Summary: Another Christmas morning, fifteen years after "Him."
December 25, 2028
One thing that had seldom changed over the years was that Christmas morning where Will Mulder lived had nearly always been accompanied by bitter cold, and the Christmas of 2028 proved no exception. He found he didn't mind that much as he stood on his porch in only a sweater. It had been too warm inside that morning. Too loud. Too messy.
Will tried to put the last two things out of his mind as an SUV made its way up his road. Even from a distance he knew who was in it; the sleek black vehicle was unmistakable, even from a half a mile away.
Eventually the vehicle pulled into his driveway, and he waved. Right then his nerves still jangled, and he wished he smoked. That had always put his adopted father at ease. At least before he'd been murdered by the invaders, it had.
Will watched as the couple parked. They were still in good shape, he marveled absently as they both climbed out of the SUV. Snow crunched under the sensible boots they both wore. Will had seen enough pictures from way back when to know that neither of them had ever been a fashion plate, even when they'd been his age, but they were even more concerned about broken bones now than looking good.
His father, however, managed to pull off something of a Land's End chic in his wool coat. His mother looked warm, if a bit frumpier than she probably wanted to. All that would change once she took of her coat, he was sure, considering she had better taste than Mulder did, and plenty of opportunity to shop now that she was retired. It was odd - once upon a time Will would have staked his life on retail never coming back after the invasion, but commerce turned out to be a lot like cockroaches and stores were back in business within 18 months of the last invaders getting their butts handed to them.
Will waited while his father walked around to the back door of the SUV before calling out "Dad, need some help?"
Mulder lifted his now completely gray head, and shook it. "Nope. I'm good."
Biting his tongue to keep from asking him if he was sure, Will walked down to his mother instead and offered her his arm. She smiled as she took it.
Unlike her husband's, Scully's hair wasn't gray. Instead as many aging redheads' hair did it had merely gotten lighter over the years. Will remembered his father teasing her that she'd be a blonde by age seventy-five, and the thought made him smile. A dumb blonde Scully would never be - she and Mulder still had every one of their wits about them still.
"Hey, Will, Merry Christmas," Scully greeted him as she took his arm. "How are you doing?"
"Merry Christmas. And I'm okay," Will replied. Apparently too quickly to be convincing, at least judging from her expression which managed to be equal parts skeptical and concerned.
"Really?" she pressed.
"Yeah, Mom." He was prepared to grin and bear it if she decided to over-mother him, but despite their missing years together, she generally didn't go too overboard.
"It's okay if you're not-" she started to say, but then she shook her head and smiled. "Stoic, just like your dad."
Will snorted and she gave him a quick look that made him shrug. "I seem to recall you talking about him being a big baby when you shot him."
"Will, I shot him," Scully defended her husband. "Anyone would be a baby over that."
"What about you, Mom? I bet you weren't a baby when you got shot."
"How do you know about that?" She actually seemed surprised.
"Dad what?" Mulder asked, overtaking them despite having an armload of wrapped gifts.
"Told me about how Mom got shot once. And is immortal."
"Mulder!" Scully yelped, swatting Mulder's arm.
He stepped away quickly, and almost toppled the stack. Will grabbed the top few. "Thanks, Kiddo."
"Dad." Will scowled at him. "I'm twenty-seven. When are you going to stop calling me that?"
"How's Gabrielle?" Scully asked solicitously of Will's wife.
Will gave her a suspicious look, wondering if she'd carefully timed her question to keep him and his father from bickering.
"Okay, I think. But Mom, please call her Gabby. She hates Gabrielle."
His mother sighed. When he gave her a look, she shrugged. "It just seems unnatural to call such a quiet woman Gabby."
He was puzzled a moment before connecting the dots. When was the last time he'd heard anyone use the word gab, he wondered.
But not for very long, because his father soon asked, "And how's Theo?"
"Good," Will replied while managing a genuine smile. "The last I looked he was asleep under the Christmas tree. He likes climbing under there to look up at the lights."
"Oh," his mother said awkwardly. She wasn't smiling.
Will did his best to smother a sigh. It wasn't easy, knowing that she was often melancholy when something he said reminded her that he'd been out of her life and vice versa for more than half of his childhood. He understood her unhappiness, but he didn't like feeling like there were too many conversational landmines to cope with easily.
"I wonder if he's still there," Mulder mused.
"I guess we'll see," Will said, although he had the receiver to the baby monitor shoved into a pocket and was certain that his son hadn't woken up. He took advantage of his father's distraction and scooped a few of the gifts out of his arms before he could object.
When Mulder scowled at him, Will just gave an unrepentant smirk and headed for the door.
As soon as he reached the living room, Will knelt down next to the tree and placed the presents he'd swiped from his father there. While he did so, he spotted Theo's diaper covered bottom and chubby legs.
"Wake up," Will said, reaching under the branches for the little boy. "Grandma and Grandpa are here."
Opening his eyes, Theo stared at him and at first he seemed startled and about to cry, but he saw something behind Will that made him grin. Will was sure it was one of his parents.
"Go on," he said, turning to hand his son to his father.
In his grandfather's arms, Theo's first act was to pat Mulder on the head, and not too gently. "It's not hollow, I assure you," Mulder grumbled, but it was obvious that he didn't mind. At least not too much.
"Where are his pants?" Scully asked.
Will shrugged. "I have no idea. He was wearing them earlier."
"Maybe that means he's interested in potty training," his mother suggested hopefully.
Will snorted. "At one and a half? As if we should be so lucky."
"Uh, Will?" Mulder said, and as soon as he had his son's attention, he pointed with the hand not holding the wiggling toddler to his hip.
A pair of light blue pants hung from the bottom branches of the tree. Will shook his head and unhooked the pants from the branch. "Gabby was so in love with his outfit-" The blue corduroy pants matched a blue star knit into the center of Theo's cream colored sweater. "-but I guess he doesn't agree."
"A lot of toddlers like to take off their clothes," Mulder offered. "My mother complained that your aunt and I would run around starkers as often as we could get away with until we were 3 or 4."
"That explains so much," Scully mumbled under her breath.
"Well, as long as you can get him redressed so we can take some pictures no harm no foul, right?" Scully suggested, deftly changing the topic before her husband began grumping in earnest.
"How about you get him redressed and snap some photos while I go see Gabby?" Will suggested.
"Oh, of course."
A very small part of Will felt guilty pawning that task off onto his parents, but he was more thinking about Gabby at that moment. She'd had a hard morning, that was for sure. He'd resist the urge to tell her I told you so, but he was still convinced that staying home that morning hadn't been very wise, even if it did mean getting to have Christmas together with Theo and his parents.
The bedroom was fairly dark as Will opened the door, and it was pretty quiet too. At first this scared him, but then there was a reassuring noise from the far side of the room. And Gabby was beginning to stir in the bed he'd remade four hours earlier.
"Will?" she asked, yawning. Across the room the noises grew and she automatically turned her head in that direction, smiling faintly as she did so.
"How are you doing?" William asked, reaching down to hug Gabrielle as he did so.
"I'm okay," she told him, but he thought she looked exhausted. No wonder, he thought. "Where's Debora?" she asked.
"She went home about an hour and a half ago," Will explained, thinking of the short but terrifying list of things to be concerned about that the woman had left him with before she departed; at least his mother was around now should anything on that list actually arise. "She told me you were doing really good, and wanted to get home in time to open presents with her husband and the girls."
"Oh, of course," Gabby muttered through a yawn.
"My mom and dad are here. Do you want to see them? Or have them come see you?" he added as an afterthought.
"I'll come out with you," Gabby insisted.
"You don't have to-" he said hurriedly, but she shook her head and gingerly got out of bed.
"I'm fine, and I don't want to just lay here, Will. But you do the carrying, huh?"
"Yup," he agreed, then went over and picked up the best Christmas gift he'd ever gotten.
Will walked out slowly, partly because he didn't want to make his wife feel like he expected her to rush when she was obviously not up to that but also so he could take a few seconds to admire the baby in his arms. Now that her hair had dried it was clear that the downy fuzz was the same blonde as Gabby's; Theo has his dark auburn mop so it was fitting that his little girl take after their momma.
His parents look up expectantly as he and Gabby make their way into the room. He had to force down another amused smirk when he noticed that they had both gone utterly still, like he imagined that they'd learned to do to keep themselves safe in a long ago when, long before he knew them.
Theo, on the other hand didn't notice the bundle in Will's arms and just whined in irritation of having attention withdrawn from himself.
Promising himself that he'll try to make it up to his little boy later, Will smiled at his parents and positioned his newborn daughter so they could see her face.
"Mom, Dad?" he said, finally looking up at them. Both of them were smiling. "I'd like you to meet Faith Noelle Mulder."
"Oh Will," she sighed. "She's beautiful."
Will found himself relaxing a little once he heard his mother's tone; until then he'd been really worried that she would resent that Gabby's decision to have the baby at home hadn't resulted in her being asked to midwife. He hadn't been thrilled himself that Gabby's unhappy experience when Theo was born had led to her shunning hospital this time. The doctor and nurses hadn't done anything wrong, or even too mean as far as he could tell, but Gabby had hated the hospital birthing experience.
"Thanks," he eventually mumbled.
"She really is lovely," his father remarked. "What does Theo think of her?"
Shrugging, Will tried to explain, "So far his only interaction with her was mostly pointing at her saying 'whatzat? whatzat?' so it's hard to say at this point."
"It's only a matter of time before he realizes that she's here to stay," his father warned. "And then you're in for it."
Will gave him a weak smile. "I take it that you're speaking from experience."
"Oh yes," Mulder sighed. "Apparently when your aunt was nine days old I demanded to know when 'those people' were coming back."
"Those people?" Gabby asked.
Mulder nodded. "That's exactly what my father wanted to know. Apparently I sighed heavily and told him that I meant the people who had carelessly forgotten their dumb baby at our house."
"Uh oh," Gabby said with a knowing grin. Unlike Will who was an only child, she had two younger brothers, both of whom planned to be by early that evening with her parents.
"Apparently I was extremely upset to be informed that Samantha was my parents' dumb baby and we couldn't give her back to anyone else."
For a moment Will cringed inside, waiting for sorrow to overcome his father when he thought about how he'd gotten his childish wish eight years later when Samantha disappeared forever. But the guilty look never came, suggesting a greater inner peace than Will would have credited him with.
Shooting his father a quick look, he wondered if the older man's thoughts would turn to having given him away, either. Over the years his mother has apologized more than once for not being able to keep him, but his father never has said anything much about it. When he first thought about it he'd wondered why Mulder kept his mouth shut, but eventually he'd come to realize that his father had no say in giving him away, so the feelings he had about their separation were different from his mother's. His guilt was more about having left them behind in the first place.
"Gabby," Scully asked, pulling Will out of his thoughts. "How are you feeling?"
"Not too bad," Gabby told her. Will searched her face, wondering how much of a lie that was, but she didn't seem to be feeling as bad as he'd expected.
"I'm glad to hear that," Scully told her before hesitating. "But if you're not up to coming next week, Fox and I completely understand."
"What?" Gabby asked. "No, I'm sure I'll be fine."
"I'm serious, Gabby," his mother insisted. "As much as we'd love for you to be there, we don't want you to if-"
"Let's plan on me going. If I'm not okay, I'm sure Will will bully me into staying home."
"You would, wouldn't you?" Scully asked him. It didn't look like she disapproved.
"Besides, how bad could a ceremony be?" Gabby asked. "I've heard that you did an autopsy when Will was only two days old."
"That's true. And I wanted to punch John out when I heard about it," Mulder grumbled.
"All we need to do is stand on the stage with you, right?" Will asked, hoping to change the subject away from his father's lingering resentment about his mother's partners' request all those years ago.
"Yes," Mulder sighed. "I don't know why they want to do it now, rather than five years from now, anyway though. Wouldn't twenty years have more gravitas than fifteen?"
Will shrugged. He couldn't figure out why it had taken so long for someone to decide to honor his parents and the other men and women who had been instrumental in getting the aliens to leave. For several months it had seemed like the invaders were there to stay, but many brave people had turned the tide for good. It had been such a big deal to the whole world, but there had never been a real fuss over the people who'd saved them all.
"Maybe they want to make sure they do it before we all kick the bucket," Scully suggested. Her eyes were merry and Will knew that she enjoyed teasing his father about their age much more than the other way around.
"Good point," Mulder reluctantly agreed, obviously not taking it as a joke, and dropped the topic.
In Will's arms Faith squirmed a little, surprising him. "Mom?" he asked. "Can you take her? I want to take some pictures of you all."
"Oh, of course," Scully said, holding out her arms for her new granddaughter. The beatific smile on her face made Will tear up, but he wasn't sure why considering that he wasn't sad.
His parents and Gabby stood together, but not quite where Will wanted them to. "Dad, can you put Theo on your lap? And Mom, scoot closer to Gabby, please."
As he lined up the five of them in the view finder of his camera, and looked at how happy they seemed, he finally figured out why he'd been overcome with emotion a few moments before. This was his family.
It had taken him a damn long time to get back to his parents, to fall in love with Gabby, and to welcome first Theo and now Faith into his life, but he had them now. These people were the ones he cared about more than anyone else.
All of it was something he'd found beyond imaging when he'd been a scared eleven-year-old boy living in a tent city with other refugees from the battles with the interstellar invaders, but that little boy had been molded into someone else by all of them because they'd loved him back.
"Will, you going to take the picture or what?" his father teased.
"What?" Will asked. "Oh, sure." He blushed and snapped several pictures.
"Will, does the camera have a timer?" Scully asked.
"Um, yeah, Mom, it does."
"Well, go on and set it, and then get over here!"
"Oh, sure, I'll do that."
It only took a few seconds to remember how to set it, and he had time to take Faith back from his mother before the camera flashed. Will's smile was genuine as the light dazzled his eyes - he didn't know how many more Christmases he'd have with them all, but he'd take as many as he could get.
End Note: This fic was written for The Christmas Child Challenge - submit your late entry too!
Read the third story in this series, Us.
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