Fan Fic Fan Art Fan Video Submissions Share or Link Challenges 155 Word Vignettes Character Notes Scene Notes Miscellaneous Notes
SMC RSS Feed Email Digest

Search Tips

  • Searches are not case sensitive
  • OR will show results from the term in front of and behind, the word or
  • The - (minus) symbol will exclude results containing the term that directly follows it
  • All other terms are required in your search results
  • Place quotes around specific terms, such as "baby alien"
  • Parenthesis have no impact on your search results
  • View a list of common keywords in a new window/tab

Include Ratings:

Include Archive Types:


NEW: Consequences
Date: Wed, 30 Jun 1999

Title: Consequences
Author: Vickie Moseley
Summary: Sequel to 'Priorities'. The consequences of our actions sometimes exact a very high price, as a father learns.
Category: V major A, MTlite
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: I don't own them. I'm grateful at times that I don't. If I did, I'd have to actually figure out a good motive for Diana and that is beyond my capabilities. But then, if I did own them, there wouldn't BE a Diana So I'll just cheerfully remain not infringing on the copyright. Thanks for not suing.
Archive: yes and please anywhere that 'Priorities' is archived
Notes: If you read Priorities, read this. If you didn't read Priorities, it's not necessary to read it first, but it might up the angst level a little. I hope this answers some questions. And I still don't think Bill is the bad guy in this scenario. I think he's just another victim.
Dedicated: To all the writers who have struggled with the Mulder family dynamic. It is indeed a slippery beast. This is just one interpretation, there are others. Thanks to you all :)

by Vickie Moseley

October 13, 1974
6:15 pm

"I said I'd pick him up and I will, Teena. Give me a goddamn break!" Bill Mulder glanced quickly around the small depot public phone booth and glared at a passerby. "I'll just be a little late, that's all. I got in late from the train and I still have to pick up the car."

He held the receiver out a couple of inches while his ex-wife went into another tirade. He did his best to ignore all her acerbic comments, not really wanting to get into another stupid fight. They always seemed to fight over the stupid things, his lateness, her penchant for spending the child support money the day it came in the mail. They never fought about the important things, never about what had happened that night almost a year before.

Bill swallowed and realized that the other end of the line was silent. "Just have him ready when I get there. I don't want to have to wait on him this time," he said, covering for the fact that he'd tuned her out again. Just as well, she hadn't listened to a thing he had to say for the last year, either. Without bothering with a 'goodbye', he hung up the phone and wearily trod off to the parking lot to find his car.

He pulled the car out of the parking lot and the late afternoon sun hit him right in the eyes. The starkness was even more painful in light of the autumn colors all around him. There had been plenty of rain that summer, lots of fall beauty. He hated autumn. He hated seeing the houses decorated with cornstalks and pumpkins. He hated walking into the grocery stores and seeing the boxed Halloween costumes lining the shelves. He hated anything that reminded him.

He sighed. He had gotten to where he even hated seeing his own son. He'd tried, Bill had really tried not to reflect his own guilt and shame on the boy. But every time he saw Fox anymore, it was a glaring reminder of what he'd done, what he'd so callously given away.

But he had not given anything away, not really. When he'd first learned of the plan, he'd objected. It was one thing to send volunteers, men and women from the military without families, without other lives to consider, he had argued time and again. It was quite another to send unsuspecting citizens. Sending military volunteers would the right approach. That was the sane approach. But it was tossed aside like so many of his ideas.

No, the other side wanted more than just test subjects. They wanted a sign of loyalty, a sign of fidelity. Medieval as it sounded, they wanted tribute, in a human form. So like the kings of old who sent their own children into unholy and unwanted marriages to broker peace between two warring nations, the men of the syndicate were required to give of their own families, their own flesh and blood. But this was worse, so much worse.

Bill refused to even consider giving his wife. Others had been more willing to sacrifice their mates. Bill had been appalled. He loved his wife, still loved her, though the woman could not stand to be in his presence any longer. No, he could never allow anything to happen to Teena. He'd made that clear from the beginning.

It had been suggested that Fox would be a suitable candidate. Fox, already a year ahead of himself in school. He was star athlete, a charmer by all standards. Fox would make an excellent trophy for the invaders.

Bill closed his eyes as he remembered the brief moment that he'd actually given it thought. He still beat himself up every time he let that tiny bit of history surface in his mind. How could he have ever, ever, truly thought he could agree to that? How could he even consider handing over his son, his first born, even if it was to appease a force that could destroy the earth in seconds. He couldn't do that, either.

But never, not in his wildest imaginings, had he ever thought they'd take Samantha. She was the youngest person taken. Everyone else had been teenagers or older. She was a child, immature. What could they possibly want with her? It killed him, one small slice at a time, as he considered what was happening to his baby girl. But what really killed him was the fact that if he was to keep the tattered remnants of his family safe, there was not a goddammed
thing he could do about it.

His silence, his acquiescence, bought their safety. Teena would be left alone. Fox would be allowed to grow and choose his own path. Bill just prayed the path his son chose would be wiser than the one he himself was traveling.

Fox was sitting on the small stoop, a worn duffle bag Bill recognized from his days in the Army at his side. He stood up and looked back at the door, as if considering running back into the safety of his mother's new house. His hands gripped the worn handle of the duffle bag nervously.

Bill drew in a deep breath and stopped the car, putting it in park, but not bothering to turn off the engine. "Get in, boy. We don't want to miss the last ferry."

Fox chanced one more look back at the white door behind him. Bill was pretty certain he could see Teena peeking out between the heavy drapes. Angrily, he dug in his pocket for a pack of cigarettes and lit one. He was up to two packs a day now. Maybe he'd just die of cancer like the Surgeon General's warnings said and be done with the whole sorry mess.

The boy was moving toward the car, head bowed, shoulders stooped. For some reason, it just made Bill want to scream. Fox had been a happy child, a happy kid. Now, he looked cowed, broken. He still hadn't gained the weight back that he'd lost the last December when he'd been in the hospital. Bill shuddered as he remembered those days of sitting next to his son's bed, wondering if the boy would ever open his eyes, ever speak, ever walk again.

The car door opened, and Bill tried to put on a smile. He held the seat forward as Fox dropped the duffle into the back seat and then pushed the seat back for the boy to get in. Fox glanced over at him and then down to his feet. The boy licked his lips, but said nothing.

Bill put the car into drive and headed off down the street. The first four blocks were silent and he thought he'd lose his mind. He had to break through the wall they were building between them.

"How's school?" he asked, staring through the windshield as if he was attentive to his driving. In truth, he just couldn't make himself turn his head to look at the boy.

"OK," came the somewhat terse reply.

>From somewhere, out of nowhere that he could identify, a cold anger spread through Bill's stomach. "What's that supposed to mean? What's 'OK' about it?"

"Nothing," the boy replied sullenly. "It's . . . It's just different."

Bill felt like smacking himself. Of course it was different. Different school, different town. All changed over the summer when he and Teena separated.

"So, does your new school have a basketball team?"

Fox sighed and hunched his shoulders. "I dunno."

"You don't know? Didn't you ask? Boy, you have to ask about these things, if you want to be on the team."

A face that Bill could never remember seeing on his son whirled and turned toward him. "Yeah, they have a team. And yeah, I asked. And no, I'm not on it. They said I had to be 13 by September 1 to make the eighth grade team. And I'm not. So let's just drop it, OK?"

Bill's first reaction was to lash out at the boy's insolence. Unfortunately, it was the only reaction he took the time to consider. "You will NOT address me in that tone of voice, young man! Never! Do you hear me?"

The boy seemed to fade into the upholstery of the car. "Yessir," he mumbled and turned his head toward the window. Bill chewed on his lip and heard the distinct sniffle to his right. It burned in his gut.

"Crying won't help things, boy."

A sleeve was pressed into service across the boy's nose. "Yessir," came the choked reply.

"There's always next year. High school is different. The rules are different than in grade school. You can play in high school," Bill reasoned. Anything to get the kid to quit crying. This was nothing to cry about. There were other far more important things to cry about, but those were getting old, too. It was time for everyone to just stop crying!

A swallow. "I know," came the quiet answer, and Bill wondered for a moment if he'd said something out loud. "I was wondering," the small voice continued, almost meek to Bill's ears. "I was wondering if I could, uh, come live with you next year. Maybe go to Chilmark High, with the rest of the guys?"

The anger turned to dread. It was the one thing that he'd thought about, the one option he'd taken hours to consider. He couldn't let Fox anywhere near him for longer than the length of a weekend. If the syndicate decided to test him again, this time they would surely go for the boy. He didn't trust the men who held his life, his daughter's life, even his ex-wife and son's lives in their hands. So he had to keep the boy at arm's length, shuffle him off to his mother, where he'd be safe. At least, that was what Bill prayed he was doing.

"No, son. That's just not possible. The court ordered joint custody, but your mother would never agree to that. You have to live with her during the school year." The words sounded harsh, cold to his ears. He wished he could take them back, make them softer, but he couldn't. What was done was done.

"Oh, OK," came the strangled reply. They were silent for the next several miles.

As they approached the Ferry, it was getting dark. Bill remembered how his son would always beg to stand on the deck and watch the lights of the city recede in the darkness. It was time to make up to him, if just a little. Bill rolled the car to a stop on the wooden deck.

"Want to watch the lights, Fox?" he asked, getting out of the car.

The boy didn't answer at first, it almost looked like he'd fallen asleep. Bill called his name and he sat up straighter.

"What, Dad?"

"Come with me and watch the lights, boy," Bill said gruffly, even though the whole exercise had been meant as an apology. Why was
the boy making it so very hard on him?

"I'm, . . . uh, I don't feel like it tonight, Dad," came the hesitant reply.

Damn it all, he was trying to make up with the boy and here he was, rebuffing Bill's efforts! The kid was as bad as Teena in that respect.

"Fox, get out of that car and come up to the observation deck, this minute," Bill ordered. He watched in some satisfaction as young Fox dutifully opened the door and stepped out. He kept his face lowered so that his eyes were hidden from view behind the mop of brown hair, but at least he was obeying without any back talk.

Bill lead the way up to the observation deck, standing so that they had a good view of the shore diminishing behind them. Fox stood a few feet away, leaning on the rail and looking out.

"It's beautiful, isn't it?" Bill commented, marveling as he always did at the smell of the water and diesel fuel, the lights twinkling in the distance. It felt like coming home. It tugged at his heart and made him swallow past a lump in his throat.

"Dad, I'm gonna be . . ."

The words were cut off in mid-sentence as his son proceeded to throw up over the railing and into the water below. Bill grabbed the boy by the shoulders to keep him from tumbling head first into the water. When he was done being sick, Fox slumped down to the wooden deck.

"I'm sorry, Dad, I'm sorry," he kept repeating.

Bill shook his head in exasperation. "Nothing to be sorry about, Fox. You got sick, that's all there is to it. Come on, let's sit down." He lead the boy over to some benches near the center of the observation area and sat him down. Just in case, he dragged a small waste can over near the bench. Fox looked at it pitifully.

"Are you sick, Fox? Are you all right?" Bill asked anxiously. He hated when the children were sick, he had always felt so inadequate. This was Teena's job, she handled things like this. But she wasn't there and so it was all up to him.

Fox shook his head slowly. "No, I'm all right, now. I'm not sick, Dad," he said, but the green cast to his face gave lie to his words.

"Does anything hurt?" Bill asked, almost ready to have the ferry master turn the boat around and go back to shore and to the nearest hospital. The boy had been so sick during the last winter. Bill had wondered more than once if he'd ever see his son dressed in anything other than a hospital gown. But he seemed to come out of it with spring. Was it coming back now? Had 'they' done something to him that night when they took Samantha? And if they did, how would Bill ever find out?

"It's just somethin' I ate, Dad. I'll be fine."

"Do you want to go to a doctor? Do you want to go . . ." Bill stopped before he said the word 'home'. As if home was where ever Teena was and Bill was just a stopping point. But wasn't that how he'd set it up? So that the boy was away from him more than near him. That was the plan, wasn't it?

"No, Dad, I'll be fine. Really. I feel a little better already."

"Well, good. I'd hate to think you were suddenly becoming seasick," Bill said with a dry chuckle.

Fox looked up at him and shook his head sadly. "I hope not," he said, fearfully.

The wind picked up and Bill noticed that they were approaching the far shore. "Well, maybe we better get you out of this wind, just in case. We're almost ready to dock anyway." He put a protective arm around the boy's shoulder. It occurred to him how much the child had grown in just a few short months. He was as tall as Teena already and would soon meet or possibly pass Bill on the height chart, too.

Traffic was light due to the lateness of the hour, so they made it to the house in West Tisbury in no time. Bill kicked himself when he remembered the number of stairs they'd have to climb, but Fox seemed to have recovered sufficiently that it wasn't a problem.

Fox opened the door and stepped in the house, looking around. "You got some new furniture," he noted.

"Yeah, a couple of pieces. When your mother and I divided the household, I thought you two should get the bigger stuff. But that left me without a couch." Bill stopped suddenly, it seemed odd to be discussing his marriage problems with his son. "Oh, and I got you some new stuff, too," he added, picking up the boy's duffle and carrying it to the back of the house.

Fox followed him into the small room that was designated as his on his weekend visits. It overlooked the large wooded backyard and had windows on the north and the west sides. It contained a twin bed, a small chest and now, it sported a five shelf bookcase.

"I thought you should have some place to put your books," Bill said with some pride as Fox touched the shining surface of the polished oak. "Boxes under the bed just aren't that good on bindings."

Fox nodded, but didn't seem overly impressed. "Thanks, Dad. I'll put the books up tomorrow."

"Sure," Bill said, feeling a crumb of disappointment. "Well, why don't you get settled in and I'll see about dinner."

The beef stew was easy enough, it only required him to open the can and pour it into a saucepan. Bill had learned, in the few months of bachelor life, that he still had a knack for 'fixing' the dreary canned convenience foods into something his taste buds could tolerate. A little celery, a dash of tabasco, a splash of
worchestershire sauce and a slice or two of a nice spanish onion, and Dinty Moore wasn't just dinty anymore. He grabbed out a couple of onion rolls that he'd picked up at the bakery and the iced tea jug and dinner was ready.

"Fox," he called. The kitchen was on the other end of the house, so Bill wasn't too surprised that the boy didn't answer. "Nose in a book, more than likely," he muttered to himself as he turned down the stew to a simmer and made his way to the hall. "Fox, dinner's on the table, boy. Wash up and get in here."

He waited for a moment, then heard shuffling in the hall and the sound of water running in the bathroom. He returned to the kitchen to stir the stew.

Fox entered, head still bowed. The boy is acting strange tonight, Bill thought to himself. "You know where the plates and silverware are, boy. Set the table and we can eat."

Silent, the boy pulled two plates from the cupboard, along with two tall glasses. He set them out, then opened a drawer to the left of the sink and took out forks and knives. He looked around at the main course and got the butter dish out of the refrigerator. He tore off a couple of paper towels to use as napkins and seated himself at the table.

Bill nodded in approval at the table setting, then brought the stew and rolls over. "Help yourself," he offered and handed the boy the ladle. Fox sighed, then scooped up half a ladle full and tapped it onto his plate. He handed the ladle back to his father.

"That's all you're going to eat, boy?" he asked tersely.

"Not that hungry," Fox said, eyes glued to his plate as he pushed the food around with his fork.

"Stomach still upset," Bill suggested. Take the excuse, boy, please, he pleaded silently.

Fox shrugged. "Just not big on stew," he mumbled.

Bill closed his eyes. Teena had been hitting the valium pretty heavy before the separation, she was probably lost in a bottle of the little white pills most of the time since then. The kid was living on canned food, Bill figured.

"Sorry. Hey, maybe tomorrow night, we can go to Angelo's and get a pizza, what'dya say?" Bill asked brightly, trying to lighten the somber mood.

Fox looked up, the first time he'd shown interest since Bill had come to get him. "Yeah, Dad. That'd be swell," he said. "May I be excused?"

Bill nodded and the boy picked up his plate, glass and silverware, going to the sink and washing them up quickly. Then he silently left to go back to his room.

That's the way it went during the visits. Bill knew it would be hard on the boy, so much had happened. The psychologists and psychiatrists they'd gone to when Fox had come out of the coma all suggested that he would be fragile for some time, maybe all his life. But Bill Mulder could not afford to have a child who was 'fragile'. Now, more than ever, Fox had to be strong. He had to survive. He had to grow and become a man who would take action. Actions his
father could only dream about. With luck, Fox would take those actions before his heart tied him too tightly to someone else and rendered him ineffective, useless.

Bill went into the study and picked up the Boston Globe. It was laughable, in many ways. The headlines were still full of Ford's pardon of the former President and how the Watergate scandal would affect the upcoming fall elections for Congress. Like ants they were, scurrying up the anthill, carrying crumbs of food. They couldn't see the giant foot shadowing the anthill, as it came down to crush them all into the dust.

He alone saw the danger. Even of his colleagues, those other men of the devil, as he now thought of them, even they couldn't see the true evil that was about to befall the human race. What was really laughable was that they had the audacity to think _they_ would be spared the horror. There were moments when Bill Mulder really didn't care about the horror. He'd already lost everything he held dear. What could taking his hollow shell of a life mean to him

He sat for a long time, in the darkness, smoking cigarette after cigarette. When his pack was empty, he picked up the ashtray and took it into the kitchen to dump into the waste basket. A noise in the hallway brought him out of his ruminations and forced him into the hall.

The bathroom door was closed, but the light was splashing out into the dark hall. Behind the door, Bill was sure he could hear his son, getting sick again. He rapped on the door lightly.

"Fox? Fox? Are you all right?" When no answer came, he tried the knob and found it unlocked. "Fox, I'm coming in."

He found the boy hunched over the toilet, the hair on the back of his neck damp with sweat. "Fox, you're still sick, aren't you?" Bill chided as he knelt down beside the boy. The only response was a slight flinch of the boy's shoulders and then more retching.

Again, for the second time that night, Bill felt helpless. Before, when the children were sick, Teena and he would take turns sitting up with ear aches and fevers. But Teena was always the stronger stomach of the two, so taking care of upset tummies fell to her. Bill usually found a quiet corner of the house to hide in until it was over. That would not work this time, he decided.

Thinking back to his own mother, and what she'd done for him, Bill reached into the small towel pantry and retrieved a hand towel. He wet it in cold water and wrung it out in the sink. He placed the cool damp cloth on the boy's neck and held it there with his palm.

Fox shivered, but seemed to press his neck up and into Bill's hand, seeking the his father's touch. The retching seemed to be no more than dry heaves at that point, and the sound was making Bill's stomach cramp in sympathy. When even the heaves subsided, Bill caught the boy before he slumped completely to the tile floor of the bathroom.

"Let's get you cleaned up," Bill said softly, realizing that the boy had been sick on the way too the bathroom, as well.

Fox looked down, horrified at the ugly yellow stain on his shirt. "M sorry, Dad. I'm so sorry," he gasped out, tears streaming down
his flushed cheeks.

"Nothing to be sorry about, son. It'll wash. Here, let's get you out of these things and wash you up a bit. You'll feel better." As he pulled the shirt off, he noticed how easy it was to count the boy's ribs. Once again Bill reminded himself that Fox still hadn't gained back the weight he'd lost in the hospital.

Until they could get back into the bedroom, Bill pulled two big bath towels down and wrapped them around his son's slim shoulders. The boy was shivering in earnest now, and Bill put his hand to the child's forehead, as he'd done several times before. Fever. This was not something he'd eaten. The boy was really sick this time.

"We need to get you in bed," Bill said tenderly, lifting the boy into his arms. It frightened him how light the boy felt, how easy it was to juggle the arms and legs that stuck out so awkwardly. Fox moaned a little at the upward motion. "I've got you, son. Don't you worry. Daddy won't let you fall."

He made it to the bedroom, and laid Fox down on the bed. The boy must have been asleep when he got sick, because the covers were thrown to the right of the bed in a hasty rush to the bathroom.  Bill checked the blankets and sheets for any sign that the boy had been sick on them, and found them clean. He then tucked them securely around his son's shoulders.

"I need to take your temperature," Bill said softly to the boy. Fox hunched down in the covers and continued to look miserable. "Will you be all right for a minute?" The boy nodded once and Bill left the room to search for a thermometer.

He'd bought a first aid kit at the suggestion of a divorced colleague at the State Department and that's where he began his search. Fortunately, it paid off and he returned to his son's room with the thin glass tube triumphantly held in his right hand.

"Open up, Fox," he said and hovered near the boy's mouth.

"Did you shake it down, first, Dad?" Fox asked, squinting at him from under sweaty hair on his forehead.

Bill pulled back and examined the tube. No, he hadn't. He shook the tube vigorously and then placed it in the boy's open mouth. Then he checked his watch and made mental note of the time so he would know when four minutes were up.

Silence descended like a heavy curtain, smothering all thought. Bill looked at his son for a moment, and realized that he was making the boy uncomfortable. Then he shifted his gaze to the bookcase. All the shelves were filled, though some of them still had room. He had no idea the boy had that many books shoved in boxes under the bed. He eyed the titles. Some _Hardy Boys_, some Sherlock Holmes. _The Exorcist_, it was a good thing that one was in his
house and Teena hadn't found it. A biography of B.F. Skinner. The Report of Project Blue Book, how had that gotten there? Odd collection for a 12 year old boy.

He checked his watch again. The four minutes were up. He withdrew the tube and glared at it in the light of the overhead bulb. 101.6. Fox had a fever all right, and it was fairly high.

Now what did he do? He was totally unprepared for a sick child. He had no medicines except some tylenol and he had no idea how much to give a child of 12.

Fox was watching him intently as he shook down the thermometer again. "How high is it?" he asked nervously.

"It's 101.6," Bill answered. "I have some Tylenol, but I don't know how many to give you."

Fox shook his head. "Mom says I shouldn't take pills on a bad stomach. I just throw them up again," the boy said calmly.

Bill nodded, he hadn't thought of that, but it made sense. "How is your stomach?"

"Sore," came the quick reply. "And still queasy. I feel sick, Dad." The boy didn't mince words, Bill was grateful for that.

Then, a thought occurred to him. "Fox, were you sick when I picked you up?"

The boy flushed and turned his head away. Bill thought he could see a tear careen down his cheek and over his nose to drop on the pillow beneath his head. One shoulder moved up and down in answer.

"Fox," Bill huffed in exasperation. "Why didn't you say something earlier," he admonished.

"I thought . . . I thought you wouldn't let me come," came the almost whispered reply.

Bill closed his eyes and sighed. The boy was right, he never would have picked him up if the child was sick. He'd have left him with Teena, she could deal with it. But was that fair to the boy?

"And . . . well, since it's my birthday and all . . ."

Bill gasped in a breath. He'd forgotten completely what day it was. October 13, the boy turned 13 years old. It was his 'magic' birthday, as Teena used to call it. Samantha always groused that she'd would be an old lady by the time she had her magic birthday, in her 28th year. But Fox had looked forward for years to his. His thirteenth birthday.

"Fox," Bill said, totally at a loss to express himself. Feelings of guilt, shame, concern and love all warred within him. He was incapable of moving at that moment. He wondered absently how his heart managed to keep beating without his assistance.

"It's OK, Dad. I know you forgot. Mom forgot, too. No big deal. I just thought, . . . maybe I'd get here and I'd feel better." He shifted, obviously uncomfortable with the topic as well as feeling bad. "And I really like the new bookcase. We'll call that my present this year, OK?"

Still unable to put word and thought together in a coherent manner, Bill just nodded numbly. "OK, son. That's what we'll do." He sat there a moment more and couldn't take it any longer. "I'll get you some water. We have to keep fluids in you, you'll get dehydrated."

Bill stumbled to the kitchen and reached over the refrigerator to the cupboard up there. A tall brown bottle, not a week old but already half empty, he pulled it down and pour half a juice glass full. It burned going down, but after a second one, the pain in his chest faded and he convinced himself he could go back in and face the boy again.

When he got back into the bedroom with a glass of water, he found the boy hunched over the tin wastebasket. He was sick again. Bill drew in a breath and walked back into the bathroom, rewetting the hand towel and wringing it out again. Then he went back to the bedroom.

Fox was practically laying on his side, dry heaving into the almost empty wastebasket. Bill put the cloth on his neck, but the boy didn't seem to notice. His eyes were glassy and his skin was too pale. He'd taken on a grayish cast in just the last few minutes and Bill was getting seriously concerned.

"Fox? Fox, talk to me, son. You have to tell me what's going on."

The boy didn't have the strength to reply. He dropped down to the pillow and closed his eyes, breathing shallowly.

Bill felt panic boil in his gut and work it's way north. He ran into the kitchen and grabbed for the phone.

Who to call? Who in the hell could he call at . . . was it already 11:15 at night? Teena? No, she was probably in a drug induced stupor by this time. The children's pediatrician? But he lived in Chilmark, which was half an hour's drive. Maybe he should just bundle the boy up and drive him to the hospital?

Suddenly, a name and number flashed into his mind. Jack Galbraith. He was a plastic surgeon, but he'd helped out a time or two in the past. Besides, he was the one who took care of Fox and later Teena while they waited for the ambulance . . . and the police. The awful night played before Bill's mind's eye and he almost reached for the brown bottle again in the hopes of wiping the memory clean.

No, Fox needed him. He dialed the number that he knew by heart.

It was answered on the seventh ring. "Hello?"

"Millie? This is Bill Mulder, is Jack home?"

Silence met his ear. "Bill? It's been ages. How are you? How's Fox?"

"That's why I'm calling, Millie. Please, I need to speak with Jack. Is he there?" His stomach was in a thousand different knots and he kept looking to the hallway, hoping Fox didn't need him while he was standing there talking to Jack's dimwitted wife, Millie.

"Sure, I'll get him. Jack!" Bill held the phone out, but the damage was done. In a few seconds, his hearing returned and he could discern Jack's footsteps coming toward the phone.

"Bill, good to hear from you, Buddy! Millie seems to think there's a problem. What can I do for you?"

Bill sighed in relief. A hundred backyard barbecues, dozens of New Year's Eve parties and Friday night Bridge games played through his mind as he heard Jack's voice. Jack was a good friend, maybe the best Bill had ever known. But Bill couldn't afford best friends anymore. Ever since the night last November, Bill couldn't afford to trust anyone.

"Jack, Fox is staying with me this weekend and he's come down with something." As clearly and precisely as he could, Bill ran down the list of symptoms, then waited for the response.

"Well, I certainly can't diagnose over the phone, Bill, and you know I'm not a pediatrician," Jack said, hedging. "But if he's still throwing up, and his fever is close to 102, I'd say it's probably more than a simple food poisoning. Maybe you better play it safe and run him over to the ER. If nothing else, they can give him something to settle his stomach, help him sleep tonight. Then you might be able to get some rest, too, my friend," Jack said with a sympathetic chuckle.

It was what he thought, but he'd been too afraid and guilt-ridden to see the obvious. "Thanks, Jack. That's what I'll do."

"Hey, what are friends for? Give Fox our love. Oh, and tell him a Happy Birthday for Millie and me, too," Jack said affably.

"Yeah, I will," Bill said, the shame twisting in his throat.

Fox was huddled under the blankets, shivering. Bill put his hand to the boy's forehead and felt the heat rising off in waves. "Fox, we have to go to the hospital."

Fox shifted and rolled over, hugging his pillow. "NO, Daddy, please no. No more hospitals. Please, no, nononononono," he sobbed.

"No choice, boy. You're sick and we have to talk care of you. I can't take care of you here. The doctors can give you something to help you stomach. C'mon, I'll help you."

Fox hugged the pillow tighter. "Daddy, please. I'll be good, I promise. I won't throw up again, I won't make a mess. Please, please don't make me go there. I hate being there. Please," he begged.

"Now, Fox. No more. Here, I'll get your shoes." Bill pulled the boy up to a sitting position and then helped him on with his shoes. He left him sitting there for a moment while he dug in the duffle for a clean shirt. After some struggling, he had the boy dressed. With considerably more effort, he had him down the front steps and in the car.

"Just a little while longer, Fox. We'll be there as quick as I can."

Fox wasn't really listening. He was pressing his forehead against the glass of the door window, eyes closed, rolling his head as if to relieve his pain. Bill pressed down on the gas a little harder.

It seemed to take forever to get to the hospital. When they finally arrived, the nurses took Fox into the examination room while Bill filled out the paperwork. He sat there, going through the questions, worrying about his son. Most of his answers were terse, some where downright belligerent.

Finally he was allowed back in the exam rooms. He followed the white clad nurse to the curtain area where Fox was being treated. He was so anxious to see the boy, he almost ran head long into a tall young man stepping out the curtain.

"Mr. Mulder?" the young man asked and Bill nodded briefly. "Good, I'm Dr. Price, I'm treating your son."

Bill shook the young man's hand. "Dr. Price, how is he?"

Price drew the curtain back so that Bill could enter the cubicle and see for himself. "Well, you have a sick young man here, Mr. Mulder. I've started him on an IV, he was already pretty dehydrated. We've given him a shot to settle his stomach. I took some blood, the lab is running it right now. But if I was a betting
man, I'd say we're dealing with an infection. Could be appendicitis, could be something else all together." The doctor flashed Bill a half smile and left the cubicle.

As Bill approached the gurney, Fox looked up at his father, his eyes at half mast. "Hi, Dad," he said weakly. Bill could see the tape on the boy's left hand, and the edges showed signs of having been picked at. Fox hated needles, Bill could have told them that, if they'd asked.

"Hi, Fox. They gave you something for your stomach. Is it working?"

The boy shrugged. "It still hurts, but I'm not ready to puke again. I feel real funny, Dad. I don't like this. Can't we go home?"

"Not yet, son. Not yet. The doctor wants to know what's wrong first. Then, we'll see. But I'm here, I'm not going anywhere." Bill looked around and found a folding chair in the corner. He pulled it close to the slim gurney the boy was laying on. "I'm right here," Bill said, taking the child's hand in his own.

Fox looked down at their hands together and then up at his father. Something shone in his eyes that Bill couldn't place. Confusion? Hope? Trust? Anger? Maybe all those things. Bill kept his own gaze as expressionless as he could. But his heart was breaking all the same.

The big yawn surprised them both. "Why don't you try and sleep a little," he told the boy. "They're doing tests, blood tests, and that could take a while. Just lie back and sleep." Bill felt relieved when the boy closed his eyes and Bill couldn't see the thoughts behind them.

He knew he'd been hard on the boy in the last year. The child had missed so much. Not just his sister, though Bill knew the boy pined for her every day. Not just his parents, though Bill was certain the separation and pending divorce was harder on Fox than it had been on him and Teena. For them, it had been a relief not to be in the same house, one constantly accusing the other, one never being able to reveal the horrible secret. The tension was going to kill them,
but the boy was oblivious to all that. After all, he was just a boy.

No, there were things Fox missed that he didn't even realize yet. Summer picnics on the beach, playing catch in the front yard before dinner. The easy-going camaraderie the two of them had shared for so long. Bill couldn't afford to let his feelings for his son be too obvious. It put the boy at risk. A risk so terrible Bill had to hide from it in the bottle of brown liquid above the refrigerator.

Arms length. That was best. Keep the boy safe, keep Teena safe. For even while she was busy hating him for all he was worth, he still loved her with the depth of his soul. And while he pushed this boy away from him, every fiber of his being ached with love for the child.

He was the father, the man of the house. His job, his duty was to protect his family. He'd failed, miserably, one night in November. But he wouldn't fail again. He'd regained his place in the syndicate. He been a very faithful soldier these last months. And in return, he was getting answers, coming closer to the truth behind the lies he'd been fed. He would do anything in his power to use that information, to save his family. This boy. That woman. The daughter somewhere far away.

He sat at his watch for hours, Fox sleeping peacefully beside him. It seemed so normal, he could almost imagine away the white hospital curtains and the smells and the sounds of the ER in the middle of the night. If Bill were to let himself close his eyes for just a moment, he could feel their old house around him. He could make himself believe that he was in Fox's room, sitting on that old desk chair from his college days, taking his turn with the sick boy.
He could make himself believe that it had all been a terrible nightmare, and when he opened his eyes it would all be over.

"I want to believe," he sighed, tears slipping past the closed lids.

"Mr. Mulder?" His eyes flew open and he looked up to find the young doctor, what was his name? Price? Standing beside him with a chart in his hands.

"Well, it had us fooled for a little while, but I think we have a handle on it now. Asian flu, nasty, nasty stuff. Given the medical history, I was almost afraid we'd find ulcers, but there's no sign of blood in the urine sample we took."

He didn't look up as he wrote some hasty notes at the bottom of the chart. "With the dehydration he experienced, I'd like to keep him overnight. We'll move him up to a room and then you can go on back home, catch a few 'z's. I would like his pediatrician to check him over here, then he can release him tomorrow, if he thinks everything's OK."

Bill looked over at the sleeping boy. "If it's all the same to you, I'd like to stay with him tonight. His mother . . . and I . . . worry," he got out before his throat tightened and he had to look away.

"No problem." The young man put a hand on Bill's shoulder. "There's nothing to worry about, Mr. Mulder. You did the right thing. Everything will work out. I know it doesn't seem like that now, but it will."

As he left, Bill sighed. If only he could know that was true.

the end.



"That movie warped my fragile
little mind!"

Cartman, 'TheSouth Park Movie'


This archive cross-referenced with:


blog comments powered by Disqus