Title: Wassail - an X-Files Christmas story Author: Julie L. Jekel jj1152@mcis.messiah.edu

Disclaimer: They're not mine
But that's just fine
I'll borrow em anyway
And return em someday
And I'm not profiting
So no point in suing (This is in reference to The X-Files, brief references to Quantum Leap and Dickens's _A Christmas Carol_, and the inclusion of the songs "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" and "Grown-Up Christmas List.")

This is a Christmas story, with a little MSR. (I deal with the future of the pair, so it was bound to come up. ;) ) So, any devout anti-shippers should bail out now, or at least skip the future stuff. :)

Summary: After refusing an invitation to join the Scully family Christmas caroling, Mulder has an eye-opening experience that changes his mind.

Also, this contains spoilers for a story I haven't posted yet, but it isn't done, and Christmas is coming, so... sigh I guess if you want to be surprised by "Generation X(sub 1)" you should save this for next Christmas. If you don't care, well, read on!



Wassail: an X-Files Christmas story
by Julie L. Jekel

December 23

"Why not?" Scully asked, her voice challenging.

Mulder turned away from her to the file cabinet, opening it to put something away. "I just don't enjoy Christmas. You know that."

His partner followed him resolutely. "Well, maybe you would if you didn't spend it alone," she retorted.

"Besides, I can't sing worth crap."

"So? Mulder, caroling isn't about how well you can sing. If it were, there would be a lot fewer carolers in the world."

"Yeah, well maybe I should start a trend."

Giving up with a sigh, Scully turned back to her desk. "I don't know why you have to be such a Scrooge, Mulder. I'm not asking you to become a flower child and go around chanting about peace and love or anything. I just think you should let yourself enjoy this one day that most of the world considers to be pretty special."

<Most of the world didn't lose their sister a month before that pretty special day.> "Look, just forget it, Scully," he replied curtly.


He felt a slight twinge of regret, realizing that his refusal had hurt her, even though she was doing her best not to show it. But she didn't seem to understand that he just couldn't enjoy Christmas. Not until Sam was found. The rest of the day passed in silence as both partners busied themselves with the paperwork from their last case. Finally, Scully switched off her computer and stood. "Well, if you want to stay down here all night, you can, but I have some shopping to finish before tomorrow."

She waited for a moment, but there was no response from her partner. He didn't even acknowledge that she had spoken. With a sigh she pulled on her coat and opened the door. "Merry Christmas, Mulder."

When the door closed behind her, he still hadn't looked up.

Later that night

Mulder handed the delivery boy a ten in exchange for the medium pizza he was holding and waited for the kid to make change. Unfortunately, the teenager apparently decided he also wanted to make conversation. "Hey, how come you don't have any decorations up?"

"I don't celebrate."

"Jewish, huh?"

Why did some people always assume you were Jewish if you didn't celebrate Christmas? Damned stereotypes.

"Half," Mulder replied curtly. It wasn't a lie--his mother was Jewish, so the family had celebrated both Christmas and Hanukkah when he was young. At least, they had until Samantha was taken. After that there was nothing to celebrate.

"Well, Happy Holidays!" the boy concluded brightly, with a smile that he would never know almost got him punched. He handed Mulder his change and disappeared down the hallway.

<Why does everyone have to be so damned cheerful this time of year?> The agent threw the pizza box down on the coffeetable and deposited himself just as carelessly on the couch, then opened the box and carefully separated one slice from the others.

Half an hour later, the empty pizza box sat still open on the table and Mulder had stretched himself out on the couch, the remote in one hand, restlessly channel-surfing to find a station that wasn't broadcasting some sort of Christmas special. After five minutes of skipping through a plethora of sleepy little towns covered with snow, miracles, angels, Santas, Rudolphs, Nativities and Grinches, he finally gave up and hurled the remote at the screen with a small noise of disgust. It caught the edge of the TV and fell unharmed to the ground.

Some sick soul down the hall apparently had their windows open and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" playing at full blast on the stereo, since even though his own windows were tightly shut, Mulder could still hear it:

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
From now on our troubles will be out of sight

He snorted. <Not likely!>

Have yourself a Merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay

A line from "The Princess Bride" floated through his mind, forcing him to chuckle. <"You keep using that word--I do not think it means what you think it means.">

From now on our troubles will be miles away

<Glad to know yours will.>

Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more

He laughed curtly. <I think I blew that.>

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow

<I wish. Oh, I wish!>

Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a Merry little Christmas now...

He didn't realize he had fallen asleep until he woke up. It was day outside and sunlight was streaming through the window, poking playfully at his shut eyelids to open them. He acquiesced, and sat up blinking in confusion. <How did I get in bed?> was his first thought, rapidly followed by <How did I get in THIS bed??>

He was lying in the bed he had occupied as a boy in Massachusetts, in a room decorated exactly the way it had been when he was nine, even to the glow-in-the-dark stars and planets on the ceiling.

He looked around the room for anything to indicate that he was not, in fact, back in his childhood bedroom. His eidetic memory held a perfect record of the room, so he would notice instantly if anything were out of place. Nothing was.

But before he had time to puzzle this out, the door of the room flew open and a five-year-old girl with long dark hair burst in, her read and green plaid flannel nightgown billowing behind her as she flung herself onto his bed and commenced tickling him before he even had time to get a good look at her. He squeezed his eyes shut, gasping for breath as he laughed.

"C'mon, Fox, get up! It's Christmas!" the girl's voice scolded him.

Fox Mulder's eyes flew open in instant recognition and he sucked in a sharp breath that caused the tickler to fall back, a surprised expression on her face. "Y'okay?" she asked.

Mulder could only nod speechlessly, staring into the five-year-old face of his sister.

"Sam?" he finally managed to whisper.


Overcome by the sight of her, Mulder pulled Samantha into a tight embrace, as if by holding onto her tightly now, he could somehow prevent her from being torn from his grasp three years from now.

Three years from now. Somehow, he had been transported back in time to three years before Sam's disappearance.

<Did Scully smuggle me to New Mexico while I was asleep or something?> His sister wriggled restlessly in his arms and he reluctantly released her.

"What'd you do that for?" she giggled as soon as he had let go.

"I...I'm just happy to see you, Sam."

Samantha accepted that with the ready easy of a young child and slid off the bed, pulling him with her. As his feet hit the floor, he noticed with a bit of a shock that he had apparently taken on the body of his nine-year-old self as well, since he wasn't towering over his sister nearly as much as he would have been were he still an adult. It made sense--otherwise Sam wouldn't have recognized him--but it was still a surprise.

"Okay, I'm coming, I'm coming," he muttered, smiling fondly at the little bundle of energy beside him. <God, Sam! I have missed you SO much, sis!>

Still giggling, Samantha bounced out of the room. Mulder started to follow her, instinctively afraid to let her out of his sight, even though he knew she would be safe for another three years.

He was stopped by a glimpse of his reflection in the bathroom mirror as they passed the half-open door. While his sister continued down the hall at a gallop, Mulder pushed the bathroom door all the way open and stared in amazement at the mirror. <This must be what it's like to Leap...is that what I've done?>

He had already deduced that he had reverted to nine-years old, but actually seeing it was even more of a shock than the initial realization had been. Had he really changed so much in twenty-six years? He had grown up, naturally, but this younger face seemed so different in ways other than that too. This Fox Mulder wasn't consumed by grief and loss, haunted by the past, and driven by an obsession most people couldn't understand. This Fox Mulder was still innocent, still confident of the love of his family, something he hadn't been since the age of twelve.

"Fo-ox!" Samantha's insistent voice called down the hallway. "We can't start until you come!"

His family. God, how long had it been since they even were a family instead of three loners running in wide circles around each other?

<You've got a second chance to be a part of that,> a quiet voice in the back of his mind prodded him. <Don't waste it.> Smiling gratefully at the nine-year old in the mirror, Fox Mulder left the bathroom and hurried out to join his family.

December 25, 1970

Sam met him in the doorway of the family room and pulled him into the room, her face bright with the kind of smile you only see on a child's face at Christmas or their birthday. Grasping his hand, she pulled him into the room, where their parents were waiting.

Despite the fact that they were obviously much younger than in what was for him the present, Mulder hesitated upon coming into his parents' presence. But the expressions on their faces drew him in. There was no bitterness there, no trace of the accusation that he had felt for so long every time he looked at either one of them. <And why not? They don't have anything to accuse me of yet.>

<Don't waste it,> the voice at the back of his mind repeated, a little more insistently this time. Smiling, Mulder let go of Sam's hand and took the voice's advice. Striding over to his father, he gave the man he had last seen dead as big a bear hug as a nine-year-old can.

Bill Mulder was a bit startled. None of the men in the family demonstrated emotion very easily, and it took him a moment to be able to return his son's hug. And even then, he pulled back after only a moment, discomfited by the amused look on the face of his wife.

Smiling at the boy, Bill nudged him gently towards the fireplace, and the tree off to one side of it. "Aren't you going to take down your stocking before Sammie decides to break tradition?"

Mulder smiled at the joke. It had been a tradition in their family that he always took his stocking down first, since he was the oldest. And considering how much longer he'd been taking today than he EVER did as a child on Christmas morning, Sam probably was getting almost impatient enough to break that tradition.

With a wink in the little girl's direction, he went over to the fireplace and reached for the hook under the mantle to detach the long green sock from it. His was green, hers was red. Matching Christmas colors that their mother had made for them when Sam was born.

Even though it had been so long, it only took Mulder a moment to find and unhook the top of the stocking. He brought it down from the fireplace and dumped the contents out on the floor in front of him. One thing that hadn't changed--he had never been very neat.

While Sam watched, bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, he reverently picked up and examined each item. He remembered every one, and some of them he still had, although they were probably all lost in his apartment somewhere. Then, he picked up a long, flat box at the bottom of the pile which caused him to chuckle.

His first tie.

"Can I get mine down now, Mom?" Samantha asked eagerly.

Hannah Mulder laughed softly. "Yes, honey, you can get yours down."

While the little girl ran her hands under the edge of the mantle, searching for the hook that held her stocking, Mulder looked up at his parents. "Thank you," he said softly. Sam still believed in Santa, so he didn't want her to hear, but he needed to thank them. Needed to tell them now that he loved them so they would still believe it in later years when the three of them had all shunted each other aside out of grief.

Then Sam was back, holding the stocking gingerly in her lap, and eagerly picking one item out of it at a time, squealing over it, then setting it neatly on the table that the contents of his stocking were scattered beneath. Mulder chuckled again. So meticulous for such a little girl.

Finally, Sam looked up from the pile with a delighted smile on her face. "Santa brought me everything I wanted!"

Hannah laughed. "Well, not everything, I hope, dear. Your father and Fox and I have gifts for you too."

"I know," Sam replied confidently. "But Santa brought me everything I wanted from HIM."

<Santa, if I'm a good boy, will you bring Samantha back to me for Christmas?> Mulder thought wistfully, feeling a mild twinge of regret that, with all the things he did believe in, Santa Claus was not one of them. (Not that he would ever admit thinking like that to Scully.)

<Isn't she here now?> that voice spoke again.

The agent let his eyes drift back to the eager young face. <Yeah, she is. Thanks.>

The morning passed quickly. Samantha had been delighted with every gift she received, and Mulder had thoroughly enjoyed unwrapping each item and remembering what use he had put it to. Some of the gifts he was tempted to put back in the box rather than let them endure the abuse he knew awaited them. But then, what did one expect from a nine-year-old boy?

The best moment, however, for him, was when Sam had unwrapped the gift he remembered buying for her with their mother a week before Christmas. He'd searched so hard for the perfect present for her, but hadn't been able to find anything that seemed just right. Until he found that doll at a craft fair. That otherwise ordinary doll that was dressed like an angel, in a white satin robe embroidered with gold, and with wings of real, tiny white feathers on her back. His mother had helped him pay for it, but the gift was completely from him.

"Not that I'm trying to imply you're an angel by any stretch of the imagination," he had intoned somberly to her, his eyes dancing with mischief. "But I thought you'd like it."

She had thrown herself into his arms, clinging to him with all the love and enthusiasm in her young heart. And that had been the best Christmas gift of all.

After the gifts were all unwrapped and the wrappings deposited in the garbage, the Mulder clan trooped into the dining room for the traditional breakfast of home-made waffles and fresh pink grapefruit. Mulder found himself silently hoping that he had a nine-year-old appetite as well, since it had also been a tradition for him and Sam to split each waffle. The reasoning behind it was that both of them were less likely to end up with more than they could eat that way.

He decided that one tradition would have to be broken as soon as his mother poured the first ladleful of batter into the waffle iron. The smell set his mouth watering like Niagara Falls, and the sight of the collection of syrups sitting in a boiling pan on the stove prompted a little grumble from his rebellious stomach.

Sam giggled at the sound. "I think Fox is hungry," she declared solemnly, her eyes shining.

<You bet your pigtails I'm hungry.> He waggled his eyebrows at her and sat down, staring greedily in the direction of the stove. <Sure beats leftover pizza--especially since I didn't have any left.>

While he was waiting for his waffles to arrive, Mulder allowed himself a few moments to think, and to marvel at what was happening. He was actually having a good Christmas! Sure, it was a Christmas he'd lived through once before, and one that could never be in his own time, because there--then-- Samantha was still missing. But in spite of that he really was having a wonderful time. He'd said he couldn't enjoy Christmas without Sam. And he wasn't without her. But as real as the experience was, this Samantha wasn't the one he'd been searching for most of his life. This little girl was still untouched by their father's work.

He caught his breath sharply. <If I'm in the past, before Sam's abduction, maybe I can change it--prevent it from ever happening. All I would have to do is tell Mom or Dad...>

His eyes met those of his mother as she gazed down on him, concerned, from where she was holding two plates, with half a waffle on each. "Are you all right, Fox?" she asked.

He nodded, but his heart was sinking. What could he do? Even if he were to tell his parents, and they believed him, what possible result could come out of it except prompting his father to try to resign sooner, and moving the whole awful scenario up? No. They still had three years left. He couldn't take that away from them.

Smiling, Hannah set the plate in front of him with a flourish. "Well, eat up. And this year, don't drown it in syrup until you've tasted it first to make sure it's one you like."

Ah, yes. The whole plateful of waffle he'd suffered through last year because he didn't like the syrup but still had to clear his plate. His smile faded. No, it wasn't last year. It was twenty-seven years ago. He had to stop thinking as if he belonged here, in this time.

<Why?> <Because I don't. I don't belong here.> <Then why have you been trying for so long to get back here?>

That one stumped him, and he stopped eating briefly in surprise. <I have,> he realized. <I've been living in the past, trying to get back to this--to when my life was like this.> The thought stung, and for a moment he completely lost his appetite. A brief panic seized him that now that he had realized this, he would be pulled away. And belong here or not, he didn't want to leave. Not yet.

<No, not yet,> the voice, which he was beginning to suspect might NOT be the voice of his subconscious, assured him.

After breakfast, Mulder and Samantha were given a couple of hours to take their gifts back to their rooms, and spend a little time playing with them if they so desired. Then they would be required to put away the new playthings and get dressed for Christmas Dinner. This year they had been invited to the home of their next-door neighbors, the Vandenbergs. Their oldest son, Eric, had been a friend of Mulder's all through his school years, and they'd even kept in touch as adults, although not nearly as much. Mulder had put on everything except the tie and was holding it up, reminiscing with a smile about what this little thing had gotten started, when his mother passed the open door carrying Sam's black patent leather Mary Janes in one hand. She smiled at him.

"I'll be back in a minute, Fox. I just have to help Sammie get her shoes on."

"Okay." He wondered briefly why she had told him she'd be back, but put it out of his mind as he looped the tie around his neck and knotted it just the way he did before leaving for work every morning. By the time he was finished, his mother had returned, and her eyes widened in surprise upon seeing him ready.

"Fox, where did you learn to tie that?"

<Oops.> He had forgotten that at the age of nine he hadn't been tying his own tie for over twenty years. Apparently Hannah had been planning to come back and help him with it as soon as she put Samantha's shoes on for her. "Watching Dad," he excused himself, hoping she would buy it.

After a moment, she nodded. "I keep forgetting about that memory of yours." Smiling playfully she stepped in close to him to ruffle his hair and inspect him. "Well, you did a very good job for your first time," she smiled proudly.

"Now, go comb your hair so we can leave."

"But you're the one who messed it up!" he protested.

Hannah chuckled and turned him in the direction of the bathroom. "Hurry up, you know your father doesn't like to be late."

"But we're only going next door!" Mulder smiled. <Sheesh, I'm even acting like a nine-year old!>

"Fox." There was no questioning his mother's authority when she took on that tone of voice. "Yes, ma'am."

He disappeared into the bathroom and pulled out a comb, grumbling under his breath about the female fascination with mussing the hair of men they knew. A habit even Scully wasn't immune to.

The hand holding the comb dropped away from his hair as Mulder stared at the mirror, absorbing yet another revelation. That was what was missing from this perfect Christmas with his family--Scully. His partner, the only person in the world he really trusted anymore, was the reason he didn't feel completely right about being here. She had become such an important part of his life that it didn't feel right to spend Christmas without her.

<Then why did you turn down the invitation to go Christmas caroling with her family?> the voice asked quietly.

<I don't know.>

"Fox!" his father's voice came from down the hall.

Pushing the thoughts aside, Mulder called, "Coming, Dad!" Giving his hair one final swipe with the comb, he dropped it on the counter and left the room.

Mulder carried Sam back to the house piggy-back, her little arms wrapped around his neck and her knees tucked over his elbows. She had fallen asleep about an hour or two after dinner, and had been allowed to sleep in Eric's bed while the two boys were playing a noisy game of Trivial Pursuit in the living room, and the adults had remained to talk in the dining room. Now, she remained only awake enough to hang on to her brother as he carried her out of the Vandenbergs' house and into their own, and deposited her on her bed. As soon as she touched the pillow, she was asleep with a muttered "G'night, Fox."

Mulder brushed a strand of hair damp with melted snowflakes out of her eyes and watched her sleep, an ache in his chest for all the years he had missed being able to do so. Lying there, she really did look a little like an angel. His precious little angel who had been taken away from this brother too earthly to hold on to her.

"I wish I could tell you how much I miss you, Sam," he whispered quietly to her sleeping form. "You're the driving force behind my work, the reason I do some of the crazy things I've done. I want so much to find you..." His hand gently brushed her cheek, sending a spear of agony through his heart. "And I won't rest until I do. I promise you that, Sam. I won't give up until I can hold you again like I did earlier today. You're probably to big for me to carry you piggyback, but no girl can ever get to big to give her brother a hug. Wherever you are, Sam, I hope you know that. I hope you know that I'll never give up on you until I know..."

With that promise, he bent down to kiss her on the cheek, whispered "Merry Christmas, Sis," and quietly left the room.

Wandering back to his own room, he stopped only long enough to bid goodnight to both of his parents, then quietly began to change into his pajamas. Now that he thought about it, it was almost strange how he'd moved back into this way of life so easily. Sure, he remembered every detail perfectly, just like everything else that went into his eidetic memory, but it was more than that. It was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream, but a very hollow fulfillment. Because Sam wasn't back, she just wasn't gone yet. And she wasn't there to stay--three years from now she would still disappear before his eyes. Besides, he didn't even know if he'd be there when he woke up, or whether he'd be back on his couch, passed out in front of the TV and an empty pizza box.

<So why did it happen?> he asked the silent voice that had been advising him all day. There was no answer.

Sighing, Mulder climbed into bed and took one last look around the room before climbing into bed and switching off the light.

December 25, 1996

Once again, the first warning he had that he'd fallen asleep was waking up the next morning. He sat up hesitantly, blinking away sleep, and studied his surroundings. Well, he wasn't in bed in Chilmark anymore, but he definitely wasn't home either, since he was in another bed, not on his couch. True, he owned a bed, but even though he hadn't used it in a long time, it hadn't been so long that he wouldn't have recognized it if he woke up in it.

There was a soft knock on the door. "Charles?"

Mulder froze at the sound of the familiar voice. <Scully?>

She knocked again. "Charles? Are you up?"

He frowned. Charles...that was Scully's younger brother's name. Was he..?

"Yeah, I'm awake. Come on in, S--Dana."

She entered, smiling. "You'd better hurry up and get dressed, or your kids are going to drag you bodily out of bed in your PJs. Christmas morning is not the best time to start sleeping in."

Except for the fact that her face was the same, the Dana Scully standing in the doorway looked almost nothing like the woman he worked with on a daily basis. Her hair was pulled back in a short ponytail, with wispy tendrils curling around her face, and little gold bells with ribbons on them hung from her ears, and she was wearing a baggy black sweater with a giant, decorated Christmas tree on it, matching leggings and flats. She looked so...comfortable. Not nearly as severe as he was used to seeing her. <Well, at least that'll make it easier not to slip and call her Scully. I think even she'd be suspicious if her brother did that.> He chuckled.

"What's so funny?"

"You're right--Christmas isn't the best time to sleep in."

"Well, are you coming or aren't you?" Her eyes were dancing, and Mulder found himself wishing unexpectedly that she was this at ease at work.

<Considering the kind of work we do? That's pretty unlikely.>

"Yeah, I'm coming. Just give me a minute."

"All right. Oh, and Mary told me to tell you she left your clothes out for you." She smirked. "She said if you were sleeping this late on Christmas morning, you might not be awake enough to find them yourself."

<Thank you, Mary!> Mulder thought sincerely, since he had NO idea where to look for clothes. "Okay, tell them I'll be right out."

"Okay. Don't be too long." She shut the door behind her.

Mulder's eyes quickly spotted the plaid shirt and wool pants slung over a chair beside the bed, neatly folded. At the foot of the chair, a pair of socks with snowmen all over them peered up at him from a pair of men's shoes. He picked up the socks, studying them with a smile. <Are these supposed to keep my toes from getting frosty?> Chuckling softly at his own joke, he set the socks down again and began to dress himself. Remembering Scully's admonition that they were waiting for him, he did so fairly quickly, bending down to tie his shoes in a record four minutes from beginning the whole process in the first place.

He then stood to inspect himself in the mirror he'd discovered earlier was in the room. Since he'd never met either of Scully's brothers, he wasn't sure what to expect. The face that stared back at him was friendly, with features similar to both of his sisters, and the expected crop of red hair. At least--Mulder squinted at the reflection--he was pretty sure it was red. It was difficult to tell.

<Well, Charles, I hope you don't mind if I borrow your family for a while.> He laughed again under his breath. <Scully, it looks like I'm going to be spending Christmas with your family after all, even if I did turn down your invitation.>

"Da-ad!" an impatient young voice called down the hallway, much like Sam's had done...yesterday? Twenty-six years ago? He wasn't really sure how to think of it. <That must be one of Charles' kids. I just hope Scully told me all their names, or I'm going to have a real fun time playing daddy.>

"I'm coming, I'm coming!"

For the second time in two days, Fox Mulder set out to enjoy Christmas morning with 'his' family.

He was relieved to discover that Scully had indeed proudly shown him pictures of her brothers' families, since he recognized and was able to put a name to everyone in the room. He had no sooner entered it than Mary came over and wrapped her arms around him, giving him a light peck on the cheek. "It's about time you got here, sleepyhead."

Mulder felt a little uncomfortable being kissed by another man's wife, especially when that husband and wife were Scully's brother and sister-in-law, but he resigned himself to the fact that there wasn't really anything he could do about it without giving himself away and ruining the day for everyone. He just hoped--and laughed at himself silently for the uncharacteristic thought--that she wouldn't want any special Christmas gifts later in the day. "Just testing a hypothesis about children and patience," he replied lightly. "I was right--they don't have any."

Mary laughed and Scully raised a thoughtful eyebrow, frowning slightly. Mulder found himself hoping she wasn't wondering when her brother had picked up her partner's sardonic sense of humor.

Meanwhile, Scully's sister-in-law pulled the man she thought was her husband down beside her on the sofa. Bill Jr. and his wife grinned at the couple from across the room.

"Well, now that everyone's here, I guess we can begin," Margaret Scully announced with a smile.

"Does that mean we can go get our stockings now, Grandma?" one of the kids piped up hopefully.

She chuckled, ruffling the boy's hair. "Yes, dear, that's exactly what I mean. Just don't trample each other trying to see who can get there first."

<Boy, it's nice to be the one NOT having my hair messed up,> Mulder thought smiling. As if she had read his mind, Mary reached over and did just that. "Just like his father," she murmured affectionately, not noticing that the man beside her had just made a face. <Murphy's Law strikes again.>

The kids stampeded towards the hearth, and it took only a moment for each of them to return with a quilted stocking bulging with goodies. Mulder found himself marveling that the family had managed to get so many stocking up there without knocking one or two down accidentally in the process.

<I think our way of doing things was neater,> he reflected amused. He almost suggested the tradition to Mrs. Scully, but decided against it. It wasn't really his place, after all.

"So, Dana," Bill Jr. began once the kids had busied themselves with the contents of their stockings. "Where's this partner of yours we've been hearing so much about?"

Mulder perked up instantly, though he managed not to look too interested. Scully sighed. "Probably home feeling sorry for himself," she remarked ruefully. "I invited him to join us, but he made up some excuse about not being able to sing..."

"That would make some sense for the caroling last night," Mary spoke up from where she was unknowingly seated beside the topic of conversation. "But how does that stop him from joining us today?"

"It's a long story," Scully admitted. "Basically, Mulder doesn't enjoy the holiday very much."

<Most people wouldn't if the only family they had left were a mother they're hardly speaking to,> he reasoned silently, allowing himself for one moment to slip back into the sour mood he usually spent all of Christmas in. "I keep telling him he might enjoy it more if he didn't stay at home by himself every year, but..." She shrugged. "Mulder never has been much for agreeing with me."

He smiled a little at that statement. <No, I guess I'm not, am I?>

There was a shriek of delight from one of the little munchkins down in front of the tree, which fortunately drew everyone's attention away from talking about Mulder. The relieved agent was seriously tempted to hug the kid, but before he could the little girl had already thrown herself into Scully's arms

. "Oh, thank you, Aunt Dana! Just what I wanted!"

Scully held the girl tightly for a moment more than necessary, a moment that Mulder couldn't help but notice, especially considering the conversation they'd had during a recent case...

Finally, with a soft smile that unexpectedly made his heart jump, his partner released her niece, who promptly came over to proudly display her gift to her parents--or actually, to her mother and her aunt's partner, but she had no way of knowing that.

"Look what Aunt Dana got me!" Katie enthused. Mulder got the sneaking suspicion that Scully was especially close to this little namesake. <Playing favorites, Dana Katherine Scully? How unprofessional...>

Then he saw what Scully had given the girl and couldn't fight the temptation to laugh. "'Close Encounters of the Third Kind,' Dana?"

She shrugged. "I've been spending too much time with Mulder lately." There was a hint of a smile on her face. "You'd be surprised how much your daughter thinks like him sometimes, Charles. I swear, you'd better never let me take her to work with me, or Mulder might decide to keep her."

Mulder grinned, turning his eyes to the little girl who had her arms around her 'Daddy's' neck. "I'll keep that in mind..."

"Ohhhh no, Dana! I think it's YOUR turn to carve the turkey this year. Remember?"

"No thanks, Bill, I already did my autopsy for the week." Scully replied with a smile as she set the bird down in front of her brother. "It's all yours."

"Since when is carving the Christmas turkey an autopsy?" he shot back.

His sister grinned. "Since your baby sister became a pathologist," she replied glibly.

"I knew there was a reason we tried to talk you out of that," he murmured under his breath, glancing back up at her with a smile. "Okay, I'll do it. If only to prevent you from trying to determine cause of death."

Mulder smiled, watching the banter between the two siblings. In some ways, it was similar to how he and Scully interacted at work, except for the element of playful flirtation that often lay under the surface there. But that was understandable--most people didn't flirt with their older brothers. His mind drifted back to the story he'd read as a boy--about a little girl who had wished that it were Christmas every day, and had, unfortunately, gotten her wish. <I don't know...I might not mind it if every day was a Christmas like these two have been,> he reflected with a smile. His own eyes widened at the thought. <Gee, I even surprise myself sometimes.>

But it had been a pleasant day. Surprisingly so, even. Of course, considering the rest of the family saw him as little brother Charles, it probably would have worried more than a few people if he hadn't had a good time, but he didn't feel even as if he were forcing himself to enjoy the holiday. He just was enjoying it.

<I thought you said you couldn't enjoy it without Samantha?> the voice in the back of his mind spoke up for the first time that day.

He smiled. <So, I was wrong. Happens to the best of us.>

The voice chuckled softly, confirming his suspicion that it was somehow an outside consciousness from his own. <Just wait. The best is yet to come...>

Mulder frowned, puzzled. <What do you mean by that?>

There was no reply.

"Okay...who wants the drumstick?" Bill's voice broke into Mulder's silent conversation.

He was tempted to raise his hand, but a loud chorus of "ME!" coming from the younger generation around the table silenced it.

The older members of the Scully family laughed, their eyes dancing. "Maybe I should rephrase that--who didn't get them on Thanksgiving?" Several hands shot up.

"And who didn't get one last year?"

A few hands went down.

"And who's old enough to be nice and share with their little brother or sister?"

Reluctantly the older children lowered their hands, and Mulder laughed again softly, watching the family pass around plates of food, and helping himself to sweet potatoes, stuffing, vegetables, and plenty of turkey with cranberry sauce and gravy. <Bill must be a great father. Wonder if it runs in the family?>

He blinked in surprise as yet another absent thought caught him off guard. <Now where did that come from?>

Scully interrupted his musings. "Charles, were you planning on proposing a toast, or are you holding up your wine glass and staring fixedly at it just for the fun of it?"

"Would you believe I was counting the bubbles?" he asked quickly. <I didn't even realize I was holding it up. Let's see, who was it that called me easily distractible?>

"It shouldn't have taken that long--you usually only find bubbles in champagne," Bill contributed, grinning. "What's the matter, little brother? You look like you've had an epiphany of some sort."

"Well, no, nothing so significant I'm afraid. Just daydreaming."

Bill shook his head and looked disapprovingly in the direction of his 'brother' and sister-in-law. "Mary, have you been depriving the poor man again?"

Mulder almost choked on his wine trying to keep from spitting it out. <I thought Scully said her family was Catholic!>

"Bill!" Scully scolded her brother. "Don't you think that's between Charles and Mary? In other words, none of our business?"

"I'm just looking out for my brother's welfare," the older Scully brother defended himself with a wicked gleam in his eye. "I'd do the same for you, Dana, you know that."

"Like fun, you would, Bill. You and Charles have both threatened on separate occasions to 'beat the crap' out of anyone who tried to lay a finger on me, with or without my permission." She grinned, amused. "Come to think of it, so has Mulder."

"Really? And here I had gotten the impression he was one of the ones we might have to worry about someday..."

Mulder was putting up an incredible struggle to keep from blushing at the unexpected turn the conversation was taking. Sure, he was somewhat attracted to his partner, but the very fact of their working together had pretty much eliminated the possibility of ever acting on that attraction, even if by some distant chance she did return it. Where would her brothers have heard anything to make them believe otherwise?

Scully opened her mouth to spit out a sharp retort, but Mrs. Scully held up a hand to silence them, an amused-but-irritated smile on her face. "Dana, Bill, your food is getting cold. I suggest you start eating before you set a bad example for the children." Her eyes twinkled. The younger generation had been watching the proceedings with a degree of fascination, but now they all turned back, somewhat disappointed, to their plates.

Bill and Dana gave each other one last glare, rendered completely ineffectual by the matching smiles accompanying them, and returned to their own meals.

Mulder swallowed a hearty bite of stuffing, marveling at the perfect texture of it. Most turkey dressing he'd ever had was too soggy from having been baked in the bird. But this, even though it had been scooped out of the animal's abdominal cavity, still had just the right degree of crispness left to it.

"This meal is delicious...Mom," he told Mrs. Scully earnestly. "I can't remember the last time I tasted anything so good."

"Well, thank you, Charles."

Scully grinned mischievously. "Charles, I know Mary isn't much of a cook but you don't have to rub it in."

Bill hooted with laughter and Mary just shook her head with a disapproving smile. Mulder fought the urge to chuckle. He didn't know how this woman would take her husband laughing at her.

"Watch it, Dana," Mary threatened jovially. "I brought one of my pies..."

"I don't think I'm going to have room for dessert..."

"If I weren't trying to set a good example for our children, Dana Scully, I would seriously throw something at you."

"Just as long as it's not the pie..."

Mulder stared at her in amazement. <You were right, Scully. You have been spending too much time with me.>

"Something wrong, Charles?"

"Oh, just trying to figure out which one of these two to side with if they try to kill each other," Charles' temporary replacement quipped, grinning. <I'm on your side, always, Scully,> he added silently.

"You'd better take your wife's side, Charles," Bill advised, his eyes twinkling with mischief. "After all, Dana has the rest of us, and you don't want Mary to have to depend solely on the children."

"Good point."

"Well, since we're on the subject of pies..." Margaret interrupted, folding her napkin and placing it beside her empty plate. She glanced back at her children, grinning. "Somewhat...I think I'll go get them. Dana, can you help me clear the table?"

Scully nodded, stood, and began collecting empty plates from in front of her relatives. She reached the door, balancing two stacks of plates, and her mother, who was carrying a similar load, bent down to whisper something in her ear. Dana giggled, blushing furiously, and driving Mulder's curiosity almost to vocalization.

"Mom!" she stage-whispered in mock horror.

"Just a suggestion, dear," Margaret replied calmly, holding the kitchen door open for her daughter. Still giggling a little, Dana followed her through the door and it swung shut behind the two women.

A sudden, unexpected sadness came into Bill's eyes as he watched his mother and sister disappear into the kitchen. Smiling sympathetically, his wife reached down and took his hand. "I know, Bill," she replied softly to whatever unspoken thought she had read in his eyes. "We all wish she was here." A sharp spear of guilt went through Mulder as he realized who they were talking about. Melissa--Dana's older sister and confidante, even though the two had been almost as dissimilar as himself and his partner. Melissa Scully, who had died in her sister's place--died because he, Fox Mulder, hadn't been able to let go of Scully and set her free from the X-Files before it had become her quest as well.

<That's a rather twisted logic for blaming yourself, Fox Mulder,> the inner voice scolded him.

<But it's true,> he protested silently. <If it weren't for me, the whole family would be here at this dinner-->

<That's pretty arrogant, you know?>

He blinked, stunned. <What??>

<Assuming that everything that's happened is your fault--that's awfully self-centered.> Mulder sputtered silently.

<Bad things happen to everyone, Fox. You're not single-handedly the cause of all the grief and trouble in the world, so stop giving yourself credit for it.>

<I don't know if I can,> he admitted.

<I know. And you don't have to right away. But at least acknowledging that you can't right now is a step in the right direction.>

At that moment, Scully and Margaret reappeared with dessert and the voice fell quiet once again. Mulder, meanwhile, turned his attention to the very tasty looking plate of cookies in Scully's right hand.

"She did WHAT??" Mary stared in astonishment at her sister-in-law, and Scully punched Bill playfully in the arm. The younger generation had all gone to bed after Bill had read the Christmas story out of Luke to everyone to remind them of what the holiday was really supposed to be about, and the adults had somehow ended up in the family room, reminiscing about Christmases past around the tree. Mulder had been pleasantly shocked to realize he had been thoroughly enjoying the day, and was continuing to do so. Especially since many of the stories Mrs. Scully and Bill had shared about his partner caught him a little by surprise as well. He couldn't wait to see her face when they went back to work and she found out he knew about them. "I'm dead serious!" Bill managed to spit out between gasps of laughter. "She went right up to Mom and Dad, hands on her hips, serious as a clam, and informed them very calmly that Santa Claus couldn't possibly fit down our chimney, and so would they please tell her who really brought the presents?"

Mulder chuckled softly, unable to stop from grinning. <That sounds like my Scully all right--ever the skeptic.> He frowned then, reviewing the thought in his mind. <Whoah...MY Scully? When did I start thinking of her as mine?> Some subconscious part of his mind reared up to answer, but he slammed it down with enough force to shatter glass. The cold terror that had swept over him when the answer had nearly come out startled him. What was he so afraid of? He decided not to try to figure it out--if he did, whatever it was he was frightened of might pop up again, and he didn't know if he could face that without seriously blowing his cover.

"Hey, Charles," Bill's wife spoke up. "How come you aren't joining in this little trip down memory lane?"

<Uh Oh...> "Well, I figured somebody had to be left to pick up the pieces after Dana kills these two," he excused himself with a smile.

Mary groaned. "I should have known--he's protecting his own backside."

"I think Bill got all of the good ones in, anyway," he added.

"Are you kidding? Charles, I know you have some great stories about this sister of ours. And she can't kill us when it's five against one."

<See, Scully?> he thought to himself with a smile. <Even your own family is conspiring against us.> He thought quickly to try to find an excuse not to relate childhood stories he didn't know.

When an idea came to him, he smiled ruefully. <I'm going to hate myself for this in the morning...> "Dana, why don't you tell us about your work? Personally, I'd kind of like to hear a story I don't already know." <Or one that I do...depending on your perspective.>

Bill turned back to his sister, intrigued. "Come to think of it, I would like to hear a little bit about that. What about that one case you started telling us about last summer...oh, what was it?"

"The Pusher case? Well, if you insist, though I warn you, these cases are probably more appropriate for Halloween. Especially if I give you Mulder's take on everything."

Now feeling considerably more relaxed, Mulder listened with a quiet smile on his face as Scully related the details of the case. Normally, it was not one he would be eager to have people know about, but something about the way she was relating it was different. In her eyes, his actions hadn't been as much foolish as heroic, and he hadn't almost gotten her killed--he had resisted Modell's control long enough to save her life. He smiled. <I like the way you think, Scully...even when you don't always believe me.> Taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly, Mulder leaned back against the couch and closed his eyes.


Mulder's eyes flew open and he shot upright in bed. <Damn! I fell asleep again!> He felt a sharp stab of regret. <And I didn't even get to tell Scully goodbye...>

"Liam?" the voice called again followed by a knock on his closed door, and this time he recognized it.

Sucking in a sharp breath, Mulder let his eyes dart around the unfamiliar room. He had no idea where or when he was, but if his senses weren't playing tricks on him, at least one thing--or one person rather--was familiar.

"Come in," he called.

Sure enough, Scully opened the door and hung in the doorway, smiling at him affectionately. "It's about time you woke up, Lazybones. Everyone's waiting for you downstairs."

Mulder was startled to see unfamiliar lines around the edges of Scully's eyes and mouth, not to mention a few stray strands of silver peeking out from her bright copper hair. He frowned slightly, a suspicion already beginning to set in...

"What day is it?"

She chuckled. "What day is it? Nice try, William, but I don't think even your father would take that as an excuse to sleep in Christmas morning. Now, are you going to get up or do we have to start without you?"

"I'll be right down--" He paused. <What the hell am I supposed to call her?> "--Dana," he tried tentatively.

She cocked a disapproving eyebrow at him. "Dana? My, we are feeling brave today, aren't we? That's 'Mom' to you, William Fox Mulder. I am not one of those new fangled parents who think they have to let their kids call them by their first names to earn their respect." She grinned at him.

Mulder just about choked, his breath catching in his throat in astonishment. Oblivious, Scully reached down to ruffle his hair. "Hurry up," she admonished him again, and disappeared.

MOM?? William Fox Mulder??

Bounding out of bed, Mulder began searching the room for a mirror. When he failed to find one, he quickly sought out the bathroom. There had to be a bathroom somewhere! Sure enough, there was one right next door to the room he was in, with a full-length mirror, no less.

What he saw left him speechless in surprise.

The young man, no more than fifteen years old, who was staring at him out of the mirror, could have been his twin except for two things--the shock of red-gold hair that was just long enough to fall slightly into his eyes, and the wide, startled blue eyes.

Mulder's heart made an unexpected leap of joy. There was no way to deny what was right in front of his eyes--whatever year this was, the person whose body he was borrowing was his and Dana's son!

This sent his mind spinning. Were he and Scully married? Or had they gotten involved and then gone their separate ways, him never knowing he had a son? Feelings he had never known or at least never admitted he had began to surge over him, and he was surprised to find himself fervently hoping it was the former.

<Married to Dana Katherine Scully...> The thought took his breath away. <But that's impossible,> he tried to reason with himself. <We're partners--the Bureau frowns on married couples working together, or on partners getting personally involved in any way. Surely Scully would have never done anything to jeopardize our partnership...or the X-Files...>

<Look in the mirror, Fox. Does that look impossible to you?> his silent counselor spoke up.

Closing his eyes briefly to be sure he wasn't imagining things, Mulder opened them again and stared once more at the face in the mirror. There was no way that boy could be Dana Scully's son by anyone other than him.

<But that still doesn't tell me-->

"Liam!" a very familiar voice called down the hallway. "Are you going to come down here before your sisters and Daniel decide to start without you, or do I have to come after you myself?"

Fox Mulder smiled. Strange as it was to hear his own voice coming from somewhere other than his own throat, it was the greatest thing he'd ever heard, because it meant that he and Scully were still together...and together in a way he'd never allowed himself to dream possible.

"I'll be right there, Dad!"

Chuckling merrily at the thought of calling himself 'Dad,' Mulder turned and started in the direction of the music that was echoing through the house from somewhere below him, ready to start another wonderful Christmas. It hadn't taken him very long to figure out the names of all his 'siblings.' He was William Fox, nicknamed 'Liam,' (he had figured that out easily) named--and this made him smile--for himself, in a way. Liam had one brother, who was apparently his twin from the sound of things, by the name of Neil, which appeared to be short for Daniel. And then there were the girls-- Samantha and Melissa (Sam and Mel for short,) who seemed to be about two years older than their brothers.

The names of the girls brought a wistful smile to his face. It didn't surprise him--in fact, it seemed the most natural thing in the world that he and Dana would have named their twin daughters after their respective lost sisters--and the girls bore their names perfectly, from the sound of it. Sam was almost the image of what her namesake probably would have been at this age, even to the fact that at seventeen she was already taller than her mother, while Mel, except for being the same height as her sister, was like seeing Dana that first time she walked into his office all over again.

He smiled, remembering something he'd said to Scully on a case once--<"I just never saw you as a mother before.">

<Well, I am now convinced she will not only be one, but an excellent one.> The thought still awed him. He realized now what he'd been resisting back when he was celebrating Christmas with the Scully family, yesterday or years ago, whichever it was. Now that he knew that somewhere in his future was a-- apparently very happy--marriage to his current partner, it was much easier to admit to himself that he was, indeed, deeply in love with her.

<Two sets of twins--I never knew we had it in us, Scully.>

"Liam? Are you going to open any of your own gifts, or are you just going to sit there staring at them the whole time?" He glanced up into Mel's expectant face. "In case you forgot," his 'older sister' reminded him, her mouth turned up in a sly smile, "We each have to take one gift before anyone can take a second. We've all unwrapped our first, so unless you want to drive Neil or Sam or me to break tradition, you'd better get yours."

<I seem to be almost breaking a lot of traditions these days,> he replied silently, smiling at the thought. "Gee, I thought big sisters were supposed to be patient," he added, deliberately putting a note of wonder into his voice. Scully put a hand over her mouth to stifle the snort of laughter that was threatening to break free. Mulder watched reverently as an older version of himself lovingly squeezed her other hand.

"Dana," the older Fox announced with a smirk. "I think we'd better not let him oversleep again--it's made him delusional."

"No, he's just taking after his father," she replied smoothly flashing a grin that was both wicked and innocent at her husband.

"The delusions?"

"Well, I was thinking of the sense of humor, but yeah, the delusions too."

Chuckling, Fox Mulder with the silver tipped hair bent over and kissed his wife tenderly on the cheek. "Nice to know you still worship me," he murmured softly to her.

She chuckled softly, her eyes dancing. "In your dreams, Fox Mulder."

"Shh, Dana--I thought we agreed not to discuss those in front of the children!"

Dana Mulder laughed.

The Mulder who did not belong to this time forced himself to pull his eyes away from his future and concentrate on finding a gift with Liam's name on it somewhere under the tree. It wasn't easy--the best Christmas gift he could imagine was sitting on a familiar, but apparently reupholstered sofa, having a difficult time keeping their hands off each other. He just couldn't help wishing he'd slipped into his older self's shoes, instead of their son's.

<I told you the best was still to come,> that small, quiet voice in the back of his mind pointed out smugly.

<That you did,> he acknowledged gratefully. <Remind me to get you a Christmas gift once I get home and figure out who you are.>

The voice chuckled silently. <You can try to, I suppose, if you really want to.> The implication being, of course, that he shouldn't expect much. The wrapping paper fell open in his hands and he began to laugh. "Mom, Dad, you didn't!"

They went to Scully's mother's house for Christmas dinner, and Mulder entertained himself by comparing the group around the large table to the one he had just seen earlier. As far as menu went, it had been much the same, only this time Dana and her clan had also contributed a plateful of dessert goodies. A recipe that he recognized as one that had come from his family. <No wonder she hadn't brought anything before,> he realized. <The dessert is a way of incorporating the traditions of those brought into the Scully family by marriage, just as the spouses themselves are welcomed into the family.>

After dinner, he and Neil had challenged some of their older 'cousins' to a video game, which they had won despite the fact that he'd never played the game, or even heard of it before. One of Bill Jr's sons had jovially complained that it was impossible to win anything against a pair of Mulder twins, since they must be telepathic. Neil had laughed at the idea, but Mulder found himself wondering if it were possible. Of course, since he wasn't really Liam, there wasn't any way to find out for certain.

"It's too bad Randi couldn't join you," he overheard Mrs. Scully commenting thoughtfully to his older self and Scully. "Even if she isn't exactly part of the family, we always love having her. I suppose you know that even Bill and Charles's kids call her 'Aunt Randi.'"

Mulder frowned slightly. Randi? Scully's college friend? Well, he supposed it made sense, since she was one of Dana's best friends, and he'd hit it off with her pretty well too when he'd met her.

"They decided to spend Christmas with Gary's family this year," Scully told her mother with a smile. "But I have it on her word of honor that they're going to come down for New Year's."

"Well, that's good."

Mulder tuned out the rest of the conversation, turning his focus back to the game, where Neil had just managed to blast Bill's eldest son out of the sky for the fifth time. Ray groaned, and Mulder chuckled. <I like this game--too bad I haven't ever seen this many alien craft at one time in real life; then Scully'd have to believe me.>

The evening passed too quickly, and before he would have liked to admit it, the family had bundled into the car to return home. Mulder was thoughtful. Interestingly enough, it was his older self who had been chosen to do the traditional reading of the Christmas story this year, and it had been strange listening to himself read with such peace in his voice. It was kind of strange to think he could ever be that calm about anything, especially something 'miraculous.' <Especially after that ribbing I gave Scully about the stimatic case,> he admitted, wincing a little at the memory.

For the number of people in the van, it was surprisingly quiet. Mel was asleep, Sam was stargazing, Scully was husband-gazing, Mulder the elder was driving, and who knew what Neil was up to. Since he was keeping quiet, 'Liam' didn't really stop to look. He was grateful for the quiet. It gave him time to do some much needed thinking.

<Now, did you not enjoy one of those Christmases because you knew that Samantha--the Samantha of your time--was still missing?> that same voice asked.

<No,> he admitted.

<Why?> was its next question. It was rhetorical, he knew, asked not because the mysterious questioner didn't know the answer, but because he needed to realize what that answer was.

<Because...because I was surrounded by people I love, people who love me.>

<So...Samantha isn't the only person in your life you care about, huh? She's not someone you couldn't be happy without?>

<I guess not,> he acknowledged, then quickly added, <but that doesn't mean I'm going to stop looking for her!>

<I'm not asking you to. All I want you to realize is that there's nothing wrong with moving on, with letting the past be the past, and saving the future for the future. Especially at Christmas. That's what the holiday is all about, you know. That's why all of time is divided into B.C. and A.D. around this one event. People wouldn't still be celebrating the birth of Christ two thousand years later if he hadn't changed something. Don't be afraid of those changes.>

<I understand,> he responded slowly, slightly awed at the magnitude of it all. <For the first time, I really think I understand what you mean.>

<Good. Then my work is done. Goodnight, Fox.>

<Goodnight...whoever you are.>

<Oh, and Fox?>

<Yeah?> He yawned.

He could almost hear the voice smile. <Merry Christmas.>

Smiling in return, Fox Mulder leaned back in his seat, and quickly drifted off to sleep.

December 24, 1996

Mulder woke up suddenly, sitting bolt upright as if he expected to find himself in yet another bed that was not his own. He was almost disappointed to recognize his couch, the couch he had fallen asleep on last night just as he had many times before. The pizza box was still sitting open and empty on the coffee table in front of him, and everything else looked as if he'd just fallen asleep and woken up a few hours later. There was no indication that he'd been gone...time traveling...for three days.

His heart sank. Had it all been a dream then?

<No. No, I won't believe that. I won't give in that easily. Besides...> he chuckled. <My dreams aren't that educational.>

Now he frowned thoughtfully. <Have I been gone for three days? Did I miss Christmas, or did whoever it was put me back where they found me?>

He glanced over at the calendar, but realized quickly that it wouldn't do him any good, since if he was gone, he obviously wasn't here to mark off the days. And since his digital clock didn't tell the date and he hadn't set the clock on the VCR...

Smiling, he picked up his cell phone and began to dial.

"Scully," a voice on the other end of the line answered sleepily.

"Scully, what day is it?"

"What day is it? Mulder, are you all right?" She sounded concerned.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Just answer my question, please?"

"It's December 24th, Christmas Eve. Are you sure you're all right?"

He laughed. "Never been better. Listen, Scully, is it too late for me to accept that invitation of yours? The one to go caroling with your family tonight?"

"What? No, of course not." Now she sounded pleasantly surprised. He smiled. "You're even welcome to stay for Christmas Day, if you want to."

"Thanks, I might take you up on that."

"You're serious?"

"Absolutely. Never been more serious in my life."

"Well, I'll have to call my mother. She'll be thrilled."

"I'm hoping she won't be the only one."

Scully chuckled. "I don't know about thrilled, but I'll be happy to see you too. Pick you up around eight?"

"Sounds good to me."

"I'll talk to you later, then."

"All right."

"Oh, Mulder...?"

"Yeah, Scully?"

"Just wondering--what made you change your mind?"

Mulder laughed, a smile freer than any he'd worn in years spreading slowly across his face. "You wouldn't believe me if I told you."


Do you remember me?
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you with childhood fantasies.
Well I'm a grown-up now
And still need help somehow.
I'm not a child, but my heart still can dream.

No more lives torn apart
And wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end

This is my grown-up Christmas list.
As children we believe
The grandest sight to see
Is something lovely wrapped beneath our tree.
But heaven surely knows
The packages and bows
Can never heal a hurting human soul

No more lives torn apart
And wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end

This is my grown-up Christmas list.
What is this illusion called
The innocence of youth?
Maybe only in our blind belief
Can we ever find the truth.

No more lives torn apart
And wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
Everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end.

This is my grown-up Christmas list
This is my only lifelong wish
This is my grown-up Christmas list.

"Grown-Up Christmas List," sung by Amy Grant, _Home for Christmas_


Item Subject: Signature for X-Philes JJ C-PHILE: _|_ \/ Member of xf-romantics John 14:6 | /\ homepage: http://www.geocities.com/Area51/1885 "Two candles, always separate, but burning always in each other's light." --from _The Abyss: The Novel_, by Orson Scott Card

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