Title: Spirit 03 - A Spirit of Christmas
Summary: On Christmas Eve, three spirits visit Mulder.
Paperwork. Forms. Requests. Reports. Copies for the files. Duplicates sent to other offices. Memos. Evaluations. Expense accounts. Sales receipts. Type, erase, spell-check, print. Stamp URGENT, TOP SECRET, PRIORITY. Sign, initial, approve. Back it up. Mark it down. Send in triplicate. Type or print in black or blue ink. Computer cards require #2 pencils. Xerox or carbon paper. Staple, paper clip, rubber band. Sealed, shredded, burned.
The dried-out pen flew, javelin-like, at the wall. A round hole was made upon impact, then the pen fell to the floor, joining two of its brothers, victims of the same fate. Scully looked up from her computer, the expression on her face equal parts amusement and exasperation. "Need another pen, Mulder?" she asked.
He mumbled something at the top of his desk. Scully cocked an eyebrow and stood, leaving her half-finished file open on the screen as she crossed the room and sat on the only clear corner of Mulder's desk.
"I didn't quite catch that," she said. He leaned back in his chair and looked up at her.
"No, I do not need another pen," he said tightly, biting each word as it came out of his mouth. He held up his hands. The fingers were stained with ink, graphite, and correction fluid. A few brown marks pointed to where paper cuts had been bad enough to draw blood. "I do not want to look at another form. Or duplicate. Or anything else."
"How much can you possibly have left? We've been at this for hours." Scully had finished all of the pressing work a while ago. She was working on a new lecture for the pathology class she taught from time to time at Quantico.
Mulder flipped through some pages, and a few minutes later an ordered pile emerged from the chaos. "This is the last of it," he groaned. "I finished all of the division forms. These are leftovers from individual cases."
"Well, if you wouldn't keep putting it off, you wouldn't have to do all of it at once at the end of every year." Her look was smug.
"Well, as Division Head, I do have more of this than you. Including the annual agent evaluation report for the people in *my* division." He glared slightly. Bureaucracy always irritated him. Suddenly, a revenge-inspired thought struck him. He picked up the newly-made pile and dumped it on Scully's clean desk. "As division head, it is my decision to let you finish this up." He strode quickly across the room, grabbed his coat, and headed out the door. "See you Monday!" he called.
Scully looked from the door to her desk, a flush of anger coloring her cheeks. That no-good son of a b...
By the time he arrived at his apartment, Mulder was beginning to feel guilty. He'd been smug, always happy to put one over on his partner. But the snow on the ground and the red and green decoration all over the city reminded him that this was the Christmas season, a time of good-will, not petty jokes. Hell, it was Christmas Eve. Her family was sure to gather for the holidays. He hadn't even considered whether Scully had made plans. No, he'd dragged her to the office to complete *paperwork* and dumped all over her.
The light on his answering machine was blinking rapidly. He grinned in relief and hit the play button. Instead of the expected scathing comment from his partner, another Scully voice filled the air.
"Fox, this is Margaret Scully. I just wanted to add my invitation to Dana's. You are more than welcome to join us for Christmas," her soft mothering tone cut right through him. "After all, you've practically become a member of the family. And Christmas was not meant to be spent alone in a dark apartment, Fox."
He removed his tie, tossed his coat, and sprawled face down on the couch. Not only had he dumped on Scully, he'd left before she could invite him to dinner, which she must have planned to do if she'd told Margaret she would. Scully was very good about keeping promises, even if he wasn't. <Face it, Mulder, you're a real heel.>
The gaily wrapped package on sitting on his table was a loud accusation. He'd bought it weeks ago. One of the few times in life he'd managed to plan ahead. Just in case she bought him something. Now it would have to be a peace offering, as well. And Scully was probably so pissed off that he wouldn't blame her if she threw it in his face.
"Benny!" Jessica shouted as she materialized in the middle of his office and leapt over his desk and into his lap. "Merry Christmas!"
Bennington Wentworth flinched as file folders and stacks of reports went careening in multiple directions. The computer mouse hit the floor with a squeak. Paper clips rained on the carpet. He closed his eyes and prayed devoutly for patience and strength. "Merry Christmas, Jessica."
"Don't you get Holy Days off? Even an angel of death deserves time to relax." The green-eyed girl grinned up at him. He decided not to mention that he had been relaxed up until the point she'd entered the after-life. One would think a full-fledged Angel would have no trouble keeping a dead seventeen-year-old under control. That is, until one ran into Jessica Miller, angel-in-training.
"Death waits for no man," he replied.
"That's awfully sexist, Benny."
"Or woman," he added with a long-suffering sigh.
She smiled impishly at him. A knock at the office door interrupted her before she could comment.
Wentworth stood, dumping her off of his lap. "Come in!" he called.
The door opened, and an older man in a flowing white robe entered. His eyes twinkled, and laugh lines wrinkled the skin over his full white beard. "Hello," he greeted the angel.
"Hello, Nicholas," Wentworth answered. He walked out from behind the desk to embrace the saint. "How are you?"
"Fine, fine. How're things on your end?" He winked at Jessica as she stepped up next to Benny.
"Same old, same old."
"Hi!" She peered up at him. "Do I know you?"
"Oh, yes," he smiled. "But more like this." His clothing shifted, as did his body. Where the stately saint had been standing, there was now a jolly fat man dressing in a fur-trimmed red suit.
"Santa Claus!" Jessica squealed. Wentworth winced. He knew quite well that she only acted cute and cuddly like this to irritate him. In life she had not leapt into any available lap, giggled, or squealed in delight. She had been a bright girl with a promising future until an unfortunate error cut her life short, literally. For some reason she had grown a great deal more tactilely oriented since her material existence had halted.
"What can I do for you, Nick?" Wentworth asked.
"Actually, I'm here to talk to Jessica. How would you like to help me out, young lady?"
Now she turned serious. "How?"
"By helping a poor soul with his dying wish," he said, resuming his more saintly appearance. He gestured with one hand. A pale gray shadow materialized next to him. "Jessica, this is William Mulder. I believe you know his son."
Mulder lay on his couch in a set of sweats. The apartment was dark, the television silent. Seventy channels, and all he could find was "It's A Wonderful Life" in four different languages. Life was not wonderful for Fox Mulder.
He'd tried to call Scully. Each call to her cellular went unanswered, and he knew that leaving an apology on her machine at home was not going to cut it. He contemplated calling her mother's house, but chances were good Margaret, or worse Melissa, would answer. He didn't feel up to it.
He shifted restlessly and looked over at the clock. '10:13' blinked back at him. It was still early. Maybe he should try Scully one more... no. He'd done enough to wreck her holiday already. The heels of his hands pressed into his eyes. Pathetic, that's what it was.
The temperature in the room began to drop. He considered getting up to check the thermostat, by why bother? It was an old building. These things happened from time to time.
"Fox," a soft voice whispered. The voice was hoarse from disuse. "Son."
Mulder bolted up from the couch. "Dad?" he questioned, his voice cracking.
Mist and shadows swirled into an opaque form. William Mulder stood before his son, a washed-out gray filament. "Son," he said, surer this time.
Mulder swallowed uneasily. This was not his first contact with someone from beyond the grave, but it was by far the most personal. Pain-filled memories washed over him as he looked on the specter of a man he'd loved, a man he'd despised. "What's going on? Why are you here?"
"To make up for what I did not do in life." The elder Mulder moved to the window and pointed at the sky. Wisps of clouds took the form of tormented souls, and the wind moaned in agony. "It is too late for me, Fox. My life is done. But by helping you, I may perhaps save myself."
"From what?" He swallowed uneasily. This darkness after death, it was what he'd always expected.
"From what lies beyond. I may not be damned for eternity, but my state of grace was far from what it should have been at my death. What we are in life carries over with us. A man content in life will be content after. A man who lives in darkness and pain," he said, gesturing to himself, "does likewise whether he breathes or not."
"What does this have to do with me?" Now the younger Mulder had a voice that was hoarse, made that way by thick emotion long suppressed.
"Tonight you will be visited by three spirits. Listen to them. Save yourself from my fate, Fox." William Mulder began to fade away.
"Dad! Wait!" Mulder reached for the figure of his father, but his fingers passed through the mist.
"Save yourself, my son." A whisper from the shadows.
"This is nuts," Mulder muttered to himself. Eleven o'clock had come and gone, and no spirit had appeared. He had almost convinced himself that the whole thing had just been his imagination. The room temperature had returned to normal. He checked the sky, but saw only clouds, not the damned in hell.
Turning, he looked once more at the clock. '11:21' flashed at him.
"Merry Christmas, Mulder," a soft voice said. Turning he found himself looking at Jessica. She was dressed in a lace-trimmed dress of green velvet, the hem of the long, billowing skirt brushing across the floor. A wreath of holly leaves crowned her raven hair, which flowed in a river down her back. She delicately lifted her skirt as she crossed the room toward him, weaving around the junk scattered across the floor, and he noticed her feet were bare.
"Hello, Jessica. I should have known you'd be showing up." She stopped in front of him and looked up expectantly. Finally he gave in and sighed. "Merry Christmas, Jessica."
She held out a hand to him. "Come, we have much to do."
She put her hands on her hips and glared at him. "Come on, Mulder. You know this story." She drew herself up and smiled serenely. "I am your Ghost of Christmas Past."
"And I'm Scrooge?"
"You said it, I didn't." She grabbed his hand and pulled him right through the wall. Soon they were flying through the night sky.
The house was surrounded by snow and silence. He was still wearing nothing but his sweats, but the cold didn't touch him. Jessica, being dead, had no problems. He noticed she also didn't leave any footprints behind as she danced across the vast whiteness to look in the windows. Turning, she gestured, and he had no choice but to follow her lead.
Inside there was warmth. Not just from the fire burning in the fire place. The young boy and little girl sitting next to the tree, giggling at each other, added a different kind of warmth to the room. "Samantha," Mulder whispered, his nose pressed against the glass.
"They can't see or hear us, Mulder," Jessica reminded him as she again took his hand and pulled him through a solid wall.
"Things were so much better when she was here," Mulder said, tears shining, unshed, in his eyes.
"Were they really?" she inquired. "Watch."
His younger self played easily with Samantha. Then his sister jumped up and began tickling. He tickled back. Shrieking with laughter, the girl jumped away and bumped into a table, knocking it and the vase which sat upon it crashing to the floor. Silence descended instantly. Both children paled, and William Mulder entered the room. The temperature didn't change, but suddenly everything was colder.
The boy placed himself between father and daughter, lying and taking the blame. William took Fox by his collar, escorting him from the room. Samantha whimpered, quiet tears falling from her eyes. Mulder knelt next to her. "Why can't you let me help her?" he pleaded of Jessica.
The spirit winced at the sounds coming from the other room. "I thought your parents loved her." Mulder did not even heed the suffering of his younger self. All of his attention centered on the girl.
"They did. Dad, he loved her the most, more than anything else. He would never lay a hand on her, say a harsh word. That's why things changed so much after."
"Did they?" she asked, kneeling next to him. "Then why did you need to protect her, take the blame?"
"Because it was my fault."
"Bull. If your father loved her so much, why did you take the punishment for her? He wouldn't hurt her, and yet, for you..." her voice trailed off as she looked toward the other room. Little Fox was back. Samantha ran to him, hugging him fiercely, still crying. Jessica pulled at Mulder. "Come on, there's more."
They were standing in his dorm room at Oxford. A college-age Mulder sat on his bed, nose buried in a text book. His roommate was packing, ready to head home.
"Are you *sure* you don't want to come along, Mulder?"
"Yes." The voice barely escaped the pages.
His roommate picked up his bags. "Last chance." There was no reply as he walked out the door.
"You weren't exactly the friendly sort, were you?" Jessica pointed out.
"I had studying to do," Mulder defended himself.
Velvet brushed across the floor and she left his side and checked the calendar. "On Christmas Eve? You really were a Scrooge."
A sultry voice sang its way down the hall, and a lovely woman stuck her head in the open doorway. "Fox," she breathed.
The young Fox tensed. "Go away, Phoebe," he said.
She lounged against the door frame, pouting. "Come on, sweets. I have nothing to do, you shouldn't have anything to do. We could..."
He sprang from the bed and she backed away. He slammed the door in her face and returned to his book. Jessica scratched her head. "I guess I can understand that. But why didn't you go home with your roommate?"
"I couldn't intrude on his family. Holidays are a time for family. And Samantha was the only family I had." Mulder rested against a wall, watching himself loose his mind in another psychology text.
"And since Samantha wasn't around, you couldn't let yourself enjoy anything at all?" She shook her head at him. "You just punish yourself and anyone who tries to be kind to you? This is getting repetitive." She grabbed his hand. "One more stop to go."
The Bureau wasn't big on parties as a rule, but they'd broken a big case, just in time for Christmas. Liquor and food abounded. A few of the agents had gotten drunk enough to be coerced into an impromptu choral group.
Jessica laughed and applauded. "They aren't bad. Are they, Mulder?" No response. "Mulder?"
"Great," he answered. "Another year, and I still haven't found Samantha."
"Do you think that hurting yourself eases her? Would she want you in this kind of pain, year after year after year?" He remained silent. Jessica threw her hands into the air. "That's it. I give up." She reached out and took him by the hand. "Come on."
Mulder sat bolt upright. He looked around, relieved to find himself in his own bed. In bed? He didn't sleep in a bed. He pushed himself up and headed into the living room. Everything was normal, except for the fat man in the red velvet robe holding a cornucopia.
"Hello, Fox. I'm the Ghost of Christmas Present. But you may call me Nick."
"Don't call me Fox, Nick" Mulder said.
"Of course, of course. Well, come, come, my boy. We have to be on our way." The jolly fellow held out one hand.
"Did Jessica put you up to this?"
"Now, Mulder, let's not be a Grinch." He grabbed Mulder's hand and they melted away.
"I thought I was supposed to be Scrooge," Mulder muttered.
"This is Mrs. Scully's house," he observed. There was light and laughter inside. The ghost pulled him into the house. The Scully boys were seated, watching a football game, while their wives alternated between a game of cards and watching their children run about the house. Margaret was cooking happily in the kitchen. Melissa was setting the table. She frowned slightly, turning toward Nick and Mulder. Then she shook herself and went back to organizing the table. "Where's Scully?"
Nick pointed. Mulder turned. Scully was staring unhappily out the window. Melissa finished her chore and moved to join her sister. "You're still thinking about him, aren't you?" Scully shrugged. "He's a big boy, Dana. Fox can take care of himself."
"Not Fox," she corrected absentmindedly. "Mulder."
"Well, I set a place for him, just in case."
"He's not coming," Dana answered.
"You don't know that," Margaret said, coming to join her daughters.
"No, but I know Mulder," Dana sighed. "He won't come."
"Not that he deserves it, sticking you with all that paperwork. On Christmas Eve, no less!" Melissa said hotly. "He thinks that just because he's working twenty-four hours a day, 365 day a year, that you should be, too."
"He's just very dedicated, Mel. Lots of people are."
"Dedicated to all the wrong things, Dana," Melissa declared. She turned from the window, and for a moment Mulder was certain she was looking right at him. "He doesn't know what he really wants, or needs." Then she walked off to join her brothers.
"I just worry about him, Mom."
Margaret looked softly at her youngest, her baby. "Give him time. He hasn't had love in his life for far too long." She stroked Dana's hair. "Just let him come to it, Dana." Margaret headed back into the kitchen, a small frown marring her face.
Mulder looked guiltily after Mrs. Scully, then moved to stand next to Dana. She pressed one palm against the cold window, closed her eyes, and a tear trailed down her cheek. Mulder reached forward to brush it away, forgetting he could see but not touch. "Merry Christmas, Fox," she whispered softly.
"Dana..." he began. Then the scene faded away...
He was standing in a cold, dark apartment, but it wasn't his. Nick stood beside him. "What happened to Scully?" he demanded.
"Why, she's at home with her family," Nick replied. Then he pointed. "Look there."
There was Cancer Man. He was alone, sitting in the darkness. On the table in front of him were a half-empty bottle, a pack of the ever-present cigarettes, and a revolver. He downed a shot, lit a cigarette, and put one bullet into the revolver. Cancer Man snapped the gun closed, spun the chambers, and placed the muzzle under his chin. He pulled on the trigger, and the hollow click of an empty chamber sounded.
"I guess this means I live for another year," he muttered drunkenly. Nick looked away, uncomfortable. Cancer Man laughed. "Russian Roulette for Christmas!" he shouted toward heaven. "But did I win or lose?"
"Get me out of here," Mulder said, disgusted.
He was standing in a cold, dark apartment. This time it was his. He looked around, not happy that it looked so much like Cancer Man's had. "All right, I get it. I've learned my lesson, Nick." He looked up. "Nick?" The ghost was gone.
Another stood in his place. Covered from head to toe in flowing black, a cowl hid its face.
"You're the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come?" Mulder asked. The specter nodded. Mulder rolled his eyes and held out one hand. "Let's get this over with." A skeletal hand of bare bone closed over his wrist. He shuddered in spite of himself.
They were in Margaret Scully's home again. This time there was less light, and no laughter. Melissa Scully sat at her mother's beside, watching as the older woman lay dying. "I heard from the boys today, mom," she said. "They'll be over later."
"I need you to do something for me, Melissa," Margaret said in a weak whisper.
"Later," her daughter replied. "When the boys get here."
"No, now." Melissa nodded in acceptance and stood, leaving the room.
"She's dying?" Mulder asked the ghost. It nodded. "Where's Dana?" The spook beckoned and they followed after Melissa.
She proceeded to the nearby graveyard, two dozen roses resting in her arms. She walked easily between the gravestones, knowing well the way. She stopped in front of a pair of graves, placing a dozen roses at each. "Merry Christmas, sis," she whispered.
"NO!" Mulder shouted. He moved quickly, kneeling next to Melissa. She was too deep in her own grief to notice the whisper of his presence. He peered at the stone. It looked exactly like the one Margaret had picked out during Scully's abduction, when everyone had given up. Everyone but him. He stared, but the roses obscured the date of death. He surged to his feet, turning on the ghost. "How? How did she die?"
It pointed at the other grave. "Tell me, damn you!" It continued to point. He turned and looked. His own name topped the stone. "No," he whispered, not noticing when Melissa stood and walked away. "My fault." Once again he turned, this time leaping forward and ripping away the ghost's cowl.
Jessica looked at him, her hair messed by his violence. She shrugged and the black cloak fell away, revealing the same green dress from before. Her hands came forward and placed the holly crown on her head once more. Mulder ceased her by her shoulders. "How did it happen?" he demanded, his grip tightening painfully.
Jessica was glad she was already dead, otherwise this could seriously hurt. "How do you think?" she asked. "Another of your harebrained cases."
"It was my fault? Oh, god." He knelt, crying, at the foot of the grave. "Dana..." The tears stopped. "I'll request she be transferred. I'll resign. I'll..."
"It won't change anything," Jessica interrupted. "She died because *you weren't with her*. You'd run off, alone, on another hunch. As soon as they had the two of you separated..." she shrugged. "They aren't sure who's body is in which grave. That's part of the reason you're buried together."
"Why?" he asked hoarsely.
Jessica knelt next to him, a hand resting on his shoulder. She looked a bit sick. "There wasn't enough left to tell who was who, by the time they got through with you."
He covered his face with his hands, shoulders shaking. Jessica wrapped her arms around him. After a while, he quieted. "This is only a possible future?" he asked.
"The most likely one, the way things were when we left," she answered.
"But it can be changed?"
She smiled softly. "No one knows for certain what the future holds. Not even me."
He stood, pulling her up with him. "Let's go," he said, resolution in his eyes.
Mulder sat up, suddenly awake. He was on his couch, in his apartment. Sunlight was coming through the window. He moved quickly to the door, pulling it open and grabbing the newspaper. 'December 25' was the date. And the right year.
He showered, shaved, dressed and packed in record time. He adjusted the collar of his turtleneck and picked up the package he'd bought for Scully. A sprig of holly fell off of it onto the floor. He picked it up, smiling slightly, and pinned it to the lapel of his overcoat. "Thanks, Jessica," he said. He paused. "Thanks, Dad. Merry Christmas."
The drive was slower than he would have liked. It had snowed in the night, and the plows had only covered the major roadways. He parked on the street, several houses away, and headed for the house. He sneaked around the back, a grin on his face. Yes, there was Margaret, frowning as she returned to the kitchen. He rapped on the window and she let him in the back door.
"Fox!" she said, pleased he had come. He placed a finger over his lips and winked at her. He dropped his bags and coat and moved silently into the other room. There was Dana, leaning against the window, a single tear creeping down her cheek.
"Merry Christmas, Fox," she said softly. He tiptoed up behind her and bent down, kissing away the tear. She turn, surprised.
"Merry Christmas, Dana," he replied, and smiled.
With sincerest apologies to Mr. Dickens... I just can't help myself! :)