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Syadiloh 1: Chanukah with Lawyers (with MustangSally)

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It's a well-known, but rarely documented fact that potato latkes are not genuine unless they contain some of the skin and blood of the poor schmuck who got the thankless task of grating the potatoes. That would be me, Fox Mulder, not a graduate of the Cordon Bleu.

FUCK!" I swore and watched part of my knuckle fall on top of the grated potato.

I picked the skin out of the bowl and dropped it into the garbage disposal. Somehow it looked so much easier when they did it on the cooking network. The men in their crisp chef's aprons managed to look macho and competent as if cooking was a vindication of their manhood rather than a lessening of it. Tough guys do cook. I guess I'm not a tough guy and I would be hard-pressed to find anyone to say that I was. But I can cook, and more importantly, I know my limits. There was no way that I was going to try de-boning an entire turkey or do anything that required special tools or "clarifying," whatever that was. I couldn't even write an intelligible incident report. As things stood I was working from a recipe that I had called Mom to get -- Aunt Sofia's recipe, since Mom had never bothered with keeping to the traditions. Her idea of a traditional holiday dinner was the olives from her martinis. I remember one year we had Thanksgiving catered.

Eight potatoes, one medium onion, two eggs, one and a half teaspoons of salt, a quarter teaspoon pepper, and a half a cup of flour. All I had to do was grate the potatoes, squeeze out excess liquid, mix in other ingredients, and then I was going to try to fry small spoonfuls until golden brown. Then I was going to drain what should be latkes and serve hot with applesauce and sour cream. There was a chicken in the oven, asparagus in the steamer, applesauce warming on the stovetop, mixed salad in the fridge, and more ice cream for dessert than I wanted to think about. That was the plan anyway.

You okay?" Scully called from the living room.

I'm fine, Scully."

I looked at my watch. Laura Broder and her paramour Andy Maxwell were coming for dinner and would be there in about ten minutes. Laura had been our attorney when Scully's brother Bill had tried to get custody of the Mooselet. Maxwell had been Bill's attorney, and other than a shitty taste in clients, Maxwell wasn't all that bad.

Mul-der."

I turned around at the drawling tone of annoyance, and slippery potato peels fell around me like confetti. The Mooselet smirked at me from the doorway, two feet of trouble wearing purple sneakers. Somehow she had managed to ape Scully's tone exactly.

Daddy," I corrected her.

She skittered over and grabbed at my pant leg, lifting her arms in the universal gesture of toddlers.

Up now," she ordered.

Daddy is cooking." I picked her up and settled the sturdy and muscular weight of her on my hipbone. "Daddy is trying to cook, something special for Chanukah tonight."

Monica?"

No Moose, Chanukah, " I explained. "Chanukah is the Festival of Lights where you light candles, Monica just blows them out."

Birthday?"

"No, that's Christmas, next week. Your Mom gets to handle that one."

I handed the Mooselet a peeled potato and put her on the floor, and she promptly took it out into the living room.

This was my solo flight at preparing dinner for guests since Warwick and Ingveld had taken a few weeks off - God knows they'd earned it - to visit her family in Germany until the New Year. Scully was in pre-baby mode and under house arrest by her doctor's orders and my beseeching. The only problem was that I was working from home, with Julie Groff's blessing, until T-Day (Twin Day), and we were getting on each other's nerves and I swear she was trying to kill me by knocking me down a flight of stairs with her belly. She was huge. Her stomach stood almost a yard straight out, and I figured that the twins had to be standing on her spine with their heads poking at the underside of her belly-button (which had popped out a month earlier, but I'll spare you the gory details). I think she was the only other human-made object, aside from the Great Wall of China, that could be seen unaided from outer space.

What have you got there?" I heard Scully ask the Moose.

'Tato."

Where'd you get that?"

Daddy."

Daddy gave you the potato?"

Uh-huh."

It's been skinned. This is very serious, I wonder who skinned it, and why . . . "

I grinned to myself as Scully and Miranda began investigating the skinning of the potato with the thorough and intelligent way that Scully approached everything, and the Mooselet followed along the breadcrumb trail of logic that Scully scattered in front of her. I could have stood there like a gape-mouthed idiot listening to the women in the living room, but I had a dinner to finish making, or destroying depending on how you looked at it. I checked on the chicken and went back to grating the rest of the potatoes while voices rose and fell in the living room. This was going to be the only holiday that we were ever going to have as a simple threesome. Next year there would be five at the table, and only two old enough to drive.

Throughout the pregnancy, Scully had stubbornly refused to give up her medical miracle status. Not only was she pregnant, when she had before been sterile, she was pregnant with a vengeance on a two for one special. Once the morning sickness had cleared up at the end of the first trimester, the twins had started growing as though she had been drinking Miracle Gro rather than bottled water. At the end of six months she'd been banned from work by her OB-GYN who didn't have Scully's titanium nerves. I didn't have Scully's nerves; I'd refused to let her drive after that point since hormones and road rage don't make for a pleasant combination. She'd been working from home and marshalling her considerable powers of organization to keep the X-Files running smoothly with Zippy doing a solo act while Scully reviewed all the case files and took care of getting ready for a double-barreled shotgun of joy. Now we had a nursery equipped for two thanks to on-line shopping and the UPS guys were fighting over who got to drive her to the hospital.

Well, the Mooselet had pretty much come UPS. It had been my arrival in a UPS truck with Scully hiding in the back which had precipitated the Kurt Crawford clone running my sister Samantha's eugenics project to panic and deliver all the babies in the breeding program prematurely with ugly, messy caesarian sections. Miranda had been the only one who had lived, probably because Scully had willed it so. It was hard to believe that the screaming red thing that I had taken from Montana around this time last year was now a reasonably sentient, if vertically challenged, individual. I gave up counting the words in her vocabulary at two hundred, and she wasn't using only baby words like "cat," "Scully," and "Daddy." She was parroting back anything she heard, more or less in context and seemed to understand most of it. This meant that Scully and I were being very selective with our speech lately. I wondered if my brother Emerson's son Samuel was doing the same thing -- which meant that Sammy was learning to curse Bill Gates in English and American Sign Language.

Can I do anything?" Scully called.

No, no, I'm fine." I looked into Warwick's deep-fryer which hissed evilly at me. "Just sit there and gestate."

But I'm bored," Scully said as she lumbered into the kitchen.

Almost nine months of gestation had turned my petite passionflower into an upended Volkswagen beetle. She was almost as deep as she was tall, hardly looking pregnant from the rear. Dressed in a pair of black leggings and a deep red tunic, she looked like a cranberry that had grown legs. I valued my life too much to point that out. It was actually charming to see her so encumbered and pregnant in such an extravagant fashion. But that's my Scully, never doing anything by halves. Easing herself onto one of the chairs at the kitchen table where we'd had athletic sex less than six months ago -- hard to imagine these days -- she began picking at the pickle and olive tray I'd made for appetizers.

"Hungry?"

Always," she groaned. "I just keep imagining all the complications associated with low birth weight and suddenly I'm hungry." If the babies didn't come soon I was very much afraid that the Earth might tilt a few degrees further on its axis, and that plays merry hell with weather patterns.

The latkes were ready to go into the fryer right before dinner, so I started cleaning up the potato peelings and other debris. The Mooselet ran into the kitchen with a now very fuzzy and dirty potato which she handed over to me as though it were made of precious metal. I ceremoniously put the potato on the counter while the Moose attached herself to my leg with kid-velcro.

I love watching you cook, it does me a world of good to see men working in the kitchen. I don't think my father knew where the kitchen was other than the place where the beer was kept."

My Dad saw it as the source of all ice cubes for his Scotch." I smirked at her and wiped down the countertop. "I think seeing me with my hand inside a chicken would appall him more than anything else I've done."

Anything?" she asked with a silky little smile.

Almost anything."

Cool pink lips tasted of black olives and she tipped her head up to kiss me, her fingers ruffling my hair.

The doorbell buzzed.

Shit," I muttered. They were early.

Shit!" the Mooselet echoed.

I'll get it!" Scully said and grunted as she hoisted herself up. "You can deal with the appropriateness of certain vocabulary with the short human."

And she ditched me, there with a chicken in the oven, a potato on the counter and a kid clinging to my leg cursing merrily away.

Shit! Shit! Shit! " the Mooselet sang.

I knew right then it was going to be a long night.

***

Oh my God!" Maxwell the attorney blurted when I opened the door.

And your point is what?" I asked.

He turned Santa Claus red and spluttered something unintelligible, staring at my stomach. Was he expecting the answer to the great questions of life, the universe, and everything to appear in flashing gold lights like the Goodyear Blimp's billboard and move across my stomach? As a matter of fact, I was slightly smaller than the Goodyear Blimp and didn't have a corporate sponsor -- yet.

Laura hugged me over the hard protrusion of my stomach and looked down at the view like an acrophobe at the top of the Empire State Building.

"It's so big, how can you stand it?" she said.

I just count the days," I said and sighed.

A woman my height was not built to carry multiple fetuses. It was that simple.

I knew you were going to be big, but I didn't realize how big," Maxwell said and reached out a thin hand to my stomach.

The upper twin, the girl, lashed out with a black belt kick and the entire wall of my abdomen jumped, and Maxwell snatched his hand away as if burnt while both Laura and I glared at him. What is it about pregnant women that makes people willing to paw us like exhibits at a petting zoo? Put a hand on my ass and I'm allowed to knock you down *and* sue you, put a hand on my stomach and I'm supposed to smile while you tell me for the zillionth time that the kid is as big as I am. Wow! What a revelation! But pregnant women aren't supposed to be sarcastic and I'd found even my snappiest comebacks were misunderstood. Expectant mothers are supposed to be happy, perky, and bright. That's why all the maternity clothes have nauseating buttons, bows, and smiley ducklings on them, and it's damn hard to wear even a shoulder holster when you're packing twins. At home Miranda would toddle up and pat me, proclaiming "Babies!" with a charming ignorance of the way her world was about to turn inside out. I let her get away with it because she hadn't reached the age of reason and because she was going to be so jealous when the kids finally escaped that she deserved indulgence. No one else had patting privileges.

Maxwell was slowly turning paler as I stared at him.

Maybe you ought to help Mulder in the kitchen," Laura suggested.

I'll do that," he agreed, nodding his head like a puppet before bolting for safety.

Let's sit down," Laura suggested and I waddled over to the sofa and lowered myself into the cushions by hanging onto the arm of the sofa for support. Laura was looking at me as though I had been dragged out of a car wreck.

Oh God, it's not that bad," I told her, "It's just awkward more than anything else. You forget that this happened over a nine-month period and I didn't just wake up this big last week."

Smiling, she flicked her hair back over the shoulder of her cream sweater. She looked so slim and young and sharp sitting there in her skinny black velvet jeans and trendy chunky shoes.

You look so good," she blurted, "I mean your skin, and you look happy and relaxed and -- content. I mean during the trial you were, like, wired, you know?"

It's hormones, Laura. I'll be small and mean again in a few months. As soon as I get back to work, anyway."

How's that going, anyway? How can you cope without work?"

Zippy is playing merry hell with *my* X Files. We have female informants hanging from the rafters. Zippy gets their phone numbers and little else."

You could have worked longer, just around the DC area, anyway."

"Law enforcement and pregnancy worked fine in Fargo, but not but in real life. The last witness I interviewed spent more time staring at my stomach and asking me questions about intimate gynecological issues than answering any of my questions. Zippy had finally had to take over the interrogation for me." I shrugged and rearranged the cream napkins on the coffee table. "I felt big and stupid. And people touch my stomach like I'm a Buddha and rubbing my belly brings good luck."

Laura nodded, her smooth young face registering her understanding the importance of being taken seriously. It was hard to be female, respected and pregnant.

*****

Mulder's mother had helpfully provided a menorah in the shape of a Tree of Life, silver and gold and actually quite beautiful. I think she was making up for the irreligion of Mulder's youth. Fortunately we had Laura to free us from the embarrassing fact that the only Hebrew we knew was "Netanyahu." The candles also came with a transliteration of the prayers -- a convenience of modern living. I had carefully counted out the multicolored candles so that we could have a matching set every night. If I'd let Mulder pick we would have ended up with purple next to yellow eight nights in a row.

Laura moved the menorah from the dining room table where I'd set it up to a front window and raised the shade. The security wiring framed the scene, technological ivy for those more paranoid than tasteful. Miranda reached out a hand to pull the heavy metal down onto her head, but I pulled her back.

You have to leave it in the window," Laura explained, bending down double to reach Miranda's eye level. "That's so everyone else can see us celebrating."

Miranda favored Laura with a dubious look, as if to say, What do we care what other people think? But she watched with awe as Laura made fire appear merely by rubbing small pieces of paper together. I resolved to find a better place to find the matches. "Baruch ata Adonai," Laura sang, and even the Mooselet began to sense the presence of something greater. She watched with all the concentration she'd devoted to learning to walk as Laura lit the first candle and then used it to light the second. "Eloheinu melech' ha'olam. Asher kid'shanu ba'mitzvotav, vitzivanu, l'hadlik ner, shel Hanukah." When her voice stilled, I felt the entire house fall silent.

This is it, I realized. The warmth of tradition, the safety of friendship, the ability to give your children the best of what you had and make it better. This is what I expected my entire life, and I almost missed it when it happened to me. I knew that the world was no less dangerous just because we'd lit a candle in the window, but at the same time I had the feeling that wherever the candlelight flickered we could be safe and whole. My faith was not in the mountain, or in the thunder, but in the still small voice I heard inside me, telling me that I could survive all the evils of the world as long as I could remember this moment and know why I fought.

So," Maxwell said, softly but with a definitely teasing tone, "If you had been in Jerusalem at the time would eight days of light from one day's worth of oil have qualified as an X File?"

Actually," Mulder said, "there are several documented instances of inexplicably extended power supply in the files, and I'm not just talking Energizer Bunny here..."

I closed my eyes and let the candles burn as everyone around me kept moving. And that was good, too, but I wanted to press the moment in my mind, a flower for my mental scrapbook, to look at when things got crazy again. I felt Mulder's hand on my shoulder and turned. His face shone like the moon and I wondered what he saw in my eyes. "Hey," he said, "we're going to sit down and read the Hanukah story. Wanna come?"

I held out my hand and let him guide me back to the beautifully imperfect world I called home.

***

I watched with my hand on Scully's shoulder like something out of a Hallmark card while Laura read the story out of the picture book that she had brought. The Mooselet looked up at her with rapt attention, like a love-struck judge, and Maxwell looked at her with pretty much the same expression of drooling adoration, no doubt seeing his little legal sproglet perched on Laura's knee sometime in the near future. Maybe Maxwell and I were going to have to talk.

Long, long ago, over two thousand, one hundred and fifty six years ago to be exact, the Land of Israel was part of the Greek empire. The Syrian Greek king Antiochus Epiphanes wanted everyone in his empire to look and act and think like the Greeks -- and most of the people did. "

Geeks. "

Scully's shoulder twitched under my hand but her expression didn't waver in the flickering candlelight.

They worshipped Greek gods and ate and dressed just like the Greeks. There were even some Jews who wanted to be like the Greeks. They were called mityavnim from the Hebrew word Yavan -- Greece. But many other Jews insisted on keeping the Torah, just as they had always done," Laura said and looked down at the Mooselet to see if she was listening.

Aliens?"

Maxwell lost his expression of adoration and snickered audibly. Laura, who was used to noise from the peanut gallery in court, continued without hesitation.

Antiochus wanted all of the Jews to be like the mityavnim. He decreed that the Jews in the Land of Israel could no longer keep the mitzvot -- laws -- in the Torah. There would be no more sacrifices in the Temple, no more Shabbat, no more circumcision for Jewish boys, and no more Rosh Chodesh -- celebration of the new Hebrew month. Instead, Antiochus' soldiers put a statue of the Greek idol Zeus into the Temple in Jerusalem and sent idols to all the cities in Israel. They ordered the Jews to sacrifice pigs and eat their meat and other forbidden foods. Many Jews ran away and hid, but many others were afraid. They did whatever the Greeks told them to do."

"Pigs."

Mattityahu was an old priest from the famous priestly family of the Hasmoneans. He and his five brave and righteous sons lived in the town of Modiin. One day, the Greeks set up an idol right in the center of Modiin! When one of the mityavnim tried to sacrifice to the idol, Mattityahu took a sword and killed the man on the spot! He cried: "mi lashem eilai!" -- "Whoever is for God, come after me!" And they did. Thousands of Jews came to Modiin to fight the Greeks. Mattityahu appointed his son Judah commander of the Jewish army."

Matthew?"

Not your cousin, sweetie," Scully corrected.

Judah was called the Maccabee - the Hammer - because he pounded away at the enemy. Maccabee is also the abbreviation of the Hebrew words: mi chamocha ba'eilim hashem -- "Who among the powerful is like you, God!" Judah's faithful soldiers hid in caves or lay in ambush. They attacked the Greeks from the rear, or in the middle of the night, and they ran away before they could be caught. Even though the Jewish army was smaller, weaker and poorer than the mighty Greek army, they were victorious: they had God on their side! Then, to the great surprise of the Greeks, the Jews succeeded in chasing them out of Jerusalem!"

Juice."

So the important thing is that you can defeat mightier forces if you have the power of righteousness on your side," Scully added.

If only things were that simple.

*****

At the end of the candle-lighting we all convened in the living room to introduce her to the intricacies of playing with the dreidel. Laura and Mulder went through a couple of rounds with the gold foil-covered chocolate coins, which only served to remind me that we hadn't eaten dinner yet and I swear that I could smell the cheap chocolate through the covering. Chanukah gelt has to be the worst chocolate in the world, waxier than old records and twice as tasteless, but I wanted it anyway. Miranda watched the dreidel spin, watched Mulder and Laura take some, all, or none of the coins in a pile on the table with her green eyes bright as dollar bills under fluorescent lights. She touched the coins, examined the dreidel when Mulder handed it to her, and when she had made up her mind about the usefulness of the game, found it lacking, and took off with all the coins on the table.

Maxwell snickered.

She's done her job and now she's taking her fee. The kid is going to be a lawyer."

Over my dead body," Mulder said with an amused smile.

So, Dana," Maxwell asked, leaning forward on the sofa, "why didn't Laura have you testify that you were pregnant? She knows that old coot would never have broken up a viable family unit."

I shot Laura a significant look. "You didn't tell him?"

I'm not allowed to, Dana. Normal people have rules." I decided to ignore the thinly veiled criticism because she was doing such a good job peeling off the gelt wrappers for Miranda.

"We didn't tell Laura about the pregnancy. There were ... a lot of factors at work." Mulder's hand rubbed at the small of my back where the pain had applied for permanent residence and begun studying for its citizenship test.

Maxwell snorted. "Clients. Can't live with 'em, can't rat 'em out to the cops."

Deep in the caverns of my abdomen, the kids began kicking in protest and being squashed while I sat hunched over the table for too long. I was ready to kick Mulder if he continued to put off dinner.

"Mulder, dinner or I am going to wrestle the Small One to the floor and steal her chocolate."

Stealing from a child? That's low even for you, Scully." Mulder said and gave me an indulgent smirk, but he knew that it was unwise to get between a pregnant woman and food.

The candles flickered in the window, their flames dancing in the ebb and flow of our conversation.

*****

While the oil in the wok sizzled, I let Maxwell take the food out to the table and started dropping potato mix into the wok where the water in the potatoes snarled as it hit the hot oil. Patty by patty, the potatoes browned and I dropped them into a nest of paper towels to drain the grease while I heard the adults talking in the dining room, and the chirp and burble of the Moose as she gave her own opinion from her high chair. From the kitchen doorway I could see a slice of the table, the back of Scully and part of the high chair where the Moose ruled above the shower curtain spread out on the floor to protect the carpet. I watched Scully slip bits of chicken onto the tray of the chair and knew that each bite had a fifty-fifty chance of making it to the Moose's mouth as opposed to the plastic below. The Mooselet was in a stage where she refused to be fed with a spoon and hadn't quite mastered utensils herself, so we had to reach a happy medium where she was allowed to stuff her own face with things that weren't too messy. She really enjoyed using her tiny teeth on anything these days, people included. Maxwell poured wine and even Scully had a double-tablespoon in her glass, small danger of fetal alcohol syndrome this late in the pregnancy with this amount of wine. The doctor had approved it on the grounds that the wine would actually make the babies sleepy and give Scully a slightly quieter night than she would have had otherwise.

What's that smell?" Laura asked.

I looked into the wok. The potatoes weren't burning, but I was smelling something that smelled like burning hair.

I looked and there wasn't hair on the stovetop, I ran my hand over my hair and didn't feel any flame, but --- a crash from the living room.

The fire alarm went off in a piercing high-tech squeal.

With a howl, a screech, and a shriek, a flaming streak zipped from the living room, through the kitchen and into the dining room at Mach 2, landing on the dining room table like a asteroid crashing into New York City in a high-budget summer blockbuster. Catzilla landed next to the chicken, tail flaming like a torch. He yowled an unearthly yowl and set the Moose to screaming. The worst firefight with a suspect hadn't set my adrenaline off like this, and my brain clicked off and slipped into DEFCON three. I dunked the dishtowel in the dishpan and set off in a dead run from the kitchen. I barely registered Scully scooping the Moose up and backing out of the hot zone. Maxwell grabbed Laura and pulled her away from the table, the wine bottle in his hands. I dropped the wet rag on Catzilla and snatched him off the table, fire, claws, and teeth biting into my chest as I muffled the fire between the wet cloth and my shirt.

He howled, I yelled, and the Mooselet shrieked like a fire engine.

There was some more crashing and banging from the living room as the lawyers stamped out the conflagration of the drapes where the menorah had landed, Maxwell alternately slapping at the flames and pouring what had been some very nice Beaujolais nouveau on the fire. Catzilla, in four-wheel drive mode, kicked and squirmed in my arms like a baby who didn't want to go to bed. Nails and teeth dug into me and I knew my shirt was ruined.

Give the Arlington Fire Department credit, they were there just as Laura and Maxwell had gotten the flaming drapes under control. Scully, encumbered by the Mooselet, lumbered to the door when she heard the sirens and opened the door before the firemen broke it down. In full gear, the men trooped into the house and made a quick assessment of the situation, and at least they didn't laugh. From where she was cradled against Scully's lumpy torso, the Moose began practicing her word of the day.

Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit!" she screamed.

Some blurry time passed during which it was noticed that the fire alarm was tied into the security system which had summoned the fire department, the firemen stomped around, the lawyers yammered, and the Moose continued to curse until Scully started feeding her olives.

At least the cat hadn't burned for eight days and nights, and he was undamaged other than a hairless tail and a serious attitude problem. I locked him in the laundry room with his naked tail covered with burn ointment, which he promptly began to lick off the reddened and blistered skin. It was just a temporary measure for the rest of the night. I shut the door behind the last of the firemen. They had let me go with a warning about leaving candles unattended with a toddler and a cat in the house, and had stomped out again. In the dinning room, Laura and Maxwell were eating the pizza they had called for, and I found Scully eating a cold chicken leg while Miranda sat under the table, rolling olives around like they were marbles.

My legs were shaking so I sat down and poured myself a glass from the remaining wine bottle. Even though the windows in the living room were open, the house still smelled like burnt carpet and fabric.

Martha Stewart must be enjoying a newfound sense of job security," I said.

I always hated those drapes," Scully said from around a mouthful of chicken.

So what are you going to do for Christmas, blow up the house?" Maxwell asked.

*****

I got to put Miranda to bed while Mulder cleaned up the debris. Bedtime was the time where I got Miranda to myself so we could bond. The thought of Mulder being the expert on child care was nothing short of hysterical, but he had mastered the psychology of the normal child as well as he had mastered the psychology of the pathological serial killer. To add insult to injury, Mulder was already talking about setting aside special Scully time just for her so that she wouldn't feel completely abandoned when I was no longer available for her 24-7. If Mulder wasn't careful I was going to start confusing him with my copy of T. Berry Brazelton. Better yet, I was going to start beating him with my copy of T. Berry.

I stuffed a sleepy Miranda into her footed pajamas and supervised the brushing of her teeth, which she did standing on a stepstool in front of the washbasin. But like her father, Miranda was enchanted with the image in the mirror and spent more time babbling at the toddler in the mirror than she did brushing her teeth with her Rugrats toothbrush. I had to hurry her up and into her youth bed, Miranda having decided two months earlier that she was too big for a crib and would only sleep in a youth bed with the sides up. Unlike Mulder, Miranda slept like an inanimate object once you got her into bed. Also unlike Mulder, she was very hard to get into bed. We turned on the night light, inspected the closet and under the bed for the "boogers". "Boogers" were indescribable creatures which may or may not have been related to the traumatic sights she had seen in her short life, or could have been simple childlike fears of the dark. But it was always better to err on the side of caution and make sure that there weren't any "boogers". Finally, I pulled back the sheets and she slid into bed, the sight of the white bottoms of her footed pajamas made my throat tighten. That and the fact that she smelled like baby lotion, toothpaste, and clean baby skin. So sweet, moderately innocent, and a sponge for everything that the world was offering for her to learn. Hopefully if she did come up against "boogers", she would have the tools to deal with them.

We'd start the shooting lessons when she was old enough. For the time being, checking under the bed and in the closet was just fine with me.

Story?" she asked, getting a stranglehold around the next of her pig-shaped pillow pal.

You tell me a story. What did Laura tell you about tonight?"

Channika."

So, what is Chanukah about?" I asked as I tucked the covers around her.

Juice, Matthew, Geeks, an' Aliens."

The kid's all right," Mulder remarked from the doorway.

Shit?" she asked.

Nice people don't use that word," I reminded her and the look that she shot Mulder in the doorway indicated that she had always believed that Mulder was something other than nice.

Good night sweetheart," Mulder said and leaned over to kiss her.

Night," she echoed and burrowed into the covers.

"You know," Mulder whispered as we pulled the door shut behind us, "Going to your mother's for Christmas is getting more appealing by the minute. I just hope she has good homeowner's insurance."