The Thirteen Days Of Christmas

Author: Elizabeth L. Iacono
Rating: PG
Category: Story, Romance
Keywords: Mulder/Scully Romance
: Memento Mori, Emily, The End, Fight the Future, How The Ghosts Stole Christmas, Sixth Extinction, Amor Fati

On January 6th, 1998 Dana Scully made a decision that would change both her and Mulder's lives. Nearly two years later, we see the result of that decision set against a background of Christmastime, old traditions, new traditions, love, and some of the things that remind us what a joy it is just to be happy.

Scully makes a decision.
Christmas Eve
The start of a new tradition.
Christmas Day
Gift giving and adventures in the snow.
St. Stephen's Day
Leftovers and neighbors.
St. John the Evangelist's Day
Reminiscing about childhoods and how to tell a family the secret.
Holy Innocent's Day
Banquets and why Scully hates them.
St. Thomas of Canterbury's Day
Comparisons between two families and vacation plans.
Churching Day
How to mix work and personal lives.
New Year's Eve
The way Mulder and Scully spent the eve of the new millennium.
New Year's Day
Dinner with normality and why it's not for them.
Dancing Day
Going on vacation and introducing the secret.
Adam's Day
The posing of an idea not as far-fetched as they once believed.
Eve's Day
The planning and execution of that idea.
Twelfth Night
The meaning behind antique rings.
Feast Of The Three Kings
A celebration day.


January 6, 1998

Dana Scully stood over Emily's coffin with a look of indescribable sadness on her face. She'd hoped that even with the biotechnology company's rush to clean up everything they would at least be able to leave her little girl's body behind for a proper burial. But they were thorough, and Emily's body was replaced with sandbags.

She reached down into the casket and sifted through the sand, swirling the grains around with her fingers until she found what she was looking for. She pulled the small gold cross out of the sand and held it up, the edges catching the light as it twisted and turned. She stood there for what seemed like hours, her mind going over the events of the past few days. In that time she had come to an important decision.

Fox Mulder walked up silently behind her and placed his hands on her shoulders. He had known this would happen, even though for once he didn't want to believe. These people were too good to let something like this slip through their fingers. He looked down at Scully, practically frozen there with the chain of her cross tangled up in her fingers. Mulder reached over and carefully untangled it from her fingers, watching her hand drop to rest on the lip of the coffin. He opened the clasp, slid the chain around her neck and fastened it back together. He replaced his hands on her shoulders and pressed his face against the top of her head. "I am so sorry," he whispered, knowing that while Emily was a miracle not meant to be, Scully was still aching from the loss of her.

Scully sighed and felt her body sag, the energy fading away. Mulder's hands slid down her arms and wrapped around her waist, giving her the support she needed. She took a deep breath and released it with a shuddering sigh. She'd made her decision and now was the time to tell Mulder about it. He was the one who made it all possible. "Mulder?" she said softly. His hands tightened on her waist and his head moved so that he could speak directly into her ear.

"Yeah?" he whispered.

"I'd like to try it," she said, rubbing his hands with hers.

The 'it' in question was something they had talked about the night after Emily died, but it had its roots in their own relationship, the decidedly non-professional and non-platonic one. After Scully's cancer went into remission the past spring, both of them had come to the conclusion that time was far too precious to waste and they would enjoy the rest of their time together. The only hitch was that the relationship had to stay secret from everyone. But that didn't bother them, they had each other, as cheesy as it sounds.

Soon after the discovery of Emily, Scully confessed to Mulder that she was infertile. And right after that Mulder confessed that she wasn't quite as infertile as she thought. What had happened was this: after telling Scully to stop the cancer treatment Dr. Scanlon was giving her, Mulder returned to the Lombard Clinic, where the Kurts were busy packing up to move to another location, hopefully more secret than their latest one. The Kurts had a little present for Mulder before they left. The rest of Scully's ova that were in their possession were still viable, and they presented that to him "just in case". Right now the ova were stored at a fertility clinic well checked over by the Gunmen although they didn't quite know what for.

Naturally, Scully was mad at first because Mulder had kept this from her, but in the end she was grateful. New options were opening up to her. Which led her to where she was now, standing in front of her dead daughter's coffin making a major decision in her life.

"I'd like to try it," Scully said, rubbing his hands with hers.

Mulder's grip tightened reflexively on her waist. "Are you sure?" he asked, wondering how well she had thought out this idea or if it was just a product of her grief.

Scully nodded. "Yeah. I mean, I know I won't be able to carry a baby if we do it right now, not with the way work is at the moment, it would raise too many questions and I can't leave you now. But I checked at the clinic and they have an excellent surrogate mother program. I would love to carry my own child, and I know that right now is not the time for it that way, but I still want this," she said.

The next question Mulder was almost positive about the answer, but he asked anyway to comfort his own mind. "What about a father?"

She snorted lightly, the closest she'd come to a laugh in days. "Mulder, you know who's going to fill that position. This isn't going to be just my child, it's going to be our child."

"Why do I feel like it's time to propose then?" Mulder asked, resting his chin on her head.

"I wish you could," Scully sighed. "That would be attracting way too much attention though. But," she sighed again "all a marriage certificate is is a piece of paper. I'm going to call the clinic as soon as we get back to D.C."

"I'll be right there with you then," Mulder said.

Once they got home the calls were made and the arrangements finalized. The surrogate mother was chosen and checked over thoroughly through various F.B.I. databases. They didn't want to take the chance of the surrogate absconding with their baby. It was rare, but it had happened, and Mulder and Scully wanted to avoid that. At the end of January the in vitro process was performed and a month later the pregnancy was confirmed.

Then Mulder and Scully came up with their own plans. With the death of Mulder's father he's come into a good amount of money, which up until then had spent most of the time sitting in a bank account. Now though, he had a more important reason to use it. They rented an apartment in an old fashioned building in a small Chesapeake Bay town a little ways out of D.C. It was a nice place, on the fifth floor (the highest in the building) and the master bedroom had a wonderful view of the water, something that really endeared to Scully. This was where the child would be raised. They were going to try and keep the baby away from their known residences, where there was a greater chance of getting found out. The next thing they did was to hire a nanny (put through another series of vigorous background checks). As much as they hated to leave their child with someone else, they knew it was necessary because their work schedules were not very child accommodating at all. In the meanwhile life went on around them, a hectic time involving the return of old 'friends', fires, and a little side trip to Antarctica.

But while Mulder and Scully's professional life was on the rocks, their personal life was on a turn for the better. That September 21st, soon after that Antarctica fiasco the baby was born. It was a little girl, with wispy red hair and Scully's blue eyes, although Scully was positive she had Mulder's lips (which, all in all was not a bad thing). Mulder turned the job of naming the baby over to Scully, and she gave her the name of Rhiannon Snow, Rhiannon after Melissa's favorite myth, and Snow after something Mulder had said Samantha loved.

Throughout the whole thing no one ever found out. As much as Mrs. Scully would love to have another grandchild, for this child's protection she couldn't know. Added to this list was the rest of Scully's family (although that may have been a good thing in Bill's case), Mrs. Mulder, Skinner, The Lone Gunmen, and pretty much everyone else. They figured when the whole thing came out sometime in the future a lot of people would be mad at them for not being told, but at the moment Mulder and Scully's biggest concern was their daughter.

Rhiannon had a positive effect on Mulder and Scully. Aside from one little spat that February, their partnership, in both definitions, was stronger than ever. Through everything that happened, each was what the other needed to help them, to either ground them in reality or help them to take leaps of faith. And at home with Rhiannon, even though they sometimes had fights which could blast the paint off the walls (they never could stay mad at the other for too long though), they were happy.

Before they knew it, time passed. Rhiannon turned one year old, and Christmas and the anniversary of Emily were soon approaching. For the past few years, Christmas for Scully had been spattered with sad memories and events. This year though was going to be different. The sad memories would be there, yes, but they would now be replaced by new and wonderful memories and traditions. She now had a wonderful lover and a beautiful daughter to share the holiday with.

Scully walked over to a bookcase that was in the apartment and trailed her finger along the titles there, looking for the thin book with the baby blue dustcover. It was a tradition that she'd made for herself over the years, ever since she'd gotten the book in 1972. She had always planned that when she had children of her own she would share the tradition with them too. She glanced over at the small calendar on the desk near the bookcase, and smiled when she saw the date, today's date of December 24th, marked off with a 'X' that she had put there.

Her finger snagged on a piece of paper, and when she turned her attention back to the bookshelf she saw that it was the book she was looking for. Scully pulled the book off the shelf and ran a hand over the still glossy cover. She turned around to face the center of the living room, where Mulder and Rhiannon were playing on the floor, Rhiannon having a delightful time with scraps of wrapping paper and Mulder with a bright smile on his face rarely seen anywhere else. Scully smiled herself, knowing that for once, things were perfect. She looked down at the book once more, and knew that tonight would be the start of a new tradition they would keep for years.

//End of Prologue//

Christmas Eve

Scully grasped the book in one hand and moved over to the couch, tucking her legs under her as she sat down. She opened the book and flipped through the pages, seeing the familiar sketches at the beginning of each chapter. A burst of laughter from the floor made her look up and smile.

Rhiannon was there sprinkling ripped up wrapping paper on Mulder, who was patiently letting her do it, while trying not that hard not to laugh. It brought a warm mushy feeling to Scully's heart knowing that Mulder would do absolutely anything for their daughter.

Scully's eyes darted back to Rhiannon. Over the past 15 months she had grown so much. The little peanut of a baby grew into an active toddler who was already trying to walk and talk (although her vocabulary mostly consisted of "mama", "dada", and "no", the last of which she knew how to use very well). Her eyes stayed the same bright blue color, but her hair color had deepened from the golden red color to a richer red color, with more of Mulder's brown coming through.

She was pulled out of her thoughts by Mulder crawling over to her and sitting down by where her feet were. "What do you have there?" he asked, craning his neck to look at the book in her hands, with the title 'The Thirteen Days Of Christmas' emblazoned on the cover.

"It's an old Christmas tradition of mine," Scully smiled at him. "My father got me this book while he was in England once when I was eight. I had to have read it through in a matter of hours. It's a real Christmas book, if you can't tell by the title. After that every Christmas I'd take out the book, and read one chapter a day, from December 24th to January 6th."

"Isn't that some religious holiday?" Mulder asked as he went to steer Rhiannon away from the brightly lit Christmas tree. He scooped her up into his arms and she giggled. He carried her over to the couch and set her down next to Scully. Rhiannon snuggled into Scully's side and Scully wrapped an arm around her.

"In answer to your question before, yes, it's the Feast of The Three Kings," Scully said, watching Mulder sit down on the couch on the other side of her. "Anyway," Scully blushed a little, "I had always thought that when I had kids of my own I'd continue my tradition with them. And last year was so crazy, going out to that supposedly haunted house and trying to figure out where Rhiannon would stay I never got a real chance to start," she said wistfully.

"Well you can start this year," Mulder said, pressing a kiss to her temple.

Rhiannon crawled across Scully's lap and placed a small hand on the book. She looked up at Scully and said "Mama?" meaning 'What's this?'

Luckily Scully knew all the nuances of baby speak by now. "It's a book, Rhiannon. I'm going to tell you a story."

Rhiannon knew what a story was. It was time to snuggle up in Mama and Dada's laps and get all nice and warm, and listen to Mama's pretty voice. She crawled onto Scully's lap and sat there, resting against her stomach. Scully laughed and kissed Rhiannon's head. With her little girl on her lap and Mulder's warm weight resting against her side Scully began her story.

'When Prudence Kitson asked her father what he
would like most for Christmas, he sighed and
said "A husband for your sister." Her brothers,
James and Christopher, agree with him. Their
elder sister, Annaple, had looked after the
family ever since Mama had died. She was
charming and pretty and well meaning, but she
was also a very bad cook. She forgot the pie
in the oven or the stew on the fire so often
that dinner was burned five days out of seven.
Sometimes she even forgot what she was making
and put sugar in the meat pasties, or stewed
the pears in vinegar, or tied the cake
mixture in a cloth and boiled it over the fire.
But although she was hopelessly vague in the
kitchen, she was very brisk everywhere else;
much too brisk for the family's comfort.
"James, have you made you bed? Pru, have
you mended your hem? Christopher, your
hair needs cutting. Papa, give me your
coat, I must let out the buttons; you're
beginning to put on weight.....'

Mulder walked into the darkened kitchen, the only lights being the multi-colored ones traveling in from the living room. He moved over to where Scully was sitting at the kitchen table, staring out at the night sky and the water. "She's down for the count," he said as he sat down at a seat opposite from her.

"That's good, she's been wired all day," Scully said, sliding a cup of coffee over to him.

"What kid isn't on Christmas Eve?" Mulder smiled at her.

Scully smiled back at him. "Yeah, I remember it took hours to get my parents to get us all to sleep on Christmas Eve. Even then me and Missy would always sneak downstairs to try and figure out what we were getting." She took a sip of her coffee and then asked Mulder a question. "What about your family, Mulder? Did you have any Christmas time traditions?"

"You mean aside from my uncle who always said 'When I was your age I had to walk seven miles uphill, in the snow, both ways, without shoes?'" Mulder smirked, reaching for his coffee cup.

"Everyone has an uncle that says that, Mulder," Scully said.

"Yeah, and besides my uncle lived in Brooklyn so that story became pretty unlikely pretty fast. My family's traditions.....huh. I guess you have to realize that my family is pretty crazy in this department also. Uh, my mother's Jewish, so she would celebrate Hanukkah, but I think that it was mostly to please her parents, because my mom is not an overly religious person. When I was little though I always loved watching the candles burning. My dad's side is a mix of Protestantism and Russian Orthodox, and they both celebrated Christmas. Every year we trekked down to my dad's parents home in New York city to be with the rest of the family, which, considering that my grandmother had six kids, was pretty big by the time I was born.

"I remember that my grandparents would get the biggest and most perfect tree they could find, sometimes heading miles away to get it. And on Christmas Eve, we would all decorate the tree, with some of the decorations being older than my grandfather. Then when we were finished someone would start a fire in the fireplace and my great-grandfather who amazingly was still alive (although I think he did hit a hundred before he died) would sit down in this old armchair and we'd all crowd around and listen to him tell stories, of what his childhood was like back in Russia, of things my grandmother did as a kid which got a laugh out of everyone because my grandmother is one of those people who's so strong willed that even from childhood she was always getting into trouble. He'd tell some about the work he'd done back during Prohibition and The Depression and how no one could ever prove that he was in the Russian Mafia..."

Scully cut him off there. "Mafia, Mulder?" she asked with a disbelieving look on her face.

Mulder grinned mischievously at her. "I told you my family was crazy. Things went downhill after Sam was abducted though. Both my parents pretty much stopped celebrating anything at all. There were no Hanukkah candles that year, and my father called up the rest of the family to say that we weren't going to the Christmas gathering that year. It was hell in there.

"But surprisingly things had gotten better that year, even if I didn't feel it. It was late at night on Christmas Eve, and I was up in my room reading, and I heard the doorbell ring, which was strange because no one really paid calls at that time of night. Then I heard my father yelling at someone, but I couldn't hear what he was saying. Soon my I heard Dad storming up the stairs and throwing the door to my room open and he tells me to pack a bag, I'm going away. At first I'm just sitting there, totally puzzled as to what just happened, but then my grandfather walks into the room, and he tells me that I'm going back to the city with him for Christmas vacation. We caught the last boat off the Vineyard and drove all night to make it back to New York, and we got there at dawn. I remember walking into their house, and my grandmother meeting us at the door smelling of these cookies she always baked at Christmas and just giving me a hug. After that I had pretty much moved in with them and they eventually got official custody of me after my mom's mother called social services a few days after that."

"Wow," Scully said after he had finished his tale. She reached over and took his hand. "I think your grandparents did an excellent job with you Mulder, you turned into a wonderful person," she smiled at him.

Mulder blushed a little and ducked his head. "I'll always be grateful to them for taking me home with them. I can't imagine how much worse things would have gotten if they didn't." He turned his eyes to look out the window. The sky was a strange deep grey color, one only seen when it's about ten minutes away from snowing. "It looks like it's about to snow," he remarked.

Scully looked out the window and smiled. "Maybe we'll have a White Christmas this year," she said as she got out of her seat and walked over behind Mulder and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. "Rhiannon will love that," she remarked.

Mulder twisted around in the chair and rested his head against her. "Yeah, she will."

Scully suddenly grinned and ran a hand through his short spiky hair. "I've got an idea," she said. "Let's make some Christmas traditions of our own," and with that she tilted his head up and kissed him passionately. Mulder responded immediately and wrapped his arms around her waist and kissed her back.

When they pulled apart after a long while of kissing Mulder looked up at her and ran his hands over her back. "That sounds like an excellent idea, Scully," he smiled.

Christmas Day

Scully turned over in the big bed piled high with pillows and down comforters and burrowed her face into Mulder's shoulder. She was so nice and warm and was loathe to get up. From behind her she could hear Rhiannon on the baby monitor, already wide awake and playing around in her crib. She sighed and felt Mulder's arm wrap around her waist. "Morning," he mumbled.

"G'morning," she said back. "What time is it?" Scully asked, running a hand over his chest.

Mulder lifted his head and looked over at the night table. "9:30," he said as he flopped back down on the bed.

"That's late for Christmas morning," Scully said. "Don't get used to this, by the time she's three she'll be waking us up at five to get to her presents."

"But you're not going to mind, are you?" Mulder said, knowing that Scully would treasure every moment, even the ones that had her up at five in the morning.

"No, I don't think I will." Scully sat up and tossed the covers off her. "I guess we might as well get up," she said as she reached for her bathrobe.

"Yeah, as long as you make breakfast," Mulder said.

"Gladly, I've seen your cooking," Scully grinned at him as she walked out of the bedroom. She walked into Rhiannon's room to find her banging a stuffed animal against the bars of the crib. When she saw Scully she lifted her arms up, saying that she wanted out and wanted out now. Soon Scully knew she'd be sneaking out of the crib and that it was time to get one with higher bars, or possibly even a real bed. "Merry Christmas, little one," Scully said as she picked her up.

As Scully brought her over to the changing table she got her first glance out the window. The sidewalks were piled with snow, and everything was frosted with a crisp whiteness. The street had already been plowed, trapping the cars on the side under snow. She smiled and set Rhiannon down on the table. "It looks like you're going to get a chance to play in the snow this year," she said. She changed Rhiannon and put her sleeper back on, then she carried her out to the living room where Mulder was waiting with two cups of coffee. Scully thought he looked especially good wearing just a pair of plaid pajama bottoms. "Thanks," she said as he put the cups down on the table.

She set Rhiannon down on the floor and sat down herself, knowing she was going to be heading directly for the gifts. True to form, she immediately began crawling towards the tree and Mulder once more scooped her up and sat down on the floor next to Scully with her in his lap. "So where should we begin?" Mulder asked, looking at the presents under the tree that seemed like more than enough for the three people in there.

"Hmmm..." Scully mused, then reached for a soft, lumpy package and handed it to Rhiannon. "I think the youngest should get the first present." Rhiannon tore the paper with her tiny hands until she uncovered the silky grey seal there. She bent down and rubbed her face against the back of the stuffed animal.

"I think she likes it," Mulder smiled at Scully. He reached under the tree and pulled out a little box. "And this is for you," he said as he handed the box to Scully.

Scully looked at him with a little smile and began to meticulously peel the wrapping paper back. She opened up the flat box and gasped. "Oh Mulder..." Inside the box was a lovely watch with a black leather band and a polished face that gleamed.

"I remembered you saying something about how your watch hadn't been running right since you got back from Africa, so I just wanted to get you a new one," Mulder said bashfully, looking down at Rhiannon's head.

She lifted his chin up with her and to look him in the eye. "It's perfect Mulder," she said. "Thank you," and she leaned over and pressed her lips to his. "Now it's your turn," Scully said, and reached far back behind the tree to retrieve a well hidden present.

Mulder got a look of childlike delight on his face. He tore the paper off and came up with an old book. "Wow, I have been looking for this for a long time. Where did you find it?"

"Thank God for E-Bay. You can find almost anything on there, although I practically started a bidding war trying to get it," Scully grinned.

"Thank you so much," Mulder grinned at her, and pulled her into his arms in a lopsided hug blocked by Rhiannon trying to hug each of them at the same time. "There's still more," Mulder said, and reached for the tree again.

Soon the gifts were unwrapped, and the three of them were gathered around the table eating breakfast. Scully sighed and looked out the window. "I'm going to have to go to my mother's sometime today," she said.

"What are you planning to do?" Mulder asked.

She shrugged. "I figure show up for a couple of hours, give everyone their gifts, make some small talk and then leave. I figure they think that I have trouble with Christmas now because of everything that's happened, so they won't put up a fuss if I leave too soon. They think I can't handle it anymore," she said sourly, but then her face changed to a smile. "Besides, I'd much rather spend my Christmas with the two of you," she grinned.

Mulder smiled. "Okay, just come home as soon as you can."

Scully smirked. "I'll try, I can already see how the day's going to go. First, my nephews are going to hound me for gifts, then my mom will begin fussing over me making sure I'm eating enough and sleeping okay, then we'll sit down for an early dinner, and then Bill will begin on his anti-Mulder speech and try to set me up with a friend of his who lives in the area. I figure I'll make my exit right before that."

"It's nice to know I'm so highly regarded," Mulder said.

"I better go get dressed," Scully said as she got up from the table and strolled back into the bedroom. Fifteen minutes later she was back, during which time Mulder cleaned up the remains from breakfast and was back on the couch with Rhiannon stretched out on his legs. "How do I look?" she asked.

Scully had on a tight fitting navy blue sweater, a slim black calf length skirt and a pair of black boots. Her red hair flowed loosely around her face. "You look incredible," Mulder said.

She smiled brightly. "Thanks." She leaned over and kissed him. "I'll be back in a couple of hours." Next she turned to Rhiannon and kissed her on the forehead. "Bye, Sweetie," she said, and walked out the door.

Mulder lifted Rhiannon off of his legs and set her down on his chest. "It looks like it's just you and me, kid," he said. Rhiannon giggled and grabbed onto his nose.

"No, Dada," she said, not really meaning the 'no' part.

Mulder's eyes moved to look out the window, getting an idea. "Tell you what, let's take a little walk in the snow." First he bundled Rhiannon up, wrapping her so warmly that she looked like a little purple and blue marshmallow. Next he got himself ready, taking less time to get into jeans, sweater, and jacket than it did to get the squirming little girl into her snow suit. He grabbed a pair of gloves and slid them on. He picked up Rhiannon and balanced her on his hip; she was so small he could easily do that.

In the hallway in front of their apartment Mulder almost ran into one of the people who lived in the apartment across from them. "Hi, Nora," he said to the woman who was bending down to pick up the paper. Scully was become friends with Nora soon after they moved in, and eventually became Rhiannon's baby-sitter as a sort of extension of the day care center she ran in the apartment below hers. Their original nanny couldn't be around for some of the hours Mulder and Scully kept, but Nora had offered and they kept taking her up on it.

Nora knew an abbreviated version of their story, told to her by Scully: that they worked for the government and got called away a lot for the job. She had assumed they were married, and they weren't going to tell her different. Mulder felt glad that Scully had found someone to talk to, there were some things he just didn't need to hear, like Scully complaining of stomach cramps every month.

"Hey, Mulder," Nora said, straightening up. "Where are you two headed?"

"We're just going to take a walk outside," Mulder said. "It's the first time we've had a big snowstorm since she's been born."

There was a loud crash coming from inside her apartment and Nora whipped around and groaned. "You'd think he could handle them," Nora said, referring to her husband who was a family psychologist, and to her own kids, who were a rambunctious crowd. "Merry Christmas, Mulder," she said, and disappeared into the apartment.

Mulder and Rhiannon headed for the elevator and pressed the down button. Once in there he had to work to keep Rhiannon from pressing all the buttons on the panel. Soon they made their way out of the building. Outside it was still snowing, big fluffy white flakes that quickly turned Mulder's hair white.

Rhiannon turned her face up to the sky and squinted, the snow falling on her face. Mulder reached up and gently brushed the flakes off her cheeks, which were turning a slight red color from the cold. Mulder walked her around the side of the apartment building to the path that led them down to the small strip of beach on the Chesapeake Bay which belonged to the apartment building. Up close, the water looked questionable, but as a view it was good and the beach was clean.

He stepped from the path onto the snow covered sand and felt the ground shift slightly under him. He made his way over to a low, flat boulder, dusted the snow off of it and sat down. He placed Rhiannon on the other part of the boulder which still had snow on it so she could explore a little and he could keep an eye on her. Her movement was a little hampered though from the puffy snowsuit.

Mulder smiled as he watched Rhiannon play around. He'd never thought that'd he ever be in this position, to be a father. With any of the women he'd dated before the X-Files children had never crossed his mind. But then he met Scully, the woman who came into his life and proceeded to turn it around and give it validity. When she'd first been diagnosed with cancer he panicked, thinking that their time was almost over and they really never got the chance to explore what they had. Then came remission, when they both decided to hell with rules and that it was time to live. A series of ups and downs followed, with a few blindingly happy days sprinkled in between.

Like the day Rhiannon was born. He and Scully were already stuck on a real horrible assignment, so they figured if they took a few weeks off no one would miss them. They were there when the surrogate went into labor, and Scully was the first one to hold her daughter. Then it was Mulder's turn, and he knew that at the moment she was first put into his arms that this was right, the way things should be.

There was some lingering guilt about not telling people about Rhiannon, but they knew that for safety reasons, it couldn't happen just yet. It wasn't like his mother would care anyway. After her actions while he was in the hospital, he had to wonder what exactly she was thinking. Maybe it would be better for Rhiannon if they never met anyway.

Mulder was pulled out of his thoughts by Rhiannon dumping a small pile of snow on his lap. He yelped and jumped back slightly, landing in another patch of snow. He scooped her up as she laughed at his movements and took her into a bear hug. "You did that, didn't you?" he asked jokingly as Rhiannon laughed again and said 'ya!', her approximation of 'yes'.

Suddenly Rhiannon let out a little sneeze, burying her face into her hood. Mulder gently lifted up her face. "Sounds like we better get you back inside before you get sick," he said. He pushed back his sleeve to check the time, and was surprised to see that half an hour had passed. He picked up Rhiannon and stood up, brushing the snow off his damp jeans.

Shortly they were back in the warm apartment and Mulder busied himself getting Rhiannon out of the wet snowsuit and changing her into warm and dry clothes. Then he got rid of his own wet jeans and tossed them into the sink in their bathroom, knowing that Scully would really be mad if he just left them lying around the bedroom. He pulled on a fresh pair of jeans and walked back into the living room, scooping up Rhiannon on the way.

Sitting down on the couch, Mulder noticed that Rhiannon was yawning sleepily and decided that now was as good a time as ever to put her down for a nap. Come to think of it, a nap didn't sound too bad to him either. Soon the two were asleep on the couch, Mulder's arms locked securely around Rhiannon and some version of 'A Christmas Carol' playing on the television in the background.

Scully sighed to herself as the elevator took her up to the fifth floor. Christmas Day at her mother's was a little strained, just as she'd anticipated. Right now, all she wanted was to get back to her two touchstones, Mulder and Rhiannon.

The elevator door opened and she found herself walking faster and faster down the hall just to get home. She opened the door and was prepared to call out a hello when she saw the large pair of feet hanging over the arm of the couch. She walked around the couch and felt her heart melt into a great big pile of mush at one of the sweetest sights she'd ever seen.

Mulder was lying flat on his back on the couch, sound asleep. Rhiannon was spread out over his chest, also asleep, with Mulder's arms locked tightly around her to prevent her moving anywhere without him knowing about it. Scully knelt down by Mulder's head just to get a good look at his face, so relaxed and peaceful in sleep.

Suddenly Mulder moved slightly and turned his head towards her, as if he knew she was there. His eyes opened slowly and Scully smiled at him. "Hi sleepyhead," she said playfully and kissed him.

"Hey," Mulder said, smiling through the sleep fogginess.

Scully ran a hand gently over Rhiannon's back. "Wow, she's really out," she said. "What did you guys do?"

"We went for a little walk outside, and she spent a little time playing around in the snow," he said.

"Did she like it?" Scully asked.

"Enough to dump some snow on my jeans," Mulder smirked. "How was your mom's?"

Scully's face twisted into a sort of grimace. "Just as I'd guessed it would be actually. Bill was a jerk, although he saved it for when it was just me and Mom in the room, for some unknown reason playing it all nice and good when anyone else walked in. Then Mom was worried that I was getting too skinny and not eating enough. She'd change her mind though if she knew I had this little one running around," she said, stroking Rhiannon's head. "I've been eating more than ever and I just keep working it off trying to keep up with her."

"My mom said the same thing about me once, I think," Mulder said.

"So did mine," Scully grinned. "Anyway, Bill, Tara, Mom, Charles and his wife were all pretty much tip-toeing around me, knowing how past Christmases have been for me so I was able to get out of there sooner than I thought."

Rhiannon stirred on Mulder's sweater covered chest and opened her eyes, looking up at Scully. "Mama," she said sleepily.

"Hey Sweetie," Scully said, stroking her hair out of her face.

"'Tory," Rhiannon mumbled.

"Hmm?" Scully asked.

Rhiannon crawled down Mulder's legs over to the night table and picked up the book that Scully was reading the night before, and crawled back up. "'Tory," she said again.

"Ah, I get you," Scully smiled, and swatted at Mulder's shoulder. "Make some room." Mulder chuckled and sat up, balancing Rhiannon on his legs. Scully settled in next to him, tucking her legs up under her, and began to read.

'Francis came to call on Christmas morning
after Aunt Rachel and the uncles had come
and gone. Prudence ran downstairs to let
him in.

"Merry Christmas, Pru."

"Merry Christmas, Francis." Prudence
stared at the great bundle in his arms.
"Whatever's that?"

"It's a surprise. For Annaple. I do
hope she'll like it." He looked hopefully
at Prudence. "I tried to remember
everything you said."

"Everything?" Prudence said, startled.
She thought of some of the presents
Christopher and James had suggested.
Francis was always wholehearted. "What
is it?"

"Wait and see...."

St. Stephen's Day

Scully sat at the desk in the spare bedroom, finishing up some paperwork. As much as she'd tried to finish before the holidays, there was still so much to do. Most of it was wrapping up casework, like the autopsy report she was working on now. She finished it and picked up the next one on the low stack and groaned.

Expense reports, the bane of every working person's existence. Her eyes moved over the paper, recognizing hotel rooms, meals at restaurants, car rentals, sunflower seeds.

Sunflower seeds?

Scully sighed. There was only one person she knew who would even try and write off sunflower seeds as a business expense. "Hey, Mulder, come here a second," she called out.

Mulder strolled into the spare bedroom, looking very relaxed in a grey T-shirt and jeans. "Yeah?" he asked.

Scully held up the expense report in her hand and had an arched eyebrow and a sort of smile on her face. "Sunflower seeds?" was all she asked.

To her surprise, Mulder looked down and scuffed his shoe on the floor. "I figured it was worth a shot," he said, "just hoping that Finances wouldn't check that thoroughly and they'd just let it slide by."

She handed him the report. "You tried the same thing a few months ago, and they didn't buy it then either."

Mulder took the report and tossed it on the floor. He knelt down in front of Scully's chair and wrapped his hands around her waist, pulling her close to him. "I've got a better idea," he said as he leaned in to kiss her. Scully moaned appreciatively and wrapped her arms around his neck. This was something they both enjoyed. Scully insisted that Mulder had an extremely talented mouth while Mulder said that he wasn't doing anything special, he just really liked kissing Scully. As he began kissing his way down her neck he mumbled, "Rhiannon's asleep in her playpen, so we'll have plenty of time." Scully just nodded, enjoying the feel of Mulder's lips on her neck too much to speak.

At that moment, displaying that timing which has gotten its compatriots damaged in the past, the phone rang. "The answering machine'll get it," Scully said, running her hands over Mulder's head.

"Gladly," Mulder said, and resumed his work. A few rings later they realized that the ringing was not that of the house phone, but of Mulder's cellphone, one of the only ways most people they knew could reach them when they were at the apartment. They both sighed regretfully and pulled apart. Scully reached onto the desk for the phone as Mulder slumped onto the floor and leaned his back against the chair. She handed him the phone and he clicked it on. "Mulder," he said gruffly.

"Mulder, you sound a little out of breath, are you okay?" Frohike's voice came over the cell.

'I'll give you okay you little troll,' Mulder thought to himself, gritting his teeth. "I was just out jogging," he quickly made up.

"Ah, that's why we couldn't reach you at home," Frohike affirmed. "Hey, remember that UFO footage we were telling you about last week? Well we got a clip of it and are going to pull it apart. You really have to be here for this."

"Look, Frohike, I'm a little busy right now," Mulder said, desperately wishing he could get back to what (or who) he was doing.

He heard Langly shouting in the background and then Frohike spoke again. "It has to be today, some of this equipment is out on loan and it's got to go back tomorrow."

Mulder slouched against Scully's chair. Yes, he did want to go look at the footage, it was a rare find, but there was also something here which he wanted to look at also. He looked up at the touch of Scully's hand on his shoulder. She looked down at him with a knowing look on her face. "Go," she mouthed at him, knowing he'd be kicking himself for the rest of the day if he didn't.

He turned back to the phone. "Okay, I'll be there as soon as possible." He clicked the phone off and tossed it back on the desk. He turned around and got back onto his knees. "Thank you," he said.

"You're welcome," Scully replied, and leaned forward to kiss him quickly. "Now get going so you can please the three stooges and get home faster."

After Mulder left Scully moved into the living room so she could keep an eye on the sleeping Rhiannon. When she had gotten to the tenth piece of paper she decided that the only point to paperwork was to piss off already tired FBI agents. She thought the next time she ever brought work home with her during a vacation someone should just give her a good hard thump on the head.

The doorbell rang, giving Scully a welcome break from the paperwork from hell. She got up and pulled open the door to see a rather bedraggled Nora standing there holding a measuring cup in one hand. "Do you have any breadcrumbs?" Nora asked.

Scully held the door open wider and motioned her to follow her to the kitchen. "What's the breadcrumbs for?" Scully asked as she opened the pantry door.

"My attempt to salvage Christmas dinner leftovers," Nora sighed, brushing some wavy blond hair back from the ponytail it had escaped from. "Crown Roast Casserole, and I'm all out of breadcrumbs."

"Crown Roast Casserole?" Scully echoed.

"It's an experiment," Nora said, leaning against the counter. "How to get rid of leftovers without the family complaining that they don't want day old food."

"I'm glad I'm not there yet," Scully said, her voice sounding strange from the depths of the closet.

"Just you wait, Dana," Nora said, "Soon you'll have a kid complaining that you ate this last night and a husband begging for a homecooked meal."

Scully grunted as she moved a box to get to the bread crumbs. "I'll have you know that my husband is perfectly happy with pizza and take out Chinese," she said as she pulled a small carton of breadcrumbs out of the pantry. "Here you go."

"Thanks," Nora said. "But seriously, the day will come when they will be expecting you to spend an hour slaving over a meal that will be gone in ten minutes."

Scully shook her head and perched herself on the edge of the table. "Not Mulder. He's just a bit different like that. Besides, with both our work schedules we hardly have the time to spend cooking. It's an awful lot easier to pop something in the microwave or call for a delivery."

"So let me get this straight, Mulder has never demanded that you make him a big meal because he's had a long and tiring day at work?" Nora smirked.

"No because I'm usually just as tired as he is," Scully assured.

Nora nodded. "Oh yeah. Sorry, I forgot for a second there that you two work together also. Isn't that hard though? I mean, seeing him all day at work, but then coming home to see him too? Don't you ever get tired of it?"

"Tired of it? No, I don't. At work we're professional, with a pretty strict hands off policy. But at home we can relax and just...just be ourselves," Scully smiled.

"Well whatever it is it must be working," Nora said. "I haven't heard a fight yet." She reached an arm back to knock on the wall behind her. "Good old paper thin walls. They can't even stand up to a kid's bike crashing into it."

Scully laughed. "Why do I get the feeling you've had personal experience with that? As for the fights, Mulder and I do, they're just mostly work related and happen there. At home though we get along. Except when he leaves the toilet seat up in the middle of the night and I end up falling in."

Nora chortled. "Oh, do I know that one! Oh, well, I better be getting back now before dinner becomes even more of a mess than I'm anticipating. I'll see you later!" She walked out the door and Scully shut it behind her.

Scully turned back to the coffee table with the paperwork spread out on it. She took a deep breath and steeled herself to do battle with the monster of the bureaucratic system.

Some hours later Scully sat on the floor of the bathroom trying to bathe a squirming Rhiannon, who was having a grand time playing in the baby-safe bubble bath. Her sleeves were rolled up and towels covered the floor in preparation for a dousing that was traditional during bath time. She scooped up some clear water in a cup and poured it over Rhiannon's hair, rinsing the shampoo out of it. Rhiannon giggled and splashed some more water around, soaking Scully's shirt once more.

She looked down at herself, and then over at Rhiannon, who sat in the tub with an impish smile on her face. "Don't give me that look," Scully said jokingly. "I'd say you are just about done in there," she said, and pulled Rhiannon out, setting her down on one of the towels on the floor. She grabbed a big, fluffy towel off the rack and wrapped the little girl tightly in it.

From outside the bathroom she heard the front door open and close, and Mulder call out. "Hey, Scully."

"I'm in here, Mulder," she replied. Mulder walked into the bathroom and greeted Scully and Rhiannon with a kiss each. "How was the Gunmen's?" she asked.

"Well the video was a hoax, which they should have expected since their source who supplied them with the video called himself 'Dr. Spock.'," Mulder said. "Anything I can do in here?" he asked.

"Yeah," Scully said, and handed Rhiannon over to him. "Get her into her pajamas while I change my clothes."

"She got you again, didn't she?" Mulder said as Rhiannon giggled.

"What does it look like?" Scully said as she left the bathroom and headed for the master bedroom.

Mulder carried Rhiannon into her own room and pulled out a clean diaper and sleeper. He dried her off and put her in them, then he carried her back into their room where Scully had changed into her own pajamas of a deep blue silk color. "Her hairbrush is on the dresser over there, could you please get it for me?" she asked. Mulder complied and set both Rhiannon and the hairbrush down on the bed.

As Scully brushed out Rhiannon's fine baby hair Mulder left the room. When he came back he was now without shoes and jacket and carrying something behind his back. She set the brush down on the night table and brought Rhiannon closer to her. "What do you have there, Mulder?"

Mulder grinned and pulled his hand out from behind his back, revealing Scully's book. "Story?" he asked, imitating Rhiannon's speech.

"Get over here," Scully said, and Mulder crawled up onto the bed next to them. "You want to read this chapter?" she asked.

He shrugged. "Okay. What page were we on?" he asked.

"Page 21, I think," Scully supplied.


'St. Stephen's Day was the only day of the
year on which all the boys in the town
were up well before seven. It was still
dark when the streets rang with their
shrill, hopeful whistling for snow. A
snowball fight was the best of all the
Stephen's day battles; they would come
Stumbling home from it clogged and
choked and drenched with snow, breathless
and frozen, their eyes stinging and
their knuckles raw. But this year,
the stream ran freely down the gutter
and the wind blew from the southwest,
smelling of the fields; there was no
real hope of snow today...'

By the time Mulder had finished the chapter, both Scully and Rhiannon were fast asleep, leaning against a pile of pillows. Mulder closed the book and laid down next to them, closing his eyes. Within seconds he was fast asleep along with them.

St. John the Evangelist's Day

Scully stood in the slow moving elevator, holding the cardboard box tightly in her arms. Finally, after what seemed a long while the elevator doors opened and she stepped out of it. She walked over to the apartment door and finding herself unable to get a hand free, kicked at it.

Soon Mulder pulled the door open and Scully brushed past him, quickly setting the box down on the coffee table. "Whatcha got there?" Mulder asked.

Scully shrugged as she sat down on the couch. "I don't know. My mom gave it to me on Christmas, she said she'd been cleaning out the attic and she wanted me to have it. I put it in the car but I'd totally forgotten about it until today." Mulder sat down next to her as she pried open the cardboard box. On top of the box was an old photo album. She pulled the album out and carefully opened it. "Oh, God no," she moaned at the sight of the first page, and slammed the album shut again.

"What's in there?" Mulder asked, his curiosity peaked.

"Nothing!" Scully yelped, a little too quickly and loudly to seem like there was nothing there.

"Scully," Mulder said, getting an evil and mischievous glint in his eye.

"No, Mulder," she said, clutching the album to her chest and backing away towards the opposite end of the couch.

Mulder's grin grew wider as he slowly inched toward her. Suddenly he leapt at her in a half tackle, making Scully scream. Her screams quickly turned to laughter as Mulder began to tickle her sides. "Stop it!" she laughed, but Mulder didn't let up and within seconds he was able to snatch the album away from her. "Give me that!" she cried as Mulder quickly turned away from her and opened the album.

His face broke into a grin as he saw the first page of baby pictures. "Now who could this be?" he smirked.

Scully grabbed a pillow off of the couch and whacked him on the back of the head with it. "God, this is so embarrassing," she sighed.

"Why?" Mulder said. "I've seen you in less than that diaper, so what's the problem?" That comment got him another hit with the pillow. She sat up behind him and rested her chin on his shoulder. "C'mon, Scully, you were a very cute baby, you have nothing to be embarrassed about."

She wrapped her arms around his waist. "I don't care it's still something I thought would never see the light of day ever again."

"They're just pictures of a baby Scully wrapped up in a blanket, there's nothing bad about that," Mulder said.

"Give it a few pages," Scully warned. "Then you'll reach the pictures of me covered in chocolate pudding or whatever else I was eating, and the ones of Bill and Missy deciding to splash me with watercolor paint--"

"And the inevitable naked baby pictures," Mulder cut her off, grinning and looking down at another page.

Scully growled and reached past him to flip the pages. A few pages she stopped. "You can continue looking here."

"Any other interesting pictures coming up?" Mulder asked with a smile on his face.

"Not what you consider interesting. The rest is just a bunch of family pictures, some of me with my soccer team, little things like that," she said. The next hour was spent looking through the rest of the photo album with Scully tossing in various stories to go along with each picture, and Mulder interjecting his own comments.

When they were finished Scully was leaning back against the arm of the couch and Mulder was leaning on top of her, his back to her front in a sort of spooning position. "See, that wasn't so bad, now was it?" Mulder said.

"I guess not," Scully reluctantly agreed. "But next time you visit your mother you promise you will get some old pictures of yourself, right?" she said.

Mulder winced, but that was the only way he got Scully to let him see all of the pictures, making that deal like that. "Yeah, yeah, I will." His own baby pictures were far from spectactular, he thought he looked way too goofy.

Scully leaned down to whisper in his ear. "Because if you don't, I will hunt them down myself and have the Gunmen publish them all over the Internet, and one of those pictures will mysteriously find itself in A.D. Skinner's e-mailbox," she said calmly, but with a mixture of mischief in her voice that let him know she wasn't kidding.

"I promise. The next time I go up there I'll get my old pictures and you can look your heart out at them," Mulder quickly agreed.

"Good," Scully smiled. "Let's see what else is in the box," she said. Mulder grasped the box and shifted it onto the floor, giving him easier reach into it. The next thing he pulled out was a pile of a soft lemon yellow color. He handed it up to her. "Now this I recognize," she smiled. "My grandmother knitted it for me while my mom was pregnant. After I was born she personalized it." She held a corner of it in front of Mulder's face. On there in pink embroidery floss was the words 'Dana Katherine 2-23-64'.

"Do you think your mom would ever do anything like that?" Mulder asked musingly. He felt her shrug under his back.

"I don't know, Mom was never one for spending time on crafts," Scully said. She sighed and ran her hands down his arms. "I just..."

"What?" Mulder questioned softly, angling his head back to get a better look at her.

"It's just...well, I wonder how my mother's going to reach when I tell her about Rhiannon. I know that we're not going to be able to keep her a secret forever, and someday we're going to have to face her. I keep wondering what she'll do. I know she'll be angry, but what'll happen after that? Will she practically ban me from the family? Will she accept Rhiannon or totally disown her, pretend she doesn't even exist? And I know Mom won't take well the facts that one, we're not married, hell, she doesn't even know we've been a couple for almost three years, and two, we had Rhiannon through a surrogate. My mom's not overly religious, but there are some things I don't think she'll take. And I don't want to introduce our daughter to a family that's not going to love her."

Mulder sighed and took her hands in his. He carefully chose his words before he spoke. "I think...that after that December your mom understands how much you wanted a child, and that you had one in the only way possible, and she'll see how much you love your daughter, and she'll know that it's right. About the marriage thing...I honestly don't know what to do. I want to marry you someday, you know that, but we can't until it's all over. But when it is over, we'll get married and then we'll introduce Rhiannon to her together."

Scully leaned forward and pressed her lips to his forehead. "You're right, we'll do this together." They laid there in comfortable silence for the next few minutes, the only sound breaking it the sound of their relaxed breathing. Scully began to speak again. "Do you want to tell your mom the same way?" she asked.

Mulder exhaled sharply. "I'm not sure I want to tell her."


"You remember when I was in the hospital this past fall. My mom signed me out of there and basically gave Ol' Smokey permission to do whatever he wanted with me. I don't want to take a chance of that happening to Rhiannon. Y'know, in ten years I want to be in a park somewhere playing ball with my daughter, not watching her get entered into some government experimentation program."

Scully sighed and wrapped her arms around his shoulders. Mulder leaned his own head back to rest it against her shoulder. He turned his head slightly and pressed his forehead and nose against her neck. "I know," she whispered. "We'll keep her safe."

Mulder closed his eyes and burrowed his face into Scully's neck. "There is one person I'd like to tell," he said. "My grandmother, she would be ecstatic, I know."

"She's still alive?" Scully asked.

"Mm-hmm. Remember I told you that her father was the one who reached a hundred before he died? She figures she's got at least a good five years left, her words, not mine," Mulder said.

"Yeah, she sounds like a good person," Scully said.

"She is. She did more for me than my parents ever did, and I guess I'd like to show her that something turned out good for me. That all her work wasn't just a waste of time," he said.

"Mulder, you were never a waste of time," Scully grinned. Mulder moved his head back a little and looked up at her with a look of amusement on his face. She leaned down and quickly kissed him, then pulled back with a bright smile on her face. "Mulder, could you bring Rhiannon over here?" she asked. "I just feel like holding her."

"No problem." He got up off the couch and went over to the playpen, where Rhiannon was once again sleeping, getting into a napping pattern. He carefully picked her up, trying not to wake her. Luckily the little girl stayed fast asleep as he brought her over to Scully. Scully took the little girl and cradled her in her arms. Mulder slid in behind Scully this time and wrapped his arms around both of them.

"This is right," Scully whispered. "It's right." She reached over onto the coffee table for the Christmas book, taking comfort in her tradition. Mulder kissed the top of her head as she opened the book and began to read quietly so as not to wake Rhiannon.

'On Evangelist's Day, the Bishop blessed the
Gospels in the marketplace, and then they
were carried in procession round the town.
The Kitsons, however, slept late and missed
the ceremony. It was ten o'clock before
Prudence woke up. She slid out of bed, being
careful not to wake Annaple; pulled on her
wrapper and slippers; and made her way
softly downstairs.

The hall windows were open, and she could
hear the choirboys chanting in Latin as
they turned into Lee Street. They were
singing the first chapter of St. John's
Gospel. She opened the door and went out
on the bridge to watch. The procession was
just passing the house: She saw the great
book with its scarlet silk marker and wide,
decorated margins, and the candles burning
in their tall sticks, and the small silver
bell that chimed steadily on a single
clear note. Her uncles were pacing along
behind the choir. She waved to them
cheerfully. Behind them came the bishop,
then the mayor who never missed anything,
then a straggling crowd of children.
Prudence watched them pass, and then went
down to the kitchen, made up the fire, and
hung the kettle on its great iron hook.
She was hunting for Annaple's caraway cakes,
which were gritty and overcooked but better
than nothing, when there was a ring at the
door. She went upstairs again, yawning,
and found Francis's third-day presents
waiting on the bridge...'

Holy Innocent's Day

Mulder watched Scully march with a determined glint in her eye around the kitchen, removing things from the refrigerator and pulling objects off the shelves. She'd been acting like this all morning, since she'd woken up. She'd also gone out somewhere, and came back with bags loaded with food. Mulder hadn't been able to ask her about it yet, but now he was going to find out. "What exactly are you doing?" he asked her.

Scully turned around and leaned against the counter. "I was just thinking about something this morning, something that Nora said, that there are days when her family will be asking for a homecooked meal, and I realized that we never really have time for that. We're always so busy with work that the most we have time to do is call the local Chinese place. But now, we have a few days off and I just though that it would be nice to make something for a change." She suddenly moved away from the counter, turned Mulder to face the living room and gave him a push. "Now get going. If I'm going to do this I can't have any distractions."

Mulder chuckled and walked back into the living room. Scully was in a mood and he'd learned from experience that it was best not to mess with her when she was in one. He sat down on the floor next to Rhiannon who was playing with a mound of stuffed animals. "Your mama is acting very strange," he said to her. Rhiannon looked up at him and offered him a stuffed bear. Mulder took it from her. "Thank you." He reached behind him on the coffee table and grabbed the remote. He clicked on the television and laid back, propping his head up on the stuffed bear. Mulder surfed through the channels until he found a Knicks game. 'C'mere, Rhiannon," he said, pulling her towards him. "I'm going to teach you all about basketball."

A couple of hours later Mulder was still banned from the kitchen. Even when he went in to get a snack Scully kicked him right out and tossed a pack of sunflower seeds after him. He'd also figured out Rhiannon didn't like basketball. After a few minutes of watching she turned back to her animals. Oh well. He'd had better luck with baseball anyway. During the World Series (while he was still on sick leave from that hellish time where someone did something to his brain) she'd sat next to him totally enthralled at what was happening on the screen. Soon he knew he'd be signing her up for little league.

When the game was over he migrated to the spare bedroom with Rhiannon following in his wake. There was still that stack of paperwork sitting on the desk, but that idea really wasn't endearing itself to him. He sat down at the desk and booted up the computer, deciding to play a bootleg copy of a game Frohike had downloaded.

After a few minutes of that he quit the game. He got up and prowled around the small room. 'Face it, Mulder, you're bored stiff,' he thought. He jokingly mused whether it was because Scully wasn't there he was bored, but then re-thought it because that probably was the real reason he was bored.

He walked back into the living room, getting restless from boredom once more. He went over to the bookshelf and pulled out the book Scully had got him for Christmas. After a check to see where Rhiannon was, once more playing amongst the stuffed animals, he settled into the couch and began to read.

Soon he realized that Scully was standing over him, holding Rhiannon in her arms. His eyes shot over to the clock and he saw that he'd been absorbed in the book for a half-hour, it was that good. "C'mon, dinner's ready," Scully said. Mulder got up and followed her into the kitchen.

"Wow, that smells good," Mulder said, looking at the nicely prepared plates of food set out on the kitchen table.

"Yeah, but you know what I figured out?" Scully said as she put Rhiannon into her high chair. "I hate cooking! Now I know why I never spent hours in the kitchen making something. I don't have the patience for it. I could spend my time doing something much more valuable than slaving over a stove."

Mulder laughed as he sat down. "Well it still smells good, although I'll be happy with something simple."

"Thank God," Scully said as she slumped back into her chair, pushing stray strands of hair out of her face. "Because next time I even think of doing this please just tell me to quit right there."

Dinner went surprisingly well, although Scully spent most of the time wondering vocally why she'd decided to make this big banquet of a dinner again. When it was over Mulder somehow managed to convince Scully to get out of the kitchen and let him clean up, and even though Scully feared that the dishes wouldn't make it through that alive she let him and went to go soak in a bubble bath. By the time Scully was well and fully relaxed she wandered out into the living room Mulder was sitting on the couch eating some strawberry ice cream and in between feeding some small bites to Rhiannon. It wasn't really a bad thing for her either, it made her feel better when she was teething.

"How can you eat that in this freezing cold weather?" Scully asked, sitting down next to him.

"It's quite easy. Wanna try?" Mulder said, holding up a spoonful.

Scully shook her head. "Why can't we be normal?" she sighed. "Why can't I enjoy something simple like cooking a meal for my family?"

"That's because we're not normal, not by society's standards," Mulder grinned at her and she shot him a look. Mulder sighed and tried to improve his argument. "Look, between the two of us we've seen more and experienced more things than no one with an ordinary, mundane life could even dream of. That's made us different than them, and the things that work for them don't work for us."

"Sometimes I envy Nora," Scully said. "I mean, she's leading what some people would consider the ideal life. She's got a husband, kids, her own business, her life is nearly perfect." Her face broke out into a sudden smile. "But there are things that I have that I wouldn't trade for anything. I've got you, I've got Rhiannon, these are things I never would have gotten if I took the easy way out, the normal life. So I guess I can most certainly live with not being 'normal'," she finished as she leaned over and kissed him.

"Who needs normal?" Mulder grinned as she pulled away.

"But there are some things I'd like to keep normal, you know?" Scully said as she reached for the Christmas book. And as Mulder kept feeding himself and Rhiannon ice cream, Scully read once more.

'On the morning of Holy Innocents' Day, James
and Prudence and Christopher went down to
the church with all the other town children
to watch the choosing of the boy bishop.
The choirboys lined up in the marketplace
around a manger full of straw, stuck with
Christmas roses and ivy trails and sprigs
of holly. The bishop sat in his chair in
the church porch, with all the local
clergy, including the five uncles, clustered
around him.

Nine o'clock began to chime. The
choirboys went up in turn to pull straws
from the manger, and then the choir-master
went round comparing and measuring. He
stepped back, bowed to the bishop, and
announced that Will Verney had pulled the
shortest straw. The crowd clapped, the
choir cheered, and Will flushed and stared
hard at the cobbles....'

St. Thomas of Canterbury's Day

"I really don't want to do this," Scully sighed, standing in front of the closet, dressed in a robe, trying to decide what to wear.

"What's the big deal?" Mulder said, lounging on the bed. "It's just a lunch with your mother."

"But I got a message from mom this morning on my cell. Bill's coming too," she noted Mulder's grimace here, "and he's bringing an old friend of his, which means he's going on his 'get Dana a normal life' campaign, which to him means me quitting the FBI to become a pediatrician and settling down with a nice safe man." She wore a grimace of her own by this time.

"And it's been fully established that you don't want normal," Mulder grinned.

"I'd say so," Scully said, pulling a pair of pants out only to put them back in and began riffling through again. "Which leaves me with very few options. One, I go out with the guy once and tell him afterwards it's not going to work." She turned just in time to see the sick look Mulder was giving her. "An idea which appeals to neither of us, which leaves me with the second option: telling Bill flat out no which will spur on a big waste of breath on how you've 'corrupted' me, getting Mom very agitated. Then by the time it kicks in that I've been ignoring him everyone will be extremely uncomfortable and I'll just leave, essentially telling Bill to mind his own business." Scully finally decided on a pair of pants and pulled them on. "So you see, neither option is one I really like."

"Didn't you say something similar happened at Christmas?" Mulder asked.

"Yeah, although I left before Bill got really bad. I don't think I'll have that option now," Scully said, pulling a white blouse on. She sat back on the bed and reached for her socks and shoes. "Sometimes I just want to tell him so he'll shut up," she said.

"I'll bring the camera, and then I'll leave out the back door because he'll be sure to kill me," Mulder said, coming to kneel behind Scully on the bed.

"You carry a gun, you can handle him," Scully grinned, leaning back against him.

"He'll still want to kill me though," Mulder said, pulling Scully tighter against him.

"Then Mom will intervene. She doesn't share Bill's viewpoint of you."

Mulder sighed. "Sometimes I wonder if he's got a point," he said somberly.

Scully bit the inside of her cheek. Mulder's guilt trip was nothing new to her, and she elbowed him in the stomach. "Quit the guilt trip, Mulder," she said. "You are not the son of a bitch Bill thinks you are. You are a good man who would go to the ends of the earth for his partner."

"No, not a partner," Mulder said, kissing the side of her neck, "for you."

"There's not much difference there," she smirked. "But don't worry about how Bill feels. I'm not looking for his approval, just to make him aware of the situation." She paused for a moment. "And to see the look on his face when it sinks in what I've told him," she amended.

"Enjoying the simpler things in life," Mulder grinned.

Scully turned in his arms to face him. "What are you going to do today while I'm out?" she asked.

Mulder shrugged. "Oh, you know, just bum around."

She arched an eyebrow. "I've seen you bored, Mulder. It's not a pretty sight."

He grinned. "Okay. Actually I was planning to call my grandmother. I haven't spoken to her in a while and it's a good time to call." Mulder bit his lip, wondering how Scully would take the next thing about to say. "I was also wondering if we should tell her about Rhiannon."

Scully moved back slightly to look Mulder in the eye. "Mulder, I thought we agreed not to tell anyone yet."

"I know," Mulder nodded. "But I just keep thinking that if it wasn't for her I wouldn't be here today. God only knows what would have happened if I'd have stayed with my parents, and I want to show her that it was worth something, that all her hard work with me didn't just go to waste."

Scully ran a hand through his hair, stroking the skin. Even though their original plan was to keep everything a secret, they both knew that someday it would come out, and as for a starting place, it was better than some of the people she could have imagined. "If you do want to tell her, Mulder, make sure she knows a few things, like that this is a secret, and we need it kept up until a certain point in time. And that it could possibly be dangerous for her to know it."

Mulder nodded. "I will make her aware of what could possibly happen before telling her anything." He leaned forward and kissed her. "Thank you," he whispered.

Scully smiled. "It's going to have to come out into the open someday," she whispered back. "This is a better place to start than some things I could think of." She got a glimpse of the clock and pulled away. "Oh, damn, I'm going to be late." She kissed him good-bye and stood up. "Tell me what happens later, okay? I'll see you soon."

Mulder followed her out of the room with his eyes, then he hoisted himself off the bed. As he walked out of the room he thought about what he was going to do. Telling his grandmother was something he had wanted to do for a long while, he knew she would be the one person who would appreciate what she was hearing. And he did want to prove to her that he did turn out well, actually, that something finally went right for him, that even though the past was bad everything turned out all right.

He walked into Rhiannon's room, where she was still thankfully fast asleep in her crib. She'd given them a hard time last night, after taking a long nap the other afternoon she'd been wired until practically 4 a.m., when they finally got her to sleep. He ran his hand gently over the back of her head, and then walked out into the living room.

Mulder picked up the phone and sat down on the couch, steeling himself for what he was about to do. He dialed in the number and listened as the phone rang on the other end. Soon someone picked up. "Hello," a female voice said.

"Hi, Penny, it's Mulder," he said. Penny Liu-Cooper was the cook who had been working for his grandmother for longer than he could remember, even though his grandmother ended up cooking half of the meals herself.

"Hey!" she said. "Long time no hear from you."

"Work's been pretty busy lately," Mulder said, resorting to a familiar answer.

"You want to talk to your grandma?" Penny said.

"Yeah, please?"

"No problem, she'll be right there."

Mulder waited until he heard his grandmother's voice. "Hello, Fox," Vera Mulder said, sounding younger than her years.

"Hi, Gram. Merry Christmas," he said conversationally.

"Same to you," Vera said, the smile in her voice coming through over the phone lines.

"Did anyone show up there this year?" Mulder asked.

"Of course. Someone always shows up, you know that. How has work been lately?" she asked, changing the subject.

"Busy," Mulder sighed. "Nothing new there though," he said, trying not to get too deep into details.

"Can you get any time off?" Vera said.

"Yeah, I've got some time off over the holidays," Mulder confirmed. "Why?"

"Come up for a visit then," she said. "Just, do it around January second. I'm loaning my house out for a New Year's Eve party and the next day the cleaning crew's coming through."

Mulder laughed lightly. Vera still loved parties, that never changed. He grew serious though. "Uh, Gram, can I ask you a question?"

"Go ahead, Fox."

He took a deep breath, trying to figure out the exact wording of what he was about to ask without revealing too much. "If...if someone were to tell you a secret, a dangerous secret, that could get you into trouble if the wrong people knew that you knew, what would you do?"

Vera gave a little laugh. "The way I grew up you had to know how to keep a secret. But if someone told me something important, I would keep it secret, and if someone knew that I knew, I'm not going to tell. It's a matter of integrity, Fox, and being true to the people who trust you. And if it's your secret," she said, making a guess, "then you know I won't tell, no matter what people try to do."

Mulder sighed and relaxed into the couch. He knew deep down that his grandmother would keep a secret, but he liked to be reassured. "Okay. Thanks."

"Are you still going to be able to come up?" Vera asked.

"I'll be there," Mulder said. "Uh, I'm also going to bring someone with me. There's someone I'd like you to meet."

"All right. I'll see you then. Bye, Fox."

"Bye Gram," Mulder said, and hung up the phone. Now all he had to do was convince Scully to go with him.

Mulder heard the front door slam from where he was in Rhiannon's bedroom. Judging by the sound of the slam, things didn't go so well. Or rather, exactly as she'd predicted. He sat back in the old rocking chair with Rhiannon on his lap and waited for Scully's entrance.

Soon she stood in the doorway with a cross between a harried and a pissed off look on her face. "How'd it go?" Mulder asked.

Scully sighed. "I'd tell you what I'm thinking but I'm not going to use those words with Rhiannon around." She walked over to sit down in front of the chair. Rhiannon saw her and squirmed around on Mulder's lap until he slid her into Scully's waiting arms. "Do you know what Bill told me?"

"What?" Mulder asked, not liking the way things were going.

"He said that yesterday when he went to the supermarket he saw you making out with some woman in one of the aisles."

"He said what?!?" Mulder yelped, practically jumping out of the chair.

"Which I know wasn't true because I spent most of the day with you," Scully soothed him. "I know you were here with me and with Rhiannon and when I went out for a little while you were here baby-sitting." Mulder nodded vigorously. "But Bill was being adamant that you were there, and I told him that I had spoken to you on the phone yesterday and that you hadn't mentioned anything about that." Scully hesitated a bit. "But to make a long story short we're still not getting along."

Mulder could just tell though that she was leaving something out. "What aren't you telling me?" he asked with a small smirk on his face.

Scully's eyes wandered around the room, looking everywhere but at him. Her hands kept stroking Rhiannon's back. "I, uh, I basically ended up slapping him across the face and then storming out of the restaurant." Mulder tried hard not to laugh, but it didn't work and he soon began to snicker. Scully let out a little laugh of her own. "Judging by the look on Mom's face though she was pretty close to thumping him upside the head also, I just got there first."

"Of all the times I really wished I had a camera this is one of them," Mulder grinned at her. He reached onto the changing table and pulled the Christmas book off of it. "While we're all together, wanna do a little reading?"

Scully eagerly accepted the book. "Yeah, I need something to calm me down."

'Next morning when the doorbell rang, the
Kitsons were having breakfast in the parlor.
Annaple flushed and went on stirring sugar
into her porridge--"If you marry Francis,"
Christopher said, "you needn't ever lift a
spoon again"--Papa looked at the ceiling, and
Prudence and James and Christopher ran for the
stairs. Annaple began, "Don't be so
inquisitive--" but they were already out of

There was a crowd in the street. A man
with a cage of songbirds. A man with a
cage of turtledoves. A man with three
furious French hens. A man with a partridge
clucking anxiously in a pear tree. A man
with six bottles of wine. Two workmen with
tools and wood. A farmer's boy with a sack
of corn. A crowd of children. Several women
who were on their way to marker and had stopped
to see the fun. "Whatever is it, then? Is it
true what they're saying, that Francis Vere's
trying to persuade her, but she won't have him?"
(Annaple, watching from the parlor window, drew
back quickly when she saw the women.) And last
of all, a boy with a large wicker basket....'

Churching Day

The phone call came early that morning, startling Mulder out of a sound sleep. Not for the first time he regretted leaving his cell phone on the night table. The call was simple and to the point: in Tallahassee, Florida the body of an ex-FBI agent was stolen from its grave. The odd thing was, it looked as if said dead person had tried to claw his way out from the inside, and could he and his partner please come down there to investigate. Mulder agreed, he didn't really have much choice especially since the agent on the other end said A.D. Skinner had already approved the trip, hung up the phone, and buried his face in the pillow.

"What was that?" Scully asked, her face close to his ear.

Mulder groaned into the pillow. "You'll find out in a second, the next call's heading for you." Sure enough Scully's own cell began to ring and she picked it up. After a few minutes of listening she clicked the phone off and she slumped back against the pillow.

"A robbed grave that looks like the body clawed itself out of it," Scully sighed. Mulder lifted his head off of the pillow and set it back down on Scully's shoulder.

"S'right up our alley," he muttered, rubbing his nose against her shoulder.

Scully tilted her head and leaned it against his. "You want to get there first, or should I?" she asked him.

He pushed himself up to a sitting position. "I'll get down there first, you can get Rhiannon settled at Nora's. Besides," he grinned impishly at her, "we wouldn't want to give them any ideas showing up together, now would we?"

Scully gave a little laugh and rubbed his arm. "Get moving into the shower Mulder," she said, giving him a slight push. She got out of bed herself and headed for Rhiannon's room. The baby was still sleeping and Scully was loathe to wake her up but she had to, in order to feed her breakfast before they dropped her off at Nora's. After a few minutes of gently rubbing her back Rhiannon opened a pair of sleepy eyes. She rolled over and saw Scully standing there. "Mama," she said sleepily and lifted her arms so Scully could pick her up. Rhiannon had been through this before and she knew that she couldn't go back to sleep just yet.

Scully carried her into the kitchen and set her down in the high chair. She walked over to the pantry, pulled out a box of Cheerios, and poured it into a bowl with some milk. She set it in front of Rhiannon so she could feed herself, but if she played with her food too much, Scully was going to have to feed her. Then she moved over to the coffee maker and started it up, knowing that the extra jolt of caffeine would help both of them get moving a little faster.

Soon Mulder came rushing into the kitchen, hastily tying a tie around his neck. Scully pushed a cup of coffee towards him. "Thanks," he said, pausing to take a sip. "The Bureau dropped the case file off at the airport, do you want to pick it up?" he asked.

"No, it's okay," Scully said. "You read it on the way down and fill me in when I get there."

"Okay," Mulder said. He leaned down and kissed her sweetly on the lips. "I'll see you in a little bit." He then leaned down and kissed Rhiannon on top of the head.

"Bye bye Dada!" Rhiannon called after him, waving her spoon around in the air.

"See you soon," Scully said, and soon she heard the front door close after him. When Rhiannon was finished eating she carried her back into her room and dressed her, also trying to keep her from pulling off her socks as soon as Scully put them on. She set her on the floor and grabbed an old diaper bag from out of the closet and tossed some supplies for Rhiannon in there: a few diapers, an extra outfit just in case, and some toys if she got a little homesick.

Scully checked the clock, which read 7:30. Perfect timing, Nora should just be opening up shop. She stared down at her pajamas, which she realized she wouldn't have time to change out of just for this trip one flight down. Oh well, it wouldn't kill her. Scully shouldered the bag, took Rhiannon's hand and they started out for the elevator. The elevator ride went quickly and soon Scully and Rhiannon were knocking on the door to the daycare center. Nora pulled the door open. "Hi Nora," Scully said.

"Another sudden job?" Nora asked.

"Yeah, the phone woke us up this morning," Scully sighed.

"Are you going to be back by tonight?" Nora said, reaching for her schedule book which held the names of all the kids that were going to be there that day.

"I don't know yet. I'll give you a call by 4 p.m. to let you know what's going on." Scully knelt down to look at Rhiannon and kissed her on the cheek. "I'll see you soon, sweetie," she said. Rhiannon kissed her back and said "Bye Mama." Scully handed her off to Nora. "Thanks so much. I've got to go get dressed now." Scully ran to the elevator, decided not to wait and dashed up the stairwell. Half an hour later she was ready and on her way to Florida.

Mulder and Scully walked out of Skinner's office holding the newest information he'd given them on the grave robbing: that three similar ones had happened over the past six months. Scully sighed as they walked into the elevator and Mulder hit the button for the basement. "As soon as this case is over we're taking a few vacation days. We'll shut off all communication so they have no chance of reaching us," she said.

Mulder grinned at her. "It's an interesting case, you have to admit. Grave robbings, magic circles in goat's blood, now this Millennium Group connection, it's got the makings of a hell of an X-File."

Scully leaned back against the metal wall of the elevator. "I don't care. I though we'd have a vacation now, but the Bureau obviously has a different opinion," she grumbled.

The elevator doors opened onto the basement floor and they walked to the office. "We can take some vacation time after the case is over. I'm sure that after disturbing our initial vacation we can oh so subtly guilt them into giving us vacation time," Mulder said.

"I hope so," Scully said, reaching for her jacket. "So where exactly are we going?" she asked.

"Hartwell Psychiatric Hospital. There's a man there who's had some ties to the Millennium Group in the past. Well, actually, he's gone against them," Mulder said, sliding his own coat on. "Hopefully he'll be able to answer a few of our questions."

Mulder stared silently out the windshield as he drove them back towards D.C. Frank Black was less of a help than he'd have thought he would be. Mulder had thought that after all Black had been through with the Millennium Group he would have been more eager to work against them once more if they were doing something wrong.

One thing he realized, as Scully had mentioned, was that he and Black were an awful lot alike. Mulder knew he had the potential to end up the same way, alone in a mental hospital having lost everything. But deep down he knew that he wouldn't go that far. He had Scully there to rein him back in, to let him know when he'd gone too far and when it looked like everything was lost to give him hope again. She was his balance. Now too, he had Rhiannon, the beautiful little girl he never thought he would have. Those were his reasons for not letting himself get that far to the point of obsession anymore. There were more things to live for than just proving the Consortium wrong.

Scully saw his clenched jaw and reached out to place a hand on his arm. "You okay?" she asked.

Mulder let one eye move over to her. "Yeah. A little disappointed, I thought Mr. Black would have been more helpful. But other than that I'm okay."

"Good," Scully said. Mulder removed one hand from the wheel and took Scully's hand in his, intertwining their fingers. They stayed that way for the rest of the drive.

When they got back to the apartment, Mulder decided to pick up Rhiannon at Nora's, getting the sudden urge just to give his little girl a hug. He knocked on the door and an extremely tired looking Nora opened it. "Long day?" Mulder asked.

Nora groaned and slumped against the doorjamb. "Don't ask. Let's just say that a bunch of them were being especially rowdy today."

From behind Nora he heard Rhiannon shout "Dada!" and the sound of little feet running in his direction. He knelt down and swept her up into a hug as she ran towards him. "Hey, baby," he said, kissing the top of her head.

"Are you going to need her watched again tomorrow too?" Nora asked.

"Yeah, probably," Mulder said, holding Rhiannon in his arms.

"Okay," Nora said. "I'll see you then."

"Gotcha," Mulder said, and walked to the elevator. All the way up he held Rhiannon tightly in his arms, for some reason just wanting to have her close. Maybe this case was affecting him more than he thought. Maybe it was the comparing of what could have been with what really was. That for once in his life, he was happy, and he didn't want to lose that.

Mulder walked into the apartment and walked around, looking for Scully. He finally found her laying back on the bed, her shoes kicked off somewhere near the foot of the bed. He placed Rhiannon down on the bed, and she ran over to Scully and gave her a hug. Scully wrapped her arms around Rhiannon and snuggled her close.

He laid down next to the two of them, beginning to relax after the long day. He was close to slipping off to sleep when he felt something poking him in the arm. Mulder looked down to see Scully jabbing him in the arm with the Christmas book. "Read to us," she grinned, even though her eyes were closed. Mulder smirked, knowing he wouldn't be able to refuse her. He sat himself up against the headboard and started to read.

'On the morning of Churching Day, the people
going down to market and the people coming
back with their purchases collected in
little groups in Lee Street, making polite
conversation about the weather and the
children and how to use up leftover Christmas
beef, and all waiting to see if the stories
about Francis Vere and Annaple Kitson were
true. Annaple flounced down to the kitchen
as soon as she was dressed. She refused
to take any responsibility for the livestock;
James, Prudence, and Christopher had to do
all the feeding and cleaning out. While
Annaple stayed in the kitchen, crossly
snipping bacon rind and pretending she wasn't
a bit interested in possible presents, the
children toiled around the house and the
courtyard, feeding the partridges, the doves,
the hens, and the birds, watering the pear
trees, and cleaning out the coops....'

New Year's Eve

Mulder was awoken by the sound of soft voices talking next to him. He peeled open his eyes and saw Scully sitting up in bed with Rhiannon on her lap. He watched them play little games, Scully seeing if she could her Rhiannon to identify different body parts and Rhiannon playing Peeka-Boo with Scully's hands. Soon Scully and Rhiannon noticed he was awake and he smiled at them. "Good morning," Scully said.

Rhiannon crawled over to him and rubbed his face with her hands. "Hi, Dada," she smiled.

He leaned forward and kissed her forehead. "G'morning to you too."

Rhiannon mover her hands to his nose and grabbed onto it. "Nose," she said proudly. Mulder's eyes looked up to see Scully vainly trying to hide a laugh behind her hand. He glowered at her, but then began to smile himself.

"Be grateful you didn't inherit it," Mulder said as he gently pulled her hands off. Rhiannon giggled and laid down, resting her head against his chest. "So what's on the schedule today?" he asked.

Scully shrugged. "I don't know. I think maybe we could head into Hoover and see what else we can dig up on the Millennium Group," she said, then she sighed. "And all this on New Year's Eve, a day when we should be sleeping late in expectation of being up until the next morning."

Mulder looked up at her. "Well, it's the ideal time for the group to strike, on the eve of the new millennium."

Scully arched an eyebrow at him. "Mulder, the new millennium doesn't start until--"

"Don't get all technical on me," Mulder cut her off, smirking. "No one likes a math geek." Scully was not amused and took a throw pillow and thumped him over the head with it, much to Rhiannon's delight. "You're getting a real laugh out of this, aren't you?" he asked her. Rhiannon nodded.

Scully moved closer to the two of them. "Why do I get the feeling it's going to be a long day?" she asked.

"Because it's always a long day when it comes to us," Mulder said, thinking about past cases.

Scully looked thoughtful for a moment, then reached onto her night table and grabbed the Christmas book. "Might as well read now, who knows where we'll be tonight," she said, shooting a half smile at him. Mulder moved closer to her, and Rhiannon sat up between them. When they were all comfortable Scully began to read.

'On the last day of the year, the mayor's
men always processed around the town and
the children came running out of the
houses for the traditional gifts of oranges
and buns. But this year, the men found
themselves marching up and down empty
streets. Their bell clanged sadly, and
their calls of "Come out, come out, the
year is dying" had no effect. All the
children and most of their parents were in
Lee Street, outside the Kitsons' house,
waiting for a different procession. The
grown-ups weren't even bothering to make
polite conversation about the price of
candles and the chances of snow: They
were openly wondering what Francis would
send today. The children were admiring
the dolphin-mounted marble boys that the
builders had set on either side of the
bridge to the Kitsons' door. Water
spouted merrily from the dolphins'
mouths into the stream....'

Mulder had a slightly stupid grin on his face as they walked into the hospital elevator, but it wasn't because of the day. The day itself was hellish, a mixture of zombies, one too many millennium prophecies for his tastes, and something resulting in Scully getting a nasty scratch on her neck and his right arm with a nice gash and a sling.

But that was certainly not why he was smiling. He was smiling because he'd kissed Scully, which he had done many, many times before, but this time it was different. It was at the stroke of midnight on the first day of the new millennium in the middle of a hospital waiting room.

In public.

Where anyone could see them.

Okay, it went against all the rules they had made for themselves to prevent their relationship from getting found out, but he couldn't resist. It was such perfect timing, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Scully was still looking with a sort of half smile on her face and Mulder had his arm around her. Once they were on the elevator, Mulder tried to explain his reasoning.

"Look, Scully, I know I shouldn't have done that but the tim--" Scully cut him off with her fingers over his lips.

"Mulder, be quiet," she grinned. "No one's going to notice two people kissing on New Year's, of all days."

Mulder looked bashfully down at the floor of the elevator. "I know. I just thought you were kind of mad because you weren't really responding."

Scully arched an eyebrow at him. "You want to know why?" she asked him, an enigmatic grin forming on her face. Mulder nodded. "Because," she said slowly, "I would have reacted like this." She pushed him back against the elevator wall and kissed him hotly, using her lips and teeth and tongue. When the bell rang and the doors began to open she pulled away. "Now that could not have been passed off as just a simple New Year's kiss between friends," she grinned at him and walked out of the elevator. Mulder followed after her with an astonished and delighted look on his face, feeling weak kneed and a little breathless.

They walked out to their car, with Scully taking the driver's seat because Mulder's painkillers were starting to kick in. He was feeling no pain at all, but there was the inevitable grogginess that came along with it. While they were driving Scully spoke again. "I talked to Skinner while you were getting your arm stitched up. We've got vacation time until the 10th. The first three days are official sick leave, but he's looking at the whole thing as sick time so there's a slim to none chance that we'll be bothered."

"Thank God," Mulder sighed, slumping back in his seat. He spent the rest of the ride half-asleep, the day and the painkiller's catching up with him. He became more aware when Scully shook his good shoulder, telling him that they were back at the apartment. He got out of the car a little shakily, and Scully moved to wrap an arm around his waist, giving him the support he needed.

Slowly, for they were both near exhaustion by this time, they made their way into the apartment building and onto the elevator, hitting the button for the fifth floor. Mulder felt his head dropping onto Scully's and his eyes falling shut in the beginnings of sleep. He was jolted awake by the slight movement of the elevator signifying they were at the fifth floor. They walked to Nora's apartment and saw the lights on under the door and heard the noise of a party going on, so they knew it was okay to knock on the door and pick Rhiannon up. Nora opened the door, her face slightly flushed with the excitement of the night. She started a little when she got a good look at them. "Whoa, what happened?" she said.

"Long story." "Don't ask," they said simultaneously.

Nora nodded. "Okay. Let me just get Rhiannon, she's asleep along with the rest of the kids." She disappeared for a moment and then came back carrying a sleeping Rhiannon in her arms along with the old diaper bag draped over one shoulder. "Here you go," she whispered, handing Rhiannon off to Scully, who cradled her carefully in her arms, and the diaper bag to Mulder's good arm. "You are going to come over tomorrow, right?" she asked quietly.

"Yeah," Scully nodded, speaking just as quietly. "We'll see you then."

Mulder and Scully walked into their own apartment, close to falling asleep on their feet. Scully went into Rhiannon's room and laid her down in the crib, covering her carefully with a blanket. She stroked her back lightly for a minute and then went into their bedroom. In there Mulder had stripped down to his boxers and sliding under the covers. "Be sure to prop your arm up on a pillow," she told him as she got into her pajamas.

"Okay," Mulder said, taking one of the pillows from behind him and placing it under his right arm. Scully slid into bed on the other side of him and rested her head on his chest.

"Happy New Year," she whispered, and she felt Mulder brush a kiss against her head.

"Happy New Year," he whispered back, and then "Love you," said softly against her hair.

"Love you too," Scully said with a soft smile in her voice. Within seconds they were both fast asleep.

New Year's Day

Luckily Y2K hadn't hit them too hard. The power had faltered a little, but the rest of the time it worked. The broadcast and cable channels were still active, meaning the satellites hadn't fallen out of the sky due to mechanical failure. And their computers were still working due to some well placed tinkering by the Gunmen.

That afternoon found Mulder and Scully in front of Nora's door (at her request) waiting for her little mock up of a New Year's Day dinner party. It wasn't really a true dinner party, it would only be themselves along with Nora and her husband Rick, and their three kids. Rhiannon hated their kids, they were a wild bunch who were always running around her and pulling at her hair and scaring her. She grabbed tightly onto Mulder's leg when Rick opened the door. "Hi," he said. "C'mon in." Mulder pried Rhiannon off his leg and picked her up, holding her in his good arm (the other one was out of the sling, but still sore). She buried her head in his neck as they walked into the apartment.

Rick led them over to the living room, where Nora was setting a nicely prepared plate of hors d'ouvres out next to the snacks Rick had set up in preparation for the long stream of football games he had every intention of watching. Their oldest son Alan was camped out on the floor next to the table, his eyes fixated on the television. "Sit down," Nora said. Mulder looked warily over at Scully, who shot him a look saying: 'Behave. Be good, don't make too many weird comments, and we'll get out soon'. They sat down on the couch, Rhiannon still holding on to Mulder.

Nora sat down on the loveseat. "So what happened? Yesterday his arm was in a sling and you looked like you'd been through the wringer."

Scully glanced at Mulder, her look saying this time 'what story do you want to tell them that won't scare them away?' Mulder decided to handle it. "I, um, I was accidentally pushed into a loose piece of chain link fence," he said, picking something safe and leaving out the details.

Rick snorted. "What's the matter, Mulder? You can't take a little scratch like a man?"

Mulder looked at Scully. This was one of the reasons he's voiced earlier to her why he didn't want to come. Rick was a chauvinistic creep, plain and simple. He bit back his response and looked up at the ceiling. It was going to be a long day.

They got the chance to leave a little earlier than they had planned when Nora's kids began chasing Rhiannon around the apartment and she tripped, getting a mild rug burn on her face and scraping up her knees. Scully scooped up Rhiannon and Nora gracefully excused them, going off to scold her own kids. "I'm glad to be out of there," Mulder sighed when they got into their own apartment.

"I know it wasn't fun, but Nora did invite us and I couldn't say we had work on New Year's Day," Scully said, looking back at him as she carried Rhiannon into the bathroom to clean her up.

"You know, I realized something today," Mulder said, following them into the bathroom. "How Rick and Nora are is considered normal. And now I know why I'm glad I'm not normal. They are seriously scary!"

Scully arched an eyebrow at him as she set Rhiannon down on the counter. "Mulder, people think you're scary. People think that Nora and Rick are Mr. and Mrs. All American Family." She bent down to reach under the counter for the first aid kit that was always kept down there for Mulder's ever present injuries and pulled out some Band-Aids and disinfectant.

Mulder grinned. "Oh, believe me, I know people think that I'm weird. But if that's the alternative, give me weird."

Scully sighed and shook her head, grinning. Mulder was weird, crazy, spooky, all of those words applied to him, but that just made her love him all the more. She tilted Rhiannon's face up to the light to get a better look at the rug burns. They were pretty mild, a little bit of ointment should clear them right up. She grabbed the tube of Neosporin, squeezed a small amount out on to her finger, and gently spread it over Rhiannon's face. Rhiannon tried to squirm away as she did this, but Mulder carefully held her still.

Next she bent down and took a look at her knees. They were scratched up and slightly bleeding. "Mulder, hand me a wet washcloth please?" she asked, and soon one was in her hand. She gently sponged off the traces of blood, put more Neosporin on and covered the scrapes with Band-Aids. She leaned over and kissed right over the Band-Aids. "There, all better," she smiled up at her. Scully reached up and brushed away the stray tears that were straggling down Rhiannon's face.

Then she turned to Mulder. "While we're in here I should take a look at your cut too." Mulder winced and looked to the door as a means of escape. Scully grabbed his chin and pulled his face back to her. "Off with it, Mulder," she said.

He grinned at her. "If only you were saying that to me in a different situation," he smirked as he took off his sweater and offered his right arm to her. Scully unwrapped the bandage from around his arm and carefully pulled it away from the stitches. After a few minutes of careful examination she re-wrapped it.

"It looks fine," she said, putting a fresh bandage from the first aid kit on.

"Aren't you going to kiss it better?" Mulder pouted at her.

Scully looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. "Later," she grinned. "I keep thinking there's something we have to do first." She set Rhiannon down on the floor and they walked out of the bathroom. In the middle of the hallway though Scully stopped.

"What is it?" Mulder asked.

"I just remembered what we have to do," Scully said. "Pack. And if we don't do it tonight we're just going to be rushing in the morning." She turned on her heel and walked into their bedroom. "Mulder, get Rhiannon's things packed, please?" she called out.

"Okay," Mulder said, taking the change of events in stride. He went to the hall closet and pulled out a small duffel bag. Then he went into Rhiannon's room, with her following. He dropped the duffel bag on the changing table and bent down to her level. "So what do you want to bring to your great-grandma's house?" Rhiannon walked over to the crib and reached between the bars, pulling out the grey seal they'd given her for Christmas. She walked back over to Mulder and handed it to him. "Silky," she said.

"Yes, ma'am," Mulder said, putting it in the bottom of the bag. "What next?" he muttered to himself. 'Okay, Mulder, start with the basics,' he thought. "Hey, Scully!" he called out. "How many diapers do you want to bring?"

"Just toss a pack in," she yelled. "If we need more we'll pick them up there."

Mulder put one pack of diapers in and then went over to the drawers. He pulled open the first draw, stared at for a minute and then removed enough socks to last the trip. Making his way down the drawers he pulled out various tops, shirts, sweaters, dresses, everything a little girl could need for a vacation. He had to admit that they spoiled her a bit, but she was their little angel, they had a right to it.

Scully came in soon to see how the packing was going. The clothes were a little messy in the bag because Rhiannon had helped put them in there, but otherwise Mulder had done a good job. She wandered back into her room to look at her own packing. She'd covered her own basics, pants, shirts, a nice outfit just in case, underthings, pajamas. Now it was time for Mulder's things. She knew he'd be grateful that she saved him the trouble, but as she'd learned from experience if she dressed him 'too damned preppy' (his words) he'd put up a stink.

She decided to keep it simple. Jeans, shirts, with a pair or two of nice slacks tossed in just in case, and any other necessary things. There was a scuffling sound behind her, and she turned around to see Rhiannon trying to push her bag into the bedroom. "Awl done!" she said proudly.

Scully went over and knelt down next to her. "Yeah, you did a good job," she smiled, "Where's your dad?" she asked.

"Right here," Mulder said, stepping over the two of them. Scully watched him as he predictably went over to the suitcase to see what he'd packed. She heard the sigh of relief and then he came over to sit next to the two of them. "You all packed too?" he asked her.

"Yeah," Scully said. "I've got enough to last us until the ninth."

"I'm still shocked that Skinner gave us that much of a vacation," Mulder mused.

"He's not as bad as you think he is, Mulder. He has helped us in the past," Scully said.

"I know that but sometimes he seems awfully shifty," Mulder said, thinking of past occasions.

"But he's gotten better ever since your last visit to the hospital," Scully said, referring to his little trip to the mental hospital.

Mulder shrugged. "Yeah, I guess you've got a point there. Hey, what time do you want to leave tomorrow?" he asked, taking a total U-turn with the subject.

Scully gave him an odd look but went along with it. "Maybe sometime around noon, I guess. That way we get to sleep in and beat the early morning rush on the 95."

"It also means we're going to hit rush hour traffic when we get up to New York," Mulder pointed out.

"Either way we're going to hit traffic. I personally believe we deserve sleep in for once," Scully grinned.

Mulder laughed. "I've no complaints with that."

Later that night Scully getting ready for bed, brushing her teeth as Rhiannon sat on the counter watching her and brushing her own. She put down her brush and took Rhiannon's going over the little girl's teeth to make sure she did a good job. When they were both finished she took her back into the bedroom.

Scully was having one of those nights where she wanted to keep her little girl right by her side, and she would sleep with them. Mulder didn't mind at all, it was fun, a reassurement that they were a family now. They would all snuggle up together, Scully holding Rhiannon who would be lying half on Mulder's chest who had his arms around both of them. It was one of the best things they'd both experienced.

In the doorway to the bedroom Rhiannon stopped Scully by practically yelling "No, no, no!"

"What is it?" Scully asked, a worried look on her face as she stroked her hair.

"'Tory," Rhiannon said determinedly. Scully laughed. This was one tradition Rhiannon was picking up on quickly. She knew it was a good thing that her daughter grew up liking to read, it was a lot better than some people she could mention. Her older brother was one of them. He hated reading, as a matter of fact, the only thing he ever really read growing up was either a Sports Illustrated or a Spider Man comic book.

"It's still in here," Scully said, carrying her over to the bed. Mulder pushed back the covers for the two of them and she slid in, handing the little girl off to Mulder. Rhiannon giggled and snuggled up against Mulder, who wrapped his arms around her. Scully looked over at Mulder and smiled. "At your daughter's request," she grinned as she grabbed the book off the nightstand, "we're reading another chapter tonight."

"That's fine with me," Mulder said, holding his little girl close.

'As soon as breakfast was over on New Year's
morning, Prudence and James and Christopher
gathered by the window. Annaple was sitting
at the table, pretending she didn't care,
but when Christopher shouted, "Look--here
they come!" she got up and strolled over
to join the children.

Seven more swans came sailing up the
gutter, the usual procession of workmen and
messengers made its way through the usual
crowd, but Prudence hardly noticed them.
She was staring at eight dairymaids, with
yokes across their shoulders and milking
stools under their arms, leading eight small
cows garlanded with ivy.

"I will not have those cows in here!"
Annaple said furiously. "A swannery at the
front door, a courtyard full of geese and
hens and partridges, every window blocked
with bird cages, an orchard on the stairs--
I can put up with these things if I must--
if Papa won't do anything to stop this
silliness--but I will not have this house
turned into a cowshed....'

Dancing Day

Scully walked around the apartment, making last minute preparations for the trip. First stop was the kitchen, checking if everything was unplugged, nothing in the fridge would go bad while they were away, and the lock on the window was securely in place. Next came the bedroom, seeing if they'd brought everything they'd needed, and once more checking if the window was locked. The same procedure was repeated in the bathroom, Rhiannon's room, and the spare bedroom. Last was the living room, pulling out the plugs on the television and stereo.

The front door opened and Mulder walked back in. "Okay, the bags are in the trunk, I put the car seat in. Is everything set up here?"

"Yeah," Scully said. "It's all locked up." She bent down and picked up Rhiannon's travel bag, the same old diaper bag, but this time it was filled with various snacks along with the previous supplies. Rhiannon hopped up excitedly. This was her first ever vacation, she was excited to be going someplace new. She ran over to Mulder, who grabbed onto her hand. "Let's get moving then," Scully said. They exited the apartment, locked up behind them, and headed onto the elevator.

Once at the car Scully lifted Rhiannon into the car seat and safely buckled her in. Mulder slid into the driver's seat and started up the car. Scully arched an eyebrow at him as she slid into her own seat. "Are you sure you'll be able to drive with your arm?"

Mulder flexed his right arm experimentally. "I'll be fine. It still stings a little, but I'll be able to drive." He gunned the engine and the car pulled out onto the road. Scully leaned over and pulled a map out of the glove compartment. She looked it over carefully and then spoke.

"Going by this it should take us about five hours to get there," she said.

"So accounting for traffic and bathroom breaks it'll take more like six and a half hours. We should be there by seven tonight," Mulder said, finding the entrance to the highway and steering the car onto it. Scully glanced over her shoulder to check on Rhiannon who was playing with some dolls stuck in her car seat, then turned back and settled in for the long drive.

"Where exactly are we?" Mulder asked, peering out the rain soaked window. The further north they went, the worse the weather got and now they were driving through a steady rain.

"I think," Scully said from behind the road map, "we're somewhere in central New Jersey."

Mulder winced. "I think there's a rest stop coming up. I'll pull over and see where we are."

"I could use something to eat too," Scully said.

He pulled the car into the rest area lot and after unbuckling Rhiannon from her car seat made a mad dash through the rain for the doors. Once inside Scully brushed the rain off of her jacket and turned to Mulder. "You go find a table and I'll get us something to eat. Any requests?" she asked, handing him Rhiannon.

"No salads?" he grinned at her with a helpful look on his face.

Scully arched an eyebrow at him as she walked off into the food court. Mulder grinned again and hoisted Rhiannon a little higher with his good arm. They made their way over to the collection of tables and settled on an out of the way booth near the windows so Mulder could stare out them and hope the weather let up soon. He dragged one of the portable high chairs over and set Rhiannon in it, otherwise she wouldn't have been able to see over the table. Next, he took off her jacket and draped it over the back of the booth to dry off.

Mulder'd thought that the table he'd chosen was in an out of the way area, but there must have been a door behind him because some new voices began to come onto the scene. "Why exactly are we stopping?" someone said, a girl, probably a teenager.

Then a man spoke. "Because your mother needed to use the bathroom."

A derisive snort, and then the teenager spoke again. "We're twenty minutes from home! If it was me or Missy, you'd tell us to hold it."

Another girl's voice spoke. "She's got a point, Dad."

Mulder heard a scuffling noise signifying that they'd sat down in another booth, maybe one or two behind them. He was tempted to look but he knew that they probably wouldn't want an audience listening to them.

There was a surprised noise from behind him, and then the first girl spoke again. "I know! All that red wine she drank finally got to her."

"Watch it," the father said. "Look, we'll be out of here soon, so calm down."

"Just get me home by nine and I'll be happy," the first girl said. Mulder could hear a grin in her voice.

The second girl groaned. "You are a sad, obsessed person," she said to her sister.

"I'm not obsessed, I'm devoted. Besides, it's a new episode tonight," the first girl said.

"Which I'm sure you already read the summary for online this morning," the sister sighed.

"And it sounds like there's going to be some great shippy moments tonight. I can't miss that," the first girl retorted quickly. 'Shippy?' Mulder wondered.

"So? You've probably had the tape set up to record since before we left," the sister said.

"Eyh..." there was a pause. "Your point?"

The sister groaned.

"Mulder?" he heard Scully say. She was sliding onto the bench opposite him and pushed a hamburger his way.

"Thanks," he said, unwrapping the paper and taking a bite. Scully cut some chicken nuggets into smaller pieces for Rhiannon and placed them in front of her. Then opened up her own chicken pita and unfolded the map, spreading it out on the remaining table.

"I think we'," she said, pointing to a spot on the map.

Mulder leaned over to get a better look. He traced a line with his finger. "So if we take this road up here, and then into the city I can find my way from there. It shouldn't take more than another hour and a half from here."

Scully sighed and ran her hand over her face. "God, it feels like we've been on the road for longer than that."

Mulder reached out and tugged at her hand. "Don't worry, soon we'll be there," he said with a reassuring smile.

Scully jolted out of her reverie when the car came to a stop. For the past half-hour she'd been in a light doze, the hours on the road all blending into one another. Rhiannon had similar thoughts, she'd been asleep for the past hour herself. Mulder ran the tip of his finger down her cheek. "We're here," he said.

She looked out the window and practically gaped. The house was big, even for one in the middle of the city. It was the length of three brownstones, about five stories high, and was very well taken care of. "Mulder, you never told me that her house would be this big."

To her surprise, Mulder blushed. "Well, I don't like to make a big deal out of it. Most of the money was inherited too, and my great-grandfather wasn't exactly legal with the way he earned most of it." Scully smiled and ran the back of her hand down his face.

"It's okay, I'm just surprised, that's all. I mean, you had hinted at it, but you did tone it down a lot," Scully said.

"Well, would you feel any different if you knew my family had money or not?" Mulder asked, a little bit nervously.

"No," Scully grinned. "I didn't fall in love with your wallet, just you. Remember that," she said, tapping a knuckle against his cheek.

"Yes ma'am," he smiled. "I'm going to head in first, give them a little warning first. I don't want to be the cause of my grandma's heart attack."

"Okay," Scully said. "Just give me the word and I'll come in."

Mulder exited the car and dashed up the sidewalk. It was still raining out, but now night had fallen too, not a fun combination. He ran up the stoop and pressed the doorbell, hoping that someone would answer soon. Shortly the door was pulled open by Penny Liu-Cooper. "Fox, get in here before you get sick!" she said.

"Hi, Penny," he said as he moved into the foyer. He looked down at the smaller Asian woman. Penny had been working for his grandmother as a cook since she was 18 in 1971 and going through cooking school. Now she was married, had kids, and co-owned her own restaurant, but she still kept working for Vera Mulder, cooking and taking care of the house sometimes. Having rented out the apartment on the top floor of the brownstone house also helped because she was so close by.

"How was the trip up here?" she asked.

"Long," Mulder sighed, trying to brush some of the rain out of his hair.

"You didn't fly up here?" Penny asked, puzzled.

"Uh, no," Mulder said, trying not to look nervous. He guessed that Vera hadn't told her that he was bringing someone else with her. "It was easier this way."

Penny shrugged. "Okay."

Mulder looked around the foyer. "Hey, where's Gram?" he asked.

"In the family room," Penny said.

"Thanks," Mulder said, and headed down the hallway towards the back of the house. The part he was heading to was more casual than the rest of the house's old fashioned elegance. This was the part that actually looked lived in, rather than just a relic from an older time. He walked into the family room, a large room filled with comfortably worn couches, bookshelves filled with not just books but other curiosities the family had collected over the years. A fireplace crackled merrily, giving the room a warm glow along with the TV buzzing in the corner. His grandmother, who still looked the same after many years, long white hair braided down her back, and dressed in a long dress, sat on one of the couches talking to Penny's oldest daughter Amy, who had a history book open on the floor and a notebook propped up in her lap. Vera looked up when she heard Mulder walk in, and her face broke out into a smile.

"Hello, Fox," she said, smiling.

"Hi Gram," he said, leaning down to kiss her cheek.

Amy looked up. "Hey, Mulder, long time no see," she said, sounding exactly like her mother.

"Whatcha up to, Amy?" Mulder asked.

"I've got a project for history due tomorrow, and she's helping me because she's actually lived through the stuff we're studying," Amy grinned.

Mulder nodded. "Hey, is it okay if I have a few minutes with my Gram here?" he asked, sitting down on the couch.

"Sure. I've got enough info here to B.S. something good," Amy said, and ran out of the room.

Vera turned to Mulder after Amy left. "So, you said that you were bringing someone else with you. Where are they?"

Mulder let out a light laugh and looked down at his shoes. "You always had a good memory. Actually she's waiting out in the car. I just didn't want to totally shock you by coming in all at once."

"Well, bring her in!" Vera smiled.

"Okay," Mulder said, standing up and walking back to the front door. From the car Scully saw him open the front door and saw him wave at her, giving the signal to come inside. She opened her own door and stepped out, carrying Rhiannon with her, having moved her from the car seat to her lap while Mulder was inside. She ran up to the front door and Mulder quickly shut it after her once she was inside. "You ready?" Mulder asked.

Scully bit her lip and nodded, feeling the nervousness radiate through her stomach. Mulder placed his hand on her back and guided her through the house to the family room. By some twist of fate Penny and Amy had cleared out and Vera was alone in the room. "Gram?" Mulder said, and Vera looked up at him and Scully who had just appeared in the doorway, carrying a curiously clothed little bundle. "This is my partner, Special Agent Dana Scully."

"Hello," Vera smiled. "I've actually heard quite a few very good things about you."

Scully blushed slightly and stared at the floor. "Thank you," she said.

"And who else is there?" Vera asked, peering curiously at the sleeping bundle in Scully's arms.

Mulder and Scully stared at each other for an endless moment. It was now or never. "This is Scully's daughter, Rhiannon." He paused, and took a deep breath. "Actually, she's our daughter."

Vera looked back and forth from Mulder to Scully to Rhiannon, and then she smiled knowingly. "A very special secret indeed," she said, remembering their earlier conversation.

Scully closed her eyes and leaned back in the bed. The day was overall a success. Vera had taken the news very well, delighted in the fact that her favorite grandchild had had a child of his own now. She could see what Mulder loved about his grandmother, she was a wise, caring, genuine person, who loved her family very much and would never let anything hurt them if she could. That was something she knew Mulder needed growing up.

She re-opened her eyes and stared around the guest room her and Mulder had taken. It was bigger than their own bedroom at home, with walls furnished with a richly patterned wallpaper and a lovely canopy bed made from a dark mahogany wood. Vera had explained to her that her father had imported the bed from Russia after he had moved to New York.

Mulder walked into the room from the bathroom and slid into the bed, mindful of Rhiannon who Scully had decided would sleep with them again tonight. The bed was big enough to hold all three of them comfortably. Mulder leaned over her and kissed Scully. "Today went better than I could have hoped," he said.

"Definitely," Scully agreed. She looked down at Rhiannon who had woken up enough to demand a story, and was now holding the Christmas book in her hands.

Rhiannon held the book up. "Wead, pwease," she said, putting the book on Scully's lap. Scully looked over at Mulder and they started laughing, for no reason other than they were happy, and Scully rested her forehead against his.

"Okay," she said between laughs. She opened the book to the next chapter and started reading.

'The French hens woke up early and began
squawking their hatred of England. The geese
and the swans uncurled themselves and hissed.
The partridges began to cluck. The songbirds
chirruped and fluted. Soon after this, the
Kitsons stirred and yawned, pulled pillows
and blankets over their heads, and finally
gave it up, opened their eyes, and stretched.

"This isn't my idea of the dawn chorus,"
Annaple said crossly, as she sat up in bed
and unplaited her hair.

"Not romantic enough?" Prudence said.
"Would you rather have a piper? Oh, how
lovely, it's Dancing Day. I must find my
red shoes."

The crowd began gathering soon after eight
o'clock. Christopher took out jugs of milk
for them. "I don't care if the balance of
trade tips right over," Annaple said as she
poached the breakfast eggs in milk....'

Adam's Day

Mulder walked through the halls of the old house, re-learning the once familiar territory. There were both good and bad memories contained there, of parties and baseball games. The bad memories were pushed back into the recesses of his mind, but sometimes one would pop back up, like the time his grandfather called the police on his father because he'd tried to take Mulder out of the house against the social worker's and court's request. But the good memories overshadowed the bad ones.

Rhiannon decided to go with Mulder on his walk and followed him around from room to room. It was a wonderful exploration for her, seeing new things she would have never seen at home. Mulder had to keep pulling her back though, sometimes she'd explore through some glass trinkets or anything else potentially dangerous that could break and hurt her. Or, she was just going someplace she shouldn't.

He walked through the room he'd inhabited when he was a boy. Most of the decor had changed, any posters and wall decorations that didn't go to with him to Oxford were taken down and probably tossed somewhere in the attic. The bed was still the same though, right down to the old plaid comforter that came in handy when the heater used to die suddenly in the middle of winter. 'Scully in my childhood bed,' he thought with an evil grin on his face. 'Now that's a nice idea.' He shook himself out of his thoughts when he noticed Rhiannon trying to climb up the bookshelves.

Mulder pulled her away from the shelves and he decided it was time to head back to the rest of civilization. In one of the downstairs hallways he nearly crashed into Penny's husband, Ben Cooper. Ben was Penny's total opposite, tall, fair-haired and pale, very quiet, almost stereotyping the college professor he was. "You don't have classes today?" Mulder asked.

"Nope, not until the seventeenth," Ben said and continued on with his business. Vera let Ben and Penny and their kids use her house often. Even though they had their own good-sized apartment on the top floor, Vera said the house was too big for her alone and always invited them or someone else in. After searching around for a little while he finally found Vera and Scully in a smaller sitting room, one that Vera liked to call her picture room.

At first glance the room could be kind of creepy with the hundreds of pictures on the walls staring back at you. After a while though it became comforting almost. Generations upon generations were on the walls, some dating as far back as when the first cameras were invented. Scully and Vera were sitting on a couch paging through a photo album. Mulder stopped short in the doorway, worrying what exactly was in the album and if Scully was exacting the promise he'd made a few days back. Rhiannon unexpectedly announced their arrival by accidentally crashing into his legs and giggling. The two women looked up and Scully grinned, a slight hint of mischief coming through in the smile. Mulder really began to worry about what was in the album. "Whatcha up to?" he asked.

"Oh, just looking through some pictures," Scully said innocently as her mischievous grin got even wider.

"Uh oh," Mulder said, walking over to them. Seeing as there was no room left on the small couch he sat down on the floor by their feet. He craned his neck back to check the contents of the album and cringed. Scully caught the look on his face and patted his head.

"You were such a cute baby," she said, trying hard not to laugh. Mulder groaned and covered his face with his hands. Rhiannon walked over and patted his head just like Scully did, which got a laugh from the adults.

"Come here, devotchka," Vera said, enlisting Scully to help lift Rhiannon up onto the couch between them.

"Devotchka, what's that?" Scully asked.

"It's Russian, it means 'little girl'," Vera said. "I use the words sometimes just to make sure I remember them. I tried to teach this one here once when he was a teenager," she said, nudging Mulder with her foot, "but needless to say it wasn't a successful attempt."

"I'm no good with languages," Mulder said. "I have trouble with Spanish, how do you expect me to do well with something that has a totally different alphabet? Scully's better at these things than I am."

Vera looked over at Scully. "I took some German in College and picked up on it pretty well," she said. Scully sat back, sinking into the couch cushions. She looked around the room. "Are these all pictures of family?" she asked.

"Yes," Vera said. "Going back years and years. It's a lot easier than keeping a family tree, although I know something's written down somewhere." She pointed to an older, black and white picture set over the fireplace, slightly larger than normal. "That one's my favorite, it's of me and my husband long before we were married." Vera was sitting on the edge of a desk, dressed in the typical attire of the Roaring Twenties, bobbed hair and a knee length dress. Opposite her, sitting in a chair was a young man dressed in a three piece suit, although the jacket was draped over the back of the chair. Both their faces were turned to the camera with slightly shocked looks on them, as if someone had surprised them by taking the picture.

"Your grandfather looks an awful lot like you, Mulder," Scully said.

"That they do," Vera said. "It always surprised some people how much of a resemblance they bore to each other." She stroked Rhiannon's hair gently. "And soon there'll be a picture of you up there too."

Mulder looked up at Scully, knowing that this wouldn't be a good thing. "Um, Gram," Mulder said, "we'd appreciate it if you kept any pictures of her away from public viewing at the moment."

Vera nodded. "Yes, you did say she was a secret. But what about the two of you? Does anyone know about the two of you?"

"Very few people do, no one connected with our work does, and you're the only one in either of our families that do," Mulder said. "We can't even get married because someone would find the records of it."

"Not even just the ceremony?" Vera asked.

"Huh?" Mulder said.

"You mean like just having a priest or minister perform the marriage ceremony rather than getting an official license?" Scully clarified.

"That's exactly what I mean," Vera said. Looking between the two of them she saw that she'd opened a can of worms judging by the looks on their faces. "Well, I've got to go make a few phone calls about an art show I'm sponsoring. I'll be back shortly." With that Vera stood up and walked out of the room.

"A ceremony," Scully whispered, almost to herself.

Mulder turned around on the floor to look up at her. To him, religion didn't mean much, they both knew that. But to Scully, ever since her cancer religion had taken on more of a significance. And so the decision to do a marriage ceremony would lay in her hands. And whatever she decided, he would go along with. "It's up to you," he said quietly.

"I know," Scully nodded, knowing the same things Mulder did. Suddenly she took a deep breath and stood up. She had to think, but the walls seemed to be closing in on her there. "I'll be right back, I'm just going to go for a short walk." She walked out of the room and, just stopping to grab her jacket, she walked out of the house into the cold winter's day.

'A marriage ceremony,' she thought. To tell the truth it was something that had bothered her since before Rhiannon was born. Technically in the Church's eyes Rhiannon was illegitimate because she wasn't married when they had her. Scully didn't want her child to be illegitimate, even though she knew that both her and Mulder treasured her more than anything out there.

To Mulder, she knew, that this wasn't bothering him as much. At first, when Rhiannon was just born, she thought that the reason he didn't want to get married (along with the obvious reasons of getting found out) was because of a fear of commitment, like some other men she'd dated. But she soon saw that wasn't the reason, Mulder was as committed to Rhiannon and her more than anyone could have imagined. She then figured out that to Mulder, marriage was more of a religious thing, even with the civil part of it which required the certificate, and religion and Mulder just didn't mix.

After walking for a little while she found herself in an abandoned lot which had been transformed into a public garden. Scully wandered in there and sat down on a bench in there. Mulder had told her the decision was up to her, and he was right. They were both in this for the long run, they knew that deep down when they first admitted their feelings for each other. 'But,' she thought, 'this makes it feel official to me. It gives it a sense of validation, like it's real and right in the eyes of the world, even though a minuscule portion of the world would know about it for now.'

Scully got up off the bench, feeling as if a weight had been lifted from her. They would go through with this. They'd find a priest who would perform the ceremony and then be married. Now she just had to tell Mulder. She turned back the way she came, trying to get back to the house as fast as possible.

She walked up the stoop into the house and dashed up the stairs, hoping that Mulder would be in their bedroom. When she got in there though no one was there. Scully sighed and dropped her jacket on the bed. Her eyes caught sight of the Christmas book lying on the night table, and she went over to it and picked it up. It was a book with a happy ending. Now she would have a happy ending of her own.

Carrying the book with her Scully walked back downstairs and began looking through the rooms. She found Mulder in the family room with Rhiannon sitting on his lap. They were both watching a re-run of a baseball game on ESPN. For some reason Rhiannon was always engrossed by baseball. She was certainly her father's daughter. Mulder caught sight of her standing in the doorway. "Hi," he said.

"Hi," Scully smiled at him. "Y'know, I was just thinking," she said as she walked over to the couch, "This book has a really happy ending."

"Really?" Mulder said.

"Mm-hmm," Scully nodded. "They get married at the end of it."

"Aww, now you spoiled it for me," Mulder mock pouted at her as she sat down next to him on the couch.

"Like you couldn't see it coming anyway," she grinned at him. "It does have some relevance to what we were talking about before though. I think I'd like to have the ceremony done."

"Are you sure about it?" Mulder asked.

She grinned at him. "Are you getting cold feet on me, Mulder?"

"Not a chance. You know I'm going to be with you for as long as I'm alive. And even after that, knowing my luck," he smirked.

"Good," she said. "Because to me, this makes it feel official." With that she leaned over and kissed him for a good long time, although mindful of Rhiannon who was still on Mulder's lap.

When they pulled apart Mulder smiled at her. "It's been official to me for a long time," he whispered.

Scully rested her head against Mulder's shoulder and opened up the book. She looked over at Rhiannon who was still watching baseball and knew she'd probably end up reading it to her again later. Other than that, Scully began to read.

'On the morning of Adam's Day, Prudence had
her bath in milk.

"What's it like?" Christopher asked her.

"Odd. You feel like a sugar lump-waiting
to dissolve. You keep watching your edges
to see if they're going soft."

Annaple came briskly up the stairs.
"Christopher, I've heated up another potful
of milk, and your tub's ready in the kitchen.
James should be out by now. Mind you wash
properly, and give your knees a good scrub.
And the back of your neck, too."

"On Adam's Day," Christopher said bitterly,
"I thought it was treats all round for the men
of the house. So my treat's no bath. And
could we please have something not eggs for

"You can go without breakfast if you like,"
Annaple swept out.

"I do wish she'd get married," Christopher
said. "It's a pity she isn't enjoying all
this, like Francis...."

Eve's Day

The next morning Mulder, Scully, Vera, and Rhiannon sat around the kitchen table making plans. Vera seemed to take charge, because Mulder and Scully were still slightly in shock, and just a little too excited to get things done. And Rhiannon was too busy playing with some Cheerios to care. "Okay," Vera said, making notes on the yellow legal pad in front of her. "First things first. I'm guessing you wanted a Catholic priest, is that correct?" she asked Scully, motioning towards the small gold cross on her neck.

"Yeah," Scully said.

"Good. I talked to some people I know down at St. Peter's, and I found one who will be able to do the ceremony. Now I just have to call up Father Jimmy O'Doyle and give him the rest of the details."

"Whoa, back up a second," Mulder said, putting up a hand. "Jimmy O'Doyle? The same Jimmy O'Doyle who went to my high school? Jimmy 'I can score with every girl in a ten mile radius' O'Doyle?"

"You'd be amazed what happens to people after they survive a terrible car accident they shouldn't have," Vera said, reaching for the portable phone on the table. After a few minutes of talking into the phone she clicked it off with a satisfied smile. "Perfect. He'll be here at 7 p.m. on the sixth."

"Well that's one thing settled," Scully said. "I don't think there's much else."

"You don't have to worry about guests," Vera said, "and Penny's cooking up a meal for after. You need some sort of celebration after such a happy event, a small dinner with us and the Coopers will work fine." Ben and Penny knew about the wedding, without their help, Mulder doubted that they would have been able to pull off the wedding.

"So I guess that's it then," Mulder said.

"There's two other things I can think of," Vera said. "You need rings. I know you don't have those and the ceremony wouldn't be the same without them. And you'll need nice clothes too."

"I've got a suit I could use," Mulder said, dreading the idea of spending an afternoon shopping.

"That's good, but Dana here still needs a dress," Vera said calmly.

Scully shook her head. "It's okay, I've got a nice outfit with me also."

Vera laughed. "Dear, this is your wedding, you deserve a nice new outfit. And you're in New York City, the fashion capital of the world. We can go out this afternoon and look for something."

Mulder groaned. "Leave me out of this."

Scully smirked at him. "Don't worry, Mulder. Tradition says the groom isn't supposed to see the bride's dress until the ceremony."

"Anything to spare me from a day of shopping," Mulder said, leaning back in his chair.

"So does that sound all right to you?" Vera asked Scully.

Scully shrugged. "Sounds good."

Vera smiled. "Good. Just let me call for a car and driver and we'll be able to go."

"Oh, no, I can drive us," Scully said.

"Don't worry about it dear," Vera said. "Let me handle everything. This is the most fun I've had in a long time." She reached for the phone once more.

Mulder shot a pointed glance at Scully, laced with mischief. "You see what I had to grow up with?" he joked. Vera shot him a look back that said 'not funny'. Scully tried hard not to laugh, and Rhiannon just ate some Cheerios.

Some time later Scully found herself walking along the paths of Saks 5th Avenue, looking through the selection of outfits she saw there. Vera walked along aside her, looking as well. Scully sighed and rested her forearm against a rack. "There's so many things here, but I can't find one that I like."

Vera stopped walking and faced the younger woman. "It does seem overwhelming, but I'm sure there will be one that just screams to you 'this is it'."

Scully nodded. "I guess so. I know there's some things I don't want. I hate to break against tradition in this situation, but I know I don't want a white dress."

"This whole ceremony is so untraditional already, I don't think one more thing will make a difference," Vera said.

"I also don't look good in all white anyway," Scully smiled.

"Hmmm, how about this one?" Vera said, pulling a long, dark blue dress off a rack.

Scully shook her head. "No, that thing would be dragging on the floor."

"You're probably right," Vera said. After a few more minutes of looking Vera asked a question that had been on her mind ever since they arrived. "Can I ask you a question, Dana?"

"Sure," Scully said.

"Why do you and Fox always call each other by your last names?"

Scully laughed a little, it wasn't an unfamiliar question. "I guess by now it's just out of habit. I know Mulder hates his first name, he once even told me he made his parents call him Mulder."

"He did," Vera confirmed. "It's not like they listened though."

"When we first met," Scully continued, "we just started calling each other by our last names and it stuck. Now it just seems strange if we call each other anything different." She stopped walking when her eyes caught sight of a dress. She walked over to it to get a better look. It was in two parts, one a long black sleeveless dress, the other a matching floor length sweater-like over dress with gold and green embroidery around the edges. The over dress fastened around her waist with one small button covered in matching black fabric.

"That's lovely," Vera said.

"Yeah," Scully agreed. "I'm going to go try it on." She disappeared into the dressing rooms and came out a few minutes later wearing the dress. "How does it look?" she hesitantly asked.

"It looks perfect," Vera said honestly. The dress was perfect, being just the right size and making Scully look beautiful. "Fox will love it," she said.

"I hope so," Scully said with a slight tinge of nervousness in her voice. She got back into her everyday clothes and they went to pay for the dress. Vera insisted that Scully let her pay, and only after a good fight did she consent. For shoes Scully decided on a pair strappy black ones with a good sized heel (4 inches). With that and some other basics settled they headed home.

Scully sighed as she walked into their bedroom. The shopping had worn her out. It always seemed to, but that was probably because she didn't like shopping all that much. She flopped back onto the bed and toed her shoes off. She felt herself drifting off to sleep, when the bed under her suddenly dipped. Judging by the two scents of aftershave and baby powder it was Mulder and Rhiannon.

"Find anything good?" Mulder asked.

She opened her eyes and saw Mulder leaning over her with Rhiannon sitting by her hip. "Yes, but you're not going to see it until the ceremony," she said.

"A guy can dream, can't he?" Mulder grinned.

"Keep dreaming," she smirked at him. Scully sat up and pulled Rhiannon into her lap. "And what's this one going to wear?" she mused.

"I know I packed a dress in along with the rest of her things," Mulder said.

"She can wear that then." Suddenly Scully laughed. "This just seems so strange, I never thought I'd be dressing my daughter for my wedding."

"We've never really done anything normally, why start now?" Mulder said, smirking.

"You've got a point there. But there's just something laughable about it," Scully said. She sighed and flopped back on the bed again, taking Rhiannon with her to rest against her shoulder. "God, I'm tired," she said.

"Take a nap. You've had a longer day then we had just lounging around here," Mulder said.

"But I wanted to read to Rhiannon. I know she likes it when we do and the next few days we're going to be so busy so I wanted to read now when I got the chance to," Scully said with a slight pout on her face.

"So you sit back and rest and let me read," Mulder soothed her.

"Mmmmm, okay," Scully said softly.

Mulder looked around for the book, and then grabbed it from off of the night table. He moved back against the headboard, with Scully's head by his hip. Rhiannon crawled up and settled against Mulder's chest, waiting for the story to begin.

'Eve's Day meant treats for the women of
the house, figgy pudding for dinner, wreaths
of green leaves for the girls's heads, and
the carol singers round yet again. "Oh, my
goodness, here they come," Annaple said, as
she heard the singing in the street. "Surely
they're excessively early? It isn't half
past seven yet, and usually they don't come
until at least ten."

"They have to come round early," James
explained, "because Francis's presents take
up so much of the morning."

The doorbell rang, and he opened the
window. The children in the street began to
sing. They had high, clear voices, fresh
and piercing...."

Twelfth Night

Scully prowled around the home, wringing her hands nervously. It was one day until the wedding and the nervousness was setting in. All the plans had been made, the clothes set, a wonderful dinner made for afterwards courtesy of Penny. The only thing that was missing was the rings. They spent all of the night before and that morning poring over catalogues from jewelry stores but they couldn't seem to find the right ones. Some were too big, some too ostentatious, others just didn't seem to fit them.

She walked into the family room where Penny and Ben's younger daughter, Joey, was playing with Rhiannon. Joey had taken a real shine to Rhiannon, and likewise Rhiannon liked Joey. For the rest of the trip Joey had designated herself official baby-sitter, and Scully agreed, because the next few days were going to be hectic. "Hi Dana," Joey said. "Find a nice ring?" she asked. Everyone in the household knew about the search for the ideal rings at this point, it wasn't worth it to keep it under wraps.

"Slow," Scully said as she sat down on the couch. Rhiannon ran over to her and tried to climb on to the couch. When she learned she couldn't do it herself she raised her arms in the air.

"Up!" she said, asking to be lifted up onto her lap. Scully bent, picked the little girl up and set her down on her lap.

"We're still looking," Scully sighed. "It would be a little different if one of us liked one and the other didn't, but we both don't care for the ones we've seen."

"Are you looking for a, you know, classic wedding rings or just something nice?" Joey asked.

"At this point we can't afford to be picky, but I'd like something where if I forget to take it off when I go out somewhere won't get identified as a wedding ring," Scully said, cradling Rhiannon in her arms.

Joey smiled. "This is so cool!" she said excitedly.

"What is?" Scully asked.

"This whole wedding, secret romance thing. It's like something you would read in a novel, or see on a TV show," Joey smiled.

"You do remember that secret is the operative word," Scully reminded her, although with a grin of her own on her face.

"I know, I won't tell anyone outside of this house," Joey said. "But what you two have is something people would kill for, myself included, it's so romantic."

"It took us a long while to get to this point, Joey," Scully said. "You're only fifteen, you've got plenty of time to find that certain someone."

"I know," Joey sighed, "but it's still so sweet," she said with a spaced out look on her face.

Vera appeared at the door to the family room. "Dana, could you come here for a minute? I think I might have something," she asked.

"Sure," Scully said, and slid Rhiannon back onto the floor. "Now you stay with Joey, okay?" she said to her.

Rhiannon nodded. "Oki, Mama," she said.

"Good," Scully said and kissed her forehead. "I'll be right back." She stood up and followed Vera, who was leading her into the formal living room at the front of the house. When she walked in the room she saw that Mulder was already in there and seated on an over-stuffed couch. Scully went over to sit next to him while Vera went to a shelf covered by a glass panel.

"So what's up?" Mulder asked.

"I think I might have a solution to the ring problem," Vera said, unlocking the glass panel. "How would you feel about having rings that have been used before?" she asked.

Scully and Mulder shared a glance. "That's fine with us," Scully said.

Vera turned back to them holding a small wooden box. "Good. Because I think I've got some rings here that you can use."

"Gram, you don't have to do that," Mulder said.

"Nonsense, Fox," she said as she sat down on a chair next to the couch. "I want to do this. Besides, all they've been doing is sitting in this box, this way they'll get some more use." Vera opened the box, and they saw that inside were two rings. She picked one up and laid it in her palm. It was a simple man's ring, a solid band of platinum. "This was your grandfather's wedding ring."

"But I thought you buried him with it," Mulder cut her off.

"I did," Vera said. "But that was his good wedding ring. See, your grandfather hated to wear his good ring to work. He was a police officer," she added on a sidebar to inform Scully, "and he knew the ring I gave him on our wedding day wouldn't take damage real well. But he also hated taking his ring off. So I had another ring made for him, one he could wear to work and not worry about." She handed the ring to Mulder. "It's made out of platinum, the strongest metal around."

Mulder stared at the ring. His grandfather was someone he admired, a good, honorable man who was a better father to him than his own father ever was. Having this ring would almost be a reminder that no matter what evil they encountered in their work, there was always a good man out there to fight it.

"And for Dana," Vera continued, pulling the other ring out of the box, "I have my engagement ring." Scully was about to protest but Vera waved her off. "Like I said, I want to do this so don't worry." She handed the ring to Scully, who examined it.

It was a ring made out of the same platinum. It had a square cut amethyst on top and the ring part was crafted of filigreed parts making a fine mesh of support, and turned into a solid band as it curved. "It's gorgeous," Scully said.

"Try them on," Vera prodded. They both slid them on, and to their immense surprise they both fit.

"Well, what do you think, Scully?" Mulder asked her.

Scully smiled at him. "I'd say we just found our rings," she said.

Later that night, when they should have been sleeping, Scully found herself pacing around the bedroom. She was nervous about tomorrow. She supposed that it was normal, but she found herself wishing that her mom was there to answer some questions about what she was feeling.

Scully knew that she wasn't getting cold feet, she was set on going through with the wedding. But there was still that nagging nervousness. Would the ceremony go right? Would the priest get there on time? Would someone unwanted crash the wedding? There was also the nagging fear that someone they knew from work would find out, but nothing they were doing was on the official record so that was a bit of a relief.

She leaned against the windowframe and stared out into the night. It wasn't as dark as night was in the country, though. There were lights everywhere, streetlights, lights in the homes across the way, cars buzzing by on the street. She was staring so hard she didn't hear the rustling in the bed behind her. "Scully? You okay?" Mulder asked softly so as not to wake Rhiannon who had wanted to sleep in their bed again.

Scully turned around. "I'm okay," she said as she walked back to the bed and climbed in. "A little nervous, I guess, but I'm okay."

"Getting cold feet?" Mulder joked.

"No," Scully smiled, resting her head against Mulder's shoulder. "Just some lingering nervousness that I can't seem to shake. I'm so tempted to just call up my mom and ask her if this is normal, if this is how she felt on the night before her wedding."

"I'm sure that'll be a call she'll love to get," Mulder said. "A middle of the night phone call from her daughter to tell her she's getting married the next day to a man that a good portion of the family hates."

"Some day we'll tell her," Scully said, looking down at Rhiannon and stroking her hair, who held the Christmas book in her arms. Rhiannon had wanted to read earlier, but had fallen asleep before they got a chance to. Scully's gentle stroking woke her up though, and she grabbed onto the book tighter.

"Hi," Rhiannon said sleepily.

"Hey, baby," Mulder said quietly, leaning down to kiss the top of her head.

Rhiannon held the book out and looked up at Scully with those lost puppy dog eyes. "Okay," Scully smiled, and reached onto the nightstand to turn on a low light, just enough that she could read. She took the book and opened it up to the latest chapter.

'Annaple sniffed, seeing the crowded street,
and said, "Perhaps after today Francis will
leave me alone."

The children looked at one another and

The crowd was turning all one way, as if
a wind blew it. Shouts could be clearly
heard above the babble. "Here they come!
Look, just turning up from the marketplace."

"I can hear drums!" Christopher shouted.

As the procession came marching up the
street, the choir began to sing: "On the
first day of Christmas, my true love sent
to me--" The crowd roared the refrains.

A boy with a pear tree, the top heavy
partridge swaying in its branches. A man
with two turtle doves cooing in their cage.
("Christopher, I suppose you had better run
down and let them in.") A man holding the
last batch of French hens, all squawking
angrily. A boy with four robins. Another
boy with a box of rings. Six goose girls
carrying six geese. Seven black-masked
swans sailing up the gutter to tug at the
doorbell. ("If this is how a mother bird
feels," Prudence said, showering bread to
forty-two greedy beaks, "I sympathize.")
Forty milkmaids leading forty cows.
(Annaple covered her face with her hands.)
Thirty-six ladies dancing along. Thirty
lords leaping like schoolboys. Twenty-two
drummers with scarlet sashes and
gilt-tasseled drums...."

Feast Of The Three Kings

The day of the wedding dawned, although the sky was that grey wintry color that hardly screamed festive. Mulder was the first one to wake up in the big four poster canopy bed, and for a minute he was a little disconcerted as to where he was. Then it hit him: he was at his grandmother's house in one of her guest rooms about to get married to the woman he had fallen head over heels in love with, Scully.

He stretched out in the bed and caught sight of Scully still sleeping next to him with Rhiannon in her arms. They made such a perfect picture together, he thought. It was times like this that reminded that that he was a lucky man. A few years back he thought he was doomed to spend his life alone, fighting a losing battle with the men who were vying for control of earth. He'd thought that he shouldn't have Scully, no matter how much he was in love with her, because there was someone out there who was a lot better for her than him. Someone who wouldn't endanger her life with every turn.

It took Scully very nearly pounding it into his head to convince him that she didn't want safe, that the one that she wanted was him, and no one else. He was the one she was in love with, the one she needed. From there on things took a path neither one of them could have predicted. A daughter, when both of them never thought they would have one, and now a wedding, a near impossibility up until a few days ago.

Scully began to shift under the covers, a sign that she was waking up. Slowly her eyes opened and focused in on Mulder's face. "Morning," she said sleepily, her mouth forming a soft smile.

"Hi," Mulder smiled, leaning down to kiss her.

"Lovely way to wake up," Scully said when he pulled back. Her eyes darted quickly over to the clock. "Less than twelve hours," she said to him. "You nervous?"

"Nervous, a little scared, excited, I think all of those apply," Mulder said a little shyly.

Scully nodded. "I know exactly how you feel," she said, untangling one arm from around Rhiannon and reaching it up to stroke his cheek. "You know, it's kind of funny," Scully said. "Two years ago on this date was Emily's funeral. It's also the day we decided to have Rhiannon. And now it's going to be our wedding day."

Mulder grinned at her. "It's kind of like the cosmic balance is being righted. The funeral being balanced by one of the happiest events, a wedding."

"It's going to be a very good day," Scully said. Suddenly she broke out into quiet laughter. "I just noticed something. In my Christmas book, the two characters end up getting married on the 6th also. I remember reading the book as a teenager, and wishing that someday I would be able to find a man like that, who was that in love with me that he would go to such outrageous lengths."

"I would do anything for you, Scully," Mulder said.

"I know that," she smiled at him. "It's just such an appealing thought to a teenage girl. But I've got you now, that's more than I could have ever thought of when I was younger."

"Well, you're stuck with me now," Mulder smirked.

Scully grinned. "And that's just what I wanted." She reached for the Christmas book and began flipping through the pages.

"If you're planning on reading that now you're probably going to have to read it again when Rhiannon wakes up."

"I realize that," Scully said, and began to read anyway.

'On the morning of the Three Kings's Feast,
which was Christopher's birthday as well as
Annaple's wedding day, Francis sent the
twelve pipers to wake his bride. They
marched up Lee Street blowing bravely on
their pipes, waking not only the bride, but
her father and sister and brothers as well,
all the livestock--which squawked and hissed
and cackled in horror--and everyone else in
the street. "Holy Maria!" Prudence said.
She shot bolt upright in bed and grabbed for
the blankets too late. "I thought I was
having a nightmare. Nan, do call out to them
to stop."

But Annaple, already out of bed and
reaching for her wrapper, only said, "You'd
better get up; we've a great deal to do.
Listen, isn't it romantic?...."'

Scully waited impatiently in the front hall. The day had passed surprisingly quickly and now it was time. Her eyes glanced at the grandfather clock that was set in the corner. It read 7:30 p.m. Everyone else was in the formal living room making final preparations, but Scully was told to wait out there until it was time for the ceremony. She supposed it was some remnant of a traditional wedding which she didn't really see the point to. She smoothed her hands down the black dress and over-dress nervously, hoping that everything would be all right.

Suddenly Joey appeared at the doorway carrying Rhiannon in her arms. "It's time," she said with a smile on her face. Scully took a deep breath and walked into the room. Standing off to one side was the Coopers, and at the far end of the room in front of the fireplace was Vera, Father O'Doyle, and Mulder, dressed in a suit. She knew the dress was a success judging by the appreciative look Mulder gave her. When she reached them Mulder reached a hand out and clasped hers.

"Are you ready?" Father O'Doyle asked.

Mulder and Scully shared a glance and nodded in tandem. At that point the ceremony blurred into a collection of moments.

"We are gathered here today..."

"Is there anyone here who objects to the union..."

"May I have the rings, please..."

"Repeat after me: I, Fox William Mulder, take thee, Dana Katherine Scully..."

"I, Dana Katherine Scully, take thee, Fox William Mulder..."

"To have and to hold, in sickness and in health, until death do us part..."

"I now pronounce you husband and wife..."

"You may kiss the bride..."

Mulder and Scully's lips met, not for the first time, but in a kiss that sealed what they had just entered into. When they pulled apart, they saw the smile in each other's eyes and they knew that everything was right.

Then the world seemed to snap back into place. Vera went over to talk with Father O'Doyle, and the Coopers came over to congratulate them. Rhiannon practically scrambled out of Joey's arms and into Scully's, who hugged her tightly. There were hugs from Penny, handshakes from Ben, and excited screams from Amy and Joey, who had enjoyed the whole event immensely.

Vera clapped her hands, getting the attention of the excited people. "Okay, everyone, it's time for dinner!" she said. The crowd moved into the formal dining room, a large room with paneled walls, a large elegant table, and a magnificent chandelier hanging from the center.

The table was set with the best china and crystal, and in the center of the table the platters were full of elegantly prepared dishes. But for all the elegance the dinner was as informal as could be. The high chair next to Scully's chair held Rhiannon, who was happily playing with her dinner. Jokes were tossed around the table, nightmare tales from Penny about some of the things her teenage daughters had gotten into, which had Amy and Joey alternately laughing and protesting "That never happened!" and other stories of general happiness.

When dinner was over Mulder slouched back in his chair and sighed happily. The day had gone better than he could have dreamed. He felt a strange sense of happiness and rightness settle around him, and he knew that the events of that day were right, like it was something his life had been leading up to ever since he'd met Scully. He heard a chair move closer to his and then Scully's head came to rest on his shoulder. Mulder leaned his head against hers and wrapped an arm around her shoulders.

"Don't go to sleep yet," Penny admonished them. "There's still desert!"

Mulder groaned and Scully giggled against his shoulder. "I can't eat anymore after that dinner," he called out to Penny.

"Too bad," she shot back. "It's your wedding cake, you have to eat it."

"Can I smear it against Scully's face?" he asked with an impish grin on his face.

"Not if you value your life," Scully said, smirking against his shoulder.

"Try and keep some tradition and eat the wedding cake," Vera said. "And you also have to freeze a piece and eat it on your first anniversary."

"Ha!" Amy said. "In this house? That cake'll be gone in a week."

Penny came back with the cake, a simple round cake with white frosting, and small yellow flowers with silver embellishments, but no writing. "I couldn't decide what to write that wouldn't get someone mad, so I just decided to forget it."

"It's perfect just the way it is," Scully said.

The cake was cut, dished out, and eaten with no small amount of comments about how delicious it was. Soon the leftovers were wrapped up and a small amount set aside for next year, although it was anyone's guess if it would make it there. The Coopers said their goodnights and headed up to their apartment, taking Rhiannon with them because Joey had graciously offered to watch her for the night. Vera also went up with them, saying that if they needed her she was going to be spending the night in their guest room.

"You know they cleared out of here because it's our wedding night," Mulder said as they walked into their bedroom and he shut the door behind them.

Scully turned around to face him. "Well, that's a good thing then because I have every intention of spending this night the way a proper wedding night should be." She grabbed onto his suit lapels and pulled him into a long kiss. Somehow they stumbled back to the bed and Scully fell onto it, pulling Mulder on top of her.

"Do you know how much I love you right now?" Mulder whispered when he managed to pull his lips from hers.

"Yeah, I think I do," Scully smiled at him. "About as much as I love you," she said, and pulled him into another kiss.

'But Prudence was no longer listening.
She said urgently, "The Christmas candle's
sinking--quick, blow the others out."

James blew out the candles that stood
on the table and the chimney ledge and the
windowsill. The Kitsons stood in the
darkened room watching the last thin slip
of Christmas burn away.

As they stood there, they heard the clop
of horse's hooves and the rattle of cartwheels
as Mary and Joseph traveled through the
town toward the Sea Gate. A boy was singing
the Egypt carol, unaccompanied, thin and
far away. They heard one broken like as
it wavered into earshot, and then a single

"--On Egypt's trackless sand

Star-led, the kings and shepherds

Worshipping, knelt beside his

Now Joseph, dream-led, guides
the mule

Close by the shuttered wall."

The singing faded as the cart turned into
Keel Alley. Leaning close to the glass,
Prudence heard one fading line--"Herod's
night-armies rake the town"--and then
nothing more.

It was very dark now. The shadows
swallowed up the big candlestick. They
could only see a solitary flame dancing on
the darkness. As they watched, the flame
flickered and sank, until it was only a bud
of yellow, shrinking fast; then a needle's
eye, then only a pinprick of light; and then
no light at all except the glow of the wick,
a single bright spark, fading into the
darkness. Prudence, bending over it, smelled
the last thread of smoke that floated on the

Christmas was over.

The End of the whole story!

I hope that everyone liked it. I'd like to thank Joey and Lucy for their wonderful help, and getting me to put the story out faster. You guys are wonderful! And to Smurf, Tanja, and anyone else (I'm so sorry if I don't mention you) for just being there!

'True love, it's the greatest thing in the world.'

Miracle Max The Princess Bride

'Men will fight bravely and be heroes, but for a last ditch defense against any odds...get a mother.'

Lightbringer High Wizardry

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