Welcome To The Harem

A Lucky Christmas by Kristen K2
Summary: Monica trusts her instincts and changes several lives. Secret Santa fic.

Mariann wanted me to share her Secret Santa gift from me with all of you. :)

TITLE: A Lucky Christmas

AUTHOR: Kristen K2

EMAIL: k2_fanfic@yahoo.com

SUMMARY: Monica trusts her instincts and changes several lives.

SPOILERS: Set the Christmas after The Truth.

KEYWORDS: Beta-free, fluff-like AU. DEDICATION: For Mariann's Harem Secret
Santa Gift. She listed her Favorite Other Woman as Cassandra, her favorite
pairing as Doggett/Reyes, and hurt/comfort as her guilty pleasure genre. I
think I got it all but the "hurt". :) Merry Christmas, Mariann!

A Lucky Christmas

Monica tapped her fingers on the manila folders fanned across her desk.
Something was unfinished here, but after three hours of re-reading data she
already knew by heart, she still couldn't figure out what loose end needed
to be tied.

A glance at the names listed on her legal pad did nothing to dissuade her
unease. While she didn't have concrete information on Mulder's and Dana's
whereabouts, some unexplainable feeling inside told her that wasn't was
drawing her back to these files again. She trusted her inner voice, and she
hadn't been proven wrong to do so yet. Even John had begun to rely on it as
a guiding influence in solving their cases, before he had been promoted out
of the X Files department.

So. The problem wasn't Mulder and Dana; they hadn't been seen since Mulder's
prison breakout back in May, but Monica knew they were okay, where ever they
were. Marita Covarrubias was also among those missing since Mulder's trial,
but if it was her who was behind the itching feeling of unfinished business,
Monica wasn't about to launch a search party to find her. She suspected it
had been the former insider who had been their anonymous tipster, the one
who sent all those files crammed with hard evidence, names, and corrupt
government agencies. Files that she, John, Skinner, and Kersh had used to
break up the conspiracy. There wasn't anyone else who could have had access
to that information, and from the blonde woman's reticent, almost hostile
demeanor at the trial, Monica understood she did not want to be discovered
or thanked.

She looked at the rest of the names on her list. Jeffrey Spender had been in
and out of hospitals for the last six months, and according to her last
conversation with Kim, had recently been released into an FBI safe house.
Gibson was at a nearby boarding school, and was scheduled to stay with John
over Christmas break next week. Kersh had taken an early retirement at the
beginning of December, and coffee-room scuttlebutt claimed that Skinner was
soon to be promoted to his empty office. The Lone Gunmen were still dead,
and she'd exchanged emails with Jimmy earlier in the fall. He and Yves were
surviving, although still in grief. Finally, according to Dana's mother,
William was still with his adoptive parents in Wyoming; Maggie had somehow
been able to locate them, and they had been gracious and kind-hearted enough
to let her visit on occasion and send letters and gifts. She was flying out
there next week to see her grandson over the holiday.

And that was everyone, relatively safe and accounted for. So what was
nagging at her so much?

"Here you are," a familiar voice drawled from the doorway. She looked up to
see John leaning against the frame, a cup of eggnog in his hand. "Hiding
down here instead of making merry at the Christmas party? That's unlike you,

She grinned at him, gladly dropping her pen onto the legal pad as she stood
up to greet him. "Lost track of time," she fibbed. She hadn't been planning
on attending the party at all. "I thought you were out of town on a case?"

"We found him this morning. Alive and unharmed." The relief and pride in his
voice was unmistakable, and not for the first time, Monica acknowledged he
was far better suited for the Missing Persons unit than for hers. The X
Files had been a sidetrack in his career, and he never quite got the
satisfaction of solving their unusual cases like she did. But finding lost
or kidnapped children was John's way of honoring and grieving for Luke; his
determination not to give up on those poor victims was the best elixir, both
for his own wounded soul and that of the panicked parents.

"Hell of a Christmas present for everyone," she said quietly.

"Sure is," he said with a tired smile. He nodded toward her desk. "What are
you working on?"

She hesitated. "Nothing, really."

"That's a pretty big pile of nothing," he quipped, pointing to the mess on
her desk as he walked closer to it.

"You know, I don't miss your weak attempts at humor," she deflected.

Blue eyes regarded her fondly. "Yes, you do."

Standing so close to him in the middle of her office, she inwardly conceded
there was a lot she missed about working with John. Not as much in regards
to the work; she simply missed him. His easy smile, his lean body cramped up
next to hers in the car on stakeouts, his smell.

But this wasn't the time nor the place to do anything about that. This was
her office, they were still co-workers if no longer partners, and she
wouldn't make the same mistakes she did with Brad.

"Okay, I do," she said in a bright tone, stepping back to the safety of
behind her desk. "So let me ask you, ex-partner of mine: is there anyone
that we left behind?"

"Left behind how? And from where?"

"From the conspiracy," she explained. "I've been having this weird feeling
lately, like there's someone we forgot about. Someone who's still..." she
grappled for the right word, "...not free."

"Well, all the bastards serving prison time might want their freedom," he
said, watching her carefully as he sat his cup on the far corner of her
desk. "But that's not who you meant, is it?"

"No. I mean someone who got caught in that web, and doesn't know it's over.
Or can't get themselves free from where ever they are. Somebody who was used
by those monsters."

"A lot of people were victims of the conspiracy," he reminded her. "We
contacted everyone we could. The MUFON groups, the innocent patients of the
fertilization doctors, the families of the destroyed super soldiers...I
think we were able to find them all."

She looked down at the folders on her desk. "What if we weren't? What if we
really did miss someone?"

It was quiet in the office as they both considered the possibility.

John stepped toward her, taking her elbow in his confident grip. "I don't
think we did. At least not anyone we know about."


"Listen, Monica, I deal with this every day. So do you. You can't worry
about the people you don't know need your help; you can only focus your
energies on the ones you do know about. If I spent my time worrying about
all the kids who *might* get abducted someday, I'd never be able to sleep.
All I can do is go find them once they disappear."

"Yes, but--"

"But nothing. It's the same thing here." He glanced at her desk. "We did our
job, Mon. Dammit, we did a great job. You know a lot of other agents who can
put 'brought down a major long-running government-wide conspiracy' on their

"No," she conceded.

"And is there anybody on that list you think is still 'not free'?"

She sighed. "I don't know. I'm not naive; I know that life isn't rainbows
and puppy dogs for everyone. But so many of these people...God, John, they
went through hell. And they suffered for years longer than you and I ever
dealt with this stuff. I mean, look at Skinner for example."

"Skinner's about to become the Deputy Director. Hardly what--"

"The man lost his wife, he was shot, almost killed, he nearly got drummed
out of the Bureau on a phony murder charge, hell, John, even you told me
about the nanocytes in his blood Krycek was blackmailing him with. I doubt a
raise and a promotion is going to make up for all that he's lost."

He regarded her for a long minute. "C'mon upstairs to the party with me."

"Hello, we're in the middle of a conversation here."

"There's something I think you should see."

She shot him an exasperated look, but his expression stayed serious. Maybe
he wasn't trying to change the subject at all. "Okay."

They took the elevator up to the fourth floor, where the two largest
conference rooms had been commandeered for the annual Christmas party.
Familiar seasonal music and small groups of people spilled out in the
hallway, single male agents with loosened ties and fuzzy smiles flirting
with attractive and giggling secretaries. One large conference table was
crowded with more people helping themselves to the buffet that covered every
inch of the wooden top. The moveable walls between the two rooms had been
folded back, and Monica could see smaller tables with two chairs scattered
across the carpet bistro-style in the farther room.

"What am I supposed to be seeing?" she said to John out of the corner of her
mouth, waving to some agents from Anti-Terrorism as they walked past.

"Over by the stereo system. Three o'clock from where we are."

She turned her head in the direction he had indicated. A jacketless Skinner
was sifting through a pile of CDs, handing them to his assistant as he made
his music selections. Monica watched as Kim paused and looked at one of the
titles, then thrust it back at her boss with an exaggerated finger waggle.
Correction, she mentally adjusted as she caught a pair of surreptitious
smiles travel between the two, followed by a long, heated look. She knew
that look; she'd shared it with Brad several times when they were in the
office together back in New York. Kim was a whole lot more than just
Skinner's assistant.

A strange sense of jealousy and regret ran through as she watched them. The
regret she understood, the jealousy she didn't. She wasn't attracted to

She tugged on John's sleeve to nudge him back toward the door. Once they
were out of hearing range, she said, "Okay, so he's in love. That's great,
really. But as much as I like Kim, I don't think he'd be with her if his
wife were still alive."

John steered her toward the elevator by her elbow. "That's not the point.
And I'm pretty surprised you don't see it."

"Well, what is your point?" she asked sharply, still unsettled by her
reaction to watching the secret couple.

"The point is, the man has a life again. It may not be the life he had
before, but he survived and he found a peace he can live with." The elevator
doors opened, but John still held her by the elbow. "People suffer traumatic
losses every day. And they learn to live with them. They learn that you can
still be free even with those chains of loss tied to your ankles."

He gave her a grateful smile. "Some people, like me, take longer than others
to accept that. When I finally came to terms with Luke's death, you
were...you were there with me, and I don't think I've ever thanked you for
how much you did for me."

She squeezed his arm. "Yes, you did."

"Maybe. Probably not enough. But you can't do that for everyone, Monica."

"I don't understand."

"That's what bothering you, isn't it? You want to help the people who were
damaged by the conspiracy. It isn't enough for you to simply take out the
threat from their lives; you want to help them repair their lives. Make them
whole again."

It still surprised her sometimes how well he knew her. Even the things she
was still learning about herself, he somehow already knew. Like he was the
one who had that inner voice instead of her. But if she told him that, she
knew he'd laugh and shake his head and say that no, it wasn't any sort of
sixth sense. He just knew her.

And maybe he'd be right about that.

"It's not a terrible goal," she argued with little heat in her voice.

"No, it's not. Your compassion and empathy are what make you a great agent.
But there's only so much you can do for people, Monica, and after a certain
point, you have to step back and let them heal on their own. You can't take
on their pain for yourself."

She looked at him, astonished. "Is that what you think I'm doing?"

"Yes. And I think I know why. I think you feel like because you haven't
suffered like the people you're trying to help have, that if you shoulder
their pain for them, it's going to validate you somehow. But that's not how
it works." His fingers loosened against her elbow, but his hand remained on
her. If they hadn't been in the hallway of their mutual workplace, Monica
might have called his gentle touch a caress. "You've been lucky, Mon, that's
all. You weren't abducted, or had an implant put in your neck, or poisoned
by nanocytes, or lost a sister or a child. But any one of those things could
have happened to you, had you not been lucky. It doesn't make you less of a
survivor, or less worthy of having your own life."

She sighed. "I know this, John. I do." He didn't look convinced. "The only
reason I pulled out those files today was that I got a feeling about them."

"Ah. One of the legendary Monica-feelings," he said, teasing but not mocking

"Yes. There's something there. Something missing."

"Mon, I hate to say this, but this one time, I think you're wrong. There
aren't any more answers in those files. You've done all you can with them,
and it's time to move on."

"I'm not wrong," she said firmly. Now it was his turn to sigh. "I know you
mean well, John, but I'm not wrong. Have I been wrong in the past?"

"No, you haven't," he conceded. "But I don't want--" He cut himself off and
dropped his hand from her arm.

"You don't want what?" she prompted.

He ran his fingers through his hair. "I don't want you to become like

"Mulder was a great agent, John. If it hadn't been for him, we'd never have
known about the conspiracy, and we sure as hell wouldn't have been able to
break it."

"I know that. But have you ever heard other agents talk about him?"

"Yeah, the Spooky nickname. Lots of grown-ups can still act like children,
can't they?"

"No argument here. But when I was assigned to his case, I had to listen
beyond the name-calling to try to get a handle on who he was. Later, when I
worked with Scully, I realized they weren't just being assholes about him;
there was a lot of truth to their assessments. Mulder kept himself apart
from everyone here, but he didn't start that until after he was assigned to
the X Files. Agents in VSU spoke highly of him. Once he hit that basement
office, though, he cut himself off. *He* did that, Monica. He obsessed and
he ignored helping hands from his friends and he pushed everyone away except
Scully. And from what I can see, you're starting to do the same thing."

"I'm not cutting myself off," she countered, quietly pleased that he cared
enough to worry about the possibility.

"Really? That why you were downstairs instead up here at the party?"

"I told you, I was worki--"

He waved her off. "And why you've turned down every offer I've made to go
out after work since I got promoted?"

"You've asked me twice," she shot back. "Don't make it sound like it's been
a common occurrence."

"It was four times, and your excuses are bullshit." The anger in his quiet
voice took her aback. "You were sitting there obsessing over something you
can't control. Hiding in those damned files, searching for something that
isn't there."

"I had a feeling, John," she shot back. "There's someone we forgot."

"The only person I see you forgetting, Monica, is you."

Her mouth opened, then snapped shut. She thought valiantly of another
argument to make, but none came.

"It's three days before Christmas," he said in a softer tone. "Don't keep
yourself away from everyone. Don't let those files take over your life."

She tilted her head. "Are you saying all this just so I'll join you at the

A smile crooked the side of his mouth, and she was suddenly aware of how
close he stood to her again. "The party is only the beginning of what I want
to do with you," he murmured. A sudden image of the two of them, hot bodies
pressed together under damp crumpled sheets, flew into her mind. When they
were partners, they'd danced around their attraction artfully, neither
wanting to make the first move. And now that there weren't any Bureau
restrictions holding them back, she'd continued to dance away from it,
citing reasons of timing or circumstances or memories of how badly it had
turned out with Brad. Eventually, she kept telling herself. Eventually, she
would deal with it.

Looked like eventually was here.

And it shocked her to realize she wasn't ready for it.

"I--I have to go," she stammered, hating her indecision and her
gracelessness. She stepped away from the heat of his closeness and walked
toward the stairwell. Before she headed down, she turned back to look at
him. John stood in the same place where she'd left him, watching her with
those same hot, concerned, sad, blue eyes. "Merry Christmas, John."

"Merry Christmas, Monica," he said, looking away from her at last.

She fled.


END PART 1 of 2

A Lucky Christmas

By Kristen K2

For Mariann's Secret Santa gift

PART 2 of 2

Being back in her office didn't provide any of the comfort she'd come to
expect from it. It was barely hers, she realized as she looked around,
seeing it with unblinkered eyes for the first time. The pencils in the
ceiling? Mulder's. The "I Want to Believe" poster? Mulder's. Even his
convoluted filing system remained; instead of filing cases alphabetically by
name, he'd broken them down by year and type of paranormal activity. She'd
spent hours memorizing his method, absorbing it as her own.

Just as she had absorbed everything of his, right down to his obsessions and
his loneliness. She thought she'd been doing it out of respect and
admiration; working on the X Files, even after he was gone, had been her way
of making her dream of working with the renowned and scorned Agent Mulder
come true. From the stories she'd heard about him, she felt that they were
kindred spirits, and in some ways, she still thought that was true.

*You've been lucky, Mon, that's all.*

Yes, she had. Lucky in ways Fox Mulder never had, or so she'd convinced
herself. Now she could see that she'd been lying to herself. She had friends
like John and Skinner to help her in crunch times - but Mulder had had
Skinner and Scully, and the Lone Gunmen. She'd had a partner she could
rely on, and maybe even come to love - but so had Mulder, with Scully. Even
Marita Covarrubias had been Mulder's informant first.

Okay, so she'd escaped the cycle of loss and personal hardship that had
plagued all the other X Files agents before her. Maybe John was right; maybe
she was trying to somehow bring that pain onto herself, in an effort to make
herself worthy of the office in which she'd been assignment. An assignment,
that under any other circumstance, she would believe that she'd rightfully

So why didn't she think she'd earned it now?

Monica sighed, and gathered together the files on her desk. She wasn't going
to find the solution to this particular problem in them. She carefully filed
the folders back in their "Mulder-spots", and jotted a note on the top of
her legal pad to remember to re-organize the filing cabinets after the
holiday. The poster was going to stay, but maybe it was time to make other

One of the bonuses of working in the basement was her proximity to the
garage; there were no crowds in elevators to tussle with at quitting time.
Surprisingly, the parking garage was full of cars and devoid of people, and
it took her a moment to realize they were probably still at the Christmas
party. She considered going back up there, but decided against it. Some
last-minute shopping, and then a quiet evening at home, beckoned.

Besides, John was upstairs, and she still wasn't ready to deal with the
"eventually" of him.

Two hours later, she pulled her car into one of the many free spots on her
street, and grabbed all the shopping bags from the back seat. A light snow
had begun to fall, and the idea of wrapping gifts before a warm fire held
enormous appeal. She was digging into her pocket for her house keys when
someone walked up on her left.

"Are you Agent Reyes?"

Monica looked at the woman beside her. Her head was covered in a large hat
and scarf, but enormous blue eyes were still visible through the layers.
Monica didn't recognize her.

"Yes, I am. Can I help you?"

"I need to find my son."

"Your son? I'm sorry, do I know him?"

"Yes. But I don't want to talk about it here." The woman glanced around the
street furtively, then gave Monica a pleading look. Something about her eyes
looked familiar, and that inner divining rod, the one that had fallen silent
since her disagreement with John, began to hum. "Please, Agent Reyes, I need
your help."

Monica smiled broadly. Maybe John had been wrong after all. "Come on

A few minutes later, both women stood in Monica's living room, removing
their outerwear. Monica got a good look at the other woman in the light;
perhaps in her late fifties, she looked thin and tired. Her hair was blond
and in need of a cut. Dark circles dimmed the bright blue of her eyes.

"Is your last name Doggett?" she asked, curious. As far as she knew, John's
mother was a brunette, and certainly she knew where her son lived. But their
eyes were so similar...

The woman looked surprised. "No. It's Spender."

Monica froze. It *couldn't* be. But her inner voice told her it was.

"Oh my God...are you Cassandra Spender?"

The woman gave her an ironic smile. "In the flesh."

"You...wow. No one knew what happened to you after the fire at El Rico. It
was assumed you were--"

"Yes, I know. Everyone believed I was dead. It was better that way."
Cassandra gave her a guarded look. "Safer. For everyone."

"Where have you been?"

"In hiding. And that's all I'm going to say about it."

Monica stared at her, biting back all the questions she was dying to ask.
From the stubborn tilt of the other woman's chin, she knew the
semi-interrogation was over. "Okay, I won't push."

Cassandra's chin came down slightly. "Thanks. So will you help me find

Oh God, Jeffrey. Her son. "Cassandra, maybe we should sit down. There are
things I need to tell you about Je--"

"I know what they did to him," she said fiercely. "I know that bastard
ex-husband of mine shot him, and..." Her eyes filled with tears. "How he had
that poor boy tortured afterward."

"I'm very sorry."

Cassandra wiped her face. "He's dying now, isn't he?"

Monica nodded her reply.

"I want to be with him. He shouldn't be alone. Not now. I've been away from
him too long this time." She waved her hand at the curious look on Monica's
face. "Never mind. Just please, help me find him."

"Of course," she said hastily. "He's staying at an FBI safe house. I'll get
the address, and take you to him."

Cassandra looked relieved, and finally accepted Monica's offer of a seat.
Monica headed over to her desk, and realized too late that she'd left her
laptop at work. Glancing at her watch, she dialed Kim's home number from her
cell phone. No answer. She tried Skinner's office, and got no answer there
either. One last set of familiar digits left; she hoped he wouldn't mind the

"Skinner," came the brusque greeting from his cell phone.

"Sir, it's Monica Reyes."

"Yes, Monica. We missed you at the party this afternoon. Is everything

"Everything's fine, sir. I wondered if you could help me. I'm trying to
track down Jeffrey Spender's location."

"Jeffrey Spender?" Skinner's voice sounded guarded. "Is there a reason you
need to know his whereabouts?"

"I have someone here who's looking for him," she said, glancing into the
living room to make sure Cassandra was still there. The woman sat stiffly on
the couch, her back to Monica.


"His mother, sir."

She heard a quick inhale from the other end of the receiver. There was a
long silence that followed.

"Is it really her, Monica?" he asked quietly.

"I think so. I've never met her, but I've seen pictures. And she knows all
about Jeff's...condition."

"God," he swore under his breath. "And I thought we were finished with all
of it."

"We are, sir. I think...I think this is just a loose end that needed to be
tied. I know you'll think I'm crazy, but I've been having this feeling there
was someone we left behind."

Like John, Skinner didn't question or mock her admission. "And you think
Jeff and Cassandra Spender are those someones?"

Monica paused, listening for her inner voice. What she heard was confidence
and hope. "Yes, sir. They are."

"Okay. Do you have a pen? I'll give you the address."

"Thank you, sir."

She wrote the information down as he recited it. Thirty minutes later, she
and Cassandra pulled into a quiet neighborhood in Chevy Chase. Christmas
lights twinkled from windows and roofs as they passed by them, stopping in
front of a small bungalow-style, undecorated house at the end of the block.
Through the window, Monica could see a bent-over man walking slowly through
a room.

Cassandra beat her to the door, but only by a few steps. A burly agent,
identifiable by his standard-issue blue suit and red tie, answered the door.
Monica flashed her badge at him over the top of Cassandra's head. "Bringing
a visitor to see him."

"Yeah, AD Skinner called and said you were on your way," the man replied,
opening the door wider. Cassandra barreled through the open space, and
stopped as Jeff entered the room from the opposite door.

His scarred, broken face remained immobile, but his eyes registered his
shock. "Mom?" he whispered.

"It's me, Jeffrey." She walked closer to him, touching his chin gently. "Oh,
my poor baby."

"Oh God, Mom..."

Monica had to look away when his tears began to fall down his dead cheeks.
Through her own tears, she saw the two remaining Spenders clutch each other
in a desperate, grateful hug.

Her inner voice silently cheered. She couldn't take Jeffrey's approaching
death away, and she couldn't give them back the years the two had spent
apart, but she'd been able to give them this time together.

And for the first time, she felt like she'd done enough to help.


Another quiet neighborhood, this time watching through a window as a tall
man easily loped lights around a tree. Her car was close enough to his
driveway that she could see his lips move in an exasperated curse every time
he tangled the wires. Which had been several times in the forty minutes that
she'd spent watching him, she acknowledged with a smile.

She could picture him when he finished, surveying the tree with a smug look
of victory. Could hear him laugh as he recounted the tale in the office
later. Could feel the warmth of his skin as he sat on the couch next to her,
the reflection of the tiny lights dancing across the blue of his irises.

What the hell was she sitting here for?

Eventually was here, dammit. She hoped she was ready.

It wasn't until he was opening the front door that she realized she didn't
know what to say.

"I was right," she blurted out. "Cassandra Spender came to my apartment

John's brow furrowed. "Cassandra Spender?" He waved her inside. "Christ, I
thought she was dead."

"Everyone did," she answered, removing her coat and draping it over the end
of his couch. "That's what she wanted us to think."

"What did she want?"

"To find her s-...she wanted to be reunited with Jeffrey."

He flashed her an ironic smile. "You found the ones that weren't free," he
said softly.

"Well, not exactly. She found me. And you were right; it wasn't anyone I
would have found in the files."

"Don't be so sure," he said, his expression seemingly proud. "You're a hell
of an investigator. And like you pointed out, your feelings are never

She flushed. "Neither are yours, John. Because you were right about the
other things you said, too."

As predicted, he shrugged and gave her a gentle grin. "I don't have any
special feelings, Mon. That's your area." His grin widened. "But I do like
hearing I'm right. You gonna elaborate?"

She laughed. She'd sat out in her freezing car for almost an hour, dreading
this conversation. She'd forgotten that this was *John*; things were always
easy with him.

"You were right about my cutting myself off from people. Mostly one person:
you. I'm sorry I did that. I've missed you."

He reached across the space between them, and took her hand. "I've missed
you, too." With his free hand, he stroked her chin. "You know, if I'd known
you were going to pull away from me, I wouldn't have taken the promotion."

"No, it's the right job for you," she insisted.

"Yeah. But that's not why I took it."

She looked over at him, curious. They hadn't discussed any of this before.
One day, he'd just announced Skinner had offered him a new slot in Missing
Persons, and that afternoon he was situated at a new desk.

"Why did you?"

"Because it's against Bureau rules to be involved with your partner," he
said, watching her mouth. "And I really didn't want to be the Scully to your

"You wouldn't have been," she said quietly. "You're a lot taller than

His face creased in an unexpected laugh. "Damn, I really did miss you," he
said before closing the short distance between them for a kiss. He might
have only meant to brush his lips against hers, but once they began, neither
could stop. The rough feel of his stubble against her cheek, his tongue soft
against hers...the sensations were familiar and new at once.

*You've been lucky, Mon*, she heard again in her head.

Suddenly it didn't seem like the curse it had been.

"You're about to get lucky, too," she informed a breathless John.

He grinned and tugged her onto the couch with him.

"Now *that's* a hell of a Christmas present."