Title: The Case of The Jolly Fat Men
Spoilers/time frame: Takes place the summer-winter after "The Truth."
Category: Casefile Snark
Summary: Sequel to "God! Stop Following Me Around!" which was written for a challenge to put yourself into a casefile fic. This is for a new holidays challenge (please join us!) here. In this fic it's two years later, and a new pair of agents think there's something worth investigating in New England.
Disclaimer: I claim no ownership to the characters Reyes, Doggett, Mulder, Scully or William, who are the property of Chris Carter and 1013 productions. However, I do claim ownership to myself, my imaginary child, my imaginary dog, Nick Santos, Blinky, Mojo and Toots. I'd be willing to negotiate if CC wished to purchase us, though.
It was the type of summer weather that made you think that winter was never going to come. Or at least those of us hated winter were pretending so. Bright sunny day, a small boy laughing in wading pool, a smaller dog trying to get in... Christmas was definitely the last thing on my mind.
Even over Markie's laughing at Chase's antics, I could hear someone knocking on the front door. Whoever it was, apparently they couldn't hear us in the backyard. I frown. It's not safe to leave the three-year-old wading pool by himself, so I knew that is going to have to disappoint my son by getting him out of pool to check who was at the door. Carrying a squirming, wet, preschooler is not an easy task.
I briefly considered walking through the house, but thought of tracking all that water through just to answer the door didn't seem very appealing. So we went around the side of the house. And startled our visitors.
Sun-blinded, for a second I thought perhaps it was agent Mulder and Scully, but then I got a better look and realized that they didn't look much like them after all. Except for the suits. They had to be feds. Not a good sign.
"Can I help you?" I asked as we came up behind them, dripping.
They both whipped their heads around. Apparently they had been expecting me to answer the door from inside the house. Silly them.
The man recovered first. "Are you Shannon Phile?" he asked in the slightly gravelly voice. There was something of NY in it, but maybe the south too. It's nice to hear that I'm not the only one without a clear-cut accent. It made me wonder how many times he'd moved.
"It depends on why you want to know." Markie was squirming a lot, so I put him on his feet but held his hand. He gave them puzzled stares.
"Mommy, who are they?" he whispered too loudly. Like most kids his age he was still learning about voice regulation. Instead of answering, I ruffled his bright copper hair and gave them a pointed look - I wanted to know too.
As if reading my mind the woman smiled and said, "I'm agent Reyes, and this is agent Doggett. We work for the X-Files. I believe you know about that division of the FBI."
"Unfortunately, yes," I said with a sigh. "Are they around here somewhere too? Mulder and Scully." I added. Who knew how many agents were in their division.
Reyes and Doggett exchanged a look. Did I ever tell you how much I hate that?
Doggett cleared his throat nervously. "No, they're not. They've uh, left the FBI."
"Oh." That was kind of shame. I didn't actually like agents Mulder and Scully, but I didn't at least grown to tolerate them. That sort of thing tends to happen during near death experiences.
"Before they left they told us about the case you had work with them on with," Agent Reyes said. Something about her was very disarming...she seemed way too cheerful for an FBI agent. It made me a little nervous, but then again, FBI agents always tend to make me a little nervous.
The only case. Technically, I hadn't said that I would no longer work with them, but as it turned out they hadn't had any other cases in New England, so they had no need for my consultation.
"And we were hoping that you would be willing to consult with us on another case," Doggett said. I found his looks fascinating. He looked like a worried elf. It made me wonder if agent Mulder ever accused him of being an elf. Too. His ears were certainly pointy-er than mine. I think that's why he looked familiar, he could've played one of the extras and Lord of The Rings.
I realized that they were staring at me. I suppose they wanted an answer to their question. Instead of answering I looked down at Markie to see what he was doing. Nothing interesting. "You do realized that on the one case I consulted with them for they nearly got my son and I killed."
Reyes gave me a sheepish grin, but Doggett just looked annoyed. "Mulder' s case file didn't mention anything about endangering civilians."
"Not just civilians. He and Scully were in as much dangers I was."
"Mulder left that out of his write-up too," Agent Doggett said with a little growl to his voice. The dog gave him an alarmed look.
Hearing that they hadn't known that detail was surprising. It had seemed like a pretty big deal at the time, what with the thinking we going to be torn from limb from limb and all. "So what did he actually say about the case?"
"He said that the three of you - there was no mention of your son - had gotten stranded on an island over night while investigating a story about a ghost," Reyes said.
"And what else?"
Doggett shrugged. "You guys took a few pictures he claimed were of the ghost ship. The Isadore. The next morning you were rescued by a fisherman."
My jaw dropped. It's a cliché you read all the time, but it really did. "You're kidding."
"You have a different take?" Reyes asked lightly.
Of course I did. It was expressing it without sounding like a lunatic that was the problem. "Yes."
Doggett looked down suddenly. In his free hand Markie held the garden trowel that I'd been using earlier in the day to plant pansies. There was a considerable amount of potting soil decorating the agent's right loafer and dress sock.
My cheeks reddened. "Maybe we should continue this conversation inside. When Markie rubbed his eyes, I made a mental note to check the clock- it was probably past naptime.
The reaction that my son's foray into footwear gardening wasn't the one I'd been expecting. Agent Doggett calmly removed his shoe, dumped the dirt out, and brushed off his sock.
"I wonder if William is doing things like this," Doggett remarked to the other agent.
That made me wonder who they were talking about. A dangerous criminal who grew mutant man-eating plants that really ate people? I know that had been a scene in more than one cartoon that I'd seem as a kid... Or maybe William himself was the mutant. Perhaps a giant night-crawler, but then William seemed like an awfully dignified name for a worm-
Apparently noticing that I had no idea who they were talking about, Agent Reyes took it upon herself to clarify. "William is Agents Mulder and Scully's son. He's a little over a year old."
Markie yawned and held up three chubby fingers." I'm this many."
While the agents fussed over how clever he was, I found myself thinking about the recent revelation. First, one of the very first things Scully ever said to me was that she couldn't have kids. so hearing that she and Mulder were parents was a little surprising. Sure, she'd quickly followed her statement about being infertile with an allegation that Markie was a changeling, but later, after their silliness was over it had come up again. The other thing that surprised me was that from their behavior a little less than two years ago I'd been convinced there was nothing going on between them. The math said either I'd been completely off base or things had quickly changed. "I didn't know that they were...Involved," I said finally.
"Most people were unaware of their relationship," Doggett said. "From all accounts they were very discrete."
From all accounts? Did you start working for the X-files after they left, then?"
"Agent Scully was pregnant when we joined the division. And agent Mulder was...Missing." Reyes ducked her face, obviously not wanting to go into details about why he'd been missing.
I figured this meant that it was classified. Trying to get top secret details from feds was a futile effort at best, so I just asked the easy question. "But he was found, right?"
They both nodded." That's good."
I glanced down and realized that we'd bored my son to sleep. Giving the agents an apologetic frown, I gathered Markie up and brought him to his room. I didn't bother to take off his swimsuit since he had a waterproof sheet and I knew that changing him would have woken him. He barely stirred as I tucked him into his car-shaped bed. His uncle had been car obsessed at that age too; I can remember Vynce, then age four, telling our dad that when he grew up he either wanted to race cars or pump gas. There's my brother for you, always making back up plans. Not that he settled into either imagined career path.
As I rejoined them it occurred to me that they still hadn't mentioned the nature of the case they wanted help with. So far they were a lot more forthcoming than Mulder and Scully, so I had faith that it wouldn't take several meetings before they revealed the purpose behind their request for my help.
To speed things in this direction, I tried bluntness. "So...what is the case that brings you into the area about?"
"Do you celebrate the Christian holidays?" Agent Reyes asked.
Hadn't anyone ever told her that religion and politics were off limit conversation topics to discuss with strangers? Apparently not. "Yes. What of it?"
Doggett suddenly looked relieved for some inexplicable reason. "Then you probably have a familiarity that'll make the case easier on us all."
"Um...okay." I hoped it didn't involve Catholicism - I'd never be able to explain to my parents (who hadn't taken my mother's temporary disownment - until I was born- by her family for leaving the church lightly) and I definitely wasn't qualified to assist in an exoticism.
"Did you believe in Santa as a kid?" Reyes asked.
"Sure. One of the things I most regret about growing up is losing the magic of that belief. That and out growing trick or treating."
"What would you say if we told you that we had evidence that Santa Claus was real?" Agent Doggett asked
"I'd say you ought to lay off the crack," I replied promptly. They both frown. They couldn't be serious, could they?" You're joking, aren't you?" I added desperately.
"We at the FBI aren't known for having a sense of humor," Doggett said flatly. Well, he had me there. His partner shot him a look, which reminded me of the dynamics between the other two agents. It made me wonder if these two were likely to hook up an produce a child too, but then one or both might be married to other people, not that I noticed any rings.
"What kind of evidence?" I asked, steering my thoughts back towards the reason for their visit.
Agent Reyes shook her head. "It would be easier to show you than to try to explain."
"Show me where?" I asked suspiciously. I was in no mood to travel very far - certainly not to the North Pole.
"Old Orchard Beach, Maine," Agent Doggett told me.
Well, that wasn't an answer I'd been expecting. "What, not Santa's village?" I asked, suggesting the theme park in the northern part of the state.
"Good, Old Orchard is closer."
"You won't even have to change your son," Reyes said brightly. I frown at her; there was no way I was going to subject my kid to an hour drive in wet clothes.
It took nearly a half an hour to get on the road, and I decided that the woman must not have any kids or pets since she seemed half desperate to speed things along - she even offered to walk the dog to get it over with. Recalling Chase's earlier dislike of feds, I declined the offer. She seemed happier when I let her feed him, though. Watching her spoon the supposed meat into Chase’s bowl, I began to wonder if she too had lost a pet while on the X-Files. I later learned that she hadn’t, but it wouldn’t have surprised me; the x-files seemed dangerous in my limited experience.
When you drive from New Hampshire to Maine, one thing you’ll notice is that in Maine, there’s not a law that requires advance notice of speed changes to be posted on the roads. As I listed to Agent Doggett quietly curse in the driver’s seat, it became apparent that this was not what he was expecting. Things like "Dammit, it was fifty, how can it drop to thirty?" kept coming out of his mouth. I might have protested that it wasn’t the sort of language I wanted my son exposed to, but who am I kidding? Markie’s heard that all from my mother and more. He was asleep anyway.
The real fun came when we actually got to Old Orchard Beach. I don’t know if you’ve ever been there before, but it was very obvious that neither of the agents had been. How did I know? Agent Doggett drove down the main drag and actually seemed to expect to find a parking space at one of the meters. We drove back and forth, and back and… it went on for quite a while, and I was struck by how similar the agent and my father were in this regard. Like my dad, Doggett grumbled about having to pick a lot that offered all day parking. I don’t get it. For 25 cents every 15 minutes, it seems like all day parking for three dollars is a bargain, but neither of them seemed to think so. I guess it’s a male thing.
I looked around as we got out of the car. It’s always the same at Old Orchard, and there’s a measure of comfort to that. You don’t skip visiting one summer and then return to find that everything has been changed on you. Sure, they put in that bargain book store I like about six years ago and closed the grocery store, but that’d major on the scale of change to the place. Actually, I know that the pier had to be rebuilt after the blizzard of 1978, but since I was only ten months old at the time, it’s fair to say I don’t remember what the pier was like the summer before.
When you get there the first thing you notice is the tattoo parlor. Both sides of the main drag are lined with food venders and tiny stores that have windows filled with T-shirts with off-color wording, bathing suits, flip-flops and those strange bamboo mats that everyone seems to buy and only use once; we have some and we’ve only used them once too. On either side of the road, the end nearest the beach, are two arcades. One is a Dream Machine, and the other is one with a ten foot wide clown logo emblazoned across it. Next to Dream Machine there’s a swath of space filled with carnival games. Then there’s the pier, which has some stores and booths, a couple of sit-down eateries, a few people offering some sort of fad craft like airbrushed Frisbees or grains of sand with your name on them, several of those binocular type machines you put money into so you can spy on swimmers, and the far end is taken up by an aquarium I’ve never been in. To the right of the pier is the beach, and beyond that are several unsafe looking rides that require you buy tickets for.
I have a lot of memories of the place, but it’s fair to say that they all kind of blend together from year to year. Mom and I wander the shops, admiring how many things they can make out of cedar or seashells and slap an "Old Orchard Beach, ME" onto, everything from slingshots to spoon rests. My dad and brother, if my brother is with us, spend a majority of their time in Dream Machine. I thought Vynce would outgrow the arcades, but he still made a beeline for them the last time we all went there together two or three years ago. Later on we meet up to wander eat sandwiches and chips that we packed then visit the pier together and stop for ice-cream or fried dough. Or ice-cream and fried dough... We don’t go on rides, and I’ve only been swimming at the beach a couple of times. It’s a nice enough beach, but terribly crowded. From the pier the beach looks a lot like a bingo card with all the numbers covered. When I was ten or so I found a bunch of tiny shells on the beach during a relatively uncrowded day (must have been overcast), but when I looked for them again the next year, I didn’t find any. Now, years later, it occurs to me to wonder if maybe the shells weren’t naturally occurring, but something spilled out of one of the baskets of shells with "Old Orchard Beach, ME" on it that tourists like to buy.
For people who’ve never been there before, the agents did a good impersonation of knowing where they were going. I guess whoever tipped them off gave them good directions. Apparently the person we were going to bother was connected to the annual sand sculpture contest, because they went right up to the orange storm fencing and whipped out their badges. I hung back a little, because I could tell by the mischievous look in Markie’s eyes that he’d love to get his fingers on the sculpture that the guy was working on.
"Nick Santos? FBI," Doggett said, holding up his badge for inspection. "I’m agent Doggett and this is Agent Reyes." Glancing over his shoulder he added. "And our consultant Shannon Phile."
"And who’s the little one, special ops?" the man asked with a smirk.
"I’m Markie!" my son announced brightly.
Squinting in the bright sunlight, I took a quick look at the suspected "perp." I guess you could say he kind of looked like Santa Claus. He did have a snowy white beard and a beer belly that probably did shake like a bowlful of jelly when he laughed. But you’d have to picture Santa as a hell’s angel, what with the tattoos and the black leather vest that went well with ripped jeans. Shaking my head a little, I decided that they must be picking on the guy because of his name.
Or maybe it was the sand sculpture. As sand sculptures go, this was a damn good one. All the little bears and soldiers looked very recognizable, the dolls looked like they were going to cry "mama" any second…and I guess Babes in Toyland is a little strange a theme for August. Come December, though, the sand would be frozen, probably covered in snow, so I understood it was a now or never thing. I guess if I was as paranoid as the average FBI agent was, things like his name and his choice of subject might add up to something like the guy was Santa Claus. Maybe. If I was paranoid and unmedicated.
"Markie, huh? Are you an FBI agent too?" Nick asked.
Apparently this was hysterical, because Markie laughed his head off before catching his breath and shouting. "No! I’m a little boy! I don’t even go school yet."
"How’d you get here then, if you’re not a fed?"
"By car." Markie pointed at Agent Doggett. "He drove. Mommy and I sat in back."
Okay, so the guy was good at getting little kids to talk. That didn’t mean we should suspect that he was Santa Claus.
Doggett was beginning to look annoyed, so it didn’t surprise me when Reyes spoke up. "Sir, we need to ask you some questions."
No please, no thank you. FBI agents don’t seem to be taught about manners. Irritating isn’t it?
"Yeah, okay," Nick said, hitching a leg over the storm fencing. He turned and called to someone doing a mermaid sculpture. "I’ll be back in a few."
Agent Doggett indicated that he wished to speak to Nick somewhere in private, so we followed Nick back to his motel. It was one of those places that looks kind of shabby with those strange round plastic chairs lining the poolside. I always wondered what the rooms looked like inside, and they were even uglier than I imagine them to be. Brown curtains, brown rugs, brown bedspread... even the people on Surprised By Design would have come up with something more attractive.
If Nick thought his accommodations were as hideously ugly as I and agent Reyes did, at least judging from her facial expression, he didn't let on. In fact, he seemed pretty much oblivious of his surroundings as he perched on one of the double beds and stared at the FBI agents.
An effort to end the staring contest, Nick finally asked, "What can I do for the FBI?"
For half a second I expected agent Doggett to retort "ask not what you can do for the FBI, but what the FBI can do for you." But then, I always think strange things like that. What Doggett actually said was, "We believe it's possible you have some information that would assist us in one of our cases."
Predictably, Nick stared at him, waiting for him to elaborate. I know I was waiting too, since they really hadn't bothered to tell me what we're doing in old Orchard besides harassing a sand sculptor. So, I stared at him too.
"Do you own any reindeer?" Agent Reyes asked him suddenly. "Are you a U.S. citizen, or did you perhaps grow up on another continent. A northern one?"
It was nice to see that I wasn't the only person that the FBI ever confused. Leaning over, I whispered to agent Reyes. "Are you looking for a new consultant?" She didn't answer me, but I took her puzzled look as a no. Which left me puzzled as well, because how could these things be legitimate questions?
"Why, do I sound foreign to you?" Nick asked
"Does your business employee midgets?" Doggett asked.
"I have a business?"
"Do you work with toys?"
"Didn't you see me sculpting sand?"
The changes in topic were beginning to give a headache. Actually, it reminded me of a game called questions, questions that they played in Theatersports, which was in improv group I saw a couple hundred times while I was in college. It didn't seem as though anyone was close to winning.
I decided to take matters into my own hands. The worse the could happen was that they drop me often home and then go waiting at never see them again and really, would that be so bad? "They think you're Santa Claus. You know, reindeer. Elves. The North Pole. Toys for all the good little girls and boys."
For short while there was a stunned silence. The agents were apparently unused to such directness, and Nick, he just seemed a little bit stunned in general. Then he threw back his head and basically laughed his butt off.
Wiping a tear from his eye, with a finally got a hold of himself. "That's rich. I've been accused of a lot of things, but not this. Where do you people come up with things like this?" Both agents shrugged their shoulders so he turned and looked at me instead. "You believe this too?"
"Don't look at me, I'm just their regional consultant."
Before agent Reyes or agent Doggett could collaborate on why they suspected him of being Santa Claus we all noticed that Markie was scowling at Nick. "You're not Santa."
"Finally, someone with some sense."
"Why don't you think that he is Santa?" Agent Reyes asked.
The look that Markie gave her was priceless; you could tell that he thought she was an idiot. "He doesn't look like Santa."
"Sure he does. He's got the white beard."
"But he don't gotta red suit. And no reindeers. And no elfs."
Although I cringed a little inside at his grammar, I had to admit he had a point. I gave the agents a curious look, wondering if either of them would be brave enough to argue with the logic of a three-year-old.
They exchanged a brief glance, and I could read it clearly: we have no idea how to deal with this.
Agent Doggett cleared his throat before giving the alleged Santa a measured look. "If you are not C. Kringle, how do you explain your association with 'little people'?"
Nick raised an eyebrow, reminding me fleetingly of agent Scully. "I wasn't aware that it was a crime to befriend midgets."
This flustered the agent. I gave him a curious look: would he mention elves? For one it seemed a little hypocritical, given his looks, and it bothered me a little that the FBI seemed to take such an interest in fairytale creatures. It seemed a little excessive.
"No, there's no law against it. But you have to admit that it seems a little suspicious."
I frown a little, disappointed. I'd really expected he'd talk about elves. To my surprise, the alleged Santa merely nodded.
"A man with a white beard, who along with a group of midgets, runs a Toys For Tots drive last year, and that shows up on the FBI's radar?"
Toys, large white-bearded man, a group of midgets...even I could see how they'd connected the dots. I myself probably wouldn't have made the association, but then, my mind probably wasn't paranoidly brilliant to qualify for agent status on the X-Files... though at the moment I'd yet to see any evidence from this pair of agents that they were as weirdly intelligent as their predecessors.
"I'm not at liberty to discuss information given to me by my informant," Doggett said stiffly.
I'm sure that attitude engages a lot of cooperation. I cringed a little, hoping that this wasn't going to lead to a lengthy stand-off. I had things to do that night, not that either agent had bothered to ask before dragging us up to Maine.
"I see," Nick said evenly. "I suppose that you'll be getting a search warrant to look in my home to see if I've got a toy workshop or if I'm harboring any elves."
"Well no," Reyes said quickly, shooting her partner a look.
"Keep your nose clean," Doggett said gruffly before turning on his heel.
Nick grinned, but a little meanly, and spoke to the agent's back. "Don't worry, I will."
As the agent reached for the door, I gave the faux Santa an apologetic smile and took Markie's hand. I had no idea what the plan was, but it seemed as though we were leaving.
My hunch proved to be correct, and we trooped back to the parking lot. Neither of them said a word, and I didn't feel like being the one to break the silence. Even Markie was quiet, which was unusual for him. He was normally a tireless talker, like half the members of my family.
Swinging open the driver side door, Doggett finally spoke. "The tip was bogus."
Reyes shrugged and opened the other door so I could climb in back. "It happens."
"So...we don't think Nick is Santa?" I asked.
Markie tugged on my t-shirt. "Moooommmeee, I told you."
"I know, sweetie, but I wasn't talking to you." Despite the mildness of my admonishment, Markie still scowled and turned his face away. I tried not to care, since he needed to learn manners. But it was hard.
"We'll drop you off home," Doggett said. "And be in touch if there are future developments in the case."
And that was that. They drove us home, accepted glasses of soda since it was blazing out, then got back in their black car and drove away.
Hours later the whole episode took on the same dreamlike, surreal quality that most of my dealings with Mulder and Scully had. It made me wonder if it was another test, but for the life of me I couldn't think of a reason for that. Then again, I hadn't a clue that I'd been tested the first time.
I would tell more people about my involvement with the FBI, but it seems too hard to believe, even to me, so there's little chance of getting anyone else to listen. It's just not worth the agitation. "So, Shannon, what do you do in your spare time?" "I follow around FBI agents on wild goose chases as they look for ghosts and Santa." I mean, if told you that, would you believe me? That's what I thought.
It was strange, but the Salvation Army bell-ringers were out a week before Thanksgiving; it was the first year I could remember them being out before Black Friday. My friend Colleen thought that it might have something to do with how late Thanksgiving was, but I didn't think so. Thanksgiving was even later the year before.
In any case, it was the bell-ringers who reminded me of the FBI case in August. I've heard the cliché that bell-ringers dress like Santa, not that I've ever seen one like that in real life. Maybe it's a city thing, but all the people I've ever seen manning kettles were just in everyday clothes. The lack of Santas on every corner perversely made me think of the "real" Santa. I never heard anything again about it, so I assumed that the feds had given up on annoying mister Santos.
Me, however, they were not done pestering. I found this out on Christmas Eve.
My family hadn't been what you'd call churchgoing, except for your standard wedding, funeral and baptism attendance, but Christmas was sometimes an exception. This is because my parents' friends tended to be more religious that they were. Going up, if I knew a Christmas Eve service was on the agenda, I'd lobby for attending midnight mass.
First of all, midnight masses nearly always involved candles, which were always a plus my book. Not to mention that it was always neat to be able to stay up late on Christmas Eve; at least once I was old enough not to worry about when Santa was coming. I don't know if it was the candles, stayed up late, or both, but those services always seemed infused with a touch of magic that made the holidays better. Even as an adult I've felt that it helps bolster my feelings of Christmas spirit.
Which is why Markie was taking a nap at seven that night while I made fudge. I'd only recently gotten the hang of making it- the whole boiling vs. bubbling had tripped me up for the longest time - which is why I was annoyed when the doorbell rang during that critical stage. For a few seconds I considered not answering the door since I wasn't expecting anyone until Vynce and our parents arrived after eleven, but my conscience got the best of me. What if it was someone having car problems? Or worse?
It turned out to be "or worse." The smiling FBI agents didn't have so much as a fruitcake with them, so I quickly realized that it wasn't a social call. I let them follow me into the kitchen while I checked on the fudge. Since it was ready to be poured, I ignored them as they took seats at my table.
Once I was done, I turned to them and said, "So tell me why I'm not going to midnight mass with my family this year."
They gave me sheepish looks which did nothing to improve my suddenly unhappy mood. "We've found him," Agent Reyes told me. "The real one."
"You found the real Santa?" I didn't bother to keep the obvious skepticism out of my voice. "So you no longer think that Nick Santos is Jolly Saint Nick."
"No, but he's still involved," Doggett said.
Uh huh. Tell me another one. "So, are we going back to Maine tonight?"
Reyes expression worried me, but not as much as her next words. "Um, we'll be traveling a little father north than that."
"Canada?" Ordinarily the idea would please me, since I'd only been there twice, but Christmas Eve didn't strike me as the ideal time to go again.
"No," Doggett said, his voice was hesitant what he went on. "The North Pole, actually."
"But I'm supposed to be at my parents' house tomorrow morning at 10 AM!" My complaint was a confused wail. That wasn't really my biggest objection, but it popped out of my mouth first for some reason.
"We'll have you back by then," Agent Reyes promised.
Right. I'm not good at math, but I have a decent enough grasp of physics. She may as well have promised to get me back by yesterday. I sighed in resignation, but my folks would be pissed. "How are we going to get there?"
Doggett pressed his lips together into a grim line. "I'm afraid that's confidential."
"Does that mean I'm going to spend the trip blindfolded?"
"No. You must watch a lot of movies."
A direct hit! "I hate the snow," I complained. "I don't have clothes suitable to an arctic climate."
"I know," Reyes said. "We didn't either. So we shopped today."
I thought about asking how she dealt with sizes, but didn't. Maybe she knew Scully's sizes and guessed from there. If it was some other more FBI invasive way, I didn't really want to know.
I took the phone off its cradle and held it out. "Which one of you wants to talk to my parents?" Instead of taking the phone they gave me blank looks. "If I call them and explain that I'm not going to make it to church and why I'm not, they'll think I'm insane. Or trying to avoid them by using a really implausible excuse. I'm not dealing with that. Holidays are stressful enough."
After staring at the phone a moment, Doggett bravely took the phone and dialed the number that I dictated. Meanwhile, Agent Reyes disappeared out the door, apparently unconcerned about her partner's safety. Most naive of her.
I listened to him try to explain things to my mom, and felt a little bad for him. It'd have been easier on him if Dad had answered. He promised that we'd be back by ten morning several times before wearily handing me the phone.
"I know, mom. I'm sorry. Yes, they may be crazy, but if they are we won't really be going to the North Pole, so I'll be back on time." Agent Doggett rolled his eyes, but I ignored him, because agents Reyes was coming back in with bags. My mother was talking all the while, however. "Okay, I'll ask them." I turned to the agents. "She wants to know if she should come get Markie now."
Agent Reyes shook her head and pulled something out of the bag. It was a small blue sweater sleeve. "We need him to go too."
I almost had a temper tantrum right then and there. Why did these people keep involving my son in their insane schemes? I silently counted to ten and calm myself. Santa, unlike pirate ghosts, wasn't a potential danger to a child. I hoped. "Um, no. He's coming with us. He'll probably have fun," I told her. He wrapped up the conversation a couple of minutes later.
When they told me that our method of transportation was classified, they meant it. I won't repeat the ins and outs (read: threats) of the nondisclosure terms for our ride, but needless to say I won't be describing it. I'll say this, though, I sure wish there hadn't been a CD player in the thing. Hours and hours of whale songs… I find that sort of noise both eerie and vaguely upsetting (the only thing I disliked about the Zoo Tycoon game was the sounds the aquatic animals made…but it bothered me enough to turn off the sounds while playing), so it didn't make me like Agent Reyes any more than I already did. The other agent didn't even seem to notice, until Markie started singing the Baby Beluga song and wouldn't stop until Reyes turned the racket off and gave my nerves a rest.
To pass the time we changed into our arctic weather gear along the way…which means one thing remains a constant no matter which agents I'm with - I don't get to wear my own clothes. Not that the stuff Reyes bought was quite as irritating as the night clothes we'd savaged for at the haunted island had been. Eerily, everything Reyes bought fit. Not just me, but on Markie too. Say what she will that agent Reyes, she's definitely got an eye for sizing people up. I'm sure there number of careers that talent would have been more useful to than for an FBI agent. Then again, I'm sure we all have talent going to waste.
Markie was thrilled that his gear was predominantly blue, since that's his favorite color. For now. Mine was red at his age, and now it's green, so things change. All three of us adults wore mostly black, if you're wondering. I didn't care about the color, just how warm it would be.
This cannot be stressed enough: I hate snow. Not the way I hate 'reality' TV, but a thorough ingrained hatred. Much in the way I hate people suggesting that people who hate snow ought not to live in New England. Do they suggest that people who hate rain move to the desert? It's asinine, as if there's only one reason to live or not live somewhere. There are probably even people who would live in hell if it had a nice Spring and Fall. But I digress (Yes, "again"). The reason I mention my utter loathing of snow is, in less time than I imagined, we were surrounded by it as for far as the eye could see. It blew about, it formed hills, but it was all the same damn frozen stuff.
"We're here," Agent Doggett announced. "The North Pole."
I just nodded. If he said so. It's could have been Canada, Siberia, or Buffalo, NY for all I knew. If he wanted me to agree it was the North Pole it didn't hurt me any. All I knew for sure was that there was a lot more snow than I wanted to deal with.
Markie tapped on my shoulder, and looked at me with wide eyes. "Look, Mommy." He pointed out the window. "The North Pole!"
It was a pole, I'll grant him that. It seemed to be an electrical pole, however, given that they cables running off of it. To where however, was something of blowing snow obscured. It was the only thing I could see out the window. Besides the snow.
"You're right." Agent Reyes agreed with him. "You see how it's marked with a N?"
Now that she mentioned it, I found that I could see it too. A brass plate about the size of my hand, was clearly stamped with the letter N, in what looked like Times New Roman font.
"Now what?" I asked.
They didn't answer, but instead looked out the window again. I looked out too, but didn't see anything interesting. At first.
"Awww! A penguin! Isn't that cute?" Agent Reyes blurted out.
A penguin? That didn't seem right...
"There aren't supposed to be penguins at the North Pole." Apparently agent Doggett agreed with me. "Polar bears, maybe, but not penguins."
"Polar bears will eat you," my son piped up sagely. Reyes stared at me and I shrugged. I have no control over what animal trivia sticks in his head when we read.
I finally figured out what bothered me about the penguin, and not that it simply wasn't from that pole. "That's a fairy penguin." When I got blank looks from the agents I elaborated. "Also known as a 'little blue' penguin because of its coloring. They don't live at the North or South Pole." I tried to remember where they were from -I'd seen some at the New England aquarium and looked it up because I found the little creatures enchanting. "I think that they're from New Zealand. It's somewhere warm and south of the equator, anyway."
"So what's it doing here?" Doggett asked.
I shrugged. His guess was as good as mine.
I looked around again and saw nothing but snow surrounding us still. Well, that and the little blue penguin.
"So now what?" I asked again. Both agents shrugged. "We get all the way out here and you were expecting...what? A handy sign post with the words ' Santa's workshop - five miles'?"
Answers were not forthcoming. I was on the verge of asking them if they'd expected an elfin escort when movement outside the window caught my eye.
The penguin, seemingly untroubled by the fact that he was several thousand miles from home, had apparently gotten bored of our attention because he was ambling off.
"We should follow him," Markie said with a sage nod of his little head.
Don't get me wrong, I thought it was a cute suggestion. However, I was not prepared for the Feds to agree and begin trailing the small blue bird. Following a penguin on the advice of a three-year-old seemed even more ridiculous than the time we'd followed strangers in hopes of finding a concert hall. We had found the show, however...
As the compound came into view, my first thought was that I must be hallucinating. I have before, once while ill and once from having a bad reaction to a sleeping pill, so it didn't seem outside the realm of probability. How else could I explain the buildings surrounded by miles upon miles of blank white snow?
Glancing at the others, however, it was clear that if it was indeed a hallucination, it was a mass one. They all saw what I did, and surprisingly, Markie wasn't the most excited by it.
Without asking my leave, Agent Doggett hoisted my son in the air and held him up to the window. "Look there! It's the barn for the reindeer!"
"You seem pretty excited about all this," I remarked.
"Well, yeah. It's not every day you discover where a bigtime wanted criminal is hiding out," Doggett replied happily.
So how do you react when someone reveals that his goal is to arrest a childhood hero? I suppose I ought to have guessed from the questioning of Nick Santos that this case was about a crime rather than an exercise in scientific investigation. Still, I couldn't help feeling some surprise and a lot of dismay. The Santa Clause is my favorite Christmas movie, after all, because I've spent a couple of decades wishing - in some small corner of my mind - that adults are wrong, and Santa really does exist. (I know you wondered why I'd so quickly shed my normal skepticism, admit it) So being on the verge of being vindicated in this vestigial belief, only to find out that we were there to charge him with something...it was all too much.
I touched my ear with one finger to make sure my brains we're leaking out after the implosion. No gray matter. I supposed that was good. Except of agent Doggett looking at me like I'd done something strange. Like he's never wondered if his brain had melted.
Eventually I found my voice. "What sort of crimes is he being accused of?"
"Most of them should be obvious to people who know his reputation. Breaking and entering, running a manufacturing plant without a license, animal cruelty...and if he's responsible for that penguin, we can also nail him on illegal importation of exotic animals...."
Oh crap. My trivial knowledge of animal species was going to get the big guy even more into trouble. "Maybe he has an importation license."
"Why is he subject to US law anyway?" I asked.
"Because he is."
Talk about a straight answer, huh? That cleared things right up.
"He'll be tried under international law," Agent Reyes explained. "But the case originated in the US the FBI is on the case instead of the CIA."
"Thank you." Why is it that some agents are so much more tight-lipped than others?
Doggett reached into his coat and pulled out a sheaf of paper. I almost asked what it was, but I noticed the word Warrant on the top printed in brown ink so if was self-explanatory.
I glanced at Agent Reyes to see what see what she thought about arresting Father Christmas, but her face was unreadable. I guess that she was feeling all business rather than angsting over the situation. That left me a little disappointed, I'd figured that she at least would be against the idea. I'm not sure why I thought so, however.
Luckily, Markie didn't seem to have a clue as to what was going on. I bent down and picked him up, less to reassure him than to keep him close. If you take the normal excitement a small boy feels on Christmas Eve, then multiplied it by one hundred to factor in being at the North Pole, you might get an idea of how wound up Markie was. Even through both of our snow gear I could feel his little body tremble with excitement, and his eyes were so wide I worried they'd fall out of his head if someone accidentally hit him in the back. Not to mention that the snow was getting deep and he was very short.
Without waiting for an elf to show the way, the agents began tromping through the snow. I lagged behind a bit, hindered by the child on my hip. It made me miss Agent Mulder a bit, since he'd been gentleman enough to offer to help carry stuff like the car seat. Not that I expected Doggett to carry my son, but offering to would have been nice. That, however was not the reason I glared at his back as we made our way towards a building.
To be honest, I would have expected something a lot more elaborate for Santa's headquarters. In the movies, after all, the buildings often resemble castles or ice sculptures. This building was far more utilitarian. In a way that makes sense. In other places they do far fewer construction projects in the snowy months; in the North Pole there are nothing but snowy months. The constructors had probably wanted to spend as little time out in the elements as possible - and who could blame them? - so the place was built with little in the way of decoration. However, a sign with scrolls gold lettering denoting the entrance to the reindeer barns saved it from being mistaken for a weather station.
What Doggett said about watching too many movies must be true, because I fully expected him to draw his weapon and kick the door down while shouting about the FBI and no one moving. In reality he knocked, then flashed his badge at the midget who opened the door. "FBI. We're here to talk to Santa."
The little man gaped. "You can't be here!"
"We have a warrant," Doggett said, digging it out to show him.
But the little fellow shook his head and flapped his hands. "I don't mean that you don't have permission, I mean you *can't* be here. It's impossible. No humans are capable of locating us. How did you do it?!"
I cocked my head, intent on listening carefully, since I hadn't wondered that myself yet . I guess in the oddness of the whole night it hadn't seemed that remarkable.
"We used a thermal imaging scanner," Doggett told him. "We set the parameters in such a way that it wouldn't alert us of any creatures smaller than eighteen inches high, or larger than seven feet in length, unless we were in danger of running it over, so we didn't risk having a collision with a polar bear."
I winced. That would total a vehicle for sure. And unlike another motorist, a polar bear, if it survived, would eat you rather than go for help.
"But! But!" The little guy's excitement was making him squeak and turn rather red. I began wondering about the signs of heart attacks in elves, because by that point I was coming to terms that he might indeed be an elf. He was scarcely bigger than Markie, but perfectly proportioned so that immediately eliminated the theory of him being a dwarf. I might of continued to think of him as a midget, but his hat fell off whilst he squeaked and hand wrung, revealing two particularly pointy ears. "Even if you could detect heat, you shouldn't be able to *see* anything to tell you that you'd found us."
Doggett pointed his thumb at Markie. "Meet our secret weapon - the power of belief."
I blinked. So that's why they'd wanted my son along! The sneaky bastards. It sort of made sense, because they say we outgrow being able to see magic. Except being able to buy into that explanation required believing in magic. I wasn't convinced, which is one reason I had no problems with Wicans: I considered believing in good magic was a pleasant, if harmless, fantasy.
"We followed the penguin," Markie explained to the elf.
"I told him that those birds would be nothing but trouble." The elf made an indelicate sound in his throat.
Doggett nodded in agreement. "They're part of his trouble, anyway."
"What's going on here?" a booming voice asked. "Blinky said there was a commotion at the reindeer barns."
It was at that moment that I realized two things: One, that another elf had run to tattle while the still nameless elf had his apoplectic fit. Two, that the speaker really, truly wasn't Nick Santos. They might have been cousins, maybe, but the resemblance was faint.
When you imagine seeing Santa you probably picture the CocoCola icon - shiny black leather boots, red velvet suit trimmed with immaculate white fur, and matching red hat. Erase that image from your mind. Instead, picture a hefty man in blue jeans and an oatmeal colored cable knit sweater, with a long white beard and a dark scowl and there's Santa for you.
And Santa looked pissed.
"Santa!" my son squealed, running forward before I could grab him, and throwing himself at the unjolly elf's knees. Doggett and Reyes exchanged a look that seemed to suggest that they thought my son's reaction was proof that they'd found the right guy.
Me, I remembered that they'd been far less confident about his proclamation against Nick Santos being their man, but I was polite enough not to bring it up. At least not until I thought the timing would be appropriate.
A few feet away Santa was looking down at Markie in surprise. "Woah, who's this?" Santa sounded a lot more friendly all of the sudden. That made me a bit wary, who turned anger off that quickly?
"You know," Markie said, smiling up at him.
Santa chuckled. "You know, I do. You're Markie Phile."
"Yup," Markie agreed cheerfully. "Thank you for the train you gave me last year."
"You're very welcome."
Agent Doggett was beginning to look annoyed. "Markie, come back to your mom. We need to talk to Santa."
Markie did as he was told, but Santa threw him an apprehensive look. "If this is the sort of conversation you think a child shouldn't hear, I could have one of my elves look after the boy."
"Uh uh, no," I said quickly. "He'll be fine with us." There was no way in hell I was going to let some little person take my son off somewhere I couldn't see. Call me paranoid, but there's something a bit creepy about Santa's elves - they're way too cheerful considering the difficulty of their work. Sort of like Agent Reyes.
"John Doggett and Monica Reyes," Santa said thoughtfully. "I'm surprised to see you here, given how long it's been since either of you believed in me."
"Things change," Doggett replied shortly.
But Santa was looking at me, not Doggett. "You on the other hand, Shannon, I know you've never really stopped believing in me at all."
"Well mostly," I objected. Did one percent really count?
"Is there something like a conference room in this place?" Agent Reyes asked changing the subject. "I think this is going to be a long discussion."
Out of the corner of my eye I thought that I saw a flash of silver near agent Doggett's waist. At first I worried it was his gun, but then I figured out what it was - hand cuffs. That made me wonder what he planed to do if it did come down to arresting Santa like he intended: Would he arrest all the elves too? I couldn't imagine that being pleasant. They'd be squashed into our vehicle tighter than boxes in a car on the way to a college dorm. It wasn't like we could open windows so they could at least hang their heads out them. We'd all freeze solid.
"We can go to my office." Santa said with some reluctance. So we did.
As offices went, it was pretty typical. Oh sure, the chairs were gilded with gold letters that said SC, and they were green with red cushions, but I'd seen odder. The agents took their seats without saying anything, but Markie made some frustrated noises when I made a move to help him get into a chair. He wanted to do it himself, so I let him even though it took three times as long as it would of with help. I was the last to sit down. Santa ordered the slightly calmer elf, who I discovered had the unlikely name of Toots, to bring refreshments.
Santa's face was devoid of emotion as he looked at the agents. "Now, what is this all about?"
"Your criminal activity," Doggett said smugly. "Let's start with child labor law violations."
"I don't have any kids working for me," Santa insisted.
My face must have been puzzled too, since I had no idea what agent Doggett was talking about. What kids? The only kid around this place was Markie.
"Come off it. You can't tell me that those short folks out there are adults."
I blinked. Was his eyesight poor? Those sure as hell didn't look like any kids I've ever seen. They weren't too bad looking for whatsits, but they'd have made for homely children.
Shaking his head slowly, Santa got out of his seat and walked over to a file cabinet that I hadn't noticed until then. It looked a lot like standard issue, except for the holly painted onto it. From within the top drawer, Santa extracted a thick bundle of papers and threw them on the table. They slide for a while, stopping in front of Doggett like magic.
"What's this?" Doggett wanted to know.
"Birth certificates," Santa told him. "Read them."
A look of disbelief plastered itself to Doggett's face. "You can't expect me to believe these are real."
Craning my neck, I peered at the paper he was holding, and sitting to the other side of him, Reyes did too. They looked a lot like my own birth certificate, except that the edges were a glittering green, and there was a logo with a pine tree in the up right hand corner. The little baby footprints were slightly pointy. The thing that seemed to upset the agent, however, was the date of birth.
You couldn't really blame him for being upset. 1834 was a long time ago.
To my surprise, Santa didn't seem at all cowed by the angry agent. He just looked him in the eye. "Surely you must know that elves live longer than humans."
"What do you mean, I should know?"
"How are your grandparents?" Santa asked him. The question took me by surprise; I haven't had any grandparents at all since I was twenty-three, and Doggett had to be about forty.
"Fine. What does that have-"
"How old was your great-grandfather when he died?"
"One hundred and five," Doggett answered irritably.
"Just as I thought. The elf blood in your family will mean you have quite a long life."
"I…what…??" Doggett looked confused. "Well what about her?" he blurted out while pointing at me.
I shrugged. "People don't live overly long in my family."
Santa shook his head. "If there were any elves in Ms Phile's family, it was hundreds of years ago. I doubt she has any elfin blood at all."
Finally! There was the proof to prove my childhood friend, Chris, wrong, but it had been six years since I'd last seen her, so the victory was sort of hollow. Looking over at the agents, I saw that I was probably the calmest person the room, next to Markie and Santa.
"You're just trying to distract me!" Doggett shouted and waved the birth certificates. "Let's talk about importation of exotic animals, then."
Once again Santa got up and went to his filing cabinet. Before he walked away, agent Doggett growled, "Permits for running a factory."
Santa just reached into a different drawer.
It startled me when agent Reyes spoke up, since I'd gotten used to Doggett and Santa being the only voices. "I'd think you'd been coached."
"Actually, he has been," a voice said from the doorway.
"Mulder! What are you doing here?" The glee in Reyes voice as much as what she said made me turn my head. There was agent Mulder, all right. He wasn’t wearing a suit, but instead a slate blue sweater and jeans, and instead of a flashlight or a gun he held a baby. A very cute one, about a year and a half old, with strawberry blond curls and big blue eyes that matched his outfit. Also casually dressed in jeans and a sweater was the woman that gave him those eyes.
"So we meet again," I said with a wry smile as I stood up. He didn't seem inclined to sit, and I was tired of it.
"Markie’s gotten big," Mulder commented, passing his son to Scully. "Remember us, Sport?"
Markie shook his head. "Nope. And my name’s not Sport. Who are you?"
"Back when you were William’s age, you, your mom and us took a boat trip to a little island," Scully told him.
I blinked. That’s not how I would have described our experience, but there was no sense in explaining the whole ghost thing to a three-year-old if he didn’t remember.
"I like boats," Markie reminded me.
"Are there boats here?" He craned his neck, peering out the office window in hopes of seeing one.
"Not very likely. The water's probably all frozen."
"Oh…"His face looked so disappointed that I wished it was in my power to create some free-moving water for boats. Being a parent will do that to you.
I elbowed Mulder in the ribs and pointed to Toots who'd just come in with a tray of mugs. "I told you I wasn't an elf," I said when he looked down at me.
"I didn't really think you were. It was just part of the test."
"Alright. As long as we're clear." I glanced over at Doggett and lowered my voice. "He's one, though."
"Mulder, it's nice to see you again- " For some reason Doggett looked relieved, which made me wonder just how out of touch Mulder and Scully had been since they left the FBI. "- but what did you mean by 'he has been'?"
"I warned him of you accusations months ago and had him make sure everything was on the up and up here," Mulder said, as if they explained anything.
"I didn't want my host to get into trouble if he didn't have to."
"Your host?" Reyes asked. She'd been playing peek-a-boo with William, making him giggle, but the phrase had obviously caught her attention. "You don't mean that you're living here."
"Actually we are," Agent Scully, or should I say former agent Scully, said calmly.
Mulder nodded. "A few years back we ended up in Antarctica, remember? We figured if we could survive the South Pole, the North Pole would be okay too."
"But Toots said that people can't find their way here," I objected.
"We didn't. I wrote Santa a letter last year, and he came to us over the summer."
The irony of that amused me. Here were two agents who had spent the summer looking for Santa, when their former colleagues had been hanging out with him.
The next thing Doggett said was startling, though. "How did you get the kid back?"
What did he mean by "back"? I looked at Mulder and Scully, hoping they'd explain, since I hate hate hate being the only one left in the dark.
Scully shrugged. "As you know, Mulder came back just weeks after I gave William up. He contested the adoption, and we got him back in July."
"That must of upset the family who took him in," Agent Reyes commented.
She shook her head. "That shot Spender gave him? It wore off."
This caused Reyes' eyes to widen. "Oh."
I had no idea what they were talking about, but I found that I already didn't really care. "So, we're not arresting Santa then, right?" I asked, just to be clear.
Though he looked a bit disappointed still, Doggett agreed. "Right."
"So now what?"
"I was thinking that the little ones might enjoy a look around," Santa said. I'd almost forgotten that he was there.
"Oh!" Markie looked thrilled. "Can we, Mommy?"
"If it's okay with everyone else." I know I wanted to go too. Who goes to the North Pole and doesn't check out the factory? Unthinkable.
"Yeah sure. I'm sure the sprouts will enjoy it." Mulder nodded.
So we took a tour and that was about it.
Had you going there for a minute, didn't I? Okay, you've got me. There's a little more to this story.
"A tour sounds like a good idea," Santa agreed calmly. I guess that by that point he figured that the investigation was being dropped, which allowed him to regain his holiday cheer. One large gloved finger pressed a button on his desk.
A moment later an elf came into the room and gave him an expectant look. "Mojo," Santa said, startling me. Mojo the elf? Well, if Blinky and Toots were appropriate elf names… "I need to get ready for my departure window. Why don't you show these nice folks around?"
Doggett swung his head around to look at Santa. It seemed that he hadn't realized that Santa meant to "leave town" without his permission. Mulder noticed and smiled at him. "Give it up, Doggett. None of the charges would stick."
"Besides, you wouldn't want to black list your kid, would you?"
"What kid?" Doggett asked blankly. Reyes shot him a look of pity I didn't understand.
"In a couple of years you'll have a son or daughter," Mulder said knowingly.
"Did Santa tell you that?"
"Nope. Call it intuition," Mulder said with a smirk.
I had no idea what the hell they were talking about, but it didn't seem to be any of my business anyway. Markie was already bouncing excitedly as he spoke to Mojo the elf. Me, I had The Doors in my head, but I tried not to let it ruin my good mood.
Good mood, you ask? Why not? Santa was off the hook, I'm right about not being an elf, and Santa is real. What could be better than that for one Christmas eve? Well, getting home on time would be, but I was fairly resigned by that point to arriving home fashionably late.
"Come on," Mojo said in a not-very-squeaky voice, "Let's go see the toys."
Mulder was right, the kids did love the tour. They also wanted one of everything, but that's how toddlers are. "You'll get toys tomorrow, when we get home." I promised Markie as I removed his fingers from a toy boat he was holding.
"How are you going to get home?" When I looked up Santa was towering over me. For an elf, he's pretty tall. Or maybe it's that at 5'3" I'm pretty short. Whichever.
"Um, that's classified," I said, thinking of the non-disclosure agreement.
"You won't get home until very late by any ordinary means."
I wouldn't exactly agree that our method of conveyance was ordinary, but I knew he was right anyway. We'd be lucky to get home before late evening. I didn't know what time it was in the North Pole, but I was guessing it was after midnight at home.
"I was thinking I could drop you off on my way through your neighborhood," Santa offered.
"Seriously?" Okay, yes, I know that flying through the air probably wasn't the world's safest method of travel, but be honest. Would you have turned down the chance to take a flight in Santa's sled? I didn't think so.
"Sure. I promised Mulder and Scully a ride anyway, and the sleigh's big enough to seat 12, so you'd fit too."
And that's how we all ended up taking the ride of our lives. I don't think there are any words to do the description justice, but try to imagine yourself hundreds of feet above houses, with the wind in your hair, and the jingling of bells…. That's the best I can describe it.
On a positive note, sleigh travel didn't make Mulder or I seasick, unlike that stormy boat ride.
Shortly before I thought that Markie would expire from excitement we landed in our yard. He seemed disappointed that I insisted that we enter the house through the door, but I promised to get inside quickly enough to let him watch Santa come down the chimney.
Now there was a sight for you.
After Santa stood up and brushed himself off, he smiled at Markie. "I think it's time you get to bed, young man. I can't put out presents if there are children watching."
"Mommy, I'm real tired," Markie announced, holding his arms up.
I'll admit that I felt a sense of disappointment as I got Markie ready for bed. I really wanted to see what Santa was doing downstairs. From the exclamations that Doggett and Reyes made, it seemed like it must be quite spectacular. At long last Markie was in his new red jammies, and tucked in. After I kissed his forehead, I went back downstairs.
Santa waved to me and shot back up the chimney. The tree looked beautiful with all the presents under it - somehow Santa had gotten my gifts to Markie out too and had saved me the trouble of putting them out.
The three of us ran outside and waved good-bye to Santa, Mulder, Scully and William. They waved back and I wish I'd thought to bring my camera.
Once the sound of bells faded, I looked at the two remaining agents. They looked tired. As tired as I felt. "Now what?"
"I guess we've better head back to DC," Reyes said, yawning.
"Family gatherings to get to?"
"Actually, neither of us has family in DC."
"So spend the night, then," I surprised myself by saying. "There's a pull-out couch in the den."
Reyes exchanged a look with Doggett then blushed. "Um…"
I smirked. I may not have known exactly what Mulder had meant, but watching the two of them in the sleigh gave me a good idea. Oh, they were discreet enough, but if they thought no one noticed that they held hands under the lap robe, they were mistaken. "I won't tell anyone who'd care about Tailhook."
Smiling sheepishly they followed me into the house.
The next morning my folks were a bit surprised by my arrival with two "friends," but they took it in stride. Markie, of course, was thrilled to death by his gifts, and I really enjoyed mine as well - the gift of belief. That one is priceless beyond words.
All in all, I think we had a pretty good Christmas, don't you?
The End* FTR, the photo above (though without Santa and his surfboard) is of Old Orchard Beach, Maine. My Dad took the picture a few years ago =)
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