Subcategory: AU, MSR
Summary: Who better to convince his son of Santa Claus than the guy who used to chase aliens for a living?
Author’s Note: Pure holiday fluff. Let’s pretend everything after Existence never happened, k? K.
“Mom! Daaaad! Wake up!”
Mulder sits bolt upright, awakened by his son’s frantic yelling and a loud knock at the bedroom door. “What! What is it?”
“Wake up! It’s Christmas!”
“Mmmmph,” Scully mumbles from her side of the bed. “S’too early.”
Mulder looks at the clock; the red digits flash 4:26. It is, indeed, too early, but five-year-old William doesn’t seem to know it, and if he does, he doesn’t care.
There’s another knock, louder and more insistent.
“C’mon, Dad! I wanna see if Santa came!”
“I blame a genetic aversion to sleep,” Scully grumbles.
“You always do,” Mulder says, leaning over to kiss her cheek. “I’ll get him.”
“He’s all yours,” she yawns, turning over and pulling the covers over her head, ending the conversation just as the bedroom door swings open.
“I’m up! I’m up,” Mulder grumbles, squinting into the too-bright lights in the hall. Will is silhouetted in the doorway in footed pajamas, hopping from one foot to the other like an agitated squirrel. He’s heading for the stairs before Mulder can throw on a t-shirt.
“Hold up, kid! Let your old man get dressed.”
He follows his son downstairs, expecting to find him in front of the tree, but instead, Will is shrugging on his winter coat and tugging on his boots.
“Hey, where are you—”
Before he can finish, Will has thrown open the door and run outside. Alarmed, Mulder jogs after him.
“Will! What are you doing?”
The boy walks an erratic path around the front yard, waving a flashlight and examining the ground. “Looking for tracks!”
“Tracks?” In a half-asleep daze, Mulder’s mind goes to crop circles, to train cars and medical specimens.
The boy’s shoulders sag. “The reindeer. The sleigh. If they were real, they’d leave tracks. But I don’t see any…”
“Ohhhh. Tracks, right,” Mulder says, thinking fast. “Um, I think it snowed last night. That probably covered everything up.”
Will turns in a circle, looking critically at the ground. “The weather report on TV said no snow.”
Mulder winces, rubbing at his bare forearms in the frigid air. “Maybe Santa upgraded to a hovercraft?”
The boy shoots him a look that would make Scully proud. “Hovercrafts are noisy, it’d wake us up. I saw it on the Discovery channel.”
“I think your mother and I need to talk about age-appropriate television,” Mulder mutters under his breath.
“Uh, nothing,” Mulder says, wracking his brain. “This is Santa we’re talking about. He’s magic. He can make reindeer fly.”
Will rolls his eyes. “So can planes, but that doesn’t make them hover,” he says, then pauses, brow knit together in thought. “Dad, can we get on the roof?”
“The roof? Why do you—ohhhh. No. No.”
“But what if he landed up there? We’d never see it…do we have a ladder?” Will eyes the garage hungrily, but Mulder holds up a hand.
“As much as I admire your budding investigative skills, we’re not scaling the house at 4 AM. And your mother would kill me,” he adds.
“But Dad,” Will pouts. “I need to see if there are tracks up there!”
“Can we talk about this inside? I can see my breath out here.”
“I’ll make cocoa,” Mulder offers.
Will appears to consider this. “With marshmallows?”
“As many as you can eat,” Mulder agrees, forgoing any last hope of returning to bed. “Just come back inside?”
“OK,” Will sighs. “But can we get the ladder out after?”
“We’ll talk about it,” Mulder says, holding out his hand. They walk into the house together, with Will looking far more dejected than any kid should on Christmas morning.
Mulder prepares the cocoa on the stove, heating milk in a saucepan before adding cocoa powder and sugar and stirring everything together. Will sits at the table to wait, chin resting on his hands. Mulder watches his son out of the corner of his eye as he works; with his long frame and soulful blue eyes, he looks much older than his five years.
Acts it, too, Mulder thinks with a mix of pride and trepidation. Only his and Scully’s son would ignore a perfectly good pile of presents in favor of tracking a mystical elf and his flying reindeer.
When the cocoa mixture is hot, Mulder pours it into two mugs and sets them on the table with a bag of jumbo marshmallows in between. He takes the seat across from Will and grabs a marshmallow for himself, dropping it in his cup.
“So, what’s on your mind?”
The boy takes a deep breath, the words tumbling from his lips in a rush. “Ethan from school said that Santa Claus isn’t real, and I told him he is real, because I know he is; he brought me the X-wing Starfighter set I asked for last year that you and Mom wouldn’t buy for me because you said I was too little, but Santa brought it because he knows I’m a big kid, but stupid Ethan still didn’t believe me so I thought if I got proof I could take a picture of the reindeer tracks and show him—”
Mulder shakes his head. “Whoa, slow down. Drink your chocolate.”
Will does, taking a sip before looking at his father expectantly.
“Why do you care what this Ethan kid thinks, anyway?”
“Because he’s wrong and I’m right,” Will says, with such intensity that Mulder has to bite his lip to hide a smile.
“Yeah, I know that feeling. But people are wrong a lot. That’s not something you can always change, Will.”
“But I know Santa is real!”
Mulder squishes a marshmallow between his fingers before popping it in his mouth, watching as his son does the same.
“And I wanted to see the hoof prints,” Will says, his voice smaller now, less self-assured. “So I’d be sure…totally sure.”
“If you’re worried about whether Santa is real…we could talk about that.”
“I’m not worried!” Will insists, poking at his hot cocoa with one finger, stirring the melted marshmallow goo on top. “Ethan is just stupid.”
“Hey, be nice. Besides, Santa ate the cookies you set out for him, didn’t he?” he asks, gesturing to the empty plate on the counter. “And there are presents under the tree that weren’t there when you went to bed last night.”
“But that’s not empirical proof,” Will says.
Mulder blinks. “Empirical proof.”
“Mom said that’s when something is true because you can see it and record it for yourself.”
“Uh, right,” he says. “Well, one of the things I learned when I worked at the FBI is that sometimes the proof you need isn’t what you expect it to be.”
“So you’re saying…maybe the tracks aren’t good enough?” Will asks.
“Right. It sounds like you need hard evidence. Something you can see for yourself.”
Will’s face lights up. “Oh! We could set up the video camera!”
Mulder coughs into his mug, realizing his mistake. “Santa doesn’t, uh, show up on video.”
“He’s, uh…too small.”
“He’s big in all the books,” Will says, narrowing his eyes.
“Oh, right, he is, he just, uh—he’s…magic,” Mulder tries, cringing inwardly. “He’s like a ghost, cameras don’t work.”
Will looks incredulous. “But you said you can take pictures of ghosts!”
“I did, but it’s only some ghosts, and only some of the time, and that’s…we’re not talking about ghosts, we’re talking about Santa,” he says.
“This is confusing,” Will groans.
“You’re telling me,” Mulder mutters, pinching the bridge of his nose. “Look—I don’t know exactly how the guy operates, buddy. Short of the presents and the cookies, I don’t know how to prove it to you, let alone Ethan. It’s a real crisis of faith,” he sighs.
“Oh, a crisis of faith means…well, you know what faith is, right?”
The boy frowns. “That’s like when mom goes to church.”
“Religion is one type of faith. But faith takes many forms. Like faith in Santa Claus, for instance.”
Will’s brow furrows. “I don’t get it.”
“Umm…” Mulder stalls. Scully is going to owe him big time if he makes it through this conversation. Suddenly, he has an idea.
“Alright, listen. You can’t see the wind, right? So how do you know it’s real?”
“Uh…the trees move…and it makes noise and stuff.”
“Exactly. You see the trees move, but you can’t see the wind. You can’t take a picture of the wind, or hold it in your hand, but you know it’s real. That’s kinda what faith is—you may not be able to see it, but you know it’s there.”
“But what does that have to do with Santa?”
“You may not be able to see Santa, but you can see the effect he has on people. He makes them happy, he brings them joy, he embodies the spirit of giving within us. That’s how you know he’s real.”
Will’s shoulders sag. “Ethan won’t believe that.”
“That’s the thing about faith, Will. It’s for you. It’s not for Ethan. It’s not even for me, or your mom. Your faith is yours.”
“Oh,” Will sighs.
There’s a long pause, and Mulder leans forward, looking at his son’s face as he considers the problem at hand. “Do you think Santa is real, Will?”
Will looks up and nods emphatically.
“There’s your answer,” Mulder smiles.
“I guess…” Will picks up a marshmallow, squishing it between his fingers. Concern lingers in the corners of his eyes. “Dad? Do you believe in Santa?”
Mulder chuckles. “Your mom would say there are very few things I don’t believe.”
Will wrinkles his nose. “Does that mean yes?”
“Yeah,” Mulder says. “Yeah, I believe.”
This seems to satisfy him, and Will smiles for the first time that morning. “Me, too. I don’t care what Ethan says.”
“That’s probably a good plan. Hey, why don’t you see if you can get your mom out of bed?” Mulder says, breathing a quiet sigh of relief. “Those presents aren’t going to open themselves.”
“Yeah!” Will clamors out of his seat.
“Wake her nicely,” Mulder clarifies, but his son is already racing up the stairs.
“Mo-o-o-m! Dad said to wake up! It’s Christmas!”
“I said ‘nicely,'” Mulder whispers to himself as Will’s voice echoes through the house. He can hear Scully’s groan of protest and grins, sitting back in his seat.
A child’s faith may be fleeting, but for the time being, Mulder thinks, all is calm, and all is bright.
Which gives him 364 days to figure out how to get hoof prints on the roof.