Walking The Line: The Second Noel

by Ainsley Wallace

Title: Walking The Line: The Second Noel Author: Ainsley Wallace
Rating: NC-17 (This story depicts graphic sexual encounters between same-sex consenting adults.)
Category: Story/Romance
Summary: Kaz and Scully share their second Christmas together. Disclaimer: All characters from The X-Files are property of 1013 Productions.
They are not being used without permission for entertainment only, not for financial gain, and we'll put them back when we're done. Comments are welcome at: xfstew@yahoo.com




Tuesday 22 December 1998
9:34 p.m.

Commander Anne Kazmerowski, U.S. Navy, JAG corps smiled to herself as she sat at her dining room table, scribbling notes on a long yellow legal pad. Perhaps it was the fact that the legion of motions she was going to file in the morning was going to make veins stand out on the forehead of the opposing council, probably get the case dismissed and almost certainly get her client, a hapless young PFC who looked like he wasn't shaving yet, released from custody so that he could go spend Christmas with his family in Kentucky. Or maybe it was the prospect of her upcoming holidays -- an entire week to sleep late, goof off and not think legal thoughts. Or maybe it was the aftereffects of a wonderful candlelight dinner and two glasses of wine.

She listened to the clink of the coffee pot against a ceramic mug, heard the rise and fall of Scully's gentle laughter and her soft, sweet voice and knew that it was none of those things. Life was good, but it wasn't because of work, or holidays or anything as mundane as that.

The answer was much more elegant and far more beautiful. The answer was in the kitchen, fixing her coffee.

How could anyone be this lucky?

Scully slipped out of the kitchen just then, a steaming mug in one hand, their black cordless phone in the other and Kaz was awestruck, once again.

That hair, so thick and falling in perfect flames against the cream of her neck. A black sweater that revealed a tantalizing glimpse of her collarbone and the tiny cross that rested there. Jeans, loosely hugging her hips, bagging comfortably in places where Kaz longed to run her hands.

"It just seems so ridiculous that he pulls that shift every single Christmas, Mom," she was saying into the phone. "I mean, really, I can't remember the last Christmas that he was home. I'm beginning to wonder if he wasn't just a figment of my childhood imagination."

Kaz raised her eyebrows in an unspoken question. Scully rolled her eyes and mouthed the word "Charlie."

She put the coffee down at Kaz's elbow. Kaz seized the opportunity and grabbed her arm, pulled her closer, planted a tender kiss on her temple.

Scully smiled at her and trailed a hand across her shoulders as she retraced her path across the dining room.

"I know, Mom, I just miss him," she said as she disappeared into the kitchen. "Christmas just...I don't know...I guess I miss a lot of things."

Kaz heard the change in Scully's voice, the drop, not so much in pitch or tone, but in emotion. She strained to hear what she was saying but could only make out the melody of her voice from the next room. She sipped her coffee, warming her hands on the mug for a moment and contemplated Christmas. Last Christmas, their first Christmas together, snowy kisses and Mrs. Scully's cabin and that deep, soft bed that they'd shared. Mrs. Scully surprising them in an embrace by the light of the Christmas tree. But then, even that had turned out all right. So much had happened in a year. More than she could have imagined or ever dreamed possible. Her worst fears and her greatest hopes, mingled and blended and still, every night when she came through the door, there was Scully. Nothing else really mattered, because there was Scully.

Another change in tone and Kaz cocked her head and listened to the sound of Scully's voice. Disappointment? She entertained the idea of going to her, felt a growing need to make sure everything was all right, to see her face and gauge her words, her expression. She waited, heard long pauses and then Scully's voice again, soothing, placating, reassuring.

Something was wrong.

Kaz got to her feet and wandered to the door of the kitchen, leaned there with her mug and assessed the situation.

"No, Mom, really, it's okay. I understand. I'm not disappointed...well, I mean, I'm sorry I won't be seeing you but I'm glad you're going....no, really. It's not a problem...Mom...Mom...really, it's okay."

She caught sight of Kaz as she pulled a mug out of the microwave and she smiled sadly and shrugged. Kaz caught the scent of warm milk and cinnamon.

"Honestly, it's okay. I'll drop by tomorrow before you leave with the gifts, okay?"

She listened intently for a moment. "All right. I'll be there by three.

Okay....I will. I love you, too. Bye."

She punched a button on the handset and put it down on the counter.

Kaz watched her, studied every movement. "What's up?"

"Oh nothing," she said. "It's just that Bill called today and he's come up with some last minute thing. Cashed in his frequent flyer points or something and is going to fly mom out to San Diego for Christmas so she can see Matthew."

Scully took her mug and crossed to where Kaz stood in the doorway.

"Oh," Kaz said. "So we're not going to go to the cabin after all?"

Scully shook her head. "No. I suppose we could if we want to, but Mom's going to be flying out tomorrow." She slipped her hand into Kaz's and led her into the living room and flopped down onto the overstuffed sofa. "How's the work going?"

"Fine," Kaz said absently as she sat down beside her. She rubbed her thumb across the silky skin of Scully's hand. "So...it's just the two of us for Christmas then?"

Scully sipped her milk, made a face. "Ugh. Why can't I make it like they do at Starbucks? Yeah, it's just us. Even Mulder is heading up to Connecticut bright and early Thursday to be with his Mom."

Kaz peered at her, still measuring her reaction carefully. "Are you disappointed?"

"About what? Not going to the cabin?"

"Well, that and your Mom not being here...and Charlie...everything."

Scully shrugged. "I suppose. But it's not really a big thing. I mean, it's not like I don't get to see her all the rest of the year."

Kaz frowned. "Gee, now I kind of wish we'd gotten a tree."

"It's okay," Scully said, and there was a heaviness in her voice, suddenly.

"There'd just be pine needles all over the place anyway.

We'd be cleaning them up for weeks." Her jaw tightened slightly and Kaz saw her set that familiar mask of stubbornness into place.

"Scully, what is it, hon?" Kaz asked and she turned sideways on the cushion, sitting cross-legged and drawing Scully's hand into her lap.

She held it there between her own, protectively. "Before your Mom called you'd seemed really excited about Christmas. You were really into it."

"I suppose I was," Scully admitted reluctantly, her eyes fixed on her mug of milk.

"So what's the matter? Why are you so disappointed?" Kaz waited, studying Scully's downturned profile, the line of her lips as she pursed them.

Scully sighed. "To tell you the truth, Kaz, I don't even know. I just feel..." She looked at her hands, frowned and suppressed another shrug, then raised her eyes to meet Kaz's concerned gaze. "I just feel sad, I guess."

Kaz nodded, ran a gentle thumb across the back of Scully's hand.

"But you know what? I'm probably just tired," Scully said, forcing brightness into her voice. She patted Kaz's thigh. "Are you almost done your work. Can you come to bed?"

Kaz nodded again. "Yeah, I just have to finish one more thing," she said absently.

Scully let her head fall back into the deep pillows of the sofa and peered at Kaz intently. "What?" she said, softly. "What are you thinking about? You're a thousand miles away all of a sudden."

Kaz snapped to and smiled. "Nothing," she said. She reached over and caressed Scully's cheek, watched her eyes drift shut under her soothing touch. "You are tired," she said, her gaze tracing every detail of Scully's face. "You go ahead up to bed and I'll be there in five minutes, okay?"

Scully forced her eyes open. "Okay...but no more than five. Or I'll come looking for you." She wearily got to her feet and then headed for the stairs.

Kaz sat there, listening to the sound of her sock muffled feet retreat into the silence of the house. She bit her lip and sighed, sank back into the cushions. A quiet clicking of claws on hardwood and there was Brandy's sweet face at her knee, pink tongue wiping the remains of dinner from her flat snout. Kaz's hand automatically went to her, scratched her silky head.

Brandy laid her head on Kaz's leg, accepted the petting with a satisfied look, then turned to gaze at her master's face when it stopped.

"She's sad, Brandy," Kaz said quietly, "and I think I have an idea why."

Another scratch behind the ears, a satisfied grunt from the well fed pooch and then Kaz bent over and took her flattened little face in both hands, held it close to her own. "And you know what, girl? We're gonna do something about that."




Wednesday 23 December 1998
1:17 p.m.

Kaz smiled all the way back from the courthouse, through the line up at the deli, along the maze of hallways and offices at the Navy Yard and was still smiling when she unlocked the door of her office and shook the snow off the shoulders of her dark uniform coat. The smile gave way briefly to something was dangerously close to a giggle when she recalled the look on the face of the opposing council when the judge had granted her fourth motion of the morning. Her young charge was free to spend the holidays with his family, two of her motions were forcing the prosecution to release that they'd been dragging their heels over and as a little pre-Christmas bonus, she'd convinced the judge to delay the court date another month while she reviewed the new evidence.

Some days, she loved her job.

She set her litigation bag beside her desk, flopped into her desk chair and kicked off her pumps and she ripped open her lunch bag. A minute later, she was tucking into a thick sandwich, the contents of which would have no doubt earned her a speech on the subject of her arteries from Scully. She smiled again as she thought of Scully, wondered as she so often did, what she was doing right now, barely suppressed the urge to call her.

She had other things she had to do.

Another bite of the sinfully delicious sandwich and a swig of soda and then she was dialing a familiar number. A voice answered on the third ring.

"Mrs. Scully?...It's Anne...fine, thanks, and you?....Good, I'm glad to hear that." She snagged a legal pad from the corner of her desk, snatched a pen from the drawer. "Listen, Mrs. Scully, I wonder if you have a minute...."

Her brush was moving lightly across the canvas, microscopic strokes on a midnight blue sky, then dipping back onto the palette. One of the Indigo Girls was working through the grammar of her fears on the CD player off to Kaz's right, and she was humming along, not really conscious of it, absorbed in the light of her night canvas.

The front door clicked shut and she lifted her head, cocked an ear.

"Scully?" she called.

"It's just me, I'm home," Scully replied.

"I'm up here," Kaz yelled back to her.

A few moments later, Scully appeared in the doorway of the make shift studio, took in Kaz on her stool, the music, the unfinished canvas before her.

"You're painting," Scully said, a smile lighting on her lips.

"I am," Kaz said, wiping her hands on a paint stained rag.

Scully came to stand beside her, gave her a quick kiss, then slung an arm around her shoulders and surveyed the canvas with her.

"You haven't picked up a brush in a couple of weeks," Scully said, as her eyes traveled across the landscape of Kaz's art.

Kaz wrapped both arms around Scully's waist and held onto her, then turned a critical eye on her painting.

"I guess I've been too busy," she said. "But I just sort of came up here after supper and started puttering and I really got into it. I didn't realize it was so late." She turned and peered up at Scully's face. "Did you eat?"

"I grabbed something before the autopsy," she said, and her hand reached up and brushed Kaz's thick dark hair back from her face.

"I always say, 'Never do an autopsy on an empty stomach'," Kaz said.

She closed her eyes, soothed and distracted by Scully's touch, by the feel of her so close in her arms. Her warmth, her scent. She opened her eyes a moment later, caught Scully studying her with an amused expression.

"What?" Kaz asked.

"You like it when I do this..." she said.

Kaz smiled and let her eyes slip shut again, felt gentle fingers running through her hair. "Mmmm....I do. But then, I like a lot of the things that you do to me."

"Oh really?" Scully said, and Kaz heard the smile in her voice.

"You'll have to give me a list sometime."

"Come to the bedroom with me right now and I'll show you them," Kaz said, her eyes still closed, but her smile betraying her.

"Do you use that line on all the girls?" Scully laughed.

"Just one," Kaz said, opening her eyes and fixing them on Scully's.

"I've kind of got a thing for her."

Scully caressed Kaz's cheek. "I'm glad," she said and she touched her lips to her partner's, tasted her, kissed her firmly, but tenderly.

When she straightened up, Kaz's eyes were on her face again.

"You look tired," Kaz said.

"I am," Scully replied. "I spent all day filling out year end reports and then just as I was heading out the door, VICAP called for the consult on this autopsy."

"Come on, you look like you're going to fall over," Kaz said, and she led Scully to the futon couch that was tucked in the corner, under the wall of windows. She plopped down on the soft old couch and opened her arms.

Scully smiled and slipped off her pumps, slung her jacket over the back of the sofa and curled up gratefully on Kaz's lap, her neck in the crook of Kaz's elbow, those familiar, strong arms supporting her, enfolding her.

Scully's face was so tantalizing close, her breath warm on Kaz's arm.

She dropped a kiss on Scully's forehead, stroked her hair back away from her face, letting the silky strands slide through her fingers.

Those eyes, the deep bottomless blue of mountain lakes, tried to watch her, slid slowly shut.

"Hey, in another hour or so, it'll be officially Christmas Eve," Kaz said.

"Oh my God, it will," Scully said. "I guess if we're staying here, we'll need to get some..."

Kaz pressed a gentle finger to her soft lips, hushed the next words.

"Already taken care of...I wrote a list of groceries and stuff today and I've got it covered."

"Are you sure? Because I don't mind..."

Kaz shook her head. "Taken care of."

"Well, okay...if you're sure."

A yawn overtook her just then and she tried to cover it with the back of her hand without success. She snuggled a little deeper into Kaz's arms.

"Christmas Eve already," Scully said. "It sort of crept up on me."

Kaz played with a lock of flaming hair, traced a line along the ridge of her ear. "I know...this year time has been...well, kind of elastic."

Scully sleepily nodded her agreement, a hint of a smile lighting as Kaz's fingertips explored her earlobe, made a path along her jawline, down the smooth skin of her throat.

"But what a year," Kaz said, softly.

Scully's eyes fluttered up to Kaz's face, read her expression and knew with certainty that her thoughts were hovering in antiseptic hospital rooms, pacing, praying, holding her hand, waiting for her next breath.

It was all there in the mirror of her dark chocolate eyes, the memories, the fear, the relief.

Scully lifted up a hand and closed it around one of Kaz's, drew it away her own cheek, pulling it lower, slowly, deliberately. She led it beneath the slippery fabric of her open blouse collar, placed it delicately over her heart and held it there, against the warmth of her breast, not speaking, her eyes locked on Kaz's. Scully breathed in time with her, waiting for it to connect. Kaz became aware of it in one moment to the next, felt Scully's heart beating steadily in her chest and she understood and then she smiled -- slowly and with an openness that Scully wasn't sure she'd ever seen before.

"I'm not going anywhere," Scully said, softly, clouds of sleepiness claiming her, forcing her eyes closed. "I'm staying right here with you, Kaz."

She slipped her free hand around Kaz's waist, burrowed her head deeper into Kaz's arm and sighed.

Kaz watched her sleep for a long time.




Thursday 24 December 1998
6:44 a.m.

The smell of coffee coaxed her from her dreams, but it was the warm kiss on the back of her neck that brought her to her senses, made her fight to wake up. Another kiss on the ear and a soft hand sliding over her bare hip and across her belly and she was awake now, awake and suddenly very aware of the tension growing in her body, the warmth radiating from her core.

This was a dangerous way to be woken up on a work day.

More kisses, long, lingering ones on the back of her neck, low, near her shoulders and she could feel Kaz's long lean body pressing against her, all along the length of her...except that she was dressed.

Scully rolled over and squinted through slitty eyes at her companion.

Kaz beamed back at her, a toothy grin, her cheeks flushed from running and cold air.

"Morning," she said brightly.

Scully pulled the blankets back to take a look at her, took in the t-shirt and running tights, groaned and sank back into the pillows.

"Don't you ever sleep?" Scully asked, her voice muffled by the pillow.

"Not often, and usually only after my insatiable girlfriend has completely exhausted me," Kaz said. She leaned her chin on Scully's arm. "She's older than I am, but then again you know what they say about women reaching their sexual peak in their thirties."

Scully pulled the blankets up higher, nestled deeper into the bed.

"Oh, I'm peaking as we speak," she sighed.

"Come on," Kaz said, "you have to get up."

"I don't want to go to school today, Mom," Scully said.

"Do you have to finish up that autopsy report for VICAP?" Kaz asked.

Another sigh from beneath the covers. "Yeah. It'll only take a few hours but I need to get it done before everything shuts down for the holidays and it gets lost in the shuffle." She rolled over onto her back and stretched, her arms over her head, the sheets sliding back and revealing a tantalizing glimpse of her breast.

Kaz laid her head next to Scully's on the pillow and slid a warm hand across her flat belly. "Do you have to be on time?" she whispered.

Scully smiled and suppressed a shiver as the hand dipped lower to her navel, then higher, grazing the full bottom of her breast. "I have a feeling that if you keep doing that, I won't make it to work at all..."

"Then I should probably stop doing that and hand you the coffee I brought you," Kaz said.

Scully bit her lip, closed her eyes and let go a held back sigh. "I guess so..."

Kaz smiled and kissed her cheek, then rolled back to her side of the bed to reach the steaming mugs of coffee that she'd left there. She waited while Scully propped herself on the pillows, then handed her a mug.

Scully accepted it gratefully, took a sip and sank back. "To what do I owe this little bit of spoiling?"

"To celebrate the fact that it's officially Christmas Eve," Kaz said.

Scully smiled and touched her mug to Kaz's. "To Christmas Eve."

They sipped their coffee and watched tentative snowflakes fall outside their bedroom window.

"Kaz?"

"Mmmm?"

"Can I ask you something?"

"Shoot."

"Do you miss your Dad? I mean, at Christmas? Do you miss him more?" Scully asked.

Kaz barely resisted the urge to look at Scully, to search her eyes for confirmation of what she'd suspected for two days now. Instead, she found herself staring at her coffee mug while she spoke.

"I guess I do," she said. "I mean, I find myself thinking of stuff we used to do -- he used to get a kick out of Christmas, but he liked it quiet, you know, just the family. My mother would always be wanting to throw parties and have dozens of people for dinner, but I think he would have preferred for it to be just us. Of course, after the divorce, it was just he and I a lot of the time. You know last year, when we went to your mom's cabin, just us and your mom and Mulder? I think he would've liked that a lot."

Kaz took a thoughtful drink of her coffee, studied the snowflakes.

"You know when I miss him the most?"

Scully shook her head. "When?"

"On my birthday. He used to always make such a huge deal of my birthday.

Even when I was grown, you know, like in college, he'd drive to town for the day and I'd blow off my classes and we'd spend the whole day together, just hanging out, having fun. It was just nice, you know? Just us."

Scully nodded and Kaz peeked over at her expression, read what was there.

"What about you?" she asked, taking Scully's hand in her own.

"Huh?"

"When do you miss your dad the most?"

Scully chuckled self-consciously. "It probably sounds funny, but...I don't miss him, usually. I still don't really feel like he's gone, I guess. I still think he's going to answer the phone when I call Mom's, and when he doesn't, I'm still a little surprised. It's like he's around somewhere, but I just haven't seen him in a while, like he's back on a ship someplace, on a really long tour of duty, just like when I was a kid."

Kaz squeezed her hand. "That must've been hard, always saying goodbye to him."

Scully shrugged. "I suppose it was, but he always made up for it when he was around. He'd do everything with us while he was in port."

"Did he like Christmas? Was he into the whole Santa thing?"

Scully smiled, her eyes still on the window, where snowflakes were fattening up and drifting down to earth. "Yeah, he was, but in his own typically rigid way."

Kaz watched her face, listened intently.

"My Dad was a firm believer in structure, he always said that the happiest people were people who had self-discipline. And he applied that principle to everything from commanding a ship to raising kids to celebrating a holiday."

"Sounds a bit like boot camp," Kaz said.

"No, it wasn't like that, he wasn't stern about it, just...structured.

He liked to keep traditions exactly the same from year to year...you know, always do things exactly the same way."

"Like what?"

"Well, like when we moved someplace, we'd always go to the same Christmas tree lot to get our tree...and always on the twenty fourth.

We couldn't put the tree up before then."

"Why not?"

Scully turned her gaze on Kaz, gave her a look like she wondered whether she was listening to a word she was saying. "Because that's when you were supposed to do it, so you wouldn't get pine needles all over the house.

Because we'd always done it that way."

Kaz nodded slowly. "Ah. I see. What else did he do?"

"He'd probably never had admitted it, but he loved Christmas carols.

There was this one particular album he always played while we decorated the tree."

"Who was it?"

Scully rolled her eyes and smiled. "It was this old one that he loved.

Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. He was a big fan of all three of them. God, I haven't thought about that in years."

She shook her head at the memory. Kaz sipped her coffee and waited, running her thumb across the back of Scully's hand.

"And of course, we always went to mass. Christmas morning when we were little and midnight mass when we were older. And we'd all sit there, all the Scullys, lined up in the pew, close to the front of the church so that we'd pay attention to the sermon." She lowered her eyes to her mug, regarded it absently. "I remember this one Christmas when I was about sixteen, all of us sitting there, Missy and Bill were both back from college and Dad had been away on a tour and had just gotten back. And I can remember sitting there and thinking, 'it will always be like this...no matter how we all grow up or change or move...we will always do this together.'" Her voice faded and she forced a smile. "I guess I was a little naive at sixteen."

Before Kaz could speak, Scully shot a glance at the alarm clock. "I'd better get going," she said. "I'm going to be late."

Kaz watched as she pulled back the sheets, swung her legs over the side of the bed. She rolled closer and ran a hand along Scully's bare back, tracing a delicate path down her spine.

"Hey," she said, "do you want some company in the shower?"

Scully peered over her shoulder at her partner, sprawled across the bed and she smiled.

"I sure would," she replied and she took Kaz's hand and led her to the bathroom.

"So when are you going to tell me where we're going?" Scully asked, glancing over at Kaz, who slouched comfortably behind the wheel of the vintage Mustang.

"I'm not," the dark-haired woman replied with a sly smile. "You're going to have to figure it out yourself."

Scully chuckled at her companion and turned her gaze back to the street, past the slapping wipers that were shooing globs of snowflakes off the windshield. She caught a cross street name, noted the part of the city they were in and wondered for the hundredth time what the hell Kaz was up to.

She'd been grinning like a Cheshire cat from the moment she poked her head into Scully's office two hours ago, armed with a change of clothes for Scully so that she could exchange her suit and hose for jeans and a turtleneck. She'd ignored Scully's questions on the matter all through lunch at Sam 'n Ed's, teasing her with a breezy, "You'll see" or "You're gonna have to trust me on this one, Sculls."

An hour's drive through what was becoming an impressive snowfall and Scully was beginning to wonder if even Kaz knew where they were going, or if she was making this up as she went along.

"Boy, I hope Mulder has snow tires," Kaz said, sneaking a look at the snow clouds that had descended and parked to dump their fluffy load over the eastern seaboard.

"Yeah, I hope he got away," Scully said. "Although knowing him, he probably hadn't done any of his shopping yet -- no doubt that's why he needed to leave work at eleven this morning." Scully turned and leveled another look at Kaz. "Are you gonna tell me what this is all about? Or am I going to have to beat it out of you, Kazmerowski?"

Kaz laughed out loud, hit her signal and pulled the Mustang into a huge lot, rimmed with Christmas trees and festive lights.

"Wait a minute," Scully said, suddenly. She craned her neck to look behind them, then out her foggy window, where a tall Romanesque church stood, steadfastly grey against the onslaught of snow. "Hey, this looks like....oh my God, Kaz. How did you --"

Kaz smiled as she turned off the car and pocketed the keys. "I can't reveal my sources, sorry," she said. She pushed open her door, waited while Scully stared open mouthed up at the old church. "Well," she said, "are you coming or do I have to pick out this tree on my own?"

Kaz paused while Scully climbed out of the car, took in the little urban evergreen forest and stood, staring up at the church. "This is St. Brigid's -- this is where we would always come to get our tree when Dad was stationed in Baltimore," she said. She trudged through the snow to catch up with Kaz. "Did Mom tell you about this place? She must have."

Kaz smiled at her. "These are great trees," she said.

Scully shook her head, laughing. "I can't believe you'd do this -- we drove for an hour to get here, we must have passed fifty Christmas tree lots on the way..."

"But none of them were St. Brigid's," Kaz said, simply. "Hey, look at that one..." She headed off to examine the tree.

"God, Kaz, it's got to be twelve feet tall..." Scully said.

"Dana? Dana Scully?"

The sound of her name made her turn. There, a few yards away was a tall, wiry man with sparkling eyes and snow white hair that peaked out from under the brim of his Chicago Bears toque. Around his neck, just visible above his scarf was the tip of his Roman collar.

"Dear God, it is you," he said when Scully turned.

"Father Sean?" Scully asked and before she could move, the priest had traversed the distance between them in great sweeping steps and had gathered her up in a bear hug.

"I haven't seen you...God in heaven, it must be going on ten years," he said. He released her from the hug, his face flushed with the cold, but his smile wide and warm.

"It must be at least that," Scully said. "They transferred Dad to Annapolis about that long ago and we kept meaning to make the drive down. I know he wanted to see you, Father. He talked about you a lot."

"Well, believe only half of what he told you about the old neighbourhood because despite what he probably said, most of the time, whatever trouble we'd been in was his idea." His smile grew astonished as he studied her face. "Your father,...my God, Dana, you have his face," he said. "What a man he was, but then, I don't suppose I have to tell you that."

A teenager wearing a backwards ball cap and an overstuffed down vest ran up to them. He tugged at the waistband of his pants which seemed to be hovering well beneath his waist.

"Father Sean, Sister Clare called from the rectory and she wants to know if she should bring over some more coffee when she comes," he said to the white haired priest.

"Tell her that would be lovely, Patrick and ask the other boys if they want some hot chocolate. I'm sure she wouldn't mind bring some of that, too."

The boy started to gallop away through the snow like a puppy and the priest called after him. "And for heaven's sake Patrick, pull up those infernal pants before you lose them in the next snowdrift."

"You're still doing quite a business," Scully said, glancing around at the people milling about, choosing trees.

"Well, we hope to," he said as he took her arm and walked her towards the trailer that was parked in the center of the lot. "The school's needing so many renovations this year, it's older than Moses and the roof's leaking like a sieve. And the last time we bought a computer, Bill Gates was just a little boy."

They came upon Kaz, who was checking out another tree. She waved Scully and the priest over.

"And who might this be?" Father Sean asked with a smile.

"Father Sean, this is my friend, Anne Kazmerowski."

"Kaz," she said, taking the older man's extended hand and shaking it.

"A pleasure to meet you."

"Kazmerowski," he repeated. "And what rank usually precedes that very weighty moniker, young lady?"

Kaz blinked. "Uh...Commander, but...uh..."

"Oh, I can spot an officer, Commander. Come from a long line of them myself." He leaned closer to her and said in a conspiratorial tone, "I was the black sheep of my family, you understand. Nothing to do but to run away to join the priesthood."

Kaz and Scully laughed.

"So, have you found a tree you like?" Scully asked.

"This one is a beauty," Kaz said, holding out a short needled blue spruce for Scully's inspection. Father Sean thrust his hands in his pockets and watched them, rolled back and forth on the soles of his boots, beaming.

"My God, Kaz...it's big," Scully said.

"About eight feet," Kaz replied. "That's not so big. And anyway, we have high ceilings. We could do it."

Scully shook her head doubtfully as she walked around Kaz and the tree.

"Come on!" Kaz urged. "It's a great tree."

Scully sighed, then chuckled. "You're right. It's a great tree.

Let's get it."

"I'll go back up the car," Kaz said gleefully. She gave Scully's arm a quick squeeze as she breezed off in the direction of the Mustang.

Scully watched her go and then turned back to the wiry priest and felt the full force of his eyes on her, measuring her. Her mouth slowly tightened into a line of resolve as she sensed it coming.

He motioned with his head towards Kaz's receding figure. "It's really none of my business," he said softly, "but .... I wonder, is she....are you...?"

Scully examined the snow on the toes of her boots for the briefest moment while she got control of her voice, then she met his eyes with a steady look. "Yes," she said. "As a matter of fact, we are."

Another glance at Kaz, then a softening of his face. "Can I ask you something else?"

Scully nodded.

"Are you happy?"

Scully hesitated, off balance.

"Your father worried terribly about you, Dana," Father Sean said, his voice quiet suddenly and shadowed with the past. "Always said that you'd inherited too much of his stubbornness and his single-mindedness.

Worried that you'd always be too serious to enjoy life, that all the simple pleasures would pass you by."

Scully stared up at the kind face, unformed questions reeling through her mind.

"Your father was an old softie at heart -- he always overpaid me by at least $200 every year for your family's Christmas tree. But I'll tell you something, Dana: Bill Scully would have turned into an insufferable, cranky, hateful son of a bitch, but for one thing -- he met your mother.

Falling in love with her saved his miserable shanty Irish soul, it softened him. It made him whole." He chuckled. "It made him happy."

He reached over and took her tiny hand between his own.

"Tell me something," he said, his sharp blue eyes locked on hers. "Do you love her?"

Scully nodded numbly. "I do, Father. More than anything."

The eyes twinkled, took in every detail of her face.

"And are you happy? Scully nodded, unable to form words, the knot in her throat choking them down.

"That's all he wanted for you, Dana -- for you to have a happy life." He smiled at her, warmth and sympathy in those misty eyes.

Scully blinked away her tears and swallowed hard, forced the lump back. "I just...I miss him so much at this time of year and...and I wonder what he would have thought of--"

The older man nodded. "Ah, and Bill Scully loved Christmas, my darling, but he was too stubborn to ever let on..." He squeezed her hand. "Know this, Dana. Your father loved you very much and the knowledge that you had found such love in this world, such happiness...well, that would be very precious to him indeed."

Scully managed to nod, her eyes brimming with tears now, and the old priest pulled her into his arms, rocked her back and forth, gently, wordlessly.

A moment later, Kaz was back, chequebook in hand. She paused when she caught sight of Scully, wrapped in the priest's embrace.

"Uh...I backed the car up," she said, tentatively.

Father Sean released her and Scully quickly wiped the tears away. Kaz studied them both for a moment, then gave Scully a concerned look.

Scully waved her off. "I'm fine," she said. "Really. We were just...remembering my Dad."

Kaz nodded, her eyes never leaving Scully's face. She tore off a cheque and handed it to Father Sean. "That should cover it," she said.

"Are you ready to go?" he asked.

"That nice young man with the baseball cap is just tying it down for me,"

Kaz replied.

"Well, then," he said. "I trust I'll be seeing you two every Christmas from now on, getting your tree here on the twenty fourth."

Scully laughed softly. "I'm certain you will, Father."

He studied her wistfully. "I surely hope so."

"Merry Christmas, Father," she said. She leaned up onto her tip toes and kissed his cheek, while Kaz watched. The old man smiled and grabbed Scully's hand before she could move away. "Merry Christmas, Dana. God bless."

Kaz stepped in to shake his hand. "Merry Christmas, Father," she said and suddenly he pulled her closer, took both of her hands in his.

"Merry Christmas, Commander," he said, those powdery blue eyes boring into her. "You take good of care of her."

Kaz hesitated, her mouth open for an instant while she looked from the white haired priest to Scully and back again. "I wouldn't dream of doing anything else, sir."

He smiled broadly and released her hand, stood and waved as the two women trudged off through the snow to their car. He watched as they pulled away, the Christmas tree firmly lashed down in the trunk, then he glanced down at the cheque that he still held in his hand and chuckled.

Yes, he was willing to wager that Bill Scully would've definitely liked this young officer his daughter was so taken with, the one who'd just paid him $500 for a $25 tree.

The kitchen sounds reached Scully as she sat on the living room floor by the Christmas tree, neatly folding and taping the foil paper on the last gift. She reached for the bag of bows, rooted around until she found one in a cool blue that offset the silver of the wrapping paper on Mulder's present. She fastened the bow to the box, then slid it over to join the growing pile of brightly wrapped packages under the stark green pine which stood by the bay windows of the living room.

More sounds from the kitchen -- the hiss of olive oil hitting a hot saucepan -- and Scully leaned back against the sofa, drew up her knees and reached for her glass of wine. Open boxes of ornaments sat beside her and she'd already untangled the lights and laid them out on the coffee table for when they decorated the tree after dinner.

Christmas Eve. It hardly seemed possible. So much behind them now...so much ahead.

Kaz breezed into the living room, a glass of wine in one hand, a bright red box with silver snow flakes in the other.

"Lasagne's in, we can eat in about forty five minutes," she said.

"Should we start on the tree, or wait until after supper?"

"Let's wait until after. Come sit with me a while," Scully said, reaching up a hand to Kaz. Kaz took the soft, tiny hand in hers and sat down beside her on the floor, their backs propped against the sofa.

She put the box in Scully's lap.

"What's this?" Scully asked.

"Another Scully family tradition that I heard about."

Scully looked at the box, then back at Kaz. "Which tradition would that be?"

"Well, I heard about how, since your father wouldn't allow you to open any of your presents until after dinner on Christmas Day, your mom had talked him into letting you each open one present on Christmas Eve..."

Scully laughed. "Except it was always pajamas." She held the box near her ear, shook it. "Is this pajamas?"

"You'll just have to open it to find out, won't you?"

Scully carefully unwrapped an end, then slid out a box and opened it.

There, amidst the tissue paper was a pair of white silk pajamas.

"Oh, Kaz,...they're beautiful..." she said, picking up the top to look at it. "I never got pajamas like this when I was a kid."

"Well, your Mom did say that you were partial to the kind with feet in them. I decided to go with these, instead."

Scully smiled at her partner, then leaned in, gave her a lingering kiss.

Kaz closed her eyes, brushed her lips close to Scully's ear.

"I think you should wear them tonight," Kaz said, "although I should warn you, there is one condition."

"Which is?" Scully asked, goosebumps rising on her arms from the feel of Kaz's mouth so close to her ear.

Kaz dropped a gentle kiss on Scully's earlobe. "I get to take them off you."

Scully's smile grew as Kaz kissed her way down the side of her neck, pulled back her sweater to kiss her collarbone. "Well then, I think you should open your Christmas Eve present, too.."

She leaned over, snatched a small package from the pile, handed it to Kaz.

She quickly tore the paper off to reveal a pair of black silk boxers.

"Oh, Scully,...oh, these are going to feel so good..." Kaz said, running her fingers along the slippery fabric.

"Not half as good as what I'm going to do to you once I take them off,"

Scully replied.

Before Kaz could speak, Scully stopped her lips with a kiss.

The Boys' Choir of Westminster Cathedral was just wrapping up the Coventry Carol and their angelic tones peaked and crested, soared and fell, accompanied by the slightest rumble and hiss from the dishwasher in the kitchen. Brandy lay on the corner of the rug in the dining room, head on her paws, watching Kaz and Scully decorate the tree through half open eyes.

The candles from dinner had burned down, but were still flickering, sending uncertain glowing shadows across the dog's snoozing form.

The living room was mostly in darkness, a few candles lit around the room, so that the multicolour glow of the Christmas tree was dazzling.

Kaz had insisted that the only way to decorate a tree properly was to do it in a darkened room with the Christmas lights on. Scully had followed instructions, enjoying the red and blue and gold pools that formed on Kaz's cheeks as she bent close to the evergreen to hang an ornament.

An hour's peaceful labour later, humming along to the CD's carolers, and the tree was finished. They stepped back to admire their work.

Kaz wrapped her arms around Scully from behind, rested her cheek against Scully's hair.

"Martha Stewart, eat your heart out," Kaz said.

Scully chuckled.

The disc changer hissed and clicked into place and the syrupy strains of

"White Christmas" filled the living room. A moment later, Bing started to croon.

"Hey, are people allowed to dance to Christmas carols?" Kaz asked.

"I don't think there's a rule about it," Scully replied.

Kaz turned Scully gently in her arms. "So you don't think the 'Holiday Police' are going to come and arrest us for some Yuletide infraction?"

Scully melted into Kaz, slid her arms around the taller woman's neck.

"Don't worry about it. If they do, I've always got my Sig."

Kaz smiled and tightened her hold on the tiny redhead.

They danced.

Tiny bells were tinkling, the soundtrack was swelling and somewhere in the great beyond, Clarence was presumably getting his wings. Kaz blinked hard, felt the salty sting of tears and wanted to roll her eyes at herself. She'd seen this movie, what? Fifty times? And still that lump of tears rose in her throat until she couldn't hold it back anymore.

God, what a softie.

She wondered if Scully had noticed.

Three quarters of the way through the movie, Scully had curled up with her head in Kaz's lap and hadn't moved since. Kaz leaned forward carefully to peer at her face. Just as she did, Scully stirred.

Kaz pointed the remote at the tv, muted the sound while she rewound the movie.

"Oh,...I must have fallen asleep," Scully said, sitting up, running a hand through her hair. "Just as well, I always cry at the end, anyway."

Kaz suppressed a smile.

Scully glanced at her watch. "It's after eleven," she said, yawning.

"You're tired," Kaz said, running her hand along Scully's forearm.

"You want to go to bed?"

"Well, that depends," Scully said and Kaz caught the twinkle.

"On what?"

Scully leaned in, kissed Kaz's cheek, her jaw, her neck, as she spoke.

"On whether you mean do I want to go to bed, or do I want to go to sleep."

Kaz closed her eyes, blocked out everything but the stirring touch of Scully's lips on her skin.

"What have you got in mind?"

Kaz felt Scully smile, then resume her trail of kisses.

"I'm afraid I'll have to show you..." She got to her feet, and held out her hand to Kaz.

Kaz smiled and took it, followed her tiny partner up the stairs.

The bedroom felt cool, but Kaz barely noticed as they stood at the foot of the bed, holding each other, kissing each other deeply and urgently, slowly discarding pieces of clothing. As Kaz's sweatshirt went up and over her head, Kaz noticed that the curtains on the bedroom window were open and that the shade was up. Outside, the wind howled and the snow continued to fall, whipped into a frenzied dance by the gusts. It cast a luminescence across the room and it meant that Kaz could see Scully's face clearly in the half-darkness.

Scully slid Kaz's sports bra off next, and then her tiny hands were on Kaz's full, firm breasts. The rush of wetness between Kaz's legs made her moan and Scully responded with her hands, squeezing the taut brown nipples, making Kaz's back arch with pleasure and need.

Scully's mouth drifted lower, tasted the silky skin at the base of Kaz's throat, kissing her collarbone, the valley between her breasts.

Without warning, she captured one nipple in her mouth, continued to coax and pinch the other until Kaz's moans reached a crescendo. Her hands were on Scully now, pulling at her sweater, lifting it over her head, unhooking her bra to free her breasts and then cupping them, feeling the delicious weight of them in her hands. Scully sagged a little, but kept suckling and teasing Kaz's nipple, slipped a hand behind her to squeeze her ass, to pull her closer.

Kaz felt the tension coiling deep in her middle, basked in the heat between them, knew nothing but the sensation of Scully's mouth on her.

Oh God, she needed her naked and pressed against her, desired the feeling of her skin, bare and soft and warm.

With barely co-ordinated hands, she unbuttoned Scully's jeans, slid them down over her hips. Scully groaned and broke away from Kaz's breast, searching for her lips, while she rid Kaz of her jeans and panties. Kaz steered them around and they tumbled onto the bed. Their hands quickly sought out the other's breasts and they lay there, their tongues gently stroking each other, exploring and coaxing each other's nipples into hardened little nubs.

A shudder of need and pleasure washed through Kaz and she broke their kiss, let her head roll back, gasping.

"Oh, God, Scully...that's so good..."

Scully's mouth was on her breast again, her tongue tweaking the nipple hard, making Kaz jump a little with each stroke. Scully moved in closer, ran a hand down Kaz's waist, over her hip to her thigh. The hand lingered only briefly then pulled Kaz's leg up and over her own hip. A heartbeat later, she was running a finger through Kaz's slick folds.

"Oh, you're very wet," Scully whispered and Kaz could only nod as she gasped and bucked, each breath shallower than the last.

Scully slid her finger from back to front, dipping inside Kaz briefly, then found her swollen clit. Kaz's mouth fell open and she groaned, her eyes closed, her breathing changing pace suddenly. Scully smiled at the reaction, rubbed little circles around her lover's most sensitive part and realized how close Kaz was already. It wasn't going to take much to send her over the edge.

Kaz's arms snaked around Scully and Scully slipped her free arm under Kaz and drew her body closer. Their legs intertwined, their hips rocking together in a desperate rhythm of need.

Kaz pressed her face into Scully's neck, felt her jagged breaths hot in her own face and clung to Scully, her eyes squeezed shut, her pelvis aching with sweet agony. Scully held her tightly, stroked her, whispered to her.

The orgasm burst deep in Kaz's belly and radiated like a shock wave through her limbs, her neck, her back. Kaz fought to hang onto Scully, buried her face in the warm safety of Scully's creamy neck and rode the tidal wave over and over as it pummeled her.

She was speaking now, telling Scully she couldn't stand any more and then Scully's hand was cupping her, sweet pressure as she twitched the last of it, and felt her heart hammer against her ribs as though she'd just run a marathon.

And Scully was kissing her face now, her forehead, her nose, her mouth, and Kaz felt the blankets being pulled up around them, comforting, warm and soft, like Scully. A shift and she was laying in Scully's arms, her face nestled into a delicate shoulder and Kaz wondered for a fleeting second about what had happened to her bones.

"Scully?" she managed to say.

"Mmm hmmm?"

"That was....amazing..."

She felt the tiny redhead smile. Another kiss on her forehead. "I love you, Kaz."

"I love you, too."

A last kiss, on the crown of her head. "Go to sleep, my love," Scully whispered.

Kaz did.

Kaz clutched at her robe as she staggered down the stairs, following the smells.

Oh God, the smells...coffee, rich and dark and freshly made, sweet, smoky bacon and something citrusy holding it all together.

The music got louder as she got closer to the first floor. Rosemary and Bing, voices dipping and twirling as if they were dancing with each other, reminding Kaz, in case she'd forgotten, that it was indeed Christmas time, in the city. The Christmas tree lights were on and behind the tree, through the huge bay windows, Kaz could see that it was still snowing.

She stumbled sleepily into the kitchen, found Scully at the range, flipping French toast. Scully spotted Kaz and smiled and Kaz realized again that her heart would forever skip a little beat every time she caught sight of that face.

"Merry Christmas," Scully said, leaving the spatula beside the range and coming to greet Kaz. "And good morning." She pulled Kaz's terrycloth robe closed, tied the belt with nimble hands, kissed her cheek, then wrapped the taller woman in her arms.

"Good morning," Kaz managed to say, as Scully's arms slid around her.

She kissed Scully's forehead. "And Merry Christmas to you, too, hon." She snuggled in the warmth of her lover's arms, felt herself slowly coming to.

"What time is it?"

"Just after ten," Scully said. "You were sleeping so soundly, I just thought I'd let you be. I was going to surprise you with breakfast."

"Well, I'm surprised," Kaz said. She straightened up, ran her hands up and down Scully's arms. "What smells so good?"

"That would be the French toast," Scully said. She slipped out of Kaz's arms, returning to the skillet to peek at the underside of a piece of toast. "I made them with cinnamon and orange zest."

"Wow," Kaz said. She stood there, the clouds of sleep still retreating and surveyed the kitchen. The coffeemaker was gurgling, bacon was sizzling and a trio of kiwis sat beside a half completed bowl of fresh fruit salad, waiting to be sliced and chopped.

"Don't look so shocked, Kaz," Scully teased. "I can cook, you know."

Kaz chuckled. "I know you can, I didn't mean to sound surprised." She padded over to the table, pulled out a chair and sank into it.

"It's just...this is all so...God, what time did you get up?"

"Not long ago," Scully said. "I didn't want to wake you. You seemed so tired."

Kaz laughed softly, images of their lovemaking coming back to her.

"You really took it out of me last night, Scully."

"Did I now?" Scully said. She brought Kaz a steaming mug of coffee.

"Not in as good shape as you thought, Commander, or is it just that I'm hitting my sexual peak so much earlier than you?"

A full throated laugh escaped Kaz, and she wrapped an arm around Scully's hips, pulled her closer. She laid her cheek against Scully's sweatshirt.

"That was incredible," Kaz said.

Scully ran a hand through Kaz's hair, soft warm fingers on her cheek, her scalp, her neck. "I'm glad," Scully replied. She kissed the top of Kaz's head.

Kaz lifted the hem of Scully's sweatshirt, laid delicate kisses on Scully's flat ivory stomach. "Maybe later today...I could express my....appreciation," Kaz murmured between kisses.

Scully's face blossomed. "Well, I haven't got anything planned for after breakfast...I could pencil you in."

Kaz tilted her head back, turned her face towards this woman she loved and sent a silent prayer up to whatever deity might be listening, for making her this lucky.

The phone rang just as Kaz was hauling the turkey from the fridge.

All the ingredients for stuffing were laid out across the counter, and the onions and celery were sizzling gently in a skillet. She grabbed the cordless receiver.

"Hello?" She tucked the phone between her ear and shoulder and continued wrestling the fowl out of the fridge and towards the sink.

"Hey Kaz, Merry Christmas!"

"Mulder! Merry Christmas yourself, G-man. How's Connecticut?" She pulled open the plastic bag to expose the huge turkey and wondered again why the hell she'd bought such a gigantic piece of fowl for the two of them.

"Um, Connecticut is fine, I guess, although it's under about ten feet of snow," Mulder said. "Of course, I don't know for sure, because I'm still in Alexandria."

Kaz's forehead wrinkled as she lost her grip on the slippery bird.

"Scully said you were going up to spend Christmas with your Mom...it was a no-go, huh?"

"Yeah, it was pretty much destined to be a non-event. First, Mom got stuck on the Vineyard, visiting her sister. Ferries won't be running until this afternoon, because of the storm. I couldn't have driven there anyway -- the conditions were so bad, they closed the interstate for a while. And I don't think my car even had snow tires."

"I'm sorry you weren't able to see your Mom, Mulder," Kaz said, struggling to regain her grip on the quivering fowl.

"It's okay, " Mulder said. "I'm going to drive up tomorrow. The roads'll be better and I can pick her up at the ferry. I'm just glad she's with family."

Kaz turned the cold water spray on the turkey, wiped one hand and then the other on a paper towel before she took the phone from where it was pinned against her shoulder.

"Listen, Mulder, if you're not doing anything for dinner --"

"No, no, Kaz. It's all right, that's not why I called. I just wanted to wish you and Scully --"

"No, really, Mulder, why don't you join us for dinner? It would --"

"No, I know you two probably want to be alone and I wouldn't want to --"

"Sweet Jesus, Mulder, I'm inviting you to dinner, not to sleep with us.

It's not like we were planning on doing the wild thing on the dining room table between the stuffing and the cranberry sauce."

She heard a soft chuckle on the other end. "Thanks for the visual, Kaz," he said.

"Yeah, well, Merry Christmas. Don't say I never gave you anything," Kaz said. "Seriously, Mulder, we'd really like it if you came and had dinner with us."

"You're sure? Don't you want to check with the ball and chain first?"

"Piss me off anymore, Mulder, and I'm going to tell her you called her that."

"All right, all right, don't do that. I would love to come."

"Okay. Supper's at six, come whenever you want and bring some vanilla ice cream with you. We're having pie and I forgot to get some."

"Yes, ma'am. Any particular kind?"

"Whatever -- I trust you to handle the problem."

"Okay, I'll see you later," Mulder said. "Oh and Kaz?"

"Yeah?"

"Thanks."

Kaz smiled, felt something pull at her heart. "Are you kidding? It wouldn't be Christmas without you, Mulder."

She turned off the phone, laid the receiver on the counter and smiled to herself as she shook her head.

What a putz, she thought as she set off upstairs to tell Scully that they were expecting company for dinner. Her lover's partner had, from their very first meeting, annoyed, irritated and exasperated her. He was self-absorbed, immature, paranoid and sometimes downright dangerous and the only thing that had kept her from killing him with her bare hands had been the faint memory of the fact that on a few occasions, albeit rare ones, Scully had needed him and he had come through for her, had helped to save her precious life.

That and for some unfathomable reason, Scully cared about his sorry ass.

Kaz didn't get it and knew she probably never would.

Which was why it was so funny that she was actually glad he was coming.

Kaz shook her head as she climbed the stairs.

Christmas.

Go figure.

"Scully, you roll for me this time, I don't trust him," Kaz said.

"Whenever he rolls for me, I keep getting questions about the capitals of countries that don't really exist."

Scully smiled to herself as she passed by the kitchen table where Mulder was set up with the Trivial Pursuit game.

"We wouldn't have had that problem, if you'd agreed to play the sports edition, like I wanted to," Mulder put in.

"It wouldn't have been fair to play you in the sports edition, Mulder,"

Kaz said. "I would have humiliated you in about ten rolls." She looked up from the pan of gravy that she was stirring. "I was only thinking of your fragile male ego. This way, when I beat you, at least I'll be able to comfort myself with the knowledge that it was a level playing field."

"Kazmerowski, you are so full of it," Mulder said, taking another draft of his beer. "You were afraid to take me on -- face it. You bowed to my greater knowledge of all things sportive."

"Sportive?" Kaz snorted. "That's not even a word."

"Yes, it just wouldn't be Christmas without children," Scully muttered as she picked up the dice and rolled. She glanced at the board.

"Entertainment or Arts and Lit, Kaz."

"Arts and Lit, please," Kaz replied.

Mulder grabbed another card from the box. "How many letters are there in the Greek alphabet?"

Kaz shot him a look. "That's not about literature," she said.

Mulder shrugged. "Too bad. You picked it. Answer the question."

Kaz opened the oven and peeked at the biscuits.

"Come on, Kaz, admit that you don't know," Mulder said.

"Jesus Mulder, give me a minute, it's not like there's a time limit," Kaz said.

"The faster you answer, the faster it'll be my turn," Mulder said, punctuating his words with a comic smirk.

Kaz turned to face him, hands on her hips. "Look, basement boy, I'm --"

Scully fixed them both in her sights, a stack of cloth napkins in her hand.

"May I remind both of you that I actually won the Trivial Pursuit game, oh, about an hour ago and that you're both vying for second?"

Kaz and Mulder said nothing. Scully smiled at them in as superior a fashion as she could manage and left to put napkins on the table.

Kaz and Mulder exchanged looks.

"She wailed us both in Scrabble, too," Kaz said, stirring the gravy again.

"I know," Mulder said. He considered his beer bottle for a moment.

"I think we're going to have to gang up on her in Monopoly."

Kaz thought about it briefly, then nodded her agreement. "I think you're right. If she goes three for three, we'll never live it down."

"All right. It's settled. We gang up," Mulder said. "But I get to be the racing car."

"It's my Monopoly game, Mulder," Kaz said.

Scully strolled back into the kitchen, wine bottle in hand.

"Well, I'm a guest....my mother taught me to always give guests the first choice," he replied.

Scully rolled her eyes, started searching through a drawer.

"I think your time is up, Kaz," Mulder said. "It's my turn." He reached for the dice.

"Just hang on a second," Kaz protested. "What was the question again?"

"How many letters are there in the Greek alphabet?" Mulder repeated.

Kaz sighed thoughtfully. "Um...twenty," she said, finally.

"Twenty four," Scully said as she breezed past Kaz, corkscrew and bottle in hand.

Mulder and Kaz watched her go. Kaz shot a look at Mulder. He nodded.

"Twenty four," he said.

They both shook their heads.

"Jesus," Kaz said and she turned back to the gravy.

The candles had burned down to half their length when Kaz finally roused herself from her chair and began to clear away the dessert plates. Scully got up to help, but Kaz put a gentle hand on her shoulder.

"It's okay, Sculls. You sit," she said, loading up with leftover pie and plates and cutlery. "You entertain our 'guest'." She grinned at Mulder before she turned and headed for the kitchen, balancing her load of dishes.

Mulder watched her go, waited until he could hear the musical clinking of plates and cups in the dishwasher before he spoke.

"Do you think she's ever going to like me?" he asked.

Scully chuckled, ran a finger around the rim of her empty wineglass.

"She does like you," she said. "She just has an odd way of showing it."

"Lucky for me," Mulder replied. "I'd hate to see what she'd be like if she didn't like me."

"You drive her nuts, Mulder. She appreciates and respects you, but every so often I think she has an overwhelming urge to strangle you," Scully said.

Mulder grinned, folded and refolded his napkin. "Kind of sounds like our relationship, doesn't it?"

Scully laughed in earnest, her eyes sparkling with candlelight. "Now that you mention it, it does, Mulder, it does. You just seem to inspire that reaction in people."

They sat in companionable silence for a few moments.

"I know that she thinks that I put your life at risk for no good reason sometimes," Mulder said. "And I hope you know, Scully, that I would --"

Scully cut him off with a wave of her hand. "The risk comes with the job.

It's just the way it is." She stared at the flickering candle for a few seconds, pulling her words together, then shrugged. "It's risky to get up in the morning, Mulder."

"Can I ask you something?" Mulder said.

"Sure." A tilt of those eyebrows.

"Are you happy, Scully?" he asked, eyes bright and clear and locked on hers.

Scully's smile was slow and grew by degrees. She remembered her conversation with the snowy-haired priest. 'All he ever wanted was for you to have a happy life...'

"Yes," she said, her voice soft, thoughtful. "Yes, Mulder, I am."

He nodded slowly, played with the edge of his napkin.

"I'm glad," he said, his eyes on the crisp white fabric between his fingers. A pause, while Scully studied him, and then he lifted his eyes and met hers. "You deserve to be happy, Scully."

She shrugged, but her smile didn't dim. "I don't know if I deserve it, I don't know if anyone deserves happiness, but...I'm very grateful for what I have. And that must count for something."

Mulder nodded.

Kaz returned with fresh coffee and a selection of bottles.

"All right, Scully family tradition has been upheld, and we've had our dinner. Now can we open the presents?" she asked.

"I vote for presents," Mulder said.

"Absolutely," Scully agreed. "Bring on the presents."

They moved to the living room, and Brandy disturbed herself from her post at Mulder's feet long enough to come and reinstall herself on a corner of the living room rug, where she fervently hoped he would continue to hand down little morsels. She gave his foot a nuzzle for good measure and got a half a sugar cookie for her trouble.

Scully sank onto the couch, while Mulder pulled the overstuffed easy chair closer to the coffee table and poured snifters of liqueur for himself and the two women.

"Okay, Mulder, you start," Kaz said, handing him a package that was obviously a large canvas frame, covered in wrapping paper and a bow.

He tore the paper off and then sat perfectly still, holding the painting at arm's length. He stared at it without speaking for a full minute.

"Kaz," he said, finally. "It's beautiful."

"Let's see, Mulder," Scully said. He handed her the painting.

It was a night landscape, a summer evening, with a bottomless navy blue sky, stars like shattered fragments of glaciers embedded in the darkness.

And down, in the lower corner, a boy laying on his back in the long grass, looking up into the night.

Scully smiled and looked at Kaz, who was clearly uncomfortable with the attention. "It is beautiful, Kaz," she said, as she passed the canvas back to Mulder.

"Well, I figured you needed one legitimate piece of grown up art in your apartment," Kaz said. "And now that you've got this, you can take down that godforsaken poster of that typewriter." She sipped her drink. "Whatever the hell was up with that, anyway?"

Mulder chuckled at her short diatribe, his eyes still on the painting.

"Thanks, Kaz," he said, simply.

She nodded. "You're welcome." She pulled a large square box from under the tree, brought it to Scully.

"Oh, my god, it's so heavy," Scully said. She pulled at the tape, opened one end of the paper and slid the box out. On the side was a picture of a black, sleek-looking Italian cappuccino maker.

"Oh, Kaz --" Scully said.

"It's for all that steamed milk that you've been drinking," Kaz explained.

"And this way, it will taste like the kind Starbucks makes. Plus, now, we can make lattes whenever we feel like it."

Scully leaned over, kissed her cheek. "Thank you," she said, examining the box more carefully, "that's very sweet."

"Okay, which one next?" Kaz asked, heading back to hover over the presents under the tree.

"The silver one is for Mulder from me, and the red one is for you," Scully said.

Kaz handed Mulder the large but suspiciously light box. He tore the paper off, opened it and rooted through mounds of tissue paper until he found a small envelope. With a quick puzzled glance at Scully, he opened the envelope and pulled out two tickets stamped with the Chicago Bulls logo. He studied them, then registered shock.

"Scully...these are courtside seats...how did you ..?"

"You remember that series of autopsies I consulted on for that guy in the Chicago field office?" Scully said. "By the end of it, he had made a huge arrest and he owed me a lot of favours. And he knew a guy, who knew a guy."

Mulder beamed, slipped the tickets back into the envelope as though they might disappear at any moment. "This is great Scully. Thanks."

Scully smiled at him. "I'm glad you like them." She turned to her dark-haired lover. "Your turn, Kaz."

Kaz made short work of the paper, tossing it onto the floor as she ripped it off. There in her lap, she found a leather bound sketch book, embossed with the initials A.K., and a small silver box, containing a dozen delicate charcoal sticks.

"Oh, Scully...it's so beautiful," Kaz said, running her hand over the soft cover. "Oh, it's too beautiful to draw in...I don't think I could spoil a single page."

Scully was smiling smugly. "You may not feel that way after you see what's inside." Kaz gave her a questioning look. "You remember how you've been after me to pose for you and how I keep putting you off?" Scully said. She nodded towards the sketch book.

Kaz opened the book and a handwritten note fell out onto her lap. She picked it up and examined it. In Scully's neat, precise script was written:

"This coupon may be redeemed for one three hour sitting, at the convenience of the model. Clothing optional."

Kaz laughed and slipped the note back into the sketchbook. "I will be cashing this in in the very near future, Sculls. Count on it."

Scully chuckled. "I figured as much."

"All right, my turn," Mulder said. He handed Kaz and Scully each an ornately wrapped box. Scully untied the ribbon, pulled off the paper and removed the lid. She reached in and carefully pulled out a baseball. She turned it over in her hands, read the faded black writing.

"Kaz," she said, a note of surprise in her voice, "I think this has your Dad's signature."

Kaz leaned over to examine it more closely. "Hey," she said, "it does.

Mulder, where did you get this?"

"Sorry -- can't reveal my sources," he said. "But never mind that, look at the date."

The two women peered at the baseball again.

"September 16, 1974," Scully read.

"Oh God, that's the Pennant ball," Kaz said quietly.

"The Pennant ball?" Scully repeated.

"That's the baseball that Kaz's Dad hit in the bottom of the ninth, in the last game of the regular season, to send the Giants to the Pennant that year. They were behind by two runs, two men on, Tommy Kazmerowski stepped up to the plate and sent the very first pitch straight over the center field wall," Mulder explained. "It was an incredible hit. I remember watching that game on tv that day, seeing that ball just sail over the wall. It was amazing."

Scully wrapped her hand around the ball as Mulder spoke, stretched her fingers across the smooth leather. She handed the ball to Kaz, who turned it over in her hands, then ran a finger along the bright red stitching.

"I was not quite five years old," Kaz said. "I was there that day with my Mom and I remember the sound of the crowd. They just went crazy...." She smiled at the memory. "I saw the footage when I was much older...." She grinned proudly. "It was a hell of a hit."

She handed the ball back to Scully.

"Thank you, Mulder," Scully said, rubbing the worn leather. "This means a lot."

Mulder ducked his head somewhat sheepishly and mumbled something that might have been "you're welcome."

Kaz's box was much larger and she pulled the paper off quickly, while Mulder and Scully watched. Under the wrapping paper there was a box, and in the box a large photo album with pressed wildflowers preserved in the cover.

Kaz blinked, looked at Mulder, then looked down again at the beautiful book she held.

"Mulder --" Kaz said.

"Go on, open it," Mulder urged. "There's more inside."

Kaz opened the cover with tentative fingers, and was greeted by a smiling baby with bright red cheeks and wispy orange hair that seemed to be standing straight up. Underneath, a neatly handlettered caption read: DANA, eight months.

Kaz stared at the picture, one hand over her mouth to stifle her giggles.

"Oh my God, you were so cute, look at you!"

Scully peered over Kaz's shoulder and her eyes widened. "Oh my God, Mulder where did you--?" She stopped abruptly as the penny fell and she realized that there was only one place that Mulder could've gotten her baby pictures. "I'll kill her," Scully mumbled as Kaz flipped the next page and erupted into another chorus of giggles.

Mulder stifled a chuckle of his own, then reached over and flipped a couple of pages. "Check this one out," he said.

A shot of Scully, aged about one year, wearing nothing but a smile, standing on a lawn somewhere, squinting into the sun.

Another at the same age, completely naked, running into a breaking wave.

"Did you ever wear any clothes as a child, Sculls?" Kaz teased and Scully covered her face with her hands.

"I'll kill her," she repeated.

Kaz flipped through the book. Scully, very serious at five, on her first day of school, wearing a tiny green kilt and sweater, lunchbox and schoolbag gripped tightly in either hand. Scully, at seven, with no front teeth, smiling proudly for the camera. Nine years old, with Melissa braiding her hair while they watched cartoons.

Kaz continued on, page by page, pausing briefly at each picture, her smile growing. Scully, in her high school cap and gown, holding some huge trophy, her mother and father proudly flanking her. Scully, a bridesmaid in some family wedding, her hair up, wearing a stunning off the shoulder emerald green dress. Medical school graduation, her Dad standing beside her, arm around her. Christmases, birthdays, graduations...it was all there, neatly catalogued, each page a chapter of her life.

Kaz looked up at Mulder, stared openmouthed at his eager face.

"Mulder, this is so -- I can't believe you --" Kaz began.

"Look at the last page," he said.

Kaz flipped to the back.

Centered on the last page was a snapshot with the label "Dana and Anne, Christmas at the cabin." Their first Christmas together, sitting side by side on the couch, torn wrapping paper all around them, laughing at some shared joke, oblivious to the camera.

Kaz felt the knot in her throat, knew she probably wouldn't be able to speak without crying. Scully's hand slipped into hers and squeezed.

She looked down again at the album, pulled herself together and located her voice.

"Thank you, Mulder," she said. "This is lovely."

Mulder's head dipped and bobbed as he nodded, suddenly unable to look neither Kaz nor Scully in the eye.

"It's, uh...it's -- I'm glad you like it," he said, finally, reaching down to give Brandy a scratch behind the ears. "I'm glad."

Kaz laid a hand across the album, glanced over at Scully, who still held her father's home run baseball in her lap, and she smiled.

Scully was already in bed when Kaz slipped into the bedroom, the tiny plush box in her right hand. The room was dark except for the pool of light from the beside lamp. Scully peered over the top of her hardcover book when she heard Kaz's footsteps.

"Did Brandy get her midnight treat?" Scully asked with a smile.

Kaz nodded as she slipped out of her robe. "Not that she needed anything more to eat, after what Mulder fed her from the table."

Scully shrugged. "It's Christmas," she said. "Let her indulge a bit."

Kaz crossed the room, quickly slid under the covers and snuggled up to Scully, slung an arm around her. Scully carefully closed her book and placed it on the bedside table.

"Hey, nice pajamas," Kaz said, running a hand along Scully's sleeve.

"Thanks," Scully said, turning in Kaz's arms. "My girlfriend picked them out. She has excellent taste." She brushed her lips across Kaz's, let her feel the warmth and softness.

"I do have excellent taste, Sculls," Kaz said, her mouth yearning for her lover's kiss again. "I picked you."

"You didn't pick me," Scully said, grazing her lips across Kaz's cheek, her chin, her nose. "I picked you."

"Did not," Kaz said absently, riveted by the touch of Scully's mouth, so close to her skin, touching her delicately like falling snow.

"Did too," Scully replied. She kissed Kaz's nose. "I saw you first."

Kaz's breathing was changing tempo. "Maybe so, but I made the first move."

Scully's full lips curled into a slow smile. "And I'm so glad you did."

She met Kaz's mouth with her own, captured her with kisses, ran her tongue hungrily along Kaz's lower lip and felt the dark haired woman moan into her mouth.

A moment later when Scully pulled away, she saw that Kaz's eyes were still closed and that a lazy, contented smile lingered. Her eyes fluttered open and fixed on Scully's.

"I've got one more present for you," she said. "I didn't want to give it to you in front of Mulder. I wanted it to be... private."

Scully searched her eyes and waited.

Kaz's hand emerged from under the blankets, proffered a tiny blue velvet box.

Scully looked at it for a long moment, then glanced back at Kaz once more before she took the box and opened the lid.

Inside, on a bed of blue velvet lay a silver ring, a simple band with an intricate carved design.

"It's called a Celtic Knot," Kaz said, as Scully lifted the ring out of its notch. "It's from a design in the Book of Kells." She watched Scully's face carefully. "Look on the inside. It's engraved."

Scully turned the ring so that she could see the inside of the band.

In simple Italic lettering it said, "Forever, Kaz."

Scully turned the ring over and over in her fingers, trying to dislodge the lump in her throat, without success. "It's beautiful, Kaz," she managed to say, finally, tears threatening each word. "It's beautiful. I love it."

Kaz's smile grew by leaps and bounds as she watched Scully slip it onto her right ring finger, then hold her hand up to study it on her delicate finger. Kaz captured the hand in hers, brought it to her lips and kissed it.

Scully leaned over and kissed Kaz, then pulled back. "I happen to have one last present for you, too," she said.

She reached over to the bedside table, pulled out the small drawer and extracted a small, black velvet box. She handed it to Kaz.

Kaz chuckled at the sight of the tiny box. "Great minds, huh?' Scully smiled. "You have no idea."

Kaz pried the lid open to reveal a wide silver band with delicate engraving. She peered more closely at it. Embedded in the design was a heart, held by a pair of hands, topped with a crown. She looked back at Scully.

"It's a Claddagh ring," she said. "An Irish wedding ring. You wear it with the heart facing out if you're looking, and with the heart facing in if you're taken."

Kaz grinned and slipped it on her ring finger, then showed Scully.

The heart was facing in.

"I'm definitely taken," Kaz said. She studied the ring for a moment, then turned and met Scully's eyes. "Thank you," she said.

She leaned in and kissed her tiny partner and the moment their lips touched, Kaz felt the heat from Scully's body. She kissed her with a sudden urgency that she hadn't even realized that she felt, stroked Scully's mouth, her teeth with her tongue, nibbled on a full lip then pulled away to look at her lover's face. Scully's cheeks were flushed and Kaz noticed that her breathing had quickened perceptibly.

She ran a lazy hand down her hot cheek, trailed her fingers across her collarbone, down between her perfect breasts and started to unfasten the top button of Scully's silk pajamas. Scully's eyes never left Kaz's face.

"I want to make love to you," Kaz said, and her hand dipped lower, undid the second button and the third and then the fourth, her eyes locked with Scully's. Scully sat up and Kaz slipped the top off. One hand slipping slowly across her lover's belly, capturing a breast. A sigh and Scully's jaw went slack, her eyes slipped shut in sweet agony.

"Oh, God, Kaz," she said and her breathing quickened. "Oh, please."

Kaz smiled to herself as she teased the tiny woman's nipple, made it stand at attention. One smooth movement and she had rid herself of her t-shirt, she could feel the soft warmth of Scully's skin against hers.

Two hands now and two nipples, hard as pebbles and Scully's head was thrown back, sighing and moaning, her hands running across Kaz's biceps, her shoulders, pulling her closer.

Kaz slid off her boxers with one hand, kept up a steady pinching, rolling of Scully's nipple with the other, then deftly slipped off Scully's bottoms. Her heart skipped at the sight of her partner, naked, aroused, writhing under her touch. Her own center was hot and wet now and yet she knew that would wait, knew that more than anything, she wanted to make Scully moan and buck and howl out her name.

She pulled herself into a kneeling position and then straddled Scully just above the hips. She bent her face close to Scully's, sought out her hungry mouth, kissed her deeply, stroking her hot silky tongue against her lover's, then broke away, kissing her way down her neck, across her chest.

Her mouth closed on one of Scully's nipples and the little red-head bucked, pushed her hips up against Kaz. Kaz felt a tide of wetness rush between her legs and had to pull herself together, focus on Scully's sweet breast.

Another moment and she couldn't wait, couldn't stop herself from scooting down, running her tongue through the valley between Scully's white breasts, down, down, across her flat belly, dipping into her navel. Scully's moans intensified and her fingers were laced through Kaz's thick air.

"Oh, God, oh God," Scully said. "Oh Kaz, that's so good."

Kaz smiled, traced a line with her tongue from Scully's navel to the damp curly hair between her legs. The scent of Scully's arousal mingling with her own made her head spin. Kaz touched Scully's swollen lips with trembling fingers, spread them wide to reveal her throbbing clit, closed her eyes and covered her lover with her mouth.

Scully howled and bucked and Kaz tightened her grip, snaked her arms around Scully's thighs and held on. The taste of her...it was intoxicating and distracting, and Kaz's tongue lapped at it, drank it in. Her tongue flicked across Scully's clit in rhythm with her hips, thrust and parry, a pounding beat that grew and grew until Kaz's heart beat in time with it, blocked out everything else but her lover's desperate need.

She glanced up at Scully's face, saw her mouth open in a perfect O, her eyes closed, her head thrown back, the sweet torture of it distorting her expression, making her moan and whimper and sigh.

More pressure, licking and sucking, nipping at the tender bundle of nerves and then Kaz slid two fingers deep inside her, felt Scully's hips quicken, felt the thrusts deepen. So close now.

Kaz stroked her insides, wanted to sigh at the velvety feel of her fingers cocooned within her lover's moist warmth. She longed to push deeper, to explore further, to push her over the edge and let her hang there for a heartbeat or two before pulling her back to safety.

Kaz felt it an instant before it happened. A lightning quick contraction around her fingers and she braced herself, pushed her tongue hard against Scully's clit and held on while the orgasm washed over her. Scully thrashed and bucked, clutched at the sheets then at Kaz's shoulder, riding out the waves with wordless yells. Wave after wave and still Kaz's mouth forced the hoarse screams from Scully's body, made her limbs flail.

And then Scully was grabbing at Kaz's arm, whimpering for her to stop and Kaz relented, laid her head against Scully's leg, waited for her to catch her breath. A quiet moan when she slid her fingers out some time later, a tiny mourning for the loss of contact and then Kaz was there beside her, turning out the light, wrapping Scully in her arms, whispering soothing words in her ear. Scully burrowed deeper into Kaz's arms and Kaz pulled the blankets around them, nestled into their shared warmth.

The moonlight from the window illuminated the room and Kaz peered over her shoulder to look at it. The snow had stopped and it was clear and bright outside. The tiny woman in her arms lifted her head and kissed Kaz's neck and smiled, wrapped her arms more tightly around her.

An unfamiliar flash of reflected light and Kaz caught sight of the Claddagh ring on her right hand. She smiled and studied it in the muted light, could barely make out the crown and hands, vaguely saw the shape of the heart.

"You wear it with the heart facing out if you're looking, and with the heart facing in if you're taken," Scully had said. Kaz's eyes traced every detail of the engraving and she smiled.

She was definitely taken.

Oh God, was she taken.

The End


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