Title: For God and Country
Feedback: welcomed and adored!
Distribution: Kimpa and Enigmatic Dr., always; Ephemeral, Gossamer, or if you've archived me before, yes; if you haven't, please just let me know and leave headers, email addy, etc. attached. Thanks!
Spoilers: Fire, though I also use some general information gained after that episode.
Rating: PG-13. Reference to adult activities. Classification: Vignette
Keywords: WMM POV, pre-XF
Summary: Family connections are always worth cultivating.
Disclaimer: These characters aren't mine. They mostly belong to the actors who portrayed them, but Chris Carter created them, and Ten Thirteen and FOX own the rights. I mean no infringement, and I'm not making any profit from them.
Further disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the characters here are their own. I just wrote them down.
Acknowledgment: Thanks to the members of IWTB for questions answered, and to Char for late-night reassurance.
For God and Country
London, Summer of 1983
The club looked like any other gentleman's club on a quiet side street in a good neighborhood. A discreet brass plate by the door had the number of the house and the word "Private Club" engraved on it.
The man about to enter the club was the epitome of a gentleman of his class. His "bespoke" suit was perfectly tailored; the tie knotted just so, but not so perfectly that it looked artificial. From his impeccably groomed hair to his well-kept hands and down to his hand-made shoes, he was unremarkable and not unlike any number of men of his class and breeding. The casual observer would see nothing out of place about this man. He was just a man in London, on business, perhaps. Just a man, stopping in at his club for a smoke, or some tea on a sweltering August day.
Someone who knew him well, however, would see the spark of anger in his hooded eyes. As he approached the front door, it was opened by a dark suited man who ushered him inside deferentially, giving a hushed reply to his curt inquiry.
The Englishman entered the study, normally empty unless all the members were gathered. He could smell the cheap American cigarette tobacco before he saw the smoke, and his eyes narrowed, giving his face a pinched look.
"What is the meaning of this?" he demanded. "Why call me to London a day before the meeting?"
The American rose from his chair, taking another drag on his cigarette with slow insolence. He met the Englishman's angry gaze with a calm expression. "This news couldn't wait. Bill Mulder's son is going to Oxford."
This was unexpected news. "When? Is he there now?"
"No, but he'll be starting in the fall term. It's just been decided."
"Why didn't we know about this before?"
The American took another long draw of his cigarette, stubbed it out, and lit another.
He hated this man Spender and his filthy habit, his superior attitude when his true status was nothing more than an errand boy -- a pawn. But he was always trying to advance his position. Like so many Americans, he never seemed to know his place. Currently, the Yank was trying to curry favor with him. But that didn't mean that Strughold or one of the others wouldn't also be approached.
"We've only just confirmed it. I believe that there was some opposition at home. Though it may have more to do with his course of study than where he's studying."
"What is it?"
"Psychology." Another pause and an insincere chuckle from the American. "I believe his parents wanted him to attend Harvard Law. One of the few things they've agreed on in the past several years."
"That does change things," the Englishman murmured. His mind was already turning over the implications of this news. Rather than show his own hand, he remarked, "But surely this could have waited until tomorrow? After all, the term doesn't start for another month."
"And here I thought you'd appreciate a little advance information," the American said with false joviality. "You still have some ties to Oxford? I'm sure that there are people there who could be persuaded to keep an eye on young Mulder, and let us know how he's doing? Perhaps even to influence him in some way? It could present a singular opportunity for us," the other man said. "Away from home and family...alone and vulnerable...and it can only increase your own standing within the Consortium, to be able to supply this information."
"Yes, I get your drift," said the Englishman with a sarcastic edge to his voice. Trust this fellow to state the obvious. He had no subtlety at all. "I'll see what I can do."
"I'm sure you will," Spender said, lighting another cigarette.
He'd arranged to meet her at Benwick's Hotel, a small and discreet establishment across town from his club. This was the first time he'd bothered to get in touch with her directly since she'd come of age. He administered her trust fund, but his responsibility hadn't extended to her upbringing.
He really didn't think much of his niece, but sometimes family connections were worth exploiting.
She came breezing in fifteen minutes late, looking every inch the Sloane Ranger. He pursed his lips at the sight of her. So much like her mother: unconcerned with the world, interested only in herself and in her own pursuits. He'd have to play this carefully, make her see that what he proposed was in her best interests.
"Hello, Phoebe," he said reservedly, standing as she entered the private sitting room.
"Hullo, Uncle," she said, and accepted the chair he held for her. "To what do I owe this honor? Have I overdrawn my allowance?"
He looked at her sharply. She looked back, unruffled.
"Not at all," he said calmly. He would not let her see that her directness unsettled him. He could see a sharp intelligence in her eyes, and something more...feral? It didn't surprise him; he'd kept tabs on her from afar, and not just for the sake of her mother. "It's been a while since I've seen you, and I've been wondering how you are," he said neutrally.
"I'm just fine, Uncle," she said, settling comfortably in the deep upholstered chair. She spread her arms wide. "As you can see."
He took her at her invitation, surveying her silently. Fashionably cut hair, clothes that were casual but obviously expensive. She exuded confidence and her expression hinted at a worldliness uncommon in a young woman of her age and status.
She wasn't beautiful. She had rather thick, sensuous lips -- she got those from her father's side of the family -- set in a slightly elongated face, called by some aristocratic; by others, less tactful, horsy. She was thin but well-shaped. And if what he'd been told was true, already quite experienced in sexual matters. That trait, unfortunately, she'd probably got from her mother.
There was more than a bit of the commoner in her, but that worked to his advantage. She'd probably do what he asked, if for no other reason than self-interest. Though he did control her trust fund, he hoped he wouldn't have to resort to using it as leverage.
"Have I passed inspection?" Phoebe asked after several long moments. She didn't wait for his invitation, but poured a cup of tea for him and then for herself. She helped herself to a scone, not bothering with the niceties of jam and cream before taking a bite.
He allowed himself a thin smile. "I think you'll do. I understand you're attending Oxford."
"Yes. Your old college, if I remember correctly."
"I'd like to ask a favor of you," he said. He watched as she stirred far too much sugar into her tea and waited for her response.
She sipped her tea and looked at him, which he took as a "get on with it" sort of look. The young had no manners at all.
"The son of an old friend will be starting next term, and I thought it might be a friendly gesture if you introduced yourself to him, perhaps took him under your wing, so to speak."
She set her teacup down and wiped her fingers delicately on her napkin. "What's he look like?"
He produced a small photograph from his breast pocket and handed it over to her.
She whistled. "Not a bad looking chap, that. What's his name?"
"Fox Mulder," he told her.
She laughed and rolled her eyes. "Poor sod. What a name. What else do you know about him?"
"His father used to work for the State Department in Washington, DC, but has since retired. I believe he thought his son might follow him into government service, but young Mulder has decided on another course of study. I'm told he's quite an intelligent young man, turned down any number of offers from American universities to come to Oxford. He's also a bit of an athlete, did quite well in sports in school."
She studied the photograph. It was a good one, a candid snap of him walking down a sidewalk. He had none of the gangliness of youth, and his face had a closed, private look about it. He wondered if even Phoebe could change that. Fox Mulder had kept to himself for a long time. The Englishman found it surprising that the young man would choose to come to Oxford, though it might be a form of rebellion. If he chose to assert himself now, he would need careful watching.
"What's his course of study? Do you know?" Phoebe asked.
"As it happens, I do. He'll be taking a graduate course in Psychology."
"How very convenient," she murmured. "I suppose you know that it's my course as well?"
She was impossibly cheeky. It seemed time to remind her what side her bread was buttered on. "I can't help but know, since I write the checks which enable you to continue your studies."
She smiled over the rim of her cup and he was once again struck by the calculating look in her eyes. She seemed to be assessing him as well, and realizing that he was a worthy opponent.
However, she wasn't conceding the game just yet. "What's the catch, Uncle? she asked. "Is he gay? Is there some other ... dysfunction I should know about?"
"None that I've heard," he said. He deliberately left out Samantha Mulder's disappearance. The less she knew of his past, the better. "I don't know the young man personally. As I said, he's --"
"-- the son of an old friend. Who happened to work for the United States Government." She finished for him, and took a thoughtful sip of tea. "Very well, Uncle, I'll help you out. I've always fancied I had a bit of Mata Hari in me," she said. "What do I need to do, winkle state secrets out of him?"
"I doubt he knows any," he said dryly. "Nothing so cloak and dagger as that. As I said, he'll be a stranger here. I thought he could use a friend. And since you'll be at Oxford as well..."
"How friendly must I be?" she asked, eyebrows raised.
"I'm sure he could use a confidant," he said cautiously.
As before, Phoebe was direct. "Do you want me to sleep with him?"
He nearly choked on his tea. "Good God, Phoebe. Do you think I'm a procurer?"
"To be honest, Uncle, I don't know just what you are. You call me for the first time in five years, invite me to tea, and ask me to befriend this Yank who's evidently so pathetic he's incapable of making friends on his own..."
"Wherever did you get that idea?"
She shrugged. "It just seems odd. How is it that he has the wherewithal to get to Oxford, but needs help to meet people?"
He considered what to tell her. It was much safer for both of them if she knew as little as possible. He would use her to further the cause if he could, but he'd try to shield her from the full extent of what he knew. It wasn't entirely for her own good. He had the distinct impression that she'd find a way to turn it to her advantage.
"Have you even met this Fox Mulder?" she asked him.
"No, I have not," he admitted, "and I intend on keeping it that way."
"Why is that?" she asked curiously.
"Because I think his father would prefer that he not get the feeling anyone's keeping an eye on him. I'm sure you understand. You wouldn't like it either, would you?"
"Of course not," she said. "Who would?" She sipped her tea thoughtfully. "What am I to be, then? Some sort of security blanket for the spoiled rich son of your old American friend?"
What kind of life had she had, to make her so self-assured and hard-bitten at such an early age? She was much too worldly-wise to have had the same pampered upbringing that her mother had had, though he'd always made sure they wanted for nothing.
He had to admire his sister for standing by her decision, even after learning what a bad one it was. She'd stood by Phoebe's father much longer than she should have. Until he'd proven one last time just how worthless he really was.
Best not to dwell on any of that. He couldn't afford to be maudlin. He'd left the past in the past. It was the future he needed to ensure now.
Phoebe must have mistaken his hesitation for a withdrawal of the proposal, for now she was saying, "I'm not saying I won't do it. But to put it bluntly, what do I get out of it?"
He raised his eyebrows and sipped his tea. Here was the crux of it. Should he appeal to her sense of duty to family or country? Or something more venal? He tried the latter for starters.
"It's not enough that I pay for your schooling? That I've supported your mother and you all these years? Don't you think you owe me a little something in return?"
She licked her lips a little, and he suddenly felt a little revolted by her. He hid his distaste by taking another sip of tea.
"It shouldn't surprise me to find that you expect a return on your investment after all this time," she said with a touch of malice in her tone. "It just surprises me that it should take such an altruistic turn. I expected the request to be a bit more ... personal?"
He was truly horrified. What sort of tales had Phoebe's mother -- or, more likely, her father -- been spinning? "What in God's name do you take me for? If you really believe that of me, this interview is over. I apologize for taking up your time."
"Don't let's be hasty, Uncle," she smiled. "I just want to know what's expected of me. Do you expect me to befriend him, or seduce him? Judging from his looks, it would be no hardship. In fact, it might be fun."
"Just make his acquaintance. What happens beyond that is entirely up to you." He'd always avoided this side of the business in the past. He'd had to do entirely too much of this sort of thing in the War, using women far more innocent, and far more selfless, than Phoebe was capable of being.
Phoebe waited for him to say more, hands folded demurely in her lap.
He continued. "I also hoped we might take tea once in a while, and you could let me know how the young man is faring. I'd certainly make it worth your time."
She smiled. "I'd be delighted, though I prefer sherry, actually. But it might be difficult to get up to London all the time. My poor little car is not very reliable these days. And petrol is so dear."
"I'm sure school expenses are higher than they used to be," her uncle murmured. "I've been intending to review your quarterly allowance. I'll see what I can do."
"And so shall I, Uncle. I'll be in touch." She rose, ending the interview and leaving him to watch her departure with compressed lips.
It was a little disappointing to find that she could be bought off so easily.
Three months later.
"He really is rather sweet," Phoebe said. "Quite shy in a very un-American way. I know any number of girls who are quite smitten with him, but he barely notices them."
"I take it he's noticed you, however," he asked. He already knew the gist of it, but he wanted to hear from Phoebe.
"Oh, he's noticed me," Phoebe said. Her second sherry arrived and she sipped at it delicately. "I've made sure of that. He seems -- quite flattered, actually, by the attention. I wonder what American women are made of, that he's so unused to female admiration."
"I'm sure he's had relationships in the past," the Englishman remarked, not sure that he wanted the conversation to go down this path.
"Not very serious ones, I'd wager," she said. "He isn't very experienced, but he makes up for that lack in enthusiasm. And he's not afraid to try anything --"
"I don't need details," he interrupted. He had photographic proof if he wanted details. The photos were grainy, but he could make out enough to know what she meant. There was a particularly graphic series that appeared to have taken place in a graveyard, atop Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's tomb, of all places...
Phoebe was inventive and often rather cruel. Fox Mulder seemed to be in her thrall, which hadn't been his intent. Spender seemed to think that through Phoebe they could have some influence over him. The Englishman disagreed; he thought it was much better to let the boy find his own path. No matter what direction he decided on, with enough warning they could find a way to keep an eye on him. The American thought they should try to guide him, control him in some way, but that was a much more dangerous task, and could too easily blow up in their faces.
He'd gotten much more than he'd bargained for when he asked for Phoebe's assistance. She was certainly influencing him, but not in ways that would be at all useful to them. It only seemed to illustrate what a lonely life Fox Mulder had led thus far, to fall so hard for someone like Phoebe. She'd barely had to crook her finger at him.
Phoebe turned wide, innocent eyes on her uncle. "I thought you wanted to know everything. I thought that was the point. I was certain you'd want to know as many details as I could supply. I can certainly confirm a good deal for you. He is indeed quite athletic -- tireless, in fact. And he's a fine physical specimen --"
"That's quite enough, Phoebe," he interrupted in a voice that brought subordinates to their knees.
Phoebe merely raised her eyebrows slightly and sipped her sherry. "I assumed you'd want your money's worth, Uncle," she said.
"That's not what this is about!" he said. "I merely wanted you to --"
"--take the son of an old friend under my wing, if I remember correctly," Phoebe finished smoothly. "Well, I've done so. I certainly didn't expect the thanks of a grateful nation, but I did think that you'd be happy about it. Am I not performing to expectations?"
Everything she said seemed to have a double meaning. His sister had been so guileless, so self-effacing. He could no longer see her in Phoebe's face, and it made him both angry and sad.
Phoebe was the new generation, selfish and opportunistic. She might agree to do something for someone else, but only as long as it served her own interests as well.
He wondered briefly if that opportunist Spender had somehow gotten to her before he had.
"Just try to be discreet," he said. "It won't help your future, or his, to be caught in flagrante."
Phoebe smiled her knowing little smile. "That's half the fun, Uncle," she said.
Six months later.
He was nearly apoplectic when she finally came to the telephone.
He'd just returned from a successful visit to the States, where he'd stayed with his friend and colleague, Dr. Belinda Charne-Sayre. To be greeted with this on his return curdled all the enjoyment he'd gotten from his trip.
"What is this I hear about your young man ending up in hospital?" he said, barely containing his anger.
"My young man?" Phoebe yawned. "Oh, you mean Fox Mulder? There was a little accident with a candle. I'm sure he's fine now." His niece made unconcern a fine art.
"Your `little accident' almost burned down the cottage, and you both could have been seriously hurt," he said. "I suggested that you befriend him, not torture him!"
He could hear her yawn over the telephone line. "Your concern is touching, though I'm not sure whether it's for the cottage or for me. We were playing a little game. It got a bit out of hand. He moved when he shouldn't have, that's all. We've done it before."
"Yes, I know," he said, "I know exactly what you've been doing, but you won't do it again." He immediately regretted the slip, and had little hope that Phoebe wouldn't notice it.
The quality of the silence on the other end of the line changed, and then he heard her say, in a voice edged with anger barely contained, "What else do you know? You've been spying on me, have you?"
"You've not been keeping in touch as agreed. I sent someone down to find out why."
"You don't trust me, do you?" she asked.
"It's got nothing to do with trust," he snapped. "I believe I made a mistake in asking you to do this. You are not keeping up your end of the arrangement. I think you should discontinue your relationship with Fox Mulder immediately."
"That's not your concern," Phoebe said. "You introduced us, so to speak, but you cannot control what happens from then on. You are not Pygmalion, forming me or Fox Mulder to your whims or specifications."
"You may have damaged that young man irreparably."
"Physically? I don't think so. Mentally? That's another kettle of fish. He already has some issues that you neglected to tell me about, Uncle. I was actually trying to help him face one of his fears. You might call it an experiment. Did you know he's afraid of fire?"
"I can see that your training in psychology is serving you well."
"Why do you care? And spare me the `old friend' cant. I don't believe it, I never did. I think you wanted to keep track of Fox Mulder for some other purpose. What, I can't fathom. If you choose not to tell me, so be it. But don't pretend that you have his best interests at heart."
"You couldn't possibly know or understand my interests," he said.
"Because you've never bothered to share them with me. You've simply said, `do this,' and I've done it, without asking awkward questions. You seem to think that I'm still a child, with a child's understanding of things. Well, Fox has told me a little about his life. I can draw my own conclusions about things from there."
She had to be bluffing. Fox Mulder knew next to nothing about what his father did; he'd stake his life on it. However, he couldn't take the chance. Phoebe was smart, and though she didn't have access to the information he had, she obviously knew there was more to this situation than meets the eye.
He considered his options before speaking again. He needed to find a way to salvage the situation before it got much worse.
"Phoebe," he said carefully, "You are correct that I know quite a lot about what you and young Mulder have been doing. I also know quite a bit about some of your other, shall we say, escapades? Things that you might prefer were not known generally. Perhaps things you'd prefer that Mulder not know about you..."
"Oh, I've told him plenty," she said airily. "But he forgave me. He always forgives me."
It appeared that they were at an impasse. Forbidding her to see him would only make her more determined. He could hope that she'd become bored with Mulder in time. But what havoc would she wreak in the meantime?
He could find a way to force her: he still had control over most of her money and while she wouldn't starve, she'd have to do without many of the luxuries she'd grown to depend upon. However, he didn't want to lose his influence over her entirely; there might be future occasions where she could be of use.
What other incentive could he offer her? What was as seductive as money? He though back over their conversations, and the kinds of questions she'd asked, the statements she'd made.
Information. Perhaps it was time he'd told her a few things.
"Very well, Phoebe. Can you come up to the house this weekend?"
"May I bring Fox? Perhaps it's time he met you," she said, a dangerous sweetness in her tone.
"No, you may not. What I have to tell you has nothing to do with him."
"You won't sway me any more in person, you know."
"There are things you need to know. I think you're ready to hear them, and they can't be said over the telephone." He hoped that he'd used the right tone of reluctance and resignation to pique her curiosity.
"Very well, Uncle. I'll hear you out."
He could hear the undertone of triumph in her voice.
Ten years later.
Benwick's was long gone, a victim of some high-rise hotel chain, soulless as Strughold but therefore anonymous, and very discreet.
He waited in a mockery of a men's club, called of course "The Club Lounge." The chairs were comfortable enough, but he could hear the noise of the lobby from where he sat, and there was no escaping the ubiquitous piped-in music. At least smoking was not allowed here.
He sipped his over-priced whiskey and waited. Phoebe was late, as always, though she had a better excuse for her lateness now.
He'd kept an eye on her over the years. It had surprised him that she'd decided to go into law enforcement, but perhaps Mulder had influenced her more than she'd ever admit. The Englishman had unobtrusively given her a helping hand up the ladder in the Force. She was one of the youngest female Inspectors ever, and was on track to be a Chief Inspector before she turned forty, if she played her cards right.
She had a tendency to sleep with her superiors, which so far hadn't hurt her chances at advancement. Phoebe hardly ever put a foot wrong professionally, and she'd learned to be more discreet, which was why he'd called her.
It had surprised him that she'd believed his story all those years ago. He'd spun a story about national security and State secrets, and had made it convincing enough. Someone had once told him that the most convincing lies were those placed between two truths, and he'd told just enough truth to make Phoebe believe. She'd agreed to stop seeing Fox Mulder as a result. It hadn't been a clean break, unfortunately for young Fox, but he'd managed to survive.
The Englishman shook his head and took another sip of whiskey. He'd had quite an argument with Spender over the whole affair. Spender still thought that he could control Fox Mulder somehow, especially through his relationships. He'd tried it again just a few years ago, throwing that Fowley woman at his head, with mixed results. Diana Fowley had been agreeable, up to a point, but apparently she'd begged off and had been reassigned. At least that parting didn't seem to be as devastating to Mulder. He'd kept pretty much to himself since then, but hadn't exhibited the same self-destructive behavior he'd shown when Phoebe broke things off.
Now Spender was trying again, and the news from the States was alarming. Fox Mulder's new partner had much more influence over him than anyone had expected.
There had been much discussion about Mulder's developing interest in the X-Files, and the Consortium was divided. Some wanted to see Mulder's activities shut down; others felt that what he did could be useful, as long as they were kept informed of his actions. The Englishman had always been in the latter camp, feeling that it was much easier to lead a man to a place he was interested in going anyway.
Dana Scully had been carefully chosen. Inquiries had been made before she had been given the assignment. She'd appeared ideal; someone who believed in following the rules, in obeying orders. She'd never questioned an order, never made any waves. She'd agreed to take the assignment and was following it to the letter, though not in the fashion that the powers that be had intended.
The two agents weren't involved in a personal relation- ship, as far as anyone could tell. No one had even suggested this to Dana Scully and she wasn't the type to think that way, unlike either Phoebe or Diana Fowley. She didn't just follow the rules because that was her training; her integrity ran bone-deep. It was obvious, at least to him, that it wouldn't be possible to persuade or coerce her into betraying anyone, and especially not her partner. And it appeared that Fox Mulder sensed this, too. He was beginning to trust Dana Scully in a way he hadn't trusted anyone in quite a while. It was time to drive a wedge between these two before things got out of hand.
"Hullo, Uncle," Phoebe said, and he rose to kiss her cheek. She was as willowy as she'd been in college, and she looked very smart in her tailored suit and coat. She had a bright scarf thrown over her shoulders adding a touch of panache.
"Inspector Green," he said with a small smile, and waited until she'd seated herself.
She gave him a familiar smile and took a sip of the waiting glass of sherry. "To what do I owe the honor?"
I used the X-Files Timeline to determine when Mulder attended Oxford. According to calculations there, he started in 1983 and graduated in 1986. He would have been twenty-two, and therefore probably a graduate student when he started. It seemed to me therefore that he might have gone to school as an undergraduate someplace else, possibly in the States, getting only his Ph.D. at Oxford.
As to the relationship between the WMM and Phoebe? Absolutely no support for that theory anywhere. It's just an evil little thought that popped into my head one day.
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