Exigency by Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu

Authors: Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us
Pairing: Skinner/Krycek
Warning: Angst. Violence.
Spoilers: Season 7, Amor Fati.
Summary: Uncertain what to expect from Walter, Alex returns to Crystal City.
Series: Exigency. This story is best read after Surrender.
Beta Thanks: Loren Q, Kristen, Alex and Helen. Thanks for keeping the faith!
Disclaimer: Chris Carter and 1013 Productions own the X-Files series characters. The rest are ours. No revenue is collected. No infringement of rights is intended.


Exigency: Confront
(ek-'si-gen-see)
noun: urgent requirements, exacting want or pressing needs.

Starring:
Zoe Takashi as Alex Krycek.
Louise Wu as Walter S. Skinner.


Part 1

Friday, 26 March 1999
2:48 P.M.


The bright sunlight outside the international terminal at Dulles Airport is almost more than my fatigued eyes can stand. I grope for my sunglasses, then remember I did not take them with me to Switzerland. Damn.

While trying to hail a cab, I reflect on how much I hate airports. I always expect someone to appear and try to either arrest or kill me. The FBI or the Consortium… What choices.

I settle into the back seat of a taxi, direct the driver to a bank in D.C., then close my eyes. It's unwise for me not to stay alert, but I'm so damned tired. The nano experiments leave me wiped out for days. I slept the first two post-test days in a rat's nest motel miles from the Rebel facility.

Forcing myself to some measure of self-preservation, I open my eyes and look around carefully. My bruised wrist catches my eye. I need to remember to wear my gloves. The ring of bruises really distracts people. The flight attendant was barely able to contain her concern and curiosity. Sleeping most of the flight probably prevented many questions. That the bruises are still visible three days after the restraints were removed is a testament to how much the nanos are struggling to heal my body.

Another pesky side effect of this experiment is the strange tingling pain that seems to be just under my skin. The new nanos were ineffective and will be deactivated over several days. Unfortunately, it feels like something is crawling just under the surface. There's nothing to be done about it and it drives me absolutely crazy.

The driver pulls up in front of the bank. It's nearly impossible to force my body into motion. My nerves protest the chafing of clothes against overly sensitive skin.

An eternity later, a bank employee escorts me into a private room, and I open the safe deposit box.

Walter's key ring is the first thing my eyes seek out. I pick it up and just look at it resting in the palm of my hand.

I gather my weapons and various other necessary items from the box, then leave the bank.

I should find a hotel and rest until the nanos are through with my body, but I feel compulsively driven to go back to Walter's apartment.

It has to be a bad idea. I'm sure he doesn't want me there. Six days cannot possibly erase the last four years. He has to have rethought his request to have me return. I took away my own leverage by giving him that control pad, and he knows I won't kill him. Not now. Not anymore. Truthfully, never.

I'm sure all he needed was some time to rethink that offer.

But I promised him I'd return when they were finished with me… I suppose I at least owe him the opportunity to throw me out.

The thought is too painful to dwell on for long.

Despite every reason not to, I find myself standing in the shadows across the street, staring at his building. The trembling in my body tells me I am at the end of my physical reserves. If I don't get some sleep soon, another nano episode will happen out on the street… and that is not an option.

But I still have to be careful, so I methodically circle around to the back of the building to ensure no one is watching. It takes longer than I would like--and for once I take the elevator--but eventually I find myself inside the entryway of Walter's apartment. It's dark and quiet. I expected it--he's still at the office--but part of me hoped to find him here.

I place his keys on the foyer table. If he wants them back, I'd rather he just take them. I don't think I could deal with him asking for them. Thinking about it, I feel a tightening in the vicinity of my chest that I do not care to acknowledge.

This is insane.

Now that I am here, I feel driven to get away. That's my brain… always contrary. Despite my exhaustion, I quickly do a sweep of his apartment using a tiny little gadget I picked up from the Resistance facility. Technology no one has yet. I picked up three… I'll give Walter this one.

There were no orders to monitor his place before I left, but there's no telling what's happened in the nine days I've been gone. I'm sure Walter routinely checks his apartment, but this little device should make it easier.

The sweep reveals no surveillance equipment.

Suddenly, the need for sleep--immediately--drives me upstairs. I stand by the side of the bed, thinking this is a really bad idea. But I have to sleep… Now. I cannot even think anymore.

I should be smart and keep on all my clothes. If Walter doesn't want me here, I need to be able to leave quickly. But my skin is hurting and I cannot bear the clothing much longer.

My coordination is poor when I'm this tired, and it takes forever to undress with my one-handed fumblings. I manage to get off my shoes, socks and shirt before I'm too exhausted to continue.

I collapse on the bed and, again, I refuse to even think about how I will feel if he asks me to go. Slipping between the cool, smooth sheets that smell like him, I remind myself I cannot afford to have expectations--good or bad--even as sleep claims me.

**

Crystal City, Virginia
9:07 P.M.


I arrive home around nine. As I do every night, I lock the door and unholster my gun. Reaching for the table where I stow the SIG Sauer, I see the key ring I gave Alex sitting on the surface.

I clutch it in my palm. The little pieces of metal are reassuring and anxiety producing at the same time.

Alex is back. He's alive. I need to see him.

Except for the entryway lamp I've just switched on, there are no lights on in my lower level, and no sign of him.

"Alex?" I call out.

No answer. He must be upstairs. I take the stairs two at a time. My bedroom is dark, but there's a visible lump on the bed.

I step into the room with a cautious smile. I can just make out his sleeping face in the glow from the hallway light. Standing over him, I watch his gentle breathing, enjoying the sight of his peaceful expression. Nine days of horrible fantasies slip away like so much sand through my fingers. How trusting of him to go to sleep in my bed.

Or maybe he's too tired to choose. After what he's been through this past week… I have to make sure he's okay. Moving to my side of the bed, I switch on the lamp. His eyes flicker, but he doesn't wake. Unusual for Alex.

His face is pale, too pale, and there are dark circles under his eyes. He's still wearing the prosthetic. His exposed chest looks thinner. There's a faint ring of bruising around his waistline. And a too obvious ring around his wrist and some sort of bruising on his left shoulder. Five point restraints. Alex strapped to an exam table. I repress the mental image.

Carefully, I sit next to him on the bed. He wakes with a start, jerking himself upright, eyes open wide in alarm.

"It's Walt. It's okay." He seems to focus on me. I want to touch him, but I dare not if he's still disoriented. My mind flashes to his panic when Scully drew his blood. Instead, I slowly extend my hand. "Alex, it's me."

He stares at me, blankly at first. Then I see recognition in his eyes. He takes a deep breath and the tension fades from his face.

"Alex?"

His gaze finds my hand, but he reaches out for my thigh. He looks surprised as if he wasn't certain I was real.

I force a smile.

Alex's body visibly relaxes. He closes his eyes and swallows hard. "I wasn't sure about coming back." His voice is sleep-heavy and quiet.

"I'm glad you came back." I stroke the side of his face. "Are you all right?"

He opens his eyes and turns his face toward my palm, lips brushing my skin. His fingers clench my leg as he nods into my hand.

I pull him into my arms. My lips find his, and I kiss him with all the feeling I'd held back when he left. His mouth immediately opens under mine, as if yielding to me has become a reflex. He's passive for a moment but then moans low in his throat and returns my kiss, wrapping his arm around me. I slowly pull back so I can look at him. His face, normally so impassive, is open and expressive, revealing pain and relief.

His lips part as he hesitantly whispers, "This time was… bad. I thought of you a lot… too much perhaps, but it kept me sane."

The thought of what someone has done to him makes me want to take lives… in a hideous manner I'd have thought I was incapable of.

I bury the thought and pull his mouth back to mine for another kiss. Tonight our kisses are more comfort than lust.

Only by touching him can I truly know if he's okay. He appears physically well or healing, but he's distressed. Not much of a surprise given what he's been through. And the huddled posture of his body screams exhaustion.

I kiss the line of his jaw and whisper in his ear, "Tell me what you need."

Alex's arm tightens around me and his face rests in the crook of my neck. "Touch me."

Intuitively, I know he needs skin on skin. Still in his embrace I wrestle with my tie, suit coat and shirt. Alex holds on, hindering my efforts. He's letting me see how much he needs me and even trusts me. I'm overwhelmed by my own chest-tightening feelings. Somehow I manage to free my shirt. Alex's hand slides beneath my undershirt, clutching my back. Hastily, I tear off the shirt. I wrap my arms around him and attack his mouth for another kiss.

He makes a sound, half moan, half whimper, and tries to get closer. I squeeze him in the tightest possible embrace and mutter into his mouth, "There's nothing I want more than to touch you."

Alex groans, but pulls back from me. He stares at me intently as his hand brushes the front of my throat. His eyes follow his hand as he slides it down my chest to my waist. He sighs and places a kiss on my sternum. "Walt…"

Alex is going to be okay. He's an incredible survivor. Maybe I can stop being afraid for him… at least for tonight.

My smile isn't forced this time. I brush my fingers through his hair, giving his scalp a nice rub. His head drops forward onto my shoulder and he offers a weary sigh.

I continue stroking his head for a moment. Then I pat his prosthetic arm. "Let me help you?"

He tenses and looks as if he means to refuse, but then relaxes and nods his assent. I remove the arm without difficulty and place it on the nightstand.

I draw my fingers down his flank and across his abdomen, reaching for his fly. As I fumble with the buttons, Alex leans back, propping himself weakly on his arm. It feels good that he's allowing this.

Once the fly is loose, I ease his jeans over his butt. Unsurprisingly, his ankles are ringed with faded bruises. I wince. They're just bruises, nearly healed. He's going to be fine.

"Lie back. I'll join you once I get the rest of my clothes off."

Alex reclines onto the pillow.

I reach out to stroke his chest lightly, my eyes meeting his. One side of his mouth quirks up.

Easing away from him, I shed my remaining clothes. I stretch out beside him and shift my body over his to my side of the bed--actually, the middle.

Alex's arm finds my waist as I settle next to him. I guide his head toward me, and he rests it on my shoulder. I wrap my arm around him.

I expect him to fall asleep, but instead his hand slides over my hip and down my leg. His warm fingers roam my inner thigh, brushing carelessly across my groin, lightly stroking my cock, across my abdomen and up my chest. He plays gently with my chest hair.

I feel oddly safe having him close.

I'm aroused by his attention, but I fight my inappropriate erection.

Alex twitches and shakes his head, as if trying to keep himself awake. Not in favor of that idea, I stroke his sleek hair, certain that my petting will lull him into much needed sleep.

A subtle decline in his body tension tells me he's asleep even before I hear his rhythmic breathing.

I continue softly stroking his hair, because it's soothing me, too.

I'm amazed by the gentle affection between us. Alex Krycek is in my bed. I'm still shocked by my only attempt at a relationship since Sharon.

When our marriage was falling apart, Sharon once told me that she thought I'd be better off with a man. 'Most women need more than you're capable of giving.'

She was right. Alex demands so little. I don't have to understand and explain my feelings, apologize for my anger or try not to dominate in bed. I can just be who I am--the deeply flawed Walter Skinner. Alex accepts. Whatever he feels for me doesn't depend on me being more than I am.

And in some totally unexpected way, I accept Alex, too. If I am flawed, isn't he entitled to be imperfect as well?

And, if I'm willing to accept his defects, I'm free to experience whatever the hell it is I feel for him. I need it and I think he needs it, too.

We're both trapped in a nightmare, with our lives and more held hostage. We might survive and we might not. But we're not alone.

The rational part of me rebels… not liking this situation one bit. I decide not to listen. Not now.

I reach out clumsily behind me to place my glasses on the bedside table.

Alex stirs and his head slips off my shoulder, lying against my arm. His hand comes to rest on my abdomen. He mutters quietly, but I make out, "… don't want to have to leave you again…"

I place my hand over his.

**

Saturday, 27 March 1999
8:33 A.M.


Consciousness returns slowly. I open my eyes, but remain still, assessing my surroundings. I'm lying on my stomach and Walter is seated in a chair near the bed, reading the newspaper and drinking coffee.

I no longer question if he's really there, because I woke up once to go to the bathroom. When I returned to bed I stared at him for a long time, not quite believing what I was seeing. He didn't ask me to leave last night. Just took my clothes off and slept with me.

My body feels better. Skin still tingling, but not hurting so badly. I roll over and sit up, pulling my knees to my chest.

"Morning," he says quietly.

"Hi," I whisper hesitantly. I wonder when he's going to wake up and realize that I'm here and tell me to go.

His eyes flick to the nightstand, where he has left a glass of water and a muffin, then back to me. He smiles enigmatically and goes back to reading his paper.

I watch him read for a few seconds, then scoot across the bed and grab the water. I feel uncomfortable and… nervous. Rising from the bed, I head for the bathroom. The toothbrush he gave me is by the sink, and he left out a razor. I take a quick shower--much cooler than I usually like because my skin is crawling.

When I return to the bedroom, I feel more alert, but still have no idea what to say. I sit on the bed and pick at the muffin.

Walter folds up the newspaper. "How are you feeling?"

"Like there's an army of ants crawling under my skin." I shrug. "Not too bad. I… should have waited a couple more days, but…" I'm losing it. I sigh and rub my forehead.

"Do you want to talk about it?" he asks gently.

I shake my head. "I'll give you an experiment summary later, but… there's nothing else to say."

He nods benignly.

Chewing my lip, I decide to get it over with. "Should I… go?"

His eyes narrow briefly, and I realize he didn't expect that. "I… you're welcome to stay. I think you should, at least until you're better."

"I didn't come here for you to take care of me." My voice is quiet.

A wrinkle of annoyance appears on his forehead. "Yeah, yeah. I know." He rises and collects his coffee mug. "I'm going to the store. You'll have to tell me if you need anything." He walks toward the door.

"Walter…"

He stops and turns back, eyes meeting mine.

"I came here because I told you I would. But, I can't… I need to get it over with."

"Get what over with, Alex?" His face reflects genuine puzzlement.

"This." I gesture between him and me. "For you to realize that inviting me here was insane. Nothing's different. I still…" I rub my hand over my face. "I feel like I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop, and I'd rather just get it over with."

His lip twitches, hinting a smile. He sits down on the bed. "I'm way past insane. Nanocytes, aliens, rebels… I don't have enough imagination to figure it all out. But I do know someone's got a noose around our necks, and four lives are at stake. Yours, mine, Mulder's and Scully's. I want to save all of us, if I can pull it off."

I consider his words for a second, then sigh. "Walter, I'll help you any way I can. I'll get you blood samples and as much information as I have access to. But that has nothing to do with me being here."

"I want you here, Alex. I shouldn't, but I do." His jaw clenches briefly and he looks away. "We're fighting for our lives and I just don't have the energy to… Fuck, I don't know. My morals are in the toilet… how can I comment on yours?"

I flinch, but nod. "Okay."

His eyes lock onto mine. "And what about you, Alex?"

Frowning, I reply, "I never comment on anyone's morals."

"A wise choice… I meant, do you want to be here?"

At a minimum, I owe him honesty. Looking away, I murmur, "I've never not wanted to be with you."

Walter inhales sharply. Looking at his hands, he doesn't speak for a long time. When his mouth opens, no words come out. He offers me an oblique nod.

I'm floundering and not sure what to say, but I don't want to fuck this up again. "Walter… I always make the wrong choices when it comes to you. I'm flying blind and I need… your help." He has to know more about this than I do. I feel completely certain I'd make the wrong decisions, if I leave it to my own judgment.

Something old and painful fills his eyes. "I'd've helped you four and a half years ago, if you'd asked."

Suddenly, I feel like there's no air and take a deep breath. It's like he stabbed me in the gut. I should keep my mouth shut, but I'm feeling masochistic today. "I wouldn't have lost you if I'd told you the truth?"

Walter's face tightens into a frown. "I don't think so… Dammit, you should have come to me, but…" His expression darkens. "Fuck, I had a wife. You had every reason to doubt me."

I try to process what he's said. I wouldn't have lost him, but he understands why I didn't trust him? This is all wrong. I jump off the bed and start pacing and mumbling. "Wasn't worth the risk. They would have killed you… tried several times. If I'd told you, they would definitely… I mean…" I stop moving and lean against the wall. It's all true. And I consider what would have happened if I'd told him. "Oh my god." I sink to the floor. The silo… my arm… Dmitri… the nanos. Fuck me.

He's there in an instant, squatting next to me, a reassuring hand on my chest. His eyes seem to see all the way inside me. "Don't look back, Alex."

It's impossible. The evidence of one wrong choice is everywhere. And I've never had any ability to see I'm making the wrong choice when I can actually do something about it. I shake my head. I'm so sorry.

Walter winces at something he sees in my face. He shifts closer and wraps his arms around me. I hold myself stiffly for a moment, then relax against him. He pulls my head down to his chest and strokes my back in a soothing rhythm.

**

'Don't look back.' But my own aching regret is bone deep. I'm so profoundly sorry. If I hadn't been so weak about my marriage, he might have trusted me. I hold him tighter to comfort myself.

And he's looking to me for guidance in this relationship? Fuck.

What can I say to him?

Don't look back. It's too painful… worse than his leaving me. I inhale sharply to abort the sob building in my chest.

Alex's arm is around me and he whispers against my body, "I'm sorry, Walter."

Ah, fuck. It cuts me to the core. "I am so damned sorry myself." My voice is falling apart. The thought of Alex's young life having had a shot at something better… pissed away because I was afraid to confront Sharon and deal with my own problems.

It can't be fixed. I take a deep breath and try to push it aside.

We're huddled on the floor, near tears, like a couple of hysterical crime-scene victims.

Alex pulls back and looks at me. He makes several aborted attempts at speech before he finally gets out, "I fucked up ten years before I met you. I didn't think you could accept what I really was--I'm still not sure. But it had nothing to do with your wife."

My face burrows into his neck, nodding and trying to accept. "I don't even know what you were--or are."

He sighs. "I'm tired." His hand traces circles on my back. "I'll tell you later… if you want to know."

I'm afraid to know. Desperately afraid. I can't deal with this now. I have to face it, just not now.

Abruptly, I shift away from him. "Later," I reply nebulously. I kiss him lightly on the forehead. I feel stupid, sitting here on the floor, massively overwhelmed and rapidly going numb. "I'm going to the store. Do you want anything?"

He shakes his head, but says, "Tea."

"Okay."

I rise stiffly and make my way to the door, hesitating before exiting. There's one more thing I have to say. "Alex?"

He looks up at me. "Yeah?"

"Don't lie to me again." I meet his eyes. "Refuse to answer, whatever, but don't lie to me. Just don't."

He flinches, but doesn't look away. "Okay, Walter. No lies."

I nod acknowledgement and head out the door.

When I get back from the market, Alex is sleeping again. I'm a little relieved. I haven't the slightest idea what I'm doing with him.

I put away the groceries and make myself a sandwich. Normally, on a Saturday, I pull out my briefcase and work for a few hours, then go to the gym. But I haven't brought any work home. So between bites of my sandwich, I clean out the kitchen cabinets.

Mid afternoon, Alex appears wrapped in a sheet. He looks pleasingly sleep rumpled. I haven't quite gotten used to seeing him half naked and asymmetrical. He watches me for a moment, then says, "Sorry… didn't mean to sleep so long."

I remember years ago wanting to have him in my home… now that he's here, I don't know what to think.

I pass him the remaining half of my sandwich. "Sleep as much as you need." I reach for his shoulder, closing my fingers around it, but the movement feels awkward. Touching him has an entirely different meaning now. One I don't completely understand.

Alex looks at my hand, then at my face, then at the sandwich. He blinks a couple times and sets the plate on the counter. Stepping close, he wraps his arm around me and murmurs, "Don't treat me like an injured houseguest." Then his lips lightly touch mine.

I'll stop coddling you when you start demonstrating that you can take care of yourself, dammit.

Ah, fuck. I glare at him mildly and step out of his grasp to wrap up the sandwich. "Feed yourself, then."

His green eyes flash and he turns away to open the refrigerator. He pulls out a cup of yogurt, stares at it for a second and exchanges it for another one. Turning back to me, he sighs. "Walter, I don't like bread."

"Oh," I reply, feeling inane. I pour myself a glass of orange juice and sit at the breakfast table. We still don't really know how to talk to each other. But I guess the silence is okay, too. I hope I don't have to ask Sharon for remedial instructions on how to communicate.

Alex takes a seat across from me. He fiddles with the yogurt and bites his lip. Looking at his hand, he softly says, "I never liked being taken care of, but since… Well, when they cut my arm off, I wandered around in a daze… looking for you." His tone is flat.

I feel as if I've just been amputated myself. The image of him looking for me after losing his arm is excruciating, but also so revealing.

It did matter to him. It was real. Fuck, I'm speechless.

Having Alex here is the right choice. I can't defend it with facts, but it feels right.

Alex continues, "So many times I wanted…" He waves his hand toward me. "And now, when I wake up and find you there… it's… hard…" He shrugs. "I can't explain it. Christ, I'm not even making sense… but, thank you… I'll try…" He trails off and gestures vaguely.

I take his hand and squeeze his fingers. It's a pathetic response to what he's just said, but I don't know what to say.

He grasps my hand and calmly says, "You know everything in my Bureau file was false. But I've only directly lied to you about three things. I told you I had no middle name. I had no siblings. And nothing was wrong the night I left."

"All right." I can't even begin to list all the things I've wondered about my mysterious lover, but I want to see where he's going to take this.

Alex pulls his hand away and eats a bite of his yogurt. "Aleksandr Anton Vasiliovich Krycek. I was born June 9, 1966 in Soviet Russia."

I'm not surprised he's Russian. But Alex Krycek is really his name? "I thought Alex Krycek was a cover identity, taken from the boy in Iowa?"

He shakes his head and continues, "One of the Consortium's early experiments was in creating a human genetically resistant to the alien DNA. Two pairs of scientists headed up the project. Rachel and Vincent Krycek, and Olga and Anton Savaik. When the experiment was cancelled, Olga and Anton fled to Russia to continue the work. They assumed the names Raisa and Vasili Krycek, in honor of their former colleagues."

I adjust my face to remove the shocked expression. His family was in the Consortium. For some reason my mind flashes back to the corridor of D.C. General. Alex's x-rays had multiple old fractures. Christ, what has he lived through?

"The four scientists had decided to name their control subject 'Alex.' Since we were in Russia, I got the Russian version."

"Your birth was part of this 'experiment?'"

He nods.

I couldn't be more appalled if he told me he'd been assembled from cadaver parts. He's already said enough to almost justify his antisocial behavior. But I don't want to go there…. I can't go there.

"The American Kryceks still named their son 'Alex,' even though they had agreed not to go forward with the experiment. He was born a little over two years after me. Back in Russia, after sixteen years of failure, it was determined that the Russian experiment was unsuccessful and the project was cancelled." He pauses and looks at the table.

He began life as an experiment. And now his 'employers' are using him that way again. When has he had a chance to be a human being? Fuck, I sound like one of those whiney attorneys trying to get off a serial killer.

"They let me live, because I wasn't genetically altered, but they were ordered to destroy the evidence of the failed experiment. So they killed the other… ten."

I can't breathe for a moment. "Were these your brothers and sisters?"

His expression is unnaturally flat, as he replies, "Yes. Four sisters, six brothers. Yelena was 16, Aleksei was eight months."

Is it wrong to think that with ten siblings murdered, he's entitled to a few murders himself? Fuck. "I'm sorry, Alex." The words are hopelessly inadequate.

I try to meet his eyes, but he's not really looking at me… more like through me.

He shrugs and continues, "They sold me to the gulag, probably assuming I would die there eventually."

Alex's face is devoid of feeling, his voice sounds dead. It tells me more than I want to know about his past.

"How old were you?"

"Seventeen. I met Spender about three months later. As I understand it now, he found out about the Russian experiment and was there to ensure the project was indeed terminated."

So his family was 'a project.' If Spender were here right now, I'd make him a project.

"During one of my escape attempts, he decided I might be salvaged as an operative."

Spender got him when he was still a child! After the loss of his family! That smarmy bastard could've turned Gandhi into a criminal under those circumstances. All the good people who've died because of him… yet something keeps pumping blood in that miserable fucker's chest. And no act of law enforcement is ever gonna have the teeth to fix that problem.

I slowly unclench my jaw and force myself to focus on the rest of Alex's terrible story.

"I trained for two years, then worked for a sort-of Russian paramilitary organization for another two years. I was then sent to the States to work for the Consortium, where I stepped into the life they had prepared for me, under the name of Alex Krycek. I did various things, but worked as an assassin for almost six years prior to joining the FBI. I didn't know about the experiments or the existence of the other Alex Krycek, whose life I took over, until August of 1994."

I've been in semi-denial about his 'profession' for a long time, but hearing him say the word 'assassin' rips the denial away. "What happened to your parents?"

"I shot him in the head, slit her throat." There's still no emotion in his face or tone.

My body tightens to contain the horror. I try to imagine having lived his life instead of mine and it feels like a kick in the balls. Then I find myself glad he killed them. Perhaps his crimes aren't forgivable because of what he endured, but parents like that deserved to die.

His lack of feeling during this conversation reminds me of the Bureau shrink's report… dissociative disorder, suspect child abuse. The broken bones on an x-ray. God, I want to kill his parents myself.

Alex focuses on me. "I made my choices. I want you to know what I am before you decide if you want me here."

Choices? Some fucking choices.

"Alex, what was done to you was wrong. Terribly wrong. I wish I could say something that would help, but I can't."

He shrugs and waves it away. "It's over. You said no more lies. I wanted to tell you the truth."

"I appreciate that." I glance away. The thing that I've been avoiding the most is smacking me in the face.

I've worked around killers my entire career, but I never thought to get close to one. And nothing excuses murder, but I understand why he could do it. Maybe not why he would, but why he could.

I want to believe my own killings are different. They feel different. I agonized over each and every one. In my law enforcement career, I've mostly convinced myself that they were all justified. Vietnam is another nightmare entirely. But it's still not quite the same.

I'm sure of one thing. Alex doesn't much care who he kills or why. I don't know how I know, but I do. Some part of him is missing.

"Alex, I… You know I have a problem with you… killing people."

He leans forward, looking inquisitive. "Is this about morality?"

My face twitches as I push away a grimace. Is that a real question? Or is he being flip? He doesn't look flip…

God, I don't want to talk to him about morality. Among people who actually try to be moral, I must be the biggest failure on the planet. Shit. Just be straight with him. "Yes. I have a moral problem with your, um, career choices."

He looks thoughtful and entirely too blasé about this topic. It confuses me.

"Becoming an assassin, being undercover at the FBI or being an errand boy for the Resistance?" His tone is self-deprecating, but only for the 'errand boy' part. The way he says 'assassin,' is like he's a plumber or something equally innocuous.

Why do I suddenly feel like I'm talking to a five year old?

One step at a time. "So the Resistance is controlling the nanocytes?"

He nods. "It would be best if no one else knows that."

"I understand. Since you're working for the Resistance, under extreme duress, I have no ethical problem with that. I find myself in the same circumstances."

Glancing at him for signs of comprehension, I see curiosity instead. I'm beginning to think this conversation is over his head. Maybe it's over mine, too. Could that be the real problem? I feel stretched to the limit.

Shaking my head to banish metaphysical issues, I continue, "Being undercover at the FBI is, well, a fairly minor matter in the scheme of things." And given his background, I'd say it's completely forgivable. I've run out of ways to stall… "But being an assassin… yeah, I have a huge problem with that."

It sure was a fucking lot of work to state the obvious.

He contemplates it for a while. "Okay, Walter. I don't want to hurt you anymore, so I'll try not to kill anyone."

I gape at him. The moment has turned surreal.

I think he means it.

I find myself wondering how many lives I could have saved if I'd asked him before. As a polite favor over dinner… 'Alex, I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't kill anyone.' 'Sure, Walt, if it makes you happy.'

What's the proper response to 'I'll try not to kill anyone.' Thank you?

No lies. No killing. I definitely should have spoken up sooner. I choke on a half laugh.

Alex asks, "Are you aggravated?"

"No, uh…" I blink at him and stammer, "I don't know what to say. Um, yes. I'd appreciate it if you wouldn't kill anyone."

He nods. "My mother gave me a bible to read once. Said it would clear up my questions about right and wrong. I was very confused when I finished. It seemed like killing was fine."

I bury my face in my hands. He really doesn't know the difference between right and wrong. He's quite intelligent, but doesn't have a clue. I do believe he could win a case in court. Of course, he'd spend the next fifty years in the loony bin.

I think I belong there myself.

Alex sighs. "If something comes up, just explain it to me."

So now he wants moral guidance? From me? Oh, shit. We're in big trouble now. "Sure, Alex. I'll do that." I try to give him a reassuring smile.

He's astonishingly innocent for what he is.

Alex finishes his yogurt and pushes it aside. Looking at me intently, he asks, "Have you decided yet?"

Decided what? Oh, wait, I get it… he's still waiting for me to throw him out. "You mean, if I want you to stay?"

"Yeah," he replies matter of factly.

"Yes, I want you to stay," I reply instantly and with conviction. I'm well past insane, after all.

**

I'm relieved, but try to keep it under control. I thought if I told him everything, he'd decide it wasn't worth it. And I was extremely worried when he brought up the morality thing.

I've always been intrigued by perceptions of morality, but the conversation usually upsets people. Walter seemed okay… maybe a little surprised. Still, something's not right.

Rising from the table, I make sure the sheet is secure around my waist. I tried to put on my jeans but they irritated my skin. I walk into the kitchen and throw away the yogurt cup. I should eat something else, but I'm disinterested. I can't figure out why Walter won't touch me… why he's staying so far away from me.

Walter's sitting at the table staring off into space. Letting him alone, I wander to the living room and lie down on the couch. I stare at the ceiling and think… I sort of lied to Walter back there. I let him believe Aleksei was dead. But that's a truth I cannot tell.

I'm sorry, Walter. I may not understand most morality, but I know he has to be safe… and so I cannot say anything.

This has been the most awkward moment of my life.

As usual, after a nano experiment, it's easy for me to fall asleep.

When I wake, Walter's sitting nearby in his chair. Judging by the light filtering through the drapes, it's probably a little after 5:00. I sit up and stare at him. I feel uncomfortable and out of control, but there's something I need to discuss with him. "Are you really planning to hire someone to find a… way out of this?"

He moves over next to me on the sofa and puts an arm around my shoulders. "Yes. Scully and I created profiles for two scientists, a biophysicist and a vascular specialist. She's already spoken once--and very covertly, I might add--with a medical recruiter on the west coast. It's his job to find the duo."

Grateful for his touch, I move a little closer. "At some point you'll need an engineer who specializes in micro-circuitry and robotics."

"Scully thinks we can get a biophysicist who knows some of that, and they can job out any development. We don't really know exactly what we're going to need yet."

I consider for a second. "You have one type of nano. I already have four. Too much work for the biophysicist to break down. You'll need the engineer sooner than you think, but that's not really my question… How will you pay for it?" I feel like I'm on shaky ground and don't know why.

Walter hesitates before answering. "I've got about $840,000 in various retirement vehicles. It's enough to get us started."

Cautiously, I ask, "Would you let me give you the money you need?"

He looks at me oddly. "It never crossed my mind. I don't want to-" His expression turns grim. "You're talking about blood money. aren't you?"

No lies, Alex. I consider it for a moment. "Well, I was paid three million by a private corporation to give blood and tissue samples after I was… infected by the alien virus. I guess you could call it blood money. Most of the rest is from… fuck… the, uh, DAT tape."

"Shit." He stares at me numbly. "Mulder said… Damn… you're well off. Sure, you can help pay for the research." He shakes his head. "Even if it were blood money, I can't think of a more reasonable way to spend it." He gives a long slow exhale. "It's good to know we might actually have enough money to fund this thing."

I'm relieved he's going to accept the money. I find that people are really peculiar when the topic comes up. But something he said… "Walter, I don't mean to imply that I was never paid for killing people, but it was probably spent a long time ago."

He nods thoughtfully. His arm slips down, so it's wrapped around my waist. "Thank you."

I angle my body toward him and rest my hand on his chest. "I'll give you account numbers and passcodes. I can easily get you access to about eight million… just tell me when you need more."

His fingers slide into my hair, petting absentmindedly. "Fuck… "

I feel my concentration slip under the familiar caress and vaguely murmur, "It's not like I can spend it… and I'd do anything to not have to live like this." My head drops against his shoulder and I sigh.

"I agree," he says softly.

After a few minutes in a near zombie-like trance, I muster the energy to ask, "Can we order Thai?"

Walter gets up and retrieves the phone book and cordless phone. Leaving them to me, he moves into the kitchen. He returns a few minutes after I hang up the phone.

"I'd like to go to the gym after dinner. We can't afford to be seen together, even if you were up to it…" He trails off.

I nod. It's patently obvious we can't go anywhere together, but I need to tell him something else. "I usually have two or three nano episodes after an experiment, so I rarely go anywhere for a few days."

He gestures toward the entryway desk. "You have a key. Stay as long as you like."

I nod, thinking there's no way he'd let me stay forever. I shake off the thought and reply, "Thanks." I'll still need to find a new hiding place as soon as the new nanos are deactivated.

A little while later, dinner arrives. We eat in relative silence. About half way through, I know I'm heading for another episode. I really shouldn't have come here. I feel too vulnerable and out of control, but I can't bring myself to leave. I'm tired of leaving.

Walter's getting ready for the gym when I know I can't hide the problem for much longer. I excuse myself to go upstairs and sleep.

**

The entire apartment is dark when I return. It's weird coming home and expecting to find someone. Looking forward to finding someone?

Not someone. Alex.

He's asleep when I enter the bedroom. I turn on my bedside lamp. In the low light, I see his face, bluish veins swollen, but not fully distended.

Dammit! He knew this was happening before I left. But there's nothing I can do anyway. I sit on the bed watching him breathe for a long time.

After I clean up, I read in bed for a while and find myself yawning an hour before bedtime. It's been a long, strange day.

I did some research at the Bureau today. A warrant was issued for Alex Krycek, under my orders, when he went AWOL from the Bureau. A second warrant was issued in 1995, wanted in connection with the shooting death of Bill Mulder. Both warrants expired in 1997. I suppose Mulder gave up on putting him in jail. Nothing was filed relating to his escape from custody during the trip to Russia with Mulder. And I never filed charges on the stairwell assault. Only now is it clear to me why. I didn't want him found. I was protecting him even then.

The veins on Alex's face are fading. Like before, the episode is passing on its own. Turning off the light, I shift to the center of the bed, just to be close. A few hours later, I wake briefly when he wraps his body around mine.


Sunday, 28 March 1999

Sunday morning, I putter around the apartment fixing things and doing a little organizing. Alex hangs around the periphery, with a sheet still wrapped around his waist, not saying much. I chalk it off to recovering. He still sleeps a lot, but not as much as yesterday.

"Why are you wearing a sheet, Alex?"

He looks up at me and shrugs noncommittally.

By dinnertime, his silence is starting to make me wonder if he's upset. "You okay, Alex?"

He absentmindedly eats his chicken, ignoring the vegetables. "Fine. I think the process is almost finished, so I should be back to normal in another day or so."

"Is something bothering you?"

His turbulent eyes meet mine. "I can understand if you want this," he makes a vague hand gesture, "to be different. But I still really want you… so it's difficult."

I think the hand gesture is our relationship. That's the only part I comprehended. "I don't understand, Alex. What do you think is different?"

He looks confused. I know I am. "Sex."

"We haven't had sex…"

"I know. That's what I meant."

Oh. I knew something was wrong. It isn't like Alex to hang around without seducing me. I suppose I could have seduced him, but he's still recovering. It didn't seem right. "I thought you needed some time to heal, but now that I think about it, you never were very patient. But you haven't tried to start something, so I…"

"I'm tired, Walter, not dead." He pushes back from the table and starts pacing. "You've stayed so far away from me, I assumed you were trying to decide if you could look past my defects." He's almost just talking to himself. "When I'm not asleep, I'm sexually frustrated. I have no idea how to handle this situation."

I rise and stand in his path, so he has to look at me. "When I said I wanted you to stay, did you think I was looking for a roommate?"

He passes his hand through his hair and sighs. "No. But I have no idea what's going on with you. Fucking hell, Walter. We are not even kissing. That can't be because you think my lips need to recover."

I guess I have been a little distant. "I… I didn't realize." Fuck, I am so far out of my league here. "Alex, I, uh, I'm trying not to be overprotective and to let you take care of yourself. Maybe I overshot a little?"

His eyes widen and he looks completely aggravated. "What does that have to do with kissing? Or touching?" He makes a sound of frustration and walks toward the stairs.

I block his path. Don't run away from me, dammit! "Alex, wait." I put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm a little overwhelmed by everything, but I," suddenly, I get it. He's feeling insecure about my affections or sex or something. Walter, you are such an idiot.

He stares at me, his expression blank.

I want to touch him now, but it has to be the wrong thing. "I love touching you, kissing you, fucking you. Nothing has changed that. I'm old, Alex, not dead." Taking a chance, I brush my fingers along the side of his face.

He turns into the touch.

God, he really needs my touch. Oh, fuck. This would be a whole lot easier if I knew what the hell I was doing. Going on gut instinct, I wrap my arms around his waist and pull him closer. "I'm sorry," I whisper.

Alex relaxes against my body, his arm coming around my shoulders.

One way or another, we're in this together. I brush the side of my face across his. As he settles into my arms, I can feel his insecurity. He needs to know he's wanted. Christ, I never knew what Sharon needed. Maybe there's hope for me yet.

"Let's go upstairs. I'll give you a massage."

He looks at me for a second, then nods.

In the bedroom, I peel the blankets off the bed. Alex comes up behind me and wraps his arm around my waist. Reaching back, I loosen the sheet around his waist, and it falls to the floor. Anticipating his body pressed up against me, I'm surprised when he backs off, his hand trailing down my spine.

"Something wrong?" I turn to face him. He still has the faint rings around his waist, ankles and wrist, but his skin no longer looks pallid. It's notable that his cock isn't hard.

He shrugs and blandly replies, "My skin hurts while the nanos are being deactivated. Denim feels like sandpaper."

That explains the sheet. "Is a massage a bad idea?"

Shaking his head, he replies, "No. I like the way your hands feel on my skin. It's a little bit of a different sensation now, but… still good."

I brush my fingers down his chest. "Hold on a sec." I head downstairs, returning with a bottle of canola oil. Stepping into the bathroom, I grab a bathsheet and toss it on the bed. Then I strip off my shirt, toe off my shoes and open my fly. Alex watches intently as I shimmy out of my jeans.

Suddenly, I feel inexplicably shy.

Fuck it. I pull him close again, so I can feel the touch of our bare bodies. My cock responds instantly. He wraps his hand around the back of my neck and pulls my mouth to his. My hands slide up and down his spine as my tongue devours his mouth.

This I understand. It's much simpler than the complexities of his origins, moral debates or communication obstacles. My body knows just what it wants… it has never forgotten. Not since that day in my garage.

He moans and presses into my touch, leaving his hand at the back of my neck to keep our mouths together. I shift one hand to the front of his body, sliding down his muscular thigh. My hand freezes just as I'm about to grope his cock. "Alex?" I mumble into his mouth.

There's a grunt of frustration and he presses against my body. "Hm?"

"If you want the massage, it'll have to be now. I'm overheating here."

He moves his mouth to the side of my neck and whispers against my skin, "Then overheat."

I allow my hand to brush against his cock and smile when I feel his hard-on. He groans and lightly nips at my neck. I grab him firmly around the waist and fall backward on the bed, taking him down with me.

Alex yelps as we fall. My hands go to his head, holding it to my face for another kiss. He wiggles against me as his lips part for my tongue. The heat of his body pressed on top of mine ratchets my desire. I groan into his mouth.

I haven't been this worked up since… the last time Alex was here.

He pulls away from the kiss and shifts down my body, kissing along my collarbone and down my chest. His lips close over one nipple, sucking, then biting gently. I reach for his butt cheeks with my hands, pulling him closer. My fingers brush across his crack.

I feel a quick intake of air across my nipple. Then he squirms out of my hands and works his way further down, trailing kisses along my abdomen. When he's near my groin, he looks up at me with a teasing glint in his eyes. "Miss me?"

"Fuck yes. Suck me."

He smiles, then takes me all the way down.

My fingers find the back of his head and I allow my hips to buck a little. He makes small sounds in his throat that vibrate through my dick. Ah, fuck. This is too, too damned good. He pulls his mouth on and off my cock, pausing to suck and tease the head. Then he deep-throats me again and his throat muscles clutch around my cock.

I'm about a hair away from coming. I wanted to fuck, but…

Sucking hard, he pulls off, then uses his teeth lightly around the corona. My body twitches underneath him and I remember to breathe, taking in gasping breaths. He sucks on the tip, then takes me into his throat, again making little vibrating noises.

I grip him hard as my hips involuntarily thrust and I begin to come. The orgasm is long and intense. Alex doesn't stop blowing me and it feels like the pleasure is bursting through my entire body. When I finally collapse, I hear the echo of a low groan.

Breathing heavily, he slides up next to me and rests against my left shoulder. He doesn't usually lie on this side, because it traps his arm. I notice he's a little wet. He murmurs, "That's never happened before."

Huh? My dim brain forms a thought, and I reach for his cock. It's softening and wet. "Fuck, Alex. That was devastating… for both of us."

He looks a little flustered. "Yeah."

I run my fingers into his hair. It feels so good touching him. It always has. What could ever make me distant when I could be touching him like this?

The stump of his arm makes an aborted movement. He frowns and wiggles over my body to lie on the other side, wrapping his arm around my waist. After throwing one leg over mine, he falls asleep.

I'm not long for this world myself.

**

Monday, 29 March 1999
5:47 A.M.


I'm vaguely aware of Walter getting out of bed and the sound of the shower, then I fall asleep again.

Lips on my face… "… to work. Make yourself at home."

I blearily focus on him. He's wearing a suit. I nod, not quite certain what I'm agreeing to. A hint of a smile flickers across his features. I touch his face briefly, wondering if I'm still asleep. Feels real. He kisses my fingertips, then stands up straight and leaves the room.

I wake again a few hours later, fuzzily recalling his departure. Then I remember last night. I feel my face and chest flush when I think about coming while I sucked him off. That was unexpected.

Oh well.

I try not to think about it--or anything else--and rise to shower.

I meander around his apartment for awhile, then try to find food. I find a lot of dishes. Eventually I find peanut butter and orange juice. It would be better with a granola bar, but this will do.

After eating, I contemplate what I need to get done. I'm feeling okay and should have plenty of warning about an incipient nano episode. So, I dress, the clothes still feeling abrasive, and head out.

From a payphone, I check in. No new orders. Then I check my voicemail. None. I make a few more calls to get the money for the research transferred into the correct accounts, then go to the bank. I arrange for a safe deposit box in Walter's name and one of my false identities.

That completed, I head out in search of temporary lodging. I find a ratty apartment and pay for the first two week's rent. When I'm finished with the apartment, I'm tired, but rent a car and go to one of my storage lockers to get some clothes.

After all the normal errands, I'm completely exhausted and turn the car toward Walter's. It's almost 7:00, so I stop off at an Indian takeout place and grab dinner for us.

I'm a little shaky when I arrive, so slip in my secret way, then take a deep breath and endure the elevator again. I let myself into the apartment. The lights are on, but I don't see Walter. I close and lock the door, then set the food on the table. I'm sure he'll reappear soon, so I collapse in a chair and wait.

He comes down the stairs, barefoot, in jeans and a gray pullover. He looks good. "Hi."

I smile at him, thinking he looks like a better prospect than dinner. Too bad I'm so fucking tired all of a sudden. "You eat yet?"

He shakes his head. "You look tired. Stay there, I'll try to find something."

I gesture to the bag on the table. "Chicken curry."

"Ah. Easy then. Would you like some chicken curry?"

I can't resist a faint laugh. "I was thinking you looked like a nice dinner selection, but the chicken will do."

He leans over and plants a kiss on my forehead. "Reality check--the chicken's more your speed at the moment."

"Are you trying to imply I can't keep up with you? I'd be offended if I could get out of the chair."

Walter kisses me on the lips… far too briefly. "I'll get the food."

We eat at the coffee table, not talking much. After we finish, I sit back and say, "I have a couple things for you."

His eyes narrow and he tenses a little. "All right."

He's expecting something ominous. I dig in my pocket, then toss him the key. "Safe deposit box at D.C. Federal. Account numbers and instructions are inside… whenever you're ready."

He gazes at me for a moment, then says, "Thank you, Alex. I assume you have access to the box?"

I nod.

"I'll leave a register in it to log any withdrawals."

"Walter, do whatever you have to. I don't want to be controlled by these things anymore. Cost doesn't matter. I don't have the freedom to help much… so, thank you."

"I appreciate your trust. I know you're risking everything. We'll both have to be exceptionally careful."

Nice segue into my next topic. "Speaking of that… the other thing is in my jacket pocket." I gesture to it, because it's near him on the couch.

He reaches for the jacket and starts to hand it to me.

I wave him back. "Right inner pocket. Small device. About the size of a cell phone."

Walter retrieves it carefully. "A scanner?"

"Yeah. Range is six to eight feet. Will detect anything giving off a signal."

He nods. "I'll check it every day. What about your visits to this apartment? Am I being watched, and is your presence going to raise any red flags?"

"As far as I know, there are no surveillance orders on you right now. Normally, they would come through me. After I disappeared--when Mulder grabbed me--they had you watched for a few days. I can usually spot them, but I'm careful about how I enter and exit the building. It would be prudent to not be in front of open windows or out on the balcony together. Or for me to be out there at all." Not that I want to go out there.

I glance at my hand. Trembling and a hint of visible veins. Lovely. About 30 minutes left.

His eyes track my gaze. He rises rapidly. "Let's get you upstairs."

I sigh, but stand and follow him to his bedroom. I wash up quickly, annoyed at the shaking in my hand.

Back in the room, Walter's turned down the bed. I start shrugging out of my clothes. His eyes flick to me, and I'm expecting him to offer to help, but he doesn't. He strips off his own clothes and sits on the bed, waiting for me.

It takes me a little longer than usual to get my prosthetic off. I really, really hate this. I know I said no more killing, but I wonder if Walter would object to me ripping out the throats of the men who did this to us.

I cross to him. "A little early for bed, isn't it?"

He puts an arm around my hips and kisses my stomach. "I'll read or something."

I lightly stroke the back of his neck. Walter's going to hang around while I lie in bed twitching and moaning? What fun for him.

He tugs on my hand. "Get in bed, then I'll brush my teeth and join you."

By the time he returns, I know I don't have much longer. He slips under the covers and pulls me into his arms.

I tug his face to mine, kissing him intensely. Soon, the pain takes over and I lose track of reality.

**

Alex appears to be unconscious. I hold onto him until his body begins to shake, then I loosen my grip, but keep touching him. He probably isn't even aware of me, but it might help.

I brush back the ache of my own helplessness. Unable to help him now, I review the plans Scully and I made. Now we can afford the engineer immediately and whatever assistants the team will require.

Still acutely aware that each day may be my last, I hold onto the thread of hope. I hold onto it for Alex, too, because I don't think he can.

Alex jerks and grunts. I shift my body so there's no way he can feel held down, still keeping my arm pressed against his thigh, hand gently stroking his leg.

The emotional intensity of the last few days is wearing on me. I'm not sleepy, but I'm bone weary.

I left a message for Sharon. I need her support, but I can't think how or what I'm going to tell her. Alex is back… he's an assassin. He killed me a couple months ago, but only because someone's done the same thing to him. Anyway, I need some advice on how to help him with his insecurities. What a load of crap. She'll think I'm having acid flashbacks.

And I never even got to the stuff that's really hard to believe. Alien colonization conspiracies. But there's one thing I can count on with Sharon. If I tell her it's true, she'll believe me. But I'm still not sure I believe it. Fuck, I don't know.

The nanocytes, I believe. And somebody's controlling them. That's all I have to worry about right now.

What I believe… It occurs to me that I haven't questioned one word Alex said since I asked him not to lie to me. It crossed my mind to doubt him, but I think he's been telling me the truth. It's just a feeling--and I've been fooled by him before--but I'm not going to second guess him.

Am I trusting Alex? Not really. Sort of. I'm giving him a chance to be truthful with me. If he violates that, things will have to change between us.

He's moaning now. A rhythmic low sound. It's eerie. At the core of me I need to alleviate his pain, so I remind myself, again, that I can't fix it now. Soon, I hope.

I can't separate the personal from the nanocyte problem. Is that a fatal flaw? I'll have to keep an eye on myself and see if it's affecting my judgment. I can't afford to get this wrong. If I have to choose between our relationship and freedom from the nanocytes, the only choice is to free Alex and myself.

After about an hour, he becomes still and his breathing less labored. Looks like it's almost over, which makes it shorter than the others I've seen. I scoot in closer, so he'll know I'm here when he wakes up, one arm held loosely across his stomach.

My lips nuzzle his hair. "Shh," I whisper, "It's okay." I doubt he can hear me, but I'm probably just reassuring myself anyway.

A few minutes later, still asleep, he turns toward me, blindly seeking my body. I murmur a nonsense sound and try to fall asleep.


Tuesday, 30 March 1999
5:45 A.M.


Alex is dead to the world when I slip out of bed. I refill his water glass before I begin my morning ritual. Showered and dressed, I head downstairs, draping my coat across the dining room chair. I mix my high protein drink and stand at the balcony looking out at nothing in particular. Watching the sky turn light with incipient dawn.

I sense footsteps on the stairs and turn to see Alex, naked and half awake. I extend an arm and he moves into my embrace. "Morning," I offer.

He gives a faint grunt of acknowledgement.

I rub his back gently and hold my glass out to him.

Hesitantly, he takes a drink then wrinkles his nose. "Ick."

I smile. He's really quite… adorable. It jars my beliefs about what he is, but I'm getting used to the idea that I can't hold the two views of him in my head at once.

So, temporarily managing the denial, I rest my head against his and enjoy the sunrise with my sleepy lover.

After a few minutes, I feel a nibble at my ear. Alex is waking up. He innocently asks, "Are you on the breakfast menu?"

I kiss his temple. "I have to leave in five minutes."

He nips at the side of my neck. "Okay, but you're the main course tonight."

"I guess this means you'll be here when I get back?"

Alex nods, then pulls back to look at me. "I… do you want me to tell you when I have to go?"

Instantly resisting the idea, I try to understand why. I don't want to leash him. He needs as much freedom as I can give him. And I need to be flexible. Any day now he's going to have to pass on uncomfortable--or worse--orders that I won't want to hear and this pretty morning will be gone. I attempt to say the right thing. "It matters to me whether you're here, or not, or safe, or not, but you don't have to make me any promises."

"Walter, this is…" He trails off, trying to find what he wants to say. "It's awkward not knowing if I should come or go. I'd rather you just tell me what you want to know."

I sigh and swallow the last of my drink. "Yeah, it's awkward. But we could both be dead tomorrow. It would be good to know where you are."

"Okay. I'll be here tonight." He seems relieved.

After taking a deep breath, I kiss him on the mouth, determined not to let him send me to work with a hard-on. It would be so very easy…

Only marginally successful, I say goodbye and leave with the image of Alex draping his naked body across my sofa. In the car, I play news radio extra loud to try to adjust my frame of mind. The morning's transition from naked Alex to the Terrorism Task Force is going to be painful.

**

Wednesday, 31 March 1999
9:10 P.M.


I arrive back at Walter's later than I expected. Today's the first day I've felt almost normal. I was tired again last night and just fell asleep after dinner, before fulfilling my promise to make him the main course.

I received an order related to Walter today that makes my stomach flip over. And I'm not prepared to discuss it with him yet. Added to that is the sexual frustration because we haven't fucked yet. It's driving me nuts. I feel more connected to him when we…

Christ, I need to get my mind on something else. I enter his apartment and find him in the living room, near his open briefcase, reading something in a file. He's wearing jeans and a long-sleeve T-shirt.

Closing the door, I murmur, "Hi, Walter."

He offers me a weary smile. "Alex, come here. I have something for you."

I shrug out of my jacket, then sit next to him on the sofa. "What's up?"

Walter gives me a quick kiss, then passes me a manila envelope.

It's a little heavy… feels like a bulky object. I raise a questioning eyebrow.

"Open it."

I tear open the flap and tip the envelope. A piece of corrugated cardboard slides out onto my lap. There's a black handle sticking out. I know that handle. Rubber over steel. The cardboard conceals a 5-inch blade with a knick about a quarter inch from the guard.

After unwrapping it, I look at Walter. "How… why?"

"The perp was killed in prison a couple of years ago. I bailed your knife out of Evidence Control this afternoon."

I turn the knife over in my hand. It's not nearly as nice as the one Walter gave me.

"I knew it was important to you, so I thought you might want it back." He looks at me, an uncertain expression on his face.

I make a vague affirmative noise and glance back at the knife. "Thank you, Walter. I… it was very important to me for a long time."

"But not anymore?"

I find myself smiling. "I like the knife you gave me much better."

He grins, too, his expression far away. "You're very sentimental about your knives. Who gave you this one?"

Absentmindedly, I reply, "Spender."

Walter nearly chokes. "Spender?"

I nod and look at him with concern. "You okay?"

"Shit." Then something shifts in his face. He looks… queasy. "You didn't… No, I know you didn't. Never mind."

I stare at him, trying to figure out what he's talking about. "Didn't what?"

He shakes his head. "I'm sorry. I had it in my head that a lover had given you the first knife."

I frown, trying to put the pieces together.

"Alex, maybe I don't know you very well, but I know you well enough to answer that question myself. I'm sorry I brought it up."

Then it clicks. It crossed his mind that Spender and I were lovers. I feel ill. "No. I, uh… no. No."

He takes the knife and sets it on the coffee table in front of us. Then he allows his head to fall on my shoulder. "It's a horrible mental picture. I hope I don't spend the rest of my life trying to get it out of my head. I'm counting on you to distract me."

I shake off the surge of memories and run my hand along Walter's thigh. What a hideous thought. I lightly kiss his head.

Walter says, "I'd like to hear about some of your other lovers, if you don't mind talking about it. I remember that guy who came to your apartment. I forgot his name, but he called you 'baby' and it bugged the hell out of you."

I find myself smiling. "Nick."

"I think he was angling for a three-way."

I pull back and give him a hard stare. "I think not. There was no way I'd let him get his hands on you."

Walter blinks at me, amused. "I couldn't really imagine you with him. Which one of us was the anomaly?"

I push him back toward the corner of the couch, then lie down with my head in his lap. "Let's see… you're the odd man out. Nick was a little unusual because he was so pushy. I think he was angling for, uh, discipline. A little more conflict than I usually like."

He chuckles softly. "When you're an ex-marine and you look like I do, three quarters of the offers you get are from people 'angling for discipline.'"

"Really? Take any of 'em up on it?" I'm torn between voyeuristic delight and jealousy.

"Only the really pretty ones." He gives me a suggestive look.

I blank my expression. "Are you suggesting that I'm pretty?" My tone is flat. I'm tormenting him a little.

His expression turns serious. "No, Alex. You're quite beautiful."

That wasn't what I was expecting. I've heard him use the word before and it always throws me off. I could cringe when I feel myself blushing.

He brushes the hair off my forehead.

I clear my throat. "Tatiana."

"Who's Tatiana?"

"My first lover."

"Tell me about her."

I idly rub my head against his crotch as I begin to speak. "I was 16. She was 21… very tall--topped me by several inches then--with long black hair. Married to this major dickhead. She and Vladimir--who was also 16--were my friends. Tatiana was my, uh, moral guidance when I'd let her." I smile at the memory. "I was always getting into trouble. And usually didn't know why. Vlad and I had been kind of fooling around since we were 14. Tatiana was the first time I had sex. I used to think the most difficult decision I would have to make would be to choose between them." I pause, thinking of the past. "After Tatiana's husband died, she and Vlad were married. That was a little while after I… uh, left."

Walter's gentle expression holds a touch of awe, as if he knows I wouldn't tell anyone else about them.

"I ran into Vlad in Leningrad about two years later. First time I ever fucked a man. He was very… pretty, as you say. Mostly hookers after that… the Organization did not approve of homosexuality. Go figure."

"Was that your preference… pretty boys?"

"Uh, yeah. After I came to the States, I stopped ignoring my interest in men. Various partners until I met Damien… We certainly weren't exclusive but fucked for about ten months. Prettiest man I've ever seen. Confusing, too."

"What was confusing about Damien?"

I run my hand along the side of his body. "We didn't exactly have a relationship… just fucking, but he's been very determined to… I don't know. He got married a few years ago."

"Is he still a friend?"

"Friend? Hmm… I wouldn't say I had friends, but I guess so. He… took care of me once."

"And you let him?"

I try to suppress my grin. "I didn't have any choice. But, believe me, Damien has more than seen my bad side. Although… truth be told, his wife scares the shit out of me." I look at him intently. "You're definitely unique, Walter."

"Old bald guys are hardly anyone's type." He sounds almost flip. His expression is a little hard to see at this angle. "But I'm not complaining. I've had a lot of… adventures."

Well, that's provocative. "What kind of adventures?" I have something to say about the 'old bald guy' crack, but I'll come back to that.

"Before Sharon, I had quite a few lovers. Men and women. I was fortunate to bed a lot of very sexy people… I did a three-way once, had some fuck buddies, quite a few memorable nights… it was… good."

I contemplate that for a few seconds. Wild man Walter. Wouldn't have thought it. Interesting. To cover up time while I gather my thoughts, I ask, "Who gives better blowjobs… men or women?"

He brushes a hand down my chest and pats my stomach. "You do, Alex."

Just like him… take an idle, generalized question and makes me feel flustered. Shaking it off, I sit up and maneuver around to straddle his lap. "Now, about that old bald guy remark…" I lazily stroke the back of his neck, then drift up to the head in question. "I had a hard-on within two minutes of seeing you the first time. Shocked the hell out of me. Spent days trying to talk myself out of it. You would normally fall under the heading of 'competition' not 'sex partner.' Every time I heard your voice, I got hard." His face is placid, but there's a smile in his eyes. "And after you fucked me the first time, it just got worse." I pause, running my fingers down to circle his ear. "Sorry, Walter, you're the sexiest thing on legs. Live with it."

"Okay," he replies blithely.

Evasive pain in the ass. "So, Walter, was I your usual type?"

"I'm not sure I have a type."

I frown a little. I try to think of any similarities between Sharon and I, and draw a blank. "Okay, Walter… do you prefer men or women?"

"I enjoy both, but they're very different to me. I like the rough physicality with men. I've had women encourage me to get rough, but I can't. Not with a woman. And I'm pretty insecure with women because they're so focused on the relationship thing and I'm not very good at it. As I spent 17 years demonstrating with Sharon."

Hell, he seems fine at it to me. I let my hand continue to lazily roam around his body. I'm vaguely curious about something. "With men… did you always do the fucking?"

He gives a faraway smile. "The first time I had sex with a man, a boy really, it was my Vietnam buddy, Larry. He talked me into letting him fuck me. It was… a couple of clumsy boys fucking in the bushes. It hurt… It was better the next couple of times, but it was never great."

I consider that for a second. "So you didn't like it the first time?"

Walter hedges. "Not really. It was just too strange having something stuck up my ass. It didn't really make sense to me back then."

So contrary to my experience. Interesting. "Did it ever?"

"Oh, yeah." The tone in his voice shifts. My dick starts to get hard.

Walter continues, "In college, I started fucking men. The raw animal nature of it became delightfully clear to me. I presume you've noticed I like to fuck."

I roll my eyes. "Yes. I've noticed. I meant, did getting fucked ever make sense to you?"

"Sort of abstractly. I get a sense of what my partner gets out of it. But I've never really completely gotten into it as a bottom. Tell me about your experiences."

This is surreal. Sitting around talking about past sexual relationships with Walter. "More of them?"

"About fucking or getting fucked. Did you enjoy getting fucked the first time?"

I stroke my hand over his chest. What an odd question. How can he not know I enjoyed it? "I'm surprised you'd ask that. I thought it was sort of obvious."

"What was obvious?" Walter's face is a perplexed frown.

I pull back and look at him intently. "I think it was obvious I enjoyed myself in the garage that day."

He shakes his head, uncomprehendingly. Then his face shifts to astonishment. "You're not telling me the garage was the first time you'd ever been fucked?"

Suddenly, I feel very uncomfortable. I crawl off his lap and back up a couple steps. "I assumed you knew that. Well, I mean… it wasn't exactly…" I trail off, feeling lost. He doesn't know about the guard. I guess there's no reason he'd know I had never… fuck. This is too much.

"Fuck, Alex. I was a brute. Oh, Christ, I thought you were tense." He's speechless for a moment. "I was a total bastard. I… I don't know what to say."

I back up another step. "You don't have to say anything. I told you, I enjoyed it."

Walter holds out his arms. I want to sit next to him, but I'm confused. I take a couple more steps back. His eyes track my movements. Some part of me just always assumed he knew. It's just not something I ever thought was worth discussing.

"You okay, Alex?" He says in a soothing tone.

"Mm hmm." I remember to tell him the truth. "I just thought you knew I don't let anyone else…" I make a vague hand gesture. It's one thing to feel vulnerable because he already knew. Quite another to have him find out now.

"Unbelievable… I used to imagine, but I never…" He shakes his head. "Thank you for that. It means a lot."

I flinch. "It's not strictly true…" My voice trails off. I don't want to mislead him. I don't really think of the prison guard as having sex, but maybe he would? I gesture to the knife. We've come full circle. "That's why that… I killed him."

Walter looks afraid to speak, but he says, "Killed who?"

I feel my patience slipping. "The guard. Spender gave me the knife. Kill him or it would happen again… so I killed him. So, it's not exactly true… about you being the first. But I never let anyone else." Some part of me realizes I don't make sense. I'm not sure I want to make sense.

His face shifts as I watch him assemble the pieces. There's a brief flash of pain, more than pity, then he slips into carefully neutral. "How old were you?"

What does that have to do with anything? The question seems so incongruous, all I can do is blink and answer, "Seventeen."

His face seems to go hard. "That's a homicide I have no problem with. I could have happily killed him myself." He shakes his head and squeezes the bridge of his nose. "I'm sorry, Alex. I'm sorry that ever happened to you. And I'm sorry if I've ever done anything that reminded you of being raped."

I groan and drop into the nearest chair. I'm losing my mind. This is horrible.

"Talk to me, Alex."

I open my mouth and gesture, but nothing comes out. I try again… still nothing.

Walter rises, approaching slowly, and sits on the floor in front of my chair. "I've got terrible things in my head, too. Sometimes I have nightmares, and it makes me feel weak. But, I have to live with it, just like you do." He meets my eyes. "It's not pity, Alex."

I struggle to find my equilibrium. "Walter, that doesn't matter to me anymore. I need to know if you understand about us, though."

He takes my hand. The gesture is gentle, but there's a glint of something harsh in his eyes. "It always matters. It matters to me." He squeezes my fingers. "And about us, I was the first man you let fuck you. For whatever reason, you gave something special to me. Is that what you wanted me to understand?"

I shake my head. I had a feeling he didn't get it yet. I'd rather get all the embarrassment out of the way now. "No, Walter. Not just first. Only."

**

Fuck. All these years, I thought… what the hell did I think? Thought none of it mattered to him. But I was carrying around a piece of him… a piece he'd never given anyone else.

I nod slowly. And kiss his fingertips. "I understand."

I remember obnoxiously wanting to believe that he only gave it to me. And now, it just hurts. Tears deeply at me that so much has happened to him.

And it erodes my already too limited sense of control about this relationship. I've learned not to let other people's pain hurt me, but his does.

Alex slides off the chair, sitting next to me. He touches the side of my face. "If you start treating me differently, I am going to be pissed."

I needed the reminder. He's not a 'rape survivor.' He's the same strong, stubborn little bastard he's always been. And if I start treating him like's he fragile, he's going to hate it. I have to get past this… and I have to get past everything he's told me about the incredibly wretched life he's lived. Because I can't deal with the pain, and he doesn't want to either.

I shove hard against the wall of feelings he's stirred up, and give him a cocky smile. "You mean like if I start getting possessive about your ass?"

Alex's face is blank for a second, and I'm afraid I blew it. Then his lips quirk up. "Uh, no. That's fine."

"I know what you meant," I reply in a more serious tone. I don't want him to feel like he has to explain. "I won't make that mistake."

He mumbles something that sounds like, "Good." Then reaches up, yanking my head forward until our mouths meet.

I kiss him aggressively and feel him melt into me. Encircling him in my arms, I pull him into my lap. I am damned possessive. It appears he doesn't mind.

Fuck, it was never safe to get involved with him, but here I am. It's too late to back away. We could both be dead tomorrow, so I have to take what I want tonight. He needs it, too.

After shoving the empty chair away with my foot, I move him off my lap and push him flat on his back. As I lower my body over his, he closes his eyes and sighs with pleasure. Kissing again, I rub our groins together.

Alex's kiss takes on a desperate edge and he arches up against me. I slide a hand between us to grope for his cock, trapped tightly in his jeans. He moans against my lips and presses into my hand. While my tongue searches his mouth, my fingers move to his fly and attempt to unfasten the buttons. It's clumsy work with one hand, but I manage to get it part way open.

Rolling us over together, so he's on top of me, I yank at his jeans. With a lot of wiggling assistance on his part, I get them past his butt.

He seems unwilling to release my mouth as he finds my shirt and tugs it up. I grab his ass and squeeze, then slide my hands down his thighs, annoyed when I have to lift my arms so he can get my shirt off. His hand prowls over my skin and his prosthetic presses against my ribs. My lips kiss a path down the side of his face to his sensitive neck. Gasping, he tilts his head to give me better access.

I'm frantic. Frantic to fuck. To allow the roughness of the act to banish everything else. To erase all the problems and circumstances that almost made it impossible for us to be here. To get lost in the raw joy of sexual connection.

I shift us both onto our sides, so I can reach my own fly. I tear open the buttons and pull my cock out. Alex's hand immediately closes over it, stroking and squeezing. Then, his hand shifts around to my ass, and he grinds his erection against mine.

His mouth travels over my collarbone and up my throat, until his lips close over mine again. He mumbles against my lips, "Need you…"

"Fuck, yes," I whisper hoarsely. I pull his shirt up, so I can feel more skin, but I'm far too worked up to bother removing it. Reluctantly, I pull my tongue out of his mouth. "Alex," I say, brushing my lips across his neck. "On your…" My hand slides up his shirt, impatiently exploring the contours of his lean chest. "…stomach," I mutter into his hair. My other hand plays along the soft skin of his lower back.

He takes a couple gasping breaths, then strokes his hand over my chest. After lightly scraping my nipples with his nails, he rolls over. His jeans are bunched up under his ass and he's frantically trying to kick off his boots, with little success. I tug them off and toss them away, then reach for his pants. I wrench the jeans down his legs, hard enough to pull his body a few inches across the carpet. He gasps. His shirt bunches under his arms. After wrestling the denim past his ankles, I throw them out of our way and lower my body onto his. My cock automatically tucks itself into his crack. His breathing is labored and he groans, rubbing his ass against me. Still wearing my jeans, I can't fully appreciate the satiny skin of his butt.

Pushing his T-shirt out of the way, I gnaw on the back of his neck. I remember biting it… hard. And having to force myself not to draw blood. It would be so… easy.

Alex arches his neck against my mouth, and I hear him whisper, "Please…"

The sound of his plea gives me a head rush. Almost of their own will, my teeth sink into his neck, vibrating and biting into his flesh as if they will orgasm from the act. He moans faintly, pressing into my teeth. His body trembles and his fingers fist in the carpet as his prosthetic bangs futilely against the floor.

The friction of my cock gliding between his ass cheeks could bring me off if I'm not careful. I try to slow my hips, but they don't want to stop. His body undulates, moving frantically under me, as he spreads his legs wide.

His desperate need drives me to lust-filled madness. My teeth want to go further. To leave a mark… But I can't fuck him like this, so I press harder with my teeth, then--agonizingly against my desires--release his neck. He pants and whimpers, "No…"

Gasping with frustration, I shift my body to the side and hold my hand to his mouth. "Wet…" I manage to spit out. He sucks two of my fingers into his mouth, working them sensually with his tongue. My cock twitches in envy.

Withdrawing my fingers, I move them quickly to his ass, sliding one inside him. He groans, pressing his forehead against the floor and arching his butt up. The muscles in his ass and widely splayed thighs tremble.

I groan incoherently and slip another finger inside him. He's tight but opens up fairly easily, for which I'm grateful, because the nearest thing I could use for lube is 20 feet away. Too damned far. I brush across his prostate, and he groans from deep in his chest, raking his fingers across the carpet.

The sight of his clenching ass is making me weak with need. "You going to make it without lube?" I ask, trying not to pressure him.

He growls a frustrated, "Yes!" pressing his ass against my hand. In between labored breaths, he hisses, "Fuck me, dammit."

I'm about to advise patience, when I realize I have none. So I withdraw the fingers. Shifting upward, I stick my cock in his face. "Good and wet…"

Awkwardly, he twists his shoulders and head, bringing his mouth to my cock. With a sigh of pleasure, he takes me down once, sucking hard, then begins moving his tongue along my shaft until my cock is wet with spit. And he doesn't stop. He gives a moan of protest when I pull his face off my dick.

My only response is a low growl.

I'm over him in a few seconds, positioning my cock at his anus. Forcing myself to go slowly--I don't want to hurt him--I inch my way inside. He gasps as I begin stretching him open. Whimpering, he pushes his hips up, taking more of me, then stills, breathing hard. My own breathing is out of control, gasping breaths that never seem to contain enough oxygen… not that I much care.

I should have taken my damned pants off.

When my cock is finally all the way in, I try to pause but, unable to stand it, I withdraw slightly. "You okay?" I mumble as I push back into his tight heat. It burns a little with skimpy lube, but the edge of pain just intensifies the pleasure.

He gasps out, "Do it."

I begin thrusting into him with a good rhythm. He accepts each push with a grunt and a gasp.

God, I love fucking him. Taking what he offers. Knowing that it's hard for him… a little uncomfortable, a little painful. And knowing that he'll never refuse me… that I can take whatever I want. That he wants me to take it. Wants only me to take it.

These thoughts floating around in my lust-addled brain are making me high.

Alex turns his head to the side, and I can see his profile. Mouth open, lips wet, cheeks flushed. With every thrust, his face contorts in a pained ecstasy.

His hand slides into the hollow of his low back, palm up. When I push all the way in, he touches my stomach, then slides his hand further down. He stops when it's at my groin, thumb and finger touching my cock as it slides in and out of his ass.

Braced on my left arm, I reach for his hand and draw my thumb across his palm. Then I slide my hand under him, and wrap my fingers around his cock. His body jerks and he arches his head back, struggling for air. His prosthesis moves aimlessly, as if searching for something.

As I put some power behind my hips, I drive into him furiously, already nearing the peak of orgasm. Unable to muster up the will to fight it… At the risk of bringing him off too quickly, I jerk his cock lightly, simply because I want to touch him.

He shudders, dropping his forehead back to the carpet and whimpering. "Walter…" His voice carries both warning and a plea.

Fuck, Alex. I need this so badly… It makes me feel so alive--no, it is life. His and mine irreversibly interconnected.

He's taking sobbing breaths, hand sliding around to grab my hip, encouraging me.

I can feel the pounding of my heart throughout my entire body. Each throb of our cocks demolishing old pain in favor of heart-stopping pleasure.

Alex is drenched in sweat, writhing underneath me. Amidst the sounds of our grunts, groans and gasping breaths, I catch a hoarsely whispered word, "… yours …"

The raw sound of his voice and the word spoken pull me over the edge in a heartbeat. I stroke his cock frantically as I begin to shoot inside him. My body bursts into light and pleasure.

I vaguely register his muffled yell and the clenching of his ass around my cock.

**

The orgasm is more intense than any I can remember. Walter's weight slumps onto my back, trapping the hand still on my dick underneath me. I release my grip on his hip, letting my hand fall to the floor.

Brain barely working, I cannot handle the overload of signals coming from my body. My breathing is labored, and I feel Walter's softening cock still inside my ass. My T-shirt is wrapped around my shoulders.

His lips find the back of my neck, giving me languid kisses where he bit me. It stings, and I close my eyes, feeling content. Then he sighs and rolls off me. I hiss as he pulls out, nerve endings raw. One large hand cups my ass cheek. Murmuring against the side of my face, he says, "Got any complaints about the way I'm treating you?"

I think to say something flip, but it won't come out. I wonder if he heard the unintended words, 'I'm yours, Walt.' It's too much. What's going to happen when he's tired of this? Tired of me. He made me feel like I belonged to him tonight.

I turn my body toward his, resting my face against his chest. Wrapping my arm around him, I murmur, "No."

No complaints, Walter. I'm just afraid this is all an illusion and if I say anything else, I won't be able to shut up.

His brow crinkles, revealing a hint of concern. "Your ass okay?" With a hand on my shoulder, he presses me tightly to his chest. He's still wearing his pants, softening cock exposed at the fly.

I nod. My ass is sore. Will hurt worse tomorrow, but it's what I wanted… what I needed. A confirmation that he's not going to treat me like a piece of glass. And a reminder about who I belong to. I sigh at how close these thoughts are to the surface… thoughts of belonging. It can only get me into trouble.

My skin is hypersensitive from being abraded against the carpet, so I rub against his body, memorizing the sensation of his skin. I tighten my arm around him. It hurts to lie on my prosthetic this way, but I don't care.

He runs his fingers through my hair. "The canola oil is still upstairs. How about I give you that massage I promised?"

"I'd… like that." Letting go of my tight grip on him, I scoot up until I can kiss him.

Once he releases me, we stumble up the stairs. After pulling off my T-shirt and prosthetic, I head for the bathroom to wash up.

Walter is naked when I enter the bedroom and gives me a quick kiss as he disappears into the bathroom. I sit at the edge of the bed and something I was thinking about earlier today pops into my head.

I want to ask him… It's really none of my business.

Walter returns, guiding me back onto the bed and grabbing the oil. As he reaches for me, I find myself asking, "Are you still married?"

His eyes widen. "Uh, no. Sharon and I divorced in 1996."

I nod, feeling strange, and I'm not sure what the feeling is. I think it's relief. Or worry. I cannot tell. But there was no chance of him being mine as long as he belonged to someone else.

Fantasies… stupid things.


Thursday, 1 April 1999
5:42 A.M.


I wake as Walter climbs out of bed. Lying still, I listen as he gets ready for work. When I hear the shower start, I get up. I'm sore… especially my ass and neck.

Last night was good.

Then I remember the rest. Last night was also difficult… telling him so much about my past… my present. I could stay here while I make the preparations for what's coming next, but I think I need some time away. Time to think.

Looking around the room, I seek my jeans, then remember they're downstairs. As I cross to the door, I decide I don't really want them yet. I want Walter.

I go into the bathroom. Looks like he's almost finished with his shower. I step into the stall and wrap my arm around him from behind. After he turns, I start sliding down, trailing my lips and tongue down his chest and abdomen.

He smiles down at me, fingers brushing the side of my face. "Morning."

Not pulling my lips away from his skin, I touch his hand to acknowledge his greeting. I draw his cock in my mouth and slowly suck him to full hardness. I know he has to get ready for work, but I plan to take my time bringing him off, more teasing than is usual for me. My hand lazily roams over his body as my lips and tongue work his cock and balls.

Eventually, I get serious and take him all the way, repeatedly until, with a firm grip on my hair, he comes deep in my throat.

He leans back, head against the shower wall, fingers stroking my hair. "Thank you, Alex," he mumbles.

I wrap my arm around his thighs, lips idly caressing his stomach. One scar captures my attention. I've seen it before, but it wasn't there when we were together. I run my tongue over it and softly ask, "What's this from, Walt?"

The gentle pleasure in his face falls away. "Luis Cardinal shot me. He was trying to convince me to stop looking into the Melissa Scully shooting." His face is tight, his eyes on mine, filled with questions.

"Ah, fuck." I release him and stand up, stepping away. I stare at him, not knowing what to say. I close my eyes and take a breath. God, I want to get out of here. But I owe Walter information if he wants it. "I'm sorry he hurt you."

Walter gives me a nod. He puts a hand on my chest. "It doesn't matter." He sounds like he's almost talking to himself.

"Yes, it does." Suddenly, I understand what Walter said last night… that it always matters. "I was very… upset when I heard about it. I wanted to kill him, but they beat me to it."

He acknowledges me with another nod. Then, briefly kisses my forehead and steps out of the shower.

I stare at nothing for a moment. He didn't ask the obvious… about the beating in the stairwell. I wonder why. I turn up the hot and shower quickly. When I emerge from the bathroom, Walter is half dressed and silent. I grab my T-shirt and prosthetic and head downstairs in search of the rest of my clothing.

Walter walks past as I finish putting on my boots--one was in the dining room, the other behind the TV. I join him in the kitchen while he begins mixing his slimy morning beverage. He seems pensive.

Hesitantly, I say, "I'll be gone for a couple days."

"Okay."

He doesn't seem upset, but I don't read him very well. He gestures toward the refrigerator. "Help yourself to breakfast, or whatever."

I watch him for a second, then reach into the fridge for a strawberry yogurt. After grabbing a spoon from the dishwasher, I sit at the breakfast table and take a bite. I've got to pick up some granola bars.

Walter watches me, looking puzzled. Then he opens a drawer, the refrigerator and passes me a fresh cup of yogurt and a spoon. "Alex, the dishes in the dishwasher are dirty."

I feel my face twist into a scowl. One of my deep secrets… I'm very fastidious. I push the yogurt with the dirty spoon away and ask, "How can you tell when they're dirty?"

"They're always dirty if they're in the dishwasher. I put the clean dishes away."

"Oh." Christ, I'm always using dishes out of the dishwasher. I've almost lost my appetite, but I reach for the fresh yogurt. As soon as I open it, the smell hits me. Peaches. I push it away. "Uh, no."

"Don't like that flavor?"

"It's fine."

He shakes his head. Then makes a big point of showing me the cabinets with dishes, and the drawer with silverware. Like I'll remember.

A few minutes later, Walter grabs his coat, kisses me and leaves for work.

**

Friday, 2 April 1999
7:17 P.M.
Annapolis, MD


As per plan, I detour to the harbor before meeting Scully. On the wharf, I find a location I like, behind a large yacht, where I can't be seen. The moist ocean air seeps into my right knee, giving an old injury a dull ache.

Alex left the knife untouched on the coffee table in the living room. Without a word said, I know he no longer wants it. Now he carries my gift instead of Spender's.

I extract the knife from its cardboard evidence-control sheath and toss it into the Atlantic. I imagine the corrosive salt of the bay destroying the metal… and, perhaps, helping in a small way to banish the terrible memories Alex carries from his past.

The restaurant is only five minutes away. Scully and I arrive separately. It's easy to explain being seen together, as long as she works for me, but I'd rather not have to explain anything.

The place is an upscale pub, darker than I'd like inside. It feels a bit sleazy… too much like a clandestine meeting. Scully doesn't seem to mind. I request a booth at the end of a row for maximum privacy.

"Sir, why don't we sit on the same side? That way we won't have to worry about being overheard."

My brain flashes objections… but I suppose it's better if it looks like I'm having an affair with a subordinate than what the meeting is really about. Affairs with subordinates? I've come full circle.

I sit next to her, trying not to take up the whole seat or bump her thigh.

After we order, I inform her of the new financial picture. "We're not on a tight budget any longer. I can get several million dollars, if we need it."

Her eyebrow rises. "Rob a bank, sir?"

That's too damned close to the truth. "No, Scully. I, um, found another investor."

She eyes me warily. "Another infected person?"

"Yes."

"Other than Krycek?"

Scully's too damned smart. She's going to put all the pieces together eventually. "That's not important."

She effectively disagrees without saying a word.

Change the subject, Walt. "So I need you to tell the recruiter to go after the engineer, too. And once we have the core team, they can tell us what else or who else they need."

After a cautious nod, she says, "We already have a list of doctors. I'll have their CVs tomorrow." She stops speaking as the waiter brings us our entrees. When he's out of range again, she continues, "I can easily evaluate their medical credentials, but we need to give some thought to other requirements."

"Such as?"

"Psychological… beliefs, ethics, ability and willingness to keep the research secret…"

"Secrecy is essential. But ethics isn't a simple question, is it? In fact, it's in conflict with secrecy."

"Yes. At some point, there will be a need to use you and possibly… others, as test subjects. I assume you have no wish to go through normal ethics reviews and the other legal requirements associated with this process?"

"Correct." I swear silently that we will never use Alex as a test subject, if his life can be saved any other way.

"In that case, we need a team willing to bend those rules at the risk of their medical licenses."

Shit. We're screwed. "Why would anyone be willing to take that risk, Scully?"

She gives me a half smile. "Scientific greed. This team will get to work on technology no one else has ever seen--with the exception of whoever invented it and is using it." She offers me a provocative glance.

No, I'm not going to tell you what little I know about that. "Is that enough?"

"Possibly. Research physicians are an unusual breed. There are many who see the human body as a fascinating puzzle that they can study, understand and ultimately control."

"That sounds like the kind of thinking that created this mess."

"Agreed. But it may be what fixes it, as well."

I don't like this one bit. But I didn't expect to.

Information exchanged, we eat silently and quickly. While waiting for the waiter to bring the check, Scully asks, "Sir, just how involved with Krycek and his associates--whoever they may be--are you?"

I wonder if we'd even be having this conversation if she knew the truth. It's all too clear what she thinks of my duplicitous lover. If she knew what I knew, would she come to the same conclusions about him?

He's not evil. Alex simply has no morality. It's a mystery to him. He probably sees it as a weird albatross that some people are doomed to carry.

"I can't talk about that, Scully."

Her frown could wilt grass. "Even if the research goes well, there are a lot of other things that could go wrong."

"I know. I'm doing my best to manage those potentialities." My voice sounds harsher than I'd like. "Scully, I'm sorry. I just can't discuss it with you. But that doesn't mean I don't appreciate your efforts. You're helping to save my life here. There's no way I can ever repay you."

"It's not necessary, sir. You've put your life on the line for Mulder and me. We owe you."

I shake my head. "I've done my job. What you're doing is more than that. Much more than that. The debt is mine."

When the check comes, I pay it, and then escort her to her car. After she drives away, I walk the dark streets around the dock.

It has to work. We have to find a way to get free of the nanocytes. Because if we don't, I can all too easily see what has to happen. I'm not sure I'm capable of making that decision. And I'm afraid he'd let me make it.

**

9:28 P.M.

I let myself into Scully's apartment. It's dark and quiet. I take a seat and wait.

A little over an hour later, the key turns in the lock and a shadowy figure appears in the doorway. I hear a weary sigh, then the door closes. A moment later, the light flicks on. As soon as she sees me, she reaches for her gun, but mine is already pointed at her.

Scully freezes. "What do you wa-" She stops talking and looks at me quizzically when I make a terse gesture for silence.

Rising, I motion her to the door.

She shakes her head. "I'm not going any-"

Moving closer, I lean toward her ear.

She stiffens.

Whispering faintly, I tell her, "If you want to help Skinner, shut up and come with me."

With a skeptical look, she precedes me out the door. I guide her around to the back of her building where it's dark and deserted.

Keeping my gun out in case she decides to get brave, I say, "There's about a seventy percent chance that someone is listening to you."

She sighs and her shoulders slump briefly, then she straightens up and shoots me a menacing glare. "What do you want, Krycek?"

"I've been ordered to activate Skinner's nanocytes again. An object lesson, if you will."

Scully pales slightly. "You can't keep doing this to him, you bastard!"

Carefully choosing my words, I reply, "There may be a way out this time. But only with your help."

"Why should I trust you?"

"Because I'm the only one who can prevent him from being hurt."

She gives me a disbelieving look. "Why would you try to help him?"

I shrug. "Because I owe him. He didn't kill me when he had the chance and I always repay my debts. I might not be so nice the next time. Now, do you want to help or not?"

Scully considers for a second. "What do I have to do?"

"I'm going to offer him a deal. I won't harm him, but he has to stay home and play sick for a few days. You'll need to spend at least a day with him, during the worst of it, under the pretense of secretly taking care of him."

She shakes her head. "Who's going to believe that?"

"They'll be watching him. During the worst of an episode, there's no way he could possibly take care of himself. Your presence will lend credibility. Don't tell anyone anything. If Mulder is obnoxiously persistent--which I'm sure he will be--let it slip, under duress, that Skinner's been sick. And say nothing else."

She nods slowly, offering tentative agreement. "Okay, Krycek. When?"

"In a few days. He'll call you, asking for help. That'll be your cue." I pause deciding how much of an impression I need to make. "Scully, even if you think you're alone and talking to yourself, you can never hint at anything other than you went there to take care of him. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, Krycek. I understand you." She's nearly sneering. I wonder what she thinks she understands.

"Good, because if they find out, the next person they send won't be inclined to offer any deals." Right after they kill me. God, what a mess.

Scully's jaw tightens. "I told you, I understand."

"Go back inside Scully. And don't let Mulder drag you out of town for the next few days."

Backing away from me slowly, she disappears around the corner. I can tell it rankles her not to even try to arrest me.

I stop by one of Morgan's bars, and am immediately admitted to his office. I strike another deal to try to get out of what I've been ordered to do.

With the added incentive of one of the scanners I brought from Switzerland, he doesn't even charge me very much.

Afterward, I head back to my ratty apartment and contemplate what's next. This situation is intolerable.

**

Saturday, 3 April 1999
2:15 P.M.


I'm finishing my warm-up on the treadmill, when Jason cruises by. "Tonight?"

"Uh, no. Sorry, Jason. I'm, uh, seeing someone." Ironic that what began as infidelity has transformed into fidelity.

"So what?" he says in a coy tone.

"I can't." I put my hand on his shoulder.

Jason blinks at me for a moment, then pulls out from under my touch and disappears into the locker room.

Poor kid. He'll have to find another fantasy man. Assuming he doesn't already have six more of them.

My knees creak as I do squats. Fidelity. I wonder who else Alex is fucking. I discover that I really don't like the idea that he's sleeping around. He probably is though. At least his ass is mine.


Sunday, 4 April 1999
7:22 A.M.


When I wake there's a shadow by the window. I jerk out of bed, then relax when I see it's Alex. I offer him a wan smile. "I'm not usually easy to sneak up on."

"I have a lot of practice at moving quietly."

I'll bet you do, Alex.

He smiles at me. "Morning, Walter."

Rising, I squat by his chair. "I'd like to kiss you, if you think you can handle my morning breath."

Alex answers the question by pressing our mouths together. He tastes minty. I take his hand and move it from my shoulder to my morning hard-on.

He whimpers and his fingers stroke the length of my erection. Pulling his mouth away, he gasps for breath. "Walter, I want you to fuck me so badly it hurts…" He takes another breath. "But, I have to tell you something first."

The tone of his voice gets through to me instantly. Whatever this is, it isn't good news. My cock softens. Standing, I mutter, "All right. Just a second."

I brush my teeth and pull on a pair of jeans. When I return to the bedroom, he's gone. I head downstairs and find him in the living room. I take a seat on the sofa.

Alex watches me for a second, then sighs. "I've been ordered to induce another nano episode as… incentive." His voice is toneless. The agony is in his eyes.

Oh, hell. Not that again. "As incentive? I don't even get to disobey an order first?"

He shrugs. "I don't pretend to understand what they want with you, but…" After running his hand through his hair, he continues. "I can't do it."

No. "Yes, you can, Alex. We're both dead if you don't." God, I do not want to go through it again. But I will. "I can do this."

Alex looks away without acknowledging that I said anything. "Per orders, I've arranged for you to be under surveillance for the next week. You'll need to stay home for at least three to four days."

"Scully will insist on putting me in the hospital. She'll at least want me monitored during the episode, even if they can't do anything."

He's still not looking at me and shakes his head. "I've already talked to Scully. She's agreed to stay with you for a day during what should be the worst of it."

"You talked to Scully? When?"

"It's the only way I could avoid this. There's no way you could take care of yourself if you were really having an episode."

"You're talking about faking it?"

He finally looks at me, his eyes now as flat as his voice. "Yes."

My head is spinning. He told Scully about this before me. What else is he holding back? But fundamentally what's bothering me is the risk… the risk to him. "Alex, as you might imagine, I'm not looking forward to another vascular crisis, but if we fake this and make any mistakes, they're going to kill you. I don't want to take that risk."

"I wasn't ordered to trigger the vascular crisis. I was ordered to cause an attack on the nerve centers. I've been there. I can't do it to you. If we do this right, they won't know. Scully will stay here and pretend to take care of you… keep you sedated. I still have to turn the module on… you might feel a little queasy or lightheaded, but should be fine otherwise."

"Attack on the nerve centers? Dare I ask what nightmare that is?"

"You are more lucid, but the pain is worse."

The pain of the vascular crisis was pretty much off my pain scale. Fuck. I don't want anything to happen to him. He was safer before he started caring about me. It occurs to me that he's always had this problem with me… staying away was always the prudent choice for him, too.

We're like binary stars, in orbit around each other. Perversely, I remember reading about dying stars. Then wish I hadn't.

I shrug away the morbid thoughts. Maybe I have to trust his judgment on this. "Alex, tell me you're not holding anything back. That this is the entire… situation as you know it."

"Something's going on, but I'm not sure what it is. They're being more cryptic than usual, although they haven't given any indication that they suspect me. Nevertheless, I have hired someone to watch the people surveilling you."

God, I hope he's right that they don't suspect him. And that whoever he's hired is trustworthy. Alex is my only source of information. I have to rely on his judgment.

"Thank you," I say with more equanimity than I feel. "I just can't deal with any more surprises right now. And I need to make my… choices with as much information as possible." I rub the bridge of my nose. "Use your best judgment. I'll play this any way you want."

"Just call in sick this week. Call Scully by Tuesday. You'll get a delivery from me Monday afternoon. A satellite phone with a secure, untraceable connection. You can start making plans."

A satellite phone? "Making plans for what?"

He cocks his head to the side. "I didn't want you to feel trapped this week."

"So the phone is for me to use, not for orders from your handlers?"

"No, they won't know anything about it."

It's hard to follow him when he's like this… dissociated. I think he's trying to be kind. On an emotional level, this is more painful for him than me. Shrugging away issues I can't deal with right now, I ask, "When is this attack supposed to begin? I need to know when I start getting sick."

"Tomorrow morning at about 10:00. It will start with a headache. Around 10:30, you might want to ask Kimberly to get you some aspirin."

I memorize the details as he states them. His life and mine depend on getting this right.

"By 11:30 the headache will be migraine level, it will have been hard to concentrate for the preceding hour. Cancel your meetings and go home. Within four hours of the start of the episode, you should pass out. When you wake up, you'll feel like your skin's on fire. That will get more intense throughout the next day. By the beginning of day two, you won't be able to move without pain. That's when it's time to call Scully. Tell her you're having a problem and ask her to come over. She'll need to spend that day and night. The episode will begin winding down in the middle of the night on Tuesday. You'll be able to function but still in pain for two to three more days."

This is what they do to him. Probably even worse. I start to ask, but stop myself. He's painfully aware of it already. "Will I actually experience any of these symptoms?"

"You might experience a faint headache or nausea during the first two days. That's it."

"Okay, I will follow your instructions to the letter."

"Don't get a lot of work done this week. It'll be suspicious."

I nod, feeling quite numb. If our lives are this horrific, why do I feel so little?

Alex is flat and withdrawn, but I don't think I can help him right now. Rising slowly, I head to the kitchen. "You want anything?"

"No."

**

I listen to Walter rustling around in the kitchen. I feel dead. I've only occasionally felt like this. I so wanted to just climb in bed with him this morning. But I didn't want him to think… What? I guess I didn't want him to think I was trying to manipulate him. If he wants to get angry at me, he has the right.

I'm still not sure why he isn't angry. I did this to him.

Walter is silently sitting at the breakfast table, sipping the slime beverage. I should go… leave him to deal with this in whatever way he needs to. But I need to be near him. I'll have to avoid him most of this week.

Of course, I'll have to see him at least once to make sure the nanos are doing their job. The Resistance can tell when a control pad is active, but not what it's doing. I'll be running a different program from the one they ordered.

No point in mentioning it to Walter because I'm not activating them permanently and I'm not even sure it will work.

I rise from my chair and move upstairs. I have a paperback copy of selected works and poems by Ginsberg in my jacket. Lying on his bed, I read, trying to shut off my mind.

An hour or so later, he comes into the bedroom. He sits on the bed next to me, resting a hand lightly on my shoulder. "Alex, I need to go to the gym to work off some steam. Will you be here when I get back?"

If he were angry at me, I don't think he'd touch me. I rest the book on my stomach. "Yeah. I'll be here."

He kisses me briefly, changes clothes and departs.

Several hours later, he reappears, in drenched sweats. There's an inch-long cut across one eyebrow. I frown. He gives me a sheepish look. "I went to Mike's and my boxing gym… my sparring partner was… well, talented."

Rising from the bed, I cross to him and inspect the cut. It's not too horrible. He's got two butterfly closures on it, but it's turning purple and slightly swollen.

He shrugs. "I'll live." Then he winces slightly after the words.

I hear the words left unspoken. 'For now.'

Walter takes my hand. "We'll get through it, Alex."

I open my mouth to say something but can only manage to nod. After a moment, I step toward the door. "I'll brave the refrigerator and get you some ice."

"Thanks. I'll take a quick shower."

As I'm getting the icepack, I contemplate food. I'm sure he needs to eat, but I don't have a clue… except to call for delivery.

I arrive with the icepack as the water is turned off. When he emerges, I hand it to him. "I ordered Thai. It'll be here in about 15 minutes."

He holds the ice on his face. "Great." He retrieves his jeans and attempts to put them on one handed.

I watch him for a second. It took me a while to figure jeans out. Shoe laces were the worst. I don't think he'll respond well to me dressing him, so I take the icepack.

"Fuck, I must have brain damage." He pulls on the jeans, fastens the buttons and retrieves the ice.

I look at his bare chest. "Planning to give the delivery boy a thrill?" You'd better not.

He gives me a wry grin and a mock body-builder pose, muscles flexed. "No, just you."

Shit. His body does turn me on. I give him a heated look and raise one eyebrow. "Trust me, I'm very thrilled." I toss him his T-shirt as I walk toward the door. "But don't thrill him, or I might be cranky." He blinks, holding the T-shirt like it's a foreign object. I smile, trying to match his mood, and head downstairs.

I pace around the apartment, not sure how I'm feeling. He's obviously in a better mood, but I'm not sure where we're at. I wanted to touch him, but feel like there's a barrier between us.

Five minutes later, Walter comes downstairs, T-shirt on, holding his wallet. I regret having him cover up, but it's too hard to not touch him when he's half dressed.

The food arrives and the late lunch passes mostly in silence--a few idle comments. Afterward, he sits on the sofa and I take a chair. I watch him. He seems content to be with me.

I think about what's coming up. It may be a week before I can really see him again. My mouth is open and I'm talking before I can stop it. "I want to touch you."

His expression softens. He extends an arm toward me… an invitation. I rise and sit next to him, letting my hand run down his chest. Unexpectedly, he circles my waist with an arm and pulls me closer. We sit like that for a while, and I try not to think about what I have to do this week.

Eventually, I slide my hand under his shirt and continue my exploration. My lips touch his neck, trailing up to his ear. He shivers slightly, as if it tickles.

I murmur, "There's something I want to do." Something I've been thinking about for almost five years.

"What?"

In answer, I tug his shirt up. He allows me to pull it over his head. "Wait here. I'll be right back."

He leans back and his expression is curious, a hint of a smile playing around his lips.

Pulling away from him, I rise and head upstairs. It takes me a few minutes to get ready.

When I reappear downstairs naked, he doesn't look surprised… just expectant. I wonder what he's expecting? He can't know what I'm thinking, but he hasn't asked… he looks prepared to let me do what I want. Interesting.

Walking over to him, I kneel between his legs and begin tugging at the buttons of his fly. Leaning forward, I kiss his stomach, then pull the jeans down. He lifts his hips so I can slide them off.

He's a little more than half-hard. I toss the jeans away and take his cock into my mouth. That took care of that problem. He fills out in my mouth as I relax my throat. He groans and throws his head back, hips sliding forward, pushing his cock all the way in.

I work my mouth on it a few times. I love the way he feels and tastes, but it's not exactly the point. I pull off and stand. His expression passes briefly over disappointment and settles on amusement. The rich color of his eyes so easily conveys humor, although the look is a little roguish with the bandaged cut.

Keeping my expression blank, I nudge his knees back together and straddle his lap. I kiss him hard and he goes with it, letting me explore his mouth. I taste him, feeling lightheaded with pleasure.

Then I remove my tongue and part my lips in invitation, encouraging him to take possession, even as I reach between us and position his cock at my asshole, encouraging a different kind of possession. Walter's tongue enters my mouth, but stops moving as I slowly begin sinking down. I feel my ass stretch to accommodate the thickness of his erection. I used a lot of lube, but the unprepared penetration still burns. I love the feel of him inside me.

He looks stoned. And makes a sound like a weak moan. Then he begins kissing me again, aggressively seeking out the recesses of my mouth.

So many times I thought about this, but never had the nerve… couldn't stand the idea of him seeing my face when we fucked. This time is different, because I want to see him more than I care about what he sees.

I pull my mouth away and touch the side of his face, watching him as I rise up and quickly sink down again. His eyes blaze intensely. He owns me… and he knows it. I feel it. Possibly more than he means it. My defenses vanish. I need this so much. I want to be his. And… I want him to be mine. And suddenly, I hurt.

Briefly breaking the too-intense eye contact, I lightly brush my lips across the wound above his eye. Then, moving my ass slowly on his cock, I reach for one of his hands and guide it to my hip. "Show me how you want it."

His arms encircle my back as his hips buck gently. His eyes hold mine and I can't look away. "Slow and sensual… I want to watch you move."

I feel the flush spread over my face and chest, but have to give him what he wants. The desire in his eyes drives me, breaks down my few inhibitions and I let him see how much I want him to see me that way.

I move slowly, lifting my body up and sinking back down. Over and over. Too slow to get either of us off. Sensual torture. I change the angle slightly and hit my prostate when I go down. A shudder passes through my body and I gasp, grabbing his shoulder. His body trembles slightly, as if echoing mine.

It would be too easy to get lost in the sensations, but I stay focused on his eyes. I pant for breath, writhing in his arms and realize how he looks at me. Other lovers have looked at me with lust, but not like this. He looks at me like he really sees me… and believes I'm beautiful.

My body screams at me to go faster, to end the torment. But I'll do this as long as he wants. I become aware of biting my lip as I take his cock in my ass repeatedly. The movement of his hips tells me to go a little faster. I increase the pace, suddenly needing more. I grab his hand and pull it to my nipple, pleading, "Hard."

He brushes the pad of his thumb lightly across my nipple. I give a faint hiss, wanting more. A flicker of a smile shines in his eyes. His other hand reaches for my other nipple and repeats the too gentle touch. Rising up, I pause and sit back hard and fast, gasping as the head of his cock drags past my prostate. The heaviness of his eyelids give away his flagging control.

I arch my chest against his hands. "Walter, please…"

He grips each nipple, creating pressure, which he increases infinitesimally. The dual sensations from my nipples and ass make my brain feel liquid. I couldn't stop my body if I wanted to. I begin moving faster, each downward motion causing a pull at my nipples. Gasping, I let my head fall back.

Walter's chest rises and expands with each strong breath. His thighs quiver. He's still watching me, but his concentration is falling apart. The pleasure I'm giving him is eroding his control.

I close my eyes, letting pleasure swamp my senses. My nipples ache… it feels too good. Moving my hips even more rapidly, I open my eyes and gasp out, "I need to feel you." I wiggle against his hands, trying to get closer.

He increases the pressure on my nipples, bringing the sensation to a sharp bite as he allows his fingernails to pinch the tender skin. My cock throbs and I whimper, half distress, half pleasure. With a slight twist of his fingers, he releases my aching nipples. The hot sting of returning blood makes me gasp.

His strong arms envelop me and he draws me to his chest. I relax against him and rest my head against his, careful to avoid his injury. My movements are now more back and forth, than up and down.

"Fuck, yes," he mutters into my neck.

My cock rubs against his stomach. It's more than enough to get me off… soon. I snap my hips faster. Walter starts moving his hips in a faster rhythm.

The knot of tension at the base of my spine is unbearable. "Walter…" I gasp at another intense sensation. "Have to come."

Our bodies move together frantically. He reaches for my cock. A low sound vibrates from deep in his chest. Just holding my cock, gasping desperately for air, he begins to come.

I hold out long enough to feel him shuddering as he's wracked by the orgasm. His arm squeezes my body rhythmically with the pulses of his climax. Then I explode, writhing in his arms as the sensations take over.

When I can see and hear again, Walter's hand is stroking my back. His other hand is still caught between us, wrapped around my dick.

I try to get my breathing under control, and unclench my fingers from their hold on his shoulder. He kisses my collarbone. "I really needed that, Alex. A reminder of why I want to live through this."

I feel stunned. Pulling back slightly, I gaze at him intently. He looks satiated and has that expression from earlier… the look he gives me when he says I'm beautiful. I suddenly realize he was seeing the real me tonight. He knows who I am and where I've been… what I've done. And he still looks at me that way. My amazement turns into overwhelm.

The desire to get out of here is strong. But not as strong as the need to stay in his arms. I stroke the side of his face and relax against him, resting my head on his shoulder.

**

Monday, 5 April 1999
10:28 A.M.


I skipped breakfast and coffee, to guarantee my headache. Kimberly's not at her desk when I step out of the recruitment meeting, so I wander into the Computer Records Office and Holly supplies me with aspirin. Returning to the meeting, I squint a lot and avoid contributing. Baker's got it under control.

11:25 A.M.

"Kimberly, I'm not feeling well. Cancel all my meetings today. I'm going home."

She looks perplexed. As long I as can breathe, I guess she never figured me for going home sick. "Sir, your color's a bit off. I just thought it was that shiner."

"I think I'm coming down with something."

"Don't worry. I'll handle everything." She picks up my schedule and reaches for the phone. "You just take care of yourself. And call me if there's anything else I can do."

At home, I do a bug sweep and find two. One in the living room and one in the office.

Leaving the bugs in place, I make a few phone calls, handling some pressing matters and a few not so pressing ones. That's what I'd do if I were home sick. Lunch and a cup of coffee take care of the headache, but my stomach's a little unsettled.

The living room blinds are open. I decide to leave them that way, which means I have to act sick in this room, in case of visual surveillance from one of the other high-rise buildings in the neighborhood. My mind goes to the cost of doing surveillance like that. Surely this miserable A.D. can't really be worth the expense? I chuckle at the thought of some Resistance bureaucrat canceling my project one day… 'too expensive, not producing results.'

I wonder where Alex is now. What he's doing. He's probably miserable. I wish I had some way to let him know I'm fine. I suppose he already knows.

Doing my best to appear shaky, I wonder if anyone's really watching me. Probably not that carefully, but I'm not betting Alex's life on it.

I decide to 'pass out' in the living room. Planting myself on the sofa, I read to keep myself from going stir crazy. About an hour later, I decide I'm 'conscious' again.

Now my skin's supposed to be burning. I head upstairs, leaving the shades up in my bedroom window. Mimicking pain I do not feel, I tear off my clothes and huddle naked on the bed for a while. Then I put on my softest pair of boxers and go back downstairs.

I am a little fatigued, but it's probably just boredom.

The afternoon is consumed watching bad movies on Showtime and going over a tax book to figure out which of my assets to liquidate first. I've worked so hard to save this money, it pains me to spend it, but it's no use to me if I'm dead.

The doorbell rings. My fingers clench on the book. For an instant, I'm convinced they know I'm faking and someone has come to check up on me. Then I remember Alex said he was sending me a phone.

I grab a towel from the guest bathroom and sign for the parcel. Anyone who knows me, knows I'd have to be really sick to answer the door with a towel around my waist.

The courier looks flustered, but, feigning illness, I'm shaking so badly, she offers to call an ambulance. I mutter something about forgetting to take a pill, and close the door.

Faking it is getting easier. It reminds me of pretending to have a stomach ache to skip school in the ninth grade. My mother only let me get away with that once. Back when life was infinitely simpler.

After unpacking the phone, I test it by calling the National Weather Service. It works fine. I lock it in the entryway desk drawer.

I blend a protein drink for dinner. It's possible they'll search my trash, so I can't afford to leave any traces of real food. Food seems sort of unappealing anyway.

There are no windows in the kitchen, so I can't be seen from the outside. I sit at the breakfast table and ponder my state.

My lover has a device he can use to control certain aspects of my body. He can kill me with it, though he doesn't want to. His 'employers' can do the same. Any time they decide I'm expendable, they can push the button. The Director demotes me for some routine act of insubordination. No longer useful, they terminate me.

So I die. Then what?

Sharon will miss me. She gets something from our relationship, but I'm not astute enough to figure out what. Kimberly will be upset. Again, I'm not quite sure why. My position will be open. I need to talk to the Director about Baker. I've been grooming him for my job for a long time. He's ready. Kimberly likes him. Mulder will drive Baker berserk, but Baker can handle him. Perhaps better than I ever could. The X-Files are another matter entirely. Won't he be surprised to discover that some of it is real?

Dad and Anna will be sad. Dad's pretty happy in his solitude, though. And Anna has her own family.

Alex is the one I'm worried about. If anything happens to me, he's going to keep right on living his massively fucked up life like he always has. Even without the nanocytes, he's lucky to have made it this far without being killed or imprisoned. Not to make light of his obvious talent for deception and criminal behavior…

What if Alex is killed, and I'm the one left? The thought stings like alcohol on an open cut.


Tuesday, 6 April 1999
7:12 A.M.


I slept as long as I could. Giving up the fight, I roll over and reach for my cell phone to call Scully. I shower quickly, putting on fresh knit boxers and a robe.

When I admit Scully, she gives me an awkward glance. "Sir, are you all right?"

I close the door behind her. "My skin feels like it's burning off." Tapping a finger to my ear, I inform her of the bug, then gesture toward the stairs.

"You need to be in a hospital."

"No. This is more of the same. They can't do anything."

"At least we could monitor your vital signs."

"What's the point?" I shrug. "I need to lie down, Scully." Turning, I head up the stairs to my bedroom.

She follows. I stretch out on the bed, as I might do if in pain. "The living room and my office are bugged. But we can talk here, as long as the windows are closed."

She nods and sets her medical bag on the floor. It's weird enough to feign illness, but having a doctor come by to support the charade is peculiar.

Her eyes flick to the window.

"Yeah, I know," I reply in a weary voice.

Scully takes charge, giving me a thorough exam. "You have a slight temperature and your color's a bit off."

"I'm fine, Scully."

"Are you sure he's not doing anything to you?"

"It doesn't matter. At least I'm not writhing in pain, looking like the illustrated man."

"You're a lousy patient, even when you're not sick."

You think I'm a crappy patient, you should see Alex.

She offers to prepare food, but I decline.

Then she plants herself in a chair, and reads me CVs for our research candidates. She and the recruiter have narrowed the list down to eight physicians. The recruiter is setting up meetings with each of them, as soon as possible. He's also pulling together a list of biophysicists and engineers.

Together, we draft a list of questions to ask each of the candidates. If you could work on a once-in-a-lifetime research opportunity, but you couldn't ever tell anyone about it, would it be worth it just to have the knowledge? If you had to violate the medical code of ethics to save a patient's life, would you do it? I'm sure they'll think these are hypothetical questions. I wish they were.

I tell her where to find the satellite phone and she calls the recruiter. After reading him our questions, she terminates the call and destroys her notes.

"Sir, I wanted to ask you about Krycek."

"Yes?" I reply blandly.

"When he came to see me last Friday… well, something about that bothered me. Why is he helping you?"

"I think you can guess," I reply insincerely, desperately hoping that she cannot.

"He's infected. You're infected. I understand why you need Krycek, but I can't figure out why he needs you."

"It doesn't matter."

"It might." She gives me a determined look. "In our experience with Krycek, he's always got a hidden agenda. And it always comes back to bite. If we can figure out what it is in advance, maybe we can prepare for it."

I say nothing for a long time. What can I say? Alex is always filled with surprises. Maybe even now, he's holding back important information. I can't do anything about that.

But I can't let Scully learn the truth about Alex and me. Because if she knew how much I'm compromised, she wouldn't help me any more. And I need her too badly. I can't think how I'd find those doctors on my own. Sure, someone else could identify the specialties, but no one else would understand or even believe about the nanocytes. No one I could trust, anyway.

"Scully, I know Krycek is… slippery." That's no lie. "I'm watching him, and trying to figure him out." That's the truth. "What else can I say?"

"Mulder understands him better than either of-"

"No."

"I think he could help us."

"No. It's not negotiable. Mulder cannot be involved."

"Why not, sir?"

Because he'll figure out that I'm fucking Alex faster than you will? Because Alex can't stand him? Because I'm still pissed off at him for interfering? "Because Mulder is not rational where Krycek is concerned. Mulder's emotions get the better of him sometimes. And I don't want my life to depend on his being clearheaded about Alex Krycek."

There's no room left for argument and she knows it. She can hardly claim that Mulder's level headed and not inclined to fly off the handle. Shaking her head, she says nothing.

A couple hours later, I ask her to teach me how to draw blood. I draw my own a few times, awkwardly, but more-or-less successfully. She even lets me draw a little of hers once I seem to know what I'm doing. She leaves some supplies for me.

Scully spends the night in my guest room. In the morning, she insists on giving me another exam. "Your temperature is 101.2 and your skin's a bit red. How are you feeling?"

I shrug. "A little queasy."

"Do you want me to stay?"

My glare suffices as an answer.

Unfazed by my expression, she glowers at me. "If you develop any other symptoms, I expect you to call me right away."

"Yes, Dr. Scully."

She packs up her medical bag and departs. At the door, I remember to say thank you.

About an hour after Scully leaves, I'm stretched out on the sofa, watching the news. I hear a key in the front door. It had better be Alex.

I rise rapidly and retrieve my SIG Sauer. Safety off, it's aimed when the door opens and Alex steps inside.

Sliding the safety back on, I drop the gun into the drawer. We have an audience, so the normal rules of behavior do not apply. I have nothing to say to him.

He looks concerned and gives me the once over. Then his expression becomes closed off. "I assume our point has been made."

"What fucking point? I already knew you guys could dick with me any time you wanted to." I don't like having him here for 'business' reasons.

"The point is that we can make your life hell without actually killing you. The misery you felt yesterday… You can live like that for days." Alex's expression briefly slips into a grimace. "Or something low key. A faint burning sensation for weeks. It will make you insane."

My mercurial lover plays the role all too well. Of course, it's not exactly a role, is it? I feel a cold sensation in my spine, then the familiar tension of rising anger. "Okay, your point has been made. Are you finished?"

Coldly, he replies, "For now. Turn around."

It feels like before. He's the malevolent criminal who's done this to me, not my lover. "Why?"

He reaches into his jacket, pulling out his gun. Aiming it at me, he raises an eyebrow and waits.

I swallow hard, realizing that this could have been the moment when I'd said no and he would have killed me. But I won't. And he won't. He couldn't.

Clenching my jaw, I meet his eyes before I turn around.

There's a touch on the back of my neck, then a whispered, "How long have you been running a fever?"

"Twenty four hours," I reply in sotto voce.

Something presses into my palm and I close my hand around a piece of paper.

In a normal tone, he says, "I'll be contacting you soon." The door closes behind him.

I go to the bathroom to read the note.

--
Didn't know about the bugs until it was too late to warn you. You can remove them tomorrow. It went well. I'm sorry. -A.
--

It's not enough to return my equilibrium. My lover or a cold-blooded killer? Which one is he? I know the facts, but the feelings are the problem. Can I want to kill him and hold him at the same time? Apparently, yes. Because I angrily tear up the note into unreadable pieces and flush it down the toilet. Protecting him. I want to slam my fist into the wall.

**

As I walk into the building across the street from Walter's apartment, I catch sight of one of Morgan's men. I pretend I don't see him.

Upstairs, I settle into a chair near the windows.

My greasy-haired companion chuckles. "You got him running scared."

I turn a hard stare on him. "That's what I do."

He swallows nervously and puts the head phones back on, listening to what's going on in Walter's apartment.

I close my eyes and sigh. God, Walter, I'm sorry about this mess. I feel weird… something I don't know how to define.

Shaking it off, I try to focus on getting through the next day. But my thoughts inevitably return to Walter. I wasn't expecting him to run a fever. There's nothing I can do about it now. I hope he'll call Scully if it gets any worse.


Thursday, 8 April 1999
12:48 P.M.


The ringing of the phone jolts me awake. "Yeah?" I look at the clock. I've only been asleep for five hours.

A nasally voice replies, "Skinner found our bugs."

Good. I make my voice cold. "Guess he's feeling better today."

"You want us to do anything about it?"

"No. I'll be over in a little while."

Two hours later, I stop at a payphone and report in, receiving instructions. Then phone Morgan. "You got anything for me?"

"Nice to talk to you, too, kid."

I sigh. "I'm tired, Morgan. Just tell me if anything happened."

He chuckles. "No. None of your boys did anything unusual."

"Any activity around Viva Towers?"

"Nope."

"Okay. I'll be in touch."

He laughs and hangs up.

I return to the surveillance room. Two of 'em this time, including the greasy-haired twerp from yesterday. I hand the one with clean hair a slip of paper with an address. "Your next assignment. Report by 3:00." I turn to greasy-hair. "Continue to watch Skinner's building until tomorrow, then report in. I'm taking the surveillance equipment now."

After dealing with the equipment, I depart. I try to keep my mind occupied for the rest of the day. I should stay away from Walter for a while, although, I am concerned about him.

By mid evening, I find myself two blocks from his apartment. I don't want to stay away and I need to be sure the deactivation was complete.

I take a circuitous route and slip into the service entrance. After 17 flights of stairs, I let myself into his apartment. The lights are off downstairs, a faint glow coming from upstairs. I take a seat on a chair out of the window's view and wait.

Walter appears on the stairs, wearing sweats and a T-shirt. Turning on the hall light he verifies that it's me. "I destroyed the bugs." He crosses the room in the dark to close the blinds.

"I know. Are you feeling okay?" I feel hesitant with him. He has every reason to be upset. I'd be pretty annoyed if he pulled a gun on me.

He sits across from me. "I'm fine."

I stand and cautiously ask, "Do you mind if I look at the back of your neck again?" This time it's a polite request.

"No." He turns his body to the side.

He doesn't have much reaction, considering this is why I had to pull the gun. Stepping close, I check his neck. The flush is gone. I touch his skin and there's no more fever. I want to touch him more but everything feels off.

Moving back to my chair, I explain, "I think it's finished. You shouldn't experience any more symptoms."

"Can I go back to work tomorrow?"

I shake my head. "If it were a real episode, you'd be too tired. You may actually be tired." I know that only too well.

"Okay. Monday then. I won't go to the gym either."

"All the surveillance will be finished by tomorrow, except whatever normal monitoring they do of your communications."

He nods. "What's the deal with my neck?"

I can tell him the truth, but not the whole truth. It'll have to do. "The nanos are focused at the top of the spine. They cause increased blood flow to the area, causing the skin to flush." Of course, that's only true during the test I ran on him.

"If you didn't activate the episode as ordered, what did you do?"

I suppose it was too much to hope he could have dropped it. "I did have to turn them on, so I needed to check your neck to be sure they were where they were supposed to be."

"So you just turned them on, but they didn't do anything?" The look on his face is cautiously suspicious.

I lean forward and try to explain a little better. "The Resistance can tell when the control pad is turned on, and when the nanos are activated. So I had to activate the nanos. This module works at the brain stem and the top of the spinal cord. The nanos are gathering cellular data, which is why you might experience headache and nausea. I wasn't expecting the fever, but since it went away on its own, it doesn't appear to have been a problem. In any case, they've been deactivated. I'll need to provide you with more specific information to give the research team, but right now…" I trail off gesturing vaguely. Please let's drop this. All true, but I wasn't referring to the module he thinks we were discussing.

His face seems to relax a little. "Documenting this is going to be risky. I can offer you my PC, but do you know how to eliminate all traces of the information?"

"Yes. I'll encrypt the files and use removable media."

"The PC is in the office. There's no password, but we should change that." He rubs his forehead. "Let me know if you need me to get software or disks or something."

"I only need a text editor, but I don't have my encryption disk with me. I'll do it by the end of the weekend."

"So you're staying?"

I open my mouth to reply, then close it. Rubbing my hand over my forehead, I get out, "I hadn't thought that far ahead. I wanted to see how upset you were." I look up at him and tentatively offer, "I'm sorry about the gun."

He nods, accepting the apology. "The gun didn't bother me. If we're going to put on an act, we've got to do it right."

I shrug and look at the wall. Nothing makes it any easier. I clear my throat and try to think of something to say. "I was supposed to plant the bugs Monday morning. I was going to meet you and let you know, but someone got overeager…" My voice fades away as I realize how pointless this is. Even I can hear how withdrawn I sound. I don't mean to be this way with him, but I don't know what else to do.

"I'm not upset about the bugs." His words are terse, expression tight.

I look back at him. "You should be. You should be upset about all of this."

"Dammit, Alex! I can't figure out who to be angry at, and for what exactly."

"You should be angry at me." I almost want him to be angry. At least I'd understand it.

Frowning, he replies, "For being infected yourself?"

Feeling agitated, I rise and begin moving around aimlessly. "For everything. For telling you nothing was wrong and leaving, for beating you up, for infecting you… for making you compromise." That weird feeling again…

Walter's jaw is clenched so tightly the muscle twitches. He watches me intently for a long time before he speaks. "I punched you the night Mulder brought you here, because I was angry about your leaving, not because you beat me up."

I look at him for a second, then resume wandering around the small space near the chair. "Why didn't you finish it?"

"Because I couldn't have lived with the result… it would have pained me more to have done that to you."

Except his apathy hurt me worse than the beating would have. I watch him for a second and notice he looks… tired, I guess. "I would rather you had hit me." I flop down on the chair and sigh. "You look kind of tired."

He gazes at nothing for a moment, before replying, "Yeah. I feel like I could sleep for a week. And all I've done is sit around."

I feel awkward, so I rise to my feet again. "I should go and let you sleep. I'll come back tomorrow to start the documentation." As I start to pass him, it occurs to me that he always kisses me before he leaves… even when he has every reason to be pissed. Not quite up to that, I touch the side of his face. "I wish I could undo this mess."

He brushes his fingers up my forearm. "That's what we're doing, Alex," he says in a quiet voice.

I don't know what to say to that, so I touch his hand lightly and leave.

On the way back to my apartment, I grab some Chinese take-out. I contemplate what I'm feeling for a long time before I can put a name to it.

Guilt.

I throw a chopstick at the wall. When did life get so fucked up? The only thing I could really have done differently was to tell Walter the truth four years ago. But I don't want to think about that. Can't think about it.


Friday, 9 April 1999
9:17 A.M.


I stand outside Walter's apartment, wondering if I should use the key. After a moment, I mentally slap myself. He gave me the fucking key, he can ask for it back when he wants it.

Stepping inside, I don't see Walter anywhere. I quietly make my way upstairs. He's asleep. I don't think I've ever seen him sleep this late. From the doorway, I watch him for a second. I want nothing more than to crawl in next to him and touch him for a while. Seems like a bad idea.

I notice one foot sticking out from under the blankets. I remember teasing his feet once while he was on the phone with the Attorney General. A faint smile forms on my face. Then I remember I may have fucked this up again. I sigh softly and cross to the foot of the bed. Carefully, I drape the blanket over his exposed foot.

I'm sure the door closing will wake him, so I leave it open and exit the room. I silently close the office door.

His PC is on a gigantic oak desk, which looks like standard government issue from the 1950's. Though old, the finish is immaculate. I imagine him working on it in his garage. Shaking away thoughts of Walter Skinner's garage, I start working, documenting everything I know about the nanos.

The technical detail isn't so bad. How they work, how they're transmitted, how they're encoded and so on. It's slow going. For only having one hand, I do pretty well, but the slow progress is frustrating.

The double tap on the door is instantly familiar.

I call out, "Yeah?" It's his office, I wonder why he knocked.

The door opens slowly, revealing Walter in a pair of jeans. He's wearing his glasses, but still looks sleepy. "Morning."

He looks too good. I'm still a little uncertain about where I am with him. "Hi. Feeling more like normal?"

Walter shrugs. But his hand lands on my shoulder, rubbing gently.

I don't know how to do this… whatever this is. I touch the back of his hand, needing some contact with him. "Do you, uh, want me to… get you something?"

"Uh, no." He blinks at me. "I'm going down for breakfast. You want some yogurt or something?"

I should keep doing this, but instead I reply, "Sure. I'll be down in a sec. Need to finish this section."

He kisses the top of my head and wanders off.

After he's gone, I stare at the door in confusion. Yesterday, he's cold and withdrawn. I assume he's justifiably angry with me. And now… I don't know what to make of it.

Shaking my head, I turn my attention back to the computer screen and finish the paragraph on encoding the nanos to an individual's DNA. Then, I go downstairs to the kitchen. There's only peach yogurt. No. Forgetting food, I join Walter at the breakfast table.

He gestures toward the refrigerator. "There are a couple cartons of yogurt."

"Um, yeah. You only have peach left."

Walter takes a drink of his slime beverage. "I never pay much attention to the flavors. You don't like peach?"

I open my mouth to agree, but it doesn't come out. Vaguely, I reply, "No. I like peach fine."

"But?" He swirls the slime in his glass waiting for me to answer.

Looking around the room, I mutter a response.

"What?"

I push back from the table and stand. "I said," I snap, "the smell of peaches gives me a hard-on!"

"What?!" His face conveys absurd astonishment.

My temper frays even more. "What don't you understand?"

His face registers recognition and he starts to smile.

Don't you dare. My voice rises and I almost yell, "You used peach scented lotion that day in the garage!" I'm annoyed and embarrassed. My face feels hot. I turn and go back upstairs. I can't do this.

I try to ignore how I feel and keep working. DNA… what comes after DNA? Programming the control units. It's hard to focus because I keep replaying that stupid conversation in my head. I should have said anything but the truth.

After about 15 minutes, Walter turns up with a glass of orange juice and a granola bar, which he sets on the desk in front of me. The corner of his lip twitches up, but he fights back the smile. "Anything I can do to help?"

I feel my face getting red again. Fuck. I can count on my hand the number of times I've been embarrassed. All of them with Walter. I focus on the computer screen and mumble, "Not yet."

"I'll be downstairs." He starts to leave, then turns back and says, "Scully's coming by around 4:00."

I rub my forehead. "Okay. I'll leave by 3:00."

He shakes his head. "It's not necessary. She and I will meet in the kitchen."

"Then I'll stay here and keep working."

"Okay. Call me if you need help." He leaves the office.

I take a few deep breaths and get back to the documentation. I work solid for several hours and begin documenting the functionality. I try not to get granola in the keyboard. Granola bars really need peanut butter on them.

This part is harder for me. Remembering the different types of actions, the extremes of damage they can do. I feel my skin crawling from the memories. The module I threatened Walter with was prototyped on me. It's unpleasant documenting the technical details of how that works. Nothing but the facts, but it's still unsettling.

I take a break and get some water, returning the empty glass downstairs. Walter is on the kitchen floor, tools nearby, with his head under the sink. I blink at him. What is he doing?

His head pops out and he smiles up at me. "Would you hand me that dishtowel?"

Dishes have a special towel? I look around and spot a small towel. Doesn't look unusual to me. I hand it to him.

"Thanks," he says, wiping some grease from his fingers.

I guess it's not just for dishes. "What are you doing?"

He gives me an odd look. "Fixing a leak."

Oh. I feign comprehension and get my water. "I still have a bit to write. I'll ask you to review it later to see what doesn't make sense… what I still need to add."

"Okay, Alex." He retrieves several tools from under the sink, tossing them into his toolbox. Then, he rises and looks at me. "I know we need to get another blood sample. I had Scully teach me how to do it, so if you're feeling brave, I can draw your blood."

I consider for a second. "Are you planning to give them to Scully?"

"Yes. She's stored all the samples at a private lab in Arlington. Under a false name."

I look at the clock. 2:30. "We should do it soon. Now, I guess. When we're closer to starting the research, I'll need to have a spinal tap. Ask Scully where we should go."

"Will do."

I follow Walter up to his bathroom and take off my shirt and prosthetic.

"You don't have to take off the prosthetic."

I shake my head. "Not my arm. It's the stump or my feet. I'd prefer the stump. Blood draws from the feet fucking hurt." I wouldn't offer my neck to anyone.

His face looks slightly dismayed. "Why not your arm?"

So many reasons. Without my arm, I'm helpless. I'm brave, but not that brave. "If there's bruising, I have no way to explain it." It's a poor excuse.

He looks puzzled, but says only, "Show me where you want me to take it."

I show him where to tie the tourniquet and which vein on the inside of my stump.

Walter holds the remains of my left arm very gently and proceeds with utter confidence. I certainly wouldn't feel that confident. It occurs to me to wonder if he actually does. He misses the first time and quickly, efficiently, tries again. The second is a hit.

He draws off three vials before putting gauze over the puncture and pulling out the needle. He holds my stump, putting pressure on the vein. "You okay?"

"Fine." I realize I am. Usually I get really agitated during anything like this. But I feel comfortable with him. Strange considering how awkward things seem right now.

After a minute, he tosses the gauze and plants a quick kiss on my shoulder.

His lips are a pleasant tingle against my skin. Where are we? I stare at him for a second. "Thanks, Walter. This was a lot easier."

He gives me a hint of a nod and passes me my arm. After putting on the prosthetic, I maneuver into my T-shirt. "I'm going to finish up the nano documentation."

"I'll be downstairs."

As I pass him, I give him a quick hard kiss, then retreat before I have to see his reaction.

I close the office door this time, knowing Scully will be arriving soon. I begin working on describing the four types of nanos. The first type cannot be shut down, so the team should be able to easily learn about those… especially since they're actively destroying my body. The type Walter has, the ones that heal my cellular damage. And the two other failures. Both, now dormant, still float around in my blood. It'll be more difficult, but they should be able to get an assessment on those, too.

I hear muted sounds from downstairs and Walter's voice. Scully's here. I put my jacket back on and make sure my gun is accessible. It's harder for me to concentrate with her here. I'm aware of every minute sound.

A little before 5:00, I think I have the core data down. I'm sure there are some gaps, but my brain is fried. I feel revolted. I don't like thinking about it this much.

There's a double tap on the door and Walter walks in. "Scully's gone."

I lean back in the chair. I'm too tired to keep up my defenses. "What's going on with us?"

**

I raise an eyebrow at him. I want to say nothing's going on with us, but I'm not sure. Someone has to keep us moving forward, keep the momentum going or we'll never get out of this. I think it's going to have to be me. "This week hasn't changed anything, Alex. Not for me." I sound confident. I feel confident… mostly.

I realize that I need him to remind me why we're in this together… of what life could be like free of the nanocytes.

He looks confused. "I don't understand."

Shit. "I… it's been a difficult week." I'm ready to leave it at that, but he needs more and I don't want to cop out.

Alex jumps in before I can figure out what to say. "What do you want from me?"

"Ah, fuck, Alex." I remove my glasses and set them on the desk. "This situation is such a disaster. I, uh, what do I want?" I want him to… to… Seduce me and make me forget? Yes, but no… Smile? Show some feeling? Like I've been showing a lot myself? I wish Sharon were here to sit us both down and tell us how to do this right.

Alex sighs and stands up, his movement agitated. "I can't be around you and not touch you. It's too difficult. I don't understand what you want."

What do I want? What does he want? Fuck, it's not enough that my life is on the line. Everything is on the line. I'm taking every risk I know… to be with him. And I am completely and totally screwed if I'm wrong about him.

Maybe I'm wrong about who needs to be reassured. I cannot think about that. I will not. My survival depends on my focus.

I replay his words. 'I can't be around you and not touch you.'

"So touch me, dammit. What are you waiting for?"

His eyes widen and he gapes at me. "Wh- You've been… you've been apathetic. I feel like every time I remind you about what I have to do, I risk losing… us." His voice catches on the last word. "Oh, fuck this." Then, he's in motion, launching himself at me. His mouth clamps on mine as we stumble backward, banging into the wall.

It is impossible for my body not to respond to his. I feel like we're in quicksand. My tongue slides into his mouth, my hands reach under his jacket and stroke his back. With a faint moan, his body contours to mine. His hand is clamped on the back of my neck, keeping our mouths together.

Touching him is essential. This is what I want… what I need. Otherwise, I'm not completely sure why I'm busting my ass to get us out of this mess. Death is the easy choice, but I'll walk through fire for this. For him like this.

As Alex sucks on my tongue, I pull him closer. My heart is pounding in my chest. Suddenly, I have energy, seemingly from nowhere. No longer crushing me, my anger is now propelling me forward.

Alex frantically rubs against me. Releasing my neck, his hand travels down to my ass, squeezing and pressing our groins together. Both of us are breathing like we just ran a race.

My fingers locate his fly, tearing open the buttons easily. I shove his pants down far enough to get my hand on his cock.

Gasping, he yanks his mouth away.

Sheathing my fingers around his hard-on, I draw them up and down. He looks completely dazed, and I feel the unsteadiness in his legs. Suddenly, he's grabbing my shoulder for support. I curl a stabilizing arm around his waist.

"Walter… too close…" His voice is a strangled whisper.

"Good." That's entirely the point. I want nothing more than to watch his face as he comes. "Alex, can you get my cock out?"

With an addled expression that makes me want to laugh, he leans back against my arm and slides his hand between us. Clumsily, he tugs the buttons open, giving a frustrated grunt as he gropes for my cock.

Not that the groping isn't nice, but he's not going to last long. "Pull it out!" I prompt, fingers still jerking him off.

He takes his frustration out on his lower lip, biting it hard. When he finally gets my dick out, he releases the lip with a whimper and begins stroking me. I let go of his cock and take his hand off mine.

Alex looks unhappy and moans, "No."

"Hold on!" Shifting my body slightly to get the position I want, I take both our cocks in one hand and start jacking us off.

Alex gasps and his eyes widen. Holding on to my shoulder, he hisses, "Can't…"

"Not until I come." My hand works feverishly on our cocks. It's a pretty sight. Both of us thick and hard, pressed together in the space between our bodies.

His lip is between his teeth and he looks pained. I can't prevent a smile. I am such a fucking prick. The skin of his cock is deliciously soft as it brushes against mine. Alex looks like he's about to implode and his whole body is trembling.

I could take my time here, but I don't want to. Rubbing my hand rough and hard across our cocks, I allow my climax to overtake me. I throw my head back--thunk--and discover the wall. But I don't care. My cock throbs in release and my guttural cry fills the room.

As my semen coats his belly, Alex makes a choking sound and his body thrashes. At the peak of his orgasm, he collapses unsteadily against my chest.

A far cry from steady myself, I hold on to him tightly and allow us a controlled fall to the floor. My ass hits the wood a little harder than I'd like and I start laughing.

I catch Alex's vexed look before he groans and rests his head on my chest. It only makes me laugh harder.

This is so fucking insane. So entirely insane that it pops out the other side and becomes sane again. God, I'm crazier than a mental patient.

Alex ignores my mirth, resting quietly against me. My fingers trace through his hair. I hope I didn't get semen on his leather jacket.

He sighs contentedly, relaxing into a warm lump. Turning his head slightly, he presses a kiss against my cloth-covered chest. We never got any of our clothes off.

Eventually, he rolls away and collapses back on the floor. There's blood on his lower lip. I'm mildly tempted to scold him, but I don't.

He looks over at me. "I'm starving."

I grunt, and try to martial my stiff limbs into a response. I find that I am able to rise. I extend a hand to Alex and pull him to his feet. Leaning against me, he begins to remove his clothes.

"Why?"

"I've always thought clothes are overrated and I want to encourage you to get your ass back in bed."

What a strange mind he has. I think he's just too fastidious. I feel pretty gross myself, actually. I duck into the bedroom to wash up and put on a fresh pair of jeans. There's a tiny smear of blood on my T-shirt, so I change that, too.

Alex and I reconnoiter in the hall, and he follows me to the kitchen. "I can heat up frozen spaghetti…"

Alex looks perplexed. "Spaghetti comes frozen?"

I feign annoyance. "Do you like spaghetti?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, then." I open the freezer and locate the frozen block. After tossing it into the microwave, I turn back to Alex. "Something to keep you from passing out until it's ready?" I open the refrigerator and see the yogurt. The snicker comes out soundless and he can't see my face. "Orange juice?"

His arm comes around me from behind and his hand slips under my T-shirt. "No. I'll take a little more of you, though."

I close the fridge, but don't turn. "I always thought your extreme horniness was just your age, but you're older than I thought…"

He lightly kisses the back of my neck. "I think it's you. Besides it's been almost a week, I was going crazy."

I shove backward, bumping him with my ass. "Oh, yeah. It's my pheromones. Everywhere I go people are trying to jump me, or just dropping like flies from extreme lust."

"Yeah, that about sums it up." He doesn't sound like he's teasing.

Turning around, I give him a light slap on the ass, murmuring, "We're both a couple of mental cases, you know."

He blinks at me as if he doesn't have a clue. "Okay."

"Oh, never mind."

The microwave dings. Before I can move away, Alex pulls our mouths together, tongue exploring aggressively, body rubbing against mine. Then, he sucks my tongue into his mouth, relaxes his neck and yields the kiss to me. After a slow, thorough investigation of his mouth, I release him. Leaving him leaning against the counter, looking dazed, I step to the microwave.

After I serve up the spaghetti, I place Alex's plate next to mine, instead of across from me. He blinks at the change, but sits in the new place without comment. I take my chair and rest a hand on his thigh.

After a few bites, he looks over at me, his expression guarded. Uh-oh. "I didn't mean to get so… pissed this morning."

I will not smile. "Okay." It is really very funny, but it seemed to ruffle his feathers for some reason.

He looks frustrated and pushes his food around on his plate. Quietly, he murmurs, "I wasn't sure what was going on and it felt like… too much."

"I'm sorry." Don't apologize, Walt. Just listen.

Alex shrugs. "It's not you, well, I mean, it is you, but no… I mean, it's just my stupid brain. Or whatever. Never mind."

Shit, he's flailing. "Alex, I know you're looking to me for, um, leadership here, but I'm pretty lost myself. That would be like me needing you to provide guidance in the kitchen."

He gives me a perplexed look. "I've never done this before. Had a," he swallows and gestures to me, "um, relationship. I don't even know…" He trails off, waving vaguely.

He's more lost than I am, which is difficult to imagine. That's probably why I keep forgetting it. "We're just making it up as we go along. Under incredible pressures. We must be doing something right if we haven't killed each other already."

Alex flinches.

"I meant, metaphorically." Fuck, I screwed that up. So much for making it up as we go along. I stab a meatball and resist the urge to fling it.

He sighs and takes another bite. "I just don't know what you expect. I don't know whether to stay here or leave. I always just sent my sex partners home, but I…" He trails off, looking at the wall.

There are things I need to say, things I can't even think. How am I going to get through to him? "I like having you here…" That's not completely honest. "At least when it's you and not the Krycek with his finger on the button." He needs to hear the truth.

Alex is still and doesn't respond.

Two strikes, Walt. "It's, uh, not very rational, I suppose, but the way I deal with it is to," I do not want to say this, "think of you as two different people." I put my hand on his thigh again, hoping he'll turn back to me. "I guess I do it because I can't resolve the contradictions in my own head. The way I see you, when you're with me, is so different…"

After a beat, he turns to look at me. "I understand. I had to believe you hated me, wanted me dead, to go through with the nanos."

"Did you really believe it?"

"For a little while. After the balcony… I was prepared for hate, but not apathy. I didn't know how to process… that you didn't feel anything."

He's got to be kidding. Or are we trapped in some sick world where everything is really its opposite? Insanity is sanity? The man who makes me feel everything believes I feel nothing?

Alex continues, "Then when they told me I'd been dragging my arm around, asking for you," he swallows, looking extremely uncomfortable, "I had to believe… something… anything to do what I had to do."

I'm unable to breathe for a moment. The image of him wandering in the Tunguskan forest carrying his amputated arm, needing someone--me--is burned into my brain. It cuts so deeply that I'd erase it from my memory if I could.

Breathe, Walter.

Rotating my chair to face him, I put my hands on his knees to get his attention. He meets my gaze, expression flat, eyes troubled. He has to understand this. "I never felt nothing." God, I sound like an idiot. "From the first day in my garage, you made me feel. Things I wasn't very comfortable with. Hell, things I'm still not comfortable with." I remove my glasses and pinch the bridge of my nose. "Even that night on the balcony, I… Fuck, whatever that was, it was not apathy." I don't know how to talk about my feelings. And a large part of me plainly doesn't want to. But he has to understand this. Because he's given it to me. "Alex, you make me feel… I." I can't say it. I can't tell him he's the reason I'm fighting for life. I know it's the truth, but I still can't face it myself. And to say it would rip me open.

Alex touches my hand, his expression less agonized. "You don't have to explain, Walter. I wasn't asking for it."

"Alex, I need to explain." Did I really say that? "You… you give me something. Something that was missing, and that's why I can see past what you've done." I cannot say it any better than that. Not without self destructing. Maybe he can understand the tone of my voice or my expression, if my words aren't any good.

**

The feeling in Walter's expression is so intense it's like a punch in the gut. I remind myself to breathe.

I don't really understand what he gets from me, but just the way he talks tells me that it's enough. And that's all I needed to know. I don't want to look any further right now. Hearing him say he feels something for me… I can't think about it. I don't know how to process this. I don't want to understand what I have at risk.

This whole communication thing is torture. The effort it takes is driving me mad, but I owe him something more than silence. I realize I'm gently stroking the back of his hand. I meet his eyes and murmur, "I've never done anything like this before. But I need to be with you." I take a breath. This is too much. "I just don't know what to do."

These long uncomfortable periods of time together are intolerable. He seems frustrated when I ask him if I should go, but I don't know how to interpret those silences. I feel like I need to try to explain.

He looks at me intently, as if trying to gauge where I'm at.

Cautiously, I add, "I've always read where we're at through," I pause briefly, "touch, I suppose. We've been more… distant. Now I'm trying to, uh, talk to understand."

"I withdraw when I'm upset. Sharon hated it, too." Walter winces slightly. "It doesn't mean I'm angry at you, and it doesn't mean I don't want you here."

I process that for a moment. "Maybe I'm asking the question from the wrong direction." I pause trying to figure out what I'm asking exactly. "I told you I don't have any frame of reference with this… stuff. Will you just tell me when you don't want me here?"

His lips quirk into a moody smile. "I'm quite good at that as you may recall from your stay a few weeks ago."

I raise an eyebrow. "Yes, Walter. I do recall."

He leans forward, kissing me on the temple, whispering almost inaudibly, "I want you here."

I touch the side of his face. I sense something going on with him, but don't really understand it. It seemed to cost him to say that, but he's said it before. I really don't get it, but I know we're both tired of talking.

"And, Alex, sometimes I'm distant because I'm just thinking. You can touch me, you know?"

Do I know? I suppose I did… do… used to. All this… talking, telling him about myself, makes me feel too exposed. I suddenly realize how not like myself I've been acting. Of course, I can only seduce him so often. What do we do with the rest of the time? I guess, years ago, we did other stuff, but never for more than a few hours at a time.

Shaking off the nearly incomprehensible thoughts, I reply, "I know. Things seem different now… I can't even explain it, but I'll figure it out."

He nods and turns his hand over, palm up, clasping my hand.

I look at him carefully. He looks tired. Probably from all the talking. Of course, the nano activation could still be making him fatigued.

Standing up, I shut off the lights. After dumping the plates in the sink, I tug at his hand. "Come on."

There's a hint of amusement in his exhausted expression, but he follows me upstairs. When he returns from the bathroom, I tug his clothes off. He gives me a what-the-fuck-are-you-doing look. I ignore it and guide him to the bed.

Walter wearily rolls onto his side. I shake my head. He has to have been hiding exhaustion for a long time to give in this easily. I brush my teeth, then climb into the other side of the bed.

Walter immediately shifts toward my side and drops an arm over my chest. "'Night, Alex," he mumbles.

I absently stroke his arm, then pass my lips over his forehead. What a fucking weird day.


Saturday, 10 April 1999
7:18 A.M.


Walter is still asleep when I wake. I touch his face lightly, but he doesn't stir. I carefully get out of bed and take a long shower, thinking about last night. Then trying not to think about last night. When I emerge from the bathroom, he's rolled over, but has not awakened. After wrapping a towel around my waist, I close the door carefully and head downstairs for breakfast.

I still cannot figure out where he keeps all the food, so I grudgingly have peach yogurt and orange juice. As usual, the smell of the peaches gives me a hard-on. I'm glad Walter's not awake.

Even though I'm not thrilled about it, I head back to the office to finish a few final things on the nano documentation. I need to get this stuff encrypted and out of here.

My pile of clothes catches my attention. There's cum on my T-shirt, jeans and jacket. A trivial inconvenience considering how much fun last night was. I go back downstairs to figure out how to use the washer, then clean up my jacket.

Back upstairs, I get to work on the nano docs.

Around 8:30, there's a double tap on the door. Walter enters, looking mostly awake. "Morning." He crosses to me and kisses the top of my head.

I rise, grab him and give him a more serious good morning kiss. "Morning, Walter."

When I sit back down, he disappears to shower and eat.

I finish about an hour later and head downstairs. Walter's in the dining room reading the paper. I grab his empty slime-beverage glass and put it in the sink, then put my clothes in the dryer.

I sit across from him and ask, "How are you feeling?"

He glances at me over the newspaper. "Fine."

"I think I have the last of the documentation finished for you to review. I'd like to encrypt it today and get it to the safe-deposit box tomorrow morning."

Walter folds up the paper and tosses it aside. "I'll read it right away." He stands and crossing the room, stops to squeeze my shoulder. "Are you coming?"

I rise. "Yes… if you have any questions…"

**

I sit at the PC, while Alex hovers behind me. Curiosity doesn't begin to describe my need to understand the nanocytes. Our hope of freedom lies in this data and what a team of scientists can do with it. I'm eager to begin.

It reads like a dry scientific report, so I have to remind myself that this is a history of what's been done to real human beings… primarily Alex and some of it to me.

My body remembers all too vividly as I read.

--
Carbon structures in the vascular system - Carbon deposits are created in the vascular system. Variations in setting can delay the length of time until death. Most rapid are carbon deposits in the brain, leading to stroke in four to six hours. Heart attack will take one to two days. Pulmonary embolisms may take as long as a week. Nanos will remove the carbon deposits during deactivation.
--

Ah, Christ. Someone leisurely took notes while doing these things to Alex.

I'm glad he's behind me. He can't see my face. I force myself to a calm demeanor. Relaxing my jaw requires conscious effort and is only marginally successful.

--
Decalcification - Following an initiation phase (described in section 2.3), the nano-machines can be set to destroy calcium in the body. There is a complete lack of symptomology until the majority of the calcium in the subject's bones has been destroyed. Bones will then shatter easily, sometimes with simple body weight. Recovery very slow without regeneration module.
--

Breathe, Walt. Don't let him see how this is affecting you.

Yeah, I'll fucking bet recovery is slow. How can human beings perform these kinds of tests on others? Or maybe it is aliens. And they view us like lab rats, of so little consequence as to be subject to systematic torture just to gather data… without any ethical concerns. I'm not sure I'll ever look at a rodent the same way again.

Fuck, I wish Alex didn't have to be here. It's suddenly apparent that I don't want to discuss this with him. Not unless he needs to talk about it. And I know he doesn't want to.

"Alex?"

"Hmm?"

I blank my expression and turn to face him. "I think I need to be alone to read this. Can you come back in a couple hours?"

His expression is carefully neutral. His hand briefly touches the nape of my neck. "Sure."

Once he's gone, I start at the top again. Struggling to stay focused on the content rather than it's meaning to me, I edit my questions into the document. There aren't many. He's been thorough and I can't completely deal with this. I'll let our researchers ask most of the questions.

Calmer on the second read-through, I begin to think I can handle this.

--
Skin degeneration - A gradual breakdown on the dermis, epidermis and capillary system eventually leading to massive blood loss through the tissues. Recovery impossible without regeneration module.
--

I shove my chair back and rise abruptly. Flying down the stairs, I dart out onto the balcony. Gasping down fresh air, I try to control my nausea.

It's just information, Walt. Information that can save lives.

I can't help but think of Nazi atrocities. But that seemed so far away… so unreal. This is too fucking painfully god-awful real.

I've read the most gruesome autopsy reports… but not about someone I cared about.

I can't let anything stop me. I want desperately to just pass this on to the scientists and not have to finish reading it. But I can't know if or when our lives might depend on my understanding it. I can't just delegate it.

Breathe. Calm. Relax.

I review pictures in my head. Pictures of the worst crime scenes, the ugliest autopsies… everything I can think of that made me shudder with grief for man's inhumanity. I faced those things.

You can do this, Walt.

It's a cool morning, but I'm sweating. I execute a systematic relaxation of my major muscles. When I start to get a chill, I head back upstairs.

The next section explains how the nano control pads work, including the various software modules and how they're loaded.

At the end of the document is a summary of the most recent experiment, dated last week.

--
Third nano-machine prototype - A new structure enabling them to create and dissolve carbon at a faster rate. Stroke, heart attack and pulmonary embolisms occur approximately 30 percent faster. Also enhances the nerve stimulation capabilities to generate localized nerve pain rather than systemic nerve pain. Able to randomly trigger migraines and burning or lancing pain in any of the extremities. However, during the shutdown phase, cellular damage to the spinal cord is such that it creates an irreversible paralysis without activation of the regeneration module. The experiment was deemed a failure.
--

I type in a note, --A failure because a paralyzed subject is considered useless to the project?--

I finish the document, adding a few more questions. Then I sit in the living room and try not to think.

A sound at the door catches my attention. It must be Alex. My eyes flick to the clock and I'm surprised to see it's almost 3:00.

He comes in and joins me on the couch. Expressionless, he asks, "Everything okay?"

I feel like I've been asleep for the past few hours. "I finished it. Put my questions in the document."

"All right. I'll fill in the blanks and encrypt it."

"Do you mind if I show this to Scully?"

He shakes his head. "It's up to you… however you want to handle this. Just let me know what you need from me."

"I will."

"There's something I need to tell you that I'm not prepared to put in that document."

I feel a twinge of anxiety. "Okay."

"The majority of the test subjects died during the experiments. There was some mystery around why I didn't. We've speculated that it is related to the infection by the alien virus. Some presently unknown effect on DNA or the immune system. But you should know because there will be some difference in observable behavior of the nanos between you and me."

I hear the words… and manage to respond to them. "Put it in the document, just don't use the word, 'alien.'"

"Are you and Scully prepared to field the questions about such an ambiguous piece of information?"

"Not really… but we have to give them everything we know. An unknown virus isn't much help, but it's information they need."

"Okay, I'll go finish up now."

When he's finished, I make myself read all the new material. The facts swim around in my head… a bunch of data that I try to hold onto… content that is necessarily devoid of meaning.

Afterwards, I assemble food in the kitchen. Meat, potatoes.

Alex comes down from the office, with several disks. "These are two copies of the encrypted data, and two copies of the decryption disk. I'm going to take one of each to the safe deposit box tomorrow morning. I'll leave the others with you. Of course, it would be best to not keep them together. You need a password to run the decryption disk. It's…" he pauses, before continuing. "Miya#14. M-I-Y-A#14. I… yeah, that's it."

I put food in front of us and we eat.

At the end of the meal, Alex says, "I have to go to New York for a few days… Leave tomorrow morning, probably back on Thursday."

"Okay."

Alex rises and clears the plates off the table. Then I feel his lips brush the top of my head. "I'm going to read for a while." He disappears up the stairs.

I put on a Doors CD and sit on the couch. After a long while, the room suddenly becomes silent.

When I go upstairs to get ready for bed, Alex is already asleep, a book of poetry lying in the middle of the bed. I brush my teeth and join him under the covers, placing his book on the bedside table.

I wake in the wee hours of the morning. There's enough light coming in through the blinds that I can see the side of Alex's face. Even in the shadows, he looks startlingly beautiful.

I have to believe we can beat this thing. Because if we can't, I should kill myself right now. And Alex? Fuck, I can't even explain why he's still alive.

He must be terribly strong--far, far stronger than I could ever be--to return to them, knowing what they're going to do to him.

Maybe I could decide it was what I needed to do, but I don't think anything could make my legs move when the time came to go there.

We've got to beat this, or die trying. Nothing else matters.

I create a mental fantasy of Alex and I post-nanocytes. Riding our bikes along the beach. I paint the picture carefully, to make it as vivid as possible. The warm sun, ocean smells, bird sounds… Alex picking the meat out of his sandwich. Bicycle grease in his hair. I hold onto that picture. It's going to have to keep me going.

Remember that, Walt. And don't look back.

I scoot a little closer to him and try to get back to sleep.

**

Crystal City, VA
Sunday, 11 April 1999
8:15 P.M.


I'm still half asleep when I feel a light touch on my face followed by the bed shifting as Walter gets up. A few moments later, I hear the shower turn on.

Opening my eyes, I wonder if he's okay today. He was so quiet last night. I didn't particularly want to have to tell him everything about the nanos, but I didn't expect it to bother him so much. At least, I think that's what bothered him.

After staring at the ceiling for a few minutes, I rise to brush my teeth. It's easy to get distracted by the view of Walter's wet naked body in the shower. My cock throbs in appreciation. I decide to join him.

Walter turns as I step into the shower. "Morning."

"Hi." I wrap my arm around him, my mouth seeking his. His arms slide around me and he lets me control the kiss… for a moment. His hold tightens as he aggressively presses his tongue into my mouth.

My hand roams over his lower back and ass, while we kiss until I feel dizzy… and painfully hard. We break apart, and I gasp for air. My lips play at his throat, then across his collarbone. "God, Walt… I need you to fuck me."

I can almost feel his smile. He suddenly turns me around and presses me against the wall. "Spread your legs."

I put my arm over my head and separate my legs. My breathing accelerates again.

Strong hands cup my ass, rubbing and squeezing. He sighs quietly and his cock head brushes against my thigh. My body feels liquid with need.

Slippery fingers slide along my crack and brush over my anus. Gasping, I push my hips back.

Walter's free hand grips my hip, holding me still while he teases the sensitive skin around my asshole. I groan, pushing against the restraint.

"Dammit, Walter. Don't tease." My voice sounds more pleading than I'd like.

He responds with a low growl that vibrates in my groin.

Walter begins to press one finger into me. I groan, needing to move, resisting the restraining hand. As he pushes in a second finger, he releases my hip. I push back hard, impaling myself on his fingers.

His fingertips hit my prostate and I claw at the wall as I fuck myself on his fingers.

Abruptly, he withdraws his fingers and I feel the head of his cock at my anus. I try to push back, but both hands are now on my hips, holding me still.

I try to complain. "Walt-" But he begins to push inside me and I forget what I was going to say. It's perfect. And it's hard to believe I went five years without this. Without him.

Hands still holding my hips still, he starts to move, pulling back. I'm expecting his thrust, when he completely pulls out.

"No!" I protest, then bang my fist against the wall.

He chuckles predatorily, then I feel his cock again and he's pushing back inside. The sensation of the new penetration surges through me and I collapse helplessly against the cool tile.

When he's fully inside me again, he holds still, lips and teeth playing at the back of my neck. I press against his hold on my hips, rubbing him with my body, sending the message… fuck me.

Unexpectedly, he pulls out again and I twitch, my eyes rolling.

All I can feel of him now is his hands, holding me in position. I try to breathe. Then he's back, thrusting into my ass quickly.

It's too much. My senses are overwhelmed. I should say something… make him stop, but I've lost my ability to speak.

Over and over again, the sharp pleasure of penetration, then his startling withdrawal. My body is limp against the shower wall, no longer fighting his hold, yielding to this intense torture.

After his next penetration, he begins to seriously fuck me. My whimper is barely audible. I cannot tell how much time passes before my extremely sensitized ass registers that he's coming.

He whispers something my brain cannot process.

Walter releases his hold on my hips and I start to slide down the wall, then his hands are guiding me to a puddle on the shower floor. I don't even know if I came and it doesn't matter. His warm hand brushes through my hair. I feel so intensely connected to him, and yet, at the same time, like I'm somewhere else.

Belatedly, I resolve his words. "This is why."

**

Crystal City, VA
Tuesday, 13 April 1999
7:30 P.M.


I scanned the apartment. No new bugs. I'd almost rather find a few, than worry someone has invented something unscannable.

Sharon arrives promptly at 7:30. I kiss her cheek and escort her to the dining room. She chats about the gallery while I assemble our take-out dinner.

I offer her wine, but she declines. She knows I've got something important to discuss. Still psyching myself up for the difficult conversation, I ask her about her boyfriend.

Her smile is slightly embarrassed, but her eyes light up. "Antonio's a constant source of amusement."

"You seem very happy."

"It's just so unexpected after all these years to find myself in another relationship, and…" She trails off.

"And his age still bothers you?"

She gestures vaguely with her hands. "He's 21 years younger than I am."

"So?"

"It's just… the whole aging thing is in my face, every day."

I shrug. "He could be 21 years older than you and you'd still be aging."

"Yes, but… it's different for a woman, Walter. I already expect men to turn me over for a younger model and he's-"

"He's damned lucky to have you, Shar."

"Seventeen years of marriage and you still see me as this dream woman."

"You're intelligent, beautiful, loving and creative. None of that's a dream."

She sighs, giving up the argument. Because she lost.

We chat about her painting while finishing the lasagna. She helps me put the dishes in the sink, then we adjourn to the living room.

"You going to be brave and tell me what's on your mind, Walt?"

Good question. "Um, I'm seeing someone."

"That's good. Why the serious expression?"

"It's… complicated." I get up to grab a bottle of Scotch, but decide that's not a good idea and sit down again. "I'm seeing… Alex. Alex Krycek."

"The young man you had the affair with years ago?"

"Yes."

"But he disappeared, didn't he?"

"He came back."

She puts a hand on mine. "I know he meant a lot to you. I hope the two of you can make it work this time."

"It's not that simple, Sharon. He…" I rub my forehead, wanting so badly to end this conversation, but needing to continue it. So I start at the beginning and tell her the whole damned thing, from that day in our garage, our affair in 1994, and what I learned afterward.

When I review his probable crimes--Duane Barry, Mulder's father, beating me up--she blinks back her shock. "Walter, that beautiful, polite young man is a killer-for-hire? You can't be serious."

I wish I wasn't. "It's the truth. I don't know which of the suspected crimes he committed, but he admitted to being an assassin."

"And you're seeing him?"

It's not easy to have her question my judgment on this, because I still doubt myself. "Yes."

"It must be tearing you up inside."

I shrug.

"I don't see how you can reconcile it with your career, Walter."

"I don't think I can."

"Why are you doing this to yourself?"

A damned good question. "Sharon, I don't know if I can explain. But things have happened recently that make me wonder about my own mortality… and I need … He makes me feel… alive."

She shakes her head at me. "The man who takes the lives of others makes you feel alive?"

"Well, yes…" I rise and go to the balcony. I don't think I can do this. I can't justify it to myself, much less her. "It… I know this doesn't make much sense, but my life is fucked up right now… my career, my integrity," my life, but I don't say it, "everything is on the line. And somehow I keep coming back to Alex. He's the only thing that feels right in this mess."

"Walter, what the hell is going on in your life?"

"I can't talk about it, Sharon. I'm sorry, but I really can't. I'm dealing with it and doing my best to make it come out for the better. I need you to trust me about this."

She shakes her head, worry lines crinkling around her eyes.

Pinching the bridge of my nose, I continue, "But Alex… I don't completely understand about us, but even though it's obviously so wrong to be with him, professionally--and even morally--I think it's right for me personally. Can you accept that, Sharon?"

"I can't believe how much you've changed. A few years ago, you never would have said that. You weren't able to even recognize your emotional needs."

I turn to face her again, responding only with a nod.

"So maybe this isn't all bad for you, but I don't think you can manage the contradictions."

"You're right. I can't." I sit down next to her again. "If I tell you about his life, would you help me to try to understand him? I can't deal with the contradictions, but maybe I can deal with Alex."

"I need to tell you that this relationship is a bad idea," she meets my gaze, "but you already know."

I nod.

"Okay, tell me about Alex."

So I do. I tell her everything I've learned about him from the psych reports, to the investigation into his disappearance, to the shocking things he recently told me.

Everything except the nanocytes.

"What kind of parents have eleven children as science experiments?" she asks with a rare display of outrage.

"I don't know, Sharon. Hell, I remember complaining about my parents being strict or giving me a miniscule allowance. I can't even begin to imagine what he went through. Or what it does to someone, growing up like that."

"If what he told you is true--and that's a big if, Walter," she pauses, eying me meaningfully, "it justifies how damaged he is."

"It explains. I don't think you can ever justify murder."

"But you say he's not a thrill killer?"

"I know killers. Alex isn't like that. He… he doesn't have anything inside to stop him from doing it, but he doesn't do it for pleasure."

"I can see how he's aroused your sympathies, Walter."

"No. This is not about pity, Shar. I care for him. I cared for him before I ever knew."

"I know, but are you sure you want to take on someone so damaged?"

"Fuck, I'm no prize. You of all people know how bad I am at relationships."

"Perhaps, but you… you could find someone else to care for, Walter."

"That's never been easy for me." I rub my temples. "Sharon, I can't explain all of it to you, but this crisis I'm dealing with… Alex and I are on the same side. In fact, our lives are inextricably connected. And the relationship, imperfect as it is, means a great deal to me. It… He makes me want to live, at a time when other things are having the opposite effect."

"I accept that. And I trust you. Just be careful." Her concern is etched on her face. "If you make a mistake, it could cost you your job."

That's the least of it.

Be careful. No. Being careful is not having affairs with assassins. Affairs that could result in our deaths. But on the other hand, being excruciatingly careful might save our lives. "Yeah," I reply blandly. "Sharon, there's something else you need to know."

"Yes?"

"You can't tell anyone any of this."

She eyes me crossly. "Did you expect me to gossip about your affairs?"

"No, Shar. Let me finish. No one can know that I'm even seeing someone. Not even your boyfriend. This isn't about protecting my privacy. Lives are at stake here."

Sharon gives me a distressed look. "God, Walter, I'm really worried about you."

"I know. I'm sorry." I try to shrug it off. "Please don't worry. Just don't say a word of this to anyone."

"I promise."

"Thank you."

We sit silently for a while, then she asks, "Have you really considered the implications for your work? You are in law enforcement and he's…"

"Believe me, I've thought about it. He's a criminal, but I can't treat him like one. Like a thing. Catch it. Put it in jail. That's already been done to him. I won't abandon him to that."

Sharon hesitates, a serious but thoughtful expression. I know that look. She's trying to decide whether or not to say something I may not want to hear… or how to say it tactfully. "Walter, your entire career has been spent capturing and incarcerating criminals. Did you ever think that each of them might have stories like Alex's?"

"Just say it, Sharon."

"I did."

"All right, I'll say it. I'm a hypocrite."

She gives me a mild glare.

"I'm not a bleeding heart liberal. I don't believe that all the world's criminals had lives that could justify what they did. I don't feel a sudden urge to set them all free because of Alex. I don't give a damn about what led anyone else to kill, rape or assault." Oddly, it feels better having said it. It's been eating away at my brain for days. I'm a hypocrite. Maybe I should have it tattooed on my arm.

"Having said that, can you live with yourself?"

Damn, she plays hardball. Suddenly, I recall why I used to avoid discussing my feelings with her. "In my career, I have directly participated in cases that sent 19 killers to death by capital punishment. Another 31 are on death row, through my actions. If I didn't know Alex, he might have been one of those statistics. And if he killed innocent people, I couldn't argue he didn't deserve the same.

"But I do know Alex. And everything inside me tells me to protect him. What he did was wrong. Protecting him is wrong. I'll have to live with it. You always tell me to listen with my heart. Well, I'm listening. Maybe for the first time in my goddamned life."

Sharon shakes her head thoughtfully. "You've changed."

"Maybe I have. And maybe some of it is for the better."

"I think so," she concedes, but her tone shifts as she continues, "but I can't tell you whether or not you're doing the right thing. I can only offer my support."

"Thank you for that." I rub my forehead. "I've always been able to count on your friendship. I'm grateful I didn't destroy that when we were married."

She leans over and kisses my cheek. "I love you, Walter."

"I love you, too, Shar."

At the end of the conversation, I've forgotten what I wanted to get her advice on in the first place. But I realize I've accomplished something greater. I told her. Told someone about my twisted little affair. Maybe I needed that.

**

New York, NY
Wednesday, 14 April 1999
3:02 P.M.


I drop off the rental car and take a taxi to an intersection a few blocks from my hotel. While walking, I force my mind away from the assignment I just completed--infecting the senator. My mind immediately goes to Walter. I'm so accustomed to pushing thoughts of him away, I begin to do it on instinct. Then, I remind myself that I don't have to. It feels so strange.

Suddenly breathless and not focusing very well, I step off the street, and lean against the wall in a deserted alley. I take a deep breath and let my mind wander. What's wrong with me?

The reality of the situation suddenly settles in. Walter and I are… we're… together--or whatever--again. I can leave this fucking rotten day behind and see him… sleep with him… tonight.

I feel… sick. No, that's not right. Queasy? No, but definitely… weird.

When I realize I'm smiling, it dawns on me that I might be… happy, I think. Fucking hell, I'm losing it.

The sound of a rolling bottle erases every thought and my instincts take over. My gun is out and aimed at the man in the alley before his eyes have located my position. He also has a gun out, held pointed downward along his thigh.

With a pained expression, he freezes. He knows I can shoot him before he can train the gun on me. His face tells me everything. He was sneaking up on me and kicked a soda bottle, blowing the advantage of surprise.

I whisper, "Drop it."

He grits his teeth and lets the gun drop from his fingers. Without being told, he kicks it away. We're dressed similarly… jeans, T-shirt, leather jacket. But he looks like he hasn't showered in a week. Not FBI or any other law enforcement agency. Definitely gun-for-hire. Who the fuck is looking for me now?

"Why are you following me?"

He doesn't say a word. I can tell he's a pro. He's not going to tell me shit. My instincts tell me to shoot now, figure it out later.

But for a promise to Walter, that's what I would do. Should do.

I grit my teeth and override my instincts. "Kneel."

After a long pause, he drops to his knees. Getting close to this guy is a non-goal, but the only thing to do is knock him out. I carefully move toward him, circling to stand behind him. He tries to track me with his eyes.

"Eyes front!"

Fuck, fuck, fuck. I slowly move toward him. When I'm close enough, I raise the gun to bring it down on the back of his head, but he's in motion. I'm flying backward and landing hard on the concrete. I grunt with the impact, but manage to keep hold of my gun. He's on me before I can raise it to fire. I release the gun, so I have some chance of fighting. I realize I'm still trying to not kill him. Fuck.

The next few minutes, pass in a blur of struggling, punching, kicking and even a little biting. When I realize the fucker left teethmarks on me, I see red, then zone out like I usually do in a fight.

I come back to reality, pushing his limp body off me. The blood begins to spurt as I yank Walter's knife out of his neck.

Quickly, I find my gun and pull my jacket closed. My hotel is only a block away, but something tells me I'm too much of mess to go unnoticed. I'm still running on adrenaline, but I can tell I'm injured.

Sticking to alleys, I meander a few blocks to a payphone. I dial Morgan's number. As I'm punching in the number, I see the skin abraded off a large portion of the back of my hand. It hurts to move it. Fucking lovely.

His deep bass answers, "Yeah."

"I've got a problem." I sound breathless. My chest is killing me and there's a lot of blood on my T-shirt. I'm not sure what he did.

"Where are you, kid?"

"New York. East Sixteenth just off Union Square."

"What kind of assistance do you need?" He sounds like all business now.

"Do you employ a doctor and an innkeeper?"

He rattles off an address a few blocks from here. "I'm calling them now. Ask for Aaron. He'll get you what you need. Take a taxi if you need to. You'll disappear as far as anyone inside is concerned."

I hang up and start walking. By the time I arrive at another of Morgan's bars, my entire body is clamoring for attention. No one even looks up as I'm escorted to a back room. I shake off Aaron's attempt to help me.

The doctor is already present. I kick Aaron out and let the doctor look me over.

An hour later, Morgan arrives while the doctor is stitching up the 11-inch gash running diagonally across my chest. I assumed Morgan was in D.C. Apparently not if he got here in an hour. I'm surprised he bothered at all.

The doctor looks intimidated as Morgan's 7-foot, 350-pound body takes up position behind him.

Morgan gives me a once-over and whistles. "You're a mess, kid. What the fuck happened to you?"

"Someone's looking for me." I watch him carefully. "You know anything about it?"

"Hell no." It seemed unlikely, but I had to ask. "You need anything else?"

"Yeah. A place to sleep this off. A place where I will be undisturbed." Undisturbed is vital since I can easily predict a nano-episode after a beating like this.

Morgan nods. "As soon as the doc is done, I'll get you out of here." He claps a huge paw on the doctor's shoulder. "Be sure and do a good job there, doc."

The doctor looks green.

About 40 minutes later, Morgan pulls his GMC Yukon up in front of a high-rise apartment building. I was expecting a hotel.

I look over at him. "Where are we, Morgan?"

"My apartment."

I grit my teeth. "I was thinking of a hotel with a 'privacy please' sign."

He grins. "No one's gonna bother you here, kid. You can even lock the door."

I'm too fucking exhausted to argue. I get out and follow him inside.

In the apartment, he offers to let me sleep in his room. I glare, he laughs, then shows me to a guest room with an en-suite bathroom. Once I'm certain he's going to leave me alone, I close the door, lock it, shrug out of my jacket and move to the bathroom.

My first glance in a mirror and I look as bad as I feel. I take stock of my injuries; Multiple contusions on the face, four stitches above the left brow, six stitches near my hairline, long gash on the chest covered by bandages, livid bruises everywhere I can see, right hand stiff and swollen and missing a good amount of skin. And I cannot forget yet another ruined prosthetic. This is why I use the cheap shit for work.

I save the bite for last. On the front of my right shoulder. Even through my T-shirt, the son of a bitch broke the skin in two places. I so seldom get truly angry, but now I'm furious. I've never had teeth marks on my body… except for Walter.

I pace around the bathroom, trying to figure out why I'm so angry. Yes, he left a bite-mark. Offensive, but not rage-inducing. I don't even have to worry about scars. As long as the wounds are stitched evenly, the nanos can repair with little or no scar tissue.

My stride grinds to halt when I realize this should never have happened. If I'd been acting like myself, I'd have shot him, packed up at the hotel, driven back to D.C. a day early and seduced Walter.

But because of that fucking promise… I'm a wreck and in a vulnerable position. I try to run my hand through my hair and wince at the pain. I wind up ripping out hair that sticks to the tape on the bandages. Fuck!

I broke the promise anyway. The fucker is dead.

With a growl, I abandon the bathroom and flop on the bed.

This morality shit is clearly impractical. I cannot begin to imagine how Walter--or anyone--makes this work. I have to talk to him. Soon.

**

Crystal City, VA
Wednesday, April 14, 1999
8:15 P.M.


I de-bug the apartment again before Scully's arrival. Still nothing.

She brings two videotapes. Interviews with two doctors. The first one seems adequate. His credentials are solid. He seems like an earnest young researcher. He's got a wife and a baby and that bothers me. How big a risk can this man take?

Scully passes me the second tape. "I have to tell you that I do not like this man."

A sliver of despair teases at me. There aren't going to be any good candidates. I push it away. Can't afford to think like that. "Then there's no need to look at this tape, Scully."

She shakes her head. "I didn't say I'd exclude him, I said I don't like him." Nodding toward the VCR, she says. "Play the tape."

Dr. Russ Lavagetto is unmarried in his early 40's, heir to a food processing fortune.

"Dr. Lavagetto, what can you bring to this project besides your medical credentials?"

Reply: "My IQ is in the upper 5 percent of physicians. And I can think 'out of the box' better than any other doctor I've ever met. If, as you claim, you have a truly challenging problem, no one can offer you a better mind to apply to the problem."

"You seem to have a healthy ego. Why would you want to work on this project, given the constraint that you won't be able to publish or even discuss your results?"

Reply: "I don't need to prove anything to anyone. I seek out the hardest, most interesting problems. And, as you can see from my C.V., I always solve them."

"This project involves real patients whose lives are at risk. Do you think you can be sensitive to their needs?"

Reply: "If these people are dying, they want results not sensitivity. I'm not interested in being sensitive. If they want that, they should hire a nurse."

"Do you think you have the people skills to get along with other members of the team?"

Reply: "Not unless I'm leading it."

"That's not very reassuring."

Reply: "Talk to my former associates. Not all of them like me, but most of them would work with me again."

I glance at Dana. "He's a prick."

Scully replies, "Yes, he is."

"Hire him."

Unsurprised, she nods. "Sir, did you hear that Senator Matheson was ill?"

Oh, fuck. It's all too easy to guess where this is leading.

"His private physician contacted me seeking information about your illness. The kind of questions he asked me suggest very strongly that the Senator has been infected with the nanocytes."

I don't know what to say.

"You don't seem surprised."

"I… " I trail off, then decide to change the subject. "Would you contact Matheson's physician again? And see if he's willing to share data and blood samples?"

She hesitates, clearly unsatisfied, but eventually says, "I'll phone him tomorrow." She removes the disks I gave her and places them on the coffee table in front of me. Her expression darkens. "I read through all the information. Do you have any reason to believe this is accurate?"

"The subject has good reasons to help the research, but he's not a doctor or a scientist."

She nods. "Do you believe the account of the experiments is true?"

"I've seen some evidence myself. I think we have to assume the information on that disk is factual within the subject's limited view."

"The cellular repair seems… highly improbable…" Scully thinks for a few seconds, then asks, "These things were allegedly done to Krycek?"

I hesitate for a long time. There's a fine line between what I need to tell her and what I don't intend to discuss. "Yes."

She looks away, lost in her own thoughts.

It changes things, doesn't it, Scully?

When she looks back, there's a determined expression on her face. "The document mentioned that we need to provide spinal fluid to the research team. I'm willing to do that… for both of you."

I'm grateful for and relieved by her willingness to help both of us. "I appreciate that, Scully. However, I think he will be more comfortable providing a sample at a private lab. Can you recommend one?"

"Yes. I can even arrange for you to be met after hours if that's needed." She jots down a name and address on a prescription slip.

"That sounds like a good plan. I'll be present at both procedures, to ensure the chain of evidence." Just because she knows he's infected, doesn't mean she trusts him.

"Thank you. That sets my mind at ease. I think I better understand why he's willing to help you, but I hope you're not trusting him blindly."

"I'm being as careful as I can be."

"Okay. Do you want to meet personally with the research team when it's assembled?"

"Let's plan on arranging a covert meeting with Dr. Lavagetto. But I won't risk meeting the others unless there's a specific reason to."

We sketch out the next few steps before she leaves.

**

Crystal City, VA
Thursday, April 15, 1999
5:45 P.M.


I arrive back at Walter's to find he's not home yet. Not terribly surprising. It's probably a good thing because my temper is frayed.

I woke from a long nano episode with a hell of a headache and hurting from head to toe. I can barely use my hand, so I couldn't shower, and I'm pissed off.

My T-shirt was wrecked, so I had to borrow one from Morgan, which looks more like a fucking dress. And, to add insult to injury, he had to help me put it on. Of course that was after I had to fight my way off his lap.

I discovered a knife cut on my jacket on the way up the stairs, and I'm feeling nearly homicidal. How do people live like this?

I pace around Walter's apartment, but I'm too sore to keep it up for long, so I stare at the ceiling and try to zone out.

It doesn't work.

I'm acutely aware of every fucking minute that passes.

I waste time by scanning his apartment. It's hard to hold the scanner, but I manage. No bugs. I collapse back on the living room sofa and wait.

At exactly 8:07 and ten seconds, the key turns in the lock and Walter steps into the dim apartment. I hear the entryway table drawer open. He's stowing his gun. Which means he's seen my keys.

"Alex?" The light flips on.

"Yes, Walter?" My tone is saccharine.

He steps closer, his suit coat half off. With a grimace on his face, exaggerated by the crooked scab across his eyebrow, he scans me, taking in my visible injuries. "Are you all right?"

I clench my jaw and take a deep breath. There's a hit of adrenaline to my system. "Oh, yes. I'm fucking perfect."

Walter eyes me warily. "What happened? Do you need a doctor?"

"No. I don't need a doctor." I look down at my bandaged hand and my blood stained jeans. My blood this time. "Morality happened, Walter."

**

I've got a sick feeling this is going to be another one of those Alex in the Twilight Zone moments.

After jettisoning my jacket, I take a seat at a safe distance from my battered lover. "Why don't you tell me about it?"

Looking completely aggravated, he stiffly rises from the sofa and begins pacing. He shrugs out of his jacket and lets it fall to the floor. He's wearing a gigantic T-shirt that makes him look pitifully frail. The stitches and bruising on his face plus the bandage on his hand don't enhance the picture.

Eventually, he turns his gaze to me. "I promised you, so I tried." He waves his hand, then winces and lets it fall back to his side. "This morality thing is clearly impractical."

Remembering some of our recent conversations, I try to extrapolate. "Is this about killing people?"

Alex's expression shifts to exasperation. "YES!" He takes a deep breath. "And I had to kill him anyway."

Shit.

I'm imagining various scenarios, but don't know quite what to think. "Tell me what happened, Alex."

He gives a growl of frustration before responding. "Someone was following me. They had their gun out. I thought to shoot him but I made a promise to you."

Oh, Christ. A little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing? What have I done?

It's pretty fucking obvious, Walt. You almost got your lover killed.

Alex continues, "I told him to kneel, thinking to knock him out and just leave. But he saw his opportunity--the same one I would have seen in his position--and he fought me."

I remember all those scenarios they drilled us on at Quantico. He was there, too, but somehow I doubt he absorbed the information quite the way I did.

I'm a little stymied on what to say to him. And oddly pleased that he's trying not to kill people as his first line of defense. "I'm glad you didn't get killed, Alex."

Still looking pissed, he opens and closes his mouth several times, as if he doesn't know what to say. That makes two of us.

Finally, he manages, "How in the fucking hell do you make this work?" He collapses back on the sofa with a grunt of pain.

I rise and go to him. "Are you sure you're okay?"

He rests his head on the back of the sofa, staring at the ceiling. "No. I fucking hurt."

It feels like I need a crowbar to get information out of him. "What hurts?" He must have seen a doctor for those stitches, but maybe not a decent one. "Do you have internal bleeding or something?"

He leans forward, ineffectually plucking at the T-shirt and muttering, "Help me get this goddamned thing off."

With his hand bandaged, it's easy to see why he can't do it himself. I grip the T-shirt and pull it carefully over his head, gaping at what it reveals. The diagonal cut across his chest is at least a foot long.

"Fuck, Alex." It's been neatly sewn closed. I hope that means competently. "Did you get professional care for this?"

"I don't know." He sounds surly. "Someone Morgan intimidated into checking me over. The nanos will eventually take care of everything."

Who's Morgan? Later… "Will the nanos prevent infection? Do you need antibiotics?"

He frowns before replying, "I don't know. I haven't had a wound like this since I was infected… I think they'll deal with anything but…" He shrugs.

A dark area on his shoulder catches my attention. I scan closer. Fuck, it's a bite mark. That was one hell of a fight. Human bites… he needs antibiotics. "I think we should call Scully. You need antibiotics, and it wouldn't hurt to have her check you out."

Alex groans and closes his eyes. "Okay." He must feel really terrible to acquiesce without an argument.

I retrieve the satellite phone and call Scully. "There's someone here with me who needs medical care." She agrees to come. I dread the day she tells me to fuck off. I don't know how I could survive any of this without her.

I fetch Alex a glass of water and an assortment of painkillers, placing the items on the table in front of him.

He looks at the pill bottles for a second, then sighs wearily. "I can't hold the glass."

Fuck, I should have realized.

In a more frustrated tone, he adds, "I couldn't take a fucking shower this morning, I wrecked another prosthetic, and my jacket… and Morgan had to put my--*his*--T-shirt on." He closes his eyes. "I need to retire."

I slide over next to him. "That's a damned good idea, Alex. We're working on it." Picking up the glass, I hold it for him to drink. "Do you want any of the analgesics?"

He takes a drink, then replies, "Not until after Scully's gone."

"If you need anything just tell me, Alex. You don't want to be coddled, so you're going to have to speak up."

"Fine." His head falls wearily onto my shoulder.

"So who's Morgan?"

"Someone I do business with from time to time. I've never gone to him injured before and I didn't like doing it this time. I've known him since I was with the Bureau. He'd been hired to surveil me. I'd met him once before and I guess he liked me because he offered to let me buy out the contract." He tilts his head up to look at me. "I had reason to want to protect my privacy."

I wrap an arm around his waist. "Who put you under surveillance when you were with the Bureau?"

"Spender. After I was stabbed… guess he thought I needed to be watched."

I shift so I can meet his eyes. "Well, I know Spender never found out about our affair, because there's no question he would have used the information."

"Yeah, Morgan's good. It makes his undesirable habits tolerable."

That's provocative, but I'm afraid to ask. "Undesirable habits?"

"Grabbing me. Which is why I stay away from him when I'm not healthy. It took me half an hour to get away from him this morning."

"Grabbing you? He hits on you?"

"I guess you could call it that. Although, it's more like… being captured."

I shake my head to erase the vision of my fist and Morgan's face. "I can't imagine you putting up with that, Alex. Why don't you-"

The phone rings for the intercom downstairs. I rise and take the call, buzzing her in after I identify her. I turn to Alex. "Instead of hanging around here trying to pretend I don't care about you, I was thinking I'd go to the store. But I'll stay if you want me to."

"Are you sure she's not going to try to arrest me or call Mulder?" Almost as an afterthought, he adds, "Or try to tie me up?"

I sit next to him and meet his worried gaze. "Her word is good, Alex, and I will insist on it, but I can also stay here. Tell me what you want."

He considers it for a moment, then replies, "I trust you. I don't trust her. I can't. I'd like you to stay. You don't need to be in the same room if you don't want."

I take his hand and squeeze it gently. "I'll stay."

Once admitted, Scully places her medical bag on the coffee table.

I offer an explanation before she can ask. "He was in a fight. Someone stitched him up, but we don't know if he needs antibiotics, or anything else for that matter."

She approaches slowly, eying Alex warily.

I find a place to stand by the dining room and watch, trying not to look worried.

Alex is reasonably patient as Scully inspects his wounds, probes his abdomen and fusses with his hand, giving him a new bandage. He answers her simple questions with yes and no answers. When she asks him when the fight occurred, he replies, "Yesterday."

She gives him a doubting look, but says nothing. Scanning the bottles I left on the table, she says, "Any of these are fine."

After packing up her bag, she joins me in the dining room. "The data doesn't quite make sense. His symptoms are all consistent with the injury being four to five days old, but he claims they're about 24 hours old."

I shrug. She's read the document he wrote. It's up to her to decide if she believes it or not.

"If this is real, it's incredible. I'd like to be able to study this at greater length. Will it be possible for me to check him again tomorrow?"

"I don't know, Scully. I'll, uh, find out after you're gone."

She nods and says, "In any case, he has a low fever, and low blood pressure. I'd guess an infection and some internal bleeding but, like I said, it appears to be several days old and is healing on its own. I still think he should take antibiotics for ten days to be sure. He may have a cracked rib, but it's difficult to tell because the swelling and pain aren't consistent with a 24 hour old injury. I would normally say it would be a couple weeks before that hand feels better, but I have no idea in this case."

"Okay, do you have the antibiotics or do, uh, does he need to pick them up?"

Scully pulls out a prescription pad and starts writing.

"Uh, Scully. Make it out in the name David Brown."

She starts to object, then shakes her head and starts again on another slip. I pocket the first one, so I can destroy it.

"He needs rest and fluids and no more fights… if he can manage any of that." More than a little sarcasm in her voice. "But if his fever goes up, he should see a doctor or, uh, call me."

It's worrisome that she's giving me Alex's care instructions. "Did you tell him this?"

"Yes. Although, I'm not sure he listened. Since he was willing to come to you injured, I assume you can remind him."

That is not what I wanted to hear. She's intuiting a relationship between us. Well, what did I expect? She's not stupid. "Scully, I know I don't need to remind you, but I have to say it anyway. No information of any kind about Krycek and me can leave this room. If anyone finds out that he and I are cooperating, both of us will probably be killed."

"I understand the magnitude of the situation, sir. I don't pretend to know the full extent of the hold he has over you, but I'll help him as long as it helps you."

"Scully, I… I can't tell you how much I appreciate everything you've done. I hate asking you for all this, but you've been incredible and I… I wish I could repay you in some way."

"You already have, sir. Despite what you say, I think Mulder and I owe you much more than you'll ever acknowledge."

I completely disagree. Doing my job is not the same thing. But I've tried to win this argument with her before. "Scully, will you at least accept payment for the house calls you've had to make?"

She looks shocked. "No," she says sharply. In a more normal tone, she adds, "If I did that, I could have retired on taking care of Mulder a long time ago."

I give her a half-hearted grin.

After Scully leaves, I find Alex splayed awkwardly on the sofa. "How about I help you get into bed? Then I'll go fill this prescription?"

He reluctantly offers, "I'd really like to shower, but…" He sighs and closes his eyes for a second. "But I'll need… help."

I give him a sympathetic nod. I don't like asking for help much myself. Of course, I like to think I'm not as stubborn as he is. I put a hand on his forearm. "Okay. Shower first."

Once we're upstairs, I pull off my clothes and start the water. His expression is tight, but he says nothing as I help him undress. For the first time I notice his boots aren't tied. The laces are tucked in.

As soon as we're in the shower, Alex sticks his head under the water and visibly relaxes. He doesn't even try not to get his bandage wet. I wash him thoroughly from head to toe. It feels… odd. I've never done anything like this before. Bathing him. Taking care of him this intimately.

When I wash his hair, he sighs with pleasure and leans against me. It makes me smile. After he rinses the soap out of his hair, he looks at me intently. "I'm sorry, Walt."

Using my fingers, I brush the soap out of his ear. "For what?"

"For killing that guy. I don't understand all of this, but… I tried not to."

For a moment, I stop breathing. I'm looking into the face of an innocent Alex, who tried not to kill anyone as a favor to me. It tears at me… I carefully wrap an arm around his waist and pull him close, speaking into his temple. "I know, Alex. Thank you." I kiss the side of his face. "Let's talk about it tomorrow."

He gives a slight nod, then turns his head so our mouths meet. I kiss him slowly, musing on the powerful protective feelings that he inspires in me.

**

It makes no sense but, oddly, I perceive that Walter's kiss makes me feel better. I hate being taken care of, but it's certainly more tolerable with Walter kissing me. I feel strangely safe with him. My protective instincts tell me this is not a good thing, but I'm too tired to pay them any attention.

Long moments later, I lean back and look at Walter. Not quite sure why, I find myself saying, "I was the angriest about him biting me."

He brushes a thumb gently across the scabby bruise. "Why?"

I consider for a second. I think I'm trying to communicate something important, but I'm not sure what. "I… I've never had teeth marks on my body… other than, well…" I trail off. It's more than that, but I don't know how to say it.

His features form a subtle smile. "That's different." Brushing the mark again, he continues, "This is just a wound. It means nothing."

I hear what he doesn't say. When he bites me, it means something. At least to me. Apparently to him as well. But it's only half the story. I'm not sure I have the nerve to say it.

I lean forward, resting my cheek against his, my mouth near his ear. "I remember--several times--wanting you to… go further… break the skin." I hesitate for a second, and hear a hitch in his breath before I continue, "Wanted to feel it longer… wanted it to scar, to-" I can't continue. I don't have it in me to tell him I was angry that a hitter in an alley did something I never had the nerve to ask him for.

Walter doesn't speak a word, but his arms close around me, holding me tightly. He strokes the back of my neck, then kisses me again. It's a heated kiss this time and he groans as his tongue explores the recesses of my mouth.

My faint whimper is lost in his mouth. I wrap my arm around him, feeling myself getting really turned on. What lousy timing. Even I have to admit there's no way I can fuck tonight.

A few minutes later, Walter dries us off and helps me get into bed. The drying off is especially difficult for me to tolerate. It's so hard for me to do it, I find it even more unpleasant to have to ask for help.

Walter changes the bandage on my hand while I'm sitting in bed. He scowls a little when he unwraps it. It kind of bothers me that if I could undo any one injury, it would still be the bite mark. Every reasonable thought would have me choose my hand.

He asks me which painkiller I want. I shake my head. "Not until you get back, but could you bring me my gun?"

Walter nods and retrieves my Glock. He makes sure it's loaded and clears the chamber before setting it on the bedside table.

He kisses me briefly, before departing for the pharmacy.

I'm on edge the entire time he's gone. I've been injured before, but never my hand. I feel nearly defenseless. If pressed, I'm sure I could shoot a gun, but I'd be nearly useless in a hand-to-hand fight right now. So, I have to wonder why Walter's presence makes me feel safer. Being alone is usually ideal.

When did I start trusting him so much? I start to explore the thought, then stop. I don't want to do this now. Maybe ever.

Walter's gone less than an hour. I hear him moving around downstairs. At least, I assume it's him. I have my hand on my gun as I hear footsteps on the stairs. Walter calls out a greeting on his way up and I relax.

He brings me a glass of water with a straw. I hurt enough to ask for the maximum dose of Demerol. Right after I swallow the pills, I hand Walter my gun. He puts it in my jacket, which he hangs in its usual spot on the doorknob.

While he gets ready for bed, it hits me again how much has changed… so quickly.

**

It's familiar now… sliding into the middle of my king-size bed, seeking the warmth of Alex's body. He stiffly turns to face me, and I drape one hand on his hip.

I keep trying not to think about what he said in the shower. '…wanting you to… go further… break the skin…' It only makes my dick hard and now is not the time.

He scoots a little closer and wraps his arm around my waist, his head on my shoulder. A few minutes later, there's a muffled noise that sounds suspiciously like a giggle.

Uh-oh.

I feel his tongue on my skin, followed by a muttered, "I like the way you taste."

"Mm hm." Might as well go for broke. I lightly pet his hair.

He sighs, then giggles again. "…feels good."

Carefully avoiding his stitches, I give his head a massage with my fingertips. I hope it will put him to sleep.

Alex is still for a long time, and I think it's going to work, then he starts awkwardly kicking at the covers. He pulls back and stares at me. He definitely looks a little stoned.

"Go to sleep, Alex."

"Okay." He finally manages to kick the covers onto the floor. I can't retrieve them without prying him off me, so I let them go. It's not that cold.

I notice he's giving me a slow once-over. Then he meets my gaze again. "You have a really big dick."

Oh, Jesus. I smile back at him and pet his head again. He rests against me, moaning faintly.

"The first time I saw it, I couldn't believe I'd been fucked with that. Well… I couldn't believe I'd been fucked at all but definitely not with something that big."

I'm fucking glad we're in the dark, because I can feel the blood rushing to my cheeks. What am I supposed to say to my stoned lover musing on how big my dick is?

He goes on, "I didn't think I'd like it but I'm rather fond of it… actually, I like it a lot."

Are we still talking about my dick? Or getting fucked? "Mm hm."

"You know… after I was circumcised my dick didn't work right for weeks. First time in my life I didn't like fucking. Blow jobs were nice though."

"You were an adult when you got circumcised?"

"I was 21."

"Ouch."

"Oh, no. Doctor Stanislofsky numbed it. Well… it was ouch later."

I smile into his hair. "I'll bet. Well, he did a nice job. It looks… well formed."

"Thank you. Poor Doctor Stanislofsky… Yuri killed him for it."

"For circumcising you?"

"Uh-huh. 'Cause Stanislofsky knew why, and Yuri had to cover his tracks. 'Course I broke his nose."

"During the circumcision?"

"Right after. I thought it was a nasty surprise."

"What was a nasty surprise?"

"The circumcision."

"Your circumcision was a surprise? That's pretty personal for a surprise."

"See? I felt the same way. Of course, if they'd asked me, I'd've said no."

It's hard to imagine a foreskin when you don't have one. "Was it good for anything?"

"My dick?"

I wince. "No, your foreskin. It's abundantly clear what your dick is good for."

"Well, I liked it. If I remember correctly, the head was more sensitive then. It was hard to get used to it being exposed." He pauses for a second. "But it's working fine now."

"Yes, I noticed. I'm a big fan of your dick."

"Really? I like yours, too. And… your nipples and your ass and your feet and your chest hair and your ears and your head and your lips…"

He continues with his catalogue of my body parts. "… speena ee vash groodnaya klyetka ee vash hora…"

I talk over him to say, "I like you, too, Alex. Go to sleep."

"… your thighs and your hands and your balls and…"

I reach around his face and press two fingers at his lips. He sucks them into his mouth. I knew that would work.

I sigh contentedly. After a few minutes of sucking, the fingers slip free and he makes gentle snoring sounds.


Crystal City, VA
Friday, April 16, 1999
6:02 A.M.


In the morning, I rise and dress for work. Before departing, I sit on the bed next to a sleeping Alex. I touch his thigh. He wakes with a pained groan. "Alex, I have to go to work, but I'll swing back at lunchtime."

Frowning, he stares at me for a long time. "Did I talk about your dick last night?"

I kiss his forehead. "Mm hm. My big dick. Do you need anything before I head out?"

Alex's gaze shifts to his jacket on the doorknob, then he closes his eyes and rolls his face toward the pillow. "No. Go to work so I can be embarrassed in private."

I rough up his hair with my fingers. "All right, I'm leaving. I'm sorry I never got to meet your foreskin." I lean over him so I can plant a quick kiss on his mouth.

He nips at my lower lip as I retreat, then grumbles, "Go away, Walter. And don't ever say foreskin again."

12:05 P.M.

When I step in the door, there's a note on the entryway table. It's awkwardly written and simply says, 'Silence.'

My fingers reach automatically for the grip of my gun. I take two more steps into the apartment, looking around. Nothing looks disturbed. I quickly check the kitchen and the downstairs rooms before heading up the stairs. The office is empty. I check the spare room before heading to the bedroom.

Alex had better be in bed, safe and with a good explanation for this.

He's not in the unmade bed, or in the bathroom. I open the closet door and come face to face with my naked lover, his gun pointed at me and a cold expression on his face. When he recognizes me, he immediately relaxes and lowers the gun.

Stepping close, he whispers in my ear, "Scan the apartment."

I nod and head downstairs for the scanner. Half an hour later, I've turned up four bugs. Living room, kitchen, office and master bedroom. Alex is seated on the bed while I destroy the bugs.

"What happened?"

Now looking tired, he lies back on the bed. "Someone broke in. I wouldn't normally hide in a closet, but it seemed like the best solution. I actually didn't know what he was here for, but bugging seemed likely. Unsure if he'd be back, I stayed in the closet. But, Walter, if he'd opened that closet door, I would have had to shoot him." Besides fatigue and pain, his expression shows confusion.

I brush my fingers across his cheek. "I know. You did the right thing." I sit on the bed next to him. "You okay?"

He frowns a little. "I'm fine."

"You want to talk about this? I brought lunch."

Alex considers it for a moment. "I do want to talk. I'm still confused about this 'don't kill people' thing, but I'm not sure I can… absorb it right now."

I nod and go to my dresser. Withdrawing my tightest T-shirt and a pair of boxers, I help him dress. He frowns at the boxers, but says nothing.

Downstairs I serve lunch. I de-bone and cut up his barbecue chicken before I bring it to the table. With an awkward grip on his fork, he manages to eat. I wonder if he'd starve before he'd let me feed him.

Midway through lunch, Alex says with a smile, "Sorry about last night. I should have probably taken a little less Demerol. Thanks for shutting me up."

I grin unapologetically

We finish lunch and I prepare to go back to work. Before I leave, I say, "Scully asked if she could take a look at your injuries today--for her own reasons. Are you willing?"

Alex is quiet for a moment. "Do you see any benefit to this?"

I consider it carefully, before replying, "Possibly. She already knows much of the information about you. And she's got an astute mind plus medical expertise that goes beyond the ordinary. Her insights could be important to us."

"I'll see her. Uh, we need time to get me back into my own clothes."

"Should I pick something up?"

He looks a little confused and shrugs, leaving it up to me.

"I'll ask Scully to come over at 8:00."

He gives me a quick kiss. Then another one, not quite so fast. "Okay. I'll see you tonight."

On the way back to the office, I stop at the Gap and buy him a couple of shirts and a few pairs of socks.

** End Part 1 **

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In part 2...
An unexpected guest provokes jealousy.
Echoes from the violent past reassert themselves creating a fork in the road for Walter and Alex.
A mysterious artifact leads to betrayal.

Next part in series


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