TITLE: Having a Happy X-mas
SUMMARY: Let's continue Christmas morning 1998...
THANKS TO: Mac for some key ideas and encouragement and the Wimsey books info.
Eagerly, Mulder and Scully ripped at the wrapping paper on their presents. He paused for a moment and watched her. "I thought you'd be a neatnik."
"It's CHRISTMAS morning, Mulder!" she enthused. And here she was at about four in the morning in her partner's living room. Scully finished destroying the wrapping paper and stared at the clear plastic tube within. "Oh Mulder..."
It was a gift set - a deep blue silk scarf and a bottle of perfume. She turned to him and saw him go red, even in the dimness.
"I um, er, the color - I thought it...would suit..."
"It's lovely." She momentarily forgot to thank Mulder as she opened the tube and carefully pulled the bottle and scarf out. /He's nervous because this is the most 'intimate' present he's ever bought me. Well, this is the first Christmas after our near-kiss,/ Scully told herself. The kiss that they hadn't mentioned since. And also it was the first Christmas after his declaration of love that she'd let slide as drug-induced babble. After all, he was rambling about Nazis and being in 1939 at the time. Unfortunately.
She held up the scarf - it was large and could almost be used as a wrap. The swirls of deep blue looked like galaxies turning. She draped it over one shoulder and tilted her head as she sought his reaction.
Mulder nodded in satisfaction.
"So it does bring out my eyes?"
He chuckled and nodded as he looked down.
She left the scarf draped over her and held up the perfume, pulling the top off. She smelt it and made an approving noise, squirting a little on her wrists and dabbing it behind her ears. "You do have good taste!"
"In some things."
"Thank you." There was a slightly awkward moment. Scully was aware that this was the point where normal people - whether lovers or friends or family - would seal their gratitude with a hug and a kiss. Even if just a short hug and a peck on the cheek. But she and Mulder just perched on the couch. She cleared her throat. "Now open yours before it goes off."
"Oooooo!" He did so.
It was a book. One from her favorite series: Dorothy Sayers' Peter Wimsey mysteries. Peter Wimsey was a brilliant and eccentric man in the 1920s, an Oxford graduate, with insights not quite like normal people. He came to the defense of a woman accused of a murder she didn't commit. Her name was Harriet Vane and he fell in love with her at first sight. He got her acquitted and pursued her - she loved him but basically refused to admit it for very complicated reasons. They solved crimes together; it was five long years before they even kissed, and he respected her boundaries, understanding that she was afraid of getting close. /After a long time, they finally admitted their love and married.../ Scully reminded herself. It was a wonderfully good and solid union. The beauty of the books were that they were incredibly literate with very intelligent characters who were, in their own way, extremely romantic.
Books in this series were the ones she most often carried around with her in her luggage, not tired of reading them over and over again. /Wishful thinking?/ Mulder had occasionally commented at their presence and had seemed interested when told a bit about the plotlines.
"This looks great, thanks," he enthused, reading the back cover. Then he opened the book and saw the inscription: "Dear Mulder, Now you'll finally be able to find out what's so intriguing! Hope you agree with me. Best Wishes, Scully." His smile increased.
Scully smiled happily and watched him, then picked up a corner of her scarf and drew it through her fingers. Again and again. After a minute she shifted and leaned forward to clear away the wrapping paper. Mulder put down the book and passed his bits of paper over. Even though they'd both torn into their wrappings, somehow Scully's was still in one piece, albeit ragged; Mulder's was just in pieces. Scully collected the paper into a stack on the coffee table, then hesitated. The trash can was over on the other side of Mulder's desk.
She knew that once she stood that the moment would be gone. One part of her mind was sternly saying: /Get UP. Get up NOW./ but the other was saying: /SIT!/ like she was in obedience training.
"Well, I -" She looked at the paper and then at Mulder.
"Merry Christmas, Scully," he said softly. "Thanks."
Then with a joint nervous chuckle, as if to say 'What's the matter with us, we're adults!', they slid forward into a hug. It was going to be a short 'thank you, have a great time' hug, but...
Once she felt Mulder's arms around her, the fear disappeared and she wanted to stay there forever. One side of her mind was yelling /Pull AWAY, Pull away!/ and other was going: /At last...I'm going to set up home here. Nice warm tones on the walls, I think./ Scully usually did pull away at this point in these rare embraces, but this time she didn't.
/My Christmas present to myself./
Mulder moved slightly and his lips briefly brushed her cheek before his face settled back against her hair. He breathed in the perfume. Scully snuck her own 'we can dismiss these as thank yous' kiss by quickly pressing her lips against his jaw, then settling in the crook of his neck again.
And they sat there, reveling in hugging each other for longer than they had ever dared, and both waited for the other to move away.
Scully could feel the slight tension in his shoulders, just like in her own. /We're just hugging. If this is a simple hug, then why are our hearts racing so much?/ She kept her arms around him and didn't move. She had no idea how much time passed, but then Mulder's hand on the back of her head began to stroke through her hair. He must have realized what he was doing, because his hand froze half-way through a stroke, and he pulled it away.
"I like that," Scully said quickly.
There was a pause. "You do?"
Pause. Then his large hand settled back in her hair and resumed stroking.
Scully was just letting herself relax when Mulder shifted again and she braced herself, schooling her expression for when they let go. But he didn't let go - he carefully moved them both backwards so they were resting fully against the couch. Not so much hugging as holding.
Mulder put his feet up on the coffee table, sitting side on, arm around her waist, other arm up so his hand was still in her hair. "Is this okay?"
She nodded her agreement, legs tucked up under her, despite how much she wanted to twine them with his. She stroked his back.
Time passed. Pulses slowed, tension relaxed. They enjoyed the holding. They even dozed like that for a while.
Eventually Mulder raised his head and whispered, "Scully, it's past six. When did you want to go to your Mom's?"
/Must you bring reality into this?/ She had known the holding couldn't last, and that Mulder would eventually bring her 'family role call' up. He would be feeling guilty for keeping her from her family today, even though she had come to his apartment of her own volition.
Before she could reply, her cell phone rang, parting them. "Yes, Mom, I...slept in. I'm in the car right now." /Otherwise you'll be making assumptions about who I was sleeping in with, seeing you couldn't get me on the home phone./ "No, let everyone start. Don't wait for me... Really, let Matty go to town. Don't restrain him. I'll be over soon. Yes, I'm being careful - I can see it's snowing."
She hung up. Mulder gathered up the paper and binned it and Scully collected the perfume bottle and her things and Mulder walked her to the door, both chatting about trivial festive stuff. He opened the door and they stood facing each other. Mulder reached out for the scarf, which was still draped over one of her shoulders, and pulled it around and secured it so that it wouldn't fall off.
He ran his hand through her hair again. For a second the hand rested on her neck and she was back in the hallway before the bee, but then the touch was gone. "Thanks, Scully. Thanks for coming and for my present. Have a great Christmas."
"You too. Thank you. I'll see you in a few days, huh?"
Then she was out in the hallway, breathing hard, and the door of 42 was closed.
She gave a soft sigh and headed for her car. She started the engine and turned the heater on, but didn't drive off. Dana sat there in silence, watching the light snowfall, fingering the scarf occasionally and thinking about the events at the mansion. Ghosts. Oh yes, she believed in ghosts. She had before last night - she just had never wanted to admit it. She had seen more than her share of spirits: two on the bowling alley case, years ago her own father, recently the angel, the devil-creature and...
She blinked hard. Even a vision of Mulder himself after the boxcar fire. /So what does that say about me?/
She sat there, thinking of the family get-together she was missing. In a way she was glad that she had missed seeing Matthew opening his presents. It would trigger too many memories. It wasn't so bad when he was a tiny baby in arms, but now he was pretty much walking and a little person and...
...and Charlie's kids would be there too. They were older, but... A whole spectrum she had missed and would miss.
Eventually she got out of the car and went back up to Mulder's apartment.
There was no reply when she knocked. /Jogging in this weather? Did I miss seeing him go out?/ She went in and after a few minutes found him in his reclaimed bedroom, stretched out asleep on the waterbed. The mysterious waterbed that had appeared a few weeks ago. Mulder's theory on it was that the Consortium or aliens were either messing with his mind or trying to get him a life.
Scully quietly went around the side of the bed to look down at him. Her book was lying half over his chest, as well as being open - Mulder was into it already. /Well, it's not like he's got anything else to do today.../ she thought sadly. /Is that why he wanted me there last night? He never answered me when I asked him.../
He stirred and shifted, and the waterbed rippled around his form. Scully closed her eyes, remembering him face-down in the ocean not long ago. She remembered her sheer panic from the moment that the Gunmen told her he was missing at sea. She had never had to go through that with her father or brothers, and they were the ones in the NAVY, for God's sake!
The vivid blue of the scarf caught her eyes again as she opened them, and she was suddenly struck by a just as vivid image of herself lying on that bed, next to Mulder. VERY next to Mulder. She could smell the new perfume. And she was naked except for the scarf, which was strategically draped over her torso, and she was saying very sultrily: "Merry Christmas, Fox..."
She blinked. /Water! I need water. Waterbed.../ She could feel the silk against her bare skin and Mulder's skin against hers... She dearly wished it was a premonition. And not of next X-mas, either. New Year's resolution? /What's stopping you?/ her mind said. /Joint Christmas present with guaranteed long-term - ETERNAL - prospects!/
Mulder woke up. He gave her a muzzy smile, then half-sat up, startled. The book fell onto the mattress.
"Sorry," she apologized.
"What? What's wrong?"
"Nothing." She watched him try to sit up, battling the swells of the waterbed. He cursed. She laughed. "I didn't think you'd sleep there. I thought it would make you seasick." She remembered the sea journey off Norway about four years ago where Mulder had spent the better part of twelve hours throwing up rather than looking for meteorites or lost ships. And how he was a little green in the boat while searching for Big Blue. Her personal theory about Mulder's near-drowning in the Devil's Triangle wasn't that the storm had wrecked the boat as much as he was probably throwing up so much that he lost control of his craft.
He shrugged as he considered the waterbed. "A few weeks ago I tried it out and found it was okay. I also saw that the morning light is better in here, not as glary - guess I'd forgotten - so I came in to read the book and relax, and I guess the bed just rocked me to sleep..."
They grinned, then his expression became serious, especially when he looked at the time. "Really, Scully, what's up? You should be at your mom's."
Scully remembered Lyda's words: *Oh, you poor child. You must have an awful small life. Spending your Christmas Eve with him... Running around chasing things you don't even believe in.*
Dana swallowed. "Don't you want me to be here?"
"No! I mean - I'm glad you're here, but your family..."
"I want you to come with me to Mom's for Christmas dinner."
"But I -"
"I really want you to be there."
"Are you sure? I mean, I'd be imposing. And after last Christmas -" he said very quietly.
"That's one of the reasons why I want you there."
"I really wanted you there last Christmas - even before the murder, even before everything happened, and then when I got the lab tests that morning I wanted you there even more, but I didn't call..."
Mulder got up and put his hands on her arms. Their embrace was brief though. /I *do* have a full life,/ Dana thought, but she couldn't help wondering if Mulder was just coming to avoid a lonely Christmas himself or that he felt guilty.
"I'll be right there the whole time. Give me a few minutes to get ready."
"I'll tell Mom that you're coming."
"I don't have any presents -"
"Well, it's not like they have any for you!"
Mulder raced between bathroom and bedroom. Scully was waiting for him out in the living room. He was just about to go join her when he remembered the other gift he'd bought. He'd been in the accessories section of a department store looking for a present for Scully, and been torn between the deep blue scarf with the perfume, or a smaller silk scarf on its own that was the same rich red as the ballgown that her 1939 counterpart was wearing when he met her in the Devil's Triangle. So he bought both scarves and ended up deciding to go with the blue, thinking he would give her the red one for her birthday.
But now he could give it to Maggie. /Perfect!/ He grabbed the already wrapped package and put it in his jacket pocket. As for presents for everyone else at the gathering, well, the best he could do would be to stay out of their way and try not to ruin this Christmas for them too.
*Most people would rather stick their fingers in a wall socket than spend a minute with you.* Maurice's very unghostly voice rang out in his mind.
No - Scully WANTED him there. Not just as someone to lean on if the memories became to much, but as himself. She had come back for him just now. And admitted that she wanted to be out there on x-file pursuits with him. Now that was a wonderful Christmas present.
Maggie greeted them at the door. She hugged Scully and admired the scarf. Then she hugged Mulder.
"Hello, Mrs. Scully. Sorry for the short notice."
"Not a problem, dear. I always cook enough for an army - or navy!"
She led them in, but Mulder could see a slight apprehensiveness in her eyes. He couldn't blame her. Maggie was probably wishing last Christmas away. /And any time I turn up, it usually means trouble./
After they had removed their coats and gathered up Scully's presents for her relatives, Maggie said, "Your aunt Selene has brought along a surprise guest: your great aunt Elena."
"Aunt Elena? That's great!" Scully turned to explain to Mulder. "I've never met her - she's lived in England for decades. Ninety-something. But she's a feisty lady; I've heard a lot about her. When I wanted to join the FBI, she wrote to Ahab telling him to get off my back!"
"She's over on holiday. Apparently a snap decision," Maggie explained.
"Oh, one interesting bit of family trivia, Mulder. Apparently Elena used to l-" Dana was interrupted by a man who turned out to be her Uncle Ferdinand wandering into the hallway looking for the facilities. He gave her a hug and was sent in the right direction. Something suddenly occurred to Scully. "Did you have any presents to give Aunt Elena?" she asked Maggie.
"I gave her a blanket I'd crocheted for Matty - fortunately it wasn't a babyish design and I hadn't used bright colors. She can use it in the wheelchair."
There were people everywhere in the living room and wandering in and out to various other rooms. Wrapping paper was piled up in corners, and toys and opened presents covered every available surface. Mulder took this in as Dana was immediately swallowed up in a sea of people laughing and hugging her. He stood back, holding an entire backseat-load of bagged presents.
"I'll introduce you when things calm down a little," Maggie promised. "Here, let's spread those presents out under the tree and Dana can hand them out."
Mulder saw a lot of presents for Scully were waiting untouched under the tree. It would be good to see her face as she worked her way through them.
He heard a woman's voice say, "Dana, what a lovely scarf!"
"Mulder gave it to me."
Tara. Mulder swallowed as he bent back to his task under the tree. That meant Matthew was there, but did it mean that Bill was here too? He hadn't really thought about that. All he'd thought about was that Scully had come back to ask him to come to the party because she wanted him there. And how much he had wanted to be with her. Now he had to get through hours of small talk with people who would want to keelhaul him the second Scully's back was turned.
*A lonely man chasing paramasturbatory illusions that you believe will give your life meaning and significance and which your pathetic social maladjustment makes impossible for you to find elsewhere. Spend every Christmas this way... Alone?*
/This could be a very uncomfortable day... But I'll survive. There are worse things than being with a healthy and happy Dana./
"Oh Matty, how you've grown!"
To anyone else, Scully's voice sounded normal, but Mulder could hear how it was slightly choked. Instantly he was at his partner's side, slipping his hand into hers as he looked down at the baby crawling around Tara's feet. "He sure has. Hi, Tara." He felt Scully's hand squeeze his. She didn't let go.
Tara smiled, but she had the same expression on her face as Maggie, only slightly less hidden. /Less practice at it,/ he thought.
"Good to see you again, Mulder."
"Everyone," Maggie called, "this is Fox Mulder, Dana's partner."
Mulder smiled, just wanting to crawl under some wrapping paper as everyone eyed him. By the looks and some quick whispering, rumors had been flying, sailing, driving, sprinting and galloping around for the last few years. The fact that he and Scully were still holding hands only added to it. "Merry Christmas, everyone," he managed, while turning 180 degrees.
150 degrees into the turn he saw Bill glaring at him from over near the fireplace. /Wonderful./
Almost at the end of his turn, his eyes met those of someone over in a corner. The occupant was an old lady in a motorized wheelchair, eating a cookie. She stared at him. Her eyes widened. Mulder inwardly sighed. /Billy boy has done a sterling pre-publicity campaign on me./ Time stopped for a second. Suddenly she coughed and made a choking noise. Instantly all attention was on her.
"Auntie Elena! Are you all right?"
/Oh God, I don't even have to touch people to hurt them... I'm the male Medusa!/
Scully surged forwards and everyone let her, grateful that there was a doctor in the house. Mulder followed, but even before Scully reached Elena, the old woman had recovered enough to speak. "Oh my, I'm all right, dear." She kept looking at Mulder.
/Yes, your great-niece's Happiness Destroyer does not have two heads and fangs. I'm surprised too./
Elena reached out to pat Mulder and Scully's hands. She seemed hesitant to touch Mulder, but once she didn't spontaneously combust on contact, she appeared reassured or relieved. "A biscuit went down the wrong way. I thought these dentures could handle them. I'm sorry for the fuss." She coughed again mildly, smiling at the two agents, scrutinizing them with frank curiosity. "You must be Dana."
"Yes, it's wonderful to meet you at last." Scully made sure that she was okay, then bent down and hugged her.
Mulder saw was Elena *still* watching him closely while her head was on Scully's shoulder. He gave a weak smile and looked away.
A rather loud stage whisper sounded from behind them. A child's voice. "When's Auntie Dana giving me my present?"
"But it's right there and it looks soooooo interesting!"
Elena laughed. Scully hovered. Elena gave her a gentle shove. "Go on, dear."
"But I want to talk to you."
"And I you, but I'm not going anywhere. You can catch up with me a bit later on." She looked straight at Mulder when she said the latter sentence. He shuffled nervously.
Scully alternated between handing out the presents she had brought and opening the presents that were waiting for her. Though she did sensibly give her nephews theirs first. Mulder sat and watched her, feeling Elena's eyes on him, and noticing whispers as people looked at Scully. Whispers along the lines of:
"We nearly lost her a few years ago." "Which time? Her coma or her cancer?" "What about that partner that's with her? Wasn't invited. What do you make of THAT?" "Did you hear about last Christmas, when Maggie and Dana went to stay with Bill?" "Maggie hasn't said much about that. But Daniel heard..."
After the present-giving was complete, members of the family began drifting into other rooms or outside. Scully had fallen into animated discussion with her younger brother, Charlie, in the higher section of the living room. Mulder didn't know why, but he had always felt that Charlie would be more of an ally than Bill. Or hoped. Five minutes in Charlie's company had bundled away that illusion: nine year old Nathan, his son, had wanted Dana to come out and play catch. Mulder read the look in Scully's eyes and offered to substitute. Charlie made sure that Dana was distracted then told him, "I can't do anything about you being around my sister, but stay the hell away from my kids. Got that?"
"I just wanted to -"
"Be grateful that Mom and Dana put up with you. Don't expect any favors from the rest of us."
So now Mulder couldn't go back to Scully's side right away - she would wonder why he'd come back so quickly and would figure it out. Then a verbal or physical fight with her own brother would ensue.
/Damn, I forgot to give Mrs. Scully her present!/ Mulder realized. But Maggie was never in the room long enough to pin down - she was rushing around getting drinks and soothing grandchildren and organizing dinner. Plus he would have felt very awkward piping up during this Christmas ceremony when it wasn't his family. /Hell, I even feel uncomfortable when I'm at my mom's. I'll give it to Mrs. Scully in the kitchen. That'll be better./
He got up to retrieve the present out of his jacket, but on his way out of the lower section of the room he noticed Elena and went up to her. "Um, Mrs. -" He realized he didn't even know if she was a widow or unmarried. A quick glance at her left hand showed the rings. /Okay, but Mrs. What?/ "Mrs. Elena, can I get you anything?" He waited for her to scathingly tell him off for his presumption or for any of his other litanies of evil.
"I'm a Carter - Maggie's side of the family." He tried to look for a resemblance to Mrs. Scully, but didn't want to stare. "Auntie Elena is fine. And I'm fine too, thank you, dear. I'm mobile." She tapped the frame of the chair and gave him a friendly grin. Apart from her legs, she seemed to be in excellent health for her age. He noticed she had very vivid blue eyes. "So, Mulder, you've been Dana's partner for six years now?"
She opened her mouth then glanced just behind him and straight back into his face. She said, "Mulder, would you be an angel and go give Maggie a hand in the kitchen?"
Confused, he moved away, only to hear her say a second later: "Bill, love, could you go get that scrumptious son of yours out of the playpen and give me a good look at him?"
Mulder looked back. Bill had clearly been heading for him with the ruthlessness of a torpedo, but at Elena's request the naval officer stopped and turned. She was smiling at him, all white-haired innocence.
Bill glanced at Mulder, his jaw set. Then he said, "Sure, Auntie," and headed for the playpen.
Elena winked at Mulder and made a 'shoo shoo' motion with her hands. Mulder took the opportunity and did as told.
At his insistence on helping, Maggie had him carry bottles of wine out into the dining room. Scully soon appeared - he wasn't sure if she was wanting his company or merely wanting to help out or avoiding the kids on this near-anniversary day - and she started placing the silverware. The sides of the dining room opened out into various rooms: the kitchen, hallway and the lower living room. At one stage he caught a glimpse of Scully looking at her scarf in a wall mirror. She had a wonderful smile on her face. After that, so did he.
Then Scully started talking to cousin James in the dining room doorway that led out into the hall, and Mulder realized that there was a sprig of mistletoe directly above his partner. Neither she or her cousin were aware of it. Mulder swallowed, considering.
"Mistletoe alert, Mulder!" Elena said from waist-height a meter away.
Mulder jumped. He hadn't even heard the hum of the wheelchair.
She grinned at him. "But watch out for the right-hand punch."
He gaped. Dazed by the implications, he looked to the hallway door for an instant, to see Scully and James had gone, then turned back to Elena.
"Scully?" he gasped.
"That's what you called me, Einstein." Her eyes were twinkling. "You never did ask my name. Though at the time I wasn't inclined to give it to you."
Mulder felt like he would pass out from the shock.
"Though," she continued thoughtfully, "you might not be the Mulder I knew. You could be a grandson or great-grandson. But from what one of the sailors told me, the dates fit."
"It was me. And it was you!" THAT was why she was calling him Mulder instead of Fox. He had thought that Maggie or Dana had warned everyone... He stared at her. /This was what a ninety-ish year old Scully will look like. And I didn't imagine 1939! I was *there*.../ He smiled. "The Queen Anne. The ballroom. Jeepers Creepers. I was dressed up as a Nazi and you threatened to show me the stars on the American flag."
She smiled back. "It is you," she said, satisfied.
"For me it only happened last month..."
"The sailor said you insisted the date was November 16th 1998. Just as well we're meeting after that, or you'd think I was dotty if I came up saying I knew you."
"I believe in extreme possibilities!"
She laughed. "I got a fair surprise when I saw you both there - Dana looking like me at that age, and YOU... I knew you weren't a ghost. Her resemblance was mentioned through the years by family members, but with me way over in England...and with my line of work back in the war I didn't like to be photographed much... A habit. I often thought about you, and how you called me 'Scully', and then when Maggie *married* a Scully... Not to mention when letters began mentioning a 'Mulder'. I just couldn't believe it until I saw it with my own eyes."
He chuckled. "I can understand that."
"Did you tell Dana?"
"I tried to tell her...but she didn't believe me."
"Oh well, it could be our little secret. The others think I'm senile enough when I tell them some of what I did in the War." She sighed. "Twits."
"The Queen Anne - you did what I said, you turned it around!"
"Call me crazy, but I trusted you." She shook her head at the memory.
"Scully found the ship in the Triangle in 1998 - she said it was deserted, a ghost ship."
"We sent out a mayday, another ship came, evacuated us, arrested the Nazis we had captured. I made sure that Thor's Hammer was safe. The other ship was going to put people aboard to do a final search to make sure there were no more Jerrys lurking, then have a skeleton crew bring it home, but the Queen Anne...vanished... Headquarters classified my report and fed stories to the other passengers about the Anne being torpedoed."
"Same old government. You saved the world, Elena! Thanks for ensuring that I existed."
Her eyes sparkled and she gave him a light shove. "I'm sorry that I punched you, Mulder. It's just that in those days women didn't go around letting men they'd only just met - and apparent crackpots at that - take liberties!"
"Why? I was into the kiss! Propriety just got the better of me. But I don't think Dana will object quite so strenuously."
He blushed holly-red.
"Next time she's under the mistletoe, go for it. I'll take out any competition."
Mulder laughed, then an idea struck him. "Wait right here; I'll be back in a minute." He quickly returned and held out the unlabelled present. "Here. For my other Scully."
She stared at him. "Go on," he encouraged.
She opened the paper with fairly nimble fingers and gazed in awe at her ballgown-red scarf. "You are a very special and unique man, Fox Mulder, no matter what the decade."
He kissed her on the cheek. "Same to you, Elena, only gender-flipped."
He helped her put on the scarf and brought a mirror over for her. Then she went to get stronger lipstick. A few relatives had wandered through in the interim, saw the scene and blabbed in amazement to everyone else. So when Maggie announced for everyone to congregate in the dining room to eat, all eyes were on Mulder.
Scully approached him as Maggie was organizing who sat where. "Well, sounds like you've made a good impression."
"Sucking up to the oldies," Bill muttered. When Mulder had first gone to help Maggie, Bill had tried several more times to grab Fox Mulder before dinner in the periods he was alone in the dining room and take him away for a little chat, but each time Elena had ostensibly appeared in his way.
With excuses like:
"Bill, can you reach that for me please?"
"Love, I've been reading up about the navy, but in my day it was different. Can you explain...?"
He had gritted his teeth and behaved. Reached. Presented Matthew for inspection - a LONG inspection. Talked about the navy. Generally been respectful and kind beyond duty to one of his elders. Didn't snap once. Then he'd nearly swallowed his teeth when she ran over his foot on his fourth attempt to reach the dining room.
"Sorry... Damn thing's got a mind of its own sometimes." She smiled sweetly and wrestled with the wheelchair controls. By the time she got out of his way, naturally enough, Scully was back at Mulder's side.
So by this time Bill was mad enough to make the mistake of accusing Mulder within his sister's earshot, Scully stepped towards him, but Mulder tugged at her sleeve. "Yeah, Elena's a great lady."
Elena came back in. Everyone admired her scarf and she was insistent on sitting with Scully and Mulder.
"That's a lovely scarf, Mulder," Scully said approvingly.
"It's your color, Scully," Mulder agreed, then just smiled mysteriously at her frown.
"That bright? I don't think so."
"Those colors really make me feel alive," Elena told them. Making sure that Maggie wasn't in earshot, she said, "I love the blanket, really, but it's a shame that when people are buying for the elderly that they don't consider bright colors. Everyone thinks that we all walked around in a landscape of black and white during the War, that bright colors were invented in the psychedelic sixties..."
Midway through dinner, Matthew put on a dazzling scene-stealing display of adorable faces and baby speak from his highchair. Scully watched him intently, then Mulder's hand covered hers on the tabletop. And suddenly the sight was bearable. Five minutes later she reached for his hand underneath the table and they remained like that as much as possible through dessert. By the end of Christmas pudding she was even genuinely laughing at the baby's antics instead of feeling so hollow inside.
Dinner was over. People sluggishly and satedly wandered off to find comfy chairs of any description or to wash dishes or go home.
Mulder went into the kitchen to see if Maggie had enough helpers while Elena and Scully remained in the dining room. Scully began cleaning up the table. She could have gone out and played with the children now that Mulder had been there to empathize with her and help her find an inner balance to make it through the day. Yes, she needed to feel sad over what she had lost, but she also needed to be glad for what she did have. She felt drawn into Mulder's vicinity, as usual.
Elena started stacking plates. Scully opened her mouth to tell her great-aunt that she didn't have to do that, to at least leave the difficult things, but then a kindredness came over her. She knew that this woman would not appreciate being told not to do something, however well intentioned. No matter that she was wheelchair-bound, Elena would find a way to do it, and do it well.
And she was. As they worked companionably, Elena said, "He must love you very much, Dana."
"Ah, well... I asked him to come. He was going to spend the day alone. He was lonely, so he came."
"And he did come, knowing full well that he would be surrounded by the enemy. Lonely people don't wander out of their trench towards the opposing side just because they want a little company. That boy is in love."
"Well, um..." She remembered Mulder's groggy *I love you* and stayed silent.
"You're both going through a lot in being here. But I can see how much you boost each other. And he's quite a kisser, dear, but don't just take my word for it!" Elena moved around the table in the other direction, gathering plates on her lap. Over the hum and the chink, Scully thought she could make out her great-aunt talking to herself: "Nearly sixty years... One kiss. Two husbands, four kids, ten grandkids, three great-grandkids and eight dogs later, and I still remember it..."
Scully stared at her. /She probably kissed him when he gave her the scarf. That's it. And she's just remembering something in her past./ Then Mulder came back into the room and the conversation ended. Elena soon excused herself and glided back into the lower living room.
Mulder looked up as he was stacking the remaining plates and saw that his partner was standing under the mistletoe again, reading over a joke found in a Christmas cracker.
He swallowed, then tradition and desire sent him striding towards her.
Bill Scully was in the living room and saw Mulder through the doorway. He headed right for him, ready to drag him out into the garage to tell him a few choice things, whether Dana was present or not.
Elena steered her wheelchair into him. Well, to block him from getting through the doorway at least, but he was so distracted that he didn't stop in time and banged his shin on the frame. He just managed to cover up a yelp of pain. Bill looked down at Elena, knowing that she was on Mulder's side, but expecting another wide-eyed 'oh sorry love didn't see you there' routine.
But Elena had the Scully spirit. Or rather, her fiestiness had been passed on to Dana Scully, and it wasn't in this woman's nature to hide her true self for too long behind an act of senility . Elena burned with fire as she glared up at the naval officer. "Young man." Her voice was deadly serious. "There are some things in this world that we have to stand up against at all costs - like Nazism, for example. But there are other things that NO ONE has the right to stand in the way of. You leave your sister and her lover alone. Do you understand?"
He stiffened, going rigid. "Aunt Elena -"
"I'm not an empty-headed little thing whose head is turned by the gift of a scarf or false sentiment. Fox Mulder is very genuine." He scowled. She gave him an even better scowl. "Enough of the lemon-expression, boy - I've faced Nazis who have held guns to my head. You don't intimidate me." She saw him roll his eyes - like he'd forgotten that she could actually see that far up. /Oh for the days when I could kill with my bare hands...I'd at least kick his bum but good. And he's part of our defense force - golly God! Lucky we've got Fox and Dana... Hey, I could kill him and plead senility./ "You want the best for your sister - their path may be difficult, but no one else could love her more. Accept it."
"You have no idea what he's caused her to lose."
"Bill, would you say that Dana is a very intelligent woman?"
"She may have lost a lot, but she still wanted to be with him today. For him to come here."
"She's got sense apart from when it comes to him!"
"Strange - I remember a letter from your mother about eight years ago that said you were nearly climbing the walls because Tara was being courted by someone else, just when you'd realized that she was the only one for you. This other lad had so much and you didn't feel like you could offer her anything, but she chose you. And you, who was usually as 'romantic as a stick insect' I believe the quote was, were so happy that you nearly bought out an entire flower shop. The resulting credit card amount cut into the honeymoon budget but neither of you cared. Both you and Tara may have acted just a tad insensible there, don't you think? Love is a funny thing."
Bill strode off into the backyard.
"Mission accomplished; I've still got it!" Elena said smugly, then glanced hopefully at the dining room, while taking up sentry duty to discourage intruders.
Mulder took a deep breath as he halted next to Scully. She looked up and smiled at him, then back down to finish reading a joke. "These are so bad..."
"You're...you're standing under mistletoe, you know..."
Instantly she looked up while taking an instinctive step back. "Oh."
Mulder swallowed. She didn't know, she hadn't realized. /Should I should I?/
She looked up at him nervously. She didn't say anything. But Mulder suddenly felt he should. "One of the ghosts told me that I chase illusions I think will give my life meaning and significance, and in a way that is true, especially early on in our partnership. But meanings and significances change. You asked why I wanted you out there with me - and I didn't answer... I'm not here because it's Christmas or I'm lonely - I *always* want to be with you. It's that simple. I wasn't delusional in the hospital after the Queen Anne - I do love you."
She was silent, staring up at him with large eyes.
Mulder stepped forward into her personal space and put his hand on her cheek. She didn't move away. Encouraged, he leaned down to brush his lips...
...she moved her head so that his kiss pressed home several centimeters from her mouth. She looked down at the carpet.
Mulder took his hand off her cheek. "I'm sorry..." he whispered. This was more painful than the right-handed punch - or a left. Almost as bad as the bee-sting. Though the bee had meant that Scully hadn't turned away of her own volition. But in this case...
Scully was shaking her head. "No - no, it's just that - when we kiss, I want...I want it to be just us. No mistletoe. No people around that could wander by." She indicated the hallway they were nearly out in.
He couldn't work out if that was very shaky logic or she was scared or what. She was right - he didn't want any risk of interruption either.
"Oh... Okay, sure. Um...I'll gather up the napkins..." He wondered if they would pick this up later or whether it would go the way of the near-kiss and so much else.
Scully seized him and hauled him around back under the mistletoe. He stared.
"Screw it," she muttered; then as she raised herself up on tiptoe, she said, "I want a sixty year kiss and I'm not waiting six more years or six more seconds for it."
He leaned down to give it to her. A two hundred year one if she desired... Their lips -
Uncle Ferdinand popped his head through the doorway, almost in between them. "Kids, I'm a little lost -"
The wheelchair zoomed across the carpet like an Imperial fighter. "Ferdinand! You TWIT!" Elena raged - though not loud enough to be heard in the next room. She looked at Mulder and Scully. "I'm sorry, I couldn't follow him - he went out through the upper living room, I couldn't -"
"It's okay -" Mulder began.
Ferdinand looked hurt. And a bit drunk. "I was just looking for the facilities. It's a big house."
"And you've been visiting it for decades! I'd be more worried about the lack of facilities in your head! You just interrupted history!" Elena sent her chair zipping for him. "Now get out!" She herded him out the door, then stopped her pursuit. She turned the wheelchair around and regarded the FBI agents. "You're not going to get any peace here. Say your goodbyes and go home. That's an order."
"Yes, Scul - er, Elena." Mulder laughed. Scully looked back and forth between the two of them, obviously marveling at their banter and wondering just what was going on.
Elena said, "I haven't had so much fun in ages - now it's your turn. Have yourselves a merry little Christmas."
Mulder bent down and kissed Elena. She mock-slugged him with her left hand. Then she zipped away.
Mulder turned to Scully, looking almost shy. "Well, partner, that sounds good to me. We should listen to our elders."
Scully said, "Don't I get a say in this?"
"Always. But we can stay if you want. I don't want to drag you away like last night. I know you've been thinking about a normal life; to just stop driving and settle -"
She interrupted. "Deep down, I know I'd get bored with normal. I've always enjoyed a challenge. Extraordinary can be fun. Though there are some normal things that normal couples do that I wouldn't mind..." She fingered her scarf with a sultry grin. "Sooner we go, sooner we kiss. And the sooner we can make some waves in that waterbed."
Mulder grinned. "There's no place like home..."
Hasty goodbyes were conducted, hand in hand. Elena and Scully's smiles were identical. Maggie hugged them and finally seemed to realize that there was traces of Dana's perfume on Mulder...
Mulder and Scully shared their first kiss out in the car. And second and third...the lines between individual kisses got a little foggy after that. So did the car windows. Dana made no move to hit him with either fist.
"Let's get out of here before I tear your clothes off like wrapping paper!" she declared.
"The feeling is mutual."
"My clothing plans involve only this scarf."
"I'll take it!"
"I kind of hoped you would."
"The book you gave me...I really like it so far. Do Peter and Harriet end up together?"
"Yes. Eventually. One of the best courtships and romances I've read. Let's give them a run for their money."
At this they headed off to Mulder's apartment.
And two hours later, in magnificent defiance of physics, two soul mates were able to fuse themselves even closer together than a certain penny and dime.