Disclaimer: Mulder’s dysfunctional family belongs to 10-13 and Chris Carter, I just borrowed them for my own benefit and now they’re collecting dust in my garage.
Author’s Notes: This story comes from an idea I got while watching ‘Radio Flyer’. I just revised it from its old version to make it a bit more refined than it used to be. If you like it, if you hate it, heck if you even read it, please, Please, PLEASE e-mail me. (I don’t sound too desperate do I?) XScout@hotmail.com
November 5, 1974
Ever since Sam disappeared it was all crap. Sometimes though, the crap managed to get worse.
“Who moved my tools?”
Fox trembled at that tone of voice. It was steady yet firm, with a slight hint of surprise. Coming from anyone but his father, it might have sounded remotely reasonable. He swore under his breath as he heard his father’s heavy footsteps heading into the house.
Staring across the kitchen to where his mother stood motionless by the stove, Fox shifted from foot to foot, hoping she would notice he was there. But her gaze never left the pot she was tending. There was a time when she would look at the floor, the ceiling, anywhere at all, just hunting for somewhere to escape. But there was no escape around here. So now she just stirred her soup and waited for the inevitable.
No matter how long he stood there or how many times he cleared his throat, she wouldn’t look at him. Nobody in the family looked at each other when this kind of trouble was brewing. Fox and his mother both waited silently and did their best not to watch as Bill Mulder opened the garage door and entered the kitchen. Maybe, just maybe, he’d fight back this time, Fox thought. Something had kept him from doing so in the past. Maybe the fact that this man was his father, no matter what kind of arrogant sadistic bastard he was. Or maybe the fact that if he caused trouble for his father, his father would make it doubly worse for his mother. And no matter what happened, Mom wouldn’t leave. He couldn’t quite understand why she wouldn’t divorce Bill, why she put up with everything her husband did to her family. He supposed that they were both from an era in which things like divorce ‘simply weren’t done’. Or perhaps she didn’t think she would be able to support herself and a child without Bill’s income. He figured they could go stay with Grandpa and Grandma Jean, but when he brought it up once his mom had immediately shook her head. “They don’t need to get involved.” That was all she said. That was all she ever said if he mentioned alerting anyone else to their situation. So he couldn’t talk and he couldn’t leave because his mother would not leave. Fox would take any beating without hesitation if he could save his mother from his father’s form of ‘discipline’.
“Somebody’s used my fuckin’ hammer.” His father stood in the doorway to the kitchen, his face red in a combination of alcohol and anger. He held the wooden handle in his hand like a club, swinging the hammer through the air drunkenly. “You know how I feel about other people using my fuckin’ things without my permission.”
The same way you feel when someone mentions Sam’s name, Fox’s mind whispered. His mother never mentioned her daughter’s name anymore. She didn’t mention much of anything around her husband, silence moving into the house when Fox came back from the hospital. Silence was something Fox could never tolerate, not even before Sam disappeared. There was something about it that made him uncomfortable, a sense of foreboding he couldn’t shake until the quiet was broken. So now he filled the silence with talk of his sister. When he missed her so much that he was sure his heart would burst, he would recite entire conversations they’d had, using his eidetic memory as a reference. Or when he was angry - at himself or at the world in general - and his common sense eluded him, he would ask questions about that night. He demanded to know what happened, why he remembered what snippets he did, and why no one seemed to care that she was gone. Those kind of questions usually preceded the more severe beatings.
His father paused for a minute, waiting for a confession. The room was absolutely still but for the punctuations of the old man’s raspy breathing.
Maybe this wouldn’t be one of the bad ones.
His mother didn’t look at him and he didn’t look at his mother. They both looked toward his father, without meeting his eyes.
The front step had been broken and his mother had been very upset about that loose board. In fact, she had been desperate to have it fixed. To his mother it didn’t matter what went on inside this house, but the outside had to look picture perfect. After all, what would the neighbors think? Martha’s Vineyard was very old-fashioned in its view of what was and what was not appropriate for its citizens to be involved in. What they did for a living, what charities the housewives - and you *had* to be a housewife because what respectful woman worked - were members of, and what school their children went to. Samantha’s kidnapping had been fodder for the rumor mill for months and their family had been ostracized for bringing something so outside the normal to the Vineyard. It had died down as his parents proved themselves properly bereaved and yet moving on with life as quickly as possible. Keep up the facade or live in shame both privately and publicly. Tina had asked her husband to fix the step about a week ago and he had erupted into another tirade of “I spend all day at work earning money to clothe and feed you and the first thing you want me to do when I get home is work some more?? I’m under a lot of pressure and I don’t have time to pick up after you lazy idiots!”
Fox had fixed the step when his father was out of town on business. Bill was out on business a lot these days, gone for days at a time. It was always a blessed respite for Fox and his mother and their time alone was often used to do things otherwise not allowed when his father was home. But this time he’d been caught. Somehow he had put the hammer back wrong. He hadn’t been careful enough; had hung it back on the hook at the wrong angle or disturbed the dust that covered the workbench. Dad never really used his tools anymore, he would just go to the garage from time to time to make sure no one else had touched them. He was a very paranoid and possessive man, the combination making very simple situations turn very bad.
“Answer me!” Bill demanded as he slapped his son full across the face. At least his father had hit him with the hand that didn’t hold the hammer. The force of the blow made him stagger backwards and he tripped over one of the dining room chairs to land with a crash on the wooden floor. Fox’s head hit the ground with a sharp crack, the sound loud in the ensuing silence. He struggled back to his feet, his vision slightly blurred and his hearing wavering in and out. He picked up his chair and set it back into position before leaning heavily against it for support.
His mother started to cry. As usual that only made things go directly from bad to worse.
“I’ll give you something to cry about, you sniveling bitch.”
His mother took a step away, her eyes cast down and her face resigned. His father moved within striking range.
That was it. Fox refused to stand there and see his mother get another black eye because of him. Besides, it was a lot easier to explain bruises on a child than bruises on a thirty-four year old woman. He straightened up and faced the old man, trying to blink away the blurry afterimages that plagued his sight.
His father spun to confront him, both hands holding the hammer now, as if he was holding the tool back from lashing out. Bill smiled, an expression of fury rather than joy. “What do you want, boy?” The words came out slowly, his voice weighed down by sarcasm and alcohol. “Why are you always getting in my way? You were worthless from the day you were born.” He made a sound somewhere between a grunt and a laugh. “If it had been done right and you were taken instead, I wouldn’t be in this mess today.”
The statement came as a shock and Fox’s mind couldn’t wrap itself around the concept. Instead, he tried to explain, “Dad, the front step was broken. I had to-”
His father’s strange smile twisted deeper into his face. “So it was you, you little shit. You think you’re old enough to be the man of the house now, huh? Think you can do my job, is that it? You want to use my hammer so much, I’ll give you my hammer!”
The tool was swung wildly at Fox’s head. This time Fox was faster. He ducked the blow as his father whirled around, carried by the hammer’s momentum. His mother screamed and tried to grab Bill’s arm. Her husband pushed her violently to the floor and promptly forgot about her, his alcohol saturated mind only able to process one thing - his son had deliberately disobeyed him. He turned back to Fox. He held a hammer, and his son was going to pay.
Fox took a step away and found his back pressed up against the antique hutch his Grandma Jean had given his parents for their wedding and where his mother kept the good china. There was nowhere else to run and the hard oak was cold against his back. His father rushed forward, trying to tackle Fox first before delivering the crippling blow. Fox’s long arms flew out from his body as he tried to escape, scrabbling against the hutch for purchase. All three shelves came crashing down behind him, sending broken plates and gleaming utensils everywhere.
The dramatic noise stopped his father for an instant, confusion clouding his sweaty face. Fox felt a tingling sensation from where one of the knives had caught him along the shoulder and reached up a hand to feel it. His palm came away with red streaks on it, his own blood warm on his cold hands. “NO!!” Fox screamed and turned to slam his open palm against the now empty wall. A small red handprint remained on the white paint as he clenched his hand into a fist and faced his father. The pain had brought his anger out at last.
Bill Mulder was at a loss. He blinked at the sight of his son trying to face him down. “You’re gonna break every fuckin’ thing in this house just like you broke our family.” He tightened his grip on the hammer.
“You’re the one who’s broken, Dad.” Fox’s voice was stony, his childish face showing knowledge far beyond his age.
His father’s heavy boot smashed the already shattered teapot on the floor as he came closer. A quick look to his right confirmed that his mother had never gotten off the ground. She had curled into a fetal position in the corner, her face covered by her trembling hands. Father and son circled each other warily.
His dad moved suddenly, the hammer flying through the air. Fox would have easily dodged the clumsy blow but his foot slipped on the broken china. He lost his balance and staggered directly into the hammer’s arc. If his father had been able to complete the swing it might have killed him instead of broken a few ribs. But intercepting the hammer before it gained full force saved Fox’s life. He grunted in surprise and pain as he found himself sprawled across the dining room floor.
He couldn’t move. Fox tried to draw in a breath to steady himself but he couldn’t seem to fill his lungs. So he lay there ineffectively gasping for air as his father slowly walked over to tower above him.
“It should have been you.” Bill’s steely voice dripped with pure hatred. He drew back his foot and kicked his son in the abdomen, barely missing the fractured ribs. “Not her.” The foot continued to pull back and rush forward as the man repeated “You, not her” with each impact.
Fox tried to protect himself from the savage blows by curling into a ball but that only made his father kick harder. The next few minutes became a blur of pain, misery, guilt and shame. Fox was on the edge of consciousness when a high pitched buzzing echoed through the room. At first he thought it was his brain rattling around in his head but then he realized it was something outside of his battered body.
The doorbell was ringing.
Fox froze, his breath sticking in his throat. All the rage at and fear of his father drained from him, replaced by a different sort of panic. Somebody had heard. It was a warm day, most of the windows were open. If anyone found out about this, what would happen to his mother?
“The neighbors can all go to hell!” his father screamed.
There was pounding on the door. The doorbell rang for a third time.
Movement in the corner of his eye drew his attention. It was his mother. She was getting up, doing her best to straighten her clothing and hair as she walked to the door. His father paused, letting the arm that held the hammer fall to his side and his foot to rest on the floor. Bill stared in the direction his wife went, his face a blank mask. Fox didn’t know if his dad cared about the neighbors; whether he was scared of being discovered or if he would attack anyone who attempted to stop him. For all Fox could tell from his father’s face, Bill could be contemplating the next apocalypse with calm equanimity.
He heard his mother open the door, followed by a reassuring response to a male voice whose words were not quite audible.
“It seems my son accidentally tipped over the hutch and broke some china. I’m afraid it toppled over right on top of him. I was just about to take him down to the doctor’s to get his bumps and bruises looked at.”
There was a muffled reply from the patrolman. His mom answered in a polite voice, “That won’t be necessary. Thank you for your concern, but I’m sure that we’ve taken up enough of your time already, Officer.”
The policeman said something else and the door closed.
“Goddamned police,” Fox’s father muttered. “Who do they think they are, interfering in people’s lives??” He pointed the hammer at Fox like a gun, but made no further move to strike out. “I don’t want you talking to anyone about this, you understand me? Everything stays in the family!” He threw the hammer on the table and turned toward the den. “I need a drink.” Then he staggered from the room, his anger forgotten, lost in the fog of alcohol and demons unknown to anyone but him.
Tina appeared in the archway leading from the foyer to the living room, her arms hugging her thin waist and her face drawn up like she was trying to keep the tears inside. She walked over and knelt down next to her battered son and opened her arms, gathering him up as carefully as possible. Fox bit his tongue to keep from whimpering as his body protested and he curled into his mother’s protective embrace. She leaned forward and kissed the top of his head, whispering in to his hair, “I don’t know what I’m going to do; I just don’t.”
They sat that way for a long time, mother and son wrapped in a cocoon of sorrow and pain that seemed unending and inescapable. Tina kept murmuring, “What am I going to do?” over and over, as though her mantra would miraculously bring about an answer. All it served to do was send her further into a state from which she would spend the rest of her life trying to avoid - guilt, suspicion, doubt and fear combining to create a woman who could no longer open herself up for fear of being hurt.
There was no way to save his mother, Fox knew. This was the last blow that would send her over the precipice she had been toeing since Samantha disappeared. He couldn’t save his mother, he couldn’t save his sister, he couldn’t save himself.
It was then that Fox Mulder vowed that he would spend the rest of his life trying to save others. Whether it be from mental or physical abuse, thievery, kidnapping, murder, or God knew what else, he would not give up trying. Perhaps in some way it could make up for not being able to save his own family. It might make his guilt more bearable but he knew it would never erase it.
There was no way for that guilt to completely be assuaged. Not unless he found *her*. If it took him until the day he died, he would find Samantha. His sister. His quest. His soul.