Title: It Didn't Begin Well
Summary: Mulder and Scully are called in on the day before Christmas to sort out some missing files.
*Chapter 1*: It Didn't Begin Well
Scully stretched lazily as she woke up, revelling in the feel of the sheets against her skin. She wasn't used to a single bed, and found that her limbs soon hit air much too cold for her liking. The invitation to spend Christmas at her mothers was one she never turned down, but it did require some getting used to each time. Curling back into the duvet she finally opened her eyes, and tilted her head to the side, trying to get a view of the clock. 8:15. Scully turned her head away again and sighed quietly, before bolting upright and grabbing the clock.
"Damn." She muttered, slamming the clock back down on the nightstand and swinging her legs out of the bed. She couldn't believe she'd slept this late, especially with Mulder coming to pick her up at 8, or at least his version of it. Skinner's unwelcome phone call the day before had resulted in the two of them agreeing to go into work the day before Christmas, to help sort out some rogue reports that, while having been completed down in the basement office, had never made their way up to him. Scully had a sneaking suspicion that Mulder was largely to blame for this, but she had no evidence, and if she left him to find them by himself the likelihood of them ever reaching their intended destination was about as high as her ever taking Frohike up on his offer of a date. As she scrambled out of bed and ran for the bathroom she heard the doorbell and paused at the top of the steps to let Mulder know that she wasn't exactly ready.
Mulder swung the car into the driveway and killed the engine. Pocketing the keys he hopped out and walked to the front door, checking his watch as he went. 8:15. Well, pretty on time for his standards, though Scully was no doubt standing at the door waiting impatiently. So sure was he that this would be the case, when the door opened to reveal Scully's mother he had to quickly backtrack on the apology already halfway out of his mouth.
"Yeah, I know, I'm late aga , oh, Mrs Scully I'm sorry. Did Scully change her mind?"
"No!" Came a voice from the next floor up, and both Maggie and Mulder turned to see Scully hanging over the banister, still in pyjamas and looking decidedly unready for work.
"I'm sorry." She called down. "I forgot to set the alarm and overslept, just give me a few minutes ok?"
Mulder nodded and she disappeared again. Maggie smiled and shook her head in despair.
"Well Fox, it looks like you've got a wait on your hands. Would you like a cup of coffee?"
"No thank you, I have some in the car. But a piece of toast would be much appreciated?" He replied, allowing the use of his first name to slip by unnoticed as he always did with Scully's mother, the only person other than his own mother he allowed to use it. She nodded and headed to the kitchen.
Upstairs Scully was rushing to get ready. Squirting some toothpaste on the brush she shoved it into her mouth and went back to her room, changing her clothes as quickly as possible without getting them covered in the white paste. Fully dressed aside from her shoes she headed back to the bathroom and rinsed out her mouth, before splashing some cold water over her face and then putting on the little make-up she used to make herself look at least a little presentable. Checking her reflection she decided she'd do, and started down the stairs.
After Maggie had left for the kitchen Mulder made his way into the lounge. Knowing Scully's habit of kicking off her boots when she sat down he crouched by the sofa and, sure enough, there they were underneath it. Pulling them out he turned to go back to the hallway, but found his way blocked by a small boy.
"Look'ee." Stated the child, holding up a video for Mulder to see. Hearing Scully thump across the landing upstairs he decided he had time for this, and bent down to see what the kid was holding.
"The Lion King." He read, and the boy nodded happily, before opening his mouth wide and belting out what sounded like a very mangled version of 'The Circle of Life' as loud as his little lungs could manage. A few seconds later a harassed looking woman appeared and clamped a hand over his mouth.
"Shh, Mattie. We don't want to wake everyone up this early." Lifting him up she popped something into his mouth and turned to Mulder. "I'm sorry, he's been doing that all week. I think I'm going to have to get him singing lessons just so it stops being such an appalling racket." Grinning she left again, taking what Mulder assumed was her child with her, and he headed back out to the stairs, finding Scully on her way down them. As she reached the bottom he handed her the boots and she flopped down on the bottom stair to pull them on.
As she did so Mulder heard his name being called, and saw Maggie coming from the kitchen with a piece of toast on a plate. Smiling at her he grabbed the toast and handed it to Scully who had just finished putting her boots on. She shoved it into her mouth, grimacing slightly at the mixture of jam and toothpaste, and pushed her arms into the sleeves of the coat Mulder was holding out for her. Quickly giving her mother a peck on the cheek she headed out the door Mulder had just opened and into the car waiting outside, closely followed by Mulder.
Maggie watched as the car was backed down the driveway, still holding the plate, and jumped as someone touched her shoulder. Looking over her shoulder she saw Tara holding Mattie and smiled.
"What is it?" Asked her daughter-in-law. "You look a little shell-shocked."
"Oh it's nothing really." Maggie replied, closing the door and directing the other woman back into the lounge. "It's just that I've never known Dana to get ready so fast, and she never lets anyone help the way Fox just did. I was just wondering how she doesn't realise."
"That he's in love with her, and she with him. I can barely remember when it wasn't that way, and yet they still won't admit it, even to themselves."
Shaking her head Maggie sat down, preparing herself to sit through yet another viewing of Mattie's current obsession, and another of his renditions of his favourite song.
*Chapter 2*: And it didn't get much better
Mulder had kept quiet in the car, well aware that Scully was not a morning person even in the best of circumstances, and especially not when she'd only been awake for a grand total of 20 minutes. Instead he simply handed her the coffee once she'd finished her toast, and let her pick the music for the drive. After all, it was his fault the two of them had to go in anyway, though he didn't dare admit it to her. The missing reports were ones that he had meant to give to Skinner, it was just that on the way up to his office he'd been waylaid by a phone call from a source over a possible X-files and, well, the rest was history, including the reports. He'd meant to reprint them, he'd just never quite got round to it, and then he'd forgotten completely.
He snapped back to attention as the loud sound of a car horn blasted through his ears, followed by the equally disturbing if not as loud sound of a disapproving sniff from his partner. Giving her an apologetic half-smile he quickly manoeuvred himself so that he was fully in one lane rather than straddling two, and managed to make it the rest of the way to work without further incident.
He had no trouble parking, what with the fact that the two of them and Skinner were about the only ones working today, a fact that he was sure would put Skinner in an even more surly mood than usual, a theory for once shared by Scully, who dropped her things on the desk and turned to him with a 'don't mess with me' look.
"Since I'm here out of the goodness of my heart and more than likely to have to face a very unhappy Skinner on your behalf, I'm sure you wouldn't mind going and getting me a real cup of coffee and some proper breakfast would you?"
The order was followed by a sweet smile, but it was an order nonetheless, and Mulder hurried off to obey it before she changed her mind about helping him, just hoping he wouldn't run into Skinner on the way. Sod's law still being active however, he did.
"Agent Mulder what a pleasant surprise." His boss said, eyes and expression indicating that it was anything but. "And almost on time too." He continued, with a meaningful look at his watch.
Mulder contemplated blaming Scully, but knew that if she got wind of it he'd be in even more trouble, and decided that, for once, perhaps a lie was better than the truth.
"Yes sir, had a little trouble with the car, cold weather and all. Anyway just grabbing some breakfast and then we'll be right on to work."
"We?" Questioned Skinner.
"Uh, yes sir, Scully offered to come in and help."
Skinner seemed surprised at this for a moment, and then narrowed his eyes at Mulder, apparently under the impression that he had bullied her into coming with him. Not awake enough for an argument quite yet, Mulder smiled and backed away slowly, waiting until he was out of sight round the corner, and then broke into a run, not stopping until he reached the cafeteria.
He wasn't used to being in here, he and Scully usually avoided it because it was the hub of the rumour-mill, and they always became the centre of attention when they entered. Today though it was almost empty, and the one lady serving barely even looked at him as he bought the coffee and croissants.
Heading back downstairs it appeared that God was going to take pity on him for a few minutes, as he didn't see hide nor hair of Skinner all the way down, not that the man had any hair to see anyway he sniggered to himself.
"What's so funny?" Demanded Scully as he entered their office, practically snatching the meal from his hands.
"Nothing." He said shaking his head. "Just a thought."
"Dollar for it?" She replied, holding up the money she owed him for breakfast.
"Not worth it. And keep the money, you're doing me a favour by helping me find these reports, least I can do is buy you breakfast."
Smiling in thanks Scully sat down at the computer and began searching for the reports. Mulder sat on the floor in front of the filing cabinet where they put the miscellaneous bits of paper that didn't seem to fit with anything and happily spread them out around him, stopping every now and then as he got distracted by something interesting.
Before long Scully had created a neat little pile of papers on the desk next to her, made up of almost every report that had been lost. There was just one she couldn't find, and it didn't seem to be on either user.
"Mulder?" She directed her query at her partner, who was engrossed in a crumpled sheet of paper that looked as though it had seen better days.
"Mulder!" She repeated a little louder, making him jump and stuff the sheet back into a draw, before turning to her, trying to wipe the look of guilty panic off his face. Scully wasn't buying it. Getting up she approached him, and noticed his attempts to shift so that he was blocking the drawer.
"What was that?" She asked, trying to feign casual interest.
"Nothing." He replied, too quickly.
"Oh? So why are you hiding it from me?"
"I'm not hiding it, it's just not important. Are those the reports?" He questioned, scrambling to his feet and trying to draw her attention away from the drawer.
"Yes, all bar one. What was it Mulder?" She answered, refusing to be distracted.
"Oh? Which one is missing?" He replied, steadfastly ignoring the question.
Scully sighed in annoyance and glared down at the floor, her expression changing into one of delight as she caught sight of the report she'd just spent the last 15 minutes searching fruitlessly for. She pointed to it, and waited for Mulder's eyes to follow the direction of her finger.
"That one." She proclaimed. Realising that she had no intention of picking it up for him, Mulder rolled his eyes and bent down to retrieve it himself.
"While you're down there do you think you could pick up the rest of those pages?" Came Scully's voice from above him. "Just so I don't end up having to do it later."
Muttering quietly to himself Mulder did as she asked, not noticing that he was moving further away from the filing cabinet as he did so, and leaving enough space between him and it for Scully to squeeze in between and open the drawer. Having finished collecting the papers Mulder stood and turned, just in time to see Scully's hand leave the drawer, holding the crumpled piece of paper he'd just shoved into it.
Dropping what he was holding Mulder lunged for it, but Scully was too quick for him, darting out of arms reach and behind the desk for protection.
"Give it back." Mulder said, trying to stay calm and not sound like a 5 year old.
"No." Scully replied, resisting the temptation to stick her tongue out at him. "I want to know what it is."
Giving up on reasonable discussion Mulder make a leap for her over the desk, but only succeeded in knocking the pile of reports to the floor, as Scully made a run for the door. He regained his footing and made it there at the same time as her, grabbing her arm and pulling her backwards. As he did so he lost his footing, and tightened his grip on her arm to try and keep himself upright. Unfortunately it was a futile attempt as she weighed about half as much as him, and so the action resulted in the both of them falling to the floor. Slightly stunned they lay there for a few moments, regaining their breath, before being shocked out of their skins by a booming voice.
"Just what is going on in here?"
*Chapter 3*: However, things began to look up
Jumping up even faster than they'd gone down the two agents found themselves face to face with a somewhat bemused but very definitely annoyed Skinner.
"First I find you wandering around the corridors upstairs," he growled, staring at Mulder, "And then I come down here because you've had quite long enough to find these reports and find you lying on the floor. Is it too much to ask for an explanation?"
"No sir." Came two muttered replies, hard to hear as both Mulder and Scully were staring determinedly down at the floor, afraid that if they caught the others eye they wouldn't be able to stop themselves laughing. But to Skinner's eyes they looked the very picture of a pair of naughty children caught doing something they shouldn't have been.
The corners of Skinner's mouth twitched as he took in the state of the office, and the state of his two agents, who were both looking a little the worse for wear. Straightening his face he made sure to keep any hint of amusement out of his voice.
"Well?" He demanded.
Seeing that Mulder was going to keep his mouth firmly closed Scully took on the task of answering.
"Well sir, we found all the reports you wanted, though um, you'll have to wait a moment for us to get them back together." Pausing she gave Mulder a quick shove in the direction of the desk and he went to do just that, though not passing up the opportunity to make a grab for the paper they had been fighting over. Scully had been expecting this however, and scrunched the paper into her fist as he reached for it, making him stumble again and earning him another glare from Skinner. Abandoning his attempts to retrieve it for the time being Mulder crouched down to gather up the reports.
"And then we were just putting them into a pile when we realised we were still missing one. Mulder reached over the desk to put it on the pile but slipped and knocked them to the floor. I went to help him but he grabbed me as he tried to regain his balance and we both fell."
Looking up at him with innocent eyes Scully felt only a little shame, as it wasn't entirely a lie. Skinner tried to stare her down, knowing he hadn't got the entire truth, but found himself wilting in the face of her gaze and gave up, mentally cursing himself for being unable to withstand it.
As he tore his eyes away he found Mulder standing before him, a pile of papers in his hands.
"This is all of them sir." He said, and dumped them into Skinner's arms.
"Good. Next year perhaps you could see your way to getting them all in on time?"
Mulder grinned and nodded, and Skinner turned on his heel and walked out, calling out a final order to them as he went.
"Clean this office up before you go, and have a merry Christmas!"
"Merry Christmas, sir!" They shouted after him, and then turned to survey the wreckage of their office. Papers were scattered everywhere, and the desk was a good 3 feet from its usual position, and some of its contents were spilling out, though at least it was still upright. Sighing the two set to work, or at least Scully set to work, and Mulder set to thinking how he could get that piece of paper back from her.
As if she'd heard his thoughts Scully straightened up and uncurled her fist.
"What is this Mulder?" She asked, deciding to try proper questioning again.
"Does it matter?" He replied, squirming uncomfortably.
"It does when you so obviously don't want me to read it." She stated, not about to let him back out of it.
"It's personal." He muttered, hoping that would be enough for her, but he'd piqued her curiosity too much already.
"Personal? Don't tell me this is a list of those movies that aren't yours?" She smirked as she spoke, but the smile fell away as he lifted his eyes to meet hers. They were filled with emotion, and she suddenly realised that he was serious. Stepping toward him she held out her hand for him to take the paper.
"I'm sorry." She said, hoping he'd understand that she hadn't known he wasn't kidding around.
"It's ok." He took the paper and smoothed it carefully, tucking it into a pocket with something akin to reverence. Scully watched curiously, but didn't question him further. Instead she threw everything on the floor into a draw and grabbed their coats, holding his out for him to put on. He looked up surprised.
"But we didn't put all this stuff away properly." He protested, well aware of Scully's distaste for mess of any kind.
"I know." She said smiling at him. "But I think we need to get out of here don't you? Anyway, mom will kill me if I don't get back before Charlie arrives."
Mulder's face had brightened considerably at the prospect of leaving, but when Scully mentioned going home it fell again. Trying to mask his disappointment he berated himself for wishing she would spend the day with him rather than her family, and attempted to feign enthusiasm.
"Oh right, Charlie. The only Scully I haven't met yet."
"Mmhm, though you'll be meeting him today of course." His partner replied matter-of-factly, pushing him out the door and locking it.
"I said you'll be meeting Charlie today."
"Yeah, I heard you but, I am?"
"Well of course you are. I mean, you are staying with us for Christmas, right?" Scully looked at him as they entered the elevator, eyebrow raised in question.
"Uh, are you sure?" Mulder answered the question with a question. "I mean, I know Bill is there and Charlie might not even like me and I don't want to impose on your mom and I know you get sick of me and "
"Mulder?" Scully interrupted his ramblings. "We want you to come, ok? Charlie, mom and me."
"Well, no, but he's just going to have to put up with it. You're as much my family as he is."
Mulder felt a lump in his throat as she spoke and swallowed quickly.
"In that case," he said clearing his throat a little, "I'd love to come."
*Chapter 4*: But quickly went downhill again
After a quick pit-stop at Mulder's so he could pack and Scully could raid his kitchen for anything edible, the two managed to make their way back to Mrs Scully's house without any further mishaps. There was again silence in the car, a little more uncomfortable now than it had been earlier due to Mulder's behaviour over that piece of paper, and Scully's heartfelt words.
Still, the warm reception that both received upon entering the house put such emotions and thoughts to the back of their minds, and they were soon well involved in the festivities. Scully had been accosted by her mother and was now busy chopping vegetables, and Mulder had been plonked down in front of the TV with Matthew to watch the Lion King and make paper chains, with an admonition to stay out of trouble. He wasn't sure if he should feel offended by being treated like a child, but after he'd got the third paper chain somehow attached to himself, and had sung along to 'Hakuna Matata' a good few times, he was beginning to get into the spirit of things.
He'd just picked up the remote to rewind the tape again at Mattie's insistent demands, when the front door slammed and a shadow fell across the doorway. Mulder scrambled to his feet and removed any bits of paper from his body, accidentally hitting play as he did so.
"It means no worries! For the rest of your days . . ." Blared the TV, along with Mattie's high-pitched voice shrieking that he was in the wrong place. Turning back to the child with an apology Mulder handed the remote to him, and slowly rotated back to face the figure entering the room.
"What are you doing here?" It asked, the tone it used brooking no chance for debate.
"Bill, hi, nice to see you again." Mulder tried anyway, hoping Scully or her mom or at least someone would get back in here so he wouldn't have to face the elder brother from hell all on his own.
"I asked you a question." Bill said, ignoring Mulder's outstretched hand and folding his arms over his chest to make it clear he had no intention of shaking it.
Sighing Mulder prepared himself for the explosion that was liable to come when he revealed that he had been asked, but found himself saved from that particular horror when Mattie barrelled into his legs from behind.
"Unca Mudda, pumba on!" He squealed happily, pointing back at the screen where indeed pumba was on, though he had changed colour rather dramatically, now being a somewhat luminous green rather than his usual brown. Mulder smiled back at him, but froze as he realised just what the boy had said. Desperately he prayed that Bill hadn't heard it, but again it seemed that God was sitting on a cloud with his fingers in his ears for all the good it did him.
"Look, I never asked him to call me that, ok?" Mulder tried to explain, backing away at the dangerous look on Bill's face.
"Uncle Mulder? My son considers you to be a part of this family?" The storm clouds were gathering fast, his voice becoming louder as he continued to speak. "You, the man who got my sister killed, who nearly got my other "
"Bill!" Came a familiar sounding voice from the other doorway, sharp and definitely displeased, yet still a balm to Mulder's ears. Scully had come to his rescue. Bill looked over towards his sister and opened his mouth to continue the argument, but a practised glare from her soon had him shutting it again.
"Mulder would you go into the kitchen please? And take Mattie with you. I need to talk to Bill." Her voice was controlled, her tone casual, but Mulder knew that she was seething inside. Deciding that it would be a safer idea to do as she said just this once, he picked the boy up, placating him with the stuffed lion from that morning. He carefully made his way round Scully, studiously ignoring the death rays that Bill was boring into his back as he went.
Everyone turned as he entered the kitchen, obviously having heard Bill's fighting words a few moments before. Mulder deposited Mattie into his mother's arms and took over Scully's position at the chopping board, waiting for the shouting match in the other room to begin. He sensed that the women in the room with him were waiting for the same thing, as Mrs Scully was putting the lids on anything that could spill if jogged, and Tara was getting Mattie into a coat so she could take him outside.
The preparations were interrupted, however, by the slamming of the front door, followed by a male voice calling out.
*Chapter 5*: Especially once Bill arrived
"Charlie!" Came an excited yell from the front room, and Mulder looked over his shoulder to see Scully fly out of the door and into the arms of the man who had just entered. He watched them as they hugged and laughed, and found his mouth twitching into a smile as he noted the similarities between the two. The hair colour was obvious, but even though Charlie stood a good foot taller than his sister they had a very similar bone structure, though where it made Scully look delicate and pretty, it gave Charlie very striking features that Mulder was sure had won him many dates in the past.
The smile faded though as Bill stalked back into the kitchen, taking advantage of Scully's distraction to resume his attack on Mulder. Only meeting his eyes for a few seconds to convey his anger and disgust Bill jerked his head toward the garden and marched out through the back door, apparently confident enough that Mulder would follow him to not even look back to check he was. Receiving no help from anyone else as they'd all rushed out to see Charlie, Mulder reluctantly followed the larger man, hoping that he only wanted to yell at him rather than physically fight, as he wasn't sure who would win in such a match. He had the FBI training yes, but Bill had army training, as well as extra height and weight. Either way, he didn't want Scully to have to come visit him in hospital on Christmas Day, or the Scully family to have to visit Bill.
Coming out of his musings at the sound of Bill's voice, Mulder pulled himself up to his full height, and looked the other man straight in the eye.
"As I was saying. You've caused my family a lot of grief, and Dana the most. When our father died it fell to me to be the man of the house and you're making that job very difficult. First Melissa died thanks to you and whatever the hell quest you're on, and then Dana nearly goes the same way. The things you've put her through the past few years I don't know how she can even stand the sight of you. Now I don't know why you drag her off to all these places, put her in danger and nearly get her killed but "
Mulder was staring at Bill incredulously, unable to believe the words coming out of his mouth. He'd been with the guy when he started, quite used to sending himself on guilt trips over what had happened to Scully because of her association with him and the X-files, but the insinuation that he forced her to stay with him pushed him over the edge. He'd had this argument with Scully before, just after they'd returned from Antartica. He'd wanted her to leave the X-files, go do what she wanted to do, but she'd stunned him by blasting him with an argument that had left him reeling at his own arrogance, and it was the one he was about to use now. Every time Bill had attacked him he'd hung back, accepting the insults and the blame, but this wasn't insulting him, it was insulting Scully, and that was something he wouldn't accept from anyone least of all her own brother.
"Excuse me?" He sputtered, making Bill pause in his tirade.
"What?" The other man said, a little astounded that Mulder had answered back.
"I'm sorry but I can't believe that you would think I would, or even could force Scully into doing anything! I mean, you grew up with the woman so you know how stubborn she can be, and she certainly would never do anything against her own will unless she was forced into it by gunpoint, and she's the one that shot me not the other way around. Look, by all means blame me for the bad things that have happened to her but don't blame me for her choices. Because that's what they are Bill, her choices, not mine. I hate it when she's hurt or in trouble, but sometimes there's just nothing I can do to stop that. The one time she went on a case without me she got shot and nearly died, now that was her choice to go, are you going to say I forced her into it? Scully has a mind of her own and a very impressive one at that, and uses it to make her own decisions. I would think that as her brother you would give her a little more credit."
Bill stood there mouth open, obviously trying to form an answer but unable to find one that would still have him in the right. Seeing his trouble, Mulder decided to end this while he was still ahead and not beaten to a pulp. Backing off slowly so he'd have time to leap out the way if Bill decided violence was a better form of argument, Mulder began to turn away, but found his escape route blocked by the very person he had just been talking about. A little embarrassed he ducked his head to avoid her eyes.
Scully had forgotten all about Bill in her excitement to see Charlie, having practically shoved him into the wall in her haste to get out of the room, the confrontation at the back of her mind as she welcomed her little brother home.
"God, Charlie how long has it been?" She'd asked, honestly unable to remember.
"I don't know Day, but too long." He'd replied, drawing her into a bear hug that lifted her right off the floor. Laughing she'd thumped him and demanded he put her down. He did so, rubbing his arm where she'd hit him, receiving a raised eyebrow for his attempts at feigning injury.
"That hurt." He whined, trying for the sympathy card.
"Liar." She'd replied, eyes dancing with mirth, and he'd been unable to keep a straight face after that, grinning right along with her and dropping the act.
She'd stepped back so her mother could get hold of Charlie and looked around for Mulder so she could introduce him, but realised that he was nowhere in sight. Ducking back into the lounge she found Bill missing too and hurried into the kitchen, hoping she wasn't going to have to follow a trail of blood to find the two of them.
Instead she had caught sight of them outside, amazingly both intact, and even more incredibly it looked as though Mulder was doing the talking. She walked out, intending to interrupt and stop this before it could get any worse, but found herself overwhelmed by the spirited defence Mulder was making on her behalf. Working with him every day she sometimes forgot just how much he thought of her after finding herself doing all the paperwork for the fifth time in a month, or having to clear the desk of sunflower seeds before she could actually do anything. But here he was, proclaiming it out loud.
She was still basking in the warm fuzzy feeling his words had created when she found herself face to face with him, and promptly blushed over having been caught eavesdropping. A few seconds passed with neither able to look the other in the eye as they regained their composure, and then each looked up and caught the others eye. A shy grin appeared on both faces, and then the silence was broken as Bill finally recovered his voice and delivered a parting shot.
"Oh Christ Dana, don't tell me you're in love with him."
*Chapter 6*: Though Charlie improved matters somewhat
Mulder watched as Scully's eyes flashed with a fire he knew only too well. Though it might not have been obvious to those now standing in the kitchen observing, or even to Bill, he could tell that she was now royally pissed off. Her lips had thinned into a white line, her whole body was tense, and her fingers had curled into tight fists. Whether what Bill had said was right or not, if no one stopped her she was going to attack him with everything she had and, he noted with a flash of concern, she was armed. He didn't believe that she would actually shoot her own brother, but then, he hadn't believed she'd ever shoot him.
Deciding not to take the chance he stepped in before things could go any further. Taking Scully by the shoulders he gently turned her, ignoring the startled and angry eyes that met his as he did so.
"What are you doing?" She demanded, trying to twist out of his grip.
Lowering his hands to her wrists Mulder gently wrapped his fingers round them and lowered his mouth to her ear.
"It's Christmas, Scully, season of goodwill and all that. Bill is reacting to circumstances he doesn't like and can't control. You know he's only trying to get a rise out of you, don't give him the satisfaction."
He held his breath as he waited for Scully's response, knowing full well that if she decided now was as good a time as any for a confrontation he wouldn't be able to stop her. For a few seconds he thought that his efforts might have been in vain as she practically trembled with indecision. He even began to take a step back, not wanting to be caught in the crossfire, when suddenly he saw her body relax.
Scully had been too enraged even to speak when Bill had thrown that little accusation her way. She knew he fought dirty sometimes, but that was a low blow even for him. She had been gathering her energy for the fight certain to ensue when she found herself being taken aside by Mulder. Irritated and confused she'd tried to turn back, but found herself distracted by the words being whispered in her ear. Or, more accurately, the person whispering those words. Mulder was close, too close, and she didn't like the reactions it was causing in her.
"Stop it." She told her rebellious emotions firmly, but silently. "You're only doing this because of what Bill just said, and what does he know?"
"More than you might think." Came an amused answer from the back of her mind, but she quickly quelled the thought, and turned her attention back to Mulder. It took her a few seconds to realise what he'd actually said, the words taking some time to penetrate the fog that had been clouding her mind. However, she had eventually realised the truth of his words, and had allowed herself to relax, hearing a whoosh or relieved breath both Mulder behind her and the rest of her family in front.
Disregarding Bill, who was still standing there, apparently waiting for an answer, she smiled up at Charlie who had watched the whole scene from the doorway.
"Charlie, I'd like you to meet Mulder." She proclaimed, taking Mulder's hand and leading him up to her brother, only just able to keep herself from directing a snide comment at Bill as she did.
The two men shook hands a little warily, unsure as to how the other was going to react. Mulder had only heard good things about Charlie, and figured that he'd already seen the worst of the Scully's in Bill so had little to fear from this brother. Charlie, on the other hand, had heard mixed views of Mulder. Bill of course made the man out to be such a monster that Charlie had almost been expecting him to have horns and a tail, whereas Dana sang his praises so highly a halo would be more appropriate. His mother was a little more even-minded, happy to give Mulder credit where it was due, but not about to forgive him any and every mistake, and Charlie suspected this was probably the most believable view, especially since the man didn't seem to have any adornments past a watch as far as he could see.
"Nice to meet you." Mulder spoke, interrupting Charlie's perusal of him.
"And you." Charlie replied with a smile. "I see you've already experienced the Scully temper." He inclined his head at Bill who stared back at him angrily, and then at Dana who gave him a thump on the arm in retaliation as she walked inside, seemingly confident that Charlie wasn't about to try and pull Mulder's head off. As she slipped out of earshot Charlie leant forward, muttering conspiratorially.
"Nice job with that by the way, calming her down I mean. Once Dana gets going you know there's going to be tears, and I've never seen any one get her to go from murderous to smiling so fast."
Pleased at the unexpected praise Mulder smiled back and thanked him, pleasantly surprised at the reaction his presence was causing in this brother, who winked at him and continued to speak in the same low tone.
"I haven't figured out whether I should like you or hate you yet, but I'll do that in my own time. Right now we need to make sure we have a happy family Christmas, and if Dana wants you counted in that then who am I to argue?" This was obviously a rhetorical question that Mulder wasn't supposed to answer, but he couldn't help nodding in agreement, glad that he was being at least partially accepted. Pitching his voice low he replied.
"Somehow I don't think that's something we can aim for with your brother still plotting my early demise."
Charlie looked over at Bill and shook his head in despair.
"Don't you worry about him. I'll talk to him, try and make him see reason. You might have to put up with some stony silences and childishness but I can make sure he doesn't attack you outright again, at least for the next day or so."
Grasping Charlie's hand again in thankfulness, Mulder shook it heartily, gaining an easy grin from the much more likeable brother. Charlie used the handshake to pull Mulder inside, and then left the house himself.
"Just remember." He called back. "I'm still making my mind up on you, so don't take this for granted."
Mulder nodded, making an internal memo to make the best impression possible, and left Charlie to his business with Bill. He made his way into the lounge, where he found Scully and her mom talking, while Tara tried her best to distract Mattie from the TV. Catching sight of him Scully beckoned him over.
"How'd it go?" She asked, sure that the answer wouldn't be too negative. She'd left Charlie alone with Mulder, knowing that he preferred to make his own decisions over people, but sure that he wouldn't form one so fast that Mulder would be in danger any time soon. She'd just been speaking with her mother as to whether Mulder had made a good first impression on her little brother, and had received a reassuring answer to the positive. Now that Mulder had returned intact, she waited with baited breath to find out if she'd been right.
"Well," came a slightly unsure answer, "I think I'm on probation."
*Chapter 7*: Giving Mulder and Scully time together
Wow, sorry for the delay folks! Had something else I had to write up but had writers block over it. Thanks for the reviews in the meantime.
Scully had to laugh at Mulder's proclamation, gaining her a glare and a pout. Rolling her eyes at him she softened the action with a smile and turned back to her conversation with her mother.
Left to his own devices, Mulder went to rescue Tara, who was struggling with Matthew. The boy was not about to give his favourite film up without a fight, one which he was currently winning. Squatting down beside him Mulder tickled him, getting him to look away, and then pulled his now infamous Mr Potato Head face. Mattie was astounded, staring at Mulder as if trying to work out how the film character had got onto this mans head. Apparently deciding it was a matter for laughter not tears, the kid was soon cackling away, the film his mother was finally able to put away completely forgotten.
"Thank you!" Tara mouthed over her son's head. Mulder smiled at her and shook his head to indicate it wasn't a problem, glad that at least one member of the family seemed grateful to have him here today. She quickly gathered up all the things strewn out on the floor and shoved them into a box in the corner before determinedly picking Matthew up and heading toward the stairs, the screams that floated back suggesting Mattie wasn't entirely happy with this turn of events.
Alone again, Mulder went back to his earlier task of making paper chains, and was soon joined by Scully. The two worked in an easy silence for a while, happy to be in each other's company without being yelled at or having anything of paramount importance to do. Scully especially enjoyed these times and had been itching to go sit down with him while standing with her mother, who had noticed her daughter didn't seem to be listening to what she was saying.
"So Dana, Fox finally decided to come this year?" She had asked, curious as to why he had changed his mind.
"Yes." Scully had replied, staring over at Mulder.
"Did you have to bully him into it or did he come willingly?"
"Yes." Came the cryptic answer.
"I suppose the story about the giant killer Christmas trees helped."
"Yes wait, what?" Scully's brain had caught up with her ears, and she'd blushed as she turned her head back, opening her mouth to apologise. Maggie waved the apology away and pushed her daughter over to Mulder, leaving the room to continue with the dinner, shaking her head and wondering just when the two of them would open their eyes to what was right in front of them.
"Mulder?" Scully broke the silence, suddenly needing him to know something.
"Fhab?" He replied, then noticed his speech was unintelligible due to the paper in his mouth. Spitting it out he tried again. "What's up?"
"I wanted to thank you for what you said outside. I don't actually need anyone to defend me but I know why you did it and it's nice to know that you think that highly of me."
Scully paused, unsure how to continue, or even whether she should. It might well be better to leave it alone, he didn't seem particularly offended, and it would be hard to explain. Still, she'd started now so she might as well finish.
"But, um, what Bill said, outside." She began, stammering a little. Mulder put everything down and gave her his full attention, realising this was more than just a simple inquiry.
"When he asked if I, if I stayed with you because I loved you, I didn't mean, well, it wasn't that I didn't get angry because of what he said but because he said it, if you see what I mean?"
Mulder wasn't sure that he did, but nodded so that she'd go on.
"It's just, I wouldn't want you to think that I'd be that offended if someone said I was in love with you but Bill should know better and I can't believe that he'd think I'd be so shallow and such an airhead as to do it. But I just need to know that you aren't upset over it."
"Why would I be upset over it?" Mulder mused, only realising that he'd spoken aloud when Scully answered him.
"Well," she said cautiously, "If someone accused you of being in love with me and then you knocked them out because of it I might take that as slightly insulting."
Finally understanding where she was coming from Mulder shook his head.
"Don't worry Scully I'm not insulted." He smiled. "If anything it's a compliment."
He elaborated as he caught the puzzled look on his partners face.
"Well, if you'd stayed with me this look just because of that then I must be one hell of a good-looking, sexy, intelligent, understanding, gorgeous hunk of a man!"
Scully regarded him with serious eyes for a moment, and then reached out and pinched the skin of his hands tight between her nails. When he yelped in pain and snatched his hand away from her she nodded in satisfaction.
"Yep, you're still dreaming Mulder." She told him matter-of-factly, and went back to her chain. Mulder pouted for a few seconds, but soon realised that it wasn't going to help him this time. Restraining himself from poking Scully in revenge he settled back to work. As the silence descended again he found himself thinking over what she'd said.
"I wouldn't want you to think that I'd be that offended if someone said I was in love with you."
Yes, those had been her words. Was there a chance that ? Mulder shook his head angrily, annoyed at himself for pondering such a thing. Scully had always made it clear that theirs was nothing but a platonic relationship. He counted himself lucky to get away with the hand on the small of her back, which often rode a little lower than it should, though it seemed that Scully just accepted this as misplacement. Shrugging his shoulders he tried to put the thought out of his mind, but it was hard. More words floated through.
"That you should know my heart, look into it, finding there the memory and experience that belong to you, that are you."
Silently he cursed his eidetic memory for allowing him to remember the things she'd written to him in that journal when she underwent the treatment that could have killed her. He wondered how much more she would have written, how much more of her private self she would have exposed to him, knowing she would die, and he wondered whether it was now time to return the favour.
Slowly he reached into his pocket, debating whether this was really a wise course of action. Beating down his demons, he took out the piece of paper they had been fighting over a few hours earlier, and turned it over in his hands. Taking a deep breath he opened his mouth to get Scully's attention.
A voice rang through from the kitchen.
"Dana I could really use a hand in here!"
Scully jumped up and headed out the door, flashing an apologetic smile at Mulder as she went, apparently not noticing the paper in his hands, or at least not noticing that it was different from the many other bits scattered on the floor around them. Mulder sighed and put it away again, wondering if the interruption had just been a coincidence or if some higher power was telling him that it had been a bad idea.
Standing up he began to hang the chains, tall enough to get them behind the heavily decorated Christmas tree, something he was sure Mattie had had a good hand in, and soon had them all round the room. Stepping back to get a good look he bumped into someone, and turned to see Charlie standing behind him.
"Good job." The man smiled. "Mulder 1, Bill 0. Keep it up and you'll be a fully fledged member of the clan in no time."
*Chapter 8*: Until that night
The remainder of the afternoon had, thankfully, passed without incident. No mysterious phone calls, ghosts of any kind, and, best of all, not a single outburst from Bill. Whatever Charlie had said had caused big brother to limit his disapproval to stony silences, glares, and the odd tut. However, this Mulder could put up with, as it didn't cause him to fear for his life.
At the moment, though, he was being spared any of Bill's methods as the man, along with all the rest of the Scully clan save little Mattie, was at Midnight Mass. It seemed that this was a family tradition, something Mulder guiltily realised that he had interrupted on more than one occasion. He had been invited to join them, but he wasn't in any way religious and didn't want to intrude, so he offered to stay home and look after Mattie, who had screamed his lungs out through most of the service the year before, causing him to be housebound this year in order to avoid a repeat performance. He would be allowed to stay up until they got back though, as he was going through a clingy phase, and wouldn't settle down to sleep unless Tara was there.
Bill had not been entirely pleased about the idea of the man he hated looking after his son, but some choice words from Tara this time soon had him backing off. Having made his bed on the couch, Mulder had settled onto a chair with Mattie to watch Hercules, which was a compromise between The Lion King and The Mummy. Possibly a compromise weighted more heavily in Mattie's favour, but Mulder was enjoying the Disney film anyway. It was easy to watch, which meant he could let his mind wander.
As usual it had wandered to thoughts of Scully. He was a little frightened at what he had come close to revealing to her earlier, of acting on an impulse that he was finding harder and harder to resist. Sighing he allowed his memory to take him back into their shared past, hoping to find the answer he needed. He recalled her telling him that she wouldn't leave him, that she was there for him and that she wouldn't change a day spent with him. But then he remembered her almost leaving him, almost leaving the FBI for that matter, and that debacle with Ed Jerse. He knew he trusted Scully with his life, body and soul, but was not yet sure that he could trust her with his heart.
He was rudely pulled from his musings by the indignant shriek of the boy sitting on his lap. Concentrating he realised that the film had finished, and probably a while back too judging by the state of the credits.
"Sorry kiddo, wasn't quite with it there." He muttered, hoisting Mattie off his lap and onto the sofa as he went to remove the video.
"Hung'y." Was his only reply, along with a disgruntled look.
"Hungry? Ok, let's go raid the kitchen before the adults get back." He grinned at the boy and swung him up into his arms before marching to the kitchen, doing an army walk to make Mattie laugh. Depositing him in his high chair Mulder turned it so that Mattie could see all the cabinets.
"What would you like, monsieur?" He asked, bowing low. Mattie simply giggled and pointed. Mulder followed his finger.
"Cereal? At this time in the morning?"
Mattie nodded seriously, so Mulder shrugged and went about finding the milk to pour on the Cheerios. He realised that he was also hungry, and figuring he'd follow Mattie's lead he made a bowl for himself too, flopping down in a chair at the table to eat. But Mattie had decided that now was the time to be fussy, and wanted to eat what was in Mulder's bowl rather than his own. Sighing Mulder pulled the boy back onto his lap and allowed him to do so, reaching over his head with his spare hand to eat what was left in Mattie's bowl.
That was how the others found them when they got back. Two empty bowls sitting near each other on the table, and Mulder leaning back in the chair with Mattie on his lap, both of them fast asleep. Tara and Scully especially were amazed at this, Tara because this was the first time in almost 6 months that her son had fallen asleep without her in the very near vicinity, and Scully because she knew Mulder's insomnia rarely let him sleep. The two did make a cute picture though, and the women were most disappointed when Bill tried to yank his son off Mulder's lap, causing both to awaken.
"No!" Mulder cried, grabbing at Mattie and cradling him against his chest as he leapt to his feet, a hand reaching down for his gun, causing Bill to stare at him in alarm, too bemused to yell. Realising what was going on Scully carefully moved to stand by her partner.
"Mulder, Mulder?" He glanced at her. "It's ok, we're back now, you don't have to protect Mattie any more."
As she spoke his eyes began to clear, and with an apologetic look he handed the boy over to his father.
"Sorry, it's uh, it's a force of habit."
Impressed despite himself Bill nodded, and left the room. He was followed a few seconds later by Tara, who had thanked Mulder and then left.
Mulder had slumped back down into the chair, rubbing tired eyes. Scully sat next to him and patted his shoulder.
"Not your fault." She said, knowing it wouldn't help much.
"I know. It's just that he's a kid, and I'd never forgive myself if anything happened to him while I was looking after him, it'd be just like "
He cut himself off, but Scully didn't need the words to know that he was thinking about Samantha, his little sister, abducted at the age of 8. It was the reason Mulder was always on guard, whether awake or asleep, endlessly but fruitlessly hoping that in his dreams this time he'd be able to save her.
A soft clearing of the throat interrupted the moment. Charlie and Maggie were still standing in the doorway, and had suddenly thought that they ought to make their presence known. Maggie was sure that the two hadn't noticed, but Mulder and Scully had been lost in the other's eyes, and identical expression of sadness on both faces.
"Fox dear, don't apologise. You might have made us all jump, but even Bill knows now that you are an excellent guardian for his son. You're going to make a wonderful father some day."
She smiled at him and walked to the table, dropping a kiss onto both his and Scully's heads before bidding them goodnight and leaving the room. Charlie remained in the doorway a few seconds more, waiting for Mulder to stop blushing after Maggie's unexpected praise.
"Mulder 2, Bill 0." He stated calmly. "I've never seen someone react so fast, going from sound asleep to FBI man that quickly is certainly impressive."
Mulder nodded his embarrassed thanks and got up, busying himself with tidying the table. Charlie flashed a grin at his sister, who returned it, thankful for his easy attitude toward Mulder. He gave her a bear hug and kissed her cheek before disappearing upstairs after his mother, calling out a goodnight as he went.
"We should really hit the sack too, Mulder." Scully noted through a yawn. "Got to be up early to see if Santa came."
*Chapter 9*: But early morning brought them close
Tired as she was Scully couldn't sleep, her thoughts kept drifting to the times she'd spent with her sister in this room. Christmas had become something of a melancholy time for her recently, living each one without her father and sister, and then the sheer hell of finding and losing her daughter over the period.
Sighing she threw off the covers, shivering a little in the cold air, and decided to go downstairs and make a hot chocolate to try and lull her to sleep. As she reached the bottom of the stairs her eye was caught by flashing images on the TV, and she peeked in to find Mulder wide awake, spread out on the couch under a duvet.
Mulder hadn't been able to get back to sleep since his rude awakening earlier so had resorted to watching whatever rubbish was on. However, he had no idea what any of the plots were as he was watching without sound, not wanting to wake any of the Scully's up.
He thought, therefore, that somehow one of the clan must have extra-sensory perception when he heard someone coming down the stairs. Turning to look over the back of the couch he saw Scully leaning on the doorpost, apparently watching him. He hid a smile as she ducked her head in embarrassment.
"Couldn't sleep?" He asked, saving her from trying to explain.
She shook her head and he lifted up the duvet near his feet. Scully raised an eyebrow at him for a moment, so he put his best innocent look on and waited for her resolve to waver. Sure enough, within a few seconds she had taken a seat under the warm duvet next to the bottom of his legs, which he had moved to allow her some room.
"So Scully, what would your Christmas wish be?" Mulder asked, deciding that they might as well talk if neither of them was going to be able to get any sleep.
Scully shrugged, apparently uncomfortable with the question. Unsure as to the reason for that but figuring that maybe it was just shyness Mulder continued to push.
"Come on Scully you must have some idea? Mine's obvious of course, I'd "
"Wish that Samantha had never been taken, yes, I know. But Mulder, how am I supposed to choose?"
Mulder looked at her, confusion etched on his features. Scully looked at her hands, which were twisted together in her lap, and continued in such a soft voice that Mulder might not even have heard it if he wasn't concentrating so hard on her.
"How am I supposed to choose between my father, my sister and my daughter?"
Stunned into silence for a moment Mulder mentally cursed himself, unable to believe the extent of his stupidity. He saw a tear gently flow down Scully's cheek, and the tiny droplet broke him from his shocked state. Sitting up he carefully wiped it away with his thumb and then took hold of Scully's hands, pulling her forward as he lay back, until she was lying down with him, curled up against his side.
"I'm so sorry." He whispered into her ear, feeling her tremble as the tears continued to come. "Scully I didn't even think. Sometimes I forget how much you've lost to this cause, my cause hell maybe - "
"Mulder if the next words out of your mouth are 'maybe Bill is right' I promise you that I will nail your ears to the wall and use you as a stocking."
"But Scully - "
"No, Mulder." Scully pulled herself up a little so that she could look him in the eye. "I have lost things and people I love, but you can't blame that all on the X-files, which by the way I consider my cause as much as yours."
Nodding sheepishly at that, Mulder silently encouraged her to continue.
"My father's death had nothing to do with what we do, it was simply his time to go. Missy's death is directly due to it I accept that, and I accept that if I hadn't stayed in the job she would very probably still be alive. But Emily," her voice choked on the name, and she took a few seconds to gather herself before continuing, "Emily wasn't a loss but a blessing. Without the X-files I wouldn't have got to know my daughter, that beautiful little girl. Without the X-files she wouldn't even have been created. Her death was sad, and hard, and I wish that she was still with us, but I am grateful for the time that I was allowed with her, however short it was. And Mulder, without the X-files, I would never have met you. You are my best friend and the best partner anyone could ever wish for, aside from the odd ditches which are occurring less frequently these days. How could I wish for the return of a loved one, when it might mean losing you?"
Mulder swallowed, touched beyond belief, and tightened his arms around her, gently pulling her head back onto his shoulder. He hoped she could feel his sorrow and gratitude through the hug, because he didn't trust himself not to cry if he tried to tell her verbally right now.
Scully snuggled into his side, drawing strength from him as she always did, needing to keep going with this.
"Mulder, I don't regret the life I chose to lead. I do regret some of the things that have happened because of that choice, such as the deaths of those I love, but it has also led to so many good things. We've helped so many people, saved so many lives, and helped thwart some of the most evil people on this planet, even if only temporarily in some cases. And you've lost just as much to this as I have Mulder, you lost your entire childhood, as well as your sister and parents by default."
"But Scully," Mulder interrupted, unable to bear her trying to equal their losses, "even if I lost my childhood, you lost your chance of a child -"
"Stop." Scully's quiet command halted Mulder's words. "Biologically, yes, you're right I can't, but with this job I couldn't have a child now anyway, it would be too unfair. But in the future, when, if, things are more stable then there are a lot of options open to me. Mulder, I hate the people who took the possibility of having a child of my own away from me, but I still have the choice to do something about it, and that's what's important. I can choose to have a child another way, and I can choose to keep going after these bastards until we bring them down."
Eyes flaming and cheeks pink with determination Scully looked just like an avenging angel to Mulder, who made up his mind there and then that he would do anything in his power to make sure they managed it. Not for him any longer, he'd come to the end of his quest, having found his answers to Samantha's disappearance, and having made as much peace with it as he'd ever be able to, but for Scully, who was only just beginning her quest.
"Ok." He said simply.
Scully smiled at him.
"I know." She replied, and then yawned so wide Mulder feared she'd swallow his head. Grinning he eased her head back onto his shoulder again.
"It can wait for now though. You need sleep, and it's Christmas tomorrow."
"Mmhm." Was his only answer, as Scully made herself comfortable and began to slip into sleep.
"In fact," he continued, willing his voice to lull her further, "it's actually Christmas now."
"Mm? Merry Christmas Mulder." Came a murmur from his side.
"Merry Christmas Scully." He whispered back, and then closed his eyes.
Outside in the hallway Charlie crept past the open doorway on his way back upstairs, having stopped in his tracks as he heard the quiet voices, and having been caught up in the conversation.
"Three for three Mulder," he thought to himself. "She loves you alright."
*Chapter 10*: As well as all the presents
Morning arrived, and with it came a bemused Maggie Scully, who had got up early to fill the stockings on the wall and get some coffee going ahead of the rest of the family. She knew Mulder was in the lounge so she was being extra quiet, but she nearly dropped the small bag she was holding when she saw that her daughter was practically lying on top of the man.
Clutching the goods to her chest she willed herself not to get excited about this. After all, they were both fully dressed and it looked like they had been asleep for a good while. Bending closer, she saw what looked like tear tracks on her daughters face, and began to hope that what she thought might have happened hadn't happened, because if it had it looked like Dana had been severely disappointed.
Startled out of her thoughts by a soft sigh from Mulder, Maggie quickly deposited the presents in the stockings and snuck off to the kitchen. She debated whether she should wake Mulder and Dana now, so that Bill wouldn't catch them, but then realised she was assuming either of them would be cowed by him and chose not to. She was aware of Mulder's insomnia and knew that Dana never appreciated being woken. Even if Bill did find them it would probably be the lesser of two evils.
In fact, it was the thundering of tiny feet that woke the two couch potatoes. Mattie was up. He zoomed into the lounge, closely followed by Tara, and headed straight for the pile of presents under the tree. Tara went to stop him from ripping open everything there, but was stopped in her tracks as she noted Mulder and Scully together on the couch. She opened her mouth to ask what was going on but was interrupted by Maggie and Charlie entering the room from different doorways.
Awake now Scully sat up and moved back on to her knees. She closed her eyes and stretched, and as she opened them again she let out an excited cry.
"Mulder, look! Stockings!"
"You weren't wearing any." Came a sleepily mumbled reply from Mulder, who was trying to pull the duvet back over himself.
"No, Christmas ones." Scully insisted, clambering to her feet on the sofa and launching herself off the end of it. That woke Mulder up. He was upright instantly, turning to make sure she hadn't been hurt doing it. His concern was met with a large red sock that was shoved into his face.
Pulling back he took hold of it and turned it round. The word 'Fox' was stitched in beautiful lettering at the top. He looked at Maggie in astonishment, but she simply smiled back at him.
"I wasn't sure I could fit 'Mulder'." She told him, waving away any thanks he'd been about to give.
Touched, Mulder made a mental note to offer help whenever she might need it, but was soon distracted as Scully's full weight landed on his legs. Glaring at her he pulled his legs up to his chest so she slid off them, and made a show of being in agony. Scully simply rolled her eyes and moved down the couch a bit, refusing to give him an ounce of sympathy for the play-acting.
"Give it up Mulder. You're holding a stocking full of presents. Use those for comfort instead."
Mulder started to argue, but felt the weight of the stocking in his hand and thought better of it. Following both Mattie, who had finally been distracted from the tree presents by Tara, and Scully's examples he tipped the contents out onto his lap and set about ripping into them.
10 minutes later everyone in the room was surrounded by socks, pens, little figurines, keyrings and other assorted objects. Bill had arrived just as everyone began opening things. He'd glared at Mulder, more out of habit than reason, and then settled down to the easy task of opening presents, and the somewhat more arduous task of keeping Mattie confined to opening his own presents only.
Having been banned from getting involved with everyone else's stockings, Mattie was now staring longingly at the pile under the tree, but was unceremoniously removed from the floor and taken into the kitchen by Maggie, who called out as she left.
"Breakfast time. You know the rules, no proper presents until you've got some food in you. And that includes you, Dana and Charlie."
The two mentioned looked up guiltily, having just been whispering about hanging back. Laughing Mulder stood up and pulled Scully off the couch.
"I see you're miraculously cured." She said, looking at his legs and raising an eyebrow pointedly.
"I wouldn't argue with your mother." He said with as serious a face as he could muster, totally ignoring the comment. Scully threw him a look and then nodded sadly before heading off to the kitchen. Mulder was about to follow when he was stopped by a hand on his shoulder. Turning he saw Charlie giving him a very appraising look.
"Yes?" He asked, wondering what was going on.
"Remember that I said I'd keep an eye on you? Work out for myself if you were an ok guy or not?"
Mulder swallowed heavily.
"Yes, I remember. Am I to assume you've come to a decision?"
Charlie nodded, his face not giving away a thing. Mulder hoped that he'd done enough to impress the man. He liked him, and loved watching the way Scully lit up around him. Plus, he didn't want another Bill to deal with.
"I've seen the way you treat my sister, and I have to say that "
He paused just long enough to give Mulder the beginning of a stroke at the tension, and then broke into a smile as he continued.
" I like it."
Almost collapsing in relief Mulder grinned.
"Really?" He gasped, not quite believing it.
"Really." Charlie confirmed. " You treat her with respect and you do it with obvious affection and care. I've noticed that though you act as though you're guiding her by putting your hand on her back, you're actually letting her take the lead. I like that, shows respect and care at the same time, and to be honest I'm amazed she lets you do it, when we were kids she always treated that kind of gesture with scorn. Same with men opening doors for her, but she lets you do that too. Look, basically, I think your good for her so, hey, welcome to the family."
He held out his hand. Hesitantly Mulder took it, and the two men shook hands, Charlie clasping Mulder's arm with his free hand and beaming at him.
"Now, come on, time for breakfast. This lot are voracious, if we don't get in there now there won't be anything left!"
*Chapter 11*: Which really helped them see
The feeling of relief that Charlie's words had given him that morning followed Mulder as he went to join the others in the kitchen and caused him to be almost speechless, a fact that Scully soon noticed. As he sat down next to her at the table she put a hand on his arm and looked at him with concern.
"Is everything alright?" She asked quietly, keeping her voice low so the rest of her family wouldn't hear.
Mulder just looked at her for a few moments, opening and closing his mouth but unable to form any words. Giving up he allowed a broad grin to sweep over his face, lighting up his features and making Scully smile back. Finding his voice at last he croaked out an answer.
"Scully, everything is great. Charlie, he uh, well I think he's pretty much accepted me so um, yeah."
Scully couldn't help but laugh at Mulder's shell-shocked expression, and his not particularly articulate explanation. She glanced over at Charlie and received a wink and a grin from the face partially hidden behind a squirming Mattie. Turning back to Mulder she squeezed his arm.
"Good. I knew he'd like you."
Mulder was about to reply when a steaming plate suddenly appeared in front of him. Sausages, bacon, eggs, fried bread, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes. Not a millimetre of the plate was left uncovered by something. Thoroughly distracted from everything but getting the next forkful of food into his mouth he set to with gusto.
Most of the rest of the table was following suit, but Tara was still having trouble with her son, who was providing a fine example of the development stage known as the 'terrible twos'. And, as everyone quietened down due to the large amount of food in their mouths, they were able to hear what he was yelling.
"No! Ma, want to, no!" (As Tara bodily pulled him back onto her lap.) "Want to sit there!"
"Where, sweetheart?" Asked Tara, in a voice reserved for long suffering parents.
"There! With Unca Fox!"
Deathly silence followed this proclamation. Mulder froze with his fork halfway to his mouth, Scully fidgeted in her chair, and all eyes turned to Bill. His reaction to Mulder being considered an uncle had not been favourable the first time round, and Mattie hadn't mentioned the word again since, seemingly picking up on the atmosphere around it. Now though he was hungry and wanted to go to his new friend and his little mind didn't even consider the consequences.
Carefully Bill put down his cutlery, pushed his chair back and picked Mattie up. Standing he made his way around the table until he reached Mulder and, to the shock of all, placed his son gently into Mulder's lap. Mattie bounced with glee and Mulder's hand shot to the boy's waist to ensure he didn't fall off. Bill caught the movement and nodded in satisfaction before turning round and going back to his own place. Thoroughly stunned everyone watched as he sat down and began to eat again. Aware that he was being observed Bill cocked his head and let his eyes wander over his family, as if daring any of them to say something.
Scully was the one to break the silence, touched that Bill was willing to make this gesture of acceptance and not wanting to ruin it by questioning it.
"Hey Charlie." She called, bringing her brother's attention back to her. "Who do you think will get the most presents this year?"
An apparently long-standing debate began between the siblings, and expanded to include the rest of the table. Mulder was still dealing with the lively bundle on his lap so was staying out of the conversation, but every now and then he would look up to find eyes on him. Often they were Scully's, her eyes shining with happiness because she was with her family and with him and everything was ok. Sometimes they were Maggie's or Tara's, and they would grace him with a smile. And once it was Bill. Mulder stiffened as he met the man's eyes, still unsure as to his position with Scully's big brother, but Bill had just looked at him for a long moment and then turned back to the rest of the family. Whatever was going on in his head he obviously wasn't ready to share it yet. Mulder wondered whether he should sit down and profile the guy, try to work out what was going on so he could stay one step ahead, but he thought that an invasion of privacy was probably not the best way to get Bill to accept him, and he was supposed to be on holiday after all.
Eventually breakfast was over and the clan made their way back to the living room, the adults with cups of coffee in hand to combat the early hour. Tara was keeping a tight hold on her son who was desperate to get at the presents, but it seemed that there was order even here.
"Alright." Maggie began, standing in front of the tree. "Everybody find a seat."
There was a mad scramble for a moment as there were seven people and only four seats. Since Tara had Mattie she got a chair by default, and the other was reserved for Maggie. Bill, Charlie and Scully all leapt for the sofa, Mulder hanging back, quite willing to sit on the floor. Despite her limited height and stature Scully got the first spot, diving in between her brothers and using them as leverage. She moved to the left, unintentionally blocking Charlie's access to the sofa and allowing Bill to flop down next to her with a cry of triumph. Sighing in defeat Charlie sank to the floor, glaring at Scully as she reached over to ruffle his hair, who then beckoned Mulder over to join them.
Maggie rolled her eyes at her children's antics and continued with her instructions. Mulder was beginning to get an idea of where Scully got her organisational skills.
"Now, Fox, as you're new to this I'll explain what happened next."
There was a collective groan from the sofa as the Scully siblings realised they'd have to wait longer for their presents, but they were soon quietened by a glare from their mother.
"We all like to see what each person gets, so we put all the names in a hat and then I pull one out and whoever comes out first opens their presents and so on. Mattie will go first though because he's too young to cope with waiting."
Nodding his understanding Mulder bit back a smile as he heard Scully mutter behind him.
"Wish I was young enough for that to count."
"So without further ado," Maggie continued, not hearing her daughter's complaint, "let's open some presents!"
Finally allowed to get at what was his Mattie lost all restraint and tore into his presents. With the innocence of childhood he made his opinions known quite happily, showing disgust at the pink jumper sent by a cousin, and delight at the Hunchback of Notre Dame video. Quite worn out by his activities, the boy then climbed into the box that his musical farm had come in and quietly chewed on the stuffed toy his mother had bought him.
Maggie pulled a name out of her hat, and Tara was delighted to find that she was next. Mulder felt guilty for a few moments when he realised that he hadn't got her anything, or anyone else for that matter except Scully. He wondered whether he should sneak out for a little and get a few things, but knew that it was too late for that. He'd just have to think of some way to make it up to them.
Bill was next, then Charlie, and then Maggie who lost her cool faηade for a moment and squeaked in delight as she pulled her own name out of the hat. They had to take a quick break after that as Mattie decided he wanted to be part of the crowd again, and proceeded to knock over two cups of coffee before they could grab him. Once he was settled in Tara's arms, placated by promises that they would all watch his new film with him later and one of Bill's presents (a keyring that glimmered in the light as it turned) the next name popped out.
"Ah here we are, Fox, your turn!" Maggie said with a smile.
Mulder frowned up at her, and then down at the present that materialised in his lap. Looking behind him he saw Scully grinning as she threw her own gift at him, and then three more.
"From the Gunmen." She whispered in his ear.
"Should I open them in public?" He asked, honestly afraid of what they might reveal, but she shook her head in amusement.
"It's alright, they promised me it was safe."
Smiling in relief Mulder went to open his presents, but stopped as the guilt hit him again. Looking up at Maggie he protested.
"But, I don't have anything for you."
"It doesn't matter Fox, really, open your present."
Mulder paused for a few minutes more, still feeling that he didn't deserve this, and that it wasn't right. Suddenly he felt a hand hit him upside the head and he turned to see Scully glaring at him.
"Open your presents Mulder, the longer you take the longer I have to wait for mine! If you're that worried about making it up to Mom you can tidy the house up and cook dinner later, ok?"
Grinning up at her Mulder contemplated how much pain he would be in if he kept her waiting any longer, and decided it just wasn't worth it. Feeling less guilty now that he had some way to thank Maggie he happily tore into his presents. He opened the ones from the Gunmen first, wanting to save the other two for a moment, and found his lap filled with books on aliens and other creatures, a computer program that was supposed to make his machine run ten times faster, and a caricature done by Byers which was crudely drawn but got the point across all the same.
After piling the gifts on one side Mulder moved on to Maggie's present, carefully opening the paper to find a photo frame. He turned it over and saw that the photo in it was of him and Scully. He didn't remember it being taken, but they were at Maggie's house, or at least in the driveway in front of it. They were standing close together, obviously midway through a conversation, and completely unaware that they were being photographed. Scully was looking up at him and he was leaning into her a little. They weren't touching at all, but Mulder was startled by the intimacy the picture showed. He'd wondered how he hadn't noticed the photograph being taken, but realised that it was because he and Scully had been in their own little world, where only the two of them existed. He saw that Scully was actually standing in a way that signified protection, for all that he was a foot taller than her, she was the one keeping him safe in that photo. And though it was likely that their conversation had been serious, both of them had small smiles on their faces that reached all the way to their eyes, which were entwined in a gaze so intense he wondered how he'd stood it. He'd denied that he gazed at her to Holman, and to others over the years, but he knew that he did it.
Looking up at Maggie he smiled at her, letting his eyes show his thanks, not wanting to try talking just yet. Carefully he put the frame onto his little pile of gifts, his fingers lingering over it, eyes unwilling to leave it, but forced himself to get on with opening his last present. He squeezed it gently, and was surprised to find that it was soft and gave under his hands. Curious he ripped the paper off and found himself staring at what was obviously a homemade teddy bear. It wasn't well made. The eyes weren't level, the limbs were all different sizes and its mouth wasn't in a straight line. Mulder paused, confused as to why Scully had given him this, and then remembered a conversation they'd had on one of their long drives.
"Did you ever have a teddy bear when you were little Mulder?"
"No. Well, yes I did for a while. It was one my grandmother had made. I loved that thing but when Samantha was born I had to give it to her because I was a 'big boy' now and didn't need it. I always hoped that she'd get bored of it and give it back, but she never did, and then when she disappeared it disappeared with her. I never did find out what happened to it."
She'd remembered. She'd listened to him and heard the hurt and longing in his voice and she'd gone home and made him a teddy bear. Even if she'd just bought him one he'd have been touched, but she'd actually made it with her own two hands. Suddenly all the bear's imperfections became marks of love, and at that moment he knew he could trust her with his heart. Turning round he got up on his knees and pulled her into a fierce hug that she happily returned. She heard his choked murmur of thanks and pulled him in closer, giving him the time he needed to recover. She had been a little unsure as to whether he'd like it. She wasn't the world's most talented sewer and it might have been a memory he would rather have forgotten. She was glad she'd done it now though, it obviously meant a lot to him.
Eventually he pulled back and sat back down, holding the bear on his lap. Maggie smiled at him and then at Dana.
"Alright sweetheart, you can open yours now."
Scully whooped in delight and held her hands out for gifts. Realising he'd left his in the car Mulder excused himself for a moment and disappeared outside.
*Chapter 12*: Just what everyone else does
Once outside Mulder realised that he was still holding the bear Scully had just given him. He leant against the bonnet of the car for a moment, just staring at the slightly cross-eyed toy, a smile spreading slowly over his face as he imagined Scully sitting at her kitchen table, as focused on sewing on an arm as she was when sewing up a corpse. He grimaced slightly at the imagery, but the warm feeling inside remained all the same.
Opening the boot he reached inside and pulled out the two small parcels inside. He'd thought they were good enough when he'd bought them but, looking again at the bear, he wondered now whether they would seem too impersonal. He knew Scully wouldn't expect anything major from him, and that making the teddy had probably been a spur of the moment thing when she was stuck for a gift to get him, but he still wanted to find a way to show her his thanks for it.
Slowly he began to make his way back inside, pondering over something he could get or do, and then stopped short in the doorway to the lounge, literally hitting himself in the forehead as a revelation came to him.
The sight of the large man at the door acting like a maniac was enough to get everyone's bemused attention. Even Scully turned away from her presents long enough to give him a concerned look, even if it was a slightly disgruntled one as well.
"Uh, sorry." He muttered, embarrassed. "I just remembered that I forgot to wrap one of Scully's gifts. Be right back."
Backing out of the room he fled upstairs and into Scully's bedroom, knowing she had some spare wrapping paper in there because he'd helped her wrap up a few last minute presents the day before. Grabbing the sparkly paper and some tape he sat down on the edge of the bed and sat still for a minute, making sure he was absolutely okay with what he was about to do. After all, he couldn't very well hand Scully a present and then snatch it back, there was no telling what she might do.
Decision made Mulder picked up the three presents and headed back downstairs.
"Just in time!" Cried his partner, now sitting in the midst of a generous pile of presents, arms unashamedly held out for the ones he was about to give her.
Grinning Mulder handed her the gifts but stopped her before she could open them.
"Hang on Scully, there's an order here. This one first."
He handed her a gift and watched with a smile as she shook it before ripping into it, making a mental note not to give her anything fragile without warning her beforehand.
An exclamation of awed delight caught Mulder's attention.
"Where did you find this?" Scully asked, holding up the copy of Moby Dick he'd got her. "This is a first edition Mulder, it must have cost a fortune."
He'd hoped she wouldn't ask that, not wanting to admit that it actually hadn't cost him a thing. He'd been to his parent's old house a few weeks ago, sorting out some things, and had found himself in the library. He'd spent hours in there as a child, greedily consuming the knowledge in the books, and as he went on a little nostalgic stroll he'd come across Scully's favourite book. Knowing she'd appreciate it he'd picked it up, intending just to give it to her, but had thought she might be more likely to accept it if it were a Christmas present.
Fortunately it seemed that Scully had given up the money question, knowing he was a little touchy about it, and was now asking a new one.
"So, which one next?"
Handing her the smallest of the three gifts he made sure to pay attention this time. Ripping the paper Scully laughed out loud as the keyring fell into her outstretched hand. He grinned along with her, the point of this present being an inside joke that he doubted the rest of the family would get. The keyring was in the design of a road sign, the one that indicated that there was a ditch in the road. Mulder had taken it upon himself to scrawl a red X across the ditch, symbolising his intention to stop leaving her behind and go off on his own. However, knowing his impulsiveness, he hadn't dared to make it such an outright statement in case she ever held it against him, and so he'd written along the bottom of the picture: 'Well, mostly.'
Still laughing Scully handed him her keys so he could add the keyring to it.
"Mostly, huh?" She teased with a smile.
"You always say don't make promises you can't keep." He replied, and then nudged the third gift into her hands. The action was supposed to be nonchalant, but the worry he had over this particular present made his movements tense, something that Scully certainly picked up on.
Carefully she began to open it, somehow aware that this was not something to be rushed, and gasped as she recognised the piece of paper nestled inside the wrappings.
"Mulder?" She questioned, remembering his words in the office about this being personal.
"It's ok." Was the only answer she got.
Taking a breath she gently took the now scrumpled and partially torn sheet and unfolded it. Seeing her name at the top gave her a start as she realised that this was something Mulder had written to her, and she began to read quickly, bent so far over the page that even Bill who was sitting right next to her couldn't see what was written on it. But Mulder knew, and his mind was reciting the words as Scully read them.
I know you'll never read this. Hell I'm not even sure why I'm writing this, I don't do this anymore, but this I had to write down, just in case. I don't know just in case what but, just in case. Maybe in case you ever are returned, but I've gone so mad I don't even recognise you. Unlikely. Anyway, what I was trying to say. I realised something this morning. I, uh, well, I have a confession to make first actually. I slept with someone. Kristin. I'm so messed up Scully, I thought she was a vampire, hell I wanted her to be one."
The despair and intensity of the words was too much for Scully for a moment, and she tore her eyes away from the paper to confront Mulder.
"You slept with a vampire?" She asked, slightly incredulously and not without a hint of jealousy, though she hoped Mulder wouldn't pick up on that.
"Do you believe in vampires?" Was his reply.
"No." Came the certain retort.
"Then I didn't sleep with one."
Rolling her eyes Scully appreciated the evasion for what it was, but realised that this was unlikely to be subject he'd want to go into with her family sitting around and let it go. For now. Flicking her eyes back down to the paper in her lap she continued.
"But it just didn't work. I still don't know what it was supposed to do. Ever since you were taken everything's just felt wrong, empty, I guess I just wanted to feel again for a while. And I did. Guilt, anger at myself, I feel like I've betrayed you somehow."
Not taking her eyes from the page Scully reached out a hand and smiled sadly as Mulder took it. Twining her fingers with his she kept going.
"It's ridiculous, I know it's ridiculous, but it's not. Damn but I'm glad you're never going to see this stuff, I feel idiotic enough just writing it and even this is more coherent than I'll ever be if I just try to say it. Say what? Good question. I'm not even sure if I should write it down. If I do it makes it real, makes it hurt more, but I have to, just in case. I sat down, well more like fell down, as I realised what it was that was making me feel like that, and ever since it's just seemed so obvious. I. Scully. It. Okay, here goes. I love you Scully, and more than that, I'm in love with you."
*Chapter 13*: And at long, long last
Silence fell over the room. Everyone had been muttering over just what it was Scully was reading, as well as this little vampire revelation, but as she looked up and her eyes locked with Mulder's even Bill noted the tension between the two and shut right up.
Scully stared at her partner, a thousand things to say running through her head but unable to choose which to actually speak out loud. Finally she gave in and just blurted out a question.
Mulder had been practically sitting on the hand that wasn't still being held by Scully to make sure he didn't grab the paper and bolt. He knew she'd finished reading the second she looked at him. There was shock in her eyes, and he could almost see the wheels turning in her head as she worked through what she'd just found out. Tense, he waited for her reaction, and found it not entirely unexpected. Ever the scientist, Scully had to ask her questions before she could come to terms with this.
"Why did I write it?" He answered with a question of his own. "Or why did I give it to you?"
"I wrote it because that's what I did then, when you were gone. Just as you wrote to me when you were ill in that hospital. Guess great minds think alike, huh?"
The little bit of humour seemed to work, as Scully's tense faηade crumbled for a moment and she allowed a small smile to sneak through before motioning for him to go on.
"I needed to get things off my chest, it was the only was I was going to stay sane without you there. Writing to you, it made me feel like you were close, like you could hear me. I needed that. And, and it gave me hope. As long as I was writing to you, as long as you were referred to in the present tense inside my head I had hope that you'd be returned. And it's like I wrote Scully, just in case."
He paused as he saw the understanding shining in her eyes, and drew the strength from her that he was sure he was going to need to answer the other question. He felt his hand being squeezed, and looked down to find that she was still holding on to him. Encouraged he went on.
"I know that I wrote this a long time ago Scully, but that doesn't mean it's not still true."
"Then why didn't you ever tell me before?" Came a sudden interruption.
"I did!" He couldn't help it, indignation overriding his need to make her understand.
"Back when you rescued me from the Queen Anne. I told you then and what was your response? I'll tell you Scully, it was 'oh brother'."
"Mulder you were drugged! For all I knew you thought I was Skinner, or, or Frohike!"
"No. I knew it was you Scully, and you know that, you were just afraid to think that I might actually be telling the truth. And ok maybe I haven't said the exact words that often but I've told you before in other words and other ways. 'You're my one in 5 billion', 'you're my touchstone, my constant', 'you make me a whole person'. Is any of this ringing a bell? Scully I went halfway across the world to save you and that wasn't even two years ago!"
"Mulder after everything we've been through it isn't exactly surprising you'd care enough about me to get me back. I mean that could just be "
"What, Scully? Partnerly concern? I don't think so."
Aware that she'd hurt him, but not entirely sure how to make it right, Scully chose to alter the subject slightly, hoping it would give them both a chance to calm down.
"Alright Mulder, but why now? Why tell me now?"
"I trust you."
She waited, expecting him to say something more, but he just sat in silence, watching her.
"And?" She asked, unable to wait any longer.
"And nothing Scully. I told you because I trust you now."
"But Mulder you've trusted me for years."
"Not with everything."
Mulder cursed quietly as he saw the hurt that flashed across Scully's face with that remark. He hadn't meant to say it like that, so bluntly, and knew he had some serious making up to do.
"Scully, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you, just listen for a minute, please?"
Receiving a curt nod in answer he took a deep breath and began.
"You're right Scully, I have trusted you for years. From very early on in our partnership I knew I could trust you with my life and you've proved that time and time again over the years, saving my sorry ass more times than I can count even when you'd like nothing more than to kick it yourself. I know that I can trust you to have my back anytime, anywhere. I know that I can trust you with my soul. I have to considering the number of times you've saved that as well when I've nearly got too deep profiling someone, or allowing false hope to cloud my judgement. I know that I can trust you with the second most important thing in my life next to you, the truth. Hell I knew that from the first case when I told you about Samantha even though I would never have admitted or even really believed it at the time. But Scully, there was one thing I wasn't sure I could trust you with, wasn't sure I could trust anyone with because it's been broken and battered so many times. But now I can."
"What is it?" Scully whispered, her earlier anger forgotten in the wake of Mulder's obviously sincere words.
"My heart, Scully. Up until now, til today really, I wasn't sure I could trust you with my heart. But then you gave me this."
He grabbed hold of the teddy and waved it in front of her face.
"I don't understand." Scully said with a frown. "Why would a Christmas present change your mind on something so important?"
"I don't know." Mulder replied honestly. "It just seemed to trigger something. I looked at it and realised just what you've done for me over the years, and I don't mean just with work but with other things. Being there for me when I needed you, not pushing when it was all too much, allowing me to cry on your shoulder, and not leaving me. All those times you could have but didn't. You're the only one that's never left me Scully, and I guess I just finally realised, how can I not trust you with my heart when you already own it so completely?"
Finished now it was his turn to wait. He nervously twisted the bear in his hands as he sat there, suddenly very aware that the entire Scully family had heard what he'd just said, and deathly afraid that Scully was still not going to believe him. His heart leapt into his throat as he saw the woman in question open her mouth.
Scully had felt tears spring to her eyes as she listened to Mulder open himself to her in a way that he had never done before. She knew she'd been too confrontational earlier, jumping down his throat for the smallest thing, but she had been so surprised, so amazed by what he'd written and said to her. She knew that she had been trying to force him into proving that he'd meant it, terrified that he might not, but the sheer tenacity, sincerity and heartfelt honesty that he was showing her now dispelled any doubts that she had. And so, she allowed herself to believe.
"What?" Now it was Mulder who was confused. "Ok what?"
"Ok. This." Scully replied cryptically and then, while Mulder was still staring at her in consternation, she took hold of his face with both hands and pulled him toward her for a kiss.
*Chapter 14*: Love won out
Well! I am sorry that this has taken so long to get finished. It isn't even a hugely long chapter! I just got quite attached to this story, and I think that's the reason it's taken me so long, I had to try to do it justice. So, I hope that you enjoy it and that it was worth the wait. Thanks for reading!
Their lips met almost harshly due to the force of the momentum, but when Mulder finally got his head around just what was happening he soon backed off a little and turned the kiss into something far more gentle, far more reminiscent of their almost kiss, the one that had plagued his dreams ever since that moment in his hallway. This kiss was not born out of desperation though, and was all the sweeter for it. Lips and tongues caressed each other in restrained but passionate motions, learning this new part of the other, committing every detail to heart
Lost in each other the two didn't even hear the gasps emanating from everyone else in the room. For them there was no one else, and even Bill's exclamation of disgust and subsequent movement from sofa to doorway went unnoticed as they succumbed to a temptation that had existed for as long as either could remember. Finally, reluctantly, they broke apart; unable to survive without air any longer, and quietly stared at each other, trying to put words to the feelings coursing through them. Mulder was the first to speak, if less than eloquently.
"Uh, so, um ... wow, right?"
Scully let out a breathless chuckle and nodded her agreement. Suddenly noticing the vacant seat next to her, Mulder pulled himself up onto it, grimacing as his knees protested. Scully laughed again, earning her a dirty glare from Mulder, but she became serious again as he came to rest beside her and took her hands in his.
"I need to hear you say it, Scully." He murmured quietly. "I know you're not always good with words, but I really need to hear this."
Scully wanted to answer flippantly, turning the serious moment into a joke as they did so often when it came to these matter, but she knew that if Mulder was asking he really meant it, and doing that now would only hurt him. She stared at him, biting her lip and taking deep breaths. This was a big deal for her. She knew it was a big deal for Mulder too but it seemed that he had spent the last couple of days thinking about it, whereas she had still been concentrating on suppressing her feelings, so it was a larger leap for her. And Mulder had never really been one to hide his true feelings like she was. All in all, this was a tough situation, but there was only one way out of it. Screwing up her courage she looked him straight in the eye.
"I love you too, Mulder."
The words were quiet, almost whispered, but in the silent room they were heard without effort. Mulder couldn't help the inane grin that spread across his face as he heard Scully say the words he'd dreamt of hearing from her, but never actually expected to. He felt the elation build up inside him, and just couldn't resist it. Leaping to his feet he punched the air.
"Yes!" He shouted, earning him an embarrassed smile from Scully, looks of consternation from the rest of the family and a silence from the corner. Surprised by the latter as he was fully expecting yet another confrontation Mulder turned to see Bill stalking back across the room towards him. He rocked from foot to foot for a minute, unsure as to whether he should run for his life, but he couldn't bear to leave Scully after what she'd just admitted and so stood his ground.
Rather than being knocked to the ground, however, Mulder found himself pinned by a hard, fierce stare from Bill that rivalled any of Scully's. He held the other mans gaze, not looking away; giving Bill the time he needed to find whatever it was he was searching for.
Scully stood too, absolutely prepared to defend this new aspect of her relationship with Mulder. She'd been waiting for this for years and was not about to let Bill give Mulder any reason to regret his decision to admit his feelings for her. But both of them were left speechless as the object of their mutual apprehension broke the stare, gave Mulder a long appraising look, and finally extended a hand toward him.
Astounded Mulder did nothing but blankly stare at the appendage being dangled in front of him until Scully nudged him back into consciousness. Moving his gaze up to Bill's face Mulder regarded him with wary hope, slowly holding out his own hand and placing it in the other mans, steeling himself for a bone crushing handshake. Again though he was surprised as, instead of squeezing his fingers til they bled, Bill gave a tight smile, swung his arm a couple of times, dropped Mulder's hand and spoke.
"You'll take care of her. No idiotic jaunts to the middle of nowhere. No leaving her behind to worry herself to death. No being a sorry excuse for a man and a selfish son of a bitch. Got it?"
Mulder simply nodded, aware that this was a set of orders and not something to be taken any way but absolutely seriously. And since they consisted of things he had just promised to Scully anyway, he was quite happy to agree to them. The insults slid off him like water off a duck, unimportant in the grand scheme of things, and barely noticed as he realised that this was Bill practically giving his blessing. It might be reluctant, but it was genuine, and he knew it meant the world to Scully.
"Got it." He replied, his eyes shining with gratitude. "She's been the most important thing in my world for longer than I can remember," he continued, turning now to face Scully, "and though I've hurt her and caused her harm over the years she's always come back to me. I don't deserve her, but I thank everything I believe in for her every day, and I always will."
A sudden burst of sobbing caused both Mulder and Scully to jump, and they turned to find Maggie clutching a handkerchief to her face.
"Mom!" Scully cried. "What is it? What's wrong?"
"Nothing, sweetheart. Really, nothing. Everything is finally right." Maggie replied with a smile, taking her daughters hand in hers and pulling her close for a hug. "I'm just so happy for you. For both of you. I wasn't sure I'd ever actually see this day or whether the two of you were going to wait until you were in the nursing home to admit how you felt!"
Laughter followed the remark, and the congratulations started in earnest, with both Mulder and Scully receiving enormous hugs from Tara and Charlie, but it was Bill that Scully really wanted to speak to. Having finally extricated herself from the tangle of people she found him standing off to the side, watching the scene with a half smile on his face.
"Thank you." She said, knowing he would understand what she meant. "That you'll try ... it means so much."
Smiling down at her Bill nodded his head and then swept her up into a hug that had her feet dangling from the floor.
"I only ever wanted you to be happy Dana. If you say Mulder will make you happy I won't stand in the way."
"He will, Bill. I know he will."
Mulder, a head taller than most of those next to him, watched the interaction between the siblings from across the room. He knew he'd been the cause of a lot of the arguments between them and was glad that the tension seemed to be dissipating at last. As he watched he saw Scully turn her head in his direction and meet his gaze, and for the first time in many years he found himself able to see every single thing she was feeling. The guarded, wary look had gone. Her face was as open as the day it had been when she first walked into his office and it was glowing with happiness. Unable to stop himself he moved toward her, the only thought in his head to hold her and never let go, and he found his way was clear. After so many years of stopping himself and being stopped, he could finally take Scully in his arms and kiss her senseless without fear of recrimination or rejection. So, with great enjoyment and filled with hope for the things to come, he did.