Amanda Wilde aka MaybeAmanda
Implied MSR (no, really)
Spoilers: Christmas Carol, sort of.
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
Archive: Why? But, go ahead.
Thanks to: Euphrosyne, wrong again, and Ebonbird, CC, DD, GA, etc.
Dedication: To Ebird, who once, long ago,
"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.
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
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.
"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
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,
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
"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." 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,
She shook her head. "Call
who?" she mimicked. "Scully, of
"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.
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
"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
"The private kind,"
she sing-songed. "You two are
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
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?"
Pause. "Something she
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
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
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 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.
"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
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
"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
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?"
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.
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
mentioned, haven't I, that you two are
"Often." He nodded.
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
"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
Renee raised one skeptical
eyebrow. "Agent Mulder, if I didn't know
better, I'd say you were avoiding the
"You are so
"It's the psych
degree," she agreed. "It gives
me heightened powers. Now, come on. What's going
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
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
"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
"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
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.
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
He smiled. "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,
Wow, Renee thought,
disconcerted by his simple confession and
unexpected candor. Wow wow wow. She loves him? It really was the season of
"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
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.*
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
"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."
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
"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
"Call her back." She
shed her wet running shoes and
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
*To everything changing,* she
thought and held her bottle aloft, ready to
toast. "Merry Christmas, Mulder."
touched his bottle to hers with a dull,
unsatisfying plastic thud.
"And a genuinely
happy new year."
Mulder only smiled.