SPOILERS: Through Season 6; this takes place Christmas 1998 but completely disregards HTGSC.
DISCLAIMER: Not mine; the X-Files belong to CC, FOX, etc.
* * * * *
Mulder was up to something.
That, of course, was nothing unusual, but the fact that Scully had no idea what it was made her nervous. He simply had told her that he would pick her up at 2:30 on Saturday, but he resolutely refused to divulge any further information.
Scully glanced at the clock again. It was now almost 2:40, and Mulder had yet to appear.
Taking a seat on the couch to cease her pacing, she let her eyes wander over her meager Christmas decorations. She could still hear her father's teasing words the last night she saw him, asking if she planned to leave her decorations up all year. Every year since then, she had put less and less time and effort into the decorations. Sometimes she used the excuse that she was just too busy; others, that she wouldn't even be home on Christmas Day. But the truth was her heart was seldom in it. Each holiday season seemed to mark another loss, making the dwindling decorations sadly appropriate.
This year was certainly no exception.
She was grateful she didn't have to return to San Diego this Christmas, although part of her felt guilty not to be placing flowers on the grave to mark the grim anniversary. With her family well aware of Matthew's first birthday approaching, she knew they wouldn't be oblivious to the other memories from a year ago. But she wasn't sure how they would act around her--looks of pity and hushed voices? She would prefer that they not even remember.
An abrupt knock offered reprieve from her sullen thoughts, turning her mind to other matters: Trouble had arrived.
"Ho, ho, ho, Merry Christmas."
"Oh, no." Scully had opened her door to find Santa standing on her doorstep--or rather, Mulder dressed as Santa from head to toe.
"Oh, yes." He stepped into the doorway, and she hastily stepped back, retreating from the padded gut that preceded him by over a foot.
"Okay, that's it. I'm not leaving this apartment until you tell me where we're going." Scully crossed her arms and planted her feet, standing her ground until she got her answer.
"O ye of little faith." Mulder pivoted to face her squarely, his bowlful of jelly almost taking out a lamp in the process. "You know that toy drive at work?"
"For the children's hospital?"
"Yep. I volunteered us to deliver the presents."
She looked him over from hat to boot, letting the news sink in. "Please don't tell me I'm going as an elf."
"No--Mrs. Claus. I even brought you a costume."
Regarding him with suspicion, she reached out to take the plastic shopping bag he was offering her. A glance inside revealed a jumble of red velvet and white fur. She hesitantly took hold of the fabric and pulled it out. It appeared to be a jacket matching Mulder's, with a waist of inverse proportions. But there wasn't anything else in the bag.
"Where's the rest of it?"
He smirked at her. "That's it."
Scully dropped the bag and held the costume up to her body. The bottom barely hit her knees.
"Mulder, Mrs. Claus would never wear something like this."
"She would if she had your body."
She just stared at him in shock, not believing he had actually said that.
Trying to suppress his grin, he waggled his eyebrows at her. "Just think of yourself as Santa's sexy, young mistress."
Her shock quickly transformed into a glare. "Oh, I see. You're going as Pervert Santa."
Mulder just chuckled. "Hurry up and change. The kids are waiting."
"Mulder, I can't wear this! Especially not in front of children."
"There'll be teenagers there, too. And I can guarantee that you are exactly what every boy over twelve wants under his Christmas tree."
"Dirty old man," she grumbled at him as she headed for the bedroom. "I'll see if I have some leggings or tights I can wear with this."
"Don't take too long," he called after her. "The reindeer are double-parked."
* * *
Scully hadn't found any leggings, so she had settled for her least sheer pair of pantyhose. She was fortunate that the skirt fell almost to her knees, much more modest than the mid-thigh mark that it was designed to hit on a taller woman. Nevertheless, she kept unconsciously tugging it down and was careful to keep her knees together at all times. Thankfully, the neckline wasn't revealing, so she didn't feel that she was dressed like a Playboy bunny. But that didn't stop her from plotting revenge against Mulder.
The mood was quiet between them on the way over, but once they entered the hospital doors, Mulder was every bit the jolly old elf. It wasn't as easy for Scully to don the persona, especially upon seeing so many children in hospital beds. More than once, she thought she caught a glimpse of a little blonde girl out of the corner of her eye, only to turn and find that it was really a boy, or a girl with brown curls.
Scully was no fool. She knew exactly what Mulder was doing. At first, she resented him for forcing her into this situation, but gradually she began to warm to their task. For all the pain and sickness that this place held, it was now bubbling with a spirit of joy and anticipation, and all because of their visit. With each glimpse of Santa, a child's face would light up like a bulb on a tree. Surrounded by so many smiles, Scully couldn't help but get caught up in it all. For a few short hours that afternoon, these youngsters who had been forced into early maturity could forget about their troubles and just be kids again.
Afternoon extended well into the evening, drawn out by their lengthy visits with several of the families. Mulder had even been a sport and posed for pictures with many of the kids. By the time they handed out the last present, Scully was exhausted and her feet were killing her, but she felt it had been well worth it. Bringing happiness to so many children had been a great balm to her spirit. She didn't know how she could ever properly thank her partner for this simple gift he had given her.
As they headed for the car, Scully pulled her trench coat tightly around her. Now that the sun had gone down, the air was considerably colder, feeling all the more frigid against her practically bare legs. Apparently noticing her shivers, Mulder graciously turned the heat up as soon as he started the car, but he made no move to pull out of the parking lot. She looked at him in question.
Reaching behind her into the back seat, he pulled out one more wrapped present.
"Did we forget one?"
"No. This one's for you."
Scully took the small box from his hand and gingerly unwrapped it. It was small enough to be a jewelry box, which gave rise to a flutter of anxiety that she wasn't prepare to analyze at the moment. She took her time, stalling to guess at what might be inside. But truthfully, the last thing she expected from Mulder was an orthodox gift.
So much for expecting the unexpected--it was an ornament. The delicate gold was cut in the shape of an angel, her face, dress, and wings etched into the precious metal in intricate detail. And inscribed across her broad sash was a name.
Scully gently traced the outline of a wing, touching it carefully as though she feared it might break. She was at a loss how to respond to such a thoughtful gift, especially after everything Mulder had already done for her today, so she opted for levity instead.
"I was guessing it was a baseball card."
"Nah, that's what you're getting for your birthday."
They both laughed quietly, mostly to ease the tension that had built, but the seriousness soon returned.
For the first time since she had opened the box, Scully finally looked up at her partner. There was really only one thing to say:
It seemed too simple a phrase for everything she was feeling, but somehow she knew that Mulder would hear the words she left unspoken.
He gave her an embarrassed smile and shrugged slightly. "It just...seemed like the thing to do."
She responded with a warm smile of her own and then returned her attention to the gift in her hands. Threading a finger through the loop of ribbon at the top, she lifted the ornament to dangle in front of her. Light from the lampposts overhead filtered through the golden lacework of the angel's dress, offering a mere taste of how she would look dancing among the vibrant lights of a Christmas tree.
This was a decoration that Scully knew she would look forward to unpacking each year.
The light shifted as the car backed out of the parking space, soon casting the gold into shadows. Her halo now dimmed, the angel floated back down to her box and was carefully packed away for the rest of the drive.
When the box was closed again, Scully snuck a glance at her companion, now focused completely on the road. Her simple thanks had been intended for both the ornament and the events of the day, and she knew he understood that. But before the evening was over, there was one more thing that needed to be said.
"Mulder, next year *I'm* in charge of the costumes."