Silent Night

Title: SILENT NIGHT

Author: CallRachel

Classification: V, mild A

Rating: PG for adult situations

Keywords: MSR, Holiday Angst

Disclaimer: The characters of Fox Mulder, Dana

Scully, Walter Skinner and Maggie Scully belong

to 20th Century Fox,1013 Productions, and Chris

Carter.

Summary: Musings of an insomniac on Christmas Eve.

Written for the IMTP VS10 holiday special.

XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

SILENT NIGHT

By CallRachel (callrachel2000@yahoo.com)

It was snowing.

Insomnia had been a boon companion since his early

youth, and he knew the geography of his nighttime

apartment almost better than he knew it in the light.

The metallic ticking that sounded like water dripping

was a heating duct. If he pressed his ear to the wall

behind his bed, he could just hear Mrs. Chavez’s

radio, tuned softly to ’40’s dance music. And always,

faint and far, he could hear the traffic, the muted

hum punctuated with occasional horns and occasional

metallic booms when the horns didn’t work and fender

met fender.

But tonight the night sounds of traffic were muffled,

and he leaned his forehead against the cool glass,

watching the white motes of fat, feathery snow drift

down under the streetlight, tracking with a fingertip

the twin trails of a single car’s track through the

white world. Hegal Place was asleep, all but for Fox

Mulder.

Insomniacs cope; he knew the drill: get out of bed,

don’t toss and turn, take a pill, distract yourself

with a book or some not-too-interesting television

show, set up a bedtime routine. Don’t look at the

clock.

Don’t watch the years ticking down.

It was easier when he was alone. Scully’s presence in

his bed made it hard to get up when he couldn’t

sleep. The television often woke her, even with the

sound turned almost off, and she took it personally

when she woke to find him on the couch, having

finally drifted off to the lullaby of some

infomercial. And of course, there was comfort in

holding her warm weight in his arms, cradling her

head on his shoulder. But still, the trickle of her

breath against his skin was like a fall of sand

through an hourglass, one moment gone, another, and

another…

He closed his eyes briefly, crushing that thought

down into the bad-thoughts-box and finally slamming

the lid on the tag ends and corners that kept trying

to emerge. He wondered sometimes what would happen

when the box was too full, but that wondering

itself would have to be squashed inside, and so he

skittered away from the thought, instead.

Distraction, distraction…

The cat was back.

He smiled as he watched it trotting purposefully into

the lane, rising to the top of a whitecapped trash

can as if by levitation. There it sat, daintily

washing its face, paying particular attention to its

ragged ears. He’d seen it first a year or so

ago, a brash young Turk of a cat then, striking fear

into the black hearts of rat-gangs for blocks

around. He’d heard, and once even witnessed, battles

for territory; that time, he’d crept down to the

alley with milk and a can of tuna, and stood

by just out of flight range while the battered cat

had inhaled his victory meal. That scuffle and others

had made the cat cautious, and where he had once been

sleek and bold, now he was lean, muscular, watchful.

But still master of the alley, Mulder was glad to

see. He touched a fingertip to the glass as if he

could stroke the round head, and the cat looked

suddenly up at him for a long, breathless moment

before it vanished silently among the cans.

Suddenly anxious for no reason he could fathom,

Mulder turned back into the room. A Christmas tree,

aggressively artificial, stood on the coffee table,

four presents under it. He ticked them off in his

mind: single-malt scotch for Skinner, a knitted

blanket for Maggie Scully, pearl earrings for Scully,

and something he thought was probably a sweater for

him. Nice presents. In – he peered at his watch in

the darkness – in six hours, at nine, they would open

half these gifts, then get in the car and take

Maggie’s gift to Baltimore. Skinner’s would wait

until they were back in the office, a day or

two later. A day or two wouldn’t matter. The scotch

would be that much older, that’s all. He stared at

the packages, telling them over and over: liquor,

blanket, earrings, sweater, liquor, blanket,

earrings-

Nobody needed these things. He hated giving liquor to

people; Maggie had enough blankets to warm the

neighborhood, and Scully rarely wore jewelry. He

himself had ten sweaters, assuming that’s what his

gift was.

Like gold, frankincense and myrrh – what they’d

needed was food, shelter, a midwife, and nobody had

offered any of that.

Abruptly, he turned to the kitchen, poured a bowl of

milk and opened a can of salmon, pulled on a pair of

sweats from the laundry hamper, and put the food in a

box with a towel from the bottom of the bathroom

cupboard.

The snowflakes touched his back and shoulders like

wet feathers, and he hurried to the mouth of the

alley, setting the food out and putting the box back

in the lee of a boarded-up doorway, out of the wind.

Then he backed away, crouched in the snow, and

waited.

He was wet through, drops turning to ice in his hair,

and shivering when the cat emerged. It walked

majestically, as if it owned the alley, and Mulder,

too, and Mulder wasn’t at all sure it was mistaken.

Keeping a careful eye on him, it approached the

food, sniffed, crouched cautiously and began to eat,

forgetting, after a few seconds, that it was master

of the universe, and ravenously devouring the milk

and fish. Mulder stayed stock-still, not even wiping

the water that ran down his face, the warm and the

cold, as he saw the lean belly swell. This close, he

could see that the sleek coat had lost its luster,

that there was a patch of stiff fur on the back that

spoke of blood matting a wound.

The food gone, the cat sat for a long moment, licking

its chops and staring with wide yellow eyes at

Mulder.

He stared back, still unmoving, as the cat once again

washed its face. When it was done, it rose,

stretched, and turned toward him, squeezing its eyes

shut briefly before it vanished into the shadows.

Mulder hoped it would find the box a safe place to

sleep.

“Merry Christmas,” he whispered, and thought, as he

collected the empty bowl, that he heard the soft

rumble of a purr.

* * *

End

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