A seasonal offering
Story spoilers below.
Category: Vignette, M/K UST
Rating: PG at the very most
Disclaimer: Not mine, no money made, and CC can certainly play with my ideas if he lets me play with his
Spoilers/Warnings: the typical Terma one. Character death
Feedback: Yes, please to carols@winternet.com
Archive: Archive/X, elsewhere please ask first (I'll almost certainly say yes, but I like to know where my stuff goes)
Author's note: I don't know why my least favorite Hans Christian Andersen story decided it wanted to be redone for XF, but it did. Thanks to Pollyanna for the much needed prodding!


Winter Stars
By Carol S

It was snowing and dark and bitterly cold. A fitting end to a dark and bitter year. Only a few hours left to go.

Alex trudged through the deepening snow, his soul as frozen and as weary as his body. When he had started on this path he had purpose, and belief in the rightness and the necessity of that purpose to warm and strengthen him. But they were long gone now, stolen by avaricious old men or lost in the desperate struggle to stay alive and their loss left him cold and empty.

So he walked on with nothing more than his gun, a bottle of vodka and a head full of secrets no one wanted to buy, not now, not since the war was over. ( A Pyrrhic victory? A mitigated loss?) No one had wanted his secrets or his skills or his body for a very long time and it was the last of his money that had bought him the vodka.

The surrounding apartment buildings spilled light and festive sounds out into the street below. All around him people gathered. Friends and family celebrating the end of the old and rejoicing at their survival, hoping that the new year would bring renewal. But there was no one left to welcome him, to let him warm himself with a fire and a friendly word. Old friends, old enemies, he had betrayed them all at one time or another and those who were still alive would be just as happy to see him dead. So he walked on, shivering in the icy air.

The buildings were looking familiar now. As he recognized where his steps had led him, he smiled ironically. It would take more than warm thoughts to keep him warm tonight -- not that it had worked then either.

Eventually he spotted a corner between the curving portico and the main wall of a large glass apartment building. Set back a ways and out of the wind and the worst of the snow, it would do. And who would notice another drunken reveler on this night of all nights.

He guessed it must be nearly midnight; but he didn't really care enough to check. All the revelers seemed to have gone inside a while ago but there had been no distant peal of bells. It felt good to sit down. His feet hurt and the cold ate at the place where his left arm wasn't. God, he was so tired, body and soul. And so, so cold. The vodka would help. He held the bottle between his knees and struggled with cold-numbed fingers to unscrew the cap.

The first sip burnt its way down his throat and settled as a pleasant fire in his belly. For a few happy moments his body relaxed into that heat but all too soon the wind and weather stole it away. The glass wall behind him was chill and hard.

Another sip rekindled the earlier warmth, suffusing him. He could almost imagine that he was back on a stakeout with Mulder, drinking coffee and trying hard not to fall in love with that sharp profile and sharper mind.

//They've been there forever waiting in the unexpected warmth of a late fall day and the car smells of caffeine and sweat and some unadmitted emotion. Mulder is going on about some Weekly World News headline and making it sound almost plausible. When Mulder looks over at him he can feel the heat of the glance in his blood.//

But the warmth faded and the outer chill dragged him back to the present. Back to the cold and empty world.

A gulp this time, excuse enough for the tears in his eyes. Through them, the lights of the passing vehicles reflected off the building looked like shooting stars.

//Another late fall, cold this time, and Mulder is talking again. He was having a hard time paying attention to the words. Neither of them had come dressed for travel in the back of an open truck in Siberia and he should have been chilled to the bone but instead a warm contentment fills him. Mulder stopped hitting him (well, mostly) once they got on the airplane and had even managed to be civil (also, mostly) once they got to a place where he had to rely on Alex's translations and now in the cold he had even condescended to share a bit of body heat (however reluctantly) and Alex is as close to heaven as he ever expected to get. Eventually the sense of Mulder's words reach him. He's talking about shooting stars and how he used to love them as a kid, how he'd sneak out at night in the summer just so he could watch for them. But then when Sam disappeared all he could think of was the story his mom had read them and about how it said that every shooting star was for someone that died and he was afraid to watch for them any longer in case it was for her. Mulder shivers and doesn't object when Alex inches closer. //

Alex shivered but there was no one for him to lean against. There had been too many casualties in the war and not all the meteor showers in the universe could mark them all. None would have burned bright enough for Mulder anyway.

Another convulsive swallow of liquid fire and he blinked to clear his eyes again. And blinked again.

//Mulder stands in front of him, not as he'd last seen him, a bleeding, shattered corpse, but whole and very much alive. Mulder, wearing one of his too fine suits and a gentle, sad smile. Mulder, who was reaching out to a disbelieving Alex and pulling him into a warm embrace the likes of which he has never known. There at the end of it all had been shared need and putting aside of the past for the more pressing present, but not forgetting and never forgiveness. This warm, warm forgiveness. They stand there, just holding each other, until Mulder slowly steps back and turns to go.

"NO!" Alex wants to scream but all that comes out is an anguished whisper.

Slowly Mulder turns around again, his face grave and his hands holding a steaming goblet.

"Drink this and you will never be cold again," he says, holding the vessel to Alex's lips.

Alex steadies the cup with his hand, then tilts it up, draining it. There is no painful burn as he expected, only a warm glow filling him, driving out the darkness.

Mulder smiles and holds out his hand. Returning his smile, Alex takes it and follows him into the light.//

*****

Dawn broke clear and bright, the world overlaid in sparkling snow. A clean start for a new year.

The snow covered Alex's body, sheltering it from the eyes of gawkers. Most saw only the worn coat, the missing arm, the empty bottle, all those things that marked his losses. But one pair of eyes, sharp behind wire frames, saw the smile on Alex's lips and knew all that he had regained.

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carols@winternet.com and CarolS7644@aol.com

Nothing is...more likely to delight a reader than variety of circumstances and the vicissitudes of fortune. Even though we found no pleasure in experiencing them, we enjoy reading about them: there is some something delectable in calm remembrance of a past sorrow. -- Cicero