Title: Angel
Author:gabiabi
Author's page: https://www.fanfiction.net/u/360849/
Category: X-Files
Genre: Romance/Angst
Rating: PG

Summary: Bill tries to ruin the Scully family Christmas for Mulder... just reposting the story as it was last time.


Mrs Scully's House
9am, 23rd December


Mulder lifted his hand to ring the doorbell feeling slightly uncomfortable that he was intruding on a family holiday. He knew that he'd been invited, both by Scully and her mother, but he couldn't shake the feeling that he shouldn't really be there. Taking a deep breath, he went to press the bell but, before he could, the door opened abruptly. Expecting to see Mrs Scully, Mulder smiled and started to hand over the bouquet of flowers that he'd brought for her.

"What the hell are you doing here?"

"Bill... I... Nice to see you."

"I can't say the same for you. I asked you a question Mr. Mulder and I'm warning you if you're here to drag Dana off somewhere, she's not going anywhere with you."

"I'm not here to take her anywhere, she invited me to come today."

"What? Why the hell would she do that? She knows you're not welcome here. My mom will tell you that."

"Um... actually, your mom said that was okay, she asked me to come too."

"What?!!... Oh I see, 'tis the season and all that I suppose. Are you so pathetic that you actually accepted a sympathy invitation? Oh my God."

"What are you talking about Bill, you're sister wanted me to be here. She wouldn't have invited me if she didn't."

"Ha! Sure Mr Mulder. She invited you here because she's a good person and felt she should. She knew you didn't have anywhere else to go and she felt sorry for you. She obviously didn't think you would accept - no one does. Why would you think she would want you here? So you can ruin her life even more and hurt her again? You give her cancer and expect her to want you around?"

"I didn't give her..."

"Save it, 'Fox'. She told me you did. My mom told me too, they just don't know how to tell you that they know it's your fault. Believe me, I have no trouble telling you that. It's your fault my sister got cancer; you gave her it, 'Fox'. Bastard. That's all you are, a selfish pathetic bastard."

"Bill, I..."

"Mr. Mulder, I really don't think there's anything you should be saying now apart from goodbye. I don't even really want to hear it actually - just leave. You can do us all a favour and make sure it's for forever if you want."

Neither of the two saw the small child sitting on the stairs behind Bill, taking in every word spoken. After what Bill had said sunk in, Mulder turned away, trying not to let the hurt show on his face. As Bill closed the door, he walked quickly back to his car feeling stupid. He felt tears gathering in his eyes as he sat in the car trying to calm himself enough to drive away. As he took a final look at the house, he saw a small face looking out of the window and he felt a small tear slip down his cheek as he watched. He swiped at the tear quickly and took a deep breath to stop any more from falling.

'She blames me? I know it's my fault but she always said it wasn't. I didn't believe her when she said that but I trusted that she was telling the truth; that she didn't think it was my fault. Stupid fool. Of course she didn't want me here, why on earth would she? This is her family time. I don't belong here. How could I have thought that I did? Bill's right, I am a pathetic bastard'

He continued to berate himself for actually thinking he was welcome as he put his key in the ignition. Starting the engine, he drove away from the house full of joy and Christmas cheer towards his own lonely apartment. He slowed the car down as he realized that he could no longer see through the tears threatening to fall from his eyes.

'You are not going to cry! You are going to pull yourself together and drive home. Home, on your own where you belong.'


Mrs Scully's House
10am, 23rd December

"Mom, did Mulder phone to say he would be late?"

"No sweetie, I spoke to him yesterday at about 6 and he promised he would be here. Maybe he's just running late Dana, why don't you give him a call?"

"I tried to already, there's no answer at his apartment or on his cell-phone. I don't know where else to try."

Maggie watched her daughter's face fill with worry as she imagined what could have kept her partner away. Although she knew that there could actually be reason for concern considering his promise to be there at nine on the dot, she also knew that her panicking would not help her daughter. There could just as easily be a perfectly good reason for his late arrival and keeping calm was the only way to find out.

"Mom he could have crashed his car on his way or what if..."

"Dana, calm down. You can't go worrying about what ifs. He's only slightly over an hour late it could just be that he overslept. He might have switched his cell off or even left it at home by mistake if he was running late and that's why you can't reach him. Fox will be here, just wait."

"Fox went bye-bye Gamma."

"What?"

Mother and daughter turned at the small voice and found Charlie's four-year-old son, Peter standing behind them.

"Fox went bye-bye."

"Peter, how do you know that honey?"

"Dana, he doesn't even know Fox, he's never met him. He probably thinks we mean the fox out of his story-books."

"No, Gamma, no story. Mr. Fox went bye-bye. He sad."

The two women looked at each other then Scully held out her hand to Peter. Peter took her hand and the pair went into the kitchen and sat down, Peter on Scully's lap. Mrs Scully stayed in the hall and tried to phone Mulder once more, hoping that he would pick up and just be stuck in traffic. Her daughter ought to have a happy Christmas and she was only going to be completely happy when Fox arrived. Fox also deserved a happy Christmas and so she hoped that her grandson was mistaken about him leaving and being sad.

"Honey, what do you mean 'Mr. Fox went bye-bye', was he here?

"Uh huh Auntie Day, he at the door with pretty flowers."

"So where did he go?"

"He went bye-bye in a car fast. He sad."

"How do you know he was sad honey?"

"He cry in his car."

"Oh, Mulder."

"What's a Mulder Auntie Day?"

"Mulder is Fox's other name, that's what I call him."

"Did I make you sad? I'm sorry."

"Oh honey, it's okay. I'm just sad that Mulder was crying. Do you know why he went?"

"Uncle Bill mad. He cross at him then Mr. Fox was sad and went bye-bye."

"What did Uncle Bill say to him, Peter?"

"He laughed and said to Mr. Fox you and Gamma didn't want him to come. He said that you asked him to come only 'cos you felt bad that he didn't have any place else to go. Why did you ask him to come if you didn't want him to be here Auntie Day?"

"I do want him here sweetheart. Gamma and me both want him here, that's why we asked him to come... Oh, I don't believe he did this."

"Auntie Day, are you mad at me. I never wanted him to go. I wanted him to stay but it was too cold outside and Uncle Bill closed the door. Don't be cross please."

"Oh no honey sorry, I'm not mad at you, I promise. I'm cross with Uncle Bill. It was his fault he left, not yours."

"Is Mr. Fox coming back then? Only Uncle Bill said that he could do us a favour and say goodbye forever. I don't want him to go away forever Auntie Day. He looked fun. Do you want him to not come back as well?"

"Goodbye forever? Oh Bill what have you done? Mulder had better not do that... Sorry Peter, just talking to myself. Of course I want him to come back, he's my friend."

"Maybe he'll give you a present when he comes back. Uncle Bill said you told him that Mr. Fox gave you one before but you didn't like it. Why didn't you like his present? I always like presents."

"Well you're definitely going to enjoy Christmas then aren't you? What present did Bill say I didn't like? I don't know which one he's talking about. I've liked all of Mulder's gifts."

"He said he gave you cancer. What's that Auntie Day? Can I have one too...for Christmas?"

Scully gasped at what her nephew had just told her that her brother had said and couldn't answer his questions. She gulped in air as she tried to keep her tears at bay, not wanting her nephew to see her cry.

'Bill said I told him that Mulder gave me my cancer ...... he actually said that... to Mulder! I can't believe he would say that to him. No wonder he left, no wonder he was crying. God, he blames himself for it already but now he thinks that we think it's his fault to. Oh my God. Don't leave me Mulder. Please'

"Auntie Day, don't cry. I'm sure he got you a good present for this Christmas. I kiss it better, don't be sad Auntie Day."

"Dana, I still can't get through to him, do you know anywhere else he might be ...... sweetie what's wrong, why are you crying? Was Peter talking about Mulder when he said Fox left? Did he leave?"

Mrs Scully crossed the kitchen quickly and sat beside her daughter, wrapping her arm around her and hugging her as best she could with Peter in her lap. Peter, oblivious to what he had just revealed, was very confused but he put his arms round Scully's neck and patted her on the back, trying to comfort his favourite Auntie. Still too shocked at what Peter had told her, Scully just clung onto her mother, squeezing Peter into the middle of their hug. Maggie cuddled the two in silence knowing that when her daughter calmed down she would find out what had her so upset.

"Oh mom, I..."

"It's okay sweetie. Take your time."

"Mom it's Bill, he made him leave. He said...oh God, he said we didn't want him here."

"What? Why on earth would he tell him that?

"I don't know mom. Mulder always said that Bill didn't like him but I thought it was just an excuse for not coming here with me. Now, I don't know, maybe he said something to him before and he just didn't tell me about it."

"Sweetie it's okay, you just need to find him and tell him we do want him. ... What else is wrong, that can't be all."

"Bill told him... he said we blamed him for my cancer, he said that I told him Mulder gave it to me mom."

"He actually said that to Fox?"

"Yes. Peter heard him. He thought he was talking about a present that he'd given me - he doesn't know what cancer is. I never told Bill that he gave me it mom, I swear. I would never say that, not to anyone because I know it isn't true. Mom I didn't, I couldn't."

"Sweetie, calm down. It's okay. I know you would never say that. I hope you know that I never told Bill that I blamed Fox...I hope you know that I don't blame him."

"I know mom, I know."

"I'll go talk to Bill and find out what is going on.

"Mom he made him cry. Mulder hardly ever cries, and certainly not in public but Bill made him cry. I really don't want to spoil our Christmas but you can tell Bill that until he apologises to Mulder..."

"Dana it's alright. I'm mad at him too and Christmas is already spoilt if Fox isn't here and is upset."

At this reminder of Mulder's tears, Scully covered her eyes with her hand, trying to hide the stray tears from her mother and nephew. Maggie embraced her daughter once more and rocked her gently until she collected herself. Stroking her hair away from her face, she handed Scully a tissue from the box on the table for her to wipe her eyes.

"He told Mulder never to come back mom - never! He has to come back mom. He has to. He wouldn't leave me, would he?"

"Of course not sweetie, Fox would never leave you. You know that."

"But what if he does mom? ...What if he really thinks I blame him and he leaves me? What then? ... I ..."

"Dana stop. No more what ifs. I told you already. He is not going to leave you. You're going to go and phone him and explain everything and then get him to come back here."

"Okay mom. ...thank you."

"Not a problem sweetie, you just keep calm and find him. I'm going to find your brother and if he says any thing bad about Fox he's going to get what's coming to him."

"Mom, keep your voice down ... Peter."

"Auntie Day is Gamma mad at Uncle Bill?"

"Yes she is Peter. Uncle Bill said something not nice to Mulder and he needs to be told off okay?"

"Is Uncle Bill a bastard Gamma?"

"Peter! You shouldn't be using that word. It's bad. Where did you hear it?"

"Uncle Bill said it to Mr. Fox when he was mad at him. He said he was a selfish, pathetic b... I'm sorry Gamma."

"Oh, I'm going to kick his a..."

"Dana sssh! It's okay Peter I'm not mad at you. Don't use it again alright."

"Okay Gamma."

"Right Dana, you go track down that man of yours and I will go sort out your brother."

"Mom, Mulder's not 'my man' - you know that. We're just friends."

"Okay Dana but..."

"Not now mom, I just need to find him. You can lecture me about how he's the love of my life later, okay?"

"Fine sweetie, but you think about it some more. Just because you're friends and partners does not mean that you can't be more"

"Mom, I said later."

At this, Scully left the kitchen and went into the hall to use the phone, effectively ending the discussion. What she had said to her mom about needing to find Mulder was true but it wasn't the only reason that she didn't want to have the conversation about their relationship. She knew that her mom was right, that she did want Mulder as more than just a friend. Scared that he might not feel the same, she had always denied that she was in love with him. She had finally admitted it to herself quite recently when he brought round videos one night to cheer her up when she had been feeling down.

She smiled slightly as she remembered the nervous look on his face as she had opened the door to him. She had been taken with the shy manner in which he had held the videos up in front of him with one hand, offering them to her as if fearing she might tell him to go home. His face had lit up when she had opened the door wide to let him in, thanking him for coming over. They had sat and watched them together over Chinese takeout and ice cream and Mulder hadn't complained once, even though they were all girlie movies. She had realised that she found more enjoyment in the fact that he was there with her than she found by watching the movies. They had sat close together on the couch and he had put his arm round her shoulder sometime during the second film. When she had laid her head on his shoulder at the beginning of the last movie and he had pulled her closer to him, she had felt totally content. She had fallen asleep there in his arms with her head resting on his chest, listening to his heartbeat beneath her. The next morning she had awoken in her bed, oddly disappointed that he was not lying there next to her. Confused, she had pondered her feelings whilst lying there and it had hit her; she was in love. Unwilling to share her realisation with anyone, she shied away from any discussion about it with her mother.

Realizing that this was not the time to be remembering, she shook her head from side to side to clear it. She picked up the phone in the hall and dialled Mulder's cell phone number, tapping her fingers impatiently off the hall table.

'Please pick up Mulder. I need to tell you that it's not your fault. I need to tell you to come back, to come and celebrate Christmas with me. It's not going to be fun for me without you. Please Mulder, I need you here with me.'

The phone kept ringing though and soon she was listening to a recorded message telling her that the 'cellular user she was trying to reach was unavailable'. Slamming the phone down in its cradle, she took a deep breath to hold back her frustration and picked it up again, this time dialling Mulder's apartment number. This also rang out with not even the machine picking up.

'Oh Mulder, where are you?'

She suddenly had another idea and dialled another number, hoping that the gunmen had heard from him or knew where else he could be. Waiting for one of the guys to answer the phone, she worried her bottom lip between her teeth and drew her fingers anxiously through her hair.

"Lone Gunmen."

"Hey. It's Scully. Turn the tape recorder off."

"It's off."

"Is that you Byers?"

"Yes its me. What's up Agent Scully?"

"I was just calling to see if any of you have seen Mulder."

"He was round here yesterday dropping off Christmas gifts but we haven't seen him since then. Isn't he spending the week with you at your mom's?"

"Yes he was, I mean he is...it's just..."

"What's wrong Agent Scully, is he in danger?"

"No... I mean I don't think so. He left and I don't know where he's gone. He's not picking up either of his phones and I didn't know where else to try."

"Why did he leave if you don't mind me asking? Did you guys have a fight?"

"No. I didn't even see him. He didn't even come in. He left because of something my brother Bill said to him. Actually, quite a few 'somethings.'"

"It's got to have been bad. Mulder wouldn't walk away from a week with you very easily."

"It was bad. He told him that my mom and I blamed him for my cancer among other things."

"Oh. That's really not good."

"I know that Byers. Now do you know where he is or where he might be? I really need to talk to him."

"I'll say. You gotta find him quick Dana. He could go off the deep-end about this one."

"What?!"

"Well you know what nearly happened last time he was feeling guilty about your cancer don't you? ... Don't you?"

"Byers ... what are you talking about?"

"Oh, you don't know. Damn it. I've put my foot in it now haven't I?"

"I suggest you tell me exactly what you're talking about. What nearly happened last time? In fact, what do you mean by 'last time'?"

"I forgot you didn't see the surveillance tapes, you were in hospital when we got them."

"What surveillance tapes Byers?"

"The ones we got from that DoD guy Mulder shot - when you guys faked his suicide. Remember?"

"I remember it all too well. What about the tapes? What's on them?"

"I don't really know how to say this. He probably doesn't want you to know. Hell, I don't even think he knows that we saw the tapes. He was kind of busy after he dropped them off what with you being ill."

"Byers get to the point. What's on the damn tapes?"

"Um..."

"Byers I mean it. You told me earlier I needed to hurry up and find him. I can't do that until you tell me why so what gives?"

"Lets just say that the lie you told was almost the truth."

"Lets say more Byers. You can't mean..."

"I'm sorry Agent Scully but that's exactly what I mean. He almost did it. We think he only didn't because he noticed the camera. I think that, when he found the guy, he hoped that he would have a chance to save you. He couldn't ignore the possibility that he could find a cure for you - so he didn't go through with it."

"Why Byers? Why would he even consider it? What could push him that close?"

"You did Scully."

"Me? ...It's my fault?"

"No, absolutely not! That's not what I meant. I just meant that he couldn't live with the fact that you were going to die. He couldn't stand the fact that, not only was there nothing he could do about it, he knew that he was to blame."

"But he wasn't to blame. It wasn't his fault."

"I know that Dana and you know that but Mulder didn't. We figured you must have told him it wasn't his fault when he quit blaming himself totally."

"I did. I told him so many times. I got through to him, I know I did but now Bill's made him think that I lied to him."

"He needs to know that you didn't lie Dana. He trusts you so completely that this could break him."

"God Byers. I've gotta go. If you hear from him, please tell him to phone me. Tell him that Bill was lying, that I...I need him to come back here."

"Of course Agent Scully."

With that Scully hung up the phone and stared at it for a long moment, not quite believing what she had just heard, not wanting to believe what Byers had told her. She felt tears fill her eyes once again as she thought of her partner, alone and distraught, blaming himself for something completely out-with his control. A lone tear trickled down her cheek as she considered for a second what her life would be like without Mulder. She pushed the thought as far back in her mind as it would go, knowing that she wouldn't be able to bare it.

'Mulder, please don't do anything stupid. I need you.'

"So where's this famous partner of yours then sis? I thought he was supposed to be here by now. Is he going to be late?"

Scully jumped and swung round at the loud voice coming from behind her, quickly wiping her tears away. Her brother Charlie was standing behind her, leaning against the wall smirking at her startled reaction. His smirk faded and was replaced by a look of concern when he realized that his sister had been crying. Recognising that she was not too far away from tears again, he slipped his arm over her shoulder, pulling her in for a hug.

"Day... I'm sorry. I didn't know you were upset or I wouldn't have made you jump. What's wrong?"

"Nothing Charlie, I'm just trying to find Mulder.

"It doesn't look like nothing to me. Why isn't he here already? ... Or is that the reason you're upset, because he isn't here?"

"Charlie, it's a long story. The result of which means that I'm severely pissed off at Bill and I don't know where Mulder is."

"Anything I can do to help?"

"I don't know. I don't know how else to find him. He isn't picking up either of his phones and I don't know what else to try. Charlie, he never turns off his cell-phone, even if he's avoiding me. He knows he should always keep it on so that I can reach him or work can."

"Well what if he's just at home and isn't picking up?"

"He could be I suppose but I don't know. I should drive over there and see. I didn't want to spoil Christmas for the rest of you guys by having to leave. I wanted to explain it to him and get him back here as soon as possible."

"It seems to me that the best way to do that is to find him and you're not going to do that sitting here. Go get in your car and drive over there. The quicker you find him, the sooner we can all start celebrating."

"You're right Charlie. I need to go. I'll just go and tell mom that I'm leaving."

"See you when you get back then day. Make sure you bring him back with you, I'm dying to meet your other half."

"Charlie..."

"I know, I know. Just friends right?"

"Right."

Scully made her way back through to the kitchen after picking up her car keys and putting her coat over her arm. She found Maggie in the kitchen with one of Charlie's two-year-old twins, Adele.

"Hey mom. I'm going over to Mulder's apartment to see if he's there okay?"

"Sure Dana. Is he still not picking up?"

"No, he's not. Did you talk to Bill yet?"

"He's just changing Matthew's diaper. Tara's exhausted still and she's lying down. I thought I would wait until she was awake so I'm not shouting with Mattie in the room."

"Sure mom. I'll be back as soon as I find him okay?"

"Did you try Mulder's friends, the Gunmen? Maybe he's with them."

"Yes I phoned them after I couldn't get through to Mulder. I told them a shortened version of the story after they said they hadn't seen them. The guys are worried about him - they told me to find him quickly."

"What do you mean? ... What are they worried about?"

"Oh mom... They ...they said..."

"Sweetie? ... What is it? ... Come on Dana, you're worrying me now."

"They think he might try to ... to hurt himself."

"Dana, no. He wouldn't."

"That's what I thought but they said he nearly did before when I was sick and he blamed it on himself."

"Oh my goodness. Go Dana, go find him."

"Mom don't tell the rest about this, I don't want everyone knowing."

"Of course not Dana. I won't tell a soul.

"Thanks mom. I'll see you soon okay?"

"Alright sweetie. Give Fox my love."


Mulder's Apartment
12noon, 23rd December

Mulder sat on his couch staring vacantly at the blank television screen in front of him. The flowers he had bought for Mrs Scully lay strewn across the floor along with assorted other objects. A glass lay shattered on the floor with blood from small cuts on his bare feet marking the carpet below them. The red wine that had been in the glass now stained the front of his t-shirt, soaking through to his skin. He didn't care. His coffee table was upturned on the opposite side of the room to where it normally sat. He had destroyed everything that he could throw in his earlier rage; furious with himself for believing a lie told to him by the person he though was his best friend. The person who he knew he not only loved but also was in love with. His fake Christmas tree that Scully had bought for him lay in pieces also on the floor, decorations smashed and mangled where he had stamped on them.

He remembered the day Scully had arrived at the door carrying it, impishly grinning at him, telling him to get into the holiday spirit. When he had pointed out that it was only November she had grinned even more and told him that it was okay, she had bought a fake one - it would last. Laughing, they had put it up together, decorating it with the cheap ornaments that he had bought the year before and never used. Scully had been perturbed that he didn't have an angel for the top and he had told her that that was her job. She had blushed then, shyly turning away and moving across the room to his desk. After digging around in the drawers, she had sat down on his couch with paper, pens and sellotape and she had made him an angel. Showing it to him, she had pointed out that she had given it red hair and he had smiled at her telling her that that was how it should be, that red-haired angels are the prettiest. Again she had blushed but this time she held his gaze, holding the paper angel out for him to put on the tree. He had reached out towards her with both hands and took her hand in one of his and the angel in the other. Keeping the angel between them, he had asked for her help to put it on the tree and she reached out for it again with her other hand. The two had then placed the angel on top of the tree together and stood for a long, quiet moment, holding hands and looking at their bizarre but wonderful Christmas tree.

Later that evening they had sat together on his couch, eating pizza and drinking enough wine that she had become giggly. He had watched, entrance as her beautiful face transformed with her laughter, her eyes twinkling like the lights on their tree. She had taken his left hand in hers and they sat for a long moment in silence, both looking at their hands in his lap. His right arm had moved from the back of the couch to rest on her shoulder, pulling her towards him so that her head could lean on his shoulder. Her right hand had crept from her lap into his hand and slid it from her shoulder to her cheek. She had leant into its gentle caress and placed a soft barely-there kiss onto his palm before allowing it to rest once more on her shoulder, her small fingers entwined with his. They had stayed that way until she said it was time for her to leave, both watching the twinkling of the fairy lights grow stronger as the world outside grew darker. Arranging them on the tree, Mulder had put them on so that a white light sat behind the angel, making her shine brightly in the darkened room.

The paper angel now lay in his hands, the only ornament not ruined by his previous outburst of temper. He felt his tears beginning to fall as he remembered her blushing face as he had told her she was his angel. He had thought he had seen love in her bashful eyes in the moment before she turned away, love for him. He knew now that it must have been pity he had seen, pity for the lonely man who needed to be given a Christmas tree because he didn't have one of his own. A man whose 'holiday cheer' fell so far short of her own that she needed to lend him some out of sympathy. His anger had long since faded away, replaced by a searing pain that pierced his heart each time he thought of what had almost happened to his Angel. His guilt soared when he remembered how pale and fragile she had looked in her hospital bed yet she had never given up.

'How could I have done that to her? Why didn't I save her from the pain?'

His tears fell in earnest now as he thought of how badly she had been hurt because of him over the years. He began crying harder as he realized that he would lose her now without a doubt; would surely have to say goodbye to his precious Angel. His sobbing increased again as he understood that they would have to part even if she didn't leave him; that he couldn't let her be hurt anymore because of him. His breath came in loud, heaving gasps as he struggled to contain the noisy howls that were threatening to escape.

He didn't hear the familiar knocking at the door over his despair-ridden wails. Nor did he hear the key turn in the lock or the soft click of her heels as she carefully made her way through the clutter to reach the couch. He only became aware of her presence when her hand touched his back gently and she enfolded him in her arms. Unable to do anything else, he leant into her embrace, burrowing his face in her shoulder. The two sat for a long moment, she whispering soothing words in his ear to calm him down and he, still sobbing, not hearing a word. When he finally tired and his breathing calmed, she spoke louder to him, making sure that he heard everything she had to say.

"Thank God you're okay Mulder. Bill made it all up. I never said anything to him. I didn't even know you had arrived and I certainly didn't want you to leave."

"I'm...sorry...Scully...so sorry."

"Mulder you don't need to apologise. You haven't done anything wrong."

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry."

"Mulder are you listening to me?"

"Sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry, sorry."

"Mulder...sit up and listen to me... Mulder please."

"I'm sorry Scully...you should go... I can't take hearing a goodbye from you...please don't make me say goodbye... Just leave."

"Mulder I'm not going anywhere, not without you."

"You don't need to stay out of pity, I don't want it... not anymore."

"Mulder sit up. I need you to hear what I'm saying. Can you do that, just listen? ...Mulder, what's all over your top? Is that blood?"

Scully pulled his t-shirt out of his jeans quickly and tore it over his head, frantically searching for a wound. Mulder however had retreated into himself after telling her to leave, not wanting to see her go, and so he was unaware of her words and her actions. She continued searching his upper body for injury, alarmed that he might have hurt himself before she arrived. When she didn't find any cuts on his chest or back, she began combing her fingers gently through his hair, looking for the source of the 'blood' on his shirt.

"Mulder, where is the blood coming from? ... Mulder you need to tell me. Please...I need to make it stop...where are you hurt? ...Mulder? ... Mulder!?"

Receiving no response, Scully feared that he had lost more blood than she had thought and had gone into shock. She couldn't see very well in the dim light of the room and knew that she was going to have to examine him more thoroughly to assess the damage. She stood up and started to cross the room to switch on the light but was stopped short by the anguished howl coming from her partner. Mulder had finally come out of his self-induced trance and, watching her walk away, could bear it no longer. Scully stumbled over something on the floor and, seeing that it was a lamp, flicked its switch on, surprised to find that it worked and hadn't been broken. She hurried back to the couch and held him once more, rubbing his back gently and holding him tightly to her. Now that there was more light in the room, she could see that there was no blood on him and the stain on his shirt was not even blood. She pulled him even closer to her and let out a sob as she realized that he was all right physically at least. Hearing her sob, he tightened his grip around her waist and leaned back on the couch pulling her back with him.

Both were crying now as they embraced; Scully out of relief and Mulder because he still thought that this would be the last time he would ever hold her. Scully was kneeling on the couch between his knees with her upper body covering most of Mulder's as they lay against the back of the couch. Time passed and they continued to calm one another, neither ready nor willing to let each other go. Slowly their tears began to fade but the strength of their hold did not decrease, each drawing immeasurable comfort from the arms wrapped tightly around them.

Finally their grips loosened and Scully lifted her head from Mulder's chest and turned in his arms so that she was sitting sideways in his lap. She cradled his head in her arms and hugged it to her chest, kissing him lightly on the forehead.

"Mulder will you listen to me now? I need you to pay attention to what I'm saying - you have to know."

Mulder nodded his head and buried his face in her neck, unwilling to face her when she told him she was leaving. Scully moved away from his burrowing face and tilted his head so she could look him in the eye. Their gazes locked and held, neither prepared to break the connection between them.

"Mulder. I want you to forget everything my brother said. None of its true."

"He told you what he said?"

"No, he didn't even tell me you'd come."

"Then how do you know it's not? Most, if not all, of what he said is true."

"My nephew, Peter told me. He was listening and recited most of it back, word for word. My mom was not too happy at the new word Bill taught him."

"I'm sure she wasn't."

"Anyway. That's how I know none of it's true. Do you hear me? - None of it!"

"Scully..."

"None of it Mulder. We don't invite just anyone to join our Christmas and when we do it is not because we pity them - it's because we want them there. Neither my mom or I invited you to come out of pity; we both wanted you to be there. I needed you to be there."

This last part was said quietly, almost a whisper as Scully found herself overcome with emotion for the man in her arms. Mulder looked at her disbelievingly for a moment until he looked into her eyes and saw the truth behind her statement. He lifted his head and raised his lips to her brow, pressing a faint kiss on her right eyebrow. He pressed his cheek against hers, rubbing them gently together, and pulled her fully into his arms once again.

"You don't need me Scully. It's sweet of you to say but it's not true, you get along brilliantly without me. That's why I know I need to let you go, you'll get by much better without me cramping you're style, pulling you headlong into danger."

"Mulder, no. You're wrong - wrong about it all. I do need you. You're not getting rid of me Mulder so get used to it. I won't leave you and I'm not going to let you leave me."

"No...Bill's right Scully. Even if you don't believe it, he's right."

"No Mulder, he's not. You didn't give me the cancer, Mulder. You were the one who found me the cure. You didn't almost kill me Mulder; you saved me. Don't you see that? You saved me."

"But if it wasn't for me, you wouldn't have needed to be saved."

"Says who Mulder? No one can know what would have happened if a different path had been taken. Where is it written that if I had been a doctor I would have had a brilliant life? I might have been killed in a car crash on my way to my very first surgery. I might have still been taken for three months and still got cancer but you might not have been there to find me the cure. The worst is that maybe we would never have met.

Mulder we can't go around living on 'maybes' and possibilities - no one can. I chose the path I'm on and I'm not leaving it just because other people think I would be better off elsewhere. Yes, some bad things have happened to me but I've also had so many wonderful experiences in my life. Even if I could do it over again, I would still choose the same path. What I do with my life is my decision and I choose the FBI, I choose the X-Files. Mulder, I choose you."

Mulder felt tears coming to his eyes once again as Scully spoke, first from grief as he remembered her illness and she spoke of dying, then from an overwhelming feeling of love for her. He cradled her tightly to his chest, rocking them both gently. He felt truly humbled in her presence knowing that he didn't deserve her care and affection. When Mulder said nothing, Scully's spirits lifted, hoping that she had finally gotten through to him.

"I'm never going to leave Mulder - I promise."

"Scully..."

"No Mulder, stop it. I can't leave you so I won't - not ever."

"Are you sure Scully? I know I'm not the easiest person to..."

"No you're not. I don't suppose I am either, but who wants easy? Easy is boring. Mulder, will you please come back with me? ... Celebrate Christmas with me?"

"But Scully its Christmas - it's a time for family."

"Please Mulder? My mom always said it best - she always told us 'Christmas isn't Christmas until you're with the ones you love. Doesn't matter where you are or what you're doing.' So will you come back with me, make it Christmas for me?"

"Oh Scully...Yes I'll come. You have to promise me though that if you want me to leave or whatever, you'll tell me. Okay?"

"Mulder..."

"Can you promise me that?"

"Yes, I promise but its never going to happen. You have to promise me something as well then. If Bill says anything to you to make you upset or mad or anything, check with me if it's true. Don't just take off. Okay?"

"Sure Scully."

"Then lets get going."

Scully swung her legs round to the front of the couch and stood, turning back round to offer her hand to Mulder. When he had risen as well, their fingers remained intertwined and, for the first time since Scully had arrived, they both smiled. She started to move towards the door but, as Mulder went to follow, he winced.

"Mulder... what's wrong?"

"Nothing, it's just my feet."

"What happened to them, are they bleeding?"

"Only a little bit. I must have cut them on the wine-glass."

"That's what was on your shirt? Wine? I've got to admit you had me very worried. I thought it was blood."

"So that's why you stripped me? Damn, I'll need to remember that."

"Mulder it wasn't funny. I was scared you were hurt, that you were bleeding."

"Nope, not hurt, just stupid. I spilt the wine when I upturned the table."

Mulder sat back down on the couch so that Scully could look at the bottom of his feet for cuts. She left him there with strict orders not to move and went to the bathroom, returning with the first aid kit. Mulder protested that he didn't need anything but Scully ignored him and began removing small slivers of glass from the bottom of his feet with the tweezers. She was as gentle as she could be but still Mulder flinched whenever she pulled a piece of glass out. When she was done, she wrapped a small bandage round each foot and went into his bedroom to fetch him some socks and a clean t-shirt.

Once Mulder was ready to go she took his hand again and they walked hand in hand out to her car, collecting his bags from his boot as they passed it. As they opened the car doors, their eyes met over the roof of the car and they both smiled.

Scully got in and turned the keys in the ignition, pleasantly surprising Mulder and even herself as she took his hand in hers again. They drove the whole way there like that, breaking contact only when Scully needed both hands to drive and joining back up as soon as her hand was free again. They sat in comfortable silence for most of the journey, both content simply to be with the other.


Mrs Scully's House
3pm, 23rd December

"Scully, are you sure I should be here."

"Mulder, for the last time yes, I'm very sure. In fact I don't think I've ever been surer of anything. Come on, I know Peter is dying to meet you. I'm afraid he'll probably call you Mr Fox though."

"Mr?"

"You're an adult and adults are all called Mr to him unless they're an uncle - he doesn't realise that Fox is your first name. He got confused when I called you Mulder. He might also get confused when you call me Scully - to him I'm his Auntie Day and Scully is his name. You don't mind do you?"

"Um..."

"Good, because he's not going to change now."

With that, Scully opened the car door and walked round to Mulder's side, holding out her hand for him to take. When he grasped it she pulled him slightly reluctantly out of the car until he stood upright beside her. They both walked to the boot to retrieve Mulder's bags and then began walking up the path to her mother's door. Mulder slowed as they progressed down the path, remembering what had happened that morning. Scully squeezed his hand tight in hers and smiled up at him, reassuring him.

"You okay?"

"Yes thanks. Now what are your nieces and nephews called again? I know you told me when we were shopping for presents but I can't remember who's who."

"Peter's the oldest - he's four. His two-year-old twin sisters are Adele and Abby. They all belong to Charlie and his wife, Jessica. Then there's Matthew who just turned five months and he belongs to Tara and..."

"Bill, my favourite."

"Yes. Okay, do you have that?"

"There seemed like more when we were shopping. Oh, the twins are identical aren't they - how am I supposed to tell them apart?"

"Yep, both blue-eyed and red-headed. Just look at the one you're talking to - then you won't need to use any names. If you're talking to anyone else about them, they'll understand."

"Okay. I'm ready."

The two of them had reached the door by this point and Scully reached up with her free hand and rang the bell. Mulder gave her hand a quick squeeze and moved slightly so that she was in front of him. She chuckled and pulled him back to stand beside her once more, even closer to her than before. She turned towards him while they were waiting for someone to answer the door and reached up to brush his hair off his forehead with her right hand. She smoothed it back and then rested her hand lightly on his cheek, trying to reassure him that it was going to be okay.

They were lost in each other's eyes when someone finally opened the door but Scully quickly pulled her hand away from his face as she heard a throat being cleared. They turned to the culprit and found themselves face to face with Charlie who had a sleepy Abby in his arms. He smirked as Scully blushed guiltily and then held his hand out to Mulder without waiting for an introduction. Mulder shook it with the hand that wasn't still clasped in Scully's, surprised at the apparent warm welcome.

"Mulder this is Charlie. Charlie, Mulder."

"Nice to meet you Charlie."

"Likewise. I'm glad you decided to come back."

"Umm...glad?"

"Yes. I've heard so much about you and besides, my son has been going mad all day wanting 'Mr. Fox' to get here."

"What?"

"Mulder, that's what Peter calls you. I told you he was dying to meet you. Charlie are you going to let us in or do we have to sleep out here on the porch?"

"Sorry Day. Come on in, both of you. Keep the noise down though. We've finally managed to get all the kids down for their naps. Well, apart from this one who was just going, weren't you poppet?"

Abby nodded sleepily and stuck her thumb in her mouth as she cuddled closer to her dad. Charlie turned away from the door and started walking upstairs to put her to bed.

"Mom's busy in the kitchen and Bill's with Tara in the lounge. If you see Jess can you tell her that I found Abby's bunny so she can stop looking? Thanks."

"Sure Charlie, no problem."

Mulder put his bags down and took his coat off while Scully closed the door and then he helped her off with her jacket. Once Scully had hung them both up in the hall closet, she slid her hand back into Mulder's and led him down the hall into the kitchen. Mrs Scully had just put the biscuits she was making back into the oven when they walked through the door so she didn't see them right away. Turning around, she spotted them standing close together in the doorway, still hand in hand. She beamed at them both and hurried across the kitchen to welcome them. She pulled a surprised Mulder into a gigantic hug, which he returned full force until they realized that Scully was looking a little left out. They both reached out with one arm and pulled her into the hug along with them. The three of them remained like that for a long time, each loving every second. They eventually broke apart; though Mulder kept his arm round Scully's shoulder and she kept one arm around his waist. This could hardly go unnoticed by Maggie and she wondered if the two had admitted their feelings to one another. She chose not to mention anything, not wanting to embarrass either of them, and instead decided to wait until she could speak to her daughter alone.

"Thanks for having me here Mrs Scully. It really is very kind."

"Fox I'm just glad you came back. We needed you here for it to be Christmas. I'm sure Dana's already told you that Bill was lying when he said those things to you and I hope you know that I don't agree with him about any of it."

At this Mulder looked down at the floor, ashamed to find that he couldn't say that he did know, because he didn't. Scully tightened her grip round his waist and turned to face him, putting her head in his line of vision so that he was staring into her eyes. He looked away from her, embarrassed to find himself close to tears, and shrugged his shoulders in a helpless gesture. Mrs Scully watched all of this with concern and realized that this loving man in front of her really didn't know she didn't blame him.

"Fox, I don't blame you. I know it's not your fault. I thought you knew, I mean I didn't know you thought I held you responsible."

"I wouldn't blame you if you did Mrs Scully."

"But I don't Fox, I never have. Never."

With that said, she moved towards the pair again and the three of them embraced once more. She felt Mulder tremble slightly and she rubbed his back gently like she would comfort a small child. The trembling soon stopped but still the three maintained their three-way hug.

"Hey, is this a private party or can anyone join in?"

The three broke away to see Charlie standing in the doorway, smiling at the sight in front of him. Mulder and Scully remained half-cuddled together but Mrs Scully walked over to him and he put his arms round her in a bear hug. She began to laugh as Charlie lifted her off the floor and squeezed her tight. Soon all four were laughing loudly and Tara came out of the living room with Jessica to see what was going on. They both chuckled when they saw the source of amusement and Maggie began to hammer her fists on her son's chest to make him let her down. He set her back on the floor, still shaking with laughter when they heard a high-pitched whine come from the baby monitor.

"That's my cue. Got to go feed Mattie. Oh, Maggie, Bill went out to get some things. He should be back in an hour."

"Okay Tara. That's no problem, dinner's going to be around 7:30 so he's got plenty of time."

Tara left to go upstairs where her son was in his crib, hoping that he hadn't already woken up the three children asleep in the next bedroom. Mulder and Scully breathed a simultaneous sigh of relief when Tara mentioned that Bill had gone out. They now had an hour to enjoy themselves without the worry that he might spoil it. Jessica was still chuckling about her husband's antics but she stopped quickly when he turned to her with a wicked grin on his face.

"You think that was funny do you Jess? C'mere"

"Charlie don't you dare. I mean it."

"C'mere"

Charlie chased Jessica down the hall, catching her and lifting her off her feet so that she was over his shoulder. Not wanting to shriek too loudly and wake the kids up, Jessica gave up fighting and just went along for the ride. That is, until Charlie walked through the kitchen, opened the backdoor and marched out into the middle of the yard putting her right down in the snow. The pair began a snowball fight, pelting one another with hastily grabbed handfuls of snow.

Scully watched them messing about and laughed until she realized that Mulder was no longer standing beside her but was now in front of her, lifting her over his shoulders like Charlie had done to Jessica.

"Mulder, put me down. I swear I'm going to kick your ass. Mulder! No, not the snow Mulder...Mul..."

With that Scully was also dumped unceremoniously in the snow outside and Mulder stood laughing at her, bending over almost double at the waist. Before he saw it coming, she sprung up with a mound of snow and plonked it on his head. The two waged war against each other and started to chase round the yard like children. Charlie and Jess had already collapsed in an exhausted heap on the snow covered porch swing and so they sat and watched them play. They soon went inside to warm up, leaving Mulder and Scully outside on their own still going full pelt.

Scully called a time out whilst she tried to stop her hair from falling in her eyes but Mulder decided that he was going to get her anyway. He crept up quietly behind her with a mountain of snow in his hands but, before he could hit her with it, she spun round knocking him off balance. Falling, he grabbed at Scully's hand to stop himself but he only succeeded in pulling her with him. They both tumbled to the ground and landed nose to nose with Scully on top of Mulder.

Laughing, they both started to get up but then they caught each other's eye and the laughter faded. Both leaned towards each other, wanting to connect their mouths in a kiss but they were rudely interrupted by a yell from one of the twins.

"Petah! Abby! Mistah Fox here!"

Scully rolled to the side of Mulder just in time as her niece launched herself at him lying in the snow. Mulder huffed out a breath as she landed on his chest and began bouncing up and down in excitement. Scully got up off the ground and giggled at the surprised look on his face, very tempted to leave him there in the snow, unable to get up. Realizing however that he had no jacket on and was already soaked to the skin, she bent down and removed her wriggling niece from his chest. She offered him a hand up that he gladly took and soon he was standing alongside her, holding her hand again. They began to walk towards the house but stopped dead in their tracks as two more hyperactive children burst out of the back door and ran straight at them. They too launched themselves at Mulder but this time he was prepared and caught one in each arm, swinging them up to his chest. All three children babbled excitedly about everything as the adults carried them back in the house. There they found Jessica and Charlie sitting in the kitchen trying to smother laughs at the sight of them. Peter wriggled to be put down and he ran to his parents excitedly and pulled himself up to sit on his dad's knee.

"Auntie Day's man is here mommy."

"What? ...oh you mean Fox. They're just friends darling. He's not her man."

"No mommy, Gamma said he was her man."

"Well, if Gamma said it then it must be true. Isn't that right Day?"

"Charlie!"

Mulder looked at Scully and realized that she was blushing, looking for all the world like she wished both that her nephew couldn't talk yet and that her brother wouldn't talk. She wouldn't look at Mulder and hid her face behind Adele who was still settled in her arms. Mulder started playing peek-a-boo with her, which caused delighted squeals from both twins and soon she forgot her embarrassment and joined in properly. The game went on for a while until both Mulder and Scully peeked out from the same side of the twins and they bumped noses. Mulder rubbed his nose from side to side against hers giving her Eskimo kisses. She returned them, forgetting that they weren't alone until a small hand grabbed hold of Mulder's hair and pulled. They broke apart and, after extracting his hair from Abby's tight grip, Mulder set her down on the floor rubbing his head. Scully patted his head and, after giggling at his pretend frown, placed a quick kiss on the 'injured' site.

"All better now, Mulder. I don't think we'll need any medical expertise."

"My doctor's already fixed it - I don't want any other doctor."

"You two are soaking. Quit being silly and go get into the shower."

"Yes 'mom'."

"You won't be laughing when you come down with a cold Day."

"Okay Charlie, we're going."

"Hey - separate showers you two, we do actually want to see you again sometime today."

"Charlie!"

"Sorry Day - couldn't help myself."

Mulder and Scully made their way upstairs without saying a word, both faintly embarrassed at what Charlie had not very subtly implied. When they reached the top, Scully headed towards her room but Mulder hung back, unsure of where his bags had been put. Turning to see what was keeping him, Scully realized the reason behind his uncertainty and motioned for him to follow her into her room.

"Your bags are in my room Mulder. My mom thought they would be safer from the destructive hands of the twins up here."

"Okay. Scully...you do have two showers don't you? I wouldn't want them getting the wrong idea downstairs, with both of us coming up at the same time."

"Don't panic Mulder. There's an en suite in my room and a shared bathroom down the hall which both have showers in them."

"Okay. It's a pity."

"Mulder..."

"I'm just teasing Scully"

"Fine. Meet me back in my room when we're done and we'll go back downstairs together. That'll really give them something to talk about."

"Scully, I'm shocked."

Once Mulder had finished his shower he knocked on Scully's door and, getting no answer, he went in. He could hear the shower switch off and called through to Scully that he was there so that she didn't walk out into the room. She told him to sit down and she would be out in a couple of minutes. When she did emerge, her hair was still dripping wet and she was struggling to dry it using an already wet towel. Mulder picked up a dry towel from her dresser and crossed over to her. Instead of handing it to her, he put it over her head and gently rubbed, squeezing the ends of her hair to get rid of excess water. When he had dried it as much as he could, he took her brush from her hands and ran it through her hair, easing it carefully through any tangles. Scully closed her eyes and relaxed into his touch, enjoying the soothing feel of his hands running through her hair.

"Scully?"

"Yes Mulder?"

"Thanks for making me come Scully. It's been really good so far."

"I was just going to thank you for coming. I'm glad we took the time off for this holiday - even if it didn't start well. It's so nice to see you without any work in the way."

"We see each other outside of work."

"I know. But not nearly enough - there's usually something that comes up."

"Not all the time. Not this time."

"Definitely not - no cases until after the New Year. Now lie down on the bed."

"Ooh Scully, you coming on to me?"

"Mulder! ... I need to check your feet and put new bandages on them if they need them. Some of those cuts were pretty deep."

"Sure Scully. Any excuse to get me into bed."

"Mulder..."

"Okay, okay, I'm lying down. Now you can have your wicked way with me. Ow Scully. That hurt."

"Serves you right Mulder."

"Scullee..."

"Quit whining Mulder, you're just like my nieces."

"Do you torture your nieces as well? ...okay, okay, I'll stop. Don't hurt me."

"Behave yourself then."

"Okay, Scully. I'll be good - I promise."

"There Mulder, all done."

"Aren't you gonna kiss them better?"

"Mulder..."

"Puweeeasse?"

Scully laughed at Mulder's childish pout but lifted his feet up one after the other and placed a gentle kiss on the ball of each one. She moved his feet from her lap and stood up to go downstairs and join the rest of the family. She held out her hand to him but instead of letting her pull him up off the bed, he tugged on her hand until she was lying on the bed beside him. Realizing that he didn't really want to face Bill, she didn't protest and they lay there in silence for a while, staring up at the ceiling with their hands entwined. They turned towards each other on the bed to speak and paused, so close that they could feel the other's breath on their lips. Just as they had done while lying in the snow, they both leant in, only millimetres separating their mouths. Once again they were interrupted before their lips touched, this time by a knock on the door. Charlie opened the door and gawped at the sight of the two of them on the bed. They sprung apart quickly, Scully rising from the bed and walking towards him, blushing furiously and avoiding making eye contact with him. He grinned at her with his eyes twinkling in the knowledge that he had been right about the nature of their relationship, unknowing that he had interrupted what would have been their first real kiss before it began.

"Just came to tell you that, if you're hiding, the coast is clear. Bill's gone for a lie down before dinner, so you can come down."

"We weren't hiding, Charlie."

"Yes so I saw. 'Just friends' my ass."

Charlie said this last part in a whisper to his sister who immediately flushed once again and sneaked a quick look at Mulder to see if he had heard. He was looking at them strangely as if trying to work out what they were saying and she let out a sigh of relief as she realized that he hadn't heard. She smacked her brother on the arm when she noticed that he was about to comment on it further and warned him against doing so with her eyes. Charlie was puzzled but he respected his sister's wishes and left the room without any remarks.

Mulder put his shoes and socks back on and stood up, walking over to Scully who was still bashfully looking down at the floor. He put his hand on her shoulder and, when she eventually looked up at him he smiled gently and motioned with his head to the door, eyebrows raised in question. She nodded her head and they both walked through the door and downstairs to the lounge where everyone was gathered.


7:30pm, 23rd December

Maggie stood in the doorway of her lounge and took in the perfect sight of her daughter with her partner. They were sitting on the couch, with Scully snuggled up to Mulder's side and their heads bent together, deep in conversation. Their voices were not much above whispers and every now and then they would both laugh softly at something one or other of them said. Scully had one of Mulder's hands in hers laying on her lap and she was looking down at it, toying at his fingers with her own. She watched as her daughter's face glowed with shy embarrassment when he obviously paid her a compliment and then tilted her head up to his to share some Eskimo kisses. Just when she thought that they might kiss for real, Bill and Tara came noisily down the stairs with Matthew, causing the two partners to look up and see her standing in the doorway. She turned away and ushered her son and his wife towards the dining room along with Charlie, Jessica and the kids who had followed them downstairs. When she returned to the lounge she was disappointed to see that they had moved their heads apart and were now looking apprehensive. They had avoided a confrontation with Bill since they had arrived and they knew that they now had to face him at dinner.

"C'mon you two, dinner's ready. It's time to eat."

"We're coming mom."

"Relax, both of you. Bill's been warned. He's not going to say anything and, if he does, then you just ignore him Fox okay?"

"Yes Mrs Scully."

"Drop the 'Mrs Scully' business too. Call me Maggie."

"Okay Maggie."

The three of them made their way through to the dining room and sat down at the table with everyone else. Mulder breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that he was sitting beside Scully at the end furthest away from Bill but on the same side so they wouldn't be able to see one another. Maggie sat across the table from Scully, beside Peter, noting that the seating arrangements had worked out perfectly. The twins were at either side of the table, Abby between Charlie and Dana with Adele between herself and Jessica, both attached to the table in their toddler seats. Tara was seated on the other side of Jessica with Matthew in his basket at the end. Bill was straight across from her, Charlie blocking his view of Mulder and Scully. Maggie realized that this was a very good thing, as the two had not released each other's hands after the blessing, instead leaving them joined on top of the table between their plates.

The noise level rose as several different conversations went on at the same time and the kids vied for the adults' attention. Mulder and Scully remained pretty quiet, contributing only briefly to any of the conversations that were being had around them. They preferred to talk only to each other, losing themselves in one another's eyes as loving gazes were exchanged. By the time desert was served, their chairs had moved together so that Scully was pressed fully against Mulder's left side, his arm lying between her back and her chair. His hand held her loosely at her waist and her right arm lay across her stomach so that her fingers were linked with his.

"Hey Scully. Do you want more raspberries?"

"Aren't you going to eat them Mulder?"

"No. I've never really liked them - they're too bitty. I just want the ice cream. So do you want some more?"

"Yes, please. I love raspberries - I used to drive my mom nuts when I was little, begging for more. I'll eat all of yours if you're sure you don't want them."

"I'm sure. Here..."

Mulder scooped up a raspberry on his spoon and, instead of putting it in her bowl, he held it up to her mouth for her to take. Smiling, she opened her mouth and let him feed it to her, savouring the slight taste of him that remained on the spoon. They continued their desert that way, he feeding her raspberries and she feeding him some of her ice cream when he had finished his own. When she dribbled a bit of ice cream down her chin he wiped it with his thumb and then licked it off, laughing slightly at her startled face. Maggie smiled as she watched them, judging from their shy smiles that they had yet to confess their feelings to one another.

Once dinner was finished and coffee drunk, it was time for the children to be bathed and put to bed, much to their displeasure. Mulder and Scully helped Maggie clear the table while the parents took their children upstairs. When everything was through in the kitchen, Mulder started to wash the dishes, handing them to Scully to dry.

"Hey, hey. You're a guest. You shouldn't be doing that Fox."

"It's fine Maggie. After that delicious meal it's the least I can do. You sit down and relax."

"I'll just put the leftovers in the fridge."

"Mom, sit down. We'll take care of it. You've been on your feet most of the day preparing the dinner. Just sit and talk to us while we work."

"I..."

"Sit!"

"You heard him Mom. Now do as your told!"

"Okay...okay."

The three of them talked about random topics while Mulder and Scully did the dishes. Maggie was amazed with the amount of conversation the pair of them had without saying a word. They started talking about which was the proper way to say 'either', and Mulder childishly stuck his tongue out at Scully when Maggie agreed with her that it should be pronounced 'eee-ther' and not 'aye-ther'. She watched with amusement as Scully wiped soapsuds on his nose and then dried her hands on his shirt in retaliation. Of course, he couldn't leave it there so he began tickling her with soapy hands trying to make her give up. Soon Maggie had to intervene when a water fight broke out between the two of them.

"Children, children...you're supposed to be tidying the kitchen, not giving everything a bath."

"Sorry, Maggie."

"Sorry mom."

"Right. Now tidy up and we can all go through and watch a film."

The two of them quickly mopped up the spilled water and finished putting away the dishes as Maggie went upstairs to see what her other children planned to do. She came back down to find Mulder and Scully both in the lounge and told them that Bill and Tara were going to turn in early but Charlie and Jessica were on their way down. Putting the video into the machine, they all settled back down to wait for 'Miracle on 34th St.' to begin. Mulder and Scully sat together on one couch and, when Charlie and Jessica came down, they settled on the other. Maggie sat in her favourite easy chair where she could see both the screen and the two couples on the couches.

Half way through the movie Scully got up to make hot chocolate for everyone that wanted it, which was everyone but Mulder. When she returned with the mugs she handed them out and then moved to the couch to sit down again. Mulder had switched position while she was gone and now lay with his feet up on the couch leaving no room for her to sit next to him anymore. Mulder went to swing his feet back down to the floor to make room for her but she stopped him, instead shifting only one of his legs off the couch and sitting down between his spread thighs. She stretched her legs out on the sofa alongside his, lying back against his chest and his arms went round her waist, holding her tightly to him. Handing him her mug of hot chocolate, she sat back up and pulled the blanket from the back of the couch and arranged it over the both of them.

When the movie finished and the credits were rolling, Maggie stood up and crossed over to switch the VCR off. As she passed Mulder and Scully, she smiled at seeing they were both fast asleep, completely at ease in each other's arms. She motioned to the other two to be quiet and whispered that they were asleep. Charlie and Jessica looked over at them and Maggie shared a knowing look with her son who she knew had the same view of what Dana's feelings were towards Mulder. Standing up, Charlie went to the other couch to wake his sister but Maggie stopped him with a hand on his arm, looking dotingly at the sleeping pair.

"Leave them Charlie. They've had a rough day. Let them sleep."

"Will they be warm enough down here mom?"

"I think they have all the warmth they need but I'll put the other blanket over them for when it gets colder later."

"Okay, mom. Goodnight."

"See you in the morning. Hope you both sleep well."

"You too Maggie."


> 5:30am, Christmas Eve

A thump from upstairs jolted Scully awake and, being still half-asleep, she was momentarily confused to find herself downstairs and sleeping on a warm body. Warmth spread through her as she remembered where she was and she snuggled closer to Mulder, unwilling to get up and leave him. She felt his strong hands stroking her hair gently and lifted her head so that her chin was resting on his chest. Finding herself looking into his open eyes, she smiled a sleepy smile at him and then settled back down to go back to sleep.

"Scully?"

"Mulder sleep. It's too early"

"Do you not want to go to your bed? It'll be more comfy up there."

"I'm perfectly snug right here Mulder. Thanks. ... Mulder, do you want me to go up? Are you not comfortable here?"

"No. I've never been better. I was just making sure you didn't want to move. I didn't want to presume anything."

"Presume away G-man. I'm not going anywhere."

As Scully said her last statement, she raised her head back off Mulder's chest and looked him straight in the eye so that he would know how much she meant it. He lifted his head off the couch and pressed a tender kiss to her forehead, lingering longer than he usually did. When he pulled away, he found Scully staring at him with eyes so full of love that it stole his breath away for a moment. Bringing her hand up to caress his cheek, Scully tilted his mouth up toward hers and urged him closer so that they could finally kiss.

Before their lips met, Jessica padded into the room in her slippers holding a sniffling Peter in her arms. Scully pushed her upper body off Mulder, squinting in the darkened room to see who was there. Mulder's head flopped back down onto the couch, frustrated that, once again, they had been interrupted before they could finish what they had started out in the snow the previous day.

"Hey you two. Sorry, did I wake you? I didn't realise you guys were still down here."

"No, you didn't wake us. What's up?"

"Peter had a bit of an accident and I couldn't find any spare sheets to remake his bed. Then he started crying and I didn't want him to wake the twins so I thought I'd come down here until he settled."

"I'll go get the sheets Jess, I know where my mom keeps them."

"It's okay Dana. I didn't mean for you to have to get up."

"I don't mind Jess. I'll go change the bed and you can go get Peter cleaned up and changed into dry pyjamas."

"Thanks Dana. That would be great"

Scully got up off the couch to go upstairs but a hand gripping her wrist halted her progress. Mulder brought her hand up to his mouth and lovingly pressed a kiss to the tip of each finger, then into the palm of her hand. Her skin tingled where he touched her and she wished desperately that they'd been able to complete their kiss. She realized that Jess was watching them and so she resumed walking, trailing her hand behind so that their hands kept touching until he could no longer reach. When they had to let go she paused again and looked back at him, once more disappointed that Jessica had interrupted them. Feeling Jess's eyes on her once more, she swiftly made her way up the stairs and into the linen closet in her room to get new covers.

She came down from changing Peter's sheets, confused to find that the couch was unoccupied and Mulder was not in the lounge. Disappointed, she turned to go back up the stairs, thinking that maybe he had gone up to help her and they'd missed each other. As she walked up the stairs, she remembered her mother telling them earlier that she'd set up the sofa bed in the den for Mulder to sleep in. Changing direction once more, she headed for the den and was delighted to find him lying there. He had removed his t-shirt and jeans and laid them on the seat of the chair by the door, his shoes and socks arranged neatly underneath it.

Debating whether or not she should join him, Scully decided that she would and also that she would change into more comfortable sleepwear as he had done. Not wanting to go back upstairs to get her pyjamas, she took his t-shirt off the chair and slipped it over her head, removing her jumper and bra from underneath it. Pushing her arms through the sleeves, she undid her pants and took them off, folding them on top of Mulder's jeans. Dressed now only in Mulder's T-shirt and her panties, she crawled onto the sofa bed beside him and pulled the covers over her. She moved as near to Mulder as she dared without causing him to wake and placed a very light kiss on his jaw. Laying down flat, she sighed contentedly as she thought how well the day had ended considering its beginning. She jumped slightly as his arm snaked around her, pulling her closer to him, as she had thought he was asleep. Mistaking her reaction for rejection, Mulder started to pull his arm away from her but was stopped by her hand holding it tightly in place.

"I thought you were asleep Mulder."

"No, I was waiting for you to come back. Why did you jump?"

"You startled me, that's all."

"Oh...good. I thought maybe you..."

"Mulder relax, it's perfectly fine. In fact it's just perfect."

They lay there in comfortable silence for a while, each holding tightly to the other. They both thought about the events of the day, shuddering when they thought about how badly wrong it could have gone. Cuddling closer, they recognised how lucky they were to have the other there with them, all things considered. Mulder's thoughts then turned to the precious moments during the day when they had come so close to kissing. He realized how near they'd been to finally taking the jump from friendship to something so much more.

"I'm beginning to suspect a conspiracy you know."

"What are you talking about Mulder?"

"First Adele, then Charlie, then your mother and finally Jessica. I'm starting to think your family is out to get us."

"Oh, right. I see what you mean. We're staying in a house with nine other people though, it's not exactly very easy to have any privacy."

"Well, I don't see anyone about now. You?"

"Nope, I'd say the coast was clear."

"So..."

"So..."

Just then two pairs of little feet came thundering down the stairs, through the kitchen and burst through the door to the den. Mulder and Scully rolled away from each other onto their backs as they watched the two excited twins run across the room and fling themselves onto the bed. One twin landed on each of their chests, much like Adele had done in the snow to Mulder. Mulder and Scully both groaned as they realized that, not only were they not going to get to kiss, but also that they were unlikely to be getting any more sleep.

"It's Chissmas eve. It's Chissmas Eve!"

"It's not even 6:30 why are you guys up?"

"Daddy said we should come and wake you up. We want to play in the snow."

"Daddy sent you?"

"Uh huh."

"I'm going to kill him. What did I ever do to him?"

"Bet you're rethinking the legitimacy of my conspiracy theory now. Aren't you Scully?"

"Snow! Snow! Get up."

"Later Abby, we're too tired to get up yet. It's too early."

"No, auntie Day, Snow!"

"Yes go on Scully - out in the snow."

"You come too Mistah Fox."

"Ha - who's laughing now, eh Mulder?"

"How about we make pancakes for your auntie Day instead huh girls? Let her get some more sleep and we can play in the snow later, okay?"

"Pancakes? Otay Mistah Fox. We help you."

"Mulder you don't have to do that. I'll get up."

"No Scully, stay there. I don't mind. I'll take a long time making the pancakes so you can get some more sleep and then I'll bring you breakfast in bed."

"Thanks Mulder - you're so sweet."

"Anything for you m'lady."

"Hey, maybe you can make some for Charlie first and just happen to tell the girls to go wake him up so he can eat them."

Mulder got out of bed laughing, kissing her lightly on the cheek before he picked up his jeans from the chair and pulled them on. He realized his t-shirt wasn't there and, looking around for it, he saw Scully giggling shyly whilst pointing to the shirt she was wearing. He grinned at her and shrugged his shoulders, showing her that he didn't mind her borrowing it. Picking up both of the twins, he carted them off to the kitchen to make pancakes.

7:30am, Christmas Eve

"Rise and shine beautiful. I've got lots of yummy pancakes just for you."

"Mulder?"

"Who were you expecting?"

"You, only you. What time is it?"

"It's about 7:30. I was going to let you sleep in longer but nearly everybody's up and I did promise you some pancakes. I didn't want them to get too cold."

"Thank you, they look fantastic...Mulder...how did you manage to spend an hour cooking pancakes?"

"Well, let's just say that you're not the first to be woken up with pancakes. You are however, much more pleased about it than some."

"You didn't..."

"Yup, your brother is probably going to kill you. The twins told them it was your idea."

"My idea? ...Mulder!"

"Well it was - you told me to. Anyway, who made you pancakes huh? I made this batch especially for you; I didn't even let the girls help with them. I can't say the same for Charlie's however. Do you forgive me?"

"Mulder, you're so evil. I guess I can forgive you though if you made these just for me...Wow, these are incredible Mulder. They taste wonderful. Thank you."

"No problem. It's the least I could do."

Mulder settled back under the covers beside Scully as she propped herself up on the pillows to eat her breakfast. Worn out, he leant against her and she moved her plate to the side so that he could rest his head on her stomach. Mulder lightly dozed while Scully finished her food and stroked his hair with her free hand. When she was done, she sat up slightly to sit her plate on the table next to the bed and, in doing so, shook Mulder and woke him. He lifted his head from her stomach and scooted up the bed so that their heads were aligned on the pillow. He cupped her chin in his hand and pulled her slowly towards him, keeping their eyes locked. Her breath hitched as she realized what he was doing and she leaned willingly towards his waiting mouth.

"Fox, what did you do with the...oh, I'm sorry. I didn't know you...I didn't mean to disturb...I'll find it myself."

"Maggie, what is it?"

"I...the kids wanted some more syrup...we couldn't find what you did with the bottle."

"It's just on the floor there. I brought it in for Scully."

"Thanks. I'll leave you two alone now. I'm really sorry."

"Don't worry about it Maggie."

"See you, mom."

"Ahhhhh. Scully, I think I'm going to go insane...what are you laughing about?"

"I'm sorry Mulder...It's just that it's so typical of my family."

"What's typical? Do they often interrupt you when you're trying to kiss someone?"

"No, it's not that...it's..."

"What is it Scully? Why are you blushing?"

"I'm not."

"Yes you are Scully. Even the tips of your ears have gone pink. Spill!"

"It's just that both my mom and Charlie have thought for ages that there was something going on between us. I denied it of course but they never truly believed me, although they said they did. The two of them are always telling me to make a move and, now that we are trying to, they keep interrupting and stop us from completing it."

"Are they okay with it?"

"They are more than okay. We probably just made my mother's Christmas. How about you make mine and finish what we started, huh G-man?"

"No. I want to do this right, without any interruptions from anyone. Who knows, the next one might be from Bill and we know how well that would turn out. Get dressed Scully. Let's go for a walk."

"Okay Mulder, that sounds lovely."

The pair of them got out of the bed and headed upstairs to shower and dress. They had to walk through the kitchen to get to the stairs and Scully blushed as her mom winked at her. She then hid behind Mulder, giggling, as they passed Charlie who was giving her mock dirty looks for getting him up so early. Bill raised his eyebrow when he saw her sleeping attire and his bare chest and opened his mouth to comment. He was swiftly silenced by a glare from Mrs Scully and Mulder and Scully made it through the kitchen and up the stairs without any trouble.


The Lake
9:20am, Christmas Eve

They had walked hand in hand from the house until they reached the lake, which had frozen over. More snow had fallen during the night so everything was covered in untouched snow, the sunlight making it glisten and sparkle. Mulder was behind Scully now, his arms wrapped tightly around her waist with hers resting on top of them. They stood together in silence for a while taking in the beauty of the landscape, each feeling as though they had walked into a picture postcard. Mulder had decided when he was in the shower that he was going to tell her how he felt about her before they kissed but was nervous of what her reaction would be. He took a deep breath of clean air to relax before he spoke, knowing that their relationship was going to be drastically altered in one way or another after she heard what he was about to say.

"Scully..."

"Yes Mulder?"

"I...um..."

"What is it?"

Scully turned in Mulder's arms so they were facing each other and reached up with both arms to circle his neck. She was slightly overwhelmed by the look of love in his eyes but she looked straight back at him, hoping that he could see her love for him as clearly as she could see his. Vaguely concerned about his inability to articulate whatever he was trying to say, she stretched up on her tiptoes to place a kiss on his cheek and tightened her grip on him.

"Mulder, what is it? Tell me?"

"Scully, I...I wanted to tell you...before we...I need you to know that..."

"Mulder, I know."

"No, I don't think you do... I love you Scully. I've been in love with you for so long that I've forgotten what my life was like before you came into it. I don't even bother to try and remember - I only know that you weren't there. Not a second goes by when I don't think about you, even when I'm asleep. I worry when you're not around; nothing is the same without you. I...I know that, if I kiss you now, I'm never going to want to stop. I will want to kiss you forever. I realize that I don't deserve you and I'll understand if you don't feel the same way. I just...I needed for you to know before we start something here."

"Oh Mulder, I did. I already knew. I can see it in your eyes every time you look at me. I love you too, with all of my heart. I can't remember a time when I didn't love you - when I wasn't in love with you."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. Everything you just said, Mulder; that could have been me, talking about you. That's the way I feel about you."

"Oh, Scully. Never, not even in my wildest dreams, did I dare to imagine that you loved me like I love you. I never dared to even hope. I love you so much - you've just made my Christmas. No, you've made my year, my life."

"And you've made mine."

Mulder's arms lowered from her waist to grip her upper thighs and he lifted her off the ground so that their faces were level. They both quickly looked around for any of Scully's relatives coming to interrupt and then laughed as they realized the other had done the same thing. Their eyes connected and their laughter stopped, both very aware of what was about to happen. They closed the distance and their lips finally met, finishing the kiss that they had begun so many hours ago. The kiss was undemanding and gentle; both of their mouths slightly open and joined together perfectly. They kissed until they had to break for breath and Mulder, hugging her tightly, spun them round and round, both laughing and shouting for joy. When he finally stopped spinning and set her down on the ground, he leant down and they kissed again.

For a while, the rest of the world faded away and they both lost themselves in the other, kissing and hugging, laughing and crying tears of joy. They forgot about the events of the previous day, forgot how close Bill had come to splitting them up and just enjoyed the sensations flooding through them. After spinning in another giddy circle, Scully suddenly caught sight of her watch on her wrist and realized how much time had passed.

"We'd better get going Mulder."

"Do we have to?"

"I'm afraid so. I promised we'd be back by ten so that we could all go to the mall together."

"But I just want to stay here with you Scully. I want to kiss you and hold you until the sun goes down and longer."

"I want to stay here too but we did promise. Anyway, we can kiss and cuddle all the way back and then some."

"You're not going to be uncomfortable or embarrassed in front of your family?"

"No Mulder, I'm not. I mean, sure, they'll probably tease us both to begin with, but they'll be happy for me and I'll be kissing the man I love. I don't see anything wrong with that."

"There's nothing wrong with that at all. It's perfect. ... Scully, what about Bill?"

"What about him?"

"Well, he's not exactly going to be thrilled to see us together - really together I mean."

"He's a grown man Mulder, he'll have to accept that I'm a grown woman and I can decide what and who I want for myself - that I neither need nor want him to do it for me. Especially since he's got such bad taste that he doesn't think I should be with you. I'm not going to hide this from him. I'm not going to miss out on kissing you just because he won't like it."

"Are you sure? I mean it is Christmas and he will say something, you know he will."

"I know. Maybe I can ask mom to have another word with him."

"That's probably for the best - I don't want to ruin anyone's Christmas by having an argument with him but I agree with you. I don't want to have to forego kissing you, not now that I know how good it feels. I'm not going to let him stand in the way of having more. ... Let's get going then Angel."

"Angel?"

"Yes, I told you before - you're my Angel... Do you mind me calling you that? I won't if you don't like it."

"No, I love it. I really love it."

They started to walk away from the pond, Scully tucked tightly under Mulder's arm with both of her arms firmly wrapped around his waist. Every two or three steps they took, they stopped so that they could kiss, making their progress very slow. When they realized they were going to be late, Mulder scooped Scully up in his arms and carried her like a baby. She initially protested but soon stopped, realising that this new arrangement meant that they could kiss a lot more and still move towards the house as Mulder could keep walking while they were kissing.


Maggie Scully's House
10:05 am, Christmas Eve

Maggie opened her front door and looked out anxiously, waiting for Dana and Fox to get back. Whilst she didn't think that there was anything to worry about, Bill was already making a fuss that they were all going to be late leaving if they didn't get back soon. They were only going shopping and so it didn't really matter if they left later than planned but she knew her eldest son would make a big argument out of it. She spotted the two of them turning the corner into the street and was at first concerned that her daughter had hurt herself as Fox was carrying her. As they got nearer however, she gasped in amazement and then smiled when she saw that they were both fine and were kissing.

Thinking that they might stop once they knew they were being observed she darted into the house to get both Charlie and her camera. She dragged a bewildered Charlie to the door, motioning for him to keep quiet and look down the street. He gawped in astonishment as he saw whom she was pointing to and then turned to grin at his mother. Maggie took a few photos of the pair of them; delighting in the elated smiles she could see on both faces as they took a breath between kisses. As they got nearer to her, Dana saw her and waved, turning swiftly back to continue kissing Mulder. Maggie smiled gleefully as she realized that they weren't going to hide it from them and instead were quite content to let them all know.

"Where the hell are they? They were supposed to be back so we could leave fifteen minutes ago."

"Calm down, Bill. It doesn't matter if we're slightly late. We're only going shopping."

"This is just like Mulder. Totally selfish."

"Bill that's enough, they'll be here in about two minutes."

"How do you know mom? Knowing him, he's probably found a case to investigate or something."

"Stop it Bill. I know they'll be here because they're just walking up the street."

"Walking up the street? Where? ...What the hell!?"

"Bill. I'm warning you. Don't even think about saying anything to either of them. Look how happy she is Bill - can't you let yoursister be happy?"

"Happy...with him? I don't think so mom."

"Look at her Bill, just look at her. She's not only happy with him, she's happy because of him. He makes her happy - why can't you see that?"

"Mom..."

"No Bill. I don't want to hear another word. If you can't see that she's happy, take it from me. Accept it and let it go. Mulder's done nothing to deserve this animosity from you."

"But..."

"But nothing Bill. Stay quiet and let everyone enjoy their Christmas."

"Fine."

"Thank you."

Bill trudged moodily back into the house, not wanting to have to look at the pair of them any longer. Mulder let Scully down from his arms but they maintained a strong hold on each other as they walked up the path. Mulder excused himself to go use the bathroom before they left and Scully caught her mother's eye, blushing at the knowing sparkle that she saw in them. She looked down at her feet and didn't speak until Mulder returned carrying one of the twins in his arms, followed by Charlie, holding the other twin, Jessica and Peter. They all made their way to Charlie's car, Mulder stopping briefly to give her a kiss and squeeze her hand tightly. Scully watched them stroll down the path and didn't look at Bill as he passed her, face stony. Tara followed Bill with Matthew in his car seat and the three of them walked to Bill's car in the driveway.

"Right that's everyone. Are you ready Dana?"

"Yup, let's get going mom. You're coming with me and Mulder right?"

"That's right, sweetie. I'll drive if you like though."

"Mom it's okay. We're going in my car, why would you be driving?"

"I just thought you and Fox would want to sit together. If I drive and you two are in the back we won't have any accidents from certain distractions."

"Mom! ...Okay, you can drive. ... Thanks."

Scully had been going to protest but, as she watched Mulder buckle Adele into her car seat, she realized that her mom was right; she did want to keep kissing and cuddling with Mulder. When he flashed her a smile and winked at her, she handed her mom the car-keys with a short word of thanks and half-skipped down the path to join him. They held hands and exchanged brief kisses while Maggie opened the car and tooted the horn cheekily at them. They reluctantly pulled apart so that they could get into the car but once inside with their seatbelts fastened, they swiftly cuddled back together. Maggie started the car and pulled out onto the road, unblocking the driveway to allow Bill to pull out. The three cars drove off in quick succession and it wasn't until they had been driving for about five minutes that Mulder realized what was strange about the driving arrangements.

"Scully...why is your mom driving? This is your car."

"She offered to drive. Don't you like this arrangement better?"

"Definitely but..."

"But nothing Fox, just enjoy it. So...are you two going to tell me or are you just presuming I know?"

"We're presuming you know already mom."

"I suppose it'd be hard not to really. So...when did this...when did you two stop being 'just friends'?"

"This morning, when we went for our walk."

"Your walk? But..."

"But what mom?"

"This morning when I...never mind. I'm just glad you two finally saw some sense."

"Glad? ...Does that mean you're okay with this Maggie?"

"Am I okay with it? Fox, seeing the two of you together and so happy - it's the best Christmas present I could have ever hoped for."

"You mean you don't want the luxury Yacht we got you? Damn."

"Ha ha Dana. Seriously though - I'm over the moon about this. Probably not quite as thrilled as you two, but I'm not far off."

"Thanks Maggie, it means a lot to us to know we're not alone in this."

"What? ...Oh you mean Bill. I've already spoken to him about it, just before you two got back. He's not happy but he's not going to say anything about it."

"Thanks mom. We didn't want to cause an argument but we don't want to have to hide it from family."

"No problem sweetie. I understand."

Maggie smiled at the pair in the rear-view mirror, happy that they had declared their feelings to one another and to her. She was still slightly confused, as she had been convinced that they had done it before she interrupted them earlier but she realized that it didn't really matter. The important thing was that they were together now and were both unquestionably floating on cloud nine about it. She turned on the radio and listened to it until they arrived in the shopping mall's car park, allowing them to kiss and cuddle to their hearts content. She parked the car, clearing her throat to get their attention and smothered a laugh at their obvious disappointment at having to release their hold on the other. She gestured to the large precinct letting them know that they were there and they had to get out of the car. The two sheepishly untangled themselves before getting out of the car, joining hands as soon as they were both standing and followed Maggie to the entrance, ready to shop.


Maggie Scully's House
6pm, Christmas Eve

Scully watched through the kitchen window at the three kids making a snowman with their dad as she finished drying the last dinner plate. Mulder crept up behind her and slid one arm around her waist, kissing her on the side of her head. She turned her head so that they could kiss properly and then leant against him as they both watched the activity in the garden. His other arm came round from behind his back and he held up a brightly wrapped gift in front of her gaze.

"I got you a present."

"Mulder, it's only Christmas Eve. Presents are for tomorrow."

"It's not your proper present - just something that reminded me of you. I bought it when we were out shopping."

"Oh, Mulder. That's so sweet. You didn't have to get me anything."

"But I did. So, can I give you it now?"

"Well, I won't say no to a present - especially not one from you."

"It's nothing big. I just...here, open it."

Scully took the parcel from Mulder after twisting her head back round for another quick kiss. Both Mulder's arms were now wrapped round Scully's waist and he held her loosely as she carefully tore the paper away. He rested his chin on her shoulder as the gift was revealed and laughed at Scully's puzzled face.

"It's a kid's book Mulder."

"Turn it over. Check out the Title."

"What? ... 'Fox's Angel'. Oh Mulder it's terrific. Thank you."

"The kid's and I found it while you were off shopping with your mom. I thought we could read it to them before their nap - give Charlie and Jess time to wrap all their presents. Do you like it?"

"Mulder I love it."

"Did you notice that the Angel has red hair? I'm not the only one who knows that the most beautiful people have red hair."

"C'mere you."

Scully turned around in his arms to face him and pulled his head down to meet hers in a kiss. Whereas most of their previous kisses had been tender and quite mild, this one was anything but. She hungrily devoured him, her tongue demanding admittance to his mouth that he immediately granted. Trying to get even closer then they already were, Mulder squeezed her tightly to him and bent his knees to allow her easier access. She sprung off the ground and swung her legs around his waist, locking her ankles behind him so that she could grip him tightly. Their tongues duelled in both mouths, each trying to explore every bit of the other's mouth. A loud squeal from one of the kids outside disturbed them and they broke away, resting their foreheads together while they each tried to catch their breath. Scully began peppering kisses around his face, thanking him for the present and the thought behind it. After each kiss she whispered a hurried yet heartfelt 'love you' before she moved on to the next. Mulder smiled and caught her lips with his own, pressing soft and gentle kisses to them.

"Love you too. I can't believe that I'm standing here kissing you. I can't believe that this is really real."

"Believe it Mulder - it's completely real."

"I'm in heaven. I must be. Nothing could feel this perfect outside heaven."

"I know...I know. I love you so much."

"Me too, my dazzling Angel."

"My world."

"My everything."

They were still exchanging kisses and endearments when Maggie came into the kitchen. Always prepared, she took out her camera and snapped a photo of the pair. They both turned their heads when they heard the click and smiled widely at the camera as she took another photo. Scully unwrapped her legs from around Mulder and lowered her feet to the floor so she was standing up again.

"Hey mom."

"Hey Maggie."

"I was going to ask you two how the snowman was getting on but I don't think there'd be much point."

"Mom..."

"Scully she's right. I don't have a clue what's going on out there. I've been too busy staring at you."

"Mulder..."

"Well I have. How could I not, you're too stunning not to look at."

Scully's face coloured at his compliment and Maggie laughed at her daughter's shy but pleased behaviour. She smiled at the pretty picture the two made, cuddled in each other's arms, and was thankful once again that her son's harsh words the day before had not ruined their time together. She had hoped that this holiday would lead them both to admitting their feelings but had been discouraged from this idea after learning of her son's outburst. She was very glad that it hadn't stopped them from being together and hadn't pushed them apart.

Just then, the back door opened and Peter walked in followed by Charlie carrying both the twins. All four were exhausted but happy with the kids all chattering excitedly about how big their snowman was. After taking their outer layers off, Charlie told the kids that it was time for their nap, especially since they were all going to midnight mass. The twins griped about it but soon stopped when their Auntie Day told them that she and 'Mr. Fox' were going to read them all a story. Charlie looked surprised at this but then nodded in understanding and gratitude when Mulder mouthed to him that they were giving him and Jess time to wrap presents.


7pm, Christmas Eve

Mulder and Scully settled down on the sofa bed in the den with the three kids to read them their story. They propped themselves up on the pile of pillows side-by-side with Peter cuddled up to Scully's other side and the twins nestled in their laps. Scully's head lay on Mulder's chest just above Abby's and Mulder's left hand rested on her shoulder when it wasn't turning the pages of the book. Mulder read to the four of them, telling the story of the little boy called Fox whose only Christmas wish was to have his angel remain with him always.

After Mulder finished the last page, he looked down at each of the three little faces, pleased to find that they were all fast asleep. He whispered to Scully that the book had done the trick as he carefully moved Abby off his chest so that he could get up but he got no answer. Looking down at her head resting on his chest, he smiled softly as he saw that she too was sleeping. He lay there watching her sleep for a long time, thinking how lucky he was to have found such a perfect partner in every sense of the word. He stroked a lock of hair from her eyes, enchanted with her beauty and reluctant to leave such a wonderful vision. Eventually he moved her gently to his side and got out of the bed, taking great care not to wake her. She whimpered in her sleep and he leant down to press a kiss to her forehead, whispering soothing words of love. He tiptoed to the door and, as he carefully opened it to leave the room, he turned back round to take another look at the four sleeping beauties all cuddled together. He pulled himself away from the sight and walked through the kitchen and up the stairs where he met Charlie heading towards his room with wrapping paper.

"Hey Mulder. Are the kids all okay?"

"Yes, they're all asleep down on the sofa bed."

"Thanks for doing that. Jess and I didn't know when we were going to get time to wrap up all their presents. We thought we would have to be doing it at 2 in the morning."

"It's no problem. We didn't mind doing it."

"Where is Day - I thought you two were attached at the hip...or the hands...or the lips...or..."

"Ha ha Charlie, very funny. She fell asleep too, someone woke her up far too early this morning!"

"Really? Whomever could that have been?"

"Hmm I wonder. Anyway, I didn't have the heart to wake her so I left her down there with the kids. I thought I could wrap up her present while she slept. Have you got the shopping bag I gave you earlier?"

"Oh, sure. Here you go. I'd forgotten all about it. Not to be nosy or anything but how come you only got her present today?"

"I've already got her something but I saw her admiring this in the shop window and I had to get it for her."

"Ahhh. That explains it. Me and Jess were just curious. I hope you're not offended."

"Not at all Charlie. I didn't even think of how it would look."

"Well, I'd better get back to wrapping. You won't believe how much stuff we have still to do."

"Okay Charlie. See you later."

When Mulder finished wrapping Scully's present he put it with her others in his bag, which was still in her room. He sat on her bed for a minute, thinking about how wonderful the holiday was turning out to be. He had been looking forward to spending time with her and her mother but had been very wary of Bill. After yesterday's outburst from him, he had doubted very much that he would see her again, thinking instead that their partnership would be terminated and they would go their separate ways. He had no doubt however, that he wouldn't have lasted long without her by his side and was very thankful that he didn't have to worry about that anymore. He shook off the dismal thought of being without his Scully and got up from the bed to go find the others.


9pm, Christmas Eve

Mulder had wandered downstairs and found Maggie and Tara drinking tea in the kitchen, Bill having just taken Matthew upstairs to his crib. They asked him to join them and he had readily accepted so now the three sat at the table, sipping their tea and talking about the coming day. He was about to go and see if Scully was awake yet when she wandered in, sleepily rubbing her still half-closed eyes.

"Hey you."

"Hey sleepyhead. Did you have a pleasant snooze?"

"Not as good as last night. Why didn't you wake me up?"

"I couldn't; you looked too adorable. I missed you though, I was just coming to get you."

"Missed you too. You weren't there when I woke up."

"Sorry, I had some things to do."

"What things?"

"I'm not telling. It's a secret."

"Oooh Dana, secrets so early on in the relationship."

"Ssssh Tara. Secrets are okay at Christmas - as long as it's a good secret, Mulder."

"It is a good secret. You'll find out tomorrow Scully, I promise. It's a special something for an extra special someone standing not two feet away from me."

"That's two feet too far."

"Well come here then."

Scully crossed the remaining two feet and giggled as Mulder pulled her down to sit sideways in his lap. She captured his lips with hers and they kissed for a short time, not deterred by the knowledge that both women across the table were observing them. When the kiss ended Scully turned in his lap so that she could talk to her mother and sister-in-law but she kept his arms tightly around her with her own arms. Mulder nuzzled her neck while she talked, not realising that Bill had just come through the door.

"Do we not have enough chairs in the house or something?"

"Bill..."

"I don't want to have to watch their sickening behaviour."

"Bill, stop it."

"Sure, mom; just as soon as they do. It's disgusting."

"There's nothing disgusting about their behaviour Bill, it's your attitude that needs to change."

"It's okay Maggie. If it makes him uncomfortable then we'll stop. Just leave it, we don't want to cause an argument."

"Mulder..."

"No I will not leave it Fox. Bill, you need to realise that you can't have everything your way. Fox was invited to join us, it's Christmas and he's one of the family."

"One of the family...Mom, he's the reason why there's an empty space at our table, why Missy's not with us at this 'family' Christmas. Speaking of family, why aren't you with your own family? Huh? Presumably they don't want you anywhere near them."

"Bill Scully! That is enough!"

"Maggie, leave it. He's right."

"Mulder..."

Mulder had shifted Scully off his knees to the chair beside him and now headed out of the door, leaving Scully behind him. She glared at her brother and opened her mouth to speak but found that she didn't even know where to start. Realizing that she needed to be talking to Mulder rather then shouting at Bill, she left without saying a word. As she closed the door behind her, she heard her mom start into him keeping her voice low, heedful of the sleeping children. She walked quickly up the stairs and into her room; finding Mulder sitting on her bed, head in hands. Crossing the distance in two strides, she sat beside him and rubbed his back gently, comforting him. He raised his head from his hands to look at her and she saw that he wasn't crying but that his face was miserable and weary.

"You okay?"

"I...I don't know. I was fine...hadn't even thought about...Scully, I don't know if I can do this."

"Do what? This, 'talk to me' this? ... Or this, 'us'?

"Us. Just now."

"What?"

"I can't fight your brother anymore. I...I don't want to cause problems between you and him."

"Mulder listen to me. I won't let you give up on us because of Bill. You don't have to fight him - we're together, and that's the important thing."

"I suppose it is. I love you so much, I just don't want to see you get hurt."

"Mulder the only thing that'll really hurt me is if you give up. I love you far too much to let you get away. My mom's dealing with Bill just now, I don't think he'll say anything else."

"Maybe we should cut the public displays to when he's not around."

"That'll probably be for the best - but only him, not anyone else. Deal?"

"Deal."

"Now come on, let's go back downstairs. Tara and Jess made biscuits yesterday for tonight's supper before we go to mass."

"Lead the way Angel."


6am, Christmas Day

Scully awoke with her head once again resting against Mulder's chest and snuggled into him lying beside her on the sofa bed. They had slept there again with the door to the lounge opened so that they could hear anyone moving in there and stop the children from opening their gifts before the adults came down. She pressed herself fully against him and ran her hands lightly over his bare back and chest, pressing kisses onto his sternum. She shivered with excitement as she realized that the hand that was usually slung over her waist had instead found its way inside her pyjama bottoms and was squeezing one of her ass cheeks gently. His other hand slid up her back and cupped the back of her neck pulling her head up beside his so they could join their mouths. As they kissed, Scully's hands moved down to the waistband of his pyjamas and eased their way underneath it to caress his buttocks. Their kiss intensified as their hands explored but they were halted by the sounds of three very excited small children in the next room. Remembering their job and also the interruption the previous morning, they hastily removed their hands and, after placing a quick kiss to the tip of her nose, Mulder got out of the bed. He returned minutes later with all three children who crawled under the covers with them and demanded a story. Mulder reached over to the table beside the bed and retrieved the book he had bought for Scully the day before. Although they had all heard it, the children all cheered when he told them that they were going to read it again. They had all been tired when they had heard it before but this time they questioned and commented on every line he read.

"Mr. Fox. Is this book about you?"

"Mistah Fox. Is dat Auntie Day?"

"Does Fox really only want his angel to stay with him? No presents?"

"Yes that's all he needs; for her to stay with him for ever and ever. He'll never need anything else. I'll never need anything else."

"Oh, here."

"Read it again. Mr. Fox."

"Yeah. Aden, aden."

"In a minute you three. Fox wants his Christmas wish just now."

"And what would that be Mulder?"

"A kiss from his angel. Is that okay?"

"Yup. That's totally okay with me Mulder."

"Auntie Day's not an Angel Mr. Fox. She's an auntie."

"She's your auntie but she's my Angel, Peter. She always has been and always will be."

Saying that, Mulder leaned over Peter's head that had kept popping between him and Scully, stopping them from kissing. He captured her mouth with his own and, forgetting about the three children, they moved closer together as the kiss deepened. Scully's tongue slipped between Mulder's parted lips and she explored his mouth slowly until she realised that the insistent tugging on her pyjama top was not his eager hands trying to remove it. She pulled reluctantly away to look at her niece who had her top grasped firmly in both hands and looked like she was about to burst from excitement.

"Daddy's up. Pwesents. Pwesents."

The three children grabbed Mulder and Scully and dragged them from their bed into the lounge where they met Charlie, Jess and Bill. After receiving a glare from Bill, Mulder let go of Scully's hand and returned to the den where he put a t-shirt on. When he re-entered the room, Maggie and Tara had both arrived also and everyone had settled into position, waiting for the present giving to begin. Jess, Tara and Charlie were on one couch with Scully and Maggie on the other, a free space between them. Mulder paused, still standing in the doorway, and looked at the couch and then the empty armchair at the opposite side of the room. Scully frowned in confusion and patted the seat next to her for him to come over and sit down on but Mulder looked to Bill again. Bill glowered at Mulder from his armchair, telling him exactly where he should sit but Mulder still wavered until Maggie spoke up.

"I saved you a seat, Fox. Come on, the kids are dying to get started."

"Sure Maggie. Thanks."

He crossed the room quickly and settled between her and Scully, ignoring the continuing daggers been thrown from Bill's eyes. Scully took his hand in hers, stroking it gently to ease his tension and nestled into his side. He smiled at her and pulled her tighter to him, glad that he was sitting beside her now and not across the room. All the adults watched as the four children received their stockings and laughed at their obvious excitement.

"Okay everyone. Let's go get some breakfast and then we'll get to the big presents. I've already put stuff out for the kids, you adults can sort out what you want."

"Sure Maggie."

"Sure Mom."

"Gamma, we want presents now."

"Well you have to wait I'm afraid. Bring your stockings through and you can show me what you got from Santa while we eat. How's that?"

"Okay but don't eat slow."

"We won't, Peter. I promise."


7:30am, Christmas Day.

After finishing their breakfast, everyone made their way back through to the lounge and sat in the same seats as before with Peter and the twins making a beeline for the presents under the tree, picking up parcels at random asking if it was for them. Charlie and Jess hastily brought them back from the tree and sat them on the floor beside their couch, telling them to be patient. Maggie got up from the couch to get her camera that she'd left in the kitchen and Mulder moved closer to Scully so that he could whisper in her ear.

"So, Scully. How does this all work?"

"Well, Charlie and Jess start us off since Charlie's the youngest. They give out all of their presents from the both of them and Mom gives hers to them. Then it's our turn, followed by Bill and Tara. Then Mom gives her presents to the kids whilst we all have 'couple-time' and give our presents to each other. The kids then get the rest of their presents from their parents while we watch."

"Okay, that makes sense. It's very organised."

"It has to be - this way none of the kids get left out. They each get the same number of presents at the same time."

"Ahhh, I see."

Maggie returned from the kitchen with her camera and took pictures of everyone and then of the tree with all the presents still under it. Once she had finished, she sat down beside Mulder on the couch and told Charlie that it was time to start. The children cheered as Charlie and Jess made their way to the tree to find their presents that they had put under there the night before. All the joint presents were handed out and unwrapped very rapidly so it was soon 'couple time'. Charlie and Jess had moved to both sit on the free armchair leaving Bill and Tara on the couch. Mulder and Scully were left alone on the other, as Maggie had moved so she was sitting in the other chair with the children all round her. Scully handed her first present to Mulder and watched him as he tore away the paper much like the children had been doing with their gifts. He very quickly unwrapped the gift to discover a deep blue dress shirt that slightly shimmered in the light so that it looked lighter from some angles and darker from others.

"I know it's a bit boring but I bought it before we...anyway, it was going to be a subtle invitation for us to go out somewhere that we needed to dress up for."

"What...you don't want to give me that invitation now?"

"Course I do, you know that's not what I meant."

"I was only kidding, Scully. You don't really need to be subtle anymore."

"I know that. I thought the colour would look great on you. You nearly always wear white shirts to work so I wanted to get you something different and smart."

"Well I think it's terrific. Thank you Scully. Now it's your turn."

Mulder brought out a small, square box wrapped in purple paper with a small silver bow on top. He passed it to Scully and gave her a quick peck on the cheek as she took it from him and started to carefully unwrap it. She gasped as the box opened to reveal exquisite drop earrings with an amethyst stone set in a delicate gold design.

"Mulder they're beautiful. I love them."

"I'm glad. I wasn't sure if you would wear dangly earrings. You never wear them to work but they're your birthstone and they're pretty so I thought I'd take a chance."

"My birthstone? I never knew that amethyst was my birthstone. I only wear studs to work because this kind would get in the way."

"You know it's funny. I bought these as a hint that we should go out so that I could see you wear them. Great minds really do think alike."

"Great minds? How great can they be if both of us wanted to go out with the other but never did anything about it?"

"Hey...we've done something about it now so stop worrying about what we didn't do. Do I get to see them on you or not?"

"Of course you do."

Scully leant towards Mulder and kissed him gently. He returned the kiss but, mindful of the other people in the room, namely Bill, they broke away quite quickly. Scully turned away from him to pick up the second present from the floor where she had put them. She handed the parcel to Mulder and looked slightly nervous as he took the wrapping paper off, once again taking little care. She bit her lip as he opened the box he had unwrapped and revealed silver cufflinks in the shape of alien heads.

"I don't want them to cause offence, I saw them and I thought they were cute and...I don't want you to think I'm making fun of you or laughing at your beliefs - I'm not. I still don't quite believe in them but I don't quite not believe either. You've helped open my eyes to the paranormal and I thank you for that. As long as you believe, I will keep my mind open and I will always believe in you."

"Scully...I...they are pretty cute aren't they."

"Mulder!"

Scully laughed at his abrupt change of topic and lightly hit him on his arm. He laughed with her but both could read the seriousness in the other's eyes. She reached for his hand with hers and he grasped it immediately, squeezing gently. His eyes began to fill with happy tears but he blinked them away quickly, coughing to try to cover them up, and reached behind him for her next gift. He held it out to her, slightly hesitant to give her it.

"This next thing - it's not really a present...well it is ...but the meaning behind it isn't.

"What? That didn't make much sense Mulder."

"Here...open it and I'll explain what I mean."

"...Battleships Mulder?"

"Yes. I thought we could play it in our newly furnished office."

"Newly furnished...Mulder, did you get me a desk?"

"Yes. That's what I meant by it not being a present. I should have got you one a long time ago, I just didn't think. I need for you to know that you're both wanted and needed in that office, our office. I'm sorry it took me so long, you should never have needed to question your place there."

"Thank you Mulder. I think that I have always known that I was wanted; but that I was needed...every now and then I wondered. I thought sometimes that I was holding you back...that you would get further without me."

"There's no way...never question that Scully. I wouldn't get anywhere without you...I doubt that I would still be here without you."

He cupped her cheek gently and wiped away a small tear that had ran down it. She leant her head into his light caress and they sat staring into each other's eyes for a long time. They were distracted by an excited shout from Adele as she opened one of her presents and Scully realised that they still had presents to give. She reached for her last present, placing it in Mulder's lap and, after giving her cheek one last stroke, he began to open it, carefully this time. He uncovered a silver picture frame with an angel engraved in the top corner underneath which Scully had had words engraved. In the frame was a close-up of the two of their faces smiling at one another, oblivious to the photographer or any thing else. Mulder lovingly ran his fingers over the picture and then tenderly over the engraved words which read:

'Together we will find the truth. All my love, Your Angel.'

"Scully...it's perfect...it's... Is this one your mom took yesterday?"

"Yes. Mom had finished one of her films with pictures of us coming back from our walk and we got it developed while we were shopping. When I saw this one I knew I had to get a copy. It's one of the first photos of us as a couple and I thought it was lovely...do you really like it?"

"I love it...I really love it. But I think I've already found my truth. It's you, it's us...it's right here in this photo."

"Oh Mulder."

"It's true...I..."

Mulder was unable to finish his sentence and instead pulled Scully tightly to him, placing soft kisses in her hair and then, as she pulled away to see his face, on her forehead. He kissed away the two tears that had escaped her eyes and then caught her mouth with his own. Again, wary of displaying too much in front of Bill, they pulled out of the kiss rather quickly but they remained cuddled together. Mulder stroked her hair gently as the two looked once again at the photo frame until Mulder remembered that he had another gift yet to give.

"Well, I also did a bit of shopping yesterday."

Mulder handed her the last present from the couch, wrapped in kiddie wrapping paper. He apologised for the choice of paper but she shook her head and told him it didn't matter. Saying that, she tore at it vigorously until it came away in her hands and left her holding a black box roughly A4 size. She opened it up and carefully folded away the luxurious tissue paper that was concealing the gift inside.

"Oh Mulder. You shouldn't have."

"I saw you looking at it in the window yesterday and I thought it looked perfect for you."

"Wow...it looks even more gorgeous than it did in the shop."

Scully held up the cornflower blue evening dress that she had admired in a shop window as they had passed it yesterday. She had casually remarked that it was a lovely dress but Mulder had seen through her nonchalant attitude to see how much she really liked it and had went back later to buy it for her. She turned it round to admire the back and caught Mulder's gleaming eyes watching her, relishing in her delight. Carefully placing it back into it's box, she moved towards Mulder and kissed him lightly on both cheeks before moving to his nose. He chuckled and then tipped his head upwards to capture her lips briefly.

"It'll look even better when it's on you. You could wear it when we go out to dinner tomorrow, thanks to your mom."

"That's right. It'll be perfect for our first date."

Maggie had given them a certificate of booking for a table for two at a fancy restaurant at 7pm on Boxing Day. She told them that she had been relieved that they had seen sense before she gave them it because, although she wasn't adverse to some gentle coaxing, she hadn't really wanted to force them to confront their feelings if they weren't ready to. Mulder had been slightly shocked at realising that she had known about his feelings before he had told Scully and possibly even before he had admitted them to himself. He had felt better when Scully had reassured him that he wasn't the only one who her mom had done that to - she also hadn't known until after her mom. They both chuckled about it being an X-File and wondered if Skinner would allow them to investigate it.

Now that all the present giving was over, it was time for everyone to go and get dressed and then to show off all their presents. Maggie took one final photo of them all before beginning to tidy up all the wrapping paper from the floor before Matthew got hold of it. Bill had not been impressed when his son had been more interested in the sparkly wrapping paper Mulder and Scully's gift had been wrapped in than his actual presents.


1pm, Christmas Day

"Hey you two. Are you gonna come sledging with us?"

"Sure Charlie, just give us five minutes to get ready. We didn't think you were going so soon."

"It has been an hour since we decided on it Day, or didn't you notice?"

"Ha ha Charlie, you're so funny. C'mon Mulder, let's go get changed so we're not too cold out there."

"Oh no ...You're not going up together are you. We'll never get going!"

"Charlie...I'm warning you. Cut it out."

"Why do you guys need to get changed anyway...can't you keep each other warm?"

"That's it Charlie...I'm gonna get you for that."

Scully dived at her brother who quickly spun out of her way, still chuckling. She chased him round the room until he collapsed into one of the chairs trying to catch his breath from all the laughing. She pounced on him without giving him a chance to recover and began tickling him relentlessly, obviously a tactic she had learnt from their childhood. Charlie twisted round in his seat so he could reach her and started to tickle her in return. The two of them continued to laugh and squirm and tickle one another until Maggie came into the room with Peter and the twins.

"Dana! Charlie! Stop it this instant!"

The two abruptly stopped at the sound of their mother's shout and both sprung guiltily from the chair, avoiding Maggie's eyes. Dana tried to sort out her hair and Charlie started to fix his shirt as if they could pretend they weren't doing anything wrong, forgetting they were adults. They eventually looked up at Maggie and caught the twinkle in her eyes. They both released a short chuff of laughter and then looked at each other, a gleam now in both of their eyes. They put on serious faces and pointed at each other.

"He started it."

"She started it."

Maggie kept her face serious as her two adult children behaved exactly as they had done when they were children. She lost it though when Scully and Charlie both pouted and started chortling at their antics.

"Oh my gosh. That's exactly the face they used to pull when they knew they were in trouble, Fox. The two of you haven't changed a bit really. Have you? You just pretend to be grown-ups, you're just big kids though aren't you?

The two of them nodded happily whilst grinning at each other. Scully caught Mulder's slightly astonished smile out of the corner of her eye and, as she turned to face him, she saw that the three kids were all staring at their dad and Auntie Day as if they had both gone nuts. Turning back to Charlie, she saw that he too had noticed his children's stares and was trying very hard not to laugh. Scully crouched down and motioned for the twins to come to her. When they did, she pulled them both close and stage-whispered to them.

"That's how you beat your big brother when he starts teasing you when you're older."

"Excuse me...Beat your big brother, Day? When did you ever win?"

"I always won Charlie."

"Nuh uh. I don't think so Day. You always ended up on the floor squealing for mercy."

"I did not."

"Did too."

"Did not."

"Children behave. We have guests present!"

"Mom, who won, me or Day?"

"I won Charlie, I always had to break you two up or you would have never stopped. Anyway...shouldn't two of us in here be getting ready for sledging. The snow will have melted by the time the two of you finish arguing over who won so why don't you call a truce. Then Dana and Fox can go get ready to join us."

"Not a word Charlie...not a word!"

After that warning, Dana turned to go up the stairs to get warmer clothes on. She stopped half way up to wait for Mulder and, after making sure Charlie was watching and the kids were still in the other room, she jumped into his arms. She attacked him with a vicious kiss and, realising what she was doing, Mulder stopped walking and started to lower them both onto the stairs without releasing her mouth. Charlie laughed, then threw his hands up in mock despair and walked back into the lounge shaking his head. They broke the kiss when they realised he had gone and Scully began giggling. Mulder laughed too and then brought their mouths together for a gentler kiss, both still lying on the stairs. They were interrupted by a loud cough and looked up to see Tara gesturing frantically for them to get up. Instantly recognising what she was trying to tell them, they hastily stood and had started to walk properly up the stairs before Bill came out of his room with Matthew.


2.30pm, Christmas Day

The whole lot of them had finally gotten out of the house and, all dressed in sensible winter clothing, made their way to a nearby park. There were not many children there and so the kids all quickly got a shot on their sledges, the adults all taking turns to go with them. They had rapidly chosen one hill as the best and the adults decided to stay on that hill rather than traipse around between runs.

Maggie and Tara were both standing near the bottom of the hill off to one side, taking photographs of the children as they came down the hill and then as they lay in the snow at the bottom. Charlie had just left them after giving his camera to his mom and was on his way back up to join the others at the top. Bill had just returned from taking Mattie down a smaller, less steep hill and was now being pestered by his nephew.

"Uncle Bill. I wanna go with you. Will you go down the hill with me? Please?"

"Here Dana. Can you take Mattie so I can go with Peter?"

"Sure Bill. No problem."

Bill handed Mattie to Scully and crossed to sit down on the sledge that his nephew was holding onto. When he was settled he lifted Peter onto the front of the sledge and shifted it into position at the top of the hill. Scully had turned Mattie round in her arms so that he could watch his daddy go down the hill and she waved his arm at the two of them to say goodbye. Jess got on the second sledge along with Abby, leaving Adele behind with Mulder, Mattie and Scully. The four of them watched the two sledges fly down the hill and cheered when they reached the bottom. Scully was then distracted by a sharp tug on her trouser leg.

"Auntie Day. You said you'd go wif me."

"I need to hold Mattie just now Adele."

"But you said."

"I'll go down when Uncle Bill comes back okay?"

"No. Now! Auntie Day, please?"

"Umm... Mulder, can you hold Mattie."

"I really don't think I should Scully. I don't think Bill will be too happy about it."

"Well Bill's not here and Adele will start to cry if I don't go with her. Besides, Bill's not been too bad since yesterday has he? ...Has he?"

"No ...It's just I don't think he'd want me to be holding his son."

"Mulder, just take him. It will only be for five minutes at the most."

"Okay, give him here. Have fun...try not to fall off."

"Thanks Mulder, I'll try."

Mulder gave her a kiss for luck as she passed Mattie over to him and she squeezed his shoulder gently. Picking up Adele, she sat down on the sledge and scooted nearer to the edge so that she could push off down the hill. By this time Bill and Peter had reached the bottom and were making their way back up the hill but Jess and Abby had stopped to talk to Tara and Maggie on their way. Mulder watched Scully and Adele speed towards the bottom and jiggled Mattie gently in his arms. He let out a chuff of laughter when the sledge overturned at the bottom, leaving the two sitting in the snow. Mattie giggled, hearing Mulder's merriment and clapped his hands as best he could with his mittens on.

Charlie had taken a rather long detour around the hill so that he was approaching from behind, a sneaky plan forming in his mind. He crept up behind Mulder and packed a ball of snow, not realising that Mulder was holding his nephew. He threw it at Mulder, hitting him on the back of the neck and continued walking as he laughed, ending up standing beside him. Caught unawares, Mulder gave a surprised yell as the cold snow trickled down his neck, startling Mattie in his arms. Mattie began crying loudly and Bill came running quickly up the last stretch of the hill, Peter following closely behind. Bill reached Mulder and; knowing only that his son was upset, not the reason why, grabbed Mattie from him.

"What did you do to my son? Give him to me!"

"Bill..."

"Charlie stay out of this! Now Mr Mulder, I may not have a choice when it comes to my sister but I do not want you anywhere near Mattie. Is that clear?"

"Bill..."

"No, Mr Mulder. I don't want him getting hurt like everyone else who's ever known you. It's bad enough that you won't leave Dana alone, to stop her getting hurt, but I will not have you hurting my son."

"Bill..."

"Charlie, it doesn't matter."

"But Mulder... Bill, it wasn't his fault Mattie was crying."

"Oh, no! Sorry, I forgot, nothing's ever his fault. So why is it he leaves a trail of injuries and suffering wherever he goes, huh? And why is it that no-one else seems to care, no-one else realises that Dana will be next and that this asshole doesn't give a damn?"

"Bill, watch your language please...Peter."

"Sorry Charlie. You say you love her, Mr Mulder, but you don't seem to care too much about her well-being. She's my sister, damn it, and I will not sit idly by while you ruin her life, not caring whether she lives or dies, as long as she's with you."

"I do care Bill. Scully..."

"Which one? Have you not realised that we're all 'Scully'...she has a first name."

"God Bill. Are you just completely inventing excuses not to like him now? Just calm down, there's no need to be shouting like this."

"There's every need Charlie because Mulder here doesn't seem to get it. Fact is that everyone he comes in contact with gets hurt - even if it is 'unintentional' as he says. I don't want that to happen to my son. Come on Charlie - you have to think about Jess and your kids, do you really want to realise too late that it's true?"

"Bill, you're being entirely unreasonable. Mulder, where are you going?"

"I'm gonna head back to the house. Tell Scu...Dana when she gets back for me would you, Charlie."

"Mulder, don't be stupid."

"Charlie, if the man wants to leave - good riddance to him."

"I really don't understand you Bill. You're my brother but you are being such an a... idiot."

Mulder turned away from the two brothers then, leaving them to argue and trudged down the hill towards the road. He met Maggie on his way, who was also heading home, having things still to do for the evening meal. She guessed from his demeanour that something had happened but Mulder refused to talk about it so she let it be, planning on asking her sons about it later. They walked home in almost complete silence, Mulder answering her few questions with a variety of non-committal grunts. After she had asked him the same question three times and gotten no response, Maggie stopped trying to get him to talk, instead mentally working out a list of what still needed to be done when she got home.


9.00pm, Christmas Day

After dinner Mrs Scully had invited her neighbours over along with some of her relatives and they now were all gathered in the lounge. Her two sisters had come, bringing with them their children and grandchildren, who were asleep with her own grandchildren upstairs. All of her neighbours had brought some food and drink so she had set up a buffet in the kitchen for people to help themselves from. The noise level was pretty high due to copious amounts of alcohol being consumed and the vast number of conversations that were taking place at the same time.

The only person in the room not joining in was Mulder who stood silently by the door, politely ignoring Scully's frequent gestures to go over to join her and her two second-cousins on the couch. Scully was growing increasingly worried about him, as he had been distant ever since she came back from sledging, gently but firmly pulling away every time she tried to even hold his hand. He had not told her why he had left the sledging early and, when she had asked Charlie about it, he had told her that if Mulder wouldn't tell her it was not his place to do so. She had also tried to ask Bill but he had denied any knowledge of what had happened and swiftly changed the subject. From that response she had realised that Bill had played a big part in Mulder's current mood but still he would not tell her what had been said. She watched Mulder as he made his way out of the lounge into the hall and went to follow him but was intercepted by Mrs Currie, her mother's next-door neighbour. She saw Mulder meet Charlie and Peter, who were coming down the stairs, and crouch down to Peter's height in order to talk to him but she couldn't hear what was being said.

"Hey buddy, how are you doing? It's pretty late for you to be up. Aren't you tired yet?"

"Daddy...don't let him. I want up."

"What's wrong? ...Don't let Mulder what, Peter?"

"Don't let him hurt me daddy. I don't wanna get hurt."

Mulder straightened up from his crouch hurriedly as Peter tried his hardest to hide behind his father's legs. Charlie bent down to pick him up and Peter burrowed his head into Charlie's chest, not wanting to see Mulder. Trying to find out what was wrong, Charlie attempted to pry his son away from him slightly to see his face but Peter clung tightly to him and would not lift his head. Mulder looked away quickly to mask his hurt feelings and started to move past Charlie to go up the stairs.

"Mulder, he didn't mean anything by it. He must have heard Bill earlier...I didn't realise...he just..."

"Leave it Charlie, it doesn't matter."

"Mulder...Mulder..."

Ignoring Charlie's calls, Mulder moved up the stairs, almost running away from the two of them, and went into Scully's room. He came out five minutes later dressed in jogging bottoms, a sweatshirt and running shoes. He closed the door behind him and placed his hat on his head, ready to go out running. Making his way back down the stairs he opened the front door, hoping to escape without being noticed. Charlie had been watching for him to come back however and caught his arm just as he was about to leave. Mulder sighed and turned to face him, desperately wanting to just get out of the house and be left alone.

"Where are you going Mulder?"

"I'm going out for a run...would you tell Sc...Dana when you see her. Tell her that I left my keys and wallet in her room - I'm not going home, just for a run."

"I'll come with you if you give me a couple of minutes to get changed."

"No, Charlie. You should stay here, it's where you're meant to be."

"You're meant to be here too, Mulder."

"It's your family Charlie, I don't belong in there. I don't even belong in this house as your brother told me."

"My brother talks out his ass Mulder. You must know that by now."

"See that's the thing Charlie, he wasn't talking crap. That stuff he said this afternoon - it's not as if it's never crossed my mind before. It's not even the first time it's been said to me, I just never really thought about it properly. Your sister usually made sure I didn't - but now that I do..."

"Mulder, Day wouldn't want you to be thinking like this - you just said so yourself. Bill was being an ass. He..."

"Forget it, Charlie. I'll be back in an hour or so, maybe more."

Charlie shook his head as he watched Mulder leave, silently cursing his big brother's interference. He followed Mulder's progress down the path with his eyes, only slightly shocked by the realisation that he was watching a broken man. Shutting the front door, he felt a hand on his back and he turned to see his mother standing behind him. He saw confusion in his mother's eyes and wished that he had told her what had happened earlier. He realised that she would have probably been able to handle it much better than he had, and that she would have known whether to tell Dana or not.

"Was that Fox? Did he leave?"

"He's just gone for a run. He said he is coming back."

"Why did he go, Charlie? What happened this afternoon?"

"Mom..."

"I've been watching him grow more and more detached ever since I walked him home from sledging and I heard what Peter just said to him, Charlie. Dana doesn't have a clue what's going on and she's getting pretty concerned about him - so am I. I let it go earlier and didn't press for the details but I think it's time you told me what's going on."

"I thought Mulder would tell Dana...or I thought he would just ignore it - you know? Shake it off but..."

The two of them had been walking down the hall as they talked and had reached the empty kitchen. Charlie pulled out a chair for his mother to sit on and then sat down on the seat next to her. Staring out of the window trying to collect his thoughts, he smiled as he remembered seeing Mulder and Scully kissing on Christmas Eve through the window whilst he was building a snowman with his children. Shaking away the memory, he rubbed his hands over his face, trying to sort out how to tell his mother what needed to be said. Maggie caught one of his hands in hers, pulling it away from his face and recognised the reason behind his hesitation.
"Charlie, the easiest way is to just go from the beginning. How did it all start?"

"It was my fault. I threw a snowball at Mulder when he was holding Mattie - I didn't realise, didn't even think... Anyway, Mattie began to cry and Bill jumped to his own conclusion that Mulder had caused him to cry."

"Of course. So... did Bill say something to him?"

"Did he ever! I never knew until this afternoon how much of an asshole my brother could be...No offence, mom, but he has been acting like a complete bastard to Mulder."

"As much as I hate to admit it about my own son, I actually realise that Charlie, but what did he say to Fox this afternoon?"

"He said he didn't want Mulder holding Mattie - he told him that he didn't want his son getting hurt."

"What? I don't understand - hurt how?"

"Hurt like 'everyone else Mulder's ever known' according to Bill. Apparently he thinks that Dana's going to be the next to be hurt and Mulder doesn't give a shit -sorry mom, didn't mean to swear."

"Nothing I haven't heard before. Anyway, that's a load of rubbish - Fox cares more about Dana than he does about himself."

"I know that mom. I only met him two days ago and even I can see how much he cares about her but Bill just can't see past his own hatred of the guy."

"Everyone has their faults Charlie. Bill's just happens to be called Fox Mulder - which doesn't excuse it though. I'm glad you told me Charlie - even if it did take a while. When did Fox say he was coming back - we need to get this fixed."
"He said about an hour but, in his mood, it could be a lot longer... Are you going to tell Day?"

"I'm not sure. She really should know but, if we can sort it out, then there's no reason to upset her. I think I'll wait a while unless she gets really worried - or if he doesn't come back."

"He said he left his keys and wallet upstairs - he's not going home."

"That's a relief. Okay Charlie - go put your son to bed and then enjoy yourself. We can't do anything else until Fox comes back. I don't particularly want to make a scene with Bill in front of all my guests so that will have to wait until later as well."

"Okay mom."

Charlie let out a sigh of relief, feeling much better now that he knew he wasn't alone, that his mother could help get this sorted out. He stood up and walked into the lounge to get Peter from his wife and take him to bed, leaving Maggie sitting alone in the kitchen. Looking around, she caught sight of a photo on her fridge and stood to look at it more closely. It was one off the reel she had had developed on Christmas Eve and showed both Mulder and Scully playing out in the snow. She thought of how happy they had been then, even after Bill's first outburst and hoped that this second rift could be healed just as quickly so that they could get back to being that happy once again.


11.00pm, Christmas Day

It had been over two hours since Mulder had left to go jogging and Maggie was beginning to grow quite worried. She said goodbye to her guests at the door and thanked them for coming, all the while watching for him to come running down the street. As the last of her guests pulled out in their car, she looked through to the lounge and saw her daughter standing in the now-empty, darkened room. Scully was peering through the window, scanning the dark snow-covered street outside, also waiting for him to get back. Maggie walked through to her and laid her hand gently on her shoulder. Jumping slightly at the unexpected contact, Scully turned away from the window for an instant and then relaxed under her mother's hold.

"He promised he wouldn't run off, mom. He promised he would talk to me."

"He hasn't run off Dana. He left his keys and wallet upstairs... remember. He probably just went out to clear his head...think about things."

"Why couldn't he have thought about things with me? Why didn't he tell me what was wrong?"

"Maybe he wanted to sort it out for himself. Maybe he thought it would upset you if he told you what happened...Or maybe he thought you would tell him it was true."

"What was true? You do know what happened, don't you? Mom, tell me. Please, I need to know...was it me, did I do something or say something wrong? Please mom."

"I..."

Maggie didn't know how to finish her sentence, now that her daughter was looking at her as if shehad betrayed her, so she stopped speaking. Scully opened her mouth to ask her mother once again what had happened to make Mulder go out when she caught sight of him turning into the street. Shrugging her mother's hand on her shoulder aside, she rushed to open the door for him, frantic to know that he was alright. She walked out of the door and part of the way down the path as he approached her. When he reached the bottom of the driveway she could remain silent no more and called out to him.

"Mulder."

"Oh, hey S...Dana."

"Dana...since when do you call me Dana, Mulder?"

"It's your name isn't it?"

"Yes but..."

Scully stopped abruptly and looked on in shock as Mulder brushed past her and walked into the house. He had started to head up the stairs before she could close the door and had nearly reached the top by the time she caught up with him. He didn't acknowledge her presence and kept walking until he was in her room, rummaging through his bag. She watched as he removed shower gel and his pyjama bottoms from his bag and picked up a towel from the pile on her dresser.

"I'm gonna take a shower and go to bed if that's okay. I'm beat."

"Sure Mulder, that's fine. I'm ready to hit the sack as well."

"Okay then. Goodnight, I'll see you in the morning."

"Wh..."

She had been going to ask why he was acting like he was and why he wasn't going to sleep with her as he had done for the past two nights. The door to the bathroom in the hall closed between them however, cutting off her question before it had begun. Bewildered at his obvious brush-off, she raised her fist to knock on the door but dropped it back down to her side as she heard the shower start up. Still puzzled, she made her way back to her room to get ready for bed, intending on finishing her conversation with him when he brought his stuff back after his shower. After changing into her pyjamas, she lay down in her bed to wait for him, wishing that he was lying there with her and holding her as he had done the two nights previously. After a long while, she realised that he was not going to come back in and got up off her bed, putting her robe on to go downstairs to find him.

She searched the whole of the downstairs but Mulder wasn't in any of the rooms. Just as she was about to go back upstairs, she heard a quiet murmur that came from the direction of the back door. Walking back through to the kitchen, she looked out of the foggy window and saw Mulder sitting on the porch swing with her mother. They both had blankets wrapped around them and had obviously taken cushions from the lounge out to sit on, rather than sit on the snow-free but frosty seat. Deep in conversation, they had not heard her moving about in the kitchen and were unaware of her presence. She moved closer to the door, anxious to hear what they were saying, yet aware that she really should not be eavesdropping.

"Fox, you can't take what Bill said to heart. He has never liked any guy Dana has ever even spoken to - I'm not excusing his behaviour, just trying to explain it a bit. You can't let him come in the way of you and Dana. Just think of how happy you both were and now look at the two of you. You need to talk to her Fox, she thinks she's done something wrong. We didn't tell her what happened earlier so she doesn't know that you're upset because of something Bill said. Dana wouldn't want you to think it was true - it's not."

"But you see Maggie, it is true. Dana told me the very same thing once."

"What? I'm sure she didn't or, if she did, she can't have meant it."

"She might not have meant it exactly the way Bill meant it but the words were all there."

"When was this, Fox?"

"It was about a year ago - we were on a missing-persons case. She told me that I was just like Ahab in 'Moby Dick', continuing my quest until everyone around me was dead."

"That's not exactly how I said it Mulder and it's definitely not what I meant."

"Dana, I didn't hear you come down. ...I'll leave you two alone - you need to talk."

"Indeed we do...thanks mom."

"No problem sweetie. Night, Fox."

"Goodnight Maggie."

Scully pushed the door fully open and walked out onto the porch, holding the door for her mother before closing it once more. She shivered as she made her way over to the swing and pulled her robe more tightly around her. Sitting down beside Mulder, she took the blanket that her mother had left and wrapped it snugly about her body, tucking her legs up beneath her on the cushions. Mulder did not look up at her until she gently eased his chin round to face her with her hand. He leant into her gently cupping hand and reached out for her with both of his arms. She gladly moved into his embrace and held him tightly for a long moment, then pulled away slightly so that she could sit comfortably in his arms whilst not falling off the swing. Twisting round on the seat, Mulder shifted both of them so that their legs were straight out along the length of the swing and she sat on his lap, her back against his chest. He opened his blanket and wrapped it around her as well, holding it tightly in place with his arms.

"Scully..."

"So we're back to 'Scully' now are we?"

"I apologise for before - I was confused."

"I was confused too Mulder, in fact I kind of still am. Was this - your distant attitude, going running and then almost ignoring me - all because of something Bill said? I thought we agreed you would talk to me if he said anything else."

"I thought you would agree with him and I wasn't sure whether I could handle you telling me that again."

"What exactly did he say? ... No one seems to want to tell me."

"He said basically what you said in the middle of that lake - that I get everyone around me hurt and I don't give a toss."

"That's not true, I know it's not - and it's not exactly what I said. I already told you that that's not what I meant when I said what I did on that rock."

"Well, what did you mean then Scully?"

"If you think back, you'll remember that the first thing that I said was that you would get yourself killed - that was the important part to me. That's the part that I didn't want to happen. The rest of what I said was just about Ahab in the book, I didn't want you to know how strongly I felt about your seemingly self-destructive mission."

"What? Sorry...I don't really understand."

"I loved you way back then - was in love with you, even though I didn't really know it. I was scared that, if I stopped speaking after I had said about you getting yourself killed, you would be able to see my feelings too well so I covered by going back to the book - back to what I knew. I didn't think you felt the same way about me so it was better, easier I suppose, to just keep going. I didn't even stop to think about what I was saying - what effect it might have on you. You didn't say anything about it, so I didn't think about it anymore until I heard you telling my mom what you remembered me saying."

"I didn't realise...so you don't think it's my fault - my quest that has been the cause of everything? I mean Bill's right, a lot of people have been hurt."

"Yes, people have gotten hurt along the way - you and me both included - but it's hardly your fault. The people to blame are the men...aliens...whatever...behind the conspiracy - they're the ones who've hurt you, me and countless others along the way. They're the ones that Bill should be mad at, not you - never you."

"I love you Scully. You know that, right?"

"I know. I love you too."

Scully turned in Mulder's arms and sought out his lips with her own, her hands still encased in the blanket surrounding her. He released his hold slightly so that she could move her arms free and then pulled her back to him as they kissed hungrily. She sat up properly so that she was straddling Mulder's waist and her legs dangled over the arm of the swing. Their heated embrace caused the swing to rock slightly and, when it tilted just a little too far, they broke the kiss. Both panting for breath they giggled as they realised that they had nearly fallen right off the swing onto the cold porch floor. Standing up, Scully picked the blankets and cushions up and put them in the kitchen, returning to the porch and Mulder who was still sitting somewhat dazed on the swing. Moving to stand in front of him, she held out her hand for him to take as she spoke.

"Bill and Tara are leaving on the 27th so we only have to deal with him for one more whole day. We can do it ... right?"

"Sure we can Scully. Not that it matters too much, but why are they leaving?"

"The three of them are going to visit Tara's parents for a couple of days. They're coming back on New Year's Eve though."

"Oh...right."

"Anyway...I think it's about time we went to bed, don't you? I'm totally exhausted and we're gonna have another long day tomorrow. The kids will probably get us up early again and then we have our date at night."

"That's right - our very first date. So...sofa-bed?"

"No. Why don't we go up and sleep in my bed, it's warmer and more comfortable."

"Scully..."

"I just want to cuddle - nothing else. Also, this way we won't get any early visitors tomorrow morning hopefully. Is that okay?"

"Of course. Let's go snuggle, Angel."

"You haven't called me that since this morning. ...I missed it."

"Well I'll just have to make up for it then, won't I Angel?"

"You bet you are and you'll have plenty of time to do it."

The two of them made their way inside and walked upstairs hand in hand, both happy again now that things were right between them once more. Once they got to Scully's room, they let go of each other's hands so that they could get in opposite sides of the bed. Once they were under the covers though, they both moved straight to the middle of the bed and cuddled as close together as they could. Scully lifted her head to give Mulder a kiss and then lay her head back down on his chest as he pulled her body even tighter to his. They moved their legs so that they were completely entangled and, feeling comforted and secure, they both closed their eyes and drifted quickly off to sleep.


9.00am, Boxing Day

Mulder woke well rested, finding that he was still cuddled right up to Scully and realised that he had been nuzzling against her chest in his sleep. Just as he was about to pull away, he felt her small hand on the back of his neck, urging him closer to her breast. He sneaked a look at her face and found himself looking into half-open, still sleepy eyes that were full of desire. He moved closer to her and heard her give a soft sigh as he neared the place of her longing. She moaned as his mouth closed over the tip of her right nipple through her pyjama top and brought her other hand to his head to keep him from leaving. He moved his hand up to separate the two sides of her top, unbuttoning the only still-fastened button on his way past it. He was just starting to edge the silky fabric away, exposing bare skin to his eager mouth when a loud knocking at the bedroom door interrupted him. Scully hastily redid the buttons on her top whilst Mulder scooted up the bed so his head rested on the pillow. They just managed to get themselves settled so that they didn't look 'interrupted' when Maggie popped her head round the door.

"Sorry if I woke you. Do you have Mattie in here with you?"

"No, Mom. Why would we have Mattie? ...What's wrong?"

"We can't find him...he's gone. He was in his crib sleeping and now he's not. Bill and Tara are frantic, they only left him for a couple of minutes to get some breakfast and when they came back up to get him he wasn't there."

"Oh my God. Give us two minutes and we'll be right down."

Nodding, Maggie left the room as Scully got swiftly out of bed and, picking up some clothes, went into the bathroom to get dressed. Mulder grabbed clean clothes from his bag and hurriedly dressed whilst she was in the bathroom, sitting down on the bed to wait impatiently for her to finish. He left without her though when he heard a panicky yell come from Jessica, and he rushed downstairs, calling to Scully that she needed to hurry.

When he reached the den he found Charlie and Jessica cuddled together, Jess trying very hard to calm down. Looking around he saw Maggie sitting on the sofa with the twins, holding them close and trying to soothe their frightened cries. He opened his mouth to ask what was wrong but recognised that no one was in a state to answer him at that moment. He waited for a long moment as he watched Charlie try to force words out of his mouth to explain what was going on and then turned towards the door expecting Scully to walk in. Instead he saw Bill and Tara walking into the room alone, tears running down Tara's face, and he realised that someone else was missing.

"Peter. Where's Peter?"

"He was in here watching cartoons on the T.V. with the girls but when Jess came in she found only the girls here. She called out and gave the girls a fright but they're okay. He was here...where could he have gone? How..."

Charlie broke off, unable to speak for fear of breaking down completely, instead concentrating on holding Jessica tightly in his arms. She had started to sob in her husband's arms whilst he was explaining the circumstance to the others and Tara had hidden her face in Bill's chest as she heard Charlie speak. Mulder turned towards the doorway, averting his eyes from the two distraught couples, and found Scully standing there with a questioning look on her face. She had come in after Charlie had spoken and so didn't know the newest update. Mulder saw her begin to ask what was going on so he crossed to her quickly and quietly explained the situation, not wanting to upset the parents anymore than they already were. She gasped as she realised the seriousness of the situation and tears welled in her eyes too. Mulder pulled her into his arms and whispered gently in her ear that they needed to be the strong ones - they needed to keep their heads. She nodded into his chest and, after one last squeeze she pulled away and wiped her eyes dry. Taking a deep breath she asked her mother where they had looked for them and if there was anywhere in the house they could have missed.

"Dana we looked everywhere for Mattie - we didn't see Peter while we were looking either. We all thought he was in here though, with the girls."

"Jess, Charlie...sorry but when did you guys last see Peter? Was it before or after you knew Mattie was missing?"

"Umm...before I think Day. The kids were watching cartoons while we had breakfast with Tara and Bill and then they went upstairs. When they came down they told us Mattie was gone. We helped look - the kids were all still in the den as far as we knew until Jess came in ...then..."

"It's okay, Charlie. We'll find them."

Scully watched as her brothers both comforted their wives, trying to be strong for them but failing miserably. She made sure her mother was going to stay with the girls and pulled Mulder gently by the arm until he followed her out into the lounge. She started to tell him what she was planning to do but realised that Mulder was staring at the wall blankly and wasn't paying any attention to her. She tugged on his sleeve but all that did was make him put his arms around and hold her close, swaying them both slightly. She eased gently away from his tight hold and tilted his head down toward her until she was looking straight into his eyes.

"Mulder...Mulder...you with me?"

"Oh, sorry. Sure I'm with you, Scully."

"What's wrong? You looked like you were somewhere else."

"It's just it reminds me of Sam ... of how my parents were...I don't want anything to happen to those little guys...they're so small...what if its happened again...I couldn't bare...Scully... she...they...I..."

"Oh, Mulder..."

"I'm fine Scully...I'm fine."

"No you're not."

"No ... but I will be. We need to find the kids - that's what's important. I just can't help thinking that it's my fault. I couldn't save HER and now...Bill's right - people I know do get hurt, or go missing. I...I..."

"Come on Mulder, like you said - you need to keep it together. Tara and Jess are already a mess and Bill and Charlie aren't far off it. We both need to keep calm about this - how else are we going to find them?"

"You're right Scully. I'm sorry, I just..."

"I know Mulder. I know it's hard but you've got to try. There's no need to apologise either, I understand what's wrong but we can't afford personal feelings just now."

"I know. So what do we do?"

"Let's search the house once more...it won't take too long and it might solve this quickly and easily."

"Okay. I'll take upstairs, you take down."

"No problem. Mulder...just...hurry would you?"

"Of course."

Mulder bent down to give her a quick peck on the lips and she squeezed him gently before letting him go completely. She watched as he bounded off to go upstairs and then set out to search the downstairs thoroughly. She went through the rooms one by one, checking in every single cupboard and behind every piece of furniture. Calling out Peter's name as she went, she heard Jessica's sobbing increase in volume from n the den, soon joined by Tara's. She quickly realised that there was nowhere that they could be downstairs and so went through to the hall, intending to go upstairs to help Mulder. When she got to the bottom of the stairs however, Mulder was just coming down them, shaking his head at her hopeful glance. Her face fell as did her hopes and she stood still, momentarily paralysed by her fear for her nephews. She knew that, as a trained FBI agent, she should know exactly what to do but she found that her mind had gone blank in the panic that was overtaking her. As she thought of her job her thoughts cleared, letting her think rationally about what she had to do and she headed towards the phone on the hall table. As she lifted the receiver, Mulder put his hand over the hand that was getting ready to dial the emergency number and closed his fingers around hers, stopping her from doing just that.

"What are you doing Scully?"

"I'm calling the police."

"No Scully, wait. Isn't it a bit too soon to involve the police? They've only been gone twenty minutes at the most."

"Mattie's only five-months old Mulder. There's no way he could have got out of his crib, never mind been able to hide from us for this long."

"I suppose you're right. He can't have gotten out, not on his own at least. ...Scully, what if Peter took him out? Could he have done that?"

"Probably...yes, that could have happened. But where are they now Mulder. If that's what actually happened - where did they go? We've checked everywhere."

"I don't know Sc ... wait a minute. Peter said something about taking Mattie out into the snow when we were out sledging yesterday.He got upset when we told him that Mattie was too little to play with them, remember? Peter might have just taken Mattie to play in the snow with him. Did anyone check the garden?"

"I'm not sure...I think so."

"Let's check it again."

Mulder pulled Scully by the hand he was still clutching and they both rushed through the kitchen, bursting hastily through the back door. Their eyes quickly scanned Mrs Scully's pretty extensive garden for the two boys but neither could see any sign of them. The snow had been falling heavily for most of the morning and would already have covered any tracks that Peter's little feet would have made. Scully had just turned to Mulder to tell him that they should go back in when a sudden movement caught her eye. Her head whipped back round and she searched the garden for the motion she had detected and, just as she was beginning to think that she had been mistaken, she saw it again. Mulder had looked at her curiously when she had spun back round and was trying to follow her gaze to determine what she had spotted. He didn't see anything in the snowy garden and was confused when she tugged on his hand and started running across the snow, hope replacing the fear and worry that had been in her eyes. He followed her anyway, trusting that she was right and soon he saw what she had already noticed. There on the stark landscape of the garden he could see a splash of colour, which was moving slightly in the wind. As he looked more closely, he could see that it was the same colour and shape as the hat that Peter had been wearing when they had gone sledging the day before. Near the hat, in the far corner of the garden, there was a mound of snow that looked very much like the beginnings of a snowman. He suddenly remembered Charlie telling them that, the day before he had arrived, they had built a small igloo in the garden for Peter to play in. Still hand in hand, he quickened their pace and they quickly arrived at the entrance to the small snow building. Scully crouched down in the snow in front of the igloo and peered in, not caring that the wet snow was seeping through her clothes.

"Peter? ... Peter honey?"

"Scully, is he there? You're blocking the entrance and I can't see. Talk to me Scully?"


"Scully, is he there? You're blocking the entrance and I can't see. Talk to me Scully?"

"Mulder...he's asleep. They both are."

"Asleep?"

"Yeah, completely fast asleep. Thank God. Awww, Peter must have put Mattie's snowsuit on him...backwards."

"C'mon Scully, let's get them out of there. I think your brothers and their wives might just like to see them."

"Of course. Let me get Mattie and you can get Peter. Okay?"

"Sure...I don't know if Peter will really appreciate this though."

"Why not Mulder?"

"It doesn't matter. Have you got Mattie?"

"Yes. On you go in for Peter, I think he's beginning to wake up...Mulder, I know you said it doesn't matter but I want to know what you meant...Mulder?"

"Let's just get them inside Scully. I'll tell you later if you really need to know."

"I do. Ready?"

"Yes, let's go return these two rascals to their parents."

Mulder and Scully carried the two boys close to their chests to protect them from the snow, which was pelting them relentlessly. The wind had picked up as well and Scully's hair blew in her eyes, blocking her view. She stopped moving to try and clear her vision but her hair kept blowing straight back as soon as she had swiped it away. Mulder noticed that she was no longer beside him and turned back to grab her free hand and they made their way across the garden to the house together. Pushing the door open, Mulder placed his hand on Scully's back to guide her in and followed her through. They hurried to knock the snow off their shoes and went straight to the den where everyone was still gathered.
Jess and Tara's tears had stopped and they were both now sitting in their husband's arms staring blankly at the floor. All five adults looked up expectantly at Mulder and Scully as they entered and they all rushed to them when they saw the two boys in their arms. They handed them over to their gratified and relieved parents and took a step back so that Scully was in Mulder's arms and they were both out of the way. The two boys were hugged by all of them, which caused Mattie to wake up but Peter slept through it all. Once all the hugging was over, Jess and Tara sat back down with their sons in their laps, holding them as close to them as they could. Charlie was choked up with emotion so when he turned to speak to Mulder and Scully, he found himself unable to say a word, instead letting his brother take over.

"Where were they Dana?"

"We found them fast asleep in the igloo that you and Charlie built for Peter yesterday. Peter thought Mattie would enjoy playing in the snow so he took him out and then they must have been tired so he took him into the igloo to sleep."

"What on earth made you think to look there, Dana? I had forgotten all about that."

"It was Mulder who thought of it really, mom. He remembered something Peter had said yesterday about wanting to play with Mattie in the snow. We thought it was worth a shot so we both went to look outside and saw Peter's hat lying on the snow - it must have fallen off when he was getting to the igloo. Then we saw the snow heap and remembered about the igloo."

"Thanks Day. Thanks Mulder. I don't know what I ...thank you both so much."

"No problem Charlie. We're both just so glad that we found them and that they're both okay."

"We're going to take Mattie up to his crib. He's still tired and should really get some more sleep if we're going out later."

"Okay Bill."

Bill and Tara made their way across the room and went through the door to the lounge, heading upstairs. Scully twisted round to face Mulder who had bent down somewhat and was resting his chin on her shoulder, his arms tightly wrapped around her. She was just about to ask him about what he had meant outside when he caught her lips with his own, slightly smirking into the kiss since he knew exactly what she had been going to ask. Peter chose that moment to wake up and, after a brief instant of confusion, he smiled up at his mom from where he was sitting on her lap and then turned round to face the room. He spotted Mulder standing near the doorway into the kitchen still cuddling Scully and pushed himself off his mother's lap. He walked over to the two of them and held his arms out to Mulder, demanding, without saying a word, to be picked up. Mulder looked unsure, remembering the boy's comments and frightened behaviour the day before but when he looked over to Charlie he found him nodding that it was okay. He let go of Scully after giving her a quick squeeze and a light kiss placed on her brow, which was furrowed in confusion.

Mulder bent down to reach Peter's level and was taken aback at the force of the hug that Peter bestowed upon him. He straightened up taking Peter, whose arms were still wound tightly around his neck, with him. He stood for a long moment just cradling him in his arms and wondering what Peter would do next. Hearing him mumbling something into his neck, he leaned his head backwards so that Peter was no longer speaking into his neck.

"What is it Peter?"

"I'm sorry Mr Fox. I didn't mean to make you sad. I 'm sorry."

"Hey that's okay kiddo. It's alright now."

"Daddy told me Uncle Bill wasn't telling the truth - but I never knew. I'm sorry. Will you be my friend again?"

"Course I will Peter."

"Thank you. Mr Fox ... will you come ice-skating with us later? Daddy says you'll come if I ask nicely. Please?"

"Uh...Scully? Are we going skating?"

"Yup. Didn't I tell you before? We hired skates when we went to the Mall on Christmas Eve and Charlie's going to pick them up. We're all going but mom and Bill aren't going to skate - they'll just watch all of us make fools of ourselves."

"Okay...well then Peter, I guess I'll be going skating with you. You'll need to help me though - it's been a long time since I've done any ice-skating."

"Don't worry Mr Fox. Daddy taught me how to skate last year - I won't let you fall."

"Thank you Peter. I wouldn't want to fall and embarrass your Auntie Day now would I?"

"How are you going to embarrass me Mulder? If you fall you'll only embarrass yourself."

"Oh no Scully. If I go down, you're going down with me."

"You wouldn't."

Mulder just smiled a cheeky grin at her and when Peter started laughing he joined in, glad that the little boy was no longer afraid of him. Scully glared at him for a moment but she too started laughing, unable to keep her face straight when the two of them were laughing so hard. As all three calmed down, Scully wrapped her arm around the back of Mulder and leaned against him on the opposite side to where Peter was. He pulled her tighter to him with his free arm and she tilted her head up for a kiss. Peter wriggled in Mulder's arms as he became bored with watching them smooch and Mulder reluctantly released her mouth so he could set him back on the floor. Once he was standing tall again and Peter had gone back to his parents, they both edged backwards into the kitchen, closing the door so that they could kiss in private. Mulder bent his knees slightly, wrapping his arms around Scully's thighs so that he lifted her when he stood up properly again. Their mouths were now on the same level as each other and they wasted no time in joining them firmly, and passionately, together again. Scully eventually pulled out of their kiss in order to breathe and they rested their foreheads against one another.

"So what did Peter hear Bill say? Is this something else you've been keeping secret from me?"

"No...he heard what Bill said to me when we were sledging yesterday. He thought I would hurt him so he didn't want to be near me."

"Oh, Mulder..."

"It's alright. It's over with now and he's not scared of me anymore as I think you saw just there. I do think I'm going to have bruises from that bear hug of his though."

"Well maybe your doctor should take a look - just to be sure there's no permanent damage."

"Maybe she should - you haven't seen her anywhere lately have you?"

"Hey!"

"I'm only kidding Scully. You know that I wouldn't want to play doctor with anyone but you."

"Glad to hear it. I suppose I'll just have to take a look then."

"I suppose you will."

Mulder walked backwards further into the kitchen and sank into one of the kitchen chairs bringing Scully down with him to sit in his lap. She tugged on his jacket until it fell away onto the floor and started pressing gentle kisses to his neck at the site of the 'bruises'. While she was busy examining his neck he pushed her coat off her shoulders and she let it drop off her arms until it lay beside his on the floor. One of his hands slid down her back and underneath her sweater, warming his cool fingers with the heat of her bare skin. He stroked her hair gently with his other hand as she trailed kisses from his neck and over his jaw, her mouth finally coming to rest back at his mouth. His hand on her head kept her lips pressed tightly to his as they fought with their tongues between their two mouths. His other hand drew light circles across her back, his fingers dancing across her spine and then coming to rest with the tips of them laying just under the waist of her pants. She moaned softly, breaking the kiss for an instant and he became aware of their surroundings, realising that they were sitting in a room where anyone could enter at any moment. Still kissing, he returned his hand to her upper back and crushed her to his chest, making her gasp and break their kiss once more. Once they parted they sat in comfortable silence, listening to the kids playing in the lounge and contentedly staring into each other's eyes.


The Pond
1pm, Boxing Day

After all the drama of the morning, everyone was glad to get out of the house and go ice-skating on the nearby pond that had frozen over. Tara had rented an ice-buggy for Mattie, which was basically a baby's car seat on skates that Charlie pulled round behind him for the first twenty minutes. Tara and Jess took a twin each with them as they skated and Peter went with Mulder and Scully, holding both of their hands tightly as they pulled him fast across the pond. When Mattie fell asleep in the ice-buggy, Charlie took him over to where Maggie and Bill had found seats on a bench at the side of the pond. Charlie then caught up with Mulder and Scully, taking his son from them and letting them be on their own for a while.

They skated round the sides together, and each took off one of their gloves so they could hold hands properly. After a long while of skating in contented silence, Scully pulled Mulder so that they were headed into the middle of the pond. Mulder looked down at her beside him and chuckled when he saw her child-like expression, delighted to be out skating with him.

"What are you laughing at Mulder?"

"Your nose is all red Scully."

"That's because it's cold."

"Well come here then and let me kiss it warm. I can't have my Angel's nose being cold now, can I?"

They stopped moving forward so that he could kiss her nose and then Mulder wrapped his arms tightly around her, holding her as close to him as he could. As their mouths met, Scully snaked her arms inside his open jacket and round to his back where she slipped her hands under his sweater. He jumped slightly at the cold touch of her bare hand and the wetness of the one glove she still had on. Smiling into the kiss, she removed her gloved hand so that he wouldn't get too wet but kept her other hand where it was, enjoying the feel of his smooth, warm skin. As the kiss intensified Scully slightly wobbled on her skates and Mulder drew back from the kiss in order to keep their balance. He grinned at her and they moved to connect their mouths once more but a shout interrupted them.

"Day."

Scully reluctantly pulled away from Mulder's embrace at the sound of her brother calling her name. Carefully releasing his tight hold, Mulder didn't fully let go until he was sure she was completely balanced. Scully slowly turned round and saw Charlie skating with Peter at the edge of the pond near to where her mother and Bill were sitting.

"What's up, Charlie?"

"Mom wants to talk to you."

"Okay. I'll be right there."

Scully gave Mulder a kiss and squeezed his hand before going to talk to her mother, leaving Mulder in the middle of the pond. He was so caught up in watching her glide across the ice that he didn't notice a man being dragged by a girl who was roughly 9 years old. They sped towards him and he didn't have time to move out of their way before they crashed right into him. He managed to catch the girl before she fell but the man went down, falling right on his backside. The girl dissolved into giggles at the sight but Mulder kept a straight face and turned to see if the man was okay. He put a hand out to help the man up, which the man took, pushing himself up off the ice with his other hand.

"I'm really sorry. We weren't looking where we were going. I hope we didn't hurt you when we... Agent Mulder?"

"A.D. Skinner, nice to see you sir. Are you...o...okay?"

"Quit laughing Mulder."

"I'm so...sorry...sir...I..."

"Mulder!"

"Okay, okay, I've stopped. Sorry sir, I didn't recognise you with your hat on."

"Uncle Walter. Who's this?"

"This is Mr Mulder, he works with me. Mulder, this is my niece Lucy."

"Nice to meet you Lucy."

"You too, Mr Mulder. I'm going to go back to dad if that's okay Uncle Walter."

"Sure Lucy. Go easy on him though - I think he's still recovering from your last trip with him in tow."

"Okay Uncle Walter. See you Mr Mulder"

"Bye Lucy."

The two men watched her skate back to where her dad was sitting at the side of the pond, her long blonde hair flying wildly behind her. Mulder had nearly gotten over the shock at meeting his boss and seeing him fall on the ice but he was still very proud of himself when he managed to enquire politely about his holiday without laughing again. He was still talking to Skinner when Scully skated over to him and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck, pulling his head down to hers for a gentle kiss. Skinner's eyes popped out at the sight and he stifled a chuckle when he looked at Mulder's face; pleased about the kiss, nervous about his reaction.

"Hey Mulder. Aren't you going to introduce me to your friend?"

"Agent Scully."

"A... A.D. Skinner. ...Hi...um."

"Hello. Enjoying yourself Agent Scully?"

"Um...yes sir...thank you."

Scully was completely flustered at meeting her boss and was worried about what he was going to say about the very obvious fact that she and Mulder were now a couple. Skinner put on a stern expression and looked at the two of them seriously until both started to squirm under his intense scrutiny. They started to speak at the same time, attempting to explain themselves to him but their mouths dropped open when he started to grin at the pair of them.

"It's about time. I thought you two would never open your eyes."

"Sir?"

"Mulder, for all your searching for the truth, you both were pretty blind to the truth that was right in front of you."

"Um...sir?"

"Scully, everyone and their mother has known for a long time that this clown has been in love with you for a LONG time. We weren't quite so sure about you for a while but it soon became pretty obvious."

"O...Obvious?"

"Yes agents, obvious. It's good to see you're not completely oblivious though."

"Good? ...Doesn't the bureau have rules against this? Shouldn't you be telling us that it's not allowed?"

"It's not encouraged Scully but it's not forbidden. The thinking behind it is that if partners are involved it makes them less effective but you two, although not technically involved, have performed admirably for the whole time you've been together. Your solve rate for your cases is well above average and the bureau isn't going to split you up now."

"Really?"

"Yes, really. I don't think it will affect your work since you have been closer than most couples for a long time. However if you do allow your relationship to interfere with your jobs then something will have to be done."

"Of course sir. Thank you."

"No problem Agent Scully. I'm glad the two of you are happy; you deserve it after all you've both been through."

"Yes...I think we do."

"Uh, sir?"

"Yes Mulder?"

"You might want to duck and cover. Your niece is coming back this way with someone in tow and I'm not sure she'll be able to stop this time either."

"What..."

Skinner turned round and saw that Lucy was indeed heading straight towards them with her father, both going full-speed. Lucy's face was happy and carefree while her father's was slightly less pleased and quite a bit worried. They crashed into the stationary group of three but this time Mulder and Skinner caught Lucy's dad and Scully caught Lucy before either of them fell onto the ice. The man heaved a huge sigh of relief and, after thanking Mulder; he turned to Skinner to tell him that they were leaving. Skinner said his goodbyes to Mulder and Scully and then skated off, Lucy held back this time with both men holding her hands and slowing her down. Mulder put his arm around Scully as they watched and, just as he was about to lean down and kiss her, he remembered why he had been alone when he had met Skinner in the first place.

"What did your mom want Scully?"

"She was just letting us know that we'll have to head off soon if we want to go get your tux hired for our dinner tonight."

"How soon do we need to go?"

"About now. We need to have enough time for you to try it on and then I need to go and get some shoes to go with my dress."

"Okay then. Let's go."


6:15pm, Boxing Day

Mulder stood impatiently at the bottom of the stairs, fidgeting nervously with the sleeves of his suit jacket as he waited for Scully to come down. She had been getting ready for the past hour and a half and now had all the women helping put the 'finishing touches' to her outfit. Bill and Charlie had taken the children out for a walk in the snow before dinner; Bill not really wanting to have to watch them go out and Charlie not wanting Bill to be there to ruin it for them. Bill had kept quiet since his outburst on Christmas Day and Mulder hoped that they would make it through the next twenty-four hour without a repeat. Bill, Tara and Mattie were leaving to visit Tara's parents tomorrow afternoon for four days, coming back on New-Years Eve.

Looking at his watch, he sighed as he realised that only three minutes had gone past since he had last checked the time. He glanced up at the stairs hoping that she would be there but she wasn't and instead he was distracted by a beep from the taxi outside. Opening the door he shouted to the driver that they would be out soon. Noticing that his sleeves were messed up again from looking at his watch, he hastily sorted them out. He smiled to himself as he caught sight of his cufflinks, the elegant silver not quite covering up the fact that they were alien heads. He remembered the words she had spoken when she gave them to him and thought back to a conversation they'd had in his - no, their - office almost three years ago.

It had taken place during the time that the X-Files had been closed and the two of them had stopped officially being partners although they consulted each other on nearly every case. They had gone down to the now-empty basement office together to discuss the case he had been working on at the time with Alex Krycek, long before they had found out that he was working for the consortium. Once they had gone over the case notes, neither of them had been very keen to leave so they had stayed down there, talking. Scully had asked him about his new partner and he had told her that she would always be his partner, official or not. Smiling shyly but looking pleased she had told him the same back and they had sat in silence for a moment, considering the other's words. Realising that they had been staring deeply into each other's eyes, Scully had shook her head and asked him once again about Krycek. Laughing, he had ridiculed his floppy haircut and too-eager attitude to get everything done. He had then told her for a second time how believing he was in the paranormal and, as he was talking, he watched her face fall imperceptibly to everyone but those that knew her well. He had hurriedly gone on to tell her that believing in the same things he did wasn't the most important attribute to him in a partner. Her face had brightened slightly at that and she had asked him what he did consider to be the most important quality in a partner.

'Trust', he had told her. 'Trust and respect.'

He had never trusted Krycek, which turned out to be a very good thing considering, but he had told her then that he had trusted her from almost the very beginning. Her good mood restored, she had given him one of her rare smiles that showed her teeth and returned the sentiment. He had then told her that what he valued most about her was that she at least respected his beliefs and was willing to listen to his crazy theories; the fact that she required proof before she would change her own theory only made him respect her. Once again they had become silent, moving to sit closer together and thinking about the 'good old days' they had had in that office.

He realised that; although they had seen a lot and been through a lot of crazy things together, he still admired her most for being able to stick to her beliefs unless there was evidence to the contrary, just like he was able to. Still lost in thought, he didn't realise that Scully was standing at the top of the stairs until he heard a polite cough and a few giggles. He looked up and saw her standing there, with her hair all done up and wearing the dress he had bought her. The satin fabric of the dress skimmed over her hips and swept down her legs to the floor emphasising her stunning figure. He could see a tantalizing amount of her thigh where the dress was slit at one side and the neckline, although rather modest comparatively speaking, caused him to gasp out loud. The bodice was lightly decorated with a very fine beaded pattern across one side and the delicate straps were adorned with the same beads. Her earrings sparkled in the dim light of the hall and, as she made her way down the stairs, he could see that she had pinned her hair up with clips that also glittered. He opened his mouth as if to speak but no words came out and instead just stood there gazing in wonder at the beautiful sight in front of him. She smiled shyly as she approached him and was blushing deeply by the time she came to a halt in front of him. Maggie, Tara and Jess were all standing behind her waiting to see and hear his reaction to how she looked.

"Wow! ...Scully, you look..."

"Fox Mulder speechless - there's a sight I never thought I'd see."

"Scully, there are no words. You are indescribable."

"In a good way I hope."

"In the best way there is. You're too stunning for words, I...am I dreaming?"

"Nope, but thank you. You look pretty amazing yourself."

"Why, thank you. May I help you with your coat?"

"Sure. Is the taxi here already?"

"Your chariot awaits."

"Bye Mom. Bye Tara. Bye Jess."

"Bye Dana. Have a good time both of you."

"We will, Maggie. Goodbye."

Mulder helped her on with her coat and then held out his arm for her to take while Maggie opened the front door for them. The pair made their way carefully down the slippery path and Mulder opened the taxi door for her before making his way round to the other side and getting in himself. They waved to the three women standing in the doorway as the taxi pulled out and then settled close together whilst they drove to the restaurant.


The taxi pulled up outside the restaurant and, after paying and generously tipping the driver, Mulder opened the door and got out of the car. Hurrying round to the other side, he got there in time to open the door for Scully and he offered her his right hand to help her get out. She happily grasped his outstretched hand with her own right hand and elegantly exited the car, stopping to thank the driver before she was fully out. Mulder kept hold of her hand and wrapped his other arm around her back, guiding her towards the restaurant entrance. She relaxed contentedly into his casual embrace and they walked through the front doors to be greeted by the maitre d'.

Scully gasped almost inaudibly and tightened her grip on Mulder's hand as they were led through the restaurant to their table, marvelling at the beauty of it all. Individual candles on each table softly lighted the room and their chairs, instead of facing each other across the table, were turned at a slight angle so that they could easily hold hands when they were seated. They sat down on the chairs pulled out for them by the waiters and immediately a bottle of champagne was brought to the table and glasses poured for both of them. Mulder lifted his glass as Scully did the same and, reaching for her hand with his, he tilted his glass towards her.

"May I propose a toast?"

"To what?"

"To my wonderful, dazzling, beautiful angel. To your continued health and happiness for they are the most important things to me - if you didn't have them Scully, I would search the world over in order to give you them back or I would die trying."

"Mulder, that's so sweet...but I can't drink a toast that's just to me."

"Well then, here's to us - you and me Scully, together always. May we never be parted by anything that this oftentimes-cruel world can throw at us. We've conquered so many things in our partnership already - may we continue to do so now that our partnership has been extended in the most fantastic and brilliant way ever possible."

"Yes - here's to all of that. Forever."

"Forever."

They clinked glasses and took their first sips of champagne, neither looking away from the other, both unwilling to break the loving connection held between their eyes. Mulder set his glass back down on the table and reached across to catch the single tear that had fallen from her eyes as he had spoken. She leaned her cheek into his palm and he caught her chin between his fingers and thumb and pulled her gently back towards him. Her lips sought out his and they shared a chaste kiss until they were politely interrupted by the arrival of the waiter with their starters. Scully stretched out her leg so that it lay alongside his and, after a brief moment of surprise, Mulder linked their ankles together and they remained like that for the rest of the meal. They remained mostly silent as they consumed their starter and main course, content just to be in each other's company. They shared meals between the two of them, both lovingly feeding the other with and giggling when they accidentally allowed sauce to drip down their chin. Scully cleaned Mulder's chin with her napkin but Mulder decided to try a more direct approach and carefully licked up the dribble straight off her chin causing her to gasp and then giggle more. As they were waiting for their dessert to arrive Mulder caught Scully looking at the dance floor and he got up out of his seat and held out a hand to her.

"Would you care to dance?"

"I'd love to."

"Have I told you how beautiful you look tonight Scully?"

"I think you might have mentioned it a few times."

"Well then let me mention it some more. You look so stunning and radiant that you put the angels in heaven to shame and I can't believe I'm really standing here with you."

"Mulder..."

"I know I AM here...but it's still pretty unbelievable that the most beautiful woman in the room - no, the world - is here with me."

"There's no one I'd rather be here with - no one I'd even want to be here with."

"I don't know what I ever did to deserve you but I'm glad I did it."

"Mulder...it's me that's undeserving of you...you opened my eyes up to the world, stood by me when I was weak and held me when I was in pain. You gave me everything I wanted or needed and asked for nothing back...you..."

"Ssshh, don't cry Scully. I don't want you to cry."

"But they're happy tears Mulder; happy that I'm here with you - that we're together, really together."

"Yes we are...I'm so glad."

"Me too Mulder, me too."

They had been swaying gently to the music as they talked and now Mulder bent to press a light kiss on her lips as they finished their conversation. Pulling out of the kiss, they both gazed into the other's eyes as they danced, oblivious to the world around them - truly contented to be in each other's arms. They danced in silence, enjoying the soft beat of the music but, when the song changed, Mulder listened more carefully to the words of the song as he recognised the tune. He bent his head down so that his mouth was right next to her ear and, after placing a gentle kiss to her earlobe; he began to softly sing along to the music.

When there's darkness all around me,
You're the light I see.
When I need someone to ease my troubled mind.

You're the answer to my prayer,
And you're with me everywhere.
You're my angel, miracle, you're all I need tonight.

Give me shelter from the rain,
You breathe life in me again.
You're my angel, miracle,
You're all I need to know, tonight.

Scully shivered at the sound of his husky, love-laden voice singing the perfect words to her and was disappointed when the song ended. She was not disappointed for long though for, as a new song began, Mulder kissed down her jaw line from her ear to her mouth. Flushing as his lips touched hers, her moment of embarrassment from kissing him in public soon turned to excitement as she revelled in the roughness of his tongue stroking along her own. He pulled away and they danced closely for the remainder of the new song and then he led her back to the table where the waiters soon brought them their dessert.

They ate their dessert rather quickly and Scully was slightly disappointed that the end of the meal meant the end of their evening before remembering that they were both going back to the same place. Her smile brightened as she watched Mulder settle the bill and then turn to her with a single rose in his hand that he had bought from a lady selling them. The pair of them left the restaurant intending to get in a taxi and go straight home but, before Mulder could hail a taxi, Scully grabbed his arm. Turning around quickly to see what was wrong, Mulder was surprised when he found Scully's lips pressed immediately against his. He pulled away and looked at her with questioning eyes, wondering what had brought that on. She smiled up at him and snuggled into his chest so that she was tucked tightly under his arm.

"Can we walk home Mulder? It's not far and it's such a nice night."

"Of course, I'd love to escort you home milady."

"Mulder..."

"What? ...I would. I would do anything for my Angel - I hope you know that. ...Are you sure you won't get cold though - it is a bit nippy."

"I won't get cold as long as you're here."

"Well okay then. Off we go."

They walked all the way home in the clear, moonlit night, Mulder keeping Scully warm by opening his trench coat and tucking her inside it. It was so large and she so small that both of them fitted in it quite comfortably, especially when Scully snaked her arm around his back and held tightly to him around his waist. They strolled along the streets in comfortable silence stopping only a few times on the way so they could kiss once more. After about twenty minutes of walking they turned into Maggie's street and stopped at the foot of her driveway. Scully looked up at Mulder from her cosy nest in his coat and gave him a tight squeeze around his waist.

"Thank you for tonight Mulder."

"It's your mom we need to thank - she's the one who organised it."

"Yes, but you're the one who was with me, making it the most perfect night I've ever had."

"It was perfect for me too - just because you were there. That you were there with me - actually WITH me - that turned my night into heaven."

"Oh Mulder...I love you so much."

"Love you too Angel. I'll never stop loving you."

"Nor I, you."

After sharing a soft kiss, the two of them made there way up the path, careful not to slip on the frost that now covered the snow. When they reached the front porch Mulder paused and, as she turned to see if he was okay, he dipped his head to capture her lips beneath his. The kiss was heated and the passion escalated until, breathless, Scully pulled away and rested their foreheads together as they both tried to catch their breath.

"You know Mulder - my room's right at the end of the house and the bathroom blocks any sounds being transmitted through the other wall."

"Are you sure you want to...?"

"Mulder, it's the only thing that could make this night any better than it already is."

"Well then Angel..."

With that they hurried through the front door and, as Mulder locked it and removed his trench coat, Scully waited impatiently at the bottom of the stairs. Mulder finally turned to her and brought his hand up to caress the back of her neck while his mouth descended on hers. She surrendered to the kiss and brought her own hands up to run her fingers through his hair whilst their tongues danced. Soon her urgency overtook her and she grabbed at the lapels of his suit jacket, tugging him up the stairs after her without removing her mouth from his. They made their way awkwardly up the stairs and along the hall until they went through the door into Scully's bedroom where they finally parted so they could remove her dress together. Clothing was scattered around the room as they uncovered more and more of the other's bare skin until, both fully undressed, they collapsed in a tangled heap on the bed. After one last questioning look from Mulder and an answering assurance from Scully, they began the intimate dance that only lovers do. They made love until dawn and then, exhausted, they both fell fast asleep, arms and legs entwined.


9:30am, 27th December

"Mummy where's Auntie Day?"

"She's still asleep Peter. I'm sure she'll be down soon."

"Are you kidding Jess - do you really think they're going to make it out of bed before noon?"

"Charlie sssh!"

"What? It's not like Peter understands what I'm talking about."

"Still..."

"Understand what, daddy?"

"Nothing Peter. Where are Abby and Adele?"

"They're both in the den playing with their Christmas present from Gamma."

"Could you go and get them for breakfast, please? We're all eating together this morning since it's Uncle Bill and Auntie Tara's last day. Tell them to clean their hands because it's almost ready to be eaten."

"Okay daddy."

Peter went off to find his sisters and, once he had told them to go through to the kitchen, he went to do the same himself. When he passed the stairs though, he paused and looked up at the upstairs landing where he could see that his Auntie Day's door was still closed. Mulder and Scully were still fast asleep and Peter was getting tired of waiting for them to come down. Remembering that his father had told him that they were all going to eat breakfast together, he thought that they should be included in the family meal. He decided that he would wake them up for breakfast so he climbed the stairs and pushed open the door to their room. Charlie had just come out of the kitchen to see what was taking his son so long when he saw that he had made his way upstairs. He followed Peter up the stairs to stop him from disturbing them and just caught up to him as he got the door fully opened. Charlie picked Peter up quickly and shut the bedroom door before Mulder or Scully woke up - but not before he and his son had both seen the pair entangled on the bed. The covers had concealed very little and it was incredibly obvious that neither had any clothes on.

"Daddy why's Auntie Day got no clothes on? And how come Mr Fox is cuddling with her?"

"They're just sleeping Charlie."

"But how come Mr Fox is sleeping with Auntie Day - doesn't he got his own bed?"

"Yes but..."

"Where was their jammies Daddy? They should have jammies on to go to bed."

"Well Peter...you know that Mommy and Daddy love each other and we sleep in the same bed - that's what Auntie Day and Mulder are doing."

"Do they love each other too?"

"Yes Peter, they do - very much."

"What about Uncle Bill and Auntie Tara?"

"Yes they love each other as well."

"So..."

"Peter, let's just go downstairs and get your breakfast, okay? That's enough questions for just now."

"Okay daddy."

"Oh and Peter - this isn't something we should be telling everyone okay?"

"Why not Daddy?"

"It's private - just like sometimes you need to knock when our door is closed, you should have knocked on Auntie Day's door too."

"I'm sorry daddy. I didn't know - I didn't mean to."

"I know you didn't Peter. Just make sure you knock next time okay?"

"Yes Daddy."

"Right, let's go back downstairs - I think Gamma is just about to serve breakfast and you wouldn't want your toast to get cold now, would you."

"No. Cold toast is yucky."

"Well then, let's go."

Father and son made their way back down stairs to rejoin the others who were all seated at the kitchen table. Maggie had just begun serving the bacon and eggs when they got down and so she missed the look that Charlie gave Jess. Jess understood what her husband was trying to communicate to her though and smiled widely at the knowledge that Mulder and Scully had indeed had a very good evening. Catching the smile on Jess' face, Maggie looked questioningly at the pair of them but let it rest for fear that Bill would start an argument if it was anything to do with Mulder and Scully like she suspected. The whole family dug into their breakfast while, upstairs, the pair slumbered on, oblivious to their very brief audience.


10:30am, 27th December

Scully awoke to a soft tickling sensation across her back and smiled as the memories of the previous night flooded back to her. She lifted her head from Mulder's chest and squirmed up his body to kiss him, his hands all the while stroking her back. Mulder turned them over so that they were both lying on their sides facing each other, not breaking the kiss. He moved one hand up to her neck to pull her closer to him and the other hand remained where it was, rubbing the small of her back gently. One of Scully's arms was trapped between them so she laid her open palm on his bare chest, stroking it softly as they continued their kisses. They finally broke away and rested their heads on the pillows, their faces only centimetres away from each other.

"Morning Angel."

"Good morning."

"I like waking up next to you - or 'under you', I should say."

"I like it too. It feels...right. It just feels right."

"It does that. I don't believe I've gone so long in my life without knowing how perfect this is."

"Me too. ...Well, I suppose we don't need to worry about that - we're here now together and that's what matters."

"Yes it is. We should really get up soon - wouldn't want anyone coming in to wake us. We are staying in a house with three small children - oh and Charlie - we shouldn't really let them find us like this."

"Like what? ...Oh, you mean in our birthday suits?"

"Yes I mean that. It would be a hard one to explain to the kids - Charlie will know fine what it means though."

"Shower?"

"That sounds good. Let's go."

Their shower took a good deal longer than separate showers would have done but they didn't care, they were enjoying their newfound closeness far too much too worry about things like that. When they were dried and dressed, Mulder sat Scully between his legs on the bed to comb the tangles out of her still wet hair. He stole kisses from her between each stroke of the brush and, after a while, Scully decided just to do it herself so that it would be dry sometime that day. After her hair was dry and they had shared a lot more passionate kisses, they eventually decided to go downstairs to say good morning to the rest of the household. When they reached the lounge, Mulder told Scully he was going to get them some breakfast and that he would be back in a minute. He met Charlie in the kitchen who gave him a strange look as he passed by him to toast some bread.

"What's up, Charlie?"

"Um...nothing. It's nothing."

"C'mon, what is it? You're looking at me funny."

"I'm sorry Mulder. I've just got this image imprinted on my brain and it refuses to go away."

"Image? ...What do you mean?"

"Umm...well you see...Peter went to wake you guys up this morning for breakfast and he...we...uh...we kind of saw you and Day."

"Aha. ...Oh my God."

"I'm really sorry, I thought I would catch him before he got there or you guys would have blocked the door or something if..."

"We...um...we weren't exactly thinking about that kind of thing...we didn't expect anyone would come in without knocking."

"The joys of living with kids. I'm really sorry; Peter will just barge in anywhere if he wants to get in unless he's been specifically told not to and even then... I apologize..."

"Don't worry about it Charlie. It wasn't your fault. ...You okay with it?"

"Sure. I mean, I'm an adult, I know what goes on in the bedroom. I didn't expect to actually SEE you two like that but I'll survive."

"Right...well...I'd better take this through to Scully."

"No problem. Catch you later. Jess, Tara and I are going to take the kids sledging again in a bit."

"Cool. Have fun."

While Mulder had been talking to Charlie, Scully had gone into the lounge to find her mom with Peter in her lap. Maggie had asked about how the date had gone straightaway and Scully had blushed whilst telling her mom some - but not all - of the details of the evening before. She had just begun telling her mom about the walk home when Peter wiggled around on his Gamma's knee, trying to get down. Thinking that he was bored and wanted to go see his father, Maggie lifted him off her knee and put him on the floor. Instead of leaving the room however, Peter walked over to his Auntie Day and began tugging on her sleeve to gain her attention.

"Auntie Day, is Mr. Fox my Uncle?"

"No honey."

"But if it's Auntie Tara and Uncle Bill - why isn't it Auntie Day and Uncle Fox?"

"That's because Auntie Tara and Uncle Bill are married - Mulder and I aren't married."

"But you loves each other, right?"

"Yes Peter. We do."

"But he's not my uncle."

"That's right."

"Oh. ...So how come you was sleeping with him?"

"We were cuddling Peter, you like cuddles don't you? We were cold so we snuggled together."

"If you were cold why didn't you use the covers?"

"When are you talking about, honey?"

"This morning. You didn't have the covers on and you and Mr. Fox weren't wearing any jammies. You can't have been that cold if you didn't need jammies."

"Dana?"

"Oh my gosh, I don't believe this. I'm so embarrassed."

Just then Mulder came through the door with Scully's toast on a plate along with butter and jam, which he placed on the coffee table in front of her. Seeing her red face, Maggie's broad smirk and Peter's puzzled expression, he understood immediately what had just been said. He sat down beside Scully, pulling her into his arms and whispered to her what Charlie had told him, confirming what she had already realized and making her blush even deeper. Maggie stood up to go into the kitchen, still half-smiling and purposefully 'invited' her daughter to accompany her. They met Charlie in the hall and he collected Peter to take him upstairs to get ready for going sledging, leaving Mulder alone in the lounge.

Bill stormed into the room from the den, obviously having just heard every word of the conversation. He crossed to Mulder and pulled him up off his chair by the collar of his shirt and pushed him out of the door into the hall. While Mulder was trying to regain his balance, he opened the front door and, grabbing Mulder again, shoved him through it into the front garden.

"What the hell, Bill?"

"Stay away from my sister. You've got a nerve coming here and screwing her under her mother's roof. I should never have let you step a foot into the house but I was outnumbered. I held my tongue as my mother asked because I respect her and how do you repay her kindness? By banging her daughter - her only daughter now thanks to you. Get the hell out of here and stay away."

"Bill, I..."

"Shut it. I don't want to hear any of your crap. Get out of here...GO!!"

When Mulder didn't make a move, Bill swung for him, his fist catching him in the corner of his eye. Mulder was knocked off balance and stumbled backwards, giving Bill plenty of time to strike his next blow, this one to his stomach. The strength of the punch forced the air out of Mulder's lungs, causing him to double over. Bill followed up with a knee to Mulder's face from which blood ran free.

"BILL! What the hell are you doing? Get away from him!"

"Dana, go back inside."

"Like hell I will! Bill, what have you done? Mulder, are you alright?"

Scully ran down the steps to Mulder and pulled his head down to her level, brushing his hair gently back from his eyes to get a closer look at his injuries. He let her look, wincing when she pressed too hard around his eye or along his nose. She turned to take him back indoors to get some ice for his bruises but found her way blocked by her brother.

"Move, Bill!"

"He's not coming back in this house."

"Yes he is Bill. Now move."

"No."

"Bill, please. I didn't mean to cause trouble but I kind of need some ice for my face."

"You are not getting back in here Mr Mulder. Put some snow on it and get lost or you really will have some injuries."

"Look Bill..."

Realizing that Mulder was not going to listen to his threats, Bill decided to use brute force again. He pulled his fist back once again and punched Mulder over Scully's head, striking him on the side of his jaw. Scully screamed at him to stop and flung herself forward onto her brother, trying to prevent him from hitting Mulder again. Bill didn't listen and continued to swing, pushing his sister along with him as he moved towards Mulder. Scully began crying as she used all of her strength to try and stop him from moving any nearer.

Hearing the commotion, Charlie came out to investigate and was shocked as he saw his sister's tears, Mulder's bleeding and bruised face and his brother's rage. He swiftly moved behind Bill and wrapped both arms around him, pinning Bill's arms to his side. Bill struggled to extricate himself but Charlie held fast, stopping him from escaping. Scully took a step back from her brothers and, after checking that Mulder was still standing, she turned to Bill and slapped him hard across the face. She half-smirked at his shocked expression but her rage had not disappeared and she raised her other hand to deliver another slap across his other cheek. Before she struck him again however, Mulder caught her hand, turning her towards him and holding her hand close to his chest. She tried to pull it free but Mulder held fast and she relented, allowing him to pull her into his arms.

"Scully don't."

"Mulder..."

"I'm fine Scully. I don't want you to hit your brother because of me."

"But..."

"No Scully. I won't let you do it - not for me, I'm not worth it."

"Yes you are Mulder. But if you don't want me to...okay, I won't. ...Are you okay Mulder, really?"

"Yeah. I don't think any bones were broken."

"Let's get you inside to get it checked out. We need to get some ice to bring down the swelling."

"But Bill..."

"Charlie's got him. Haven't you?"

"Sure Day. ...You're not going anywhere until you've calmed down Bill."

Bill struggled once more in his brother's grip but Charlie did not loosen his hold so Bill was trapped in his arms, letting Mulder and Scully get past them into the house. Scully led Mulder into the kitchen where she sat him down on a chair while she went to get ice from the freezer. She brought tissues to stem the blood running from his nose as well and tenderly saw to his injuries. They could hear Charlie and Bill shouting in the garden and the longer the shouting continued the quieter Mulder became. His shoulders had slumped by the time Scully had finished tending to his wounds but she was too busy trying to hear what her brothers were saying to notice his depressed attitude.


2pm, 27th December

The argument between Bill and Charlie had lasted for over half an hour - both sticking to their opinions and not allowing the other to sway them. It had stopped for about five minutes while Jess and the kids had come out to go sledging, Charlie telling them that he would catch them up later. The two men had waited for them to move out of earshot and had then begun their argument once again. Mulder and Scully had moved from the kitchen to the lounge and had been able to hear most of the brothers' quarrel. Scully had smiled in gratitude every time Charlie had stood up for them both and smirked whenever he insulted Bill. Her face had quickly fallen however, when Bill had always answered him straight back, not deterred from his hatred of Mulder. Mulder hadn't smiled when Charlie had spoken; instead he had retreated into himself and not heard the content of what they were saying. He only knew that they were arguing because of him and he had ignored the concerned glances Scully kept throwing his way, pretending that he was busy with his still-bleeding nose.

The shouting had eventually stopped and Bill had stormed into the house and gone right past the pair of them into the den. After checking that Mulder was okay and renewing his ice pack, Maggie had joined her son in the den and they had had heated words as well. Mindful of the pair sitting in the next room, as well as Mattie sleeping upstairs, they had kept the volume down which meant that Mulder and Scully hadn't been able to hear most of what was being said. They had argued for a much shorter time than the two brothers had done and it had ended with Maggie leaving the room, telling him that she was thankful that he was leaving since she didn't want anymore of his hateful attitude in her house. She had then walked through the lounge and up the stairs to watch Mattie whilst Tara packed for the trip up to her parents.

Bill was still sulking in the den, unwilling to come out and face the wrath of yet another family member so soon. Mulder and Scully were still sitting on the sofa side by side, the ice pack and towels lying on the table in front of them, no longer needed. Scully took their clasped hands and raised them over her head and across her shoulder, snuggling under Mulder's arm to rest her head on his chest. He allowed her to do so but made no move to pull her closer like he usually did. Instead he remained stiff, his arm hanging limply on her shoulder after she released his hand from hers. Thinking that he was still upset about the fight, Scully tilted her head so that she could press her lips against his in an effort to comfort him. Mulder didn't push her away but he did not respond either, keeping his mouth shut so that her seeking tongue was denied entry. Noticing his obvious lack of response, Scully pulled away slightly to look at him properly, forcing him to meet her gaze.

"Mulder are your bruises still sore? Do you need more painkillers?"

"My face is fine Scully. I don't need anything."

"Then what's wrong, Mulder? Why won't you kiss me?"

"I...I need to go Scully."

"Mulder, no!"

"I'm sorry, I...I need to leave."

"Why Mulder...what's up?"

"Scully, I can't do this anymore. I...can't be with you."

"You're leaving me? ... For good?"

"Yes...I..."

"Mulder...What about everything you said last night? ...What about the 'forever' we drank to?"

"I don't want to leave Scully...but I told you before, I don't want to come between you and your brother. Now Charlie and him are fighting as well as him and your mother. I can't split up your family, I just can't. If that means I can't be with you then...so be it. I'll request reassignment when we get back to work...I'll do profiling or something. I...I'm sorry."

"Mulder...stop...Mulder, please."

Mulder took no notice of her pleas, walking out of the room and up the stairs, leaving her standing in the middle of the lounge frozen in shock. He made it to her room before breaking down; sinking to his knees on the floor by the bed as heaving sobs wracked his body. Burying his face in the duvet, he continued to weep in anguish as he realised what leaving Scully would mean for him. Maggie had heard him come up stairs after speaking with her daughter and, only hearing one set of footsteps, she came out of Tara's bedroom to see what was going on. After hearing muffled sobs from inside her daughter's room and getting no answer to her knock, she opened the door and found Mulder still kneeling on the floor beside the bed.
"Fox...what's wrong? What's happened?"

"I...I can't...I can't."

"Can't what Fox? What can't you do?"

"I can't le...leave her."

"Dana? Why would you want to leave her?"

"Never wanted to...I can't."

"Fox you're not making any sense."

"I didn't want to...to hurt her...thought leave...make it all better...but I can't...I can't leave her...I need her too much."

"Fox. You need to calm down. I don't understand what you're saying."

Taking a deep breath, Mulder tried to start explaining what was wrong but again he found himself unable to form a coherent sentence. As Maggie waited for him to collect himself she rubbed his back gently, trying to comfort him even though she didn't know the reason behind his grief. At last his sobs subsided, only the odd tear escaping his eyes now and then. Maggie stood up and held out her hand to him in order to get him up off the floor. He took her hand and stood up beside her but soon his knees gave way and he ended up sitting on the bed, head in hands. Maggie sat down beside him and listened to his muffled voice as he spoke of the conversation he had just had with Scully. His tears began to fall more rapidly again as he explained to her how he couldn't bear to leave her; how he felt so selfish because he couldn't do it - even to keep her family together. Maggie put her arm around his shoulders and rocked him tenderly as his grief overcame him and he was once more unable to speak.

As Maggie comforted Mulder, Scully remained standing in the lounge, mouth open as she stared in shock at the stairs that he had long since gone up. Bill chose that moment to come out of the den and, seeing his sister standing motionless in the middle of the room, alone, he smiled to himself in the knowledge that he had completed his mission to get rid of Mulder. His elation fell slightly though when, after realising that she was no longer alone, Scully turned to face him. Her expression was one of anguish and he was slightly taken aback at the level of loathing he saw in her eyes when she saw who had entered the room.

"I hope you're happy Bill. I hope you're proud of yourself."

"Dana, what are you talking about?"

"He's leaving. He's going because of you. You Bastard!"

"I can't say I'm very sorry about that Dana."

"Well I hope you're glad. You've just destroyed my life."

"What? Dana it's for the best. Your life's not ruined because he's going."

"Oh but it is Bill. Don't you see? ...Mulder is my life. Without him I have nothing."

"Dana, don't be ridiculous."

"Ridiculous? You want to talk about ridiculous? What about a grown woman being told what to do by her brother? What about you thinking that you know what's best for everyone? What about you having your head stuck so far up your ass that you couldn't see how happy we are when we're together? What about you destroying the best thing in my life because of your blindness?"

"Dana, calm down. You don't know what you're saying."

"I know exactly what I'm saying so don't tell me to calm down! I can be as mad at you as I want because you've made him leave...he's leaving me...he...I..."

Scully collapsed to her knees on the floor in floods of tears, unable to finish her sentence, just as Charlie walked through the front door. The instant he saw his sister lying in a heap, he ran to her and pulled her into his arms, cradling her like she was one of his kids. He tried to ask her what was wrong but she could barely breath through her sobs so he turned to his brother for an answer. Bill shrugged his shoulders and muttered something about her overreacting and getting hysterical over nothing. Scully struggled to shout at her brother for his comment but found that she couldn't catch her breath and instead could only gasp for much needed oxygen. Charlie sensed his sisters growing panic and, helping her to her feet and placing an arm around her shoulders, he guided her to the kitchen away from Bill. After sitting her down on one of the chairs, he rummaged in a drawer and found a paper bag for her to breathe into, realising that she was breathing too quickly and was in danger of hyperventilating. Even with the bag, Scully could not calm down enough to take deep enough breaths and she soon found that there were spots dancing in front of her eyes as her oxygen level became too low. The dots grew larger and darker until her vision was totally swamped in an inky-blackness and she fell forward, passing out into an unprepared Charlie's arms.

"Mom! Mom, I need you in the kitchen. Mom!"

"Charlie what is it. Oh my God, what's happened to Dana?"

"Jess...umm...She was crying and then she just passed out. Can you keep Peter and the girls out of here and ask Tara to find my mom. Ask her to tell her that Dana needs her down here, now."

"Sure Charlie. I'll go tell her."

"Thanks Jess. Day...Dana...wake up. Please, I don't know what to do. I need you to wake up and tell me, Day."

Confused and worried, Jess hurried out of the kitchen into the hall where she met Tara coming down the stairs with a suitcase in each hand. Giving her the few details that she had been given by Charlie, she then went into the lounge where she had left the kids to entertain themselves when Charlie had called out for Maggie's help. She ushered them all past their Uncle Bill into the den, closing both of the doors firmly and switching on the television. Tara was still standing where Jess had left her, shocked at what her sister-in-law had told her and worried that it had something to do with her husband's earlier rage. She quickly placed the suitcases beside the front door and, as she made her way quickly upstairs, she saw Bill come out of the lounge and pick them up to take them out to their car. She hurried along the corridor checking in every room for Maggie, finally hearing a quiet murmuring coming from Scully's room. She knocked gently on the door, not really wanting to interrupt the conversation but, after knocking once more, she heard Maggie call out.

"Who is it?"

"Maggie, it's Tara. Can I come in? It's important."

"Sure Tara. What's up?"

"Maggie...what's going on? Why's Fox crying as well?"

"As well?"

"Sorry, Dana needs you Maggie. Charlie's got her in the kitchen. He says she was crying and now she's passed out. He needs some help."

"Oh my goodness, go tell him I'm coming Tara - I'll be right down. Fox, I need to go - Dana's not well."

"Scu...lee! I...I need to..."

"Yes - yes you do, Fox. Come on, we need to go help Dana and get all of this sorted out."


Mulder looked in shock as he realized that Scully wasn't well and it took a lot of tugging on his arm by Maggie before he came back to himself. He immediately got up off the bed and followed Tara out of the door, wanting to get to Scully as quickly as possible. All three rushed down the stairs heading for the kitchen with Tara leading the way and Maggie holding Mulder's arm. They all rushed through the door and Maggie gasped out loud seeing her baby girl lying motionless on the floor. Mulder sank to his knees beside her head and gently caressed her cheek, speaking to her in a soothing voice. Maggie quickly recovered from the shock of seeing Dana so still and rolled up her sleeves with a determined look on her face.

"Charlie can you lay her head down and come round to this end of her. We need to elevate her feet to get the blood flowing to her head again. Tara could you fetch me the blanket from over the couch, she's pretty cold."

"Sure Mom."

"Yes Maggie."

Both of them did as she had asked and Mulder continued his loving whispers and gently rubbed his thumb across the back of her hand that he held. Maggie got a washcloth and wet it in the sink before coming to kneel on the other side of Dana's head. She made to wipe her face with it but, seeing Mulder's distraught expression, she instead handed it to him to do. He looked at it strangely as if it were foreign to him but then shook himself out of the trance he was in and began bathing her face. Maggie picked up one of the cushions from the kitchen chairs and placed it on the floor underneath Scully's head while Mulder tenderly lifted her head up off the floor. Tara came back in with the blanket in her hands and held it out to Maggie.

"Here you go Maggie...is there anything else I can do?"

"Thanks Tara. I don't think there's anything to be done but wait. She'll come back round when she's good and ready...she didn't hit her head did she Charlie?"

"No, she fell straight into my arms...she just slumped over in the chair and I caught her. I did fall onto my backside once I caught her but I'm pretty sure she didn't hit anything."

"Good...that means she has just simply fainted."

Maggie draped the blanket over her daughter's body and tucked it in around her sides, leaving her arm free for Mulder to hold onto her hand. Tara excused herself when she heard Bill come back in the front door having finished putting all of their luggage in the car. Maggie asked her to keep him out of the kitchen whilst Dana recovered so as not to upset her again and she readily agreed. Maggie watched her go and shook her head as she thought of what her son had caused this time.

"Maggie...Maggie? I think she's starting to come round."

Maggie was jolted from her thoughts by Mulder's happy announcement. She turned her attention once more to Scully who was indeed beginning to stir. Her head moved slightly from side to side and her fingers clutched at Mulder's hand before her eyelids began to flutter. Mulder ceased movement with the washcloth and instead stroked his fingers along one of her cheeks. She turned into his caress as her eyes opened fully and looked confused to see his face looming above her. She looked around the kitchen at the three others, still disorientated and wondering what on earth had happened to cause her to be lying on the floor.

"Wh...what happened."

"You passed out Scully...you fainted. Are you feeling okay?"

"Yes...I think so anyway."

She scrunched up her brow in concentration as she tried to recall the events leading up to her collapse. When she remembered, she suddenly closed her eyes against the tears that had instantly sprung into her eyes and turned her face away from Mulder. Realising immediately that she had just remembered their conversation, Mulder rushed to rectify the situation.

"Scully...Scully. Please look at me Scully."

"Why should I Mulder...for one last look before you disappear out of my life? I can't...it's too..."

"No Scully...please, would you just look at me?"

"Fine...Mulder, are they tears on your face? Were you crying?"

"Yes Scully...I started to cry just as soon as I walked away. I realised what a stupid thing I had just done...I can't do it."

Charlie and Maggie both looked away as the two began to cry together while Mulder finished his explanation in hushed, private whispers. Maggie had already gotten up from the floor and Charlie was just about to do the same, intending to leave the two alone for some much needed privacy, when suddenly the kitchen door flew open. Bill stood on the other side, glaring at the sight of Mulder embracing Scully while she lay on the floor and cried. Tara looked over at Maggie apologetically and then tried to prevent her husband from getting any closer to the pair of them by laying a hand on his arm. He swept her arm aside however and crossed to stand right behind Mulder, his fury evident on his face.

"What the hell have you done to Dana now?!"

"Bill..."

"No Mom...that's it, I've had it with him. Get out of this house now!"

Bill jerked Mulder up to his feet by his collar and started to push him out into the hall. Mulder didn't resist but rather helped Bill on their way through. As they got to the front door though, Mulder shook himself free of Bill's grasp and walked into the lounge instead of going out the front door as Bill had expected him to do. Surprised, Bill didn't have time to react before Mulder was completely inside the lounge and he had no choice but to follow him in there. Expecting Mulder obey his command to leave the room, Bill was again surprised when Mulder turned round to face him and began to speak.

"Bill I've sat by ever since I arrived on Friday whilst you took shots at me. I've allowed Dana, Maggie and Charlie all to fight back for me, myself instead agreeing with most of what you had to stay and not thinking I had a reason to argue. They've been fighting my battle for me and I have just stepped back and let them but this time...this time I'm not going to do that. I'm not going to go and hide in a corner and hope someone will stand up for me or you'll get bored and go away. No, this time I'm standing up for myself because now I can see how much all this is hurting Scully."

"How much YOU are hurting her you mean."

Tara, Charlie, Maggie and Scully had all followed the two of them through to the lounge, expecting there to be more violence and now stood listening to what they were saying. Still slightly shaky, Scully had leaned on Charlie for support as they walked through and now sat perched on one of the arms of the sofa, the others all standing beside her. All four mouths dropped open when they heard Bill's last statement and all tried to object but Maggie was the only one who had recovered from her shock sufficiently to make any noise.

"Bill!"

"Maggie no, let me. ...See Bill, that's where you're wrong. It's not me who's causing her all this pain. It's taken me a while to realise that. Every time you've said anything to me I've agreed with you - I've taken it as the truth but when I walked into that kitchen just now and saw her lying there...I know that it was because I was going to leave."

"There, you admitted it...it was because of you."

"Yes it was, but not because I'm IN her life but because I was about to do as YOU wanted and step out of it for good. That would have hurt her far more than you think that I have already done as was evident by her distress. I was going by what you thought was best for her but now I realise that it's not your decision to make. You don't get to make the choice of whom Scully spends her time with - she does! Why are both you and Charlie allowed to choose whom you want to be with and be happy with but you refuse Dana that same privilege? ...It's actually not even a privilege, it's a right - her right."

"Mulder you don't get to choose that either...Dana is my sister and I have the right - the duty - to look out for her; to stop her from making such a big mistake as to go out with you."

"Well Bill, Scully is a big girl and she can make her own decisions and I would never again assume to make them for her as you have done. I was leaving because I thought it would be best but I can see that I was doing the same as you were and taking her right to choose away from her. And as for me being a mistake - surely you're not suggesting that she was in that state before because she wanted me to leave, or that she was glad I was going?"

"Who knows Mulder...maybe she was. I mean how much can you really want to be with her if you gave up so easily? You were just about to leave her Mulder...and we are supposed to believe that you LOVE her?"

"I DO love her Bill...and I could never leave her. ...I could never leave you Scully, even though I said that I could. I was wrong...it would kill me to walk away and I promise you now that I will never even consider going. I'm so sorry...I thought that I was doing what was best for you...but I know I was wrong. I am so, so sorry Scully."

Mulder had turned away from Bill and instead faced Sully as he spoke his last part. A solitary tear slid from his eye and ran all the way down his cheeks as he looked at her, pleading with his eyes that she would understand. Hoping that she would be able to forgive him his earlier cowardice, he stood absolutely still in wait for her to make a move. She reached out her hand to him and beckoned him closer, taking his hand in hers as soon as they were near enough for their fingers to touch. His fingers trembled and she laced hers through them but his faltering steps grew more sure as she pulled him across to her. Soon they were in each other's arms, embracing and smiling through the tears that were falling from both pairs of eyes.

"Oh Mulder."

"Scully I'm so sorry...will you forgive me?"

"Of course I will but never...and I mean NEVER do that to me again. I couldn't bear it Mulder...I just couldn't."

"Ssshh. Don't cry anymore. I promise I'll never even think about it again, okay? I couldn't do it either...I barely even made it to your room before I broke. I would never be able to survive without you."

Scully buried her face in his neck as she pulled him even more tightly to her and he hid his face in her hair, concealing the tears that he had shed whilst they were talking. They rocked each other gently as they continued to embrace and then pulled back so that they could look into the other's eyes. Mulder wiped her tears away from her cheeks with his thumbs just as she was doing the same to his. He leant in and pressed a tender kiss onto her lips before pulling back and once more turning to face Bill. Bill's face had grown stony as he had watched the reconciliation taking place and he was now glaring in disgust at the two of them. He opened his mouth to speak but before he got a word out, Tara crossed over to him and silenced him with a look.

"Bill, I know you don't like me and probably never will but you have to believe me when I say I love your sister. I love her more than anything in the world and I could never - EVER - do anything that would harm her intentionally. My life is worthless without her and if you can't see and accept that then..."

"Then nothing Mulder, he will just have to accept it. Yes Bill, you will because I love him too and no matter what you say, he isn't the cause of any of the bad things that have happened to me or to this family. The only thing that he has ever done to hurt me was to tell me he was leaving and that was all because of you. See he loves me so much that he was willing to sacrifice his own happiness in order to keep this family together - he was only leaving because he thought that it was what I wanted, or needed."

"Dana..."

"No, Bill...I don't want to hear anymore of what you have to say. I'm sorry that you can't see how much we love each other, how much we need each other and how happy we are when we're together but we have tried to show you, explain it to you and if you still can't see it then it's only because you're too selfish to see it."

Bill once again opened his mouth to comment but as he did so, he finally became aware that the rest of his family were all standing waiting for the next thing he said. He looked from his mom to his brother, from his sister to his wife and shook his head in defeat, knowing that he would not win if he continued arguing with Mulder and Scully. He shrugged his shoulders and let his arms drop from being folded across his chest to fall by his sides.

"We better get going Tara...can you go get Mattie."

Mulder looked a little relieved that he was just going to go but the others all breathed small sighs of disappointment. They had all be hoping that what Scully had just said to him would finally make him see sense but it was obvious that he was not going to change his mind about Mulder. Tara left to get Mattie and the room remained in awkward silence as they waited for her to get back downstairs. Charlie went though to the den to get Jess and his kids so that they could all say goodbye. All of them traipsed outside to watch the three of them get into their car and, as they pulled out of their parking space, Bill rolled down the window to say his final goodbyes.

"Bye Mom...see you on Saturday."

"Have a safe trip Bill, Tara. Give your parents all the best from all of us."

"Sure Maggie...see you all on Saturday."

"Bye."

They all waved as the car turned the corner and disappeared from sight, all then turning to go back into the house. Mulder caught hold of Scully's arm just as she turned to follow them and tugged on it slightly so that she moved nearer to him. She came willingly into his arms, wrapping her own around his neck and staring up at him. With one arm remaining around her waist, he brought his other hand up to her cheek and caressed it as he began to speak.

"Scully...I just wanted to apologise again...I..."

"Mulder it's okay. You already said that you made a mistake and we're okay now."

"Scully...what did I ever do to deserve you?"

"Mulder..."

"No...I know I don't really deserve you so to have you here with me...I must have done something. I told you before; whatever it was...I'm so glad I did it. So glad."

"Mulder..."

Finding herself at a loss for words, Scully instead made her point by pulling Mulder down towards her upturned face and joining their lips together. They stood outside for a long time, kissing and talking and reassuring each other that they were going to be okay. Eventually, Scully began to shiver from the cold and Mulder picked her up in his arms and began carrying her into the house.

"Mulder...put me down. I can walk."

"Yes, yes you can. But you don't have to...don't think I've forgotten that you weren't very well earlier. You should be in your bed and that's where I'm taking you."

"I'm fine now Mulder...but I suppose if you want to join me there then I could put up with going to bed for a couple of hours..."

"You wicked woman you..."

They reached the doorway and Mulder trailed off as he turned back round, taking one last look at the end of the street where Bill's car had vanished from sight. Scully turned her head to see what he was looking at, and she immediately realised what had made him pause and grow quiet. She gave him a soft squeeze and planted a small kiss on his cheek before turning his head so that he was looking into her eyes.

"He's gone now Mulder...let's just enjoy the rest of the holiday together."

Mulder nodded in agreement and carried her up the stairs to the bedroom, determined to make the most of their free time. He knew that there was nowhere he would rather be and that the holiday would be one of the best he'd ever had...well, at least until Bill returned for the New Year's celebrations.

The End!!!!

Followed by: Angel, Book 2

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