Christmas Countdown: December 10
It wasn't uncommon for Fox to get home at a different time of day than Walter. While they were both FBI, they were in different positions and had different responsibilities. At the holiday time of year, however, Walter tended to try and minimize the time Mulder was home alone and for good reason.
Fox Mulder was a man who could not abide a mystery and that included figuring out what his Christmas presents were.
Rubbing his hands with glee, Fox looked at the clock and figured he had a good hour before Walter arrived. He immediately stripped off his suit coat and tie so that he could get down to business.
Under the bed and in the linen closet were obvious choices, but Mulder tried them first anyway. Walter had his quirks, including their relationship, but for the most part Skinner was a pretty traditional guy. As expected, looking there got him nothing but a couple of sneezes and a runny nose, but Fox was not deterred.
He did a toss of first floor of the house, but after 45 minutes, still didn't have anything. Fox was hampered by the need to put everything back the way he found it. Walter was used to living with someone who wasn't as neat as he was, but he'd notice a systemic search of the house if Mulder wasn't careful. Being caught wasn't part of the game, so Fox took extra care to hide what he'd done.
Fox looked in boxes and dug through drawers. He even went in the kitchen, figuring that Walter might consider it a safe place since it was a room in the house that Fox didn't use much. He pulled out every pot and pan to make sure that nothing had been stashed away, but nothing. He checked the garage out thoroughly too, making sure that Walter hadn't hidden something away among the power tools that he loved so dearly. He found a nest of baby shrews, which he carefully replaced, but nothing that looked even remotely like a Christmas present.
Eventually, Fox's search took him to the second floor of the house. It received the same attention to detail as the rest of the home, but Fox still couldn't find Walter's Christmas gift hideaway. Reluctantly, Fox considered the possibility that Walter may have enlisted Dana's help and had her take Fox's gift to her place. If he did, that was totally unfair. An effective strategy, but not at all sportsman-like.
Straightening his tired back, Fox spotted the door in the ceiling of the hallway that the stairs to the attic were pulled down from. Fox had to stretch to reach the handle to pull it, but he was tall enough that he didn't need to get a chair to stand on. The stairs weren't used often, so he had to give it a good yank to get it to descend.
The stairs came down well enough, but so did a cloud of confetti and a Santa piņata. To add insult to injury, there was a note pinned to the piņata that read: `Give up while you're ahead, Fox.' Fox glared at the confetti as it slowly drifted to the floor, blowing air through his lips until a piece that stuck on his bangs fell off.
The sound of applause caused him to whirl around. Walter was standing, watching, with a smug smile on his face. "Well done, Mulder."
Fox's eyes narrowed. "You know this means war, right?"
"I could just retrieve your gift from its hiding place and hand it to you," Walter suggested, then laughed at the disgruntled expression on Mulder's face. "Letting you look for it is part of the present."
"I still have a few more days," Fox pointed out. "I'll find it."
Once the tree was up and the gift went under it, Fox had lost. Even he drew the line at unwrapping the present and then re-wrapping it, although shaking the box was something he allowed himself.
Walter hugged him. "We'll see. In the meantime, you're going to clean this mess up."
"Me?" Fox gave Walter his best wide-eyed look. "You're the one who rigged it like that. That's a clear case of entrapment."
"Yes, but you sprung the trap," Walter retorted. "I tell you what, I'll help you."
Fox sighed as Walter let him go and stooped to start the clean- up. "You just want to get me on my knees."
Walter laughed out loud, something that was rare for him. "If I wanted you on your knees, Fox, there's easier ways to accomplish that."
"Is that so?" Fox felt himself start to grin in response. "Like what?"
Walter showed him instead of just telling him, which was just fine with Fox, but both men found to their dismay that confetti could find its way into the most embarrassing of places.
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