Merry Christmas, Mr. Mulder
 Amanda Wilde aka MaybeAmanda

Category: er... Implied MSR (no, really)
Rating: 10W40.
Spoilers: Christmas Carol, sort of. Detour, vaguely.
Timeline: Set during Christmas Carol. Which was just before the dawn of time. . .
Disclaimer: Mulder and Scully and the XFiles are Chris Carter's and if Chris Carter gets any better looking, he's gonna have to be declared a controlled substance. Sorry, but I just saw him on the Vicki Gabereau show, and LORD! he's beautiful. Moving on, these things of X are used without malicious intent, hope of profit, or intention to infringe on copyright.
 Renée is mine and someone else's. She moved into 
apartment 52 after Scott Ostelhoff so abruptly moved out.
Archive: Why? But, go ahead.
Thanks to: Euphrosyne, wrong again, and Ebonbird, CC, DD, GA, etc.
Dedication: To Ebird, who once, long ago, said,
"Ya know? Fish are nice, but our boy needs a friend."

Revised again, Nov 2001 - someday I'll get it so I like it.
Revised again again, Nov 2002 - see above. 

Revised yet again, Nov 2003. 

Renee straightened her jacket. She checked her laces, made sure her ankle weights were secure, adjusted the gloves, tightened the hood. A few quick lunges on the curb, a couple of side thrusts, even though she'd pretty thoroughly warmed up inside. Eyes averted and one more broad stretch, hands over head, bending back as far as she could until the vertebrae gave a satisfying *snap!*, and she was ready.

She looked left, right, left again, waited for a few more cars to pass. Hegel Place was always surprisingly busy at this time of night. Even on Christmas Eve.

"You're so quiet." Mulder's unusually animated voice came from her right.

Renee shrugged, looked down at her laces again. Yup. Two. One on each shoe, right where she'd left them.


Looking straight ahead, she only nodded. Another car passed, its headlights winking on in the gathering dusk. Snow started falling, tiny flakes as fine as grains of sand.

Maybe if she thought about snow and home, her brothers and making snowmen, childhood Christmases she could avoid. . .

"Hey," a hand on her shoulder, gently turning her in his direction, "you up for this?"

She nodded. Mulder frowned just enough to let her know her didn't believe her. "Really?"

Another nod.

"You're lying." He smiled gently. "Christmas blues? Homesick? Seasonal Affective Disorder? Thesis-itis?"

"All of the above," she conceded with a sigh, "but. . . um. . ." She had to look away.

He waited, just a touch of concern in his voice. "Renee, what?"

She sighed. "Mulder," she shook her head slowly, "don't take this the wrong way, but what is up with that ugly hat?"

Mulder looked stunned, then surprised, then threw back his head in a sudden, unexpected burst of laughter. The pompom of the ridiculous polar fleece stocking cap bobbed wildly in the frosty twilight air. "That what's bothering you, Nay?" He flicked the tail of the cap away from his face, "This?"

Renee smiled, surprised. When had she last heard Mulder laugh like that? "Yeah. It's just so. . . un-you, Mulder. You look like an elf with an overactive pituitary gland."

"You say the sweetest things." His hand was in the middle of her back then, guiding her across the road and into the park. "I kinda like it. It's warm. It's woolly. You set the pace."

Renee began a slow jog. She didn't usually night run, and it was really too damned cold. But Mulder'd called at exactly the right moment, rousing her from the Thesis That Would Not Be Tamed and distracting her from thoughts of friends and family and how she should have gone home when her parents offered her the flight instead of spending these past two unproductive weeks hunched over her keyboard. Mulder had sounded eager and excited and, well, like a kid on Christmas eve. She couldn't have refused even if she'd wanted to. And she hadn't wanted to. 

She increased the pace, Mulder quickly stepping up his own to match hers. "You like that thing, huh?"

"The hat?"

"The hat." She watched her words rise and dissolve in the frosty air. "Where'd it come from?"


"Santa? Oh, is that what we call her now?"

"Call who?" he asked, all innocence.

She shook her head. "Call who?" she mimicked. "Scully, of course."

No reply.

"It is from her, isn't it?" she prodded. The snow flakes were growing larger now, floating rather than falling. Beautiful, she thought, so unlike Virginia, so much like home.

"Yup," Mulder answered.

Of course it was. Would Mr. GQ have worn that gawd-awful thing otherwise?

She wondered what the weather was like at home. El Nino was wrecking havoc with half the continent, but she couldn't remember a green Christmas from her childhood, or anytime after. She'd call her mom later, ask if they'd had snow and try not to cry. "Of all the hats in the world, Mulder, why *did* she give you that one?"

"Mostly a joke." Mulder sped up ever so slightly. "Tell me if this is too fast."

Renee adjusted her own pace to match his. "S'fine," she assured him, though his legs were longer and she was going to have to work to keep up with him if they ran the full six miles. "What kind of joke?"

There was a pause. "The private kind."

"The private kind," she sing-songed. "You two are pathetic."

Mulder laughed, sped up again.

What a nice sound, she reflected, her eyes back on the path. Mulder didn't laugh much, at least not when she was around, and when he did, well, it was usually tinged with self-deprecation or heavy with irony. But not tonight. Holiday spirit, maybe? Ho ho ho and mistletoe? Peace on earth, good will toward men?


Between her school and his work, it seemed she hadn't seen Mulder in a long time. Since, now that she thought about it, a couple of days before he'd left on that team building conference he'd been dreading in Florida. And here he was, wearing that ridiculous hat and grinning and laughing and...

Something had happened, she realized with an almost corporeal start. Something had happened and Mulder was almost. . . happy? Which probably meant, she concluded with a just tiny knot in her gut, that something had happened, had changed, between him and Scully.


"You okay?" He broke the silence as the passed the bench which served as their two mile marker.

"Fine," she assured him. "So, what did you get her?"


"Yes, Scully."

Pause. "Something she could use."



Something in his voice made her turn toward him. His gaze remained straight ahead, his eyes fixed on the path, even as they twinkled. "And what is this mysterious something, Mulder, this something that Scully could use?"

He pulled ahead, sprinting to the next pool of lamplight. "A sleeping bag," he called over his shoulder. "I'm freezing my ass off. Race you to the diner. Loser buys."


Like always, Gail the waitress was flirting with Mulder, and, like always, Mulder was flirting right back. It paid off, this time with extra miniature marshmallows and whipped cream in his hot chocolate and a generous slice of cherry pie that Mulder had not ordered but which, Gail assured him, he looked like he needed. Mulder plucked the maraschino cherry from atop his whipped cream and held it out to Renee. "You want?"

"You know I want," she held out her hand.

Mulder obliged, grimacing. "Ug. You know what they put in those things?" Mulder watched her chew as he attempted to stir the whipped cream down into his cup, a grin still playing on his lips.

"Arsenic. Eye of newt. Hen's teeth." Renee swallowed. "Red Dye Number 452. Gerbil fur. Snake elbows. But they taste soooo good!" She paused a moment, stirred a packet of sugar into her steaming tea. "So how've you been, Mulder? Seems like ages"

"Has been ages," he agreed, taking a fork to the pie. He took a bite, chewed thoughtfully. "I've been good, I guess. Mostly uninjured." More smiling. "You?"

"Okay," she answered non-committally, hoping he'd offer her some of his pie. What she'd really been was swamped. "Busy. Damned thesis."

"Been there," Mulder stabbed his pie again, "done that. Remind me not to tell you some time." He pushed his plate toward her. "Bite?" he asked around his fork.

"Thanks," she helped herself, wondering if Mulder were psychic. She sure hoped not.

"I was surprised you were home." He drank. "I thought you were going to
go visit your family for the holidays."

"I was," she sighed into her cup and steam rose up, tickling her nose. "My supervisor had other ideas. So, here I am."

"Lucky for me." Mulder pushed the last bite of pie toward her.

"For both of us," she answered, wishing there were more pie. "So, why aren't you somewhere else?"

He shrugged. "Like where?"

Renee stirred. "The Vineyard? Greenwich? Where is it you rich white boys come from, again?"

"Mom's gone to Palm Springs to stay with my aunt," He flagged down their waitress, ordered another piece of pie. "Mom and I, well. . ." he waved his hand dismissively, "you know."

She didn't, really. Mulder didn't even pretend to talk about his family. Mulder didn't even pretend to talk about much, actually. Most of what she knew she'd gained from observation and reading between the often blurry lines. He was, however, an extremely good listener, and for that she was grateful. "So where is Scully?"

"San Diego."


Mulder's pie arrived. What a large slice, Renee thought, and what a lot of whipped cream. Gail was old enough to be her mother. She might be old enough to be Mulder's mother, come to that. She wondered idly how well Mulder and the waitress were acquainted.

Mulder nodded. "Staying with her brother. Her sister-in-law is expecting any minute, and Maggie wanted to go out there and. . ."

Renee tried to flag the waitress down to ask for more tea, but got nothing but an icy scowl for her trouble. She'd learned the secret to invisibility: sit in a restaurant with a beautiful man. "Who's Maggie?"

"Scully's mom." Mulder pushed the plate toward Renee and she broke off another chunk with her fork.

"You call her *Scully* and her mother *Maggie*?"

Mulder sat back in his seat, crossed his long arms over his chest and grinned his Cheshire grin. "Yes," he said with a strange mixture of pride and self-satisfaction, neither of which seemed called for. "Yes, I do."

"I've mentioned, haven't I, that you two are pathetic?"

"Often." He nodded. "And with great relish."

"And Dijon mustard," she finished their usual routine. "Mulder, enough is enough," she pushed her tea cup to one side, planted her elbows on the table and bent toward him. "What gives?"


"With you. You're so. . .I don't know. . ." she shrugged theatrically ". . weird or something."

"This is news?" Mulder began twirling his spoon through his fingers with practiced skill. Mulder even fidgeted well.

"Weirder-than-usual weird."

"New and improved weird, huh?" He toyed with the spoon some more, avoiding her gaze.

"Bigger, better weird. Come on, Mulder. Dish."

Mulder pushed further back in his seat, extended his long legs out under the table, inadvertently bumping Renee's foot and calf on the way. His eyes flitted from his cup to the plate to a spot somewhere over Renee's left shoulder. "I don't know," he shrugged and grinned.

Renee raised one skeptical eyebrow. "Agent Mulder, if I didn't know better, I'd say you were avoiding the issue."

"You are so perceptive."

"It's the psych degree," she agreed. "It gives me heightened powers. Now, come on. What's going on?"

He shrugged again and gazed down into the bottom of his cup. "It's like. . .like things are changing. Like I'm finally getting my life going, you know? Getting it started?"

She blinked. She'd always thought that, of the two of them,  Mulder was the one with the life, while she was the pathetic grad student he'd semi-taken under his wing at his buddy's request. "No. Not really," she answered honestly.

"This year has been. . ." he paused, as if searching for words. "It's been good. Really good."

"Good? Mulder, I've known you about, what? Ten months? In that time, you've had bruised kidneys, a cracked pelvis, a hole drilled in your head you still refuse to explain, a perforated spleen, a bullet shot through your window, and, and, and what have I forgotten?"

"The hole in the head I got before we met, if you'll recall," he reminded her, "and the bullet, I don't even know if that was aimed at me. Most of that other stuff is just par for the course."

"So you've said before, but. . . "

"And I met you this year," he added with his best suck-up pout.

"Flattery will get you nowhere, Mulder," she scolded, knowing full well it would, and often did. Her voice had become a bit too loud, she realized, her tone a bit too strident. She paused, gathered her thoughts. "I suppose it's just me, but, Mulder, if this was your good year, I don't want to know about the bad ones."

"No, you don't."  He paused. "I. . .I got some things I wanted. Discovered some things I'd been searching for for a while. Got some answers to questions I'd been asking for years. And. . ." His voice dropped off.

She waited. "And. . .?"

"And. . .I got her back, Renee," he answered simply, and looked back down into his cup.

Renee blinked. Scully had had some health crisis in the fall, something that Mulder had alluded to once or twice, brooded over continually, discussed with her not at all. In their line of work, bumps, bruises and near death experiences seemed a given, but whatever had plagued Scully had haunted Mulder. "Scully?" she asked, already knowing.

He nodded, looking sheepish, looking guilty.

Renee held back a sigh. Poor Mulder, she thought, looking away and stirring her tea. Even with all the looks and charm, he was still human. And being human, he was still susceptible to wanting things he could not have. But...

Her eyes narrowed slightly when she looked up. "Mulllll-dddddddder," she drew out the word, rolling it on her tongue. "What happened in Florida?"

He smiled. "Nothing." Shrug. "Nothing."

She decided it was kinder not to comment on the blush. "Meaning?"

"Meaning. . ." he toyed with his spoon and his voice was so soft she could barely hear him, "meaning. . . meaning. . . .I think. . .I think she loves me, Renee."

Wow, Renee thought, disconcerted by his simple confession and unexpected candor. Wow wow wow. She loves him? It really was the season of miracles.

"Oh," she offered weakly. Seemed the Scully Ice Sheet was receding again.  Seeing the longing in his eyes, the hope, she wanted to think he was right, that this was more than just another freak thaw. She'd known him less than a year and had seen this happen before.

But what to say? *That's nice, but you're way too good for her, Mulder*? *She doesn't deserve you?* or the obvious, *She'll only break your heart. . .again.* 

Hobson's choice.

She cleared her throat. "So, you think she loves you. . .the way you. . . love her?"

He nodded. "I think so," he almost whispered.

"Hmm." She took a sip of her tea and then another, feeling the need to buy some time and avoid sticking her foot in her mouth. And she WOULD stick her foot in her mouth, given the chance. 

"Well then. . . then, I'm happy for you, Mulder." She heard herself say, and realized she meant it. She and Scully were never going to be best friends. Come to think of it, she and Scully might never even exchange civil words. But for some reason, Scully made Mulder happy, and Mulder was a good guy. He deserved all the happy he could get. "Really."

"Tha-"Mulder began, but Gail appeared with the bill then, wishing Mulder happy holidays and, Renee imagined, wishing she would just go away.

Mulder looked at his watch. "It's almost nine. I'm doing the Chinese take-out thing tonight. Wanna help?"

"Sure," she agreed, glad for the return to normal, meaningless conversation. Kung Pao chicken and Guy Ding sounded like a fine idea.

"Great," he rose, left two dollars on the table, paid the tab at the till. "Delivered, okay?"

"S'fine," she assured him as they walked into the frozen night. "I'm not exactly dressed to go any where, anyway." The snow was piling up now, and the sidewalks were becoming slick with ice. She couldn't help but think about her childhood, the muffled hush and startling white of a dozen wintry first-snowfall mornings, about sledding with her brothers and skating with her friends. Simple, subtle things she'd never appreciated fully until they were well out of reach.

They crossed the park again, at a pace better suited to trainers on ice, and she found herself wondering if this clear, cold night marked the end of their friendship. From here out, would there be only be Mulder's shiny new life with Scully? Would everything else be pushed to the edges of his existence, marginalized, so that, in time, Renee would  just be someone he'd once known, and he'd be nothing to her but the friend of a friend's friend she'd once shared some confidences and popcorn with? It was just life she knew, just the way things were, but why was joy invariably splattered with sorrow?

"I hope you're right," she told him as the elevator doors hushed closed and she took his gloved hand and squeezed it in both of hers. She looked him in the eye, wanting him to hear and see what she was saying, not knowing if there would be another opportunity. "You've been. . . a blessing to me this year, Mulder. You've helped me settle in, helped save my sanity, and you've been a good friend, especially through that Derek mess. I hope you're right. I really hope this is your time."

He squeezed back, once, looking alarmingly close to tears, and then looking away. For once, Renee thought, Mr. Glib was fresh out of words. She'd have cracked a joke if the lump in her throat hadn't been strangling her.

She dropped his hand when they reached his floor and the doors parted. "I think that's your phone," Renee heard the familiar ring of his always too-loud phone, but he was already sprinting down the hall, keys at the ready.

"Who was that?" She reached the door just as he replaced the receiver. "Wrong number?"

Mulder looked at the display, his brow furrowed. "No," he shook his head. "California area code. San Diego area code, in fact."

"Scully?" she flipped on the lights. Why was she not surprised there were no holiday decorations?

"Probably," he said in a tone that she knew meant *yes*. He seemed suddenly concerned.

"Call her back." She shed her wet running shoes and jacket.

Mulder seemed to consider this. "No," he said finally, with a slight but determined shake of his head. "She's with her family. If it's important, she'll call back. Something to drink?"

Renee flopped down on the sofa. "Just water. And you're probably right." She grabbing the quilt he kept tossed over the back of it. "She was probably just calling to wish you a Merry Christmas or say something mushy," she teased. "She'll try again in the morning."

He came into the living room, two bottles of Evian in one hand, the take-out menu for their favourite Chinese place in the other. Renee took the bottle he held out to her, twisted the cap. Mulder was smiling again, wistfully, but happily, his thoughts no doubt on the other side of the continent.

*It's just life,* Mulder'd  once sympathized over Thai and Scrabble and her long-distance break-up despair. *Everything changes and it changes us, too. All we can do is our best.*

 He'd been right then, and he was right now. Everything had changed since she'd come to D.C., and everything was still changing. It was all in flux, and all she could do was her best.

*To everything changing,* she thought and held her bottle aloft, ready to toast. "Merry Christmas, Mulder." 

He touched his bottle to hers with a dull, unsatisfying plastic thud.

"And a genuinely happy new year."

Mulder only smiled.


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The XFiles, and all things X, are the property of Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, Fox Broadcasting,
and perhaps others. Used without permission, hope of monetary gain, or with felonious or harmful intent.
No, really.