Welcome To The Harem
Condemned by Lakticia
Summary: "Teena and I are... getting divorced," he admitted finally, hating the way that words with such import could be spoken so normally, so plainly.
by Lakticia (firstname.lastname@example.org)
disclaimer: Fun not profit... if only Rupert Murdoch felt
the same way
archive: Ephemeral, Gossamer, Harem; anywhere else just
let me know
date: 26 Sept 03
beta: XScribe, bardsmaid, Spooky2u2 - thanks to all
feedback: Makes my day
category: S A
spoilers: Nothing specific. General Mulder family stuff
"Teena and I are... getting divorced," he admitted finally,
hating the way that words with such import could be spoken
so normally, so plainly.
"Quitting the place that we love means that we are
condemned to inhabit our loss forever."
- 'A Mapmaker's Dream', James Cowan
Bill Mulder stared, a sick feeling of surpriseless shock
churning his stomach, the mashed potato gone dry in his
mouth. The ghosts of Teena's words hung in the silence.
"I'm filing for divorce."
The solid oak dining table stretched between them. Teena
stared back at him calmly, arms folded, terry cloth robe
tied tightly at her waist, hair falling limply around her
face, lips and eyebrows set in determined lines. Her
expression expected and invited no response.
Out in the hall, the solemn ticking of the grandfather
clock measured the chasm of silence.
"I'll have the papers for you to sign in a few weeks," she
His heartbeat resumed with a shuddering thud.
Divorce. Papers to sign.
He nodded mutely, a jerking, tired movement; then
swallowed, bent his head and forced a small forkful of food
into his mouth. It was lukewarm, lifeless after having
been left in the oven until midnight.
Teena continued. "Fox and I will stay here. There's a
house for sale in West Tisbury."
He nodded again, his hooded eyes fixed on the plate before
him. He chewed and swallowed. "All right."
She watched him for a moment longer, before shooting a
disapproving glance at the tumbler beside his plate
quarter-filled with whisky. Then she turned and left, her
footfalls retracing the path up the stairs she had
descended only minutes earlier.
Divorce. With a shaking hand he reached for the tumbler
and downed a mouthful of liquor, his throat muscles
clenching as it arced down his throat like sparks flying
from a bonfire. Divorce. He stared dully at the half-
eaten meal before him and listened to the footsteps
disappearing into the bedroom.
"You seem preoccupied."
Charles spoke these words with his customary detachment.
Always a step apart, even with a companion of decades.
Bill sighed as the other man placed a cigarette between his
lips and lit it in a series of well-practised movements.
At the far end of the empty cafeteria, a waitress ran a
cloth over the counter.
He looked down at the coffee and the confidential papers
spread out before him, feeling hemmed into the corner of
the room. They always chose the corner, whether a place
was full or empty. Second nature by now.
"Teena and I are... getting divorced," he admitted finally,
hating the way that words with such import could be spoken
so normally, so plainly.
A flicker of something passed over Charles's eyes and he
raised his eyebrows infinitesimally, taking a pull on the
cigarette and exhaling. "I see."
A pause. Bill fiddled needlessly with a bunch of papers.
"And you'd rather you weren't?"
Resentment edged into the back of Bill's mind. A man could
get sick of a man if they spent too long together. That...
that cynical laughter that seemed always at the edge of
Charles's voice. That supreme, emotionless control.
He answered the question with a grim smile. "What reason
do we have to stay together?"
A pause. Charles tapped ash into his empty coffee mug.
"Fox," he suggested tonelessly.
Bill fixed him with a mirthless look and said nothing,
distracted by the creeping voice of distrust inside. He
looked out of the window as Charles finished his
cigarette. Outside, the clouded sky gaped open, and heavy
droplets of rain wept onto the grey streets.
Sunlight poured through the long windows in the kitchen,
its caress bright yet cold. Teena stood with her back to
him, chopping vegetables at the counter. A sharp line of
sunlight bisected her profile, accentuating the slight wave
in her dark hair, falling on the curve of her right arm as
it rose and fell steadily like a swimmer slicing through
Bill paused in the doorway, thinking.
They had been joyful once. And, yes, even in love. A
lifetime ago. When a woman's company was the best thing in
a man's life, was the only good thing... wasn't that love?
After a moment he entered the room, moving to the side,
standing by the wall beside the counter. Teena paused to
flicker a glance at him, then the steady chop-chop-chop
In the brief silence he wondered how to introduce the
subject. There was no point in stating the obvious; they
both knew she had left the divorce papers in his study;
they both knew he had spent the whole morning sitting in
there. He hesitated, realising he was clenching his jaw,
"What is it?" she finally asked tonelessly, not looking at
He rested a hand on the counter and looked down at it, at
his wedding ring. "I've been thinking... that house in
West Tisbury. It's too big for me. Maybe you and Fox
should take it. Leave me with this old place..." he
gestured around pointlessly, then paused. "It might be
good for him... to get away from here."
Teena continued chopping for a few moments, then looked up,
fixing him with a gaze as sharp and certain as midday.
"I'm not going to disrupt his life any more than
necessary. We'll be fine here."
Faced with her stern look, he nodded slowly, thoughtfully.
She dropped her gaze and resumed chopping.
He opened his mouth, hesitated, then ventured further.
"What about the summer house?"
"Keep it." Her tone was matter-of-fact, as if the decision
had already been made.
"No, you should have it." His voice sounded strange with
forced determination, loud but empty. "What would I do
"Do what you like with it," she told him brusquely,
continuing to dice the potatoes. "I don't intend *ever* to
go back to that place."
He paused and watched her for a moment. "You could take
She stopped chopping suddenly and glared up at him. "I am
*not* going *back* to that place," she repeated, her voice
abrupt with tightly controlled - what? Anger?
He flinched a little but said nothing as she went back to
chopping, schooling her expression into the familiar
What was so...? He didn't understand - and that look -
that accusation, as if he was carefree and fine, as if she
was the suffering saint in a house full of madmen. He
leaned in a little and drew on his reserves of
decisiveness. "The house is yours. If you don't want it,
She gave him another cold glance. "I don't want the
house. I don't want the money."
"For God's sake, Teena!" he snapped, and she looked up
again, surprise flickering in her eyes then disappearing,
her jaw still clenched in determination, her lips set in a
His insides shook and he took a breath, spoke again, his
voice sounding reedy. "Take the damn house. If you don't
want it, sell it," he repeated. "Put the money in Fox's
She considered him silently for a moment, then dropped her
A sliver of surprise and relief fluttered inside him.
Teena moved to the side and brushed the diced vegetables
into a saucepan on the stove. "Are you ready to sign?"
It took him a moment to catch up. "What?... Yes."
She moved to the sink and rinsed off the chopping board.
"Good. We can go to the attorney's after lunch."
"Today?" The word was out of his mouth before he'd thought
She turned to him and raised her eyebrows a fraction,
challenging him to find any reason for postponement.
He sighed wearily. "Fine."
Bill knocked twice and cleared his throat. "Fox?"
Tentatively he turned the handle and opened the door
The floor of Fox's bedroom was strewn with books, shoes and
discarded clothes, creating a chaos that seemed to rise and
permeate the room. The bedsheets lay in a limp heap at one
end of the bed, half spilling onto the floor, twisted about
as if thrashed off during sleep. Books, records and
magazines covered the shelves in haphazard piles. The door
of the wardrobe hung half open, clothes spilling out of
it. Beyond the window, the dying embers of the evening
faded behind the trees.
Fox sat at his desk in the corner of the room, hunched over
what must be homework. He looked towards Bill warily,
taking a pen lid from his mouth, the top of it disfigured
with teeth marks.
Briefly wondering when Teena had last been in here, Bill
noticed the window was open.
"You shouldn't have the window open while the lights are
on. Moths will get in," he said, nearly stepping across
the room to close the window, but finding himself unwilling
to step into no-man's-land, to disrupt a chaos he had no
Without a word Fox dutifully went to close the window. He
drew the curtains closed and glanced at Bill as he returned
to his seat.
Bill was speechless for a moment. It wasn't often Fox made
eye contact. The boy's eyes were... withdrawn, thoughtful
- wise, even. A twelve year old boy...
With a sudden stab of realisation, he admonished himself
for giving the boy a hard time before even saying hello.
He watched as Fox sat down, turned back to his homework,
started scribbling. His leg jiggled restlessly under the
"Ah... The Magician's on," he ventured. "I thought you
might want to watch it."
The boy mumbled something Bill couldn't make out and
"What was that?"
"I don't watch that any more," Fox repeated with a note of
irritation, glancing towards Bill without looking at him.
Bill nodded, somehow not surprised; of course he was out of
touch, of course he was. Hesitantly, he watched the boy
turning over the pages in his textbook. What could he...
"How's school?" he asked.
A pause. "Your grades okay?"
"Good. Good," he mumbled. Of course the boy's grades were
okay. The teachers said he had a reading age of eighteen,
for heaven's sake. He was smarter than Bill had ever been.
"Well..." he faltered. "Keep working hard." The words
felt bland and empty in his mouth.
Fox grunted, semi-glancing at him again, then returned to
his work. Bill looked around for a moment. With curtains
drawn, the glare of the electric light made Fox's room seem
darker, somehow. Claustrophobic.
"Well..." he trailed off, then gave an awkward grunt and
turned to leave. Closing the door, he started off down the
Behind him came the click of the door opening. "Dad?"
He turned quickly to see Fox standing in the doorway, half
hidden behind the jamb, looking at him hesitantly,
The boy's Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed. "When are
A moment of silence, and Bill felt a suffocating heaviness
settle slowly inside. The pitch of the boy's voice was
starting to jump around crazily.
Jesus, where had all the goddamn time gone?
"A week from Saturday," he answered, his voice rough with
age and tiredness. "..Will you be here?"
Fox shrugged, half-nodded, hesitated, then turned and
disappeared into his room.
Bill remembered Charles' toneless suggestion. "Fox." No,
he... he was exactly the reason why they should *not* stay
together. This marriage, this family, this house, it..
throbbed with agony and tension, as if full of magnets
placed inches apart, and if he stayed it would beat Fox
down, it would... destroy him. He had to give the boy a
chance at.. at peace, at anything. Had to.
Banishing the thoughts from his mind, Bill turned and
continued to the staircase. The hallways, doorways,
stairs, walls, seemed to sag and groan with sorrow.
The knock at the study door made Bill jump. He was
standing motionless in front of an open box, staring at an
The Book of Baby Names. It sat heavily and dustily in his
hand, obviously something which had accidentally found its
way into the study from Teena's bookshelves in the hall.
Though it wasn't much like Teena, either, to own such a
book; probably a present from a female friend, her sister,
her mother, something like that.
"Come in," he called, quickly dropping the book into its
Teena entered wearing an apron, and they shared the brief,
solemn look which passed for a greeting between them. Then
she wordlessly handed him three or four sheets of paper.
He examined them briefly. They were covered in her precise
script; on the first page were small paragraphs headed
"Basic Pasta", "Basic Rice", "Lamb Chops" and "Vegetables".
He looked up at her, surprised.
"I thought that might be helpful to you," she said, her
expression and tone giving nothing away. No embarrassment,
shyness, sadness, affection. Nothing.
"Ah- thank you," he answered, hesitantly, sincerely.
She nodded imperceptibly and glanced around the room. It
looked like a video paused at the wrong moment, a painting
done by two different people. Half his possessions sat in
cardboard boxes; the other half lay where they had always
been, gathering dust on the shelves.
Her lips opened with a faint dry pop, then she hesitated.
"-Everything going OK?" She gestured to the open box
"Ah, yes. Fine," he nodded, glancing at the boxes already
filled. "Should be.. finished soon."
With another slight nod, she turned and left. The large
door banged shut loudly, sounding like gavel on block.
Bill watched as the heavy slam sent a cloud of tiny dust
motes into the air, where they hovered awhile before
starting the slow, mournful descent to the floor.
The house was silent with the expectation of loss, a sick
version of Christmas Eve, a parody thought up by some cruel
huckster of a deity. Teena had gone to bed hours ago,
Fox... Fox never made any noise, any fuss, he could be
doing anything up in his room. Outside Bill's study, in
the hall, the grandfather clock ticked barrenly, sounding
like the left-right-left-right of soldiers on parade, the
expectant look on a colleague's face, the countdown of a
He sat at his desk, wondering briefly when the boy had last
said goodnight to him before going to bed. Boxes and
suitcases were stacked at the far end of the room. The
bookshelves, walls, desk and cupboard sat empty and
forlorn. The sharp angles and dull colour of the boxes and
empty wooden fixtures filled the room with a stark, hard-
He swirled whisky around in a glass, staring at it dully.
/Remind me again what the point is,/ an anguished voice
/It's your job. Your country. The future,/ came the
tired, dark reply.
He tipped the liquor down his throat, swallowing almost
desperately, closing his eyes as it burned its path inwards.
/Shhh. Too late for that now./
He unscrewed the bottle lid, took a moment to steady his
hand, and poured another measure. The liquid trickled into
the glass like rainwater into the gutter.
Out in the hall, the grandfather clock chimed midnight with
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