Sat Mar 29 1997

By S. Esty (AKA
12/21/95 (revised slightly 3/10/97)

SYNOPSIS: Dana tries to buy Mulder a Christmas present but
something is very, very, VERY wrong here.

RATING: PG-13 for violence. M/S romance in a way but mostly 'D' for
depressing. Angst EVERYWHERE! WARNING: do not read this in a public
place or if you are feeling low. This story was printed in Property
of the FBI, Vol 5: Discretionary Action Required. Before then it
had only been distributed on the Xangst group.

DISCLAIMER: No, the characters of Fox Mulder, Dana Scully and
Margaret Scully do not belong to me but I wish they did. My love to
CC and company and the actors and writers of X-Files for the
wonderful inspiration. AND CC: DON'T YOU DARE EVEN THINK ABOUT

AUTHOR'S NOTES: I got the idea of the opening scene when I walked
into the mall through the men's department of one of the larger
department stores to do some last minute Christmas shopping. But
Wind can't write a nice NORMAL little domestic story about
shopping. Oh, no. I had to twist it, and twist it and this is how
it came out. (I apologize, I had a REALLY depressing Christmas in
1995. I'm much better now. Really I am.)

By S. Esty (AKA Windsinger)
12/21/95 (revised 3/10/97)

Over all there was a brightness sprayed with thousands of tiny
white stars. Gold tinsel. Huge, shiny red balls on fake greenery.
Music far off in the high ceiling.

"...God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen..."

Nat King Cole in those languid, velvet tones. Unhurried.
Mellow. Warm.

Dana was floating through that wonderland. No shadows today.
She felt better than she had in weeks, she was in a big department
store, and it was Christmas.

The trim-a-tree shop. Suddenly she was encircled in lace and
ribbons, tiny villages and fake snow. A red-theme tree full of
chinese fans, a blue and gold one like the mantle of the Madonna.
Another all white and silver, a rack of hand blown ornaments from
the Old World in colors brighter than the rainbow. Nativities. Cows
and sheep. Did Mary find human joy in Joseph's arms? The silly
animated santa lying in his bed snoring. Silly thing. The chest
going up and down... up and down... up and down.... That was all it
did... relentlessly... without purpose.

Dana's head began to hurt. She moved away, scanned the shining
displays, the racks of beautiful clothes, the tables of useless
'holiday' gifts. Picked up a tiny wicker basket, smelled the
potpourri remembering the drawer in Grandma's bedroom where, when
she was nine or ten, she would go to sneak a peek at the old
woman's thick bracelet of a hundred glass gems. At the time it was
the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.

Caught sight of a counter of men's cologne and was drawn to
it. Sampled all the tiny glass bottles. Musk and Sensation, Brut
and Husky, Timber and Emotion. All wonderful and but none good
enough for him. A busy saleslady whose smile was fixed, unfriendly.
Could she help? the chilly voice asked. No, he was more man than
any of these scents.

Man. Male. Hers.

Turning around to escape that woman, Dana spied that which
made her breath catch, made the blood flow fast and sure in her
veins. Flannel boxers. Tier upon tier of them. Red and black plaid,
green and brown. Soft. Comfortable. Nice to put on. Better to take
off. That waist band slipping over those firm, narrow hips. Sliding
down to the floor.

It was Christmas. She needed a gift for Mulder. No, more than
one. It was been a tough year. A very tough year. The worse year.
Only in one respect could it be considered good. The female center
of her ached in memory and longing.

Dana wandered deeper into the quiet elegance of the men's
department. When she was young it had not meant much. Get a shirt
for Dad. A belt. A somber tie. What's on sale? Now everywhere she
saw - possibilities. It was all so sensual. A hat? Mulder in a hat?
How droll. Like Humphrey Bogart. A camel hair sports coat? No, too
light, not with his coloring. Black wool. So sexy. Cool pleated
pants that moved as he did. Flat across his flat stomach, curved
around his lovely ass. Accentuating those strong, slim legs.

Socks... Long ones that went to the knee, pulling up without
a wrinkle over those long, curving calves. And feet? Dana's eyes
hunted over the shoes, came to rest on the black wing tips. His.
Stared at them, then at her own small feet. Most different of all
were these. Three times the size of one of hers. She lifted one.
Ten times the weight. How could men even walk they were so heavy?
How many times had she stumbled over them as she nearly sleepwalked
into his room at night to hold him, sweating and shivering all at
the same time through the nightmares.

Shirts of all colors, all fabrics, ties fanciful and
startling. Elegant wear... a tux with no need for a tie at all. He
would wear it with suspenders, yes, ones with Christmas lights on
them. His hazel eyes would gleam with mirth in her direction. Full
of humor, full of love, and take her velvet and satin draped body
in his arms. Maybe they would never make it to the party. Who

Dana moved among the racks, fingered the shirts, the coats,
the sweaters and pants, seeing him, always him, in them. Mulder
laughing as he tried each on for her, appalled that she considered
him such a clothes horse.

Dana tripped over a seam where the carpet yielded to golden
wood. Her selections went everywhere, sliding over the polished
floor. Kneeling she slowly began to pick up each article, but found
they would not fit in her arms. There were so many... hats and
scarves, one shoe, a coat, a sweater, silk and flannel boxers in
seven colors.

A little fear crept in as she bent, disoriented. Why were
there so many? Where were the shopping bags? The Christmas ones
with red handles she remembered from her childhood. The ones that
only seemed to materialize at Christmas any more. Voluminous
containers of green and red and gold which the smaller crackling
bags fit into. But there were no smaller bags just all this ...

From the place where she knelt and tried to hold the items in
her arms, Dana looked up, tense and wary like a mouse when the owl
is near. A man in a black suit stood an aisle away. Watching. A
wire in his ear. He was leaning over a little box which even now he
spoke into quietly.

Store detective. What was he doing here? Did he know how out
of place he looked? How obvious. Some detective, Dana grumbled. Why
didn't he smile? This was Christmas. Why didn't anyone smile? They
were all standing far, far away and none of them smiled.

From a heavenly direction a voice sang "... Let nothing you


A woman had run to her, dropped down to kneel beside her.

"M-Mom?" Dana raised her face as smooth as a child's to that
of the new arrival's.

"Honey, Honey, what are you doing here?" asked the soft voice,
its owner beginning to take some of the items from Dana's arms,
touching with reverence the texture of wool and silk and cable knit

Dana felt her face begin to tighten, a pressure build in her
chest. Oh, no, she was going to cry again. "M-Mom, it's Christmas."
Dazed, she looked down and cradled in her arms was a black cashmere
sweater, soft like the feel of his hair between her fingers. "I
didn't have a present for Mulder."

"Darling," Margaret soothed in practiced tones, "it's still
two weeks before Christmas. I would have taken you. You only needed
to ask. I've worried so." Margaret Scully looked forlornly at all
the shirts and ties and sweaters. "You have a lot of beautiful
things here." Dana beamed, through the confusion had settled like
a heavy mist all around her. "But," Margaret patiently reminded her
daughter, "these are really not very practical. Not for Fox."

The beam shadowed. "Why not?" came the voice with a pout.
"Don't you think he looks good in his clothes? Don't you think he's

Shoulders shaking slightly, Margaret swallowed. "He's very
beautiful. The most beautiful man I know, but maybe, this year, a
nice plant would be better-"

"A plant? No!" Dana's voice spiraled high and quickly. "How
can you say that? Besides he kills plants, even more often than

Margaret finished folding a pile of shirts and sweater vests
and got none too gracefully to her feet. The fatigue of months
weighed her down. "Then I'll help you find something else." The
older woman looked around, at a loss until a salesman came up on
tip toe and took the pile from her hands.

"I'm sorry," she apologized. "If there are any damages..."

The trim, dapper little man shook his head. "No, no problem."
He lowered his voice. "I'm so sorry, but do you really think she
should be out alone?"

Chilling the audacious man with one glance that a certain FBI
agent at one time would have recognized well, Margaret took hold of
one bare, thin arm and pulled her beautiful, disheveled daughter to
her feet. Her features softened as she looked at what Dana was
wearing. "Oh, Honey... you've lost your slipper. Let's see if we
can find it. Aren't you cold?"

As she led the younger woman in her worn, sleeveless summer
dress through the department, her own head raised to spite the
stares of the shoppers and sales staff, Margaret wished she had
said to the man that this was one of Dana's better days, otherwise
she never could have gotten so far by herself.


Her purchase clasped tightly in her arms, paid for, boxed,
gift-wrapped, Dana settled into the passenger seat of her mother's
car. Looked down at the ash tray as she always did. It was clean.
No shells.

"I want to see Mulder."

Margaret turned on the engine, sensing her daughter's bare
skin under Margaret's own coat, hoping the heater would warm
quickly. "Honey, you saw him yesterday -"

"I want to see Mulder," she demanded in a way the old Dana
never would have. "I want to see him now!"

Margaret sighed, put the car in gear. "All right. But first we
go home. It's cold you need a coat and better clothes." She looked
over at her auburn-haired daughter, eyes not quite focused again,
hair hanging uncombed about her face, and gave her a sad smile.
"You want to look nice for him, don't you?"

At home Dana dressed herself for a change and with more care
than she had since - well, since the incident. A teal-colored
dress, a special one lovingly stored away, that was meant to hug
her body. It had once but now hung on her wasted frame. It wasn't
appropriate for this occasion, but there was really no reason for
Margaret to expend the energy trying to get her to change. She was
grateful that Dana had managed to brush her own hair, had actually
done it so thoroughly that much of the old glow had come back. A
small, gold-sequined bag was swung over one shoulder on a long
strap. The now rare panty hose and heels had made an appearance.

"You look lovely, Darling," Margaret told her sincerely. "Will
you get your coat now?"

Mindlessly, as if all her concentration were exhausted, Dana
picked a ratty sweater from the hook by the back door, the one
Margaret used when she took out the trash or fed the dogs. Gently,
the older woman took it out of her daughter's limp hands and
fetched the long dark coat from the old days.

The steeple of the chapel could be seen above the barren trees
that moved past the windows as she drove. Margaret turned her eyes
from the road to study it. When she was young she had dismissed any
personal attachment to the cemetery as being too far in the future
to worry about. After the children came and Bill was gone so often
and in danger, its presence was a frightening reminder of what
might be. Then she recoiled from it.

Please, God, not anytime soon. Too much to do.

The steeple had become a symbol of her loss when Bill came to
rest under the double memorial stone. Not his body, of course, his
ashes were at sea where hers one day would be, but she had wanted
something physical where her thoughts could come to rest, and,
likewise, a place for her children's thoughts when she was gone.

Now there were three more stones gathered around his. A single
one - Melissa's. Another single one - Samantha's. Samantha had two,
actually, another on the Vineyard. One near the District for Fox's
sake and one in the family plot for his mother's. The terrible
discovery of Samantha's fate had nearly killed the solemn young man
but eventually had brought him some peace. There was consolation in

Newly joining the group was the new double one that, blank but

As executer of Mulder's estate after Samantha's passing and
his mother's - too much death for that frail woman - Margaret was
aware of the contents of Fox's will. She also knew her daughter's
mind as well as anyone could these days. Margaret had bought the
stone because she wanted them taken care of properly if anything
happened to her. Life was too much of a gamble. No, not a gamble,
a game with weighted dice.

Who weighted them? And, damn it all, who decided in which way
the dice would be fixed, anyway?

"Bill," Margaret spoke silently, her eyes turning back to the
road, "I'm so tired. I hope it is a better place you have gone to.
It sure as hell has got to better than this."

As the car drove slowly past the entrance, Dana's distracted
eyes looked up the tree lined drive, lingering there.

Margaret parked in her usual place in front of the long three-
story, white stone building. She watched with sad amusement as her
daughter emerged quickly from the car and started with purpose and
some unsteadiness on the unaccustomed heels, clutching the brightly
colored box. There were days when Dana needed help to get out of
the car, her legs becoming suddenly weak. Sometimes she just needed
a shoulder to lean on. Sometimes a wheelchair. Sometimes the young
woman fought and cried and screamed that this was not the right
place, that this could not be the right place and Margaret would
drive her into D.C. to show that there was someone new living at
his apartment now, at her old one, too, and at the one they had
lived at for such a short time together.

Today was a good day though - Dana remembered - though it made
no sense to her any more than it made sense to any of them.

"... to save us all from Satan's power when we have gone

Margaret marveled how even elevator music standards could not
destroy the power of the old carols for her. Dana stood restlessly,
shifting her feet, impatient for the car to rise the two floors.

Half way down the hall. Fifty steps. And Margaret knew every
one. A class of student aides was just coming from his room.
Margaret was surprised at the crowd, but then it was not their
usual time for a visit.

The supervisor had her back to the new arrivals as she spoke
to her students. "Well, he's the prettiest worm in the place so
you'll have to wait your turn, Ms. Samuel."

One of the young people whom Margaret had met on a previous
visit swung his head around as he suddenly recognized the visitors
to give his supervisor a warning nudge. The woman turned around,
questioning, and then her eyes fell about Margaret's pale, unhappy
face. Neck and cheeks reddening with embarrassment, she pushed away
from the group and came to meet the older woman.

"M-Mrs. Scully," the nurse stammered, calm broken, humiliated,
"I'm so sorry. I meant no disrespect. Just a little humor, to ease
the tension, to help the new ones cope with all this -"

Eyes shut, Margaret raised her hand to quiet the woman. She
did understand. It did not mean, however, that it did not hurt.
Dana's muffled angry voice pulled her away from more of the nurse's
fervent apologies.

Dana had thrown aside the beloved present in its shiny paper
and was standing in the middle of his room, furious eyes on a
young, pretty, and obviously inexperienced aide who was standing by
his bed side, a sponge in her hand and her mouth open, not knowing
how to react to this angry figure. Dana was frantically wringing
her hands, trying to twist that diamond ring on her finger, the one
he had given her, only it was not there today. She had twisted it
like this so often that the stone had fallen out and gotten lost
and Margaret had taken it to the jeweler's for a new setting, a
much less expensive one, but a replacement. If they had to go to
glass in the years to come, Dana would always have her ring,
Margaret would see to that.

"He's MY husband. If anyone washes him, it will be ME!" Dana
yelled stamping her foot. Then she stepped forward and wrestled the
sponge from the woman's hand. She may be thin now, but Dana was
still strong. "Get out!" she screamed.

Margaret took in the scene and nodded to the aide. "Yes, maybe
it would be better if you went. We'll finish here."

As always when Margaret walked in and saw him lying there,
looking more vulnerable this time because he was stripped to the
waist, she felt denial like a storm rise to choke her. To shout, to
rave, to sob had to better than this blind acceptance. They were
doing nothing. Nothing! There was no respirator, no IVs. A feeding
tube a few times a days was what he got. A catheter. An enema every
other day. That was all. Because there was nothing that could be
done. A worm? Not such a bad analogy. Poor, beautiful Fox's mind
had about as much processing power left as that, if that much.
Enough to breath, to sneeze, to swallow, to respond to pain if
there was enough of it, but that was all.

The fire burning out as quickly as it had flared, Dana dipped
the sponge in the basin, wrung it out, moved it with slow
deliberate, caressing strokes over his well-defined chest. Not too
many months, six. Thinner, the muscles not as taunt as they had
been, but not gone entirely, not yet. His body was still handsome,
still man. His face always would be. If only he would look at her.
The head of the bed was raised only a little, not enough to bring
those eternally staring eyes into a line where he at least appeared
to be focused on her.

"I want him home, Mom," Dana pleaded as she always did. The
bed had been raised high for the washing and Dana was too short so
could not kiss that immobile face. She ran the sponge over the bare
shoulder, down the limp arm.

"We've been over this. I'm trying, Honey," Margaret sighed.
"I'm having trouble getting the insurance to pay for home care."
Even if the company agreed, Margaret was not sure she could do it,
physically, emotionally or financially. Dana needed enough of her
energy. It had been a struggle to get Dana this far.

At first Margaret had thought her daughter and Fox were as one
in this horror, but Dana, within days of the tragedy, began to

Fox never had, never would.

For Dana some threads to her past life, to herself, had not
been cut. Frayed badly but largely intact. Over time Dana had found
one, then another. Some days a handful. Other days they tangled and
snapped and they would have to begin all over again. Slow but
steady up to a point. Margaret knew Dana would never find them all
for there were so many no longer there to be found.

Dana was clinging to more than her normal share today.
Standing at the bedside, she was meticulously studying his long
hands as she washed them sensing something out of place. Blue eyes
opened suddenly, stared, panicking.

"Mom, his ring! Where's his ring?" she asked eyes searching
wildly. "How will they know he's married if he's not wearing his

Margaret came over and put her arm around Dana's shuddering
shoulders. They had put the ring on his hand those first months,
the band Dana and bought for their wedding. They had been as good
as married in anyone's eyes except for the lawyers and the priests.

They had looked for her band, too, had looked everywhere. Dana
had a right to wear it, but where it had been hidden was never
discovered. Fox Mulder had been nothing if not paranoid.

"Honey, don't you remember? There were some thefts at that
first place you were sent. We took it to keep it safe. He'll get it
back when he comes home." Margaret touched the long lock of hair
that fell down across his forehead. Then she tried as always, and
as unsuccessfully, to catch something within those dark, empty
depths of his eyes. As if someone had kicked her in the gut,
Margaret remembered the nurse's comment. "And we will get him home.
I promise."

End of Part 1