Title: All is Calm, All is Bright
Category: John Doggett story from his POV; Christmas; babyfic
Summary: A Christmas Eve discovery is a harbinger of memories about Luke
Spoilers: seasons 1-8 and part of nine. Takes place some time before Trustno1
Disclaimer: I don't own these characters, but I wish Santa would
bring me a S1 Mulder to unwrap Christmas morning
The weather whispered the promise of a white Christmas as fat flakes of snow materialized out of thin air. I slowed my steps for a moment so I could take the time to watch them flit by the street lamps. It has been a great many years since I first saw snow, but I'm still entranced by it this time of year. A NASCAR hat kept the flakes out of my eyes, so I wasn't worried about the snow inconveniencing me in any way.
I had a plastic bag containing holiday movies from the video store in one hand, and a paper bag full of Chinese food in the other. The paper bag had the requisite spot of grease on it to make it look authentic. I tried not to touch that spot on the bag so my gloves would stay clean, but I was thinking about how it was comforting that all Chinese take-out bags had at least one.
I suppose I could have taken my car to do my errands, but I had wanted to get a little exercise walking before over-indulging in my fattening meal. Besides fat FBI agents are frown on by the Bureau. I wouldn't realize it for another block, but my decision to walk had been a very good one.
The Protestant church had set up a life-size nativity in the courtyard, and I liked to stop and look at it. Lit by spotlights angled up from the ground, Mary and Joseph kept watch over their little son, while a pair of shepherds and a trio of kings stood guard. The set up reminded me of one my mother kept on the mantle when I was a boy. I waited for her to put it out every year, and inevitably gave into the urge to touch it at least once an Advent, despite the severe scolding from my father that always ensued.
My favorite piece of that childhood set had been the baby Jesus. Adorned with a tiny halo, he threw his arms out to his sides, as if waiting for one of the other figures to move and give him a hug. The one here in the larger set adopted the same posture, but it wasn't as sweet as the other. I found something mildly disturbing about the baby figure, because there was a knowing expression carved into its face that made it seem very unlike a baby at all. As I stared at its cunning plastic face, I shivered and shifted my bags to one hand so I could zip my jacket the rest of the way up. The charm suddenly drained from the scene, so I walked away, eager to be away from it.
I was half a block away from the church when I heard something down a side street. I couldn't identify the sound, but a swatch of blue on the bare ground stuck me as out of place, so I turned and began to walk towards it. I stood over it and looked down, and for a few seconds my mind didn't quite make sense of what I was seeing.
A wrinkled face, and a curled up fist, at first I thought it was a doll appropriated from a more realistic looking creche than the one I'd just fled from. When the tiny rosebud mouth opened slightly, I knew that I wasn't looking at a doll.
December 21st, 2001
Across the room Scully picked up her tote bag, and warmly wished us both a Merry Christmas. I knew she was on her way to get William, and had only stopped in for the afternoon to consult on our most recent case. As my small red-haired friend left the office, I found myself wondering if she was thinking about Mulder. It was the second Christmas that they were spending apart, so perhaps they were used to it. I know that I had been used to not being with my wife by our second Christmas apart, but at least I'd known where she was. Scully was going with her mother, Bill, Tara and their son Matthew to Disney world. She'd given us a wry smile and told us that four-year-old Matthew was the only one truly excited about it. I was hoping that the change of location made Mulder less present in her mind so she could get some joy out of the holidays.
I looked at the clock. Ten minutes until the last day before vacation ended. Monica must have noticed my glance, because she grinned at me. "I can't wait to get out of here."
"I know what you mean. Unfortunately everyone else can't wait to leave, either, so the traffic is going to be messy on the way home."
She didn't let the cold reality of pre-holiday travel dim her good mood. "Are you going home for the holidays?"
I wondered for a moment where home would be, the place I'd out-grown in Georgia, or the place I'd fled from in New York? I shook my head. "No, I'm staying in DC."
"Oh." She said, sounding disappointed for me. She hesitated for a moment, then said, "If you don't have plans, I don't think my parents would mind if you flew back to Mexico with me. I could call and ask them to make up the spare room-"
"No, that's ok." I cut her off. I didn't want to inconvenience anyone, and bring home a man would probably lead to her having to give her mother a lot of explanations that the older woman wouldn't believe despite them being the truth. "I sort of do have plans." I added, not bothering to mention that they merely included me, myself and I.
"Well, that's good." She said, relief creeping into her voice as she got up and walked towards me. "You have a merry Christmas, John." She gave me a hesitant hug which I awkwardly returned.
"You too, Monica. Enjoy the warm weather for me."
She broke away first. "Thanks, I will."
I watched her leave too. I left a couple of minutes later, shutting off the lights, and locking the door behind me.
The hallways were nearly deserted as I made my way to the parking garage. It seemed that a lot of people hadn't bothered to wait until five to clock out. I shrugged and headed out to the parking garage, feeling slightly more optimistic about the traffic on the way home. I was pulling my keys out of my coat when I heard a voice say "Agent Doggett" behind me.
By the time I turned around, Skinner had closed most of the distance between us. "Going home, Agent?"
"Well...you have a good vacation." Skinner said gruffly.
"You too, sir." I said as he walked to his car. You've got to admire someone who doesn't drag out good-byes. I don't exactly mind discussing holiday plans, but it gets tedious when everyone asks about them. Skinner didn't wave as he drove off.
I did something foolish, and stopped at the mall on the way home. I would have preferred to send my younger sister, Emma, and her family gift certificates, since they were easy to mail, but I knew the kids would expect toys from their old uncle John.
The kids were twelve, ten, eight and three, all boys except the youngest, who was the cherished and longed for little girl. Sad to say I don't know them as well as I should, which was something my sister never said. At least not with words, since her expression said it all for her. I don't have any good excuses for my distance, but perhaps an understandable one. With the exception of little Sarah, they reminded me of my son. Peter was the only one who had been born before Luke's death, and none of them looked like him, but it didn't matter, all three reminded me of him in their own ways.
After fighting my way through the throngs of frantic holiday shoppers for the better part of an hour, I left the toy store with heavy bags. I bought Sarah a Lee Middleton baby doll, which looked more realistic than any of the others in the store. Peter would be getting the race car video game he'd hinted about the last time I spoke to him. The middle boys, Dale and Joshua, were getting new Lego sets to add their already vast collection. I took my sister's advice and picked out a space set for Dale, and a police station set for Joshua. I bought my sister and brother-in-law got a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant since there are few things I could imagine them appreciating more than a night out.
My next stop was the gift-wrapping center where I had the gifts wrapped in bright festive paper by girl scouts before lugging them all to the shipping store which was open late for the last few days before Christmas. Rush shipping cost me $20 extra, but they assured me that my gifts would be at my sister's house in time to be opened Christmas morning. I watched for a moment as the packages were deftly stuffed into shipping cartons, then wished the person helping me a Merry Christmas before leaving so I could go out into the cold and begin fighting my way home in my car.
When I finally got home I got myself something to eat, and settled down to frequently switch channels between sporting events and holiday specials. I spent the majority of the weekend doing the same, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Nothing says "holiday weekend" like half-watched cartoon specials.
I went down to a tree lot on the 23rd and bought a very small tree with its roots still in a bag. I'd plant it in the back yard once the ground thawed, but right then it was destined to end up in my living room. I didn't have a lot of presents to open on Christmas morning, though there were some, but it wouldn't feel like Christmas without some sort of tree. I haven't had a big tree since the year before my wife and I separated. A big tree had depressed the hell out of us, and caused the divide between us to get even wider.
Once I got my runty little fur sapling home, I hung decorations from the branches. These were primarily wooden boats and racing cars. Various people had given them to me over the years, which made we wonder if there was some sort of secret catalogue that sold Christmas ornaments for single men.
By the time I got up on Christmas eve morning, I thought that I was just about ready to enjoy a nice quiet Christmas alone, the way I'd grown to like them.
December 24th, 2001
After I got over the initial shock of finding a baby in the snow, I dropped my bags and gently picked him up. He felt like he weighed almost nothing, and I could feel his tiny body tremble with the cold. I suppose I should have been grateful that he was wearing a blanket sleeper and a tattered blanket, but I didn't feel anything of the sort as I looked wildly around the deserted alley. I was only a quarter of a mile from home, so I figured that I could do without my coat for a short while. I shifted him from arm to arm while I struggled to get my coat off without dropping him. Once I'd gotten my coat wrapped around him, I crouched down and grabbed my bags. I didn't know if I'd ever get to eat my food, but the movies were too expensive to leave lying in the snow, so I decided to try to salvage my entire load.
Why did I bring him home? I asked myself that as my home came into sight. When I looked around the alley, I noticed that there were no apartments, just businesses closed for the holidays. Even if there had been a person there to claim him, I'm not sure I could have blithely handed him over to a person who would have more than likely been the one to put him on the ground in the first place. You don't accidentally abandon a newborn.
The stop at my house turned out to be a short one. When I got in the house I immediately went into the bedroom and laid him on the floor. I quickly pulled all the T- shirts out of a drawer in the dresser. My grandfather liked to tell stories about the bad old days, back when you had to walk up hill both ways six miles uphill to get to school. One of his favorite facts to relate about his childhood was that his parents had been so poor that he had had a drawer for a crib. I figured that since it hadn't hurt my grandfather any, it'd be the safest place for him while I made a few phone calls.
I ended up making just one frustrated phone call. A recording cheerfully informed me that the child welfare agency would be closed until the 26th, but emergency situations should be directed to the FCPD.
I glanced down into the dresser drawer and wondered if this was an emergency that warranted a visit to the police station. As the baby waved his tiny fists, I decided that maybe it wasn't that big a deal. It was less than 48 hours, and it wasn't as though I'd never cared for an infant before. I was going to need things I didn't have, though, but before I could get them I'd need to make sure I was doing the right thing.
I picked him up out of the drawer and laid him on the bed, where I gently took off his stretchy yellow sleeper. He wailed his displeasure at being exposed to the relatively cool room air, but he seemed remarkably healthy. I didn't see any signs of abuse or injury. His cord had already fallen off, so I added a few days to how old I thought he was, and decided he was about eight to ten days old, despite being on the small side. I dressed him again, and breathed a sigh of relief. Since he seemed ok, a trip to the e.r. probably wasn't necessary. That was a blessing, since I didn't want to have to answer a bunch of questions that would result in him spending his first Christmas being ineptly cared for in a police station.
To my good fortune, a department store around the corner was having an "open until mid-night" Christmas eve sale. I'm willing to bet, however, that the store's staff didn't feel nearly as fortunate. Once we got to the store I put him into one of those carriages with a built-in baby seat that I once found a life saver years ago. We headed past the people lingering over the Christmas candy and made our way to the virtually deserted infants section. Before long I'd filled the carriage with diapers, formula, disposable bottles, a package each of onesies and stretchy sleepers like the one he was wearing, baby blankets and a few pacifiers. He was only going to be a short-term guest, so I thought that stuff would be enough.
The cashier made faces at the baby while ringing up my order. "Oh, he's precious," she gushed. "Where's his mommy?"
At first I misunderstood and thought she might know his mother. "I don't know." I answered truthfully.
"You don't know?" Her eyes widened in dismay. "It must be hard to be a single father this time of year."
I looked at her sympathetic face and tried to keep the shock off my own. Of course she thought I was the baby's father. Everyone in the store probably thought the same thing since it was the most logical, if incorrect, assumption that they could make. I didn't know why I didn't think of that before. "Merry Christmas," I mumbled in reply, and left the store as quickly as I could without drawing too much attention to myself.
December 24th, 2001
I'd barely stepped through the doorway when the baby began whimpering. For a fleeting second I wished that I could call Scully for advice. I shook my head, because I knew that she was either already in Florida, fast asleep or at least wishing she was. I could handle it, I'm sure I could. It was just one one-week-old baby, right? There was no need to get any of my hapless friends involved.
He continued to whimper, and I quickly decided from his tone that this was my window of opportunity; I had to solve the puzzle of what was causing his distress immediately, or he was going to go into full blown wail mode very quickly. Since he was already being held, there were only three things I could think of that could be wrong.
I decided to solve the easiest one first. I shushed him softly as I made my way over to the thermostat. I only needed one hand to turn the temperature up, so I did so without disrupting the baby at all. Even I thought that it was a little cold in my place, so I couldn't blame him for complaining about it.
Unfortunately, that wasn't it. So I deftly changed his diaper and nervously prepared a bottle for him. The diaper change was necessary, I realized as I tried to stuff the old one as far down into the trash as I could, but it seemed that hunger was the real problem. Just my luck for picking that as the least likely choice.
Just as he stretched his mouth wide in preparation for giving his lungs a thorough workout, I surprised him by sticking the nipple of the bottle into it. My half-formed fear that he might not have been bottle fed and thus confused by the bottle evaporated almost instantly as he began sucking the formula down. "That's better, isn't it?" I asked him as I walked over to the couch. "I'm cranky with hunger too." I added, thinking of the Chinese food that was now sitting in the fridge.
After a few minutes the bottle was empty and he was half-asleep by the time I burped him. As soon as he drifted off he became boneless, or it at least felt that way when his body totally relaxed as he gave into sleep. I remember being scared the first time that happened, because I'd been afraid I'd done something to injure that baby who was a young cousin now grown. Only the steady rise and fall of his tiny chest gave away the fact that he was alive.
I got up very carefully and brought him into my room where I laid him in the dresser drawer, which was now lined with a towel and a couple of the baby blankets. I had tried to make it softer, but not so soft that he might be suffocated. Barbara constantly worried about things like that, and I had teased her about it. Now I wished I hadn't. Once I was sure that he wasn't going to wake up I left the room.
I heated up the Chinese food, and after the first tentative bite was surprised on how well it reheated. I soon settled down on the couch to watch A Christmas Story. Everything was just as I had planned the night, just kicking off a couple of hours later. Sure it was.
I was through with my dinner and an hour into the movie when I felt something strange. Loneliness. Which isn't to say that I haven't been lonely before, since I of course have. I was lonely for months after Barbara and I split up. But I don't often feel an aching void that makes my chest hurt like I did just then. In an instant all the pleasure and charm of watching my favorite movies fled the room like sunshine before a storm.
Before I thought better of it I was standing in my bedroom looking down at the baby, who was sleeping peacefully. He was a sound sleeper and didn't stir at all as I picked him up and carried him back to the living room with me. I wrapped a blanket around us both and turned the movie back on. He didn't notice because he was sleeping soundly with his head on my shoulder. Funny how someone who only weighed eight pounds was able to defeat my loneliness without even opening his eyes.
Why would someone ditch a week old baby? You hear stories fairly often about someone throwing their minutes-old baby into the trash, but after a week most parents are fairly attached to their little ones. I yawned and shifted him a little so I could reach the dvd player to throw on the next movie. What was going to happen to him on the 26th?
December 25th, 2001
I woke up from a dream about a long ago Christmas to the sound of Luke crying. I yawned as the images of opening presents from Santa with Emma dissolved faster than sugar in water. "Barbara, the baby's crying." Reaching out with one arm I realized that I was alone in bed, so the baby duties feel entirely on my shoulders. I sighed.
"Don't worry, Luke, Daddy will get you a bottle-" At that moment I finally got around to opening my eyes, and was confused. Despite the bluish cast to the pre-dawn light, I realized that I was alone because Barbara didn't live here. Luke didn't need a bottle; he hadn't been a baby for several years. I still heard crying, though, and my sleepy mind finally connected the sound to the events of the night before.
Yawning and stretching, I got out of bed so I could take care of my little guest. As I walked towards him I said, "Hey now, I guess you're not a dream after all. How does a diaper change and a bottle grab y-" I stammered to a stop as I looked down at him, then backed away in shock. It was Luke.
I shivered for a moment and tried to pull myself together. One's dead child does not come back to life. Especially not as an infant when said dead child died at seven years old. "Come on, John." I cajoled myself. "You're losing it. It's just a trick of the poor lighting or sumthin'."
I was scared. Me a big, tough, ex-marine, and I was scared to look at a baby. The last time I'd felt like that big a 'fraidy cat I was six years old and duped by an older boy into believing that a monster lived in the dog house in the yard of an abandoned home.
After a couple of tense minutes during which I was berating myself formy cowardice, I got up the nerve to approach the makeshift crib again. The baby's face was very red, because he'd gotten himself worked up while I had been quietly freaking out. But he still looked like Luke, which was unnerving as hell.
I glanced over my shoulder at a framed picture of Luke that was taken a few days after we brought him home from the hospital. Barbara thought it was too painful to keep photos of our son, which is one of the hundreds of little things that drove us apart. I liked having the pictures there to remind me of better times. The picture was a good likeness of my son, and looking between it and the baby I wondered why I hadn't noticed the resemblance before. I was sure it was merely coincidental, since all blond-haired blue-eyed babies look alike to some extent.
The baby, on the other hand, had no interest in my inter turmoil, and was trying rather hard to let me know he was unhappy. I gave myself a sheepish grin in the mirror, and scooped the baby up, feeling bad that I'd made him wait an extra five minutes.
I woke up with a start, shocked that it was so late. Apparently the baby and I had fallen back into a deep sleep. I got out of bed and checked on him, and he was sound asleep. I couldn't think of the last Christmas morning that I'd slept so late. Or the last morning in general that I'd slept so late, come to think of it.
Gourmet danish from an upscale bakery waited for me in the kitchen. Since the baby was still out like a light I shrugged, and left the bedroom door open so I could hear him when he woke up. The danish was fantastic, and I savored every crumb of it. I even had time to shave and get dressed before needing to make a bottle. I couldn't remember many mornings with Luke that had gone that smoothly.
As I fed the baby I tried to puzzle out the reaction I'd had earlier in the morning. I didn't usually have extreme reactions like that, so my own feelings disturbed me. I smiled down at the baby as he finished his bottle and a light went on over my head. Not really, but if I was a cartoon character one would have. I liked the baby. I was becoming attached to him. Perhaps my reaction was the first step in convincing myself that the baby was my son, and that I was entitled to keep him. That worried me.
I discovered that the baby wasn't an angel after all. His little face screwed up as he cried angrily. I paced the house, wondering if there was something else I could try to calm him down. Bottles, diapers, more blankets, less blankets, being held, not being held, given a pacifier, all were unsuccessful.
As he cried I began to get worried. Not so much about his crying, since I knew it would pass eventually, but about his future after that night. Who was going to be with him if he cried like this tomorrow night? Would they find him a family right away, or would he go to some children's home where he'd just be a number, and forced to cry himself to sleep? Would be he scared and lonely?
Sometimes I thought the same sorts of things about my son.
Rationally I knew that Luke was dead and gone, but part of me worried that he wasn't really gone at all, and was suffering because I could no longer see him or comfort him.
Thinking about Luke made me suddenly remember the one thing that used to calm him when all else failed. I cleared my throat and began to sing for the first time in years
Silent night, holy night
The baby was sleeping in my arms by the time the song was done.
December, 26th, 2001
Even thought it was my vacation, I still got up early. It was habit, and I didn't really feel like sleeping in, even if the baby would have let me. I fixed him a bottle,and myself a cup of coffee and settled down to watch the morning news while I waited for the Child Services office to open at 8am.
The stories on the news were the typical post-holiday tragedies- a home burnt down due to Christmas lights shorting out, a mall Santa had been mugged and beaten, and I was more or less tuning them out, until I heard the reporter say, "...and in other news a woman who was hit by a car on Christmas Eve regained consciousness this morning. Authorities now know that she was not alone during the accident, but had her baby with her, who is now missing. Anyone with information about the whereabouts of her newborn son should call 555-5203-"
I immediately grabbed the phone and dialed the FCPD. After a moment they put me through to the officer in charge of the hit-and-run case. "Uh, hi, this is FBI agent John Doggett. I just heard a story on the news about a missing baby...yeah...I think that baby is in my living room right now." We talked for several more minutes while I explained how I'd ended up with the baby, and they agreed to send a cruiser, with a baby seat, to my home.
After I hung up the phone I glanced down at the baby. I was glad that he hadn't been abandoned by some uncaring person after all, and that he was going to be reunited with his parents instead of a victim of the foster care system, but oh, I was going to miss him. While we waited I grabbed my digital camera and took a couple of pictures.
The police arrived 45 minutes later, and thanked me for caring for him. I told them it was no problem. I also turned down the offer to go with them to the hospital when they took the baby to his mother, though. I didn't think I could bear it if there were tears, and I couldn't guarantee that they'd only be the mother's although I seldom cry. I watched the cruiser from the steps, and when they were out of sight I went in again. Alone.
December 28th, 2001
The woman propped up in the bed was pale and bruised, but her honey brown hair still was shiny despite having been confined to the hospital for nearly four days. I hesitated at the doorway, not sure what sort of reaction she was likely to have to my presence. She'd asked to meet me, but I was still cautious. Eventually she turned her head and saw me.
"Are you agent Doggett?" She asked. Her voice sounded rusty, and as though speaking was slightly painful.
I stepped closer to her bed. "Yes, that's right. John Doggett." Falling back on the manners my ma taught me, I offered her my hand, which she shook weakly.
"You're the man who found Nathan, right?"
I blinked when I realized that it must be the baby's name. After all that time caring for him I hadn't thought to ask the police when they'd come to take him away. "Yes, ma'am."
"Please, call me Lisa. I was sort of surprised when they told me that a FBI agent had found my son and cared for him over the holidays. I want to thank you for that."
"I was glad to do it. Lisa...would it be all right for me to ask what happened?" I asked, hoping that she wouldn't throw me out of the room.
"Sure. I can't blame you for wondering, since you apparently found Nathan in an alley... I was feeling a bit stir crazy after being home alone with the baby for five days, so I decided that it couldn't hurt either of us if we went to do a little last minute Christmas shopping before the stores downtown closed. I wasn't up for walking very long, but I wanted to get out of the house, you know? It was only supposed to be a short drive and a few stores." She gave me a look that plead for understanding, so I gave her a smile.
"Of course. You see a lot of new mothers out with their brand new babies, so it's not a strange desire." I said in what I hoped was a friendly tone. Barbara had been out and about with my blessings when Luke was that age, so it's not like I was in a position to cast stones.
She looked calmer. "Anyway, I picked up a few things and decided that it was time to go home. It was only a short walk from the downtown stores to the parking lot, but a little boy, about seven years old, stopped me for a minute asking if he could see Nathan. I like kids of all ages, so I said of course, and stopped to let him have a peek at Nathan before we went on. I was about to cross the road to get to the municipal parking lot when it happened. " A pained looked crossed her face. "I heard this noise and looked over my shoulder. There was this car, and it was completely out of control, barreling down on us. There wasn't enough time to get us all out of the way, since it was mere feet behind us. I pushed Nathan into the little boy's arms and screamed at him to run into the alley. The last thing I remembered seeing was the boy rushing away with my son in his arms."
"And then the car hit you." I said softly.
"Then it hit me." She agreed. "The little boy came in with his mother this morning, and she apologized profusely to me for something that's completely understandable. Timmy gave the police his account of what happened after the car hit me. He'd only been out to get a paper for his mother, which seemed to be a treat because it made him feel grown up to walk a whole block to get to the store.
"Anyway, he was on his way to the store when he stopped to talk to us and the accident happened. He said that an ambulance came right away to get me, and he tried to tell someone about Nathan, but no one would listen to him. Apparently everyone thought that he and Nathan belonged to someone in the crowd that gathered, and that he was only holding the baby for an adult who was trying to help out. Before he could get anyone to listen the ambulance took off, and the crowd broke up. No one seemed to pay any attention to the small boy holding the baby." She paused for a moment to sip her water.
"It was cold and getting very dark, so he looked around and found one of Nathan's baby blankets which hadn't been too badly damaged in the accident, and wrapped it around the baby. From what his mother said he was gone for more than two hours, so he'd spent a long long time waiting for a grown up to come along to help him. Like I said, she was really upset, since she assumed that he'd met his dad on the way home from work and gone somewhere with him. But he hadn't, he'd just been waiting in the alley."
"That's horrible." I commented, but remembered how deserted the streets had been that night.
She nodded. "Eventually he decided that no help was going to come, so he better go find his mother. Eight pounds is an awful lot for such a little boy to carry, especially a cold and tired little boy, and he worried that he might drop Nathan if he carried him all the way home. So he wrapped my son up better and left him in the alley, intending to bring his mother right back. His mother rushed to the alley right away and found nothing. Apparently you'd already found Nathan and had gone in a different direction so your paths didn't cross. Naturally upon finding nothing she thought that the mysterious baby was just an excuse for staying out much later than he should have. Until the news story broke yesterday about me waking up and that Nathan was missing."
"I vaguely remember being a little kid who told the truth but was still doubted." I commented.
She smiled tiredly. "Me too. Apparently you and his mother saw the news at the same time, because the officer working on my case said that you'd both called within five minutes of each other. Until I woke up they had no idea that I had a son, or that he was missing."
I gave her a questioning look. She sighed. "I suppose that sounds a bit odd, but my husband is doing business overseas, and my parents are across the country. Apparently they left messages on my machine, but assumed that I was too tired to get back to them right away."
"I'm just glad things worked out ok." I said, standing.
Before I left she gave me a shaky smile. "I'll never forget how kind you were to my son, and I'll make sure he knows it too."
I nodded before I left the room; it was the only response that seemed appropriate.
When I got home I took one of the boxes that had contained one of my Christmas gifts - a CD rack shaped like a lizard from my nephews and niece- and filled it with the baby stuff I wouldn't be needing. Something in my chest felt hurt and ached. I would have kept him, if I could have, if his mother hadn't been found. I knew from watching Scully that raising a baby alone was a difficult feat, but I would have done it.
When Luke died, I thought part of me died too; the part of me that was brave enough to let small, weak things depend on me. I couldn't even bear to get a pet, for fear that I would fail to keep it safe. I was afraid for the longest time that if I let someone down again it would kill me.
But as I packed up the little bottles and blankets, I realized that I had received a precious gift for Christmas; by some design of God, fate or chance I'd crossed paths with baby Nathan, who did the impossible- he healed that broken part of me. I think it was the part of me that was aching, but at least it was still there.
I decided to give the baby things to a local charity, but I kept one of the baby blankets to remind me that my heart was healing. For the first time I wondered if I might not spend the rest of my days childless, and I wanted to be able to have something other than the hastily snapped pictures to show my children some day why it was possible for me to love them.
I got the mail a little while ago because my sweetheart is at a doctor's appointment right now. She's banished me to the house so she can stop at the store on the way home to buy "one little thing" which means she'd probably come home with at least three or four bags. Our first child is due around Valentine's Day, so we've been doing a lot of shopping lately that is not related to Christmas. I don't know which of us is more excited about the impending birth of our daughter.
As I walked into the house I sorted through the mail and noticed a card addressed to me. The envelope is unremarkable in most respects, it's just your standard red, and card- shaped. The thing that is remarkable is the forwarding order on it right under my old address. I thought it ran out a couple of weeks ago, so I'm surprised that it found its way here.
I can feel a huge grin break out on my face once I'm looking at the card. Instead of a spiritual, humorous or non-secular greeting on the front, there's a photo. The photo is of a very small blond boy wearing a Santa hat while sitting in a sleigh-like prop. His hair is just barely long enough for a couple of stray curls to poke out from under the hat, and his blue eyes sparkle as he smiles at something off camera. The inside of the card says " Merry Christmas, John. Love, Nathan and Lisa."
I put the card on the fridge, knowing that since I kept last Christmas to myself, I'm going to have a story to tell in just a little while.
This fic now has a sequel: Snow and Mistletoe. Seven years later, Doggett finds himself in the position to help another child at Christmas.
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