Title: Christmas Spirit
Setting: season eight
Keywords: challengefic, Christmas pre-xf, alternate universe/scifi
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully belong to Chris Carter.
Summary: After Mulder's abduction a pregnant Scully finds herself desperately missing him just before Christmas, and then she is sucked into a mystery of her own.
Author's Note: in my head this story is known as "the power failures story." There are no power failures in the story, but I started it during the ice storm in 2008 (no power for five days!) and lost the notebook I was writing it in...until another power failure this year. Hopefully it won't take more power failures to finish it!
A clock on the wall ticked on and on while Scully tried to entertain her mother one dreary Saturday in December. There was something on her mother's mind, but she wouldn't spit it out. Instead she kept making irritable remarks over the coffee cake the two were eating at the kitchen table. Eventually Scully stopped paying attention to her mother's fussy remarks, no longer believing that her mother expected replies to what were statements rather than questions.
Suddenly, there was a new conversational volley fired her way. "Dana, why don't you get a tree?"
Scully slowly lifted her face and blinked at her mother. The older woman looked half-concerned, and half annoyed.
She shrugged. "I don't really feel much like Christmas this year, Mom."
"Because he's missing," Maggie said darkly.
It was all Scully could do not to vent her frustration with a sigh. When Mulder had first gone missing in August, Maggie had done her best to be supportive. But as time wore on and Scully's waistline swelled, her mother seemed to take it as a personal affront that he was still missing. Maggie wouldn't come right out and say it, but Scully knew that she thought he was shirking his responsibility to her and the baby she carried.
"You sound like you've been talking to Bill," Scully settled for complaining. Her brother was not shy about declaring Mulder scum for disappearing, no matter how many times she told him that Mulder hadn't even known that she was pregnant before he vanished.
"What do you plan to do if he never comes back?" Maggie asked, and Scully was startled because the question had never come up before.
"You ask that like he's run off with another woman," Scully accused. "It's not as though he left of his own volition, Mom."
"I know that," Maggie said unconvincingly. "But that just makes the odds of him never coming back all the greater. You need to plan for-"
"-the inevitable?" Scully finished sourly. "You sound like you've already got funeral plans in mind."
"I'm trying to have a serious conversation with you, Dana!" her mother snapped back. "God forbid he's lost to you, what do you plan to do? I know you said you just asked him to be your donor, but I know that you can't have meant him to be nothing to your baby. The FBI is a dangerous career in the best of circumstances… if Fox was here now, he could remind you of what it was like for us when we thought we were going to lose you years ago. As a single mother, are you going to continue to put yourself at risk like you have done up until now?"
A bitter retort that she was hardly as reckless as her mother painted her died on Scully's tongue when the memory of John Doggett cutting a parasite out of her back swam to the forefront of her mind. The sharp pain of the blade and the sensation of the creature being pulled out of her flesh… the memory made her shudder even as she tried to think of a way to defend herself to her mother. "Maybe I'll teach at the academy," she said at last.
"That would be safer, at least." Some of the tension drained from her mother's posture. "But would you keep in touch with your new partner?"
"If you're going to suggest that John might make a good substitute Daddy, please don't," Scully said tiredly. "There's nothing between him and I."
"I wasn't suggesting that there was," Maggie's protest was too quick and too forced to be believable.
"It might be hard for you and Bill to understand our relationship, but in my own way I love Mulder," Scully said, savoring the surprised look on her mother's face. Love and Mulder were never words that she'd paired in a sentence addressing her mother before. "It's not like replacing a lost umbrella. I thought that you, of all people, would understand that after the pain you've been through since losing Daddy."
"It's not the same thing, Dana."
"Because I haven't married him, you mean?"
Maggie shook her head. "Your father and I were together for decades. You're young. Too young to wall yourself off from the possibility of love."
"I'll take that under advisement," Scully said tightly.
The phone rang, and she dove for it, welcoming the respite from the increasingly uncomfortable conversation. "Hello?"
"Is this Dana Scully?" a voice on the other end of the line asked, and she thought the man sounded anxious.
"Wonderful." This word sounded far more cheerful. "You're not an easy person to track down."
"I'm not?" she asked, thinking that her phone number was in the book.
"Perhaps to identify is more accurate," the man continued. "Am I correct to assume that you were acquainted with Teena Mulder?"
Scully's heart gave a sudden lurch. "Yes. Why?"
"After her death, her son asked me to sell his childhood home. We've finally found someone interested in purchasing the home, but we've been unable to reach him about emptying the house."
"He's…he's missing," Scully said quietly.
"Yes. I finally found a reference to his abduction in Times. I was hoping that as his partner, you might be able to settle things for him."
"The Times?" Mulder's abduction had made the paper? It had been months since she'd had time for something as mundane as reading a newspaper, so she'd not seen the article with her own eyes.
"Yes. There was a statement from a director at the FBI saying that he'd been abducted while on a case. I hope that he's returned soon." The man's voice lacked even a perfunctorily attempt at sincerity.
"As do I," she said pointedly. "What exactly is it that you think I can do for you?"
"He pre-signed the bill of sales, leaving it to me to finalize things with the best buyer. We don't normally do it that way, but he was anxious to have it done with, and knew he traveled a lot on business…" There was an embarrassed pause as the man apparently considered the lack of tact in what he'd just said. "Anyway, the legal aspects are nothing you need to worry about. But I was hoping that you might take responsibility for arranging that the personal items still in the house are put in storage. So he can reclaim them when he returns," the realtor added clumsily.
"You can't do that yourself?"
"I'm afraid that's not something a realtor is allowed to do," he said, sounding halfway apologetic. "It's seen as potential coercion when we overstep our bounds that way."
"All right. When do you need me to do this?"
"As soon as possible. The buyer is anxious to proceed."
Scully glanced at her mother before saying, "I guess I could get to it sometime this week."
"Fantastic!" the realtor chirped. "Just give me a call when you get there, and I'll come with the key to let you in." He hung up after giving her his phone number and the address to the house Mulder wanted to sell.
When she looked up her mother was staring at her expectantly. "Well, who was that?"
A small irrational part of her wanted to snap that it wasn't any of Maggie's business, but she'd gotten past that sort of rudeness as a teenager. "It was a realtor. He's selling one of the houses Mulder inherited."
"And he needs me to get the house emptied out."
"Dana, you're pregnant!" her mother protested. "You can't be doing any heavy lifting like that!"
"I'm going there to arrange for movers to put his things into storage," Scully said coolly. "At most I'll be supervising other people who are lifting boxes."
"What about packing?"
"There are companies that'll do that for you too."
"Oh. I suppose you'll be stuck footing the bill for storing his mother's things."
She hadn't thought about that. "Well, he paid the rent on his apartment ahead for something like two years, so I can have them bring the stuff up here."
There was a question on the other woman's face – and what happens after that? – but she looked away rather than acknowledge it.