Sent: Thursday, September 28, 2000 

Title: Taking in a Stray
Author: Vickie Moseley
Summary: Late at night, Margaret Scully has a visitor.
Spoiler: '3'
Category: A, A, more A UST
Rating: PG
Archives: yes
Disclaimer: You're gonna see a lot of Mulder-centric fic this fall, Chris.
I'm taking it on as my personal crusade to remind you who you really
focused the last seven years on. I'm your conscience. Just call me
Jimminy. But I won't take money for my efforts.
Comments: I did this one without a net, folk. I love my
betas, but I was too antsy to wait. Blame me for all the mistakes you find.

Taking in a Stray
By Vickie Moseley

There's a knock at my door.

I'm half asleep, lying on the couch and watching the late news. I glance
at the clock on the mantel and see that is a quarter past eleven. Any sane
woman, especially a woman alone, would be reaching for the phone to call
the neighbors or the police. I don't. I sit up, slip on my house shoes
and go to the door, not even bothering to peek through the curtains to see
who it is. I know who it is.

"Mrs. Scully. Did I wake you?"

He stands there illuminated only by the 25 watt porch light. Even in the
shadows, he looks deathly pale, and I'm pretty sure his hands are trembling
as he tries to hide them in the folds of his trench coat. His breath comes
out in little puffs that I can see against the blackness of the night sky.

"Of course not, Fox. You know what a night owl I am. Please, come in." I
bite my lip to keep from adding 'before you fall down'. I've learned in
the past few weeks that Fox Mulder does not take well to mothering. You
have to coax him, like a stray cat. You can lead him, but you can't drag
him. It has to be his idea.

He enters the foyer and stops. It's become an opening ritual. He sticks
his hands in his pockets, looks like he'd rather be anywhere in the world,
including standing before a firing squad, than standing in my foyer. His
head is bowed, his shoulders slumped. He is the picture of dejection and
failure. I know in my heart that he has nothing to offer me, but I also
know that he needs this connection with me, just to let me know that he's
still trying.

"Has there been any word?" I choke on each syllable as it comes across my
lips. I know the answer, I know that the question is like a dagger in his
heart. But it's necessary. It's the only way we can go on, the only way
I can get his coat off and get him to sit down in the living room.

He shakes his head slowly. "No. No word. I've been monitoring some
transmissions . . ." He trails off without explaining. "No word yet."

"But I know you're still looking, Fox. That means the world to me," I
assure him. He nods and allows me to pull off his coat and hang it up on
the coattree. I can finally take his elbow and guide him into the living
room now. We take a step and he stumbles. It's all I can do to keep him
upright until we get to the couch.

"Here, let's sit on the sofa," I tell him, ignoring the fact that he almost
passed out on the middle of my floor. I push him down on the couch,
rejecting the notion of trying to get him to put his feet up.

He smells like smoke. Not the smoke from a cigarette, but smoke from wood.
Now that I can see him in the light of the lamp, there are smudges of soot
on his cheek that I can make out even above the day old stubble. He's
holding his hand awkwardly against his thigh and I notice a white bandage
at the wrist.

"Fox, were you in a fire?" I ask, almost not wanting to know the answer.

He looks up at me where I'm still standing above him. He looks lost and
confused, he doesn't seem to understand the question.

"Fox, you have soot on your face. Were you in a fire?"

Slowly, he comes back to me. "Uh, yeah. There were fires. I was in Los
Angeles. On a case."

I remember seeing something on the news about the fires in California. I
seem to remember some houses have been in the path of the blaze. I'm glad
we were stationed in San Diego when we were out there. The fires always
seemed to be further north.

"You hurt your arm," I comment, sitting down on the chair next to the couch.

He stares at his sleeve, as if noticing the bandage for the first time. "I
guess I did. It's all right." He closes his eyes and starts to tilt to
the left, but catches himself and his eyes pop open in surprise. He's
falling asleep sitting up on my couch.

And then I hear his stomach growl.

Fox looks startled and then embarrassed. I try to stop the grin that's
coming to my face but it's impossible.

"You know, I have a pot of soup on the stove, cooling. I made too much,
again," I say, and it saddens me that it's the truth and not a convenient
lie for his benefit. "Would you do me a big favor and have some of it
before I put it away?"

He seems ready to object, it's automatic. But the rumbling returns,
probably brought on by the thought of food. He nods his head in
resignation and accepts without another word.

He's a little more steady on the way to the kitchen. Hungry will do that.
I turn my attention to ladling up a large serving of beef vegetable soup
and get out the bread and butter. I reach in the refrigerator for the jug
of iced tea that is once again a staple in my kitchen. I never liked tea,
I prefer just plain ice water with my meals, but I know from his visits
that Fox drinks tea. Sometimes it's the only thing I can get down him.

I place the bowl and glass in front of him and sit down in the chair across
from him. He picks up his spoon and does a fair imitation of Mike Mulligan
and the Steam Shovel. I wonder when was the last time he let food cross
his lips. But the early starvation is quickly sated and halfway through
the bowl, he's pushing it away and reaches for the tea.

I want so much to coax him to eat some more, but I tried that once and he
bolted from the house and didn't come back for over a week. The image of a
little tabby cat that Melissa rescued from a neighbor's dog when we lived
in Chicago comes to mind. We never could get that cat to come into the house.

"You mentioned you were on a case," I say, purposefully not picking up the
bowl to put it in the sink just yet. Sometimes, if I can get him talking,
he starts eating again. Whether out of habit or because he doesn't want to
talk to me about work, I haven't figured out. Dana does the same thing
when I ask her about the specifics of her job.

Dana. My heart shudders as I wonder for the millionth time where she is,
what's keeping her from coming home to me. But then I look across the
table and realize, I'm not alone in this nightmare. I'm sharing it with
the man slowly sipping vegetable soup and staring into nothing. Is he
thinking of her right now, too?

"The case, Fox? Is it something you can talk about?" I speak to break
through his thoughts, because I know he tortures himself in these silent
broodings of his. I don't want him to torture himself. He blames himself
for her disappearance and it's killing him. She wouldn't want him to be in
this much pain, I know that.

He looks up at me and shrugs one shoulder. "Murders. A serial killing.
Three people who killed about a dozen victims. We . . . they won't be
killing again." He says the last with a weariness that I can well
understand. I can safely assume the suspects are dead, now, too.

I bite my lip to keep from blurting out my questions. Where you in danger?
Did they hurt you? How did you burn your arm? But I stay silent. I know
better than to ask, because I won't get any answers. I'm not his mother.
I'm just the mother of the woman he loves.

I have no doubt that Fox loves my Dana. I can see it in his eyes when he
looks at her picture on my mantel. I can hear it in his voice when he lets
himself relax a moment and says her name. It's there, tangible, real.
It's a hope, a prayer. If anyone can find her, it's this man. He'll find
her because he needs her as much as he needs the air he breathes.

I just hope he finds her soon, for all our sakes.

I look up from my quiet musings of my coffee mug when I hear a gentle scrap
of metal spoon against china bowl. Well, well, he actually made it to the
end. I smile and pick up the bowl to put it in the sink. As I turn my
back I hear a thump as his head hits my kitchen table. At least he had the
presence of mind to position his arm to lessen the blow to his head.

I'm concerned at first, but a light touch to his dark hair results in a
almost silent moan. I stroke his head for a moment, remembering how often
I've done that for my own children when they were sleeping. This young man
might not be my own, but he needs a mother's touch.

I consider my options. I could leave him here, simply cover him with a
blanket from the den. He'll awake with a stiff neck, an arm that's fallen
asleep and an ache in his back. I know. I've done it too many times to

If I wake him, I take the risk that he'll bolt again. He's only been
asleep for mere minutes, but it would probably be enough for him to catch
his second wind and he'll drive home and stay up all night, surfing the
internet for clues to Dana's whereabouts. Not resting, that's for sure.

I decide I have to try. There are five bedrooms in this house, one on this
level. If I can get him as far as Charlie's old room, I know that once his
head hits the pillow, he'll be out for the night.

I really don't have much to lose when he shifts a little and almost falls
off the chair and onto the floor.

"OK, Fox. Time to hit the sack." I use my best 'your father might not be
home for six months a year, but I'm in charge' voice that I perfected with
four teenagers in the house.

Amazingly, he responds. He lifts his head, but doesn't open his eyes.
"Just le' me finish the movie, Mom," he whines and starts to lie back down
on his arm.

I realize he's still asleep. I use this to my advantage. "Movie was over
an hour ago, sweetheart. C'mon, let me help you to bed."

It's not really that much of a struggle. He's asleep, but in that fugue
state where he's easily led. Once he's up on his feet, it's a simple
matter to guide him into the hall and then down to Charlie's room.
Frantically I try to remember if I've changed the sheets in there lately.
He might be sleeping with a few dust bunnies. But as I lean him against
the wall to pull down the covers, the smell of freshly washed linens greets

I sit him down on the bed, pulling off his shoes and socks. I hesitate at
his pants, compromising by slipping his belt out of the loops but leaving
the pants on. I'm not his real mother and I don't intend to step over any
boundaries. I do remove his tie and unbutton the top buttons of his shirt.
Then I lean him back.

In a few seconds, he rolls over on his side, facing away from me. "'night,
Mom," he mutters and then I hear his quiet snoring.

"Goodnight, Fox," I say to him, pulling the covers over his shoulders. I
start to turn out the light, but let my hand fall on his head for just a

"I love you, son," I choke out and know how much I mean it. God doesn't
always give you children at their birth. Sometimes you find them further
along the way.

As I turn out the light and leave the room, my mind once again flashes on
that little tabby cat. So shy, so easily frightened. But it was always
there, waiting on the stoop when the kids came home from school. So
deserving of love. So wanting for just a little kindness.

I've always been a sucker for strays.

The end.


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