There was a plastic tree on Alex's desk.
It was strange to think of him having an office. It wasn't much of an office, just a cold white room with a desk and a chair and a couch that he slept on far too often. Diana wondered how old Spender wrote that one up, amusing herself momentarily by considering job titles he might have used to justify his presence. Security consultant? Strategic planner? Specialist troubleshooter?
Okay, that one was too close to home.
He knew she was there, of course. He was watching her over his glass, though he hadn't acknowledged her in the slightest. There was a half- empty bottle of vodka on the table in front of him.
"I see you've been decorating," she said, nodding at the gaudy tinsel strung up across the window above his head.
He watched her for a long moment, long enough for her to wonder whether he was so drunk he hadn't understood. When he finally spoke, his voice was stone cold sober.
"The tinsel was hung by the window with care," he said. His voice rolled like a cold wind over dry winter ice. "The secretary down the hall took pity on me and did it yesterday. Goddamn civilians."
She refrained from pointing out that regardless of whatever bullshit credentials Spender had given him to allow him access here, they were civilians themselves. And that wasn't really the point, because he would've had the same reaction to anyone. Kindness burned Alex just as bad as everything else did - maybe even more. He couldn't bring himself to trust it.
"That was nice of her," she said mildly.
The bitterness in his voice fell back a notch. "Yeah." He topped up his glass.
She tried again. Nodded upwards at a sprig of mistletoe, sticky taped to the pipe running across the ceiling over her head. She tried not to think about where it might lead. "The Druids believed mistletoe had medicinal properties, you know."
Alex took a long draw on his vodka in lieu of a reply. Out the window behind him, Diana could see soldiers pacing the main courtyard. Flurries of snow were forming. Beyond that was Immunology. His thoughts were probably there now.
"It was a fertility drug," she went on. "That's where the tradition of kissing began. They said it was an antidote for poison, as well."
He snorted dry laughter through his nose. It wasn't a happy sound. "It's going to take more than that. We've made no progress at all since the Brit kicked the bucket. You know, it wasn't bad enough that smoking son of a bitch had to whack *him* - he killed the best doctor equipped to treat her as well."
She sighed. "We'll come up with something."
This seemed to anger him. He slammed down his drink on the table. "What the fuck are you doing here, Diana? Shouldn't you be with Mulder? Because he sure isn't here - Marita got that honour, for believing in him, stupid girl that she is. I bet he's waiting with a tree and tinsel and mistletoe and a lot more Christmas cheer than I have, so just go the fuck home."
Her vision blurred, just for a moment, and she wasn't sure if the sting was Fox or Alex or both, but she held her jaw firm and said coldly, "He's with Scully."
The hard lines in his face smoothed out. The creases at the corners of his eyes grew soft with grudging kindness. He picked up the glass again and stared down into it. He muttered, "Sorry."
Her eyes felt dry and bruised. Arid. As though she'd wept and wept until there was nothing left. "No, you're not. You meant everything you just said."
He looked away. "It wasn't directed at you."
"No, it never is, but somehow I keep on wearing it," she snapped, her voice a spray of shattered ice. "You're an asshole, Alex Krycek. Do you really think you're the only one who's been torn apart from someone by all this? Do you think I like being on opposite sides with my husband?"
He sat back on the couch a little. Surprise coloured his features. She'd never told him to shut up before.
She shook her head. She felt weathered and sore with the toll of every one of her forty-four winters. "Forget it. I don't know why I bother." She turned to go.
He sprang up behind her, setting his glass on the cheap little table with a clatter. He took her arm. "Diana, wait."
She turned to face him. Too damn tired to pull away.
"I don't know why you bother, either," he said. He took her shoulder, gently, tracing the white planes of her collarbone with his thumb. "But I wish you wouldn't go."
"What difference does it make?" she wondered. "You're going to be miserable with or without me."
He cracked a smile. "Hey. Misery loves company."
Another day, she would have smiled, but not today. She just stood there. She could feel the lines around her eyes. The ache of just trying to hold herself up.
"You make it...better," he said with difficulty. "Not all better, but...enough."
She still didn't say anything, but she softened a little when he kissed her. She didn't kiss him back, but she didn't break free, either. His mouth was warm and soft and he tasted like vodka. Some of that parched feeling fell away.
"You're cold," he said. Unusually tender.
There was a bitter taste in her mouth. "Christmas is cold."
His eyes were grave. "Yeah."
They stood there, two lonely people, hurting and lost in a cold white room.
She looked away. "Make love to me?" she said diffidently.
He nodded. "Okay."
They made love there in the cold, and it wasn't all better, but it was enough.
Author's Notes: Written for the Harem 155 Word Mistletoe challenge, although clearly I've far exceeded the word count as usual! Thanks to Maidenjedi for the challenge. I have some ideas for two follow-ups to this, but I don't know whether they'll come to pass. Many thanks to Kelly Keil for comments, as well.