Okay, a little warning: This story might eventually have some violent content that may be disturbing for some readers. Also, there probably won't be a "nice" ending.

December 23rd

And on that day, at 11:11 am, the planets shall align to form the Sacred Tree, and the human world enters the Sixth Age. –Mayan Prophecy

North of Sandy Lake, Ontario

December 17th, 2012

Sunday

Icy wind hurled the gnarled branches of the ancient oak into the window pane with a harsh tap tap tap . The sound tore her from a heavy, dreamless sleep, as it always did. A tingling sensation rose in the back of her neck, and she shrugged her shoulders and rubbed the sensitive flesh. Knowing all too well that sleep would not easily return, she gently pulled the wool blankets back and tentatively stepped onto the chilly, hardwood floor. After she was robbed of her warm cocoon, her teeth immediately started to chatter, and gooseflesh lightly pricked her bare arms. She gathered the fleece robe from the pile of clothes on the floor, and on her way to the bathroom, she carefully avoided the creaky floorboards so that she wouldn't wake her husband, who continued to sleep peacefully. Out of habit, as she passed his side of the bed, she pressed a gentle kiss on his forehead and pulled the covers up closer to his chin. His eyes danced behind closed lids in response, and he flopped over onto his stomach, instinctively reaching for the warmth of her body beside him. After drinking a glass of water and tripping over her husband's tennis shoes, she returned to the bedroom and stood at the bay window, peering into the winter night. Thick clouds engulfed the moon entirely and left the front lawn in pitch darkness. The wind howled and whistled through the tree limbs. Snow is coming.

Before succumbing to the heated sanctuary of the bed, she stepped into the hallway to raise the thermostat slightly. A soft whimper emanated from across the hall, so shewalked to the door and quietly pushed it open. The little girl slept in a sea of quilts and stuffed animals. Kitty, the faded, pink, worn out, stuffed cat that her grandmother had sent her when she was born was tucked protectively in the crook of her arm. The girl whimpered once more, trapped in a fitful dream. Her mother bent over her, smoothed the curly chestnut hair back from her face, and brushed a delicate kiss against her cheek.

"I don't think I should have it. Our lives are too dangerous; I mean, we're fugitives for God's sake! And besides, who knows what the world is coming to—after what you found…"

"So you're saying you want an abortion? We've been given another miracle, and you don't want it?"

"What I want has nothing to do with it! We have to think about what's best…with what we know might happen…how can we bring an innocent person into it?"

"What about 'everything happens for a reason'? Promise me that you'll consider it…please…"

The little girl blinked her pale blue eyes, though she was still half asleep.

"Mommy, is it snowing yet?"

"Not yet, honey. It's very late. Go back to sleep, and I bet there will be snow on the ground when you wake up in the morning."

"Had a bad dream."

"Shhh, it's okay. You're nice and safe in your bed with all your animals."

"You and Daddy were gone. I kept calling for you…but you didn't hear. Then he said you were never coming back."

"You know that we would never leave you, sweetheart. There's nothing to worry about, okay?"

"'K…" the girl whispered as she drifted back to sleep.

"I love you," the woman murmured as she re-tucked the sleeping child into the nest of quilts. Before she left, she paused for a moment to gaze at her daughter. Eight years old already…hard to believe.

When she returned to her bedroom, her husband was awake.

"Scully?"

"Abby had another bad dream."

"Is everything all right now? Does she want me?"

"She's already back to sleep."

Dana Mulder smiled at what had become her husband's secret name for her. It was comforting—a link to her old life. He pulled the covers back, and after she climbed into bed, he wrapped his arms around her, spooning up behind her body. She sighed in contentment as her chilled flesh was enveloped in his heat.

"Do you have time to buy the bike on your way home from work tomorrow?" Dana asked.

"Yeah, tomorrow's my easy day. I'm only teaching two intro to psych courses in the afternoon, so I'll have plenty of time."

"I think she'll be happy on Christmas. She's grown so much; it's time for a bigger bike."

"Well, you know, she really wanted a cat."

"No Mulder, no living gifts. I'd be the one taking care of it, and I'm allergic."

"I know…so when do you get off tomorrow? I thought we could go out to dinner."

"I'm not at the hospital tomorrow; I'm working in the urgent care clinic, so…Probably around five. It depends if any emergency cases come in during the afternoon. Though, we don't usually get many, so most likely I won't be home any later than 5:30."

"Mm-hmm," he murmured, no longer fully conscious. She could feel hot, even breaths on the back of her neck

"Good night, Mulder."

"'Night…Love you."

They stood in the tiny office in the municipal building in Ottawa with the judge before them, but it was as if no other soul was in the room; it felt so intimate. He slid the white gold band onto her finger, and tears began to streak her cheeks at the intense love in his eyes. In a way, they'd been married for years. He knew her better than she knew herself…Their pasts were gone forever, but she knew that with him, she could keep fighting… build a new life…

Dana awoke suddenly and sucked in a sharp breath. The bed was shaking. No—not just the bed— the room, the entire house. Pictures crashed to the floor and shattered on the wood, the bookcase tumbled forward, its contents flying halfway across the room. Mulder held her against him, bracing their bodies against the headboard. He was yelling something, but she couldn't make out his words over the din of the shaking. He motioned for her to hold onto the bed and keep still while he hurled his body over the side and crawled across the floor, dodging flying objects. She knew that he was going to get Abigail when he hurriedly scampered out of the room.

All of a sudden, just as abruptly as it had begun, the shaking ceased, and the outside world was silent. Abigail was screaming, and Dana could hear Mulder gently shushing her. He slowly walked back into the bedroom carrying the little girl, her arms clenched in a death grip around his neck.

"Are you hurt, Scully?" he asked shakily.

"No, I'm fine. Is Abby okay?"

"Yeah. She's just scared."

Mulder gingerly placed the little girl on the bed beside Dana, and she looked up at her mother with large, frightened eyes.

"Mommy, what happened?"

"I don't know, baby." She glanced at Mulder. "Earthquake?" she asked.

"That's what it felt like and a big one at that… but in Ontario? What the hell…"

Dana held Abigail close as Mulder sat on the bed and draped a protective arm over both of them.

"The date…it's…it's close. Do you think it's happening…are they coming?" Dana asked in a small voice.

"No. None of the other prophecies came true…it was a ruse to mislead us. This doesn't mean anything…"

The fear in his voice betrayed the certainty of his words.

--

Arlington, Washington D.C.

The old man gripped an upturned leg of the desk as hedelicately bent his aching knees and lowered himself to the floor. He pushed his glasses up on his nose and sorted through the mess of papers that were scattered across the carpet. The badge was on the top of the pile behind him. He'd forgotten that he still had it; so many items had been discarded after his retirement. The picture had been taken over ten years before, and he smiled crookedly as he studied his younger face, remembering a time that felt like ages ago. He tossed the badge aside and continued rummaging through the jumbled files. Under a sea of papers was a photograph of a newborn infant, pink-faced and squinty-eyed with a white cap covering a dusting of dark hair. The old man smiled at the sweet image and flipped the picture over to read the familiar, scrawled writing on the back. Abigail Margaret. October 30, 2004.

The telephone rang shrilly, causing the old man to jump nearly a foot and bang the top of his bald head on the corner of the desk. He cursed under his breath and rubbed the painful lump that was already beginning to swell. Awkwardly, he crawled across the floor, pushing debris aside in a desperate attempt to find the land phone. Figures—cell towers must be out. It's big if he's willing to risk an insecure line. Finally, he located the phone under the upside-down trashcan and quickly grabbed for the receiver. He already knew who it was.

"Yeah?"

"Hi, it's me. Were you injured?

"Nope, I managed to crouch in a doorframe and avoid any major impact. What about you and…your family?

"We're all okay. How is the damage in Washington?"

"Pretty bad just like everywhere else. My building survived, though. The furniture however—that's another story. What about the house?"

"Some structural damage, but nothing major."

A silence hung on the line, both men caught on the same foreboding thought. The older man was the first to voice it.

"You think this is some sign that they're coming, don't you?"

The other man paused and drew a deep breath.

"Yes. I think there is an immense force at work, possibly from a large number of outside gravitational influences. I've attempted to break into NASA imaging files, but of course, the government would be covering it up. Me and Scu—my wife are taking our daughter and driving northwest to get far away from the oceans. I'd advise you to do the same."

"But this is just a geological phenomenon. Very unusual, yes, but it doesn't necessarily mean…"

"A worldwide, simultaneous earthquake? Have you forgotten the date?"

"…No, of course not. I've been trying to get information about it for the past ten years and haven't found anything more. You know that."

"Please warn my wife's family. Tell them to head for the quarry areas in the center of the country. That'll protect them from earthquakes and tsunamis…but not much else."

"All right. I will."

The line clicked as the other man broke the connection. This can't be happening…

--

Near Sandy Lake

"Mulder, can you please help me with this?"

He was sitting at her vanity table in the corner of the bedroom with his arms crossed tensely on his chest, staring at nothing with glazed eyes. Mulder had not spoken a word all morning with the exception of the phone call.However, it wasn't necessary for her to verbally converse with him to understand his thoughts; his looks and gestures told her everything, as they always had. Words had always been a secondary form of communication for them. When he did not answer her, Dana sighed heavily in frustration, blowing a long strand of auburn hair out of her eyes; and she turned to face him, her hands on her hips.

"I'm trying to clean up here! I know you think there's no point now, but I need this, Mulder. You know I need this—something tangible to do. I can't just sit back and do nothing, waiting to run."

His soft hazel eyes met hers, and for a moment, her rapid pulse slowed and she felt safer. Time and pain and fear could be forgotten in his gaze; Mulder gave her now—always and forever now. Their life partnership had been built on a series of fleeting moments and chance circumstances that could only promise an uncertain future, but the now belonged only and eternally to them; not to aliens or the Syndicate or a corrupt government...or to cancer.

Mulder smiled softly with a twinge of sadness in his eyes, and at that moment, he seemed older than he ever had. Fine lines appeared in the corners of his eyes and mouth, and his posture slumped tiredly. Wordlessly, he crossed the room and helped Dana push the heavy bookcase upright, and then silently crouched beside her on the floor to gather the books and pictures that told the story of their life together. As Dana stacked her science journals into orderly rows, she sensed him inching closer to her. With gentle fingers, he tilted her chin towards him until he was gazing into her eyes and studying the emotions behind them. At the same second, they allowed their bodies to sink together and melt into one entity. After all of these years, the familiar butterflies still returned to dance in her belly when his lips found hers.