[identity profile] littlegreen42.livejournal.com posting in [community profile] 12daysofxfiles
Title: Often Foundering At Sea
Fandom: The X-Files
Author: [livejournal.com profile] littlegreen42
Word Count: 1610
Rating: PG
Characters: Teena Mulder, Fox Mulder, Phoebe Greene, Dana Scully
Summary: A series of vignettes exploring Teena Mulder’s relationship with her son.
Author’s Notes: A big thank you to [livejournal.com profile] wendelah1 for her work as a last-minute beta, and for giving me the Emily Dickinson poem from which I got the title.

I. 1964

Fox startles her with his sensitivity. He’s not the sort of child who cries over every little thing, nor does he seem to need her constant reassurance. It’s just that he seems to feel so much. Emotion radiates from him. She can feel it, and it makes her feel somewhat inadequate. She’s never been good with emotions.

The odd thing is that he’s not an especially expressive child. Friends and neighbours tease him, saying, “What a serious little boy you are!” Fox will look indignant, and they’ll laugh. He’ll turn his head away, clearly perturbed. Then he’ll look at her, intense hazel eyes seeming to communicate, Mama, why do these grown-ups find me so amusing? It’s always been his eyes that tell the whole story, that reveal how he feels.

She loves him dearly, though she’s not sure she entirely understands him. He’s a very affectionate child. She’d never been that way. She watches with fondness and amusement when he says goodnight to each stuffed animal and gives them all kisses and hugs. Her childhood self never would have done such a thing; she’d have been too embarrassed.

“I love you, Mama,” he’ll say, and she’ll hold him close, her darling little boy. But sometimes, inside, she worries. Am I really qualified to raise this child?

II. 1978

Teena knocks softly on her son’s door. He calls out, telling her she can come in. He’s hunched over his schoolwork, hair disheveled. There’s a strange, sleepy quality to his expression when he turns around to smile at her, his eyes looking weary behind his owlish glasses.

She glances over to the pile of library books on his dresser, all of which seem to be on the subject of crime and criminals. “Fox, I’m a bit concerned about your interest in crime. I think it might be turning into a bit of an obsession.”

“I’m not interested in becoming a criminal, Mom,” he says, with a tone of exasperation that only a teenager can possess. “I just want to understand why some people become criminals, that’s all.”

She moves closer. “Because of what happened to your sister?”

He frowns, avoids her gaze. He mumbles, “I guess I sort of want to be a law enforcement officer when I grow up.”

When did this start? she wonders. She doesn’t like it. She doesn’t want him involved in something so dangerous, and she doesn’t think it would suit his personality. He’ll grow out of this.

“I just don’t think it’s healthy,” she says, “being so obsessed.”

“I’m not,” he says, and she knows he’s lying. His interests have a tendency to take over his mind completely. She’s spoken with his psychologist about the need to help him become less caught up in his obsessions, but so far, he hasn’t made much progress. He refuses to budge, to let anyone change him. If he doesn’t think it’s a problem, then it’s not a problem.

She worries about him, that his arrogance, stubbornness, and willfulness will get him in trouble some day. At the same time, however, she almost envies him. He knows what he wants, and he goes for it. His convictions mean everything to him. If she were like that, she thinks, maybe she would have been able to stand up to Bill. Maybe she would have had the courage to take the children away and keep them safe.

III. 1984

“Bring your girlfriend the next time you visit,” she’d said, on the phone. He’d paused awkwardly for a long moment before clearing his throat and mumbling his assent. Or perhaps it was disagreement. She wasn’t sure which. “Fox, I feel so cut off from your life these days. I want to meet the people who are special to you.”

It’s been weeks since that phone call, and now she’s met Phoebe. She can’t say that she’s very impressed, but she tries to keep this from Fox. She’s taken the two of them to dinner, and is trying her best to remain polite in the young woman’s presence. It’s proving quite difficult. She tries not to notice the way Phoebe makes eyes at other men when Fox isn’t looking, and even sometimes when he is. Fox tries his best to look unbothered. When Phoebe excuses herself to use the bathroom, Teena confronts her son.

“She must not hold you in very high regard,” she says, and Fox crosses his arms stubbornly.

“She’s just joking around, Mom,” he says.

“I don’t care if she is. She shouldn’t treat you like that.”

“I have a thick skin,” he says, evenly.

“You’re a smart boy, Fox, but you’re also very naïve.” But he’s not a boy anymore, she thinks, he’s twenty-two. Still, she feels protective of him. She feels slightly responsible for this. She was naïve in her youth, too. She’d fallen for Bill, then Charles. Maybe he’s inherited her tendency to fall for the worst kinds of people.

She watches him, carefully. For a fleeting moment, she can see the hurt he’s trying to hide.

“Don’t waste your time on her,” Teena says.

He glares at her. “I can make my own decisions, Mom.”

A few months later, she receives a letter from him. I broke up with Phoebe, he writes, leaving out any details. She wants to phone him and try to console him, if he needs consoling. Or at least tell him how proud she is of him. But she’s afraid she’d just embarrass him, so she doesn’t. She’d never been good at these emotional sorts of things, anyway.

IV. 1989

He shows up unannounced and asks her strange questions. Did you see a light, Mom? The night you and Dad went over to the Galbrands, when Samantha disappeared? He’s very animated, his eyes wild. His words tumble out quickly, falling over one another. He seems nervous. She places a hand softly on his shoulder and asks him to calm down, to take a deep breath. “Fox, what is this about?”

“Diana and I thought it would be good if I underwent regression hypnosis,” he says, and she feels her heart plummet.

The memories are erased permanently, Bill had said, he won’t remember a thing. He’d promised her that. Of course, he’d promised so many other things, as well. That Samantha would return, for instance.

“I think I remember what happened on that night, Mom.” He tries to make direct eye contact, but she won’t let him. “I know this is going to sound crazy, but you have to trust me. I think Samantha was abducted by aliens.”

“Fox,” she says, with more sharpness than she intends, “you’ve been watching too much science fiction. I shouldn’t have let you watch Star Trek when you were little, highly impressionable boy that you were.”

“Mom --”

“Hypnosis is very unreliable.” He’s unmoved. She knows her son. Once he gets an idea in his head, there’s no getting it out. “And what does Diana think about all this?”

“She believes me.”

I should have known. Diana Fowley is a level-headed woman in many ways, but in others, she seems terribly flakey. She’s into parapsychology, and other such nonsense. Well, Teena knows it isn’t nonsense, but at least she has the good sense to pretend that it is.

“I don’t think your job has been easy on you, mentally. I think you need to consider the possibility of a nervous breakdown.” She’s being harsh, she knows, but she has to keep him safe. He’s nearly thirty years old, but he can still be so much like a child. He seems to run straight at things without giving any thought to the fact that he might get hurt.

“I thought you’d have this reaction,” he says. Still, disappointment shows clearly in his eyes. “Look, Mom, just take some time to think it over. Maybe it’ll seem less crazy, the longer you consider it. Maybe you’ll remember something, too. About a light.”

“I remember nothing about a light,” she lies.

She could tell him everything, at least, everything she knows, what little she’d been able to coax out of Bill and Charles. But then he’d know. He’d know the terrible person his father was, and the terrible person she was for not being able to stop him.

V. 1997

Teena stares at her hand. She can still feel the sting of the slap, even though it’s been an hour since she’d hit him. She silently hopes that Agent Scully can find him before he does something dangerous. She wasn’t clear on what treatment he’d received, but she knew it was making him behave erratically, making him say things to her that he’d otherwise try to restrain himself from saying.

But I don’t have any excuse for my behaviour.

She hears her own voice, echoed in her mind. What do you want, to kill him again? She almost can’t believe she’d said it. She’s not even sure where it came from.

A day later, Agent Scully gives her a call, assures her that her son is all right, the negative effects of the treatment having warn off.

“Mulder’s doing a lot better,” her son’s partner says.

Mulder. That’s what they used to call Bill.

After she hangs up, Teena lets out a deep breath. Her fingers hover over the phone. On an impulse, she calls him.

“This is Mulder,” says his unenthusiastic, recorded voice. “I’m not available. Leave a message.”


“Fox --” She pauses to take a breath. “This is your mother. I’m sorry, very sorry.” Hesitating, she adds, “You may call me back -- if you’d like.”

She hangs up and waits.
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