torch, December 1997

Disclaimer: I don't own Mulder, Scully, Skinner, Krycek, or Christmas. This story takes place in some distant future I don't really think we're headed for. Do not archive this story without permission.

In heavenly peace

It was snowing even more heavily here, not the pretty snowfall of a Christmas card but something heavy and rough, the snowflakes small and hard and sharp-edged like white glass ornaments. She thought for a moment they ought to ring like crystal against the windshield, then shook off the fancy and concentrated on getting the wipers to work again. The right one only produced a tired squeaking sound as it moved limply up and down. It was hard to see more than the nearest few feet of white nothing illuminated by the headlights.

Almost there, anyway, she knew that much. Only now did she start to worry about what to do with the car. She couldn't leave it in the road, and the driveway would be one huge snowdrift. Slowing down even more, she peered ahead. It should be here. Yes — the dark shape of the house was unmistakable. And wonder of wonders, the driveway was cleared, or mostly cleared, the snow shovelled to one side and packed tight. It had been hard work, and her back reminded her of just how that work felt.

She turned and brought the car to a stop behind the gray, rather anonymous BMW that was parked there already. Turning off the engine made her aware of how silent it was out here. Silent and dark. There were no lights in any window. With a sigh, she unfastened the seat belt, braced herself, and opened the car door. "He's here," she muttered.

Snow blew in her face as she stepped out, and she hastily buttoned her coat and elbowed the door shut. She regretted not getting her hat from the back seat, as the wind bit into her ears, the back of her neck. The snow creaked under her feet when she walked up to the front door. For form's sake, she knocked, but barely waited for an answer before trying the door knob.

As she had expected, it wasn't locked. She slipped inside and paused there, listening again. The house was dark, and smelled of abandonment and dust, but it wasn't as cold as she had feared it might be. Her heels clicked on the floor as she went deeper into the house, making her way mostly by touch and memory. The flashlight in her right-hand coat pocket was a reassuring weight, there if she needed it, but she wasn't going to use it yet.

The furniture slept under covers, tidied away, lifeless. She brushed her hand over the back of a couch, the cool plastic wrapped around a lamp shade. Ahead, she could make out the large windows and beyond them more darkness and more snow.

The house was empty; she wasn't sure how she knew, but nevertheless she was certain, and so she went on, until she stood with her face against the glass peering out, trying to make out what she wanted to see.

Dana Scully sighed, pulled her gloves out of her left-hand pocket, and put them on before going outside again.

Here at the back, the bulk of the house shielded her against the wind, and that shelter had also kept his footsteps from being completely erased, although they were filling up with more snow as she watched. She followed them, on an impulse making a game of it, placing her feet entirely inside the marks of his. She had to almost jump in a couple of spots, and was on the verge of breathless laughter when she looked up, and saw him.

He was standing with his back to her, head tilted, looking up at the sky as though stargazing. There was nothing but falling snow to be seen. Snow lay on his shoulders, in his hair.


When he turned around, she saw that he had been crying. He was wearing jeans, and his old leather jacket, not nearly enough for this weather; not even the knitted sweater underneath could be keeping him warm. Her heart tightened with a familiar feeling, loving exasperation, and she walked forward and wrapped her arms around him without another word.

His hands caught at her shoulders briefly, then he hugged her back, holding her close, leaning his cheek against the top of her head. He was cold, but his breath was warm, melting the snow that had caught in her hair. Scully wriggled closer, trying to share what she had with him. Even through the sweater, she could feel his ribs, and one of his hipbones was poking into her stomach. There was still strength in his grip, though.

"I didn't think you'd come," he said finally. His voice wasn't hostile, just calm, drained of feeling. Scully didn't let that fool her. She tightened her arms around him, as if that would stop him from leaving.

"You knew. You'd shovelled enough of the driveway to park two cars."

He laughed a little. "Yes."

"You knew," she repeated. "Have you eaten anything today?" He didn't reply. "At least you turned the heat on."

Snow was covering them both now, joining them, making them one shape. When she tilted her head to look up at him, she saw that not all the white in his hair had fallen from the skies. "I thought maybe this time," he said, but left the sentence unfinished as a little warmth broke, finally, through the grief in his expressive eyes. "I'm glad you're here."

Mulder kissed her forehead. His lips were as cold as the snow, and she knew they had to get back inside. It was too late now to teach him any useful habits of self-preservation. She would have to have enough for both of them, the way it always had been. She wanted, for a moment, to share with him everything she had that he might need, to push it into him with a touch of her hands. Then she had to look down to hide her face.

"We should go in," she said.

"Yes." He was looking over her head towards the house. Scully turned within the circle of his arms, and saw the warm glow that shone from every window now. "You know, there are days when I can't quite believe it's all over." She had nothing to say to that; she felt the same way. "I see you brought me something." One of his hands lifted to touch her cheek. "Light."

She caught that hand in her own and tugged him forward. "Come on, Mulder. My ears are going to freeze and fall off."

They retraced their steps, hand in hand, and paused to brush each other free of the worst of the snow before going in. The house felt warmer now. Scully knew it was an illusion, that the light made her think so, but she appreciated the seeming welcome all the same. She shrugged out of her coat as she led the way back to the front of the house, and hung it on the coathanger she could see now. Mulder's leather jacket squeezed in next to it.

"Did you find him?"

The words came from the kitchen, and it was Mulder who walked in there first. She couldn't see his face but could imagine very clearly the blink and faint smile at the sight of the oven turned on, the table piled high with food, and Walter Skinner in his shirt sleeves, wrestling with the icy plastic lid that kept him from getting at the home-made cranberry sauce from Thanksgiving.

"She found me," Mulder said gravely. He seemed content to stand back and wait, but Skinner put the sauce down and caught him in a handshake, and one of those shoulder grips that don't really get away with not being an embrace. Scully went around the table to check on William Walter, who was still asleep in his carry-cot. "You know I hate cranberry sauce."

"Yes," Skinner said and picked up the container again.

Mulder came to look at the child, too, touching a fingertip to one round cheek rather abstractedly. "Mom sends her love," Scully said, watching his face the way he was watching her son's.

"And her prayers," he guessed. Then he looked up so quickly, she couldn't hide the expression in her eyes. "I don't mind, Scully. I expect I can do with all the help people are willing to offer me." He glanced at the kitchen table. "Even when they're trying to fatten me up."

"It's Christmas," she said reproachfully. "You have to eat too much at Christmas."

"Yeah. I made up the spare room for you." His eyebrows drew together in surprise. Sleeping, William Walter had grabbed hold of Mulder's index finger and was gripping it tight. Scully found herself wanting to tell her son not to let go. Not to ever let go. She turned her head and looked out the window, looked at the snow falling.

It really was perfect Christmas weather.

"I took the bags up already," Skinner said. "Thanks. You must have cost the Sheraton chain a fortune in hotel towels."

A corner of his mouth twitched. "No. Not me." Then, before either of them could react, he straightened up and pulled his finger free. "I thought I'd grab an hour's sleep. I didn't get much last night."

"Sure," Skinner said, nothing in the casual friendliness of his voice betraying that he was trying to make up for his slip. "I'll leave it to you to set the table later."

"All right." Mulder drifted towards the kitchen door, his feet barely seeming to touch the ground as he walked. "Thanks for coming," he said over his shoulder before he disappeared.

Scully went to stand by the stove, warming herself. The heat that came through the oven door didn't penetrate deep enough to banish the chill in her bones. She looked up at her husband, wanting to say something, but there was a lump in her throat as well. "Are you sorry?" she got out after a few moments. "That we decided to be here?"

"No." He put everything down again and pulled her close, into the clean linen embrace of his shirt, and the warmth of his muscular strength inside it. "It's right to be here."

* * *

He walked up the stairs nearly as fast as he always had, and stopped when he reached the top, glancing to the right where the half-open door showed him the room where Scully and Skinner would be sleeping. Scully and Skinner and William Walter. It looked warmly inviting, with lamplight spilling like liquid gold over the dark blue carpet and the red-and-blue quilt on the bed.

Mulder nodded. They'd be comfortable there. He really had not allowed himself to believe with any certainty that they would come, not even when he put fresh sheets down.

Turning left instead, he went into a dark room and closed the door. He walked across to the window and leaned his hands on the window frame, his forehead against the cold glass. Paint crumbled under his fingers. Someone should renovate the house, some day.

Outside, the snow kept falling. Maybe they'd be snowed in for days; Scully and Skinner had probably made it here at the last hour. Crazy to go on a car trip like that with a small child, a baby, but he was grateful to them for doing it.

He sighed and straightened up and was about to turn again, when he heard quiet footsteps, felt a body closing in on his, a hand cover one of his, long fingers interlacing with his own. Mulder drew a deep breath that turned into a shuddering sigh as lips brushed the back of his neck.

"I didn't think you'd come," he said, as he had said to Scully.

Silent laughter, only warm gusts of air against his skin. "Don't be ridiculous." He leaned his head back against a strong shoulder, and felt brief, determined kisses move down from the spot below his ear towards his collarbone. "Your skin tastes like Tokay. Smoke and spirits."


"Bed." They turned together and took the few steps necessary, sinking into the depths of covers and blankets and goosedown pillows. Mulder curved a hand around the back of his lover's neck, searching blindly for a kiss. "Oh, your mouth, Fox."

Kissing, consuming each other's lips and tongues, breath and blood, they twined deeper down into the bed. Mulder picked languidly at shirt buttons until he could stroke the smooth skin beneath the cloth. Nipples rose under his wandering fingers, tightly expectant, ready to be rubbed and pinched and licked and bitten and most thoroughly tormented.

He smiled. "I love you," he said into the hollow of Alex's throat, then moved down. His tongue painted every detail of this familiar scene, licking Alex into shape and into desire. The soft panting moans he heard were sweeter than any Christmas carol. He kissed the taut stomach muscles, ending just above the faded fabric of Alex's jeans.

They pulled apart to get undressed, dropping everything on the floor. It was as though their hands could not move fast enough; but when they fell together again, the shock of skin against skin made them stop. Mulder felt the breath catch in his throat. Pressed against the muscular length of Alex's body, he felt bony and awkward, aware of the weight he'd lost that he couldn't really spare, but Alex stroked his back and murmured appreciation into his shoulder. "Fox, my Fox."

The mouth that tasted him knew all his secrets, and took its sweet time telling them to him, one by one. He twisted under the knowing touch, arched and pushed, caught between the fiery thrill of wanting and the deep sweet certainty of being loved. "I want it fast," he said, surprised to hear the words, "hard and fast, Alex."

"It's Christmas," the answer spoken into the hollow by his hipbone, then carved there in runes by a swift tongue-tip. He wanted to ask what that meant. Alex licked a wet line the full length of his cock, root to crown, then sucked at the head with lazy relish. Mulder moaned, and his hips jerked reflexively, pushing him deeper into the wet warmth. He was enveloped, taken, held. It was a tight, ruthless pressure, drawing him along as fast as he had asked for, faster. He rolled his head on the pillow in delighted protest. Alex was loving him with such terrible efficiency, with such a thorough knowledge of what he liked, what he wanted. That sure touch could bring him off, screaming, in no time at all.

He ran a hand over Alex's hair, at once soft and bristly, short at the nape of the neck, longer towards the front — long enough to fall into his eyes when he bent his head forward like this. Mulder stroked the small curves of the ear with the tip of his thumb, flicked the sensitive earlobe and felt a careful nip of teeth in response. The metal sharp sensation travelled up along his spine to further addle his brains.

"Not like this," he said, so quietly he wasn't sure it could be heard over the pounding of his heart. His fingers curled into Alex's hair, tugged. "Not like this — inside me, Alex. I want you in me."

Those words got his lover's attention and his cock was released — he whimpered, despite having asked for it, while Alex crawled up to lie along his side again, heated and eager. "You want me to fuck you, beautiful?" Alex whispered in his ear. "Hard and fast, is that what you want?"

He closed his eyes and shuddered. "Yes." The bed dipped with Alex's movements, while he lay still and thought about breathing, which grew harder and harder as fingers stroked and stretched and slicked him into readiness, and then into need. Every breath was by then a separate endeavor, unmatched in rhythm with any other. "Alex." The touch inside curled his toes and fingers. "Now."

His lover's body covered his own with warmth even as he pulled his knees up, spread himself wide open, reached down to guide Alex inside. Yes yes yes, like that, hot and hard, deep — deeper— He felt strong again, joyful and reckless, arching up to meet Alex's first powerful thrust.

It was so good.

Mulder gripped the sheets, feeling the fine linen threads press into his skin. Teeth grazed his chest as Alex curled over him, fiercely concentrated. His mouth was open, but the air had turned too hot to breathe. He was unaware of most things, except the sensations in his ass, in his cock, which he reached down unthinkingly to stroke, his knuckles rubbing against Alex's sweat-slick stomach.

They weren't pacing themselves. It was as he had asked, fast and hard, blazing through him, eating him alive. It was just what he had wanted, it was everything now, instant gratification, compressed delirium, the essence of what always had been and always would be between them.

"Fox — I—" Alex was frowning, his eyes narrowed, his face flushed. Body worked against body, the frantic simultaneous creation and consumption of pleasure. "You're—" It was rough now, and at the same time no less exquisite. "You're mine." Fingers dug into him, bruisingly hard. "Always."

"Yes," agreement, acknowledgement, acceptance, "yes!" Ecstasy. It was so easy, with Alex. The brilliant wave of white-gold pleasure that took him caught his lover up as well, and they lost themselves together.

The sharp burst of feeling racked him, and he was left limp, feeling as though all his joints had been wrenched apart. He was grateful for the softness of the bed now that passion wasn't drugging him any longer. Eyes closed, he lay still and warm, and dozed.

When he came back to full consciousness again, he could smell a Christmas dinner on the verge of being ready. The room was still dark; outside the window, snow still fell heavily. Mulder gathered himself up and rolled slowly out of bed, snagging up his discarded clothes from the floor. He went into the connecting bathroom, washed up and got dressed again. In the mirror he saw that the revealing flush had faded. He just looked tired.

Going down the stairs he heard someone going through the kitchen cupboards looking for plates and glasses, and picked up his pace to find Skinner muttering darkly over the pots and pans while Scully stood on tiptoe to reach the higher shelves. "There you are," she said, relieved. "I was just about to wake you up."

"By breaking my grandmother's plates," he agreed. "I'll get that for you."

It was quick work to set the table and bring the food out, with just the three of them. They didn't bother with formality, never had. While Skinner opened the first bottle of wine, Mulder took a last turn into the kitchen and picked up the carry-cot. He looked down thoughtfully into blue baby eyes. Fox William Walter Alexander — he'd argued that those were too many names for such a small child. William Walter, recently fed and changed, gurgled in happy unconcern.

When they sat down at last, they all looked at each other, unsmiling. Mulder was the first to reach for his wine glass, and the others followed suit. This ritual was no older than Scully's and Skinner's marriage, something they had done that first Christmas — he could no longer remember whose morbid, sentimental impulse it had been, probably his own — and then felt compelled to repeat.

That first time, they had named all their dead, all the ones lost to them during the long fight, and toasted the names, and eaten together in silence turning slowly to Christmas cheer. Since then, it had been that year's dead only, and each year had brought deaths. Strange that he had once thought that loss would be halted, banished, when their fight was over. Last year he had sat here, in the same place, speaking his mother's name.

They were waiting for him, he saw when he looked at his friends over the rim of his wine glass. Waiting for him to say something. His tongue was a dry dead weight in his mouth. Scully leaned forward, her hair sliding like silk against her skin. "Mulder, I can — you don't have to—"

"Yes, I do." He stared at the shifting colors in his glass, the glow of red, the color of blood. They'd shared that too, towards the end. "I propose a toast to the memory of Alex Krycek, who died in this house on the tenth of October. I won't forget him." A sudden smile crossed his face, sharp and cruel as a razor cut. "I won't have the time to forget him."

The clear bell-like sound of their glasses meeting brought an echoing squeak from William Walter. Mulder drank, but the taste of the wine faded into nothingness on his tongue. There was little, now, that was truly bright to his senses; a thin gray film had come between him and the world.

"We won't forget either," Skinner said, his deep steady voice making a promise of the words. He put his glass down, and so did Scully, and Mulder, but the moment still hung in the air.

Mulder looked at his former partner and found another smile, one a little less hard to bear. "Scully," he said, "if you cry like that for me next year, I'll never forgive you. Now give me some turkey."

* * *

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