He let himself in the office and stopped. The lights were on? Who was . . .? Then he spotted her at the files. "Scully? What are you doing here? I thought you were leaving for California with your mother."
"Uh, no, I uh, I'm not going out there this year."
"But your family . . . "
"I just had too much to do this year Mulder. I didn't feel like I could take off and – "
"Didn't want to go, huh?" He cut through what she was avoiding saying.
She looked away, her face coloring slightly. "When are you heading up to the Vineyard?" An obvious change of subject, but he let her get away with it.
"Mom went to Florida with some friends, I won't be going up."
"We're a real family oriented group this year, aren't we?"
Rather than respond directly to that, she shut the file drawer and turned toward the desk. "So do you have any plans?"
"Yeah, there's a Twilight Zone marathon on cable, I'll fix a turkey sandwich and settle in."
He grinned at her, "What about you?"
"I might call some friends, see if they're in town." She turned away from him and opened the file she'd brought to the desk.
He hesitated for a moment, then before he could chicken out, "If your plans are really that up in the air, I could make two sandwiches."
"Mulder, you don't have to - "
"Of course, you have to watch the Twilight Zone, that's part of the deal. And not give me a lot of grief about any scientific inaccuracies."
She had to chuckle. "Any other restrictions?"
"No, that should do it. Well?" He'd leaned back in his chair now waiting for her answer, trying to look nonchalant.
"What if we make one little change?"
His eyes narrowed, "Twilight Zone is not negotiable."
"Heaven forbid. No, I was thinking we could move the party to my apartment. I have cable. And I could cook a Christmas dinner."
His eyebrow rose. "A real dinner?"
"Yes, I can cook you know. You could stop off and get a pumpkin pie and we'd be all set. What do you think?"
He pretended to contemplate the arrangement and finally looked up, "What about whipped cream?"
"That's part of dessert and your department."
"Well, all right, if I have to." She turned away, laughing quietly and shaking her head. The whole holiday seemed brighter suddenly.
She answered his knock and took the bag from him before he could drop it entirely. He was balancing the pie on top of a Christmas present and the bag was slipping dangerously. "You're right on time. Come on in. Is it snowing?" She checked in the bag as she headed toward the kitchen. Whipping cream and a bottle of wine. For some reason she felt the heat in her face and was glad not to be looking at him. Her mind was in the gutter suddenly, what was wrong with her?
"It's just starting. They're not expecting an accumulation."
"Oh but if it keeps up Christmas morning will be white. That didn't happen often on the bases where we were stationed." He grinned; she was like a kid. He wondered again what had kept her from being with her family now. Not that he was complaining. "What time does our marathon start?"
He glanced down at his watch. "We've got an hour."
"Good, dinner is almost ready. Why don't you light the candles." It was a good thing she had her back to him, candles? Okay. He did as she asked and surveyed the table - flowers, china, a tablecloth. Yeah, this beat a turkey sandwich on a paper plate in front of the TV.
She was dressed casually, black slacks and a sweater that he could learn to appreciate. He was glad he hadn't thrown on the jeans. This was nicer than that. He helped her carry the food to the table and held her chair for her. She glanced back as though he might pull it out from under her, but then relaxed and allowed it.
After a quick holiday toast, using her wine, they began to eat. "You know this doesn't taste quite like my mother's turkey."
She looked up quickly, "Is it okay?"
"I didn't know you could have turkey that wasn't dusty and needed gravy to wash it down." He grinned and she smiled back at him. That was probably a compliment, she'd take it as such.
There was no shoptalk, just stories of holidays past and special memories. When dinner was eaten, she rose to clear the table and start coffee. He pulled out the dessert and actually managed to whip the cream for the pie with a minimum of fuss. They retired to the living room and flipped on the TV with the sound off, so as not to miss the beginning of his show.
Once settled she reached under the couch and brought out his present. "For me?" His eyes gleamed and she nodded.
She watched as he tore off the paper and his eyes widened. "Scully, this is too much. Where did you find it?"
She smiled at his obvious pleasure. "It was very reasonable, Mulder, except for the finders fee."
He looked up at her then. "Finder's fee? Who found it?"
"Frohike. I had to go out to dinner with him."
He gaped at her for a moment. "You went out with Frohike to get me this book? Do I need to kill him?"
"No, I actually had a good time. He can be quite charming when he wants to be."
"So you two are dating?" He wasn't sure how to react to her last statement.
She laughed at that and he relaxed back on the couch, enjoying the sight. "No, but I think we have a better understanding of our 'relationship' now."
His eyes narrowed at that. Relationship? With Frohike? Even knowing she was kidding, he still felt a twinge of . . . what? Jealousy? Yeah, right, jealous of Frohike and Scully. But it still didn't go completely away.
He reached for the box he had brought her and handed it over. "It's not a first edition, but I hope you like it." At her smile he decided he needed to do something with his hands, so reached again for his wine glass.
"Mulder, it's beautiful! Cashmere? You shouldn't have, but I'm so glad you did!" She held the sweater up in front of her and his grin widened.
"It does match." He nodded.
"Match? What?" She looked up at him.
"Your eyes. When I saw it I thought it was pretty close, but it's perfect." He watched the color rise on her cheeks. "Go try it on, I want to see if it fits."
She let the box fall from her lap and headed into the bedroom. He'd done good, she really seemed to like it. He stood and gathered up the scattered paper and balled it up to throw it away. While he was up he refilled both wineglasses, bringing the new bottle out to the living room and was back lounging on the couch when she emerged.
She turned in front of him. "Is it a little snug?"
He had to swallow. "Uh, no. It's perfect." She smiled down into his eyes and felt himself growing very warm. Maybe he'd had enough wine.
She brushed a kiss on his cheek. "Thank you. It's beautiful."
He patted the couch next to him, "Leave it on, I like it. And thank you for the book." She sat next to him and glanced over at the TV.
"Mulder, your show's starting." She pointed at the screen.
"What? Oh yeah." He pressed the mute button to bring the sound back. Good, he needed the distraction. The sweater did look good. She settled back, their shoulders nearly touching and concentrated on the screen. She'd seen his eyes dilate at the sight of her in his present and was savoring it. When he next reached forward for his glass he shifted just enough to bring them into contact, when she didn't protest he draped his arm along the back of the couch. Hadn't he learned this particular maneuver at the movies as a kid? Well, it still seemed to work.
Scully hadn't been able to hold her tongue entirely about the scientific aspects of the show, but the bickering had been friendly and gotten even friendlier as the level of wine got lower and lower. They were five or six shows in before he realized she had fallen asleep against him. This was nice, probably the nicest Christmas Eve he ever remembered. He snuggled her in closer and settled in to watch the rest of his shows.
It was about twenty minutes later when the power went out. No warning, no brown outs, just sudden darkness. He glanced over at the window, then eased her down on the couch as he got up to check. The snow had turned into an ice storm, and he didn't see a light anywhere around. It didn't look like he'd be heading home anytime soon.
He should move her on into the bedroom, but she might be cold in there alone. The heat was off after all. Maybe they'd be better off out here. He ducked into her bedroom and pulled the blanket off of the foot of the bed and returned to her. She hadn't stirred.
He moved her until he could crawl in behind her, then draped the blanket over both of them and relaxed back into the cushions. Might as well try to get a little sleep himself, no way he was going to try to drive in this.
The light was beginning to come through the windows when she stirred. She was disoriented, was she on the couch? And what else . . .
"Merry Christmas Scully."
That startled her and she turned in his arms. "Mulder? What are you doing here?" She started to sit up, "And why is it so cold?"
"Your white Christmas turned into an ice storm, we lost power a little after midnight. I decided driving would be a mistake." And I didn't want to leave you alone here and have both of us freeze, he added to himself. "Hope you don't mind."
"No. No of course not. I'm glad you're here. It must be bad outside."
He relaxed at those words and pulled her up against him again. "It's early, go back to sleep."
To his relief she snuggled back up against him. "Merry Christmas, Mulder." He just smiled.