A/N: Written for the XF Secret Santa 2019 fanfic exchange organized by gaycrouton. This was such a fun prompt to write. :) Many thanks to MonikaFileFan, RationalCashew & ceruleanmilieu for the beta!

Mulder sat idly, drumming his fingers on the surface of his desk as Scully placed a folder into the filing cabinet with a resigned sigh. He looked up as she turned toward him, knowing it was time to go home for the next few days and weather out the storm brought on by St. Nick.

Caddyshack , his beloved video collection, and The Twilight Zone all awaited him at home as he suffered year after year in silence with a box of Chinese takeout on top of his coffee table. Top all that off with a booze cruise to nowhere and it was golden.

"Mulder? You alright?" Her voice permeated his thoughts, making him realize he was staring straight through her as she was trying to get his attention.

He looked up suddenly and nodded. "Yeah, Scully. I'm… alright."

She regarded him skeptically for a moment. "It's time to go, Mulder. Go home and get some rest."

He nodded reluctantly before he got to his feet. He could hear Scully's heels clicking against the linoleum, indicating her retreat as he moved to retrieve his jacket.

"Monday will be here before you know it. I don't want to spend another second in this office," Scully remarked by the door, her body language clearly indicating that she wasn't leaving the office without him.

"Alright, alright. Right behind you, I'll catch up."

Scully rolled her eyes as she made her retreat, "If you're not out in five, I'm sending in the cavalry in."

He wouldn't bet against it either. Grabbing his suitcase, he moved around the desk to the row of file cabinets. Pulling out a file, he slipped it into his briefcase and hurried after Scully.

Together, they entered the parking garage and Mulder followed Scully to her car.

"Give your mom my best for me, would ya?" Mulder grinned. "Bill, too."

Scully rolled her eyes as she looked back at him with a smirk. "I'm sure the feeling is mutual."

As she piled her things into her car, Scully looked back up at Mulder and smiled as he held the door. "Merry Christmas, Mulder. Promise me you won't be doing any work while we're off the next few days."

"Pinky swear."

Scully shook her head as she gently moved to squeeze Mulder's arm. "Goodnight, Mulder. Call me if you need anything."

"I can't imagine that I will," he quipped as he watched her get into the car. With a quick smile and a wave, he gazed on as her car disappeared toward the exit of the building.

He felt a sense of melancholy at her departure and shuddered against the cold before making his way to his own vehicle.

Mulder tossed and turned as the illumination of the TV flickered before him, contrasting against the darkness. However, his focus was not on the TV but rather on Christmases of Times past. He couldn't recall the last time he had a truly normal Christmas. Ever since Samantha's disappearance, his parents had put in minimal effort around the holidays.

On the drive home, he had taken a longer route through suburban Virginia, watching several families bustle about in the snow and admiring the gorgeous displays of lights adorned on the modest homes. A stark contrast to his empty, mundane apartment which lacked warmth and mirth. He was too busy and it was just him. No sense in decorating a place he really just used for sleep.

Aside from that fact, the holidays brought nothing but depressing memories. The exception to the rule had been just last year when he and Scully were investigating that haunted house and Scully was unable to make it to her family's on time. Well, if he was being honest with himself, that last part was fully intentional. Scully had decided to show up at his place when she should have been opening up gifts with her family.

A small part of him couldn't help but hope she might show up at his door and rescue him from the endless black hole his mind kept wandering into. He closed his eyes before pushing himself upright, reaching for the X-File he'd stuffed in his suitcase before pouring his second annual celebratory shot of Jagermeister.

The piercing sound of a ringing phone made him jump, resulting in the liquid spilling down his shirt. "Shit!"

The phone continued to ring as he often let it. With a glance at the clock, he wondered who would be calling at eleven at night. He fetched a paper towel and dried his shirt as the answering machine came on.

"Fox," a familiar voice started to speak. "Maggie Scully, Dana's mom." In one swift motion, Mulder all but lunged at the phone, retrieving the phone from its cradle.

"Hello, Mrs. Scully?" He asked breathlessly, his heart racing in his chest. "Everything okay?" He asked before the older woman could respond.

"Yes," the matriarch Scully was quick to insist, assuaging his fears almost as if she anticipated them.

Mulder closed his eyes with relief, already having imagined more than a dozen scenarios where Scully might have been in some kind of trouble.

"Don't worry. Actually, I was calling because Dana had told me you don't usually go anywhere during the holidays. In fact, she suspected you might be working right now," she said.

Mulder nodded, having poured himself another shot and inhaling the glass' continents. "Hmm, she did, huh? Well, no need to worry. Tell Doc I'm taking good care of myself."

"Fox," Maggie implored in a tone usually reserved for chiding one of her children. Mulder raised his eyebrows at her sudden change in tone.

"I, actually, wanted to invite you over for Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow."

Mulder was taken by surprise and set his shot glass down before he had another accident. He was touched. "I appreciate the gesture, Mrs. Scully, I really do, but I couldn't possibly intrude."

"Nonsense, Fox. I insist. Unless you have some other arrangements."

"No, just the usual movies and takeout."

"Then, I'm not asking, Fox."

Mulder couldn't help but smile. "As long as you're certain I wouldn't be putting you out."

"I'm positive."

"Alright. Do you need anything tomorrow? I'm more than happy to pick it up and bring it by."

"You just worry about getting yourself here. Five o'clock, but you can come earlier if you'd like. You're welcome to attend the Midnight Mass with us as well."

"I might take a raincheck on that one." They both laughed.

"Alright, you had better be here, Fox, or I'll send the cavalry after you."

Mulder chuckled. "Wouldn't miss it for the world."

Mulder had slept soundly shortly after that phone call. He called it a night almost immediately after, as he had little time and presents to pick out and wrap before the drive out to Mrs. Scully's place.

Waking up the following morning was almost magical as Mulder slid off his new mattress and padded toward the window overlooking the city. He often overslept during the holidays as he really had nothing to get him out of bed aside from a case.

He quickly dressed and headed out, determined to buy appropriate holiday wear for the occasion and gifts for the family. Speaking of gifts, he really had no idea what to buy. He rarely shopped for anyone, aside from Scully last year. Scully. He felt his heart thud wildly in his chest. He wondered if Maggie's invitation was Scully's idea or exclusively hers. Either way, Scully must have told her about his plans, or lack thereof, around this time of year.

Navigating the mall filled Mulder with anxiety. He definitely was not used to any of this. He ended up picking out several sports items he figured might be good for someone like Bill- he just hoped he wasn't wrong in assumption as it could easily land him in a world of hurt.

He spent a good time window shopping until he came across a pink cashmere sweater that he knew would look perfect on Scully. As he browsed, he tried to decipher whether she was an extra small or small. He eventually settled on a small to be safe.

A few hours later, he had all of the presents picked out, hoping he had a little something for everyone as he didn't even think to ask Maggie who would all be in attendance. Scully had recently mentioned that her youngest brother, Charlie, was estranged from the family. Scully had never gone into detail and he never pushed, but he got the sense that it was of Charlie's own volition to distance himself from the family. Although, he couldn't understand why. Maggie always had mirth that was so contagious and always spread to anyone she encountered. He never felt anything but welcome when it came to Scully's family, with the exception of Bill.

When Mulder returned home, it was getting close to three and he felt like a madman rushing to wrap all of the gifts before he had to leave for Mrs. Scully's. He had even found an oddly appropriate ugly sweater to spread the holiday cheer he was seriously lacking each year.

Somehow, he managed to wrap everything and get himself appropriately dressed in record speed before he was off to Mrs. Scully's. For the first time, he actually looked forward to celebrating the normally dreaded holiday but, most of all, it was another opportunity to have an excuse to celebrate with Scully.

Mulder took a deep breath as he ascended the porch steps leading to Mrs. Scully's home. The exterior of her home reminded him of a Better Homes and Gardens magazine with its pristine landscaping and potted plants. The warmth inside of the home that he had been fortunate to experience on a few occasions certainly matched the welcoming exterior.

His heart pounded in his ears as he waited for the door to open, his arms full of gifts. He took a deep breath as the door opened to reveal Scully's stunned expression.

"Mulder?"

Mulder opened his mouth, fumbling for words. He certainly hadn't expected this reaction. Before either could speak, Maggie Scully appeared behind her daughter. "Oh, Fox, you made it!" she beamed.

Scully turned to look at her mother, her mouth wide. "Mom, you didn't tell me you invited Mulder over… "

Maggie said nothing as she moved past her daughter and enveloped Mulder with a big hug, steering him inside.

"Well, don't be a stranger. Come in!"

Mulder looked at Scully and shrugged as he followed her mother. Maggie smiled at her daughter as she closed the door behind her.

"How thoughtful! I'll take those from you, Fox," Maggie said as she reached for the large bag of presents. "You may as well be St. Nick," she added cheerfully as she walked into the living room.

Mulder turned towards Scully, taking in the Santa hat she was wearing in addition to the sweater swallowing her up. It was pinned with various ornaments and tinsel followed by Ho-Ho-Ho lettering. "You didn't know? I swear, I didn't want to intrude. But your mom insisted," Mulder quickly defended himself.

Scully shook her head. "No. I mean, I normally hate surprises and she should have told me, but this is a good surprise. You need some normalcy in your life, Mulder."

Mulder sighed with relief. "Uh, thanks. I think?"

"She must have called you after I told her about our little adventure last year."

Mulder nodded slowly. "Ah, I see."

"Not everything, of course," she added in quickly. "By the way, nice sweater," she teased, pointing at the giant Rudolph on the front of his chest.

"Right back at you, Scully," he grinned. "You really went all out."

Scully rolled her eyes. "Shut up, Mulder."

Mulder smiled as Scully led him into the large family room, both of them mentally preparing themselves for Bill's wrath.

When Mulder spotted him, Tara, and a young toddler that he presumed was Matthew, Bill stood up from the table immediately. That was when Mulder noticed each Scully member had a fully decked out holiday sweater.

"What the hell is he doing here?" Bill roared.

Thankfully, Mrs. Scully was immediately back in the room, almost as if she anticipated this turn of events.

"To be fair, I didn't feel like I belonged myself," Mulder explained in his usual self deprecating manner.

"William Scully Jr.!" Maggie Scully snapped with a look that could kill.

Bill said nothing as he returned to his seat, sulking.

Tara, however, walked over and gave Mulder a quick, one-armed hug before turning their attention to the little boy in her arms. Mulder smiled.

"Matthew, this is Fox Mulder. He's a very nice gentleman who works with Auntie Dana."

The crimson-haired boy with the deepest blue eyes smiled at him. "Fox. Just like my pet fox," he said, pointing to the stuffed fox in his grip.

Mulder smiled. "Yeah, just like that, kiddo."

The modest home was overwhelmed with the smell of freshly baked pieS and cookies intermixed with the savory smell of ham in the oven. It was Heaven on Earth.

Aside from the tension in the air between him and Bill, so far everything went off without a hitch. The family matriarch told stories about both Bill and Dana when they were children and teared up whenever she mentioned Melissa or Charlie.

"No haunted house stakeouts keeping Dana from her family this year, that's good," Bill quipped.

To Mulder's surprise, he was far less bothered by Bill's comments than he otherwise would have been. It actually reminded him of more carefree days when he and Samantha were little and the bickering they would often do as siblings did.

"Nope, but surely it was a Christmas to remember."

Scully looked up and smiled at him conspiratorially over her plate of food.

Bill huffed as he continued to eat. Matthew played with his toys as Scully, Tara, and Maggie talked about when Matthew would get a sibling. It made his heart hurt for Scully and he turned to her and smiled, their focus on each other nearly drowning out the sounds around them.

He turned his attention from their words to the environment of the home and how happy he was to be there. He also came to learn that Maggie Scully made a mean cranapple pie.

"I know you won't be coming to mass with us, Fox, but I do have an extra room so you can open presents with us in the morning," Maggie insisted.

Mulder looked over at Scully for approval who nodded reassuringly.

"Okay," Mulder agreed. "As long as I'm not intruding… I'll have to stop by my apartment to get some things."

"Oh, that reminds me," Maggie said suddenly. "We do have a tradition of opening one gift on Christmas Eve each year and when you open it, you'll see why."

Everyone gathered around the rather large douglas fir that was illuminated by colorful lights and carefully decorated with ornaments. Mulder couldn't help but notice several baby ornaments that must have belonged to all of the Scully children when they were born.

Each of them was handed a carefully wrapped present of the same size as Maggie watched from the center of the room. "You can all open them at once," she instructed. Everyone simultaneously began to pick at the delicately wrapped presents. Tara helped Matthew open his present as the rest of the adults quickly shed the wrapping paper to reveal matching flannel pajama sets.

"You know my size, Mrs. Scully. It must be a conspiracy," he chuckled as Scully swatted his arm.

"I did have a husband and raised two boys, Fox," she chuckled, her laughter contagious. "Looks like you won't need to go home after all."

"Uh oh, looks like I might have to be joining for mass after all."

"Only if you want to, Fox, but it would make me happy if you did."

"Just so long as I don't burst into flames," Mulder said, throwing his arms into the air for full effect.

The rest of the night was uneventful and as everyone returned from church and changed into their PJ's, a knock on the door sounded on the room Mulder took residence in. If he had to guess, he would say this had to be Charlie's old room.

"Yeah?"

"It's me," Scully said from the other side of the door.

Mulder quickly moved to open the door, revealing Scully in her matching PJ's.

"I must say, Scully, this exceeds the endless well-tailored suits."

"Don't get too comfortable," she teased, walking into the room. "Bill is just down the hall."

Mulder chuckled. "Yeah, that's a bear I wouldn't want to poke."

A silence passed between them as they sat together on the bed. Scully was the first to speak. "I'm glad you came, Mulder. Really."

Mulder pretended to look surprised. "I really wasn't trying to crash your family Christmas dinner," he insisted. "But it's a nice reprieve from thinking about times past."

"I know," Scully said as she reached for his hand, intertwining her fingers with his. "I realized how much fun I was having last year celebrating it with you while on a case, chasing monsters."

Mulder chuckled and squeezed her hand. "Sorry to disappoint you, but the only real monster we have to worry about is down the hall."

Scully laughed. "Well, I'll see you in the morning, Mulder. Goodnight."

Mulder watched as Scully reached the door. "If you need anything, knock three times," he said with a wink.

Scully rolled her eyes. "Goodnight, Mulder."

END