Archivist note: This is a piece that mentions Krycek in passing. Normally I wouldn't archive a non-Krycek story, but I'm keeping all the stories together at Isahunter's request so there will be continuity to the series. Even without Krycek, it is well worth reading. - Ratlover

TITLE: "Morning Glory V: Blue Christmas" (1/1)
AUTHOR: Isahunter
RATING: PG
CATEGORY: V, WIP, Krycek/Other (No slash)
SPOILERS: Up to "One Son," S6
ARCHIVE: Yes, of course
FEEDBACK: Isahunter@aol.com
DISCLAIMER: Although the other characters are of my own creation, all characters from "The
X-Files" are property of CC, 1013, and FOX. No infringement intended.
SUMMARY: What happens when you get everything you want for Christmas?
NOTES: A continuation of my series, "Morning Glory," which can be found
here--http://www.angelfire.com/ak3/expositions.html

For my mother, my biggest fan, who brings me ham and cheese
sandwiches so I don't have to stop writing. I love you, Mom!
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Savor and taste each moment in life--for it soon shall be a memory.
--Shana Wiersum

With her feet covered in two pairs of thick socks, Sabryn sat on the couch trying to look cheerful
as she threaded more popcorn on her string. Standing a mere five feet tall, their Christmas tree
wasn't nearly as grand as what she was used to, but it served its purpose--both her niece and
nephew were grinning more than they had all year. The tree was completely decorated in ribbons
and bows, lit by tiny white battery-powered lights. Yet instead of the glorious angel that normally
topped the Pruitt Christmas tree, there was only a hastily made star. Made by the kids' own
hands, it was still special--but it only served to remind her just how unusual the day would be.

After three days in their new "home," Christmas Eve had finally arrived. Busily preparing for the
coming days, she hadn't even noticed the date until it was already upon them. Keeping their tasks
secret from the children was a chore on its own...but making the holiday special for them was
wearing her sanity thin. The wood shed housed weapons recently purchased from the gun shop.
Fire extinguishers were ready for use, and all of the guns had been loaded. The shed's door was
locked for safety, but the threat was never far from her mind. She'd even been practicing her shot
with Walter and John, far from the house, under the pretense of possibly going hunting later in
the season. What they'd be hunting, even she didn't want to know about.

She glanced up at Walter as he walked in the door, carrying an armload of fire wood. Droplets of
melted snow glistened on his coat, like tiny stars. He met her gaze and barely smiled. Ever since
that night, that kiss, things hadn't been the same. There was an underlying tension whenever they
shared the same space. She knew he wasn't angry at her, but he barely spoke to her all the same.

Poking her needle through another kernel of popcorn, she paused to slap her brother's hand as he
tried to steal some of the decoration from the bowl.

"Ow. Jeez, you could share."

"Why don't you go find something productive to do if you're so bored?"

"Who says I'm bored?"

"You haven't sat still all day."

"I just don't get why we're all sitting in here staring at each other when there's two feet of snow
out there to play in."

"Yeah, Dad," Jolie piped in, "can we go outside?"

"I don't see why not."

"Because it's freezing out there," Caroline called out from the kitchen, where she was busy
making spiced cider.

"It's not freezing if you're moving."

Sabryn shook her head. "Johnny, we already built a snowman. What more do you want? I'm not
helping you build some ridiculous fort so you can pummel me with snowballs like you did as a
kid."

He had the gall to look shocked, making his kids giggle. "I did no such thing."

She rolled her eyes, before glancing at Walter. "Not only did he do that, but he used to melt them
with his hands and turn them into ice so they were super hard when they struck. I'm lucky he
didn't knock me unconscious."

For once, Walter actually grinned and shook his head at her. "I'm sure you got plenty of
sympathy from your parents."

When no one answered him, his smile faltered.

Before he could say anything more, Johnny quickly changed the subject. "How about a game of
football, with that Nerf ball you got at the store?"

Sabryn glanced around the room. "Doesn't seem quite fair to me."

"Why not? You know Carly won't play, and Chris is too young...so that leaves you, me, Jolie,
and Walter. Sounds pretty fair."

"No, it doesn't! Jolie can actually play, unlike me."

John grinned. "That's why she's on my team."

~~~~~~~~~~

"Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God..."

Shivering, her hands raised, squinting as the pink and yellow football sailed through the air,
Sabryn prayed she'd actually catch it this time. The score was still zero to zero, but they'd been at
this for hours it seemed and dinner would be ready soon enough. Still, she hadn't had so much
fun in weeks.

She caught a glimpse of John rushing towards her, kicking up snow in his wake, just as the ball
neared.

"Jump!" Walter shouted.

Shrieking, she launched herself into the air and felt the ball slide through her fingertips. She seized
it tight before it could slip away. And when her feet hit the ground, she was still holding the ball.

"Oh shit!"

John was bearing down on her, with Jolie in fast pursuit, and she could barely feel her legs to run.

Shitshitshitshitshit! She spun around and took off towards the marked goal line, running as fast as
she could through knee-deep snow. It was like running under water. John was barely three steps
behind her, her niece was giggling breathlessly, and Walter was shouting enthusiastically for her
to keep running. And just as she thought she was actually going to make it, she was hit from
behind and thrown into the blanket of unblemished snow.

Sputtering, her face numb from the cold, she couldn't stop the laughter that bubbled out as John
got to his feet. She was covered head to toe in snow, and some had even gone up her nose, but
she didn't care. For once, all week, she wasn't terrified of the days ahead. She didn't give a damn
about anything but getting that touchdown.

Grinning, Walter extended his hand to pull her to her feet. "Nice run. I think that was about thirty
yards."

Blowing hot air on her fingernails, she polished them against her coat and coaxed a laugh out of
him. "All in a day's work, Walter, my dear."

He didn't look away. He didn't even blink. The smile on his face didn't waver. And she suddenly
shivered. Breaking the stare before he did, she walked back to where Jolie and her brother were
standing and got ready for the next play. Praying that Walter wasn't staring at her ass as she
hiked him the ball.

Caroline called out that dinner was ready just as Sabryn began to run for Walter's pass. He threw
hard, the ball spiraling through the air, and she ran, only to have the pass fall incomplete. Two
more plays later, she was getting discouraged. John stuck his tongue out at her as she bent to
hike the ball and she glared at him. Tossing the ball back between her legs, she took off running.
Dodging past her niece, intent on getting the points. She glanced over her shoulder to see John
ram into Walter just as he tossed the ball. It wobbled through the air, off-kilter, and she darted to
the left to get in its path. Jolie grabbed at her coat, trying to yank her down as the ball rippled
towards her fingers. She squeezed hard, barely grasping the foam ball by the tip, and started to
fall. Reaching, stretching her body, slamming into the snow just inches past the marked end zone.

"No way!" John moaned, making his wife and son shout with laughter.

Jolie climbed to her feet but Sabryn could only lay there, staring at the ground in amazement.
She'd passed the line of pine branches. She'd actually scored. And she couldn't let go of the ball
to save her life.

Chuckling, Walter bent over her and met her gaze. "I think we won."

She nodded, eyes still wide with shock.

"You can let go of the ball now."

Loosening her grip one finger at a time, she let the ball drop as he pulled her to her feet. He held
his hand up, as he had on some of the previous successful passes, and she gave him a weak
high-five. Bending over to catch her breath, she felt the icy air ripping at her lungs.

"Looks like they're ready for dinner. You coming in?"

"Yeah," she said, breathlessly. "In a minute."

He didn't make a move towards the door. Picking up the ball, he squeezed it between his hands
for moment in silence.

"Look, about the other night--I know I said I wouldn't mention it, but--"

"You don't have to apologize."

"I wasn't going to."

She stood up straight and stared at him.

"I just wanted you to know that I wasn't sorry it happened. Only I should have waited, until I
knew for sure what you were thinking."

She let out a humorless laugh. "You would have been waiting forever. Even I'm not sure what I
was thinking."

"Are you regretting it? I mean--I am old enough to be your father."

"It wouldn't have mattered if you were eighty...although it probably wouldn't have been as
pleasant."

He smirked slightly. "Then what's the problem?"

"I--I told you Alex and I are just friends. But that's not entirely true. Well, it is, but--I guess I
have feelings for him."

"You love him?"

She wasn't imagining the disbelief and frustration in his voice.

"I told Johnny I did, but that was mainly to hurt him for what he did to me. The truth is, I don't
know what I'm feeling. This whole--" She waved her hand between them. "This whole man and
woman 'relationship' thing is completely foreign to me. The only man I've ever truly loved is my
brother, and that's hardly the same thing."

"But there's a chance that you love Krycek."

She sucked in a deep breath. "I guess so. But there's also a chance that I was lonely and latched
on to the first man to come along."

"So...what you're saying is that I should back off and give you some time."

"Time, yes. But I'm not asking you to back off. I like having you as my friend, Walter."

He watched her for a moment, silent, before offering her his arm to lead her back to the cabin. "I
imagine they're probably wondering what we're doing out here."

She had to grin. "Knowing the way my brother feels about Alex, I'm sure he'd let us stay out
here all night."

He was just about to reach for the door when she stopped him.

"Do you really think he'll come here?"

"Krycek? I don't know. But there's a good chance."

"I hate what he did to you, Walter. And I don't think I'll ever understand it."

"I think it's pointless to try."

She could feel her lip quivering. Before she could rationalize the impulse away, she stepped up
onto the stair before him and cupped his face in her hands. Meeting his warm gaze for a second
before touching her lips to his. With no hesitation. No regret. Melting her mouth against his like
warm syrup.

He didn't move, didn't dare touch her for the longest time...surely expecting her to dart away like
a nervous doe. But when his hands came up to grasp her waist, she did just the opposite. And
when she felt his tongue against her lips, she didn't pause for a moment before blossoming to his
touch. A brief but intimate taste of his mouth, swirling her tongue against his, before he pulled
away and licked his lips.

Scratching the back of his neck, he smiled almost shyly. "I think we should go inside before
someone comes looking for us."

She nodded, fighting the blush in her cheeks, allowing him to open the door for her. It was a big
enough step for now, and she didn't need to linger.

Still, she couldn't help but wonder if it had been a promise of things to come, or a selfish rebellion
against the first man to make her heart race in such a way.

~~~~~~~~~~

Oddly, she woke to Christmas morning with the same enthusiasm she'd had as a child. Dressing
as fast as she could, too excited to bother with heating the buckets of water she'd need for a bath,
Sabryn climbed down the ladder just in time to see Jolie and Chris dragging out every package
with their name on it. She grinned and flopped down on the couch, opening the candy cane she'd
snagged as she passed the tree.

Grumbling, John and Carly staggered out of the bedroom still in their pajamas, groaning as they
looked at the clock on the mantle. Sabryn had to laugh. Six in the morning. That was an hour
more sleep than they'd gotten at this time last year.

"Merry Christmas!" she said, cheerfully, earning two sour frowns.

"Mmmph."

"Merry Christmas," came a voice from the door.

Sabryn turned to see Walter already dressed, heading into the house with an armload full of
presents.

"Where have you been? Don't tell me you found a store open on Christmas?"

"No. These have been in my hiding place. You didn't think I'd keep them in the house, did you?"

"I didn't expect you to get us anything at all," she said, softly.

Handing her the small package at the top of the stack, he smiled. Something she was becoming
gladly accustomed to from his face. "Now what fun would Christmas be without presents?"

Passing out the rest of his stack, he sat down next to her and met her amazed stare.

"You barely knew any of us a week ago."

"What can I say? I'm a nice guy."

"I guess so."

Jolie started passing out presents, directing Chris to do the same by reading the names for him.
When the little boy padded over to Walter and handed him a wrapped box, the Assistant Director
looked shocked. He read the tag on the package and raised his eyebrow at Sabryn.

"What fun would Christmas be without presents?"

"When did you have time to do this? You'd already bought all of your presents before we left
Virginia."

"Not all of them. I did a little shopping while you were--" she lowered her voice to keep the kids
from hearing, "while you were in the gun shop."

"I see."

"Unfortunately, I didn't have much money left, so I hope you're not too disappointed."

"It's perfect."

"You haven't opened it."

"I don't have to. I already know it's perfect."

Sabryn glanced at her brother and sister-in-law, to see them watching her and Walter. Suddenly,
she could feel everything from her neck up turning red. She felt like dragging that smug grin off
Johnny's face.

Drawing the attention away, Caroline asked, "Who's going to start?"

"The kids. They have more presents to open."

It started off innocently enough, but before long everyone was tearing open their packages with
characteristic holiday frenzy. Wrapping paper littered the floor, thanks echoed in the open space,
and laughter was abundant. If not for the change in location, it would have been just like any
other Christmas.

But it wasn't.

She felt a bit of sadness as she opened her family's gift and saw the complete cedar case of
acrylic paints and brushes, colored charcoal and pastels, with an accompanying sketch book.
Glancing up at John and Carly, she blinked away the moisture in her eyes.

"Thank you, so much."

"You're welcome, Bryn."

Clearing her throat, she stood up hastily and headed for the kitchen, calling over her shoulder that
she was getting some cider if anyone wanted some.

Yet the minute she was out of sight and ear shot, she sagged against the wall and squeezed her
eyes shut. Damn it. Her chin wobbled with the effort it took to hold back the sobs. Even with the
indifference they'd dealt her in past, she missed her parents desperately. Missed the sacred beauty
of Christmases past, when the only worry had been whether there was enough eggnog to go
around. Wiping away the only hot tear to escape, she started at the sound of Walter's voice so
close to her.

"You forgot to open this."

Her happy expression back in place, she met his gaze and sniffled. "Silly me."

Taking the box from him, she started to rip the paper off.

"You know, you don't have to be happy all the time. They're going to find out what's going on
sooner or later."

"No. I want this day to be special for the kids. They deserve that much."

He tilted her chin up. "And what do you deserve?"

"This," she said, holding up the box.

"So open it."

She pulled off the last bit of paper to reveal a cellophane-wrapped cassette tape. Turning it over to
the front, she read the title.

"Learn To Sing Like A Pro: In Five Easy Lessons." Looking up at his wide grin, she smacked his
shoulder and started giggling. "You're evil!"

"But I made you laugh."

"Yeah."

Walking over to the cabinet next to the oven, he opened it and reached into the far back. Past all
of the cast iron cookware. Pulling out a long yellow box.

"This is your real present."

"Chocolates! You're a genius. Thank you."

"You're welcome. And thank you for the gloves."

She wrinkled her nose. "They aren't too dorky, I hope?"

"Dorky? No." He pulled one of the black Gore-Tex gloves on to demonstrate. "They're very
warm, and not too puffy. Just the right size to pull a trigger on a gun."

"That isn't quite what I had in mind when I bought them, but I'm glad they're useful."

Nodding, he gestured to the door. "What do you say we go back out there and watch the kids
open their presents. I want to see their faces when they open mine."

"That sounds suspicious."

"Oh, come on, they'll love it."

~~~~~~~~~~

Exhausted after hours of trudging up and down a hill, pulling the sled Walter had bought the kids
for Christmas, Sabryn still couldn't manage to fall asleep that night.

She lay there staring at the wooden beams of the ceiling, a soft little smile on her face. She could
still hear her niece's shriek of excitement when they'd open that last huge box. The kids had
immediately rushed over to hug and thank their 'Uncle Walter'...a nickname that she'd noticed
her brother did nothing to discourage. And despite her obvious dismay, Walter seemed to like the
name so it stuck.

They'd taken turns sliding down the hill at the back of the property, careening around corners on
one runner, managing to stay upright by luck alone. Her sides hurt from laughing and climbing
the snow-layered hill. Even Caroline, who was deathly afraid of any ride that didn't have seat
belts, had taken her turn on the sled. But it wasn't until the end of the evening, when Walter
challenged Sabryn to make one more trip up the hill, riding down on the sled in front of him, that
she'd truly gotten nervous. Together they barely fit on the small wooden sled, and she'd expected
it to collapse at any moment...but the intimacy and warmth of sitting between his legs was what
had really done her in. Clutching his thigh every time they rounded a corner, leaning back against
his chest down the steepest slope, feeling his legs tighten around her with the excuse of
maintaining his balance. She hadn't been able to breathe the entire ride.

Restless in her bed, with Jolie sleeping soundly next to her, Sabryn stared at the ladder to the
living room. Watching the fire light flicker shadows over the rungs, seducing her like a beckoning
finger to come closer. She hadn't kissed him again since Christmas Eve. Somehow, it didn't seem
appropriate with her family so close. Still, she'd been tempted. More than once.

Ready to close her eyes and resist the urge to scurry down the ladder for one last kiss, her
attention was suddenly seized by the sweep of lights outside a window below. Her heart skipped
a beat. Silently wondering if the aliens had chosen to come early. Scared it might be armed
military forces coming to escort them to an organized meeting place.

Most of all, she feared exactly what, in her heart, she knew to be true.

Alex had arrived.

END.
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
Happy Holidays everyone! Don't drink and drive.