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Twenty-third Christmas

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Sitting quietly on the couch, fire crackling on the hearth, wind whistling in the eaves, Mulder put his head back, nestling in beside Scully’s as she read something or other with a pastel cover and a beach scene and a faceless woman wearing a floppy hat, “hey, Scully?”

Patiently, she put her finger in her book to hold her spot, “yeah?”

“I want to decorate the hell out of this place.”

She couldn’t fight the smile that burst forth, “only you would use hell to describe Christmas.”

“Come on. I think Maggie would like us to do it up right, our first Christmas back together and in her house to boot. We can intermingle her stuff and our stuff and I can go buy stuff for the front yard and porch.” Having sank his teeth into the idea, it was now exploding in his head, visions of inflatable things and blinking lights and evergreen garland, pointsettas and pinecones and cinnamon-smelling potpourri boiling on the stove, “I mean, it’ll be the stuff of Christmas dreams!”

“Okay, you had me with your overuse of the word ‘stuff’ but then you rolled out the emphatic Christmas dreams ending and moved it right on into over-saccharined insanity.”

Shifting sideways, he pulled his leg up, the ever present Flab jumping on his lap while Dagoo looked on, comfy from his blanket near the heat of the fireplace, “look, even Flab appreciates my saccharine enthusiasm. Look at her. She’d dying to have you say yes because she wants her own Grinch costume and Dagoo needs a Rudolph nose.”

“I think Dagoo wants you to be quiet so he can keep napping.”

He saw the moment he won and grinning, “we should go shopping.”

“Yes, we should.” Will’s voice drifted down the stairs where he’d been listening rapturously, with both mind and ear, feeling his father’s win and his mother’s amusement. Coming down further and poking his head past the wall, “right now. The Uncles will love it when they come over for Christmas.”

“That’s right, Scully. We’re gonna have like 20 people here for two days. We owe it to them to make this completely Maggie Christmas worthy.”

Not about to deny Will or Mulder a damn thing ever in life, Scully stood up, holding her hand out to pull him with her then gesturing towards the fire, “put that out so we don’t burn the house down and we’ll go buy out the Christmas sections of everywhere.”

Will hooted, racing back upstairs for a sweatshirt, Mulder gave her a big, wet kiss on the cheek and did as told while Scully just giggled in happy glee.

&&&&&&&&&&&

When the Gunmen had shown up with Will on that bridge, the world didn’t end but began anew, saving Mulder, getting everyone back to the hospital, aiming a homemade and completely genius EMP handheld device at the hovering ship, sending it and its government fuckers as Frohike called them, away for long enough to get the gang safely away in the boat parked just below the bridge.

She’d saved the world but more importantly, she’d saved Mulder with the help of Will’s blood and her ability to completely compartmentalize the fact that her friends were alive and had been hiding her son from her for the past 16 years. Science kicked in, she brought human beings back from the brink of extinction and when it was all over, she screamed at the Gunmen for three minutes apiece then broke down, crying with her equally emotional son in her arms.

Eventually, over the course of the following three days, while the world was vaccinated, her and Mulder learned the story of the past decade and a half of the Gunmen and Will in abstentia. In the silence that hung around them when Frohike finished, Scully breathed out the largest sigh of relief in her entire, God-damned life and looked at her boy, “will you come home with me and be our son again … if you can ever forgive me?”

More crying ensued and an hour or three later, Will moved into the Unremarkable guest room, which was neither a guest room nor unremarkable anymore, given it had proudly been a resting spot for Maggie and would now be the home of her grandson. Within a few weeks, an agreement was floated between the six of them, Scully, Mulder and William moving into Maggie’s home while the Gunmen took over the farmhouse, the basement perfect for computer equipment, enough room for the three of them and the solitude to which they’d become accustom.

They came over three times a week for dinner to see their nephew.

&&&&&&&&&&

Shopping had never been so much fun. Both Mulder and Will had carts, racing down aisles in the local Wal-mart, doing their best not to steer into rows and nearly failing with regularity and hilarity combined. They called back and forth over tall things because, as Mulder put it, Scully was a short thing and needed to be kept track of. They debated icicle lights or fat LEDs for the front porch. They held up garish stockings and neon pink garland and giggled in unison at the metallic orange Christmas tree on display.

They ended up spending nearly all of Scully’s paycheck and she couldn’t have cared in the slightest.

Once back in the car, they stopped for Frosties, eating them while shivering their way home before finally pulling in the driveway and unloading Scully’s filled to the brim SUV. In typical teenage boy fashion, Will informed them that since he was out of school for Christmas break and had absolutely no reason to get up early in the morning, he would like to start the decorating now.

Mulder couldn’t think of one reason to argue and Scully gave them an approving smile, “why don’t you two start and I’ll go make the hot chocolate.”

&&&&&&&&&

It took until the next evening to finish, sleep finally taking the three of them down around two a.m. and lasting until noon. By that night, however, the only thing left were the Christmas trees, standing bare on either side of the fireplace, Maggie’s on the left and theirs on the right. William sat between them, boxes of ornament surrounding his crossed legs, lids off, treasures waiting patiently to be hung. “So, Scullly, would it be better to mix all the ornaments or would you like to keep them separate? Maggie’s on Maggie’s and ours on ours?”

She couldn’t give him a definite answer through the tears suddenly streaming down her cheeks.

Mulder’s heart cracked and with his own eyes damp, he pulled her into a hug, “I think we should mix ‘em all up. I have a feeling Maggie’d like it that way; she’d know that we’re really back together for good this time because, I mean, nothing says steadfast togetherness like mixing the mother-in-law’s holiday decorations in with our own.”

Scully laughed against his shirt, wiggling one arm from her hold on him to ruffle through their son’s hair, “what do you think, Will? Mix or separate?”

“Already mixing, mom, so the question is moot.” He had his own small box on his lap from which he was pulling homemade things, a popsicle-sticky, glittery, shiny, gluey, messy, intricate, woven, carved assortment of historically significant baubles he’d made with the Gunmen over the years. He lay them out on the rug, “we should keep taking one from each pile, nine ornaments each, put them on one tree then do the same for the other. We’ll have an even distribution that way or at least as even as we’ll be able to get given I don’t know your ornament count but we’ll make do.” The silence that hung above him made him look up to see his father shaking his head in befuddlement and his mother about to burst into laughter, “what?”

Mulder nudged Scully with his elbow, “he is totally your kid.”

Pointing to one of Will’s ornaments, “he made a green sequin alien head. He’s both of ours.”

Will held the alien head up to Mulder, “I sure am.”

&&&&&&&&&&&&

It took most of the evening to hang 78 years worth of bulbs and memories, backstories being told for most, Will curious and open, questioning, commenting, loving the fact that he had a history, that he had a family with a history, that he was a part of that history. It was only when they’d finished that Scully suddenly realized, “if these are the things you made with your Uncles, what are they putting up on their Christmas tree?”

Will grinned, “I was confined to a building with them for 15 years, I made so many things that they’ll never miss what I took and besides, they wanted to give me more to bring home but I knew they wanted to keep a lot of it so believe me when I say, these aren’t even the tip of the iceberg … but I need to crash now so g’night and I’ll see you in the morning.” Giving both of them the long hugs they all needed all the time lately, he disappeared upstairs, leaving his parents to their standing and hugging and enjoying and occasional quick kissing.

Before anything got out of hand, Mulder pulled away from her, “I’ve got a gift for you.”

Because after several decades she was sure she knew what it was, she sat down, ready and waiting, grin on and hand out. Seeing her once he came back in the room, he chuckled, “no more surprising you is there?”

“Nope.” Waving her fingers in a hand it to me motion, “gimme.”

Laughing louder now, he sat down beside her, “it’s actually a two-fold gift. Here’s number one.” Opening the plain box, she found, resting quietly on the bed of cotton, the quarter necklace she had found in her mother’s possessions at the hospital, chain gone, Christmas hook attached. Before she could utter more than a small, confused, “Mul-,” he stopped her with a hand to the knee, “I know what that quarter is.”

She’d been wondering since the moment she found it, in the items envelope at her mother’s bedside, “how?”

“I gave it to her. Well, actually, she gave it to me. Back then, it was just a quarter from her purse but she gave it to me the night I met her, the night you were abducted by Barry. I was standing there, lost and confused and angry and scared out of my mind and I had to go do something, anything, just … find you. She’d watched me throw my cellphone at the wall at one point, frustrated as hell that no one was doing anything immediately, all talking and thinking instead of finding. Once I’d decided I needed to do something myself, she stopped me and gave me a quarter and told me to call her if I heard anything, regardless of time or information.” Stopping for a deep breath, he continued in a whisper, “I didn’t find anything out to call and tell her but I kept the quarter in my pocket anyway, holding it and hoping I’d need to use it soon. Eventually I got … we got you back but I kept the quarter anyways. I saw it as kind of my good luck charm at that point but then Maggie yelled at me and put me in my place for running with you so I had the quarter made into a necklace and I gave it back to her, telling her she’d never need a quarter to call me because we’d never be that far away again.”

Scully had been turning it over and over in her fingers, holding, spinning, twirling absently while she listened. When Mulder fell silent, she looked up at him, confusion still evident, “why didn’t you tell me when I found it or years ago, really?”

“Don’t be mad but it was a Maggie and me thing. It was ours. Our link. Our … connection to each other that was just ours. I never really had anything like that with my mother and …” now going sheepish on her, ducking his head, “I didn’t want to share it in case we went our separate ways. I didn’t want you to think of anything of your mom’s with a bad taste. I guess I figured a mystery was better than anger.”

Completely appreciating the logic, she first kissed his cheek, then kissed the quarter, dangling it in front of them, smiling through her ever-present tears, “I love it and the story and regardless of what may happen in the future, I’ve always loved you and always will so you don’t have to worry about that. I do however, wonder why you’re telling me now.”

“Because that was my last secret from you forever. I wanted everything out there when you got your second gift.” Reaching under the couch, he slid out a larger box, perfect size for a round bulb, “Merry Christmas part two.”

With that quizzical eyebrow he so very much loved to the ends of the Earth, he watched her open the box to a clear ornament, a piece of parchment paper rolled inside it, a handful of iridescent confetti heaped underneath it. Carefully unscrewing the sphere, she withdrew the paper, unrolling it carefully, reading intently then shaking her head in wonder, reading a second time just to be sure.

Once she looked up at him, eyes filled with twinkling amazement, he tossed the confetti in the air, covering them both, “so, will you be there?”

Her affirmative answer came in the form of her climbing eagerly onto his lap, straddling him, hugging him tightly as she whispered her, “I could never be anywhere else,” as she clutched her wedding invitation in her hand, the date printed as December 26, the time 2pm, the place being their front room.

“Gonna change your name? Let me make an honest Mulder out of you?”

As she kissed him once more behind the ear before shifting sideways, sliding down next to him, legs still akimbo around his thighs, “I was thinking more about Fox Scully. What do you say?”

Before he could answer, Will’s voice called down to them, in that uncanny way he had with timing, “I’m best man, right?”

Scully buried her head in his neck while he called back up to his son, “of course but you may have to battle it out with Frohike.”

“Naw, we’ll just tell him he’s Gunmen of Honor. He can be on mom’s side.”

“G’night, Will.”

“Night, Mom.”

Turning her attention back to her finally, very near future husband, “Merry Christmas, Mrs. Mulder.”

“Merry Christmas, Mr. Scully.”