the series is as follows so far:
First … Second … Third … Fourth … Fifth … Fifth Christmas, Part 2 … Sixth … Seventh … Eighth … Ninth … Tenth … Eleventh … Twelfth … Thirteenth … Fourteenth … Fifteenth … Sixteenth … Seventeenth … Eighteenth … Nineteenth … Twentieth … Twenty-first … Twenty-second … Twenty-third
He didn’t mention anything about Christmas. He tried to keep her away from the decorated stores and any hint of cold, taking them to the southern part of the country in early October and deciding not to go north again until at least March so there wouldn’t be snow to remind her of it. He made sure to find radio stations without Christmas music on them, he steered them clear of big towns, small towns, medium size town, hoping to avoid accidently running into large celebrations, tree-lighting ceremonies, holiday parades.
But it all went to hell on December 19. The rattle-trap car they were using wheezed its death knell and sagged instantly into rigor mortis, never to be saved again, even under the skilled hands of Tom ‘The Fixer’ Pendleton, resident mechanical guru of Crankton, Texas, a place that looked like it took a page right out of Dickens or Norman Rockwell with its wreaths and garland and town square Christmas tree and Salvation Army bell ringers.
Scully, to her credit, was not stupid. She may not be a badged investigator anymore but for all Mulder’s perceived sneakiness, she saw right through it all. She wasn’t angry with him for his ineptitudes, his lovably pathetic attempts to keep Christmas from her, giving him eye-rolling credit where credit was due but she finally had enough, looking at him after he received the news of the car’s demise, “we’ll find another car after the holidays, all right?”
“We can probably find one now. I mean, there’s got to be at least one shitty car in this God-forsaken nightmare of a town that’ll get us out of here by dark.”
Taking him out onto the sidewalk in front of the repair place, “this God-forsaken nightmare of a town is anything but a God-forsaken nightmare of a town. Please, Mulder, we haven’t stopped moving in months and it’s Christmas and this looks like a nice place to spend some time.”
Mulder looked down at her, her hollow cheeks and sallow eyes, “I was trying to outrun Christmas. I’m sorry I couldn’t.”
He hadn’t seen her smile in weeks so he was surprised to see her lips turn up slightly, “you made a very good effort, though and I thank you but right now, I’d just like to take a shower and lie down. Can we find someplace to stay?”
She tried to fight it but the closer it got to Christmas, the heavier the depression weighed on her. Mulder did his best and she loved him for it but this would be her first Christmas since Will and her first without her family. Granted, she did have Mulder but even his warm arms couldn’t fight off her sadness.
Christmas Eve arrived with a windstorm to beat all, windows rattling, tree branches breaking, power lines snapping them into pitch darkness. The instant the light disappeared, Scully called over to him, panic clear in her voice, “Mulder? You still there?”
Getting up, he made his way to her side on the bed, sitting down after running into the edge of the mattress with his knees, “I’m right here. Where would I have gone to in that two seconds?”
Scully groped across the sheets until she found his leg, then wrapping her hand tightly around his upper thigh, “I don’t know but I’m not taking the chance that you disappeared.”
The heavy curtains had been drawn across the windows and even after a time, his eyes weren’t adjusting to the dark. Sliding down to the floor to rest on his knees so his face was mere inches from hers, “I’m not going to disappear again. I swear to you.”
Her now empty hand drifted up towards his voice, her fingers gently knocking into his cheekbone, then tracing to his eyebrows, “promise.”
“I promise, Scully. I won’t go anywhere again without you.” Climbing up beside her, he nestled his head into her neck, “you have no idea how terrible I feel that I left you the first time. I should have taken you and Will with me. I should have hidden us away somewhere quiet and let the world pass right on by. I should have been so much better to both of you but I’m trying now and I swear on our son, I’m not going anywhere again.”
Her tears spilled out, soaking both Mulder and the pillow within seconds, “I miss him so much, Mulder, you have absolutely no idea how much it takes to get out of bed in the morning and keep moving and keep running when the only thing I want to do is curl up and wither away.”
This was said in one, long, hiccupping, run-on sentence punctuated by snuffling and hitching words. She hadn’t said much about their son since she told him all those months ago in prison that she’d given him up. They’d talked briefly then but this is the most Will had been mentioned since. Knowing he’d never understand her guilt and grief in quite the same way, he silenced the little voice in his head that wanted to scream at her that he’d lost a son, too, having only ever held him for two nights of his life.
He pulled her closer instead, until her storming quieted, her breathing evened out, “are you okay?”
“I’ll never be okay Mulder but I feel a little better than I did ten minutes ago.”
“I’m sorry I can’t give you a better Christmas.”
She felt the guilt settle directly on her chest, a two-ton elephant in the room that if she didn’t address immediately, would follow them around forever, “it’s not your job to give me a better Christmas. It’s my job to realize this is the best Christmas we’ve had this year,” waiting for him to smile at her pathetic joke, which he did, she continued, “but more to realize that I’ve got you back and get to wish you Merry Christmas and know that you’ll be here in the morning when I wake up.”
Meeting her nose with his, “you have no idea how much I cried when I left last year. Nearly gave myself up at the nearest police station; figured I’d just walk in and say, ‘I’m Fox Mulder. Can you just arrest me and give me my phone call so I can talk to Scully again?”
The cold tendrils of depression insistently tapped on her soul demanding entrance but for the first time in several months, she ignored them, emptying her mind as she searched for his hand under the covers, “thank God you didn’t. I hear conjugal visits aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.”
Moving to kiss her forehead as he felt her relax, knowing he was forgiven for past transgressions, “so, completely off subject, how long do you think the power’s going to be out?”
As she slid her hand along his arm, across his chest, down his belly, she swam her hand under his shirt and back up his bare skin, “hopefully awhile. Like this, I can imagine the hotel away and put us in our bed again, underneath our warm comforter, storm outside and in.” Moving her hand down to the waist of his pajama pants and then inside, “it’s so quiet now, I can almost hear the blood in your veins, moving along, making every part of you so warm, it’s intoxicating.”
Swallowing hard, he prayed for speech or at least the ability to formulate a few syllables, “I love you.”
She said it back without restraint, without resentment, without that dull sense of familiarity and toneless commonality. She said it with fire, with heat, with an edge of something he hadn’t heard from her since before he disappeared the first time, before he entered that damn ship and ruined his life.
The power was out all night.
They didn’t sleep a wink of it.
When Scully woke the next morning, naked, warm and liquid, she opened her eyes to find a Gingerbread House Christmas ornament hanging from the edge of the lamp shade and a small wrapped gift below it. Sneaking out of bed and out of his arms, she dug in the far corners of her battered, broken suitcase to find her own hidden gift for him. Placing it beside the one he’d left, she slipped back into his arms, purposely over-moving so he’d begin to wake, to celebrate Christmas morning the only way they could.
With a single ornament and not a space between them.