Author: Nicole B
Summary: Christmas has Scully re-evaluating her life.
"Scully? If you're there, pick up. Please." There was a long pause. "Please pick up, I know you're there. Please?" Mulder's voice begged her answering machine. "Okay, fine, I'm coming over to check on you. I'll be there in half an hour."
Scully sat on the couch, staring blankly at the wall. She hadn't moved for nearly two days. Her eyes fluttered closed as her mind wandered…
Christmas lights are flashing on the balcony. The tree is lit up and the angel on top is smiling. But it does not compare to the two smiles greeting Agent Fox Mulder in the foyer. Scully and Emily, their eyes alight, greet him with hugs and kisses.
"Merry Christmas, Mulder." Scully welcomes him into her apartment with a hug, and a peck on the cheek under the mistletoe.
"Merry Christmas, Mud!" Emily giggles at her adoptive uncle's nickname. Mulder grins and swings her up into his arms, squishing her in a tight hug. She kisses his rough cheek quickly, then squirms to get down, padding over to the Christmas tree and the pile of presents underneath. Brushing a stray blond hair out of her face, the little girl grabs a small box and runs back to Mulder. She hands him the box with a smile.
Before he can blink. Scully has taken the box and handed it back to Emily. "Not yet, Em. We're not opening presents until after Santa comes, remember?" Her eyes are soft and her tone gentle.
"Oh, yeah." Emily takes the little box and puts it back under the tree, her small red velvet dress swishing around her knees with each step. Mulder watches her intently, his eyes expressing silently how much he misses his sister.
Scully places one delicate hand on his broad shoulder. "I understand, Mulder. Every time I look at her, I see Melissa." Her eyes water slightly at the mention of her sister.
Emily turns around, as if sensing the sadness in the room. She smiles a small smile, one that barely flickers across her tiny mouth and is gone as suddenly as it came. "Are we going to church now?" she asks, knowing that the sooner church is over, the sooner Santa will come.
Scully nods, wiping an errant tear from her cheek. "Yes, go get your new coat." She turns to Mulder. "Would you like to come to midnight Mass with us?" It was mostly a rhetorical question, as Scully knew Mulder was Jewish, and non-practicing, at that.
"Sure, why not?" Mulder shrugs. "It's Christmas."
They enter the lobby of the church like a perfect family. Mulder, in his usual blue suit, is carrying the velvet-clad Emily and her Santa-bear, a present from her mother. Scully walks next to her daughter and partner, her dark green satin and velvet pantsuit setting off her red hair perfectly. Scully slips her arm through Mulder's, smiling up at him, one of those rare smiles that says she is truly happy. He's such a good friend. *Not many people would do this for a co-worker,* she thinks. Emily wraps an arm around Mulder's neck as her small mouth opens halfway in a stifled yawn. Scully reaches across Mulder's chest to his other arm, gently stroking Emily's cheek. "You tired, sweetie?" Emily shakes her head wordlessly. Scully pulls her arm back, and it brushes Mulder's chest. He shivers slightly at her touch. "Mulder? You okay?" Scully asks, concern in her voice.
"Fine." He smiles shakily. *Even her touch is electric,* he thinks. "Let's find a seat," Mulder whispers as they approach the sanctuary. They find three seats near the back. Mulder sits on the end, with Emily between himself and Scully.
The Mass begins with a candlelight procession. Since she was little, Scully has loved midnight Mass - there's something special about being awake the moment Christmas begins. She sits, enraptured, as the choir sings "Away in a Manger".
Her soft alto rises in song, joining in "O Holy Night" and "Hark, The Herald Angels Sing". She smiles down at a sleepy Emily, whose head is resting on the back of the seat. Her big blue eyes are still alert and staring at the Nativity in front of the altar. Emily tugs on Scully's sleeve. Scully leans down, whispering, "What is it, honey?"
"Dana, that's the baby Jesus, right?" Emily points the tiny porcelain baby in the manger and Scully nods. "And that's his mommy with him?" Scully nods again. "Where is Jesus' mommy now, Dana?" Emily asks, her voice trembling.
Scully whispers back, "In Heaven, with Jesus and God," and gently squeezes Emily's shoulder comfortingly.
Emily nods, her brow furrowing in thought. "Is it the same heaven where my mommy and daddy are?" she asks.
Scully sighs softly. "Yes, sweetie, the same heaven."
Emily just nods again, hugging her teddy bear tightly, trying to process the information in a four-year-old brain.
Scully puts up her kneeler, and sits back in her chair, ready to go up to receive communion. Mulder smiles, tucking his long legs beneath his seat. Scully looks down at Emily, who is now soundly asleep. The little girl is curled in a ball in her seat, her head resting on Mulder's lap. Her teddy bear is lying beside her, the red velvet dress spread in a circle over her legs. Scully smiles softly to herself, standing and making her way out of the pew. As she passes Mulder, her legs brush his knees, and she reaches out to grasp his shoulder, steadying herself. "Thanks," she whispers in his ear. A thousand emotions run through his mind at her warm touch.
As she makes her way back to her seat, Scully glances almost objectively at her daughter and partner. *They make such a cute couple,* she thinks laughingly. Anyone who saw them together would assume he's her father. She shakes her head, dismissing the thought. A small smile works its way over her face, her blue eyes lighting up in happiness. This is the first time she's been really happy in a long, long time. And it's because I finally let someone get close enough to love me. And for me to love them back, she adds mentally. Scully smile widens as she wonders how she could love two people so much. She sits down, gently lifting Emily from Mulder's lap. She takes the little girl into her arms, feeling the tiny body as the chest lifts with each breath. The closing hymn is "Joy to the World". Emily wakes, raises her head and grins. Her small voice rises off-key with Scully's. Even Mulder sings the chorus, reaching over to grasp Scully's hand. Her delicate fingers interlace with his large ones, and she holds his hand like a lifeline.
"Merry Christmas, Scully," Mulder grins at his partner. "Merry Christmas, Emily." He leans over to kiss the child's cheek.
"Merry Christmas, Mulder." Before he can move away, Scully's lips brush his in the lightest of kisses. Mulder places one hand on the small of Scully's back protectively, following her out of the church.
The trio leaves the church quietly, the last strains of the carol fading into the crisp night air.
By the time they arrive at Scully's apartment, it is nearly two in the morning. Emily is asleep again, and Scully carries her down the hall and tucks her into bed. The red velvet dress is exiled to the back of the rocking chair in the corner, awaiting its petite owner. It will be used again tomorrow, when the family comes to visit. Scully slips out of Emily's bedroom, closing the door gingerly behind her. She heads down the hall, and sinks onto the couch beside Mulder. Her blue eyes are exhausted, but happy. The Christmas tree sparkles and the angel smiles down in glory at the pair on the sofa.
Scully doesn't know how to express all that she's feeling at the moment—love, happiness, gratitude—so she remains silent.
Mulder sighs softly, his memories of Samantha and his mother's betrayal overcoming him. He also says nothing, not wanting to bring Scully down on Christmas.
A small knock on her bedroom door awakens Scully. "Dana?" Emily is whispering from the other side.
"Emily?" Scully is concerned, until she remembers: it's Christmas morning. "Come on in, honey."
A whirlwind of tiny blond bounces and skips into the room. "Dana, Santa came! There's presents under the tree! Lots of presents!" Emily runs to Scully's side, but stops, waiting for permission. Even after nearly a year with Scully, she is still worried that the redhead will change her mind about having a daughter if she misbehaves.
Scully spreads her arms wide with an understanding smile. Emily pounces into them, hugging Scully tightly. "Can we go open presents now?"
Scully laughs, looking at the clock. 5:30. "You can open one present before the family gets here."
The doorbell rings twice in quick succession. Scully climbs out of bed and makes her way to the door, tying her robe on the way. She opens the door and a grin appears on her face to match Emily's. "Em, it's Mud!" she laugh. "Come say hi!" Scully turns back to Mulder, saying, "You're very early. I thought we said seven?"
Mulder shrugs. "I couldn't sleep. I knew you'd be up with Emily, anyway. I hope you don't mind." He adds, his expression practically begging her to understand.
Scully nods, worry lines creasing her forehead as she reaches up to caress his cheek. "Of course I don't mind." She pats his cheek lovingly. "Come on in."
Emily comes skidding out of her bedroom, slides across the linoleum floor and crashes headfirst into Mulder's leg. "Hi! Merry Christmas! Come see what Santa brought us!" she giggles breathlessly.
Scully inclines her head toward Emily, smiling to Mulder. "Watch her while I shower?"
Mulder steps into the apartment, closing the door against the frigid Maryland air. "Sure." He follows the preschooler over to the tree, where she is excitedly pointing out all the presents Santa brought her. Mulder pulls a large shopping bag from behind his back. "Guess what?"
"What?" Emily asks delightedly.
"Santa must have gotten lost last night, because he accidentally left some gifts for you and Dana at my house!" Mulder grins like a kid.
"Oh boy! More presents!" Emily claps in joy.
Scully takes a quick shower and finds the long sleeved blue sweater and sarong set. She dresses, and wanders into the living room, combing her damp hair.
As his partner approaches, poor Mulder can barely think, let alone speak. Her wet hair lies in wavy layers around her slender neck, and the light blue sarong clings to every one of her curves.
Scully smiles at Mulder tenderly. "Emily," she turns to her daughter. "Let's go get dressed, then you can open your present."
Emily grins, hugging Mulder quickly. "Be right back, Mud."
Mulder shakes his head, laughing. "How'd I get that nickname, anyway?"
"She couldn't say "Mulder", remember? And you didn't want her calling you "Fox"," Scully calls over her shoulder, as Emily half-drags her into the small bedroom.
"Oh, right." Mulder grins, settling himself on the couch after placing the presents he'd brought strategically under the tree—i.e., in a big pile.
Emily slides the red velvet dress over her head as Scully slides her nightgown down. Scully helps her into black patent leather Mary Janes while Emily wiggles white tights up over her reindeer panties. Then Emily runs back into the living room. "Emily, no running in the apartment!"
Emily slows to a fast walk and hops into Mulder's lap. He 'oofs' good-naturedly. "You're getting heavy, kiddo," he teases.
Emily laughs. "Am not!" She jumps down, heading over to the tree. She pulls out one small box, with a tag reading, "to Dana, from Mulder". He'd used her first name to avoid confusion when her relatives arrived, Mulder had assured her earlier.
Emily tugs at a second, larger box, labeled "To Mulder, from D. Scully". Then, the little girl's behind is all that can be seen as she wiggles out from underneath the tree, pulling a huge box. The tag says, "To Emily, From Dana and Mud". The box is bigger than Emily is and she huffs and puffs as she drags it across the wooden floor. She stops just short of the couch, sitting down abruptly on the floor, a look of pure anticipation lighting up her face. She waits impatiently as Scully pours non-alcoholic eggnog for herself and Mulder. Finally, Scully settles on the couch next to Mulder, each holding their gift from the other.
"All right, Em, go for it!" Scully chuckles softly.
The little girl tears into the wrapping paper, running in a circle around the box to unwrap it all. She looks questioningly up at Scully, not quite able to read the big word yet.
Scully smiles. "It's a dollhouse, Em. The one you saw at the store and liked so much." Emily's eyes widen as she stares at the picture she's just uncovered on the side of the box. "Wow, thanks! Thanks a lot! It's great!" She grins broadly. "Can I play with it, Dana?"
"Sure." Scully pulls a box opener out of her desk drawer and cuts into the top. Mulder lifts out an enormous dollhouse and a box of accessories. Emily gets to work, setting up the inhabitants. She is silent, her tongue peeking from between her lips as she concentrates on her task.
Scully watches her for a moment, then turns to Mulder. "Open yours, Mulder."
Mulder blinks. "Ladies first," he insists.
"No, please, I love giving gifts." Scully smiles. "I want to see the look on your face."
Mulder consents, and begins to unwrap the box in his hands. "Oh, Scully, it's perfect." A smile crosses his somber face as he opens the gift. "How did you know?" He turns the electric can opener around in his hands.
Scully smiles broadly, her eyes lighting up. "I've seen your apartment," she teases. "All you eat is canned food. I figured it was time - I can't feed you every night." Her voice sounds almost worried as she adds, "Do you really like it?"
"It's fabulous." Mulder leans over and kisses her cheek. "Thank you, Scully."
Scully grins and looks down at the small box in her lap. She tears into it delicately, the gold wrapping falling off easily. "Oh, Mulder, you wrapped it yourself. How sweet."
Mulder laughs nervously. "Sorry, I'm not a pro."
"It's the thought that counts," Scully assures him. She lifts out the small jeweler's box, opening it slowly. She gasps as she sees the ring inside. It is thin and gold, with three small stones.
Scully pointed to one, a deep purple color. "My birthstone, Mulder?" she questions.
Mulder nods, pointing to another, a dark yellow stone. "And that's Emily's."
"Whose is this?" Scully indicates the last stone, an almost translucent white in color.
Mulder blushes. "It's mine. I figured I'm the closest thing Emily's got to a father now…."He trails off.
Scully kisses his cheek tenderly. "Thank you, Mulder, it's beautiful." She slides the ring onto the ring finger of her left hand, a perfect fit.
The apartment is bustling. This is the year the Scully clan descends on Dana's hospitality.
Her smile doesn't fade as she greets each guest.
"Mom!" Scully's happy voice echoes in the cramped hallway. "Bill, Charlie, hi!" She kisses each of her brothers.
Emily is hiding behind Scully, still not used to all the people in her new family. She kisses her grandmother. Bill Jr. bends down to kiss her, and she ducks behind Scully, whimpering.
Scully picks Emily up, whispering reassuringly, "It's okay, I'm here." Emily calms down enough to shake Bill's hand. Bill's wife, Tara, follows him in, shaking snow from her boots onto Scully's welcome mat, which merrily sings "Jingle Bells" at each footstep. Scully holds onto Emily tightly with one arm, kissing her year-old nephew, Matthew. Emily hugs Matthew and lets go of Scully long enough to show Matt the wonders of the candy bowls.
The presents begin to get opened. Emily squeals in delight and finally forces herself to kiss her Uncle Bill after she sees the Barney doll he bought her.
Matthew babbles happily in baby talk, rocking back and forth on the rocking horse Scully and Emily picked out.
Finally, all the presents are opened and the wrapping paper lays like snow on Scully's floor. The dining room is the only place spared by the frost of bows and tape. Scully passes a black garbage bag around, and tries to push some of the gifts under the tree, but finally decides it is a futile effort.
She turns and surveys the room. The living room couch and chairs are crowded, even the extra folding chairs are now occupied by the men. They are watching the Macy's parade and Emily claps when the Barney balloon floats down the street.
"Dana, look, it's Barney!" she hollers, hugging her new stuffed doll. Matthew giggles and almost chokes on an M&M before Bill smacks him on the back and he spits it out - onto Scully's new carpet. Oh well, she laughs a little. They're family. Mulder is discussing politics with Charlie, and Bill Jr. is talking about the future of the Navy with Uncle Sean. The dining room is filled with milling women, checking the food and making sure Dana cooked the turkey properly. They're gossiping about the men and Dana's love life. Aunt Belinda is musing over whether Scully will ever "catch a man", which Scully pretends not to hear. Someone mentions Melissa and Scully's smile fades for a moment. She blesses herself quickly, glancing up as she does whenever she thinks of her sister.
Scully ducks out into the hall to catch her breath and she leans against the wall, closing her eyes briefly. After living with just Emily for so long, she wasn't used to the crowd. The phone beneath her elbow rings and Scully jumps. She picks it up, then laughs. "Hi, Ellen!" Her best friend wanted to know if she and her son could stop by and drop off his godmother's gift. "Of course! Emily and I have Trent's gift waiting right here for him. Come by anytime, don't mind our zoo." When she slipped back into the kitchen, Scully's mother grabbed her hand. "Dana, what's this?" she asked, pointing to the ring. Scully smiles and displays it for the room to see. "Mulder's Christmas present to me." She turns and smiles at her partner, who grins back broadly.
Her mother's eyes open wide. "Really? Is it—" she lowers her voice, "significant? A promise ring, maybe?"
Scully shakes her head, sighing in amusement and exasperation. "No, Mom, it was just a nice gift from a friend."
Her mother says nothing further on the subject, but there's a certain glint in her eyes…until Emily drags her off to show Grandma her new dollhouse.
The turkey has been skinned and gutted. All that remains of his proud form are bones. The stuffing has been devoured and the mashed potatoes are now a faint memory. A glimmering circle of cranberry sauce remains but is quickly snatched up by Bill. The soda is practically gone and the smell of brewing coffee permeates the small apartment.
Emily and Scully clear the remains of the Christmas feast and Mulder is in the kitchen, slicing pie and getting dessert plates ready. Sweet potato, blueberry, apple, cherry—all are gone in a matter of minutes. Soon after, the coffee is gone and the gallon of milk is empty.
*That's the blessing of a big Irish family,* Scully thinks. Few leftovers.
Emily looks as if she's about to fall asleep on her pie, and Matthew's head is drooping. Scully and Tara gather the children up and tuck them into Scully's bed. Her down comforter covers them both as they drift off to sleep. Scully kisses her daughter's forehead, watching her sleep for a moment, still amazed at the wonder of being a mother. Then she eases out of the room, shutting the door as quietly as possible.
Scully withdraws to the kitchen, where Mulder is loading the dishwasher. "You didn't have to do that, you know," she chides him. "You're a guest." Gently pushing him out of the way, Scully digs into the pile of dishes and starts working.
"But I like it," Mulder protests laughingly, reaching his long arms around Scully to pull the dish out of her hands and put it in the dishwasher.
Scully throws up her hands, as if giving up. "All right, you win. Load to your heart's content." She turns to leave and finds herself trapped in his strong arms. Her heart races as she looks up into his hazel eyes. "Oops," she chuckles.
"Yeah, oops." Mulder leans down and kisses her lips softly. "Slipped." He steps back, to allow her room to move.
She cannot move for a full minute. Finally, she finds her legs and smiles, slipping out of the room.
The small clock on the mantel chimes four. The conversation in the living room is lagging, and most of the Scully clan has departed, bound for visits to the homes of extended family or back home.
The remaining family is scattered around the apartment. Some of the men are asleep on the couch, heads thrown back, snoring loudly. Most of the women are seated around the dining room table, chatting over coffee. Some football game that no one cares about is droning in the background, as Scully argues with her brother over World Series contenders for the coming year. Mulder is sitting in Scully's favorite chair, leaning on one elbow, listening to her ramble about earned runs as if it were the most fascinating thing he's ever heard.
Scully's ears perk up as a low creak is heard from the back hall. Emily comes padding out of the bedroom, rubbing her eyes.
She looks ready to cry as she sees all the people in her house. The Scully stands and walks over to her, and the little girl breathes a tiny sigh of relief, holding out her arms to be picked up. Scully lifts her up and Emily lays her head on Scully's shoulder. In the bedroom, Matthew begins to cry, and Tara heads down the hall.
As if on cue, the doorbell rings, and Scully welcomes Ellen and Trent.
"Aunt Dana!" Trent hugs her around the waist, reaching up to pat Emily's arm.
Emily smiles. "Hi Trent. Hi Aunt Ellen," she murmurs and leans over to kiss Ellen's cheek. Ellen hands Emily her Christmas present, and Emily rips it open quickly. "Oh! Look, Dana!" She winds up the small monkey, and it plays "It's A Small World" on a little drum. Emily grins broadly.
"Glad you like it, Emmy," Ellen smiles. She passes Scully her gift, and Scully squeezes into the chair next to Mulder to open it, as Emily slides onto Mud's lap. Mulder gulps silently as Scully's hand brushes his leg and she squeezes it gently. Scully lifts the monogrammed towels out of the box. "Oh, El, how sweet, they're perfect!" Her fingers run over the silken DKS in the corner of each towel. She stands to hug her friend and pull out Ellen and Trent's gifts from under the tree. Trent loves the train set, and Ellen adores the sweater Scully and Emily picked out. Peach is her favorite color.
The last of the relatives are departing, Mulder is the only guest left. The white Jeep disappears from sight as Emily and Scully wave goodbye to Tara, Bill and Matthew. They head back into the house and shut the door as Emily shivers. Scully sinks down onto the couch and Emily curls up in her lap. Mulder puts an arm around Scully's shoulder and she leans her head on his. They sit and watch the Christmas tree lights blinking red, green, white and blue in the fading winter light. Blink. Blink. Blink. Blink.
"Scully, what are you doing for New Year's?" Mulder asks, his mouth turning up at one corner in an imitation of a smile.
"I'm not sure Mulder. I'm probably just staying home with Em and watching the ball drop on television," Scully replies.
"Well, I just thought we could, you know, go down to the bar and watch the ball drop together. Or something."
"Would 'something' be the Bureau's party?" Scully asks, smiling gently.
"Yeah, why not?" Mulder says, as if it's just occurred to him.
"Okay, Mulder. I'll ask Mom to baby-sit," Scully says simply.
"Dana, where you goin'?" The tiny voice comes from inside a large box. Scully kneels down, peeking into the cardboard remains of her new refrigerator's old home. She grins as she sees the bright blue eyes of her daughter peering back from the semi-darkness inside the cardboard playpen.
"I'm going out, remember? With Mulder."
"Oh." Even the comment sounds small, and an itty-bitty sniffle follows.
Scully hitches up her Armani pants and climbs into the box. She sits cross-legged and reaches out to smooth a stray blonde lock away from Emily's cheek. The redhead smiles and sighs softly. "You don't mind, do you?" Emily shakes her head but her eyes are sad.
"You're lying. You know that's not allowed." Scully's voice is firm but soft.
Emily takes a little breath. "Are you comin' back?" Her eyes fill with tiny tears.
Scully pulls the preschooler onto her lap, kissing the top of her head. "Of course I'm coming back. You're here, aren't you? And besides, it's only a company party, Em. I'm not going to be gone long, and Grandma Maggie will be here with you." Her voice is calm and reassuring as she cuddles the little body next to her own. The cardboard box trembles as Emily turns her head to look at her mother. " 'Kay. You can go then."
Scully's melodic laugh fills the box and overflows into her living room. "Thanks, Em." She moves Emily off her lap and scoots backward out of the box. "Help me get dressed?" Scully reaches out a hand to the box and Emily grabs onto it, popping out. Scully scoops her up and carries her off under one arm, tickling the girl, while Emily giggles with delight.
The doorbell rings and Emily cries out happily, "I got it!" She runs over to the door and peeks through the lace curtain beside it. "Mud!" she yells, warning her mother, before she opens the door and rushes at him.
Mulder laughs, bending down to hug Emily, as she grips his leg in a warm embrace. "Mud!" she giggles his nickname and he mock-groans.
Emily giggles harder and pulls him by the hand over to the soda. "Sit!" she commands, and he obeys, a small smile tickling his somber lips.
Emily leans an ear against Scully's bedroom door and whispers loudly, "Now what, Dana?"
A muffled voice answers. "Soda", as Scully pulls her slip over her head.
"Oh yeah!" Emily runs back into the living room. "Would you like coke, Mud?" she asks graciously, giving a little curtsey.
Mulder grins at the girl. "Sure, thank you." She dashes into the kitchen and reappears a moment later with a can of Coke and a plastic "Lion King" cup. Mulder smiles broadly, taking the cup as if it is fine china. He pours the coke, takes a sip and smiles at Emily. "Wonderful! My compliments to the chef."
Emily giggles. "You're silly, Mud." She dashes back to the bedroom door. "Ready yet, Dana?"
Scully tugs at her dress, opens the bedroom door and nods at her daughter. "Ready, Emily."
Emily turns and dashes into the hallway, facing Mulder and clearing her throat dramatically. "Ahem. May I pwesent…." A little lisp turns "present" into "pwesent". "…Dana Scully, supewmodel!"
Scully laughs softly as she enters the living room. "Thanks, Emily, I feel like a princess now." Her petite form is draped in a midnight blue creation, which begins at her torso and flows to the tips of her small shoes. Her white shoulders shimmer iridescently above the strapless gown and the small train shadows behind her when she turns. A matching deep blue lace shawl is draped casually across her slender shoulders, and two diamond studs sparkle on white earlobes. Auburn hair slides in a gentle cascade to her shoulders. Half of it is in an upsweep, the rest coming to rest softly on her freckled collarbone. Mulder's eyes open wide as he tugs uncomfortably at the neck of his tuxedo. "You look like an angel, Scull."
She grins and twirls around. The sea of dark satin and crinoline follows her. "Thought I'd make the other agents jealous," she laughs self-depreciatingly.
Mulder stands and approaches his partner slowly, almost hesitantly. He takes her gently by the shoulders, his big hands seeming out of place on her delicate lace shawl. "You will," he says seriously, his hazel eyes beaming.
Scully catches his eyes and smiles. "Thanks." Emily tugs at her arm, handing Scully something. Scully grins. "Thanks, Em, I almost forgot." Scully pins the single carnation onto Mulder's lapel and adjusts his bow tie. "You look pretty da--darn good yourself." Scully catches herself and chuckles. It was the truth, though. "You look so good, it's almost…..spooky," she teases him.
The doorbell rings out, interrupting the moment, and Emily opens the door for her grandmother.
"Hi, Mom." Scully kisses her mother quickly and scoops up her purse.
Margaret Scully can hardly believe her eyes. Her Dana? In a dress? Not since her daughter's confirmation has Margaret seen Dana in a dress, much less in something that must've cost that much! She turns to eye Fox Mulder. *Heaven in a tux,* she thinks. Absolutely delicious. She hugs him and pats his cheek lovingly. "Keep her out late, Fox," she chuckles under her breath. "Have good time!" she says aloud.
Mulder smiles, blushing faintly. He helps Scully into her coat. Scully bends down, kissing Emily on the cheek. "Be good, Em. In bed by ten." Emily nods, then winks at Grandma Maggie.
Scully sees the wink and grins. "No later than eleven, please, Mom," she whispers.
Mrs. Scully just smiles. "We'll be fine. Be careful! Have fun!" she calls as the door closes behind the agents.
The evening virtually flies by in a whirlwind of food, dancing and music. Scully and Mulder talk, dance, eat and flirt for hours. As the moments count down, and the time approaches 11:50, Scully holds her hand out to Mulder. "Let's get some air?"
"Sure." Mulder takes Scully's tiny hand in his and they wander out to the balcony of the hotel.
"Mulder, I'm having a wonderful time tonight. I just wanted you to know that." Scully smiles, sighing delightedly.
"That's good, Scully. I like seeing you happy." Mulder blushes again.
Scully looks up at him, her blue eyes clouding over. "Sit down?" she says, pointing to two folding chairs. Mulder sits obediently and Scully sits, turning the other chair to face him. "I need to tell you something. I--," she pauses, trying to force herself to say the words. It was so easy to say them to a strange child welfare office, why can't I tell my best friend?
Scully sighs deeply. "Even as a little girl, I never let anyone get close to me. I thought that if anyone got close, they could hurt me. Or leave me." Her voice is troubled, a childlike softness creeping into the dulcet tones. Mulder's eyes are sad and he rests his hand on both of hers, in her lap.
"When I got cancer, I didn't tell anyone but you and my mom. I thought that it would be easier on Bill and Charlie if they didn't know." Small tears begin to trickle down her cheek. Mulder reaches out and wipes them away tenderly. "But when I found out that I couldn't have children…it hit me, Mulder. I want to love, I want to be loved." She pauses, getting her courage up. If I don't do this now, I'll regret it forever.
"Since I found out that Emily is my daughter, and since she's come to live with me, I've felt so much love for her, it's unbelievable. I didn't know I could love that much. I did it, I just didn't realize I was doing it. Does that make sense?" Mulder nods, understanding perfectly. Scully sighs again, just wanting now to get this over with. The clock ticks down to 11:57.
"What I'm trying to say, Mulder, is that I love you."
Mulder's eyes widen as he tries to comprehend.
Scully begins to back off, thinking his silence means he doesn't feel the same way. "I mean, you're my best friend. You've been there for me in the toughest times of my life." His eyes are warm and loving. "You were the one who supported me when I wanted to take Emily in, no one else did." Mulder just smiles. "You did everything in your power to help me find a cure or treatment for my cancer. You've always been there for me." The clock strikes twelve and the band begins to play loudly from inside the hall. Strains of "Auld Lang Syne" can be heard on the balcony.
Mulder squeezes her hands. "You're my best friend, too, Scully. I don't know where I'd be without you."
Scully leans over and kisses him on the cheek, her eyes sparkling. "Thanks." She pauses. "You and Emily are my life. I know where I'd be without you - I'd be where I was seven years ago, and I wasn't half the person then that I am now." She cut herself off. "Anyway, thanks."
Scully tucks the covers back up over Emily, from where she has kicked them at the end of the bed. She leans down and kisses the sleeping form of her small daughter and the little girl sighs as she sleeps.
Scully tiptoes down the hall to her own bedroom and slips out of her gown. Laying it across a chair and sliding into blue satin pajamas, Scully crawls into bed and sighs.
Her slender body is just relaxing as she hears footsteps. Her eyes jump to her gun on the bedside table but Emily pokes her head into the room. The girl is rubbing her eyes.
"Dana, can I sleep with you?" Emily asks pitifully.
"Of course, honey." Scully pats the empty space in bed next to her, and Emily climbs up, snuggling in next to her mother. Scully wraps her arm around Emily and they both smile. As Emily drifts off to sleep, she mumbles a comment.
"What did you say, Em? I couldn't hear you," Scully says softly.
"I love you, Mommy." Emily reaches her mouth up and kisses Scully softly on the cheek. "You smell good."
Scully's eyes fill with happy tears as the little girl sighs contentedly.
Scully sits straight up in bed, her eyes snapping open and her head twisting around. She automatically reaches down, her fingers searching for her tiny golden cross. As the thin chain twists around her fingers, Scully begins to cry. She remembers giving the cross to Emily, and then, as she remembers her daughter's funeral, the tears pour unnoticed down her cheeks. She has been dreaming again, memories of things never seen. Sadness fills her heart; sadness for a little life never lived, by a little girl whose very nature prevented her having a full life.
Scully had truly believed that Emily, one small, three-year-old girl, could have changed her entire life. Tears course down her face, leaving tiny tracks along her cheekbones and spilling into her pajamas, making salty, little tearstains.
Scully slips out of bed and slowly makes her way down the hall. The guest bedroom door is cracked open and the nightlight is on. She pushes the door open gently. The room is exactly the same as it has always been and probably always will be. There is the adult bed, no canopies or bunk beds. There's the dresser, much too high for a four-year-old's reach. The desk is clear, no crayons or drawings of stick figures littering it. The closet stands empty, not a single tiny dress hanging inside. The nightlight is a generic seashell, no clowns or ballerina shapes. Scully cries to herself softly. In her mind's eye she sees the pink canopy bed, white wicker dresser and Barney nightlight that should've been there. She pictures the dollhouse in the corner, the one Emily would get next Christmas. On the canopy bed rests the Barney doll her brother gave the little girl that same holiday.
Scully takes a shuddering breath through her tears, and walks to the closet, opening the door. She pulls the chain, flooding the closet with light. Scully reaches up to a shelf and comes up with something in her hands. She stares down at it, sobbing quietly.
The red velvet dress, size 4T, is still on the hanger. Scully was going to let Emily wear it to her welcoming party.
Salty tears fell onto the dress as Scully stood in the guest room, crying for her daughter on the anniversary of her child's death.
* * * "Scully? If you're there, pick up the phone. I'm about a block from your house, and if you don't pick up, I'm breaking in."
Scully sat as Mulder threatened her answering machine.
"I'm parking the car. Pick up the phone, god damn it! Scully!" Click.
Thirty seconds later there was a harsh pounding on her door. "Scully! Open the door!" Pause. "SCULLY!" Mulder yelled through the crack in the door. Finally, out of desperation, he tried the knob - it was unlocked.
Mulder rushed into the apartment, half-expecting to find his partner sick or dead. What he found was worse. She sat in her living room, her hands crushing a red velvet child's dress. "Scully?" Mulder couldn't help but be worried. He crossed the room to her side in two strides. He knelt beside her, stroking her soft cheek. "Scully, talk to me. Are you okay?"
"I'm fine, Mulder." The words echoed dully in his head. How many times had he heard them in seven years?
"You're not fine." He moved between her legs, kneeling on the floor in front of her, just below eye level. He remembered another time she'd been like this - when she'd had to face her cancer. He tried to remember what he said back then to bring her around.
"Scully? Talk to me, please. I hate seeing you like this." No, not that. Wait…. "Scully? Come on. You know I'm here. You know I…" He tried not to choke. "You know I love you."
Finally, Scully stopped inspecting the wall. She tilted her head down and looked into his eyes. Without a word, she stroked the stubble on his cheek, staring into his eyes. "Scu - Dana?" She smiled briefly at the oddity of hearing her name from his lips.
Oh thank GOD. "Talk to me. What can I do?"
"Hold me," she whispered.
He stood and pulled her into his arms, holding her as tightly as possible without hurting her. He loved the way she fit just right under his chin, and how easy she was to hold. And how soft her lips were on his cheek…No. He must not think like that.
That kind of thinking only got him in trouble.
Scully's tears were soaking his shirt, and she trembled as she cried. He stroked her hair gently, unsure of what to say next. "Are you okay?"
"No. But I think I will be." Scully looked up at him, wonder in her eyes. "I just had the most amazing dream, Mulder, and I realized something."
"What's that?" he asked, leading her over to the couch and letting her rest in his arms.
Scully stroked his chest through his t-shirt with one hand. She looked up at him, hardly able to believe she was doing this. "I remembered something I thought I forgot…what it was like to be loved." Mulder didn't interrupt, he just squeezed her shoulders gently. "And…and if I can't have Emily, then I'm not going to deny myself what happiness I can find in this life any longer."
"What do you mean?" Mulder was worried. He remembered the disastrous results last time Scully tried to "live life to the fullest". She came back with a tattoo and a stalker.
"I mean, I love you." Before Mulder could pick his jaw up off the floor, Scully wrapped her arms around his neck and pressed her lips to his. Please don't let me be wrong about how he feels. Please don't let me make a fool of myself, she begged whoever was listening.
Mulder responded to the kiss slowly, pulling Scully onto his lap and holding her. He'd never been kissed like this before. It sounded like a fairy tale, but this kiss was so much more powerful and special than any other, because not only was she beautiful, and smart, and special and amazing, she was his best friend.
From out of nowhere, a slight breeze blew through the apartment, and a bell on the Christmas tree tinkled. And somewhere, Scully was sure, Emily was laughing at Mommy and Mud kissing on the couch.