Little Christmas Spirit
Author's Dedication: To Grandma, for never yelling when we dropped the ornaments, for the sleepless Christmas Eve nights spent helping wrap gifts, for the hours in the kitchen making my favorite cookies, and especially for your love. For the first time in my 31 years you won't be there Christmas morning. Miss you.
ulder threaded his fingers through the tangled mess of wires and sighed.
"Tell me why we're doing this again," he muttered, vowing to himself that if they did this next year he would just buy a new damn strand of Christmas lights.
"Because," Alex replied, taking the knot of lights from Mulder and returning to his spot on the couch, "you love me."
"Apparently love hurts," he quipped, moving on to the box of ornaments.
"You never have patience for things like this. To me untangling Christmas lights is a Zen-like experience." Alex grinned at him. "Besides, that look you always get on your face is amusing."
"Good to know I spread the Christmas cheer." He began digging through an ancient cardboard box that had been crisscrossed by years of different kinds of tape, some of it yellowed with age. "Y'know, I'm already more than happy with the way I decorate."
Alex broke his concentration and looked up from the wires in his lap. "You're kidding, right?"
"What's wrong with it? I toast my ingenuity with a mug of extra-nogged nog every year."
"Mulder, you can't stick multi-colored paperclips on a plastic plant and consider it decorating."
"And having a giant tree in the middle of my already cramped apartment is better?"
"Of course it is. I'm not waking up Christmas morning without a tree."
"We could have just set up my mom's tree," Mulder said. "It looks real enough."
"No way," Alex said, plugging in the lights to test them. "The smell of a real tree is worth it."
"Then you can sweep up the needles that invade the place."
"You'll thank me when we wake up tomorrow morning, believe me."
"Does that mean I get my gift tonight?" Mulder asked slyly.
Alex grinned. "Only if you're a very bad boy."
"That can be arranged."
They both laughed, and Alex began stringing the lights over the branches of the Douglas fir.
"How'd you do that?" Mulder asked, amazed at the perfectly untangled row of twinkling white lights.
"I have talented fingers."
"Don't I know it," Mulder teased, tossing an ornament at Alex, who caught it easily.
Alex shook his head. "Garland next."
"Does it matter?"
Alex sifted through a box that was sitting on Mulder's computer desk chair and unrolled a clump of silver and gold. He began to carefully drape it over the boughs. "Didn't you ever decorate a tree before, Mulder?"
"I never really made much of an effort until you started spending time with me," he admitted.
"It's part of my new plan to make friends and influence people."
"Without threats or weapons. Impressive."
Alex made a face. "I haven't found a way to get you to make the bed yet, so violence is still an option."
"You know talking dirty to me is never going to get this tree decorated."
"One-track mind," Alex replied, batting Mulder in the head with a tuft of tinsel.
"I'm just focused," he said, getting to his feet. He picked up the box of ornaments and held one up for Alex. It was a glass globe with a tiny representation of a manger inside. Mulder squinted at the intricacy of the design as Alex carefully placed the ball on the tree.
"How old are these?" Mulder asked, glancing at the weathered cardboard box.
"They were my grandma's. When we were kids my brother and I would help her decorate the tree, and every year we would always drop three or four of these ornaments. She never yelled at us though -- she would just sigh and find another for us to hang." Alex smiled wistfully. "She was a tough old lady, my grandma. Made great cookies every holiday, too."
Mulder handed Alex another ornament, this one silver with designs in red glitter that only clung to a few spots.
"I used to sleep on the floor in Samantha's room on Christmas Eve, so we could wake up together on Christmas morning and sneak out and see what Santa Claus left before mom and dad got up."
"Even as you got older?" Alex asked, finding a spot for two gold-colored glass gingerbread men.
"I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was 10, but I never told Sam. I loved watching her eyes light up as she saw the tree and the presents. And the first thing she did was run over to see if Santa had eaten the cookies and milk she left for him." Mulder hung up a miniature plastic candy cane and laughed at the memory. "My father must have gotten sick of sugar cookies year after year."
"It's great to be that age and believe without doubting."
"Yeah. But I stopped believing in a lot of things after she disappeared. The holidays were never the same. It's been a long time since I cared about trees and lights and ornaments."
Alex slid his fingers through Mulder's hair. "We can make some new memories."
"Hell yes." Mulder kissed the top of Alex's head and smiled at him. "I dragged this green monstrosity into the apartment, didn't I? I'm probably going to be picking pine needles out of my breakfast oatmeal, right? And I get to watch your cute ass decorate the thing, which is a highlight in my book. I have memories already."
Mulder blinked. "What's fur?"
"The tree," Alex said, nuzzling Mulder's neck. "It's a Douglas fir, not pine."
"Oh." Mulder chuckled and kissed Alex, then grabbed him and pulled him over to the couch.
Alex snuggled closer to Mulder and put his head on the other man's shoulder. "At this rate you'll be caroling in no time."
"'Fa-Who-Dores,' or whatever the Whos in Whoville sing. 'Jingle Bells'! 'Good King Wenceslas'! 'Dear, we come a-waffling among the peas so green!' Yay, Christmas!"
Alex laughed, and they both sat there in each other's arms, regarding the festively adorned tree. Mulder sighed contentedly, tracing circles with his finger over Alex's thigh.
"We forgot something," Alex mumbled from the comfort of Mulder's arm.
"Dancing naked around Oh, Tannenbaum?"
"That comes later," Alex smirked.
"So what then?"
"The star at the top." Alex nodded to the box where he found the garland. "You may do the honors, Mulder Bumble."
Mulder got up from the couch. "Bumble?" he asked, puzzled.
"You know, the Abominable Snowman from the 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer' Christmas specials? The Bumble. He was talented at putting the star at the top of the tree."
Mulder found the silver star wrapped in newspaper at the bottom of the box and carefully removed it. He stripped a few needles from the top of the tree, and then balanced the star above the bough.
"Is here a good spot?"
Mulder was about to place the star on the tree when he was interrupted by a knock on the apartment door.
"Santa's early," Alex said.
"I don't think I'm expecting anyone," Mulder replied, walking through the foyer. He opened the door and found Scully on the opposite side. "Hiya, Scully."
"I just heard you. Don't you remember me telling you I would pick you up on our way to my mother's for Christmas Eve dinner?"
"I guess not. Are you ready to go? I don't want to be...oh!"
Mulder looked behind him. "What?"
She looked past him into the living room. "You put up a tree? A real tree?"
"You must really be in the Christmas spirit this year. Well, it's nice to see for a change. My mother will be happy to hear about it. She worries about you, y'know."
"Yeah...uh, I just need to get my coat." He hesitated, then turned away from the doorway and walked into his bedroom.
Scully was standing in the living room admiring the tree when he returned.
"These look really old," she said, glancing at the various brightly colored ornaments. "They're beautiful. Someone you loved must have taken care of them through the years and passed them on to you."
Mulder looked over at the ghost of Alex Krycek sitting on his couch and smiled.
"Something like that."
She turned back to him. "You ready? You know how my mom gets when we're late."
"Just a second, Scully..."
Mulder walked over to the tree and slid the star onto the branch at the top.
"You aren't going to tell me you were visited by three ghosts, are you?" she asked curiously, watching Mulder as his gaze shifted from the star to his empty couch.
Mulder shook his head and placed his hand in the familiar spot at the small of her back. "Just one, Scully. Just one."