Title: How to Fly
Key Words: Mulder/Scully romance, alt-u, salliesafe Spoilers: Nope
Disclaimer: The reindeer belong to Santa Claus. The rest belongs to 10:13.
Archive: Gossamer, please. Email me before archiving elsewhere. I don't see why I'd refuse.
Summary: "Sometimes I wonder how we get out of bed every morning. How we keep holding onto life, even when it looks like we aren't going to make it. And how we keep fighting. How we never give up."
Comments: Merry Christmas everyone!
By the way, for some reason I see this happening during one of the early seasons, but I guess it's up to you.
She's looking for Christmas in a grocery store. They're out of canned plum pudding, but there's a mince pie at the counter. As she buys it, with a couple of tea-light candles, an old man flips the 'open' sign to 'closed' and gives her a Merry Christmas smile.
Waiting at the counter, Scully can hear the car radio blaring. It sounds like hard rock, maybe AC/DC, and mixes incongruously with the store's tinny carols. Mulder must have picked the one station too 'alternative' for the holiday season.
He doesn't care about Christmas, she thinks. She's resentful for a moment, but then the thought snaps like an icicle. She knows she's being unfair. It isn't that Mulder doesn't care. He's trying not to care.
After a politically correct "Happy holidays" to the woman behind the counter, Scully walks out into the chilled evening air. It must be ten degrees below, and she tucks her bare hands against her elbows as she hurries to the car. She stows the pie on the backseat, then brushes the snow off her boots and climbs in beside Mulder.
"No champagne?" he asks, starting up the rental. The engine hiccups a few times before it hums.
"That wouldn't exactly be professional behaviour, Agent Mulder. I'm going to finish that report tonight."
"Who said anything about us being professionals, Agent Scully?" he asks, poker-faced.
She smirks and stares out the window, at the black-branched woods and drifting snow. A fairytale scene. They're driving in a winter wonderland. What they need, she thinks, are some sleighbells for the Taurus.
"Mind if I join you at your Christmas soiree?" Mulder asks, startling her.
"Sh-sure," she says, uncertainly.
He winces. He tries to hide it with a cough.
"Hey, it's okay," he says, after a moment. "They've got a sci-fi marathon on tonight. I was planning to watch it, anyway."
"Mulder," she says quietly. She puts a hand on his shoulder. When he gives her a skittish glance, she stops touching him and folds her hands in her lap.
Daring move, Dana, she thinks to herself. Maybe one day you'll be brave enough to touch his knee. And by the time you're eighty, who knows, you might have worked your way to his mouth. Something to look forward to.
"I'd like you to join me," she tells him. "I just thought you wouldn't be interested."
"Oh. Okay." He flashes her a half-smile. "Do you mind if I switch on the radio?"
"Only if we're listening to Bing."
He fiddles with the needle, finding mostly static this far out of civilisation. Finally there's a flicker of sound, and then a man's smooth voice is crooning through the speakers. Elvis Presley, with Blue Christmas.
"And when those blue snowflakes start falling...that's when those blue memories start calling..."
She settles for it with a shrug. At least it's something they can both enjoy, although she's afraid Mulder will start on one of his 'Elvis lives!' stories. The last "sighting" involved a rhinestone-studded Elvis walking on water near Pier 39. Ridiculous, but she has to admit, it was an amusing story.
Mulder remains silent. He's sunk into one of his Heathcliff moods and she thinks it's best not to disturb him. The radio switches to Jingle Bell Rock. She clicks it off.
They sit in a strained silence. What a way to spend Christmas Eve.
Half an hour later, the engine makes a put-put-put noise, coughs like a chain smoker, and falls silent.
Mulder takes a deep, shaky breath, and turns the key. The car rattles, growls and groans, but doesn't start. He turns the key again. Silence. It's so quiet, she thinks she can hear snowflakes drifting onto the roof. He turns the key again. The car hisses like a snake.
He jerks out the key and pounds a palm against the steering wheel, cursing under his breath. He doesn't look at her.
She counts to ten, silently, before she speaks.
"It's okay," she says, in a cool, measured tone. "There won't be any reception, but we can walk to the next town. It must be about thirty minutes from here. We've got gear."
He shakes his head. "I don't think we should risk it, Scully. Look, I'll try calling someone. If that doesn't work, maybe we should stay in the car. Wait for someone to drive by."
She tries counting to ten again but stops at eight, frustration rising in her throat. Her hands clench. She can't stop herself.
"I just...I wish you would listen to me," she says, through gritted teeth. "I mean, for once, Mulder. Just once. I told you we shouldn't do this. I was happy to stay in Roanoke but you insisted we drive back. I told you the car was a wreck but you said it would be fine, it would have to do. I told you we should stop at the last town but you wanted to keep driving. I mean...are you even listening to me?"
"I wanted to get you back in time for breakfast at your mom's," he snaps. "Jesus, Scully." He climbs out of the car and pulls out his cell phone, slamming the door.
She swallows. Oh.
A minute later, he gets back in, damp and shivering, snowflakes clinging to his eyelashes.
"Mulder, I'm -"
"It's okay," he says. "You're right, there's no reception." He bites his lip. "And you're right about walking, too," he admits, grudgingly. "There's no point staying here. We'd be waiting all night. Who's out on Christmas Eve, in weather like this?"
He smiles humourlessly.
They've been trudging through the snow for ten minutes, wrapped in six thick layers each but still shivering, when Scully realises she's forgotten the pie. She drops her bag and puts her face in her hands, groaning.
Mulder's immediately at her side. "Scully, you okay?"
She nods, tight-lipped. "I'm fine. I just remembered the pie."
He glances in the direction of the car. "If you want, I can go back for it -"
"Mulder, it's not worth it."
"I'm serious, Scully. I'll do it."
"Mulder -" she shakes her head at him in disbelief, and suddenly she's trying not to laugh. If she starts laughing now, ankle-deep in snow, cold and stranded on Christmas Eve, she won't be able to stop.
"Scully, I know it's important to you."
"It's just a pie, Mulder." She covers her mouth with a hand, the giggles almost breaking loose. "Please, let's keep going."
She chokes on a laugh. "Mulder, I have a confession to make. I don't like mince pie."
"You...you don't?" His shock only increases her amusement. "But then why did you...?"
"Why did I buy it?" she says, chuckling now. She spreads her arms, a gesture of surrender, as she laughs at herself. "I honestly don't know. I walked into that store to buy something festive, and the pie was all they had."
It isn't funny when she puts it like that, but she's still laughing. Mulder's mouth twists in a grin and suddenly he's laughing too. They stand together in the snow, laughing so hard that they double over, tears rolling down their faces. She has to clutch his arms for support, and then he's holding her, and they're still laughing.
Finally, he wipes his eyes and looks down at her. "You know, Scully...I hate mince pie too. I absolutely can't stand it. My mom made it one year and the smell made me sick."
"So then why did you want to join me?" she asks, raising her eyebrows.
There's a pause. He brushes some snow from her hair.
"Because I wanted to," he replies. He avoids her gaze. "Why do I need a reason?"
Scully blinks the ice out of her eyes and stares at him. His woollen hat, pulled over his hair, doesn't suit him. It makes his nose seem clumsy, his eyes small. But it doesn't matter. He could be bald, tattooed, disfigured like Mr. Rochester, moustached, plastic-surgeried or pierced, and she would still find him beautiful.
He traces her lips with his thumb. Her body, chilled to the bone, has never felt so warm. When he meets her eyes, her throat tightens and her fingertips tingle. What a way to spend Christmas Eve.
"We'd better keep going," she whispers.
There's only one room at the inn, or in this case, the Motel 6. Mulder kicks off his boots, pulls off his mitten and hat, and sprawls on the bed.
"You can take the first shower."
Scully starts peeling off her layers. "How generous of you."
He groans, burying his face in the pillow. "It isn't generosity, Scully. I can't move."
She rolls her eyes and walks into the bathroom. The shower turns out to be a lukewarm trickle, with scummy walls. It takes her twenty minutes to wash her hair with the chemical -scented shampoo. By the time she emerges, scowling, Mulder's stripped down to his T-shirt and boxers. He's lounging on the bed now, drinking something from the mini-bar and watching a movie that looks suspiciously like 'It's a Wonderful Life'.
"What took you so long?" he asks, changing the channel. She balls up her towel and throws it at him, hard. He catches it with a grin. "No hot water?"
"See for yourself," she mutters, climbing under the covers and holding her hand out for the remote.
When he leaves the room she flicks back to the movie he was watching before, to see if she was right. She was. And although she's seen it maybe fifty times, it's been a few years and she finds herself enthralled. She doesn't notice Mulder walk out of the bathroom and climb into bed beside her. She doesn't even notice when he switches off the bedside lamp.
But she jumps when he turns to her and asks, "Do you know what this reminds me of?"
She keeps her eyes on the TV screen. "What?"
"Our first case together."
"How come?" she asks absently, still trying to listen to the movie.
He reaches over, snatches the remote, and sets the volume to 'mute'. She glares at him but he just grins and hides it beneath his pillow, leaning back against the headboard.
"Okay, fine," she says. "Tell me why this reminds you of our first case."
"Well, for starters...the way we were laughing back there."
Scully can't resist the warmth in his voice. She smiles. "I think I've only laughed like that twice in my life. I guess I'm not feeling myself tonight."
She shrugs. "I've never liked spending Christmas Eve away from home. When I was a little girl, my family spent a winter with some friends in Colorado. I was afraid Santa wouldn't be able to find me." She can't believe she's telling him this. "I know it's silly, but it's a feeling I've never been able to shake."
Mulder nods. "I feel the same way."
"Really?" she asks, taken aback.
"I'm not the Grinch, Scully," he responds, a smile in his voice. "Hey...there's something I've always wanted to ask you. When did you stop believing in Santa?"
"When I was seven, almost eight."
"I realised reindeer couldn't fly. That it was physically impossible. I looked for an explanation, but I soon realised there were only two possible answers. Magic dust or magical reindeer. I wasn't satisfied with either. Finally, my parents caved and told me the truth. So of course I was devastated." She clears her throat. "What about you?"
"Who says I've stopped believing?"
"Seriously? I think there are more than two possible explanations for flying reindeer."
She chuckles. "What? Alien reindeer? Reindeer with hovercrafts on their hooves?"
"I don't know if you can handle my explanation, Agent Scully."
"Bring it on, Agent Mulder."
She leans closer and finds herself tucked against him, his arm around her shoulders. She's too tired to stiffen, to pull away, to be awkward. At least, that's what she tells herself as her muscles loosen and she practically melts into him. He presses a kiss to her forehead.
"It all started," he says, "when I began having my own doubts about old Saint Nick. I was nine at the time, so Samantha would have been five. We were threading popcorn on Christmas Eve, when I told her I didn't know how the reindeer could fly."
"What did she say?"
"For a while, she was just...silent. I was expecting her to tell me they were magical reindeer or something, or to burst into tears, but she just sat there, calmly threading the popcorn." She feels him smile against the top of her head. "Finally she turned to me, very calmly, and explained that the reindeer could fly because we all knew that they could. We believed in Santa's flying reindeer. Our belief was what kept them in the sky."
"Mulder, I hate to say this, but I don't think that's any more viable than magic dust or magical reindeer."
"It doesn't matter, Scully. I told you it was another explanation, not that it was the explanation. And anyway, that's beside the point."
"So what's the point?"
"The point is that...that's how we can do things we never thought possible," he whispers, excited. "In a way, it's what keeps me going. If I stop believing, the reindeer might fall out of the sky. Do you get what I'm saying?"
"Not really," she whispers back, giggling. He kisses her ear, her neck, her jaw. She sobers. "I never want you to stop believing," she tells him. "And in a sense, I do know what you're saying. Sometimes I wonder how we get out of bed every morning. How we keep holding onto life, even when it looks like we aren't going to make it. And how we keep fighting. How we never give up."
"It's because we believe, Scully. We believe we can do it."
"Well, Mulder, I think you've taught me how to fly," she murmurs, and twists to face him.
She traces his jaw, his mouth, with her fingers, before she kisses him. And kisses him. His lips on hers, his tongue in her mouth, and she feels like they're floating off the bed.
They'll never stop believing. This is how they fly. When the airport is snowed in, when there's no way to get home, this is how they take to the sky. They soar over the towns, the roads, the woods, without ever leaving the ground.
She pulls away for a moment, to catch her breath, and whispers, "I never want to come back down."
"My priest says
you ain't savin' no souls
My father says
you ain't makin' any money
My doctor says
you just took it to the limit
and here I stand
with this sword in my hand
You can say it one more time
What you don't like
Let me hear it one more time then
have a seat while I
take to the sky"
- Tori Amos, 'Take to the Sky'
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