Peccavi Part 1
Author: truthwebothknow1 email@example.com
Category: Pre-X files MT Angst MSR
Rating: Mature reading
Summary: Looks like another Christmas will suck and the past comes back to haunt and opens up Mulder’s personal Pandora’s box.
Archive: Sure after two weeks sole exclusivity for IMTP VS12.
Disclaimer: Fox and CC own the X files. I just like messing with Mulder and Sully’s head. Good cheap therapy. I wash them feed and clean them before sending them back to Chris’s tent Mulder gets Scully comfort with me too. Cheap thrills but no profit.
Washington DC Downtown mall
The Mall was swarming with Christmas shoppers like an army of noisy, gaudily coloured ants with manic purpose.
Mulder could just make out the back of Scully’s flame-haired head, as she stood at the counter in the faux Dickensian fronted toy shop. The snow was fake too, he mused. A bit like the smile he’d pasted on his face for Scully’s sake this morning, when his partner suggested this grand expedition into the frenzied unwashed masses of DC. It had been a back-achingly long day, and he felt as though he had just trudged around the Sahara for hours draped in his heaviest wool long coat while fending off the first tingling throat irritation of a cold, and feeling the sweat pour down his back. Great — that’s all he needed, he sniffled as he tried to take a deep breath amidst the sweltering throng of bodies milling around him. He so wanted to be home, take a hot shower, and curl up with Scully, preferably in bed with some cocoa and TLC.
As much as he loved Scully and as much as she loved shopping for her nieces and nephews, if he had to endure his feet getting trampled on, or shoved unceremoniously one more time, or winked at by a Hohoho-ing Santa, he might just have to draw his gun.
His head being the first recipient of a bullet, he decided. He idly wondered what the halls would look like decked with his brains.
Here he was sitting in a slump on the bench by the strobing lights of a huge tinsel conifer next to McDonald’s, which currently seemed to be invaded by a gaggle of Japanese tourists. By his side he gazed nonchalantly at a huge stack of bags and boxes; the fruits of Scully’s shopping labors. Had she bought half the Mall?
He gamely rubbed his sore back with one hand while the other held the remains of a soggy egg Mcmuffin. It looked as sad as he felt, now hours old. The lights flashed and mocked him like a bank of undulating UFOs; intensifying his headache and the smell of the grease ball in his hand making his stomach do the Christmas twist.
Up until today, he hadn’t seen much joy on Scully’s face at the prospect of another grief tinged holiday season and yet another empty space at the table. Bill’s death was still palpable, and poor Tara was facing her first Christmas without her husband and her two small kids and their father. But the Scullys were stronger than that. Mulder knew that right down to his marrow. Adversity made them rally; they overcame and made the best of a bad situation. How different from his own family. A slither of pain lanced through him as his mind traitorously supplied that thought.
His family had crumbled like dust in the wind after Sam was taken. He was always astonished how the ghosts of half a lifetime ago could ambush him with painful clarity, especially amidst all this festivity.
The holidays were always difficult for Mulder but it had gotten much better since Scully came into his life with the love and light he’d been missing.
Despite feeling like shit, he’d make the best of it too. Bill and he had never been each other’s biggest fans, but his children were adorable. They deserved a nice Christmas. Even out today, Scully seemed to have shaken off her melancholia and actively looked to be having fun. It did his heart good to see it.
All of them, bar Charlie…..and he wasn’t going there—would be at Maggie’s on Christmas Day, and they would swallow their collective pain to create the happiest holiday they could for the sake of little Mathew and Claire, hence Scully’s seemingly unstoppable attempts to max out her credit cards and few of his.
Mulder was jolted from his reverie when he looked up to find two piercing blue eyes raking over him. They weren’t Scully’s. Their swarthy owner scowled as Mulder coughed again, and then wiped disgustedly at his damp lapel and shuffled away from the ailing agent.
He never felt more unloved and dejected than he did right then and now his nose was rebelling too. He sneezed once, twice and blew his nose loudly into the greasy serviette that had held his lunch, the only thing he had serviceable as a tissue. The rest of the McMuffin rolled onto the floor.
“Yo ho–” sneeze, sniff, “–Ho!!”
“Hey, there. What is it, Mulder? You sick?”
Immediately she launched into doctor mode, and her free hand shot out to touch his forehead; it must have burned her hand. A furnace would have been cooler. It was slightly embarrassing too as there were lots of people around. “You’re burning up. Time to call it a day, I think, and get you home to bed.” He pulled two sad eyes up to meet Scully’s. She smiled at him ruefully and rubbed her fingers over one slightly eggy cheek with the hand that wasn’t laden down with yet more parcels.
“Ooh, yeah. I’m just sitting here like one big old germ factory. Caught my sad attempt at spreading joy to the world, huh?”
“You give me plenty of joy. You know that, don’t you? Come on, if you are a good boy and cooperative, I might get out the Vick’s Vapor Rub. ” She ruffled his hair and placed a kiss against his forehead.
He sniffed loudly, dumping his makeshift hankie in a trashcan as he hauled himself to his feet. He managed a small leer and leaned into her touch. “Even when I literally have egg on my face and I’m full of snot?”
“Especially then. Come on Santa let’s get home. ”
Mulder and Scully Duplex December 23.
Two hours later.
Scully and Mulder shuttled their many purchases from the car into their home. It was beginning to snow again, and a hot drink and food beckoned.
“What’s in the bags Scully?” he asked teasingly as he blew his nose for what seemed like the millionth time that day. Scully slapped at his questing fingers, on her way to put the kettle on.
“All kinds of goodies… Oh, careful with that big box!”
Her warning came too late, Mulder must have picked up the box at the wrong end and the packaging fell off, revealing what was inside.
Mulder froze, his breath disappearing as the package fell to the floor. He staggered back and then seemed to crumple forward against the table. His fingers shot out to steady himself. The other hand clutched at his chest as if he were in pain.
“Mulder…..what is it?”
Slowly his breath came back in little puffs, but along with it the sharp skewer of pain that threatened to crack his heart as if ice fingers had captured it and were squeezing. The room swam and a cacophony of voices beat off the inside of his skull. It was over in seconds and he suddenly became aware of Scully at his side. She was taking his pulse. Counting. Her face the epitome of worried medical professionalism and…loving anxiety.
“Sit….need….to sit…!” She carefully guided him to a chair, her hand never leaving his wrist.
“I’m going to call for the paramedics, it could be your heart again like last time. It’s racing like a thoroughbred..”
“No, no, Scully — it’s okay. Please. Don’t call.”
“Mulder… you are sick, you’re running a temperature.”
Her palm was against his head now, and he was sweating, slumped against her, breathing hard. Despite his assurances, his face was distorted in pain.
“It’s only a heavy cold, not my heart.” Long clammy fingers brushed at her cheek in entreaty. “I had some kind of a flashback…..the doll.”
“The doll I just got for Tara’s daughter? Mulder why would that give you a flashback? What the hell happened, you looked like you were having a heart attack. What …. ?”
“The Doll,” he ground out painfully, bringing up two dilated eyes to Scully’s worried ones, ” It’s almost the copy of one I got for Samantha… the Christmas after she was… taken.”
Scully blanched with a strange guilt, aghast at the effect a simple doll had on him. “Mulder, you don’t have to talk about this if you don’t want to.”
“I want to. I think I need to. This is another piece of the puzzle of my childhood, just not one I’ve had before.” He gazed up past her and out of the kitchen window onto a cold December day. Snow was swirling around in the early evening silence, whispering against the glass, and he was transported back to a time he’d dearly wished he’d never gone through. The face of the doll’s silicon smile and plaited dark hair mocked him like a caricature of his missing sister.
How something so innocent looking could evoke such heart slamming misery never ceased to amaze him.
Scully helped him up and steered him towards the bedroom and away from the damned thing.
“You Mulder are going to bed with some Tylenol 3 and a hot drink. Then if you feel up to it, we’ll talk. OK, sweetheart?”
He nodded and leaned into her, angry at this jelly-legged weakness he felt throughout his body.
Later he lay in her arms and let the memories pour out of him like rancid oil, while the snow hissed like eager witnesses to his pain against the windows.
Danforth Private Mental Health Clinic
Tennyson Bridge. Mass
December 12, 1973
The first few times he’d come around, he never bothered opening his eyes. There was no point really.
He knew what he would see; white walls, white sheets, cracks in the ceiling plaster and maybe a spider making a web if he was lucky.
Mindless stuff that didn’t require him to think past the screams that tapped urgently at the edge of his consciousness.
All in all he felt numb and couldn’t be bothered. Somehow he felt it would make everything more real and by playing possum, the nurses would forget about him and not try to make small talk while they prodded and poked, did his vitals.
Perhaps he could melt into the sheets and vanish. Yeah that would be good. Perhaps then he wouldn’t see her face silently beseeching him behind his eyelids.
At least now they weren’t restraining him. In a few lucid awake periods, he’d hated those. The five points had vanished sometime in the last few days. The catheter had gone, too. He was too indifferent to be embarrassed about that, or how the nurse who’d inserted it didn’t look much older than him. Lying there feeling like a tiny weightless speck in the middle of what seemed like a huge cavernous bed, so small in the great scheme of things, he couldn’t even summon up the incentive to try moving.
It seemed like almost an hour since the fleeting urge to try an experimental finger flex struck him. But he remained as frozen as he’d done that night when Sam…. ‘No, don’t think about it, thinking makes it real…No!’
Cotton-mouthed and sporting a head that felt like it was filling up with expanding bread dough, he longed to be left alone, forgotten. Maybe, next time, he would wake up and all this would be some horrific nightmare. Just bring him some more good drugs and let him evaporate into non-existence.
Twelve years old and incarcerated in a nut house. The future seemed a million miles away and not looking like it might improve anytime soon. A plush nuthouse, he corrected himself, if his father’s ample checkbook had anything to do with it, but still. His parents were nowhere in sight, and he had lost track of how long had passed. Five hours or five days? None of it had any meaning now.
Out in the halls, weird sounds echoed back through half opened door to his room.
Dinner trolleys clattered along the stone floor, sundry footsteps came and went; some normal passer-by sounds, others more urgent and hurried that made him listen more closely and his heart beat faster.
Sometimes his drugged brain would let him register smells, but it was all unidentifiable in his limited haze, and it made him feel slightly sick.
Voices, too, reached his ears but he let them wash over him like white noise, snippets of normal life going on around him, nurses and staff discussing
Christmas plans, their sex lives or what was on TV the night before. The odd cheesy yuletide song and doors protesting their hinges as they closed. The tinkle of mad laughter or heart stopping shrieking. His ears surfed along on the waves of sound like a lullaby propelling him through some unending vortex of sensory fog, oddly divorced from his limbs. Until the little part of his brain still taking notes registered that it was him he could hear being discussed. His body gave an involuntary jerk and he tuned in with every molecule he could claw back from the pull of the Valium.
“What do you mean they don’t want to pick him up? Fox is just a kid, a kid who’s been through the wringer.”
“Just what I said. They had a hard enough time reaching them by phone. They seemed……indifferent. Uninterested.”
“Jeez, it’s Christmas and they don’t want their only surviving child home?”
“I guess it has something to do with that. The mother, well….” The rest of the sentence dissolved into hushed whispers.
“Oh…OH. Do they think he….? Ah. Jeez. ”
“Yeah , he was catatonic when he got here. She was missing. No one’s found her still. She just vanished. Fox was holding his father’s gun. No blood though.”
“Cops crawled over everything but they never got a chance to talk to him. He was brought here…like that.”
“Poor people….not knowing.”
“Still he should be home, poor kid. ”
“Tried them twice today. Guess once more wouldn’t hurt. He will be ready to go in a few days. ..”
“Keep trying. Those people, despite what they have been through, need a kick up the ass. . And don’t get me started on his father. Whisky bottle dictator.”
“Ain’t that the truth.”
Fox gasped in his white cocoon. Surprised and angry to find his view of the ceiling obscured by hot tears, he swung his head towards the barred window. Bad idea as the room seemed to move at a different pace to what his brain could process and made him giddy and nauseous.
Big fat snowflakes plummeted past the window like white tears mirroring his own and he closed his eyes. The shiver he felt inside had little to do with the weather out there in the real world.
A sharp stab of pain in his tummy made him realise how much he needed his mother right then, and he bit back on the hard lump that was travelling like a fist up his chest and into his throat and threatening to rent the languid air with his screams.
The sudden shuffle of feet outside, and the door screeching open had him feigning unconsciousness. No doubt this was one of his parent’s critics from a few moments ago and he had no desire to talk, or look into her pitying features.
He endured the vital sign check and the feel of the pressure cuff sliding around his arm in silent purgatory. A sharp prick in his arm, and the world
obligingly went away.
This time when he woke up his eyes shot open, instantly on alert that there was someone in the room with him. A slight hand shook his shoulder gently but he’d no desire to acknowledge whoever it was. Just by her perfume he could tell it wasn’t his Mom, and again he suppressed his curious blend of shame, need and the utter crushing sensation that lanced through him that it wasn’t her.
“Hey Fox, c’mon, sleepyhead. Time to wake up. ”
What for? He wanted to ask his nurse, but kept his lips firmly pressed together, then bit down on his lower lip. The truth of the matter was too painful to voice, let alone hear.
He heard her sigh, but undeterred by his silence, she helped him upright. At first he wobbled drunkenly.
“Easy does it. ”
The room swam, so he kept his eyes shut tight. When he chanced to open them again his nurse was plumping up pillows behind him so he was now wedged in a sitting position. She was fussing over his covers and now and then gave him an uncomfortable grin. For the hell of it he refused to look at her and settled his gaze on her ample chest instead and tried to tell himself that he needed a change of scenery from the snow.
After she’d given him something to drink, he drew his knees up to his chest, and felt it curious that he accomplished this without swaying all over the place.
His next urge was to give in to his body and rock back and forth, but stopped himself. He was 12 for god’s sakes. That was for babies and he really needed to not add to the wretched way he felt inside, the guilt, the sadness and the sheer disassociation he felt towards anyone who tried to interact with him.
When he looked up again she’d gone. He neither knew nor cared to know her name. She had a kind voice though but she didn’t like his mother. It seemed more comforting to stay locked inside himself. The falling snow outside was kind of mesmerizing and the landscape seemed to consist of two colors; black and white. Somehow that comforted him too.
He almost went into orbit at the gruff male voice that bit through his preoccupation and his body shot back up against the head rail of the bed in his panic. He gulped down a huge gasp as his eyes flew open and blinked wildly toward the source of the voice. The man smiled apologetically. He looked like a cop in that suit and that scared him for some reason. Most of his face was obscured by the shadows in the room and Fox gasped again as he moved forward into view. He guessed he was about as old, if not a little older than his dad.
“Sorry, son; didn’t mean to startle you. ”
“Wh….who are you….sir? ” he blurted out in a stream of words , his own voice startled him — dry and scratchy with lack of use, his words vulnerable- sounding. But the ingrained good manners his mother had given him made him bow to the authority this man instilled.
“I’m a friend of your father, although….” He smiled as he paused conversationally, ” it’s been a few years. You’ve grown. You were knee-high to grasshopper last time I saw you.”
It was then that the dark haired man frowned, and his mouth turned up in some act of contrition and his sad smile pierced something deep inside Fox’s chest. His visitor came nearer the bed and extended a hand. Fox looked at it as if it might suddenly bite him and then, slowly experimentally he pushed his own shaky hand across the bedclothes to meet it. It was warm. It occurred to him that nothing had felt warm for some time and thus threatened to crack something that had taken root inside him. Hazel eyes met the grey scrutiny of this man.
“I heard about your sister. I’m very sorry.”
Fox escaped from his sudden roiling emotions by changing the subject. He wouldn’t cry, not in front of a stranger. “I’m not sure I remember….you. Where are my parents, sir?”
“It’s Henry Fox. Just Henry. Your mother wasn’t feeling well…your father is with her.”
Fox studied his face for any betrayal, but the man had turned his attention to the snow. For a long moment, he wouldn’t look at him.
“My Mom…? What…why… Henry….why are you here?”
The man turned back and looked at him fully this time, sensing the boy’s growing panic. A fainter smile back on his face like a mask, he patted him on the shoulder like an afterthought.
“It’s time to get dressed now. I will leave for a little while and come back shortly.”
It was then he noticed a pile of clothes on the end of his bed.
“Why…where are we going? What’s going to happen? …I can’t….Sam..!”
Henry leaned over and took him by both shoulders, staring kindly into the wide fear laden hazel eyes of his friend’s child. He cursed inwardly.
“Time to go home, Fox. I’ve come to take you home.”
En route to Chilmark
It was strange being in the car and dressed in something other than a scratchy gown that refused to cover his ass. He laid his cheek against the cool window and watched his breath form a white fog creature on the glass, blocking out the trees, houses and dull white landscape as they rushed passed. It all looked so different now, the area where he had grown up. Instead of the familiar scenery he’d always had fun exploring it had taken on an uneasier tome. Staring out at it all had chilled him, especially the bare trees as if they’d concealed a million predators lurking in the dark shadows.
Somehow he couldn’t pull his eyes away from them. After a while he let his eyes close and drifted off to the low hum of music that his companion had tuned into on the radio.
Woods Hole Ferry, Mass.
The lack of movement of the car woke him again. A moment of absolute fear and disorientation gripped him and then soon passed on a sharp intake of breath.
Henry gave him a cautious smile as he studied the ferry times on a card. Despite hardly knowing this guy, he felt an air of safeness, perhaps even safer than that he felt with his father.
Fox watched his fingers as he produced a pack of cigarettes from his breast pocket, tapped the pack, withdrew one, and brought it to his lips. Staring straight ahead Henry stopped in mid thought then turned to look at his young companion. He deftly put the cigarette back in the pack, and slipped them back into his pocket the boy’s dark eyes on him the whole time.
“Sorry, Fox. Bad habit — I should really kick. Shouldn’t be polluting your young lungs with this stuff. ”
Fox shrugged. He’d been tempted to try one the summer before but the smell had put him off, much to the taunting jibes of his school friends. The smallest smile crossed his features, remembering how his friends choked for hours after their introduction to the demon weed.
“They’ll kill you, you know.”
Henry laughed and nodded sagely. The boy had said barely a word until now. “You’re a bright young man, Fox. Don’t lose sight of that, no matter what.”
Fox wondered what he meant by that; he decided not to dwell on the layers of undercurrents he detected there. People told him he was bright for his age, and sometimes he cursed that.Sometimes he’d heard things, things he and Samantha weren’t supposed to hear; arguments between his parents, callers to the house in the middle of the night. Something was going on, and he couldn’t for the life of him figure out exactly what, but when his father went away for long business trips, his mother cried. That scared him more than anything. When he asked why, she had put up impregnable barriers and gone back to her baking.
What did he know, a gangly 12-year-old kid? Why let him in on any of it? How nice it would have been to be Samantha, joyful and ignorant, just playing with her dollies. Sometime it sucked to be that bright boy. But he wasn’t that great, was he? For all the intelligence everyone constantly praised him for, he’d still let his sister float out that window on a sea of light. He was still inadequate. Persona non grata. A waste of space.
He let out a sigh and slouched back into his seat, trying to quell the growing unease in his stomach. He rubbed at it, but the acid feeling just intensified, like a million bees swarming around inside him. At any given time over the last few weeks, he’d felt bad like this, panicky and sick, feeling that life was a bad joke someone was playing on him and how he longed for it to just stop. He guessed that’s why the doctors at the hospital pumped him full of valium — the feeling invariably went away then — but now the proximity of home and the sheer terror of uncertainly he knew was coming when he got there, was enough to make him want to curl up into a ball and make himself very tiny.
He sucked in a deep breath. It had been a while since his last happy pill and he was about due for another. He hated whatever it was they made him take. It left a nasty dry metallic taste in his mouth. Henry must have had the same thought as he was holding out a small sack of meds that the hospital gave him.
“You okay, Fox?”
“You need to take another pill. We have some time before the next ferry over. I’ll get you a soda….scrub that, I forgot you can’t have caffeine. Juice okay?”
“Yeah. O.J. ”
“How about a snack? You ought to eat with the meds, too.”
“Don’t feel hungry. The pills make me feel….weird.”
Henry leaned over and squeezed his hand. “I know, but you need something to take with them. What is it do you feel sick?”
“Yeah. Kind of dizzy. Woozy.”
“Valium will do that. I’ll pick up some potato chips. They’re dry so you should be able to keep them down. Will you be okay here in the car for few minutes alone?” He opened the car door in readiness to get out and a freezing draft blew over them both.
Fox forced a grin. “Sure. I’ll just sit here.”
“Good, I’m leaving the keys there. Don’t touch the ignition ok?” Fox turned from his reverie so sharply he could have given himself whiplash. The enormity of the trust he was being given hitting him full on.
“I won’t. … Henry?” Their eyes met. Hazel on grey, trying both to read each other. Both inscrutable.
“What is it son?”
“…Thanks for taking me home.”
“You’re welcome. But I suspect that that maybe you don’t want to be going home.” Fox averted his eyes to his lap suddenly, twisting the sleeve of his coat. When he looked back up his eyes were hot and blurry with unshed tears. Somehow he held onto them.
Henry didn’t have an answer for him and covered the slither of inner rage and sorrow that washed through him with a tight smile that never quite reached his eyes. “I’ll be back in a few moments.” He squeezed the boy’s shoulder in a gesture of understanding, and his young charge watched his back stiffen in the cold as he strode away from the car and towards the waterfront café. In a short time he’d be home and that thought scared him rigid. Henry had read him like a book.
The snow had stopped now. Fox couldn’t remember a time when there had been so much snow; usually the salt air of the coast kept the blizzards away further inland, but the heavens seemed full of it and it was feet deep here. Normally this would have excited him, thoughts of tobogganing with his friends, snowball fights and hours of boyish fun but not this time. He wanted to be anywhere else but here. That feeling alone was alien to him and he couldn’t ever remember feeling like this before now. He’d spent his whole life in this area. It was home, and yet wasn’t like home anymore. and the sense of foreboding wouldn’t go away.
He stared impassively out at the frigid harbor, the snug haven of white clap-boarded houses, fighting for prime real estate space like teeth too cramped in one mouth. Plumes of smoke rising in the frigid air from the roaring open fires inside, some porches already decked out with Christmas bunting and multicoloured lights hanging from well-appointed trees. Even the local café, which was a welcome haunt of the local fisherman here, had a huge inflatable Santa on the veranda, which grinned down at him with a sneer. It all looked so normal, just so ….not his world anymore. Like some giant hand had come down and erased everything he’d ever known, ever been certain about and ripped away his comfort zone in a heartbeat. The boat spinnakers rattled in the wind, making the same sad echo in his heart, whilst in the car the keys jangling quietly in the air of the car caught his attention.
He knew how to drive. For years now he’d watched his father’s driving, inadvertently memorizing every action and manoeuvre while on trips in the family’s big black Ford. He reached towards the keys and turned them over in his hand, feeling their coldness, their weight in his shaking fingers. It would be so easy to turn on the ignition and drive away, away from the sheer panic he felt looming up inside him like a great wounded animal clawing for escape. He couldn’t even put his finger on why he was so scared. Maybe it was facing his parents — he’d seen them once since……. Just once, and the looks on their faces…. The disdain and horror in their eyes when they looked upon him, mixed with her screams — that’s what stayed in his mind. Perhaps it was the house, where it had all happened. Was it only a few short weeks ago? The light! Every time he closed his eyes…he saw her, floating away from him in the light, just out of reach, shrieking for him to help her, fumbling for his dad’s gun, but he was as frozen as a corpse. A snapshot of deafening heartbeats, his mouth agape on a scream that was stilled in terror. In the seconds after she had gone and he had regained his ability to move, he wished he’d had the guts to turn the gun on himself. Then there was nothing. Nothing until he’d woken in up in that cold prison like room at the hospital. Drugged to the gills and tied up like Houdini. This island of a thousand sails threatened to become his prison now and his mind an inmate in a body too small to ever harbor so much anguish. He turned the key and felt his heart accelerate. Then he saw his mother’s face in his minds eye and knew he couldn’t do it.
Run away and the demon would follow. The shrink that talked at him in the funny farm had said that. Not like he could ever forget. Or forget Sam.
He had to get to her, he had to make this family right again. He wanted the house to be full of carefree laughter like it used to be, his father’s face to be free of the deep creases that had taken residence over the last few weeks. His mother endless tears to cease and he wanted his little sister back. Whole healthy, even with all her annoying little girly ways, how he wanted her back. The keys blurred out as he stared at them and he moved back away from them. God, he’d even let her raid his stuff, if only he could see her again. She could keep his special baseball bat for as long as she liked. The autographed one his dad got all the Yankees to sign. How would he face Christmas without her? Life. ..Without her. Nooo, no. That was unthinkable.
With the realization that he didn’t know where to start, he slumped forward onto his arms against the steering wheel, willing himself not to weep. He
almost shot through the roof of the car as the horn blared when his hand touched it and the shriek that ripped from him got buried underneath the deafening siren as he slammed back in his seat. Eyes closed, he was consciously trying to get control of his breathing when he heard the tapping on the passenger side of the car. Deep almond eyes. Small mouth. No discernable nose and long tapering fingers. Tapping. Tapping on his window.
“Noooooo. Condensation from his screaming fogged up the window and hid the terrifying vision. He shook his head to clear it, leaned over and rubbed at the glass to reveal….. …a spotty looking blonde kid on a bike, probably around 16 or older, cro magnon type forehead , big dark eyes and chewing gum squishing back and forth in his gap toothed mouth. He bellowed with laughter at the petrified face of his victim, poked out his tongue and high tailed it away toward the town. Fox held his ribs as he struggled to breath, sweat trickling down his back like a knife-edge was being drawn down his skin. His heart sank back down from his throat into his chest with a dull aching slither. Where the hell was Henry? Had he abandoned him too?
Gingerly he opened the car door. “Baaaastarrrrrdddd” he yelled across the street as he pulled himself up, hearing his underused voice suddenly loud and alien ricocheting off the buildings.
Stumbling through the drifts, he ambled after the boy on the bike, wanting to beat him to a pulp, somewhere at the back of his mind that harboured common sense he knew he had no hope of catching him up, and he’d be the one biting the tarmac not that lunatic. But his tormentor was long gone and he kicked at the snow in disgust as he skidded to a halt by the edge of the harbormasters cottage, gasping for breath. During his incarceration at “Camp Fun,” he must have gotten right out of shape. Knowing that Henry would probably be looking for him, he stifled a sob and made his way back to the car. As he turned the corner, he saw her. Little red coat, black pigtails…skipping through the snow, running down one of the private jetties. He started, suddenly robbed of breath. It had to be her. He could hear her laughter.
“Samantha?….Sam!!” Ohmigod. He ran, but in his haste he stumbled on the ice, a mass of careening arms and legs, seconds later his head just narrowly missed the “Welcome to Wood’s Hole” sign. When he looked up, she’d gone — there was no sign of her. No foot prints other than his huge ones in the virgin snow. Sucking at his bloody bottom lip, he looked all around him, but the town was quiet that morning. Only idiots like him were clumping around in the freezing wind and elements.
“Sam!!!” His eyes blinked furiously against the arctic blasts blowing down on him; he’d seen her, he had. Is this what he’d come to, seeing things that eren’t there? ‘Fuck Wood’s Hole, fuck everything,’ he wanted to scream, but he didn’t have the breath. Winded and furious, he backed away from the sign…. then launched his foot at it for all he was worth. It hurt. The pain was real enough, and felt strangely good. The dent he’d made in the metal was satisfying, so he kicked it again, and again and again until he couldn’t feel his foot anymore inside his trainers. Just blindly kicking, finding his voice along the way and screaming, venting his anger and hurt to the seagulls or anyone else who would listen. The cold the pain, and satisfaction galvanised into mindless sensation and noise. It was like he was channelling someone else’s strength while he spilled his rage like blood on the inanimate object, scarcely able to breath, but soaking the pain in like a sponge….until he felt two strong arms suddenly gripping his shoulders.
Incensed at the intrusion, he lashed out to try and dislodge whoever the hands belonged to…but they were far stronger than his twelve-year-old frame could fight off. “Fox, Fox stop it… stop it, lad!” And two hefty arms seized him from behind and wrapped his own arms tightly by his side in a lock manoeuvre. They had done this to him in the hospital; a slither of memory pierced through his rage and his breath died as he was restrained again.
” Get off me, damn you,” he squealed almost incoherently, still kicking out.
“Fox! It’s all right, boy, come on. It’s okay,” Henry soothed, holding onto the seething mass of adolescent boy against his chest for all he was worth, whispering words of reassurance, willing him to calm down.
“Fox, come on, son, let’s get back to the car. You will catch your death out here. Please. You need your meds.”
“Screw you. I don’t need them. I…I saw her!”
“Saw who, Fox? What was it? What on earth happened? I’m so sorry I was so long. I was held up for a few moments. I had to make a phone call. Just breathe, son, just calm down and breath.”
Fox’s labored breathing filled the air around them like an energised pall. He was almost hysterical.”Sa…Sam…saw ….her. I did.” His voice cracking at the last.
Henry sighed audibly; he closed his eyes with the stab of anxiety that passed through him, making him hold the boy just that little bit tighter.
“It wasn’t her, Fox. You were having an episode. This is why the hospital gave you this medicine. You need another dose now. Come on; let’s get back to the car.”
“Noo…I did. I saw her.” He was chewing on his lower lip furiously, and his eyes bugged. The cold and fading adrenalin rush was making him shake now, and he suddenly sagged in Henry’s arms. His knees buckled and for the first time — the older man noticed he was dragging his foot. It was bent at an odd angle.
“Fox, your foot. Come on; let’s get out of the cold. You’ll catch your death. You can have some hot tea with sugar in, you’re going to go into shock out here and I want to look at that foot. We’ll talk about this in the car. The ferry is almost in and if we miss this one, it will be hours to the next. Come on lad.”
“No. Please…have to find her.” The distressed boy was rambling only the way the truly shocked can, and he stumbled against Henry for support as he tried to point him towards the car. The fist he was pummelling against Henry’s chest was a weak protest now, lacking the unrestrained fury of a few moments before. Both of them were breathing heavily from their exertions. His foot was a mass of agony now, and all the fight had finally left him. “Lemme go. Got to find…Sam. Need her. …” His voiced trailed into nothing and he was unconscious before he could move another inch, so
Henry carried him. They made the ferry. Just. Too rushed to deal with the boy’s injuries, Henry threw a travel blanket over him; listening sadly as the poor kid was alternately whimpering or shouting in his stupor. They were in mid crossing before he had the chance to look at the mess Fox had made of his foot. He had just taken off his shoe and sock when he’d started to come around again, jerking in alarm.
“Easy. Easy lad. Just going to have a look at this. Oh dear. You did a number on this. A few broken toes at least, and a bit of a sprained ankle.” He gave the boy a tight smile and a knowing look. “Guess you had a lot to get off your chest. Huh?”
“Will you send me back to that hospital? I’m a nut case; it’s probably the best place for me.” His head was hanging in his lap, trying hard not to cringe or yell as Henry bandaged up his foot. “I…I’m sorry I was rude…and that you had to come get me.”
“No, no. You gave me one hell of a scare, young man. I want you to know that. I’m not sure what sparked that all off but I think I will just make sure your parents know to have you take your meds when they are due. That was my fault; forgot. Sorry about that. See if that’s too tight.”
Fox winced but his foot felt more comfortable with an ace bandage around it. He’d not get the shoe on again for a while that was for sure. Henry then handed him two pills and carton of juice with his free hand. After a long silent pause he took them.
“Down the hatch, Fox.” He paused as he watched the kid slip the pills onto his tongue and take a swig of juice. Good boy. Now, you can keep that foot elevated at home and maybe ice it. Should be okay in a few days. Lucky boy. I’d have hated to tell your father that I had to take you to the ER on the way home.” He finished the fastening on the bandage and declared it done, his eyes twinkling with wry amusement as he glanced at the boy’s troubled face. Fox tested his own smile, and looked at his companion sideways on. It was crooked and his lip felt sore, but it was still a semblance of a smile. His eyes were haunted, though, and Henry wished he had known what happened back there. Fox seemed reticent to speak at the best of times, and didn’t feel the like pushing him. It had been quite an episode.
“They don’t want me, you know.”
Henry frowned at him, but shook his head. “That’s preposterous — of course they do.”
“I overheard the nurses talking. They said Mom and Dad didn’t want me home. I know why — it’s cause I lost Sam.” His eyes blurred while his throat got something stuck in it all of a sudden, and he felt a warm hand on his own.
“You shouldn’t listen to the gossip of a few stupid nurses. What were they thinking?” His tone was one of restrained anger, but then it softened again. “Of course they want you home. They sent me to get you.”
“But why didn’t they come? Why did they never visit me? Doctors trussed me up like a turkey and stuck needles everywhere…” he sobbed. “I only saw them….the night…the night she… and I…”
“It’s been hard all round, Fox. Ever since, ….well your mother has taken unwell. She is devastated by the loss of her little girl.” At that, Fox’s face started to crumple again so Henry shook his hand and squeezed. “Ahh, come now, Fox, it’s okay. Listen to me. Your father, too, has been through a traumatic time. They knew you were being looked after well, so they have been concentrating on coping themselves. They never meant to exclude or ignore you. They’ve been very worried about you. You were catatonic for a while. It was the shock.”
“Dry that one out you can fertilize the lawn.”
Fox snuggled under the blanket Henry pulled up to his chin, but he still felt cold. Still felt a stomach full of roiling dread as he looked out at the rough gray waves of the ocean. “I’m…. scared.” His voice threatened to crack him wide open with the power of those few uttered words. “What’s going to happen to us? ” He could choke on that sound, his own pitiful voice. ‘Be a man,’ his father had drummed into him. Even more reason to hate him now that he was whining like a girl. Boys never cried. Isn’t that was what he was told? He felt a warm arm go around his shoulder.
“Don’t do this Fox. Try and sleep. When you get home in a short while, your parents will be there to meet you. They are looking forward to your homecoming very much. I just spoke with them not half an hour ago. See? It will be okay boy, and when you are all together again, you will eventually learn how to heal as a family. ”
Henry hoped he wouldn’t choke on another lie. One more to go with legions of others he’d been forced to tell in his life for the greater good. The taste in his soul was getting very sour. In an hour or so, this child who needed hope so much, would be off his hands. Then duty over, he’d go drown himself with a large scotch and a whole gutful of Morley’s.
“I did see Sam. Back there…I’m sure of it.”
“Of course you did, Fox.” Fox’s head shot up at that and two huge hazel eyes threatened to burst. “You saw her because she’s in here.” And he looked down to where Henry’s fingers gently tapped his chest. To be continued…