TITLE: Home for Christmas
AUTHOR: stellar_dust
DATE: 12/19/2004
EMAIL: stellar_dust_x@yahoo.com
WEBSITE: http://xfiles.katycat.net/
ARCHIVE: Sure. Let me know, and I'll link back to you.
FEEDBACK: Love it.
SPOILERS: EVERYTHING. MOO HA HA.
RATING: PG
KEYWORDS: angsty fluff, Christmas, songfic
DISCLAIMER: Characters, not mine, through no fault of my own. Ideas, mine, through *every* fault of my own. Sorry.

SUMMARY: Mulder!Christmas through the years.

NOTE 1: Written for the 2004 e-muse Secret Santa story exchange. But it's been kicking around in my brain for at least a year.
NOTE 2: You wouldn't know it, but I'm fairly convinced Mulder's family growing up was at least half Jewish. For this story I've concentrated solely on the Christian part, because I can, and it's fun, and anyway it's a Christmas story so to tell it right, I had to. Irrelevant, really, but I thought I'd let you know.

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/I'll be home for Christmas/

"Samantha Claus is coming tonight, Fox!" Seven years old, bouncing and excited and mischievous, she grinned up at her brother as he paged through a comic book.

"*Santa* Claus, dummy. Not *Samantha* Claus." At eleven, sarcastic, he was *way* too old for her, had no patience for little sisters who thought they were the center of the universe. He shifted deeper into the couch and pointedly turned the page, ignoring her.

"Is *too* Samantha Claus! And she's going to bring all the presents for *me*. *You're* going to get a lump of coal and lots of *underwear* because you were mean to me all year, so there!" She stuck her tongue out and threw herself dramatically onto the couch beside him. "I'm *bored*, Fox. Why can't it be Christmas *now*??"

He shoved against her legs with his feet, trying to push her off the sofa. "Go read or something. Leave me alone."

Sam braced herself against the armrest and tried to catch hold of an ankle to pull his socks off. "Quit it, Samantha! I'm telling!"

She blew a raspberry at him and her eyes lit on the colorful drawing on the front of his comic. "Oooh, what are you reading?" She made a grab for the book, and catching him off guard, managed to pull it out of his hands.

"Hey!" Fox lunged across the cushions, but she rolled off the couch and out of reach before he could get his hands on her. "Ha ha, mine now!"

"God, you're such a *brat*!" Fox launched himself across the room and tackled her, alternately tickling her and grabbing for the comic. Sam shrieked with laughter, giggling and kicking.

Finally Fox wrenched it from her fingers, and as Samantha lay gasping on the floor he frowned, inspecting it carefully. "Fox?" He looked up, and she was sitting beside him, her big brown eyes wide and innocent. "Will you read it to me? I'll be good, I promise."

He looked the book over. There were a few wrinkles in the cover, but at least she hadn't ripped it or drawn mustaches on all the faces, as she'd done to his baseball cards last summer. And it'd keep her quiet and not bugging him .. He opened to the first page. "Well, all right. But be quiet and don't interrupt."

"Yay!" She snuggled up next to him and put her head on his shoulder. "I'll tell Samantha Claus to bring you bring you something cool after all."

Fox poked her in the side and she giggled, then curled closer as he began to read. "It's Christmas Eve in Metropolis, and in the town square *Santa* Claus is .."

~*~

When Teena walked in with her packages twenty minutes later, she couldn't believe her eyes - Fox and Samantha, curled up together beside the Christmas tree, reading. She paused at the door and smiled, watching unseen, on her way upstairs to wrap the last few presents. I'm so blessed, she thought, and turned away, unwilling to disturb them. Now if only Bill weren't working late, everything would be perfect.

~*~

That was the year they got Stratego.

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/You can count on me/

Fox lay in bed, eyes closed, curled tightly in a ball beneath the covers, trying not to think. We can't have Christmas without Samantha. We can't. It's not right, it's - he sobbed suddenly. And it was his fault she was gone, he was here, he was supposed to keep her safe and now -

Dad told him he had to be strong, be strong for Mom, so after the investigation was over and the house was empty and quiet again they'd gone out for a tree. It was tall and full and green, but as soon as Mom saw it she'd gone up to bed for the rest of the day, and he and Dad had started to decorate it but somehow nothing worked without Samantha and they'd stopped before half the ornaments were up. Mom slept all the time and Dad was always at work, Fox was failing school for the semester because he couldn't seem to concentrate on anything and spent most of his time staring into space and pretending he could hear her voice in the next room, beating himself up inside because he hadn't been able to move. And nobody baked cookies or bought any presents, that he could see, and when Dad finally hung the stockings up he left Samantha's in the closet.

Now all of sudden, in bed, it hit him. Fox went cold. They don't think she's coming back. They've given up. He rolled over in the dark room, shivering, and hugged his pillow. I'll *never* give up. I believe, Sam, I believe, it's my fault and I will never, *ever* stop believing that you'll come back. I'll find you myself.

With a wrench, he pulled back the covers and rolled out of bed. Fox padded down the hallway barefoot, past Mom's quiet room and Samantha's closed door, now empty of posters and graffiti since last week when Mom had screamed and sobbed and ripped them down. He opened the closet door and dug around until he found it, then continued downstairs.

Fox tacked Samantha's stocking on the mantle next to his own. "I believe, Samantha," he whispered again. "No matter what Mom and Dad do, I'll never give up on you."

Bill found him there, asleep on the hearth, hours later when he stumbled in reeking of whiskey and carting sacks of last-minute trinkets he hadn't wanted to think about buying. He whacked his son once to wake him and sent him up to bed, then poured himself another row of shots and started to fill the stockings. Thanks to the whiskey, he only cried a little when he tossed Samantha's on the fire.

Fox never cried for her.

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/Please have snow/

"Hey, Mulder, you coming?" MaClay's voice rang through the flat, and Mulder's hand tightened around the cold iron of the balcony railing.

"Is Phoebe going to be there?"

"And why should that stop you, mate?" MaClay braced his hands on the doorframe and leaned forward into the brisk air, talking to Mulder's back.

"She'll have Bronson with her. I don't want to see that." A year since they'd kissed behind the chalkboard in the Psychology lecture hall, eleven months since they'd officially become a couple and first gone to bed together, one since the first snow of winter and their liaison with Sir Arthur, two weeks since he'd gathered his courage and gone to her flat to propose, and found her naked with Seth Bronson. He'd turned and fled, and heard her laughing as he went.

"It's all right, Tom. You go have fun. I'll be fine. Have some nog for me."

Grudgingly, Tom dropped his hands and shoved his fists into his pockets, shivering. He shook his head and turned to leave. "Have it your way, Mulder. But you can't avoid her forever, kennit."

Mulder heard the door close as his flatmate left for the party, and collapsed forward against the railing with a sigh. He had it all figured out. He'd graduate in the spring, and as she was one year behind him he'd planned out his schedule to avoid every class she had a chance of signing up for. And then he'd just have to talk his way out of every single social function between now and then ... right, so, that was it, then. He'd just die of humiliation and be done with it.

Thought it'd be so easy, right, Fox? Go to school half a world away from home, make new friends and a new life that isn't miserable and no one drinks all night and blames you for everything when they aren't beating or ignoring you. Right, he thought bitterly. Because I'm so much happier here. Solved all your problems, dinnit?

Never again. He'd never let anyone so close again.

Graduate, and what then? Go home? He'd join the French Foreign Legion first. It began to snow, big soft flakes, the kind Samantha always called 'fairy snow' because they looked like small fragile lace dresses with wings dancing in the light. Mulder reached out and caught one on his finger, watched it melt away too fast, just like every bit of his life that seemed to matter. Samantha, Mom, Dad, now Phoebe and the life he'd patched together at Oxford. He wiped his hand on his slacks and remembered the business card in his pocket - the FBI recruiter he'd met yesterday at the year-end banquet. Maybe that was something he could do. Maybe he'd find Samantha when no one else had been able to. Or at least keep other little sisters safe.

Odd that the FBI was recruiting in England, though. He frowned.

Or maybe not, but it was something to think about.

Mulder turned away from the snow and wandered back into the flat, nabbing a Guinness and next semester's Advanced Criminal Psych textbook on the way to his bed. Studying, always an excuse, should have used that with MaClay instead of the Phoebe thing, damn her anyway.

Halfway through Chapter 3 he looked up, startled, realizing it was already half one. Late this year. Still early on the Vineyard, though ...

He closed his eyes and whispered, "Merry Christmas, Samantha."

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/And mistletoe/

Mulder fidgeted uncomfortably in the corner. Why had he let Reggie drag him to this, again? His gaze traveled over all the happy people at the VCU Christmas party, spotting the section chief chatting amicably with the DJ. Right, he sighed. Don't want anyone to think this case hit me too hard. If Spooky Mulder gets any more Spooky we'll have to hospitalize, and we don't want that, now, do we?

If it'll get me out of here? Sure. It can't be that bad, right? Nice quiet room, pretty nurses? He caught Reggie's disapproving gaze and with a sigh turned back to the dessert table.

"Look who's here." Reggie had sidled up next to him, was nodding toward the doorway at the front of the room. "She's been looking at you all night."

Mulder glanced in the indicated direction, then did a double take. Diana? Diana *Fowley*? "I haven't seen her since Quantico," he said wonderingly.

"Word is she's back from her field assignment." Reggie nudged him, winking. "I hear you two were quite the item."

"Yeah, well." Mulder shrugged. He hoped he wasn't blushing. "You know, people talk." He devoured Diana with his gaze. Field work had been good for her, he thought. She looked dazzling. Especially in that dress .. "I never thought I'd see her again, Reggie."

"Look where she's standing." Mulder looked. Diana was chatting with another female agent, and right above her - he grinned. Maybe it wouldn't be such a horrible party after all.

"Go get 'em, Spooky." Reggie chuckled and gave Mulder a shove between his shoulder blades.

What am I doing? Mulder thought as he cut his way across the room. She'll smack me. I'm an idiot. He tapped her on the shoulder and cleared his throat.

"Fox!" she cried out with delight and clamped her arms around his neck. "I was so sure you didn't remember me!"

"How could I for-" And then they were kissing, wildly, passionately under the mistletoe, in front of the entire VCU and assorted guests. Mulder was sure he heard Reggie's wolf whistle.

"Fox," she whispered as they broke apart. "I heard about what you've been working on. I have something I think you should see."

"What -?" Had she heard about the Modeski thing? But how?

"Some files." His hand was clenched around hers, couldn't seem to make himself let go. "I'll show you tomorrow. You're free tomorrow?" Diana looked up at him questioningly.

"It's Christmas." He quirked his mouth ironically at her. "Of course I'm free."

To Reggie's considerable delight and amusement, they left together.

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/And presents on the tree/

She walked in that morning with a tiny tree, holly, lights, and a gift.

"Scully, what's all this?" He handed her a coffee, which she promptly set down on his desk where she also began arranging the tree.

"It's so dreary down here, Mulder. I'll be gone for a few days, visiting my parents, and I *know* you'll be here working by yourself, so .." she trailed off. "I'm sorry, Mulder. I probably should have asked, I .."

"No, Scully, it's okay, keep on." He shook his head and smiled at her, speculatively. "I was just .. surprised."

His new partner grinned at him, that shy yet saucy grin that he already couldn't get enough of, and wound the holly and lights over the bookshelves and the doors. Mulder leaned back, head spinning. He couldn't remember the last time anyone had cared enough to decorate for him - or thought he cared enough to notice. Maybe Reggie, but - that was different. And here was little Scully, who he barely knew, making sure the office would be a nice, cheerful place to spend Christmas alone. Unbelievable.

~*~

He caught her eye as she was leaving, getting an early start on rush-hour traffic to Annapolis. "I have to admit, it looks nice in here, Scully." He cleared his throat. "Um, thank you."

She smiled in response and turned to go. "Oh! I almost forgot your present, Mulder."

"Scully, you didn't have to - I mean, I didn't get you -"

"Don't worry about it." She smiled and handed him the small, gaily wrapped gift. "I got it mostly out of habit, it's not much. If something comes up and you can't reach my cell, you have my parents' number, right?"

He nodded, and she shrugged her coat on at the door. "Merry Christmas, Scully."

"Merry Christmas."

It was a Christmas tree ornament, a ghost in a Santa hat. Mulder smiled and hung it from the knob on the cabinet under the window.

And it *was* nice to work in lights - it almost felt like Scully hadn't left.

Not long after, her father died. The next year, she didn't decorate the office, and he didn't bring it up.

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/Christmas Eve will find me/

Mulder lay stretched out on his couch, mind wandering as the id monster of Dr. Morbius rampaged over Altair IV on his television. A mind under stress, sending out physical manifestations to lash out at its enemies, sounded familiar - Kevin Kryder. Of course.

He still owed Scully an apology for that case, for dismissing her faith so casually. He should know by now to trust Scully's instincts as well as he trusted his own; and in the end she'd been right, she'd known exactly where the kid would be, pieced it together from the tiniest of clues ..

Everything but that bit about her being chosen as Kevin's protector. And Saint Owen. He didn't think he bought all that. But still, he needed to apologize; they'd been growing apart recently, snapping at each other. He wasn't sure why, but he did miss the easy companionship they'd shared, and talking about the case would help. And it'd be nice to hear her voice, he thought. Reassuring, that she's okay -

He clicked off the TV and reached for the phone. No answer. Where - oh. Home for Christmas, right. He left a "Merry Christmas" message on her machine and said he'd had a thought, but it wasn't important and he'd talk to her later. Fighting back a pang of disappointment, Mulder had just hung up the phone and was reaching for the remote when it rang again.

"Scully, I was just -"

"Oh, you're expecting a call from the little lady? I'll hang up then." Frohike. Frohike amused. Mulder groaned.

"No, no, I was just - never mind. What do you want, Frohike?"

"Well, I'm about to make you an offer you can't refuse. Unless you *want* to sit at home and mope on Christmas Eve, of course. We've got a LAN set up for Doom, looking for more warm bodies. There's egg nog. And video surveillance on the roof -"

Mulder burst out laughing. "Frohike, please tell me you're not trying to catch Santa Claus on tape."

"Who, us? Mulder, you wound me. Figured you knew, Santa Claus is a cover story invented to disguise the military's .. Shut up, hippy, you're not funny. .. So, buddy, you in?"

Mulder hesitated, glancing around his apartment. He'd been ordered not to go in to the office tomorrow, and he'd been sort of looking forward to the stack of old B movies and cold-case x-files he'd dug up over the past week. But he'd been thinking of Scully, and suddenly none of that looked too appealing. Party now, brood later, he thought.

"Sure," he told Frohike. "Sounds great. I'll pick up a pizza on the way over .. um, if anything's open?"

"Try the place on 3rd Street. See you."

As Mulder reached for his coat, his eyes fell on the photo of him and Samantha beside his computer. He picked it up, stroking the side of her face with his finger, and impulsively stuffed it into his pocket. He'd set it up beside his monitor at the Gunmen's. For luck.

Christmas Eve with Samantha again, he mused as he locked the apartment door. Would she like Doom?

Mulder sighed, torn between chuckling and whimpering. She'd probably whip his ass.

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/Where the love-light gleams/

Mulder actually got a present from his mother that year. It was mailed, a long silly stocking cap with a tassel at the end. He had no idea *what* on Earth had made her send it to him, unless it was some old memory of reading 'The Night before Christmas' with Samantha and how he'd loved the illustrations of "I in my cap." Probably some girlfriend at church had called her on not sending presents. It was a little sad, he thought, that his mother still thought of him as a little boy, still bought him things he would have enjoyed at age ten - when she remembered him at all, that was.

In any case, it was warm, and his apartment froze at night, so he wore it. Not in public and he wouldn't dare show Scully.

He was wearing it two nights after Christmas, when Scully called and told him about her - her *daughter*. He doubted things would work out in the end - he had a very bad feeling about it - but he went, because by now he knew he loved her.

Bill was cool, but distracted by his wife and son. Maggie was herself, compassionate and friendly and loving. Emily died and it broke Mulder's heart to stand and do nothing as another child slipped away, as his partner collapsed in tears of incomprehension.

He held her in his arms as he struggled to comfort her, to earn her forgiveness for the secrets he'd kept and for those he still held back for her sake, and what struck him most was the unconditional love and support of her family, even in the face of something like this, something they'd never understand the full scope of, they stood by Dana and cared for her. He wondered what it was like to have a family like that.

When he got back to DC, he called Teena and thanked her for the cap.

Then he went to Scully's and watched movies and talked about nothing, which was at the same time the greatest and most painful thing in the world.

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/I'll be home for Christmas/

Teena called unexpectedly, and invited him up for Christmas. Mulder blinked and agreed; he hadn't seen her since .. he honestly couldn't remember the last time he'd seen her.

He wanted to invite Scully along, because they had that kind of relationship now, the kind where you share holidays. And also because dammit, he was scared. In the end he didn't, he decided it might throw his mother off her stride too much, though he sensed she would have come, and gladly.

On Christmas Eve he walked through the door of the house in Greenwich. "Fox," his mother said hesitantly, awkwardly, and after a moment he hugged her though it didn't feel right.

"How are you, Fox?" she asked, clearly concerned, and her hands went to his forehead.

That's right, she was involved with that. She was involved with *him*, with the cigarette smoking bastard who'd cut his head open for fun and profit. He dropped his suitcase with a clatter, frozen.

"I'm fine," he said stiffly. "No thanks to you."

She had the grace to look hurt for a second, then slammed the stoic mask back into place. "I didn't want to, Fox. I can't stand against him. You have to understand, I -" Her eyes met his for a second, and she seemed to deflate. "I have food in the kitchen."

Mulder followed slowly, as if in shock, though he'd known all along what he was saying, known he wasn't strong enough for this. "You knew. You knew all along, what he was doing, what he wanted to do." His voice was soft, controlled; his eyes were hooded and steely, hurt if you knew which crinkles to look for. "Just like you knew when they took Samantha." She gasped and turned away, didn't answer.

"That's why you asked me here. You feel guilty, all of a sudden, and you want to atone. I'm sorry, Mom, I can't. Not like this. I can't stay here. I'm sorry, Mom. I'm so sorry." His voice didn't change, but tears were streaming down his face as he walked out the door.

He stayed in a motel that night and didn't call her before he left the next morning.

A week later, he kissed Scully, and it meant something.

Five weeks after that, Teena was dead, and finally, so was Samantha. It took him many long nights to forgive his mother.

He never did quite forgive himself.

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/If only in my dreams/

That night he spent in a trailer in New Mexico, sharing a bed with Gibson Praise. He took a moment to look at the stars and think of Samantha; he took hours to look at the photograph in his hand and think of Scully and William.

He wanted to be there - oh, how he wanted to be there. He couldn't miss his son's first Christmas. Scully'd be reading to him right now, telling him stories, hanging his stocking above that ridiculous, wonderful fireplace in her apartment.

Unless they were at Maggie's. That was more likely, he thought. If Mulder couldn't be there, he should have as much family around as possible. Meet his cousins, if he hadn't already.

He'd wanted to send something, a card, a toy, anything. Anything so Scully wouldn't have to feel so alone, as alone as he felt every second of every day. Anything so his son would remember he had a father. In the end Gibson talked him out of it, and he settled for another sappy email, an email that didn't sound like himself because his emotions were so close to the surface these days and he wasn't used to it. He hoped she understood.

I should be there, he thought. There's nothing more important than this. William's life is more important that seeing his Daddy for Christmas, something whispered in his mind, but is it really? he wondered. Every life is in danger, every day; that's just life.

Somehow he thought Skinner, at least, would understand if he appeared at her doorstep next morning, and hang the consequences.

But Scully might not.

Mulder went to bed conflicted, brushing past Gibson's tacky aluminum tree. The sky was light when he finally drifted to sleep; he dreamed of home and his son's smiling face in a sea of wrapping paper, Scully's carefree laughter, her kisses.

When he got Scully's message with a one-way train ticket, he practically danced for joy and didn't stop smiling until two days later, when supersoldiers appeared and he had to jump the train in a rock quarry so *close* to her, and hide again.

He felt as though his soul had been ripped from his chest, ground into little souly bits, and stomped on.

As he made his way slowly, quietly, anonymously back to New Mexico and Gibson, every night he dreamed of home, but these dreams were of death.

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

/Home for Christmas/

"Oh, Mulder .. I'm so sorry. I wanted to see you so, so badly, too, and I never thought .."

"It's okay, Scully. I got over it. I'm here, right? Home. With you."

"And the rest of your stories, Mulder - I had no idea. Your mother, and .."

"I know. I probably should have kept my mouth shut, but you asked, and - it felt good to talk about it. I'm sorry that was so selfish and depressing, Scully; I'll get you a real present tomorrow."

"No. No, Mulder, that was just what I asked for, and it was perfect. Sad, but perfect. ... I love you so much, you know."

"I know. Because I love you more."

"Mmm. I'd dispute that, but I'm cold. Will you put another log on the fire?"

~*~

"So, Mulder, what would *you* like for Christmas? Keeping in mind, again, that we have no money."

"Heh. Can I ask for a rendition of choice and memorable Scully Christmases of auld lang syne?"

"Hmmm. ... I don't know, Mulder, I think I'll give you an I.O.U. on that. I'm kind of storied out for tonight. Okay?"

"Mmm. Okay, I get that. I'll hold you to it, though. Next year."

"Next year. We'll start a tradition."

"A good tradition?"

"I hope so. Until we run out of stories."

"Never happen. Have I told you the one with the Chupacabras, that-"

"Yes, Mulder. I was there, in fact, remember?"

"No, no, see, *this* Chupacabras came down people's chimneys in a red suit, and -"

"Mulder!!"

"You'll see, Scully. It was sighted in this part of Mexico exactly one year ago tonight."

"Mulder. What do you want for Christmas? Besides a visit from the Christmas Chupacabras."

"... Scully?"

"Yes?"

"Will you please just kiss me?"

"... I can do that."

//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

I'll be home for Christmas
You can count on me
Please have snow
And mistletoe
And presents on the tree
Christmas Eve will find me
Where the love-light gleams
I'll be home for Christmas
If only in my dreams.
//---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---~*~---//

FIN.



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