My ISP is in the process of "upgrading and improving".... Yeah, that means things are tricky at best. I'm taking advantage of this posting to wish everyone (while I can) a very Merry Christmas.

Title: First Christmas
Author: Josan
Date: December 24, 2001
Summary: Read the title.
Pairing: Sk/K/D
Rating: Pretty much PG
Archive: You know who you are. Anyone without specific permission, please ask. I only want to know where it's going.
DISCLAIMER: Well, two of them still belong to CC, Fox and 1013 but the third belongs to us now that the Evil Three no longer want him.
THANKS to Peach, Jami and Jennie who anglicized my French structures.
BTW: this was written specifically for Jami's X-Files Christmas Story Archive at:
DEDICATION: To all READERS, wishing you the best of the season, no matter what or when you celebrate.

Knowing that the dealer was becoming irritated with his indecision, JD still took the time for another long look at the two trees the man was holding up.

The thing was that he wasn't looking for the perfect tree. No, that wouldn't be fitting. He wanted something that at first glance would look pretty good but that would, on the second, show some small imperfections. Nothing too serious. Just enough to make it all the more real.

The dealer opened his mouth to indicate which of the two was the better tree when the buyer nodded to the other. "That one." The seller was so happy the man had finally made a decision that he quickly took his money, forbearing to mention the small empty spot in the branches, the slight crook to the trunk. He even forgot to charge extra for cutting six inches off the bottom. There had been something about the man's air of severity that had been off-putting enough to send a couple of potential customers away.

Walter stared at the turkeys in the butcher's window and found himself wondering how large a bird to buy for three men. With grim determination, he took out his cell phone, hit the speed dial for his own office. "Kim...."

Alex flicked off the vacuum and looked the living room over. He'd done as JD had requested and moved the large chair out of the corner by the window, the small table by it as well. He'd had to shift some of the other furniture around to make room for both, but the space was ready for whatever it was JD wanted it for. And the way to it was clear, just as JD had specified.

Alex shook his head. This Christmas stuff was new to him. In the past, he had just laid low at this time of the year. For a couple of days his Consortium masters -- seemed even the bad guys took some time off -- issued no orders to fuck or kill anyone. He had usually used the time to catch up on his sleep. And last year he had been in a Tunisian jail, busy surviving just another day in a cell with twenty men.

JD pulled into the driveway of the house and pressed a switch on the remote. The buzzer in the house would warn Alex that he had arrived. He was undoing the knots that held the tree down on the car roof when the side door opened and Alex came out to help.

"Did you find the box in the attic?" JD tossed the rope over the top to Alex.

"Yep. Had to have an inch of dust on it."

JD nodded but said nothing. He had put the box there the day he'd moved into the house, five years ago.

Together, they got the tree into the house and propped it up in the living room. JD removed his gloves, shoved them into his coat pockets then hung the coat in the closet. Alex stood by the tree, watching as JD opened the box -- which had once held a 15 inch television -- and moved a couple of small boxes around until he came up with a rectangular one that was only a couple of inches thick.

"Screwdriver?" requested JD, taking off his suit jacket. "Phillips," he added after checking the screws.

Alex went into the kitchen, rummaged around in the tool drawer and came back with a screwdriver with exchangeable heads. He watched JD put the tree stand together then place it in the middle of the free space.

"Now what?" asked Alex.

JD manoeuvred the tree over to the stand. "Now you hold it straight while I tighten the screws."

It took a couple of tries before the tree was stable enough to stand on its own, before the empty spot was turned to the back, and JD was satisfied with its positioning.

Alex shrugged mentally. Seemed to be a lot of trouble for a dead tree.

JD stepped back, studied the scene and gave his approval. He went over to the sideboard and poured them each a drink, handed Alex his. With a small smile, he clicked his glass against Alex's. "Not bad. Not one fight. No one screaming. And we didn't even need cord to hold it up."

Alex quirked an eyebrow but returned the salute.

Walter hit the switch on his remote to let the others know he was home. He popped the latch on the trunk and braced himself to deal with the comments he knew would be coming.

"What did you do? Buy out the stores?" JD balanced three large brown bags in his arms.

Walter made a grumbling sound.

Alex merely shook his head and grabbed his share. JD went back for a second load while Alex began emptying the bags and putting the groceries away.

"There's at least another run." JD sounded slightly stunned.

"Gherkins. He bought gherkins. And pickled onions. And three kinds of olives." Alex shut the fridge door. "Are these traditional foods for this time of the year?"

JD thought back to his mother's Christmas table. "That and martinis."

Alex shrugged and kept on storing the groceries.

"That's the last of it." Walter lugged in a case of Guinness in one hand, a plastic bag that was stretched almost to tearing in the other.

JD took the ale and nodded approvingly. Alex had introduced them to the dark brew and it had quickly become a house favourite. "What's in the bag?"

"Turkey." Walter plopped the bag onto the table.

Alex looked over his shoulder. "What army are we feeding?"

Walter shucked his coat, looking a little sheepish. "I called Kim. She told me that she's seen us eat and that this should do us for a couple of days."

The three men stood around the table looking at the bird.

"What is it?" JD slipped his hands into his pants pockets. "Fifteen pounds?"

"Eighteen actually."

Alex's eyebrows disappeared under his bangs. "Do we really eat that much?"

Walter grimaced. "According to Kim, this should do us for the main meal with enough leftovers for sandwiches for two days. She says this way, once it's cooked, we can watch all the sports events we want without having to think about preparing meals. Besides, as she pointed out, it'll only require a bit more cooking time than a smaller bird would."

Alex pulled out all unopened jars from the fridge and moved things around until they could jam in the bag and manage to close the door. This holiday thing was growing weirder and weirder, he thought, though he said nothing. Still, the other two seemed to know what they were doing.

By consensus, supper that night was pizza. It arrived as JD found the bag with the Christmas tree lights. Completely tangled up.

"Is this another of these tradition things?" Alex handed JD a coiled up strand that he passed through a open knot.

Walter grinned at JD. "Seems to be."

JD nodded. "Doesn't matter how many times you tell yourself you'll put them away properly, the damn things seem to have a mind of their own."

No one commented that the last time these lights had been put away, a young boy had helped. Walter wondered if the memories going through JD's mind were responsible for his mood. He seemed fairly morose. And they were only at the lights. They hadn't even reached the decorations yet.

One of the boxes that Walter had had in the trunk held his share of the decorations Sharon had collected in their marriage. He'd never had cause for complaint about the way she had separated their "common goods". She had been scrupulously fair. Even to the Christmas decorations. Sharon had remembered -- far better than he -- which ones had come from his mother. She had always sent small packages with their share of family "heirlooms" to her sons' wives. Things they had made or given her for the tree.

Alex's contribution was to follow directions as the string of lights was woven around the tree, seeing to it that the burnt out bulbs were at the back. Another tradition? he wondered.

He settled in the moved armchair and watched as JD and Walter decorated the tree with their combined contributions. Now and then JD just stood there, looking at a small, brightly-coloured object in his hand. Then he would give himself a little shake and hang it. Walter said nothing, merely passed his hand across JD's back or touched his arm. Alex refilled their glasses.

Gradually the men began talking. Walter wondered if there was too much red in one corner. Alex volunteered that one of the paper reindeer might be too close to the lights. JD stepped back and remarked that you could tell which were the newer items. They were made of plastic, not glass.

They did all seem to agree when the tree had been laden with enough decorations. JD plugged in the tree lights and Walter turned off those in the room. The two men looked over their creation, each finding memories that were bitter-sweet.

Alex came to stand by them. He cocked his head and looked at the tree with unburdened eyes. The only trees he'd seen before were the ones in advertisements, in store windows. They had looked perfect. And cold.

On this tree, the variety of lights shone different colours that were picked up and reflected by the shinier balls. The decorations were a mixture of homemade and bought, some looking a little bedraggled to his eye. But then, maybe that was part of the tree's charm, he thought. It wasn't perfect but it had a warmth that reached out.

He found himself smiling.

As were the other two men. JD, maybe a bit sadly, but smiling all the same.

Neither JD nor Walter commented on the fact that Alex stared at the tree for most of the evening. They both knew that the holiday and its traditions had not been part of Alex's experience.

The next day, Christmas Eve, both JD and Walter announced that they had to drop into their offices for some last minute work. Alex took advantage of that time alone to wrap his gifts for them.

Another tradition with which he had little experience. He hadn't really thought about gifts until one morning JD had asked him if there was anything he wanted for Christmas. He'd shrugged, muttered something and changed the topic of discussion. But it had made him think. A little careful questioning and he had discovered that both Walter and JD had gotten him something for "under the Christmas tree" as Walter had put it.

Alex couldn't remember the last time -- if ever -- he had set out specifically to buy something for somebody. And now he had two somebodies to buy for. He didn't have to worry about the budget, but he had no idea what to get his lovers that they didn't already have. So it had required thought and a fair amount of it.

He hadn't been certain whether or not there was some required number of presents, so he had hedged his bets and gotten each man two.

They'd recently added a DVD player to their electronic toys. So, for Walter, he had gotten the DVD collection of Ken Burn's Civil War. JD was a closet Schwarzenegger fan. Alex had bought him the complete Terminator series.

Those choices had been fairly easy and he knew both men would like them. He hoped his other gifts would be as successful.

JD and Walter came back with yet more bags of food.

"Well," said Alex, shaking his head and trying to figure out how he was going to find room for any of this in the fridge, "at least we won't starve between now and tomorrow!"

"Cold cuts from the deli for supper," said Walter.

"Rolls for tomorrow's supper and danish for breakfast," said JD. "Even got you some of those croissants," JD's French was heavily Southern, "that you like. The ones with the chocolate in them."

"And what's in that box?" Alex grabbed one of the chocolate croissants from their bag and tore a hunk off to shove into his mouth. They claimed to buy them for him, but he knew that if he wasn't quick, there would be nothing but crumbs in the bag by morning.

"Chocolate pecan pie. Dessert for tomorrow."

"Which," added Walter, "is why we had to stop for ice cream." He moved some of the stuff in the freezer section to make room.

The first brightly wrapped boxes appeared under the tree before they sat down to stacked sandwiches.

"You know," said JD, looking at the 'Dagwood' he had constructed for himself, "maybe Kim isn't wrong about our eating habits."

Walter opened his mouth wide and managed to get in enough of his to take a bite. Alex removed a row of thinly sliced cucumber from his and tried again, with more success this time.

By the time the men dressed for the midnight church service -- a Doggett tradition -- the space under the tree had been pretty much filled. Alex stared at the sight and thought about how his life had changed since he had shoved an old man down some stairs. He still wasn't sure about actually walking into a church. Walter had rather dryly informed him that he doubted very much lightning would strike if Alex accompanied them.

The service was high Anglican Walter explained in a whisper to Alex. Alex nodded, not really understanding, and allowed himself to enjoy the music.

The next morning, Walter orchestrated them into an assembly line of food preparation. Traditional Skinner stuffing was prepared to the muttered grousing of JD who claimed stuffing rights for next year's Christmas turkey. Finally the bird was safely ensconced in the oven at the right temperature for a slow cooking.

The kitchen was cleaned up, the table set with the china from Walter's marriage, the cutlery from JD's. Alex found a candlestick and two candles in the china cupboard and set those up ready to be lit.

After some discussion, the men decided to wait until after the mid-afternoon meal to open presents and instead settled down to watching some Christmas special. Scully phoned to wish Walter and JD "Merry Christmas" and added that she sent greetings to Krycek as well. Since Alex had been involved in bringing Mulder back to life without harbouring a replicant, Scully was more favourably disposed to him. Which, for Scully, meant that she no longer wanted to shoot him on sight. Not that she liked him, or was all that comfortable with their arrangement.

Walter grinned widely but kept his voice serious as he passed on the message to Alex and returned his greeting to her.

"Don't think you'll ever be asked to babysit there, Alex." JD grinned at the man slouched in his chair.

Alex shuddered.

Walter spent the next little while calling up his brothers, who were not aware of his new living arrangements. JD called his mother who was and who remained non-committal. Alex listened in, like an anthropologist accessing strange tribal kinship rituals.

The smell of cooking food filled the house. The men sat in their favourite chairs in the living room, watching the sports network, making occasional conversation. None of them were big talkers, though an anthropologist would have correctly interpreted their grunts, moans and groans as male ritual communication indicating pleasure in the laziness of the day.

In the kitchen, Walter took out his cell phone and placed another call to Kim. "How do you know when the bird is done?"

Looking at the remains of their meal, Walter had to admit that Kim knew what she had been taking about. They'd polished off the two drumsticks and almost one complete side of the turkey. The stuffing had been a success. The gherkins, pickled onions and olives, Alex had quickly realized, were for nibbling on while setting out the food. There was maybe a tablespoon of cranberry relish left. Thankfully, they had mashed only half the potatoes so that the left-overs could be fried up later on.

Yes, thought Walter, as they all moaned at the idea of dessert, all in all, a success.

"Okay," said JD, "I've been a good boy and now I want my presents."

Alex made a crude remark about just how good JD was which Walter laughingly seconded. Ears bright red, JD pretended to ignore the comments and handed out a gift to each of them.

Walter got the latest Rankin from JD who indicated that he wanted to read it next. JD hooted over the Terminator DVDs, checking out what had been added to fill up the discs. Alex carefully unwrapped his gift from Walter and found a thick forest green bathrobe.

"You don't have one," said Walter. "And mornings are cold."

Alex smiled his thanks. He hadn't had one because he would never have been able to carry anything else in his knapsack if he had.

The next round was gifts from family and friends. Alex was stunned to find that JD's mother had sent him a box of homemade pralines. With a note, warning him to stash it somewhere JD wouldn't be able to get at it. "I've sent him his own, but that boy has cravings he can't control," Alex read aloud.

"Shut up!" JD laughed.

"I didn't say anything," Alex protested though his face was split with a grin.

JD's present to Alex was a copy in the original Russian of "The Master and Margarita" by Bulgakov. Alex had mentioned the book once in a discussion he and JD had had about satire. He was touched that JD had remembered that he liked this writer. Books were something else that his previous life-style had pretty much prohibited him from carrying around.

The Burns DVD was a success with Walter which made Alex feel rather pleased with his choices. Walter's choice of the early Rolling Stones CD collection was a hit with JD and Alex knew they would all be listening to those for some time in the coming weeks. Good thing he and Walter were also fond of the Stones' early stuff.

Something else they all agreed on was hockey. Mind, each had his own favourite team. So that Alex's next gifts to them made the two others whoop and cheer. Alex had rented a corporate box for three games, each with a different visiting team: the Rangers for Walter, the Islanders for Doggett -- both of whose loyalties dated back to their New York City days, and the Canadiens for Alex.

Alex pretended it was nothing but inside he warmed at the reaction of these men who meant so much to him.

There were two small packages left under the tree and JD handed both of them to Alex.

Walter and JD watched as Alex unwrapped both then opened them up.

"Christmas decorations?" Alex looked a little confused.

Walter stood up, took the small black cat with the green eyes, wearing a very uncat-like grin -- probably due to the Santa-outfitted mouse that it had under a paw -- from out of its box and handed it to Alex. "From me to you, on the occasion of your first Christmas with us. Go find a place for it, love."

Eyes suddenly very shy, Alex took the little cat and found a spot for it on the tree.

JD handed Alex the decoration he had chosen for this man whose memories were carved on his body. It was a Santa sitting at a computer. If one looked carefully, one could make out that he was playing a game of Pac-Man.

Alex's grin bordered on sappy. Pac-Man had been one of the few pleasures he'd been permitted as a kid being brought up by the Consortium. They had allowed it for hand-eye co-ordination Alex had explained one night when he had gotten drunk.

Alex carefully hung the Santa.

Walter came to stand to next to him and wrapped an arm around Alex's shoulder. JD took a similar stance to his other side. Leaning into each other, they admired the tree that now bore memories for all of them.

***********************Joyeux Noel*************************

Archived: December 30, 2001