Title: Christmas with the Scully Clan

Author: Xfileschik0805

Distribution: Gossamer; anywhere else please ask first!

Feedback: Please let me know how I am doing! This is only my third story.

Rating: G

Categories: Mulder/Scully Romance

Spoilers: small ones for Emily and Pusher

Summary: Mulder enjoys Christmas with Scully and her family… and yes, Bill's there. Christmas fluff! Sequel to "I Love…"

Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully aren't mine… They belong to Chris Carter, 1013, and FOX.

Christmas with the Scully Clan

I was just putting on my Christmas earrings when I heard a key turning in the lock of my apartment door. Looking at the clock, I thought Five forty-five. Right on time. I had hurried home from Mulder's apartment, showered, changed clothes, and selected my jewelry. I had chosen to wear a tight V-necked cashmere sweater, green of course, with my favorite pair of blue jeans. Comfy sneakers completed my casual look. My jewelry consisted of my cross necklace, a simple bracelet, and earring. The earring were the piece de resistance… I love them. Dangling from a shepherd's hook was a golden ribbon infused with red tied in a small bow, and a small jingle bell hung beneath the bow. I finished putting on the earrings and met Mulder in my living room where he was nervously playing with his keys.

Hearing my approach, Mulder said, "Scully I don't know if this is such a good idea." He turned toward me, ready to say something else, but stopped when he saw me. "Wow, Scully, you look beautiful."

Shyly, I ducked my head. Wait… shyly? Since when have I been shy around Mulder? Oh, well… "I'm just wearing a sweater and jeans, Mulder. It's not like I'm dressed up or something," I said, looking at my shoes.

Mulder put his hands on the soft fabric at my waist. "Who says you have to be dressed up to look beautiful?" He reached up and tapped the little bell that hung from my right ear, making it jingle. "Love your earrings," he grinned. Then he said, "Hey look. We compliment each other."

He was right. Mulder had changed out of the clothes that he had slept in and into clothing suitable for Christmas day. He wore a red sweater along with blue jeans and sneakers. It was strange seeing him in something other than work suits and T-shirts. Not that I'm complaining… I can't wait to cuddle up to him on a couch in front of mom's fireplace. Of course, Bill's face may turn the color of Mulder's sweater… but Bill can take a flying leap for all I care. I love my brother, don't get me wrong, but he can be so thick-headed sometimes. Once a navy brat, always a navy brat I suppose.

"Okay, Mulder," I began, "I need you to help me carry these presents out to your car." I indicated four large bags that sat next to the door, each containing brightly wrapped packages. We each picked up two bags, Mulder taking the heavier two, and took them down to his car in the parking lot. Reaching the car, Mulder popped open the trunk and placed his two bags inside. As he reached down for the two bags that I carried, I surprised us both by standing on my tip-toes and kissing him quickly on the lips. "I'm glad you decided to come, Mulder."

"I'm starting to feel better and better about my decision, as well, Scully," he said, taking the bags from my hands. All four bags securely in the trunk, Mulder slammed the hood, and we both got into the car to go to my mother's house.

"So what's Charlie like, Scully? He gonna hate me, too?" Mulder asked, maneuvering the car onto the highway.

"Charlie's as nice as Bill is mean," I replied. "I think you two will hit it off just fine. And Mulder?"

"Yeah?"

"Today I'm just Dana, okay? I'm not at work, I'm not Agent Scully. Just Dana."

Mulder smiled. "Okay… Dana. Honestly, I like calling you by your first name. I feel closer to you than just a partner at work." At an obvious look from me, he quickly added, "No that does not mean that you can call me Fox." I gave him a pouty face at which he just rolled his eyes.

"But my mom calls you Fox," I whined.

"She wanted to know what my mom called me and now she refuses to call me anything other than Fox. I actually kinda like it when she says it." Mulder's mom hadn't really been the maternal type since Samantha disappeared and I could tell he was feeling the connection with my mom that he had never had with his own mother. I was happy that he could have that. I couldn't imagine going through life without that special connection with my mom. So, I let the subject drop and tuned the radio to an all day Christmas station. Mulder and I rode with companionable silence between us, the radio playing Christmas song after Christmas song.

When we pulled into the driveway of my mother's house, the door swung open and three children poured out onto the front porch. Charlie's twins, Hannah and Caleb, squealed, "Aunt Dana! Aunt Dana's here," as they ran toward the parked car. Bill's son, Matthew, was only a year and a half old, so he toddled as fast as could after the others, saying in his baby talk, "Aunt Day! Aunt Day!" I don't think sand paper could have wiped the bright smile off of Mulder's face.

Stepping out of the car, I was assaulted with hugs and kisses from the three kids. As I returned the love of my niece and nephews, Mulder began taking the four bags of presents from the trunk. To my amusement and surprise, Hannah, one of the seven-year-old twins, walked right up to Mulder and threw her arms around his legs in a little-girl hug. "You're Uncle Fox, right? Grandma's told us how you and Aunt Dana save each other's lives and stuff! Will you tell me some of the stories later? Please, please, please?"

"Hannah, he doesn't like to be called…" I began.

"Mulder cut me off and said, "Uncle Fox will tell you some stories after lunch today, okay?" Hannah looked at him with those big, puppy dog eyes that I thought only Mulder had and nodded. She unattached herself from him and bounded into the house with the other two kids that had come out to meet us.

I turned to Mulder to take two of the bags from him and was surprised to see tears in his eyes. "Mulder, are you okay?" I asked him, concerned.

Smiling, he blinked away his tears and said, "When Samantha disappeared, I realized that I would never be an uncle, which made me realize as I grew up how much I wanted to be called 'Uncle Fox' one day. Why did… what did you call her… Hannah… why did Hannah call me that?"

"Mom said it, probably. What really surprises me is that Hannah is usually very shy around new people. She must like you a lot to just walk up to you like that."

"Is it just me Scu…Dana… or did she look a lot like…"

"Emily? Yes, she looks very much like her." I smiled at Mulder, letting him know that I wasn't upset. Sure, Hannah made me think about Emily, but she was such a happy child that I remembered Emily smiling and laughing. So it was the good memories that stuck with my. Mulder nodded in understanding and handed me the two light-weight bags, once again taking the heaviest two himself. We carried the bags to the front door, which had been left open by the three playing kids.

Stepping into the house, I breathed deep. I loved the smell of mom's house on Christmas day. Nothing compared to it. The scent of turkey drifted from the kitchen, mingling with the pine scent of the Christmas tree and the scented candled lit throughout the house. Was that the smell of cinnamon apple pie coming from the kitchen, too?

Mulder and I set the bags next to the tree, and I smiled when I heard, "Dana!" Turning, I hugged my mom and said, "Mom, it's good to see you! I brought a guest. I hope that's okay." She looked around me and lit up when she saw Mulder, who was standing rather nervously next to the tree.

"Fox!" My mother exclaimed. "Of course I don't mind, Dana," she said, hugging my partner. "Fox is always welcomed at this house."

"Thanks Mrs. Scully," Mulder said, returning my mother's hug. He seemed to be less nervous than before.

"Oh, no. That won't do. There are two more 'Mrs. Scully's here and plus, Fox, you're practically one of my own children. Just call me mom."

"Are you sure Mrs. Scully?" At a hard look from my mother, he said, "Okay mom." Mom smiled at him and excused herself back to the kitchen where she need to work more on Christmas dinner. After she had gone, Mulder turned to me and said, "Well Bill's gonna LOVE this."

From behind me I heard, "Bill has rocks in his head and a thorn up his butt. Don't worry about him."

"Charlie!!" I squealed happily, leaping into my brothers arms. To Mulder's amusement, Charlie lifted me off of the floor, and, hugging me, spun me around twice. When he had put me down, he turned to Mulder.

"You've gotta be Fox Mulder. I've been wanting to meet you for years," Charlie said, putting his hand out toward Mulder.

"I hope you mean that in a good way," Mulder replied, shaking hands with my brother.

"Don't worry," Charlie smiled, "I'm nothing like my older brother. I'm thankful for how much you and Dana have done for one another." He looked at us for a moment, then added, "And for what you mean to one another." He winked at me and walked off, but not before getting elbowed in the ribs by his older, although smaller, sister.

At that moment, the inevitable happened. A deep, angry voice came from the stairs through clenched teeth, and Mulder and I heard, "What is HE doing here!?"

I stepped in front of Mulder, but before I could say anything, my mother showed up right beside me. As I glared at my thick-headed older brother, mom said, "William Scully! Fox is a guest in my house and you will treat him as any other guest of mine: with respect!" Now, one Scully woman is tough; but TWO Scully women? That is not a force to be reckoned with. The classic Scully glare that I had inherited from my mother was on both of our faces. Bill actually stood his ground for a moment, which is more than I can say for many who have been submitted to a Scully glare. Then he said a hurried "yes ma'am" to mom and retreated back upstairs.

"Dana, this was a bad idea," Mulder began. "Your Christmas shouldn't be a war zone, so I'm just gonna…"

"Fox Mulder, you leave this house and I'll never forgive you!" My mother exclaimed. Far be it from Mulder to refuse my mother anything. "You and Dana go ahead and sit down on one of the couches. The kids are going to explode if they don't open their presents soon."

Taking Mulder's hand, I led him over to the two couches, which had been arranged in an L-shape facing the tree. Mulder sat at the end of one couch and I sat down beside him. No longer nervous, Mulder put his arm around my shoulders, pulling me close. As I cuddled into Mulder's side, getting comfortable, I almost felt guilty thinking about how ticked this was going to make Bill. Almost. All of the children were sitting at the foot of the Christmas tree, not-so-patiently waiting to open gifts. Well, one child wasn't quite old enough to sit and open presents. Charlie's wife, Mary Elizabeth, entered the living room carrying an eleven moth old baby girl. Charlie followed her into the room. As I introduced Mulder to Mary Beth and baby Haleigh, I heard mom call Bill's name, telling him to come downstairs. Bill's wife, Tara, was following mom out of the kitchen, where she had been helping mom prepare Christmas dinner.

"Fox!" Tara exclaimed. "I'm glad to see you here. You're practically all Dana talks about when we all get together." My face grew hot and I knew that it was turning the color of my hair. My face probably would have only turned a light shade of pink had Mulder not responded to Tara's comment by kissing me on the temple. What on earth was wrong with me? I've never been embarrassed around Mulder, and I certainly never blush.

Bill entered the living room and sat at the far end of the opposite couch: as far away from Mulder as he could get. That would have been fine with me had Bill not sat and glared at us. So, being the natural Scully child I am, I glared back

Soon, all of the Scully family…and Mulder… were seated in front of the Christmas tree; adults on the couches and children on the floor. "Okay kids," my mother said. "Ready…set… go! The children attacked the presents like vultures. I watched fondly as wrapping paper flew, children tore open presents, and eyes lit up at the sight of shiny, brand new toys. As I watched I curled my legs underneath me and leaned into Mulder's side, getting comfortable. Now and then, a child would toss a present toward the adult to whom it was addressed. I saw Bill's eyes narrow slightly when Mulder was thrown a package.

I smiled at Mulder's slightly shocked face before turning to my own presents which had begun to pile at my feet. From Bill and Tara I received a group of bath salts I had been admiring (thank you, Tara) and a CD that had songs on it from a record of mine that Bill broke when we were teens. It was Hotel California. I looked to my right and saw Mulder happily flipping the pages of a book mom had given him. The cover read "Alien Conspiracy" and it appeared to be the first of a trilogy. Also in Mulder's lap were the boks "Alien Conquest" and "Alien Colony."

"I hope those books are interesting," my mother worried. "I saw those three and they seemed to be books that you would like."

Mulder smiled at her. "They're perfect," he assured her. He then turned to a few other packages that were next to his feet.

Continuing to open my gifts, I found a few romance books from mom. I realized that they all had about the same plot line. The back of one read, "Follow the journey of Maria's heart as she decides when and how to tell her long-time best friend, Nathan, her true feelings for him. What will he say? Does he feel the same way? Or will she find that friendship is the only thing that Nathan wants between them?" Reading the back of another, I saw, "Donna has loved her co-worker for years, but she can't seem to muster up the courage to tell him the truth. Find out how her friends, her family, and her own heart all give her the strength to tell Mike how she really feels." I stole a glance at my mom… she smiled and winked at me. I was suddenly distracted by Mulder's laughter.

"Do you like it, Uncle Mulder? Do you?" Hannah ran to him, dropping her own half-opened gift. "I picked it out myself!"

"Hey, I helped!" Caleb exclaimed, joining her/

I looked to see what Hannah and Caleb could possibly have picked out to give to Mulder. What I saw in my partner's hands made my own smile appear. In its plastic packaging was a remote controlled flying UFO. A green alien's head was sticking out of the top of the disc.

"I love it, you two. Thanks!" As Mulder said this, Hannah and Caleb beamed. "Maybe after lunch we could go outside and play with it together." The twins agreed whole-heartedly and returned to their own presents.

When all of the presents had finally been opened, everyone broke up for a moments to wait for dinner to be ready. Mom and Tara went to put the finishing touches on the dinner before it was served, while Mary Beth fed her baby so that the child would be down for a nap by the time its mother sat down to eat. Charlie was trying to hook up Caleb's new video game system to the TV , although Caleb was hindering the process by trying to "help." Hannah had set up her new Barbie castle in a corner of the room and was busy crowning fairy princesses, while Bill and taught Matthew how to play basketball with his new Little Tyke's basketball hoop. In the end, Mlder and I were left on the couch to talk by ourselves.

"Well what do you think so far, Mulder?"

"I think I've fallen in love with Hannah. I'm leaving you for her, hope you understand." He grinned.

"Oh, I'm not giving you up that easily," I said, snaking my arms around his waist. I gave him a quick kiss on the lips.

"Well, I guess I could be persuaded to stay with you," he said and gave me a small kiss in return.

"Dinner's rea.. Oh! Sorry!" My mother retreated quickly, and excitedly, into the kitchen.

I rolled my eyes and said, "C'mon, Mulder. I'm hungry. Karen! Dinner's ready!" I called up the stairs. I crossed the living room and opened the door, calling Bill and Matthew in for dinner as well.

As Mulder and I entered the kitchen, a small voice called out, "Uncle Fox! Sit by me! Please?" Now if Mulder had refused that little girl, I would have arrested him and asked what he had done with the real Mulder. I bet she could have looked at him with those big, beautiful eyes, asked for a pony, and he would have run out to find one.

Anyway, we all sat down to a wonderful Christmas dinner. On the table were mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, corn, green beans, broccoli and cheese casserole. A large, baked turkey was our centerpiece. We all joined hands, bowed our heads, and closed our eyes. Mom began the blessing, "Heavenly Father, we thank You for bringing this family together. We also thank You for giving us the privilege of having Fox be a part of our family today. Lord, please help us to remember what today means to us, the day You sent Your Son, Jesus, to the earth. God, we pray that You will bless this food to our bodies and bless our bodies to your service. Amen." Mulder gave my hand a small squeeze before letting it go.

Dinner was wonderful: both the food and the company. We spent the time between bites telling stories from the days when we were kids. We also told stories of things that had happened since the lst time we had seen one another. This means that little Hannah got to hear the story that she had been dying to hear from "Uncle Fox."

"So we were face-to-face with this guy that could make anyone do whatever he wanted them to do." Mulder was in the middle of his story.

"Like get him all the candy he wants?" Hannah asked wide-eyed.

"Yeah, something like that, but it was much worse. He tried to make me hurt myself. Then he wanted me to hurt your Aunt Dana." Hannah gasped, as did Caleb who was listening across from Mulder.

"But he didn't," I said smiling.

"I couldn't. As much of a hold he had on me, I couldn't do something like that to her."

"So you broke free?" Hannah asked.

"Not by myself." At this, Hannah and Caleb looked puzzled. Mulder smiled. "Your Aunt Dana needed not to pull me from him, but stop him from pulling me." I realized how funny it was for him to say "pull" when Model had been called "Pusher." Mulder continued, "Aunt Dana saw that there was a fire alarm on the wall behind her. She ran to the alarm and pulled it. The sound of the alarm caused the guy to lose concentration and allowed us to… catch him." I smiled as Mulder left out the more… gruesome… details.

"So you saved each other?" Caleb asked.

"Then and many other times." Mulder replied.

The sweet moment was broken by my intoxicated older brother calling stupidly, "So Mulder! Found your sister yet!?" And he began to laugh. Mulder clenched his fists on the table and I felt him tense beside me.

Before Mulder or I could do or say anything, Charlie had grabbed Bill by the elbow and practically dragged him out of the dining room and into the kitchen. An uncomfortable silence fell around the table. Mulder looked tense, my mother looked horrified, Tara looked apologetic, Mary Beth looked upset, and the children looked confused. Nobody was really sure what to do. Charlie could be heard from here to Europe telling Bill off, and Bill was just as loud yelling back.

"Why don't we go try out the Christmas present you two gave me," Mulder suddenly said to Hannah and Caleb. Grateful for the diversion, Mary Beth told her twins that it was okay for them to play outside with my partner. From the time that they left the table to the time the front door closed behind them, the twins could be heard talking as fast as they could to "Uncle Fox." Matthew's bottom lip began to quiver and, stretching out his arms, he said, "Wanna play, too!" Tara scooped him up quickly, saying it was time for his nap. Mary Beth followed them upstairs to check on her baby daughter.

When everyone had dispersed, mom and I began to clear the table. "Dana, I'm so sorry," mom began.

"Mom, don't start. Bill's a jerk. Everyone knows that. It's not your fault that he got drunk and acted like a two year old."

"I know. I just want Fox to know that he's welcome here, but Bill always has to make it seem otherwise."

"Mulder knows you love him, mom. He doesn't doubt that. It bothers him to hear Bill say those things, yes. But it bothers him more that it disrupts our family time. That's why he's afraid of coming. He doesn't want to 'ruin' our holidays."

I heard the front door open. "Mulder?" I called. I wanted him to explain to mom that he definitely didn't blame her for anything.

"No! Caleb! I hafta go to the bathroom!" The small boy ran past the door of the dining room and into the bathroom down the hall.

Mom and I were about to continue our conversation when there was a loud yelp from outside followed by loud crying. Mom and I bolted out of the room and hurried toward the front door. I was halfway down the front entrance hallway when the front door exploded open. Hannah was screaming something while she cried with her hands over her face. She ran straight into my arms.

"Calm down, Hannah. What happened? Move your hands so I can see," I tried, needing to see what she had hurt. I figured she had fallen and possibly hit her head. She finally move her hands and I saw… nothing. She was fine. Well, her face was red from crying and screaming, but otherwise she was fine.

Then, I realized what she was screaming. "I hurt him! I hurt him! I hurt Uncle Fox! He's gonna never wanna play again!" Until then, nobody had paid any attention to Mulder, who had quietly entered after the little girl. He was holding the toy spaceship and remote control with one hand, but the other hand was held tightly over his left eye.

"Mulder," I said, desperately trying to hide a smile and a laugh. "Let me see." He moved his hand and I gasped. His eye was turning a brilliant shade of purple, and there was a small cut on the outside of his eye. Hannah, who had calmed down somewhat, began to cry anew. Mulder quickly replaced her hand. I heard someone pounding down the stairs and soon Charlie came into view.

"What happened?" He asked Hannah, putting his arms around her.

"I-I hit Uncle F-Fox with the sp-spaceship," she replied, hiccupping.

Mulder knelt down next to Hannah, hand still concealing his eye. "Honey, it's okay. I know it was just am accident. So the spaceship tried to abduct me," he joked. "No big deal. I still love you." The words had barely left his mouth when Hannah threw her arms around his neck and exclaimed, "I love you, too, Uncle Fox!" I feel no shame in admitting that I my eyes misted over.

"C'mon, Mulder. Let's get your eye cleaned up," I said walking toward the living room. In the time that I have been partners with Mulder, I have learned many things, but number one is this: always have a supply of bandages, gauze, and medicines for my somewhat accident prone partner.

Hannah watched me the entire time that I fixed up Mulder's eye. First I had to wash off the cut, which, Mulder explained, had been caused by the pointed tips of the alien's ears. As soon as I had finished applying medicine and a bandage to the cut, I asked mom, who had been hovering around us, to get a bag of ice for the swelling. Hannah climbed into Mulder's lap, laid her head on his chest, and simply sat snuggling into him, sniffling now and then.

Mom returned to the living room at the same time that Caleb did. While mom was silent, smiling at the scene Mulder and Hannah created, Caleb was… not. "Geez, what happened to Uncle Fox's eye!?" He yelled, as Mulder put the bag of ice mom gave him over his eye. Hannah's lip began to tremble, but Mulder put his arms around her and hugged her close. "An accident," Mulder replied.

"Are you gonna be okay?" Caleb asked more quietly in understanding.

"I'm fine, really." Mulder assured Hannah as much as Caleb. "Why don't you two go play with your Christmas presents?" Mulder added, kissing the top of Hannah's head. The twins nodded and, picking up some toys, went upstairs to the room that they would be staying in for the holidays. When they had gone, I just looked at Mulder for a moment.

"You should see the other guy," he half-smiled, half-winced.

"Oh, Mulder," I said, putting my forehead on his shoulder. :do you ever have a normal, non-violent vacation?"

"Not that I can recall."

"My mother interrupted us, saying, "You two are staying the night, right?"

"Um… we weren't planning on it," I said.

"Oh, but you have to! What about our dessert tradition?"

"Dessert tradition?" Mulder asked.

"In the Scully household," I explained, "We have a tradition on Christmas night. We get into groups and each group make a different dessert. Then we all taste the desserts and vote on which one is the best."

"And Dana always rushes away after lunch… but I thought that since the reason for her rushing away was here with her…I just hoped you'd stay. Dana you have extra clothes here… and Fox, I think you would fit into some of Charlie's clothes; he wouldn't mind."

"Actually, Mrs. Scully… I mean, mom… I always have an overnight bag in the trunk of my car in case of emergencies. But since this is a family tradition, wouldn't it be better if I were to just pick her up in the morning?"

"No!" I suddenly said. "No it would not. Better for who, Mulder? If you mean Bill… I'll stuff Bill into the blender and turn him into a Christmas milkshake. C'mon, Mulder. I never get to stay long enough to do this with my family. And now you're here, too. Please, Mulder? Please?" I looked straight into his green eyes with my baby blues. How could he say no?

"Okay," he said after a minute of contemplation. "At least let me get a room at a nearby hotel. You have so many people here, mom."

"Not a chance, Fox. You are a part of this family and you will stay where the rest of the family is staying. Bill and Tara are staying in Bill's old room, Dana is staying in hers, Charlie and Mary Beth are staying in Charlie's old room- Hannah and Caleb brought sleeping bags to 'camp out' in the room with their parents. Fox, would you be okay on the pull-out couch? It's very comfortable."

"Mom, let Mulder stay in my old room. I'll stay in Missy's."

"Are you sure , sweetheart?"

"Yes. Is that okay with you, Mulder?"

"Hey, I'm just here. It's wherever you want to put me."

"Go to your car and get your overnight bag, Mulder," I said. When he had come back, I led him to the room he would be staying in for the night. Memories flooded my senses as I stepped into the room that had been mine for eighteen years. Looking at the bed, I remembered the many nights that Melissa and I had stayed awake having girl talks on that bed. I looked toward the closet and remembered the times that Melissa had insisted that I wear something more fashionable than jeans and T-shirts.

Mulder picked up a framed picture from the bedside table. "Dana, is this you?" I liked the way he was getting so comfortable with my first name. Anyway… Looking at the picture, I flushed deep pink. Picture in your mind the pinkest, frilliest, most girlie prom dress you can possibly dream of… and you are close to what my seventeen year old self was wearing in the photograph.

"I begged my mother to destroy that picture," I said.

"So this is where you grew up," Mulder said, looking around the room. "Do you ever miss your childhood?"

"I miss the simplicity of it. Life was good when your biggest worry was whether or not the boy that sat next to you in math class knew that you existed."

Yeah, now your worry is whether or not that monster is going to eat your partner before you get there is time to save him. That's a slightly bigger worry if you ask me."

"My biggest worry, Mulder, is usually where the nearest hospital is to admit my partner, who has just lost a chunk of his arm to a mummified zombie," I said, rolling my eyes.

"Is it my fault that monsters and zombies are attracted to me?"

"When you go looking for them, then yes; yes it is." He smiled sheepishly at my comment.

"Fox! Dana! Ingredient Run!" My mother called up the stairs. Mulder looked at me confused, willing me to do some more explaining.

"About an hour before dinner, we get into our 'dessert groups' and go to various stores to get the ingredients we all need." We left the bedroom and headed down the stairs, into the living room where everyone was getting into groups. Charlie and Bill seemed to be grumbling about their eyes grouping together and making the men be their own group. Hannah was to help Tara and Mary Beth, while Caleb was put with Bill and Charlie. Mulder and I were, of course, partners as always. Mom had already made her chocolate raspberry cake the night before, since it had to be refrigerated for twenty-four hours.

"Okay," my mother directed, "We need to know what everyone is going to make. That way, nobody makes the same thing, and we know who needs to use the oven first. Tara, Mary Beth? What is your group making?"

"Gingerbread men!" Hannah piped up. Tara and Mary Beth nodded.

"Okay. Bill? What about you and Charlie?" Mom asked, writing down the women's choice.

"Cranberry-cherry pie." Charlie stated.

"That's good. Now Dana, you and Fox don't have a choice. You have to make your famous Peppermint Candy Cake." Everyone gave an enthusiastic nod. When my partner once again looked perplexed by my mother's proclamation, she added, "It's Dana's specialty!" Mulder looked at me, and I shrugged and nodded.

I won't spend long on the Ingredient Run because it was pretty uneventful. Mulder followed me around my favorite cooking store while I picked out everything I would need. We ran into Hannah's group and she rode back to mom's house with us. My bag of peppermint patties wouldn't have been opened when we got back had Hannah not asked "Uncle Fox" if she could have one.

One hour and a quick dinner of turkey sandwiches later, everyone was crowded into the dining room. It was decided that Charlie, Bill, and Caleb would prepare their pie in the kitchen and bake it while the other two groups would prepare their desserts in the dining rook and wait for the oven.

And so… the fun began. Although Hannah was supposed to be part of Tara and Mary Beth's group, she ran between the two groups, "helping" both. I felt bad that Mulder had to be in the room with all the women, but then I figured that was better than starting World War 3 with Bill. And anyway, he seemed to be having fun. I don't think Mulder had baked anything before that day. He and I went into the kitchen just long enough to quickly melt the peppermint patties in a pan. Pouring the melted, minty chocolate into our batter, we retreated back into the dining room.

On our return, we saw that the gingerbread dough of Hannah's team was almost ready to be rolled out. I handed Mulder a whisk and told him exactly how many eggs and how much flour to mix with the rest of the ingredients while I finished the candy cane frosting we had been making. The eggs went into the batter easily. However, when Mulder realized that the bag of flour was at the other end of the table next to Tara, trouble ensued.

"I'll get it for you!" cried Hannah, wanting to be helpful.

"No, I'll get it, Hannah. It's heavy. Look out!" Mulder lunged to save the flour bag, but it was too late. Hannah had slid the bag halfway across the table, but when she pulled it into her hands, the full weight hit her arms and the bag crashed to the floor. Mulder looked up at me and I exploded with laughter.

"You look like a mime!" I managed to get out. The bag had ripped open and flour covered both Mulder and Hannah. The little girl put her flour covered hands over her mouth. I believe she would have cried if Mulder and I hadn't found the situation so funny. Then, before I could say "don't do it," Mulder had scooped flour into both of his hands and blew/threw it into my face.

"White face and red hair… you look like a clown!" Mulder laughed.

During this time, Tara and Mary Beth had been brushing off the bottoms of their pant legs. Being the lucky two, the pant legs were the only part of their clothing that had gotten flour on them. Since they were across the room, very little flour had gone in their direction.

Charlie entered from the kitchen saying, "Our pie is finished if you need to use the… what the heck happened in here!?" Hannah giggled and Mulder and I stopped the flour fight we had begun.

"What does it look like happened in here, Charlie?" I asked. "Honestly, you're as thick-headed as Bill sometimes."

"I know Bill wouldn't be happy if he saw you two like that," Charlie observe. Mulder had one hand around me waist, pulling me as close as he possibly could. He was tousling my hair to get the powdery substance out.

"Screw Bill," I said, brushing flour off of Mulder's sweater.

"I think we had better take our dough to the kitchen to cut the cookies," Tara said. She, Mary Beth, and Hannah left the dining room and went to the kitchen. Charlie followed them, so Mulder and I were left alone to finish our cake batter and icing.

"At least some of the flour is still in the bag," I said, brushing off flour from Mulder's chest. I reluctantly pulled away from his arms and picked up the half-empty flour bag. Mulder and I finished mixing our batter and, when Hannah had assured us that the gingerbread men had been baked, put the batter in a cake pan and into the oven. As Hannah's team decorated their cookies, Mulder added a few drops of red food coloring to our icing to turn it pink. As he stirred, I crunched up candy cane pieces and added them to the icing. When our cake had finished baking, we quickly frosted it since we were the only "contestants" that weren't finished. Leaving the cake on the kitchen counter to cool, Mulder and I entered the living room where the rest of my family waited.

"Mulder, maybe you and I should change our clothes before we get flour all over mom's couches and chairs," I suggested. I noticed that my partner's clothes and hair were still dusted with white. He nodded in agreement, and we both entered my old room once again. Although my old clothes were in the closet, the drawers in the room contained my more recently bought clothing.

Choosing a snug-fitting, long sleeved T-shirt and a pair of jeans, I stile away to the upstairs bathroom. I toweled my hair, getting out as much flour as I could. I changed as quickly as possible and, exiting the bathroom, ran smack into Mulder. His hair was slightly wet and untidy, which meant that he had rinsed out the flour and toweled it as dry as it would get in the short time he had. He wore a grey Knicks T-shirt and black jeans. It wasn't Christmas attire, but he still looked good.

"Sorry, Mulder, I didn't expect you to be right outside the door.

"Not like I planned it, Dana. Fate happens," he smiled. I had found that out long ago when I first entered that basement office.

Nobody was in the living room when we returned, so we followed the voices coming from the dining room. On the dining table were the four desserts: Tara, Mary Beth, and Hannah's gingerbread men; Bill, Charlie, and Caleb's Cranberry-Cherry Pie; my and Mulder's Peppermint Candy Cake; and mom's chocolate raspberry cake. Everyone chose a place at the table, Matthew in his high-chair, and Haleigh in Mary Beth's arms. On each plate, a very small piece of each dessert was ready to be eaten and voted on. Of course, Matthew only got a small bite of each dessert from his parent's plates.

"Okay, ours first," said Charlie. He was obviously ready to get the pie over with. It looked slightly darker that it should have been. Everyone began to eat the pieces of pie.

"The crust is burnt," said Hannah. Charlie made a face at Hannah and she giggled.

"It is a bit over baked," agreed my mother. Nobody ate much more than a few bites of the scorched pie.

"Who wants to go next?" asked mom.

"We do!" exclaimed Hannah.

"Okay, then," said mom, "everyone try the gingerbread men." Everyone did, and all agreed that the cookies were pretty good.

"Your cake next, mom," I decided. I love anything my mother bakes. Everyone began to eat the chocolate raspberry cake. Each person's slice vanished very quickly. " Perfect as always, mom," I told her.

"Okay, Dana. Let's see how you and Fox did." Everyone began eagerly eating the slices pf Peppermint Candy Cake on their plates.

Mulder looked at me with surprise and said, "Hey, this turned out really good."

"Why so surprised, Mulder? Are you that unsure of my baking abilities?" I teased.

"Not in yours," he replied. "In mine."

When the plates were clear, except for the burnt pie, notecards and pens were passed out, and each person wrote down his or her vote for the best dessert. Even Matthew got a vote, which was obvious because of his whining, "cookie, cookie, cookie!" as he desperately tried to reach another gingerbread man. All the cards were folded and handed to my mother, who was sitting next to me.

"Well, we obviously have one vote for the gingerbread men," she said, smiling at Matthew. "one for my cake, one for the peppermint cake, another for the cookies…" One by one mom unfolded the cards and read the votes written on them. There were four for mom's cake, three for the peppermint cake, and two for the cookies. Wondering what the last vote would be, I was surprised to hear her read, "And one for… the pie?"

Snatching the card from her hand I looked at it for a moment and then said, "Bill, you jerk, this is your handwriting! The pie was terrible and you know it! Get off your high horse and vote what you really think."

"Back off, Dana. I can vote however I want!"

"Oh, come on, Bill. You liked the cake Mulder and I made, and you just don't want to have something to do with something of Mulder's. You may be older than me, Bill, but you certainly aren't smarter."

"I think… what are YOU smiling about!?"

Apparently Mulder had tried to hide a smile at my last comment, but had failed. He looked at Bill with a tired look, as if he was so sick of being unable to do anything to please him. I was sick of Bill making Mulder so uncomfortable when all I wanted was for Mulder to feel like a part of my family. I just couldn't take my older brother's stupidity any more.

"How long are you going to act like this, Bill!?" I screamed. Haven't you realized by now that I love being with Mulder and working with him? He's always there for me and I love him for that! I love him, period! I'm am not going to shove him out of my life just because my idiot jerk of an older brother can't get his head out of his butt and be civil!" I was standing, screaming at the top of my lungs. Hannah and Caleb had their hands over their ears and Matthew looked like he was about to cry… but I didn't care. Mom had her hands covering her mouth and everyone else just stared wide-eyed at me… and I still didn't care. I had opened my mouth for round two, when Mulder leapt out of his chair and, hands on my shoulders, led me out of the room, out of the house, and into the front yard. The cheerfully twinkling Christmas lights seemed so out of place with the mood I was in. I was trembling, but the chill of the air around me was not the cause.

"Breathe." Mulder spoke for the first time since Bill had verbally attacked him. His hands were still on my shoulders.

Angry tears rolled down my face as I wrapped my arms around Mulder's waist. I buried my face in his chest. "I'm so sorry Mulder," I said, voice slightly muffled. "I just wanted you to have a good holiday with my family."Mulder put his arms around my shoulders and began rubbing my back. "Believe it or not, Dana, I really did have fun today." I pulled back slightly to look up into his face. I gave him an incredulous look. "No, don't give me that look," he teased. "I have accepted the fact that Bill is not my biggest fan. I can handle that. As long as those antagonistic feelings don't rub off on his little sister then I'm fine."

"But don't you just get sick of it?" I retorted. "I obviously do."

"Obviously," he agreed. "But I'm not going to wallow in self pity just because one out of... what... eight people in your family doesn't like me. I'll get over it, trust me." He stopped for a moment, thinking about something. Then he said, "Do you realize that you just proclaimed to me and your entire family that you love me? You need to be more careful. If they didn't think you were just caught up in the moment, they might think you were serious." He was still trying to give me a way out.

Bless him and his stubborn brain. "I was," I whispered. His eyes darted to my face. I simply looked at him.

"Don't play with my head, Scully."

"Dana." I corrected him. "And I'm not. I told you at your apartment last night. Don't you remember?"

"I thought it had been wishful dreaming," he said, but he tightened his arms around me. We stood in silence for a while, enjoying the moment. Suddenly he said, "I love you, Dana."

"I love you, too, Fox."

"You know, my name doesn't sound so bad when you use it like that."

"We had better go inside before everyone thinks I took out my anger on you," I said. I shivered again, but this time it was only from the cold December air. Mulder put an arm around my shoulders to warm me up, and we walked back inside.

When we entered the living room, I had to try hard not to laugh. The women looked at me warily; the children looked at me wide-eyed, afraid I was going to start screaming again; Charlie winked at me; and Bill... Bill's face was pretty blank. I knelt down in front of Hannah and Caleb and apologized for scaring them. I also apologized to mom for ruining the dessert tradition.

"Oh, you're not to blame, sweetheart," mom replied to my apology.

"Sorry, Dana," Bill said suddenly.

"What?" I asked surprised.

"I said I'm sorry. You're obviously going to be the stubborn little sister that you always have been. You're going to stay at the FBI and it's going to be with him. I'm just going to have to accept him as a fact in your life."

"I am not the one that you should be apologizing to," I said angrily.

"Dana..." Mulder warned.

"No, Mulder. This is ridiculous. Bill you sit thereand say that you are going to accept him, yet you don't even have the decency to look at him and apologize." I was trying desperately not to scream. "Nothing bad that has happened to me has ever been his fault. In fact, he has saved my life so many times that you should be thanking him that you even have a little sister standing here arguing with you. I am so tired of talking about this," I sighed, closing my eyes.

Then, the unthinkable happened. Bill actually looked at Mulder, and began to speak, without shouting. "Okay, Mulder. This is going to take some getting used to, but my little sister does have some good points. I'll try not to act like a jerk all the time... only some of the time. It's just easier to have someone to blame when something terrible happens to someone in your family, than having to admit the crap happens to good people."

He put his hand out toward Mulder, who shook hands with my older brother. Finally. I thought. It wasn't the best peace treaty, but it was the best anyone was going to get out of Bill.

"But," Bill began.

Oh, no I thought.

"If something does happen to her, and it is proven that it is definitely your fault..." He let the sentence hang, and I could tell that Bill's hand had gotten threateningly tighter on Mulder's. However, Mulder simply nodded and the two let go of the handshake.

I leaned against the side of the stairs sleepily. As people began saying their good-nights and filing up the stairs, Hannah hugged Mulder around the legs as she had done when she first met him that morning. "Good night, Uncle Fox," she said. I smiled as Mulder picked up the little girl and kissed her on the cheek. She smiled and, in turn, kissed him lightly on the bandage next to his eye. Leaning into Mulder, I also kissed Hannah, and she and I said our own good-night. Before she went upstairs, I saw Charlie whisper to her and shove something into her hand. I was curious for a moment but then decided it was nothing. I turned back to Mulder as Hannah started up the stairs.

Before I could say anything, however, I heard, "Aunt Dana, Uncle Fox, look up!" Mulder and I raised our heads, and there stood Hannah directly above us, dangling something over the railing of the stairs.

"Mistletoe!" My mother gasped delightedly. Charlie looked quite pleased with himself. Caleb had stopped at the top of the stairs and leaned over the banister to look at Mulder and me. My mother was ecstatic, Mary Beth and Tara smiled at us, and Bill actually looked somewhat amused. All of this I saw, of course, out of the corner of my eye, because I was looking into my partner's face. He smiled up at Hannah, then looked down at me.

"Just another tradition, Fox," I smiled.

"Not for me, Dana," he whispered just before his lips met mine.

My breath caught for a moment and I had to remind myself to breathe. Mulder's hands were around my waist and my hands found their way behind his neck. For a fleeting moment, nobody else in the world existed. We kissed one another tenderly, and although I wanted more, I knew theparents of the two seven-year-olds would probably not appreciate it. We reluctantly pulled apart.

"Okay, shows over you two," Charlie said, herding his two giggling kids up the stairs. Mary Beth followed with Haleigh asleep in her arms. Bill carried Matthew upstairs. Tara lingered for a moment, hugging me, the surprised Mulder by hugging him as well. "I'm so glad you came, Fox," she said, and followed her husband and son. Mom started toward the back hall where her bedroom was, but turned back to us and said, "Fox, you don't know how much it meant to have you here with Dana this year. Believe it or not, you really are a part of this family." She hurried off with watery eyes.

"You know, Dana," Mulder started as he and I walked to a couch in the now vacated living room. "I don't think today turned out half bad." I raised an eye-brow at him, taking in his bandaged eye, the flour still in the dining room (which was to be cleaned up in the morning), and the scratchiness in my throat from screaming. "I know," he said, reading my mind (we were so good at that). "But think about it. You got the chance to spend loads of time with your family, and I had the opportunity to have a family, even if just for a day. It felt natural to sit on the sofa watching kids open presents, to eat Christmas dinner with your family, and to spend the Christmas holidays with you."

We settled down on a couch in front of the faintly glowing fireplace. The flames had died down a lot since it had been started, but it still gave off some light. We sat next to one another, with me leaning against Mulder's chest while he reclined against the back of the couch. We both stared into the dying embers. I took the opportunity as he looked into the fire to look up at Mulder's face. The glow emitted from the fireplace softened the lines that years of worry and searching left on his face. He must have sensed me watching him because he looked down at me and smiled. "Uh, oh," he said. "You look deep in thought." When I didn't smile at his teasing, he worriedly asked, "What's wrong?"

"It's just..." I thought about how to put my jumbled thoughts into words. I wanted to say them just right. I finally decided how to say what I wanted to say. "It seems so right to spend so much time with you; to spend no time on case files, paperwork, or government and alien conspiracies. I get to just be with you. I want this to last. But I know that even if we spend the rest of the holidays together, we still have to go back to work the day after New Year's." I startled him by suddenly pushing away from him, but it was only to look straight into his eyes, to let him know that what I was about to say was very serious. "I don't want this to end. I'm not going to go back to work and pretend that I never told you how I feel, or that you told me. I spent years pretending. I'm not doing it again." I knew that my eyes shone with tears, but it was true. I was so sick of pretending that I had no feelings for him; and after what we went through that day, I don't think I could go back to pretending even if I tried.

He reached up and cupped my face between his hands. "I wouldn't let you pretend, Dana. I'm going to tell you every day how much you mean to me. I am just as tired as you are of hiding our feelings, and I couldn't hide them anymore than you could. Just because we go back to work doesn't mean that we have to pretend these last few days never happened." He leaned in and kissed me gently, although deeper than we had been able to kiss in front of the twins. He pulled away suddenly and said, "You know, I don't think your mom would let us forget, either." Laughing, I snuggled close to him and wondered how on earth I managed to spend so many years burying my feelings for this amazing man. I had always trusted him with my life, and now I trusted him with my heart.

That was the last thing I remembered before I was being woken up in the middle of the night. Mulder was shaking my shoulder saying something about falling asleep on the couch. We walked slowly up the staircase, both of us exhausted by the activities of the day. We stopped for a moment in the hallway outside my old room, but before Mulder went in, he wrapped me in his arms and said, "I love you so much, Dana."

Hugging him around his waist, I replied, "I love you, too, Fox"

"Good night, Dana," he said, closing the door.

"Good night, Fox," I whispered, and walked to Missy's room, shutting the door behind me. I fell asleep almost immediately. My first dreams that night were filled with plastic spaceships, burnt pies, clowns and mimes; but all of that vanished and I dreamt only of Mulder and me, a life together, and twins of our own by our sides.

THE END

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