Comfort and Joy

This story is based on characters created by Chris Carter and Ten

Thirteen

Productions. Characters used without permission. No infringement

intended.

TITLE: Comfort and Joy

AUTHOR: Jo-Ann Lassiter

EMAIL ADDRESS: Jolassi555@cs.com

DISTRIBUTION STATEMENT: Two weeks exclusive on VS10.

Then post anywhere. Thanks.

RATING: PG-13

CLASSIFICATION: S, R

SUMMARY: When Mulder gets sick right before Christmas, he

tries to hide it from Scully because he doesn’t want her to stay

home with him instead of spending the holiday with her family.

AUTHOR’S NOTE: No plot. Barely a story. Pure MT.

THANKS: To Gerry for the ultra-fast beta.

December 19, 2002

FBI Headquarters

10:38 a.m.

“No, Mom. It’s no trouble.” Scully cradled the phone against one

ear while she jotted information on the yellow-lined tablet. “Got it.

We should be at your house about eight.” Her eyes met his, and

Mulder knew that not only would what they were planning involve

him in some way, it would be extremely painful. “Unless

something comes up, yes.” Her eyes returned to the pad of paper as

she said her good-byes and hung up.

“Don’t tell me,” Mulder groaned. “Bill’s flight. Your mother can’t

pick him up.”

Scully nodded. “Right.”

“So you’re picking him up?” Mulder asked, hopefully.

When she smiled that sweetly evil smile, Mulder’s spirits plunged.

“We’re picking him up,” she told him, emphasis on the “we.”

Mulder only sighed before turning back to his reports.

**

3:56 p.m.

He was running out of time. The hour was fast approaching when

they had to leave for the airport, and Mulder hadn’t come up with

any excuses good enough to get him out of seeing Billy Boy five

days ahead of schedule.

Just as he had resigned himself to a night of pure torture, the phone

rang. Mulder tried to contain his joy when Skinner asked him if

they would assist White Collar Crimes with some wire tap duty.

WCC was short-staffed due to some poor vacation planning,

compounded by an epidemic of bank fraud cases, and they were

borrowing from other departments. The X-Files division was the

last to be tapped.

Mulder accepted for himself, but told Skinner that Scully was

unavailable. “Her brother?” Skinner asked, then chuckled. “No

wonder you were so eager to accept.”

“Yes, sir,” Mulder said crisply, checking his watch. “If I leave now

I can be there in half an hour.”

Scully’s head snapped up at that. “Where are you going?” she

asked when he put the phone down.

“Gotta help out the White Collar boys.” He thought he did well in

sounding almost disappointed. “They asked for you, too, but I got

you out of it.”

“Wire tap?” she asked.

He nodded.

“Mulder, you hate wire tap duty.”

He had to bite his tongue to keep from telling her that although he

hated it with a passion, it still beat the hell out of having to spend

time with her brother. He shrugged. “They’re stuck. It’s an

important case, and they just don’t have the manpower.” He met

her eyes, beginning to feel a little guilty for bugging out on her.

“It’s just for tonight. I promise.”

“You promised you’d come Christmas shopping with me tomorrow

night,” she reminded him.

“I will.” He grabbed his coat, gave her a quick kiss and a wink,

then headed to the door. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

Once he was safely on the other side of the door, he released a

huge sigh of relief for the reprieve from Bill’s company. If he

played his cards right, maybe he could get out of seeing him

altogether.

Mulder snorted as he took the stairs up to the lobby.

Like **that** was ever an option.

**

9:47 p.m.

Dilapidated Office Building in Seedy Section of Arlington, VA

Top Floor

Mulder adjusted the headphones and shivered. Why would any

self-respecting bank V.P. be holed up in such a dive? He shifted

his seat—for about the fiftieth time—as a few more flakes of

plaster floated down from the dangerously-sagging ceiling.

Activity next door brought him back to his job, and he checked the

recorder to make sure it was getting everything. As he listened, he

could tell that this might very well be it. The veep was about to

hang himself; he could feel the team gearing up for the arrest.

The perp sang like a bird to his girlfriend on the phone, and Mulder

quickly checked that he’d gotten it; sure enough, the tape was

rolling. With any luck, he’d be home by 10:30.

As the boys in FBI blue burst in, Mulder heard the commotion

through the wall; he sighed in relief as the man allowed the cuffs to

be placed on him with no resistance.

A knock came on his door, and Mulder stood to unlock it.

Then the roof caved in.

**

10:03 p.m.

For a moment, Mulder could do nothing but stare at the debris

blocking the door. Another second, and he would have been under

that big block of grey metal nestled in amongst the plaster and

wood and tarpaper.

Frantic pounding on the door brought him out of his reverie.

“Agent Mulder! Are you all right in there? Is the tape okay?”

Mulder opened his mouth to respond, and breathed in a lungful of

dust. Caught in a coughing fit, Mulder was unable to assure the

SAC that he—and the tape—were unharmed.

Taking his handkerchief out of his pocket, Mulder secured it over

his mouth so that he could breathe without inhaling too much of

the dust. When he got a breath, he answered, “The tape is fine.” He

glared at the culprit that had caused the collapse. “I’m stuck in

here, though. An old air-conditioning unit fell through the roof and

is blocking the door.” He coughed again as a breeze stirred up the

dried plaster and—ugh—dried bird droppings.

“Hang on a few minutes. We’ll get someone up here with an axe to

break the door open.” Footsteps raced away from the door and then

faded altogether.

Mulder shivered; he looked around for where he’d tossed his coat,

cursing as he discovered it wedged into the floor, laying half under

the six-foot square of metal. Retreating to the corner furthest from

the gaping hole in the roof, Mulder huddled in on himself, trying to

escape the cold and the dust that was swirling through the room,

whipped into a frenzy by the wind.

By the time the fire department arrived to break him out, his teeth

were chattering, and he’d inhaled about a pound of old plaster. He

was coughing and wheezing so badly that the paramedics deemed a

trip to the hospital a necessity. Since Mulder felt like shit by this

time, he didn’t think it was such a bad idea and went along

willingly.

When they reached the hospital, Mulder was feeling much better,

warmth and oxygen combining to make him feel almost human

again. Since the stakeout site had been an old building, the firemen

had checked for any sign of asbestos or any other dangerous

elements and had found nothing. The physician told Mulder that

his lungs were still congested and that he might experience

dizziness and shortness of breath for the next few days while his

system was ridding itself of the dust. He was ordered to avoid any

unnecessary exercise.

Mulder frowned. “What about walking? I’m supposed to go

Christmas shopping tomorrow night.”

The doctor shook her head. “I’d really recommend against it.” She

looked him in the eye. “Unless you don’t mind making a spectacle

of yourself and frightening yourself to death—because that’s

exactly what you’ll be doing after about fifteen minutes when you

either can’t catch your breath or begin coughing your lungs out.”

Mulder was horrified. If she had been trying to scare him into

following her orders, she’d certainly done so. “Point taken, Doctor.

Just how long do I have to wait until I’m fit enough to go out in

public?”

The doctor smiled. “You can go out in public, Agent Mulder. You

can even go to work, if you want. Just desk duty, though, for the

next couple of days.”

Mulder nodded. “All right.” Scully would either have to go

shopping without him, or wait until he was more healthy. “Thank

you.”

The doctor nodded absently, ducking around the privacy sheet and

leaving. Mulder pulled his shirt back on and stood up.

Immediately, he felt a tightness in his chest. A few seconds of

massage and several cleansing coughs served to ease up the ache.

Exiting the emergency room bay, Mulder walked slowly to the

bank of phones near the nurses’ station. Glancing at his watch, he

sighed. Ten minutes after one. So much for being home by ten

thirty.

Taking out the necessary amount of coins, he dialed his partner.

**

December 23, 2002

6:33 p.m.

Landmark Center (Mall)

Alexandria, Virginia

“Scully, I’m fine. Would you stop looking at me like I’m going to

keel over any minute?” Mulder was growing exasperated at his

partner’s hovering. On his worst day, he had never clung to her the

way she was adhered to his side. And the glances. Every ten

seconds, she would turn her head ever so slightly—just enough to

irritate the hell out of him.

“Mulder, after what happened at work…”

He stopped, detaching her from his side and moving her out to

arm’s length. “That was three days ago. And the day after I got out

of the hospital. I feel fine now. I’ve felt fine for the past two days.”

He narrowed his eyes into slits. “Okay?”

When Scully broke eye contact and looked down at her shoes,

Mulder felt bad for yelling at her. “Hey…” He hooked his index

finger under her chin, bringing her eyes back up to meet his. “I

know you’re only looking out for me, and I appreciate it. But I’m

okay now.”

She sighed, nodding. “I know, but…” She shuddered.

Mulder let out a breath of exasperation. Was she never going to get

past his taking a little tumble down the stairs on Friday after lunch?

They had been a half block from the agents’ entrance when the

skies opened up on them. Without thinking, Scully had grabbed

Mulder’s hand and pulled him along as she ran to the door. The

exertion caught up with Mulder in the stairwell; as he stepped off

the landing, his chest tightened, cutting off the flow of oxygen to

his brain. He missed the next step and landed in a rather

undignified heap at the bottom.

Once Scully realized the cause, she’d been mother-henning him to

death.

“You’re right. I’m sorry.” She smiled tentatively. “Can I trust you

to tell me if it’s too much?”

He crossed his thumb over his heart. “Scout’s honor.”

“Okay, then.”

She took hold of his arm, and Mulder looked at her, sighing and

rolling his eyes. Why, oh, why, must she coddle him so?

“Because I like to,” she said softly. “Got a problem with that?”

Mulder laid a hand over hers. Well, when she put it like thatÖ

“None whatsoever.”

**

December 24, 2002

4 a.m.

Mulder’s Apartment

What a difference a day made, Mulder thought, shivering under the

blankets. Even though he no longer exhibited any of the symptoms

from his little escapade, he’d caught **something.** He staggered

out of bed into the bathroom, surprised to find his legs just barely

able to hold his weight. After relieving himself, he hurried to his

dresser and pulled out the warmest set of sweats he owned, pulling

them on hastily.

Shuffling back into the bathroom, he found the bottle of Tylenol

and swallowed three. He crawled back under the covers and fell

back to sleep.

**

December 24, 2002

12:37 p.m.

FBI Headquarters Basement Office

“…with Charlie home!” Scully’s delighted voice brought him out of

the stupor he’d been in. He knew how excited she was about the

entire family being together for the first time in several years, so

he’d been trying to will himself back to health.

It wasn’t working. As the day wore on, he was feeling worse and

worse, but he was determined that Scully should enjoy her

Christmas Eve. He was not about to spoil her good time because of

some stupid flu bug that had wormed its way into his system.

“…so if you don’t mind, I’ll pick you up at 6.”

Damn. He’d spaced out again. “I’m sorry. What?”

“I said it’d be easier if I packed my car beforehand and then just

picked you up instead of your picking me up and then having to

pack your car.” She paused. “Are you okay?”

He snapped himself out of it enough to recognize the fear in her

tone—fear that some deficiency on his part would prevent her from

spending this time with her family. “Yeah,” he said, trying his

darndest to sound insulted. “That sounds like a great idea. Six is

good.” He couldn’t believe how relieved he was that he wouldn’t

have to drive.

“Sure you’re okay?” This time the concern was in her voice, and he

forced himself to perk up.

Meeting her eyes, he grimaced. “Just looking forward to an

evening with Bill.”

She rolled her eyes. “He’s already been threatened.” Her eyes

twinkled. “By my mom and by his wife.” She gave him a smile.

“You’ll be fine.”

His head was starting to pound, and he wanted nothing more than

to crawl away somewhere and die.

Somehow he knew that he’d be anything but ‘fine.’

**

December 24, 2002

9:18 p.m.

Margaret Scully’s House

Living Room

“Hey, Mulder, you’ll give us a hand, right?” Bill Scully’s question

broke through the fog in which Mulder had been ensconced all

evening.

“Give you a hand with what?” He hoped that whatever it was, it

didn’t involve moving. Or thinking. Or anything that didn’t include

lying down in a warm bed, surrounded by lots of blankets.

“I’m having trouble with my car,” Bill supplied. “I thought maybe

you could take a look at it.”

Mulder looked at Bill warily. “Sorry, Bill. I’m not much of a

mechanic. You’ll probably be better off calling a garage.”

“No one’s going to come out on Christmas Eve. Can you just take a

look?” He indicated his brother, standing next to him. “Charlie and

I have already tried, but we can’t figure out what’s wrong. Maybe

you can figure it out.”

Mulder shook his head. “I really couldn’t. I—”

“Come on, Mulder. Would it kill you to take a look?”

Mulder thought that it probably would, but he knew that Bill would

persist until he capitulated, so he sighed and stood up. “Fine. Just

let me get my coat.”

“You won’t need your coat,” Bill scorned. “It’s not that cold out.

Besides, it’ll only take a couple of minutes.

“But…” Mulder didn’t relish even one minute out in the cold.

“Come on.” Bill and Charlie practically dragged him to the front

door. Mulder searched for his partner, but the room was empty.

How convenient, he thought, that no one was around to witness his

abduction by the Scully brothers.

When they reached the car, Mulder was shivering. ‘Not cold,’ his

ass. It must have been forty degrees out there! He started back for

the house. “I’m going to get my coat.”

Bill and Charlie grabbed his arm, returning him to the car. The

hood had been popped, and they brought him over to look at the

engine. Much to his surprise, Mulder knew right away what was

wrong. “Here’s the trouble,” he said. “The distributor cap is loose.

You just need to tighten it.”

When he looked up, his audience had disappeared. “Hey!” He

turned around just in time to see the front door closing. Not

bothering with the car any longer, he hurried to the door. When he

found it locked, his suspicions had been confirmed.

Bill couldn’t openly harass him, hence the sneak attack, but Mulder

was saddened by the fact that brother Charles had gone along

willingly.

After pounding on the door and ringing the doorbell with no

success, Mulder tried Scully’s cell. As it rang, he moved around to

the back of the house, toward the kitchen, finally hanging up after

realizing that she’d either left it in her purse, or it was too loud

inside for her to hear it.

After five minutes of banging on the door, he caught someone’s

attention. When Tara Scully finally opened the door, Mulder made

a beeline for his coat, digging it out from under the mound of

winter coats in the spare bedroom.

He wasn’t surprised when no one followed him. No one even

noticed he’d been gone—or that he’d come back.

Huddled into a corner of the couch, Mulder sniffled, feeling sorry

for himself. In her defense, Scully hadn’t been there when Tara let

him in, but the whole evening she hadn’t once asked him why he

was sitting alone.

“Hey, Mulder, did you enjoy the night air?”

Mulder ignored the elder Scully, putting whatever was left of his

brain to the task of getting out of spending Christmas day with

those morons.

After a few more jeers and no reaction on Mulder’s part, the

brothers Scully went off to join the rest of the family in the

kitchen.

Sitting in his corner, staring at the fire and listening to the cheery

activity in the other room, Mulder wondered whatever in the world

had made him think that this Christmas would be any different

from the last twenty or thirty.

A relationship with Scully apparently entitled him to experience

that unique brand of loneliness to which only a select few were

privy—that of being alone in a houseful of people.

What saddened him greatly, and what hurt the most deeply, was

that one of those people was Scully.

**

10:16 p.m.

“Hey, cowboy. Enough of this lone ranger impersonation.” His

partner’s light voice and playful nudge roused him to wakefulness.

“I don’t care if you do want to be alone. Tonight is not the night.”

Blinking sleepily, he gazed up at her in confusion. “What are you

talking about, Scully?”

“You. Wanting to be alone by the fire. Too much family all at

once?” She stared at him. “Ring any bells?”

“Not one,” he answered.

Her eyes narrowed, and he could read her realization and growing

annoyance. “You didn’t tell Bill and Charlie that this was all too

overwhelming and that you’d rather sit alone by the fire?”

Mulder shook his head slowly. His eyes brimmed with tears as he

looked up at her. “Is that why you…” He swallowed, afraid his

voice would break if he continued.

She leaned her forehead down to his. “Oh, Mulder. I thought I was

doing you a favor. We all did.” The anger returned. “With two

soon-to-be-very-sorry exceptions.”

Mulder opened his mouth to tell her to forget it, that he was a

better man than them, that he didn’t want Scully to ream out her

brothers. He decided, however, that he wasn’t, and he did.

They’d teased him, locked him out in the cold, then turned the rest

of the family away from him, leaving him feeling sick, miserable,

lonely and unloved.

As Scully stood up to find her brothers, he tugged at her sleeve.

“Do it in here, would you? I want to watch.”

**

10:29 p.m.

Since he felt so awful, Mulder couldn’t derive the full enjoyment of

the tongue-lashing that he should have.

As she laid into him, Bill aimed a look of disdain at Mulder, then

called Mulder a wimp, a wuss, and a variety of other less-than-

flattering names, for running to his baby sister because they’d

locked him outside.

Mulder’s face lit up, and Scully didn’t disappoint—nor did Bill—

when he realized that Mulder hadn’t spilled the beans and that he’d

just hung himself.

Brother Charles, for the most part, remained silent, even

remorseful, an emotion Mulder had yet to witness in Bill. Once

she’d wound down and planted herself next to her partner

protectively, Bill stomped out while Charles muttered a quiet

apology, which Mulder accepted.

Eventually, the family drifted into the living room, where they

tried singing a few off-key carols and told stories from Christmases

past. So even though Mulder still felt sick and miserable, he didn’t

feel alone, and with Scully by his side, he no longer felt unloved.

**

December 25, 2002

12:46 a.m.

Dana Scully’s Car

Mulder opened his eyes when the movement ceased. Looking

forward to curling up on his couch and moaning out loud whenever

the mood struck him, he was grievously dismayed to find himself

in front of Scully’s apartment building.

“WhyÖ What are we doing here?” Gazing into the smoky depths

of her eyes, Mulder was afraid he already knew the answer.

“We have to be back at Mom’s by nine tomorrow morning. I

thought you could spend the night since it’s so late and we have to

leave again so early.”

“Oh,” he said, unable to come up with a reason he should do

otherwise. “Okay.”

When they were inside, Mulder headed straight for the sofa,

uncertain how much longer he’d be able to remain on his feet

before his legs gave out.

“Do you want any coffee or tea?” Scully asked from her kitchen.

Mulder’s stomach turned at the thought. “Uh, no.” He pushed

himself to his feet. “I’m exhausted. I’m heading off to bed.” With

any luck, he’d be out cold by the time she was ready to make her

move.

In a jiffy, she was plastered to his side. “Bed. Mmm. Sounds

good.” She gave him the seductive smile that normally drove him

wild, but at this moment scared the life out of him. “Just how tired

are you, G-man?” she purred.

He tried hard not to cringe. “Very. Very tired. The most tired I’ve

been all year.”

She cupped him through his pants, and he wanted to cry. “Are you

sure there’s nothing I can do to perk you up?”

Against his will, he felt himself reacting to her touch. “I don’tÖ I

don’t know.” He sidestepped her hand. “I’m **really** tired.”

She followed him into the bedroom, allowing him to remove his

clothes. When he was down to his t-shirt and boxers, she spun him

around to face her. He gulped at her state of undress. “OrÖ” She

tugged at the waistband of his shorts. “Or someone is playing ‘hard’

to get.”

Could he do this? Could he make love to her when—and he

couldn’t really believe this—when it was the last thing he wanted

to be doing?

“Hey.” She was gazing at him with a soft smile so full of love that

he felt like a heel for considering it.

Forcing a smile onto his face, he pressed his body to hers. “You

caught me.”

“Mulder-r-rÖ” she purred. “You’re overdressed.” She whipped his

T-shirt over his head, then pulled his boxers down slowly. As soon

as he stepped out of them, she yanked him to her, molding her

body to his. They remained that way for a few seconds, and then

he heard her say, “You’re hot.”

Sucking it up, he played along. “Why thank you, Agent Scully.

You’re hot, too.”

She drew herself back to arm’s length. “No. You’re **hot.**”

When one hand assumed the classic ‘feeling for fever’ position on

his forehead, he knew that the jig was up.

He tried to laugh it off. “Only because you make me that way.” He

put on his most charming smile.

Leading him to the bed, she pushed him down gently and he tried

not to sigh in relief. “Have you been sick all night?”

“I’m not sick,” he protested half-heartedly.

One of her withering looks was enough to make him back down.

“All right. I’m a little under the weather. But I’m okay for

tomorrow. I just need a few hours sleep, and I’ll be as good as

new.” He smiled as brightly as he could, trying not to wince when

the light from the bedside lamp shined directly into his eyes.

“Lie down.” Scully pulled back the covers, and he slid in

gratefully.

The sheets were cool, and he started to shiver. “UhÖ as a further

mood-killer, can I put something on? It’s freezing in here.”

She nodded. “I’ll get you something.”

She returned with sweat pants and a sweatshirt—and her medical

bag.

“That’s not necessary,” he said, even as he tried to suppress the

cough that had been trying to break free all night.

She helped him into the clothes. “Let me be the judge of that.”

He huddled back under the covers. “Really,” he said through

chattering teeth. “I’ll be fine tomorrow.”

“Uh, huh.” Taking out a thermometer, she placed it under his

tongue. After a few minutes, as he finally started to warm up under

the blankets, she removed the thin tube. “101.6. Not too bad.” She

shook out two tablets from a container.

“What’s that?” he asked, as she handed them to him.

“Tylenol. It should bring down the fever and help that headache.”

He ducked his head; he wasn’t even going to ask how she knew.

She handed him a glass of water, and he swallowed the tablets,

then drained the glass. “Hey, Scully,” he said, as a brilliant idea

came to him. “Tomorrow, you could—”

“No.”

“I don’t mind,” he said, quietly.

She kissed him softly on the lips. “I know you don’t. I know you’d

rather be here than there, even if you weren’t sick.”

“I’ll go with you tomorrow,” he said, unwilling to be the cause of

her not spending Christmas with her family. “I’m sure I’ll be better

in the morning.”

“Let’s wait and see. Okay?”

Nodding, he settled back into the pillow, closing his eyes. If he

could get his fever down, he was sure he could convince her that

he’d shaken the bug.

How much in love was he that when he’d been given the perfect

‘out’ from Christmas with the Scully brothers, he didn’t take it?

**

December 25, 2002

6:02 a.m.

Mulder closed the door to Scully’s medicine cabinet, eyeing the

three tablets in his hand. Swallowing them down with a gulp of

water, he headed back to bed. If he was going to convince Scully

that he was well, it would have to be a performance worthy of an

Oscar.

He felt much worse than the day before, and now nausea had been

added to the mix. Lying down, he thought he’d wait for Scully to

wake him, and hope that the Tylenol would work their magic.

When he felt Scully shaking him awake, he stopped himself from

groaning, and plastered a grin on his face. “What time is it?” he

asked, with forced brightness.

“How are you feeling?” she asked, instead.

He made a big show of stretching, and then he grabbed her around

the middle. “I feel good,” he lied, giving her a hug and then

releasing her. Squinting, he tried to read the numbers on the

bedside clock; they refused to come into focus. “Is it time to get

ready?”

When she didn’t answer, Mulder looked at her. She shook her

head. “We’re staying here.”

“Scully, I’m fine,” he protested. “We don’t have to—”

Two fingers placed gently over his lips silenced him. “You can

drop the act, Mulder.” When he tried to object, she shushed him. “I

love you for trying, and I might have bought the act, but it doesn’t

matter.” She indicated the window behind him with a nod of her

head. “Mother Nature gave us an ice storm last night. We’re stuck

here for the day.”

Mulder glanced at the window; the white brilliance of the new day

hurt his eyes, and he turned away. Pursing his lips, he kissed the

fingers still resting on his lips. “If we take it slow, we should be

okay. We may be a little late, but at least we’ll be there.”

Again, she shook her head. “I already talked to Mom. The roads

are treacherous. She said she’d rather know we were safe than

worry about us risking our lives to get there.”

“But your family, ScullyÖ” His heart was breaking for her. “I

know how much you wanted to be with them.” He looked down at

the floor. “If it wasn’t for me, you would have spent the night there.

You wouldn’t have had to worry about getting there.”

She placed her hands on both sides of his face, waiting until his

eyes met hers. “They are my family, and I love them.” When he

tried to look away, feeling guilty, she locked his gaze in place with

hers. “But you’re my family, too, Mulder. Why would you think I’d

rather spend Christmas with them and not you?”

He had to admit that he was surprised. He’d never even given it a

thought that she might not want to spend Christmas away from

him. Oh, he knew that she’d readily forego the time with her family

to care for her ill partner; what he didn’t consider was that given a

choice, she would choose him.

“I just thoughtÖ” How could he explain something he barely

understood himself? “They’re your family,” he said weakly.

“And you, Mulder,” she said, as if speaking to a slow-witted child,

“are my family.” She smiled. “*And* you areÖ”

He smiled in anticipation. ‘The man I love? Soulmate? Love of my

live?’

“Öan idiot.”

He blinked. It was not quite the mushy response he’d expected.

When she laid a long, slow, wet one on his lips, he blinked again.

“And I love you for it,” she said.

His head hurt too much for him to try to figure out what she was

talking about. Closing his eyes, he lay back. “I love you, too,” he

mumbled.

He sighed as she brushed her lips over his. “Go to sleep, Mulder,”

she whispered.

“Just for a few minutes,” he murmured. “Don’t want you to spend

your Christmas alone.” Forcing his eyes open, he looked at her.

“Don’t let me sleep too long.”

“Okay.”

He laid a hand on her arm. “Promise me. You’ll wake me if I’m not

up by lunch time.”

“Mulder, you need—”

“Promise me. If I feel too bad to get up, I’ll let you know.”

“Promise?” she asked.

“Uh, huh.” He crooked an eyebrow, which hurt like hell, but got

his point across: she never responded to him.

“I promise. I’ll wake you at one if you’re still asleep.”

“Good.” He yawned and closed his eyes again.

“Mulder?”

“Hmm?”

“You are.”

“Hmm?”

“The man I love. My soulmate.”

He smiled. “You forgot—”

“No, I didn’t. It was a dramatic pause. Save the best for last. That

sort of thing.”

Another smile. “So, I am?”

“Uh, huh.”

“You too, Scully. You’ve been the love of my life for a long time

now.”

Her lips pressed to his. “I know, Mulder. And though it took me a

long time to realize it, you’ve been mine, too.”

Even though he felt like crap, he never felt so good in his life.

“Merry Christmas, Scully.”

“Merry Christmas, Mulder.” Pause. “And, Mulder?”

“I choose you every time.”

He smiled.

“Even though you are an idiot.”

The End

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