Exigency by Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu

Authors: Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us
Pairing: Skinner/Krycek
Warning: Angst, violence, ... the usual stuff.
Spoilers: Season 8. Season 9?
Note: We started diverging from canon in season 8, but we continue some elements of season 9.
Summary: The boys get some much needed R&R, then retire to Florida to bake cookies and plant daisies.
Series: Exigency. This story is best read after Protect.
Beta Thanks: Betagoddess Helen... more patient and loyal than Lassie! Special thanks to Alex (amacrae) and Ann Emmess, too.
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: Defend
(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

Crystal City, VA
Friday, 30 June 2000
7:15 A.M.


When I wake, it takes a moment to adjust. No more hotel. We're back home. Alex is sleeping peacefully.

Peace. That's a word that hasn't applied to our lives in a long time.

I rise carefully to avoid disturbing him. When I'm almost finished showering, Alex, half asleep, stumbles into the shower and drapes himself on me. I'm almost certain he falls asleep again, but I manage to get him semi-clean anyway.

Thirty minutes later, we're at the breakfast table. I realize Alex is just watching me drink my slime beverage. He's smiling softly and stroking the chain at his throat.

"What?"

He gives a slight shake of his head. "Nothing. Just glad we're home."

"Yeah." I toss him a smile. "This ordinary morning feels so... fucking wonderful."

"Fucking perfect," he murmurs.

When I return from rinsing my glass, Alex is reading. I inform him that I'm going to assemble a few people at the condo on Saturday, and ask him to talk about what he knows that might help us find Mulder.

He shrugs. "Sure." Then he tucks his nose back into his book.

After I buzz Kimberly into the building, Alex rises from the dining table and heads for the stairs.

"Where are you going?"

He gives me a perplexed look. "Upstairs."

"Why?"

"So you can meet with Kimberly."

Shaking my head, I go to him. "I'm tired of hiding you, Alex."

He gives me a quick hard kiss, then murmurs, "Thank you."

It's my turn to be baffled. "For what?"

"I don't know... we've just been hiding for so long. I know nothing about the normal progression of a relationship, but that made me feel like... like this is real. I tell myself, but it's not quite the same." He shakes his head in dismay at his difficulty in articulating his thoughts.

"It's definitely re-" The doorbell rings. "Just a second," I call out. "It's very real, Alex. But I don't know about 'normal progression.' Somehow I think we don't qualify. I'm just making this up as I go along." I kiss his forehead.

"Well, you do a damned fine job of making it up. I just never expected us to be able to be with each other publicly. It's... nice. Very nice."

I give him a heartfelt smile. Damned nice.

Opening the door, I admit Kimberly, who takes one look at Alex and shakes her head. I guess she recognizes him.

"Kimberly, you remember Alex Krycek?"

"Ag-, um Mr. Krycek," she acknowledges, giving me a curious look.

"Alex, Kimberly." I shut the door while Alex and Kimberly shake hands, then lead the way to the dining room. She places a black bag on the table.

Once seated, Kimberly passes me a thick envelope. "It will take some time to fill them all out, but I can help you, if you'd like." She's a damned fine assistant. Didn't even ask about Alex's presence in my home after all these years.

"Thank you, I'd appreciate that." I open the envelope and pour out the papers. "Alex is my lover, Kimberly."

She smiles at me, looking not the least bit surprised. "Thank you for sharing that, Assistant Director."

Alex's curious glance flicks between the two of us.

"Kimberly, are you going to tell me why that didn't come as a surprise to you?"

She gives me a you-underestimated-me look. "You had an affair with Agent Krycek when he was with the Bureau."

Alex and I are the ones to be surprised. Somehow I manage to speak. "How did you...?"

"Oh, give a girl some credit, sir. The phone calls, the way you reacted to him getting into trouble all the time. Any good admin would have figured it out."

"Fuck." I gape at her, then Alex. He looks queasy. Placing my hand on Kimberly's forearm I intone, "The fact that you've kept this a secret for so long may have saved both of our lives."

"I've kept all your secrets, sir," she replies proudly.

"It's Walter now. No more 'sir,' okay?"

She nods, opening the black bag to reveal a portable typewriter. As usual, she's thought of everything.

Alex rises from the table. "Kimberly, do you, uh, want anything to drink?"

"No, thank you, Mr. Krycek."

"Just Alex, please."

Nodding again, she stuffs a form into the typewriter, then glances at me. "There's a rumor going around that you may wish to know about."

"Which is?"

Alex wanders into the kitchen, no doubt uninterested in Bureau gossip.

"That Agent Scully is pregnant." Shit. How did that get out? She wiggles her eyebrows. "With your child."

"What?!" I yelp. Alex appears in the doorway, staring at me with a shocked expression.

"You don't have to tell me it's not true," Kimberly says calmly, "but you and Agent Scully have been disappearing together a lot lately. That's why people suspect you."

Well, I guess I can understand that.

Alex is suddenly amused and chuckles as he returns to the kitchen. I find myself wondering if Dana will find the rumor as amusing.

"Okay, well, yes. I am not the father of Dana's child." She already said she knew, but I had to defend Dana. Or myself. Whoever.

A glass of orange juice appears in front of me. "Here you go, Dad."

I manage to smack him on the ass before he gets away. Kimberly blinks at me. It's good to know I can still surprise her.

We settle in over the retirement forms, with Alex running upstairs to pull records from my files—because only he can find them—and Kimberly doing the data entry. When she's finished, I dictate a letter of reference detailing her accomplishments over the years and recommending her wholeheartedly to any prospective employer. After she thanks me for the letter and makes an appointment for me with Baker, I give her the check for her charity and walk her to the door. "Thank you for everything, Kimberly. I'll make sure you always know how to contact me. And please call, if you ever need anything." I give her a bear hug.

She kisses me on the cheek. "I will, s-, uh, Walter." She waves over my shoulder, and I look back to find Alex sprawled on the sofa, returning her wave.

After locking the door behind her, I sit next to my lazy lover. "I'm going to have to spend some time at the Bureau today. Sharon's coming over at 11:00 to drop something off for me. Can you be here to let her in?"

Alex shrugs nonchalantly. "Sure."

"And would you show her the Doors album you got me?"

He looks a little baffled. "Why?"

"She's designing a frame for it."

"Okay."

"And one of us should call Vlad and let them know you've recovered fully from your 'illness.'"

Alex looks a little green.

"I'll call them," I propose.

He mumbles something that sounds like, "Thanks."

I give him a kiss. "I should be back around five. Do you think you can stay out of trouble for that long?"

"I'll wait until you get home to get into trouble."

"And don't I know you can do it." He follows me to the door. I lift and crush him in my arms, before heading out. As I walk down the hall, I'm already looking forward to coming home to him.

Can things really be this good? After all we've been through I keep expecting something terrible to happen.

On the drive to the Bureau, I call my attorney. She reports that Matheson sent a packet with information about the NASA arm program. It's a go. There are forms for Alex to fill out. And more doctors for him to visit. It may be a while before he's up to dealing with this, but it will be available whenever he's ready.

When I get to the Bureau, I stop by the X-Files office. There's no one there, so I leave a note for Dana. Then I go to the records department. Holly helps me with a little research.

**

Crystal City, VA
11:02 A.M.


As soon as Sharon steps into the condo, she hugs me. I think I'm getting used to this because it only takes me a beat to hug her back.

She's holding onto a sketchpad and crosses to sit on the sofa.

Not quite comfortable entertaining Walter's ex-wife, it takes me a moment to think of what to say. "Would you like something to drink?"

She smiles and says, "I'll just help myself to something."

I sit in Walter's chair and fidget. When she returns a minute later, I hop to my feet. "Um, Walter wanted me to show you his album."

She puts the pad on the coffee table and opens it to show me a drawing. It's a sketch of a frame. "I couldn't complete it without seeing the album."

I retrieve the album from Walter's office. She rests it against some books and starts to sketch. "So, are you going to tell me what happened to Walter on your trip? Because he won't tell me, and I'd like to know."

Gaping at her in amazement, I ask, "How did you know?"

"He wrote me a letter postmarked Tucson. It was a... knowing-you-has-been-wonderful letter."

"Yeah, I got one kind of like that myself," I mutter, then give a start of surprise that I said it to her.

Sharon gives me a horrified look. "So, what happened?"

I wonder if I should be talking to her. "How much do you know about Walter's infection?" Does this constitute getting into trouble?

"His what?!"

Oh, shit. Yeah. I'm in trouble. Oh, well. "To make a long story short, Walter and I were both infected with these, uh, tiny micro-machines that could make us sick if they were turned on. Anyway, we were in Tucson trying to figure out how to get rid of them."

"You're not joking, are you?"

I shouldn't have said anything. "No."

"Tiny machines? Walter never told me he was ill." She looks distraught. "Does this have something to do with that chemical exposure in Arizona?"

"Um, no. That was something else entirely. He's had the little things for... oh... about a year and a half." At her expression, I add, "But, we're cured now."

"I knew you and Walter were dealing with something... difficult, but I'm shocked to discover how little he's told me. I just thought it was a case or something." She squeezes my hand. "So, you were getting medical treatment on this trip?"

In for a penny... "Yeah. The people who did this were, well, they were going to kill me and Walter got it in his head that..." It still fucking stings. "Uh, he thought it would be better if he... well, um, anyway, we're fine now."

She frowns at me. "Finish what you started, Alex."

I groan, then reluctantly reply, "They didn't think we'd both survive the, uh, 'cure.' I didn't know that. But Walter..." I trail off, not quite able to say it. "Fortunately they were wrong and we're both fine and I'm going to be in so much trouble." I shake my head.

She eyes me thoughtfully. "In the future when I want information about Walter, I think I'll come to you. There's not much point in asking him because he's always protecting me."

"Well, I know that feeling." I hesitate. "He's going to be pissed that I told you this, isn't he?" I don't feel much trepidation, but I'd like to know what's coming.

"Only if he finds out."

She's obviously not under one of Walter's 'don't lie' promises.

"So, Walter thought he was going to die. How did you feel about that?"

I glance away. "I didn't know until I woke up and found his goodbye letter."

"You're not serious? You didn't know?" At the look on my face, she continues, "That bastard. And what about you? Was the procedure expected to kill both of you?"

"No. Just one of us. And he made the choice."

"Without your knowledge?" The halting way she says it suggests she can answer her own question. "Walter, you son of a bitch. I can't believe he wrote you a damned letter."

I tentatively place a hand on her arm. "I cannot be too angry, Sharon. I didn't even leave him a letter when I left. There's a lot of shit between us. This is just one more thing. Hopefully, the last thing."

"When you left? You mean years ago when you had the affair?"

"Yeah. It made sense to me at the time, but I just disappeared. In some ways, I think it may have been crueler because he didn't know what happened." I wonder if I'll always feel this pang of pain and guilt knowing what I did to him. "And not knowing is fucking awful. The only thing I don't understand about what happened in Tucson, is his easy... willingness to sacrifice his life for mine."

Sharon looks at me thoughtfully. "He loves you a great deal. And the protective thing... You have to understand that he's been risking his life for total strangers since he was 18 years old. It's just what he does. He truly wants to make the world a safer place. I would imagine that giving his life for someone who means as much to him as you do would be easy for him."

The insight into the way Walter's mind works is interesting. It would have been easy for me to sacrifice my life for his, so I guess I do understand. "Well, as long as he never does it again."

She gives a dubious look. We both know this is just the way he is. But, to avoid locking him in our bedroom, I need to cling to my denial.

I glance at the clock and a sliver of reality slips through. "You want to grab lunch?"

Sharon agrees and we select a Mongolian barbecue place a few blocks away. I still have to be careful, and don't want to endanger Sharon, so I tell her I'll meet her there in a few minutes. Giving me time to slip out and make sure I'm not being followed.

**

Washington, D.C.
11:45 A.M.


I head up to my office to meet with Baker. We talk for an hour or so about his pending promotion and routine Bureau matters, then I take him out to lunch. After the meal, we go for a walk. In the shadow behind the Washington Monument, I reiterate what I told him before about supporting Scully with everything he's got. It's not a hard sell. He thinks the world of her. Then I tell him the aliens are real.

Baker's shocked. "Sir, I never expected to hear that from you."

I give a half laugh. "That's why you should believe it."

"Sorry, but there are some things you have to see for yourself." He looks off into the distance for a moment. "I have the utmost respect for you. I'd believe almost anything you'd tell me, but..."

"I appreciate that." And I do. If I didn't know I could trust him, I wouldn't be able to have this conversation. "Do you think you can do me one more favor?"

"As long as it doesn't involve aliens."

I shrug. "I'm afraid it does, but you don't have to believe in them."

"Then maybe. What is it?"

"Act as if whatever Agent Scully tells you is true. Even if it involves aliens."

Baker narrows his eyes. "You don't give up, do you?"

"No." I offer him a smile.

"Act as if? I don't know." He shakes his head. "I'll try."

"Good enough. And if I can get you evidence, I will. You'll owe me a good dinner on the town when you admit I'm right."

"I'll buy you dinner on the town for a month if you can produce aliens."

"I'll remember you said that."

He gives me an odd look... starting to comprehend that I'm leaving, and all my former problems are now his. "Keep in touch, okay?"

"Yeah. I will." We walk back toward the restaurant. "Are you available this weekend?"

"For what?"

"A meeting at my condo. I guarantee you'll find it of interest. I might earn those free meals."

Baker stops walking and gives me a worried frown. "This isn't going to be a bunch of alien abductees sitting around your living room comparing notes on alien torture methods, is it?"

"Uh, no."

"Well, in that case, I suppose I can cancel my plans to mow the lawn."

"Thanks. 9:00 A.M. My place." I shake his hand. "And invite Gjersee and Mallory, if they're in town."

"You sure?"

"Yeah. They can handle a few aliens."

After I drop him off at the Bureau, I use the satellite phone to call Vlad. A sleepy Lyosha answers the phone. I tell him his sister has recovered completely from her recent illness. He giggles at me, promises to tell the others and reminds me that I promised to come see him. I don't think I actually promised, but I tell him it's something I hope to do soon.


2:15 P.M.

I make a few calls and find out Matheson's in the Senate. Somehow I don't think he'll mind the interruption.

On the drive to the Capitol, I spot a tail, so I take a wide loop around the city, eventually losing him on a beltway off-ramp. At the Capitol, I find a page and convince him to take a note to the good Senator. When the page returns, he tells me Matheson will meet me. So I head to the location I specified, a nearby park.

When Matheson arrives, he tells me what I already know about the NASA program. I lay it out plainly. We have an easy cure. My terms are as mentioned before, complete support for the X-Files and documentation of everything he knows. I inform him that he's also going to pay a million dollars to the research team for investigation of the healing function and offer his leadership in getting funding from government and other sources. He balks. So I start walking away.

Predictably, he comes running after me. The senator reluctantly agrees to everything except sharing information. I tell him to call me when he's written or recorded his story.

"Skinner, you can't mean to leave me like this? You know what it's like to be infected with these things."

My cell phone rings, and I take the call. It's Dana. We arrange to meet in half an hour.

Turning off the phone, I look Matheson dead in the eyes. "Which is why you're going to prevent it from happening to anyone else. Call me when you're ready." He's right. I won't leave him infected. But I don't have to tell him that. As I'm walking away, I throw back, "And don't leave anything out, or so help me, I'll reinfect you with the damned things myself."

Dana's at the fishpond when I get there. She carefully looks me over. "How did it go in Tucson? The last time I spoke to Russ, he wouldn't discuss it with me."

"Ask him again. He'll tell you everything you want to know."

She raises an eyebrow at me.

"Thanks to you, Russ and the team, the nanos in Alex and me can no longer communicate. It's finished."

Dana flashes me a broad smile. "I'm incredibly happy to hear that." She pauses for a moment, then says, "There's a rumor that you're retiring." She no longer looks happy.

"I had hoped to get to you first. It's not a rumor." I take a deep breath. "I don't want you to feel abandoned. I haven't forgotten about Mulder. Baker's agreed to support our efforts in finding him and I... Well, the war between the Director, Kersh and me was going to kill my effectiveness anyway. Since they know Baker's a non-believer, he'll be able to do more for you." I don't know what else I can say.

She looks at her hands. "I appreciate that you've made sure I have adequate resources." She looks up at me. "But it's hard to lose you."

"You're not losing me, but I, uh, Alex and I need a vacation." I pause for a moment, thinking ahead.

"Is Krycek willing to help me search for Mulder?"

"Yes. I'm gathering a group at my condo tomorrow to talk about what we know and what we can do. I've even invited Baker, Gjersee and Mallory. I'll ask them to suspend their disbelief and help us figure out what to do next. You can update us on your current ideas."

"Oh, lord."

"Well... it should be interesting at the very least."

"Uh huh," she replies skeptically. "Do you want Doggett there?"

"That's your call. I'd say yes. He can suspend his own damned disbelief, too. But it's your choice whether or not to invite him." Thinking about how this is going to work, I add, "The more buy-in we get from these guys the better. Maybe we can find a way to convince them it's the truth."

She nods.

"I'll call the Gunmen. You decide about Doggett."

"Okay."

"And, uh, Dana, one more thing. I heard a rumor, too."

Dana narrows her eyes at me.

"That you're pregnant."

She gives a weak laugh. "With your child."

I can't hold back the smile. "I guess you heard it already."

"Yeah, I heard it. I'm not bothering to deny it as that would lend credibility to the rumor."

"However you handle it is fine with me. I'm not worried about my reputation." I rest my hand on her shoulder. "I think the rumor flatters me more than you anyway."

Dana grins. "Of course, now people are going to try to tie my pregnancy into your retirement."

"I never thought of that. I guess I'm supposed to be a stay-at-home father." Too strange. "Well, I'm no longer trying to keep my relationship with Alex a secret, so the rumors will only get more bizarre."

She shakes her head, as if trying to figure out how complicated this could get. "Incidentally, it's impossible not to notice how happy you are. I'm... glad it all worked out."

Now we have to find Mulder for you. I owe it to you, Dana.

On the way back to our place, I phone the Gunmen. Frohike's in a snit about missing Saturday morning cartoons, but they'll be there tomorrow.

I stop to pick up some groceries, before heading home. When I step into the apartment, I immediately hear laughter and Alex's voice saying, "No, not like that." I hear another gasp of laughter... sounds like Sharon. "Like this."

In the kitchen, I find Alex... It takes me a moment. He's deep throating a carrot. Sharon nudges him, "Okay, let me try."

I gape from the doorway, not knowing what to think until I see the kitchen table. There are two bottles of wine, one empty, several beer bottles and a bottle of tequila, with very little left in it.

Since they don't appear to have noticed me, I stand quietly. Honest to god, I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it myself, but Sharon deep throats the carrot. I shudder to think that her face ever looked like that when she was sucking my dick.

"Better. Now hum... or moan."

Sharon gives him a what-the-fuck look.

I chime in, "Yeah, you get this right and every carrot in town is going to be hot for you."

For just a split second, Sharon looks completely embarrassed. That's not a look I've often seen on her face. Then she extracts the carrot and comes at me. Stabbing me in the chest with it, she says, "You were a total bastard."

Alex begins to laugh, collapsing against the counter to keep from falling.

I raise my free hand. "What'd I do?"

"You, you..." I don't think she realizes that she's pounding the carrot into my chest. Assault with a deadly weapon? "You... Fuck, you scared poor Alex half to death with your little stunt in Mexico."

Shit. "Okay, you're right. I was a total bastard." I toss a kiss through the air to Alex. "And a svolach."

Alex, still laughing, steps up behind Sharon and claps a hand over her mouth. "You weren't supposed to say anything."

She looks back over her shoulder at Alex, and giggles something that might be "oops." When Alex's hand leaves her mouth, she says to me. "But I can't believe you wrote him a fucking letter."

Alex covers her mouth again. "Change the subject!"

When he removes his hand, she adds, "You were very bad. Don't scare hi-" The hand is back.

I kiss her on the forehead. "I'll try to behave."

Alex releases her again, then she babbles, "And I saw what you did to his neck." She glares at me.

Alex collapses in a laughing puddle on the floor and calls up, "I told her I liked it, but she won't believe me."

I'm a little embarrassed about that. Sex with Sharon was always so gentle. She must think I've turned into a sexual predator or something. Hmm... maybe I have. I think I can live with it. I know Alex can.

Blinking at me, she accuses, "I can't believe you did that to him."

Alex tugs at her pant leg. "I liked it!"

I shrug. "We're a couple of guys. Things get rough sometimes."

She leans on my shoulder. "I asked you to get rough a few times and you wouldn't do it."

Oh, brother. Are we really talking about our past sex life in front of Alex?

Alex is holding his side and laughing. "I told you... hum!"

It would not be advisable to answer Sharon's question. I loosen myself from under her and put the shopping bag on the counter. "You two are so fucked up."

"And thas another thing!" I've never seen Sharon this drunk. "You've been smoking pot."

"Uh-huh. Going to give me a sobriety lecture?" I start putting away the groceries, which is hampered by the 170-pound man clinging to my ankle.

"Nope, but G-men aren't supposed to do things like that."

Alex chimes in, "He's not a G-man anymore."

I smile at Sharon. "I resigned and retired today."

"Really?" She looks very surprised, and a little pleased.

Alex struggles to stand, and I help him up. His hand immediately finds my ass.

"Yeah. No more Bureau. I'm going to stay close to Alex and try to keep him from humming to the carrots."

Leaning heavily against me, he mumbles, "Don't need carrots... got your dick."

I give Sharon a look. You're the one who got him drunk.

She collapses into a chair and reaches for the half-empty wine bottle. I get to it first, putting it by the sink and offering her a Diet 7-up. "Fine," she replies in a petulant tone, taking the can from my hand.

I pry Alex off me and guide him to sit next to Sharon while I confiscate the rest of the booze. They begin to talk, but the discussion is so random, it's hard to follow. Probably pieces of whatever they've talked about today.

I make dinner, listening with only half an ear. After a few minutes, I hear Sharon ask, "So, Alex, do you have a hard time getting him to talk?"

Alex answers to the table. "Nah. I think he has a harder time getting me to talk."

She gives him a comically shocked look. "He tries to get you to talk?" She turns an accusing glare my direction. "That's the height of hycop, um, hyproc, uh-"

"Hypocrisy," I offer cheerily from the stove.

"Yeah, that." She giggles briefly, then adds, "Well, I hope you have to really work to get him to talk."

"Thanks, Shar. I appreciate the sentiment," I reply blandly. This is not how I planned to spend the evening.

Alex pokes Sharon in the shoulder. "I don't communicate very well. Walter's better at it."

Sharon dissolves into hysterical laughter. She's trying to say something to that, but never really gets the words out.

I guess I can't let these two alone. Ever.

The sobering-up process seems to take a long time. I suppose Alex needed to blow off some steam, but why did Sharon get drunk? She never gets drunk.

By the time I get the meal on the table, I'm thinking I'm going to have to spoon-feed both of them. I cut Alex's veal, feed him a bite, then hand him the fork. He seems to know what to do with it—immediately taking a bite from my plate.

Sharon's starting to look a bit sleepy, but she eats a little.

After dinner, I carry Sharon to the guest room and call her boyfriend Antonio. When I step back into the living room, Alex is draped over my chair. In the nude.

"Fuck me," he demands right before falling asleep. It's 8:20 P.M. I find a blanket and cover him. Then I sit on the floor next to him and start going through all the mail I got while we were out of town.

I guess I can talk to him later. Or let Baker wake him in the morning.

When Antonio arrives, I help him carry Sharon to the car. She's awake, but doesn't seem to have any ability to move her own limbs. I kiss her goodnight.

Upstairs, I find Alex resorting my mail. I kiss the top of his head and nudge him aside, so I can sit in my chair. He climbs onto my lap and mumbles, "I'm going to feel awful tomorrow."

"Yeah, and that's not a good thing, because we have guests coming."

He manages to focus on me. "Why?"

"Remember, I told you... I'm assembling the team to talk about Mulder's disappearance and what we can do to find him."

"What team?"

"Scully, the Gunmen, Doggett, Baker, Gjersee and Mallory."

For the first time tonight, he looks clearheaded as he gapes at me in shock. "Tell me you're not serious."

"I am serious. What's the problem?"

"Baker, Gjersee and Mallory... they're going to wonder why I'm here. Hell, they're all going to wonder why I'm here."

"So I'll tell them." I rub his shoulders, trying to help him stay lucid.

"And we're going to talk about Mulder?"

"Yeah. Plus I was going to ask you if you'd be willing to talk about the aliens. So everyone can learn from what you know. But I don't think you're sober enough to consider that question right now."

"Nah. I'll do it. I like a disbelieving audience."

I kiss the back of his head and move the massage to his neck. "You can change your mind in the morning. But, uh, they're coming at nine."

"Ugh." He wiggles off my lap. "Gonna go to bed."

Good idea. Purely for my own amusement, I watch him stagger up the stairs. Then I join him in the bathroom to make sure he knows where to put the toothbrush.

Once we're settled in bed, his head lands on my chest.

"Alex, do you think you can ask your nanocytes to fix your hangover before nine?"

"...try," he mumbles before falling asleep.

**

Saturday, 1 July 2000
7:23 A.M.


"Alex?" Someone is shaking me.

No... don't do that! Fuck... my head...

I open my eyes and focus on Walter, then close them again. "Tylenol," I croak. I struggle to sit up, feeling like my head is going to pop off. Walter reappears with a handful of pills and a glass of water.

Knowing I'm dehydrated, I take the Tylenol and drink the entire glass of water, then head for the bathroom to brush my teeth, shower and shave. Walter keeps an eye on me, until he's certain I'm not going face-first onto the shower floor.

While I'm dressing, Walter reappears and takes a seat on the bed. "How you feeling?"

"Better than I expected." I sit next to him. He clearly wants to talk, so I wait.

He puts an arm around my shoulders. "I wouldn't have planned this today if I'd known you were going to get drunk yesterday. Do you think you're up to this?"

"I guess." I shrug. "I think the real question is are they up to it?"

"Meaning?"

"People with only a tiny fraction of this information have been terminated. By both sides of the battle. It's risky for them to hear any of this."

Walter nods. "Each of them will have to make a choice. A difficult choice." He gazes out the window for a moment. "The way I see it, you and I have two possible paths we can take. The first is to keep everything you know private. But since I'm responsible for what happened to Mulder-"

"You are not responsible for Mulder." Just the idea that he thinks it pisses me off. Damned overdeveloped sense of responsibility.

"Even if I'm not, Scully saved your life... brought you back to me. She needs Mulder and I am not going to abandon her to look for him alone. I can't." He meets my gaze. "Can you accept that, Alex?"

"Yeah... I can accept it." I don't like the risk, but I know he would be unhappy at even the idea of abandoning Scully. And him being unhappy is not an option.

Walter sighs. "Nothing would make me happier than to leave this all behind and just be with you. I hope you know how badly I want that, Alex."

"I do know." But I wonder if that will ever be possible. "This is difficult, but I trust your judgment." I give him a little push. "Except in matters of your own health and safety."

"Point taken." He pinches the bridge of his nose. "So... two paths... Number one, you tell no one but me what you know. In that case, I have to find Mulder on my own-"

"You're not on your own, you're stuck with me," I interject. "So, we're taking option two. I'll tell them what I know."

"I'm actually very happy to be stuck with you." Walter plays with the seam on his jeans. "I'm not trying to back you into a corner. I know this is difficult for you. And risky for us. But the way I figure it, the risk is pretty high already. Spender may be dead, but the Resistance is probably already after us."

"The colonists still have allies in the government. But, you're right, the risk is already high." I rub my hand on his thigh. "I don't feel like you're backing me into a corner." I consider it for a moment. "I think I feel like I'm always backed into a corner. No simple choices... everything seems to be about life and death. I'm not concerned about me... I'm concerned about you. And about how it will affect you if one of your, uh, friends gets hurt or killed."

"I'm not going to like it," he states in a matter-of-fact tone. "But aliens or no, that's just the risk of law enforcement. And I think it could be a good thing if a few more people who care about the human race know what's happening."

I nod. "All right... I'll tell them what I know. Well, what I can. How far back do you want me to go?"

"Start where you first learned about aliens." His fingers clasp mine. "I don't want you to give even a hint about the alien memories. It's way too dangerous. There may be other things you need to keep to yourself for similar reasons. I trust your judgment."

"Okay. Do you want me to tell them about the Resistance?"

"Yes, but I think you should leave out everything that relates to the testing that was done to you. Scully knows about it, and if it becomes important, we can discuss later what to share about it."

"Agreed." I lie back on the bed and tug him down next to me. "Come on, Walt... you've got a half hour before your guests arrive. Let's neck."

He gives me a brief smile, but the serious expression is still on his face. "Thank you for going along with me on this. It's not easy for me to ask it." He kisses my forehead.

"You're welcome," I murmur, hoping we can stop talking about it.

After an all-too-brief kiss, Walter rises to go get ready for his meeting. He's in business mode, so I suppose I'm lucky I got that much.

Sighing, I get off the bed and finish dressing. As I'm lacing my boots, I hear a knock at the door, then voices. It's ten minutes till... someone's early. I head downstairs in search of orange juice. I hear Scully's and a man's voice from the living room.

I find them seated on the sofa with Walter standing nearby. The man is Nathan Gjersee. Someone I haven't seen in over six years, but who helped protect my brother.

Gjersee stands up abruptly, gaping at me. "Fuck. Alex?"

I nod to him. "Hi, Nate." I glance at Scully, who's drinking a glass of juice. "Hey, Doctor Agent. I hear you're having Walt's baby."

Gjersee gives Scully a weird look, then comes to me and gives me a hug. "I'm glad you're okay, Alex."

That seems very... generous of him. I pat him on the back, which I've found usually aids in my release. And it works again. "I owe you a lot, Nate." I lower my voice to a whisper. "Thanks for protecting... my doppelganger."

He slaps me on the back. "Sure, pal."

Pal. How strange. He doesn't seem to have any bad feelings about the past. I'm momentarily intrigued, then put it out of my mind.

Walter hands me a glass of orange juice and directs me to his chair, as the phone rings for the front door. He buzzes someone in.

Glancing at me, Scully says, "I'm glad to see you're fully recovered."

"Yeah. Uh, thanks. I know I was a rotten patient."

Taken aback, she manages a slight shrug.

At the front door, Walter admits a man I don't know, who says, "I brought donuts. Krispy Kreme." Must be Doggett.

Walter takes two boxes from his hands and leads him into the living room. He looks like a cop who's been around the block a few times. Ex-military. I have a feeling he's going to be the most skeptical in the group.

Walter says, "John, you know Agents Scully and Gjersee." Then he gestures to me. "This is Alex Krycek."

I nod to the newcomer.

"Alex, this is John Doggett."

Doggett shakes my hand in that overly vigorous way that some tough guys do.

Walter continues, "John, you've probably heard a lot about Alex, but there's one thing about him you don't know." He puts a hand on my shoulder. "Alex is my lover."

Doggett chuckles nervously. "Yeah, right, W-" Then he gives me a perturbed look, before glancing back at Walt. "You are kidding, aren't you?"

Before Walter can respond, I rise to my feet and pull Walter close so I can kiss him. I can't see my lover's face, but I have a feeling he's giving me a scolding look. He breaks the kiss quickly and turns to Agent Doggett. "Uh, no. I wasn't kidding."

Doggett opens his mouth to ask something, then clamps it shut. He looks to Scully for support.

She shrugs.

"Shit," he mutters, falling into one of the dining room chairs.

The phone rings again and Walter pulls away to answer it.

Gjersee looks very amused.

I flop into my seat. This is kind of fun.

The doorbell rings and Walter admits Baker. Baker steps two feet into the room and freezes. He points at me. "Aren't you...?" Then he turns to Walter. "Isn't he...?"

Walter gives him a reassuring shoulder pat. "Yeah. That's Alex Krycek."

Baker looks the same as I remember. Still short. Same mustache. He gawks. "Shouldn't he be under arrest or something?"

It shouldn't bother me, but just the reference to prison makes me tense. I've already spent enough time locked up.

Walter says quietly, "There are no outstanding warrants for Alex, and he's a part of our meeting."

There are no outstanding warrants? Really? I flash Walter a questioning look, but he's focused on Baker. I'll have to ask him about it later.

"How could he possibly be of any-"

Walter interrupts. "Robert, your concerns about Alex are in the past. Let's leave them there for now. Okay?"

After a hesitation, Baker shrugs and takes a seat at the far end of the room, greeting the other agents as he passes.

Gjersee shoots me an expectant look. I'll bet he's eager to see how Baker will react when he finds out I'm Walter's lover.

Walter puts a pot of coffee on the table and everyone helps themselves. He refills my orange juice.

Baker asks what we're all doing here, but Walter tells him to wait until the others arrive. Doggett opens the donut boxes and helps himself to a couple.

Scully and Gjersee chat about her latest case, with Doggett chiming in to add details. Yeah, he's definitely the skeptic.

Fifteen minutes later, the phone rings again. "Yeah. ... No, put him on. ... Hi, Mallory. Yeah, I'll tell them. ... Yes, Langly, you can let in the guy who says he's Mallory."

I head into the kitchen to get some water and eat a granola bar. My skin is crawling. There are already too many people in the condo. Geeks and law enforcement over for tea. With me. Bizarre. I never thought I'd see the day. Taking a deep breath, I grab a box of granola bars and head back to the living room.

I'm offering them to Gjersee and Scully, who don't seem interested in donuts, when there's a tap at the door. Walter opens it to admit the Nerd Squad and Eugene Mallory.

Mallory stops dead in his tracks, gaping at me.

I give him a cautious nod of greeting.

He glances around the room, as if he doesn't want anyone else to know I'm here, then approaches me. "Where the hell have you been, Krycek?" He shakes my hand vigorously, while I try to figure out what to say to him.

I keep my voice low to exclude the rest of the room. "I've been around... getting rid of some clutter in my life. I've been here for about a year and a half." Except for that nine month forced separation, which I won't mention. "How've you been, Mallory?"

"Here?" His voice is barely audible. "With A.D. Skinner?"

I nod.

"Wow." He gives me an astonished smile. Even after all these years, he still looks like a green kid, though Walt told me he's become one of the Bureau's best.

When we turn to face the rest of the room, Walter's just finished introducing the Gunmen, who keep furtively glancing in my direction.

Langly mutters, "Krispy Kreme," with enthusiasm and takes a couple, then sits on the floor next to Gjersee.

I get back to Walter's chair, before anyone else can snag it. The others sit on the sofa and dining room chairs. Walter grabs another chair, places it next to me and sits on it backward, facing the assembly. Guess lap sitting is out for this meeting. Besides, we want Doggett to be able to focus.

When it looks like Walter's going to say something, everyone stops talking. "We'll get started in a minute, but first I'd like to set a few ground rules. We're going to talk about aliens today. And I know some of you don't believe in aliens and probably already think I've lost my mind."

Mallory's face shows more astonishment than disbelief.

Walter continues, "The first ground rule is that the non-believers in the room set aside their disbelief for today and listen as if you believe what you're hearing. Just for one day. I understand your skepticism, but let it go for a day."

Doggett looks like a man sucking on a lemon. Baker shakes his head in disbelief.

"Can I have your agreement on this point?"

Frohike replies, "Way to go, man. I believe."

Byers and Langly nod in unison. Gradually the nods pass the room, until Doggett is the only one who hasn't responded.

"John?" asks Walter.

"Yeah, okay. Just for today." He shakes his head. "Aliens. Sure. Some of my best friends are... uh, E.T."

Walter's lip quirks up, but he suppresses the smile. "Thank you." He glances at me. "There's a second ground rule, but before I request your agreement, I have to disclose my personal interest in the matter." He reaches for my hand. "Alex is my lover."

I forget about the room full of people as I turn my attention to Walter and squeeze his fingers.

Langly's, "Holy shit," brings my focus back.

Frohike's mouth is opening and closing.

With an amused half smile, Gjersee is watching everyone else.

Doggett's demeanor is unchanged.

Baker is gaping at Walter, as if he just confessed to murdering Baker's mother.

Mallory flashes me a supportive look.

Scully, watching like Gjersee, rapidly looks from one shocked expression to another.

Byers murmurs, "Mulder is going to freak."

Walter meets Baker's gaze across the room. "Robert, do we need to have a private conversation?"

After a moment in which he remembers to breathe, Baker slowly nods. They disappear to Walter's office.

I face the troops, wondering how to do this.

Gjersee gives me a pointed look. "So, Alex, when's the wedding?"

"We thought we should wait until the kids are in preschool," I reply sarcastically.

Mallory snickers around his donut. Doggett gives me a long hard look. I think he's trying to imagine Walter and me together. Or maybe he's trying to imagine me pregnant. I stop short when I realize I made the assumption that I'd be the one stuck getting pregnant. I think not.

Langly offers, "I can kind of see you being gay, Krycek, but Assistant Director Skinner? He's so, you know, manly."

I give him a withering glare. "Yes, Langly, I'm very happy with his manliness." Fuck, he probably thinks we put on dresses or something.

Doggett looks tense. "I think we should let, uh, Alex and A.D. Skinner keep their private lives, private."

And our private parts, no doubt.

Gjersee takes a bite of his granola bar. "What's the problem? I have a picture of my girlfriend on my desk... bring her to Bureau functions. That's not exactly keeping my private life 'private.'"

"Look, I've worked with gay guys before," Doggett announces in an extra-macho tone. "It's not that I'm uncomfortable with this, I just don't think it's the reason we're here... to talk about their," he makes a vague, dismissive gesture, "sex life."

I just sit back and watch as Gjersee prepares for battle. "I don't think I heard anything about their sex life." He looks at me. "Did I miss something about sucking or fucking, Alex?"

Doggett brings his legs together and crosses his arms over his chest protectively. Scully's smiling at her lap.

I grab my juice and take a drink, trying not to laugh. "No, Nate. You didn't miss it. Walter hasn't been in the mood for demonstrations lately."

Gjersee moves in for the kill. "Agent Doggett, surely you're not one of those guys who's so insecure about his own sexuality that the mere presence of men who fuck each other makes you feel threatened. I thought you'd be able to rise above all that macho bullshit."

Mallory looks a little uncomfortable at the way Gjersee is going after Doggett. The Gunmen are watching like it's Frohike's missed Saturday morning cartoons. Scully's now leaning back with a tolerant expression on her face, but I notice occasional protective glances toward Doggett. I get the sense that there's some kind of ongoing friction between Doggett and Gjersee.

Doggett barks, "Knock it off, Gjersee. This is not about my sex life. For the sake of the Assistant Director, I'll try to keep my 'macho bullshit' to myself."

Gjersee looks like he's ready to fire another round, but Scully gives him a warning look. Apparently everyone obeys Doctor Agent.

I get to my feet, gesturing with my juice glass. "Does anyone need refills?" The Gunmen want soda, Gjersee and Scully ask for more juice, Doggett and Mallory shake their heads. As I'm heading for the dining room, I call back, "Keep your butt out of my chair, Frohike."

"Damn."

Byers follows me into the kitchen. "Hey, Krycek. I think it's cool about you and Mr. Skinner."

I wonder where that came from. "Uh, thanks, Byers."

He helps me assemble the beverages.

**

"You can't be serious, sir."

"I'm dead serious, Robert. Alex has more information about the aliens than any of us. He's the one who can help us find Mulder. But he has to put himself at risk to do it."

"I don't even believe in aliens."

"You do today."

He grits his teeth. "Yeah, but I can't promise not to prosecute that man in exchange for information about something I don't believe in. I don't give a damn if he's your lover. I can't do that."

"Well, then I'll have to ask you to sit out this meeting today. But if I do that, you're going to be out of the loop on the Mulder investigation, and the rest of this."

"God, what is with you, Walter? You really believe this crap about aliens don't you?"

"I've seen it, Robert. I didn't believe it until I saw it. But I saw it. And if you stick with us, you might see it, too." I take a deep breath. "We need you, Robert. I'll try to find a way to get you proof, but we need you."

"Fine. I'll be here. But I am not offering immunity to Krycek. As far as I know, he's a criminal who should be in jail."

"There are no outstanding warrants. How do you plan to arrest him?"

"I don't know, but if I get the A.D. job, it may become my duty to arrest him." He paces around the room. "What the fuck are you doing sleeping with a criminal anyway?"

This is not progress. It's just getting worse. "It doesn't matter. He's finished with all that. Now he just wants to help us. He's already helped us. And Scully needs him to find Mulder."

"Fuck, Walter. You don't know what you're asking."

I pinch the bridge of my nose. "I know exactly what I'm asking. All I need is your verbal commitment not to use anything you hear today to attempt any legal action against Alex. That's all I'm asking. You don't have to like him. You don't have to approve of my choice of lovers. You don't have to believe in aliens. Just agree not to use the information against him. Information you'll never hear if you don't agree."

Baker kicks my file cabinet. "So what if one of the agents under my command brings a case against him?"

"As long as you don't use the information you learn today, just do your job. But Alex is out of that business, so there won't be any future cases."

He eyes me warily. "I hope you're right about that."

I sense he's relenting, so I sit silently, waiting for him.

Finally he says, "All right, Walter. You win." He shakes his head. "But I still think you're psychotic about aliens."

"Fine. I'm psychotic, except for today."

Baker holds his hands up in mock surrender. "I believe in aliens. Little green men. Clap if you believe in fairies." He opens the office door. "If I didn't have more than fifteen years' worth of trust for you, I wouldn't put up with this crap."

"I know. Thank you, Robert," I reply mildly, as we head down the stairs.

All eyes in the living room are on us as we take our seats again. Doggett looks testy. I hope Alex hasn't been tormenting him.

**

I wonder how much longer I have to do this. Trying to block out the room full of people, I twist in my chair so I can see Walter.

"Let's continue." Walter sighs wearily. "Alex has a lot of information about the aliens and other parties involved in alien activities. He's willing to tell us what he knows to help us find Mulder. As some of you know, he's given us information before. Information that led us to Arizona and Gibson Praise." He glances at Scully. "Dana, would you agree that Alex is a promising source of information for us?"

Suddenly, I feel confined. Too many people, and Walter wants me to tell them things I never expected to say out loud. I wish I had a week to prepare myself for this... time to decide which pieces of information are best left out. Guess I'll have to filter as I go. I've never been very good at that. Better to just keep your mouth shut.

Scully replies, "He's had access to the Consortium, as well as direct exposure to the alien from the Piper Maru. He led us to the rock containing the alien oil and led Mulder to the rebel commander at the air force base. Plus he did lead us to Gibson." She shrugs. "Yes, it's believable that he has a lot of information that could help us."

Walter squeezes my hand. "If Alex tells us everything he knows, he puts himself at risk. From men who want to prevent the information from being disseminated."

No shit, Walter. It's an incredible amount of trust to give this information to so many people. The odds are that at least one of them will talk. Regardless of their promises.

He continues, "He's also at risk from us... as officers of the law. During the course of Alex's... travels, he's been at the scene of a few felonies. None of which are prosecutable at this time. Isn't that correct, Dana?"

Doggett shoots me a look of distaste. I'm starting to feel less nice and glare at him in return.

Scully nods. "I know of no prosecutable offenses involving Krycek, with the exception of the hospital incident, but Assistant Director Skinner is the only victim and witness. I presume he will not be filing a complaint."

"Correct." Walter clears his throat. "So in exchange for Alex's cooperation today, I'm asking all of you to agree to hold this information confidential and not use any of it to arrest or prosecute Alex. Nor to support anyone else's efforts to arrest or prosecute him."

How can Walter possibly trust all these people? I know I couldn't... ever. It's too fucking much to manage. I remind myself again that I only have to worry about trusting Walter... he'll worry about everyone else.

"Sir, are you asking for an immunity agreement?" Doggett inquires.

"No. I'm asking each of you to give me your word. That's it. I trust you. All of you." He slowly makes eye contact with each person in the room. "If we're going to find Mulder, we have to trust. So I'm trusting you. And I'm asking you to trust me on this."

Doggett murmurs something to Baker, who shakes his head and whispers a reply. Then Doggett looks across the room to Scully. "Agent Scully, is this what you want me to do?"

"Yes," she replies without hesitation.

Doggett nods. "Okay, Skinner. I agree."

"Robert?" Walter asks casually, which tells me he already talked Baker into it. Baker nods, obviously not happy with the situation. Walter's eyes travel around the room, as each person agrees to the terms.

"The next condition is simple." Walter seems to relax a bit. "Alex's information comes from many different sources. In some cases, he'll be able to tell you how he got the information. But there is at least one source he cannot reveal. The risk to his life in this particular case is extreme." I can see a hint of sadness in his eyes. "So you may ask questions about his sources—about anything—but there may be some questions he can't answer."

Or won't.

Walter pauses for objections, but receives none. The people who would object don't believe in aliens anyway. Which makes them a greater risk. It wasn't so long ago I would have had to kill these people for hearing this information. Now, I have to trust them to not get me killed. This is really fucked up.

"The most difficult part of this is the risk." Walter glances around the room making eye contact. "People have been killed if they were even thought to have this information. If you don't believe in aliens, at least believe this—Scully's got X-Files documenting homicides whose sole purpose was to stop the information flow on this topic. So if there aren't any aliens, there are at least people willing to kill those who appear to have knowledge of them." He shakes his head. "If you stay in the room today, you may someday pay for it with your life. That's nothing new for those of us in law enforcement, but," he glances at the Gunmen, "think it over carefully. No one will pressure you to make the choice to stay."

Baker shrugs, looking impatient.

"I think I can speak for the Gunmen when I say we've never held back in fear in our quest for the truth." Byers gestures to his companions.

"We're intrepid," adds Frohike, as Langly nods.

"I'm in," offers Gjersee.

"Me, too," chimes Mallory.

After a brief glance at Doggett, who nods almost imperceptibly, Walter says, "Okay, then. Everything that's said here today does not leave this room. I don't care how much you trust someone else, we're the team. No one else." He gives the Gunmen a hard look. "And no publishing, boys. Got that?"

"Yes, sir," replies Langly.

Walter glares at them until the other two agree. Next he turns to me and says, "Alex, tell us about those aliens."

Feeling more reluctant than I expected, I begin to tell this unlikely team about the conspiracy to turn our species into a slave race. Needless to say, with the exception of the Gunmen, everyone looks skeptical... even Scully.

Shaking his head, Baker asks in a disbelieving tone, "So, they planned to modify our DNA to turn us all part-alien and then make us slaves?"

Ignoring the rampant skepticism, I answer, "That was the original plan. Then the aliens acted on their own agenda, outside the knowledge of the Consortium, and began using humans as... incubators for their progeny."

Scully gives me a pained look, no longer skeptical.

Doggett snorts his disbelief.

Mallory looks a bit green.

I direct my comment to Doggett. "You know, I didn't believe this shit either. One of my major headaches was having to pretend to believe in aliens. Then I saw a lab... with a young alien being held for testing. I haven't had any problems believing since that day."

"Yeah, well, as soon as you produce the alien, Mr. Krycek, I'll think about believing your wild stories," Doggett replies condescendingly.

Walter interjects, "You agreed to keep an open mind today, John."

"Okay." He holds his hands up. "Please continue, Mr. Krycek." The way Doggett says my name makes me want to introduce him to my birthday present from Morgan. Focus, Alex.

I explain more about the Consortium and some of their experiments on humans in the guise of alien abductions. Then tell them about the Russian Organization and their attempts to prevent colonization, and their subsequent alliance with the Resistance.

Doggett starts firing questions at me, which I rapidly identify as an attempt to trip me on my facts. Baker joins in and uses standard interrogation techniques to rattle me. But they can't get me to contradict myself, because I'm telling the truth.

When I've had enough of proving myself, I growl, "Shut the fuck up, so I can continue."

Walter gives Baker a disciplinarian glare. "Give it up. I think Alex has already demonstrated that he's telling a logically consistent story."

"I have one more question, Mr. Krycek," says Doggett. "How do you know so much about these competing groups?"

I give him an innocent look. "Why, because I've worked for all of them, Agent Doggett."

Scully gives an unexpected snort of laughter.

Doggett looks at her for a moment, then replies, "So there's no one you haven't betrayed."

Baker looks eager to hear my response to that one.

Feeling annoyed, I snap, "Well, I haven't betrayed you yet, Agent. But. Give. Me. Time."

Suddenly, Walter's hand is on my arm. "Alex, please." He scolds me mildly with his expression. Then suggests we break for lunch.

I bolt for the stairs, heading for our room. Walter can deal with his goddamned guests.

**

Gjersee and Mallory agree to pick up the food. They both look a bit shell-shocked as they head for the door.

Doggett rises to his feet and says to me, "You sure throw an interesting party, sir."

Trying to keep from biting his head off, I remind myself that I would be just as skeptical in his shoes. Fortunately, Scully commandeers him before I have to reply.

I head upstairs to check on Alex. He's in the bedroom, lying on the bed reading, but his agitated movements tell me he's not absorbing anything.

Taking a seat next to him, I ask, "You okay?"

"Fine." He flips a page, causing a sharp snapping sound.

"Ah, good. Well, if you're fine, why don't we go downstairs and play hosts?"

"You play." Another page flip. "I'll give them the fucking information and that's it."

I take the book from his hands. It's not like he's actually reading it. "My highly sensitive intuition tells me they've made you angry."

"Fuck them and their goddamned bullshit skepticism." He hops off the bed and begins pacing. "They haven't been trapped in a goddamned missile silo with one of those things... trying not to let the terror make you insane. Knowing you've been left there to die with it." He stops and glares at me.

The silo. Mulder told me that's where he thought Krycek could be found after he was infected with the oil alien. Spender had Mulder and Scully thrown off the property. And, apparently, left Alex to die there.

Spender, you bastard, you can't die enough times for what you've done.

I force myself to listen as Alex continues, "I'll tell them what I know, but I will not be interrogated. And I'm absolutely not going to justify or explain the choices I've made."

"That's fair, Alex." I gesture for him to sit again, and remind myself to relax.

With a frustrated sigh, he plops down next to me.

"I'm sorry I didn't intervene sooner. You were doing such a good job of thwarting their attempts to trick you that I just let it go." I'd hoped it would help convince them that he was telling the truth. I rub his shoulders. "You're right about them. Not only don't they believe, but they've never had this business forced on them, like was done to you."

Alex's muscles begin to relax under my fingers. "I need some time to regroup. I'll be down in a little bit." He turns his head and kisses my fingertips. "I'm not mad at you. I just want to get this over with."

Nodding, I kiss his forehead, then rise to depart. Grabbing my hand, he tugs me down for a real kiss.

Downstairs, Doggett is in his chair, looking a bit subdued. Baker is talking to Byers about the JFK assassination. I find Scully in the kitchen, trying to tidy up, but we haven't really made a mess.

Glancing around, she mutters, "In my experience, most men aren't this neat."

I take the dishtowel from her hands. "Maybe this was a mistake."

She shakes her head. "No... we need to do this. I think Agent Doggett will lay off Alex for the rest of the afternoon."

"I thought he looked like you'd just kicked his ass."

She offers a weak smile, then gives me a concerned look. "Is Alex still willing to finish this?"

"Yeah," I reply wearily, "but his charm quota has been used up."

Scully gives a surprised laugh, but looks relieved. "Is that what that was? Charm?"

I find myself smiling a bit. "Well... maybe not."

The afternoon goes better. The questions are more to the point. Alex reviews the information about the ship Scully found off the coast of Africa. She's rather perturbed to hear that the Resistance picked it up.

Frohike asks what happened to the fragments that were driving Mulder insane. Alex declines to answer. Scully's face reveals comprehension. I make a mental note not to ask.

Next, Alex describes the different types of aliens and their strengths and weaknesses. He speaks a little slower and his eyes narrow as he describes the Jeremiah-Smith-type healers. I can tell by his expression and his body tension that he has a sudden headache. More alien memories. Scully flashes me a concerned look. I give her a reassuring nod.

At a lull in the discourse, Baker asks, "Does any of this have anything to do with why you left the Bureau in a hurry?"

I give Alex a glance to suggest I'll support him whether he wants to discuss it or not.

Alex is quiet for a moment, then cautiously replies, "Yes. Agent Mulder had determined that I was working with a third party whose interest in the Bureau was something less than altruistic."

"You going to name the third party?" Baker asks, as if it's a dare.

"No," Alex replies as if the answer were obvious.

The Gunmen are watching expectantly. I guess this is better than TV for the guys.

Baker looks at Scully, who appears nonplussed, before continuing, "What happened on Skyland Mountain?"

"As I recall, you, Gjersee and Mallory were there," Alex replies blandly.

I have to admit I'm mildly curious myself, but I don't want Alex to go down this path here. Not like this.

Frowning, Baker replies, "Not for the interesting parts... the abduction of a federal agent, disappearance of one witness, death of another."

"I can only tell you what I was witness to. Anything else would be conjecture." Alex's posture and tone are deceptively casual.

Doggett interjects, "So tell us already."

Scully is listening with interest, though she appears a bit leery. Frohike is gazing at her with a mixture of admiration and concern.

It's tempting to intercede and stop this, but instead I give Alex a questioning look.

Alex's expression is blank. That means his defenses are at full alert. He looks between Baker and Doggett. "I've yet to hear a specific question."

Baker scowls at me, as if to complain about my lover, before he asks, "What did you see that would illuminate the three crimes on the mountain?"

Mallory and Gjersee look uncomfortable.

Meeting Alex's eyes, I try to tell him that whatever the answer is it won't change anything. I think he knows I've forgiven him everything without even knowing the facts.

"I was unaware of plans to abduct a federal agent." Alex sounds too calm. "Although, I later became aware of who had abducted her."

For some reason, I feel a twinge of panic. A few deep breaths help me get centered.

Alex goes on, "I have no information to offer with regard to the other two matters."

Relieved, I look around the room. Baker and Doggett are watching Scully, who's watching Alex.

After a moment of weighted silence, she asks, "Who abducted me, Alex?"

Alex fixes his gaze on her. "It was ordered by Charles Gregory Bernard Spender."

Langly and Byers look startled and I can see them mentally making note.

Baker gives me a questioning look, and I mime smoking a cigarette. His eyes open wide. "How do you know this?"

Alex's expression becomes cold as he turns his attention back to Baker, meeting his stare. There's a subtle change in the body language of many in the room. Slightly protective postures in response to the change in Alex's mood.

After a long pause, Alex bluntly says, "Because Spender took me to the location where Agent Scully was held."

Doggett gives Alex a murderous look. "And you did nothing?"

Dana's expression is a bit vulnerable. It makes me hurt for her. For what was done to her.

Spender, you miserable excuse for humanity. How many lives did you wreck before Alex put you down?

Alex's eyes are now on Scully. "Correct, Agent Doggett. I did nothing."

Dana quietly asks, "Why did he let me go?"

"He didn't. The experiment group you were in all died."

She narrows her eyes at him. "But I didn't? What was different about me?"

Alex is quiet for a long time, which clearly tests Doggett's limited reserves of patience. "I retrieved you and took you to the hospital," he says with no emotion.

Scully gapes at him. "You?"

I'm probably gaping, too. That defies explanation. At least until I remember the night I got the call that she'd been kidnapped. Alex saw how upset I was. Fuck, he did it for me. It makes perfect sense, but it's still astonishing.

Alex offers no further explanation.

Doggett starts to object, but then closes his mouth again and gives Alex an intense look. He's reconsidering his opinion of Alex, I think.

I take Alex's hand and squeeze it, murmuring softly, "Thank you."

He looks at me and his expression relaxes just a little as he returns the squeeze.

When Baker opens his mouth to ask another question, I cut him off. "I think we've taken this as far as it needs to go. If Agent Scully has more questions for Alex, they can discuss it privately."

Scully nods, looking almost relieved.

"Alex, would you tell us about the alien bounty hunter?" I give him an encouraging glance.

He explains how they are another slave race, and about their shape-shifting abilities. Doggett rolls his eyes.

"Hey, I know you saw two Scullys in Arizona, John." I give him a mild glare.

"Do you have another explanation for what you saw, Agent Doggett?" Scully asks in a firm tone.

Doggett waves the question away and looks at the ceiling, muttering, "I believe."

Alex continues to explain the toxic property of the bounty hunter's blood, their unusual strength and the method to kill them. Unexpectedly, he pulls a cylindrical metal object from his pocket. "This was designed to kill them." Out pops something that looks like an ice pick. "It's called a ckitz."

The horrified look on Gjersee's face suggests he's become a believer. Mallory just looks frightened. He'll probably talk it over with Gjersee, lose a few nights sleep and then decide it might be real.

Alex passes the ice-pick-thingie around the room. It's got a spring action, like a switchblade. Back of the neck. Bullet or knife. Or this thingie. I pass it on to Mallory who swallows hard and gives it to Scully.

Much to the annoyance of many of the law enforcement folks, Alex gives a quick overview of the security precautions everyone needs to take before discussing any of these issues openly.

At one of Doggett's more contemptuous comments, Alex fishes something tiny out of a small dish on the end table. He tosses it to Doggett, who snags it out of the air.

After giving Doggett a moment to look at the little object, Alex queries, "Seen anything like that? We found it when debugging this apartment two days ago."

Baker and Gjersee are leaning over trying to get a look at the tiny and highly sophisticated transmitter. Not exactly made in the USA. Or even planet earth.

Doggett shakes his head. "The private sector always-"

"Yeah, whatever," Alex interjects. "There are things out there that you, with all your training, are not prepared for. Call it the private sector if you like. But are you willing to bet your life on not believing in aliens?" At Doggett's still apparent skepticism, Alex astutely adds, "Scully's life?"

Doggett leans back in his chair, arms crossed over his chest. "Fine."

And since everyone is listening now, Alex runs over security procedures again. I notice the transmitter finds its way into Frohike's pocket. Something for the geek squad to pour over later.

Dinner is procured. Then we brainstorm on how to look for Mulder. Alex has a few ideas, the Gunmen have suggestions and Scully listens carefully. Doggett comes up with another avenue of conventional investigation. Why do I want to smack him?

I have some ideas of my own, but I want to talk to Alex first, so I don't offer them.

The evening goes long and late. As a team we don't come up with anything I'm wildly optimistic about, but I have to accept that finding Mulder, who was carried away on a spacecraft, is a long shot. A very long fucking shot.

At the end of the night, Scully and I give some research assignments to Gjersee, Mallory and the Gunmen. Baker watches with a discerning glint in his eyes, but says nothing.

When the meeting is finally adjourned, I corner Baker and reiterate my request that he fully support Scully. He tells me he still doesn't believe, but agrees to try to keep her funded to do her weird stuff. It's more than I expected at this point. I have to wonder why he's doing it. Maybe he just feels he owes it to me. He's wrong. He's done nothing but help me in his career. I owe him. But I, opportunistically, don't point that out. We need him too badly.

On his way out the door, Doggett shakes my hand. "I don't know, sir. You're still going to have to introduce me to one of your alien friends to get me to buy all this crap."

"Sure, I'll invite them over for brunch," I reply, too tired to worry about him any more today.

The Gunmen depart, happy and enthused to be a part of a real investigation. Whatever.

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Alex heading for the stairs when Gjersee stops him. They talk for a moment, then Mallory joins them. When they're finished, they head for the door and Gjersee puts an arm around Mallory's shoulders, promising that they'll talk. Baker follows them out.

I turn to Scully. "You okay?"

She nods. "I've always had so many questions about my abduction, it's a little weird to get some answers. Do you think he'd be willing to answer some more questions?"

Placing a hand on her shoulder, I reply, "I'll talk to him. You deserve some answers."

"Thank you." She glances back at the living room. "This was... unexpected. So much more going on than I had thought. I know Mulder would have believed everything." She smiles. "Possibly, but not without some, uh, interrogation."

"Yeah, he'd have given Alex hell. And then some." At least I didn't have to fend off any physical assaults today. "And what about you, Dana? Do you believe what you heard?"

"I'm still trying to accept it all. But I'm afraid not to believe. Not believing has caused so many problems."

I'm a little disappointed she didn't admit Alex told the truth. She, more than anyone present, has the best information to support or challenge what he told us. "Did he contradict anything you know to be true?"

"No. I believe he told the truth as he knows it. But, he's had a lot more time to accept this than I have. I'm still trying to adjust my view of reality."

Thank you, Dana. You don't know how much I needed to hear that.

She looks far away for a moment. "It's hard for me to understand why he would save me."

When I open my mouth, I intend to give her a vague answer, but instead, I say, "The night you were abducted I got the call at Alex's apartment. He saw how upset I was. I didn't know until tonight that he was the one who took you to the hospital, but I believe he did it for me."

Dana looks stunned, then understanding. With a bit of a sad smile, she says, "I guess I can only be grateful that he's been soft on you for a long time."

"And me, him."

I walk her to her car. When I get back to the apartment, Alex is in the shower. I tap on the door, and he presses his palm against the glass. I undress, then brush my teeth. A minute later, Alex steps out of the shower, leaving the water running. We meet in the middle of the bathroom where I grab him for a thorough kiss. I feel the heat from the shower radiating from his body as our tongues wrestle in his mouth.

He groans when I pull away. I step into the shower, noticing that he turned the temperature down, as he moves to the sink to finish getting ready for bed.

When I'm through with my shower, I find Alex curled up in bed, the blankets turned down for me. His light is already off.

I get into bed and pull him into my arms, giving him a good hard squeeze. "Thank you."

He nods and mumbles against my skin, "'Welcome."

I'd like to talk, but we're both tired. "You want to talk? Or just go to sleep?"

"Talk 'bout what?" His leg slides up to drape over my hip.

Kissing the top of his head, I reply, "Okay. Sleep."

Alex snuggles closer. "Love you."

He's asleep before I can reply.

It still seems like there's a lot for us to deal with, but at least we're not fighting for our lives. All the time.


3:40 A.M.

There's a sound. Downstairs.

I'm out of bed in an instant, retrieving my gun from the bedside table as Alex pulls his from his jacket. I manage to get to the doorway before he does and gesture for him to stay back.

He frowns in annoyance, but knows we can't afford to argue now. I pause in the hallway and listen. There's someone at the foot of the stairs. After chambering a round in my SIG, I press back flat against the wall and wait for him to walk to me. Alex is poised in the doorway, but at my move, he steps out of sight.

I regulate my breathing to avoid tipping the intruder off. I hope it's only one. But if not, I can count on Alex to back me up. When I see the shadow on the second-to-the-last step, I turn toward it and grab the man's collar, slamming him face-first against the wall of the stairwell. He cries out in alarm. A good shake sends his firearm down the stairs. "Who are you, you son of a bitch?"

No sign of another assailant.

The hall light flips on. I feel Alex's heat behind me.

It takes a minute for my eyes to adjust, but I find myself looking at a scruffy thirty-something Caucasian male. Looks like a paid thug. "I'm your new handler, Mr. Skinner. I suggest you release me, or you won't like the consequences."

I pass Alex my gun. Then I frisk the man, finding another gun in an ankle holster and a control pad in his jacket pocket. I throw both of them into the office, because I have no pockets to put them in.

Mr. Handler objects, "You're making the situation hard for yourself!"

"I don't think so," I reply haughtily, as I push the man to his knees.

Alex presses my gun into my hand, then vanishes behind me.

Handcuffs please, Alex. It's not easy doing this nude.

I press the nose of my gun at the back of his neck and cock it. "You in the mood to die tonight?"

"I just have some information to deliver."

I can hardly wait. "Put your hands behind your back and spread your knees."

Alex is behind me again, with my cuffs, but staying out of sight. Wise choice.

His compliance is slow, so I yank the man's arms back and cuff them. Tight enough to break wrist bones if he misbehaves. "What's your information?"

"You weren't authorized to take a leave of absence." His voice is hard in an attempt at authoritativeness, even though he knows he's screwed. I have him and the box. What's he going to do... call me bad names? "And you most definitely weren't given permission to retire. We expect you to withdraw your request. Immediately."

"Gee, I'm sorry. I just didn't think to let you guys know." I shove him into the wall. "Is that it?"

"No. I, uh..." he sounds confused. "Your previous handler has disappeared. As far as we're concerned, you're a suspect. I have been instructed to question you about your knowledge of his whereabouts." He struggles a little. "If you release me now, I'll overlook this infraction."

"Aren't you kind." I slam him into the wall again, hoping for a broken nose. "If I killed my last handler, why shouldn't I do the same to you?"

He gasps for air, then growls, "So you killed him? He's dead."

"Yeah, I killed him." You fuckers made a big mistake the day you sent Alex after me.

"They won't be pleased that you disobeyed orders, but you'll probably get off with a light punishment. They planned to kill him anyway."

This time I push harder and know I got the nose when I hear his scream.

"Well, fine then." I give a shove backward to get Alex back into the bedroom. Before he retreats, there's the jangling sound of keys hitting the floor next to me. Keys. Perfect.

Alex is a great partner.

I press my gun to the side of my new handler's face and step down the stairs to retrieve his firearm.

I'm almost hurt they only sent one guy after me.

Tossing his gun toward the office, I lift him to his feet. He's a bit shaky, so it takes a minute before he gets his balance. He's left a bloody splotch on my wall. "I'm going to do you a favor. I'm going to escort you out and let you go. But if I ever seen you again, I will kill you. Understand?"

"Yeah." His voice is nasally. Definitely got that nose.

I want to escort him out of my apartment. Out of the building would be better, but then I'd have to get dressed. It's tempting to drop him off the balcony, but I don't think the condo association would have a sense of humor about a second body falling from my balcony. Instead I grab the cuffs and drag him down the stairs.

The thug flails and kicks a bit, but I toss him toward my front door. He lands with a loud thud and becomes a lump on the floor. He looks up at me, wide-eyed. I give him a smirk, then reach for the cuffs, undoing them with practiced ease. "You're leaving now."

He rises and tries to muster some dignity before slipping out of the apartment.

I lock the door behind him, then do a search and scan downstairs, just to be sure. There's no one else and no bugs.

Upstairs, I find Alex in the bedroom, unloading the assailant's guns and wiping them down. He glances at me. "We don't want to tip our hand too soon. They'll try to activate your nanos, so you should probably stay close to the condo so they think it was successful." He holds up the control pad. "It's already turned on... we have another 10 minutes before the access code has to be re-entered. But, uh, it has an extra module. Just send it to Russ or... test it first?"

I felt so good roughing up that Resistance flunky, but now there's a twinge of anxiety. "Do you know what it does?"

He looks a little unsettled for a moment, then replies, "Yeah. It's the skin degeneration module."

I shrug. "Guess they really were pissed at me for taking off."

Alex moves closer to me. "Not really. They're probably incredibly pissed that you resigned, however. And no doubt curious about what was going on here today."

I sit next to him on the bed. "Turn it on."

Carefully watching the back of my neck, he turns up the control pad. I watch the bar go all the way to full.

"Any tingling?"

"Nope." I give him a grin. "My nanos ain't talking. You think they'll come to retrieve that?"

Alex shuts it off, then tosses it on the floor. "Nah. They have no reason to believe you've cracked the access code." He pulls at my body until we're lying down. "So, you killed me, huh?"

"Yeah. It was that last orgasm that did it."

"I knew you could kill me with sex." His hand strokes the side of my face. "You okay?"

"Definitely." I capture and kiss his fingers. "That was... very satisfying... beating that little shit. Of course, I'll have to clean the wall."

"Small price to pay. I'd like to break Arntzen's nose. In fact, I'd like to break every bone in his body."

"Save a few for me." I kiss his jaw. "By the way, you're a damned good backup. Thanks."

"I'd back you up anytime, lyubof' maya."

Lyubof' maya. My love.

God, the things he makes me feel.

I roll over on top of him and give him a real kiss.


Sunday, 2 July 2000
8:39 A.M.


Playing with Alex's hair at the dining room table, I watch him eat peach yogurt. There's a tiny spot of yogurt on his lower lip. His lips are so full. Highly kissable. I'm about to go after his mouth in the name of good hygiene when the phone rings.

With a snort of complaint, I rise to answer it. "Yeah?"

A voice I recognize—the imperious one who speaks in first person plural—says, "Have we made our point yet, Mr. Skinner?"

Shit. I'm supposed to be having my skin degenerated.

Think extreme pain, Walt.

I try to control my voice. "Fuck, yes," I manage to emit, sounding halfway tormented. Alex gives me a worried look, but he puts it together quickly. "What the hell," I pause for effect, "are you fuckers... doing to me?"

Alex comes up behind me and tickles my ribs. Good thing I'm not very ticklish. As long as he stays away from my armpits, I won't start laughing on the phone.

"Just a little something to remind you that you belong to us." In your dreams, pal. "What exactly did you do with Mr. Krycek?"

I fucked his brains out. "No one will ever find the body." I reach behind me and give his ass a squeeze.

Lips near my ear, he whispers, "That's my line."

My adorable assassin lover has a sense of humor. I smack his ass lightly and he muffles his laugh against my shoulder.

This game with the Resistance isn't going to last long. They'll eventually find out that Alex is alive, that we're free of their control and that we're lovers. But stalling is still a good plan.

"We expect you to follow orders, so the death of Mr. Krycek merits some punishment. However, he was of little use-" You miserable fucking excuse for a human, or alien, or whatever the fuck you are. I'd like to run some tests on you. "-off lightly. We will stop the crisis now and engage your nanos to heal you, but we expect you to withdraw your resignation and obey your new handler."

I guess broken-nose boy has gone the way of my other handler reject. Trying to get my brain to function at full guile levels, I carefully consider how to reply, and come up with the highly clever, "Okay."

Alex reaches around to grope my crotch. I push my ass back at his.

"We will contact you in a few days with orders." We-man hangs up.

I put the receiver back in the cradle and smirk at Alex. "He didn't even say goodbye."

"Was that Henderson?"

"How should I know?"

"Is it the guy who's always contacted you or someone else?"

"Same guy."

"Henderson. He's always talking about himself as 'we.' I wondered what they had him doing... I guess he's still handling part of the project."

"Is he, uh, human?"

"Reptilian."

Yeah. That's about right.

I lead Alex to my chair and we flop down into it. "Alex, do we need to talk about yesterday?"

"I don't know. Is there something you want to ask?"

He really is harder to talk to than I am sometimes. "You said a lot of things and... didn't say other things. I just..." I wrap an arm around his waist. "... wanted you to know I don't have a problem with any of it."

Alex blinks at me a few times. "Are we talking about Scully's abduction?"

"That's part of it."

"Part of it?"

I shift around in the chair, so I can look directly into his eyes. "You told me you were an assassin. If that means you killed the tram operator or Duane Barry on Skyland Mountain, I can accept that. If it means that you participated in Scully's abduction, I can accept that."

Pausing in response to the confused and almost skeptical look on Alex's face, I take a deep breath before continuing, "You know where I stand morally on these things. But I know what you could have done, and I think I even know why. It's just part of you. I accept that. It doesn't change the way I feel about you."

He frowns for a moment, then replies, "I was unaware of plans to abduct Scully, but I did indirectly participate by keeping Spender informed as to the progression of the investigation. Do you remember the paramedics at Skyland?"

Shaking my head, I reply, "Alex, what I'm trying to say is that we don't have to have this conversation. Unless you want to." I take his hand and press it to my lips. "I know who you are, Alex. And I love you."

Cautiously, he says, "Okay. What else did you think we needed to discuss?"

I don't think he really gets it. "Did you even hear what I said?"

"Yes, I heard you. You accept me. And I appreciate that... I guess we couldn't be here if you didn't."

I'm trying so hard to say the right thing. To share what I feel in the hopes of reassuring him. But why do I have the feeling I've just said exactly the wrong thing?

He glances down at our hands and murmurs, "I hope you'll be able to forgive me someday."

The hurt in his eyes answers my question. Fuck, I wonder how long he's been waiting for that.

"Oh, Alex." I pull him into my arms and hold him tightly. "I forgave you a long time ago."

His breath catches and his fingers clench in the muscles of my back.

Rocking him gently, I whisper in his ear, "A long time ago... I forgive you..." I nuzzle his hair. "It's all in the past. I love you so much."

He pulls back a little so he can look at me. "Thank you," he whispers hoarsely. A tear escapes, leaving a trail on his cheek. "I wanted that so badly." Moving close again, he holds onto me. "Love you."

I see how much it hurt him, waiting to hear that. I wish I could have said it sooner. I don't even know when it happened... when I forgave him. It just happened along the way, while I was falling in love with him again.

Now, he's one Alex. Not an assassin I pretend doesn't exist so I can love only the parts of him that are easy to love. He's a whole Alex. With little comprehension of morality, perhaps, but willing to follow my lead. Given where he's come from, that's a lot.

"I know you do." I kiss the side of his face. "You belong to me." I suspect that means more to him than my love. That I see him as so desirable I want to claim him.

He nods into my neck, and murmurs, "Always."

Holding him, I contemplate his need for permanence. It's not surprising, given what he's lost in his lifetime. What's more surprising is my own need. I never expected it. I want to be here, or somewhere, touching him and being close. Not just today... for as long as he and I have. At times like this nothing else seems important.

Later in the day, I invite Alex to go to the gym with me and he agrees. We change into shorts, then Alex suggests we leave the building together using his route, so we won't be followed. My curiosity piqued, I follow him out the apartment door. He takes me down the stairwell and into the basement. Pulling a lockpick from his bag, he opens the door to a utility room. Inside is another locked door and he picks the lock. He leads me into a short hallway, then picks the lock on the next door.

"The building next to yours is owned by the same company and the basements of the two buildings connect through two of the utility rooms."

As I follow him through the neighboring building, I think of all the times Alex has crept through these halls to see me. I wonder what he thought each time. Did he look forward to seeing me? Or worry about the grim realities that were part of our past?

When we get to door at the street, he pauses, looking around carefully, then steps outside. We walk to the next block, where we hail a cab.

**

Mike's Gym
Washington, D.C.
1:37 P.M.


Walter warms up for five minutes, then heads for the free weights, asking if I want to join him. Feeling ambivalent, I shrug and follow him into the weight room. I'll hit the treadmill later.

We progress through a lower body workout, then back and abs. Working out isn't my favorite thing, but I do it from time to time. Walter hits each machine first while I watch, then I do my sets. He's already sweaty, his thigh muscles bulging. I begin to get a hard-on, so I work a little faster, trying to distract myself from his sexy body. I still take every opportunity to get close enough to smell him.

After he's finished his 9,000th sit up, I tap his shoulder. "Okay, Muscle Man, what now?"

"Chest."

"Lovely. You going to take your shirt off?" Please!

He grins at me. "Men are supposed to remain shirted at the gym, but Mike's put up with worse from us. So, if it will make you happy, I'll shed the shirt."

"It delights me in ways you cannot comprehend."

Walter shakes his head at me like I'm some kind of idiot, but he peels off his tank. Then he heads to a bench to do chest press. "Spot me?"

Nodding, I move to the head of the bench. He gets comfortable, then lifts the bar. Looking down at him, I say, "You know, this is just an excuse for me to watch your chest muscles flexing. If you actually drop this thing, you'll wind up with a broken nose from my prosthetic flying off and hitting you." I give him a quick once over. "But the view is... lovely."

He grunts at me, completes the set, lowers the weight and says, "Yeah, if I drop the bar my sternum will fracture and my nose will be the least of my worries." He winks at me, then says, "But we both know you'd find a way to keep that from happening if you had to."

"Of course." Not going to let anything hurt you.

After three sets, he wipes down the bench and leads me to a chest machine, which he demonstrates. The rounded pads are positioned a few inches from the shoulder, so I can squeeze my arms together. I get a little too aggressive on the second set and lose the position. The pad slips past my stump, snapping off my prosthetic, which hurts a bit. Walter deftly catches both pads on the machine, to get the weight off me.

My arm flies over the machine to hit an overly made-up woman in the ass. There's a startled yelp. Walter's eyes meet mine, and he gives me a smile.

I grin back at him. "Oops."

He lowers the weight and steps over to the woman in the leotard, who's gaping at the arm. "My apologies."

She blinks at him for a moment, takes a good long look at his chest, then smiles vapidly and says, "Oh, it's no problem at all." Her eyelashes flutter at him.

I'm about to take her arm off, when Walter picks up mine and returns to the machine. "Your arm, dear."

I try not to laugh as I take it from him. "Thank you, darling."

We finish the upper body workout, with me only drooling a little over his sweaty chest, and licking it once. Then we both run on treadmills. He's fast for an old guy.

An hour later, we towel off a bit and head to the front desk. Walter calls a cab, then we wait outside in the parking lot.

He brushes back my hair with his fingers. "Alex, I'd like to take you to meet my dad. Would you come with me? We could go tomorrow."

I blink at him a few times, not sure I heard him correctly. "Huh?" I offer inanely.

"Will you let me introduce you to my dad?"

A flicker of movement across the parking lot catches my eye and the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. We're being watched. A young Asian man, standing next to his car.

"We're being watched," I say in a low tone, as I reach into the gym bag Walter's holding to get my weapon.

He glances over in the direction of my gaze, then pulls the bag away. "Not for the reason you think, Alex. He's checking out the competition."

Competition? I quickly put the pieces together. "A former lover?" I'm less than thrilled by the idea, but I know Walter's mine. Although, if the guy gets pushy, I may still need my gun.

"No... fuck buddy, I guess." He waves at the guy, who starts heading in our direction.

"When?" I ask curiously.

Walter gives me a knowing smile. "I stopped seeing him when you came back."

The Asian man steps up to us. His eyes are all over me.

"Jason, this is Alex. Alex, Jason." Walter gives the kid an amused smile.

I nod to the interloper. I might not be able to kill him, but I don't have to be nice.

Jason puts a hand on Walter's biceps. "How you been?"

"Okay," Walter replies blandly.

I peel Jason's fingers off Walter, who flashes me a shocked look.

Just then our cab arrives. Walter says, "Our ride's here, Jason." He steps toward the cab.

Jason gets in front of my path. "I can suck you both. You watch me do him, then-"

"I think not." Leaning a little closer, I add, "And I can promise, you won't like the consequences if I ever see you touch him again."

His eyes get big and he shivers, then swallows hard.

Walter's leaning against the cab, grinning at us.

Jason stirs up his courage and says, "What would you make me do?"

Oh, fuck. He's getting off on this. I know from my short time with Nick that there's no way to win this situation, shy of someone dying. Shaking my head, I walk toward the cab. "Nice meeting you."

He flashes a pout at Walter as we slip into the cab.

Once we're moving, I drape a leg over his lap, curl up next to him and whisper, "He'd like to know if you would care to watch while he sucks my cock."

"Uh, no thanks. I can suck it myself."

On the ride back to Crystal City, Walter tells me about Jason's force-me-to-suck-your-big-dick routine.

I raise my hands in mock surrender and meekly reply, "I promise, sir, I'll go down without a fuss."

Once we reach his building, I lead Walter back through the basement and up the 17 flights of stairs, which is another workout. In the condo, after a bug scan, I grab his hand and pull him toward the bedroom. "You are not sneaking into the shower before I get to really smell you. And taste you."

He doesn't fight. Instead, he peels off his clothes, tears the covers off the bed and sprawls on the sheets.

My clothes are gone by the time I reach the foot of the bed. I crawl between his legs, licking a path up the inside of his thigh. I love sweat on his skin. The salty taste and musky smell send the blood from my brain straight to my dick.

Walter sighs softly and brushes his fingers through my hair.

When I reach the juncture of his thighs, I tease the base of his cock with my tongue, then lave his balls before sucking one into my mouth. I slide onto my stomach and turn my attention to his other testicle while closing my fingers around his erection. Rubbing the head with my thumb, I apply more suction to his balls.

Moaning, he murmurs, "Suck me, Alex."

His low, raspy voice is like a touch. I need to taste more... feel more. I release his balls and lick around his pubic hair. I slide my hand up his chest, scraping my nails across his nipple as I run my lips up his shaft. When I reach the head, I slowly work his cock into my mouth, taking my time to deep throat him.

Walter's hips thrust up gently, and he rubs the back of my neck, making nonsense sounds.

I pull on and off his cock a few times. Then, releasing it, I kiss down to his thigh and push one of his legs up. He understands my cue and lifts the other one. My tongue immediately finds his anus, licking feverishly at the puckered skin. My own cock feels impossibly hard as it rubs against the sheets. Walter's body shudders and then melts into the bed.

As I begin to push my tongue inside him, I reach up to close my fingers around his erection. I've always wanted to feel him orgasm with my tongue in his ass. My thumb presses against the sensitive spot at the underside of the head, while I work my tongue inside him. I feel tremors of pleasure in his body, and get an immediate head rush.

Jacking him firmly, I work my tongue faster.

"Oh, fuck, yes," he murmurs breathlessly. He moves his ass toward me rhythmically. "God, Alex."

I smear his pre-cum over the tip, wishing I could taste it, then again work his cock quickly.

The tension rapidly returns to his body. He gasps out what might have been a word, then his hips jerk frantically. It's a struggle to keep my tongue in his ass.

Walter's fingers find my shoulder, tightening in my flesh as he cries out, his cock erupting in my fingers.

The clench of his ass on my tongue is almost painful, but it allows me to feel every tremor, every twinge, of his orgasm.

His grip on my shoulder relaxes, then he squeezes gently.

When his breathing returns to normal, I pull my tongue from his ass, giving a last lick at his anus. His legs flop onto the bed and I lick the tip of his cock, then suck my own fingers into my mouth, tasting his cum. Our eyes meet. Despite his lassitude, I can see the burn of arousal in his dark, sexy brown eyes.

Sliding up his body, I lick away the semen on his abdomen and chest, gathering the last drop from his nipple, then biting gently. I move a little higher, trailing kisses along his collarbone and up the side of his neck. I so love making him feel pleasure... love tasting and touching him.

His hand absently finds my back and he pulls me tightly to his body. Silently, I lay on top of him, feeling his steady heartbeat. After a time, he says wearily, "Damn, I liked that."

"Me, too... been wanting to try that."

"For a man who won't use the same hand towel twice, you sure don't have a problem sticking your tongue up my sweaty ass." He ruffles my hair.

"You defy all my rules... I love the way you smell, the way you taste." I prop my chin on his chest so I can look at him. "Love you."

He kisses me, then says, "I'm getting used to the sweat thing, but your drinking buddy gave me 17 years of conditioning. The minute I sweated she sent me marching to the shower."

"Well, I've got three times that long to retrain you."

Walter raises his arm and salutes me.

I wiggle against him. "Now, if it's not too much trouble, my dick feels like it's going to explode. Would you like a show? Or would you prefer to, um, participate?"

His arms encircle my waist. "What would you like? I'll do whatever you want," he says enthusiastically.

I contemplate it for a moment, then an idea pops into my head. "Well, if I give you some entertainment, I'll bet you a wakeup blowjob that you're hard again by the time I come."

He grins and replies, "It's a sucker bet, but I'm easy."

I lick the shell of his ear. "Watch the mirror," I whisper.

On my knees, I move to my side of the bed, back to the mirror. Slowly, I lower my upper body to the bed, taking my weight on my chest and shoulders. I move my legs apart, far apart, until my thighs feel painfully stretched. Then I slide my hand down my abdomen, over my erection and tease the crack of my ass with my fingertips.

**

Oh, Christ.

My cock displays an immediate interest in the sight. I have to remind myself to close my jaw.

He is such a beautiful man. Even fully clothed. But Alex in lust mode is hotter than every piece of pornography ever produced. The way he wields his body as a sexual instrument. For my enjoyment. I'm a goner.

Eyes on the curve of his ass, I'm getting a head rush. My hand falls to my own cock and begins to stroke.

Alex wraps his fingers around his balls, rolling and squeezing them. He squeezes harder, slowly increasing the pressure. He keeps the tension on until he issues an involuntary whimper.

The plaintive sound makes me inhale sharply. Fuck, I really should not be turned on watching him hurt himself for me. But I've already lost the bet.

Releasing his balls, he moves to his cock, stroking it slowly.

I can see the tension in his body and know how badly he wants to finish himself off. That he holds it in check turns me on all the more.

He gradually increases the speed, then stops and slides his hand back to his ass, fingertips teasing his anus. Then they glide down his inner thigh, before languidly returning to his cock. This time, he simply teases the head, rubbing and stroking the sensitive flesh.

I realize that I'm mimicking the movements on my own cock. And starting to feel the need to come, even though I already did. I feel an ache of need, imagining how badly he needs it right now.

Alex's fingers trail down the shaft, then enclose in firmly. A shudder passes through his body, muscles trembling, inner thighs quivering. Those long, long, devastatingly sexy legs. He strokes himself again, and his moan is muffled by the bed. His position cannot possibly be comfortable... his neck twisted against the bed, legs spread awkwardly, back arched to push his ass up.

Palming my cock, I stroke myself harder. "Alex?"

"Yes?" he gasps.

"Push your ass up higher," it's becoming difficult for me to talk, "spread your... uh legs further, and then," I am such a fucking prick, and about a hair away from coming, "then come for me." I try to hold back my orgasm until he comes, but I'm falling apart rapidly.

With a deep groan, Alex lifts his ass, the muscles tightening and stretching. Oh, god, I've been in that ass. His thighs slip further apart. His gasp is followed by a desperate whimper, then he pushes them open... just a little more.

With a gasp of my own, I rub my cock aggressively as I start to ejaculate. The first tremor of orgasm hits Alex's body. The friction on my cock is harsher than usual, but it's so fucking good. I try to keep my eyes on Alex as his body jerks with the force of his climax.

Then I can't see at all, but only feel. Clumsily, through the pleasure, I reach out to find his body and pull him toward me. We lay like rapidly breathing blobs for a long time. When he stirs, he mutters, "Did I win the bet?"

I take his hand and move it to my flaccid cock. "Guess not."

I feel his smile against my skin. "Looks like you'll be receiving a wakeup blowjob."

"Hmm... not that I mind, but aren't you going to point out that I cheated?"

"Technically, you weren't hard when I finished coming. I'll make the bet more specific next time." He lightly squeezes my dick. "Besides I love knowing that I can make you come twice in half an hour."

I roll onto my side, then pull him in front of me. "You're sex on long, beautiful legs, Krycek."

He kisses me gently. "You inspire it, Walt. I'd never even thought of anything like that before."

Well, yeah, I can't see him doing that for Nick.

"It's not me... it's us," Alex continues, "A biological anomaly."

"Us," I say with satisfaction. We're an 'us.' I run my hands down his back. "I'm feeling pretty inspired to shower right now. Why don't you come along and I'll rub all the body parts you just tortured?"

Chuckling, he kisses my jaw, then climbs out of bed. "By the way, I'll go with you to meet your Dad. I, I mean, I, uh, want to."

I fight back a laugh. Rising from the bed, I take his hand and lead the way to the shower. Once we're all soapy and rubbing against each other sensually, I ask, "You worried about meeting my dad?"

Alex shrugs. "A little."

"He's an old man. I don't know how he'll react, but I'm not worried about it." I open a shampoo bottle and wash Alex's hair. "I'm not taking you to meet him so he can kick your tires."

But Alex has turned into a brainless lump, leaning against me as I rub his scalp. "Uh-huh."

So much for our conversation. I spend a good long time on the head massage, enjoying the soft little moans he makes and the way his body clings to mine.

After the shower, we change into fresh clothes. Alex is doing something in the office, so I head downstairs. I check my answering machine and find one message. From Sharon yesterday during the meeting. "Hi, Walt, it's me. I'm sorry about getting drunk the other night. Tell your man he's a bad influence. Although Antonio might disagree... Anyway, you're still a bastard for that stunt you pulled in Arizona, but I love you. Call me."

My cell phone has two messages. The first is from Dana this afternoon. "I spoke to our little scientist. We have to talk." Uh oh. I don't think I like the tone in her voice. I wonder how many people's shit lists I can be on at the same time.

The second is from Agent Gjersee, just a few minutes ago. "Sir, this is Nate Gjersee. I've been thinking a lot about yesterday. Plus Mallory and I had lunch. I just wanted to say that I think I believe what I heard. And you can count on my full support. Mallory's, too, though he's still... well, confused. Thank you for including us in this... whatever the hell it is."

Well, at least someone still likes me.

Now if I could just get a spaceship to land on Baker's front lawn and take him for a ride to pick up Doggett. But even if I could, then what? Fuck, I don't know.

I take a deep breath and dial Dana's number.

"Hello," she answers pleasantly.

"Dana, it's Walter."

"When can we meet?" She's terse now. Guess she's pissed off.

"Do you want to come here?"

"I'd like to speak with you privately."

"Okay, name a place. I can be there in an hour or so."

She mentions a restaurant in Georgetown.

I'm tempted to ask what this is about, but it's painfully obvious. "Okay, one hour."

After hanging up the phone, I run upstairs to let Alex know I'll be gone for a little while. He's working on the computer, upgrading my software. I bother him for a little while, then do a few chores around the house.

It's really hard to get motivated to go somewhere for the sole purpose of having your ass reamed.

I get to the restaurant before Scully and commandeer a booth in a quiet corner, order some appetizers and my best guess of what she'll drink. A few minutes later, she slides in across from me, already frowning.

"Dana," I offer as a greeting.

"You went down there with the intention of strong-arming Russ into killing you?"

"No." I should have ordered Scotch for myself. Might as well just tell it like it was. "I strong-armed Russ before I went. The purpose of the trip was to find another way to save Alex's life."

"What about your life?" she says in an aggravated tone.

"I wanted to save both of our lives, if we could." I feel like I'm just stating the obvious. What does she want from me?

"And this is the secret you were keeping from me?"

After refolding my napkin, I reply, "At the hotel, when I went into the bathroom to talk to Russ, this procedure, and the possibility that we might have to do it, were what we discussed."

"How could you-" She stops herself and looks away.

"How could I what, Dana?"

She hesitates, then finally says, "I know you love him, but I have a hard time accepting that you would choose his life over yours."

We got to the point a lot sooner than I expected to. I don't really know what to say to her. "I guess I can see how that would be difficult for you to accept." It's like the conversation I had with Alex. I made the choice. I'd do it again. I don't know what else I can say.

Dana shakes her head. "I was so angry when Russ told me what you'd done, but I don't even know what to say now."

"Well, it's unanimous. Russ, Alex, you and even my ex-wife are pissed off at me." I shrug. "Alex is my lover and I will fight with my last breath to protect him. No one can change that. I know you don't think much of him, but I both love and respect him. If that's hard for you to accept, I don't know how I can help you."

"Okay. I'll try to accept it." She takes a deep breath. "I would like to set up a time to talk to him some more. In part about what he knows about my abduction, and also to ask some more questions about the information he has. Do you think that's possible?"

"Of course. We'd like to get out of town for a few weeks, just to unwind. But I'll talk to him about meeting with you before then."

"Thanks. So you're taking a vacation? Where are you going?"

"Europe." I didn't want to lie to her. "Dana, I hope what happened in Tucson won't interfere with our friendship. Getting to know you better over the past year has been the only good thing that's come out of this... mess." Reaching across the table, I squeeze her hand.

She gives me a tolerant smile and returns the squeeze. "It won't affect our friendship. Just don't do it again."

I offer a wry grin. "I'd have a lynch mob after me, if I did."


Monday, 3 July 2000
7:07 A.M.


Something feels good. Really fucking good.

I curl closer to the warm body in the bed. As my brain starts to function, I realize the something good is coming from the vicinity of my cock.

Peeking under the sheets, I find Alex sucking on the head of my dick.

"Morning," I offer noncommittally.

He mumbles something that tickles my cock, then swallows me.

Life is good.

I put a hand on his shoulder and let him suck me into oblivion. Soon, my body trembling, I shoot into his mouth.

After washing up, packing overnight bags and having a minimal breakfast, I escort Alex through my exit route. We load our stuff into the car. Alex huddles beneath the windows until we're on the highway.

I called Dad last night. He's expecting me and 'a friend.' Maybe I should have told him on the phone, but it didn't feel right. Not that calling Alex my friend felt right either.

Alex fidgets a lot. Not looking forward to meeting my family, but I can't think of any brilliant words to reassure him.

I mention that Scully wants to talk to him more and he seems amenable. "Just make sure she's unarmed."

Squeezing his thigh, I reply, "I won't let her hurt you."

He grins at me. "Thanks, Muscle Man."

I was a bit resistant when he first started calling me that, but now I... I guess I think it's sweet. But I'm not about to tell him that. "Alex, after spending some time with Scully, I think I'm ready to go to Scotland."

"That would be fantastic. I've wanted to be able to just be outside with you without worrying about the Resistance sending a hit squad."

"Yeah." It's the little things that are going to be so great. "I've got a few loose ends to tie up on Wednesday. What about you? If you don't have any conflicts, we could fly out on Thursday."

"I'll see Morgan Wednesday morning, and Scully in the afternoon. Then I'm all yours."

"You're all mine now." I give him a lecherous smile.

He slides across the seat and rubs his hand up my inner thigh. His lips tease my ear. "Oh, yeah."

I move his hand slightly so I won't drive off the highway.

Alex rests his head on my shoulder and his fingers play with my chest. "Oh, for the flight arrangements, we'll need to use one alias to get to London, then another for the connection to Inverness. I'll give you the names, then pick up our ID's on Wednesday."

"Okay, you're in charge of stealth." There's something I want to ask him, but I don't want to be too pushy about it. "Alex, do you really need to see Morgan?"

Calmly, he replies, "Yeah. Right now he's an unacceptable risk to us. I need to find out where he's at."

"What do you mean 'unacceptable risk?' You think he's going to give us up to the Resistance?" I'll kill the fucker myself if he does.

"I don't think he knows what the Resistance is. But if he's angry enough to start talking, word will get back to them eventually. Besides, Morgan is a good resource I'd like to salvage if possible."

It's a good argument. And, whether or not Alex will admit it, he likes Morgan. I should butt out of his friendships, but I'm fucking pissed at the man. For trying to lure Alex back to the criminal life.

I have to ask myself if I believe Alex would go there again. Am I worried that he might? I don't think he would. I know he'd rather be with me than Morgan, and we both know how impossible this relationship is if he's working as a professional assassin.

My gut feeling is that Alex doesn't want that life for himself anymore. But maybe I need to know. "Alex, are there aspects of your previous career that you're going to miss? I, uh, I'm not taking you away from something you enjoyed, am I?"

He gapes at me like I've lost my mind. "Walter, I'm not emotionally attached to my prior career choices. I'd have rather retired a long time ago. Now that the nanos are gone and Lyosha is safe, I'd never go back. I want to be with you. For the rest of my life."

"Good, because that's what I want, too." I'm going to add this to my list of things not to worry about.

**

I muse on Walter's concern. I can't believe he thought I might be tempted back into my previous life. Even if he weren't in my life—a thought too painful to contemplate—I wouldn't do it anymore. I've spent so much of my life living on the precipice, I wasn't even aware of it until I got away from it... until Walter, and something like a normal life. I want to put all my energy into the man I've got next to me, not in trying to survive from one moment to the next. I hope he truly believes that it's over for me.

I kiss the side of his neck. Lyubof' maya.

A couple hours later, Walter parks the car in front of his family home. Turning the engine off, he glances at me. "You ready to face my old man?"

Not really. "Does he know we're lovers?"

Walter looks slightly flustered. "Uh, no. I never really had a chance... So, we'll have to be brave." He gives me a quick kiss.

"Are you okay with doing this?"

"Yeah, I'm fine. I'm more worried about you."

I think Walter misunderstands my discomfort. "I'm not concerned, Walt. But I don't want to have a negative effect on your life. If your family hates me..." I trail off and shrug. I don't want to cause problems for him.

He shakes his head. "I'm not worried about that. I only see my family once a year." After another brief kiss, he adds, "Let's just do this and see what happens. We can worry about it later if we need to."

I offer him a reassuring smile. "Okay then. Let's go." I open my door and hop out.

The brick house is at least sixty years old, but is very well maintained. The garden in front is very simple and the grass is neatly trimmed.

Walter rings the doorbell, then opens the front door with a key. We leave our bags on a table in the front entryway, then he leads us into a large living room.

It's a big house, with a lot of old but solid furniture. The living room has a fireplace. On the mantel are pictures of the family. A few photos I recognize from Walter's photo box. A very silly one of Walter wearing a black mask and cape and brandishing a sword. He looks like he's about eight or ten years old.

Walter gestures to a chair. "I'll go find Dad."

I take a seat and fidget with my pant leg. This feels very... unfamiliar. Then I realize it should. I've never done anything like this before.

Vague sounds in the hall resolve into footsteps, then Walter appears in the company of an older man, who doesn't much look like him. He's shorter and kind of thin, but the shape of his face reminds me of Walter.

I rise to greet the old man.

Walter extends an arm in my direction. "Dad, this is Alex. He's my lover." He takes my hand and brings it to his lips.

That was certainly blunt, Walt.

His father's face goes momentarily blank, then twitches into a tight grimace. He looks at me, then back at Walter. Beseechingly.

Abruptly, he turns and walks out of the room.

"Shit," mutters Walter.

I sigh and glance at my lover, who looks disappointed. I squeeze his hand.

"Well, you don't have to take it personally." Walt rubs the bridge of his nose. "He didn't observe any facts about you other than your obvious maleness."

"I... I'm sorry this is difficult for him. Maybe I should come back some other time?"

Walter shakes his head. "It's okay, Alex. He'll get used to the idea. It may take some time." He wraps his arms around me. "Why don't I show you around a bit, give him a little time to calm down, then I'll go talk to him alone?"

Walter shows me the kitchen. It's a big room. Airy and kind of comfortable feeling. I try to imagine Walter as a boy eating burgers here or something. A large window overlooks a neat back yard. For some reason, the room makes me tense. I see a flash of ten children around the table. I don't want the sudden surge of images from the past, so I push hard against the memories.

Sensing my mood, Walter takes my hand and leads me to the backdoor. "Come on, I'll show you the backyard."

The back is pleasantly shady. There's a basketball hoop attached to the garage. Walter tells me his mom was the best player. He leads me around the side yard and shows me his favorite climbing tree. Returning to the house, he takes our bags and leads me up the stairs. His room is the smallest of the bedrooms, with a double bed squeezed into it. He smiles and says, "Guess we'll have to cuddle." That'll be a real hardship.

Next he takes me to a room he tells me was his mother's office. She's got bookcases full of history, fiction classics and even some not-so-well-known translated Russian classics. Walter leaves me here to peruse the books while he goes downstairs to confront his father.

**

When I enter the library, Dad's staring out the window. He gives a start when I get closer and looks at me plaintively.

Sorry, Dad, I can't make it not so. I wouldn't if I could.

I put a hand on his shoulder and squeeze. "Dad, I'm afraid you're going to have to deal with this."

"Why? I never asked to know about your sex life, Walter Sergei."

"Alex is not just my sex life. He's my lover, my..." My what? "I intend to spend my life with him."

Dad gazes glumly out the window.

"I suppose I could have kept this a secret to make it easier for you, but then you'd be cut off from my life. Is that what you wanted?"

He gives me a tight-lipped frown. "But Walter, you were a marine."

Unable to suppress a chuckle, I take a seat next to him and shake my head. And my lover was an assassin. I guess we're just not living up to the gay clichés.

"What would your mother have said?" He gives me a sharp look that borders on angry.

In an instant, I know she'd stand with us. I rotate my chair so I can meet his eyes. "You know very well... she would have checked him out—in excruciating detail—and if she'd found him worthy of her precious son, she'd have welcomed him into the family."

Dad looks at his hands.

Dammit.

Rising to my feet, I allow my voice to get hard. "You were a marine, too, Dad. Why don't you demonstrate a little courage and get to know him?" Heading for the door, I add, "And let's be clear. If you don't even get to know him, it's me you're rejecting, not him."

He looks shocked. As I leave the room, I realize that I'm moderately angry, which is more angry than I've been at my dad in many years.

Alex and I have fought so hard to be together. I have no patience for anyone who can't deal with it. But maybe my old man deserves a little time to think about it.

I know he loves me. I have to trust that he'll work through it.

**

Walter looks a bit grim when he returns to find me reading one of his mother's books. He kisses me on the forehead. "He reminded me that I was a Marine."

I try to put that together. "If you can shoot someone, you must be a heterosexual?"

"Pretty much. I guess it's supposed to be proof of my manliness." He drops into a chair. "I don't know... I don't really feel less manly because I love to fuck you. Quite the contrary." He gives me weak grin.

"Well, I think I've had adequate proof of your manliness." Especially when your cock is stretching my ass open. "You okay?"

"Yeah." He puts his feet up on his mother's desk.

We go for a short walk in the neighborhood. It's a nice little town. Clean and... tidy. Sort of like a poster-child of the all-American town. Walter stops to help a young mother navigate her stroller up a steep curb. He's such a Boy Scout.

When we get back to the house, we sit in the living room and Walter starts telling me about his mother. She was his moral inspiration, I think. He seems to have admired her a great deal. A few minutes later, his Dad appears in the doorway with a pitcher of iced tea and several glasses. He sets it in front of us, eyeing me nervously. "Lemon for your tea, Mr., uh, Alex?"

Mr. Alex. That's a new one. "No thank you." It hits me abruptly that he's trying to accept me. I set up a mantra in the back of my brain... stay relaxed, open body language. This isn't exactly second nature.

Walter pours the tea, giving his father the first glass. "Thanks, Dad." His face is rather solemn, but I can see the warmth in his eyes.

The old man sits in a chair across from us. "What do you do for a living, Alex?" There's tension in his voice, but he gets the words out.

Walter gives me a glance that I interpret as 'make something up.'

I guess I can tell part of the truth. "I'm retired."

"Seem pretty young to be retired."

"I suppose. I used to be a private investigator." That's as close to the truth as I can get. "I managed my investments well, and Walter feels like I get into too much trouble, so I quit to accommodate his tender sensibilities." That's certainly true... at least, the trouble part is true. And Walt's sensibilities do seem rather delicate.

There's an elbow in my ribs, and Walter says, "Alex is the one with the money. I'm just a poor relation."

I meet his eyes for a moment. Everything I have is yours, lyubof' maya.

His father looks at me assessingly. "You have any family?"

Cannot go there. "Walter is my family." I give Walt's hand a quick squeeze.

"Dad, Alex is also a linguist. He speaks many languages and reads poetry."

It's interesting how the cover identity the Consortium crafted for me so many years ago is no longer a cover.

His father doesn't say much, answering most questions with a few words, but he listens. Walter asks questions or urges me on and I talk about my various travels.

As soon as I mention my Russian origins, Mr. Skinner's face lights up. He explains Walter's mother's Russian ancestry. Soon, he's dragging me down the hall to the library to show me his genealogy charts.

When Walter doesn't follow, I feel a little twinge of anxiety. Stay relaxed, open body language.

**

"Thank you, Dad," I offer out loud to the living room, even though I'm the only occupant. He's trying. And I didn't give him any time to get used to the idea. Even at my advanced age, I'm still hard on my old Dad.

I phone Anna at work and find out when she's coming home. She tells me Matt already has the grill fired up, and resists my offers to bring something or do something. She asks about my friend, so I tell her he's the someone I've been seeing.

"I knew it!" She sounds pleased with herself. "You had a crush on Norman Pinkerton in the fifth grade, didn't you?"

"That little nerdy kid with the bug collection?"

"You used to walk him home after school, Walt."

Oh, god. She's right. "My taste has improved dramatically. It's a good thing you're married, or I wouldn't even let you see Alex."

"I can't wait to meet him. So dinner at-" She stops abruptly. "Did you tell Dad?"

"Yeah."

"Shit. Um, is he okay?"

I smile into the phone. "He was bent out of shape at first, but he's dealing. Got Alex in the library right now, boring him to death with the family tree."

I can hear her smile. "I'm glad, Walt."

**

The old man's got me working on translation. First I corrected some mis-translations on family genealogy documents, then began translating these letters written by some maiden great aunt of Walter's from Kiev. At first they're mind numbing, with lengthy descriptions of floral arrangements at some wedding, but then he brings out a second batch addressed to a man who doesn't seem to be part of the family. These are torridly detailed letters. Apparently Auntie was having an affair with a young college student. And liked to relive their kinky encounters in glorious detail.

After I translate the first one, I hand it to him and ask, "You want me to do them all?"

He blinks, then cracks a smile. "If you don't mind..."

I smile in return and turn my attention back to the life and adventures of Auntie Kinky.

Eventually, Walter joins us. He stands behind our chairs and puts a hand on each of our shoulders, a gentle smile on his face. "Gentlemen, we're expected for dinner soon. Can you tear yourselves away?"

Walter's father gives him an approving look. "Your friend knows firearms very well."

Walter narrows his eyes at me.

I shrug. "He asked if I'd handled many weapons in my career."

His father chimes in with, "He prefers the Glock over the Walther P99. But that's just his age showing. He'll grow out of it."

I offer Walter an 'I'm sorry' look.

"He didn't tell you World War II stories, did he?"

Before I can answer his dad says, "What's wrong with my stories?"

"Well, Dad, I've always thought they were great until I studied the war and figured out that you were making it all up. Bermuda didn't see a lot of action in 1944."

"It didn't come up," I offer. "We've been working on translating the recounting of your family's adventurous sexual past." I hand him one of the translated letters and give him a quick wink.

Walter blinks at it for a moment. "Great Aunt Lidiya? That ninety-something lady who smelled like the perfume counter at Filene's?"

His father nods enthusiastically.

"I guess this genealogy crap is more interesting than I thought."

A few minutes later, we walk down the block to his sister's house.

Walter's sister and brother-in-law are both very friendly. I keep reminding myself, stay relaxed... Anna checks me out, then announces that Walter has done very well. She nudges him in the ribs and tells him that I'm extremely handsome. Walter chuckles at my discomfort, so I step close to him, wrap my arm around his waist and tickle his armpit.

The brother-in-law, Matt, introduces me to the children as Walter's lifepartner.

Anna's son is intrigued by the prosthetic arm and convinces me to remove it and show him my stump. The little girl squeals and runs out of the room, but Walter assures me that this is a favorable reaction.

After dinner we play Scrabble. Anna's husband is unbeatable, though I'm certain Russ could give him a run for his money. Matt helps his daughter out with suggestions and a few extra letters now and then. She passes me a Q to get rid of it, so I take it.

Walter seems very relaxed with his family. It occurs to me that he likes them. Finds their company enjoyable. He's not afraid to touch me in front of them, and no one seems to pay much attention. Except Anna who watches everything carefully.

When it's time for the kids to go to bed, Anna instructs them to say goodnight to Uncle Walt and Uncle Alex. Uncle Alex? I might just pass out. Stay relaxed... this is what normal people do. The little girl gives me a kiss on the cheek, the boy a slightly surly, "'night," from the foot of the stairs.

Walter walks his father back to his house. While he's gone, Anna takes me into the kitchen to give me some pointers on dealing with her stubborn brother. She seems very impressed when I tell her that he talks to me when he's upset, though I can't figure out why all these women think Walter can't communicate.

When Walter returns, the four of us gather in the living room, so Anna can tell embarrassing stories about growing up with Walt. Walter endures the good-natured ribbing. I'm surprised to discover that she calls him Zorro. When I inquire, she explains about the black-caped hero, and I connect it to the photograph of Walter.

When our hosts begin to yawn, we say goodnight. Walter holds my hand on the walk back to the house. The moment we're alone together, I'm able to stop reminding myself to relax.

In the morning, Walter putters around the house looking for things to fix while I sit with his father at the breakfast table. The old man tells me about buying the house with Walter's mother and what kind of life they had together. I like hearing about Walter... and I'm starting to feel comfortable with his dad. Because we have something in common. Walt.

Walter is listening with half an ear as he replaces the wooden molding around the ceiling. When the project is complete, he takes our bags out to the car, then returns for me.

Mr. Skinner shakes my hand and, glancing at Walter, asks if we'll be coming for Christmas.

"We'll try." Walter squeezes the old man's shoulder. "Thanks, Dad. For everything."

His father nods and walks us to the door.

In the car, I move close to Walter and rest against him, allowing my mind to wander. I liked his family. Different from what I had imagined. I'm really glad that he was happy growing up. Aside from the initial discomfort with his dad, everything was pretty easy. For both of us.

Well, except for that double bed. I think I have a permanent impression of Walter's knee in my mid-back.


Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, 5 July 2000
9:15 A.M.


I step into the bar, which is only lit by sunlight streaming through the windows. The place is almost empty, chairs on top of the tables, clearly hours before they'll open. Morgan is seated at the bar eating a messy hamburger. And odd breakfast choice, I think.

As I sit on the barstool next to him, he glances at me calmly. "Burger, Alex?"

"No thanks, but I'll have a beer."

He looks at me askance. "I don't see you drink very often. Problems with lover boy?"

"Nope. I'm just taking a break from planning for the wedding."

Morgan chokes.

I pound him firmly on the back.

He focuses watery eyes on me. "Tell me you're not serious."

"Of course I'm not serious. I'm not planning a wedding until we decide about kids."

His look tells me that he wants to think I'm joking, but is afraid I'm seriously contemplating familial bliss.

I shake my head. "Come on, Morgan. I haven't changed that much."

Morgan relaxes and takes another bite of his burger. After a moment, he says, "Sorry about that... you know, on your birthday."

Cautiously, I ask, "You over it now?"

He shrugs. "It's hard to accept you retiring."

"Yeah, you mentioned that part."

"I just don't think you should be giving stuff up for him."

"Morgan, get over it. In any case, with regard to this matter, I'm doing it for myself. My fucking job has been killing me. Literally. And you know it."

He gives an ambivalent nod. "So, is bullet-head pissed at me?"

"I think that would be an understatement." I'll have to remember to tell Walt about the 'bullet-head' crack.

"He gonna get over it?"

"Are you?" I challenge.

He gives me a bland look. "I have a choice?"

"Yeah, you do. You can never see me again, or you can fucking accept my choice of lover." I nudge his arm. "I'd prefer you deal with it, because you're a valuable associate. And... well, fuck, Morgan, you've become a, uh, friend. And I don't have many of those. So, I'd appreciate it if you'd get your head out of your ass."

He pushes me off the barstool. "Thanks for the vivid imagery. Now go home and tell bullet-head I'll behave."

I give him a more serious look. "Thanks, Morgan."

"Fuck, kid, we've got too much history to throw in the towel now." He takes another messy bite and waves me toward the door. I leave my untouched beer on the bar.

On the way home, I stop by the safe deposit box to get a few necessities.

When I step into the living room, Walter's at the dining room table with a fat stack of papers. He smiles and says, "Hi."

Coming up behind him, I give him a kiss on the top of his head, then take a seat beside him. "Morgan's going to behave."

"Did you get a double-your-money-back guarantee?"

"After I told him I was teasing about us having kids and getting married, he seemed amenable to almost anything else."

With a soft chuckle, he brings my hand to his lips. "You mean you're not going to bear my progeny?"

"Definitely. Not."

"Well... okay. With my luck, they'd probably look like me anyway." He presses a kiss to my forehead.

I gesture to the stack of papers. "Working on something?"

Walter flips a few pages, revealing a drawing. It's a schematic of a mechanical arm. "The NASA arm. It's the best in the world."

I glance at him curiously. "You have the strangest hobbies."

His expression passes through baffled on the way to smug. "NASA is providing the arm to a select number of patients. I blackmailed Matheson into using some political maneuver to get you into the program."

Mindlessly, I gape at him for a long time. Finally, I manage to ask, "You got me a robotic arm?"

"Yes, but only if you want it." He shows me a photo. "See? The fingers have knuckles, so you can pick up a dime, or even a piece of paper." In a series of small photographs, he shows me that the joints all move... in every direction, some of which are not possible for a human arm.

Staring at the schematics, I mumble, "The gift that keeps on giving." There's no doubt that I would like to have that arm. "So, what do we have to do?"

"Fill out some forms. Go for a medical exam. The surgery is usually two separate procedures, but in some cases one is adequate. Then you have to learn how to use it. The whole thing can probably be done in six weeks." He meets my gaze, gauging my reaction.

More labs. I chew my lower lip for a moment. Well, I was considering getting a permanent prosthetic anyway. And that would have required an additional surgery. This cannot be much worse. I hope.

His arm coils around me. "There's no rush. If you decide you want to do it, we'll get you through it."

I nod. "I'll decide when we get back."

He shows me another photo series. A man holding, then cracking open an egg.

I shoot him a dubious glance. "Not likely." Not even a new arm will get me to cook.

Grinning, Walter runs a hand through my hair.

After lunch, Scully arrives. We sit in the living room and she asks more detailed questions on the information I gave them on Saturday. I answer her questions to the best of my ability and, occasionally, beyond my abilities as new alien memories pop into my head.

Walter watches me carefully. He can tell when I'm getting the memories.

Following a shift of her position to something more closed off, she asks what I know about the experiments that were done to her. I was never very involved in the experiments, but I tell her what I can.

When she's satisfied that I've told her what I know, there's a lull in the conversation. I think we must be done when she says, "What about my sister?"

"What about your sister?" I ask cautiously.

Removing his glasses, Walter pinches the bridge of his nose.

Scully replies, "Do you know anything else about her death?"

After a long pause, I reply, "You already know about your sister's death, Scully. You know you were the target. You know the man who killed her is dead."

She gives me a hard look. "When you get evasive, it makes me wonder what you're trying to avoid telling me."

"I could talk for days and not tell you everything I know. If you have a question, ask it. Your questions are as evasive as my answers."

"Is Luis Cardinale the one who shot my sister?"

"Yes."

Scully glances at Walter, then says, "And you know this because...?"

I very carefully control my posture, avoiding any defensive moves. "Because I saw him shoot her."

There's a brief flare of rage in her expression, but she rapidly extinguishes it and looks at Walter again.

Walter's watching us closely and doing a good fake of calm.

I glance away from Walter. I desperately need my emotional detachment right now, and looking at him makes it so much harder.

In measured tones, Scully asks, "Why did Cardinale shoot her?"

I respond just as carefully. "I don't know. But it wasn't unusual for Spender to send two people in, each with different orders."

"And your orders were?"

The lie is on the tip of my tongue. But is there any reason not to tell the truth? No, there's not. "To look for the tape, and, if not found, question you as to its whereabouts."

"Before firing, did he think it was me?" Her voice is completely devoid of emotion.

Not that Cardinale would have given me this information, but I know Melissa Scully wasn't a target. "As far as I know, yes."

"And after?"

I told him it wasn't you, Scully. For which I was surprisingly grateful. "He didn't realize it wasn't you until later."

"Was anyone else involved besides you, Cardinale and Spender?"

That's a loaded question. "I don't know."

She opens her mouth again, preparing for another question, but changes her mind.

Walter gazes at her with a sad expression.

We sit in uncomfortable silence for a few minutes, until Scully rises abruptly and heads for the door. Walter follows her, placing an arm around her shoulders. I can't hear what he says, but I make out part of her reply. "...very hard to love him, isn't it?"

He shakes his head. "I'm sorry."

After she leaves, Walter locks the door, then returns to the living room. He appears a bit subdued. "There's no other way that conversation could have gone." Sitting next to me, he takes my hand.

I sit still for a moment, then get to my feet. When I reach the foot of the stairs, I look back at Walter. "If you want to know anything else about my time with the Consortium, ask today. Because I'm tired of answering questions." I turn and head upstairs.

**

I guess he needs to be alone, so I let him go.

His past isn't pleasant for any of us, but it's just not important. We've fought too hard to be here together to get upset about what happened before. Dana's sister is dead. Alex and I are not.

Not that I expected Dana to see it that way.

Alex had more of those alien memories today. I wonder if that's part of what's bothering him. He hasn't seemed to want to talk about the memories, so I haven't pushed.

We're going to Scotland tomorrow. To see his home. I'm not going to let the past dog us there. We need some good quality time, without having to worry about the past... or the future.

After cleaning the kitchen, I head up the stairs to check on Alex.

I find him in the bedroom reading. Sitting on the edge of the bed, I rest a hand on his thigh. "Hi. You mind some company?"

He closes the book and tosses it aside. "Nope." His hand rests on mine and he meets my gaze.

I put my arms around him. There's no point in asking him if he wants to talk. If he wanted to talk, he'd talk.

After a long time, he says, "I wired Abby this morning. Told her we were coming tomorrow." He hesitates for a moment. "We are still going, right?"

"Definitely. I'm looking forward to it."

We sit like that for a long time. Alex stares off into space, obviously lost in thought. He absently fiddles with the chain at his neck, something he does quite frequently. Eventually, I get up and start packing. Alex throws a few things in his bag. Afterward, I assemble a batch of spaghetti while Alex fiddles around in the office.

He's quiet during dinner. I can tell he's brooding a bit, but maybe that's what he needs. While playing with his meatballs, he manages to eat a little. When he's finished building a ring of spaghetti on his plate, he looks up and says, "You know I've been getting some more alien memories?"

I nod.

"It's stupid shit. Little pieces of information about their biology or their history or whatever. But... it makes me feel like my mind isn't my own." He starts pushing his food around his plate again and sighs with frustration. "I don't know."

Scooting my chair a little closer, I put my arm around the back of his. "Yeah, it must be weird having them in your head."

He shrugs. "We took the wrong approach in Tucson... meditating, thinking, whatever... it doesn't work. I can't get anything new that way. But when I start talking about them, I get more data than I want... most of it useless. I was a linguist, not a physicist."

There's bound to be something useful that would help fight the colonization in the vast resources in his head. But I don't want him to have to think about it for a while. He's tired of all this shit. So am I.

"Can you take a break from the memories for at least a few weeks, if we don't talk about it?"

He offers me the first genuine smile since Scully left. "I think I can manage that."

** End Part 1 **

Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us

In Part 2...
A new place to call home.

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