Cattnip has a new XFiles parody!!!! It's sweet, funny, practically slapstick and has many injokes. [g] has M/K stuff, so it's hot, despite the PG-rating. I just HAD to post this!! I hope you all enjoy it as much as I did! -- Jami

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TITLE: The Truth Comes Out
DATE: December 6th 2001 by Cattnip
RATING: PG-13 for m/m, m/f and f/f sexual slash innuendo
PAIRING: M/K, and the rest- well, you'll just have to read. [g]
ARCHIVE: RatB, DitB, others please ask.
SPOILERS: The whole series, possibly.
DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Ten Thirteen Productions and Fox Television. I'm only taking them on a surfing holiday to Indonesia. I'll bring them back when I'm done.
BETA: Jami Wilsen
SUMMARY: The whole gang is having a Christmas Eve party... Mulder receives the greatest Christmas present of all.
DEDICATIONS: This story is for Jami, for being a constant source of support and inspiration.
NOTE: This is a satire; humor-warning! [g]

Happy Holidays....
I've put this story up with accompanying illustrations that are suited to the content. [g] Check it out here: [G]
It's on the new Christmas Archive I'm making which is coming along nicely!
Addendum: Sanctuary, by Jennie and me, is also up, for those who might want to see it with the snow applet and cover pic. hee!

The Truth Comes Out

Mulder is crouched beside the Christmas tree, rummaging around in a large cardboard box.

Krycek hovers close behind him. "Can I help?" he asks, offering Mulder an eager smile.

Mulder sits back, stretching his shoulders. "I - whoa!" He nearly tumbles backward onto Krycek. He didn't expect him to be standing so close.

"Yeah. Uhm." Mulder pats the floor beside him, locating a new box of Christmas lights that has yet to be opened. He hands the box to Alex. "String these up for me, would you?" He goes back to the box, plowing through its contents as he talks. "I'm trying to find that star my dad used to put on our tree when I was a kid. You know, before my sister Samantha disappeared and my family disintegrated into a dysfunctional wreck. I loved Christmas then, before my mom became so neurotic and my dad's resentment toward me really started to tear him apart -"

Krycek has stopped listening. "Uh-huh," he says absently. Shit, here we go again. Does he ever stop?

Holding the box against his body with the prosthetic, Alex rips into it one-handed. Mulder is still talking.

"But I love my father, I really do. I know that our -" Mulder stands up, stretching his back and yawning. "- Father-son relationship could have been better, but I think if we'd had more time, we could've built - Krycek, what are you doing?"

Krycek looks at Mulder, puzzled. "What?" Mulder is watching him and snickering. "I don't get it. What's so funny?" Krycek demands, his temper suddenly flaring.

"It's just -" Mulder can't stop sniggering. He points to Krycek, and then to the tree. "What are you doing with the lights? It's like you're - throwing them at the tree!"

"I'm not 'throwing' them at the tree! I'm stringing them up, like you told me to." Mulder is leaning against the couch, laughing helplessly. He has been watching Alex struggle with the lights, attempting to thread the string of lights along the large pine's branches neatly with his right hand. When that didn't work, he tried draping the cord over his prosthesis and actually slinging it at the tree, hoping it would catch in the needles. Needless to say, this method had been even less successful.

Krycek's expression grows dark. "What the fuck is your problem, Mulder? You think that since it's Christmas Eve, you've got free reign to be more of an asshole than usual?"

"But you -" Mulder can't help spluttering. "You've only got one arm, man. Here." Mulder reaches for the string of lights, which Krycek refuses to hand over.

"Come on, Alex. Give it up! You can't do this, so let me."

"You know, Mulder, I have really had it!" Furious, Krycek throws the string of lights onto the floor. Huge tears well up in Krycek's eyes. "After all I've done for you over the years. Giving you information - hell, giving you a VACCINE that saved your life! I wish I'd just left you in the ground, you ungrateful son of a bitch!"

"Wha -?" Before Mulder realizes what's happening, Krycek has pulled off his prosthesis and is wielding it dangerously. "You think its funny that I've only got one arm? Well, let's see who's laughing now!" With that, he takes the prosthesis and clubs Mulder over the head with it.

"Ow!" Mulder exclaims, rubbing the top of his head. "Alex -"

"Oh, you want some more stuff, huh? You fuckin' bastard, I hate you!" Alex screams. He continues to thrash Mulder, knocking him backward onto the couch. "I hate you! I hate you, I hate you, I_HATE_YOU!"

"Help!" Mulder calls out, desperately reaching out an arm. "Scully!"

Scully calls back from the bedroom, "I can't help you, Mulder. I'm breast-feeding."

"Shit! Walter!"

Alex is still furiously bashing away and shouting "I hate you!" at the top of his lungs, enunciating each word with another blow from the prosthetic. He's hitting Mulder a little 'too' hard, however, because the plastic suddenly begins to rupture and the arm starts to break apart, much to Mulder's relief.

"Jesus!" Krycek stares at the destroyed remains of his prosthesis. "What a cheap piece of shit!" He tosses it away in disgust. "That's the last time I get FBI-issue."

There is a sound of a toilet flushing. Both Mulder and Krycek turn in time to see Walter Skinner emerging from the bathroom, carrying the latest edition of Field and Stream folded in one hand.

"Hold on . I gotta light a match!" Skinner disappears back into the bathroom.

Scully calls from the bedroom, "Mulder? Mulder, what's that smell? You haven't tried cooking the Christmas goose without me, have you? I told you -"

"No, Scully, everything's fine!" Skinner assures her. He looks slightly worried. "Okay Mulder, I couldn't find any matches, so don't anybody go in there for 30 - no, better make that 45 minutes." He steps into the living room and regards Mulder and Krycek's similarly flustered and disheveled appearances. His eyes snap from Krycek's sagging left sleeve to the busted prosthetic abandoned on the floor. "What the hell is going on out here?"

Mulder points to Krycek. "That rat-bastard bludgeoned me with his plastic arm!" Mulder bolts from the couch to stand beside Skinner. "Sir, I am prepared to file a full report. He attacked me without provocation -"

"Oh, spare me the drama!" Krycek's hand goes to his hips. "You know what you need, Mulder -"

"I know what you both need," Skinner cuts in. "A spanking." Skinner starts to remove his belt. "And I'm just the one to dish it out." He takes a seat on Mulder's couch, legs spread wide apart. "Mulder, you're first. Come lean over my lap."

Mulder is in shock. "Sir, you can't be serious."

"I'm always serious, Mulder." Skinner pats his lap. "Now get over here!"

Mulder hesitates, shuffling from one foot to the other. He looks at Krycek for help, who deliberately whirls around and faces the tree.

"Add traitor to your resume," Mulder grumbles. He implores Skinner, "Sir, I really don't think this is necessary."

"I think it is." Over his shoulder, Skinner calls out, "Scully!"

"I think he needs it, Walter!" Scully calls back.

Skinner smiles triumphantly. "Thank you, Agent Scully. Come on, Mulder. Don't make me get up."

Reluctantly, and with a last, desperate pleading look at Krycek, who is still stubbornly inspecting the tree, Mulder shuffles over to the couch, pouting as he goes.

"You know, sir, my father used to spank me when I was a kid -"

Krycek's eyes roll to heaven. "Oh, for the love of -"

Skinner gathers his belt and holds it poised over Mulder's ass, getting ready to strike. Mulder holds his breath. Krycek has turned around, eyes wide, nearly salivating at the sight.

At the last minute, Skinner stops. "No, no, this won't do! Mulder, pull your pants down."

"What? No! You know, my father never made me pull my pants down -"

"No, he wouldn't have. Your father had issues about you," Krycek says.

"You take that back!" Mulder tries to get up, but a firm hand on his back keeps him in place. Mulder is left to flail about helplessly on Skinner's lap, growling obscenities.

Scully, from the bedroom, "Mulder? Could you watch your language around my baby please? You may be his father, but I don't necessarily want him turning out like you."

"I'm sorry, Scully!"

"Thank you!"

"Hey, you don't believe me, about your dad? Ask him yourself. He's right there." Krycek gestures toward the open front door. In the doorway, the CSM sits in his wheelchair, which is festooned with green and red ribbons. He is sucking on a Morley through his tracheostomy.

Skinner turns to face him. "What the hell are you doing here?"

"I just thought I'd drop by and wish everyone a merry Christmas," CSM rasps. He folds his hands, taking in the spanking scene before him. He clears his throat. "Can I watch? Please?"

"Get out of here, you sick freak!" Skinner stands up, tumbling Mulder to the floor.

"Ow! My head." Mulder clutches his forehead.

"Mulder?" Scully calls. "I heard a noise. Did you fall? How's your head?"

"I - uh, haven't had any complaints yet," Mulder says, staggering to his feet. Krycek can't help looking interested.

Skinner advances on CSM. "I thought I told you never to bother me or my agents again."

CSM nods. "That you did. But you also invited me to kiss your ass once, remember." He takes another puff from his cigarette. "I just wondered if that offer is still open."

"Yeah. Pucker up, buttercup," Skinner snarls.

"Yeah!" Mulder joins in. "And maybe you'll meet Santa out there in the snow tonight, and Rudolph will bite your sorry ass and give you rabies, you black-lunged son of a bitch!" Mulder lunges at CSM, clawing at the air, but his equilibrium is off and he trips over the couch, sailing over the back of it and landing on the floor at Krycek's feet. "You know . my head is really starting to hurt."

Krycek is laughing in disbelief, his right hand shoved into his pocket. "Mulder, Rudolph doesn't have rabies!"

"Oh yes, he does, Krycek. That red nose signifies a mad reindeer and he must be stopped." With a shaky hand, Mulder draws his gun. He looks at Skinner. "Sir . do you still want me to take down my pants?"

"Mulder, put that away!" Skinner gives the door a shove, slamming it in CSM's face.

Krycek shrugs, and wonders aloud, "Now why didn't he just do that before?"

There is a knock on the door.

"Goddamn it!" Skinner wrenches the knob and pulls the door open. "I told you to hit the road, you sorry sack of shi-! Oh."

Skinner stops short, seeing Doggett and Reyes on the doorstep before him.

Skinner clears his throat and straightens his spine. "Agent Doggett, Agent Reyes," he addresses them in a stiff, hyper-professional tone.

"Sir." Doggett steps inside, beaming at Skinner. He offers a hand for Skinner to shake; when Skinner accepts and their hands are firmly clasped, Doggett pulls him into a tight embrace and won't let go. "Merry Christmas, sir," Doggett chokes out.

Skinner cringes, feeling a wet spot spreading on the front of his shirt. Whether it's tears or drool, he can't be sure, and he doesn't want to know.

"Merry Christmas, John," Skinner replies, stiffly patting Doggett's back. "John, let go, will you? We're in a roomful of people here."

Doggett pulls back, wiping at his eyes. "I'm sorry, sir. I just get overemotional, you know." He smiles apologetically.

"Yeah, I know," Skinner mutters out of the corner of his mouth.

Doggett spies Reyes over his shoulder, still leaning in the doorway. "Uh, Monica? Are you coming inside?"

Monica can't hear him. She has a Walkman strapped to her ears and is gently swaying back and forth.

"Hey, Monica." Doggett gently shakes her arm. Monica snaps out of her trance with a start and an embarrassed smile. "Oh! Hi, everyone." She cranes her neck, searching the room. "Is Dana here?"

Krycek points toward the bedroom. "Yeah, she's in there breast-feeding William."

Reyes' eyes light up. "Oh! Well, I would just love to see that baby." She is already heading toward the bedroom, tripping over her own feet in her excitement.

"Mulder?" Scully calls out. "Is that Monica Reyes I hear? Keep her out of here while I'm feeding William, would you? She's a frustrated lesbian, and I really can't deal with her issues AND my own right now."

"Sure, Scully! Hey, Agent Reyes." Mulder takes Reyes' arm and redirects her to sit on the couch. "What is that you're listening to, Christmas carols? If you want, we could pop it into the stereo."

"Oh, I'd love that!" Eagerly, Reyes removes the tape from her Walkman and hands it Mulder, who carries it over to the stereo. "But it's not Christmas carols. It's my latest batch of whale recordings -Songs of the North Atlantic Sperm Whale."

Mulder freezes just as he is about to slide the tape into the deck. "Uh . you know, I just remembered. My stereo isn't working right now."

"Oh, sure it is, Mulder!" Krycek chimes in, grinning gleefully at Mulder's discomfort. Mulder narrows his eyes at Krycek, who pays him no mind whatsoever. "We were listening to your Golden Oldies Christmas tunes right before Doggett and Reyes arrived, remember?"

Mulder continues to stand there, looking pained.

Meanwhile, Doggett hasn't left Skinner's side, not for lack of trying on Skinner's part.

"I have to tell you, sir, that handshake . you've got quite a grip there." Doggett leans in and winks at Skinner.

Skinner angles his body backward, away from Doggett. "Yes, Agent Doggett. I've been working out."

"Really? So have I." Before Skinner can react much, Doggett has whipped off his coat and is rolling up one of his shirtsleeves. He flexes his arm. "Check that out," he says proudly.

Skinner gives him a slight smile. "That's very nice."

"Do you want to feel it?" Doggett asks, eyes wide and hopeful.

Skinner clears his throat nervously. "I don't think so, John," he replies quietly, checking out the room to make sure no one is watching this little display. Of course, everyone is.

"Oh." Doggett lowers his head, crestfallen. "Okay."

"John!" Skinner leans in to whisper to Doggett. He catches Mulder, Krycek and Reyes all hanging on his every word. "What are you people looking at?" he asks irritably.

"Nothing!" they all say at once, continuing to watch.

"John, maybe I'll - feel it later," Skinner says in a hushed tone.

Doggett is immediately all smiles again. "Hey, great! You know, I've been working on my abs too, lately. Do you wanna feel them too?"

"Oh John, for God's sake!" Skinner pushes him away.

Doggett spreads his hands in a what-did-I-do gesture. "Can I feel yours?"

There is another knock on the door. Krycek opens it to find the Lone Gunmen all grinning back at him.

"Dudes, merry holidays!" Langley bounds in the door first, followed by Byers and Frohike.

Reyes chooses this moment to get up from the couch. "Excuse me, everyone. I just need to nip into the little girl's room." She heads for Mulder bathroom, passing slowly by the bedroom and stretching her neck to peer inside.

"We come bearing gifts." Frohike hands a plastic sack to Mulder. "Merry Christmas, my friend."

"What's in it?" Mulder asks, looking inside.

"Frozen waffles," Langley replies, taking a seat on the couch. "We tried to find some frankincense, you know, like in the Christmas story? But we waited until the last minute -"

"As usual." Frohike glares at Langley.

"AND the guy at the Stop-N-Go said he was fresh out." Langley pauses, thinking. "Although, you know, he could've said that just to get rid of us."

"So . why frozen waffles?" Mulder asks, raising his brows quizzically.

"They're for the baby," Byers answers, rolling his eyes at Langley.

"Hey, they're good for teething!" Langley slumps back on the couch, arms folded across his chest. "Nobody around here appreciates me."

A toilet flushes, and Reyes comes out of the bathroom looking strange. "Mulder? I think you might have a sewage problem." She opens and closes the door rapidly, airing out the small room.

Skinner looks annoyed. Doggett notes his expression with a knowing looking of his own.

Mulder rushes over. "No, no, no, Agent Reyes. It's fine. We'll just shut this door and keep it closed for the rest of the evening."

Langley picks up the television remote. "Hey, isn't Charlie Brown's Christmas on tonight?"

"Mulder!" Scully shouts from the bedroom. "Could you do me a favor and bring me my purse from the living room?"

Frohike's ears perk up. "Is that the melodious tones of the scintillating Agent Scully I hear?"

"I'm still feeding William or I'd get it myself," Scully continues. "I'm about to switch sides."

"Heeey there, friend!" Frohike intercepts Mulder, who has Scully's purse and walking toward the bedroom with it. He takes it from Mulder grasp. "Why don't you let me do that?"

Mulder shrugs. "Sure, whatever."

Frohike saunters out of sight. A few seconds later, an agonized wail erupts from the bedroom.

"Was that the baby?" Monica asks, her voice filled with horrified concern.

"No, that was Scully," Mulder replies.

Scully screams, "You pervert! You sawed-off little runt, get back here! Don't make me get my gun!"

Frohike saunters out of Mulder's bedroom, his eyes glazed and a satisfied grin plastered across his face. "God bless us, every one," he says. He digs into his coat pocket and pulls out a cigarette. Still grinning, he lights up.

Byers snatches the cigarette from Frohike's lips. "Don't smoke around the baby, you pig."

Frohike doesn't say anything. He's still simpering like the Cheshire cat.

"Hey, is this brie for everybody?" Langley plucks a slice of cheese off the snack tray before anybody has a chance to respond. He turns to Mulder, one eye still on the TV screen. "Hey Mulder, you got any eggnog?"

"Yeah." Mulder runs a weary hand over his hair. He points toward the kitchen. "It's - in there."

Langley gets up and bolts into the kitchen.

"Mulder, are you gonna string these lights, or do I have to?" Krycek needles him. "I mean, you get SO upset when I -"

"Yeah, sure. No problem, Krycek." Still slightly out of it, Mulder ambles toward the tree.

"Oh, hey Mulder." Skinner stops him. "I've got - stop it, John!" Doggett's arms have managed to snake their way around Skinner's waist. Skinner pushes him away and turns to Mulder, oblivious to the hound-dog love gaze he's getting from John. "Looks like I'm out of ammo." At Mulder's questioning stare, he shrugs embarrassed. "Yeah, it looks like I couldn't have shot your dad - I mean the Cancer Man if I'd wanted to. I'll explain later," he whispers to Doggett. He asks Mulder, "You got any spare ammo lying around? Just a few bullets - I don't like to go out with an unloaded weapon."

"Yeah, uncocked and unloaded," Krycek mutters, fiddling with the Christmas lights and grinning.

Skinner twists around to face him. "What was that?"

Krycek's shoulder twitches. "Nothing."

Mulder nods. "Bullets, yeah. I'll check on that for you, sir."

"Agent Mulder?"

Mulder stops and turns to face Reyes, flashing her a brittle smile. "Yes?"

"I was just wondering, about your toilet. You know, it might be a matter of a simple clog."

Frohike plops down uncomfortably close to her on the couch, beaming at her as he reaches across her lap for the snack tray. She squirms away, her polite smile still intact, although faltering. Reyes continues, "If you like, I could check it out for you. I'm pretty handy with a plunger."

"I'll bet," Frohike says, eyeing Reyes as he stuffs a cracker piled high with brie into his mouth, crunching loudly.

"No, thank you," Mulder says quietly.


Mulder whirls around. "Yes, Scully! What is it?"

Scully emerges from the bedroom, William in her arms, her lips pulled into a definable pout. Both Frohike and Reyes look despondent when they notice that her blouse is buttoned all the way to the top.

"Mulder, I need you to take William for a minute. My arms are tired." She looks exhausted.

"I'll bet it's not just her arms that are tired," Frohike mutters, earning him a hard punch in the arm from Byers.

"I - uh - yeah. Sure, Scully, no problem." Mulder crosses the room and holds out his arms. Scully studies him, worried.

"Are you sure you're all right?" she asks as she settles little William into Mulder's arms. "You don't look so good."

"I was doing fine until that rat-bastard Krycek beat the hell out of me with his plastic arm," Mulder replies matter-of-factly.

"Yeah, I beat you one-handed," Krycek drawls. "And that wasn't the first time, either." He catches Scully's eye and winks. "More issues," he mouths. He's having a ball over by the tree, picking up pieces of tinsel, standing back, and throwing them at the tree. "Hey, this is way more fun than doing the lights!" he laughs.

Mulder ignores him, awkwardly cradling William. "And then my father showed up."

Scully's brow creases. "But I thought your father was dead, killed by that very same rat-bastard Krycek?"

Krycek shrugs. "Everybody blames the one-armed man." He sighs, tossing another handful of tinsel at the tree.

Scully gasps in horror. "Mulder, you're holding him all wrong! His neck is going to snap!"

Mulder looks down at the squirming, fussing mass of flesh in his arms. William's head is lolling dangerously to one side. Mulder closes his eyes. This Christmas Eve party was turning out to be much more trying than he expected.

"Here." Byers steps in, putting a hand under baby William's head. "You have to support his head on your arm, like this . Good. Now, bring your elbow closer to your body . MUCH closer to your body, Mulder! Here, let me demonstrate." With the patience of a saint, Byers takes the baby from Mulder's arms. Instantly, William is calm, batting his huge blue eyes at Byers and smiling.

"He really likes you, Byers," Scully says, her voice filled with awe. "He doesn't even settle down that quickly for me." She looks at Byers, the baby, and Byers again. Then she smiles, a spark of interest in her eyes. She lays a hand on Byers' arm. "Byers - John, have you ever considered having children of your own? You would make an excellent father."

Byers looks at Scully, and she smiles back up at him with an intensity of brightness that would outshine the Christmas lights, if Krycek can ever get them up.

"Don't worry, I can get the important things up," Krycek says.

The room falls silent, with all eyes on Krycek. Mulder is staring at him with a mixture of disdain and curiosity. Krycek flashes him a knowing smirk. Mulder hurriedly focuses on something else.

Reyes sidles up to Scully, her eyes dewy with admiration. "Dana, can I just say how . amazingly beautiful you look tonight?"

Scully heaves a sigh. "Oh, God." She looks to Byers for help.

Doggett picks up Reyes' cue. He huddles close to Skinner. "Uhm, sir -"

"DON'T say it!" Skinner hisses. Doggett backs off.

"It must be the combined glow of new motherhood and the holiday season," Reyes continues breathlessly. She notices Scully's hand still on Byers' arm, and she glares at John, a snarl curling her lip. Byers can't help taking a step back.

"Listen, Agent Scully, maybe you'd like to have him back now." Byers holds William out to Scully, who immediately backs away. "No, no, you're doing so well there, John. And I'm so tired." Scully stretches her arms and yawns.

Reyes still isn't giving up. "You must really feel like you're living the Christmas story, Dana. It's amazing! You have this miracle baby, it's December -"

"All the way down to the three wise-asses, bringing her stuff she can't use." Krycek snickers, indicating Frohike and Byers. "And uhm - hey, where's the other one?"

Frohike twists around on the couch. "Hey, has anybody seen Langley in a while?"

"Last I saw, he went into the kitchen to hit the eggnog." Mulder looks toward the kitchen, his brow furrowing. All gazes in the room follow, but Byers is the only one who will volunteer to check it out. "Don't everybody get up at once," he grumbles, carrying William into the kitchen.

Langley is leaning on the counter, pouring more rum into glasses of eggnog. With a firm grip on the bottle of rum, he picks up a glass in the other hand and takes a sip, then a long, slow belt from the bottle. "Whoo!" His eyes are red and watery behind his lenses.

Byers takes a step toward Langley. "Ringo . what are you doing?"

"Hey man, I'm just gettin' into the Christmas spirit." Langley lets out a belch that rattles the pots hanging on the rack above the sink. William bursts into terrified screaming.

"Oh no! It's all right, little guy. It's okay!" Still cooing at William, he turns back to Langley, who offers him a silly grin around a mouthful of rum. "Do you see what you've done?" he says quietly, not wanting to upset William further. "What kind of father figure are you supposed to be?"

"Whoa!" Langley spreads his hands, gesturing at Byers with the bottle. "Hold on there just a minute! I don't know what you've heard - hey, by the way, d'you want any of this?" Langley eyes the bottle, the look in his eyes telling Byers that he hopes he'll say no.

Byers sighs. "No, Langley. Enjoy your Christmas cheer there." Byers strides out of the kitchen.

"More for me!" Langley calls after him. He tips the bottle up, draining it of the few remaining droplets of rum. When it is finally empty, he tosses it toward the trashcan. Naturally it misses, shattering all over the floor.

The crash is heard in the living room. Doggett reacts, leaping in front of Skinner and drawing his gun. "Don't worry, sir. I'll lay down my life to protect you!"

Perched on a chair beside the tree, Krycek is chuckling to himself. Reyes and Scully both twitch uncomfortably.

Skinner's arm shoots out, grabbing Doggett's shoulder. "John, put that away!" he says for the second time this evening.

"Don't anybody come in here without your shoes!" Langley calls from the kitchen. "Hey Mulder, have you got any more rum?"

Mulder lowers his head and rubs at his eyes.

"This place is more dangerous than the Old West," Krycek says. He nudges Mulder. "Hey. Aren't you going to tell me what a good job I did with the tree?"

Mulder shakes his head without looking up. "No," he says, covering his face with both hands.

"Come on!" Krycek continues to prod. "You haven't even looked at it."

"Please, don't make me look at it!" Mulder says miserably, his voice muffled.

Frohike whistles. "I don't know, Mulder. I think you'd better have a look."

"That is amazing!" Scully exclaims.

Reluctantly, Mulder lifts his head and turns to look at the tree.

One corner of Krycek's mouth turns up. "Guess the one-armed man didn't do half bad, did he?"

As soon as Mulder looks up, there is a sound of angels singing. He gasps, stunned speechless. The tree has been transformed from a plain green pine into a dazzling display of Christmas beauty, complete with ornaments, (perfectly strung) lights, tinsel, and the crowning glory - Mulder's Christmas star.

Mulder stands up, his knees trembling. "Krycek, I - how did you do that?"

"It's just a little something I threw together. Do you really like it?" Krycek asks hopefully.

Mulder is having trouble finding his voice. "Yeah! It's amazing, like -" He points absently in Scully's general direction, his eyes glued to the tree. "You know, she said."

Scully frowns.

Mulder's eyes are now glued to Krycek. "This is the best Christmas ever," he says softly, giving Krycek a genuine smile. Krycek returns it, licking his lips.

The temperature in the room suddenly shoots up to an uncomfortable level.

"Sir!" Scully rushes over to Skinner, speaking in a hushed whisper. "You've got to do something." She cuts her eyes at Mulder and Krycek, who are now standing dangerously close to one another.

"About what?" Skinner asks, leaning back against Doggett, whose chin is resting contentedly on his shoulder. Skinner pulls at his shirt collar. "Is it me, John, or is it hot in here?"

Doggett smiles knowingly in response. He gives Skinner's waist a light squeeze.

"Sir!" Scully is horrified. Her face is flushed, her eyes spitting blue fire.

Frohike is standing close, and cranes his neck to look at her. "You know you're beautiful when you're jealous?" he says.

"Shut up!" Scully snaps, pushing him backward into the couch cushions. She turns back to Skinner, who is sharing a joke with Doggett. "Sir, this room is filled with innuendo. I demand that you do something about it immediately!"

Reyes pipes up, "Why don't you just go with it, Dana?"

Scully glares at her, sending a wounded Monica retreating back to the couch beside Frohike.

"Those pouty-lipped ice queens," he quips, laying a hand on Reyes' knee. "What are we gonna do with her? And don't say threesome, because I've already thought of that, I already asked. She won't go for it."

Skinner lets out a beleaguered sigh. "All right, Scully." He heaves himself off of a disappointed Doggett's lap. "Okay, gather round everybody." Skinner turns to Byers. "Byers, would you like to get Langley from the kitchen?"

Byers shakes his head. "No."

Skinner is puzzled. "Are you sure about that, Byers?"

Byers nods. "Trust me, he's happier in there." He switches little William's weight from weary one arm to the other. "I don't know how your mommy does this," he murmurs, trying to catch Scully's eye. Seeing him, she immediately turns away.

Skinner clears his throat. "All right, everybody. Please, gather round. Mulder, Krycek - I said get over here!"

Mulder and Krycek both start at the sound of their names, shuffling reluctantly to the center of the room.

"For God's sake, guys," Skinner admonishes. "Try to pay attention, all right? This is my moment."

Scully preens, feeling very pleased with herself.

"Sorry, sir," Mulder mumbles, shoving both hands into his pockets. Krycek makes sure Skinner isn't looking, and shoves his hand into Mulder's pocket as well.

A dark cloud settles over Scully's expression, but before she has a chance to protest, Skinner is speaking:

"Friends, we are gathered here tonight to celebrate the true meaning of Christmas."

"Getting plastered off your ass?" Langley asks from the kitchen.

"No, Langley!" Skinner growls.

All of the lights in the room are dimmed, save for a single spotlight under which Skinner is standing. The choir of angels starts up again.

"Amen, sir!" Doggett shouts, wiping tears from his eyes. Weeping, he turns to Reyes. "This is so beautiful!"

"This is getting more surreal by the minute." Byers says to William. He tries again to offer the baby to Scully, who moves to stand closer to Skinner. Doggett immediately rises to flank Walter on his other side.

Skinner says to Doggett. "Bow your head, John."

Doggett has been gazing wistfully at Skinner again. "Oh, I'm sorry." He complies with the order.

Skinner starts again. "Friends, we are gathered here in Mulder's apartment this evening, mainly to celebrate this holiday with friends and the only family we happen to know, but also because the department was too cheap to spring for a real party this year."

"Not because 'somebody' made too a good friend of the margarita machine last year," Scully says, sounding resentful. She casts her evil eye at Mulder. "And ran around the Hoover Building with his pants down, waving his gun and shouting, "I am invincible!"

Mulder lifts his chin proudly at the memory.

"Which gun were you waving, anyway?" Krycek asks, curious.

Mulder doesn't answer, but his grin does get wider. Much wider.

"Yes, there is that," Skinner interjects. "But, getting back to what I was saying - it's fine to enjoy Christmas, but before we get caught up in the singing, the parties, the mass consumption of alcohol -" The last part Skinner tosses back at Mulder, who is still standing close to Krycek and smiling.

Langley, from the kitchen. "Was somebody calling me?"

"No!" they all shout at once.

Skinner continues, "We must remember to thank our creator, the person responsible for our very existence." Skinner casts his eyes heavenward. "Because even as much as we miss Chris, it cannot equal one-tenth of how much Chris misses us."

"Amen!" the group says in unison.

Doggett is weeping openly on Skinner's shirtfront. "That was so inspired," he sobs.

The choir stops, the spotlight disappears, and the lights in the room go up. Skinner claps Mulder on the back, pulling him away from Krycek and close to his side. Both Krycek and Doggett appear disgruntled at this.

"And now, Agent Mulder," Skinner says. "Fox, my friend. We would like to give you a little Christmas present, from all of us, that you will never forget."

"What is it?" Mulder asks.

"It's something you've always wanted," Reyes replies, unable to keep the excitement out of her voice.

Mulder's mouth drops open. He gasps. "A blow job?"

"I'll do it!" Krycek volunteers.

Skinner shakes his head.

In the open doorway, the CSM appears. "Did I hear somebody calling me?"

"No!" everyone shouts.

CSM sits back, startled at first. Then this is replaced by a look of dark consternation. "Fine!" he bites out. He pulls the Morley from the hole in his throat and tosses it onto the floor, at the edge of Mulder's doorstep. He then rolls the wheels of his chair over it, crushing the cigarette out flat. "You can all kiss MY ass for Christmas!" he shouts as he rolls off down the hallway.

"Can he get up for that, do you think?" Krycek wonders aloud.

Skinner shudders. Turning back to Mulder, he says, "No Mulder, it's not a blow job. It's something even better."

Mulder is disappointed. His lower lip protrudes out in a pout that Krycek finds very appealing. Skeptical, he asks Skinner, "There's something better than a blow job?"

"Yes Mulder, there is." With a sweeping gesture, he points toward the center of the room, like a game-show host. "Fox Mulder, this is the Truth!"

As if on cue, a shaft of pale green light shoots down from the ceiling, accompanied by a burst of sound that is the X-Files theme music. Frohike leaps out of the way, clutching the top of his head. He lands next to Byers. "The damned thing singed me!"

Byers sighs heavily, shifting William's weight back to the other arm.

A brilliant ball of light appears. It's the alien bounty hunter.

He stands unmoving for a long moment, sternly surveying the group. His eyes snap from one person to the next, causing an involuntarily shudder from everyone in turn. Except for Doggett, who is hiding behind Skinner, his arms wrapped around Walter's midsection and his lower body pressed dangerously close to his butt.

The long, pregnant pause continues.

"Please! Did you have to remind me?" Scully puts a protective hand over her stomach.

Suddenly, the alien bounty hunter relaxes, his face breaking into a wide grin that reaches his eyes. "Hi, everybody!"

He walks over to Skinner and sticks out his hand. "Gee, it's really great to be here." He shakes Walter's hand enthusiastically. Skinner winces at the strength of the grip. "Thanks so much for inviting me."

He turns and spies Mulder staring at him with a wistful expression.

"Mulder!" The alien opens his arms as if greeting an old friend. Mulder can't move. He is rooted to the spot.

Krycek, who is leaning his elbow against Fox's shoulder, is instantly jealous. He focuses his most hostile glare on the alien bounty hunter. This has no effect whatsoever.

"Mulder, it's really great to see you again. Gee, I didn't recognize you without all those fishhooks in your face."

"Fish?" Doggett's forehead wrinkles. "Hey that reminds me . Sir?" He taps Walter's shoulder. "When are we gonna eat? I'm starving."

With a jovial grin, the alien bounty hunter jostles Mulder with his elbow. "Gosh, but this is just like old times, isn't it?"

"Is it now?" Krycek says, his aggravation bumping up a notch.

Mulder shakes his head, dazed. "I - I can't move! It's as if I'm glued to the spot! They must have some kind of tractor beam trained on me. They're trying to take me away to their ship again!" Mulder is hyperventilating. "Krycek, help me!"

Krycek pushes himself away from Mulder and says sarcastically, "Gosh, I'm sorry, Mulder. Tractor beam? Can't exactly compete with that now, can I? If I had my other arm, I'd fold them both and pout right now."

The alien bounty hunter holds up both hands in a sign of surrender. "Whoa there, guys! Now don't you two fight on account of me. Mulder, you're not caught in a tractor beam."

Mulder squirms. "I'm not? Then why can't I -?"

"Calm down there, big guy. It's your shirt collar." The alien bounty hunter reaches up behind Mulder. "You're caught on this nail in the wall behind you."

Mulder's face starts to flood with relief. "Thank you," he breathes, looking gratefully up into the alien's eyes.

"Oh, nice," Krycek mutters. "Is there anything he can't do?"

"Is there?" Mulder asks.

The alien bounty hunter thinks about this for a moment. He lowers his head, shaking it almost regretfully. "No. No, there isn't."

Krycek shoulder sags and he turns away, defeated.

The alien bounty hunter is watching Alex's back carefully.

Meanwhile, Mulder's brain is still trying to wrap around what's happening. "So what - why have you come?"

"Funny, I was wondering why you hadn't," Frohike mumbles to Byers. Frohike chortles at his own joke. Byers' expression of deep pain deepens even further.

"Not that I'm not excited to see you!" Mulder hurries to add.

The alien bounty hunter blushes. "Aw, shucks!" He grins self-consciously.

"And of course, it's nice to be HERE and not on your ship . I don't have to deal with, you know, the torture devices and all." Mulder rakes a hand through his hair, suddenly at a loss for words. "Uhm -"

"Listen, Fox, I know what you want." The alien takes Mulder's wrist, urging him to look into his eyes. He catches Mulder's gaze, and holds it. "And I'm here to give it to you," he says softly.

Krycek kicks one of the boxes littering the floor.

Frohike adjusts his glasses. "This oughta be good!"

"Hey!" It's Langely again, still refusing to emerge. "Am I missing anything? Who's talking out there?"

"The truth? The meaning of life? The reason for our existence?" Mulder folds his hands under his chin hopefully. "All of the answers to all of the questions that I have ever searched for in vain?" Mulder stomps his foot. "Come on, help me out here!"

The alien bounty hunter laughs. "Mulder, if I answered all of your unanswered questions, what would you do with your life then?" He shakes his head. "No. But I can give you this - the answer to 'all' questions. The one thing every man needs to still the raging heart and bring eternal peace to the soul."

Frohike chances a guess. "It's a blow job, I know it!" The scary part is, he's serious.

No one in the room dares to move. They are all hanging on the alien bounty hunter's every word.

"Love," he finally says. "The answer is love."

His words drift around the room for a moment, taking the time to sink in. It is Mulder who breaks the silence.

"Love?" he says in disbelief. "The answer is LOVE? What the hell kind of new-age horseshit is that?!" He clutches his temples. "You mean to tell me that I've spent the best years of my life chasing shiny silver objects and monsters of the week just to find out that the truth I was seeking was actually LOVE!" Mulder holds up his hands, his eyes focusing on some far-off point in the distance. "I -I can't handle this."

"I'm with you, buddy!" Frohike steps up. He stands toe-to-toe with the alien, eyeing him disdainfully. "What a rip! And you call yourselves a superior race."

"Hey, I never said that!" the alien protests, looking genuinely hurt. "It was always you humans, with your massive power trips and your tiny -" His eyes drop to Mulder's package, which bulges appealingly. He catches his lower lip in his teeth. "Well, not all of you have that problem." He gives Mulder's arm a light squeeze, as much to steady himself as to bring Mulder back. "You don't believe me, do you?"

Mulder blinks. "Well, I'm having a little trouble -"

The alien bounty hunter lifts his hand. The room is flooded with white light that blazes brightly for a second, and then is gone.

When everyone's vision has cleared, the change in the air is so startling that Scully gasps aloud and Byers loses his balance, nearly dropping the baby.

"I see everything so clearly now!" Scully turns to Monica, her blue eyes wide. "I see that I use my work as an escape, a means of hiding from my true self."

Monica is practically crying. "Dana, you don't mean -"

Scully nods. "Yes. All these years, I projected my need for love onto Mulder, leading myself to believe that I actually wanted him, but I don't. I don't. I really, really don't! I can't even imagine what woman would. I mean, he's always taking off, not telling me where he's going -"

"Scully, I'm standing right here!" Mulder reminds her.

Scully looks at him as if she's never seen him before. "Sorry, Mulder, but I've just had an epiphany. Do you mind?"

Reye's clutches Scully's hands in hers. "Oh Dana, I - I love you!" She throws her arms around Scully, who enthusiastically returns the embrace.

Frohike is stunned beyond the capacity for rational thought. Doesn't stop him from rushing across the room to watch his Christmas dream come true, though.

Doggett is weeping openly against Skinner's back. "There, there, John." Skinner turns and pats him awkwardly. "It's all right. I -dammit! I love you too."

"I love you all!" Langley sobs from the kitchen.

Byers cuddles little William close, talking in soothing tones as he does so. "I'm really getting into this daddy thing," he says to no one in particular.

Mulder turns to Krycek and without a word, gathers him into his arms. "Krycek - Alex, I -"

"Ssh, Fox." Krycek holds up a hand, touching his fingertips to Mulder's lips. "Don't say anything."

"But I feel I need to -"

"No, Mulder, I mean it! Don't fuck up the moment." They pause for barely a second before their lips meet, kissing with all the urgency that nine long years of unreleased desire can evoke.

"Well, I think I'd better go," the alien bounty hunter announces. He waits for a response, but everyone is too preoccupied. He shrugs, and heads for the door.

It is Alex who wrenches his mouth from Mulder's, hurrying to catch up with the alien. "You're using the door?" he asks, puzzled.

The alien nods. "Yeah. It's novel, you know?"

"What?" Mulder spreads his empty arms, despairing. "You have to do this NOW?"

"Yeah! Just give me a minute. Look -" Krycek leans closer to the alien and drops his voice. "I just wanted to say thanks, for helping me out tonight. With the tree."

"Oh, no problem, Alex." The alien claps him on the shoulder.

"And - and with Mulder too."

Now it's the alien's turn to look puzzled. "I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, come on!" Krycek laughs knowingly. "You do too. That whole thing with the white light." He raises his arm in imitation. "The answer is love, all of that. It transformed everybody in the room! You helped Scully discover her lesbian tendencies, for God's sake!"

"Thank heaven for small favors!" Frohike calls out.

The alien's frown deepens. "No Alex, I was just putting my shuttle on automatic pilot." He gives an embarrassed laugh. "I'm such a ninny - I go off all the time and forget to do that!"

Krycek's face freezes. "Oh. So you didn't -"

The alien gives him a sympathetic smile. He lays a hand on Krycek's left shoulder, right in the spot where his prosthesis had been. "No, Alex, I'm not a miracle worker. Can I help it if you Earth people think that the world revolves around your sexual fulfillment? Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to get going. I'm meeting Whitley Strieber in upstate New York. It's the 15th anniversary of his communion, you know. He's expecting a special commemoration probe."

Krycek nods, still feeling slightly numb. "Yeah, okay. Have fun with that." Krycek claps both hands together, letting out the breath he was holding. "I - WHOA! What the hell -?"

Alex's left arm - his REAL left arm - is back, attached, and fully functioning. He swings both arms, holding them out in front of him. Looking at the spot where the alien was just standing, he grins. "You sly son-of-a-bitch."

"Hey, this is really neat." Mulder gingerly takes Krycek's left arm, inspecting it closely.

"Neat? Hell, it's more than neat." Krycek grabs Mulder, successfully pinning Mulder's body against his. "Now I can finally do this properly," he says, tightening his grip. His mouth lowers onto Mulder's neck.

Through the fresh miasma of sexual bliss, Mulder peers over Krycek's shoulder. In the hallway stands the alien bounty hunter in his natural form. He doesn't smile, but Mulder gets the very clear impression of delight. "Merry Christmas, Mulder," whispers a voice in his head. Mulder's eyes close. When he opens them again, the figure is gone.

"Hey!" Langley bursts into the room from the kitchen, stark naked, and with a celery leaf dangling below his waist. You can guess where the point of attachment is.

Langley wiggles his hips. "Who wants to kiss what's under the mistletoe?"

Everyone pauses in the middle of their various pursuits, considering.

"Come on!" Langley says. "It's the season of giving, after all."

Frohike shrugs. "Hell, it all feels the same in the dark." He switches off the lights.

And a very merry Christmas was had by all. Even Byers, who didn't get laid.

Archived: December 29, 2001