With Apologies to Dickens
by Creedog VanDrey

Category: The X-Files
Genre: General, Christmas
Rating: PG
Language: English
Summery: Season 7. An eye-rolling story of how Mulder is visited by the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet To Come. With apologies to Dickens.

A/N: Well, my Joey/Friends Christmas story is slow to start, so this may have to be my Christmas Present 2004, despite I'm staring it in January 2005. Hey, it's been late before! Christmas Present 2001 was started in June of 2002.

I don't want you to think that I'm substituting X-Files characters for Dickens's characters, making them all OOC just so I can write an easy story. I've actually come up with a semi-original plot, thank you very much. Granted, this is the pre-story author's note, so I don't know how it will turn out, so let's just hope I'm not blowing steam, okay? By the way, be careful not to choke on the UST. (Have you noticed that the term UST really encompasses more than just unresolved sexual tension for our heroes? It's really a much broader concept in relation to Mulder and Scully. Just thinking.) Enjoy the show.


With Apologies to Dickens

THE X-FILES BASEMENT OFFICE
J. EDGAR HOOVER FBI BUILDING
DECEMBER 23, 1999

Special Agent Fox Mulder read through the file folder on his desk. This one is good, he thought to himself. If only it weren't for the timing…

"Merry Day Before Christmas Eve, Mulder," Scully wished her partner as she entered their office.

"And the same to you," he replied, a bit distant.

"Well, humbug to you, too."

Mulder looked up, surprised and a bit hurt, "C'mon, Scully, I was not being a Scrooge. It was just a mouthful." His only reply was a piteous look from his partner. "Anyway," he continued, "I know you're going to say no, but…" He handed her the file.

Scully pulled out her glasses, and skimmed through the long paragraphs, paraphrasing, "Four people have died of natural causes… no evidence of the killer can be found. Blah, blah, blah. They have one suspect in custody… who just happens to be the husband of one of the victims… the employee of another… the colleague of another, with which he was in competition for the same job… and the ex-boyfriend of the last victim, for which he had a restraining order. Well, what's the X-File?"

"He claims he didn't do it, but when presented about the facts of the case, he was horrified and revealed that he had dreamed of all these people dying in the same manner as they actually did."

Scully sighed, "I think it's ridiculous, but, then again, I am Special Agent Dana Scully, and it's my job to think it's ridiculous. You believe him, no doubt,"

"Of course. Why else would I show you the case?"

"Mulder, I know you too well. This is something I have no doubt you believe in. It seems like a routine case for us. Why did you think I would refuse to participate?"

"We ship out tomorrow to Albuquerque. From there, we'll drive to a quaint little town called Ruidoso, which is rather quiet despite the fact the name means 'noisy.'"

With little emotion, but a stern voice, Scully replied, "Tomorrow? No. Absolutely not. Not on Christmas Eve. I have to be with my family on Christmas, no questions asked, Mulder. I'm drawing the line."

"Told ya."

"Mulder, I'm going to prove you wrong. Wasn't it last Christmas when we decided that? Mulder, my family will disown me if I'm not there, especially if my excuse is that I'm on a case with you. Bill will kill you; I can promise you it." The next part of her harangue was softer. "Besides, you shouldn't do this to yourself, Mulder. Go visit your mom or something."

"I'll have you know I plan to visit her after we get back."

"I'm not going," Scully told him plainly.

"You know; if you got a tattoo for every time I heard you said that…"

Cutting him off swiftly, Scully sympathetically but sternly said, "Mulder, I feel confident that I can tell you this, because you know that I am the last person who would ever tell you this, but you're pathetic." Scully could see the pain in his eyes, and she expected it. "Mulder, if there was only one person left in the world who still had faith in you, that person would be me, but you really need to get in touch with the world again. Your family, your friends."

"I could count the family and friends I have left on a hand or two."

"More of a reason than any to be with them on Christmas. You are not the world's last true hero. From what I can tell, this case can wait three days." She stood up and walked over to him, getting very close. She paused uncomfortably for a moment, looking for an appropriate gesture, and chose to take hold of his hands and affectionately rub his fingers with her thumb. She avoided looking into his eyes. "Mulder, listen, if you decide not to go to New Mexico, you know my mother would love to have you over. If you want to come over to my mom's house for a little bit, you have my permission."

She could tell by his gaze that he wasn't likely to take up the offer. "Think about it. By the way, Ruidoso wouldn't happen to be near Roswell, would it?"

"Thirty minute drive from it."

"I won't say it."

"I know, I'm getting to be predictable."

DULLES INTERNATIONAL AIRPORT
DECEMBER 24; 9:09 AM

Sitting in the terminal of Gate 55 with two bags, Mulder heard his cell phone begin to ring.

"Mulder," he answered in a flat tone of voice, after fishing the phone out of his carryon bag.

"Agent Mulder, this is A.D. Skinner, we just got a call from Ruidoso PD. Alvin Benjamin is dead."

"How did it happen?"

"We found him dead in his cell. The water pipe above him cracked at he was knocked out when part of the ceiling hit his head. Some water got into his system, and the coroner is saying he drowned."

"What was he doing before that?"

"Watching TV… Weather Channel."

"Yeah, 'cause I've been watching the Weather Channel in the airport. There's all these reports of flooding in the Southwest. I wonder if he was dreaming about being caught in a flood."

"Well, Mulder, you won't be able to test your theory. The FBI has canceled your ticket. Go home, Agent Mulder, it's Christmas Eve."

"Alright, sir," Mulder replied, hanging up. He looked around briefly and exited the airport, suitcases in hand.

FOX MULDER'S APARTMENT
ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA
11:56 PM

Fox Mulder, reclined on his couch, was flipping through the channels. His eyes drooped sleepily. Christmas Eve was the worst night to channel-surf. Nothing but every version of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol ever produced and the horribly mediocre cult-hit A Christmas Story, playing non-stop for three days. No thank you, he thought.

"You really are a poor soul, Mulder," a voice awoke Mulder. He fell off the couch, for maybe the three-thousandth time in his life. Before him, standing nonchalantly beside his television was the ghostly form of Deep Throat.

"Oh, for goodness sake," Mulder groaned as he pulled himself up off the floor and sat on the couch rubbing his face. "What's going on?"

In a very deep and booming voice, Deep Throat replied, "You have lost the true meaning of Christmas, Mulder,"

"Are you kidding me?"

Deep Throat laughed and talked more casually, "Well, hell yeah. Well, you have, so I got to tell you somehow, but that doesn't mean I don't think it's as silly as you do."

"Oh, brother."

Deep Throat sincerely offered, "Mulder, you're way too wrapped up in this government conspiracy thing."

"Look who's talking!" Mulder replied sarcastically.

"And look where it got me. In my life, I was up to my neck in conspiracies. It's all I did. Now, you know what my tombstone says?"

"What?"

"I don't have one. I'm a John Doe, remember, and for good reason. And even if I accidentally left my driver's license with my real name in my back pocket, there's no wife or children to pick out an appropriate phrase to summarize my life. Mulder, I can't stress how important your work is, but I don't want it to consume you, or you'll end up dead before you can do any real good."

"Comsume me? Yeah, I cause indigestion, too,"

Deep Throat laughed again, "Nice to see you haven't lost your sense of humor. Of course, the audience for it is quickly thinning."

"Very philosophical of you."

"Thank you. Now, I hate to tell you this, but…"

"If you're here to tell me that I'm going to be visited by three spirits…"

Deep Throat's ghostly form plopped down on the couch beside Mulder, "You guessed it. And, yes, Charles Dickens is rolling his grave…"

"Is he?"

"He's been doing it non-stop for years. Have you seen the crap they've put on under his name?"

It was now Mulder's turn to laugh, accented by the chime of a grandfather clock.

The grandfather clock striking one woke up Mulder from his dream about Deep Throat.

Wait a second, I don't have a grandfather clock. He sat upright on the couch. Deep Throat was gone. But something ghostly was standing before him, behind the coffee table… Samantha.

A young Samantha, looking very much as she did at the time when she was abducted, looked boredly at her brother.

"Samantha?"

"Fox, come on! It's almost time for presents! I can't believe you're still sleeping."

Mulder looked around him, still seeing his familiar apartment.

"Doesn't it bother you that I'm 39 years old?"

Samantha didn't answer him, just grabbed his arm and dragged him toward his bedroom door.

"Uh, Sam, hate to break it to you, but there aren't any…"

But he found himself pulled through the door and into a lighted room, but not his defunct bedroom. It was the living room of his mother's house in Martha's Vineyard, only the scene was something from the past. Young Samantha ran and sat down beside a younger Fox Mulder of eleven or twelve years, who was sitting on the carpeted floor.

"Samantha, when is this?" the older Mulder asked his sister.

Samantha looked up and straight at the older Mulder and stated in an obvious tone, "Christmas 1971, duh…" Mulder's younger self seemed oblivious to his little sister's talking to no one in particular. He didn't make any indication that he noticed the older form of himself in the room.

1971 was the year before she was abducted, Mulder realized, and this Christmas a short ten and a half months previous to the incident, in fact.

The room where they two siblings sat showed no indication it was Christmas; there was no tree, no decorations, not even a jolly red or green candle. The Mulders didn't decorate for Christmas; they never had. Because of conflicting family beliefs: some Christian, some Jewish, and some none-of-the-above, Bill and Teena Mulder reached a rather bland compromise: Gift Exchange Day. It wasn't named that; it's just what it was. The family bought one another gifts and exchanged them December 25, if only to be fair to their children, most of whose friends would be getting their presents that day, too. It was only fair. They didn't make a big deal of it. It was more in the spirit of dutiful niceness than generosity.

A forty-something Bill Mulder entered the room, a small smile on his face and three gifts in his hand, which he handed to his wife and children, who opened their gifts: a dark red sweater, a Knicks jersey, and doll house furniture, respectively. He then mumbled an apology, "Now, I know I promised no work, but I need to use the telephone for a minute to call someone. I'm sorry."

Teena Mulder sighed, but nodded. Mulder remembered this particular Christmas. His father was on the phone for two hours, some of it yelling. Hes asked, "What's this supposed to be showing me, Samantha?"

"Nothing, I just wanted to get my toys, silly."

With this, Samantha jumped up, leaving her toys on the ground, ran to Mulder, grabbing his hand as she passed and pulled him back through the door.

Mulder then found himself standing in another familiar room, a private room at FBI Academy at Quantico. There a twenty-something Fox Mulder sat beside a similarly-aged Diana Fowley, who was looking at him seductively as he made notes on a notepad, looking back and forth between a case file and his notes, oblivious.

"Let me guess, Christmas Eve of 1990, and I'm working away at studying for my exams."

Seeming to disregard his statement, she commented, "Ew, you have a girlfriend. That's weird."

"You're not a very helpful Ghost of Christmas Past." In response, she stuck out her tongue at him.

"Is there anything else you'd like to show me, or are we done? 'Cause I've seen this part of the movie."

He suddenly didn't see he little sister by his side. "Samantha?" he called, looking around frantically.

So quickly did he look around for Samantha that as the colors around him blurred in his eyesight, they also changed, bringing Mulder to a new scene. He suddenly found himself back at the airport where he had been just hours earlier. It was a different gate, though…

But her he saw something that made him realize where, and when, he actually was. He knew it instantly upon seeing the two characters: December 25, 1992, 11:55 PM, Dulles International Airport, Gate 2. There he was, helping Diana with her suitcase. December 31 was to be her last day before transferring to London, but she still had a week vacation saved up and so here she was, at the airport, saying goodbye to Fox Mulder, about to board a red-eye flight.

Mulder knew how Diana felt at this point. He had given very little indication that he was hurt by her moving to Europe. In fact, he offered to bring her to the airport today. He knew his cold demeanor must have been painful for his ex, but she hid it as well as him, and at the time he knew she was header for bigger and better things, even though she hadn't told him exactly what.

"Really screwed it up with her, didn't you?" Samantha piped in unceremoniously.

"Welcome back," Mulder replied coldly.

"You know, I may never have nieces or nephews with a dweeb like you for a brother," Samantha commented blandly.

"Are you alive, Samantha? If you're really a ghost, doesn't that mean you're not?"

"A ghost? Really, Fox." She shoved him, possibly just to show him she was corporeal.

"So, you were saying…"

"I was saying you make a lousy boyfriend. How in the world are you ever gonna get married if you've known for the nickname "Spooky"? I mean, what kind of person do you really have a chance with? Of course, I am your bratty little sister, so my opinion is biased."

"So you are bratty?"

"Never said you weren't."

Mulder was a little unnerved how much Samantha acted so much like her seven-year-old self.

"Now what happens?"

Samantha looked at her plastic, cereal box watch, stating, "I go back to bed before Mom and Dad realize I'm up at 2 o'clock in the morning, talking to a 39-year-old man with commitment issues."

And so the clock tower across the street from the airport chimed twice, despite only moments earlier it was close to midnight.

Mulder again found himself waking up on his couch, or rather on the floor. 3001… He wasn't sure if it was the chimes that woke him up, or the pounding on his door that now caught his attention.

Groggily answering the door, he found a very restless Skinner waiting for him. "Come on, Agent Mulder, there's not much time. I've got my car waiting."

"Where are we going?" Mulder asked, grabbing his coat from the coat rack by the door. He fell asleep in his clothes, so they were wrinkled, but he didn't see how this would be relevant for a case of such urgency.

"I'll tell you in the car. It's an emergency."

Mulder raced behind Skinner, who had already left his doorway and was briskly walking down the hallway. He hopped into the passenger seat of Skinner's dark green sedan, just as his boss revved the engine and pulled out of the parking space without checking behind him.

"So, sir, where are we going?"

"Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts. Ever been there?"

"Sir, it's where I grew up, a fact I'm sure you were aware of. It's going to take a while, too. Does this have something to do with my mother?" A bit of fear crept into his voice.

"Ask her yourself," Skinner replied, turning and parallel parking next to the curb of a residential neighborhood.

Mulder looked out the car window, seeing that he was in his mother's neighborhood. He checked the car's dashboard clock: 2:10 AM. He looked back at his boss. "How did we… let me guess, Ghost of Christmas Present."

Giving him an incredulous look, he told his agent, "Mulder, I think you've been watching too many Christmas movies. You'll see the need when we get inside."

Mulder got out of the car. Whatever strange dream he was having, he might as well play along. He knocked on the front door, but there was no answer, so he tried the door. It was unlocked, which was unlike his mother. Once inside, he realized that she most likely should be sleeping, if it was actually just after two o'clock in the morning. His watch stated so, but his faith in timepieces was not strong at this moment.

He found his mother in the living room, watching TV. From the looks of it, it was some Hallmark Special Christmas movie was showing. It must have been near the end, as evident by the sincerely glad and generous faces of the family hugging, who no doubt just learned the true meaning of Christmas. Teena Mulder sighed, unmoved. She rolled her eyes, and Mulder laughed at how much it reminded him of Scully's frequent gesture.

"Nice lady," Skinner commented, pulling his hands his pockets and showing no emotion.

"Excuse me?" Mulder asked, a little insulted.

"I'm sure she's a wonderful woman, Agent Mulder, but look at her…" he said sympathetically.

"She's lonely, yes, but I'm visiting her after Christmas. From the looks of it, she doesn't much care about Christmas. We never celebrated it, really. I send her a gift recently"

"Ready to go?"

"So this is all you wanted to show me? This was the 'emergency.'"

"I lied to you, Agent Mulder, and I apologize for that."

"So you are the Ghost of Christmas Present."

"If I am, Agent Mulder, it's time to go see Bob Cratchit."

"Bob Cratchit? Oh, let me think, the poor employee with a loving family that I let off for Christmas despite the coldness of my heart… Well, it's not a perfect match, but I take it we're going to see the Scullys?"

"Just get in the car, Agent Mulder, we haven't much time."

It was only 2:20, and given the total insignificance of the space-time continuum in this dream or haunting or whatever it was, it shouldn't matter anyway, but Mulder found himself still obedient to the man that was his boss, storybook ghost manifestation or not.

The drive to the Scully was equally quick, and Mulder even watched out the window and the scenery changed seamlessly to the front door of Margaret Scully's house.

He checked the dashboard clock, finding it nine o'clock in the morning.

"Long drive," he commented, "didn't feel like it."

"Come on, Agent Mulder, I'm only here for a quick visit,"

"You are?" Mulder asked, but found himself unanswered as Skinner hopped out of the car and walked down the pathway to the Scullys' front door and rang the doorbell. Mulder followed him out of the car, suddenly realizing it was lighter outside. Not so much day, but a misty winter morning.

He quickly caught up as Maggie Scully answered the door, unsure of who her guest was, but seeming to recognize him. She did not seem to see Mulder at all. Invisibility, intriguing…

Scully came up behind her mother just as Skinner was about to introduce himself. "Sir?"

"Hello, Agent Scully, sorry to drop in unannounced, but I thought I'd wish you a Merry Christmas."

"Merry Christmas, sir," Scully replied, smiling. She turned to her mother, "Mom, you remember Assistant Director Walter Skinner, my boss?"

A warming smile appeared on Maggie Scully's face, "Oh, yes, Walter, now I recognize you. Please come in."

"Thank you, I can't stand long. I'm meeting Shelly later."

"Oh, how is she?" Scully asked.

Off of Skinner's glance, Mulder followed his boss in, asking, "Shelly?"

"My girlfriend,"

"And Scully knows about her?"

"She ran into us eating dinner. I was caught red-handed. It's a recent thing. I apologize for not telling you."

"Hey, your love life in none of my concern," Mulder joked.

Skinner spent a few minutes wishing Merry Christmas to the Scullys, then said his good-byes, and stood by Mulder.

"Now what?" Mulder asked.

"I leave," he commented, watching the Scullys go on with their business.

"Now?"

"I did. They just watched me leave," he remarked, pointing outside, where Mulder witnessed Skinner driving away in the car. He looked back to see Skinner still standing by him.

"But…"

"You're watching about six hours from now. I actually plan on visiting the Scully then. I'll say what I just said exactly like I just said it."

"You're sure you can recreate it exactly?"

"You just watched me do it."

It was a headache to his head around, but he'd dealt with parallel space-time continua before. "What do we do now?"

"Observe a little bit more."

"I feel like a peeping tom, but whatever,"

The two of them walked into the living room, where the Scully family chatted gaily. A toddler, Scully's nephew, no doubt, was pushing a toy Navy ship around on the carpeted floor. Mulder took a look around: a Christmas tree full of ornaments of all sorts, a myriad of nativity scenes, and quite a few candles, strategically placed out of the young child's reach. He would expect nothing less from the Scully clan, the very opposite of the Mulder clan.

Scully sat in an armchair, talking with her mother. Mulder walked over to listen in, but Bill, Jr. grabbed his wife's arm and pulled her to the entrance of the room, where there was mistletoe hanging. The path he took made him nearly collide with Mulder, who jumped out of the way, unsure if he was non-corporeal as well as invisible. Bill and his wife playfully kissed.

Scully voiced Mulder's sentiments, "Oh, come on you two. Get a room."

Mulder turned to Skinner, who was grinning, and told him, "I don't think I was brought here to watch Bill make out with his wife."

Skinner just winked and nodded toward the room again.

Mulder listened to Maggie prod her daughter, "Jealous, are we, Dana?"

"That's not fair, Mom."

Curious, Mulder knelt down beside his partner, studying her facial expressions. As her mother grilled her, he saw the familiar Scully gaze that she got when she was hiding her emotions and choosing her words carefully.

"Dana, that gaze you get when you look at your brother's family, it gets stronger every year. Ironically, the argument why you aren't doing anything about it gets weaker every year, because it's the same one."

Mulder realized what the reason was immediately. It was the same reason that Scully was unable to have children, the reason that she was an only daughter now, and the reason why she only child she ever had was gone: the Quest… his Quest. But he'd dealt with all this guilt before. The Spirits had yet to move him. He turned to Skinner, "Well, sir, I think I've learned my lesson. Where we going next?"

His boss ignored him, just continued to watch the scene unfold.

Maggie Scully held her daughter's face, telling her sweetly and almost sadly, "Dana, I hate giving you this same lecture over and over. I respect your decision to stay with Fox and the FBI, but you don't seem to be doing anything with the rest of your life. Now unless you're planning to get with him," she said, half-serious and half-teasing, "you're going to have to start looking. You're not getting any younger—excuse me for saying it—but every year longer you wait, there will be that fewer bachelors out there. I'm sure you don't want to be alone for the rest of your life, but… I'm sorry," she said, as if to cut her spiel of early.

Mulder suddenly noticed the similarity between Mrs. Scully's tone and the one Scully had when she gave him the harangue in the office.

Scully smiled, "It's okay, Mom, one of these days, I think that little speech will finally penetrate my thick little skull."

Mulder smiled at the familiarity of his partner's behavior, and turned to Skinner, "Well, now are you going to tell me that Tiny Tim won't make it until next year?"

"Agent Mulder," Skinner said gravely, "someone close to you won't make it until next Christmas. You'll be lucky if it's only one."

The remark caused Mulder's smile to disappear as he listened to the grandfather clock in the next room start to chime three times. He checked his watch, finding it was no longer after eight in the morning, but nearly three o'clock.

Mulder woke up for the third time, gripping onto the side of the couch to prevent himself from falling. He sat up, rubbing the sleep from his eyes, saying to himself with his face in his hands, "Let me guess, the Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come will be… Dad? No, maybe it'll be Ol' Smokey. He'd make an excellent Grim Reaper. Or maybe it's X or Krycek. He looked up, finding his last guess correct.

Standing before him was what appeared to be a very non-ghost Alex Krycek. He grabbed his gun from the end table, knowing if it were the real Krycek, he'd already have a gun on him. When he pointed the gun at him, Krycek only lifted his arms in a sarcastic, I-give-up gesture, looking very unfazed.

"So, Ratboy, where're we off to? If it's the cemetery, I may have to shoot you."

Krycek, not saying a word, just turned away from Mulder and walked out the door, leaving it ajar.

"Oh, that's right," Mulder said to himself, grabbing his coat as he left, "The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come doesn't get to talk, does he?" Mulder quickly became momentarily speechless, though, when after leaving his apartment, finding himself in a cemetery. Well, so much for originality. Roll, Charlie, roll.

"Well, at least you're keeping with the old clichés," he told the silent Krycek, who was staring a tombstone. Mulder walked up, not the least surprised to find his own name on it: "Fox W. Mulder, 1961-2023, A Man of Passion."

"Sorry, after seeing the movie a few times, it just doesn't have the impact you probably want."

Krycek turned around, and Mulder followed suit, seeing a funeral in progress directly before him, which was not there before. Mulder walked around to find a sixty-year-old Scully apparently giving a eulogy. His eulogy, he guessed. He couldn't hear the words, and the silence bothered him, especially since his traitorous ex-partner guide seemed to be mute as well.

Scully broke down, and Mulder saw a white-haired Skinner come to comfort her. She pushed him awake, continuing her speech, tears streaming down her face, her voice obvious breaking up in spots. It tore at Mulder's heart, but only to see Scully so saddened.

She finally walked away from the lectern, and kneeled by the gravestone, touching it.

Mulder held back tears, shooting a evil look at Krycek, "Well, yes, I'm moved, if that's what you want to hear, but don't think this is a life-changing experience for me. It's a low blow showing me Scully in such turmoil. It's cruel," he hissed, pointing his finger accusingly.

Krycek just continued to stare at him and sidled over to the crowd, the noise slowly returning. Mulder reluctantly followed, keeping his head turned to watch Scully grieving for a few moments before tearing his gaze away.

"…of course he didn't want to be buried. He wanted to be abducted." This produced a few laughs within a group of male FBI agents standing in a circle.

"Come on, it's not nice to speak ill of the dead," said one of the agents, who was chuckling at the joke just the same.

"Hey, it's just Spooky," another commented.

"'A Man of Passion,' yeah right. He probably died without getting laid in decades. Lord knows Ice Queen didn't give him any."

Mulder huffed at the mention of Scully. He wished he recognized the agents, so he could give them a piece of his find, but he had no doubts his fists would only past through their bodies. Yet he remained unimpressed, turning to Krycek and commenting, "You think I'd expect anything less? Angry, yes, but I'm waiting to be surprised. So far, I could have written this little melodrama myself. If I'm ruining my life, it's for the greater good. You're gonna have to show me that it won't be worth it."

Krycek's face seemed to say, "You'll-be-sorry" as he walked back over to Mulder's tombstone, where Scully was convulsing as she held the stone. Mulder knelt down, knowing he couldn't comfort her, but he still put his hand on her hand. Okay, yeah, she's sad, but people die and those close to them grieve… She didn't notice his touched, but Mulder did notice something. Her hands were bare.

Mulder stood up, epiphany after epiphany seeming to hit him, "Wait a second. Why was it Skinner comforting Scully? Did she never get married?" Krycek's blank stare answered Mulder's question. "That's crap!" Mulder said sharply, "This is Scully we're talking about! She isn't going to spend the rest of her life following me around the globe, chasing aliens. She's going to retire eventually, or transfer, anything before she stopped dreaming about having a family. You are not going to stand there and tell me the only reason that Scully dies a widow is because she's no longer Mrs. Spooky? Well, screw that!" He shoved Krycek, only to fall off his couch again.

Mulder resolved to put pillows on the floor after this. He pulled himself up, holding his hand up to block the morning sunlight. He turned on the TV, where the local news anchor wished the Arlington area a Merry Christmas. Mulder turned off the television, looking up at the ceiling.

He sighed heavily and angrily in reluctant acceptance, yelling into his ceiling, "Well, I hope you're happy. I'll play along and find the true meaning of Christmas, alright? Geez, I should write an apology to the Charles Dickens Memorial Foundation for that travesty."

MARGARET SCULLY'S HOUSE
ANNAPOLIS, MARYLAND
8:40 PM

The doorbell rung inside the Scully house and Dana Scully offered to get the door. She opened the door to find Mulder standing there looking a bit uncomfortable with a duffel bag in his hand.

"Mulder!" she said, immediately hugging him, "how you doing?"

"Pretty good," he asked, enjoying the near-instant affection, "and you?"

She replied, "Pretty good, too." An atypically huge smile was on her face.

After pausing, he asked, "Been drinking some eggnog?"

Nodding, she answered with a giggly smile, "A little big."

"Fox!" Maggie Scully cried, "I thought you weren't going to come!"

Scully added, "Yeah, what about the case? The Death-Bringing Dreamer?"

"Closed prematurely. He dreamed himself to the death, it seems."

"Well, that's gotta suck," Scully commented a bit irreverently.

"Well, Fox, please come into the living room. I don't think you've ever met Scully's younger brother, Charlie, have you?"

"No, I don't believe so."

Maggie Scully led the way, with Mulder right behind Scully. Upon the threshold of the living room, Mulder touched Scully's shoulder, "Hey, Scully, can I ask you something?"

She turned to answer his question, but saw him smirking and looking up. She raised her eyes, before looking away, saying, "Oh, brother,"

He'd stopped her under the mistletoe. "Alright," she said, "you got me. But if word of this gets out, I'm claiming that I was intoxicated." She smiled a bit as he lowered himself down for their lips to meet in a half-chaste kiss. After three seconds of Mulder pressing forward into her face, Scully pushed him away, stepping back and chastising him, "Okay, you're taking advantage of the mistletoe, and in front of my family, Mulder." She walked away, avoiding the glares of her family. Even if she hadn't caught a glimpse of all the looks she was getting, she could have easily known what they were. Her mother was grinning from ear to ear, but turning her head so it couldn't be seen. Charlie had an amused smirk on his face; he had no doubt been told there was nothing going on between his sister and her partner. Bill was clenching his teeth, holding in his anger for the bold SOB that his sister had for a partner. Tara also had an amused smirk, but it was about her husband. Bill and Tara's son, Matthew, also saw the kiss and Scully realized that there would be some explaining to do about the man who Matthew would no doubt think was his new uncle.

"Anyway, I come bearing gifts," Mulder said shyly.

Scully gave him a surprised look, asking, "When did you have time to shop? You'd think the stores would be cleaned out Christmas Day."

"They are. This is just some junk from my mom's basement."

Scully's face showed even more curiosity, "You went to see her?"

"Yeah, with the case closed, I went up to visit her today. It was a nice visit, I guess." He gave a lopsided grin.

Scully didn't know how to react to this, so Mulder filled the void by reaching into his duffel bag and handing Maggie Scully a snow globe of an ornate cathedral. "Sorry it's not wrapped, Mrs. Scully,"

Maggie told him, "It's beautiful, Fox," before catching him off-guard with a tight hug. "You're too sweet."

"You're welcome, Mrs. Scully," he said, prying himself away, cheeks red.

To the youthful-looking redheaded man, he handed a canteen of whiskey, "You must be Charlie. It's not very original, but…"

"Much appreciated," Charlie told him, taking the gift and extending his free hand, which Mulder took. This man smiled warmly and Mulder immediately liked his disposition better than that of his older brother.

"Tara, Bill…" he said reluctantly. Bill huffed but looked Mulder in the eye. Mulder produced two wood-carved aircraft carriers. "This was a much underappreciated gift one of my father's colleagues got him for him and my mother many years ago. Hopefully, they'll mean more to you guys. And for the little guy…" He produced a brown box set of The Chronicle of Narnia. The cover art revealed that it was an older edition. "It's going to be a few years before he can read it, of course, but I think he'll like them. They used to be Samantha's, my lost sister," he added with intentional weight.

"Thank you," Tara replied sincerely, before glaring at her husband, who took the other, saying flatly, "Thank you, Mr. Mulder. I'm finding it hard to keep a low opinion of you," he said with an almost-smile on his face.

"Yeah, too bad; it was really the defining feature of our relationship. Tell you what; if I ever find a crashed alien spacecraft, I'll make sure to name it the S.S. Bill Scully Junior just to spite you and you can go on despising me."

"I await the day," he said sarcastically.

Before he wasted anymore time within Bill's reach, he turned around to find Scully nervously waiting, a smirk on her face and her hand twirling her hair impatiently. He had already given the wrong impression of their relationship to her family and she feared he had brought a sentimental of a gift for her.

"And lastly, for my irreplaceable partner," he said, saying it somewhat goofily to relieve some of the tension. He handed her a jewelry box.

Scully eyed it reluctantly and tried not to look up, knowing every eye was on her. She opened it to find a tiny silver necklace connected to a blue jewel. Though, it was too short to be a necklace, and she asked about this.

"It's not a necklace. It's a quirky type of bracelet, circa 1962, I think."

When Scully tried it on, she raised her arm and watched it slide to her elbow. Mulder laughed, and told her, "Yeah, you'll have to get it fitted by a jeweler for those skinny wrists of yours."

"Come with me. Your gift is in my car," she told him somewhat reluctantly, her eyes lowered.

As they left the living room, Mulder joked, "What, you weren't going to give it to me?"

"Well, seeing that you seemed to forgotten the true meaning of Christmas," she commented, her words laced with humor, "I considered it." She opened the door to let the two of them out.

"Well, I came around. You watch Ebenezer Scrooge come around enough times on TV, and you're bound to have a change of heart." He rolled his eyes.

Scully opened the trunk of her car and produced a gift in each hand. She handed Mulder his first gift. "Fish tank figurines…" he commented.

"Yes, the 'World Beliefs' assortment: Buddha, Jesus, Mohammad, Vishnu, and many more for the faith-confused. And for the more open-minded of us, Elvis Presley and an alien…"

"Perfect. How did you find this?"

"Long shopping weekend. I even brought a Walkman so I wouldn't have to listen to any more Christmas songs."

"You're a trooper, G-Woman. What's that?"

She handed him a thick book, "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe, second edition."

"Have I ever told you that you are my soul mate?" Scully laughed. He commented, "You have no idea how jealous the Lone Gunmen are going to be."

"Not too jealous, but still a few shades of green. I got them the brand new edition, but I did slip them each a special bookmark to make you jealous."

"Really? What?"

"When, for Langly, a bikini picture of Lara Croft. For Frohike, my head pasted on Gillian Anderson's body." Mulder wolf-whistled. "And for Byers, Janet Reno."

"You didn't!"

"Of course I didn't. It was Pamela Anderson."

"Where's mine?" He flipped through the book, finding a photo of an alien head on a woman's body, wearing a red bikini.

"Whose hot bod is this, Mrs. Spooky?"

Fingering her bracelet, Scully asked, "So, now that you've given out precious Mulder heirlooms, how you going to one-up it next year?"

Mulder paused before answering; making sure Scully knew he knew she'd ignored his question. "It's not quite a precious Mulder heirloom. My dad gave me that when I went off to college. He told me to give it to that 'special woman in my life.'"

Scully's eyes went as large as saucers. She looked up at him questioningly. He calmed her, "Don't get all paranoid. I'm not coming on to you. At least not any more than usual." This earned him a harsh look from his partner. He continued, "Scully, if I'm not careful, I may never meet that special woman. And if I never find a woman crazy enough to marry me, I think you deserve that."

Still toying with her gift, she inquired, "Well, Mulder, thank you very much, but what are you going to do if you do meet her? And, you know, it's not me?"

"There's plenty of costume jewelry in my house and I'm sure I'll be able to use that line again." Scully giggled, turning to lead him back inside. Mulder pressed, "So, whose body is ET's head on? Is it yours?"

"Come inside, Mulder. It's cold out here."

Maggie Scully mentioned to the returning Mulder, "Well, you missed dinner, but I hope you'll stay for dessert."

"Sure, in fact, so I wouldn't be imposing, I actually brought a couple of gallons of ice cream. Let me go get them. And Scully," he said, as she looked up from the dessert table, "sorry, but I forgot the tofu dreamcicles."

"Mulder, it's Christmas, I think I can handle a little good old-fashioned ice cream."

"Well, okay, but I'm warning you, it's the good stuff. Premium."

"Then I know what my New Year's resolution is going to be."

11:25 PM

Outside, snow flurries were slowly turning the ground white. The scene through the living room window of Margaret Scully's house was quite the opposite of the chilly temperatures outside: a fire was roaring in the fireplace; Bill Scully held his wife, who cradled their sleeping child in her arms; everyone in the room was holding bowls of ice cream, chatting, and laughing; Fox Mulder and Dana Scully sat side by side on the couch, their hips touching, but acting as nothing less and nothing more than the best of friends.

And the onlooker, the ghostly form of a man who once used the alias Deep Throat, smiled.

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER
CREEDOG T. VANDREY

A/N: Yes, I know, it was corny, but did you catch that I was at least trying to make it not-corny? And, yes, I know, I rewrote Mulder and Scully's first kiss, moving it up a whole seven days. But if you watch very carefully the important part of "Millennium" (you know, the last five minutes), you'll notice that Scully knew what was coming. She was puckerin' before she saw that Mulder was leanin' in! So unless they've moved beyond their secret eye language and can now communicate 100 telepathically, they've had practice. (Yeah, I don't believe it either, but a swoon's a swoon.)

(Sonriso) - I'd be mad if I weren't such a MSR fan.