Disclaimer: His, theirs, not mine - except David, he's mine, all mine!
Author's Note: Mrs. Mulder finally has a name! Poor thing. 'Tina'?! Just a bit too eighties for me. I would have gone for Elizabeth. Oh well. I decided not to use her name instead. If you have an extra ten seconds in your busy schedule, please respond, flames or not, to XScout@hotmail.com
September 5, 1974
David Parker was fifteen years old when he learned the meaning of fear.
It was two days before school started and a heat wave had struck the Vineyard once again on this unusually hot summer. Most of the boys David normally hung out with were either on vacation or were old enough to have a summer job. He wanted to go down to the swimming pool to cool off and watch the scantily clad lifeguard in her tower, but he didn't want to go alone. He would have asked Jesse but the poor guy was on restriction for looking at his dad's Playboy's. That left... Fox.
It's not that David didn't like Fox, in fact he had invited the younger boy over to his house several times, but it wouldn't do to be caught in public with him for fun. Fox's family was ostracized from the community because of something they were involved in last Thanksgiving and subsequently Fox was treated as an outcast at school. Being a twelve year old entering tenth grade didn't help either.
Some of the kid's called him a freak or a nerd while other's preferred crazy lunatic. Some of the more vicious teens called him a murderer, accused him of killing his eight year old sister. David could never believe that; Fox was too quiet and gentle to have done such a thing.
A tall and gangly youth, Fox kept to himself, with friends you could count on one hand. David was one of those few. He had met Fox through the basketball team. Being overly tall at age twelve had at least some benefits. Though graceful on the court, Fox was a bit accident prone off it. He would chronically miss practice or show up late because he tripped over something or fell down the stairs again. Once, in the locker room, David saw several long shallow cuts on his back. When asked about them, Fox claimed he had slid down a gravel covered hill and David dropped the issue.
David had extended his time with his lanky teammate when he heard that Fox was supposedly a genius and he got up the courage to ask for some help in algebra. Under Fox's tutelage David even managed to pass with a B+. Fox usually insisted on going to David's house for each session because it was 'a better learning environment'. David had to agree. The few times he had gone to the Mulders’, Fox was agitated and seemed almost afraid that something horrible would happen at any minute. Mrs. Mulder was reserved and distant. She never said more than one sentence at a time and mostly left the boys alone. Fox walked on eggshells around her, only speaking when spoken to.
David had never met Fox's father and he hoped to keep it that way. One day, a few weeks before finals, Fox had been so distracted they couldn't get any work done. When David inquired what was on his mind, Fox had vaguely replied, 'My dad comes home today'. This seemed strange to David, whose father also worked for the state department. He was always excited when his dad came home from a long business trip, but Fox wasn't excited. If David didn't know any better, he would have said that Fox was scared.
And now, as David walked toward the Mulder residence, he noticed that the customarily absent car was parked in the driveway. For a second he thought about turning around and going the other way. ‘How bad can he be?’ David wondered. He strode resolutely up to the door and knocked.
The door opened with such force that it slammed against the inside wall.
"What do you want?" Fox's old man demanded. He lurched forward into the doorway, squinting at the sunlight. Even though it was barely ten in the morning, he had a drink in his hand. "This better be fuckin' good."
David stumbled backwards down the steps, careful to keep out of arm's reach. The man stared over David's head, although it didn't look like his eyes were focused. He also looked like he hadn't shaved in a few days. His rumpled clothing appeared to have been on his body just as long.
David looked to either side, ready to escape if Mr. Mulder made another move. "M-Mr. Mulder," he stuttered, "I was wondering if Fox could-"
Before he could finish, Mr. Mulder turned around and shouted at the top of his lungs, "Fox! Get your ass down here, you've got company!" With that, he staggered out of the entryway into the dining room.
David stepped hesitantly into the house and quietly shut the door behind him. He put his hands behind his back and stood silently at the bottom of the stairs, waiting for Fox. He heard the sound of footsteps on the second floor and the opening and closing of a door. Then Fox appeared at the railing.
"David?" Fox slowly headed for the stairs, keeping his eyes on the other boy. "What are you doing here?"
"Hey Fox, I was going to the pool and I thought maybe you-" David stopped mid-sentence and stared open-mouthed at the youngster on the staircase.
Fox was leaning heavily on the railing as he limped downwards. His left eye was almost swollen completely shut and surrounded by the most vivid blues and purples that matched the slightly duller splotches on his right wrist and arm.
"Jesus! What happened to you? You okay?" David took a step forward to help but Fox raised his hand.
"I'm fine, I'm fine. I - I just... I fell out of the tree in the backyard." He came to rest at the bottom of the stairs. He glanced around with his good eye, searching for his father, and finding that they were alone, he continued. "Thank you for offering, but I don't think I'm up to it. Maybe some other time." Fox's eye skittered toward the dining room.
Suddenly David realized exactly how Fox had acquired the bruises decorating his body. ‘I have to get out of here’ was the only thought that registered on his brain. David instantly had an overwhelming urge to protect the younger boy. ‘I can't just leave him here... I've got it!’
"Hey, how 'bout you come over and spend the night at my house. My mom can make some chicken soup and we can just lay around playing video games. That'll be relaxing, huh?"
Fox's eyes got misty and his face broke out into the widest smile David had ever seen from the boy. "Could I really? I mean, your parents wouldn't mind?"
"I wouldn't have asked if I didn't think so." The smile was infectious.
"Hold on a sec, I'll ask my mom." Fox circumvented the dining room and took the long way to the kitchen through the living room.
Uncomfortable being left alone, David walked quickly after Fox. He found the boy in the kitchen with his mother, who was standing at the stove, stirring something in a large pot. He caught the end of the conversation.
"-David's? I'll be back by ten tomorrow to do my chores." Mrs. Mulder never looked up from her bubbling concoction. "It's all right with me but be back by nine, your father wants you to mow the lawn."
"Thanks, Mom." Fox kissed her on the cheek and practically ran out of the room, heedless of the pain in his leg. "I'll be right back, David, I'm gonna grab my overnight bag."
A few minutes later, they were on their way out the door. They had almost made it all the way onto the porch when a booming voice stopped them in their tracks. "Where the hell do you think you're going?!"
A large hand grabbed Fox by the shoulder and roughly turned him around. Bill Mulder twisted his hand into his son's shirt and pulled him back into the house. David stood rooted to the ground, unable to move, and watched in horror as his friend was lifted off the floor and slammed into the wall.
"I was going to David's hou-" Fox started.
"Don't want to be in the same house with us, is that it?! Too good for your own family?" Mr. Mulder punctuated each question by repeatedly shoving Fox against the wall. "Let *Them* take your sister because she wasn't worth the trouble? Or perhaps *you* made sure she wouldn't be any trouble and take up any of your precious time?!"
Bill dropped his son to his feet and towered over him, his fists clenched at his sides. "You don't deserve to be part of this family!" His hand swung through the air to connect with Fox's face, sending the boy across the room to land in a heap on the floor. The raging man crossed the distance between him and his child in a few steps. "It should have been you!" Mr. Mulder kicked Fox in the ribs with all his might and the sound of Fox's cry of pain jarred David out of his stupor.
"Mr. Mulder, uh, sir..." he squeaked.
Bill Mulder whirled around and advanced threateningly. "This is none of your God damned business! You better get out of my sight before I teach you some manners!"
David glanced over at Fox's inanimate form one last time before turning and running as fast as he could from that house. The sound of Mr. Mulder's yelling echoed in his ears.
He was so scared when he finally reached his house that he was trembling. His mother made him sit down and asked him what happened, but he was too shaken up to talk. Later that evening he was finally able to blurt out what he had witnessed, sure that his parents could do something.
His mother sat down next to him on his bed. "I'm sure that Mrs. Mulder will report it to the authorities. Besides, it's not really any of our business. Try to get some sleep and we'll see how you feel tomorrow."
David was shocked at first and angry that his parents were so callous. As an adult, he would come to recognize their attitude as the classic 'Denial of bad things close to home' that pervaded the Vineyard at the time.
The next day, David slept late, tired out from being kept up all night by vivid nightmares. He spent his last day of summer vacation getting ready for school and praying that Fox would be there.
When school began the day after, David sat in his first period class, his teacher called roll and then read the daily bulletin. She finished the last announcement and hushed the class once more before speaking again.
"Even though this is the first day of class, I'm sure that you all know each other. The Vineyard is like an extended family, and when one of the family is sick, everyone cares. Yesterday, Fox Mulder was in a serious car accident and he is now in critical condition at the hospital. I'm sure everyone will stop by as soon as visitors are allowed to wish him a swift recovery. And now our first assignment..."
The class erupted into conversation and rumors began to fly.
"Foxy is probably just too afraid to show up."
"Yeah, boy genius can't handle peer pressure."
"The little freak is smart enough to graduate now, they should just pass him so he has a diploma before he dies."
"He deserves it. I heard he strangled his sister and buried her in the backyard."
And in the corner a boy sat quietly as a tear rolled down his cheek. He knew that a car crash hadn't put Fox in the hospital, it was something David feared more than anything - the Devil. He closed his eyes and offered up a prayer for his teammate, his tutor, his friend.