the OBSSEsed - continued
Issue No. 30, December 1999
(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Abbey thanks Jill for her wonderful Christmas present written especially for us, and takes pleasure in knowing that for the time being this is an OBSSE exclusive.)
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"Federal Agent! Stop right there!" she shouted, but Santa kept running.
Despite the bulky suit, the padding, the bag slung over his shoulder, the man she was chasing moved with surprising agility. He dashed around toddlers and leaped over displays. He broke through knot after tangled knot of last-minute shoppers, people who had demonstrated nothing but churlish impatience with their procrastinating kindred, yet who now cheerfully stepped aside for a larcenous elf.
Dana Scully did not have the advantage of costuming. That raging sea of humanity would not part for her, not even when she yelled out an identification; she couldn't compete with the roar of grumbles, wailing infants, and joyful holiday tunes. Her gun stayed hidden at her back because she feared the only thing worse than a horde of Christmas Eve shoppers would be a panicking horde of Christmas Eve shoppers.
And so, Santa was escaping.
Scully lost sight of him after her collision with the brick-wall of a security guard who stepped into her path, spilled coffee down the front of her sweater, and proceeded to lecture her on the hazards of running in the mall as though she were the type to jeopardize public safety just to get to Hickory Farms before they sold the last jumbo cheese log. She shoved her badge against his nose and, in lieu of apology, did not grind her heel into his foot as she raced away.
At an intersection of hallways, she skidded up behind a gridlock of strollers and asked one mother, "Have you seen Santa?" Something about Scully's breathless tone must have alarmed the woman. She regarded the agent with disdain normally reserved for escaped psychopaths and abruptly veered into Victoria's Secret. Scully asked again, this time to anyone within earshot. No one answered, though her desperation did serve to clear a path when more protective parents sought shelter for their children behind bins of panties.
She stood at the hub and peered down every corridor, but by now the thief could be anywhere. Humiliating as it would be to admit she'd been outmaneuvered by a department-store Santa, Scully was ready to concede defeat when a tiny, dark-skinned girl tugged on her pant leg. The child's index finger uncurled from its grip on a ragged blanket and pointed down the corridor to the right. With her other hand, she pressed a soggy animal cracker into Scully's palm. There was just enough time, Scully decided, for a grateful pat to the youngster's head before she took up the pursuit again.
As it happened, Santa's eventual capture had less to do with Scully's persistence than with the man's one-size-fits-all boots. In his pell-mell scramble through the food court, his feet hit a spill in front of the Orange Julius stand and he careened in an awkward cartwheel over the counter. A blur of red velvet and a string of unjolly tidings led Scully right to the fugitive Claus, who was writhing in a puddle of fruity mush.
Shocked employees stumbled out of the way when Scully bounded over the cash register and tackled the squirming man. A toppled drink machine belched blobs of noxiously sweet foam and, by the time Scully could wrest St. Nick from the floor, agent and outlaw both were drenched in the stuff. It dripped from Santa's beard, soaked the fur trim of his coat; one last frosty grenade launched from the machine, exploded across Scully's thigh and slithered in sticky orange trails from her hip to the tops of her shoes.
She shoved, none too gently, the handcuffed man into the counter and began sifting through his bag. There was the wallet she'd witnessed him stealing, plus four others, a Palm Pilot, two cell phones . . .
. . . a Furby, Barbie's Dream House, and a bicycle just like the one Libby got for her birthday, except not purple.
You think my job is easy? Read
through a few thousand of these
So, why do I do it? Not for the spiffy uniform, I assure you. I do it because every few years a child comes along who makes it all worthwhile. There will be a boy like Richard, who sends in weekly reports on his good deeds. A girl like Mandy, who knits tail warmers for the reindeer.
But my favorite, by far, was a stubborn little disbeliever named Dana.
What a handful she was, always challenging me to outsmart her, keeping vigil all night just to prove I wasn't real. Dana never sent me a letter and she never sat on the lap of one of my shopping center doppelgangers. But I could not pass by such a dear child, even if she didn't believe in me. To be honest, I relished the opportunity to match wits with the tenacious Miss Scully. I'm rather proud to say that every Christmas I found a way to leave a gift for Dana.
I still keep my eye on her, though she's all grown up now. And I'll tell you another secret: I'm still giving her presents. There's no rule that says I can't, you know, but it does take a fair bit of planning to pull it off. Planning, and a flexible delivery schedule.
Take today, for instance. My whole timetable had to be reworked because Dana went chasing after that nasty Ray Bob Barton. I used to put coal in Ray Bob's stocking. This afternoon, I put a nice, big puddle of soda pop in his path. Perhaps that wicked boy will think twice before he impersonates me again.
This year's gift for Dana will be the most special yet. The deluxe chemistry kit of 1975 was good, but this is better. Better than in 1980, when I buffed out the scrape she put on the side of her father's car. Not just any gift will do for the grown-up Dana Scully, you see. A gift for her must be unique. Creative. Something like . . .
". . . every lumberjack fantasy I've ever had."
"You have a lot of lumberjack fantasies, Mulder?"
"This is my first one."
A sympathetic mall manager had taken one look at Scully's coffee-stained sweater and slush-sodden pants and insisted on providing the agent with a change of clothing. From all the clothes in all the stores on all the floors of the largest mall in the city, this was the outfit they'd put together. There was nothing wrong with it, really, and if she were planning a post-shopping hike through the forest it would be ideal.
When Mulder stepped into the office, Scully became acutely conscious of how snug the jeans were and the unfortunate choice she'd made when she put on a black bra this morning. While the white T-shirt she'd been given was thin and a bit small, the flannel over-shirt was much too large and drooped in all the wrong places.
Or all the right ones. At least Mulder seemed to appreciate the ensemble and this fascinating insight into his character might come in handy someday, but it was difficult to summon a playful mood while Santa was hurling obscenities from the corner of the room.
"What are you doing here, Mulder?" Because she certainly hadn't called him. She knew if he found out about this fiasco, there would be no end to the teasing.
"Skinner told me my partner had just arrested Santa Claus. Bet I know one little girl who's going to get a stocking full of reindeer crap," and thus began the tease. Mulder leaned in close, as if to share a confidence about the case. "And here," he whispered, "I figured you didn't believe in the big guy."
"I still don't, but I'm absolutely sure that Raymond Robert Barton exists." Scully glanced across the room as the man in mushy velvet was dragged to his feet by a uniformed officer. When her attention returned to Mulder, she discovered his gaze had drifted southward. A tug on the collar brought her shirt and his eyes back to a level of decency. "According to the DCPD guys, Barton has his own file drawer down at the station. Petty theft, drunk and disorderly, lots of small stuff. I caught him lifting a wallet out of a woman's purse while she was putting her son on his lap."
"So, after you finish with Santa here, wanna go frisk some elves?"
It wouldn't do to let Mulder know he amused her, or that a particular tone in his voice made her kneecaps dissolve. "Might not be such a bad idea, considering this mall's careless hiring practices," she agreed with a casual shrug that sent red flannel tumbling off her shoulder. The management's lack of discernment had been obvious to Scully when they handed her this ridiculous . . .
. . . outfit was a small gift for Fox. Can't say I understand it, myself, but that boy has always been something of an enigma. I would have expected silk or lace, but Fox wanted to see her in the tight jeans and T-shirt and the plaid flannel. He also wanted her to be braless. And running. In the rain. He hasn't been that good.
He probably wouldn't be on my list at all, but Mrs. Claus has a soft spot for the young man. Helps keep the peace around here if I grant her favorites a Christmas wish now and then. I told the missus that I would overlook Fox's naughty habits, only because of his devotion to Dana.
Did you notice that he never asked why she'd been watching Santa with the children? Dana is still mourning for her precious Emily. Fox sees it, he suffers the hurt from it, but you'll never hear him acknowledge it. He would offer her comfort if he weren't so afraid of doing the wrong thing. Now, I don't claim to have Fox Mulder all figured out, but this fear is something I understand.
I'm sure you already know this, but for the record let me state that I am an overindulgent spoiler of children. It's in my job description. Furthermore, I'll admit there are some children I've indulged more than others and none more so than Dana.
Every year I gave Dana the one thing she most wanted. Every year, without fail, until that terrible Christmas when she found and lost her baby girl.
That year, the only thing Dana wanted was for her child to live, but such things as life and death are not in my power to control. So I watched Dana suffer through the fear and the anger, the loss, and it broke my heart because for the first time, I had no gift to give her.
My wife suggested the rose. A foolish notion, I told her, because a rose is just a trifle and anyone could give Dana a rose. Why, there had been dozens of them at Emily's funeral. But Mrs. C was insistent--you know how women get when they've latched onto an idea--so I went along just to appease her. Figured it would buy me some time to come up with a real gift.
The bloom my wife chose from her private garden was nothing more than a bud on a stubby stem. It was as pink as the inside of a seashell, what a giggle would be if it had a color. Dana doesn't like pink, something my wife had evidently forgotten, so I made the astute observation that if one puny pink rose was good, surely a thousand long-stemmed yellow ones would be better.
I won't repeat her response word-for-word because it was quite long and quite loud and compared me unfavorably to various insentient objects in the room. But following this enlightening discussion with my spouse, I delivered the scrawny pink flower. I was told to leave it in the snow on the sidewalk leading to Dana's apartment. At that point, I wasn't about to argue.
When Dana returned home a few minutes later, she rescued the rose from the snow. I wasn't at all sure she would, you understand, but she apparently liked it enough to take it inside and put it in a tiny crystal vase. I looked at my wife, expecting she'd be all puffed up over the success of her gift. She just pointed me back toward the view screen and told me to wait.
It didn't take more than a minute for the warmth of the room to melt the snow on the rose petals. One by one, drops tumbled from the flower to the table while Dana sat and watched. The drops fell like rain or more like tears, as though the rose were crying. More tears followed and they were Dana's, so many and for so long. In all the years I'd known her, I had never witnessed her crying like that.
How, I asked my wife, was that rose a gift if it caused Dana such pain? And do you know what she told me? Always before the gifts had been what Dana most wanted. This gift had been what she most needed.
I'm a very old soul, yet I can still be taught. If my gift this year surpasses that bloom in significance, it's only because it is something Dana both wants and needs. Or should I say someone, for she has never craved, never loved any man more than . . .
". . . Mr. Bubble. Otherwise, I'd ask you in." She self-consciously tucked sticky strands of hair behind her ear. "Thanks for the ride, Mulder. It would have been a nightmare trying to get a cab tonight."
"No problem, Scully." He had been more gracious than she expected, perhaps more gracious than she deserved given that his car would reek of oranges for days.
It had been a fitting end to a miserable day when, after a perilous trek through an icy wilderness of parked cars, she turned her key in the ignition and heard only a dull click.
She'd debated whether to call Mulder, knowing a damsel in distress had no recourse but to listen to her rescuer's Santa Claus jokes. But there had been no jokes, not a single one, just some light conversation about holiday plans and how much snow might fall by morning. Mulder's unprecedented restraint led Scully to suspect that she looked even worse than she smelled.
'Merry Christmas,' was poised on her lips, one hand was wrapped around the door handle and the other was clutching a bag stuffed with ruined clothing, when Mulder asked her to wait.
"I have a present for you. Could I come up for just a minute?" When he spoke to her of mutants and outlandish theories, he looked her in the eye and was brave. It was things personal that made Mulder afraid. He talked to his knees so he wouldn't have to see her if she said no.
She didn't, of course, and told him to follow but she felt guilty nonetheless. "I don't have anything for you," she admitted. As she walked, she peeked into her shopping bag in the vain hope gifts would be where gooey garments had been. garments had been. Sure, it sounded pathetic, but she'd earned the right to whine. "I don't have anything for anyone."
"Look on the bright side, Scully." Though her blank expression should have made it plain that she was blind to the bright side, he persevered. "You can do all your shopping at the mall's 'Last After-Christmas Sale of the Millennium'."
"No, I can't," she protested. "Not until next year." Oh, she was well aware of the promotion. She'd slalomed around a dozen kiosks during her race through the mall and every one featured a slick, colorful poster heralding the sale.
"Still hung up on that millennium thing, aren't you."
That was putting it mildly. What possessed him, she wondered, to bring up the subject when she was already in a bad mood? Never one to forfeit if there was point to be scored for the rational team, she commenced with a familiar rant. "The whole world is being herded like sheep into believing that the new millennium starts next week, Mulder, and do you know why?"
He was smiling, the bastard, though his apparent enjoyment did not dissuade her from continuing. "Because 2000 is a sexier number than 2001. You don't start counting with zero, do you? No." Her own answer preempted any attempt he might have made. "You start with one. But you can't watch an event on television without someone calling it the last whatever-the-hell-it-is of the millennium. And next week when all the computers crash and all the nuclear missiles fire off --" there was an accompanying explosion of movement as she jammed her hand into her jeans pocket and yanked out a set of keys, "-- the survivors will blame it all on the millennium bug." Keys jangled as she forced the correct one in the lock; she had an auditory flashback to jingly mall music and felt a little queasy. "It just pisses me off."
She trudged into her apartment, slapped at the light switch, dumped the shopping bag on the floor.
"Merry Christmas, Scully." Mulder's voice was at its most delicious when it was spiced with laughter.
She laughed along in spite of herself. In truth, she was embarrassed, especially when Mulder stepped up behind her and placed a sloppily wrapped box in her hands. "I'm sorry," she said. "It's been a really long --"
"Just open it." She could feel the words vibrating from his chest to dance down her spine, he was so close.
Her hands trembled as she peeled away the paper. Shivered. Her hands were shivering, she decided, because trembling would indicate a condition unrelated to the cold. Scully's shivering fingers pulled open the lid and searched through tissue paper until they found a clock. Maybe it was a bomb, since the seconds were reeling off in reverse. If it was a bomb, she had 373 days, four hours and twenty-two minutes to defuse it. In fact, she had until the end of the millennium.
With the heat of Mulder's body against her back and his breath against her ear, it was impossible to blame all her tremors on the chill. "I had the factory reset it for 2001," he confessed. "Seems they don't make millennium clocks for purists."
"It's wonderful, Mulder." Caught in a dizzying rush of unexpected joy, she spun to face her partner with only the width of the little clock between them. "Thank you."
When Mulder's gaze fell away from her face, Scully wasn't sure if he was bracing for a personal conversation or just admiring the black bra beneath her white shirt. Either one, she didn't mind so much. His hand joined hers to hold the clock and he floated the invitation on a deep, shaky breath. "If you're not doing anything when this thing runs down, maybe we could see in the new millennium together."
She linked him to her, pinky-to-pinky, until he looked up and they were eye-to-eye. "I'd like that." Suddenly, it seemed terribly warm.
"Well," Mulder cleared his throat and shuffled a few steps backward. "I'd better go. Wouldn't want you to keep Mr. Bubble waiting."
"Thanks again, Mulder. For everything."
"But just in case the world does come to an end next week...." In one long stride, he was in front of her again. Quickly, so quickly she could barely memorize the feel of it, he kissed her. Just as quickly, he was gone. The brevity of it made her question whether it had been a kiss at all because it was only the slightest touch of his mouth to her . . .
. . . hoof, which is always filed to a sharp point. Just the two in the front, I told her, but Cupid gets a smidgen excited about romance. Lickety-split, that reindeer flew around Fox's car and kicked at the tires until all four were flat. Got my buddy, Jack, to furnish the snow. Jack's really an okay guy except for that nose-nipping thing. Mrs. Claus won't let him come to our parties anymore.
But, I digress. The important thing is that my gift has been delivered to Dana's door, so, if you'll excuse me, I have a busy night ahead.
On Dasher! On Dancer! On Prancer and -- Pardon?
Ho! Ho! No, I couldn't tell you that. My job ended with the delivery of the gift. What she does with it, well, that's Dana's business. By the way, you're on the naughty list just for asking that question.
Merry Christmas to you, all the same,
and to Agent Scully, a very good night.
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From the author: This story is given, with much gratitude and affection, to the members of the OBSSE.
Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this wonderful story please let Jill know at: email@example.com. To read more of Ms. Selby's work, we recommend you visit the author's home page. You'll be glad you did.
Now that you've finished the latest from one of the Abbey's favorite authors there are a few other treats you should sink your teeth into during the holiday season. First a few warm stories that take place after the latest mythology events. The simply amazing Jesemie's Evil Twin lends her unique and poetic style in a Thanksgiving story in Relic of Tough Weather, and our own Sister Jezebel aka Marguerite provides a story of healing and starting over in Eli, Eli. I've also found three new authors for you to enjoy. See you next year!
Revely does the OBSSE proud with her fanfic debut Grand Gestures, a Scully focused casefile that even features an Abbey prominently. In addition to being deftly written her Scullycentric colors show through proudly as she examines Scully's connection to a relationship between sisters while she deals with her own relationship with Mulder. All in a small town with strange doings. What more could you ask for? I really enjoyed this piece.
In one of the funniest stories I've read in a while, Scully sprains and ankle and tragedy strikes. She can't wear heels. For a look at our hero in a shallow moment try on Identity Crisis for size. Beyond Conception has Scully with some important decisions to make as Bill and Tara have another child. Ever wonder what might have happened if Scully had lost her faith in Mulder after his behavior in One Son? It might take Desperate Measures to get her back. All of this author's work can be found at this website.
For NC-17 fans this author has a real treat in store without even resorting to Mulder and Scully having sex. A conversation on virginity brought on by a case leads to a very interesting ride home when a drugged Scully decides to swap stories on first times. Buckle your seat belts for Make Much of Time. A number of Ambress' stories are archived here.
"The Truth Is All Out There"