Title: The Men
Author: ZeusStorag
Written: March 1995
Disclaimer: The X-Files and its characters are a creation of Chris Carter and Co. and Fox Broadcasting. No copyright infringement intended, etc., etc., etc.

Summary: As a child, a young Fox Mulder does what he can to help his mother over a tragedy.

Note: This is just a little musing of mine on the roots of Mulder-angst which may or may not eventually become part of a longer story. Let me know what you think.

This one called himself Jeffers.

A fat man in a cheap suit. He combed his thinning hair across the top of his head, stood up when Fox entered the living room.

"Here he is," his mother announced. "Fox, dear, this is the man I told you about."

Another detective. The third this year. Fox didn't bother to count the ones who'd shown up over the past three years.

His mother kept calling the men in. His father kept paying the bills without a word.

Fox pretended he didn't care. He'd answer their questions, keep out of their way, look over the reports they sent his mother when she wasn't paying attention.

The expense reports would track the men, living well on the family's money. New Orleans, Miami, Boston, Washington D.C.

Sometimes they didn't go far at all, just took the money, talked to the people around Chilmark everyone had talked to before, enjoyed a week's vacation among the beautiful people who were the summer tourists.

"Sit down, Fox," his mother said, tapping the cushion on the couch beside her.

She looked tired, leaning hard against the thick padding, the sun shining against the hair that had turned so gray, so fast.

The man in the cheap suit sat across the room, in the stiff chair reserved for company.

Fox slouched into the corner of the couch, stretching his legs out in front of him.

He knew the questions the man would ask. He'd heard them again and again a slight change in the words they used, but they wanted the same result.

The first detective had been a surprise, a switch from the men in uniforms who all looked alike. Fox believed in that man. Believed him when he'd said he had access to information outside the legal mainstream.

He still believed them. He didn't want to. Fox wanted to tell them all they had no business there. In their house, his house - Samantha's house - but for a reason he couldn't explain, couldn't define, Fox believed Samantha would return and maybe these men were the ones who would bring her home. So he answered the questions. Went through the routine. One of the men had gone through the familiar routine, sat down, talked to him with a quiet voice that made Fox want to trust him. The man told his parents Fox was responsible for Samantha's disappearance.

"I've studied some psychology," the detective had said as Fox listened through the old heating grate from the room above. "He's obviously been covering for his sins for so long, he's forgotten the truth himself." Mom had ordered the man out of the house, slammed the door behind him. Dad said nothing.

It was a few days later that Dad packed up, carried his bags out to the driveway. He stopped just long enough to look back at the house, then drove away.

Mom didn't seem to care anymore.

She called the detectives, looked for comfort in religion and locked herself in her bedroom.

Fox could hear her cry in the night as he lay awake, trying to convince himself the world was a safe place to fall asleep in.

He straightened up the house, cooked the supper, made sure Mom ate when she was having a bad week - answered the detectives questions when she'd had a good week and called another man to the house.

"You were the last one to see your sister, right?" Jeffers asked.

"Yeah," Fox stared down at the coffee table in front of him.

"Why didn't she go to her own bedroom?"

"Samantha often slept in the spare bed in Fox's room," Mom interrupted. "She had nightmares sometimes and didn't like to wake up alone."

Fox went through the evening's routine for the detective. Mom and Dad were visiting the neighbors. They'd played a game, watched TV until the power went out.

"Then what happened?" the man asked, crossing his legs, looking for comfort in the chair.

"We went to bed, I guess," Fox said.

"You guess?"

"We went to bed," Fox repeated. "Nothing else."

"Do you remember if anything unusual happened after that?" the man asked.

Idiot. Fox wanted to walk out of the room. Yeah, sure, Fox thought to himself. Like nobody's ever thought to ask me that before. Idiot.

He took a quick glance over at Mom, saw her looking at him, an encouraging smile pasted on her face. Answer the questions. Keep her happy.

"Fox?" the man interrupted.

"Um, no," Fox stared back down at the table. "I guess I fell asleep right away."

"And you didn't notice she was missing until morning, right?" the question was to Mom this time.

She shook her head.

Samantha's bed on the lower bunk was empty when Fox woke early the next day. He'd been confused, not certain where he was - an odd dream hanging at the edge of his mind.

He figured she was already awake or had decided to go back to her own bedroom sometime during the night. Samantha did that sometimes. Her room was empty. Fox could hear a television from the family room downstairs. He dressed, headed for the kitchen, poured a glass of orange juice.

"Samantha, want some juice?" No answer. "Samantha?"

The TV played to an empty room. Fox shrugged, put the juice back, looked outside at the gray November skies, heard movement upstairs.

Maybe Samantha was with Mom.

She wasn't. She wasn't anywhere. They looked through the house, Dad screaming for his baby. The police came, helped search the neighborhood, watched as Dad grabbed Fox by the shoulders, shook him, yelled, asking for Samantha.

He didn't say anything then. Couldn't say anything.

Now Fox rose from the couch to retrieve the information his mother wanted.

The reports were in the desk that'd belonged to Dad. The blinds in his study shut the light out of the room.

Fox opened the blinds, squinted as the light burst through the window. He leaned against the pane - the glass felt cool against his face. He took a deep breath, tried to settle the spinning in the pit of his stomach.

Samantha's smiling face looked out at him from a photograph on the desk and he traced her outlines across the dusty frame.

"Fox?" Mom called from the hallway. "Did you find it?"

"Yeah, Mom," he spun away from the photograph, away from the desk, closed the door behind him. "Don't worry. I'll take care of it."



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