TITLE: A Willing Partner
ARCHIVE: List archives, otherwise please ask.
KEYWORDS: Teena, Cassandra, CSM, pre-XF
DISCLAIMER: Not mine, thank you very much.
SUMMARY: Bridge clubs were one thing, luncheons another, and then there was visiting this woman who spoke softly and knitted socks for her husband.
Author's Notes at the end.
The maternity ward was full of exhausted new mothers, pacing new fathers, and scurrying young nurses. The steady beep-blip-beep of heart monitors and soft scent of mother's milk overtook the senses immediately.
Teena Mulder was not fond of this place. When Fox was born, she'd argued vehemently with a Nurse Becker and a Doctor Fulghum about the virtues of leaving in three days instead of the usual five to seven. They wouldn't hear of it and insisted she stay, laughing off her objections as some sort of post-partum insanity. Rubbing her four-months pregnant belly as she stood in the hall outside Cassandra Spender's room, smelling the antiseptic and layers of floor wax, she thought she might opt for a midwife in a cabin over a maternity ward when the time came.
A bouquet of flowers clasped in her hand, Teena straightened her pink wool suit and reached up to brush a stray hair from her eyes. Bill hated this color, this bubblegum pink as he called it; it was why she chose to wear it. He always spoke so highly of Cassandra Spender, praising her quiet ways and her ladylike deportment, her sheer devotion to her husband Charles, and it burned Teena. Bridge clubs were one thing, luncheons another, and then there was visiting this woman who spoke softly and knitted socks for her husband.
The same husband who strayed into the welcoming beds of warmer women. The same Charles Spender who had knocked up a willing Teena Mulder.
Teena resisted the urge to tap her foot impatiently while she waited for the nurse to finish with Cassandra. This was a purely dutiful visit; the women were by no means close friends. Teena loathed women like Cassandra, women who managed to snag wealthy husbands but couldn't keep them in line once the honeymoon was over. Teena's own husband was too weak a man to stray often and committedly; sex was a duty to him. Charles Spender was as devoted to regularly passionate sex as he was to the work he and Bill did for the government. He was also devoted to secrecy. Gossip may have hinted briefly at Teena's child being Charles'; it was silenced swiftly and in the eyes of their friends, Bill and Teena Mulder were as happy as newlyweds.
Cassandra, of course, never doubted it.
Cassandra's pregnancy had been difficult, and Teena was given a respite from paying social calls to the younger woman. She was also, much to her chagrin, nearly forgotten as Charles lavished attention on his sickly wife. He wanted an heir, this man did. It didn't keep him from Teena's bed for long, and one wild night, while Bill was away, Charles had come looking for and found a willing partner.
Teena suspected strongly that she had gotten pregnant that same night.
The nurse came out of Cassandra's room. "Mrs. Mulder? Mrs. Spender can see you now."
"Thank you," Teena said curtly. The nurse held the door open for her, and closed it quietly behind her.
Cassandra's white room was awash with flowers and cards from well wishers. Unopened boxes were piled in one corner, undoubtedly gifts for the newborn baby boy she had given birth to nearly a week before. The woman herself nearly disappeared under the blanket on her bed, her figure small and seemingly untouched by the rigors of childbirth. Her pale skin and red-tinged eyes, in fact, were the only signs she had been under duress.
"Teena," Cassandra said enthusiastically, "please, come in!"
Teena moved forward, as always a little taken aback by Cassandra's open-armed personality and vivacious smile, more so now because it stood in such stark contrast to Cassandra's tired expression.
"Cassandra, how good to see you. You're looking awfully well."
"Thank you, Teena. You are too."
The two women seemed to square off then, the awkward silence settling around them like dense fog. Teena wondered what they would have to talk about; in social gatherings it was simple, for the atmosphere lent itself to the occasion. Here there was a window revealing rather nasty weather for the month of May, cartloads of flowers and....
"I heard you had a boy, Cassandra. Charles must be thrilled."
"Oh, he is, Teena! And so am I, though a girl would have been lovely. Boys are so precocious! Oh," she paused a moment, "how is little Fox doing, by the way?" So like Cassandra to take the focus from herself, and she had always been smitten with Fox Mulder. When she had visited Teena in the hospital in the week following Fox's birth, he'd taken to her as well. He called her "Aunt Cassie" at Bill's behest, and had even been asking after her for weeks. Not that Teena was going to tell Cassandra this; it was something of a sore subject. Teena's own son barely gave his mother the time of day.
"Fox is doing wonderfully. Bill wants to start him in preschool in the fall. He's been asking so many questions and gotten so curious that we can hardly handle him these days!" Teena noticed the sharp, forced cheerfulness in her own voice and tried to curb
it. Just a few more minutes, just a few more minutes...."Boys are so much trouble, Cassandra, but I'm sure your little...what was his name, again?"
"Well, I was partial to John, of course," Cassandra had always been a loyal Kennedy supporter, "but Charles insisted on Jeffrey."
"That's such a nice name. Are you going to call him Jeff?"
"Oh, I don't think so," Cassandra screwed up her nose, a trait Teena loathed because she was so cute when she did it. "I've never liked 'Jeff'. Jeffrey sounds so much more dignified."
Silence prevailed for maybe twenty seconds when the women both asked at the same time "Isn't this dreadful weather we've been having?"
Teena offered a terse smile to Cassandra's youthful laugh.
"It is awful! And in May, of all months! You'd think we'd gotten enough rain in April, and certainly we had a dreadful winter."
"Dreadful, yes, it was."
"My hair just won't behave in weather like this! Teena, I don't know how you do it. Do you have any grooming tips for me? Your hair is always so perfectly done!"
Teena started a little as the door creaked open behind her.
"Is there room in here for the happy father?"
Charles Spender came into the room, smelling, like always, of Morley cigarette smoke. He caught the surprised look on Teena's face and stood up straight.
"Well, I'll just leave you two lovely ladies to yourselves. It seems I'm interrupting a gossip session."
Teena stuck her hand out and shook it, palm facing forward.
"No, Charles, its alright. I was just going to leave these flowers for Cassandra and little Jeff," she saw Cassandra stiffen in the corner of her eye, "and be on my way. I've left Fox with a sitter and...."
"Oh, Teena, wait one moment. Bill mentioned something to me earlier today. I want to be the first to congratulate you on your....expected blessing." Charles eyes bore into Teena's, searching for an answer to the question she knew he would be asking if not for Cassandra.
"Teena! And you didn't tell me! How wonderful!" Cassandra nearly clapped her hands in excitement.
"Yes, well," Teena grasped for words as she tried to avoid Charles' glare. "I'm not very far along, I thought it would be best to keep it close to the chest, you know."
"Teena, I never knew you for the superstitious type! Well, congratulations, I'm so excited for you! Our children will grow up together! Oh, I wonder if you'll have a girl, just imagine - "
"It would be wonderful, wouldn't it? Cassandra, I'm going to leave these flowers here, I really must be going."
"Give Fox a hug from his Aunt Cassie, won't you?"
"Good afternoon, Teena." Charles voice cut into the air and its very timbre sent a shiver up Teena's spine. She wished she were alone with him, wished that she could tell Cassandra right there that her husband was getting his kicks with another woman.
As she walked out of the hospital into the stormy spring afternoon, Teena Mulder rubbed her stomach again, thinking of the child inside and the man who fathered it.
She thought of those things, thinking only of what her mother might say about her daughter becoming pregnant with the child of another woman's husband. She thought of Bill and what he would say; she thought of her little son and how innocent he still was to this tangled web his parents lived in.
She thought of the burning scent of antiseptic and floor wax, the sound of beeping monitors and the scent of mothers' milk.
She drove home, shedding the polite mask she had put on for Cassandra Spender. The pink wool of her suit made her itch and she longed to be free of it and the glossy personality it projected.
At home, she paid the babysitter and peeked in on a sleeping Fox, made her way to the bedroom and stripped to her slip and stockings. The phone rang, its shrill tone making Teena jump and rush to stop it before Fox woke. "Hello, Mulder residence."
"Teena, it's Charles."
"Charles, I was just thinking about you," her voice going kittenish and her skin flushing at the gruff undertone of his. Suddenly her silk stockings were horribly confining.
"Want to meet somewhere? When will Bill be home?"
And the dance went on.
Author's Notes: Thanks to Emily Titon for unwillingly pitching the idea to me: What would Teena Mulder and Cassandra Spender have to say to each other? Thanks also to Janet Caires-Lesgold for the research help, and to Shahara Zade for the encouraging feedback for 'Beginning of the End'.
I've always wondered about Cassandra and Teena. What kind of women were they before the abductions? I tried many times to write this same fic from Cassandra's perspective and finally gave in to Teena's voice. Whether I captured her or not, I don't know, but I finally finished it. Hope you enjoy it.
For Michael, now and always.
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