New! Stray Cat
Date: Sat, 09 May 98

Category: Story, Angst, Mulder/Scully UST/MSR at the end?

Rating: PG13 for language and Images of Child Abuse

Spoilers: Fire

Summary: Mulder has a chance encounter with something that brings him
back to his past, and Scully's there to help him return to the present.

Archive: Yes

Disclaimer: Mulder, Scully, MaMulder & Bill Mulder, as well as the idea
of Alex Ellwood, belong to 10/13 productions and Chris Carter. I'm just
borrowing them. I won't keep them. At the end of the story you can have
`em back, I swear, (unless you *want* to give `em to me.) All other
characters belong to me, and if Mr. Carter wants to borrow them, all he
needs to do is ask. <grin>

Introduction: Can you believe Walter Skinner does not make an appearance
in this story either? Unbelievable! Not even Maggie! I don't know
what's gotten into me lately? Time to go write another Abah story, I

I don't know where this one came from, but I've always loved the episode
"Fire" and just felt the need to explore the ideas raised in the episode.
(God forbid CC should explore them more! Hey, CC, that's a hint, son!)

Flames will be noted, but constructive feedback will be appreciated

To my inspiration, Vickie Moseley, one of the best dang AfterEpisode
FanFic writers I know! Thank you for being my eagle eye too!

Stray Cat
by Susan Proto (

Part 1/2

"Morning, Mulder. Hit traffic?" Scully asked as he walked through the
basement office door.

"Yeah," he replied, his eyes downcast and with a bit of a rasp, "traffic."

He dropped his brief case down on the desk and shrugged his trench coat
off. He then sank heavily into his chair. Mulder stared straight ahead.

Scully had her eyes back in a file when she looked up to see her partner
looking totally spaced out. "Mulder, you okay?" she asked. Moments
passed until Scully repeated herself and said, "Mulder, I asked you if you
were okay."

He literally jerked up in surprise at hearing her voice. "What?" He
looked at her and realized she gazed back with a concerned expression.
"Oh, I'm okay, Scully. I'm going to get some coffee, want a refill?"

"Sure," she replied, relieved to find Mulder seemingly okay.

He got up from his seat and stood for a moment or two, as if confused as
to what to do next. "Mulder? Cup? Coffee?" Scully reminded him.

"Oh, right. Sorry. Be right back," he muttered as he walked out the

Scully's eyes followed him out the door. She thought he was behaving a
little oddly, but for Mulder that was usually the norm rather than the

She looked back at her file and became absorbed in it. So much so, as a
matter of fact, when Scully reached for her coffee cup, some twenty
minutes later, she was surprised to discover it not there. When she
looked at her watch and noted how much time had passed since Mulder left
to get her a refill, she decided it was time to go on a search and rescue
of her coffee cup.

She stepped out of the office into the hallway and called out to him in
the copier room, where the coffee pot was housed as well. "Mulder, you've
absconded with my coffee cup, and I want it back. Filled with coffee if
you don't mind," she cried out teasingly.

There was no reply, so Scully figured her partner made a detour into the
men's room. She was, therefore, not at all prepared for what she saw when
she entered the copier room.

"What the hell?" she muttered at first, and then as her brain made sense
of the image before her she cried out in a panic, "Mulder?! Mulder,
what's wrong?!"

She saw her partner sitting in the corner, on the floor, shivering like he
was in the middle of the arctic. Scully knelt down by him and felt his
skin. He was cold and clammy and his pulse was way too fast. "Ohmigod,
Mulder. You're in shock. What the hell happened to you earlier today?"

She ran back to the office to get his trench coat to wrap around him.
When she returned, he hadn't moved from his spot which frightened Scully a
little bit. She sat herself down next to him and placed her arm around
him to draw him in towards her.

"Mulder, please tell me what happened," she pleaded in soft tones.
When she received no response, she played her trump card.

"Mulder, I'm going to call 911 if you don't tell me what happened," Scully
said in a slightly harsher tone.

As soon as she'd mouthed 911, Mulder's eyes snapped into focus. "Nnnno!"
he rasped. "Nnnno, I'll be okkkkay. I'll bbbbe okkkkay. Nnnno

Scully let out a huge sigh of relief. She really hadn't known if he was
capable of responding, but now that he proved he was, she decided to press
the issue.

"Mulder, what's going on?"

"Sccccully, itttt's sttttuppppid."

Scully listened to his reply and for the life of her could not remember
ever having heard him stutter before. "Mulder, are you still cold?" she
asked, wondering if the stuttering was a result of chattering teeth.

"Nnnno, I'm okkkkky," he replied.

"Mulder, what's wrong? Please, tell me what's wrong?"

"I ddddon't knnnnow," he replied seriously. "I hhhhavvvven't sttttutered
ssssince I wwwwas a kkkkid."

"I didn't know you stuttered as a child," Scully said honestly.

"Ththththere's a lot of ththththings you ddddon't knnnnow abbbbout mmmme,
Sccccully," he admitted.

"Okay, talk to me, Mulder. Why were you late to work this morning?"

"Wwwwait." Mulder sat and tried some deep breathing exercises in order
to try his best to gain back control of his ability to speak. It was a
strategy he'd learned long ago from a speech therapist who'd specialized
in working with clients with severe stutters. Several minutes passed by
while he concentrated on regaining control of his ability to speak, and
Scully regained control of her unmitigated fear for her partner.

"Okay," he finally whispered.

"Why were you late today, Mulder?"

"There was an accident," he said in barely audible tones.

"So you were stuck in traffic because of an accident?" Scully tried to

"No. I caused the accident," he responded tentatively. "I hit

"You hit something?" Scully watched him nod and then asked, "What did you
hit, Mulder?"

"At first I wasn't sure. I thought, maybe, I'd rolled over something
sharp and blew out my tire. So I got out of my car to check, but my tire
was fine."

He paused for a second or two and then said in a barely audible tone,
"Then I heard it." Mulder suddenly began trembling again even more
violently, so Scully embraced him harder.

"You heard something," she echoed.

"Yeah. Scully, it sounded like a baby crying, I was so scared," he

"You were scared you had hit a child," she responded in soft, even tones.

"Yes, but I didn't," he answered quickly.

Scully let out an audible sigh of relief and then asked, "What did you
hit, Mulder?"

"This is sssso st-st-st-stupid!" he cried out passionately. He stopped
speaking in a renewed attempt to regain control of himself. Mulder took a
deep breath and then continued.

"It's stupid, Scully. I can't believe I'm actually upset about it!"

"What, Mulder? What's so stupid?"

At this point, Scully's right arm was still around Mulder's trembling
shoulders. Her left hand simply stroked his hair or his face in an
attempt to calm and console him.

He, on the other hand, sat with his arms wrapped around his own chest as
if trying to comfort himself. His head laid upon Scully's shoulder and
sometimes faced out, while at more stressful moments, he turned his face
inward, into the crook of her neck and shoulder. This was the position
from which his muffled voice now spoke.

"I looked around for the source of the sound. I was praying I hadn't hit
a kid and then I saw it. It was just lying there, crying out in pain," he

"What was lying there?"

"A cat. It was just a God damned, fucking cat!" he answered with an angry
intensity she hadn't seen in a long while, nor did she understand why the
intensity over an injured cat.

"Tell me what happened next," Scully urged.

He sat up and closed his eyes for a moment, as he tried to refocus the
picture of the scene in his mind's eye. He took a deep breath, and with
his eyes still closed, began to explain what had happened earlier that

"I saw it. Laying there, but it kept twisting its head around toward me
and crying out, really loud. Have you ever heard a cat cry out in real
pain or fear, Scully? It really does sound just like a baby.

"I walked over to it. As I looked at it, all I kept thinking was, get up!
Just get up and run away, damn it. But it just laid there. I was going
to leave it there, but__, but I couldn't, Scully. It just kept looking
at me and crying.

"I wondered if it was cold. I knew every time I was hurt I'd get cold, so
I figured it might be too. I turned to go back to the car to get the
blanket from the trunk. It started crying louder, Scully. I looked back
at it and told it I was just getting a blanket. I told it I was coming
right back.

"Scully, I was talking to this stupid cat like it understood me. But the
damnedest thing happened. It stopped crying. At first, I thought it
passed out or dropped dead, but it hadn't. The cat just laid still, and
waited for me to come back with the blanket.

"It was fucking freaky. It kept watching me as I eased it on the blanket.
When I gathered it up in the blanket, it mewed a little, but it didn't cry
out like before. I swear, it was as if the damned thing knew I was trying
to help it.

"I put it in the seat next to me and started out for the vet__," he said.

"__Vet?" she asked, wondering how Mulder would know about vets. Tropical
fish don't necessitate a visit to the veterinarian's office.

"I took him to the one you brought Quequeeg to, Scully," he replied.

"Dr. Bradford's? A little out of your way, wasn't it, Mulder?"

"She was the only one I knew of, Scully."

She looked at him, amazed that he would have taken notice of which vet
she'd used for her long deceased dog, much less remember her name and
location. Yet, what bewildered her even more was her partner's decision
to drive many miles out of his way to bring this stray animal there for
medical attention.

"So what happened when you got to the vet?" she asked curiously.

Mulder's eyes had been closed all this time, but now he squeezed them shut
even tighter, if that were possible. Tears that were being held back by
his sheer force of will, now began to leak out and trickle down his

"The vet's assistant told me to bring it right into the examining room. I
laid it down on the table, but it kept looking at me, Scully. It was
really creepy how it kept looking right at me like that, like it knew I
was going to help it get through this, somehow.

"Well, the assistant said she was going to take some pictures and if I
wanted to stay with the cat I needed to wear the protective vest. Well,
shit, Scully, what did I care about that stupid, orange cat. I mean, it
wasn't even my cat.

"But the assistant thought it was my cat.

"I stayed. I put that obnoxious protective lead vest on and kept my hand
near it so it could at least see me. When she was done taking the x-rays,
the assistant told me to just sit and wait while she developed the

"It just stared at me Scully. I couldn't understand why it kept staring
at me. Then the Dr. Bradford came in with the developed x-rays. I took
one look at them, and then I knew why. I knew why," he whispered.

"What did Dr. Bradford say, Mulder?" Scully asked gently, though she
already knew the answer.

"It sustained too many injuries. It would be crippled for the rest of its
life. Its spine was crushed as were the bones in its right front leg and
both hind legs. The doc said the poor thing was probably in a lot of pain
and would linger in that pain for a long time. She said the most humane
thing we could do was to put it to sleep," he said, his voice trembling.

"Oh, Mulder," Scully cooed sympathetically.

"I sat there like an idiot and just nodded in agreement. I mean the
damned cat wasn't even mine. I didn't know if it belonged to anyone, I
didn't know if some poor kid was crying his eyes out 'cause his cat was
missing. But I sat there nodding like some dumb- ass little dolly
trinket's head bobbing up and down in the rear window of some punk kid's

"Then, the doc asked me if I wanted to hold it. When I looked at her like
she had two heads, she told me she meant when it was put down. Did I
want to hold it?

"Hell, NO, I didn't want to hold it! Damn thing wasn't mine. Why would I
want to hold it. Shit. Last thing I wanted to do. But Scully, it kept
looking at me. It kept staring right into my eyes and, Scully, it was the
damnedest thing. I swear that damned cat was pleading with me to stay
with it until the end."

The tears started falling anew. Mulder remained quiet for a few minutes.
He worked hard to compose himself again, but he knew it would become more
and more difficult as he continued telling Scully what had happened.

"First, the doc gave it a shot of something. I guess it was a valium or
something to help calm it. Then, I picked up the cat and the doc led me
into the examining room. This sucked, Scully. I sat there on this little
stool while the cat laid on my lap.

"I remember looking at it and thinking how it really didn't look hurt at
all. There was no blood, Scully. It was so weird, I mean, you'd have
thought there would have been blood all over the place, but there wasn't.
Its coat was a beautiful orange and white stripe.

"I sat there and realized as I was stroking the cat my mother would have
heart attack if she could see me doing that," he said suddenly with a
small chuckle.

Scully startled at hearing the small laugh. Laughter and the mention of
Mulder's mother rarely came in the same breath. "Why is that, Mulder?"
she asked extremely curious.

"She was never much of an animal lover. The closest thing to a pet she
would allow were some goldfish. And if we didn't clean the bowl often
enough, she'd punish us by flushing the entire contents, fish included,
down the toilet. We had quite a few burial at seas, Scully," he
reminisced now with a hint of bitterness.

Mulder continued, "When Sam and I were little, we begged Mom and Dad for a
dog. Well, the closest we came to actually owning one was visiting my
grandparents and playing with their collie.

"My grandparents had a painting done of me and the dog for my birthday one
year. Pretty weird present for a little kid, right? I loved it though.
God, I really loved that dog. But we were told no, what with all of the
traveling Dad did, it wasn't fair for Mom to be responsible for it.

"Of course, the fact that Sam and I were more than willing to share the
responsibilities was completely dismissed. We whined, we pleaded, and
then we even tried to present a rational, responsible, almost grown-up
argument for getting us a dog. Dad actually started to waver. We'd come
up with some good reasons, including the fact that since Dad traveled so
much, it would actually be helpful to have some extra protection around
the house.

"Well, Mom finally said she simply would not tolerate a 'doggy odor' in
her house, and that was the end of the discussion. So Sam and I charted
our next plan of attack. We figured if it was just the 'doggy smell' that
held us back from getting a pet, we'd pick an animal that didn't smell.

"We decided a short haired cat would do the trick. So when we proposed
that idea, she told us absolutely not. In fact, and this is the best,
Scully, she told us we were terribly allergic to cats, and we shouldn't
ever go near them 'cause they'd make us sneeze and our eyes water, and
we'd break out in horrible rashes and hives.

"God, Scully, she was so convincing. None of our friends at the time had
cats, so we didn't have any reason not to believe her, you know? I mean
we were little, like four and eight, so who were we to argue?

"Well, guess what?" he asked with a wry little smile.

"You weren't really allergic?" Scully said expectantly.

"No shit. My friend, Alex, got a cat. And__," Mulder stopped short and
took a deep breath. "God, Scully, Alex's cat looked just like this one.
That's why__," Mulder gasped in the realization he was about to relive a
very scary time from his childhood.

End of part 1/2

Disclaimers in part 1

Part 2/2

July 12, 1972
10:45 p.m.

The crowd stood around mesmerized by the flames that danced over their
heads. The Ellwood Family stood by and watched. Young Alex held onto his
little sister, Amy's, hand, while they watched their parents watch their
summer dream house go up in smoke.

Fox and Samantha came running up ahead of their parents as soon as they'd
heard the fire alarms. The island was small, and the sound of the alarms
traveled very quickly. They'd called the station to find out where the
fire was as a precautionary measure. If the winds were strong, these
blazes had a habit of traveling, and Bill Mulder wanted to be prepared.

As it turned out, it was the home of their friends, and the elder Mulders
felt compelled to go and offer their support. The children insisted upon
coming along, and though Christina Mulder was hesitant, Bill didn't
really care one way or the other. He was more interested in seeing how
much damage the house sustained.

Fox ran up breathlessly to Alex. "What happened?"

Alex stood silently as if he was hypnotized by the flames. Fox put his
hand on his shoulder and said, "Alex? What happened?"

Alex shook his head as if to knock out the cobwebs that were encircling
his brain and turned his head to see who was speaking to him.

"The house is on fire," he stated flatly.

"Alex, I can see that," Fox began a little sarcastically, but then in a
softer tone, added, "I was asking how it started."

"Oh." Alex stood numbly. He didn't know if he had the words to explain
what had happened. . He didn't know, either, if he could ever adequately
explain what he felt as he watched his home destroyed in flames. "God,
Fox, I think I'm gonna be sick," he rasped out as he let go of Amy's hand
to run off away from the crowd.

Fox left Sam with Amy and ran off after his friend. "Alex!" he called
out, but he did not receive an answer until he heard the young boy
retching. When Fox came near his friend, he could only stand by until his
friend's stomach had settled.

"You okay?" Fox asked.

Alex could only nod at this point.

"God, Alex, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to upset you," Fox apologized.

Alex waved him off and then finally found his voice. "You didn't do
anything, Fox. I just got sick, that's all."

Fox stood mutely in fear that his friend was only trying to make him feel
better. Alex looked at him and saw the fear in his friend's face. "God,
Fox, you're are so damned predictable, you know? I'll be okay. I guess I
should go back there."

"Yeah," replied Fox.

"It started in the garage," Alex began unexpectantly.

"In the garage?" echoed Fox.

"Yeah. At least that's the theory for now. Something about the heat and
the fumes and some old rags from the varnish and paint thinner my parents
kept in there. It got hot real fast and spread to the rest of the house.
Before we knew it we were outside watching the roof erupt into flames.
God Fox, this is so unreal."

The two friends walked back to the crowd. They found their respective
sisters, when all of a sudden, Amy cried out, "Alex, where's Pumpkin?"

They'd only brought Pumpkin, an orange and white striped tabby, home with
them three weeks ago. Not long enough in the minds of most adults to form
a great attachment, yet a lifetime of attachment in the minds of the

"Pumpkin! I don't know, Amy. You didn't see her come outside with us?"
Alex asked anxiously.

"No. No, I thought you did," the little girl cried out. "I gotta go tell
Daddy and Mommy. We gotta get Pumpkin."

"Amy, no! Amy, wait!" Alex called after her, but she'd already run up to
their parents. He could see their father shaking his head and their
mother extended her arms out to embrace her. Alex watched the scene
unfold before him and assumed the worse.

Fox felt awful for his friends. They had all grown so attached to the
cat, Fox and Sam probably as much as Alex and Amy. Fox remembered the
first time he and Sam had seen Pumpkin. She was a big cat, not the kitten
they'd anticipated. Alex had explained it was an older cat that had
belonged to one of his grandparent's neighbors who could no longer care
for it. Alex's grandmother had volunteered her grandchildren to take over.

Fox remembered being wary of going near the animal, as he'd remembered
well his mother's dire warnings.

His sister, however, had simply run up to the soft, purring orange fur
ball and had scooped her up to kiss and cuddle. The cat was a bit
unwieldy for the little girl to manage, but Sam hadn't given up and had
managed to scoop the animal up into her arms.

After a few minutes of cuddling, he remembered Samantha had looked at him
with wide eyes and announced, "I don't feel bad, Fox. I'm not 'lergic to

Fox remembered observing his sister very carefully and had come to the
conclusion she was, indeed, quite all right. He'd decided to conduct his
own experiment and had gently touched the cat. When none of the horrible
symptoms his mother had forewarned them about emerged, he'd realized they
had been horribly duped.

"Damn her!" Fox had yelled.

"Fox!" Sam gasped. "You can't say that!"

"What 's wrong, man?" Alex had asked.

''Nothing," he'd managed to say as he'd looked over at his sister. "Not
now, anyway."

Fox never did bring up the fact to his mother or father that neither he
nor his sister showed any allergic reactions to the cat. He'd realized it
would have been a good excuse for his father to come out swinging for
having disobeyed his mother in the first place about not going near a cat.

It wouldn't have mattered that the woman lied through her teeth to them.
His dad just liked an excuse to take his frustrations out on his older
child every now and then, that was all. So, he and Sam would visit Alex
and Amy's whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Alex and Amy were very good friends and never minded sharing their pet
with them.

So, to Fox and Sam, it felt like they, also, lost a pet that night.


July 12, 1972
12:50 a.m.

Once the trucks left and the crowds dispersed, it was the Mulders and the
Ellwoods that were left behind to look over the many broken pieces.
Neither James nor Barbara Ellwood looked up to dealing with any of the
necessary clean-up, and since it was late, Christina Mulder offered them
the spare bedroom for the night.

"We shouldn't leave the house unguarded," James said.

"The boys can watch the house," stated Bill. It was not a suggestion. It
was not a request. It was a command.

"I don't know," said Barbara. "Do you really think that's a good idea? I
mean they're just little boys."

"Don't be silly. They're perfectly capable of standing guard against
looters. No one would dare try to come by the house if they saw there
were people nearby watching it. They're big enough to deal with it,
aren't you, Fox?" he asked rhetorically.

"Yes, Sir." Fox responded with the words he knew his father expected to
hear, but they were not the words he wanted to say.

"Alex, do you think you can handle staying here with Fox tonight?" James
Ellwood asked gently.

"I don't know, Dad. It's kind of spooky out here, ya know?" Alex replied

"Fox will be with you, Alex," Bill interjected. "Come, it's late. Let's
go home and get some rest. Jim? Barbara? Come along, Christina.

They left the two young boys alone and Alex looked at his friend and
asked, "You really don't mind being out here alone?"

"You kidding? Alex, I'm scared shitless. But my father wouldn't have
tolerated me for saying that," he replied.

"Oh. God, I thought I was the only chicken shit here. Good. What are we
supposed to do now?" Alex asked.

"Dunno. You tired?"

"Yeah. I think I am, Fox."

"Look, why don't you catch some sleep, and I'll take the first watch," Fox
suggested. Alex nodded in agreement, hunkered down, and fell asleep
within minutes.

As Alex slept, Fox surveyed the area and began trembling. He'd always had
an overactive imagination, but combine that trait with the scene he was
now a part of, and it wasn't difficult for him to imagine himself being
caught inside the burning building.

He couldn't sit still. Fox had to get up and move about, or the images he
was creating in his mind would overtake him for sure and drive him
screaming off into the woods. He stood up, checked to make sure Alex was
still asleep, and walked about the charred remains.

Fox found himself poking and prodding among the burnt rubble. He
recognized some of the items and realized he'd started to cry. This was
the Ellwood Family's life that laid before him, and it overwhelmed him.
He saw pieces of furniture from the living room and books from the den.
He recognized several bits and pieces as toys from both Amy and Alex's

Then he saw something that he was sure he recognized, but didn't want to
see. Fox thought about simply pretending he hadn't seen it and walking
away. He knew that wasn't possible though. And he also knew it would
probably be better for his friends if he found her first.

He slowly lifted up the wooden board, which he realized was a part of
Alex's bunk bed. Pumpkin had been hiding under the bed, and when the fire
struck, she was too frightened and too overcome with smoke to leave her
hiding place.

When Fox lifted the board, he held his breath in expectation of seeing a
gruesome, burnt, charred sight.

It was worse than that.

She looked perfect. She looked like she was merely sleeping, though Fox
knew that was impossible. He leaned down to pick her up anyway. And he
held her, and stroked her, and murmured to her, and loved her.

And he cried.

He cried for all of the things his friend's family would have to replace.

He cried for all of the things his friend's family would never be able to

He held her until sunrise.

When he heard his friend's voice call out to him, he stood up slowly and
carried the orange tabby to his friend, so he too, could say a proper

"Mulder, it was a long time ago, my friend, and you did the right thing
then, and you did the right thing today," Scully said as she hugged him as
close to her as possible.

"It felt like it was just yesterday, Scully," he rasped back in tears.

"I know. Memories have a habit of staying with us in bright, living
technicolor sometimes. Unfortunately, it's not always a welcomed sight,
is it?" she commiserated.

"It's just a ddddamned ccccat," he stuttered as he tried to convince
himself it was of little importance. He didn't succeed. "Ddddamn it!"

"Mulder, you said you hadn't stuttered in a long time. When had you ever
stuttered?" Scully asked gently.

He took a deep, deep cleansing breath, and then blew it out. He opened
his mouth to speak, but suddenly found himself terrified to do so.

Scully sensed his fear, and grasped his hand in her own. "Mulder, you'll
get through this. It's a memory from your past. A frightening, traumatic
memory, that you will get through. Don't be afraid to talk about it.
It'll be okay. I promise you."

He took another deep breath, blew it out, and began to speak, stuttering
occasionally on words and phrases.

"Aaaafter the ffffire. Our ffffathers came back to the house. Mom and
Barbara Ellwood stayed back at my house with the girls. When they got
there, Mr. Ellwood saw we'd found Ppppumpkin.

"I said we nnnneeded to bring the ccccat to my house so the girls could
say ggggoodbye. I stood and ppppicked her up, so Alex could stand up more

"That's when Ddddad stomped over and slapped Ppppump-kkkkin out of mmmmy
hhhhands. He yyyyelled, 'You're nnnnot going to bbbbring that ffffilthy
aaaanimal to mmmmy house!' And then he hhhhit mmmme, hhhhard, in the

"Alex just ststststared at mmmme with this llllook of hhhhorror on his
fffface. He'd always suspected my ffffather hhhhit mmmme, but he'd never
actually sssseen it hhhhappen. This was the ffffirst ttttime.

"Oh, God. I ccccan't do this," Mulder trembled.

"Take a breath, Mulder. You _need_ to finish telling me what happened."

Mulder understood what Scully meant. It wasn't as much as her need to
hear it as it was his need to reveal it and move on from the memories.

Once again, Mulder practiced some deep breathing exercises and closed his
mind to try to clear his mind and regain control of his emotions. Several
minutes passed before he began again.

"Mr. Ellwood looked just as shshocked as Alex," he managed to say with a
minimal amount of stuttering. "Mr. Ellwood tried to just overlook what
had happened, but my ffather's hhandprint was clearly outlined on mmy

"Nice, huh? I'd just spent the entire nnight outside of a bburnt up
house, I'm hholding a ddead ccat, and my ddear ol' Ddddad decides to
inform me of his distaste for felines by sslapping me silly.

"I think the next words out of my mouth were, 'Ssssssssorrrrrrrry
Ddddddddad,' or something to that effect. He looked at me at that point,
and screamed at me, 'Are you ssssassing me, bbbboy?' Of course, I said,
'Nnnnnnnnnnno, Sssssssssir.' Guess who got ssssmacked again for sassing
his ffffather," Mulder managed to get out.

"Oh Mulder, I'm so sorry you had to go through that," Scully consoled
knowing her words would never be enough for her partner to forget the
horrors that man put him through.

"Yeah, well, I stuttered for a good year after that, and then, when Ssssam
was ttttaken, I'd kind of ststststopped ttttalking all together for a
while," he admitted.

"You stopped talking?" Scully confirmed.

"Yes. Not for thththat long, though," he replied.

"How long?" she asked as she wondered what he considered not long. A few
days? A week? A couple of weeks?

"A fffew mmmonths," he confessed.

"A few months? Dear God, Mulder! What did you do?" she asked

Mulder sat quietly for a moment and collected his thoughts. He didn't
find it all that difficult to go back to that time and remember. He
simply wasn't sure he wanted to take that trip. Finally, he continued and
told Scully what it was like in a soft, even voice.

"Nothing much. I mean I went back to school, I just didn't speak. I
could write, I could point, I just didn't talk. I didn't get into nearly
as much trouble when I'd kept my mouth shut," and then with the first
smile she'd seen on his face in a while, he added, "You'd better not tell
Skinner this story. He may try to find a way to reconstruct the
conditions that would stir up my elective mutism again."

"Oh, Mulder," Scully responded, "I am so sorry, but__, but what happened
that got you talking again?"

"Alex came over one day all excited. He rang the doorbell about a million
times, and my mother answered it. He started to talk a mile a minute,
telling her I had to come out to see what his parents had gotten him and

"Mom asked him to slow down and tell her what he wanted to show me. When
he said a new cat, Mom said she didn't think it was a good idea.

"But I'd been eavesdropping, of course, and I walked into the kitchen and
pushed by my mother so I could go with Alex to see the cat. Poor Mom was
so exasperated with me by this point. She had no idea how to deal with
me, and well, she usually took the easy way out and let me do what I
wanted to do.

"I went out to the backyard and saw Amy. It still bothered me to see Amy,
'cause she reminded me of Sam, and it bothered me that it had bothered me.

"But there she was holding the cat. It looked just like Pumpkin. It
could have been her twin, Scully," he said emphatically. Scully merely
nodded to encourage him to continue talking. She hoped it would have a
cathartic effect on him.

"I walked over to it and took it right out of Amy's hands, but the kid was
okay with it. In fact, I think she expected it. I just sat down on the
grass with the cat in my arms and started stroking it and petting it. I
remember I looked up at Alex and then at Amy and, though I still hadn't
said anything at that point, somehow they both knew I wanted to know its

"It was so funny, because at the exact same time they said, 'Jack.'

"I just looked at them and echoed out loud, 'Jack?' And then they said,

"I then replied, 'Oh, Jack.' My friends of course suddenly realized I'd
just spoken for the first time in like four or five months, and started
screaming! Both my parents came running out to see who was being killed,
and I'll never forget the expression on my dad's face when he saw the cat.

"I thought his head was going to explode, but then Amy shouted out, 'Mr.
Mulder, Fox talked! He said the cat's name! He talked!' Well, Dad looked
from Amy to Alex, who simply nodded his head in confirmation. That's when
my mom looked at me and asked, 'Fox, what is the cat's name?'

"'Jack,' I told her. She started crying and my father had to catch her
when she swayed a little bit. I think even his eyes welled up for a
minute or two. Then he remembered who he was dealing with and told me to
come inside.

"I remember Alex and Amy said goodbye, and then I said, 'see you
tomorrow,' and Alex looked really happy. I didn't have a problem talking
from that point on. Weird, huh?" he concluded.

"Mulder, it's not weird, but you're right. There's still a great deal I
need to learn about you, isn't there?" replied Scully.

"Yeah, if you want," he said softly.

"Oh, Mulder, it will take a lifetime to learn all there is to learn about
you. Haven't you figured out already I've made learning about you my
life's mission?" she asked earnestly.

"I'm glad, Scully. There's no one else I'd trust on that mission."

"Mulder," she said smiling, "I have an idea."

"Why do I get the feeling I should be afraid, very afraid," he retorted

"I think we need to take a ride," she said.

"A ride?"

"Yep," she said, as she stood up and offered her hand to help Mulder up as

He grasped her hand and rose with her assistance. She was about to let go
when he grasped it more firmly and drew her into his arms. He held her
silently for a few minutes when he finally drew back, looked at her, and
said, "This ride wouldn't happen to be to a certain animal shelter, would

"Wow, you really are spooky, aren't you?" she asked with her brightest
smile, but then she added, " I think it's a good idea, Mulder. Do you?"

"Scully__," he hesitated for just a moment and then said, "I can't believe
I'm saying this, but yes, I think it is a good idea. But I want you to
agree to joint custody, okay?"

She looked at him and was pleased to see how relaxed he'd become. "Joint
custody, eh? You got a deal, Mulder."


Knickerbocker settled in quickly at his new home at Apt. 42, 2630 Hegal
Place; Alexandria, Virginia.He quickly realized he was going to have stiff
competition for the couch, so he nestled in on the arm where the big guy
laid his head. It was the perfect place for Knickerbocker to lay down
like the prince he was and begin purring into the hairs of his new owner.

The nice smelling little red headed one was okay too. As she laid right
next to the big guy, the little red headed one reached up and back and
tickled Knickerbocker under his chin.

The big guy said, "Do that to me, Scully, and I'll start purring too."

*Hey, Big Guy! Share!*

Knickerbocker coolly sauntered down onto the big guy's chest and
confidently laid down. The little red headed one now easily reached over
and tickled his chin and scratched his ears. The big guy then started
stroking the beautiful calico gently on his back.

*Oh, this is good. This is very good.*

The purring became so loud, both the big guy and little red headed one
started to laugh. As they laughed, the big guy leaned over and kissed the
little red headed one on the lips. They hung out like that for awhile,
but Knickerbocker didn't mind.

Knickerbocker was home.

End of 2/2

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