Title: Not So Silent Night
Author: Menagerie
EMAIL: menageri@linkline.com
Website: http://menagerie.gq.nu/
Feedback: Feedback feeds the lonely writer!
Archive: Yes, please just tell me where first so I can come
and preen!
Spoilers: S9, through NIHT
Classification: S
Keywords: MSR, Babyfic, Holiday
Rating: NC-17 NO kiddies, please!
Disclaimer: We are just having some fun here. I don't own
'em and everyone knows it.
Summary: It's Will's first Christmas and Scully gets a Christmassurprise!


The whole thing was a travesty, and she was sick of it. Sick of the lies. The double-talk. The sneaking around and the whispers. She was thoroughly sick of it all.

Scully ran her fingers through her hair and closed her eyes briefly, shutting out the image of the shattered phone on the floor across the living room. She hadn't meant to take it out on Langley. God knows he was just trying to help her. Trying to protect her as the all the Gunmen did. He was just at the wrong place at the wrong time with the wrong answer to her question.

She didn't need to look at a calendar to know that it had been 189 days since she had seen Mulder. One hundred and eighty-eight nights alone. There was the occasional random email. One phone call that had made her throat ache so badly that she had sounded like she had a two pack a day habit.

But to keep William and her safe the contact had been sporadic and limited. She had no idea where he was and she wasn't sure if even the Gunmen really knew. He moved frequently and without warning. Byers had mentioned that he was using three different alias', rotating which one he used where. He was doing whatever it took to make him impossible to find.

Which was a major part of her problem. It was the Christmas season. Revelers were everywhere she turned. Steely-eyed women crowded the mall determined to ignore the sagging economy and bring brightly colored packages home to their loved ones anyway. Every other person at work was hosting a holiday party and they really wanted her to come. Her mother was so exuberant about her grandson's first Christmas that she had issued an ultimatum to the rest of the Scully clan; be home for Christmas or else. Bill and Charlie had dutifully promised to arrive en famile no later than Christmas Eve.

There were crisp green Christmas trees on every corner. Steaming mugs of cider in every office. Festive tunes blasting away through every store. And toys. Finally, after all these years of waiting, she had a child of her own to buy all those neat new toys for. Little Christmas outfits abounded; too many to chose from. And pictures. She had to get his first Christmas picture taken.

But, in the meantime, all she could think about was how much this Christmas was going to hurt. She had the baby of her dreams, but his father was gone. Lost somewhere in a mist of intrigue and danger.

And she hated it. She hated it more than being given cancer, more than being left "barren". She hated it more than Missy's death and more than her permanently Spookified reputation. She just wanted Mulder back.

Why was she doing all of this. What was the point of having a child with him if they couldn't enjoy him together? What was the point of his first smile, learning to roll over or sit up if his father didn't get to witness it? She had taken so many pictures, so many videos of him so that Mulder could see them someday. But it would never be the same.

There was only one picture of Mulder with his infant son. She had snapped it quickly the morning he had left. Mulder had sat on her couch, holding William out in front of him, the baby's downy head cradled in his hands, the tiny feet beating against his chest. God, how her heart had hurt, seeing that beautiful image and knowing that it would be the last time...the last time the two of them would be together for a long, long time. The next time Mulder held his son, he wouldn't even recognize him.

She had made three copies of the picture. One sat framed on her desk at Quantico. She knew it was the source of many rumors. She didn't care. The second one was hanging next to William's crib where he could see it. The third one she carried with her everywhere. It was her touchstone and her constant, until he came home.

She scrubbed at her eyes and glanced at the clock. William would be up from his afternoon nap soon and she still had cleaning to do. She didn't know why she had stopped in the middle of dusting the living room to call the Gunmen and ask about reaching Mulder. Her hand had been on the phone before she had realized she was acting on her deep-seated desire. That they couldn't tell her how to reach him had not been the answer she had wanted. She had screamed something unintelligible at poor, defenseless Langley before hurling the phone across the room.

She was just sick of it.


Langley turned from the monitor and glowered at Frohike.

"This is not a good idea, man. Scully's gonna fry our nuts when she finds out about this."

Frohike scowled at Langley.

"Just shut-up and type."

"She was just having a hormonal moment. I'm telling you, dude. If we compromise Mulder's location and something happens to him..."

"Nothing is going to happen to him," Frohike insisted, his eyes darting over the screen. "Just send the message."

"We don't even know if he still uses this account! And if someone traced it to him..."

"Then they don't know anything more than they did before. Mulder's the only one that knows this code."

Langley snorted and clicked the send icon.

"It's not major cryptography, Frohike. A half-wit could figure it out."

Frohike crossed his arms across his chest.

"Exactly why there's no danger of any of the Feds figuring it out."


"Dana, please just consider coming. It will be good for you. You'll have fun."

"Mom," Scully pinched the bridge of her nose between her fingers and willed the headache away. She had been having one on and off for almost a week now and if it didn't dissipate soon she was going to have to give in and see someone. It wasn't the cancer coming back. She knew that. She could **feel** that. It was stress, most likely. But it wasn't like her to manifest stress this way.

"Mom," Scully said again. "It's just that I like to spend the weekends with Will. I feel bad enough leaving him with Belle during the week-"

"So, bring him! Everyone is dying to see him. Come on, Dana. You only have to come for a couple of hours then you can go back to hiding in your apartment."

"Mom, I do not hide in my apartment."

"Well, I don't know what else you call it. You go to work and you go home. When was the last time you went out to dinner, or a movie? Having a baby doesn't mean you can't have a life."

Scully laughed. Then she laughed again. Oh, if her mother only knew.

"What's so funny?" Maggie demanded.

"Mom, I didn't have a life before I had Will. If anything, I have more of a life now. I take him to the park. I'm always at the store buying something new for him. I see you at least twice a week. I would think you'd be tickled."

"I am thrilled to see you and Will. But there is life outside your house and mine. So, how about coming to this party at Jean's?"

"Mom, I just...I just don't feel like celebrating. I just...want to stay home with Will."

Maggie sighed.

"It's Mulder. I know you miss him, Dana. But Fox would not want you to stay holed up in your apartment alone."

"Why not?" Scully snapped. "Do you suppose he's out on the town wherever he is? Think he's having the time of his life? I can guarantee you, Mom, that he is sitting in some dark little hole of an apartment somewhere right now. Alone."

"So you have to do the same thing?" Maggie challenged, her voice cracking with emotion. "He's suffering, so you have to, too? That's not what he would want for you, Dana. He's out there so you and Will can have a life, not so you can squander one!"

Scully felt tears pricking behind her eyes and she blinked them back. She did not want to fight with her mother. This Christmas was going to be lousy enough, she didn't need this as well.

"Mom," she said and cleared her throat to make her voice clear and strong. "I'm not punishing myself, or Will. I just don't feel like partying. I don't feel like going out on the town. I miss him. I miss what he's missing with Will and... that's it."

Maggie sighed.

"I know you miss him, honey. We all do." She paused for a moment. "So, will I see you on Thursday after work, then? I'll make dinner."

Scully heaved a sigh of relief.

"Yes. I'll see you then."

**

"There's my little man!" Maggie Scully exclaimed as she scooped a grinning William out of his mother's arms. "How's my little grandson?"

William shrieked in response and grabbed at his grandmother's nose. She laughed and kissed his chubby fist. Scully smiled as the two played their familiar game. This child was nothing if not loved.

They went into Maggie's immaculate living room. A huge blue fir dominated the corner, decked out with tinsel and lights and glass ornaments. They had decorated it two weeks before with Christmas carols playing in the background and William cooing in his playpen. They had eaten warm snickerdoodles and drank tea and laughed over old Christmas photos. It had been a good day.

Now it was less than a week until Christmas and stacks of gifts were piling up under the tree. With just a quick glance she could tell that a disproportionate number of them were for Will. There would be even more once her brothers arrived. The new baby in the Scully family always got deluged at Christmas. It was a Scully tradition.

She turned away from the tree, stripping off her jacket to watch Maggie carefully doing the same to Will. The baby gurgled and kicked cheerfully as she tried to tug the baby-sized Knicks jacket off of him.

"Let me guess," Maggie said, as she successfully extricated the baby from the jacket. "The Gunmen gave Will an early Christmas present."

"Yes," Scully said, taking the tiny jacket from her mother. "They said that it was their responsibility to provide the essential masculine influence for Will in Mulder's absence."

Maggie snorted indelicately and lifted the baby to her shoulder where he promptly grabbed a fistful of her hair.

"I suppose they'll teach him how to hack into a computer before he gets to kindergarten."

Scully's eyebrows rose and she chuckled.

"Yes. Most likely."

"Hmm," Maggie said. "How about some tea? Dinner won't be ready for about an hour."

"Sounds good."


They were halfway through the lasagna when the storm hit with a thunderous rattle of the windows. Maggie and Scully both jumped as the sharp spits of ice crackled against the window. They searched each other's faces and both saw a mixture of surprise and trepidation.

Scully went to the window and pulled back the linen curtain. In the dim glow of the front porchlight she could see the shower of sleet as it sliced through the air.

"It's an ice storm," Scully said, wonderingly. "I don't remember hearing anything about one in the weather forecast."

Maggie humphed and wiped her mouth with her napkin.

"Your father used to say meteorology was fifty percent guesswork and fifty percent luck. I'd have to agree."

Scully smiled at the mention of Ahab. She had been thinking a lot about him this Christmas season. He would have loved to see her with Will, although he would have strongly disapproved of Mulder's absence. She didn't know if it was pathetic, but she had already argued it out with him in her head. 'It's no different than you going to sea for months on end and leaving Mom with the four of us,' she told her phantom father. 'Mulder is doing what is best for his family, just like you did.'

In her mind's eye she saw her father's slight frown, the purse of his lips as he considered a point he'd rather not. Then he would nod and slap his hands on his knees to indicate that the matter was solved. Then she would hand him Will and they would talk about Christmas plans.

"I think you and Will had better stay the night," Maggie said as she cut off another bite of lasagna.

Scully frowned and looked back out the window.

"Actually, if I leave now, I should be alright. I'll get home before there's a covering on the roads."

"But who knows where the storm hit first," Maggie theorized around her fork. "The roads into D.C. could already be bad. And it doesn't take long with sleet."

Scully nodded and resumed her place at the table. She didn't like the idea of playing beat the clock with Will in the car. If it was just her, she would have gone and not thought twice about it. But the thought of going off the road or being stranded at night with him put a prickle all over her skin.

"You're right," Scully said, picking up her fork again. "It's not worth the risk." She shot her mother a knowing look from under her lashes. "I'm sure you're heartbroken."

"Devastated," Maggie said with a smile. "Now I have a better chance of talking you into a piece of that gingerbread cake in the kitchen."

Scully rolled her eyes.

"I suppose you made whipped cream to go along with it?"

Maggie grinned.

"Your favorite."

Scully groaned.

"Mom, I'm trying to **lose** my pregnancy weight, not gain it all back."

Maggie laughed.

"You'll never lose all of it, Honey. Trust me."


Despite the inconvenience of not having all of Will's things and not sleeping in her own bed, Scully snuggled down under the old quilt and smiled. Will was peacefully asleep in the crib that her mother had set-up for the times when she babysat him. Outside the storm raged, but they were both warm and comfortable and safe. Sleepily, Scully mused that she would probably have to call in to work tomorrow. Even if the storm did abate during the night, the roads were sure to be a mess and she wasn't going to risk Will trying to rush to work.

Visions of a home cooked breakfast and a day spent wrapping gifts with her mother danced behind Scully's eyelids as she drifted off to sleep, the wind and ice blowing harmlessly outside her window.

She was on a couch - a leather couch - and she was laughing about something. There was a fire crackling in a fireplace nearby. She could hear the snap and hiss of the water as it escaped from the burning wood and feel the shadows of the flames as they played across her face. She was warm and happy. A light surrounded her, suffused her, lifted her soul up.

She was looking up now. At someone. She couldn't see the person clearly, could only make out their lanky frame. It was Mulder. She knew his outline. He was there, so close, and yet just outside her reach. She was smiling at him, reaching out for him...

A cool breeze brushed across her face and she turned away from him, a frown puckering her brow. There shouldn't be a breeze. They were inside. Safe and warm and happy. Will was just in the other room. They were together and everything was alright.

Scully's eyes snapped open and she stifled the gasp that hovered in her throat. The room was black, not even a shadow or an outline floated in front of her eyes. But she knew she was not alone. Someone was in the room.

She lay perfectly still on the bed, not daring even to breathe, waiting for something to tell her who it was. The same instinct that told her someone was there also told her it was not her mother. Her mind raced into the desperate action she denied her taunt muscles. Her gun, where was her gun?

Fuck! She had left it in the car! It made her mother nervous, and she couldn't imagine needing it here. Not at her mother's house!

Fool! Idiot! Mulder vanishes for six months, gives up his life, his son, everything, to protect Will and you're too lazy to carry your gun! You're more worried about your mother's sensibilities than your son's life, and now it's going to cost you. Damn! Damn! DAMN!

Desperately she searched her mind for an inventory of the nightstand. A bible. A phone. A glass of water she had brought to bed with her. She strained her ears for the tiniest sound; some indication of where the intruder was. If she could hit him with the glass, throw him off for a moment, she could knock him to the ground and make it a fair fight.

She heard a barely perceptible rustle behind her and her heart clenched in her chest. He was by the crib, maybe reaching in to take Will as she laid there cursing herself. The thought of her baby in some stranger's hands, taken off to God knows where, to die or be experimented on, stole the breath from her lungs.

Willing herself to move slowly and calmly she reached out in the dark with her fingers, searching blindly for the smooth coolness of the glass. Her fingers curled around the tall cylinder and she pulled it to her. Quickly she rolled over onto her back and then to her left side, grinding her teeth at the soft whisper of the bed linens. She worked herself out from the covers and sent a wordless prayer heavenwards as she prepared to spring. She was only going to get one chance at this...

She heard the rustle of clothing again and she launched herself at the sound. The glass flew from her hand and she heard the thunk and a grunt of pain as it struck its target. She dove into the darkness and crashed into a solid wall of flesh that nonetheless gave under her momentum.

They fell wordlessly to the ground. Her hands searched desperately for a purchase on him even as her mind told her she was in trouble. He was big, and strong, and she had to get the advantage quickly or he would overpower her. She aimed a punch at where she thought his face was...

"Ouch!"

Her knuckles barely grazed his chin but it was enough to prompt her silent attacker into an exclamation. She felt a thrill of triumph even as the voice registered in her mind. He sounded familiar...

"Jesus, Scully! It's me!"

She gasped then, her hands reached out blindly to his face, stroking quickly and urgently over its planes. He flinched at her first touch and then his hands were covering hers.

"Mulder? Mulder, is it you?" Scully breathed.

A sudden bright light blinded both of them. Scully looked up to see her mother, eyes and hair wild, clenching a baseball bat, one hand still on the light switch. She gaped at her mother's savage, determined expression before Mulder's hand on her own yanked her gaze downwards.

He was half leaning against the wall where she had knocked him. She was half astride him, one leg thrown out to balance herself. A bright red spot shone on his forehead where the glass had hit him and a corresponding spot decorated the corner of his chin.

Scully looked into his eyes. Into his beautiful hazel eyes that were regarding her with a mixture of amusement and love and she threw herself down onto his chest and sobbed.


She hiccuped and took another sip of the tea. Her eyes wandered to the crib but Will was still sound asleep. Well, there was no longer any question which parent he took after in the sleeping department. Armageddon could commence around his crib and he wouldn't even twitch.

Not even his father's tentative caresses could wake him. Mulder hovered near the crib, gazing down at his son as if he couldn't believe what he saw. His long fingers danced over the baby's soft curls, across his smooth cheek. He placed his hand on the baby's chest, watching it rise and fall as if it were the eighth wonder of the world.

He caught her looking and they smiled softly, shyly at one another. To Mulder, Will was three days old. That was how long they had had together. Updates, emails, they didn't count. This was his third day with his son.

Mulder pulled himself from Will's side and sat down on the edge of the bed next to her.

"Feeling better?"

She smiled into her cup and nodded sheepishly. She felt stupid for her outburst, but there had been nothing she could do about it. She had lain there, sprawled across his chest, sobbing uncontrollably while he held her and soothed her, whispering words of love in her ear. Maggie had gone to make tea, claiming that it would help calm everyone down and leaving them to their reunion.

Finally, she had been able to stop the tears and had hugged him against her, hands roving over his back, along his ribs, verifying for herself that he was real. Mulder had picked them both up and sat down on the bed, cradling her much as she often held their son. She had burrowed her face against his chest, snuffling, her fingers clenching handfuls of his sweater. He felt so good. He felt so right. Not until her senses were reeling with his touch, his scent, his voice did she realize just how empty she had been all these months. The pain of it tore through her.

And so her mother had brought tea and Scully had slid off of his lap to accept the steaming beverage and offer her mother a soft word of thanks. Maggie had leaned over and kissed her on the crown of her head and then done the same to Mulder before turning and walking out of the room, pulling the door shut behind her.

Now the only sounds in the room were the deep even sounds of Will's breathing and the uneven hitching of her own. She took another sip of tea and put it on the nightstand. She sighed heavily, letting her eyes fall close for a moment, willing the tension to leave.

"I'm sorry," he said, again. "I didn't mean to scare you. I thought I was being quiet."

She opened her eyes and smiled at him.

"You were quiet. I just don't sleep as soundly anymore."

"You're used to listening for him," Mulder said simply and she nodded. Then she raised her hand and gently traced the curve of his cheek, the outline of his lips.

"I have missed you so much," she whispered. "I had no idea just how much until I realized you were here. When I heard your voice...I just - cracked."

She wasn't sure which of them moved first. Perhaps they moved in unison as they had so many times before. Suddenly she was in his tight embrace and his lips were pressed to hers. She opened her mouth to him, her tongue darting forward to seek his. Their tongues dueled for a moment, seeking the same rhythm before moving into a caressing dance. Fire swept through her veins and she pressed herself still closer to him.

Her hands raced over his chest, his stomach, and around his back, her fingers hungry for every inch, every millimeter of his flesh. Wordlessly she tugged at his sweater and in one smooth motion he tugged it up over his head and threw it aside. Her fingers were already working the button on his jeans and then the zipper. For a brief moment she wondered about Will hearing them and then pushed that thought aside. Special traits or not, there could be no way it would be bad for their son to finally see his two parents loving each other.

They dispatched the rest of his clothing into the nether regions of the room, quickly followed by the silky nightgown she had borrowed from her mother. Flesh pressed to flesh they tumbled back into the bed, Mulder's dark outline rising above her in the faint glow of the lamplight.

She kissed his face, her tongue dragging along the ragged stubble of his new beard. She nibbled on one earlobe and was rewarded with a gasp and his fingers tightening on her waist where they were busy rubbing and exploring her. She suckled on his chin with exquisite care, kissing the spot where she had punched him, and then swept back up to his cheekbones, whispering over his eye lashes and finally back to his swollen, warm lips.

He pressed her harder into the mattress, their tongues once again tangled and she felt a surge of wet heat between her thighs. In some foggy part of her brain she acknowledged the physicality of this. The dreams and fantasizes that she had fed herself on all these months were becoming a reality. But it was just loving more than anything. Just loving, loving, loving.

"I love you," she whispered fiercely in his ear, gripping his shoulders as if he might bolt away at the words. "I love you so much."

If he was startled at her words, he gave no sign. Instead he raked his fingers through her hair, pulling her head back until her neck arched. He bent and tenderly kissed the soft spot where her neck joined her shoulder and then looked up into her eyes.

"I love you more than life," he said simply. "You are my life."

They gazed into each other's eyes, frozen in the moment, drinking in the love and the desire and the ultimate joy of having finally come back together. Finally, when she thought her heart would burst from the fullness of emotion, she leaned up and kissed him.

"Mulder," she whispered against his lips.

He responded with a searing kiss, his hands moving to cup her breasts. Then he was pulling one nipple into his mouth and then the other and she threw her head back and moaned. Oh God, it had been so long and she needed this so much.

As if the scene were orchestrated, they played each other's bodies. Her hands slipped down across his chest, over his stomach until her fingers brushed against the velvet steel of his erection. He gasped and pulled back to give her better access as she slid her fingers up and down his shaft. She squeezed gently, sliding her hand back up, pumping him, reveling in the gasps and moans that emerged from his throat.

He reached down to caress her and she nudged his hands away. She wanted him to pleasure her. She ached for it. But for now she needed to feel his pleasure. She needed the tactile proof that he ached as much as she did, that he needed her as much as she needed him.

With a deft movement she rolled him onto his back and slid down the bed, all the while keeping a firm grip on his cock. He settled into the mattress, his arms limp at his sides, his eyes slitted as he watched her straddle his legs and lower her mouth to him.

His hips bucked up against her as her lips closed over his throbbing head. She swirled her tongue around it, curving it around the underside and sucking ever so gently. He pushed up against her, his hands clenched in the sheets. She ran her tongue quickly over the opening and was rewarded with a salty drop of moisture. He was already so close.

With one hand around the base of him and the other cupping his balls, she opened her throat and slowly took him in. There was no way she could do all of it, but her hand, pressed against her lips, substituted, slicked by the moisture of her mouth. She took him deep and pulled back up, sucking gently as she made her way back to his tip. She swirled the head again and slid her mouth back down his length. Under her, Mulder writhed, gasping wordless exclamations.

She repeated this again and again, aware of the burning tension building inside him. She felt his balls draw up against his body, the sure sign that release was imminent. She wanted to make him come, wanted to hear him howl with the sweet fire of it.

But he was pulling on her shoulders, whispering her name hoarsely and she allowed him to slide out of her mouth with a last final caress. She knew what his urgent tugging was for. He wanted to wait. More than this, he wanted to be joined with her when he found his release.

She allowed him to pull her up his body, widening her legs and she slid up, straddling him. He pulled her down on top of him, his tongue thrusting into her mouth, his hand gripping her ass, kneading the soft flesh he found there. Their mouths merged again and again, hungry to convey the desire, the need that consumed them both.

Then his long fingers traced their way down across her stomach to her moist center and she tore her mouth from his to cry out as he found her throbbing clit. Slowly, gently, he stroked her from front to back, dipping his fingers into the copious wetness he found there. Then his finger slid forward to circle her nub once, twice, three times and she felt her inner muscles clenching. Oh God, close, she was so close. She rocked forward, willing him to enter her.

He obliged, slipping one finger and then two inside her and she thought she was going to come right then. The sweet friction against her sensitive walls sent sparks flying along her spine and she pushed against him, urging him to go deeper. He pulled back instead, slipping his fingers forward to circle her clit again and she moaned with it, the burning ache in the core of her becoming almost too much to bear.

He circled, then slid back, plunging into her before repeating the pattern again, each time a little less gentle. She thrust against him, willing him to do it harder, faster. She rose up over him, her hands on his shoulders for balance, her head thrown back in the soft glow of the room. More, she wanted more.

He acquiesced, sliding, circling, plunging harder and faster until it felt like her muscles couldn't clench any harder, her breath couldn't come any faster. She rocked against him, willing it to happen, sobbing for him to take her over the edge. He circled again and again and again and stayed there until she felt the tremor start and she ground down against him as her orgasm swept over her.

She cried out his name, thrusting against his hand as she rocketed into paradise. The world exploded behind her eyelids and she trembled with the force of it. Yes, this was what she needed. Him, just him and her together, doing this for the rest of their lives.

But it wasn't quite perfect. Not yet. Even as she trembled in the grip of her release, she tugged his hand out of the way, moving to put herself in the position, reaching for him. He flipped them quickly and she wrapped her legs around his waist, urging him to hurry with her hips.

He took himself in hand, guiding himself to her opening and then with one long slow push he was inside her. Her walls quaked around him and she cried out with the ecstasy of it as he filled her to the hilt.

"Mulder, oh God, yes!" He plunged in and pulled back, only to do it again. His breathing was ragged and she urged her hips up to meet his as he pushed down, delighting in the bump of his cock against her cervix. Again, she wanted that again.

He stroked in and out, each thrust a little harder, a little deeper. She pulled her legs up and he pressed them against her chest giving him even deeper access. She groaned her pleasure and pressed her head into the pillow, throwing it from side to side. She was so close again. So close.

He increased his tempo, bumping the mouth to her womb each time and she pushed up against him, willing him to come, to find the relief and the joy that she had. She was close, her muscled clenching around him, the burning between her legs becoming unbearable and then she was flying again, her slick walls quaking around him and it sent him flying too. A roar tore from his throat as he gathered her against him, and his body went rigid as he jetted into her.


The morning sun was making a desperate attempt to appear behind the curtain of gray that the sky had donned when Will decided he had slept long enough. As always, his cry started low, building to a hair raising thin crescendo that threatened to fracture glass. Scully usually got to him before that point. It was best for both of them that way.

But this morning, Will's mother was a little more exhausted and a little more comfortable in her bed. He was in the mezzo soprano range by the time she slitted her eyes open and frowned at the unfamiliar wall. Next to her a soft grunt and the press of warm flesh against her own brought her into the present. Mulder. Here. Her dreams had come true.

Will couldn't care less that his mother was having a moment. He wanted his breakfast. Now. He sucked in another lungful of air to re-assert his unhappiness when Scully pushed back the covers.

"Is he always that loud?" Mulder asked sleepily, blinking his hazel eyes in the dim light. "He gives my alarm clock a run for its money."

Scully smiled as she lifted her red-faced son and cradled him to her chest. Instantly, Will fell silent. He knew the drill. Mommy picks him up. Mommy feeds him. Then it's new diaper time followed by a lullaby and his bouncy chair.

Scully carried Will to the bed and placed him tummy first on Mulder's chest. Father and son stared at each other, each equally fascinated and discomfited by the change in routine. Will screwed up his face to voice his displeasure, but Mulder reached out and stroked his cheek and the little boy paused, his blue eyes taking in the man's face.

"I think he recognizes you," Scully said hoarsely, blinking back the tears that were threatening. Damn, when had she gotten so weepy? But, what a perfect, beautiful picture. This image would be burned into her memory forever.

"I think he doesn't know what to make of me," Mulder said with a shy smile, running his hand over Will's soft curls. "He looks so much like you, Scully."

Scully stretched out on her side next to them, her eyes drifting from one face to the other.

"He has my coloring and my eyes, but he looks like you, Mulder. He has your mouth and your chin."

"Please God, not my nose," Mulder said, tweaking the aforementioned feature on Will's face, making the baby giggle. Tears stung Mulder's eyes. "What a sound," he murmured. "Every time I've heard a baby laugh, I've wondered if he sounded like that."

"He laughs a lot," Scully said, smiling ruefully. "Unlike his parents."

Mulder looked up at her, his eyes sad and winsome.

"We need to change that, Scully."

"Can we?" she asked, knowing he understood what she really wanted to know.

Slowly, he shook his head. She bit her lip, determined not to show just how crushing the disappointment was. She knew it was unlikely, but she had hoped that this reunion was permanent. She fought the idea of him going away again. Of not knowing when, or God forbid, if, she would ever see him again was too much to bear.

He squeezed her hand and she met his eyes, steeling herself against the emotions that ran riot inside her.

"We will change that, Scully. I'm working on it every minute of every day. It won't be much longer. I promise."

"You've made progress, then?"

He nodded.

"Some. I can't say that we will ever be totally safe-"

"No one ever is," she interjected. "That's impossible."

"Right. But I want it to be as safe as possible. I want us to be able to sleep at night."

He waggled a finger at Will and the baby dutifully grabbed it and directed it to his mouth, prompting a chuckle from his father.

"But I have to come home soon, Scully. I can't stand much more of this."

She nodded wordlessly, her eyes fastened on the long slender finger that Will was industriously gumming. She could handle it. If it was only for a little while longer, she would persevere. Whatever it took to have them all together. Finally.

"Ouch!" Mulder exclaimed, withdrawing his bruised, glistening finger from Will's chubby grasp. "He's got teeth?"

"He's working on it," Scully said with a grin.

Slowly Mulder pulled himself into a sitting position, holding Will tentatively as if he might break, or bite again.

"Then let's go feed this little tiger before he takes a chunk out of me."


 

They sat sipping coffee while Maggie bustled around the kitchen making breakfast and Will cooed happily in his bouncy seat. Mulder's eyes seemed glued to his son and Scully took the opportunity to really look at him for the first time since their erstwhile reunion at 3 AM.

He wore the familiar heather gray t-shirt that always made him look like a co-ed. His hair was shorter than the last time she had seen him, and she was sure she could see wisps of gray at the temples. He had lost weight, too. Not too much, but getting close to it. Scully surreptitiously sniffed the air. Waffles and eggs. Maggie had already decided Mulder was too thin and was setting about correcting the problem.

Scully let her gaze wander over his face, taking in the new lines, the shadows under his eyes. The past few months had rapidly aged him, as had the year before. But he was still beautiful. The aquiline profile, the intense hazel eyes. They still made her heart swell with love and desire.

Her eyes wandered south, over his chest and arms, down to his still taut stomach and his slender hips. He was still a handsome man, no doubt about it. She felt a stab of jealousy wondering how many women eyed him appreciatively wherever he lived. Wondering who watched him out their window, smiled coyly as he passed in the hallway. How many women had invited him over for dinner, out to drinks? She clenched her teeth just thinking about it.

She felt eyes on her and looked up to find Mulder's warm gaze resting on her face. She flushed slightly and smiled at him, delighted when he returned it with a megawatt grin.

"What?" she asked, her eyes darting away to Will and back.

"You're beautiful," he said simply and then laughed when she blinked at him in shock.

"Mulder!" she exclaimed, shooting a look at her mother's decidedly amused profile.

"What's the matter, Scully?" Mulder teased. "I can't say things like that? Or I just can't say them in front of your mother?"

Scully reddened and actually squirmed in her chair before stopping herself. She managed a glare at him before looking away from his grin.

"It's just that you don't usually say things like that," she said lamely, wondering as she said it why she was objecting to the man she loved calling her beautiful.

"I do, too!" Mulder insisted. "It's just usually in a more...private setting."

Her eyes flew to his and he burst out laughing. On her left, Maggie did the same, giggling furiously over the waffle iron. Scully was sure her cheeks were as bright as her hair at this point. She did glare at Mulder then, but it only made him laugh harder. She harrumphed and turned to play with Will's stockinged foot.

Mulder wiped at his eyes and shared a conspiratorial grin with Maggie.

"I'm sorry, Scully. It's just that I've had several months of wanting to say that stored up and I couldn't help myself."

"Mhm," Scully murmured, still playing with Will, but a smile was beginning to curl the edges of her mouth. Will shrieked with pleasure as she tickled the bottom of his foot and she could feel Mulder's twinkling eyes pulling at her.

She turned and gave him her best glacial-don't-fuck-with-me-or-I'll-castrate-you look and just when doubt was starting to crease his brow, she leaned over and placed a chaste kiss on his full, pouting lips.

"I love you," she said simply and sat back to enjoy the surprise and pleasure as they chased each other across his features. He reached out and took her hand and she squeezed his in return. In the background, she could hear Will's gurgles and her mother's soft hum, but her eyes were only for the man in front of her.


They had all settled into the living room with steaming mugs of cider and Christmas carols on the stereo. Mulder was on the floor playing with Will who seemed to find his father's prominent nose fascinating. Mulder was keeping up a running monologue about all the things that he and Will would do together when Will got older and it was no surprise that baseball and basketball figured prominently in those plans.

Scully helped her mother finish wrapping presents. The unwrapped stack on her left was dwindling nicely and the stack of her right was getting ridiculously high. She eyed the gaily wrapped packages and was vaguely surprised to see how nice they looked. How she had managed such a good job without taking her eyes off of father and son was another mystery worthy of the X-Files division.

She winced at the thought of the X-Files. She and Mulder had not had a chance to talk about them, or anything else, for that matter. She didn't know how he would feel about Doggett and Reyes and the job they were doing. Given all that had happened, she wasn't sure if he would care. But he had put so many years into it. It had been their proving ground, the reason for them coming together. She knew it had to still matter to him on some level.

Maggie cleared her throat and Scully realized that Mulder had fallen silent. He sat cross legged on the floor, Will laying across his lap. The little boy's eyes were drifting shut and Mulder was gently rocking him back and forth.

"You're a natural, Fox," Maggie said and smiled at him. "I assure you Mr. William does not always go so gently into the good night."

"I think I bored him into a stupor," Mulder said, brushing back Will's curls. The baby briefly opened his eyes and let them fall shut again.

"It's time for his morning nap," Scully said, making to rise. "He can go in his crib upstairs."

Mulder gestured for her to sit down.

"Let me." He carefully pulled Will into his arms and rose from the floor in one fluid motion, cracking knees withstanding.

"On his back," Scully said. "With a blanket over him. And turn on the baby monitor."

"Got it," Mulder said and moved to the stairs.

As soon as Mulder was out of sight, Maggie leaned over and squeezed Scully's arm. Scully looked over at her and was surprised to see tears in her mother's eyes.

"I don't know how you do it," Maggie said, hoarsely. "He's such a wonderful father. To not have him with the two of you..."

Scully leaned over and hugged her mother close, rocking her much as she would Will. They clung to each other for a few moments.

"It's worth it, Mom. To see them together, now. It's worth it."

Maggie pulled back and smoothed her hair. She smiled through her tears.

"Is he back for good? Is it over?"

Scully shook her head.

"No. I don't know how much longer we have to be apart." She paused for a moment and sighed heavily. "I've been afraid to ask."

Maggie watched her for a moment and then looked back down at the half-wrapped present on the table in front of her.

"I can understand that. Believe me, I can."

Scully sighed again. "I need to find out, though. I don't even know how he got here or how he knew I was here."

"The guys told me," Mulder said from the doorway. He came into the room and handed Scully the baby monitor. On it she could hear the steady even breathing of their son.

Scully frowned up at him.

"How did they know? I didn't tell them I was coming to see Mom."

Mulder sank into the couch.

"I contacted them a couple of days ago and told them that I was going to try to visit. They've been doing discreet surveillance on you ever since. I was hoping you would be coming to visit your mother. It's safer than the apartment."

"When do you have to leave?," Scully asked dejectedly. She had barely heard the part about the surveillance. The word "visit" resounded in her head like a death knell.

He sighed and sat forward, running his fingers through his hair. He looked up at her.

"It depends," he said. "The longer I can stay out of sight, the better. I was hoping to be able to stay through Christmas."

"Of course you will," Maggie said firmly, setting aside another wrapped gift. "You just won't go outside."

"It's more than that," Scully said. "He could be seen through a window." She looked at Mulder evenly, pushing aside her emotions. "They could even have this house bugged."

Mulder shook his head.

"The guys did a complete sweep yesterday while your mom was grocery shopping." Mulder looked over at Maggie. "I'm sorry, Maggie. It was necessary."

"I don't mind at all," Maggie said without missing a beat. "Not if it means you and Dana and Will can have some time together. We'll keep the curtains closed and just button up the house. Whatever it takes."

"What about now?" Scully asked. "How did you get here? How do you know you weren't followed."

"I'm sure I wasn't followed. There's no indication that anyone knows where I'm living. We were very careful about the pick-up and they've been watching the house since I got here. If anyone comes close, they'll warn us."

Maggie sprang up.

"Those boys are outside in this weather? We have to take them something warm to eat and drink. They must be frozen!"

"We can't, Mom," Scully said sharply and then curbed her tone. "It would compromise their location and they wouldn't be able to protect us."

"But," Maggie frowned. "There must be something we can do! I hate to think of them out there alone..."

"They're take shifts," Mulder said. "And believe me, they're well stocked with food and drink. I made sure of it." He offered Maggie a wry smile. "I also invited them to Christmas dinner here. I hope you don't mind."

Maggie smiled.

"Of course I don't mind, Fox. What a nice way to thank them." She frowned then. "I think I better call the butcher and order a bigger turkey, though. As I recall, that blonde one can really eat."

Scully and Mulder both laughed. Over the monitor, Will's soft breathing turned into a not-so-small snore and Maggie joined in the laughter. Scully got up and went to the couch. Mulder looked up at her, laughter dancing in his eyes and she smiled at him as she slid easily on to his lap.

She watched him watching her as she twined her arms around his neck. Slowly, she leaned forward and brushed his lips with one soft, feathery kiss.

"Thank you, Mulder. Thank you for the best Christmas of my life."

He reached up and stroked her cheek.

"So far. They're going to get better every year. I promise."

She leaned forward and pressed her forehead against his. It was a huge promise and she had no idea how he could keep it. But it didn't matter. She believed.

The End


Author's Notes: Okay, first of all, I confess to being a Christmas nut, so this story was inevitable. As are all the others I will eventually write. It's warm and fuzzy and probably not very in character for our two favorite characters. I know, I know. But, that's what Christmas is about!!! That and lots of hot chocolate...

I found out yesterday that my novel, Tine Rua is nominated for Best NC-17 MSR at the Spooky's. Thank you to everyone who voted for me!!! Having seen the competition, I do not expect to even place, but it is truly an honor to be nominated!

I hope you all have a safe and happy Holiday season!

Menagerie

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