Echo Lane, by Louise Wu
For previous parts and beautiful cover art:

** Part 5 **

Chapter 12
February 2000

A funny thing happened my first day back at the office. I picked up the phone to call Facilities and order a desk for Scully. But I had to hang it up again to answer the door. It was Facilities with a desk. He must have ordered it. And when I called the New Hampshire Sheriff's Department, they thanked me for the tip that solved their Celtic cult murders. He's probably home now, solving the case for the second time.

To all appearances, nothing has changed. Scully and I are working on the X-Files. I found out what happened to my sister. I wish I could tell the other Mulder. He'd want to know, too.

I know he found my note. But I fear the consequences of the information I gave him... that an alien invasion is planned in his world, too. Surely I can't have fucked up both my world and his? Every time I think of him, I imagine him happy with Alex and the dogs. It has to be that way. It just has to. The calming influence of Alex will make him stronger and better able to face the future... whatever it is in his world. I have to believe it.

I'm back in my old life. It just didn't seem so... lackluster before.

My local video shop located a copy of 'Spring Break' for me. I've watched it dozens of times, especially the parts that remind me of the night I spent with him. I can't stop myself from playing the tape but I feel empty afterward. Unsatisfied.

Scully's dating Rubin. My doppelganger located him and told her to ask the man out. So, she did. I can't extract from her the precise details of how he conned her into that. She wouldn't have agreed to it if I'd set it up. But however he did it, I'm glad. She deserves some happiness. After all I've put her through... all the nasty and unexpected consequences of a simple choice I made years ago.

My thoughts go all too often to Alex Krycek. The one in my world is not, could not be the same man. Even if they were the same man on the night he killed Augustus Cole, they aren't now. I have to accept that.

But I keep wishing he'd turn up. I think I could change things between us... so they're not like before. So he's not my enemy any longer. That's probably the best I can do, but it's hard not to hope for more.

March 2000

Sunday morning run through the park... It feels good to run, but it's boring, too. I need to get a dog. Maybe I could bribe the landlord into allowing one?

As is my ritual, I jump over the granite rock at the edge of the baseball diamond and turn right at the bleachers. A man steps out from behind them.

It's Alex.

Abruptly, I halt my run and gaze at him. He looks much older than the other Alex. His left arm is held stiffly at his side, prosthetic hand covered by a black leather glove.

"I heard you were trying to find me, Mulder. What do you want?" His right hand is inside the front of his leather jacket, probably on the grip of his gun.

I step closer and he watches warily, elbow twitching... the hand with the gun.

"I just want to talk."

"About what?"

Our relationship? I can't say that. "We've been enemies for too long. I'd like to change that."

"Why?" he inquires suspiciously.

"Because I think we once had a lot in common and a chance to be... friends."

"What have you been smoking, Mulder?"

I make a face. "I'm serious, Al... Krycek."

"So talk, then."

I take two steps closer and he takes one step back. "Can we go somewhere to talk? It's going to be a long conversation."

He frowns and shakes his head.

"Please, Alex. It's important." It finally dawns on me that he's worried about his safety. "I promise you this isn't a trap."

"Sorry, I don't think it's worth the risk."

"I won't hit you again. I give you my word."

He offers a snort of disbelief and backs away.

"Alex, wait!"

He stops hesitantly.

I need to give him something he can understand. To make sense of it all. "There was an X-File a couple of months ago. It took me... somewhere else. And I learned things. About myself, and about you. It changed me. I just want you to listen to what I have to say. That's all."

"You learned things... about me? What things?"

"When you were a little boy, you wanted to be Little Joe on Bonanza."

His jaw drops.

My heart is beating faster. He's going to listen to me now. Why does he look so panicky?

"Jesus, Mulder. You're the last person I want in my head."

"It's okay, Alex. I won't try to use it against you."

He gives me a disparaging look. "You've used everything against me since the first day we met." Shaking his head, he continues, "I don't know what kind of religious conversion you've had, Mulder, but I don't want anything to do with it."

"Can't we just talk?"

"No," he replies firmly.

As he retreats, I toss off, "If you change your mind, find me again." What else can I say to persuade him? "The night you killed Cole... I'm sorry I didn't come to your room to comfort you. I know you needed it that night. And that it would have made a difference."

He's so far away by the time I finish... probably didn't even hear me.

"And you detest olives," I said to no one in particular.

Two weeks later, there's an email in my inbox.

    Subj: still want to talk?

    Kahshe Lake, Ontario
    Les Pommes de Pin
    March 24

I hit 'reply.'

    Subj: Re: still want to talk?

    I'll be there. Thank you.

Friday, 24 March 2000

I take a red eye flight. Kashe Lake is a two hour drive from Toronto. Spring arrived early this year; the snow is sparse. I check into the lodge in the afternoon. Les Pommes de Pin. The Pinecones, or so it said on their web site.

The front desk clerk informs me there are no other guests. It's off season. The aging man hands me my key and a small envelope. The note inside says, "I'll be there tomorrow."

I'm about to curse his paranoia when I decide that's laughable. Guess I'll have to enjoy the scenery in the meantime.

On my evening jog around the lake, bundled in sweats and a down vest, I review what I'm going to say. The easiest way for him to follow the story is to start telling it from the gateway, the way I experienced it. But maybe it makes more sense if I tell it in chronological order. Starting with the night he killed Cole.

It would be simple to decide how to do this if I knew what I was trying to accomplish. Actually, I do know. I just don't want to know.

I could have fallen in love with the other Alex. And I want to know if there's enough of him left in this man to... Fuck, I do not want to even think about this. The potential for disappointment is too great.

Even if he did rush into my arms, he's a criminal and I'm a federal agent.

This is so fucked.

But I'll never be satisfied unless I reveal what I know. He has to understand what happened. I need to scrape away all the bullshit in our relationship and get to something real. Even if it's still being enemies.

I've lost so much through the years... I can't lose this... whatever it is.

In the morning, I'm eating toast in the dining room. The proprietor hands me a note. He's trying to control the encounter. Fine.

This notes reads, "11:00 by the paddleboats."

Predictably, he's not there when I arrive. The day is warm. For Canada in March anyway. I fidget around for ten or fifteen minutes until he appears on the hill above. He walks slowly down the knoll and over to the dock, seating himself on the railing.

Alex looks good. Older in appearance than the other Alex, but I like the sensual way he moves. My body is acutely aware of his, and memories of the night his doppelganger fucked me are rushing through my head.

I shake my head to clear away the distracting thoughts. Opening my mouth to begin, I get an inspiration. "Let's take a boat."


"Oh, please, Alex. If I had nefarious plans, I'd have executed them already. Just pick a damned boat."

He's still distrustful, but he selects a boat and climbs aboard. Soon, we're paddling around the lake like a couple of tourists. Not surprisingly, there's no one else on the lake.

Alex doesn't say a word and doesn't ask what I want to talk about. He pedals placidly and waits.

It's up to me to begin. "In January, someone drugged me and abducted me out of a restaurant in Durham. I was tossed into the back seat of a car, with Gibson Praise. Do you know anything about this?"

"No, Mulder. I didn't do it."

"I didn't think you did, I just wondered if you had any information. But that's not why I'm here." I pause to order my thoughts. "Gibson did something to send me somewhere else... to protect me, I think. I don't really know, but the somewhere else he sent me was quite interesting."

Watching me vigilantly, he steers us in a circle.

"He sent me to a parallel universe where things are different than they are here."

His expression dabbles with disbelief, but he's seen too much. Instead, he seems to be listening more intently, ready to believe.

I want to blurt it out, but it's a lot to take in, so I try to go slowly. For his benefit. "In this parallel universe, the events of 1993 appear to be the same as they were here. But 1994 was quite different."

For a moment, I just listen to the water sounds. "The night you killed Augustus Cole seems to be where things diverged."

A hint of emotion flickers across his face, but he blanks it out before I can interpret it.

"In the other universe, that night at the hotel, I ordered a pizza and brought it over to your room."

Alex can't hide the shock. He knows that night was very important for him.

I go on, "And while eating the pizza, we seduced each other."

He's trying to flatten his expression again, but I can see the panic in his eyes. "Mulder, I don't know where the hell you went, but it has nothing to do with me." I note he doesn't claim to be straight or argue he wasn't attracted to me.

But what's he so afraid of? I continue, "I think it has everything to do with you. And me. You see, even in our world, I was attracted to you."

His jaw drops open. He wasn't anticipating that. We've both stopped paddling. The boat is just drifting now.

"I ordered a pizza that night, and thought about going over to your room, but I didn't do it."

"Mulder, what can any of this..." He shakes his head. The disbelief is winning now, because he doesn't want to believe it.

"But in this other place, we fucked." I'd love to tell him the details. Some other time perhaps... "And I held you."

His face tightens into a wince.

"And in the morning, you told me you'd been suborned by Spender. And we went to Skinner together. You stopped working for Spender. My father lived. Scully was never abducted."

Alex inhales suddenly. The mask he wears is being ripped away.

"Spender died of lung cancer. We never went to Russia. You never lost your arm. And you never kissed me."

He looks like he's about to cry.

"And in January 2000, you were still an agent with the Bureau."

A single tear slides down his cheek.

For a moment, I fear I've destroyed him. It must be hard to hear this. To know it could have been different. But I haven't told him the best part yet.

"And we live together in Alexandria, in a house, with two beautiful dogs."

Alex bolts. He's so eager to leave he forgets we're on a boat, and nearly capsizes us. We spend an anxious minute, shifting our body weight to stabilize the craft.

The boat stabilized, he takes a deep breath. "Fuck you, Mulder. I don't know what you're trying to pull, but I'm not believing a word of it." He's eying the water, probably trying to figure out if swimming to shore would ruin his leather jacket. It's only March, so the water's probably two degrees above freezing.

Funny how he believed me until it hurt. "Alex, it's the truth. I don't know what an alternate universe really is or what it means philosophically, but I did go there. I'm not trying to cause you any pain."

"Whose sick fantasy is this... you and me in a house? Ken and Barbie living happily ever after in the suburbs?" His voice shifts, getting softer. "I never could have dreamed up anything like that." But the way he says it demonstrates the lie. He knows it's plausible. That he might have wanted it. Just like I knew I might have wanted it.

"If you don't believe it, Alex, dispute it with facts. What was your state of mind that night in the hotel? You'd just read the file you stole from me."

His eyes flash to mine.

"I know a lot of things I couldn't know any other way, Alex. You took the file from my car during a bathroom break at the train station. You concealed it in your suitcase. You read it at the hotel. It really bothered you, what our government had done to those GIs. Unable to rest, you went for a walk. Had a cherry Icee and people-watched, feeling apart from it all.

Grateful for my eidetic memory, I continue, "Walking back to the hotel, you were feeling worse about taking the file than about killing Cole, because Cole had wanted to die. Stealing evidence from me was different. A betrayal.

"You thought of me as a cross to bear, but didn't blame me, because you were working for Spender. You felt you deserved my distrust."

Alex looks numb. There's no way anyone but him could know all this.

It only gets worse, my friend. I know what you were thinking that night. "You sat in your hotel room, feeling guilty and thinking about your future. It looked bad. You knew Spender was dangerous. Part of you wanted to be dangerous, too, to prove yourself. But another part-"

"Stop it, Mulder," he said weakly.

"But another part just wanted something more human."

His shoulders begin to shake and he makes a muffled sound of distress. "Why are you doing this to me?"

I reach out and touch his jaw line to make him look at me. "Because I made a mistake."

"What mistake?"

"I ate that pizza alone, Alex."

He shakes his head despairingly. "It can't be true."

"Did I tell you one fact that isn't true?"

Alex doesn't answer for a long time. Finally, he asks, "Why are you telling me this?"

"Because I once believed you were irredeemable. I was wrong."

He scoffs at me bitterly. "So you're here to redeem me? I think you're a few fucking years too late."

Suddenly, it's apparent how much has changed during those years. The Alex Krycek with me now doesn't think much of himself. He doesn't trust anyone. Doesn't believe in happy endings. Everything I've told him is a reproach.

But to me, it's all redemption. He's a real, live, warm human being. And for the first time, I want to treat him like one. It was my mistake, not his.

"Don't you see, Alex? My actions affected yours. I can't blame you any more. You wanted to do the right thing."

"Oh, right, Mulder. So you are responsible for your father's death?" His tone is acid. "I'm just a poor boy who went bad because he never had a chance. But you're here to save me." He gestures madly in the air, trying to find the words. "We're in the middle of a fucking lake... you going to baptize me? All I have to do is turn my life over to Jesus? To you? You fucking imbecile, my life has changed. Irrevocably. There's no going back for me. No fucking house in the suburbs." Tears are streaming down his cheeks. "No nice little Bureau job. No charges dropped because 'we know you didn't mean it.' You don't just erase all that. I would if I could but I can't." He's starting to lose steam. "Fuck off, Mulder. Just find yourself another man and buy your damned house and white picket fence with him. And get me off this goddamned lake."

Alex tries to catch his breath, probably unaware of the tears still falling from his chin.

I've never seen him like this. If there was an axe on board, he'd use it to cleave his own skull. Or mine.

Shit. I didn't expect this.

I am such a fucking idiot. All I did was rub his face in his lost dreams. He's right. What he's done doesn't just go away.

I wish it would.

Maybe I even owe it to him.

"Start pedaling, Mulder."


"We're taking this goddamned boat to shore. Now."

We pedal in silence. About three feet from shore, he jumps onto the dock and marches away.

I'm never going to see him again. "Alex, wait."

"Fuck off, Mulder."

"I'm sorry." Who'd've ever thought I'd be apologizing to him? Sincerely.

His black-jacketed form breaks into a run.

I jump from the boat and take off after him. He runs fast. By the time I clear the hill, he's out of sight.


Chapter 13

I take my time walking back to the lodge, pretending to look at the scenery. A rabbit scurries nearby. A unicorn could pop out of the forest and I wouldn't care.

I guess I did think I was bringing him redemption. What does that even mean? This truth I've learned about Alex... is it true for other criminals? Is my life's work a sham? But for some choice made by another person, would I be a criminal? Have I put men in prison who might have been good men?

Alex is already redeemed in my eyes, but no one else's. And now I owe him redemption I can't deliver.

When I arrive back at the lodge, I realize I don't want to be there. I don't want to be anywhere. I have fucked up this world. Twice.

Because I'm chasing a shadowy part of Alex Krycek that may not even exist any more. The human part of him. Warm. Affectionate. Loving. Loving me. It has to be there, still deep inside him. Doesn't it? Or can someone's humanity really die?

What's the effect of all the crimes since 1994? Killing? Using and being used? Being infected by the black oil? Having an arm hacked off? Is it just hollow optimism to believe there's anything left of the other Alex still inside him?

Is there another man inside me? I think I can answer that one. Once I understood about the other Alex, every moment spent at 17 Echo Lane was spent in envy.

I want to be loved like that.

A part of me would even give up knowing the truth about the alien invasion to have what they have. There's a human being inside me, too.

After the sun goes down, I'm still sitting on the lodge porch in a cold depressive funk. Only my down jacket is keeping me from becoming a Popsicle. It finally dawns on me: We met in the morning. He might have stayed somewhere nearby overnight.

I dash into the lodge to find the proprietor. Begging doesn't work, so I try bribery, offering him $1000 to know where Alex is staying. When that fails, I pull out my badge and threaten. Finally, the beleaguered man asks if the bribe is still available. I toss him my credit card and he gives me a map.

It's a hairy drive. Lots of dirt roads barely the width of my rental car. The lodge owner had to draw most of them on the map. Two of the roads are muddy enough to be almost impassable. But for the four-wheel drive the rental company pressed on me, I'd be freezing to death at the side of the road.

It's nearly midnight when I spot the cabin. No visible lights from inside. I think I see a shifting curtain as I drive up the path, but I'm not certain.

Parking the car, I get out and walk to the porch.

I don't know what I'm going to do or say, but it has to work.

The door opens a crack and a gun barrel sticks out. "Go home, Mulder." His voice is flat. Devoid of emotion.

"No. I'm not going home. Because I fucked this up and I want to make it right."

Did I hear a heavy sigh? Or just imagine it?

"I'm coming in. You'll have to shoot me to prevent it."

"Oh, that'll make everything right," he replies in a snide voice. Good, he's feeling something.

The rifle is withdrawn hastily when I open the door. A light is turned on. It's very warm in the cabin. Alex is standing, leaning against the wall. His expressionless eyes flick to me, then he tosses the gun on a table.

"This your cabin?"


It's a rustic place, with a few modern touches, nothing that can't be run with a generator, which I hear buzzing behind the back wall.

Alex goes to the kitchenette and retrieves two amber-colored bottles. He hands me one and sits in a worn overstuffed chair in front of the fireplace. Watching the glow of the fading fire, he asks, "What do you want from me?"

Good question. "I... this is something I've gotta do."

He doesn't reply, just sits there, picking at a thread on his jeans, his beer bottle stashed provocatively between his legs. He's so close to me. I can hear his steady breathing. Why can't I touch him?

I shuck my down coat and take the matching chair. "If your life could be different... if some of it could be turned around, would you want to?"

Alex snorts in disgust, apparently concluding the question unworthy of an answer. But he already answered it on the boat. 'You don't just erase all that. I would if I could but I can't.'

"I know a lot about the other aspects of you... The other Alex is a good man. He's very affectionate. He feels things like a normal man. Besides working at the Bureau, he cooks and takes care of the dogs. They live in a beautiful house... and I think Alex does most of the work. He keeps Mulder sane and balanced."

"God dammit, Mulder! How am I supposed to live up to that? He's such a fucking perfect little good boy. He's got a life like Martha Stewart and two fucking arms. And I... I can never be that."

"I know, Alex. But all those things are inside you, too. You could have been like that once... and now, you're different. But it's still inside you somewhere."

"Maybe..." It's a huge admission from him. His grudging little 'maybe' is the most hopeful thing I've heard all day.

"I understand feeling that you can't live up to him. That's how I feel about the other Mulder." I take a long drink of my beer. "He's calmer. Thinks before getting into trouble. Cleans up after himself. Fuck, he probably turns his reports in on time and remembers to call his superiors 'sir.' I can't live up to that. I'm the one who didn't drop by with a pizza and started this whole fucking mess."

His face is blank, but he's listening. Something is going on in that handsome head of his.

"I'm not perfect and neither are you. It's what it is." I shrug. "At the barest essence, we're just two flawed human beings." I take a deep breath. "I can't speak for you, but this flawed human being has had a hard-on for you for a long time. It's Saturday night, I'm all alone in the world and it's a cold world. And maybe I need to connect with another human being."

"If you're trying to seduce me, Mulder, I have to tell you this is the most obnoxious way anyone has ever attempted it."

"Well, I'm an obnoxious kind of guy."

Alex offers me a miserable half smile.

"I'm not asking you to marry me, Alex. I don't know if either of us will ever want to spend time together, but just for tonight, can we do what we should have done in 1994? The FBI, the Consortium and the aliens don't exist. Just for one night?"

"You're living in a dream world, Mulder."

"I've been there, Alex. It's not a dream."

He shakes his head. The bland look on his face suggests his thoughts have turned inward. Patience, Mulder. Maybe he needs time to think about this.

C'mon, Alex. Don't be so afraid. We can do this. We both want to do this. Let it happen.

After the silence starts to drive me berserk, I ask, "You had any better offers this evening?"

He gives me a wan smile. "I suppose you want to be on top..."

"Well, that's how they did it in the hotel room..."

"Yeah, but I'm a top man."

"So is he."

Eyebrows rise.

"Mulder fucked Alex the first time, but, um, once they got together, Alex was on top. And I don't just mean Alex does the fucking... I mean they have a box full of toys. A lot of leather..."

Alex's jaw falls open, "You fucked him, didn't you?"

I return an embarrassed grin, batting my eyelashes.

"Or rather, he fucked you. God, this is so twisted. It's like we already had sex, but I wasn't even there."

"It boggles the mind."

"Was I any good?" The facetious tone of his voice is... well, adorable.

"Alex, you were fucking incredible." I rise and walk slowly toward him.

His eyes meet mine, a hint of vulnerability lurking in his otherwise guarded expression. It makes my breath catch. It is inside him. All of it. I'm certain.

He warily allows me to approach. "Did you really come all this way to get into my pants?"

"This entire trip--including the $1000 bribe to Pierre--is cheaper than last's month's phone sex and video bills."

Alex looks genuinely surprised, torn between laughter and nerves. "Jesus, Mulder. You really need to get laid, just to keep your budget under control."

"Is that an offer?" I finally take a chance, squatting next to his chair, my arms sliding around his waist.

He flinches a little, but doesn't bolt. We gaze into each other's eyes for a long time, before I lean toward him and close my lips over his.

I kiss him with five years of pent up feelings. The Alex in my arms is the real one... the one who belongs in my world.

When we finally break the kiss, he mutters breathlessly, "Do it, Mulder." The look on his face is pure pain and joy and release. "Fuck me."

My cock wants to be inside him yesterday, but this isn't just sex. I take a couple of deep breaths. Take your time, Mulder. You only have one last chance here. Don't screw it up.

Reaching out with my fingers, I trace a line down his jaw.

The pained and exposed expression on his face nearly destroys me. I want him so badly... the fuck and... the redemption. I crave it in my blood. I need it, even if he doesn't.

Alex is unmoving, allowing me to touch, but not touching back. He's afraid. Of being rebuffed? He must think this is all some kind of trick... a chance for me to exact my revenge.

Meeting his eyes, I swear silently. It's not a trick. I promise. I don't want to hurt you.

He emits a breathless sound... like a silent whimper. Then he raises his hand... it's shaking when he brings it slowly to the back of my neck. His warm fingers find a grip in my hair and he pulls my face to his.

This time he kisses me. His tongue enters my mouth like a thirsty man seeking water. I open up to him, offering myself as I never have to anyone.

The stakes are so high. For both of us. I have to give him everything.

Breaking away, gasping, I stand. He rises with me, pressing our bodies together. I can feel his tense muscles and the hardness of his erection.

Part of me wants to be on my knees... he's the top man. I want it like the other Alex gave it to me. But I have to earn it first. He needs this more. Needs me to break through to what's inside.

Alex moans into my mouth, his body rubbing feverishly across mine. Suddenly, he jumps back. Eyelids half closed, he struggles for breath.

No, Alex. Don't stop. Don't be afraid.

When his eyes meet mine, they're filled with longing.

I can feel my cock throb in my pants.

As if he feels it, too, he reaches for his shirt and begins unbuttoning it.

Holding his eyes with my gaze, I start tearing off my own clothes.

His hand seems to stop working. His eyes blaze as he watches me undress.

Unexpectedly, I feel shy. I want him to like my body... to like me. I'm the vulnerable one. He can hurt me now.

As if he reads my mind, he steps forward and traces the planes of my chest with the palm of his hand. He's telling me without words that he does want me.

I slip my pants off and his fingers drop rapidly to encircle my erection. His careful touch tells me more than words could. His thumb brushes across the head of my cock, making me lightheaded. I struggle to focus on his face and see a hint of a smile quirking his lips.

I need to touch him. Sliding my fingers into his half-opened shirt, I squeeze his pecs. The hot flesh of his body incites me. "Unnhh, gotta get your clothes off."

He pulls away from me, leaving my cock bereft. Unfastening the last button, he allows his shirt to slide off his shoulders, slowly revealing his upper body.

The ugly stump of his arm is a reproach. I could have prevented that. Then it dawns on me that he could have prevented it, too. We're both guilty. Co-conspirators in this tragedy. And it seems so right that we expiate our guilt together.

Alex's serious expression tells me he's waiting for my reaction. Expecting me to be repulsed.

His arm is unsightly. But I'm here to find the beautiful parts. Stepping forward, I wrap my arms around his waist and pull him close. The feel of our bare chests pressed together reaffirms everything. This was meant to be.

I kiss him again. As my tongue explores the soft interior of his mouth, my hands grope for his fly, fumbling with the buttons. Slipping one hand into his jeans and under the soft fabric of his underwear, I find his erection.

Smiling to myself, I realize I already know what his cock looks like. A luscious thick throatful.

With my hand trapped awkwardly in the front of his pants, I gently squeeze his balls. "We've gotta get rid of these clothes."

He nods dumbly.

Retrieving my hand from the grip of the denim, I ease his jeans off his hips. He recovers enough to help kick off the pants and his underwear.

My eyes flick to a jagged scar at the side of his abdomen. Well, my body is worse for wear, too.

Alex gestures toward the corner of the cabin. I follow him to a double bed.


He shakes his head. "I didn't come here to fuck." The hoarse sound of his voice echoes in my groin.

"Damn. I don't have any either."

He shakes his head. "It's okay, Mulder."

"No, we can't-"

"Yes, we can," he replies in a firm tone. A slight shake of his head tells me... he'll die for this if he has to.

But I won't put him at risk. My blood tests are up to date, so he'll be safe. And my intuition tells me the rest. He won't put me at risk either.

I nod at him. A moment of trust between us... it makes my heart ache with loss for the past few years. We fucked up so totally, he and I, when it could have been like this.

Alex gives me a knowing look. He opens a dresser drawer and pulls out a bottle, which he tosses on the bed. It's some sort of oil. It'll do.

He yanks the comforter off the bed and pulls back the covers. Then looks at me across the mattress. His eyes seem to radiate lust and need... I want to fall into those eyes.

We both drop onto the bed and meet in the middle, a tangle of arms and legs. The feel and scent of him is just right. Better than I'd imagined. We roll in an embrace, nearly falling off the edge of the bed. I scoot us back to the middle, so he's on his back and I'm hovering over him.

There's a smile on his face... eyes half squinted, full lips shining red. The expression is so beautiful... I stop breathing for a moment.

I scoot down his body, so I can explore with my mouth. Tasting his nipples, nipping at them and enjoying the little sounds he makes. Sliding lower, I brush my face across his pubic hair.

His hand finds my hair, fingers carding through it.

I open my mouth and lap at the head of his cock. He hisses, hips thrusting forward. I take just the head in my mouth and swirl my tongue around it.

His body tenses, legs clutching around me.

Slowly, I swallow his entire cock. It has the same satiny feel as the other Alex's cock, but it's not the same. Not at all. For the first time, I really understand. This is my Alex. Darker and more damaged, like me. This is our experience, not anyone else's.

I suck him eagerly. He writhes pitifully, making only small sounds. The response is all in his body. The way he tenses and relaxes and quivers and shakes. Except for the hand in my hair, his body is helplessly responding to me. My cock throbs with appreciation for what he's giving me.

Alex cries out and pushes my face back. "Stop," he says weakly. "Fuck me."

After a few final licks, I release him. "On your back?"

He winces slightly. "Side." Rolling onto his truncated arm, he shifts his legs apart, pushing his round ass back. The sight makes me tremble.

Fumbling with the bottle of oil, I anoint my fingers. Then I ease in behind him and slide my hand between the cheeks of his ass.

He sighs as I stroke his anus with a slick finger. Alex is right here with me. Not a shadow or a dream... but warm, breathing, passionate flesh.

I slip a finger inside him. He squeezes down on it and his hips begin a slow rhythm. I give him a second finger. It's a bit tight for him, so I open him up carefully. I don't want to hurt him. I scissor my fingers, imagining my cock inside him. The heat. The squeezing pressure of him.

After a time, he seems to relax into my hand. "You ready, Alex?"

"Mm hmm," he whispers. "Do it."

After withdrawing my fingers, I reposition myself, placing the head of my cock at his opening. Pushing forward much slower than I'd like, I enter him at a deliberate pace.

A groan builds from deep in his throat, reaching its peak when I'm fully inside him.

Afraid I'll come too soon, I stop my hips from moving. I slide my upper body forward, so one arm is under his neck and the other wrapped around his waist. I'm holding him so carefully... as if I might hurt him with a careless move. And I realize it's true. He's made himself that vulnerable to me.

But I don't want to hurt him. This has to be the right choice. Don't let me fuck it up again.

The urge to thrust is growing rapidly inside me, but I force myself to stay still as long as I can. This moment will never come again.

Alex shivers and cries out, "Fuck me, Mulder."

A hair away from doing just that, I open my mouth and unexpected words come out. "I forgive you, Alex. For all of it." Words I never expected to say to this man. To my lover.

His body shudders and begins to tremble. I wish I could see his face.

Slowly, I pull out of him and push back in. His ass is so tight around me. The heat of him makes my brain boil. Holding him tightly in my arms, I fuck him with five years of pent-up failures and tragedies. He's mine now, and even more so, I'm his.

His hand reaches backward and rubs my hip. It's the only way he can touch me in this position.

Unable to keep it slow, I begin to thrust harder. It feels like I'm going deeper with each thrust. And the need just grows inside me. The need to fuck him harder. To go deeper. Increasing the force, I pound into his body, clinging to him at the same time.

Alex makes grunting sounds of pleasure. His body seems to let go, as if surrendered to me. Each thrust meets no resistance, just tight heat. I've never felt so much emotion during sex. Never felt so connected. Not even with the other Alex.

This is my world. My Alex. My redemption. We belong together. And we need each other.

Alex's ass tightens around my cock. He's deliberately massaging me with his internal muscles. My body seems to have become something besides flesh and blood. I'm... pleasure and emotion. Everything else has burned away. The sweet sounds of his own gasping moans tell me he's caught in the same blur of feeling.

My hand finds his erection and I begin to stroke him. He's so alive and vital. The best parts of ourselves are sharing this.

Time seems to slow down, as if I'm entering a black hole and a new world will be revealed on the other side. I can feel the rise of my own orgasm, building inexorably to the peak. The tension in Alex's body builds at the same pace. His ass is pushing back to meet my thrusts. The fingers on my hip are gripping, then biting into my flesh.

Suddenly, Alex is convulsing in my arms. I feel warm wet fluid on my fingers from his cock. The sound of his gasping cry fills my ears. And my own orgasm is microseconds away.

When my cock detonates inside him, my entire body seems to shatter brilliantly. I am certain my mass has been completely converted to energy.

Time slows even further and the surge of pleasure seems to last forever. I could happily die in this endless moment.

Then sound and sensation begin to return. I can hear the echo of a yell that must have come from my throat. Awareness of Alex returns... his hot sweaty body clutched in my arms. I squeeze tighter to keep him close.

The tension in my body drops off rapidly. It's a struggle to even think. Alex is limp in my arms. Asleep? "Alex?"


I need to see his face. I shift my weight backward, encouraging him to roll onto his back.

He blinks up at me, face placid, wet tracks down the side of his face.

"You okay?"

"Yeah," he replies wearily. "I'm good."

I lie on my back, tugging him forward to curl up on my chest. "Me, too, Alex."

I'm awake, musing on our lives, until the wee hours of the morning.

Alex sleeps soundly. Each time he shifts into a new position, I adjust mine, so we're still touching. Once, my arm wrapped around his waist, he puts his hand on mine and nudges his ass backward into my embrace.

I doze a little. Waking again to find his arm around my waist. I doubt he ever woke. My eyes tear up. He's reaching out for me in his sleep. He must want me as deeply as I want him. I've never felt anything like this. I scoot back into his embrace and doze again.

The next time, I wake hungry, even though it's still dark. I rise and search for food, finding a chocolate bar in a red and black wrapper. Valrhona. Dark chocolate. Yum.

Watching Alex's sleeping form, I recall the previous day. The paddleboat. My proposition. Tears on his face after we fucked. I shredded him emotionally and then healed him with my affection.

It felt really right.

By rehumanizing Alex, I have somehow rehumanized myself. My flaws and my failures are just as forgivable. In fact, Alex has always forgiven me for what I am. Maybe I can, too?

I told him it was only for last night, but I still owe him a new life. Redemption. I've no idea how I'm going to deliver it, but if he'll see me again, I'll make it my new mission.

Neither of us has to live up to anything. The other Alex and Mulder don't matter anymore. I want to try to live this life.

Soft padding sounds on the floor capture my attention. Alex is standing in the kitchenette, pouring a glass of water. He offers it to me first. I take a drink and pass it back to him.


"Hmm?" His expression is guarded. Trust doesn't come in a day. We'll have to keep working on it.

"Can you stay another night? I want to spend the day with you."

He eyes me sadly. "I can't. I'm leaving the country... going to Tunisia. On, um, business."

As if feeling the loss of him instantly, I take him into my arms. "Don't go."

"Mulder, how can I..."

"Can you give it up? What you do."

"I thought you weren't asking me to marry you."

I laugh weakly. "I'm not, but I want... I don't know, Alex, I want you to have a second chance. And I'll do whatever I can to make it happen."

"I don't want to be your project, Mulder. Help the poor needy criminal turn to the path of righteousness."

"I'm a fixer-upper, too, Alex."

"I... I don't know." His eyes scan the room slowly, before coming back to me. "Did you mean what you said last night?"

No need to wonder what he's talking about. I know. 'I forgive you, Alex. For all of it.'

"Yes, I meant it."

He looks away again. "You don't even know what I've done."

"I know more than you think I do." Afraid he's going to bolt again, I touch him carefully, my hand brushing lightly along his arm. "Exposure to the artifact made me temporarily telepathic. Skinner came to see me in the hospital."

Alex tenses under my hand, but he doesn't run. "And you can forgive that?"

"Yes," I reply confidently.

"For a good fuck?"

"It's not about sex, Alex."

He steps away from me and drops into a chair. "Then what's the price for this forgiveness?"

"No charge."

His face is despair with a hint of hope lost in it. He wants to believe me this time.

There's something I need to know. For me. "Alex, can you free Skinner and stop what you do...?"

Alex is silent for so long I think he's not going to answer at all. When he does, his voice is almost a whisper. "Yes."

"And come out of it alive?"

Head shaking, his expression uncertain, he replies, "Maybe."

I kneel on the floor by his chair. "If you can do that, I'll be on your side. And the two of us together will be hard to beat."

"I don't know, Mulder."

"Don't go. Stay and... we can talk more. We'll find a way to make things better for you. And me, too."

Alex looks like a hurt and scared little boy. He puts his arm around my shoulders and pulls me into an awkward embrace. Holding on to one another, we watch the sun rise through the back window.

And I try to forgive myself. For all of it.

And after the sun comes up, he agrees to stay with me for another day.

13 March 2001

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Louise Wu ()

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