He was tired of thinking about the comment. He let himself into his apartment and headed straight for the TV, not bothering to remove his jacket. "A Christmas Carol" fine, anything.
"I imagine people would rather stick their finger in a light socket than spend a minute with you."
Okay, there was probably more validity in that than he wanted to know, but not Scully. She didn't feel that way and she had met him out there. But he'd practically forced her. Did she think he was pathetically socially maladjusted.
He really didn't want to explore that. Okay, the movie was starting. He settled in to watch, pushing everything else aside.
The knock startled him, it was after three. Who the hell? He opened the door and blinked.
It didn't matter what they said. She'd come to see him. Yes, she was obviously still disturbed by the occurrences of earlier this evening, but she had come to see him. And brought him a present -
Now they were settled on the couch, Christmas paper decorating his coffee table. They were quiet, but it was a comfortable quiet. He hated to disturb it. He gave a small sigh.
"If you have to be at your Mom's by six, Scully . . . "
"I know. I should go home and change." But she made no move to leave, in fact making herself a little more comfortable on the couch.
At least she didn't seem anxious to avoid his company. Finger in a light socket indeed. He looked back as her head lightly came to rest on his shoulder. A smile played across his lips. She'd fallen asleep. Okay, he'd give her a few minutes, then rouse her and send her on her way.
As a Christmas present to himself, he let his arm go around her and cuddled her slightly to him. She didn't protest, in fact she seemed to like the sensation.
The phone ringing made him jerk and he opened one eye. His cell, he leaned forward, but something was obstructing him. Why was he asleep sitting up on his couch anyway?
His hand closed on the phone as he looked down. Scully? Scully asleep with her head in his lap? What the . . . The phone rang again.
"Mulder." He knew he sounded like he'd just woken up, voice rough with sleep, but why was anyone calling him so early?
"Mu . . .Mulder? What the hell are you doing answering Dana's phone?" The irate voice of Bill Scully blasted into his ear.
Scully's phone? Oh shit! "Just a . . . "
He shook her shoulder lightly, "Scully." He spoke low, but urgently.
She protested his movements with incoherent sounds and pressed her face into his thigh. Shitshitshit!
"Uh, Scully, come on. Bill's on the phone."
That brought her eyes open and to her credit, she seemed to know what had happened in the space of two heartbeats. Her eyes were wide as she reached for the phone, sitting up and brushing her hair back with the other hand.
"B . . . Bill?"
"We thought you were joining us for Christmas this morning." Bill's voice was barely contained fury. Someone must be close enough to hear him.
"What, what time is it?"
"Almost six thirty." She heard Bill, as Mulder mouthed the same information. The look of guilt on his face would have been comical.
"I can be there in twenty minutes. I'm . . . I overslept."
"Yeah, I got that."
"Bill . . . I'm on my way." She disconnected the phone and turned back to Mulder.
"Scully, I'm sorry. You went to sleep and it was so late, I thought I'd let you catch a few winks. I didn't think I'd go to sleep too."
"It's not your fault Mulder. Where's my other shoe?" She was working her foot into one. He reached under the coffee table and snagged the second and literally slipped it on her foot, then both stood.
"Are you okay to drive? Awake enough?"
"Yes, I need to - "
"Go splash some water on your face Scully. Take a minute."
"I don't have a minute."
"Take one anyway. The damage is already done."
She met his eyes then and had to agree. Damn, she'd woken up with her head . . . she blushed and he stood still, afraid to move. Then she nodded and he stepped out of her way to give her access to the bathroom.
When she emerged she couldn't tell that he had moved. She needed to reassure him, but even more she needed to get going. "Mulder, I'll talk to you later. Please, this isn't your fault."
"Yeah." He moved toward the door and she sighed, then followed him. He put his hand on the knob and her hand covered his.
"Merry Christmas, Mulder." She rose up on her toes to brush a kiss on his cheek. He turned, not expecting it and their lips met. And held. Without conscious thought, his arms went around her, lifting her to him.
When he lowered her back to her feet, they broke apart. Her eyes were wide with surprise, but he saw no anger. He realized he was holding his breath for her reaction.
"I . . . I really have to go . . ." He nodded and opened the door. She moved away without looking back and he didn't close the door completely until he heard the elevator shut behind her. Then he pushed it closed and leaned against it.
What the hell had he been thinking? Maybe he needed to splash water on his face. She was obviously more awake than he was, but she hadn't slapped him, or shoved him away. Well it was Christmas.
Bill opened the door for her and took the packages from her arms. His expression said it all, so she turned away to be tackled by all three of her nephews. "Aunt Dana!" Finally a smile came to her face. She didn't see these guys often enough and returned their hugs.
Her mother came out of the kitchen then, dusting her hands. "Thank goodness you're here." She smiled. "I thought we were going to have to tie the boys up and possibly drug them." Maggie ruffled the hair of her youngest grandson, Matt.
"I'm really sorry, Mom."
"Don't worry about it. You're here now. Merry Christmas Honey." She moved around the boys and hugged her daughter.
Rather than make the boys wait any longer, everyone gathered around the tree. Dana got quick hugs from her sisters-in-law and took a seat next to Charlie, who squeezed her tightly. "You owe me, Sis."
"I've been up since five, while you were sleeping in."
Bill turned away.
Charlie leaned in closer. "And what did you do to tick off Bill?"
She shook her head and turned away. Charlie let it drop for now.
Opening the presents was fun. It was great having children in the place. Scully managed to force memories of Emily down and appreciated the chaos. When the adults finally retreated to the dining room for brunch, Scully was ready for some quiet. She managed to avoid Bill, sticking close to Mary and Tara, and helping her mother in the kitchen. Charlie noted it, but decided to wait. Bill's temper was never pretty and he didn't want to subject the kids to it. But something had happened and Bill was ready to chew nails.
Scully picked up the pitcher to refill it with juice and took it to the kitchen. She was reaching for the door of the refrigerator when her cell phone rang. "Scully."
"Hi. Are you okay?" Mulder's worried voice warmed her incredibly.
"Yeah. I'm fine."
"Really fine or Scully fine?"
"Really fine." Scully smiled and he could hear it, relaxing for the first time since he closed the door behind her.
"You didn't have to check up on me."
"Hey, I've got your back remember?"
"Yes, I remember." She said it softly and he wondered if she sounded so sexy because she was trying to whisper or . . .
She looked up as her mother entered the kitchen and spotted the phone in her hand. "Is that Fox?" Scully nodded. "I didn't realize he was in town. Is his mother here?"
Scully put her hand over the mouth piece. "No, she’s down in Raleigh with friends."
"Then you tell Fox dinner will be served at three and he's to be here."
"Mom, he - "
"That's an order. Do I need to talk to him?"
Scully smiled slightly, visualizing that. "No, I'll tell him, but . . ."
"No excuse is accepted. It's Christmas and he shouldn't be alone." That was the tone they had grown used to as children. Ahab might be career Navy, but Maggie took no slack. Scully nodded and Maggie returned to the dining room with the juice.
"Yeah, what's going on?"
"Mom has spoken. You are to be here for dinner. We'll serve at three, so you need to be here by two thirty."
"No way, Scully. You know - "
"So this is having my back, huh?"
There was a hesitation then and she felt a frisson of guilt for her words.
"You really want me there?"
She felt tears prickle at her eyes at those words. Mom was right, no one should be alone today. "Yeah, Mulder. I really want you here."
Again there was silence as he absorbed that.
"Hey, as extra incentive, Charlie's here. You could finally meet him."
"Oh come on Scully, we both know there isn't really a Charlie Scully. It's just a ruse to keep me from thinking you're the baby."
"That's right Mulder, but don't tell Mom, she's gotten attached to him . . . Mulder, are you coming?"
She could feel his hesitation, but didn't dare press any further. He didn't like social gatherings or family get togethers. He'd had so little experience with them growing up. And she was putting him in the same room with Bill, when Bill was at his worst . . . But she did want him here. She held her breath.
"Yeah, okay. But if I make anyone uncomfortable - "
"You won't make me uncomfortable. I'll see you at two thirty, two if you can make it."
"Don't push it, Scully." But she heard the pleasure in his voice at her words.
"I gotta get back. Hurry, really. Bye." She disconnected and looked at the phone for a minute. Then she took a deep breath and returned to the dining room. Maggie looked up and Scully gave a slight nod. Maggie smiled and turned back to Matt, to wipe his face and hands so he could return to the living room.
Scully looked around the room, well she couldn't call herself lonely or desolate as Lyda had accused. There were conflicts, she glanced over at Bill, but love and caring. And now that he was coming over a feeling of completeness.
She caught Charlie's eye as he watched her and actually winked. His own smile grew dramatically. He glanced over at Bill, who was absorbed in something else and missed it. For some reason that gave him a sense of relief. When he glanced back her smile had dimmed slightly. Enough.
Charlie rose from the table. "Well guys, before Mom puts us to work, I want to spend a couple of minutes with Dana. I never get to see her, so if you'll excuse us . . ." His hand on her shoulder felt good. She looked up and nodded.
"Let me know when you want me to set the table or something. I'm not about to try to compete in the kitchen." She glanced over at her mother.
"Fine, but not too long. We've got a lot of company coming. Father McCue, Audra . . . " Scully tuned her out, these were friends of her mother's who, like her, were widows or had no family . . . like Mulder.
"Dana?" Charlie touched her elbow.
"Doesn't look like it. What were you thinking about?"
"Let's go upstairs."
He nodded and followed her up, turning her into the bedroom he and Mary were using.
“So, what’s going on with you and Bill?” He sat beside her on the bed. When she didn’t respond, he bent to look into her eyes. “You were late getting here, is there a connection?”
“I was, I was on a case last night.”
“On Christmas Eve?”
“Mulder came up with this, uh . . . he wanted to check out . . . “
“Okay, you were on a case with Mulder. Is that what ticked him off? You having to work on a holiday?”
She shook her head, “The case was, oh hell Charlie, it was just strange. When I left Mulder I went home and started to get ready for bed. It was already after two. But I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I hadn’t given Mulder his present, so I went to his place.”
“Sorry, go on.”
“Anyway, after we exchanged gifts and talked a little about the . . . where we’d been, I was really tired. Mulder . . . I fell asleep on his couch and he did too. Bill’s call woke him up and he answered my phone without realizing . . . “
The grin on Charlie’s face stopped her and her eyes narrowed.
“So, Bill’s Christmas present was finding out that you’d slept with Mulder.” His grin was ear to ear now.
“We did not sleep together.”
“You were both asleep on his couch. What do you call it?”
She sighed, exasperated. “You know what I mean.”
“Yeah, you had a better Christmas Eve than I did.”
She punched him in the arm then and he laughed out loud. She felt her own lips twitch.
No, she had not spent Christmas Eve with a couple of ghosts, it had been an hallucination from being in that creepy house, she brushed aside the half formed rationalization. It didn't matter anyway, it was Christmas and the people she cared about most were here or would be shortly.
Charlie saw the smile that had formed on her face and put his arm around her. “I’m glad we’re together, and I’m glad I’m finally gonna meet this guy.”
“Yeah, me too. Charlie, last night . . . I want Mulder to feel comfortable, welcome. He deserves to be happy at Christmas, not alone and not . . . not disturbed or dark or, or lonely.”
“Dana, from what I’ve heard, all he needs is you. The rest of us are just icing.”
“What? Where did you - “
“I have my sources. You just hang close to him, I’ll handle the rest. Merry Christmas, Sis. ”
“Merry Christmas, Charlie, and thanks.” She said simply.
Christmas Ghosts 2
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