Title: Giving Thanks
Summary: On Thanksgiving Day and the anniversary of Samantha's disappearance, Mulder tells Scully about his meeting with his sister.
Author's Notes: When I realized that the twenty-fourth anniversary of Samantha's disappearance and Thanksgiving fell on the same day, I knew I had to do something about it. If it wasn't for that scene in Redux II, this would have been a real angst-fest. However, I think that meeting changes a lot of how Mulder will view this day. I apologize for how hastily this was put together, but timing is everything, as they say, and I really wanted to get this out today. And given that it is now the day *before* Thanksgiving, any football references to tomorrow's game is, of course, total speculation, but anything that I said happened *before* tomorrow is absolutely true (unfortunately, says the disgruntled Bucs fan...). So later I hope I'll go through and change some things, make it better, maybe even change the football plays, and then repost it. G Any feedback and suggestions are greatly appreciated and will be responded to! In the spirit of the season, thanks in advance! Everyone have a great holiday!
Ohmigosh, just remembered that I almost forgot the disclaimer here, and I *did* forget it on my last story! Oops! Don't sue, Chris, PLEASE! No infringement is meant WHATSOEVER! They belong to you and FOX, 1013, David and Gillian, and to us, the fans, in spirit.
Dana Scully stood at the sink washing her few breakfast dishes, reveling in the simple task. Not so long ago she had wondered if she would ever perform the chore again. She rinsed out the glass and set it aside, listening to her radio playing softly in the background. As she placed the dishes back in the cupboard, she glanced at the calendar hanging on the wall, a rite of passage in her day.
She did a double take.
Tomorrow was Thanksgiving. What she hadn't realized was that tomorrow would also mark the 24th year that Samantha Mulder had been missing. The 27th of November. Damn it all to hell.
Still staring at the calendar, she let out a long breath. The past few weeks had been so emotional for all concerned. So much sorrow, then so much joy. Mulder had been in the front seat of this emotional roller coaster, and she was certain that it was going to work against him. She still didn't know about all that had happened while she was in the hospital, but knew that Mulder had experienced a few extra dips in his ride. She feared that, finally, he was going to crash emotionally, and tomorrow would be the trigger to it.
He had been so puzzling lately. Frightening, sometimes. In the last few weeks of her illness he had toed the invisible line of insanity, but then seemingly bounced back. While she was in the hospital he had been grieving, certainly, but not nearly so full of despair. He had been wonderful - so supportive and affectionate. Then, after she was released, he seemed to withdraw. Still around, certainly, and always there to make sure she was not overexerting herself. He seemed happier that she'd ever seen him. Yet, he withdrew from her emotionally. Even when she reached out to him, as she had during their time in Florida, he didn't respond past his usual jokes.
She shook her head and turned away, knowing that, for the present, she could do nothing about it. For now all she could do was go to the office and see what awaited her.
When she returned home that evening, she had to confess that she was stumped. Mulder had seemed remarkably upbeat, a cheerier version of his normal self. He behaved as he had been since she returned to the office - attentive to her and only slightly overbearing, gracing her with his normal banter of innuendo-laden jokes.
Now, however, there were more smiles to accompany them. A smile to greet her when she arrived. A smile to thank her for his coffee. A smile when she said she'd see him tomorrow. It was as if he had a joy radiating from him that he could hardly keep in check. It was a new Mulder, as far as she could see.
She didn't get it.
Later that night she tossed and turned on her bed, cursing herself as she forsook sleep to further analyze her partner's behavior. Why did he not seem to care about the anniversary tomorrow? Did he not care as much any longer? Was it overshadowed enough by her recovery that the thought of it didn't sadden him as it normally did? Had he *forgotten* it? She didn't think so. That day would always be one for looking back, for sorrowing over a sister and two childhoods lost.
Finally, after much turbulent thought, Scully closed her eyes, determining that whatever Mulder may need from her tomorrow, he could have.
At ten o'clock sharp the next morning, Mulder stood in front of her apartment and knocked on her door.
"Come on in!" he heard her call. He tried the knob and found it unlocked.
Scully was in her kitchen, just downing the last of a glass of orange juice. She was dressed in navy slacks, with a white turtleneck and a baby blue pullover, a concession to the biting November weather. Her fiery hair was regaining the shine it had lost during her illness, and fell about her face loosely.
"Hi," she greeted him. "Sorry, I'm running a little late."
"No problem," he chuckled. "It's probably my fault for being on time. But why are you bothering with breakfast, then? We're getting ready to go to the biggest meal we'll eat all year."
She looked at him and smiled, taking in the black mock turtleneck and black jeans he wore, along with his leather jacket. She felt a twinge as she wondered if the dark but decidedly good- looking ensemble was in honor of the day. "It was just the juice. Man in black, huh?"
He looked down at himself and grinned. "Think I can get a part in the sequel?"
She snorted lightly. "Mulder, you're more of a character now than they could ever make up for a movie."
"Well, thank you." he said. He offered her his arm. "Shall we go?"
She took it. "Lead on, Agent M."
When they arrived at Margaret Scully's house, Mulder was surprised at the number of cars parked in front of it. "Where did all these people come from?" he asked good-naturedly. "Got some more brothers I don't know about, Scully?"
Dana shook her head. "Nope. As far as I knew it would just be us and Bill's family, but there's no telling who else Mom might have invited. She loves a full house."
They got out of the car and walked into the house, where they were immediately greeted with the high-pitched squeal of children's voices and many delicious smells.
"Mom? We're here," Dana called, walking towards the kitchen. Mulder followed closely through the people-filled living room.
Maggie emerged from the kitchen, an apron over her clothes. "Hi, Dana," she said, greeting her daughter with a hug. Then she turned to Mulder. "Hi, Fox. I'm glad you came," she reached up to pull him into a hug. He returned the embrace with a little surprise. "My pleasure, Mrs. Scully."
"Come on, I've got to introduce you to everyone," she beckoned.
"You're right, who *is* everyone?" Dana laughed. "We were just expecting Bill's crowd."
"Well, you both know Father McCue," she began. Dana gave the Father a brief embrace while Mulder shook his hand. "And this is my neighbor Angie Long," Maggie said, approaching a young blond woman. "Her husband is away on a business trip right now, so I invited her and her children to join us. Angie, this is my daughter Dana, and this is Fox Mulder." Just then, a buzzer went off in the kitchen. Maggie excused herself and hurried off to get it.
Angie smiled as she shook their hands. "It's wonderful to meet you, Dana, Fox. I've heard a lot about you both."
Scully saw Mulder flinch at the sound of his first name, and imagined that it was even harder to hear on this particular day. Yet he didn't correct her. Scully cut him a glance and he gave her an almost imperceptible shrug.
"Oh, should I be afraid?" Mulder asked good-naturedly, in response to Angie's last statement.
Angie laughed lightly. "Never. My kids should be around here somewhere - there's Stephen, Ashleigh, Cindy, and Mike. I'm sure you'll see them around. It was very nice of your mother to invite us."
Dana smiled. "That's just Mom. Now if you'll excuse us, I've got to introduce Mu-Fox here to the rest of the clan."
Mulder looked at her as she led him away. "I don't remember saying you could call me Fox, Scully."
"Dana. First names are the rule of the day. And besides, why should you let a married woman with four children call you Fox and not me?" she challenged.
He made a face at her. "That's not what I meant."
Dana chuckled. "Fox, this is Caryn, Bill's wife." she smiled at her sister-in-law, a pretty brunette who looked about Dana's age. "Caryn, this is my partner Fox Mulder."
Caryn looked up at Mulder and gave him a thin smile. "Nice to meet you, Fox." That was all.
Dana winced inwardly. She had realized that Bill didn't exactly have warm fuzzy feelings about Mulder, but she didn't quite expect such thinly veiled hostility from his wife. She searched for a gracious out to the situation when the doorbell rang.
Dana went to answer it, pulling Mulder with her. Upon opening the door, she cried out in delight. "Helen! Doug! I didn't know you were coming!" She embraced a slight woman with pixie features and jet-black hair, then reached up to kiss the cheek of the blond man beside her.
"Mulder, this is Doug and Helen Ells. They've been family friends for a long time, and Helen was Melissa's best friend." Scully smiled through the twinge of pain. "Helen and Doug, this is Fox Mulder. We're partners at the FBI."
The couple smiled and shook his hand. "I know. Melissa's told me about you," Helen told Fox.
Mulder winced. "Now I *am* scared. I don't think Melissa held me in the highest esteem."
Helen laughed. "Higher than you think. Trust me." she smiled enigmatically. "It's a pleasure to finally meet you, and I don't say that unless I mean it. I think you and Doug will get along just fine, too."
Dana laughed. "I think you're right."
Mulder smiled at the tall blond man. "Good. Now I won't feel like I'm confronting the enemy alone."
"Dana, what have you done so that the poor man thinks he's in a hostile environment?" Helen exclaimed.
Scully shot Mulder a dirty look. "It's just Mulder's propensity for self-flagellation. He thinks that every less-than- friendly word headed his direction is meant personally."
"I do not, Scully!" Mulder exclaimed, protesting the demise of the remains of his reputation.
"*Scully*?" Helen repeated.
"Sorry. Dana. Old habits die hard." Mulder shrugged.
"Okay, guys, bug off and go watch some football or something." Helen dismissed. "*Scully* and I have some catching up to do."
Mulder grinned and stepped back. Doug stepped around the chattering women and approached Mulder. "So, who's the enemy?" he asked in a low voice, blue eyes twinkling.
"Bill. Melissa may have had an okay opinion of me, but Big Brother hates my guts."
Mulder sighed. "It's a long story..."
"Is it because of Dana's cancer?"
Mulder shot him a surprised look. "Yes, it is. That and a lot of other things."
"But she's better now; shouldn't that be the end of it?"
"Maybe. Maybe not. He has a right to hate me, but it doesn't mean I like it."
Doug gave him a playful punch on the shoulder. "Hey, it's just normal Big Brother syndrome by now. It won't kill you. I faced the same thing, once. Let's go watch the football game and cheer for whoever the other team is."
Helen looked over her shoulder as Mulder and Doug walked off together. "So that's the famous Fox Mulder? Wow, Dana. Maybe I ought to join the FBI."
"You seemed to do well enough without the FBI's help," Dana stated dryly.
Helen laughed. "You're right. And besides, there can't be many more like him and from what Melissa told me, he's smitten with you."
Dana sighed, unsure of how to answer. She wasn't quite sure any more. Her heart said one thing, her eyes another.
"C'mon, don't tell me you don't believe that," Helen prodded.
"Well... I do. For the most part. But he's so confusing sometimes..."
"Oh, all men are like that. You just have to be persistent." Helen dismissed.
Dana chuckled. "I don't know, H. Mulder's about as different as they come."
"All women think that. The food smells delicious. Let's go see if we can help your mom." Helen hurried towards the kitchen, dragging a laughing Dana behind her.
From the kitchen, she could see Mulder sitting on the couch along with Doug and Bill, watching the football. She could see an animated discussion going on, but it didn't seem to be hostile, and she smiled as she went back to setting the table.
"The *Bears*? You must be joking. No way Detroit's gonna lose today. Chicago's 2-10, for crying out loud."
"Yeah, but last week they stuffed the Bucs, and the Bucs have got a better record than Detroit."
"And Sanders is going *down*," Doug broke in. "Did you see that game? Chicago held Tampa to 35 rushing yards, and that's one of the best rushing teams in the NFL..."
Mulder was returning from the bathroom when he practically ran into Father McCue. "How are you doing, Mr. Mulder?" the older man asked politely.
Mulder smiled. "I'm doing wonderfully, Father. I'm sorry I didn't take the time to speak with you before."
"No need to apologize. Maggie's home is a wonderful place full of wonderful people, and it's easy to get caught up in everything."
He nodded in agreement. "You're right. Father... I have to tell you, whatever you did for Dana, thank you. I don't think you could possibly know what it means to me."
Father McCue smiled. "It wasn't me, Mr. Mulder. It was God. I am just His tool."
Mulder nodded, then grinned. "Then could you put up a word of thanks for me? I don't want God to think that I'm ungrateful."
"He knows, Mr. Mulder. But I'd be happy to."
Maggie's voice rang out. "Dinner's on!"
Dinner was chaotic at best, with nine adults and seven children spread about. Dana accepted Mulder's wordless invitation to sit next to him on the couch, and settled in quite close to him. She chuckled as Mulder and Doug yelled over a big Chicago play, and caught her brother glaring at her. She stared right back, daring him to judge her choices.
At least Mulder seemed to be having fun. She was glad that the day had not been spent in a dark depression, but was having its proper function, as a time to be with loved ones and to celebrate life for another year.
The afternoon progressed comfortably, and by four o'clock everyone had announced that they were so stuffed they wouldn't eat for another week. The kids took over the television to watch a movie, while the men retreated to the living room to talk. Scully joined the other women in helping to clean the kitchen, marveling at the amount of food the sixteen of them had managed to consume.
While placing the leftover turkey on a plate, she looked out the window to the backyard and saw Mulder. He was alone, his back to the house. He was gazing up towards the sky.
Damn it, here it comes, she thought to herself. She quickly put away the turkey, and then slipped out of the kitchen.
She approached him quietly, and he didn't acknowledge her as she stopped beside him. She reached out and took his hand, and his fingers wrapped themselves around hers.
"What'cha doing?" she questioned quietly, knowing the answer but needing to say something.
"Just thinking," Mulder responded in an equally quiet tone. "You know, Scully, when you were in the hospital I told you about how the Smoking Man offered me a deal. What I didn't tell you was that he offered even more incentive than the cure for your cancer."
She looked at him, surprised. He still gazed up at the slowly fading sky.
"He showed me Samantha, Scully."
Scully couldn't quite conceal her quick intake of breath. Showed her to you, Mulder, or made you *think* he showed her to you? she thought.
"He brought her to a little cafe where he had told me to wait. She looked just like the clones, Scully, but I don't think this one was. I think she was for real."
"How do you know that?" Scully asked gently, unsure of whether this was the right question to ask.
"I don't, really," Mulder returned pensively. "It's just a feeling. After all, he didn't lie about the cure to your cancer. And I don't think he would have acted this way towards a clone. I don't think he would have had a clone tell me that *he* was Samantha's father."
Another gasp from Scully. Her full stomach churned. Of all the hurtful things that Cancerman could have said to Mulder, surely this was the worst.
"You didn't know that, did you, Scully? I suspected it. Worse yet, I suspected that he might be *my* father. I knew he was close to my mother. I doubt my father ever really knew. But it makes more sense this way. That's why Samantha was taken instead of me. She told me that after she was taken, she was told that she was orphaned. Then, later they introduced her to the Smoking Man and told her that he was her father. He raised her, and now she had children of her own. But she was lied to. She was told that we were all dead. She hadn't ever expected to see me again, and she was shocked when I told her that Mom was still alive.
"But, Scully, she doesn't want to do anything about it. She doesn't want to see Mom, she wouldn't tell me how I could reach her. She didn't even want to come and meet me, Scully."
There was a second of shocked silence. "Mulder--" Scully began, unsure of whether to be comforting or congratulatory.
He looked down at her for the first time and met her eyes, his own shiny with unshed tears. "Today-- today, Scully, I had a choice. I could either be sad that it's now been twenty-four years and still Samantha isn't back in my life. Or I could be happy that she's alive and well, living a normal life. That you're healthy again, and will live many more years. That we've both still got our jobs..." he gave a watery chuckle. "I choose to be happy. Being down for twenty-three years was bad enough. I don't want to make it twenty-four. Especially when there's so much to be thankful for."
Scully smiled up at him through her own haze of tears. "I'm glad. I really am. And now I can stop worrying about why you weren't depressed all day..." she gave a shaky laugh and then reached out, pulling him into a hug. He immediately wrapped his arms around her, holding her close to him. They stood silently for a moment, simply enjoying the feel of one another. Then Scully spoke. "So what are you going to do?"
Mulder was quiet for a second, then answered into her hair. "I still want to find her, Scully. I still want to know where she is and make sure she's really safe. That she really is who she says she is. And I want to know why, Scully. It's one thing to know Samantha's alive. That you're alive. But I still want to know why you were subjected to these things in the first place. They can't make everything right by fixing what was broken. They still have to pay for breaking it. But at least this..." she felt a chuckle rumble through his chest. "At least this quest will cause a hell of a lot less stress."
She smiled and squeezed his waist. "Happy Thanksgiving."
He hugged her back. "Believe me, I am."