Mulder had forgotten how much of a ghost town a government building was during a holiday. He didn’t run into that many people to begin with since the majority of his time was spent in the basement anyway, but during a holiday, the hallways were empty and the lobby was a lot quieter.
It was a brisk morning, the first brisk morning of the season and the long walk from home to the commuter bus had frozen his fingers. The sky was multiple shades of ominous grey and he was pretty sure it would be snowing by lunchtime. If he was right, he was looking at a long bus ride home.
The day before any holiday was set aside for research and reports. That had been Scully’s rule from back in the day and it stuck. Nothing new, just tie up the loose ends and enjoy the time off. With the one small exception of the Christmas eve he coerced her into a ghost hunt, he honored that rule.
All the years they spent in hiding he’d felt guilty for keeping her from her family on the holidays. They’d made the best of it and she’d always told him there was nowhere else she’d rather be, but he knew it wasn’t true. When they were finally able to live a public life again, he could see how happy she was at the holiday dinners at her mother’s house. That option would no longer be available and he wondered how she felt about it. Maybe her older brother would be stateside and she’d spend it with his family. Maybe the reconnection she’d made with her younger brother meant she’d spend it with him. He just hoped whatever she was doing she’d be happy and that she wouldn’t be alone.
Sure enough, just before noon, Mulder looked up from his computer as Scully sighed and saw there was a thin sheen of snow blanketing the skylight. She pulled her reading glasses off and got up from her chair to stand with her arms crossed, gazing up at the long, narrow windows.
“We should get out of here,” she said.
He looked at his watch. “You go,” he said. “Next bus for me isn’t until three. Have a happy Thanksgiving.”
She walked over to his desk and gently closed his laptop with the press of her fingers. He looked up at her from over the top of his reading glasses and raised his brows.
“I’ll drive you home,” she said. “You can email the report to Skinner later. He’s not even here, he’s in Cancun.”
“The Skinman’s in Cancun?”
“Come on, Mulder.” She shrugged her coat on and turned the lamp off on her little desk.
The snow had turned to rain by the time they turned off into the long driveway to their house. Even if she no longer lived there, he always thought of it as their house. The dirt road was muddy and she drove slowly through the soggy mess, parking the car as close to the front as she could get. The windshield wipers squeaked as they arced back and forth across the glass as the car idled.
“Thanks for the ride,” he said.
She lay her head back against her seat and rolled it towards him. “What are you doing tomorrow, Mulder?”
“No plans. You?”
She shrugged and her leather seat creaked as she shifted and turned her head to look out the windshield. “Why don’t you come over?”
“Because neither of us can cook and you live in the middle of nowhere. If we want to have a decent dinner, I can order one.”
“I’m not what?” she asked, turning to look at him again.
“Thought you’d probably be spending it with Bill.”
“Bill’s in Germany.
“Don’t know.” She shrugged again and for awhile there was nothing but the sound of the rain pelting the car and the squeak of the windshield wipers.
“I’ll check the bus schedule,” he finally said. “Not sure if it runs on the holiday.”
“I’ll come get you.”
Her quick response and the eagerness in her voice were what made him agree. He didn’t want her to be alone and quite honestly, he didn’t want to be alone either. Scratch that, he wanted to be with her, really with her, but she didn’t want to be with him like that anymore and that was hard. Still, as hard as it was, he didn’t want her to be alone.
“Drive safe,” he said, and on impulse, he leaned over and kissed her cheek.
She picked him up at two the next day. The rain had only stopped in the early hours of the morning so everything was still wet and grey. At least it was a tad warmer than it was the day before. He’d spent the morning proving her wrong about not knowing how to cook by baking chocolate chip cookies. It might be the only thing he could cook, but he'd become very good at it and he wanted to contribute something to dinner.
On the drive to Boston Market, where she’d ordered their dinner, she kept eyeing the Tupperware container on his lap. He always found there was no better way to pique her curiosity than by not saying a thing. They were more than half-way to DC, stopped at a red light when she finally asked what he brought with him and he simply answered ‘dessert,’ with a smile.
He’d never been inside her apartment. For one thing, he hadn’t been invited. For another, he hadn’t had a reason to be there. She gave him the tour and he couldn’t help but think about how different it was from what he’d pictured for her. It was nothing like her old apartment and it was nothing like their house either. It looked like a catalog had thrown up in her living room. It felt staged. Unlived in. It made him wonder if she’d leased it furnished and never bothered with personal touches. It lacked both a fireplace and a decent bathtub, the only two must-haves on her list when they’d been house hunting together.
She was somewhat different in this place as well. It was like she’d forgotten how to be anyone but Doctor-Agent Scully. Black slacks, wine-colored sweater, high heels, not a curled hair out of place, all for a dinner at home. He wondered where the Scully went that wore his old sweatshirts and fuzzy slippers with her hair in a loose pony-tail. She was beautiful, always beautiful, but inaccessible in this form.
The meal they spread out on the table was more than enough to feed two people. All the trappings of a typical Thanksgiving were included, except for the wine which she selected from a small rack in the living room. They sat down to eat and he stopped her as she picked up her fork. He had been to enough dinners at Maggie’s house to know she was missing something rather important. He held out his hand to her across the table and she stared at it for a moment before quietly putting her fork down and resting her hand in his. He waited for her to bow her head and then he lowered his eyes.
“Bless us, O Lord,” she murmured, “and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
He slipped his hand away and she kept her head bowed as she quickly crossed herself and then twisted the chain of her necklace with her fingers for a moment.
“This all looks delicious,” he said.
“Probably because I had nothing to do with it.”
They both chuckled, sipped their wine, and ate quietly. He wasn’t sure what you were supposed to say to someone you’d spent half your life with, but who suddenly felt like a stranger. ‘I’ll never stop loving you, please pass the yams,’ didn’t seem like a good idea.
“I’m thinking of moving to the city,” he said.
“Maybe Arlington. Arlington’s nice.”
“The commute would certainly be better.”
“I don’t really want to sell our house, though.” He paused when she stopped chewing and looked away from her to cut into his green beans. “It’d be nice for like a weekend thing. I like it out there.”
“I know you do.”
He finally revealed the mystery of the Tupperware container to her after they’d sealed up the leftovers and retired to the living room with their wine. He’d have to admit to being thrilled by the noise of approval she made when she bit into one of the cookies and the fact that she had two of them was the ultimate compliment.
They managed to find a station showing Planes, Trains and Automobiles and it came as little surprise that Scully fell asleep half-way through. She’d fallen asleep during almost every movie they ever watched together. Just like old times, it started with her head gently falling to rest against his arm and slowly, slowly, she ended up curled up with her head in his lap and one hand tucked under his knee.
He allowed himself the luxury of resting his hand on her hip and turned down the volume of the movie a little so he could listen to her breathe. The Muppet’s Christmas Carol started after the movie ended and he shut off the TV, but stayed where he was. He tipped his head back against Scully’s overstuffed couch and let time pass.
Reluctantly, he finally slipped out from under her and replaced his lap with one of her throw pillows. He used her restroom and then went back to the living room. A soft chenille blanket lay heaped on one of her chairs and he covered her with it before sitting down by her hip.
“Scully,” he whispered, gently squeezing and rubbing her shoulder.
She came to with a deep breath and a jerk of her head. He wished there was a way to wake her calmly, but she always startled out of sleep no matter how softly he tried. He moved his hand from her arm and into his lap.
“Sorry, Mulder,” she breathed, pulling her arm out from under the blanket to rub her eyes. “I fell asleep?”
“Must’ve been all that tryptophan.”
“Mm.” Her eyes closed again and she sighed. “The drowsy effects of turkey are something of a myth. It’s the carbohydrates that increase serotonin production, the serotonin makes you calm and opens the door for tryptophan to induce sleepiness.”
He would forever be amused by her medical ramblings, even in her sleep. He smiled and fought the urge to touch her again. “So the mashed potatoes are the instigator and the turkey ends up with a ruined reputation. It’s an age old story, isn’t it?”
“The turkey isn’t blameless. They’re just partners in crime.”
Her eyes stayed closed and she breathed softly and steadily. He watched her doze for awhile and couldn't help but eventually brush the hair back from her face and rub his thumb over her cheek. She smiled a little and without opening her eyes, reached for his hand. He slipped his palm under hers and she ran her thumb up and down the side of his thumb. He so badly wanted to kiss her.
“I’m gonna call a car,” he said.
She blinked her eyes open and her brows came together. “Why?”
“It’s late. You’re in a poturkey coma.”
“You can stay.”
“Ah, Scully.” He dropped his head and chuckled. He covered her hand with his and rubbed her knuckles. She squeezed his fingers in return.
“Don't go, Mulder.”
He didn't know if it would be possible for him to stay, but not be with her. He shook his head lightly and petted the back of her hand. She squeezed his hand again and held it tight.
“We forgot to say what we're thankful for this year,” he said. Another of her mothers’ traditions. He was pretty certain it was a lot of mothers’ traditions, though not his own.
“I'm thankful that you're here,” she said.
“I'm thankful that you wanted to start this journey over again with me.”
“Full circle.” She smiled at him and rubbed her face against the throw pillow for a moment.
“Whatever way I have you at my side I'm grateful for,” he said quietly, lowering his eyes so he wouldn't have to look at her. “I was always grateful for that. Maybe I should have told you how much it meant to me years ago.”
“I know. I knew. You mean as much to me as I do to you, Mulder.”
He gave a small snort of disbelief. “Somehow I don't think that's possible, Scully.”
“I didn't leave because I don't love you. You know that.”
“It just wasn't enough,” he stated, a variation of her mantra while packing her bags.
“We were unhappy.”
“Are we happier now?”
“No.” She shook her head a little. “We aren't.”
He brought her hand up to his mouth with both of his own and kissed the side of her wrist. “I'll go call a car.” When he tried to let go of her hand, she held on with a fierce grip.
“I want you to stay,” she said.
“Everyone gets a little lonely during the holidays. I can’t spend a night with you and walk away. Please don’t ask me to.”
“That’s not what I’m asking and it’s not the reason.”
“What are you asking?”
“Forgive me,” she whispered. “Come back to me.”
“I never left.”
She finally pulled her hand free to cover her eyes with the back of her wrist. He felt undone by the tremble of her lips and he took her forearm, lifting her hand away from her face so he could see her. She blinked at him with wet lashes and he leaned down and pressed his mouth to hers very softly.
“You taste like chocolate chip cookies,” he murmured against her lips. He felt her smile and then she wrapped her arms around his neck. He took a moment to caress her face with his nose and cheek. “I want to stay.”
“Thank you,” she whispered, tightening her arms.