|Primary Characters:||Fox, Samantha|
|Warning:||m/m sex, sexual abuse of minor|
|Description:||Mulder has a bad dream, where he lives Alex’ life. Some things though, are the same. AU|
Fox took cover behind a pillar. After making sure nothing out of the ordinary could be seen or heard, he decided to venture across to the building where he and his mother and sister had been holed up for the past four months or so.
Today, he’d been in luck. His rounds had produced no less than five only slightly damaged apples from a dumpster behind a fruit store, some stale, but barely mouldy bread from another dumpster, and he’d managed to pick a guy’s pocket without being caught.
The guy had been wearing one of those dark suits, and carrying a briefcase. One of those stock brokers, Fox was guessing. In any case the wallet had contained three hundred dollars and fortyfive cents.
A fortune! Now he’d be able to buy Samantha a pair of almost new sneakers, as well as a warm sweater. Winter was fast approaching and since Samantha was growing fast now, when she was nearly 11, she’d outgrown the last one he’d been given by a nice old immigrant lady in only one season.
The sweater appeared to have belonged to the old lady’s son, who must have died at least 20 years earlier, but when she’d looked at Fox she had apparently seen something of her long dead son in his eyes.
Now it was getting dark and Fox didn’t like to leave his sister alone for long. If he was lucky, his mother would be with her, but there was no telling if she’d made enough money to get home that early. Usually, she’d be out until close to midnight, and it would be Fox’s job to feed Samantha and help her a little with her homework.
A few years ago, they’d been lucky. Some charity had been operating a school out of a shelter for the homeless. Samantha and Fox had both been enrolled and though he’d had to go out and look for food, he’d still had time to get good grades. The young woman, with an almost unnatural religious fervor, had praised both kids for their quick learning.
But that was a long time ago now. Fox had managed to get some very used school books and now he was helping Samantha get through them. They had a favorite fantasy, a sort of ongoing story that he would tell his sister at bedtime, about how she’d one day graduate from high school, then earn a scholarship and become a doctor.
If Fox managed to graduate from high school, he’d try to get into the police academy. He had long since stopped believing in that sweet fairy tale, but he was hoping Samantha still believed in it. He’d make sure it came true.
Some of the winos tried engage him in conversation, and one of the totally insane old bag ladies held out her hand to touch his face, mumbling incoherently.
Fox no longer feared her, and he smiled back at her, ignoring the smell and the fleas that he could see skipping about in her hair.
“Have a nice evening, Edna. See you later.”
“Good night, Edna.”
One of the latino drug dealers and pimps caught sight of him and made a big show of stepping into Fox’s path, while dramatically brandishing a switch-blade. That too, had long since ceased to frighten Fox. At least when Samantha wasn’t with him.
“Hey, girlfriend. Who’s handling your business?”
“I don’t do business. Let me pass, Rico.”
“I’m not kidding, Fox boy, you should get someone to help you out. With a face like that you could make big money. I know some people who would love to meet a boy like you.”
“I’m not kidding either, Rico. Go bother someone else.”
“Don’t get smart with me, kid. Fine. Suit yourself. When you get real desperate, you’ll come looking for help and only those Haitians will be there. Don’t come whining to me if you end up with one of those perverts from the suburbs.”
“Alright, I won’t.”
Fox side-stepped the older guy and to his relief, Rico wasn’t in a bad mood. It was just his way of talking shop all the time.
“Listen, nino, what about my stuff? I always need some smart kids to pass it around. How about it?”
Fox had thought about this a lot. Dealing drugs would make him much more than any of the unskilled jobs a boy his age could get. Some of the other boys were already carrying guns, provided by the suppliers. But he also knew at least two boys who had ended up in a gunfight, and were now dead. Boys his own age or Samantha’s age. Some girls too. And if he died, he wouldn’t be able to look out for his little sister.
“No, thanks, Rico. But thanks for the offer.”
“Only trying to be friendly.”
“I know. See you around.”
Finally, the older guy tired of the game and went over to keep an eye on one of his girls. She seemed to have taken a beating. Some trick who had been in a bad mood, maybe. Fox experienced a sudden feeling of dread. What if his mom ended up like that, or worse? It had happened before.
Their landing seemed unusually quiet for this time of night. Again, Fox felt a chill go down his spine. Samantha. What if –
He burst through the door breathlessly and found that his mom really was home early, but this wasn’t going to be a good day.
“Fox. It’s mom. She’s in a bad way.”
Fox dropped the stuff he was carrying and hurried over to the mattress where their mother was lying so unmoving. Her face bore no trace of abuse, but instead it was deathly pale. She didn’t appear to be breathing. A cold hand gripped his heart. No. He began to scan her arms for signs of needle marks.
And there it was. Had someone sold her some dirty stuff or had she accidentally taken an overdose? Sadly, he shook his head. Either way, it wouldn’t make much difference. He felt for a pulse, and to his relief there was one. Weak, thready, but at least it was there.
“Samantha, go and ask Madame Laetitia to come here. Quickly.”
“Do you have some money?”
“Yes. Just go. Maybe if she – Go on. I’ll sit with mom.”
The little girl ran as fast as she could. Fox felt bad when he noticed how much thinner she’d become only in the past nine months or so. He knew it was partially because she was growing fast right now, but he knew she wouldn’t be this skinny if he’d been able to get her better food.
A little girl of that age needed proper nutrition. He neatly ignored the fact that a boy of his age would need it too, even more so, since he was at least two heads taller and showed no sign that his own rapid growth was slowing down.
His mother wasn’t moving, so he placed a hand on her forehead. She was so cold. He had a horrifying feeling that even if Madame Laetitia would come, she’d be too late to do anything for his mother. He couldn’t help feeling a surge of anger. Why did she have to start using drugs? If she hadn’t, more of the money she made could have been used to feed Samantha.
The door opened and Samantha returned, and incredibly the lady from New Orleans was right behind her. Usually, she’d consider herself too good for this sort of client. But apparently, Samantha’s pleading had got to her. If not that, then the girl’s assurances that her brother did have some money.
The healer didn’t need to ask any questions. At a glance she determined what the problem was, and after a quick gesture that sent Samantha running for the only chair that would hold the lady’s weight, she sat down, with an effort.
Fox withdrew to let the healer do her work, though he didn’t have much hope of her success.
She put her hand on the young woman’s forehead, then took her pulse. Finally, she rolled back one eyelid, all the while muttering under her breath in patois, shaking her head.
None of this could be interpreted in a favorable light. And as he had known from the start, there wasn’t anything the healer could do. With a look that for once contained some pity, she drew herself up to speak to the older child.
“I can’t do anything for your mother. She is too far gone. Some dirty heroin, perhaps. Or simply an overdose. I am sorry.”
Fox hung his head. He didn’t know how he was going to get by on his own. How was he to be able to support Samantha without his mother’s help? But he pulled himself together. He couldn’t allow himself the luxury of letting go like this.
He reached into his pocket to pay the healer her fee, but was interrupted by a gesture.
“Keep your money, boy. You will need it. Anyway, I didn’t do anything.”
And with that, she was gone, leaving the two children stunned and shocked, standing over their mother.
There wasn’t really anything he could say to comfort his sister over this loss. Instead he held out his arms to her. And she came to him, burying her face against his chest. He could feel her narrow frame shaking with sobs and for a second, Fox felt tears sting his eyes. But he had to be grownup for both of them.
Anyway, what was the use of crying? Tears wouldn’t bring their mother back. Tears wouldn’t help provide for Samantha. He needed to think. But right now, there wasn’t anything they could do, except wait for the end.
“I promise I’ll look after you, Samantha. We’ll get by somehow. Don’t worry about it.”
He knew that his reassurances didn’t mean much, but there was no way he was going to give up, and leave Samantha in some orphanage. She was his sister and his responsibility. Even if he didn’t know how, he’d have to find a way of looking after her.
“Samantha. Are you hungry?”
She stared at him, eyes wide, and her lower lip shivering a little. How could he ask her if she was hungry at a time like this?
“I guess so.”
“Good. Go and pick up the stuff I got for us today. Have some bread and an apple. Go on. Is there anything left of the cheese from last night?”
“I think so. I was saving it for you.”
“Never mind me. I’ve eaten already. You take it.”
That was a lie. He hadn’t eaten anything all day, but Samantha needed the food more than he did. To his relief, she did as he told her. He didn’t want her to have to sit and watch over their dying mother.
Now that he knew there wasn’t anything to be done, he merely took his mother’s hand, and held on to it. He didn’t know how long ‘not long’ could be, but he wasn’t going anywhere tonight.
By now, it was pitch dark outside. The window had been broken when they moved in, so it was more or less covered by an old blanket, but you could still see enough of the sky during the day. For a while now, Fox hadn’t even heard his mother breathing. He was beginning to think it was all over.
“Samantha. Have you eaten?”
“Come on. I think maybe -“
But he was wrong. His mother wasn’t quite dead yet. She began to toss and turn and make some small noises. Suddenly, her eyes sprang open, startling Fox.
At least he thought that was what she was saying. The voice was strangled and oddly muted. He knew she wasn’t referring to him. Though his full name was Fox William, no one ever called him William or Bill.
“No, mom. It’s me. Fox. Samantha’s here too.”
But his mother didn’t appear to hear him. Her eyes filled with tears, then glazed over. It was a while until Fox realized that she was gone. When he did, he held out a hand that was only shaking a little, and pressed her eyelids shut. He’d seen someone do that once, though he couldn’t remember when or where.
“Shouldn’t we say a prayer?”
There wasn’t nothing that was less on Fox’s mind right now, but he forced himself not to snap at his sister.
“If you like.”
He needed to tell someone. The authorities needed to be informed. He’d heard that said some time. But if the authorities realized he was the only one around to take care of Samantha, she’d be taken away. He would be too, and there would be no guarantee they’d end up together.
In the meantime, he pulled up the threadbare sheet from the mattress and covered his mother’s face. Fortunately, his and Samantha’s mattress was over by the other wall.
“Yes. I said one for you too, Fox.”
Just what he needed. A prayer instead of money. But again, he forced himself not to let on his feelings.
“Thanks. Go and brush your teeth now, Samantha.”
“It’s late. You should go to sleep.”
“I know. I’ll sit with you. There’s nothing to be afraid of.”
As soon as Samantha had dozed off, he intended to go through his mother’s suitcase. The one object among their meager belongings his mother never let him or Samantha go through. Maybe there would be something in there that could help them. An address maybe. Though his mother had never mentioned her family, he thought there might be someone. Someone who just might be able to take them in.
To his relief, Samantha did as he’d told her too. She stretched out on the mattress and pulled the sheet and blanket up to her chin. True to his word, Fox sat down next to her, his back against the wall, his knees drawn up.
“Do you think you can sleep now?”
He hadn’t expected it to be easy, but he felt that if he kept talking to her as if nothing much out of the ordinary had happened, she might feel less alarmed. To his astonishment, his method seemed to be working far better than he’d expected. He should have known how deeply his little sister trusted him.
Before long, he could tell that his sister had fallen asleep, judging by her calm, slow breathing. Perhaps it wasn’t all that amazing. The death of their mother had been a shock to her, but it had been years since anyone but Fox had taken care of her.
After making sure his sister really was asleep, Fox silently got up, and walked over to the only closet in the room. It was built in, just like anything that was still here. Everything else had been removed before they moved in. Most likely by the time the building had been abandoned, awaiting demolishing. But that hadn’t happened yet, and as far as Fox knew, it had been six years or so.
The suitcase was still there. Where did his mom keep the key? She had never shown him the hiding place, but naturally, he’d kept an eye on her when she went to put it away. He’d never defy her and go and look inside the suitcase, but he wanted to know where the key was, just in case.
Apparently, the time had now come to check out the contents of the mysterious suitcase.
He didn’t have any difficulty with the lock. The key swung round easily, and when he opened the lid, a cloud of dust overwhelmed him. He couldn’t quite smother the sneeze, but fortunately, Samantha didn’t wake up.
Inside, there were a few faded photographs. One each of him and Samantha as babies. One of a tall, arrogant-looking man, and one of a middle-aged couple. That one looked particularly old. Underneath the photos, he found a large envelope, that turned out to contain some official looking documents, and a few smaller envelopes, letters. Fox was guessing that the older couple was his mother’s parents. But what about the man? Could it be that he was their father?
Now he turned his attention onto the documents. It turned out his guess had been correct. One of the documents appeared to be a marriage certificate. Their mother had married a man named William Mulder. Then there were two birth certificates, one for Fox himself, and one for Samantha. Parents were listed as Teena and William Mulder. Their father’s name. Why weren’t they still with him? What had he done to their mother?
He put away the certificates and began to explore the letters. One of them hadn’t been sent. There was no stamp on it, but it had been addressed. To William Mulder. The address was right here in the city. The others had the same return address. But all of them seemed to be old. Maybe close to ten years old. There was no guarantee that their father lived at the same address.
Though Fox was beginning to feel exhausted, he decided to go through the letters. Perhaps there would be some clue as to why his mother had chosen to leave her husband, and take her two young children with her.
His eyes kept drooping but after an hour or so, Fox felt he had found out what there was to learn about his mother’s past from the contents of the suitcase. He didn’t know what had made his mother leave her husband, but he had a feeling there was a reason and there were hints about it in the letters, he just didn’t have the code to decipher it.
But it didn’t take a genius to figure out that something really serious must have caused his mother to run away. And that told him that her parents either had to be dead, or far worse than her husband.
No help to be had from their father, apparently. All the same, Fox decided to hold on to the letters, in case of an emergency. If anything were to happen to Samantha –
In the morning, Fox had made up his mind. He’d go into hiding for a while, keeping Samantha out of sight of the authorities. What he really wanted to do was to pay for his mother’s funeral. But the money he’d taken from the stock broker just wouldn’t be enough.
So he’d make a call, then stay out of sight, until the authorities had given up on them. In the meantime, he’d have to look for Rico. Yesterday, Fox couldn’t have imagined he’d ever want to let Rico pimp for him. Tonight, he found himself out of options.
After admonishing Samantha to stay in the little cubbyhole in the basement, Fox braced himself for his upcoming ordeal. Not only would he have to do what his mother had been doing for as long as he could remember. He’d also have to crawl back to Rico and throw himself on his mercy. That was bitter.
Deep down, Fox had always resented Rico’s condescending treatment of him. Everyone knew what Teena did to support her kids. Naturally, everyone also thought that was where her kids where heading.
But Fox had been so determined to prove them wrong. He’d get a proper job. He’d make sure Samantha got her high school diploma. Now – But at least he’d still get Samantha through school. Nothing would stand in his way.
When he got to the pool hall where Rico usually hung out, the guy was nowhere to be seen. Fox continued on to a bar where he’d heard Rico was dealing drugs some days of the week. But he wasn’t there either. On a street corner, Fox ran into a few of Rico’s friends.
“You seen Rico around?”
“Yo. How’s it hanging? Rico? Not seen him all day. Maybe I can help you out.”
Fox thought about it. But that guy wasn’t one of Rico’s best friends, and if he asked him for help and Rico showed up later, he would most likely be pissed off and that wouldn’t help. Fox was hoping that maybe Rico would get him some photo shoots instead of actually turning tricks. Maybe if he kept Rico in a really good mood –
“No, thanks. I’ll just keep looking for Rico.”
By chance, he did run into a few of Rico’s girls and they knew where to find him. Shauna would sometimes give him a few hints where she thought he might find some food, or maybe a job. She was nice, but at times, Fox wasn’t sure if maybe she was having a bit of a laugh at his expense. In any case, her friend Lola was with her and he thought perhaps the girl wanted to impress her friend.
“Hey, Foxy. What can I do for you? You want a party? Just you and me – or maybe you’d like Lola to come too? How about it? I could fix you up a special price since you’re such a – Fox.”
He hated those wordplays on his name. Usually girls wouldn’t be the worst though. Guys his own age would be far more scathing.
“Some other time, ok?”
The laughter that this lame comment produced told him that neither girl had ever had any intention of giving him anything but a few smiles and some innuendo. Not that he was actually tempted. It wasn’t often he saw a girl he felt attracted to, and then she’d be closer to his own age, and certainly not in the same line of business as his own mother.
Those girls always seemed so – knowing – so overwhelmingly provocative that he felt nervous around them. They’d want to do things he didn’t even want to think about, far less practice. Only now, he’d probably have to, and not with women either.
But he didn’t want to think about that right now. He was scared enough as it was. At times, when business was going bad, Rico might get in a bad mood and rough up a few of his girls, and the boys too. And that was only Rico, who had a business interest in them. What might the tricks do, if he was out of luck?
“Have you seen Rico around?”
“Yeah, I’ve seen him.”
And to Fox’s relief, Shauna stopped kidding around and told him where he might find her pimp. His too, now, apparently.
Again, he was in luck. Only Rico’s two right hand men were around, and they were always around, so Fox knew he couldn’t hope to catch Rico alone.
“Yo, girlfriend. Que pasa?”
“Hey, Rico. You know, I’ve been thinking about what we talked about last night. You’re right. I could use some help.”
“Excellent. You’re a smart kid, Fox boy.”
“I was hoping maybe you’d arrange for someone to take – you know pictures and so on.”
“I might. But like I told you, I know this man from uptown who’s looking for a kid like you. Rich guy. Nothing weird about him. You’ll be safe enough. He won’t hurt you. How about it, Fox?”
“Great. You trust me now, and I’ll make sure you make some big money out of this. What do you say, boys? Look at that face.”
Joe laughed vacantly, as he always did at his boss’ jokes but Pepe gave Fox a look that made him blush.
“The face? Yeah, but what about those legs? I’m thinking you can charge extra for those.”
“Oh, I’ll get a good price for him, don’t you worry. Hey, Fox. Turn around a bit. Go on.”
This was simply too much. He was beginning to feel like a piece of meat, and this was just Rico and his guys. Neither one of them was into boys. This was just business. But it didn’t make Fox feel any less humiliated. Awkwardly, he did as Rico told him to.
!We’ll need to do something about those rags. Here. Go buy yourself something nice. Some nice tight jeans, a short top. You know what my boys are wearing. And those shoes – Madre de Dios. Just think if you took those off when you were meeting that nice rich old guy. New sneakers, you hear me?!
“What you looking so glum for, boy? Aren’t I getting you some nice clothes and everything?”
“Thanks, Rico. I appreciate your help. I really do.”
And before anything more humiliating happened, Fox ran off. He wished he could find an excuse to buy some nice clothes for Samantha, but under the circumstances, it was just as well. If people didn’t find her particularly pretty, she’d be better off.
When he got back, Rico was waiting for him. After giving the clothes his approval, Rico sent Pepe off, presumably to call the client. The trick.
“And I haven’t forgotten about that photo shoot. Tomorrow we’ll get to that. But you have to know that you don’t get paid enough for photos. Not enough action. And I’m not in the movie business, you know.”
“Ok. I understand.”
“Now, my man, want some of my merchandise? No charge. I like to take good care of my boys.”
Fox knew what Rico was getting at, he was only trying to stall. In a way, one of those pills should make the meeting with the ‘rich old guy’ much easier, but on the other hand, hadn’t he seen firsthand what had happened to his mother?
“No, thanks, Rico. It’s real nice of you, but I can do it.”
“Good boy. If he likes you, you won’t have to see any others. He’s real rich, this guy.”
As long as he wasn’t too weird, Fox thought that might be ok. At least Rico didn’t expect him to work the street. He’d heard about boys who had never come back after they went off with some man. Some had come back, all roughed up.
What scared him was how eager this old guy apperently was to see him. As soon as Rico had closed the deal with him, the old guy was on his way, or so it seemed. It was as if Rico had known all along that Fox would eventually agree to come and work for him.
Surely he couldn’t have been that sure? If Fox hadn’t known that his own mother had been working for another pimp, and buying his stuff as well, he’d almost have thought Rico might have slipped her some bad stuff just to get rid of her. So he could get his hands on her kids. No. Inwardly, Fox shook his head.
Pepe returned, bringing the message that the old guy would be sending a car for him.
“See. I told you he was real happy to meet you. “
Now that the deal was more or less closed, Rico took another close look at Fox, causing the boy to blush once again. What now? Some last minute instructions? He hoped not. It would be bad enough without having to imagine things ahead of time.
“Have you eaten today?”
“Well – “
“I thought not. Come on. We’ll get you something. Wouldn’t want you to pass out, now would we?”
Fox didn’t really feel hungry, though he knew he should. After all, he hadn’t eaten since yesterday, and even then, he hadn’t really had much of an appetite. But he knew better than to question Rico’s orders.
Soon he was seated at a table in the fast food restaurant across the street, having a shake and some fries. Rico didn’t want to forcefeed him too much. Probably wouldn’t do to puke all over the rich guy’s floors either.
“No problem. Are you all done? Good. Let’s go. We can’t keep the man waiting.”
When the car arrived, Fox was stunned to realize that it was driven, not by his trick as he had expected, but a uniformed driver. Amazing. If he hadn’t been very much aware of what he was getting into, this would almost have been fun. A big fancy car. Who knew what kind of place that guy lived in, if he had such a car?
The contemptuous look from the driver didn’t discourage Fox much. He was used to the looks and the name-calling from an early age. It took quite a while to get to the trick’s place, but Fox could well understand why, when he saw it.
There was a guy in uniform guarding the door, and thick carpets on the floor in the – hall or whatever it was called. It looked like a hotel, and not a place where someone would be living on a permanent basis.
The driver walked up to the uniformed guard and it looked as if he handed something over to him. Whatever it was that was passed on to him, the guard now saluted the driver and stepped aside to let them in.
In the elevator, Fox noted that the man he was going to see lived on the sixth floor. There was a thick carpet on the floor where they stepped out as well, and then they were right inside the trick’s living room. Fox had never seen such a big apartment before. It seemed the guy had the entire floor, maybe more than one floor to himself.
The driver indicated a chair close to the door.
“Sit down. My employer will be here to see you soon.”
Left to himself, Fox took a look around the room. There was some fancy stuff in here. Big mirrors, paintings on the wall, more carpeting. Little odd ornaments standing on the small tables all across the room.
The furniture looked solid, and there was decoration on some of it, sort of flared, or fringed. Fox didn’t have a word for it. And of course the seats of the chairs, except for the one he was sitting on, seemed to be thick velvet of something like that.
A door opened and an old man walked in. He was older than the driver but maybe about the same age as the doorman downstairs. Fox thought maybe he was in his fifties. The guy didn’t look too scary. Not particularly tall or strong.
“Hello. You must be Fox. You can call me Jasper.”
Jasper walked over to table by the window, and bent over to take a look at an assortment of bottles.
“What can I get you? Wine? Something stronger?”
Incredible. Fox could always get moonshine or some other bootleg booze on the street, but he never wanted to. Everyone he knew was drinking beer whenever they could, as well as soda. But he had never had wine or whatever the something stronger might be. Perhaps he’d better stick to something not so strong. He wanted to be able to know what he was doing, even if something stronger might help him get through the afternoon.
“Excellent choice. Come here. Would you look at that? Simply beautiful.”
Jasper was holding the glass up to the window, so Fox could see the ruby red of the wine. Yes, beautiful. But what was the point?
Hurriedly, the old man poured Fox another drink, then without making any toast set to drinking his.
Hesitatingly, Fox took a small sip. Then another. Not so bad.
“It’s a Chardonnay.”
Fox took that to be the name of the wine. So wines had different names too, like the beer. Foreign? Well, this guy sure looked rich enough to import his wine.
Under Jasper’s penetrating stare, Fox hurriedly finished his glass, and cautiously put it down again on the table.
Without any word of explanation, Jasper put his arm around Fox and began to lead him towards a door on the wall to the left of the entrance. Fox took a deep breath. He was wondering if Jasper expected him to have experience or if that wasn’t the point at all.
Inside the room, which, not surprisingly turned out to be a bedroom, Jasper sat down in a chair, facing the bed. He gestured for Fox to sit down on the bed.
“Make yourself comfortable.”
Fox looked down on his sneakers. They were brand new, for the first time in his life, but he realized that the old guy probably wouldn’t want him to wear them as he got into bed, so he bent over to unlace them. After kicking his shoes off, Fox pulled off his top, all the while staring at Jasper to see if he was doing the right thing.
Apparently he was. Jasper’s rather odd features had relaxed into a smile. Next followed the jeans, leaving Fox feeling very vulnerable and exposed in his shorts. He was pretty sure the old guy wanted him to remove those as well, but he really didn’t want to. Not right now. He needed a moment to pull himself together.
Jasper seemed to understand and did nothing to rush him. After an awkward extended silence, Fox decided to ask what to do next.
“Want me to lie down on the bed?”
“That would be best, don’t you think?”
For whom, Fox wanted to ask, but there really was no doubt about that. So he lay down, on his back, still wearing his shorts, and far too tense by now to take his eyes off Jasper. He had some idea what might be ahead, but he didn’t dare dwell on it. And he’d never even kissed a girl, let alone – done the things he knew he’d be expected to, now that he was working for Rico.
Still, Jasper didn’t encourage him to continue the undressing. But now the old guy got up and walked closer. He reached out a hand and began to touch Fox’s face, shoulders, arms and chest.
“You are very lovely, do you know that?”
There didn’t seem to be a good answer to that one, so Fox just tried to smile a little.
And Jasper didn’t appear to be expecting a reply anyway.
“Yes, very lovely. You remind me of a friend of mine. A childhood friend, you might say. Ned.”
A sigh accompanied this information. Something told Fox that Ned hadn’t been as accommodating as he was forced to be.
Now the old guy began to kiss him, just on the lips, nothing really gross, but after a while, he let his lips travel further down Fox’s body, and that caused him to tense up. Maybe he should have accepted Rico’s offer of drugs. He’d seen others using Rico’s stuff. More relaxed could hardly be imagined. Giggling, laid back, more or less passed out.
Either Jasper didn’t notice the tension he was causing, or he didn’t care. He merely went on, and this time, his hands began to tug at Fox’s shorts. When they were on a level with Fox’s knees, Jasper appeared satisfied. The exploring mouth continued further down, until –
At this point, Fox firmly shut his eyes and tried to imagine himself somewhere far away from this room and the luxurious apartment.
On his way back, Fox began to think of what he’d tell Samantha. With these new clothes on, he knew it was no use pretending he’d come by them by accident. He had to think of something else, but his mind shied away from letting his little sister know he was now working for Rico.
What if he’d found another type of job? Yes, in a store. That might account for the new clothes. An advance on his paycheck. Some more presentable clothes for being seen by the customers.
That was the story he decided to stick to. Samantha couldn’t know that there was no way a store owner would openly employ a minor. She’d believe him.
It was far more difficult to think of an explanation why he had to throw up two or three times during the cause of the evening.
“Fox, what’s wrong? Are you sick?”
“It’s nothing. Don’t worry about it. I just ate a burger that had gone bad. Tomorrow I’ll be feeling a lot better.”
He wasn’t sure if he really convinced her. Those eyes seemed to see far more than any ordinary eleven-year-old should. They certainly seemed to see right through him. He just couldn’t bear if she were to guess the real reason for his nausea.
Later at night, in bed, when he closed his eyes, he could still see that old guy. Feel what he’d done to him. In a way, Fox couldn’t understand why he was so worked up. Jasper hadn’t hurt him at all. No pain, nothing dangerous at all.
After all the horrible things he’d imagined the old guy might do to him, all he’d done was something completely painless. So why was he feeling so terrible? And the fact that he knew that his mother had done the exact same things did nothing to help him feel better.
For a few weeks, things settled into a familiar routine. Most of the time, Jasper would send his car around to pick Fox up. In that time, nothing worse happened to him than on the first day. He was beginning to get used to it. Anything probably got familiar after a while.
Rico set up the photo shoot and eventually, Fox got a bit of money for that, just as Rico would pay him every time he’d seen Jasper. Less for the photos of course. For the time being, Rico didn’t require him to see anyone else, and he didn’t have to deliver any drugs either.
The only slight change in his routine came about one day, when Rico sent along one of his other boys to see Jasper. Though Fox didn’t think anything would be worse than what happened inside Jasper’s bedroom, having to repeat those things with another boy, actually was.
They guy was strange, as if he’d suffered some brain damage. He didn’t talk much, and if he did, it was mainly in monosyllables. Though there didn’t seem to be anything very threatening about him, for some reason, Fox felt intimidated by the kid.
About a month after that first day, Fox came home to find Samantha in tears. She was in a bad way and it took hours to calm her down enough to finally get through to her. Apparently, someone, not Rico had approached her, when she was going upstairs to throw out some garbage. From what Fox could gather out of her incoherent words, the guy had wanted her to come with him, and it didn’t take a genius to figure out what he wanted her to do.
Once Fox had got Samantha to go to sleep, he decided to venture upstairs again to seek out Rico. He’d know what that was all about and who the guy was.
Eventually, he tracked him down in the pool hall, not looking at all pleased to see Fox. He’d bet a few dollars on the next game, and certainly didn’t want to break off right in the middle.
Pepe told Fox to sit down over by the wall to wait his turn. Knowing that everything depended on his ability to keep Rico happy, he did as he was told.
He was in luck. Rico won the bet, and was now looking a lot more pleased.
“Fox boy, what can I do for you tonight? Some pills? A smoke? What will it be?”
“Nothing like that. It’s Samantha.”
Rico flashed him a predatory smile.
“You want me to handle her business too? I could. But isn’t she a bit young? I don’t do kids that young. Most of my costumers are decent people.”
Yeah, decent enough to require 14-year-olds to get their kicks. But wisely, Fox held his tongue.
“No. Someone tried to snatch her today. Some guy. I think he wanted her to work for him. Please, Rico. I need your help.”
“Hm. I think I know who that might be. Well, I’ll see what I can do. Maury is a sick bastard. He likes his girls young.”
Rico shrugged and looked away. Maybe he wouldn’t be able to do much.
“I told you I look after my boys. Now go to bed. Jasper will want you to look nice for him tomorrow.”
Tomorrow. Fox didn’t want to leave Samantha alone again, but he knew it was no use pleading with Rico. Perhaps he’d go talk to Maury, perhaps not. But this was as good as he could hope for.
As he lay awake, tossing and turning, it came to Fox that this place wasn’t safe anymore. Rico wouldn’t do more than he had to. If something happened to Samantha, he’d shrug and let it go. It wasn’t his problem. The only solution Fox could think of was contacting their father. If he was still at that address.
Fox knew there had to have been a very good reason for their mother to leave him, to end up in the street with two small children, but whatever it was, maybe the man would want to take his own children in. Maybe he’d be able to protect Samantha better.
One thing was certain. They couldn’t go on like this. He was making money, but not enough to get a real apartment, and not enough to get Samantha into a school. Not even enough, except for a few days, to pay one of the old ladies upstairs to let Samantha do her homework in her apartment. It was too risky anyway. Maury would be able to find her there too, and what could a little old lady do to protect a child who wasn’t even her own flesh and blood?
It wasn’t without hesitation that Fox wrote the letter to his father. After he’d put it into the envelope, addressed and stamped it, he continued staring at it, with a feeling of dread. What if they were to end up out of the ashes into the fire? He couldn’t forget how his mother had settled on the desperate move of running away, taking her small children with her, and ending up in the street. Would anyone do that unless there was a very good reason?
Unlike many of his friends, Fox hadn’t much missed his absent father. He’d been far too busy making ends meet, watching his back, looking out for his sister and worrying about his mom. Not that he hadn’t wondered, it was just that he was only too aware of how little the other kids’ fathers cared or contributed to their children’s upbringing.
How many of the other boys hadn’t been beaten by their fathers or had to watch their moms being beaten? In Fox’s mind, fathers were closely associated with any other type of man. Tricks, pimps, dealers and insane weirdos.
But knowing he couldn’t both make enough money to feed Samantha and watch over her, he realized that he didn’t have any choice. Just like he hadn’t had any choice but to turn to Rico for help when his mother had died.
Again, he felt useless rage at the way his mother had let herself go, descending into drug abuse and from then on further into degradation by turning tricks. On the other hand, he knew that life on the street wasn’t easy. How could he blame his mom for seeking consolation where she could find it, when her powers of attraction had faded and not so many ‘friends’ kept seeking her out?
It had been a relief to Fox when his mom stopped bringing home boyfriends, ‘stepdads’ to her kids. He’d be forced to stay awake watching over Samantha, and his own skin, so the man in their mother’s life wouldn’t go looking for some younger companionship when Teena had dozed off to sleep or passed out from whatever drug she was using.
In the end, Fox dropped the letter into the mailbox and decided to put the matter out of his mind for the time being. He knew that even if their father still lived on the same address, and replied right away, it would be at least two days until he could come and look for them.
If he decided to write to them – and how could he – when they didn’t have a permanent address? – it would be even longer. However, just in case, Fox had asked his father to write him c/o the post office. At least that way, there was a chance of them getting in touch.
In the meantime, he had another meeting with Jasper. After getting to know the old man better, Fox had taken the opportunity of testing their so called friendship a little. He’d found that though the old man was difficult to figure out, a few hints might produce some extra cash or an expensive gift that he could take to the pawn shop. Food and drink was also plentiful, and Fox had learned that if he pouted and begged a little, Jasper didn’t mind if he brought some of the food with him.
He told Samantha that the kind old lady who owned the store where he was working would let him have lunch and a snack at work. Samantha too, was hard to figure out. At times, Fox had a horrible feeling she knew more than he wanted her to. There were also times when he could convince himself that Samantha knew nothing and believed everything he told her.
To his astonishment, a letter did arrive before the end of the week. Incredibly, it was signed William Mulder. Anxiously, Fox scanned the few lines for any sign of his father’s intentions. There was nothing that could be construed as affection. All the brief letter said was that William would be around on Sunday afternoon to see them. That was all.
Though this seemed to be the solution to their problems, Fox couldn’t help worrying. They didn’t know anything about their father. What sort of man would he be? Had he ever tried to look for them? Had he even cared that his wife and children had left him?
Now remained the tricky business of informing Samantha. Fox wasn’t exactly sure what to tell her. He didn’t think it was any use laying it on too thickly, in case they soon found out something less than pleasant about their father. For instance if he took one look at them and left again, never to return.
On the other hand, there really was no reason to confide all his misgivings to his sister. In the end, it didn’t seem to matter what he said. Samantha might worry and ponder their situation, but after all, she’d always take her brother’s advice. At times, Fox wondered what was going on inside her head, behind those dark solemn eyes, so serious, as if she had aged beyond her years.
On Sunday afternoon, Fox and Samantha dressed up in their best clothes and – just in case – packed their belongings. Fox had been forced to pretend he was coming down with the flu, since Jasper often demanded his company on weekends, not only for an hour or two, but half a day or longer. ‘Doing inventory’, was what Fox called it, hoping that Samantha still believed him.
He didn’t like having to lie to her, but the alternative was even less attractive. If there was anything he wanted more than anything else, it was for Samantha to stay innocent at least this way. She probably knew what their mother had done, even if Fox wished she could have no idea of the details of the reality.
But this? He knew Samantha had seen men dressed as women, feminine boys wearing makeup. That was one thing. But how could she understand how grown men might wish to use boys young enough to be their sons in this way? If Fox had any say in it, she’d never know.
They went down to the park – well, park was really a grand word for the small patch of grass, and the few scrawny bushes, where at night the drug addicts would gather and the most desperate would go to sell themselves to the sick and the dangerous.
In the daytime, all you could see were a few harmless old men and women, homeless and often not quite right in the head. Some of those women would bring stale bread to feed the pigeons. The old men would read tattered old newspapers, or play chess, or checkers, using a range of improvised pieces or markers.
They didn’t like to sit down on the unbelievably filthy benches, even if most of them hadn’t already been occupied by the old-timers. Most of them were friendly, but Samantha didn’t like to have the old ladies patting her lovely hair and telling her how they’d once had a little girl ‘just like you’.
She knew they didn’t mean any harm, but the insanity in their eyes made her nervous. Fox was more concerned about their incessant coughing. Most likely, it was only what you got from chain-smoking for half-a century, but he still didn’t want Samantha exposed to anything if he could help it.
A few cars passed by, but they didn’t slow down. Fox was hoping that none of Rico’s friends would spot him sitting around instead of earning his keep. If he was lucky, he’d end up far from Rico’s eyes and ears. If not –
A large black car slowed to a stop near the entrance of the park. After a minute or so, a man stepped out. Fox felt a constriction in his throat. The man looked a whole lot like the man in the photo he’d found in his mother’s suitcase.
He walked over to the two children, staring at them in a way that Fox couldn’t help thinking wasn’t very friendly.
“You’re Teena’s brats? Hm. Yes, you look like her.”
“I have some letters -”
“Yes, yes. Alright. I suppose you expect me to take you in? Come on then. I don’t have all day. Get in. The backseat, both of you. Don’t make a mess.”
“No, sir. We won’t.”
This was hardly a happy reunion between father and children, but they hadn’t really expected this man to be affectionate. At least he was willing to take them in. Wherever he lived had to be better than here. Neither child felt any regret at leaving the neighborhood where they’d grown up. What was there to miss?
They got in the car, and without another word, their father drove off. It seemed he was determined to waste as little time as possible on his children.
He took them to a part of the city that was far better than anything Fox and Samantha had seen. Not quite as luxurious as the one Jasper lived in, but Fox had never mentioned that to his sister anyway.
It wasn’t even an apartment building. The area their father apparently lived in contained one-family residences. That was beyond anything Fox and Samantha had ever laid eyes on. The neighbors appeared to keep themselves to themselves and later in life, when Fox knew more about suburban America, he realized that there were no ordinary families or young couples. Most likely everyone had something to hide. But to the children, this was fantastic. What did it matter to them that their father hardly looked at them twice in that first day?
There was a tv set, and they got to use it as much as they wanted to. In the kitchen, there was a fridge, filled with food. Though their father didn’t ask anything about their needs, he didn’t appear to mind their hunger. That first day Fox had to tell Samantha to watch it, or she’d end up staying awake all night, throwing up.
There was a spare room, which was bare and sparsely furnished. Their father told them to put their stuff in there, so they assumed it would be their room from now on. He might not know it, but to them, it was a dream. It might be small, but it was still far better than anything they’d previously been staying in.
It seemed clear from the start that school wouldn’t be on offer. On the other hand, they’d had to do without school for years anyway. Samantha still had her books and Fox intended to make sure she watched no tv until all her homework was done.
They had barely stashed their belongings in their room and sat down in front of the tv set, when someone rang the doorbell. Fox and Samantha exchanged glances. Who would be visiting their father?
After a speculative stare at his offspring, William Mulder walked over to the door and opened it. The man who was standing on the front steps appeared to be expected.
As soon as the door was shut behind the visitor, they could see their father pull him into an embrace which couldn’t even have confused Samantha. It was blatantly sexual. And sure enough, without even glancing back at his children, William kissed his visitor. Was it Fox’s imagination, or did the stranger appear to be left cold by his father’s advances?
“That’s enough, Bill. I see the brats are here.”
“They won’t be any trouble.”
“No, they won’t. Are you ready to go?”
“Yes. You stay inside the house, is that clear? No phone calls. Fox?”
Fox jumped. It was the first time he’d heard his father use his name.
“Yes, sir. I understand.”
The stranger walked over and took a long, speculative look at the two children. Fox could feel himself blush. It felt as if the man was undressing him with his eyes.
“Good looking boy. Both of them in fact. You haven’t thought that maybe you could -”
“I haven’t had time to figure anything out yet. But you’re right. He takes after Teena.”
The stranger laughed seemingly knowingly. It wasn’t a pleasant laugh.
“Yes. The lovely Teena. Not very cooperative though, was she?”
“She would have let you do anything you wanted, after I told her what was what.”
“She did let me have what I wanted after a while. Pity we never got to – enjoy her together.”
“Yes. But you’re not thinking -”
“Oh, no. Not for me. I’m not into kids. But surely you know some people who might be interested?”
“Yes. I do. Good idea. He might as well help earn his keep.”
Fox couldn’t believe he was hearing this. Not only about his mother. He was beginning to see why she’d escaped. Of course he hadn’t expected this to be a free lunch. If his father expected him to work and help out, he would.
But he had hoped that his own father wouldn’t have wanted him to do exactly what Rico had him doing. More than anything, he hoped that Samantha didn’t get what was being discussed right over her head. She’d been fixing the unsettling stranger with eyes wide open.
Now, however, she seemed to have made a conscious effort to focus on the cartoon on tv.
Fox had seen how the blatant kiss had made his sister blush. What an insensitive man their father was. Not in the least concerned what his children might or might not see when he was greeting his lover. And the discussion he’d just had to listen to –
At least the two men were now leaving. His father tried to steal one more kiss, but the stranger seemed determined to make him keep his distance. If Fox hadn’t known better he would have guessed the stranger was embarrassed to have the nature of their relationship revealed to two children. Instead, he sensed that his father was helpless in the hands of that man.
If things continued to go from bad to worse, he felt they would have to run away again. If their father expected Samantha to contribute – Then he’d go right away. He wouldn’t wait a single night. Whatever happened to him, he would make sure nothing happened to her.
He had been partially right. Already by Monday afternoon, his father returned from whatever business dealings he had, to demand to see Fox alone in the kitchen. Samantha was in their room doing her homework.
“Right. I’ve set up some meetings up for you. If you’re going to live here, you might as well pay your own way. A few friends of mine are looking for a boy like you. Do you know what I’m talking about? What am I saying? Teena’s brat ought to know.”
“Yes, sir. I think I do.”
“Good. Then you’ll do what they want, and make no trouble?”
“In case you’re wondering – these friends of mine are ok. Nothing out of the ordinary. Nothing you won’t have done before, I’m sure. You’ll be fine.”
If this was an expression of paternal concern, Fox didn’t think much of it. He’d have been willing to do almost any kind of work, but his father had immediately decided to put his good looks to use.
Would their father even have wanted to take them in if he’d been fat and had a bad complexion? At least there didn’t seem to be any mention of Samantha. He decided to ask, hoping as he did so that he’d be able to read his father’s face and notice any hint of a lie.
“What about Samantha? You’re not going to -”
“You’re not in a position to make any demands. But since you ask, if you do what you’re told and my friends have nothing to complain about, your sister can stay here and watch tv or whatever it is she likes to do.”
William Mulder nodded, as if the discussion held no particular interest to him.
“Are you ready to go? Are those your best clothes?”
“Hm. I suppose I should get you something nicer. We’ll see about that. Alright. Go and put on your shoes. We’re leaving. Later, someone might come and pick you up. But today, I’ll drop you off and make sure you get there alright.”
Fox closed the door behind him so he could speak to his sister without being overheard.
“Samantha – I have to go out for a while. He’s got me a job. I want you to lock the door and not open to anyone but me. Will you do that for me?”
She nodded. He could see that she was worried, but if she didn’t worry, she might not take his warning seriously.
“What if I have to go to the bathroom?”
“Then you go. But listen carefully so no one’s come in. Ok?”
“Ok. Fox -”
“Where are you going?
“I don’t know exactly.”
“What kind of job is it?”
“I’m not sure. But I guess it’s only fair that I do something to pay him back. He’s letting us stay here.”
Samantha didn’t need to point out that it wasn’t too much to ask from a father. Making sure his children were fed and had a roof over their heads.
William Mulder had been right. The tricks weren’t that bad. Fox knew he could handle it, but for every time, he felt himself sink lower. By now he wasn’t quite as ready to blame his mother for her drug habit.
But another thing was on his mind. Samantha. For a while now, he’d had a feeling that she guessed what kind of work he really was doing. He’d tried to think of plausible explanations for his absences.
A job unpacking stuff in a warehouse. Odd jobs around a construction site. He didn’t know that many jobs a minor might be allowed to do so he picked stuff at random from tv series they watched. That meant taking a chance Samantha wouldn’t guess the connection.
One night, when he returned especially late, and through bad luck, he’d acquired a prominent bruise on his cheekbone, she confronted him. He had never expected his little sister to question his authority like that, but apparently she had known much more than he had expected.
“Fox, you’re not working in a warehouse, are you?”
He tried to think quickly. If he admitted he didn’t, what else could he tell her? That he was dealing drugs. He opened his mouth to say so when Samantha interrupted him.
“It’s no use. I know. You think I’m deaf or dumb? I heard him talking to that – man. You’re doing what mom did, aren’t you?”
How could he admit to that? He knew that Samantha would never believe women bought sex. They’d never seen one single woman cruising for Rico’s or the other pimps’ boys.
“Of course not, Samantha. Where did you get such a silly idea? I’m selling drugs. He’s got a supplier and I help him deliver them. You make a lot of money that way. He’s quite happy with me. We’re doing ok. ”
“Drugs? You think I’m a child? Ok. So where did you get that bruise?”
That one was easy.
“One of the other guy’s boys picked a fight. You should see him. I taught him a lesson. Samantha, you don’t need to worry about me. I’ll be fine.”
He could tell that she didn’t believe him. What could he tell her to convince her? But he also knew that she’d never call his bluff. She loved him too much. So he decided to leave the fiction unchallenged. They both went on pretending that he did what he had told her, when both of them knew it wasn’t true and what’s more, both knew the other knew it.
What he hadn’t expected was that Samantha would take the matter up with their father.
As soon as he got back from seeing one of the tricks, Fox could tell something had happened. Samantha was in one of her moods. It was rare for her to lose her temper, but he could always tell when she had. He also knew she wasn’t angry at him. What had happened? He didn’t really think his father would have tried anything with Samantha, but he didn’t put it past him to bring some sick bastard over to –
“Samantha, what’s wrong?”
“Nothing. I’m fine.”
“But what happened?”
“Nothing. I told you, it’s nothing. Don’t worry about it.”
Their father wasn’t in at the moment, but when he returned, Fox could tell that he was angry too. Had Samantha dared to quarrel with the old man? He felt cold. A man who was capable of prostituting his own son, wouldn’t tolerate anything like that from his other child.
He decided to try again. Less confrontational this time.
“Don’t do anything foolish. He’s dangerous. Don’t make him angry.”
“Angry? I’m angry. How dare he make you -”
“No. He doesn’t. Honestly. I’m fine. Everyone back home was dealing drugs, remember? It’s no big deal.”
“I’m not so sure about that. But you’re not dealing drugs, Fox. I don’t know why you’re insisting you are.”
“Ok. We won’t talk about it. I just felt so angry with him.”
“Samantha, whatever it is, it isn’t worth putting yourself at risk for. Don’t you trust me to do what’s best for you?”
“If he does have drugs, I could help him sell them. It doesn’t have to be you.”
That was exactly what Fox was afraid of. Dealing drugs wasn’t nearly as safe as he was trying to make it seem.
“No. You have your work to do. You’re going to be a doctor. If you don’t do your homework, you’re not doing your part. We had a deal, remember?”
She sighed. It was as if the fantasy had ceased to thrill her a long time ago. For a while, Fox felt as if he was the child and she the grownup, far too aware of the realities of the situation. In the end, he managed to get her word she would never confront their father again.
Unfortunately, that was too late. Only two days later, Fox returned to an empty house. He ran around, opening doors, calling his sister’s name, feeling a terrible leaden pain in his chest. Samantha. Nothing. Everything was the way he’d left it. All her clothes and books were lying on the table in their room. But the girl was no where to be seen.
Filled with a desperation that blinded him to everything else, Fox ran out into the street and began to knock on the doors of every house. Most of the people didn’t open, even if they were at home. The ones who did open, had nothing to tell him. When darkness was falling, the young woman who lived next door returned and finally, someone could tell him a little.
“Yeah. When I was leaving this morning, I saw two men dragging a little girl to a car. She was kicking and screaming. I did think it was odd, but I didn’t want to be nosy, you know. My man, Dwayne, says I got to learn to mind my own business. If you want to live on this street you’d better. Was that your sister? Your dad taking her to the dentist or something?”
But Fox had other things on his mind. Absently, he thanked the young woman, and returned to his father’s house. Two men. The other one had to be his father’s lover. Spender. Fox had searched the house one night after Samantha had gone to sleep and his father had left with his lover. He’d found Spender’s phone number in a little note book in the desk drawer in his father’s office.
If Spender had Samantha, he’d get her back. But first he would confront his father. This wasn’t what he’d promised. He had said Samantha would be safe. Surely it couldn’t have been just one quarrel that had made him change his mind? Fox had never put much trust in his father’s word, but this was worse than anything he could have imagined.
William Mulder didn’t return until past midnight. On his face was an intolerably smug grin. Either he’d spent a pleasant evening with his lover, or else he was happy about his decision to get rid of his daughter.
“Don’t you worry about that. Just do your work and she’ll be fine.”
“Where is she?”
“I’ve told you before, but I suppose you’re too stupid to pay attention. You’re not in a position to make any demands. Your sister is in a safe place and as long as you do your part, she’ll continue to be safe. Is that clear? Even you should be able to understand that. Just like your mother. Pretty but dumb. Fortunately, in your line of work, brains aren’t a necessity.”
Fox would normally never lose his temper. He could hardly remember the last time it had happened. Once a boy had been tormenting a stray dog, and Fox had snapped. His anger had frightened away the boy and the dog had survived. That was the only occasion he could remember. He’d wanted to keep the dog, but had known that it was impossible.
This time, however, he let his temper get the better of him. Never questioning the wisdom of his action, he attacked his father, brandishing his fists. He’d grown much in the past six months. By now, he was close to his father’s height if nowhere near his bulk. The anger lent him a strength he didn’t possess, and he smashed his fist into his father’s face. He had time to get in a few good punches before his father had collected himself enough to fight back.
The older man’s bulk and even more his experience of fights meant the odds were overwhelmingly on his side. Soon, Fox was lying on the floor, raising his arms over his head, to ward off the worst blows that kept raining on him. A swift kick to his chest effectively made him lose his wind.
After a while, he realized that his father was trying to spare his face, and was venting his anger only on the boy’s arms and legs and occasionally his torso. It didn’t take a genius to figure out why. William Mulder had no intention of letting his son go. He represented a source of income too good to turn down.
All through the beating, Fox refused to give his father the satisfaction of seeing him cry. Though tears sprang to his eyes, he didn’t let a single sound escape his lips. At last, William Mulder’s fury abated.
“Don’t you ever talk to me like that. Remember that. Next time it will be worse. Now go to bed. You have work to do tomorrow.”
But once his father had fallen asleep, Fox opened the window and climbed out. The pain caused him to lose his footing and he ended up sprawled in the gravel underneath his window. He lay still, hoping he hadn’t woken his father up. Clutched in his hand, was a piece of paper, where he’d copied Spender’s phone number. If he had Samantha, or knew where to find her, he was the one he needed to negotiate with, not his father.
In the time he’d spent with his father, Fox had come to realize that his father was a small time crook. Spender was a different matter, however. There was something about him that made it difficult to believe he’d be seeking out the company of a man like Bill Mulder. Even considering the nature of their relationship, Fox still couldn’t understand it. Unless Spender found a use for Bill Mulder’s criminal network. Whatever his secret was, Fox would find it and use it to demand his sister’s release.
Fox made his way to a phone booth and with shaking hands, dialled the number he’d written down.
“It’s me. Fox Mulder. You have my sister. I want her back.”
Perhaps it wasn’t very smart of him to blurt everything out like that, but he hadn’t been able to think of anything else to say. Now everything depended on how loyal Spender really was to Bill Mulder.
“Is that so? Who told you I did?”
There was an amused contempt in the voice, and Fox could just imagine the expression on the man’s face. He could almost feel the stink of cigarette smoke that followed him wherever he went.
“I know you’ve got her.”
“That’s very interesting. Perhaps you should come and discuss this with me in person.”
“Alright. Where do you live?”
“It might be best if I come and pick you up. Where are you?”
Fox told him. Spender told him to expect him in ten minutes.
By now, Fox was beginning to question the wisdom of walking right into a situation he’d have no control over. But he knew instinctively that if this man had his sister, and he was sure he did, it would be far better to deal with him directly. Whatever he’d have to do, at least he’d be closer to Samantha.
Spender was driving a car far more battered than Bill Mulder’s. That surprised Fox, but he hardly gave it a second thought. He was far too anxious for news about Samantha.
When Fox opened his mouth to once again demand his sister’s return, Spender silenced him with a gesture, and indifferently began to light another cigarette.
After driving a few blocks, Spender carelessly parked the car and gestured for the boy to get out.
“We’ll walk from here.”
Fox noticed that Spender didn’t bother to bring the key. The car was stolen? He filed this puzzling fact at the back of his mind and followed the man.
After another few blocks, they got to the building where apparently, Spender was living. It was a neighborhood that wasn’t quite as good as Bill Mulder’s and there was no elevator, so they had to take the stairs.
On the fourth floor, Spender stopped and brought out a key and unlocked the door to a small apartment. It was shabbily furnished and so small, that Fox could tell that no little girl could be hidden here. Unless – No. He would never accept that his sister was dead. Not until he’d seen her body and made sure it was her.
Stubbornly, Fox refused. He didn’t want to sit down, he didn’t want to do anything the man told him to. Spender didn’t seem to care either way. He sat down instead and lit another cigarette.
“I have a business proposition for you.”
Fox thought he could guess what it was, and he’d do it, as long as he got his sister back, but somehow he didn’t think it would be that easy.
As if reading his mind, Spender’s face was moved something that in any other person might have been a smile.
“That’s not what I had in mind. Let me explain further. I think you’ll find this line of work more interesting. Oh, you’ll have to do your other thing too, at times, but mostly it’s other work I need you to do.”
“Like what? Dealing drugs?”
“It might be. But I’m not in your father’s business. This is something totally different. You don’t need to know more about it so I won’t tell you, but I can give you some idea of what to expect. Let’s say someone has a document that I or the people I work with might need. You could get it for us.”
“If you like. This is far more than simple theft, though. Some other person might have some information we need. You could help us get it.”
“Well, you’re a nice looking boy. Some people appreciate a pretty face. You know what I mean. Others – Some might be taken in by the innocence of a young boy like you. Then again, you might have to use force. You look like a big strong boy. I’m sure that if you set your mind to it, you’d be able to make someone talk.”
“Why would I do that?”
“I thought that was what we were discussing. You want your sister back. I – might know something about where she might be.”
“Excellent. I will have you sent away to a place where you will receive training.”
“Not in your own specialty, naturally. There are other skills that you will find useful.”
“Like how to pick locks. How to use various weapons. How to kill with your bare hands.”
“You want me to kill people?”
“It might come to that, yes. Do you think you’re up for it?”
Fox wanted to say no. How could he kill someone, when he’d never killed anything bigger than a ‘roach? Not even a rat. If rats were infesting a place they were staying, he’d settle for chasing them off. Now this cold, smoke-stinking man was asking him to kill people. But if that was the only way he could get his sister back –
“I – I think so. If I get my sister back.”
“I can’t promise anything. But work for me and I’ll be sure to pass on information about her whereabouts to you.”
Fox knew well that there were no guarantees he’d ever get what he wanted, but on the other hand, he had a strong feeling that no one else could give him the information he needed. Spender or no one. There really was no choice. Either he’d walk away, and continue to sell his body until he was too old and unattractive, or maybe deal drugs until he got shot – or else he’d work for Spender and maybe, just maybe he’d find out where his sister was.
“I’ll work for you. I don’t want to go back to my father. He’s a -”
“Yes, he is, isn’t he?”
Again, Spender appeared to be amused. If he felt that way about Bill Mulder then why – And the answer came to Fox, that Spender had no particular feelings for his father, he was merely using sex to manipulate him. He was filled with contempt for his father. To lose all dignity like that over someone who not only didn’t love him, but also despised him – it was pathetic.
If he ever ran into his father again, he’d spit in his face. Working for Spender he’d still be a whore, but at least he’d also learn skills he might have use for in other ways. One day, if he ever found his sister, he might put those skills to use to create a better life for them. Yes, this was an opportunity too good to be missed.
Deep down, Fox felt as if he’d made a pact with the devil. A chill went down his spine, and he wondered if he’d live to regret his decision. But he shrugged inwardly. Regret or not, there was no other choice to make.
Spender laughed dryly. It was a sound so totally deprived of any emotion you’d normally associate with laughter. He pushed back his chair and squashed his cigarette as he got up. Fox felt himself shrink back as the man walked over and pinned him against the wall. He should have known it would come to this.
With a sigh, he resigned himself to the inevitable. He had to fight down a moment of nausea as Spender’s cold hard lips crushed his own, tasting strongly of tobacco. But he’d been wrong about the man’s intentions. After the kiss, Spender backed off and his demeanor made it clear that he had lost interest.
It might have been his way of asserting control over his latest minion, or maybe a symbol of the deal they’d made. Either way, Fox was left alone for the remainder of the night.
Scully woke up to hear Mulder making odd noises of distress. Immediately, she was wide awake.
She always slept lightly these days, anyway, as she was growing bigger day by day. Already, she’d felt a few kicks inside her. Not enough. At the back of her mind, she felt a stirring of concern. She was no expert at pregnancy, but surely by this time their baby should have moved more? Tomorrow, she’d make plans to go into the nearest town to see a doctor. Even she was one herself, she couldn’t be her own patient.
But now, her lover was her main concern. She was hoping that Mulder’s nightmares hadn’t returned. The last time, she’d hoped that they’d been successful in exorcising his tormenting memories.
“Mulder. Wake up.”
She let her hands brush away a few stray hairs from his forehead. An intense feeling of love for the man beside her rushed through her.
With a gasp, Mulder came awake, eyes wide in horror.
“A bad dream?”
“No, Mulder. It’s me. Dana. I guess you’re not awake yet.”
It was a while until he composed himself enough to be coherent.
“What’s wrong, Mulder? You’re not feeling sick, are you?”
Anxiously, Scully put her hand on his forehead. No. No touch of fever. In any case Mulder looked more distressed than sick.
“I had this dream. It was so vivid.”
She was reluctant to bring up the past. Mulder had been through enough because of his father.
“It wasn’t real. This never happened. But it felt so real.”
Mulder was shaking his head. The dream was beginning to fade, but enough stuck in his memory. That wasn’t his life, it was more like what he’d imagined Alex had gone through, except of course in Russia. Alex. His brother.
“It was like – Alex’s life. Except not.”
“I never really thought about what made him the kind of man he was when I first met him.”
“No. He’s never really told you or me much about it. Maybe he told Walter. I know he’s told Melissa, but she’s never said much about it. If you want to know, I’m sure he’ll tell you.”
Yes. Mulder was quite sure Alex would feel like discussing his past with him. After all, some of what they’d been through had been similar enough. On the other hand, there was a lot that must have been totally different. Despite the divorce, Mulder had had a good home, an education. Alex must have spent most of his teens on the street. Like Mulder had in this dream.
“I might ask him. It was horrible. Samantha was there too. And this time too, I lost her.”
Scully knew better than to comment. Instead, she pulled her lover into her arms. It was too late to go back to sleep. Outside, the sun was already up, and they might as well make breakfast.
While they were sitting at the breakfast table, they heard the door open and Melissa and Alex came inside.
“I thought you’d be up. Everything ok, Dana?”
Melissa was staring at her sister’s swelling abdomen with concern written all over her face.
“Yes. I’m fine.”
Melissa transferred her gaze onto the leftover toast and orange juice. Dana’s features relaxed into a smile. After her time on the run, Melissa still had an enormous appetite. It occurred to Dana that her sister too might be pregnant.
She reminded herself to have a nice long conversation with her sister about pregnancy and babies. Mulder seemed a bit nervous whenever the topic came up. Perhaps, if Mulder had been serious about talking to his brother today, they might get an opportunity sooner than she’d expected.
“Go ahead, Missy. I don’t want any more. I think Mulder’s done too. Mulder?”
“Yes. I’m fine.”
“Oh, I’ll just have a glass of orange juice.”
Alex’ green eyes narrowed. He seemed to have picked up on his brother’s change of tone.
“Could I talk to you about something?”
“Sure. Right now?”
Alex swept down the contents of the glass and put it down on the table again.
“Ok. We could go for a walk.”
“Then Missy and I will stay here and talk about babies.”
Something about the way Alex looked, when he heard the word babies mentioned, made Scully think that maybe, she’d been right in her guess. Something about Missy hinted that she might be pregnant too. That would be so much fun. She hardly noticed how the men left the room.
“Anything wrong? I mean, securitywise. You haven’t heard from Jeffrey, I hope?”
“No. It’s nothing like that. Anyway, it’s silly. I just had a dream – It was -”
Alex sounded puzzled. He’d never have imagined that his brother would want to discuss dreams. Whatever next? Horoscopes? Since he had his birth certificate, Alex now knew his date of birth. Melissa had informed him that he was an Aries, and she’d even made him something called an astrological chart. Apparently that told him what sort of person he was. But he already knew that, and he didn’t believe the stars in the sky had any influence over his life.
Mulder looked embarrassed. Alex had no idea where this was heading, but since nothing appeared to be wrong, he didn’t mind going for a walk and having a conversation with his brother.
“Alex – I guess I never thought much about how you came to be working for Spender and -”
“No. Is that what this is about? Mulder – take my advice and leave it. It won’t do you any good. I try never to think about the conspiracy and all that. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
“I didn’t mean it like that. I guess I – When I felt betrayed by you and hated you for so long, it never occurred to me to wonder why you’d ended up working for them.”
“Why? Oh. I never told you anything about that, I guess. When we were working together on the X files I was supposed to be someone else. And later – I guess we were never on talking terms. What would you like to know? It’s not something that I like to talk about but since it’s you, I suppose I could – I mean, I’ve told Missy about it. And Walter knows some of it.”
“I don’t mean to pry. You see, I had a sort of nightmare. About how my life might have been if I’d been you. Except not in Russia.”
“Oh. I once had a dream I was you. Well, that I had a life like yours.”
“Did you like it?”
“Yes. I mean, it wasn’t about your childhood. You – I – was working for the FBI. But I guess this was different?”
“Well, I’m not sure what you want to know. I was working for some people. The same people who owned my mother. Jelena. Helena. I did tell you about that, didn’t I? About how my mother was half-American?”
“Yes. You did.”
“Anyway, they wanted me to do what she did. At least until I was older. Old enough to kill people. The first time was when I was 15. They gave me a gun and told me who they wanted to get rid of. I know what you’re thinking. How could I do it?”
“That’s not what I’m thinking at all.”
“No? Anyway, I’ve thought it many times. At the time, I was so happy they wanted me to do some real work, not just turning tricks. Of course, I wasn’t just any old whore. There would be cameras and so on, and the poor bastard who got caught with his pants down, would be blackmailed.”
By now, Mulder was feeling sick. Apparently, his dream had been correct about a lot of things. Why did he need to force his brother to re-live this past? But it appeared Alex seemed relieved to be able to share his story with someone.
And without any prompting, Alex continued with his story.
“Later on, they sent me to a military training camp. I was thrilled to be a soldier. Of course, when I got to Afghanistan, the targets were women and children just as often as men. I didn’t feel comfortable with that. Of course, to begin with they didn’t let me do much military work. Same old story. I also got to do some cooking and for a while I worked as the medic. Then when I had more experience I got more advanced work. Like blowing up villages. But I guess you wanted to know how I ended up working for Spender?”
“Well – if you want to tell me?”
“I can’t tell you all about it, but I suppose this won’t do any harm. You see, the people I was working for – I think they might have had something to do with one of the branches of the KGB. Anyway, they were working with the conspirators over here. So once they sent me here, I was supposed to report to Spender.”
“They owned me, Mulder. Ever since I was born. Before that, they owned my mother and my grandmother. My grandfather too.”
This was as much of an apology or an explanation that Alex would ever get to. Long ago, he’d made up his mind never to regret, never to look back. Of course, he constantly broke his own rules.
“I understand, Alex. I guess I was born right into it as well. Do you know why our father got involved?”
“Why? No. Not exactly. But don’t you think it might be because Spender recruited him?”
“Mulder, we’re nothing like him. Try not to dwell on him. He’s gone. Don’t let him go on ruining our lives even today.”
“You’re right. Just one thing – was he still involved with Spender when you went to work for him?”
“No. I think it had been over for a long time. He was already involved deeply enough.”
“You think Spender did it deliberately? To recruit him?”
“Sounds likely, doesn’t it? At least he seemed to be beyond that kind of thing by the time I first met him. He never -”
“Oh. I’m glad.”
“What? Oh. Yes. Thanks, Alex. I know it can’t be easy talking about the past.”
“No. It isn’t. But if I can’t tell you, who can I tell? Mulder – I’m really glad that we’re brothers. There’s no one I’d rather have for a brother.”
Mulder smiled. The dream was already a vague memory. Soon it would be gone entirely.
“Me too. I actually always wanted a brother. Someone to play ball with. Samantha only did it to please me. I know she hated it. Just like I hated playing with her Barbie dolls.”
“You played with her dolls?”
Mulder could feel his face heat up. That really made him sound like some kind of –
“Well, she was doing her best with the baseball bat. The least I could do was return the favor.”
Mulder could tell Alex’ amused smile wasn’t at his expense.
“You could teach me, if you like. I’m pretty sure the girls won’t be out playing ball any time soon, even if they like to.”
“Dana used to play with her brothers. But Melissa probably hates it as much as Samantha did. Alright. If you’re sure.”
“I used to play soccer with some other kids when I was growing up. At least until Jelena died. Do you play?”
“Not really. You could teach me. I did play basketball a bit too.”
“Ok. We need to do something, in between emails from your wacky friends. Or from Walter.”
To Mulder’s relief, Alex’ voice didn’t change as he mentioned his ex-lover. At least that was over and done with.
On the way back to the house, the two men discussed sports, and all thoughts of the past were gone. Whatever had happened, it was over, and though the future didn’t exactly look bright, at least they were out here, and safe. If only Samantha had been with them. But with an effort, Mulder pushed away that thought too. He’d use the time out here getting to know his brother.