[identity profile] bugsfic.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] 12daysofxfiles
Title: The Truth Will Set You Free
Author: bugs
Characters/Pairing: Mulder/Scully
Genre: Angst, Drama, Romance
Spoilers: Through 'The Truth' and a touch of IWTB
Warnings: None
Rating: PG
Word Count: 3,200
Summary: Another happy holiday for Scully.



~*~

"Dad would get the words wrong to Frosty the Snowman every time," Bill Scully explained to his youngest son who'd never met his grandfather. "I mean, how do you screw up a song like that?"

Everyone laughed on cue, although Maggie watched all the faces around her dining room table intently. She'd cooked her traditional meal, from the crusted ham to the green bean casserole, with the pecan pies cooling in the kitchen. The red table linens had been starched. The candles lit. But it could all go wrong in a single slip of a tongue.

Every chair was filled at the table, but there were two shadows on either side of Scully, cast long by the cold winter light from the window behind her. No matter how bright the candles, Maggie could see them.

"It was Melissa's fault," Charlie said. "She'd make up these funny lyrics and Dad would believe they were right!"

He leaned back in his chair and bellowed out: "Frosty the snowman was a jolly sappy soul, with a corndog pipe and a banana nose.."

"That was one of the cleaner versions," Bill said, innocently enough, but Maggie gripped her wine glass stem. Would he start in about Melissa's problems?

Scully noticed her mother tense. Turning her sharp gaze to Bill, she dared him to say more. He raised his pale eyebrows as an unspoken reply. She took a deep sip from her wine glass and kept watch on her brother, whose petulance had not softened with age.

She had missed too many of these Christmas gatherings in the last eighteen years. Despite the emotional turmoil right beneath the surface, she had decided not to miss this one. So far, no one had dared comment on the wayward Mulder. Scully had called to caution Maggie and she assumed her mother had given out her own warnings to the rest of the family.

"Are you sure you want to come, dear?" Maggie had asked. "You don't need to make an appearance just for me. We saw each other last week--"

Scully had replied--perhaps a bit abruptly This year, Mulder's issues weren't going to take precedent and she made that clear to her mother.

She looked around the table. Bill's oldest daughter, who looked so like Melissa, needed advice which her thrice a week Mass-attending mother would not offer. Charlie's son wanted to tell his father that he planned to drop out of college and travel with a band. And yeah, he probably wouldn't be marrying Charlie's business partner's niece next June either.

At the family table, none of this was discussed. Maggie cut off any conversation which veered into politics, religion, sexual mores of the times, and where Fox Mulder was this year.

Bill finally gave it a try.

“He gotten a job yet?” he asked, as though Mulder was basement-dwelling slacker, still living at home at twenty-five.

Maggie cleared her throat. “I've put in over three hundred daffs this year. I can't wait for the spring to see the display.”

Her son opened his mouth again, and her gaze turned on him like a lighthouse's white beam.

Scully took another sip of wine.

“Do you still do those stem cell experiments?” Tara Scully asked, in a tone as though Scully was Dr. Mengele's handmaiden.

“And tulips,” thundered Maggie. “I've put in at least a hundred of those.”

“Cool, Grandma,” said Charlie's son Eric, before swallowing half a roll in one gulp. He was trying to help. All the children had grown up with these scenes and knew their roles.

Scully's cell phone rang, giving her a merciful exit. She rose from the table, leaving her napkin by her plate. She would return, no matter what was the phone call was about.

Bill whined, “I thought we had a no cell at the table rule.”

“She's a doctor,” hissed their mother as Scully left the dining room.

She knew it wasn't the hospital. She answered, “Scully,” not “Doctor Scully.”

“Nothing yet,” said Skinner. “No hits on his phone's GPS, no credit card use, no passport out of the country--”

“He hasn't left the country.”

“Then you know where he's gone,” said Skinner, sounding slightly peeved. Scully acknowledged this with a hum of appreciation. After all, he was spending yet another holiday chasing after Mulder too.

“I've got a pretty good idea where he is. I'll head out there tomorrow morning.”

No, Scully was not going to rush off into the night. She was going to unwrap the presents under the tree, enjoy her eggnog, and sleep in the bed where she'd spent her teen years. Perhaps there would even still be an old Harlequin romance tucked between the mattress and the box spring to read until three a.m.

She had had a prick of worry when he hadn't returned home by Christmas Eve. His disappearance on the nineteenth, although not unexpected, had hurt more than she'd anticipated. Then she'd gotten angry. Now she was resigned. Like the owner of a dog which runs away every time the gate is left ajar, this time she was accepting that he may already be dead in the street, and there was no need to hurry her search.

She returned to the dining room in time to intervene in a heated discussion about gun control.


The day after Christmas, she rose early, and came downstairs for the traditional breakfast of French toast eaten around the kitchen table, ignoring her mother's gaze darting repeatedly to the clock.

“Don't you want to be getting on the road soon?” Maggie finally said.

“Why? Traffic doesn't start until about three.” Scully took her plate to the sink and rinsed it off before putting it in the dishwasher.

Maggie couldn't contain herself. “I thought perhaps--”

Scully turned to face her mother's worried expression. “You thought what, Mom?”

“Nothing, I guess.” Maggie pushed around an uneaten bite on her plate.

“I'm sorry,” Scully said, forcing herself to smile. “I just wanted you to have a good Christmas.”

“It was lovely. Any time you're here--”

“Exactly.” Scully brought the sponge over to vigorously wipe up a stray drop of syrup.

“But I understand if you and Fox need to get away--”

“Mom, we haven't been going to Aruba all these years,” Scully said, exasperated at her mother's excuses for Mulder's behavior.

“Maybe you should go one of these times,” Maggie said with that deadly honesty she possessed.

Scully plopped down in the chair beside her mother and leaned her forehead on the older woman's shoulder. “Yeah,” was all she could find to say.


When she finally did leave her mother's, Scully took her time driving home, mindful of traffic and poor road conditions. Once she arrived and found a still empty house, she checked the airline schedules and seat availability. Terrible, as expected. She called in one more favor from Skinner and got a government agent's standby seat to Albuquerque with a waiver to carry a weapon, turning down his offer to accompany her. Then she packed a bag and sat in the living room listening to the grandfather clock tick until it was time to leave for the airport.


After securing a rental SUV, Scully drove to Roswell, the setting sun pressing at the back of her head, heavy and hot. She'd called ahead to reserve a room at the Chaves Motel, but didn't ask if a tall, dark-haired man was staying there under one of Mulder's aliases. She preferred to keep guessing. If he wasn't there, it would be she who would commune with the desert spirits for a few days before continuing her search.

The motel was only half-full. Scully showed her expired FBI identification card, holding her thumb over the validity date and asked about any guests matching Mulder's description. There'd been none recently. Ignoring the way her heart lurched, Scully checked into her room and slept with the TV on infomercials, even though Mulder wasn't there to need that particular sleep aide.

Dawn came with a pale pink sky and low fog clinging to the desert sage. Scully downloaded back country maps to her vehicle's GPS and filled her daypack with water bottles, a sunhat despite the freezing temperatures, and her sidearm.

She drove to the remote Anasazi ruins, surprised that she remembered the way ten years later. There was only one other car in the small parking lot. At last, a lead. It was their Ford Taurus, missing with Mulder.

Scully got out and slowly circled the Taurus. The doors were locked but she'd brought the spare set.

Once open, she found a Starbucks cup in the cupholder with an inch of curdled milk sludge at the bottom—a peppermint mocha. She curled her lip at Mulder's secret weakness of the holiday season.

There was a faint but sickening, familiar odor in the interior. She opened the ashtray—a single Morley was stubbed out in the bottom. She quickly checked the rest of the car. A couple of empty water bottles were on the back seat floorboards, one half-filled with urine. She rolled her eyes. A habit he thankfully had not picked up while they were still working cases.

The trunk held half a flat of full water bottles and a small disposable grocery bag of Mulder's dirty clothes. His slide-on moccasins sat beside the water.

Shading her eyes from the strengthening sun, Scully looked around. She doubted that he'd signed into the trailhead's hiking log book, but before striking out, she did, then tugged down her her hat low and slung her pack over her shoulders. A dry river wash served as a trail. The park service had closed the road since the helicopter attack on the ancient dwellings.

The sandstone ruins were stark and ominous against the bold blue sky. She resisted the urge to call out for Mulder. The damage from the missile strikes had not been repaired but numerous signs warned against progressing any further because of the danger from falling rocks. She passed them without another glance. As each piece of shale clattered down while she clamored up the slope, she expected to hear a challenge from above. His weapon had been missing along with the car.

When she reached the entrance to the chamber where the Smoking Man had been found, she settled in a spot of shade and wiped her sweaty forehead and neck with a handkerchief. Gulping down a bottle of water, she waited. She could smell Morley smoke in the usually clean, crisp desert air but heard no sound.

Finally a voice came from the deep shadows within: “What are you doing here, Scully?”

“My mother missed you at Christmas dinner.”

“I wouldn't have been good company.”

“I told her that, but you know how she is.”

The responding chuckle was rusty, as though he hadn't laughed in days.

She got right to the point. “If the world was going to end, Mulder, wouldn't you have wanted me there?” She was surprised at the amount of hurt she heard in her voice.

“The world wasn't going to end.”

“And yet you came here anyway.”

Only silence for a reply this time.

Finally she heard footfall and Mulder came to the entry, blinking in the bright light. He tossed a half-smoked cigarette down and rubbed his stubbled cheek as though just noticing his disheveled state. Perhaps he was.

Scully nodded toward the smoldering cigarette. "Getting into the mind of your suspect, Mulder?"

"No." He leaned against the rock wall. "Summoning his spirit, I guess? While sitting on his eternal grave."

"Why--"

"Because he is my father. You remember saying that to me once?"

Scully swallowed a thousand protests.

"I was so envious of what I heard in your voice."

"Bill Mulder loved you. He was your father. I gave William his name to try and show you that, even if you couldn't see it."

Mulder sighed.

Scully wondered why they always needed to have these sort of discussions in the most uncomfortable places possible. Groaning with pain, she shifted on the rock, working the kinks out of her joints.

"We should go home," Mulder said.

"So you found what you expected?" she asked.

"Of course not." The resignation was familiar but no less irritating.

“Then what the hell are you doing out here, Mulder?”

“Camping.”

“You hate camping.”

“Never too late to start,” he said flippantly.

"Some things are best avoided for a reason," she pointed out. Her tone was sharper still when she said, "But some things you come back to again and again."

“I'm sorry, Scully--”

“Don't ever say those two words to me ever again,” she ground out, fighting to keep from striking at him like an angry child. “I don't appreciate being lied to.”

“I am sorry.”

“Then it's worse than lying. If you couldn't understand why you had to come out here--”

He folded his arms. "So why'd I have to come out here, Doctor Scully?"

"You wanted to believe that the dead speak to us, that they will give us the power to save ourselves, although why you'd want to hear anything that old bastard had to say--"

"We can't choose what our fathers will say. Your father has spoken to you again and again since his death, wouldn't you say? He speaks through you; in your strong beliefs, your tenacity, your honesty and deep love..." Mulder dropped his head. "You hear so clearly, but all my life, it's been nothing but whispers I couldn't make out. Secrets, lies, tangled messes--"

Scully nodded, both understanding and hating what he was saying. She slapped the wall behind her. "So no profound truths came out of this rubble on the twenty-first?"

"Nope. Not a peep." Mulder tossed a rock to the gully below. "Thought he might have some advice, one deadbeat dad to another."

"Mulder, you are not a deadbeat father!"

"Patterns repeat themselves, one generation to the next. It's amazing," he mused.

Scully balled her fists on her knees. "What happened between that man and your mother is nothing like the situation with William."

"More like Samantha and William, true."

She shook her head in frustration. After taking a deep breath, she tried again. "Okay, it's the twenty-six. When the dead didn't speak on Friday and the earth kept rotating, why didn't you come home?"

The breeze ruffled his hair as he peeped at her over his shoulder like a guilty little boy caught with his hand in a cookie jar.

"Mulder, you son of a bitch, you were waiting for me to show up?"

He didn't answer the question directly. “Hey, why don't we get married?”

“You have got to be fucking kidding me,” she said rather unromantically.

“Why not?”

“Why?”

“Maybe that's what he's saying to me. Not the words of wisdom I was expecting to hear, but it's just what came out of my mouth."

"Oh, that's really going to make me agree--hearing the Smoking Man wants it. I blew him off the other time he tried to fix us up--"

Mulder raised his eyebrows comically and Scully humped her back, as reticent as a desert tortoise pulling into her shell.

"Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life, right? I feel pretty happy right now.”

Shocked, Scully gaped up at him. "You're happy...After all this...And nothing?"

"Yep. Nothing happened, Scully."

"You were afraid something would happen," she said slowly. "Even as every shred of scholastic evidence and even common sense told you it would not."

"That's it." His wide grin reassured her. He wasn't just saying this to get out of another fight.

He yanked her back to the present with: “So what'da yah say?”

“Let's not rush into anything here, Mulder,” she said primly.

”Okay, fine.” He perched on the rock beside her like a floppy-haired heron. He peeked at her again, worrying on his shoulder with his teeth. “Wanna fool around?”

Scully peered into the dark chamber where he'd been sleeping. “My days of sex in sleeping bags are long gone. You missed your chance, buddy.”

His grin was bright enough to bring tears to her eyes. He tugged her over to nestle under his arm. Tipping her chin up, he pooched out his lips, but didn't kiss her.

"Well?" she challenged him.

"Haven't brushed my teeth in days."

"I'm tough."

"You are," he said with wonder.

Grabbing a fistful of his worn tee shirt, she twisted the fabric tightly, drawing him close enough to kiss. He made up for his ripe breath with the soft caress of his tongue, his warm exhale tickling her cheek. Even the rasp of his beard felt good. So their life together had been a series of painful partings and emotional reunions...She'd take it in this intense, singular moment.

He buried his face in the crook of her neck. "How about the car?"

She rose with a cracking of her knees, pulling him with her. "The car, Mulder?" She looked him up and down. "Well, with my short little legs, I can manage it, but you--"

He feigned a wince. "Damn, Scully, you never let go of anything--"

"I guess that's why we love each other." She wrapped her arms around his waist. "We're the same under it all."

He kissed the top of her head.

"The bed at the motel is surprisingly comfortable," she announced. She felt his smile against her temple.

Gazing out across the barren desert, she asked, "Are you done here?"

His hand cupping her shoulder tightened. "Yeah," he breathed. "I'm done here."

She squinted up at Mulder. The sun was high in the sky over his head, putting his face in shadow; she couldn't see his expression. But she truly believed him, for the first time.

"Okay. Let's go home," she said and lifted her pack. She glanced at the ruin again. "Did you have anything you need to bring?"

"Not a thing."

She picked up a shard of sandstone. Thin layers of color, signifying thousands, even millions of years, striated the rock. "Just one thing," she said, handing it to Mulder.

His smile softening, he tucked it in her pack. Taking her hand, he led the way down the slope from the blackened rubble.

They paused at the base for water and to catch their breath.

Scully wiped her mouth with the back of her hand. "Okay."

"Okay?"

"Yes."

"Yes? ...Yes," Mulder said carefully.

Scully nodded.

"Can I get you a ring?" he asked next.

Tugging her hat down tighter, she replied, "No." She headed down the dry river wash toward the parking lot.

Matching her stride, Mulder fell into step beside her. "Just thought I'd ask."

"Thanks anyway."

"Anytime, Scully."

"Maybe for the next end of the world," she suggested. "When's that gonna be, Mulder?" Her tone was challenging, but she didn't slow down.

"I have no idea," he said, righteous.

"Bullshit." She snagged a sprig of sage as she passed a bush, bringing it to her nose.

His hand slipped in with hers. "I guess, if you really wanted to know, I could possibly do some research..."


~*End

E/N: I'm sure other [livejournal.com profile] 12daysofxfiles writers had story ideas tied to CSM's prophesy and are cursing me now. But I'm sure yours will be much better! As it was, [livejournal.com profile] branwell2000 had to remind me; I'd blocked out that episode's pointless rambling to concentrate on the pretty of M/S kissing and snuggling. (Yeah, I'm shallow like that.)

Date: 2013-01-02 03:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] amalnahurriyeh.livejournal.com
World's most awkward Christmas dinner! Sigh. Oh, the Scully family.

Mulder's sulking in the ruins seems incredibly apt. I also love that you went the "the world didn't end" route with this. And the sideways marriage proposal. Oh, Mulder.

Date: 2013-01-02 05:28 pm (UTC)
wendelah1: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wendelah1
This is a fine story, with great character insights, well-written, good dialogue. I admit, given the dates, I was hoping for aliens, but in their absence, this worked out fine.

The Scully family dinner party was well-drawn.

“Cool, Grandma,” said Charlie's son Eric, before swallowing half a roll in one gulp. He was trying to help. All the children had grown up with these scenes and knew their roles.

Isn't that the truth? And this line:

“Do you still do those stem cell experiments?” Tara Scully asked, in a tone as though Scully was Dr. Mengele's handmaiden.

Scully wants to just be with her family and not make any waves for her mother's sake but it never quite works out. What a crew.

This little section was sad and insightful.

Every chair was filled at the table, but there were two shadows on either side of Scully, cast long by the cold winter light from the window behind her. No matter how bright the candles, Maggie could see them.

Her mother keeps switching the topic to her garden at the dinner table whenever things get out of hand, but one to one with her daughter, she is blunt, even to my ears hurtful.

“Mom, we haven't been going to Aruba all these years,” Scully said, exasperated at her mother's excuses for Mulder's behavior.

“Maybe you should go one of these times,” Maggie said with that deadly honesty she possessed.


Deadly is right. Although I wanted to hear the answer to Bill's question myself. Has Mulder gotten a job yet? Dr. Scully has her work. He's a little young for retirement.

In the later section, I especially liked watching Scully be an investigator. I liked her way of confronting Mulder's marriage bullshit, too. I guess she is used to him running off without any notice so not much point in arguing about that.

I wonder if he'd be so cool and collected on this topic, or if she would.

"Patterns repeat themselves, one generation to the next. It's amazing," he mused.

Scully balled her fists on her knees. "What happened between that man and your mother is nothing like the situation with William."

"More like Samantha and William, true."


Not a parallel I would have thought of, but I think Mulder is on to something. That, however, would make a whole other story.

Date: 2013-01-02 11:33 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] charlottetrips.livejournal.com
That was sweet yet so them. I might actually take up watching Season 9 and the second movie to truly understand all that is here but I find myself satisfied by what you presented.

Date: 2013-01-03 03:02 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] maybe-amanda.livejournal.com
This is SO THEM! I could see it unfolding frame by frame. Terrific!

Date: 2013-01-03 01:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] namarie24.livejournal.com
Oh, wow. This is wonderful. It's been a while since I've read much XF fic, but this... just lovely and bittersweet and right on target.

Date: 2013-01-03 05:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] zinnia03.livejournal.com
Great story. I liked that "nothing happened" but Mulder had to go there to be sure. And, as usual, ditch Scully.

Thanks for writing it.

Date: 2013-01-03 07:29 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] newo-fic.livejournal.com
I absolutely, positively could see these characters doing this! And it seems fitting that Mulder would seek out and, ultimately, sulk in the ruins. And the fact that even after their 20ish years together, he would still ditch her and she would still come after him, ever the investigator, and figuring out where he would be. And their back and forth in the ruins hits the mark. Great job!

Date: 2013-01-04 09:30 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mack-the-spoon.livejournal.com
Wow, this is terrific! I didn't know that I wanted a 2012-nothing-happens fic like this until I read it, but it was perfect. Thanks for writing this!

Date: 2013-01-04 05:41 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] szgrey.livejournal.com
Oh, how lovely. I think what I like most about this story is that is shows so wonderfully how well they know each other (Mulder and Scully primarily, but also Scully's family- that dinner scene had me wincing in sympathy, but also really enjoying the dynamics of familiarity among relatives). But I think the marriage conversation is the best example- M&S communicating without needing to clarify their meaning, casual conversation and banter, no overwrought romanticism, just a very real picture of two people who know each other as well as two people can and are comfortable together. The moment when Scully goes back to the earlier thread of conversation with that "Okay" is a lovely understated expression of intimacy.

And Mulder's relief at the world not ending rings very true to me. I love that moment.

Date: 2013-01-05 06:41 pm (UTC)
ext_20988: (Default)
From: [identity profile] memories-child.livejournal.com
Oh, Scully family dinner! It wouldn't be Christmas without awkward questions from Bill would it. I love that Mulder spent the end-of-the world hiding out in the ruins and Scully had to go find him though. I really enjoyed this.

Date: 2013-01-05 11:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mogster495.livejournal.com
It almost makes me sad that nothing happend. I like this story, it seems real to the series. Of corse the end-of-the-world would be a letdown. If it actually happned when it was supposed to, it wouldn't be an XFile
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