"So, you want to tell me, just what the hell is going on between you and Dana?"

Mulder's mouth opened, and he suddenly couldn't think of a damn thing to say.

"No, he doesn't. It's none of your business." A sleepy rasp startled them all, and drove their attention to Scully, who was slowly pulling her head up from where it had slid on Mulder's chest.

He was more than a little relieved.

"So there is something, then?"

Scully ignored Bill, and looked at Mulder. "What happened to everyone else, and how long have they been interrogating you?"

"Aw, come on Dana, we weren't interrogating. It was just conversation." Charlie grinned deviously.

"They're up putting the kids to bed, and don't worry, the interrogation part just started."

"Then I have perfect timing," she said.

"Yes, you do." Mulder smiled at her. "It's late, Scully, and you're tired. Why don't you call it a night, and get some rest?"

Scully would have liked to argue that she was fine, but was so tired, even with her little catnap, that she didn't feel like fighting him. She nodded instead, turning toward the stairs. "Let me just find my mother to say goodbye."

"You're not going back to your apartment, are you?" BIll immediately demanded.

Scully turned around to see three surprised men looking at her, though why Mulder should be so surprised was beyond her. "No, I'm not. I'll stay at Mulder's."

"Why? Mom can squeeze you in here somewhere." Bill was being thick.

"Because Bill, that's where I want to go."

"You can't stay there, you should be here."

Scully's jaw tensed, and she felt Mulder's calloused fingers running circles over her palm, trying to soothe her. He knew her moods as intimately as if he were her lover. "Bill, I'm an adult, and will make my own decisions about where I should be."

He didn't respond, seeming to realize that he wasn't going to win this one, no matter what he said or did. Instead he sat, wearing the angry grown man's version of a pout, much to her amusement. Bill had never been easy to deal with when he didn't get his way, but she'd have thought the military would have worked that out of him.

Her mother was easier to deal with, though disappointed she wouldn't have her daughter overnight. But, Scully promised to return the next day for lunch, before they took the boys and their families to the airport. She was relieved to walk out the door, and slide into the car next to Mulder. It wasn't that she didn't want to spend time with her family, she loved them; she was just too damn tired to keep it up.

Scully was finally too tired to keep being strong, to pretend what happened wasn't as terrifying, painful, and traumatizing as it was. She'd been through worse, sure, but it didn't make this any easier. She wanted to sleep. She wanted to be able to break, and to cry. Not struggle to put on a smile and be Dana. Right now being Scully took less energy. As Scully, she had the option to be weak.

It wasn't an option she took all that often, as Mulder could testify, but it was still an option. She'd already taken that option once with him today, and she had a feeling she'd be taking it again. It was easy with Mulder, because he knew exactly how to react. Don't dwell on it, don't make her feel weak, just hold her until she's had enough. He'd tell her that it was okay to breakdown, that she didn't have to be strong all the time--and, when she felt like she was falling to pieces, that was exactly what she needed to hear.

Scully didn't realize she'd fallen asleep in the car until she felt arms shifting around her. There wasn't much time for her to think, before she noted that her but was no longer touching the seat. For a moment she panicked, thinking they were still moving, until she heard the car door shut, and realized it was parked. Then her mind adjusted enough that she realized she was actually moving, or rather Mulder was moving, walking toward his building carrying her.

"Mulder, what are you doing?"

He looked down at her. "Trying not to wake you."

"You can put me down."

"You're tired and you're feet are still covered in burns, Scully. Just lay back and enjoy the ride." He smiled.

"It's fine, I can walk." She insisted, wiggling. She hated being carried, it made her feel weak and vulnerable.

He sighed loudly, and stopped. "I had to sit through dinner while you were in obvious pain using your wrists, do me a favor and don't make me watch you walk too."

Her turn to sigh. But, she didn't argue. Scully stopped wiggling, and let him carry her inside. It felt strange to let Mulder carry her into his apartment, like a gesture too romantic for their relationship. It was over pretty quickly, much to her relief. He set her on his sofa, and then didn't seem to know what to do with her. Normally, they'd start arguing over what kind of pizza to get, and who gets to pick the movie.

They'd already eaten, and she wasn't there for a social call. Not really.

"Do you mind if I take a bath?" She wanted to clean her burns, and relax her still sore muscles.

"Course not. I think I have some of those Epsom salts the EMTs mentioned under the sink, though I can't accurately pinpoint their age."

"I'll take my chances." She said, before rising off the couch, and walking with delicate winces toward his bathroom, glad to be away from a surprisingly awkward situation.

"Hey Scully," he called to her.

She turned around to face him, eyes questioning.

"Let me know if you want some company." He shot her that suggestive grin he was so talented at.

"I'll be sure to do that." She rolled her eyes, smiling and finished her walk to the bathroom.

Scully didn't require company at any point during her bath, though under other circumstances (and with a little more courage), she might have taken him up on his offer. Her overnight bag was still in the bathroom, so she was able to change into pajamas right there, and avoid any potentially embarrassing encounters of walking to the bedroom in just a towel. Not that she doubted that Mulder would be the perfect gentleman.

She walked carefully, wincing with the pressure on her feet, to Mulder's sofa. Once again she presented him with burn cream and fresh gauze, and offered her wrists to his gentle yet efficient hands.

"What are you watching?" She looked to the TV screen, and didn't recognize the movie playing.

"Uh, Galaxy Quest."

"Don't know if I saw it."

"It takes a fictional version of Star Trek, and puts the actors who play the characters in a real space environment, where they have to help save a race of aliens who are big fans of the show. Except the aliens think the show is real, and the actors are their characters."

"Sounds interesting, and right up your alley."

"Are you saying I'm a nerd, Scully?" His tone was annoyed, but there was a teasing smile in playing his eyes.

She shook her head with exaggeration. "Oh no, of course not."

"Actually, it's interesting to consider. This film takes a position few others in popular media have, and poses some very important philosophical questions."

Scully didn't comment, but let her raised eyebrows doing the talking.

"Think about it, Scully. This film posits that our first contact with extraterrestrial life won't be with a race stronger than our own, and hellbent on destroying us, but a weaker, decidedly benevolent race seeking our assistance. Then the question becomes, would we help them? Could we really bury our prejudice and media-bred paranoia to help this race survive, or would we allow them to be destroyed to secure our own safety?" He babbled, gesturing with the remote as he spoke.

"Well, you're basing all your conjecture on the assumption that the first race we encounter would actually be humanoid. All the reliable scientific evidence suggests that the odds of another humanoid race existing are microscopic. It's more likely that any extraterrestrial life we could find would look nothing like what we know. I've even read studies that hypothesize alien life more likely to be water-based." Scully responded.

"Ah, and you assert another important point--would we be less likely to assist them, if they didn't look like us? If for instance, a squid-like race were to come to this planet and ask us to save them, would we see past their un-attractive and fish-like faces, and agree? Or would we instead host the first-ever global calamari festival? Would we be awed that they exist, or revolted at their fish features?"

He watched his partner, who stared back with obvious skepticism. Rather than argue outright, she said simply, "Global calamari festival, Mulder?"

"You're a sailor's daughter, you must have eaten calamari before."

"Sure, I love calamari. But, I can't imagine slaughtering a whole race of squid-people for it."

Mulder chuckled. "You just defended 'squid-people', Scully."

She smiled. "Well, we found a flukeman, why not squid-people?"

"You know, if Ewoks invaded, we'd probably let them live. They've got that whole cute, furry thing going for them."


"Hey Scully?"

"Yes?" She asked, meeting his intense, though steady gaze.

"Merry Christmas. I'm sorry it didn't turn out better." He gave her hand a little squeeze.

She squeezed back. "It's not so bad, Mulder. Merry Christmas to you too."

"Maybe next year, we should lock ourselves in nuclear fall-out shelter from December 24th through 26th, avoid the holiday altogether," he sighed. Christmas had not be a pleasant time of year for Scully in the time he'd known her.

"Careful, I might take you up on that."

"But then, you'd miss Christmas with your family."

"Yeah, but I'd still have you." She watched him cock his head to the side, as if saying, 'yeah, but that's not much.' "Mulder, have you ever since the Grinch?"

"Animated or Jim Carey?"

"Animated, the good one."

"Of course, Scully. I think everyone has seen that."

"Well, you remember how even after all the Whos in Whoville woke up to find their decorations, food, presents, and trees missing, they still celebrated?"

"Sure, they sang around a tree right?"

"They did. Because, Christmas isn't about those things. It isn't the tree glowing with white lights, or the boxes underneath, or snowflakes and cinnamon sticks that make Christmas, Christmas. It isn't even necessarily about Jesus and church. It's where you go and who you see, it's a reminder that these are the people that make you who you are, the people who you love, and you're happy just to be with them." She was staring blankly at the TV screen now, eyes completely unfocused.

"I went to see the Gunmen, what does that say?" He looked mildly disturbed as he spoke. Scully looked at him, and laughed.

Mulder smiled then, happy to hear her laugh. Scully felt them lock into each other's gaze, like they often did, and was reminded of a promise she made to herself earlier. She'd almost forgotten about it. Head cocked to the side, she debated for a few seconds, before a little smile appeared on her lips. Mulder was watching her was apt interest. She leaned forward then, dangerously into his personal space, and took his face in her hands, staring into his beautiful hazel eyes. Scully pressed her lips softly to his, barely brushing at first, until she felt him respond, and applied more pressure. His lips were soft, and his plump bottom lip wonderfully tantalizing. Scully heard his breath hitch, and satisfied, released him, leaning back into her seat.

Mulder's eyes were closed, and he appeared to be barely breathing. Scully wondered for a moment if she'd misread their entire relationship, her pulse quickening with a hint of panic.

"Best Christmas present ever." He finally opened his eyes, and regarded her with a smile.

She sighed in relief, and looked down at her lap, hoping she wasn't blushing. Mulder read her as quick as ever, and cleared his throat, turning back to the television. Within minutes he was babbling again about philosophy and aliens. They weren't going to address it, not tonight, but it meant something, something very special to both of them.

Scully wrapped herself in the blanket on the back of the sofa, and let Mulder's soft voice lull her to sleep, her head once again resting on his shoulder.

Okay, so I think this might be the first fic I had them kiss in, and I think it actually went okay. I have difficulty writing them being intimate (kissing and beyond at least), since we saw so little of it on the show, and that makes it hard to find a moment that feels right for them. So, let me know how I did on this, and the story as a whole, feedback makes me a better writer, and a very happy one at that. All reviews thus far, are very. very appreciated. Thanks for reading!