I had in mind, Mulder," Scully replied.
"Oh. Well, we Indian Guides learned to do that too."
"Let's see how good you are then," she said with a grin.
While he peeled potatoes and she sorted out the squash, Scully told him about the phone call she'd had some hours earlier.
Ireland was some five hours ahead of Washington. Mom was just going to sit down to Thanksgiving dinner with Dervla and Mike and half the neighborhood when she decided to phone.
"She wished us a happy Thanksgiving, she said to give you her love." Scully could have sworn Mulder blushed a little.
"How's she doing over there?"
"Oh, she's got them all organized. It took a bit of doing, sweet potato is hard to get over there, but she got them all sitting doom to a complete American meal."
"Yeah, that sounds just like your mom," grinned Mulder.
Scully bent over to check the turkey in the oven, and Mulder peered in over her shoulder."Is that pumpkin pie you've got in there, Scully? You're spoiling me."
"Who said anything about it being for you," she teased, adding "Let's get the table set, we're eating properly tonight."
They made short work of it between them. While they waited for dinner to finish cooking, They sat by the fire.
"What does Christmas mean to you, Mulder? He looked at her somewhat surprised. This wasn't the sort of question he expected at Thanksgiving, but he answered her never the less.
"Hmm, I suppose it means decorations, laughter, presents, carols and, above all family and friends."
Scully couldn't answer for a moment.
Yes Mulder, but for you the truth is different. For you, Christmas means loneliness and silence she though. For Mulder, there was no one to buy him presents or send him a card, and they had agreed years ago not to bother. This was one of the decisions she regretted. He had no one to share a traditional turkey dinner. No one to hug him and wish him a Happy Christmas.
No. This year it *would* be different, she would make it so. This Christmas she wouldn't allow him to sit with only the television for company, in silence, staring at four walls, wishing the day away.
"Why do you ask, Scully?
"No reason," she said being economical with the truth. "Let's see if that dinner is ready yet, I'm starving."
Presently they sat down at the candlelit table. Scully had really gone to town with the meal. She wanted this to be as good for Mulder as she could make it. By the look of sheer delight on his face, Scully knew that she had achieved her objective. The table was laden with the turkey, breadcrumb stuffing, cranberry sauce, squash, mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes.
"Scully, how did you know sweet potatoes are one of my favorites?"
"I didn't, it was just a lucky guess." Scully felt very pleased nevertheless.
While they ate, Scully told Mulder about her mom's trip to Ireland. It was something that Mom had wanted to do for a long time, but had never gotten round to.
She was certainly making up for lost time, she wasn't due back home till the second week in January.
"I wish we could have spent the Millennium celebrations with her, but I'm thankful that she's had this chance to make her dreams come true"
This got them on to the subject of all the things they were thankful for. As they shared the bottle of Chardonnay, they listed the usual health wealth, a roof over their heads, a job to go to. "Are you truly thankful for the x-files, Scully?"
"I can do without some of the mutants, monsters, purple people-eaters already. But without the x- files I'd have never met you, Mulder."
"You'd never had been abducted, gotten cancer, been hurt," Mulder reminded her sadly.
"Yes, I've lost Missy and Emily and any chance of having a child of my own. Yet having you there for me Mulder, our commitment to finding the truth and my mind being more open to the extreme have helped me accept my losses." "Open to extreme possibilities? Be still my heart! Scully, I can't believe you've just said that! Can I have it in writing?" Mulder quipped in an effort to lighten the mood.
"Oh Mulder, be serious for a minute!"
By the time they had finished their dinner and the bottle of wine, Scully was feeling decidedly relaxed. Well maybe relaxed was nor quite the right word for it. As she turned her head , her eyes seemed to need a second or two to catch up with it. Her brain thought it was wrapped in cotton wool.
She giggled, "Just how strong was that wine Mulder?"
"God Scully, you're drunk."
She was most indignant. "I am not Mulder." All the same she staggered a little as she got up to serve the pumpkin pie.
"C'mon, let's sit by the fire for a while, I'm too full to do justice to that pumpkin pie." He gently helped her over to the couch and sat down beside her.
"D'you mind if we watch the football game on television Scully. This is going to be a real good game, the Detroit Lions are playing the Dallas Cowboys."
"I thought baseball was more your game, Mulder."
"It is, but it's Thanksgiving, this is tradition."
Scully couldn't argue with that.
"So long as you hold me" she mumbled. Mulder complied without hesitation, gently pulled her against his chest. She nestled in and her eyes closed and then she let out a gentle snore.
"Exactly how much *did* you have to drink, Scully?" But she was too far gone to hear him. He pulled her closer into him and sat back to enjoy the game. Idly running his finger through her silky hair. The protective feeling shook him; that and her implicit trust in him.
She came to some three quarters of an hour later, by which time the Dallas Cowboys were ahead.
She tried to sit up, but Mulder wouldn't let her.
"I'm sorry, Mulder, I don't know what came over me."
"It's okay Scully, rest easy." Mulder didn't seem to mind holding her, and she wasn't about to object. Eventually the game finished, with a surprising win to the Detroit Lions. Scully reluctantly got up to put more logs on the now dying fire, and to replace some of the spent candles.
"Hey Mulder, you want some of that pumpkin pie now?"
"You got a cold beer to go with that, Scully?"
She went into the kitchen to deal with his request, feeling a little embarrassed about zoning out on him, but he didn't seem to mind and she'd enjoyed the feel of his arms around her while she slept. It had felt so good, so right.
They watched another rerun, had a couple of beers and in general, enjoyed themselves. It was so cozy in that firelight cocoon that was solely theirs. This was a time where they could let their barriers down a little. They could just be Mulder and Scully, just two people taking pleasure in each others company, getting to know each other a little better.
Outside the glowing warmth of the room, the wind was rising. They could hear it moaning in the chimney. There was a branch outside the window that was tapping in the wind, to the accompaniment of the rain drops which were now beating against the window panes.
"Mulder, you can't go home in this." she said. "I'll make my bed up for you, I can sleep on the couch."
"I'll stay, but only on condition that I take the couch. You know I'll sleep better here. Okay?"
Scully went to get the pillows, sheets and extra blankets out of the closet for him.
After that was done there was a bit of an embarrassed silence.
"You first," they said in unison.
"Thank you Scully, I appreciate what you're doing for me." He smiled as he hugged her. She slipped her arms around his waist.
"Would you do something for me, Mulder?"
"Anything, you know that, Scully."
"Would you spend Christmas with me this year?"
He couldn't answer her for a moment, as he fought for control of the tears that threatened to spill. He sighed and hugged her closer. "I'd be honored Scully."
She was beaming as she held him at arm's length.
"Goodnight Mulder," she said and touched her fingers to his cheek before she turned and went into her bedroom.
"Goodnight, Scully, sweet dreams," he whispered after her.
Title: Firelight 04. So This is Christmas
Summary: This is the season of goodwill to all men.
Thank you To Peggy my beta-reader, you keep me from ggetting myself into trouble. You are my conscience. Happy Christmas Jiminy Cricket! You're worth your weight in gold. This was the fastest turnaround in history!
Scully felt exhausted. She had spent the entire day Christmas shopping. Not wanting to leave anything to chance she'd bought all the food she'd need over the Christmas period. Now her freezer and fridge were bulging.
She felt at least three inches shorter, she'd walked so far and now her feet were killing her. She was aching to get into a hot, scented bath and relax after the trails of the day. But all her efforts had finally been worth it. Scully had spent hours over the last few weeks deliberating what to get Mulder for Christmas. She could think of nothing. She'd spent most of today wandering in and out of the shops in three Malls, trying to find something suitable.
It wasn't till a quarter of an hour before closing time that she'd stumbled upon a small, dimly lit shop, and there it was. The perfect gift for Mulder. It was so *him*. She left the shop, one very tired but very happy camper. She could just imagine his face when he opened his gift.
Christmastime had historically never been a happy time for them.
The thought took her back to last Christmas eve and the haunted house. They had broken their unwritten law, early that Christmas morning. They had only been token gifts, but she relived that moment of joy, the excited little boy look on Mulder's face when he realised that she had a gift for him.
Scully sunk into the deep perfumed bubbles in her candlelit bathroom and sighed with relief. If things panned out, it was all about to change for them.
It was unbelievable how tiring shopping could be. It had all been worth it though. All she had to get now was the Christmas tree, and that she'd planned as part of Mulder's treat when he came on Christmas Eve.
The insistent knocking on the door finally woke her up. She glanced at the clock on her nightstand. "Who the hell is that at this time of the morning," she grumbled to herself as she wearily got out of bed, reached for her bathrobe and stumbled to the door.
He stood there on her threshold, still stamping the remains of the snow from his boots. "Am I too early, Scully? You did say you wanted an early start."
There's early and then there's ridiculous, she thought to herself.
"No Mulder, it's fine. Come in. Has it snowed again overnight?"
"No. It's cold out there, but no, there's no fresh snow."
He came in carrying a hold-all and a couple of plastic sacks. "Make yourself at home, Mulder. Put the coffee on, while I grab a quick shower and get dressed."
While the coffee was 'doing' he wandered over to the fireplace and decided to sweep the hearth and lay the fire for her.
That will save a job later he thought.
He had nearly finished by the time Scully came out of the bathroom dressed in her soft gray sweats, her hair still damp from her shower.
"You needn't have done that, but thanks."
"You know what, Scully, I was just thinking that these fireside evenings with you have gone a long way in conquering my fear of fire."
Scully, remembered their brush with Phoebe Greene and L'ively all those years ago, when she was still new to the X-Files. She didn't want him to dwell on those times. Today was going to be a special day, a happy day.
"C'mon," she said changing the subject. "I'll bet you haven't had breakfast. It's going to be a long day today."
"Um...talking of food, Scully, there's something I need to ask you." He paused looking a bit uncertain. He took a deep centering breath and continued "Would you mind if I cooked for us tonight, it's nothing fancy but I promise it will be edible."
He had that 'little boy lost' look about him that she could never resist. She felt a smile trying to reach her lips, but resisted the temptation knowing that he would probably take it the wrong way. "What had you in mind Mulder?"
"Well, I do a mean Spaghetti Bolognese," he said quite proudly. "And I've brought all the stuff with me," he added quickly.
The smile won the battle for supremacy "That will be just great, there's so much to do today, it'll be a great help. Now, what would you like for breakfast?"
While she did breakfast for them, he put away the groceries he'd bought in her fridge. Scully could scarcely believe this. Mulder shopping? He'd rather face a sewer full of fluke men than set foot in a shopping mall! This was a facet of him that she'd never seen before.
While they ate she outlined her plans for the day. "The first job is to get the Christmas tree, I need you to help me decide and then..." She went on to briefly outline the timetable.
"Oh, I almost forgot and tomorrow, after Christmas dinner, we're taking Jack out for a run to the woods. We always used to go for a walk in the afternoon when we were kids. You remember Lily's dog, don't you?"
"How could I ever forget that mutt," he muttered but also grinned.
The Christmas tree expedition proved a great success, although it included a good deal of friendly arguing over the merits or not of each one they looked at. That one was too tall, that one too bushy, too twiggy, that one was not straight enough and she'd thrown a better specimen than *this* one out last year.
Eventually they managed to agree on the perfect one, it was a tad on the tall side but apart from that it was the one.
The next job was to load it on the car and get it home. That proved easier said than done. Eventually they got it home and into it's stand. Mulder smiled as he wiped his hands down his jeans.
"Know what, Scully? I haven't had this much fun in years."
He reached for her and started to pick the pine needles out of her hair.
"How did you manage to get yourself into such a state?" he mused.
The smile she gave him was pure sunshine. "We have to dress the tree now, you do the lights and I'll sort out the baubles..." she came to a halt.
She could have kicked herself for being so insensitive.
She suddenly remembered him telling her about the rows he's experienced almost every holiday time when he was little. How his parents would quarrel, his father storming out leaving his mother in tears. Mulder, in bed would roll up into a tight ball with his hands pressed tightly over his ears, trying to shut out their voices, the hurtful words that they would throw at each other; crying because he didn't know how to stop them.
"Hey, tell you what, we'll both do the lights and then you can help me with my bit. Okay?" Then she took the bull by the horns.
"There was the same conversation every year when it came to the lights, us kids knew it off by heart. The lights never worked when Dad put them on the tree and Mom would always say 'I told you to check them when you took them down last year.' Then he would fiddle with them and by the time Mom came back with a drink for him, they'd be fixed and everything was fine again."
Mulder looked at her with a bit of a sheepish grin. "Thanks Scully, I appreciate it."
They set to work on decorating the tree and surprise, surprise, the lights worked the first time. In the gathering gloom of late afternoon, the tree looked beautiful. The lights twinkled and shone, reflecting off the gold and red baubles which adorned it's branches. The tartan ribbons that Scully had tied in bows on their tips just set it all off.
There was one large pink bauble on the tree one that didn't match the others. On closed inspection Mulder saw that it had written in gold lettering 'Baby's first Christmas Dana Katherine 1964'. He felt his throat tighten and he had to swallow hard to dislodge the emotion.
He came up and stood behind Scully as they stood admiring their handiwork' putting his arms around her he gave a gentle hug. "Not bad for our first attempt," he said.
"Yes, and not one cross word about the lights. How about we make the paper chains now, or do you need to start cooking?"
"I can't look at food right now, can it wait?" The chef of the day replied. Scully went to fetch them some iced tea and get the makings for the paper chains, while Mulder lit the fire and saw to the candles.
He was standing in the middle of the room with a foolish grin on his face when she returned.
"What's up, Mulder?"
"I was just thinking how good all this feels," he told her in a quiet voice.
Scully smiled as she went to put on one of her Christmas CDs. Celtic Christmas had some beautiful carols as well as the haunting sounds of the Harp and Uillean Pipes. They sat by the now blazing fire, in its rosy glow and worked on making the red, green and gold chains.
Mulder surprised her with his skills in the kitchen. The meal though simple was very good. And he'd cleared up as he went along. "I'm impressed Mulder, I wouldn't have pegged you as a househusband!"
While he'd been cooking, Scully had gotten on with preparing what she could for the Christmas dinner. She didn't want too much to do the following morning.
She was taking him to Midnight Mass.
"We'll have to leave here at about ten, there's a service of carols and readings first. You'll like it, it's really beautiful," she told him over dinner.
When they'd eaten and cleared away they watched a fairly recent version of the Christmas Carol. It had always been one of Scully's favorites. She rested against him while he draped an arm loosely around her shoulders.
She sighed contentedly. So far so good, she had so much more planned for Mulder. Above all, she couldn't wait to see his face when he opened her gift to him tomorrow.
He slid down the couch and ended up with his head on her lap. Scully's left arm draped gently around his waist, while her right hand absently stroked his hair.
Mulder glanced up at her face, but she was engrossed in the film. With a soft sigh he snuggled into her and she on her part, held him that much closer. His mind drifted back to yesterday. Scully would not have believed it, even if she'd seen it. Him in the Mall shopping. Yes it was hard to believe. He, who hated shopping with a vengeance, had spent hours after work yesterday trying to pick out a gift for her.
It was very difficult. He really didn't know what to get her, being afraid that he would sent her the wrong signals. He didn't want to appear as though he was coming on to her. He liked where their relationship was at the moment, but was afraid that he might be presuming too much. It was so desperately important to him not to blow it.
It was while he was searching for a gift for her that the idea of cooking for her had come to him. He hadn't stopped to analyze the rational of it, and had on impulse gone and bought the ingredients he'd need.
Had he stopped to think at all, he wouldn't have gone ahead with his scheme; would have found a hundred and one reasons not to.
As it happened, it had been a brilliant idea and the meal had been a great success.
You ought to have more faith in yourself Mulder, he thought, you believe in extreme possibilities, yet find it hard to believe that she might like a gesture like that.
It had been getting on to closing time and he'd still not found anything for her. It couldn't be too personal, too intimate, nor did he want something like a fountain pen which would have been the other extreme. Then he'd seen just the thing in one of the shop windows.
It was so unlike her, but at the same time so like the new private Scully he was discovering. He hadn't stopped to think, just gone in and bought it.
It took him another fifteen minutes or so to choose the appropriate wrapping paper and then it was done. He'd spent ages last night wrapping the gift just so; being quite out of practice with such niceties. Granted they *had* broken their unwritten rule and exchanged little joke tokens last Christmas Eve after that ghost busting debacle. He shivered just thinking about it.
"You cold, Mulder?"
"No, it's okay, I was just thinking that's all." She cuddled him closer and went back to watching the film.
He thought back to when he was small, saving up his small allowance to get Mom, Dad and Sam presents. Sam had always loved whatever he got her, you could see it in her face. But when it came to his parents, his Mom especially, no matter how hard he tried to please them he would get a 'that's very nice son', sort of response and the gift he had taken so long in choosing, so much care in wrapping had been laid to one side and forgotten. Something died in him then.
That same something felt newly resurrected now, something as fragile as spun glass.
He didn't feel worthy of her affections; was afraid that he was overstepping the mark.
She'll tell you in no uncertain terms, the voice of reason said to him, but he was having trouble believing it.
Well, we'll find out tomorrow, he thought. She'll either love it or shoot me one or the other.
He must have slept for the next thing he knew she was mussing up his hair, "Wake up sleepyhead, it's time to get ready to go," she said to him as he opened his drowsy eyes.
They drove to the church. Scully decided to park a few blocks away.
"When I was a kid, part of the fun was to walk to Midnight Mass," she told him.
They walked arm in arm through the crunchy frozen snow, the chilly wind nipping at their ears and frosting their breath.
The night was so still, so quiet. Above them, the full moon cast it's silvery gold light on the surroundings, transforming the world into a magical, mystical place.
From a distance the church looked in darkness, and as they move closer to it Mulder realised that this was indeed so. He looked at Scully.
"Wait and see," was all she'd say to him.
As they came in through the porch, one of the altar boys smiled at them and handed each a Mass sheet and a hymn book. His companion was handing out the candles. There were two lanterns here so that the boys could see what they were doing.
"Let's go near the front," Scully said as she placed her hand in the small of his hack to guide him forward. He glanced back at her, a look of surprise on his face. She just smiled up at him and continued, "You'll get a better view from there." The church was in darkness, only the street lights outside and the red sanctuary light, giving very faint illumination
At 11:15 promptly Father Kevin came out of the Sacristy, preceded by six altar servers bearing lighted candles and processed through the by now packed church. The choir had started singing 'The world was in darkness and nobody knew, the way to the Father like you and I do'. As servers lit the candle at the end of each pew and the light was then handed along from candle to candle till everyone held a light. By now the congregation had joined with the choir. Mulder joined in with the carols he knew, his rich velvety voice blending with the others, while Scully was content just to listen. Some of the readings were done by the young people of the parish, and the choir took turns with solos and duets interspersing the community singing. This ended just before midnight and Father Kevin went off the altar.
Scully's mind drifted for a moment. She wondered how Mom was enjoying Midnight Mass in Ireland. Of course with the seven hour time difference, Mom would almost be gating up on Christmas morning now. Mulder brought attention back with, "Is that it?" "Shh, wait and see," came her reply.
At midnight precisely came a sweet soprano voice singing 'Alleluia, Gloria in excelsis Deo" This was taken up by the rest of the choir who joined her singing 'Christus natus est ex Maria Virgine Gloria in excelsis Deo'
It was so hauntingly beautiful he felt shivers run down his spine and the hair on the back of his neck move. Scully slipped her hand into his and gave it a gentle squeeze.
Then, a little girl waked up from the back of the church she was about four years of age with strawberry blonde, chin length hair. She was dressed in her Sunday best and was carrying the baby Jesus in her hands which she took up to the alter and gently placed in the manger in the crib scene that was arranged there.
He felt Scully shudder and he thought he heard her whisper
He slipped his arm around her and pulled her into his side. There was nothing he could say. The single tear trembled on her eyelash.
The child looked so like what he remembered of Scully's little girl.
Slowly, he felt her regain her composure.
Father Kevin lit the three purple and single pink candle on the Advent wreath. These were all burned down in various degrees; as he lit the new white candle in the centre, he explained the significance to the congregation.
The Mass was indeed very beautiful, and although he didn't understand a lot of it, he could see how much it meant to Scully. As she came back from Communion, there was a look of peace on her face.
After Mass, Scully spoke briefly with the Parish priest before they set off to walk back to the car. Mulder felt strangely elated on the way back, maybe this was due to the fact that it had started snowing very gently. They held hands as they walked, each wrapped in their own thoughts.
By the time they reached the car they were both dusted with snowflakes. He pulled her towards him and brushed the snow from her eyelashes before gently hugging her. As he rested his cheek momentarily on her head the both let out a sigh simultaneously.
"Come on lets get you home, Scully, it's been a very long day."
Back in the apartment, the light on the answer machine was flashing. Scully played the message. "Hi kids! Happy Christmas, I'm just off to bed. It 5 am here, we've been partying since we got back from Midnight mass. Sorry to have missed you. Speak to you later." Mom ended her message with "Love you."
"I really miss her," Scully said.
Mulder didn't know what to say so he moved the spark screen and put a log on to the fire. Scully moved to make them hot chocolate. They sat close to each other watching the dancing flames. "Thank you Scully." She reached out and took his hand in hers.
A little later, she helped him make up the bed on the couch.
"Make sure you get straight to sleep" she admonished him. "And no peeking, otherwise Santa won't come."
"Aw c'mon Scully, would I ever peek?" Mulder said in mock indignation.
"Yes, Mulder, you would!" She grinned at him. "Night, night. Sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite."
The last thought he had before he fell asleep was of Sam saying those very same words to him.
The smell of coffee and cooking awakened him. He opened his eyes and looked towards the tree.
"Hey, Scully, you been a good girl? Looks like Santa's been," he called out to her. Quickly he slipped over to the twinkling tree and slid his present to her in amongst the other gaily wrapped parcels that had appeared overnight.
The embers in the hearth were still glowing, so he added a couple of logs.
"Come and eat, I've done eggs and toast and there's some of those pop-tarts you like. Hurry up."
He pull his jeans on and then the t-shirt.
"When're we opening the presents?" he asked, a cheeky grin on his unshaved face.
"Who said there's anything there for you Mulder?" she teased.
They got through breakfast at speed. Neither of them stopped for a second cup of coffee.
"Later Scully, I'll have more later. Who is gonna play Santa Scully?" The excitement in his voice was undeniable.
"Okay Mulder, let's put you out of your misery." She went over to the tree. "Here, open this one first." She handed him one of the gaily wrapped packages that Mom had sent for him on hearing about Scully's plans for Christmas.
"Hey it's from your Mom, how did she know...?" but he had lost the thread of what he was going to say. He looked at the colorful wrapping with its gold ribbon, then like a child he shook it, tried it's weight, squeezed it. It felt soft and squishy.
"For goodness sake Mulder, open it before you kill us both with the suspense," she chuckled.
With that, he tore at the wrappings to expose a soft gray scarf. "Oh its beautiful, it looks handmade."
"Yeah, Mom knitted it for you on the plane trip to Ireland. It only arrived the day before yesterday. Mom didn't think it would get here on time." He wrapped the scarf around his neck, looking really pleased.
"Just what I need in all this snow. What about you Scully aren't you going to open one." He looked towards the tree with it's pile of presents.
Scully went over and chose a large, long box. It was quite heavy. She knew this was from her mother, but had no idea what it contained. Carefully she undid the wrappings.
"Oh look Mulder. However did she know? It's just what I wanted." Mulder looked at the object quite mystified. "What is it, Scully?"
"Where have you been all your life Mulder? It's a pan for popping corn in an open fire. We had one just like it when I was a child," she said excitedly. "We can use it later on."
"Here Mulder, open this one." She handed him a smaller parcel.
He went through his routine again before tearing off the wrappings. This time it was a tie. Midnight blue and very conservative, until you saw the tiny star and a beautifully embroidered UFO.
Mulder laughed. "You really know me Scully"
"It's not from me that's another of Mom's surprises. She always used to do that for us when we were little...Look Mulder, something else has fallen out of that paper."
He picked up the even smaller package and opened it up. Inside was a pair of enameled cufflinks in the shape of... UfO's.
"They're great, I've never had anything quite like these before." The grin on his face said it all.
"Yeah Mom has said that she had to get them for you when she spotted them in a little craft shop in Dublin."
next Scully opened another parcel from her Mom. This one contained a book she'd been trying to get hold of for ages.
"Thanks Mom," Scully said to herself.
"We'll ring her later and thank her shall we?" She said to Mulder.
She felt a bit apprehensive as she handed Mulder the next gift. Would he like it? Had she chosen well? She had thought of getting something a bit more intimate, but she wasn't sure how he'd have taken it.
He took it from her and was just about to shake it
"Don't do that!" she all but yelled at him. He looked at her, then at the gift. Seeing it was from her, he then began to tear the silver and blue paper off the box carefully. He opened the box and looked at the globe it contained.
"What is it Scully?" He saw her face drop.
"It's a thunder globe, a plasma ball, you know..." Her voice began to falter. She bit her lower lip "You don't like it..."
"Don't like it? I love it! I've always wanted this, ever since I saw one at a science exhibition when I was a kid. Didn't know they made these." He looked at her and saw her lip tremble. "Oh, c'mere." He hugged her, one hand moving up to tuck the wayward strand of hair behind her ear. "It's great I'd never have thought of something like this in a million years; let's switch it on."
They were both entranced by the bolts of lightening as they moved and waved inside the globe. "Look, Scully it moved to sound as well as touch. This must be the *best* gift I've ever got. Thank you." She knew he was telling her the truth by the way his eyes lit up.
"But you haven't opened my present yet." "Did you get me one?" Scully was genuinely surprised, knowing how much he detested shopping of any kind.
"Yeah, I hope you like it, I really wasn't sure what to get you." In truth many of the things he'd seen and liked he thought she'd consider too personal. It was so difficult. He didn't want to overstep the mark. The only problem was, that he wasn't sure exactly where the mark was. There was more to Scully than she showed the world, more than her 'suit' image. He'd seen glimpses of that soft, whimsical side of her nature. He hoped his gift would appeal to that side of her.
He handed her the gaily wrapped package. She admired the parcel, the scarlet ribbon, the bow. Then she turned it over, weighed it, shook it gently, squeezed it. She wanted to savor this moment to experience every nuance.
Suddenly she looked up at Mulder and grinned. She understood why he'd done the same with his gifts.
This is where she shoots me, Mulder thought to himself.
Finally she brought herself to open his gift, she undid the ribbon and put it carefully to one side, the wrapping paper followed and finally she exposed the present. For a moment she stared at it not believing what she saw in front of her. Then she glanced up at Mulder and saw his pale, anxious face, and she giggled, finally the laughter overtook her till the tears ran down her face.
"Oh Mulder! They're priceless! Where on earth did you find them? I love them, they're simply fantastic." She hugged the cause of her hilarity to herself.
"You're not going to shoot me?" He asked in a surprised voice.
"Oh Mulder, you fool!" She hadn't quite finished giggling. "Can you imagine Skinner's face say if I came to work in these next week?" With that picture in his mind Mulder's mouth stretched into a wide grin as well.
The object of her mirth was a pair of oversize slippers, not just any pair, these were in the shape of Frosty the Snowman.
Big, white plush ones. On the front of each was a stuffed white snowman , with large black eyes and an orange felt carrot for his nose. He wore a two tone blue hat with twin pompoms, a matching velvet scarf and mittens. Scully was absolutely enchanted with her present. She put the on and walked around the room giggling as the pompoms on Frosty's hat bounced around with each step she took. She came back to where he stood, speechless and threw her arms around him. "Thank you Mulder they're absolutely gorgeous, I've never had anything like this, not ever."
She stood tiptoe and pulled his head down and placed a kiss on his cheek, then she buried her head in his chest and held on to him. Slowly his arms crept around her. They stood like that for a moment, just savoring the moment and each other.
All this and it wasn't ten in the morning yet. Finally Scully pulled away.
"We've got to get a move on, if we're going to eat Christmas dinner today.
I've already put the turkey in to cook, but I need to do the vegetables. Come and peal the potatoes while I do the sprouts and parsnips. Then I've just got to finish the stuffing and we can take that dog out for a run." "I thought we were going to do that after dinner?"
"Well This is plan B, if we get the walk over with now; while the dinner is cooking, we can spend the afternoon playing with your new toy and making popcorn by the fire."
"Hmm, plan B certainly has it's merits. Let's go for it," replied Mulder with a smile.
He was still smiling as he watched his partner traipse into her kitchen, Frosty on each foot. 'Cute' wasn't normally the word that sprung to mind when describing her, but today she was disheveled, ruffled and totally adorable in that silly footwear. She also looked about ten years younger. He followed her into the kitchen to help out.
They finally left the building about an hour later, wrapped up against the weather with Jack bounding around the on his lead. The morning was clear and sunny, the sunlight reflecting off the snow that lay on the ground. The roads were clear, but due to lack of traffic snow still blanketed the sidewalks.
Scully drove them to the woods where they had taken the dog on a previous occasion. Jack was off like a shot.
"C'mon Mulder," she said grabbing him by the arm. There's something I want you to see, something we need to do. Not in the mood to argue with her he let her lead.
They walked through the bare trees, the sun glinting on the snow. Mulder thought back to the last time they'd been here.
"Don't even go there Mulder," she warned when she saw the smirk appear on his face.
Presently they reached the clearing. The snow was virgin here.
"Isn't this just beautiful Mulder, I found this place last winter when I came up with my godson."
Before he realised what she was up to, she'd laid down in the snow and was flapping her arms up and down, scissoring her legs.
"Look Mulder snow angels" she was laughing. He did look at her, hardly believing what he saw.
"Come on, give me a hand."
"What are you up to, Scully?" He asked as she got up and dusted the snow of her jacket.
"We're gonna build a snowman. Are you gonna stand there all day or are you helpin'?"
"Count me in!"
They started rolling up the balls of snow that they'd need. It didn't take too long to get the three done. The largest they used as a base. Mulder struggled to get the next one up. "Give us a hand here Scully. Get off you stupid dog!" This was aimed at Jack who had chosen this moment to come bounding up to see what was going on.
Scully just stood and laughed at his predicament. Luckily Jack was off again chasing imaginary rabbits and trying to climb up the trees after the squirrels.
They finally got the snowman's head balanced on it's shoulders, a couple of small pine cones served as eyes and a larger one for a nose. Mulder snatched Scully's multicolored beanie hat off her head.
"Frosty's gonna look great with that on," he chortled.
They were both quite hot and red cheeked from their exertions. Scully couldn't remember the last time she felt so carefree, so childish.
Mulder grabbed her around her waist and twirled her round.
"Are we having a good time Scully or what?"
He lowered her to the ground, suddenly very serious. His hands crept up to cup her face. She looked up into his eyes and saw they had changed from hazel to almost black. She held her breath as she felt his breath whisper across her cheek, as soft and gentle as the kiss that she was sure was about to follow. The air around them became alive with desire. Her eyes fluttered shut as she wound her hands into his hair. She felt the heat radiating from his face, the sandpaper of his face on her cheek. He wanted to kiss her but for some reason he refrained. And then the jolt, the curse and suddenly she was lying in the cold snow with Mulder's weight crushing her. "Stupid animals, first bees now dogs," she heard Mulder mutter as he rolled off her and started to help her up, untangling them from the now scrabbling Jack.
She would do time for that dog! Scully thought, as she considered Jack's premature demise.
"You okay, Scully?"
No she definitely *wasn't* okay, but she wasn't about to tell him that.
With typical Scully denial she said the first inane thing that sprang to mind. "Look at the time we'd better make a move or dinner will be burnt."
She started brushing herself off trying to hide her Burning face from him and felt her hat being returned to her head.
"Yeah, we'd better get going," Mulder agreed quietly.
As they walked back to the car with Jack now on a lead, soft powdery flakes of snow began to fall. Every now and then Jack would snap at on as it tried to land near his nose.
Once in the car with the heater on, their clothes began to get very damp as the snow melted and penetrated through the layers.
"It's gonna be hot showers all round when we get in" she told Mulder. "It's just as well we didn't have time before we left."
Mulder quipped "I refuse to shower with that dog!"
"Tah, Mulder, behave," she said in exasperation.
They were both shivering a little as they finally got back into her apartment. "Go on Scully, you go first."
By the time Mulder had showered, shaved and dressed. Scully had seen to their Christmas dinner and put the Christmas pudding on to finish steaming.
Although it was only early afternoon, it was gloomy in the living room. Looking through the window, Mulder saw how thickly the snow was now falling. He went around putting new candles in place and lighting them. Soon the room took on it's habitual rosy appearance.
The table looked very pretty with the decoration Scully had placed in the centre.
They decided to phone Mom in Wicklow to wish her a Happy Christmas before they sat down to eat, although in Ireland the day would be almost over. They chatted with her, thanking her for her gifts. Mulder smiled as he looked at Scully, she followed his eyes down to the Frosty slippers on her feet, and returned that smile.
They sat down to their candlelit meal, turkey and chestnut and apricot stuffing with cranberry sauce. Roast potatoes and parsnips, baby sprouts with chestnuts and gravy. Eating at a leisurely pace, they shared the wine and the undemanding conversation. In the background Scully had carols playing softly. They were too full to sample the Christmas pudding at the moment.
They took their plates into the kitchen, then adjourned to their favorite spot on the couch with their coffees.
Mulder plugged in his present and they sat watching the plasma globe as the fingers of lightning glowed and danced to the sounds of the music. The iridescent blue turned to pink at its extremities as each finger frayed into two or three, weaving and waving, changing speed and direction with the tone of each tune. As a log cracked and splattered in the hearth so did the fingers of light jolt.
It was so peaceful to just be with each other. There was no need for conversation, words were always superfluous between them.
Scully drew her slippered feet up under her, gazing distantly into the flame she wondered about the near kiss. Had it been a lucky escape for her? Was she prepared for this move forward in their relationship? The future and all it's possibilities was scary. She felt like a tiny child about to take it's first unaided step.
Looking ahead and seeing the distance stretch out before it, wanting to do it, feeling the excitement yet being reticent as well. Knowing that, once taken, there would be no going back, life would never be the same again.
The wind howled down the chimney as more and more snow flurries hit the windows. Scully got up and went to look out of the small areas of unobscured glass. It was total whiteout out there.
"There's no way you'll be able to get home tonight Mulder. I'm not even sure about tomorrow. I just hope the power holds out."
"Ah, we'll be okay Scully, we've got enough logs to last a while, candles to light half the churches in the district for at least a week and you have gas to cook on. Add to that your well stocked freezer. What do we have to worry about? Come back here, sit down and enjoy! Think of it, with a bit of luck the phones will go down so we won't be able to go chasing ghosts and ghoulies. Now wouldn't that be a wish for Christmas?" He laughed.
"There's one thing you've snort thought of Mulder. How are you gonna survive without watching tacky reruns eh? Mind you we could play Chutes and Ladders or Monopoly," she teased.
"I've got a better idea, let's make some popcorn in that pan you got from Mom."
Soon the apartment was filled with the distinctive smell and sounds of popping corn. On the coffee table Mulder's plasma globe was going berserk with the different levels and tones it was experiencing.
"Hey we've still got that Christmas pudding to sample," said Mulder.
"I've never seen anyone who can put so much food away when he sets his mind to it!" Scully teased.
Later, when the dusk had turned to fully fledged night, they lay in each others arms, silently dreaming dreams and evaluating this holiday. They had another day together. Tomorrow, who could tell what might happen.
She wondered what the chances were of her luck holding out. Would there be a chance of them enjoying the Millennium celebrations together? Knowing their luck and Mulder's propensity for weirdness... Who knows, maybe things will work out, she thought "Are you happy Scully, I mean really?"
She paused to think for a moment and nestled her head further into his shoulder. "Yes, Mulder," she said, a wistful smile playing on her lips. " I do believe I really am."
To you all, may Christmas surround you with the wonder, joy, and love of that first silent night in Bethlehem. God bless you all no matter what your beliefs.
'Tread softly, for you tread on my dreams'
Title: Firelight 05. An Ending and a Beginning
Summary: New Year for Mulder and Scully.
Thanks To Peggy and to Lynn, thanks girls, I'd never have made it without your help and advice and suggestions. Bless you for all your hard work and for putting up with me. Most of all thank you for having faith in me, you don't know how much that means.
She'd thought that, what with it being the holiday season and people not needing to get into work, there wouldn't be a great panic with coming to grips with the whiteout which had descended on Washington DC on Christmas day.
She was wrong. The city elders had mobilized every snow plow, every blower they could lay their hands on. By the following afternoon even this area was cleared of any snow accumulation.
"Now as crazy as this sounds, I have to ask. Would it have really hurt the good citizens of this fair city to have another day off from the grind? Oh yes, I forgot the tax dollars. And it's Sunday for God sake." Scully said to Mulder that evening.
He smiled indulgently at her "Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, Scully."
She muttered something he didn't quite catch.
They'd spent Christmas together. For that short span of time they'd managed to forget all about global conspiracies, consortiums, mutants and alien hybrids. Well, maybe not so much forget about as put that part of their lives on hold.
It felt so good to deal with real-life issues such as cooking, making popcorn over the open fire, sharing time and laughter. Doing the ordinary everyday things that ordinary people did everyday. The sorts of things that normal people took for granted and which for them were so special.
Officially they didn't have to report back to work until Tuesday morning. Another day and a bit of this idyll, provided there wasn't a phone call. Scully was glad that everyone at work had assumed she was going to spend Christmas with her Mom as usual. With a bit of luck it would take *them* a while to find either of them, should some other crazy case come up. She loved her job, but occasionally it would be nice not to be on call twenty-four/seven.
They'd had a few days respite before the call came.
Reports of FBI agents being buried alive, of grave robbery. The local PD matched the fingerprints of the dead man to the handprint on the back of Raymond Couch's headstone.
"Well, got one pile of dirt. I'm guessing one man with a shovel. Other than that last night's rain hasn't left us much to go on. Well, go ahead Scully, naysay me. The body of an FBI agent gets disinterred only to climb out on its own and disappear into the Yuletide night."
Scully smiled gently at him. "See, you had me until there."
"I think it's what you said before. I think it's a grave robbery with a twist, You've got the fingerprints and the torn casket liner. Most likely it's rigged evidence that's been faked by whoever exhumed the body."
"Faked for what effect?"
"Publicity, fear, rumors. I mean, I don't know what specific effect but nevertheless it's__." She noticed her partner looking at the faint red ring around the gravesite. "What?"
"Looks like blood."
It was then that Scully had the very definite feeling that she wasn't going to like what was coming. She felt a shiver down her spine.
They met up with Skinner and three other agents to discuss the case so far. The agents looked over the profile of the latest victim, Raymond Couch. It was known that he'd committed suicide. Things were going relatively well until Skinner asked Mulder his views on events. Scully sensed what was coming, even before Mulder spoke.
"Well, I don't think it was grave robbery pre se, " he paused. "It was necromancy, the attempt to summon the dead to divulge ritual knowledge and perform mystic tasks."
A joint gasp could be heard. Scully felt slight embarrassment for herself and protectiveness towards Mulder. Why hadn't she got used to this situation, these feelings? Hadn't she been down this road often enough? Every time Mulder expounded one of his 'out there theories.'
Mulder explained, showing the picture of the crime scene, the circle of goat's blood, but that it was partially washed away by all the recent rain. He told them that blood attracted the spirits of the dead, while the magic circle would focus the necromancer's powers, and at the same time protect him from the spirits he was conjuring.
As if that hadn't been enough Mulder went on to add that the necromancer might have also desired to wear the clothes of the body to create a bond with it.
The other agents appeared skeptical to say the least, but Mulder was oblivious to the looks that were being exchanging.
As the meeting broke up Skinner called, "Mulder, Scully, a word, please."
He showed them a picture of the ouroboros; of a snake eating its own tail. He gave details some other disturbing facts; reports of four FBI agents who'd committed suicide recently and whose graves had all been desecrated. The other grave robberies had occurred in the last six months and the fact that the ouroboros was the symbol of the Millennium Group, a group which had consisted of former FBI agents who had fallen into disrepute. Mulder had heard of them and of their 'end of time' prophesies concerning the coming millennium. Mulder asked, in view of the date, how much longer Skinner planned to sit on the information.
"Owing to the Millennium Group's former ties with the bureau this matter is sensitive, to say the least. Investigate them but keep a low profile." Skinner requested.
One thing to be said for Skinner, Scully thought, he certainly trusts us and our judgment more than he would have a year or two back. It was not surprising that Mulder knew where to start.
Later, in Hartwell Psychiatric Hospital in Woodbridge, Mulder introduced Scully to Frank Black.
This man, Mulder had explained to her earlier, was the greatest profiler Quantico ever produced; someone Mulder greatly admired.
Frank Black had originally been used to consult for the Millennium Group, yet later he had fought to bring them down, at great cost to his own career and his reputation.
He was now in the psychiatric hospital on a voluntary basis, trying to get his life together again.
Mulder wanted to enlist Franck Black's help in this investigation. Mulder suspected that the Millennium Group was behind the ritualistic killings and apocalyptic plans and that somehow Frank could point them in the direction of the one member of that group who had the power to summons the dead to try to bring the world to an end as the millennium drew near.
Frank Black didn't want to discuss the case further. He was adamant, he wasn't helping. Involvement with the Group had already cost him more than he was prepared to pay.
That Mulder's necromancer had been at work again and his MO had altered, became obvious to the two Agents when arrived at the crime scene following morning. He'd used salt instead of goat's blood for his circle, and it was smaller, just big enough for a man to stand in. Mulder explained the significance of this to his partner.
The corpse yielded further clues.
In Mulder's opinion, the only person that could shed light on this was Frank, but Frank wasn't playing ball. Scully suddenly understood the reason for his reticence when they met up with the man again.
Frank's connection to the Group had cost him his daughter Jordan and the life of his wife. His in-laws were now trying to prove him an unfit father.
"I'll sell insurance. I'll do whatever it takes. I'll get well and jump through whatever hoops they want, but I will not mention the Millennium Group again," Frank told her when she'd challenged him with this information. Mulder looked at Scully; he *had* to persuade Frank to help. This was too important.
"Look Frank, nobody needs to know about this. We're just three people sitting around talking."
Frank relaxed enough to talk.
"The Book of Revelations describes the end of the physical world in a battle between heaven and hell, Good against Evil. The Millennium Group believed that that time was upon us. These four," Frank said, pointing to the photographs taken from the file, "These four represent a schism in the group. They believe that for the end time to come, as it must, that man must take an active hand in bringing that about."
"And to that end, they committed suicide?" asked Scully.
Mulder took up the theory. "With the express purpose of being brought back to life. The four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. These four men bring with them war, pestilence, famine and death. He'll feel a need to take action. He'll return to the body the first chance he gets."
"Rice County morgue," added Scully.
Scully looked down for a moment, then she and Mulder exchanged a look of understanding before they started to walk towards the hospital exit. They were both so tired. They had taken it in turns to doze in the car as they traveled between locations but neither had seen a bed since Tuesday night. They had slept fitfully on the plane to Tallahassee on Wednesday night but by now it was late morning on Friday.
She could kill for some coffee.
Thank God for that small oasis of peace they'd shared over Christmas. It made times like this bearable. So much for her New Year plans for Mulder, it couldn't be helped. Forever the professional, she focused back on the case.
"Mulder, you're telling me it's more important to track down four dead bodies than one live murderer?"
"He's not our murderer, and those dead bodies aren't dead and the millennium is umm__ fourteen hours away."
The door buzzed as they exited the hall. Scully was becoming more and more sure that she didn't like this case. There was a lot here that she couldn't get her mind around. At times like these, her implicit trust in Mulder's judgment kicked in; not that she was ever likely to admit this fact to him.
I suspect he knows anyway she thought, a wry smile flitting across her face
"Mulder, these people, even when they were alive, mangled biblical prophecy to the extent that it's unrecognizable. The year 2000 is just their artificial deadline and besides, 2001 is actually the start of the new millennium."
She was surprised when Mulder smiled at her and said teasingly, "Nobody likes a math geek, Scully."
Momentarily he transformed into the Mulder of the firelight. She found this comforting, but didn't allow it to interfere with her train of thought.
She went on, "Anyway, I think that Frank's profile is sound."
"I do too."
"And I think with it we have our best chance of finding this necromancer, as you call him. So I'm going to the county morgue."
"I absolutely think you should," agreed Mulder.
"And what are you going to do?"
"Follow the profile. The deputy was killed on a quiet road that seems to lead nowhere. I'm thinking that our necromancer lives nearby. I'm going to do a rundown on all single landowners in the area to see where the bodies are buried, since we all__" He halted as a thought leapt at him. There was an intense look in his eyes.
"Scully, do me a favor will you? Don't let anybody remove those staples from the deputy's mouth, okay? Please?" He added softly, "Humor me. Thanks."
With that he was away. She whispered into the empty air, "Okay Mulder." And then added, "Take care Mulder, take care for me. Please."
She tried to phone ahead to the morgue to pass on Mulder's cryptic warning, but got the answering machine.
"Let's just hope I get there in time," she said to the empty passenger seat.
The feeling of disquiet surrounded her as she entered the morgue. She felt the hairs stand up on the back of her neck.
There were three bodies lying on the tables. Where were the attendants? Where was the coroner? They couldn't *all* have just stepped out for a moment.
Cautiously she called, "Hello?"
What was wrong with this picture? As she walked into the adjoining room, saw the receiver dangling off the hook and heard the loud tone the phone was emitting, she drew her gun.
In the corner on the floor, she saw the blood and the broken goggles. Warily Scully followed the trail of blood into the adjacent room.
I need you, Mulder, she thought.
The coroner lay against the wall. The woman was seriously injured. Covered in blood and bite marks, she gasped for breath, choking. Scully rushed over to help her, heedless of the danger. As she checked the woman's pulse she saw movement out of the corner of her eye.
A man stood in the doorway. Scully aimed her gun at him, but a flurry of movement to her side momentarily distracted her. As the should-be dead Deputy rushed at her, Scully managed to let off three rounds into her attacker's chest. The bullets had no effect, and still he came at her. The gun was knocked out of her hand before she was knocked into oblivion.
"Mulder," was her last conscious thought; that and the feeling of immense regret.
By the time she came around the EMTs and police were swarming around. The injuries to her neck weren't too serious and had been treated by the time Skinner appeared on the scene. She heard him asking about her whereabouts.
"She's in there," said the Sheriff.
Judging by the look of first, horror as he approached the corpse under the sheet on the floor, and then by the sheer relief on his face, Scully assumed that he'd thought her injuries fatal. She wasn't badly injured, but felt so very tired. Coming up behind him, she addressed him. "Sir?" She'd made him jump.
She could see concern on his face as he asked, "How are you feeling?" Gently he touched her jaw as he examined the injuries to her neck. She turned her head away from his scrutiny.
"All things considered__?"
"What the hell happened here? Who is that man?"
"He was the Sheriff's deputy, the man that was found dead this morning. He was dead and then somehow he wasn't. He attacked me."
You shot him," asked the AD.
"Three rounds, center mass into his chest, with no effect."
"There was a gunshot wound to his head as well," pointed out Skinner.
"Yeah, this man, our suspect, Mulder calls a 'necromancer,' he was here too. He fired that shot with my gun. He saved me. I have no idea why. He got away, but I was in no shape to follow. Look sir, I can't even begin to offer an explanation for what happened, but I have to say it is exactly what Mulder feared."
"Yeah," said Skinner. "Which is exactly why I would like to talk to him. Why isn't he answering his phone?"
A look of concern crossed Scully's face. God, Mulder please don't have ditched me again. Do you really know the contents of the can of worms you've opened? Where the hell are you?
RURAL AREA MARYLAND
Meanwhile Mulder had arrived at the tenth suspect's house. He tried to phone Scully, but his cell phone registered 'no service.'
"Welcome to the boondocks," he muttered to himself.
Wish Scully was here to watch my ass, he thought. He was soon so engrossed he forgot everything except the task at hand. Exiting his car, he went over to the fence and the trash cans that stood there.
"You can tell a man by what he throws out."
Rummaging through one of the cans he found an empty sack of 'Kosher salt.'
Some of the crystals remained at the bottom of the bag. Mulder absently poured a handful of the salt into his pants pocket.
Climbing over the fence, he walked over to the front of the house. Nobody was home. Picking the lock on the door, he went in. He looked around. Inside there were stuffed wild animals everywhere. The heavily barricaded door to the basement attracted his attention.
A moment later he'd removed the boards from the door, turned on his flashlight, and began the descent down wooden stairs to the dirt floor below. Mulder played the light around the basement room. A shiver ran down his back. A hand reached out of the dirt, then another and another, until four zombie-like men rose from the dirt. Shocked, Mulder spun around flashing his light on the creatures. He heard a sound, and whipping around, saw a man outlined in the doorway at the top of the stairs. Distracted, he was not ready to fend off an attack by one of the creatures, who sent him crashing against the bottom of the stairs. As Mulder started to sprint up the stairs, the door was shut and barricaded.
"Open the door! Open the door! Open it! Let me out! Let me out!" Mulder yelled at him.
But the man wasn't listening. Mulder turned__ and fired.
By nine in the evening Scully was frantic with worry. There had been no contact with her partner for nearly twelve hours. She had task force agents canvassing the northwestern Maryland area, but it was a large territory to cover.
"We're running out of time, he's been gone for almost twelve hours. Sir, I'm afraid he may have found what he was looking for. I need your help in finding him."
Frank still wouldn't help Scully.
"I'm not sure that I really understand your reasons, sir, and I'm starting to wonder what this is really all about and how much you know about it. Mulder mentioned the four Millennium members whom 'liveth and were dead.' Now, this morning in the morgue, I saw what he was talking about."
"One of them attacked me," she informed him.
"Do you believe that the Millennium Group is actually capable of bringing about the end of time? Armageddon?" Scully asked
"I understand their beliefs. I've spent years trying to unravel them, make sense of them. Doesn't mean I believe them myself."
"But what if it were true," Scully cut in. "Good and evil__which would prevail?"
She saw the blank look on his face as he said, simply, "I'm sorry."
She would have to find Mulder herself. He was in trouble; Mulder needed her, she could feel it. She *had* to find him, but she didn't know where to begin looking, he could be anywhere.
Dejectedly, she left the hospital.
Frank Black checked himself out of the hospital soon after her departure.
As she drove around in the dark and the pouring rain sometime later, her cell phone rang.
"This is Skinner. We back-checked Frank Black as you asked."
"He took no calls at Hartwell Psychiatric other than from his daughter, but the staff took messages including one from a Rice County number."
"Rice County? That's where I am right now," Scully all but yelled .
"We ran the phone records for Agent Couch and the other desecration victims. All four received calls from this same number in the weeks before their deaths."
"I'm going to need an address."
He didn't know how many hours he'd been down here, but the meager daylight that had filtered though cracks in the boarded up window had long since gone. In that time, he'd forced himself to stand upright, disregarding the pain from his injuries and the weakness caused by blood loss. He'd fought the effects of shock and fear.
What had possessed him to take that handful of salt? That unconscious act had saved his life. Not losing consciousness had been so difficult. Falling out of his protective circle of salt would mean death. Mulder clung to that fear to stay awake and then he thought about Scully.
She could kick ass as much as she liked, he certainly deserved it.
In the cold dark basement, remembering all their 'firelight times' kept him going. He could almost feel the warmth of the fire. He thought of their disastrous walk in the wood, the Thanksgiving meal they had shared, and of Christmas. Had that been just a few days ago? He relived that time moment by moment, focusing his mind on those few days as if they were his salvation; trying to keep his mind off the danger he was in. He remembered her softness, her gentleness, the way her eyes had sparkled with tears when she'd seen that little girl who so resembled Emily.
Building the snowman and how he had so nearly kissed her. Why had he hesitated? Then that mutt had put an end to the opportunity.
He prayed that Scully would find him. He needed her so badly, she was his talisman, his keeper. She *would* find him; he believed that implicitly, all he had to do was stay alive and wait.
Mulder heard the boards pulled away from the basement door.
"Agent Mulder? Can you hear me? Agent Mulder?"
Mulder was so relived to hear another human voice, he recognized it as Frank's.
"Yeah,I'm down here. They're all around." Mulder said weakly. Now that help was at hand, his remaining strength deserted him.
It was pitch black down there. Frank threw down a flare. The red light showed Mulder standing in the protective circle. One of the creatures, shot through the head, lay at the foot of the stairs. Frank threw a second flare down.
"Are you armed?" shouted Mulder.
"Oh. Yeah," said Frank and took out his gun.
Mulder instructed, "Shoot them in the head. That seems to stop 'em. There's three more of them."
"Where?" asked Frank.
"I don't know. They're hiding."
Frank came down the stairs. As he turned he saw one of the creatures running at him. He managed to fire off three rounds to its head. As it collapsed in a heap in front of him, they heard another one hissing.
On the road Scully was driving and at the same time frantically trying to look at a map.
Back in the basement, Mulder's legs gave out after the long hours in his weakened condition. He slid to the ground, but managed to stay within his circle of safety.
Looking at him, Frank asked, "Mulder, can you get up?"
"Yeah, I think so." As he started to get up he saw a movement out of the corner of his eye.
"Look out!" he yelled at Frank, but it was too late. The zombie leapt onto Frank, pushing him onto the ground.
Outside Scully had exited the car and was trying to pick the lock on the gate when she heard the two gunshots coming from the basement area. She unholstered her gun and took off at a run towards the house.
Mulder managed to shoot the third zombie-like creature through the head, and was helping Frank up, when they saw the fourth and final one break through a wall and come at them.
Mulder turned and fired at him, only to find the clip was empty. It hissed at them and moved to attack.
Unexpectedly, out of the darkness above them came the flash of a gun being discharged and the sound of three shots. The creature fell.
Scully was down the stairs and beside Mulder in a second.
"I'm sorry, Scully."
She supported him as he sagged against her. Putting her arms around him, she held on to him for dear life. She felt Mulder wrap his arm around her waist and pull her even closer to him.
"You okay, Mulder?"
"Yeah, I'll be fine now that you're here."
She nestled his tired head against her shoulder at the same time noting how cold and clammy his forehead felt.
She turn to Frank. "Can you get me some light down here? I need to see what the damage is."
Mulder slumped forward, but she managed to catch him.
"Lie down Mulder, I need to see where you're hurt."
"I'm fine Scully, honest. I just need to go home."
"You're a lot of things Mulder but fine is not one of them," she aid in a tight voice, trying not to let it show how worried she'd been about him.
Taking out her cell phone, she called for assistance using the 'agent down' code.
Frank managed to locate a light switch. Ignoring the carnage around them, Scully gave Mulder her full attention while they waited for the ambulance to arrive.
His pallor worried her has did the state of the wound on his right shoulder. He'd lost a lot of blood.
"I'm sorry Mulder, I'm going to have to put some pressure on this to stop the bleeding, I'm afraid it's going to hurt, but it's got to be done." He gave her a weak smile. "Go on Scully, do your worst."
Mulder tried not to wince as she applied pressure with her hand to his injured shoulder.
"I'm okay," he whispered before he passed out.
"Oh Mulder. When will you ever learn?" she asked softly.
HOSPITAL TELEVISION ROOM
Frank Black was watching the New Year's celebrations on TV. As the midnight hour approached, Scully joined him to inform him that Mike Johnson, Mulder's necromancer, had been taken for psychiatric evaluation and had been put on suicide watch on Frank's recommendation.
Scully smiled as she continued, "And, um__."
"There's someone to see you," she said and moved aside for Jordan, who ran in to her father.
"Hi, little one! Oh, I missed you, Sweetheart," he said as he hugged her to him.
"I missed you too, Daddy."
Mulder chose this moment to enter the room, his right arm in a sling and a smile for Scully on his face. Scully gravitated towards him.
Frank and Jordan turned to leave. The hour to the end of the millennium was fast approaching, the countdown on the TV read 11:59:23.
"You're not going to stay and watch?" asked Scully.
"No, we just want to get home," replied Frank as he and his daughter left the TV room.
Mulder and Scully turned towards the TV screen as the countdown to midnight continued.
"Ten, nine, eight__seven, six, five__four, three, two, one__Happy New Year 2000."
'Auld Lang Syne' was playing and the firework display had started. The cameras panned the crowd in Times Square as the Millennium ball began it's decent.
Mulder looked at the kissing couples, then at Scully, who was engrossed in the scene before her on the screen. His eyes dropped to gaze at her lips. He was tempted, oh, so tempted...
Thought after thought flashed through his brain faster than the speed of any light. Surely after being her partner for all these years, after all that they'd been through together, with all that they meant to each other. Surely tonight of all nights, a kiss would not be out of place.
He had come so close to it on a number of occasions, had wanted to kiss her so often. He had imagined that kiss, warm and sweet, tender and soft. Expressing the love he felt for her. A benediction, sanctifying his feelings for her.
The level of nervousness he felt made his legs tremble, made *him* tremble. It was silly but he couldn't stop the feeling. These past few months, in their 'firelight' times, he'd been allowed to experience a tiny bit of heaven. They had been partners for so long, now suddenly at the dawning of the new millennium he wanted this to be the start of something more, so much more between them. He was uncertain of how she would react if he-.
Her head came up slowly as she smiled up at him. He felt himself drowning in her blue eyes. The look in them made him weak at the knees. So many times in the past, when she'd looked at him like that, he felt devastated, but she'd never known. She'd never known the power she held over him. With that one look, she could have anything she wanted of him, but she'd never understood that power.
He wanted to kiss her so badly he hurt, he needed to, but he couldn't do it without her permission. He never expected to get that permission. Until now. Until this moment when Scully turned towards him, love shining in her eyes as she tried to identify the emotion she saw in his.
Lowering his face towards her, Mulder breathed out, "Oh Scully." Scully turned her face into his hand, and in response his hand cupped her cheek. His breath whispered warmly on her mouth and she waited. His lips were so gentle. To his surprise, her hands moved to the back of his head. She sighed softly and her mouth, like a flower's petals opening to gather sunshine, blossomed beneath his, parting without hesitation.
She tasted so sweet, Mulder thought. Her mouth seemed to have been waiting for him, saving the nectar of her kisses for him alone. There was an innate innocence about her, a certain inexperience.
It had all been so unexpected, so startling, so Pleasurable and for that brief moment she kissed him back with soft generous lips. It was as if his warmth was flooding her veins, touching the icy core of her with the heat of the sun that *was* him. Was this love? This poignant ache deep in her chest, this delicate butterfly feeling that fluttered through her and shook her world as she knew it apart. He was fearful of startling her, as his heart pounded in his chest. He wanted this kiss to go on forever. For a moment they were lost in the sensation, then the realization of what they were doing seemed to hit them simultaneously. When she met his eyes she was astonished by the haunting vulnerability she saw there, and with it, the look of wonder and affection.
She took a shuddering breath. Something rose in her throat and she felt the sting of tears in her eyes, as the emotions raged through her, the strongest of which was a fierce tenderness for this solitary man who was even now holding her in the gentlest of hugs.
They held on to each other for a moment longer. Even as Scully began to pull back she felt Mulder's hands release her. They looked at each other, both of them smiling shyly, their hands interlocked
"The world didn't end," Mulder tried to quip, struggling to control his racing heart.
"No," she agreed, "It didn't."
Wistfully she thought that, although the old world hadn't ended, a new one had most certainly begun.
"Happy New Year, Scully."
"Happy New Year, Mulder." She looked so pretty when she blushed.
"Take me home, Scully."
Mulder put his good arm around her shoulders, and together they walked out of the hospital waiting room.
It was a three-hour drive back for Scully before she finally parked outside her apartment. They could have probably stayed in a motel for the rest of the night, but most places would have been full, and anyway she just wanted to get them both safely back home. She needed feel the security of home around them,
It wasn't very long into the drive that Mulder had succumbed to his exhaustion and pain. She had seen him fighting it, as his head kept on drooping, he hadn't wanted her to drive on her own.
As she drove, with only the hum of the heater and Mulder's occasional snoring for company, she reflected on the events of the past few hours. More to the point, to the event that took place at midnight.
The kiss had been something that she had wanted for the longest time. Somehow it had managed to erase that lonely ache in her chest that had held her in it's grip for so many years. Over the years they had come so close to it on so many occasions.
Where would their relationship go from here? They were experts in the field of denial, but this they could never deny. They would find it excruciatingly painful to discuss, but denial would never be an option.
This was their biggest problem, the fact that neither could articulate their feelings and needs. It would not be easy for them to move forward on this no matter what they did; she didn't presume that they could simply just love each other, their lives hadn't ever been that straightforward.
It's sooo stupid, she thought.
They had been so many things to each other over the years, best friends, partners, family, the other half of a whole; yet they'd never been lovers. She didn't know how to love him, what to do next. She needed him so yet was scared, not of him, never that, but of their relationship. They had taken a giant leap, and she didn't know if she was ready for it. Yes, it *was* something she wanted, but not immediately, not just yet. She wanted time to savor what they'd discovered about themselves today. She needed to be able to take tiny baby-steps forward slowly, taking pleasure in each new discovery they made about each other. This was so new, so important. She didn't want to rush things; after all, it had taken them seven years to get this far.
She drove through the starlit night, on this night of nights. The world hadn't come to an end, but for the two of them there was a new beginning.
It was past 3:30 am by the time they had staggered in through her apartment door. Both too tired to eat, Mulder sagged down onto her couch, a wistful look in his eye as he eyed the cold hearth. Scully went over to the thermostat and turned it up. It was cold in the apartment.
"C'mon, Mulder, I'll get you an iced tea and a sandwich to go with that antibiotic the doc gave you and then it's bed."
Mulder protested that he was too tired to eat and that he'd be okay on the couch, but Scully wouldn't hear of it .
"Look Mulder, if you don't eat something with that antibiotic, you'll end up being sick."
He was too weary to argue with her.
She had to support him as she guided him from the couch to her bedroom. As it was, she'd only managed to lead him into her bedroom and help him onto the bed, before he appeared to be sound asleep. She got his shoes and socks off and gently covered him over with the soft down comforter. She bent over him and placed a chaste kiss on his forehead.
"Sleep well, Mulder."
He caught her arm with his good hand. "Stay with me, Scully," he murmured.
"I will Mulder, I'm right here."
She kicked off her shoes and shrugged out of her pants and jacket. She crawled under the comforter and snuggled up beside him against his back to warm him with her body, her arm snaking around his waist to keep him safe.
The intrusive ringing of the telephone roused Scully from her deep, restful sleep. With eyes that rebelled against the sunlight streaming through the spaces of the blinds, she groped for the receiver, wondering why she hadn't turned on the answering machine.
"Skinner here," said the all too familiar voice.
He wanted to know if his agents were okay, and to remind them that he would need their report on his desk by Monday morning.
"He's all heart, that man," Scully said to herself after she'd replaced the receiver. She yawned widely and looking at the clock on the nightstand, saw that it read 10:38. Mulder was still sleeping soundly next to her, lying in a tangle of bedding, his arm draped around her waist. His breathing was slow and steady, the phone hadn't disturbed his slumber. He looked so peaceful in his sleep, there was a childlike innocence about him, a look of vulnerability.
Scully savored this rare moment of closeness. She propped herself up on the elbow and took this wonderful opportunity to study him. For a while she simply watched him breathing, his chest rising and falling in a slow, steady rhythm.
Her eyes moved to his dear face, covered as it was in several days worth of stubble, she had to restrain herself from running her fingers across it. Would it be prickly? The patterns that his beard formed fascinated her, the way it formed tiny swirls and whorls, like a fingerprint; the pattern as complex and as uneven. Did each face have its own unique pattern she wondered?
Her eyes were attracted to his soft , beautifully formed lips, and even as she watched they stretched into a tiny, secret smile but he didn't waken. Scully felt so possessive, so protective of this man who was lying so peacefully beside her.
He looked so wonderful, so tempting!
"Hey, sleepyhead, wake up!" she said, breaking the spell, before she did something she might later regret.
The softly spoken words drew Mulder from a dream he couldn't remember, a dream that left him feeling warm and happy inside. Turning towards the source of the feminine voice, Mulder forced open his sleepy eyes, and saw Scully's face close to his. Very close. Too close.
Scully could see the sherry-hued lights in the hazel brown of his eyes and the fine lines fanning out from their corners. He smiled and the lines deepened, and his mouth kicked up at the corners in a way that sent her pulse racing. Definitely too close, she thought, starting to sit up straighter. His good hand moved, and, without warning, she felt his knuckles gently stroke her cheek. The unexpected gesture stilled all movement but the erratic beating of her heart.
"Did you know that you talk in your sleep?" he murmured, his touch feathering over the line of her jaw.
Her eyes widened in surprise as the recollection of the kiss, a warm, soft mouth teasing hers to compliance in her dream leapt to mind. Dusty rose climbed to the zenith of her cheekbones.
He nodded and brushed the back of his hand across her heated cheek. "Mmm."
"Wh-what did I say?" she asked, her tongue darting across her lips.
Something very close to a groan escaped Mulder at the unconsciously provocative act. He pushed back a strand of auburn hair. "You asked me to kiss you."
"I did?" Was that husky wisp of sound, her voice?
And then__Hey give'em some privacy you guys!
A HAPPY, HEALTHY AND PEACEFUL NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!
Title: Firelight 06. Happy Birthday G-Woman
Summary: It's Scully's Birthday. Need I say more?
Thanks Peggy for super quick beta, and for stopping our intrepid duo from turning up at two up from a burger bar dressed up to the nines. Now *that* would have really put Mulder in the doghouse!
Basement Office Of X-Files Division
"Hey, Mulder, you doing anything tonight?"
"You comin' on to me, Scully?"
"In your dreams Mulder, in your dreams. I was just curious, that's all."
"Thought I might catch that game with the guys, grab a few beers, make a night of it."
He felt sure she was on a fishing trip, and he decided to string her along a little.
From where he sat, Scully looked disappointed.
"Why d'ya ask? Got anything planned?"
"Nah, nothing much. Thought I get an early night, bubble-bath, hair wash, do some 'girl' things."
He could have kicked himself. He'd done it again, been handed a golden opportunity on a plate, and he'd blown it.
It wasn't as bitterly cold as it had been a few weeks back. Spring was definitely in the air, as could be seen by the increasing number of foggy, misty days and nights Washington DC had been experiencing of late. Yesterday had brought a severe weather warning and, with it, a snow storm, which thankfully hadn't settled. Today's sunshine and higher temperatures had cleared most of the traces away. Having said that, the temperature this evening had rapidly dropped to freezing and Scully was glad of the fire in front of which she now stood. But it was a was source of comfort as well as of heat, and she felt in great need of comfort tonight.
Scully dropped down onto her couch in front of the roaring fire, clutching a mug of steaming chocolate in her hands and feeling more than a little sorry for herself.
It was her Birthday for God sake. Would it have really hurt that schmuck to remember, just this one time? She had hoped....but then, why spoil the habits of a lifetime?
Over recent months they'd got a lot closer. She'd had the idea early last fall; of inviting him over for special occasions. They'd shared a lot since September. She'd had a quiet fire-lit meal planed for tonight. Nothing elaborate, just the two of them, the firelight, some candles, soft music.
It was not meant to be. She still felt very shy in front of Mulder about this fairly new development in their relationship. Oh, it was okay once he was here, but this world and the world of work didn't seem to overlap at all. You had do be schizophrenic to be comfortable with their relationship.
It promised to be a very long, lonely night. Scully had already done the bubble-bath and hair wash thing and was now sitting with the remote in hand, channel surfing. It was a habit of her partner's that often drove her to distraction, but tonight ...it just seemed the thing to do. Judging by what she'd seen so far, she would be in bed sooner rather than later.
Her thoughts were disturbed by the quiet knocking on her door.
"Who the hell...?"
Mulder stood outside his partner's door, hoping, praying, that she hadn't decided to go out after all. As he stood waiting, he berated himself for being the klutz he was. He'd only been teasing her when he'd pretended not to know why she'd asked him about his plans for the evening.
Of course he'd remembered her birthday. He'd gone to a lot of trouble to arrange a birthday surprise for her this year. He'd booked a table for two at the La Bergerie restaurant in old Town, Alexandria. He'd gone there two weekend's ago to check it out. On that expedition, he'd even managed to pick out just the present for his partner. It was *so* Scully.
The restaurant he'd chosen, specialized in classical French cuisine which was second to none. None of your run-of-the-mill stuff for his Scully. This place had real class and sophistication. It would do serious damage his credit card, but tonight was to be special for her. Then after the meal, he'd thought of a romantic cruise or maybe some dancing...He'd play it by ear.
Her door opened, and he realized that his plans were inappropriate. "Oh! Hi Mulder. What? The guy's didn't show? Game been cancelled? I didn't expect to see you here tonight. I was just going to bed."
She wasn't exaggerating. She looked ready to call it a day and curl up with cocoa by that fire which was blazing in the grate.
He suddenly felt very geeky as he realized the consequences of his earlier prank. He'd screwed up, but good this time. Looked like plan A was definitely off. She looked in no mood to go out to a classy do, and besides, she wouldn't have enough time to get ready.... Plan B?
"Err, Scully do you fancy something to eat, nothing fancy, may be some Mexican. Just a little place I know. It's just that I missed lunch...Umm, maybe we could take in a movie...But if you're too tired...."
He was rambling; he knew it, but that didn't stop him. She let him carry on a while before putting him out of his misery. "It's okay Mulder...I'd really like that....Can you give me ten minutes to get dressed and see to the fire?" There was a definite smile on her lips now.
"Yeah, fine. Look, I'll wait for you in the car. Okay? I've got a call to make."
Normally he'd have offered to help with the fire. This evening, he had one or two loose ends to tie up. He was dialing La Bergerie to cancel the booking as he made his way down the stairs. In the circumstances it would be bad choice to take Scully there.
Mulder suddenly become conscious that he was overdressed for plan B. Thank God he had his thick trench coat on, and Scully hadn't seen the suit. He hurried down to his parked car, grateful for the fact he was a slob at times; it had it's uses.
Once in the car, he quickly stripped off his coat and suit jacket. His tie followed and he undid the top buttons of his dark blue shirt to reveal the t- shirt underneath. Quickly he donned the sweater that was lying in the back of the car and roughed his appearance up. Hopefully his dark gray suit pants wouldn't look too out of place with the sweater.
With a bit of luck Scully would never guess that he'd gone up to her apartment this evening with totally different expectations of how they would be celebrating her birthday.
He just had time to hide the evidence in the trunk and shrug back into his trench coat when Scully came down the steps towards him.
"So, where're we going Mulder?" Scully asked, after they'd been driving for a little while.
"There's a place, it's not very big, right across the street from the cinema complex. The Exchange Bar diner. They do a mean Mexican menu, fajitas and enchiladas to die for. You should try their chimichangas, they're *really* something else. Loretta and her husband Pedro run the diner. It's the real McCoy, none of this stuff made up just for the tourist. You'll just love it Scully."
Mulder was feeling very nervous. He had yet to acknowledge the reason for tonight's outing, Scully's birthday, and the longer he left, it the more impossible it was becoming. He did the ostrich thing. They were silent for the rest of the journey because neither of them knew what to say.
Exchange Bar Diner
As they stepped through the door, Mulder trailed his hand down gently to the small of her back, guiding her over to a booth for two in the far corner of the diner. Scully was enchanted by the place. Mulder had been right, inside it looked like a Mexican cantina. She didn't feel at all out of place in the jeans and vivid blue sweater she was wearing. They took their places at opposite ends of the small oil-cloth covered table.
"What would you like to drink, Scully? Margarita? Tequila sunrise? Something less exotic?"
She helped herself to a handful of Nachos that were on the table. "You think you know me *so* well Mulder." She grinned. "I think I'll go with the margarita."
She suspected that her birthday was the reason for this excursion, but Mulder hadn't said a word about it. No 'Happy Birthday Scully', nothing, zero, zilch, nada. Never mind, she thought. Two can play at this game. I suppose the fact that we're here is an great improvement on previous birthdays. Still, it would have been nice if he'd wished me happy.
Not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, she was going to enjoy this evening no matter what. Mind you, she'd had plans for this evening too. Until this afternoon that is, she had every intention of inviting her partner home for a birthday meal.
Why, she'd even bought the birthday cake. She'd not had one for so many years and this year, on impulse, she'd bought one. Never mind, it would keep. There was an awkwardness between them recently, a tension. Maybe she was just being ultra sensitive, maybe it was simply due to the fact that they'd had so little opportunity to spend quality time together since the New Year.
The last seven weeks had been work, work and more work, with many of the cases out of town. This nervousness she was feeling could well be exhaustion. Everything had gotten so serious of late. The last time they'd done anything 'fun' must have been last Christmas.
"Is there anything in particular you'd like, Scully, or would you like me to order for you?"
Scully snapped back to the present. He must have spoken before, but she'd been miles away.
"Erm, no...I mean yes." She shook her head to try and clear her scrambled thoughts. "What I mean is, you order for me, surprise me. Uhh, only not too hot Mulder. 'Kay?"
"Trust me on this one, Scully, you won't regret it."
She couldn't resist muttering "Yeah, been there, done that."
"You say somethin' Scully?"
"Nah, just thinking aloud, that's all."
There was a friendly atmosphere between then as they waited for their orders to arrive.
Maybe she'd just imagined the unease. Scully nibbled at the nachos, absently looking around the diner. That the place had links with many baseball teams was obvious by the paraphernalia on display. She even recognizes some of the signed photos. It would be a wonder if she didn't, considering the sports diet Mulder fed her. She smiled to herself.
"Hey Scully, you gonna share that thought with the rest of the class?"
"Mmm, I was just considering how well you've educated me on baseball matters over the years."
The chicken enchiladas when they came, were all that Mulder promised they'd be, as were his burritos. They ate, making small talk. He surprised her when he held his burrito to her mouth.
"Here, try some of this, you'll like it."
She amazed herself when she opened her mouth and let him feed her. Some of the salsa escaped and oozed down her chin. Their eyes locked as he wiped her chin with his fingers and then proceeded to suck them clean. The food stuck in her throat as her eyes zeroed in on his fingers and mouth. For a moment she couldn't breathe, couldn't swallow.
Her mind went blank. There was nothing she could think off to say. At least nothing that wouldn't come out as gibberish. In a way she was glad when the meal finished, she couldn't handle all this tension. Why did he have to do that? Why did he have to make her so aware of himself?
Mulder took her hand and led her across the street to the Cinema complex.
"Right Scully, I chose the food, you choose the film. Is that fair?"
"Okay, but Mulder, only if I get to choose the type of popcorn as well."
"Aww, but Scully, you can't *possibly* still be hungry!"
"Who said anything about hungry. You can't watch a film with no popcorn, that's un-American."
"No 'yeah buts', you said I could choose. Are you reneging on the deal now, Mulder?"
They bickered amiably all the while they got the salted popcorn and then queued up for the tickets.
She wanted something fun, She had enough of creepy and nasty on a daily basis. Scully narrowed her options down to two.
"What women want? Scully, you sure this is a good choice?"
"Yeah, Mulder I think it's the perfect choice. Rocky and Bullwinkle smacks too much of RL dontch think? Besides which, it's what *this* woman wants, and it's *this* woman's choice...remember."
Mulder led her over to the premier screen 1. Once inside the darkened auditorium, Scully made her way up the steps to the very back row and picked two seats right in the center.
"Scully!" Mulder whined.
"What Mulder? This is the place for the best view....Mulder?...Oh Mulder." Her voice took on a tone of exasperation. "We're a little too old to be thinking of making out in the back row, don't you think?"
"Me, Scully? I didn't say nothin'."
She'd been right it was a good film although he wasn't concentrating much on the screen. His thoughts meandered back to the diner. How could he have done that? Even as he put his finger's into his mouth he could sense just how uncomfortable she'd been about it. God, he never learned, did he? But he hadn't been able to stop himself.
Her hand, sneaking under his arm, brought him back to the present. Her hand looped around his forearm and rested on top of it. She touched him tentatively, as if it was something she wasn't allowed to do, as though she might get caught at any moment. He felt himself tensing up, hardly daring to breathe. Then he coverer her hand with his. She seemed so engrossed in the film he didn't think she was conscious of what he'd done. He sat quietly, enjoying the contact.
It was wonderful to hear her giggle. As the film progressed this turned into an out and out belly laugh. And she wasn't to only one effected. As they watched Mel Gibson's antics on the screen, the entire audience was all but rolling in the aisles. He laughed so much his sides ached and Scully had tears running down her cheeks. She could hardly catch her breath.
He looked at her animated face by the flickering light of the projector, and couldn't remember when he'd last felt so good, so happy. She still held on to his arm, but now it was with both hands. She looked up at him, her face transformed with joy and laughter. God, she looked so good!
Scully looked up at her partner, he was smiling at her. He was so relaxed, so at ease. She thought he'd pull away when she'd first touched his arm, but he didn't seem to notice, and now he didn't seem to mind.
Or so she'd thought. Her partner moved away from her, shrugged her off. Instantly she froze, feeling a little sick. She'd overstepped those unwritten boundaries. She started to edge away in her seat, only to have his arm drape over her shoulders.
"Where you off to, Scully?"
She didn't answer nor did she resist when he pulled her closer to him, close enough for her to rest her head on his shoulder.
"You know Scully; I'm lucky to have you."
She snuggled her head further into his shoulder by way of an answer.
The film had been really good. Completely different to the 'women's lib' stuff Mulder had been expecting. The fact that it had been so unintentionally funny, had made Scully laugh so, had been a bonus. Was that the way women really perceived men?
No wonder there were so many difficulties in cross gender communications. It was like this sex thing, it seemed that men in general had the 'wham, bam thank you Ma'am' approach, and woman needed a lot more cuddling and holding. No wonder the world was such a crazy place. But then he was a fine one to make any observations!
They silence they drove home in was contented. Scully thought a lot about the film. Men really did think differently to women, maybe if you started off on that premise, then things wouldn't get so muddled. The fact that men were not as emotional as women was a given. Thinking about it, had she not wished Mulder a happy birthday, he probably wouldn't have noticed, he certainly wouldn't have got upset about it. I suppose I'll just have to learn to live with it, she mused.
Mulder took her hand as they walked to her apartment, and at the door took the key from her and opened the door for her.
"Coming in for a drink, Mulder?"
"Only if you want me to."
"I want you to."
Scully stepped into the kitchen to put the kettle on. Meanwhile Mulder walked over to the fire place, stirred up the embers and put on another log.
She came in presently and sat beside him on the sofa, handing him a mug of cocoa.
"Do you ever wish you knew what men thought, Scully?"
She smiled and stopped to think.
"I've never given it much thought to be honest. Would I be able to stand the excitement? What with the Caddyshack video not to mention that whole pile that isn't yours. How about you Mulder, would you want to know what I was thinking at any given time?"
"What do you think I'm thinking, Scully?" "That it's late, that it's a work day tomorrow, that Skinner will have our butts if we're late. I don't know."
"I'm thinking that I'm sorry I messed up your birthday, that I wish I'd wished you happy this morning, instead of trying to tease you. I'm thinking I should have...."
Scully dragged at a breath. An odd, shimmering sensation went through her. She was held motionless by his lean fingers curling around her arm. Her heart was hammering so fiercely she was afraid that he could hear it. She barely heard the swift, ripping sound of his breath over her own.
Her gaze lifted from his hand and the heat he imparted to her skin. Her eyes tracked down the dark curling hair in the vee of his t-shirt, moving up the strong column of his throat.
There was a shadow of beard stubble on his cheeks. She fought the urge to touch the roughness with her fingers. Scully stared at the full sensuous line of his mouth, the straight, proud angle of his nose.
The firm jut of his chin spoke to her more eloquently than words of a man whose determination knew no bounds.
By the time she looked directly into Mulder's eyes, she was trembling. But not from fear; never from fear. It was the glittering intensity of his hazel gaze that sent a strange wave of weakness through her.
Scully drew a deep, steadying breath, ready to demand her freedom.
But she never formed the words.
She trembled against him like a willow caught in a wind.
Mulder looked unswervingly into Scully's blue eyes and felt something pass between them. Something, perhaps, that both of them didn't really want, or thought they didn't want. But it was there at this moment, between them, for the taking.
He had to look away. Suddenly, he couldn't bear to see her azure eyes watching him with a longing that he didn't believe she was aware of revealing to him.
As he stood there, he had the eerie feeling that if he kept looking into those eyes, he would fall so deeply into them that he would never find his way out again.
Scully was aware that he'd taken hold of her hand again. She made no move to pull away as their joined hands formed a bridge. She trembled as he bent towards her and lifted her hand to his lips.
The feel of his warm breath touching her skin made her close her eyes. She couldn't summon the will to ask him what he thought he was doing.
Scully looked at Mulder. She tried to smile, but her lips trembled.
Instinct guided her. She raised her hands and cradled his face. Her thumbs spread of their own volition to the corners of his mouth. She watched his thick lashes lift and read the disbelief in his hazel eyes.
"Yes," she murmured, felling the joy bubbling up from deep inside. "Yes," she repeated, louder this time.
Mulder caught her up in his arms and swung her round.
Scully pressed a hand over his racing heart. She could hear the pounding of her own. Time disappeared in the moments when he held his gaze on hers. Slowly, he lowered her to stand in front of him.
He traced the curve of her chin with his finger. He held her with a few inches separating them. One of his strong hands splayed over her lower back, the other slid along her spine, into the thick wealth of her copper hair.
Scully offered him no resistance. She closed her eyes briefly as he drew her against his hard body and gently rocked her within his embrace.
Mulder lowered his head and she felt his breath ruffle the strands of her hair.
She savored the moments he held her. She slipped her arms around his waist. It had been too long since she had her simple need to be held like this met.
Scully found unmeasured serenity in the silent communion. She tilted her head back as he lifted his.
Her smile faded when she heard her name in that black-velvet whisper. Her lips parted. Her pulses pounded into life. A subtle tension strummed her body. She wanted to close her eyes, but the force of his gaze wouldn't allow that retreat.
Scully had seconds to avoid what came. Her breath caught, and she did nothing to stop him.
Heated dampness bathed her mouth as Mulder's lips covered hers. She welcomed the kiss as one of celebration. Welcomed it and eagerly surrendered to it.
But the meeting of their lips didn't offer any comfort. Scully could give it one name. Need. It was as raw and savage as heightened emotions that bonded them.
Scully kept her hands around his waist, shocked at how much she wanted to touch him. To test the muscles beneath his shirt, to drag them through his hair.
Mulder felt no restraint. He relished her sigh, the small hitch in her breath, the passion and warmth he laid claim to. He knew her strength, and found fire in her soft, lovely mouth. She opened for him as if they'd shared a hundred kisses. Her taste held a glory all her own. The press of her body against his was a discovery and a homecoming all in one.
His fingers tangled in her hair. He tugged her head back to deepen the kiss. He savored, and learnt what it was to be savored in return.
Desire came at him like lightning. It had jolted him to want her this much. The Mulder became aware that she was trembling like a leaf caught in a strong wind, her hands no longer kneading his back, but pushing him away. He let her go. Shit, shit, shit! He'd overstepped the mark.
Scully stumbled backward. She raised shaking fingertips to her mouth. She wanted more.
And that's what terrified her.
"Mulder," she managed to whisper.
"God! I'm sorry Scully. I didn't mean...I mean, hell, who knows what I mean? I...I uh...I was out of line. Shit, this was supposed to be special and I've screwed it up again. God won't I ever learn!"
He turned away from her looking so downcast.
"Shh...Mulder....It's okay, really it is. It's just that things were moving too fast."
He felt her hand on his arm. She drew him down onto her sofa.
"I had it all planned Scully, I even booked for La Bergerie in Old Town Alexandria. I know you like French cuisine, even though I *am* always plying you with Chinese take-outs. We were going to go on a cruise on the river afterwards, and then dance. Scully, I wanted it to be so good for you today."
Scully couldn't help the laugh, until she saw the look on his face.
"Oh, Mulder, you idiot. Tonight's been better for me than you could possibly imagine. Truly. There's only one thing you've forgotten to say, and you have..." she glanced up at the clock. "About fifteen seconds to say it in."
"Uhuh. No, that's not it.... H. A."
"Oh. Yeah." Mulder managed to blush a little. "Happy Birthday G-woman."
He kissed the tip of her nose.
"Look," he said as he rummaged in his pocket. "I even remembered a present."
"Mulder! I'm impressed!"
Shyly he pressed the tiny box into her hand.
"So, open it, Scully!"
He squirmed on the sofa like a little excited kid.
There inside the black velvet box, nestled in the silk lining was a tiny pair of diamond stud earrings.
For a moment she didn't quite know what to say.
"Oh, they're beautiful Mulder. They're so unusual, I've never seen anything like them."
The diamonds were cut in the shape of five pointed stars, catching and reflecting the light in a rainbow of colors.
Scully hugged him. "Thank you Mulder, thank you for a perfect day and a perfect present. Here, help me put them in, can you?"
They sat cuddled together on her sofa until he felt her getting increasingly heavy against him. He glanced at the clock and realized just how late it was.
"Hey, Sleepy-head. I'd best get going, we've a meeting with Skinner in a few hours time."
"And he'll have our butts if we're late." They finished in unison.
Title: Firelight 07. One Cold Night
Summary: A chance stay at a hotel proves to be an eye-opener for Scully.
Thanks: As usual to Peggy for both a great beta job and also the moral support she always provides.
Saturday March 11th
Two weeks since her birthday, and they hadn't stopped working. I suppose I should be grateful, Scully thought. "Be thankful for small mercies," Mom always told her. She was thankful but a day or two off would have been nice too.
Scully couldn't begin to imagine how this latest case they had gotten assigned to could have ever come under their jurisdiction. Even her partner had to agree that, no way, could this have ever been classified as an X-File.
This admission by Mulder, probably constituted an X-File in itself. It was the nearest spooky thing she'd come across all week. The best thing Skinner could have done with this one when it landed on his desk was to have placed it in the circular file; but, it had to come their way. They must have really ticked him off with that last expense report of theirs.
Now, late on a Saturday afternoon, all she wanted was to get back home, get into a hot tub and forget all about the events of the past seven days.
I swear if I see another cow or herd of cattle, I'll pull my gun and start shooting, she thought as she watched the scenery flash by. Mulder was driving, too fast as usual, but today, she hadn't complained; the sooner she was in that tub, the better.
The hick town didn't even had any decent plumbing; it made the back of beyond appear quite sophisticated. Just as well some instinct had made her pack some jeans and walking boots as well as the customary suits. The former were now mummified in layers of hefty bags in the trunk, but the smell had still permeated through.
Why they couldn't have gotten a flight back from Buffalo, like normal people would, she didn't know, six hours ago, this had seemed like a good idea. They were still in for another three hundred miles on the road. Three hundred miles, six hour driving. God! She wouldn't be home much before midnight. Mulder way above the speed limit at the moment, but nearer civilization, he'd have to slow down.
She was concentrating hard; trying to visualize the sensation of the hot bath full to the brim, with at least half a bottle of her favorite, relaxing aromatherapy bubble bath in it, some scented candles lit around the bathroom for effect when she heard Mulder swear and felt the car veer off the road.
Automatically she braced herself for impact, but Mulder managed to bring them to a halt safely, and as they sat in the gathering gloom at the side of the country road Scully just couldn't help herself.
"Great, just what we wanted. A perfect end to a perfect week. *Now what* Mulder?"
"Well, Einstein, we could look at a map and find out where the hell it is we are and await rescue, or one of us could get out and fix the tire. Toss you for it!" Mulder sounded as ticked off as she felt.
It wasn't his fault the rental car had a blow out and he'd had just as bad a week as she, Scully thought. She wasn't normally so unfair.
"Sorry Mulder, that was uncalled for, guess it's just that I was so looking forward to getting home tonight."
"Yeah, I was kinda looking forward to that too. Let's see if we can get the spare on and get on our way, ehhh?"
Mulder popped the trunk, and got out to get the spare tire and start work. Scully heard his "Shit!" and felt the car shudder as he kicked the back wheel.
"What's up, Mulder?" she queries as she got out of the passenger side, the heels of her shoes sinking in the gravel as she walked around the back to join him.
"There's no damn spare, that's what's up. You sure we didn't rent this thing from 'Rent-a- wreck'?"
She heard him muttering curses under his breath as he moved to the right side of the vehicle to further inspect the damage. "Although, looking at what's left, it wouldn't have made a great deal of difference," he continued, pointing to the distorted wheel-rim, "We'd need specialized tools to shift it anyway. We must have hit a rock or something as we came to a halt."
"So, what now?"
"Now, partner? We get to study the map and work out how far to the nearer bit of civilization and then we start walking; unless you fancy spending a night under the stars."
Scully took out the map. Seemed as though finally Lady Luck was on their side.
"Look's like there's a hotel about a mile and a half up the road. Hey Mulder! There's a garage there too. Maybe we could get a mechanic out to fix this. We could grab a meal while they do this, and be on our way. If we share the driving, we'll be home by midnight. The hotel sounds kinda nice 'The Inn on the Lake'."
"C'mon Scully, let's get you there and fed. You know how whiny you get when your blood sugars drop."
"Ha-ha Mulder, very funny. I never get whiny!"
She hated it when he took that sarcastic tone with her, but the look of fatigue on Mulder's face stopped her in her tracks. "You're right Mulder, we're both hungry and both tired. Let's make the most of this break." Mulder's dumb look of surprise was worth holdings her tongue for.
Mulder locked the car and started to walk up the road. Scully set off after him. "Don't know why you're bothering Mulder, if someone stole this thing they'd probably be doing us a favor."
It was mid-March, and although the day had been sunny and fine, but the temperature had dropped as they traveled south east and in the last hour and the sky had turned on ominous gray. Scully wasn't too happy to see the flurry of thick snowflakes begin their leisurely dance around her partner and herself.
She shivered as she hurried to catch up with Mulder. Her hands were like ice. She crossed her arms in front of her chest she tucked her hands between her body on her upper arms. Despite her woolen trench coat she felt the wind biting through the fabric.
"You cold?" Mulder inquired as he stopped to wait for her.
Scully nodded. He closed the distance between them and took her hands in his rubbing them vigorously. Scully looked up at his weary face. He stopped rubbing and held her hands between his warm palms. For a moment they stood in silence looking at each other, then he sighed and gently he meshed his fingers with hers and squeezed.
"C'mon, let's get you into the warmth," and tucked her hand under his arm holding it there to warm it. She put her other hand into her pocket as the resumed their walk.
They walked for twenty minutes before they reached the turnoff that finally led them to the hotel. It was a strange place to find a hotel, but a hotel it said on the map; and a hotel it appeared to be. "Let's get the car sorted out first Scully, then we can eat."
"Sure, fine, whatever." By now Scully was feeling extremely chilly, and more than just a little sorry for herself. Her mood did not improve when, on locating the garage they were politely told by a matronly woman that both the mechanics were away till the morning.
"Sorry folks, I'm afraid that you're just plumb outa luck, them boys are at a weddin'. Can't say as I'm expectin' 'em home much before dawn. It'll be mid mornin' a fore anythin' gets fixed around here."
There was nothing for it. They would have to stay the night. This was going to look really impressive on their expenses sheet for the month. Scully could just picture having to explain something like this to the likes of that bumptious auditor, Chesty Short. At least the woman offered to drive them back to get their bags.
"I'll go Scully, you get yourself in the hotel and warm up. I'll meet up with you in the lounge and we'll work out what we're doing from there."
Scully was glad to sit down in the warmth. She found herself a seat near the open log fire, and felt herself thawing as she enjoyed her latte. That was surprise number one. I mean, latte in a hick hotel?
On the coffee table beside the easy chair she sat in, were some information brochures. Idling the time away, she picked up on that promised to tell all about the hotel. From the color photos this place certainly looked very nice. It was privately owned, so maybe that explained the slightly eccentric air of the place. Maybe this wasn't such a hick hotel after all.
Inn On The Lake
Out of the large panoramic windows, she could see the two lakes that gave the hotel it's name. Three white geese were standing outside the window, inquisitively peering in at her. Behind the lakes, she could see the dark shadows of the still leafless woodland. It felt as though Spring was a long time coming...as was Mulder. Where had he got to? He'd been gone for the best part of forty minutes. Just then he came over to join her.
"Where have you been Mulder? I thought you were getting a ride."
"Yeah, well, thought I may as well book us in, seems like this is a popular spot on Saturday nights. I go us a twin, they're right out of adjoining singles...it's the best I could do. You don't know how lucky we are to get anything, this late in the day."
"Mulder." There was a warning tone in her voice.
"What did you expect me to do? We've no chance of transport till the morning, you're cold and hungry, I'm tired. The Bureau can quibble about expenses all it likes, but we're staying here the night, and what's more we're gonna have us some fun." There was a hint of laughter in his voice.
"Mulder? Mulder, what have you done?"
"Me? Nothing. I've just ensured that these agents are on the receiving end of a little R and R. After the case Skinner assigned us to we deserve a little recompense, don't you think?"
Scully just looked at him, then her face broke into a smile.
"If we're quick there's enough time for us to catch a shower and a quick nap, they start serving dinner in the Lakeside restaurant at eight. The cabaret dinner dance is a feature here on Saturday night's. C'mon Scully, we've not had fun for ages...besides I wanted to take you dancing on your birthday only I screwed up."
She couldn't be cross with him for any length of time when he put on that puppy dog face. God! Did he know how to push her buttons, or what?
"Okay Mulder, but come Monday, *you* can explain to Skinner. And *I'm* in that shower first!" She couldn't suppress the smile any longer. "Hey, I've got nothing to wear!"
"Get them to press that suit with the long jacket, you'll look fine in that."
"Huh! Now he's become a fashion expert." Scully muttered to herself as she followed the signs down the hallway to their room.
The room was every thing that the brochure had promised, panoramic view over the lakes, which were illuminated with soft lighting, now that it was getting dark; luxury bathroom, direct dial phone, hair dryer, complimentary tea and coffee and to Mulder's relief a remote control color satellite TV.
"Scully, you get showered and I'll get them to press your suit, might even get mine done."
She didn't need further inviting.
It as bliss lying in all that hot scented water, she though sleepily as she soaked the trials and tribulations of the past week away. This was sooo good. She could hear Mulder channel surfing.
Clean and sweet smelling, she finally relinquished the tub and wrapped in the white bathrobe, came out to dry her hair.
"It's all yours, Mulder."
"Hope you've left me some hot water," he teased as they exchanged places.
She managed to grab a short nap, dress and be ready for dinner, all by half past eight. By now her stomach was rumbling fit to raise the dead, but she felt so much better in herself. She was actually quite looking forward to tonight, Mulder was right, it *was* about time they had a little fun.
In the darkened restaurant, the only illumination was from the shaded candle on each table. Each table was laid with white napery and silver ware. They were lead to their table and given a menu.
"Hey Scully, this beats some of the greasy spoons we usually frequent." Mulder said in a stage whisper.
"Mulder, please. Just for once, let's enjoy a bit of class. I know it's somewhat out of your league...for tonight just pretend eh?"
Mulder was already pulling at the roll on his side plate.
They ordered prawn cocktails to start with, followed by mushroom and corn soup. Scully was filling up already, and they hadn't got to the main course yet. Mulder looked as if he could have problems with the selection of silverware laid out before them.
Somehow, after the week they'd had, Scully couldn't quite face the steak. She opted for the 'chicken cordon bleu' and was surprised to see Mulder ordering the same. He looked a little sheepish when she caught his eye. They ate in silence for a time. Then Scully's curiosity got the better of her and she began looking around the restaurant at their fellow diners.
There had to be a complete cross section in here tonight, from an elderly couple probably celebrating an anniversary, to what looked like a aging lothario with his bimbo and everyone else in between. I wonder where we fit in, Scully suddenly thought.
Just over to the left of them the nights musical entertainment were setting up. "Hey Scully, you enjoying yourself?"
"Mmm." Yes, she was, she was warm and clean and fed. The wine they had with their dinner was doing a good job of relaxing her still further.
It was then, that the manager came over and broke the news. The shower in their room had sprung a leak, flooding the room downstairs. It was impossible to fix tonight, therefore would they mind if they were moved to the suite further down the hall. It was more expensive, but the manager assured them that there would be not extra charge to them. They sighed in unison. Mulder started rising to go and move their bags.
"Oh, no, sir, ma'am, please. Stay and finish your meal and enjoy the cabaret. Our staff will be only too pleased to move your luggage, it's the least we can do in the circumstances. We'll bring you the key as soon as the move's completed." With that, he hurried away.
As the charlotte russe was served the group began their evening's entertainment. The theme for tonight was music through the decades. A very eclectic collection from Andy Williams to the present day. The manager came back with the key to their new room.
"Hope you enjoy your room, it's still got the view of the lake." They thanked the man.
Gradually couples began to dance. Scully looked at her partner, but he seemed engrossed in listening to the music. Watching him, she thoughtfully ran her fingertips along the rim of her now empty wineglass. She wondered if he was feeling as awkward as she was. She'd been there before, he wasn't one for dancing. Still, it was nice just sitting here in each others company, even if there conversation was nonexistent.
Why was she surprised? Surely this was nothing new to him, to them. And yet, as she watched the couples swaying to a particularly slow, smoochy melody, she wished she were up there among them.
Would they ever move on, should they ever verbally commit to one another? At moments such as these, when she felt most vulnerable, she doubted it. Both of them were too afraid of the words, the changes uttering those words might bring.
"Just like old times, eh, Scully? When she shook her head uncomprehendingly and then cupped her ear, Mulder raised his voice and repeated the question. The tune playing was loud.
"What old times? she all but shouted back.
She'd hoped they'd call it a night after they'd finished eating. It had been all of ten o'clock then, and it had been a very long day. But he'd said they should stay a while, unwind a little. He's insisted. Why should that have surprised her? He was always the one who was unpredictable.
The look in his eyes now was almost made the events of the previous week worth while. Just before he asked her to dance, she'd caught him looking at her in a way that made her think he could read every stray thought in her head. If that was the case, he'd see how confused he made her. He blew hot and cold so often , she no longer knew where she stood with him.
They'd been so close on her Birthday, but since then...it was almost as if that episode had never been. But then, since when had any of this been headline news? They were both getting to be masters of denial.
Could he read her thoughts, was she that transparent? She was very glad of the subdued lighting. Hopefully he wouldn't be able to see the blush she felt staining her cheeks.
The question throbbed in her mind, imitating the beat of the music.
She was surprised at the song he'd chosen to dance to. It was it was slow, the lyrics suggestive. She felt slightly self-conscious to be up there mixing with the hip youngsters. Mulder, being Mulder didn't seem to mind at all as he twirled her around.
The song ended. Another took it's place instantly, one piece hardly discernable from the next. He led her back to their table.
She'd been right about the elderly couple, they were in fact celebrating their golden anniversary. As the rest of them applauded, the tiny woman was led out by her oh-so-proud husband of fifty years, to be presented with a great bouquet of roses. He looked at his wife with such pride.
"Is it possible to feel like that after such a long time?" Mused Scully. The idea made her eyes mist over for a moment. Looking over at her partner, she noticed his eyes were suspiciously bright too.
The music started again, and the couple were invited to begin the dance. It really was a golden oldie, 'the anniversary waltz'. The pair of them looked a little self-conscious, but circled the floor a few times, before they were joined by so of the other couples.
Mulder and Scully sat watching the other couples, listening to the vocalists as they performed. A man and a woman, sometimes alone, sometimes together. As the hour grew later, the tempo slowed, became more smoochy.
She tried unsuccessfully to block the sentimental feelings that were seeping through her. She stole a glance at Mulder. He had a faraway, dreamy look in his eyes.
His quiet. "Care to dance, Scully?" surprised her. He stood before her and the gently drew her into his arms as the music began.
Moving on pure instinct, she rested her head against his heart, letting the music take her away. The music and Mulder, his heartbeat and the soft sound as his velvet voice crooned the words sung by the male singer.
The look on your face says that you really need me
As Mulder repeated these lyrics over and over again, she felt her eyes growing moist. Her arms tightened around his waist. She felt his left hand feather through her hair tucking the strand behind her ear, exposing the star shaped ear stud that he'd given her for her birthday. His arms tightened around her as the song continued.
The music finally came to an end, and Scully had to acknowledge how tired she really was.
"Ready to go?" he asked.
She let a breath out. It spoke volumes. "More than ready."
Mulder laughed as he led her out of the door, his hand on that special spot on her back. "I guess racing you to our room is out of the question then."
She was lucky she wasn't falling flat on her face, and yet he managed to look as though he was ready to do another session. "Mulder, I'm so tired I can hardly stand up."
"That's not a problem." He scooped her up in his arms, pushing the door into the hallway open with his shoulder.
Scully laughed in surprised protest, her arms automatically encircling his neck. "No Mulder, put me down-I didn't mean..."
"Hush woman, let me do this just this once." He finally let her down to unlock the door to their room.
They stood on the threshold, their faces mirroring they abject disbelief. Their new room was indeed bigger, more luxurious than the one they'd started out in that evening. The only snag was the sumptuous bed. It was singular. "Mulder, there's only one bed," Scully all but whined.
It was a large bed, it made a king-size look small, but nevertheless it was one bed. "So, what's the problem?
"There's just *one* bed."
"Scully, all I'm interested in is getting some sleep. I'm too tired to sleep on the floor. If you sensibilities bother you that much, you can stay awake all night, sleep on the bed or on the floor, at this moment in time I'm not bothered which."
Her face must have betrayed her.
"I'm sorry Scully, I didn't mean it to sound like that. It's not like I've set this up. Don't you trust me enough after all these years to know I'd never do anything you're happy with. Don't you know me better than that?"
She looked at him for a second or two, saw the hurt expression in his eyes.
"You're right, Mulder. It's me who should be apologizing. Look, it's been a long week. I am bone weary. I guess I'm overreacting, that's all."
"Apology accepted. Now get yourself into your pajamas and get your butt into that bed before you fall asleep standing up. We'll talk in the morning. Tomorrow, we'll get that damn heap of junk fixed and go back home. Okay?"
What was a girl to do? Scully grabbed her pajamas and went into the bathroom to get ready for bed. By the time she came out, Mulder was already on his edge of the bed. He held the comforter up for her to crawl into the bed.
She got into her side of the bed, laying on the cold sheets for a second. Then, throwing caution to the wind, she scooted across the bed and into his warm, waiting arms. He held her comfortably against his chest and she buried her nose into his soft t- shirt.
"Go to sleep, Scully, it's been a long week, and come Monday we'll have the pleasure of having our asses hauled by Skinner. Rest now."
"Mmm, 'night Mulder," she muttered, inhaling the comforting Mulderscent, her eyelashes already fluttering shut. The words of that song kept running through her head as she gave herself up and drifter further and further away.
"The look on your face says that you really need me, The smile on your lips that you really love me, The trust in your eyes says that you'll never leave me, The touch of your hand says you'll catch me whenever I fall; We say it best, when we say nothing at all."
Her last coherent thought was, we *do* say it best, when we say nothing at all.
'I have spread my dreams under your feet; tread softly for you tread on my dreams.'