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Subject: NEW: Priorities (1 of 1)
Date: Saturday, July 10, 1999

Title: Priorities
Summary: A father is faced with two conflicting events and is forced to decide his priorities, for right or wrong. A different look at the Mulder household.
Category: V Mytharc
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Come, check my house. I also don't make any money doing this. Again, come, check my house.  No infringement intended.
Archive: yes
Finished: June 24, 1999
Author's notes at the end.

by Vickie Moseley

October 13, 1973
Chilmark, MA
6:55 am

He braced himself against the sink and pulled the razor up under his chin, muttering a mild curse. Damn it, he'd nicked himself again.  His face was taking on the look of a spotted leopard, little dots of toilet paper white and blood red decorating the areas no longer covered with smooth shaving cream.

Why was he even bothering to argue with himself over it? There was nothing to be done. It had not been his decision, for that matter, it wasn't anyone's decision. It had just come. Placed before them, a perfect opportunity. How could they pass it up?

They couldn't. He knew that. The Project took no look at the calendar, took no consideration of time or dates. Dates were arbitrary, fictional. Human. All too human. A luxury they could not afford, the men he'd come to call friends.

But understanding the situation and explaining it to his family, that was a totally different matter. He pulled the razor once more across his skin, hoping that this time the blade might dig in deep enough to solve all his problems.

"Daddy, are you gonna be in there much longer?"

Her voice, like a crystal bell, broke him out of his morose thoughts.

"No, Princess. Daddy's almost done. Is Fox awake?"

"Yup," came the giggled reply.

Bill Mulder rolled his eyes at his reflection in the mirror and wiped the remnants of shaving cream off his face. He turned and opened the door to the bathroom, revealing his daughter, eight year old Samantha, standing in the hallway with a mischievous expression on her cherub face.

"Sam," Bill tried to find his 'scolding voice'. "What did you do?"

Sam giggled again. "Oh, Daddy. You'll be so proud of me," she tittered and put her tiny hand to her mouth. "Remember when you told Fox and me about when you were in college?"

A roar from the upstairs bedroom erupted to drowned out any other conversation.

"Sam, you little brat! What did you put in my shoes!"

Sam broke out into peals of laughter and Bill had to bite the inside of his mouth to keep his own chuckle firmly in place. He covered well by molding his face into dour stone.

"Samantha Ann Mulder, what did you do to your brother?"

At that moment, twelve year old Fox bounded down the stairs, murder in his eyes. Samantha recognized the danger and jumped to safety, directly behind her father's legs, with her arms wrapped firmly around Bill's waist. "Don't let him get me, Daddy," she begged and then let a few more giggles escape.

"Dad, you can't protect her! I get to rip her arms off for this one! Let me at her!" Fox stormed, holding his sneakers in one hand and his other hand clenched into a fist raised above his head.

Bill drew in a deep breath and put out his own hand, flat against his son's chest. "What did she do?" he asked calmly.

"What did she do? What did she _do_? She put jello in my sneakers, Dad. My good basketball sneakers! She knows there's try-outs for the seventh grade team after school and she put jello in my sneakers! I get to kill her, don't I, Dad? I mean, it's only fair.  Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, sister for sneakers!"

"You will do no such thing, Fox William Mulder. Now put that fist down right this minute. Let me handle this," Bill said sternly. For a split second, Fox looked like he wasn't ready to let anyone else handle anything. But then, slowly, he lowered his fist, deciding instead to lean against the hallway wall and glare at his little sister.

Bill turned to Samantha, who was still hugging his waist. "Young lady. Did you put jello in your brother's sneakers?" Bill asked in his 'father's voice'.

Samantha swallowed and nodded. "But Daddy, it was just like . . ."

Bill cut her off with a raised hand. "I don't care what it was just like, that was wrong. Very wrong. And you know better.  Samantha, I'm very disappointed in you. That's just plain cruel, to treat your brother that way."

Chewing on her lip, Samantha's face fell. Tears started to form in her eyes. "But Daddy, I thought . . . I mean, I heard Mama say . . . and today is . . ." She stopped herself, realizing the mess she was in. Bill continued to stare down at her.

"What do you say to Fox?" Bill demanded

Another swallow, this time with a deep breath. "I'm sorry, Fox. I didn't mean to ruin your only pair of sneakers. I'll never do it again." All this said to the carpet runner on the hallway floor, and not to her brother.

"Yeah, well, that's great, Butt-Munch, but what do I do about try-outs?" Fox growled from his position against the wall.

Bill heard Teena come up behind them and spun to find his wife with her hands behind her back. "I guess you'll just have to make do with these," she said quietly, and handed Fox a large shoe box.

Bill watched Fox as his eyes widened. His jaw went slack and Bill had to struggle to keep from laughing at the expression on his face.  Slowly, Fox reached for the box, swallowing several times before he actually made contact. He took the box into his hands like it was a precious treasure. He carefully lifted the lid and threw his head back, eyes closed and howled.

"Oh YEAH! Converse All*Stars! Mom, Dad, just what I wanted!  Oh gawd, and look, their hightops and black, just like Pete Marevich! I, . . . they, . . . they are cool! They're beyond cool!  They're _super cool_!"

Samantha broke out in a stunning grin. "I helped pick 'em out," she announced, proudly.

Fox hitched his shoulders, the tension of the last few minutes seeping out of him. Bill allowed himself the smile he had been trying to keep a lid on.

"Thanks, Butt-Munch," Fox said, pulling lightly on one of his sister's braids.

"Happy Birthday, son," Bill said, ruffling the dark hair on the boy's head. "Hey, looks like we need a trip to the barber soon," he noted appraisingly.

"Ah, Dad. Everybody wears it long, now." Fox scuffed his socked toe on the wood floor. "Hey," he said, looking up at Bill and then to his mother. "Can I wear these today? To school?"

"No, I thought we'd make you keep them in the box until you outgrew them," Teena said dryly, then wrapped up the tea towel she had slung over her shoulder and snapped it close to the seat of her son's Levi's.

Bill laughed at that one and took his wife in a quick hug. He addressed the children over her shoulder. "Go on, finished getting dressed. I have to do the same. If you two hurry, I'll drop you off. You won't have to wait for the bus this morning." They scurried off with a whoop and a holler.

Teena followed him into the bedroom and watched him pull out a white button down shirt and put it on. "So, what did you decide?"

Bill closed his eyes, which made tying his tie a little more difficult.  After a moment, he was forced to open them again. "I don't have a choice, Sweetheart. You know that."

Teena had perched herself on the edge of their unmade bed. She was pouting, and wasn't trying to hide it. "I know no such thing," she said, crossing her arms over her chest.

"Teena," he sighed. "I didn't plan this. It was unavoidable. If I could get out of it, you know I would."

"Oh, do I? First it was our anniversary, and I guess I could understand that. And then it was Sam's recital, but she had practiced that piece so many times, I was sick of it, too. But this, Bill, it's his _birthday_. Your only son's birthday! He's twelve years old today. How can you stay away tonight? It's . . . it's just plain . . . it's cruel, that's what it is?"

Bill winced at her words, the same words he'd just used on Samantha. But she was right, his wife was right. Missing his son's birthday celebration would be cruel. How many more might they have?

Teena was still speaking. "Well, I'm not going to be the one to tell him. That's your department. I told Sam and that was more than enough for me. This time, you get to see the look on his face. You get to be the one to break his heart," she said evenly, with her chin held just a fraction higher than normal.

Never marry money, Bill sighed to himself. "Teena," he started, but she wasn't listening. For that matter, he didn't have it in his heart to keep up his side of the argument.

"And just the other day I heard you talking to him about 'priorities'. Well, that's a laugh. Maybe you had better sit down sometime soon and figure out _your_ priorities, William Mulder.  While you still have some left to consider!"

Bill stood there, stunned. Teena flashed him a willful look and stormed out of the room, almost running into Fox who was standing in the doorway.

Fox watched his mother until she rounded the corner toward the kitchen, then turned his hesitant gaze on his father.

"What is it, Fox?" Bill bit out, and immediately regretted his gruff tone. Why not just pour the salt in the wound, he chided himself.  But he realized he hadn't wounded the boy, yet. He still had that chore ahead of him.

Fox had flinched at his father's tone and set his eyes on his parent's bedroom floor. "I, . . . um, I, . . . I just wanted to say . . . I just wanted to thank you for the neat shoes, Dad," Fox stammered and then ran all the words out quickly as if he might forget some of them.

Bill gritted his teeth against the pain in his chest and nodded.  "That's all right, boy. You deserve them," he said, noting for the first time the lump in his throat.

"Yeah, well, They're really cool, but I told you that already. The other guys are gonna be green, absolutely green when they see 'em.  So, uh, thanks, Dad. Thanks, a lot." Fox stopped speaking, but couldn't stop nodding. Then, suddenly, he was in his father's arms, all elbows and legs and scrawny neck. "Thanks, Dad," he whispered.

Bill bit down hard on his cheek, but it didn't stop the tears from filling his eyes. "It's all right, Fox. I was happy to do it. Don't forget to thank your mother. She came up with the idea, you know."

Fox pulled back, slightly embarrassed by his display of affection.  "Yeah, well, I know she always clears all that stuff with you, so you were in on it. But you didn't know about Sam and the jello, did you?" he asked suspiciously.

Bill allowed himself the release of a good belly laugh. "No, I'm afraid that was all Samantha's idea."

Fox grinned back. "Wish I'd thought of it," he said. "I'm gonna grab a bowl of wheaties. I'll be ready to leave when you are."

Bill stood frozen in his spot. He heard his son's footsteps recede.  He drew in a cleansing breath and called out. "Fox."

The boy stuck his head in the doorway again. "Yeah, Dad?"

"Fox," Bill said, licking his lips. "Fox, do they allow parents to watch try-outs?"

A smile threatened to sprout on his son's face. "Uh, I guess so. I mean, the coach didn't say anything about _not_ letting people watch. I know some of the girls like to hang out, but . . . well, sure, I guess parents can come," he said abruptly, before he revealed some things better left unsaid.

"What time?" Bill asked.

"Right after school. Three-fifteen. In the Middle School gym."

"The one on Sixth Street, right?" Bill supplied.

"Yeah, that one," Fox replied. "Are you . . . do you think you might be able to come?"

Bill nodded. "Yeah. I think I can. And then I can drive you home and we can take the 'women' out to dinner. Make today a real celebration."

The boy's face was pure joy to behold. "Cool," he said succinctly and left the room nodding slowly to himself. "Cool," Bill heard him repeat a few more times down the hall.

Bill turned back to the mirror and finished tying his tie. "Take that for priorities, Teena," he said with a wink to his reflection.

It was one meeting, what could he possibly miss?

the end

I finally sat down to watch Two Fathers/One Son again (first time since the original airing) and I discovered something I'd missed. At
the end of TF, when CGB is talking to Fowl-one about the 'conspiracy' and the 'first' meeting with the aliens to make the deal,
all the syndicate met in the El Rico hanger. Everyone was there, except Bill Mulder. He was missing. And then, I noticed the date
stamp in the corner. October 13, 1973. And it all clicked. He blew off the meeting to be home with Fox on his birthday. I know
this story does not jive with the 'Bill the Abuser' theories, but I've always seen him and Teena as people caught in a trap. It was a trap
they didn't even see closing. What might have happened if he'd gone to that meeting? Could he have talked some sense into the
other syndicate members, could he have realized that they were dealing with an evil they couldn't hoodwink without paying a price? That's for somebody else to write :)

Thanks for reading.



"That movie warped my fragile little mind!"

Cartman, 'The South Park Movie'


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