Exigency by Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu

Authors: Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us
Series: Exigency. Previous part: Defend4.


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 5

Sunday, 20 August 2000
5:38 A.M.


"Hello?" Walter mumbles into the phone.

"Walter, it's John."

Alex extricates his face from my armpit. "Who is it?"

"Doggett."

Alex groans.

I glance at the clock, numbers glowing in the dark room. "It's five thirty in the fucking morning."

"Well, if these things are real, we've got important work to do." He sounds too perky. "I've been thinking-"

"It's too early to think, John. I'll call you in a couple hours."

"But we should-"

I hang up the receiver and snuggle back into Alex's embrace. "Doggett's got religion."

Alex yawns and drapes his leg over my hip. "'S long as there's no kissing..." Another yawn. "Go back t'sleep, love. I'll shoot the phone if it rings again."


7:42 A.M.

After a lengthy discussion of tactical and strategic options in the anti-colonization war, hampered and slowed by the fact that we practically have to speak in code since we're on the phone, I manage to get Doggett off my case. At least for a few hours, until that damned brain of his generates more ideas. He's been up half the night rereading the X-Files and he's drowning in clever ideas. A few of which might have some merit.

Alex is lying on his stomach, one leg drawn up. He mumbles into the bedding, "That man is a menace."

"Yeah, but he's on our side." I run my fingers down Alex's spine... he arches into the touch. "If we get Mulder back, the two of them could make the colonists want to leave."

He gives a sleepy, muffled chuckle. "We can have them call the colonists to death." He turns his head so he can look at me. "Did Mulder also call you at odd times of the day?"

"Nah, he just came by." I kiss his jaw. "Sometimes he brought sexy prisoners."

Alex blinks twice, then grins at me. "And here I thought he had no redeeming qualities."

It seems like such a long time ago when Mulder stood at my door. I still remember Alex's chagrin when Mulder tugged him into view. 'He'll be safe here.' And now, Alex's safety is foremost in my mind.

I coax Alex into the shower. When we emerge half an hour later, Alex's knees are wobbly and we're only mostly clean. The phone rings while we're shaving.

I answer it. "This had better not be John."

"It's Dana. He called me four times this morning starting at 5:45."

"Ah, well, I see you got to sleep in." I grab a towel and wipe the shaving cream off the phone. "He's a believer. Remind me why we wanted that."

Scully laughs. "Because I have to work with him and it will make my life easier." She pauses. "I think." She yawns. "I'm going back to bed and taking my phone off the hook. But I'll call later... I have some questions for Kr- uh, Alex."

Questions for Alex? Oh, shit. He just loves that. "Don't forget to be at Dulles at 12:00 for the shuttle to New York."

"I'll be there. By the way, did Gjersee or Mallory call you?"

"Negative. You?"

"Yeah. And the Gunmen. I think Langly and Frohike are intimidated by Alex, but the others... has to be you. So, loosen up... I don't want to get all the midnight phone calls."

"Hey, my aloof demeanor is working for me here." I chuckle into the phone. "Gjersee and Mallory okay?"

"Gjersee was up half the night with nightmares. Mallory's taking care of him. Who'd've thought?"

Nightmares? Hell, yes. It makes sense, if you really take this stuff in. I can't explain why Alex and I haven't woken up screaming every night for the past few years. "Good for Mallory. If they call again, tell 'em to phone Doggett."

"Perfect." She yawns again. "I'll see you in a few hours."

I hang up the phone, turn toward the bathroom and the phone rings again. "What?!"

"It's Robert."

"What can I do for you?"

Alex comes up behind me and kisses my shoulder, before moving to the dresser to find a pair of jeans.

"I just called to say... well, you told me and I didn't believe you. I just... anyway..." He sounds really awkward and uncomfortable. "You have my full support in the Bureau and out. I'll do whatever I can to help you."

"It went without saying, Robert, but thank you."

"I guess I'll go for a drive or something. I, uh, don't want to be around my family right now, you know?" Baker's not making a fuss like Doggett, but he sounds deeply distressed. He's going to need some time to come to terms with this.

"Just take care of yourself."

"Yeah. Thanks."

I hang up the phone and make it to the bathroom this time.

Alex calls out, "So, has everyone reported in now?"

"Yeah, pretty much."


New York City, NY
2:30 P.M.


Marita chose to have us meet in a U.N. suite at the Plaza. Alex taps on the door, then Marita admits the three of us, escorting us to an executive office.

Alex asks, "Marita, you don't mind if I scan, do you?"

She slides into a chair, smoothing her hair back. "Not at all, Alex. I'd expect nothing less." She gestures for us to have a seat.

I take a seat on a small sofa, Scully takes the other chair. When Alex is finished with his scan, he nods to me, then approaches Marita. "Mind if I have a word with you?"

Alex and I didn't discuss this.

Marita raises a brow, but gracefully rises to her feet and leads Alex to the other side of the room.

Scully gives me an odd glance. I shake my head. "I don't know what he's up to."

They have a whispered conversation, then Marita gapes at Alex. He smiles, and walks away, moving to sit next to me. Marita eventually follows, giving me an astonished look.

Alex offers, "All done."

"What?"

He gives me an innocent look. "You said, 'next time you see her, you tell her you belong to me.' So, all done."

I feel my skin redden. Marita looks nonplussed at Alex's blunt acknowledgement of what he told her.

Scully narrows her eyes at me, then at Marita. Then she turns her attention to Alex, a look of comprehension on her features.

Alex is so fucking literal. God, I want to... give him a big sloppy kiss. But Marita would probably hyperventilate, so I take a deep breath and begin the meeting.

When all is said and done, Marita is on board. I don't trust her any more than I did when I walked into the hotel room. There's something about her seductive manner that makes me think she's trying to play me.

As we're about to leave, she pulls me aside. "Alex and I were over quite some time ago. Although, I never expected anything like this." She gives me a not-too-quick once over. "I certainly didn't expect it from you. Is this information, uh, confidential?"

For some reason I can't quite fathom, I feel obliged to point something out. "Alex and I were lovers before he met you."

Her almost constantly present smile—half seductive, half soothing—suddenly fades. She didn't expect that.

I continue, "Confidential? It has been, but I think it won't be much longer." We've reached the point where knowledge of our relationship is the least of our problems.

The smile is back, but it seems rather stiff. "How nice for both of you."

Alex is keeping Scully company, but he flashes me a curious look.

An image flashes in my mind. Alex with his hand wrapped around her slender throat. My cock twitches and I tell it to calm down. We are not going there.

We stop for sandwiches on the way back to the airport. Dana watches with a half smile as Alex scrapes all the produce off his sandwich onto mine. I don't know why he doesn't just order it without all the stuff. Probably doesn't want to be remembered as that guy who hates veggies.

The thought that someone may come after us—asking questions, trying to find us or learn what we're up to—is not something I relish, but Alex and I are going to have to live with that for the rest of our lives. I'm already used to it, and he's not able to imagine any other existence.

It's sad. However, it's a small price to pay to be together.

"I've been looking at some of the data you brought back from Geneva." Scully takes a drink of her Diet 7-up, and rests it on the picnic table behind the restaurant. "This morning I found something that you may not have intended me to find."

Alex absently throws a piece of his bun to some birds, then takes another bite. "What'd'ya find?"

I have a feeling my lover isn't going to like the answer.

Dana gives Alex a look that is far too sympathetic. "The history of your family and the research," she says gently.

Automatically, I reach for Alex's hand as his expression goes completely blank.

Alex's hand is limp in mine and he's staring at Scully. After a moment, he swallows hard and his whole body tenses. "I... no...."

"Dana, this is not something Alex wants to discuss." I squeeze his hand.

"I understand that." She moves a stray lock of hair from her face. "I just wanted you both to know that I knew. And..." she trails off, uncertain of her words for a moment. "Alex, I think I understand you a little better," she reaches across the table and rests her hand on his forearm, "and I'm sorry about your family."

Thank you, Dana. Thank you for this acceptance. It's something I never hoped for, but now I realize this is something I needed from her.

Alex's body is stiff, poised for flight. After a tense silence, he offers a jerky nod. "Could you..." he clears his throat. "Could you do something for me?"

She looks a little surprised. "What?"

Tonelessly, he replies, "I haven't seen your data, but... test subject 10 was deemed by the Resistance to not be a failure."

I can hardly breathe, astonished by the level of trust he's showing Dana.

"Would you look at the data and see..." Alex trails off and looks at me. His expression is blank, but his eyes show his fear.

I scoot closer to him on the bench, so our thighs are touching.

It's okay, Alex. I trust Scully more than anyone.

Just before I decide to finish his sentence for him, he continues, "And see what would be needed to fill in the gaps?"

Scully glances at me, and looks almost afraid to speak.

This is too important to be so vague about, so I elaborate. "To confirm the Resistance's hypothesis that subject 10 was immune to the alien virus." Alex's hand finally closes around mine.

Her eyes are locked on mine, as if waiting to hear what we all know is readable between the lines.

I give her a very pointed look. "Subject 10 was killed in the fire." The words come out hard.

Dana knows exactly what I'm saying. She glances at Alex. I can see a mirror of his pain in her eyes. Looking back at me, she says, "Subject 10 was killed in the fire."

Some of Alex's tension abates and he squeezes my hand.

"Do you understand what we're asking you for?" I inquire.

"Yes." She clasps her hands on the table in front of her and looks from me to Alex. "And I give you my word that I will never divulge anything about this to anyone."

"Thank you," I offer, trying not to think about all the times my life and the lives of people I love have been in her hands. "Your word means a lot."

**

I manage to whisper, "Thanks, Dana."

As is always the case when Lyosha comes up, I feel overwhelmed. And completely inadequate to truly protect him.

You're my sanity and my weakness, moi braht. I need you to be alive, but I can't think about you too much. Maybe trusting Walter and Dana to help take care of you will make this a little easier.

It was so hard to ask for her assistance, but who else? She helped saved our lives with the nanos and kept our relationship secret, which probably also saved our lives. Walt and I certainly don't have the expertise to do this on our own.

Walter picks up his sandwich and starts eating again. Dana follows his lead and does the same.

I think back to her statement. 'I think I understand you a little better.'

I never expected acceptance from her. Least of all from her. Walter's acceptance would have been enough for me. For the rest of my life, it would have been enough. So, I'm surprised by how much her words affect me. It's been so long since I've had people in my life, I'm not sure I know how to react to it. I think I might like it, though I worry that I shouldn't get used to it.

Eventually, Walter takes my sandwich and holds it to my lips.

When we return to the car, Walter gives Dana the keys. We sit together in the back seat. He strokes my hair and talks to me about nothing in particular. I lean against him and wait for everything to feel normal again. How did I ever do this alone? I don't even remember anymore.


Airborne over the Pacific
Wednesday, 23 August 2000
8:15 P.M.


Walter fell asleep about five minutes after take-off and hasn't woken yet. He's been working non-stop for the last few days. Giving orders to Geneva. Having long intellectual conversations with Baker. Sorting the usable ideas out of Doggett's brain and trying to focus him a bit. Politely ignoring most of the Gunmen's ideas, but getting them to believe his ideas were their ideas. Trying—and failing—to recruit Kimberly, much to Baker's relief. Setting up communications channels with some of the Resistance's American operatives. He fired two of them immediately—two of his previous though short-lived 'handlers.' Told them to take a hike the same way he dismissed the surviving medical staff in Geneva.

I spent most of the time getting our failsafes into place. Our 'if anything happens to us' contingency. Security is also my domain, which is rapidly turning into my biggest nightmare. When we get back, I've got to hire some more people. I also worked on our accounting. Walter seemed disinterested except to know how to get money when he wants it. More random pieces of data about alien physiology have been downloading into my memory, including stuff about the colonists, so I documented more information for us to barter with the rebels. Most of the stuff I transcribed from the recording Walter made of me rambling was useful for us, but not something we'll reveal to the rebels. It was mostly about their physiology and species like them. But it is data we can use for a far-reaching strategic plan in case the rebels ever become a threat.

I intentionally did not think about this trip.

"Can I get you anything else, sir?"

I glance up at the flight attendant. "No. I'm fine."

She clears away the dinner dishes, Walter's plates are still full. We had lunch in Salt Lake and I didn't have the heart to wake him then either. I turn sideways in my seat and watch him sleeping. If someone told me a month ago that I'd be in love with the Resistance leader, I might have killed them.

My solicitor in Auckland found us a condo on the beach northeast of town, which he said is available for purchase. It's an hour and a half from Paihia, where Lyosha lives, and fairly close to Auckland. He's arranged for an unmarked sedan at the airport for us.

Some time later, the attendant comes back around with pillows and blankets. I cover Walter, then lean against his shoulder and finally allow myself to think about the upcoming visit with Lyosha.

I hope it goes better this time.


Orewa Beach, New Zealand
Friday, 25 August 2000
1:20 P.M.


The condo is a third-floor penthouse with a 180 degree view. Walter loves it. He wanted to sleep with the windows open so he could hear the sea, but I pointed out that we'd freeze our asses off. Although, everywhere else we live is colder in winter than this place.

True to his word, he set aside all thoughts about aliens and we spent yesterday playing on the beach. When we weren't on the beach, we were on the deck of the condo. I suggested sunscreen, but Walt said the nanos would take care of it.

He does look pretty pink today, but he's not in pain, so the nanos must be working.

Walter zips up his overnight bag and tosses it by the door. "You ready?"

"Yeah." I guess I'm ready. I grab my own bag. "So, do we want the condo?" I already know the answer.

He wraps an arm around my waist and gives me a pleading look. "Can we afford it?"

"We can afford whatever you want." I try not to laugh. "Do you have any idea how much we make a week in interest? More than we spend. Besides, I played the stock market with your retirement account and made $40,000."

"Ah, good." Walter smiles at me. "I like to think my hard-earned pennies are helping us out somehow." He lifts me in his arms. "Let's keep the condo. I'll bet that college girl down the hall will take care of it when we're not around."

Feeling very happy, I hold onto him and kiss the side of his neck. "Okay... it's a deal. We have a new condo." My lips find his ear. I briefly think to distract him for another hour or so, but my ass is still sore from this morning.


Paihia, New Zealand
3:17 P.M.


Walter pulls up in front of a house that looks vaguely familiar. They've changed it some since the pre-purchase photos. It's a white two-story on an acre of land at the very edge of a small residential community. A tall fence surrounds the large backyard, which backs up against a wooded area.

They've added a lot of plants to the front and it's clear there will be flowers when spring comes. It looks so... normal. The neighborhood seems quiet and peaceful. I hope they're happy here.

I realize Walter is watching me. "You ready?"

I nod slowly. "Yeah."

As we're climbing out of the car, the front door opens and Vlad steps out. There's a look of anxiety on his features, but it quickly passes after he looks us over. Smiling, he crosses to me and pulls me into a hug. "It's so good to see you well, Sasha."

I was so wrapped up in my concern about seeing Lyosha, I forgot about seeing Vlad. I look up and am reminded of a third person. Tatiana.

She's standing in the doorway, gazing at me like I'm a phantom. She's not as tall as I remember, but much more beautiful. And more... feminine. Curvier, I guess.

Vlad releases me, and glances toward the door with a smile. "It's been a long time since you've seen her, no?"

Walter's looking at Tatiana, with a big grin on his face. He ruffles my hair, then tugs Vlad into his arms. "You see? I've been taking good care of him."

Tatiana steps off the porch and approaches slowly. She addresses me in Russian, "You look different, Sasha."

"So do you." Seeing her reminds me forcibly, painfully, of what it was like before. The three of us... friends. "Better."

I reach for her and realize there are tears in her eyes. I pull her into a hug. How can she still smell the same? "No crying, Tia." The nickname is as familiar as her scent. The 17 years between us seem to vanish.

When she finally pulls away, she punches me in the arm. Unfortunately, she picks the wrong arm and gets half flesh, half metal and plastic. She pulls her hand away, rubbing it. "Ouch."

I raise an eyebrow. "What was that for?" I switched back to English so Walter will know what's going on.

She gives me a stern look. "For staying away so long."

The memories of the past are still so strong. "You're mean to me."

Tatiana smiles at the old taunt. "And you're stubborn." She glances at Walter. "Now, introduce me to your husband, Sasha."

Walter extends a hand. "I am pleased to meet you, Tatiana."

Tatiana shakes his hand firmly. "Likewise. And thank you for bringing him here."

Why do I feel like I'm the only one paying attention? "Tia, we're not married."

Walter gently tugs at the platinum chain around my neck. "Close enough, sweetheart."

I try to glare at him, but feel myself flushing instead.

Tatiana laughs. "I tell Lyosha not to call him zyat', but I see it may be appropriate."

I succeed in glaring at her. "Get stuffed, Tia."

Smiling, she ushers us into the house. I glance around. "Where is he?"

Vlad replies, "School."

I nod, but feel strange. Kind of ungrounded. I sit close to Walter on the sofa and lean against him, as my first two loves sit across from us.

**

Seeing Vlad and Tatiana is sending Alex back to the past, but he doesn't seem upset. More amazed. I can feel the tendrils of his deep feelings for these two people. I try to imagine a teenaged Alex, before losing his family and his lovers, but I can't quite see it.

My intuition tells me he has something important to gain from this encounter with them. Something that has nothing to do with Lyosha. I make a mental note to speak with him about it when we're alone.

While Vlad makes tea—coffee for me as I'm still fighting jet lag—Tatiana gives us a tour of the house. It's a great house, though they live quite modestly. Knowing how generous Alex is with his money, I have to assume that Vlad's got enough saved to support the three of them into the next millennium.

Lyosha's room is messy with posters of rock stars I don't recognize. His computer has a screen saver of a very busty animated girl with the caption, 'Lara Croft.' I guess I'm out of touch.

His window overlooks the street and I try to imagine his life here. It feels good somehow. I hope that's real.

When we return downstairs, Alex curls up on the sofa, while I get another cup of coffee. Tatiana tells us about Lyosha's interests in school... Girls, PC games, girls and playing the guitar.

When there's a natural lull, Alex glances between Vlad and Tatiana, a more serious expression on his face. "I know you two didn't choose this place. I was trying to do what would be safe and expedient. If you want, you always have the option of choosing something else." He hesitates. "I just wanted you to know... you don't have to stay here if you don't want to."

Tatiana shakes her head. "We're very happy here. I miss Russia, and the rest of my family. I'd go back if we could, but from what you've told Vlad, it wouldn't be safe for us. Even when Lyosha is old enough to be on his own." She gives Alex a sad smile. "This is a good life for us. And I thank you for providing it, Sasha."

Alex nods. "I just want to be certain you're happy. I cannot give you Russia... I'm afraid that's lost to all of us, but whatever else you want, it's yours." For the first time, I can hear that Alex misses his homeland. Russia is tied up with Alex's siblings, and he rarely talks about them.

She leans forward, resting her elbows on her knees. "We'd just like to see you a little more often." Her English has the New Zealand accent, as does Vlad's to a lesser extent. They must have worked hard on that.

Hesitating, Alex glances at me, then replies, "The danger to Lyosha is still there, more than I'd previously realized. But I do want to see him—all of you—more. It's just complicated, so I cannot make any promises, other than to try."

I offer, "We'll try to come once a year, in the summer. Alex is buying a condo in Orewa Beach. It's up to me to get us free of our... commitments. I'll do my best."

Tatiana looks at the floor for a moment, then directly at me. "Thank you, Walter." She glances at Alex. "Is this danger something you can now explain to us?"

Alex shakes his head. "Tia... I could explain it, but I think you'd regret it if you knew. It's history that goes back long before I was born, and it's not very pretty. Can you trust me on this, and let it be?"

She glances at Vlad, who gives a brief nod, then says, "If we must, Sasha. But Lyosha has many questions. He's been thinking about this since seeing you in the States. He may not let you off so easily."

Sadness flickers across Alex's expression, but he quickly suppresses it. "I may have no choice but to tell Lyosha someday. I hope it doesn't come to that."

"I..." she glances at Vlad, "we have two questions, then we'll ask no more about the past."

Alex looks wary and he tenses slightly. "I cannot promise to answer, but go ahead and ask."

"We've wondered for 17 years, and I want to know... did your parents have anything to do with the fire?"

Alex's eyes meet mine and he clasps my hand, but he seems okay. Looking back at Tatiana, he replies, "They ordered it, Tia."

Tatiana rests her head in her hand and takes a deep breath. "I think I've always known, but I needed to hear it." She looks up and I can see how strong she is. "My second question is, what happened to you, Sasha? Why did you disappear?"

This time, I can see Alex's plea for help when he looks at me.

If he wanted a lie told, he'd tell it himself. I'm guessing that Tatiana won't let us get away with that. "His parents sold him to a gulag, where he worked until after the fire."

I'll never be able to think about this—about any of it—without wanting to somehow magically take it away, so that Alex never had to experience it.

Tatiana looks sad and nods. "I think I knew that, too."

Vlad looks shocked and gapes at her. "You did?"

"It's the only thing that made sense, Vlad. Sasha would never have voluntarily left his children behind. You just didn't want to see."

Alex makes a little strangled sound. "Could we talk about something else?"

Vlad jumps up and sits on the couch on the other side of Alex, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. "I'm so sorry, Alex."

Alex just shakes his head, looking flustered and uncomfortable.

Addressing Tatiana, I ask, "When does Lyosha come home from school?"

"Soon. Maybe ten minutes. If he dawdles with his friends, maybe 30." She smiles. "He usually dawdles, but I don't think he will today." She glances at Alex. "We do want to respect your wishes. Do you still insist on 'Alex?'"

Alex shrugs futilely. "No. Uh, call me whatever you like."

After Vlad reluctantly releases Alex, I scoot a little closer and put my own arm around his shoulders. At my urging, Vlad tells us about his job as an assistant manager at a winery south of Paihia. Tatiana works part-time at a greenhouse in town. One of them maintaining some sort of work is part of their cover, but it's clear they've both chosen work they enjoy.

Alex settles into my embrace and begins to unwind.

It's clear they're both happier here in New Zealand, with less worry about protecting Lyosha from his own past. I can tell by the expression on Alex's face that he's thinking the same thing I am. Lyosha's safety here is largely an illusion. But an illusion we'll try to preserve for all three of them. They all deserve happiness.

In a short while, a car pulls into the driveway. It's an old pickup truck. I see a flash of Lyosha through the front window, at first thinking it's not him because he's so tall. Then he's inside the house. He seems to fill up all the available space with energy.

We all get to our feet and Lyosha hugs Alex and I at the same time. "Hi!" He's definitely taller. Almost Alex's height. He's no longer looking quite as gawky. He's on his way to being every bit as handsome as his older brother.

When Lyosha pulls back, Alex says, "Told you you'd grow."

"Yeah." He looks down at his own body. "Mom's always griping because she has to shop for new jeans for me." His voice is deeper, too.

Tatiana is watching Alex and Lyosha with her hand over her mouth. She eventually pulls it away and murmurs, "I've wanted to see you two together for so long."

Lyosha gives her an affectionate one-armed hug. "Don't get mushy, mom." Then he disappears up the stairs to get rid of his school stuff. When he returns, he plops on the couch. "How long are you two here for?"

When Alex doesn't offer an answer, I reply, "Three days. We figured one day to stare at each other and say inane things about how much you two look alike, one to do something together and one for you and Alex alone, if it seems safe to leave you two alone, at any rate."

Alex and Lyosha exchange a look. They so obviously love each other, but neither is certain they will get along.

As a group, we relocate to the kitchen, so Tatiana can start working on dinner. She asks Alex if he wants to cook. He flashes her a horrified look. "Not unless you want to burn the house down." She looks confused, but begins preparing the food herself. I offer to assist and explain that Alex is afraid of kitchens. That earns me a frosty glare from my lover, but it's the truth.

With very little prodding, Lyosha gives us a review of his life. He wants to be a rock star. After three weeks of guitar lessons. But he hasn't given up on college. He's applied to several good New Zealand schools.

Lyosha's very friendly and warm to his brother. No hint of the past anger. No questions that would make Alex uncomfortable. Alex doesn't have much to say, but says enough to communicate that he's paying attention.

After dinner, we play card games. When Vlad and Tatiana leave the room, I head to the kitchen to give Alex some time alone with his brother, but Alex follows me into the kitchen instead. So much for that idea.

Lyosha finally heads upstairs to check his email, so Alex and I get ready for bed. The guest room is small, but it's all bed, so there should be room for the two of us.

**

After I finish washing up, I cross the hall back to our room and find Walter in bed, staring into space. I strip off my shorts and join him under the covers. "What are you thinking?"

"In a minute." He kisses me on the lips. "How are you doing so far?"

I consider that for a moment. "I feel... numb. It's been kind of overwhelming, but I'm glad we came. I... I needed to do this."

"Yeah, you did." Walter scoots down in the bed and makes room for me on his chest. "Vlad and Tatiana, too. There's something... unfinished about your relationship with them."

I rest against him, feeling more relaxed than I have all day. "I guess it is unfinished. I'd never thought about it from their point of view. One day we were all friends, sort of lovers, too. The next day... I was just gone. Then the fire. They've suddenly got a baby to raise." I pause, rubbing my hand over his skin, just needing the feel of him. "I guess this hasn't been easy for them."

"I can sense the chemistry among you. Tatiana's body language tells me she still thinks of you as her lover."

I tilt my head to meet his gaze. "That's kind of surprising. It's been so long. I guess I just don't think of them that way anymore. Although..." I trail off, my mind spinning on something that struck me earlier today.

"What?"

"I don't know... it just occurred to me today that Tatiana is so much stronger than Vlad. It made me wonder why I always chose to communicate with him. I think it's because I have no ability to say no to that woman." I rest my head on his chest again, hearing his heart beat. "I'm not sure I could have been as determined to stay away with her on the other end of the phone line." And we've only recently learned how necessary it was that I stay away.

Walter's fingers are tapping a pattern up my back. "There's a sort of... completeness when the three of you are together. It makes me wonder if they haven't felt a bit incomplete all these years."

I consider his words carefully, trying to sort things out. "Maybe they have. I hope not." I try to find a way to articulate what I'm feeling. "I don't feel complete when I'm with them. I feel... the past. The familiarity. The shadows of our friendship." There's also a host of memories waiting in that familiarity that I don't want to think about.

He taps me on the shoulder, to get me to look at him. "If there are answers you need, or something you need to finish," he hesitates, "and that leads you to their bed, I can accept that it's something you have to do."

When I can get past my astonishment, I manage to reply, "They might be able to bridge the 17 years between us, but I can't. I stopped looking back a long time ago. What makes me feel complete is you." I place my hand on the center of his chest for emphasis. "You hold my future. I may see them from time to time, but it can never be like it was. But you're right. There is something unfinished between us. I never said goodbye. And I think it's time."

There's a glint of amusement in his eyes. "I haven't given up your place in this bed, so you're welcome to stay here with me."

I give him a little shake. "I wasn't giving you an option to give up my spot."

His arms close tightly around my waist. "Ah, well, I guess I'm stuck with you then."

Before I can object, his mouth devours mine.

When he finally lets me up for air, I manage to gasp out, "And don't forget it, Muscle Man."


Saturday, 26 August 2000
8:02 P.M.


Tatiana is the first in the house, moaning about her sore shoulder. "I'm going to take a hot bath. You boys are on your own."

Vlad spreads a sheet on the sofa, then plops down tiredly. He flashes an accusing look at Walter. "There were three of us. And you were an FBI agent. We should have won."

Walter sits next to Vlad, his jeans and T-shirt equally covered with colored splotches, and a smear of green across his cheekbone. "We should have played four-on-one. Alex has an unfair advantage."

What nonsense. It would have been a fair fight if Walter had gone after Lyosha as aggressively as he went after me. He left himself open to Lyosha's attack.

Lyosha takes the third seat on the sofa, also covered in paint blotches. "We kicked your ass, dad." He's the only one with any real energy left.

Since the seats are taken, I sit on Walter's lap. I have remarkably few paint spots on me. The most notable is the big blue spot in the center of my ass, courtesy of Walter. "Yeah. You guys were toast." I wipe at the purple smear on Walter's neck. I look forward to getting him into the shower.

All in all, the day went well. Lyosha demonstrated his guitar playing skills after breakfast. I managed not to wince. Vlad and Lyosha took Walter on a tour of the neighborhood while I spent some time talking to Tatiana. True to her word, she didn't ask any more questions about the past, although, I could see that she desperately wanted to know what happened to my arm.

She held my hand and told me how much it meant to her, when we'd been lovers. Then she laughed and said, "And if you didn't look so damned much like my son, I'd probably still be trying to get you into bed, Sasha."

I couldn't have had the discussion with Vlad, but I told her about my conversation with Walter last night. She didn't seem terribly surprised. I wonder if anything could surprise her anymore. We talked about it for a while, then she kissed me, and we both knew we had closed the door on the past.

When the others returned, we went for a drive around town, Vlad pointed out where Lyosha goes to school and Lyosha pointed out homes of various cute girls. After lunch, Lyosha suggested paint ball. And it was his idea that he and I team up against the others.

Covered with paint spots, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant specializing in a Maori cooking technique called the hangi—to me, it just looked like a pit filled with meats and vegetables. Then we headed back home.

When Walter gives me a squeeze, I stop my ruminations. "Alex? Did you hear Vlad?"

I blink at Walter, then look at Vlad. "No. Sorry. What did you say?"

Vlad shakes his head and smiles. "I said, 'would you like me to get another sheet, so you can sit down?'"

"Nah." I bounce a little on Walter's lap. "This is pretty comfy."

Walter fakes a groan.

Lyosha rolls his eyes a bit, then his expression shifts to something serious. I automatically tense. "So, Alex, I know you shoot real guns, too. Did you ever kill anyone?"

I glance at Walter, not certain if the truth is an appropriate response.

"Lyosha," Walter begins in a very serious tone, "both Alex and I have taken lives in our work. It's not something either of us particularly likes to talk about, because it's never pleasant."

He looks at Walter intently for a moment, then asks, "Why can't he answer?"

'He' decides to respond for himself. "Because I don't have enough experience to know how much I should tell you."

Lyosha eyes me defiantly. "You left home... you were a man at my age. I think you should stop treating me like a child."

Vlad flashes us an apologetic look, but says nothing.

I take a deep breath before responding. "Lyosha, I've never treated you like a child. Which is why some of these situations have been more difficult for you. And I left home because I had to, but I wouldn't say I was a man when it happened." Incredibly far fucking from it.

Walter adds, "Lyosha, your father and mother, and Alex, have all protected you—defended your childhood—so that you could become a man when you're ready to, and not be forced into it like your brother." He pinches the bridge of his nose. "I remember being 17 and thinking that being an adult couldn't happen fast enough, but seeing the effects of napalm on Vietnamese families was not how anyone wants to grow up. I'm not trying to tell you how great it is for you, because it sucks... that you had to leave Russia, that you have to hide, that you lost most of your family. But being a man isn't as great as it sounds. Don't rush yourself."

I wrap my prosthetic arm around Walter's shoulders and watch Lyosha. He looks like he's mulling it over and Vlad rubs his back reassuringly.

After a few moments of silence, I quietly say, "I have killed people. And I would kill any number to keep you safe, little brother. Don't doubt that. But use it... the only thing I may have ever been able to do for you. Something I could not do for the others. Use it to live a happy life. All ten of us would have wanted that for you." My throat suddenly feels tight and I have to stop.

Walter curls a protective arm around my waist.

Lyosha's wide-eyed stare has a hint of sadness in it. He glances at Vlad, then Walter, then says, "You risk your life to keep me safe."

This is so fucking hard. I want so desperately to stay away from the past, but it seems like I can't do anything for him if I won't immerse myself in it. "I would risk anything to keep you safe." I take a breath, trying to steady myself. "My family was everything to me." God, they were. Sometimes it's incomprehensible to me that I survived without them.

Lyosha's eyes fill with tears.

I need him to understand this. "And when I thought I'd lost them, I didn't care what happened to me anymore. But I found out you were still alive, and knowing that—keeping you safe—was the only thing that mattered to me for a very long time. Now I have Walter, too. You and he are my family. And my family still means everything to me."

I don't know when Tatiana joined us, but she's standing in the doorway, tears trailing down her cheeks. Vlad isn't crying, but he's very pale, his fingers biting into Lyosha's shoulder.

Lyosha breaks away from Vlad and sits on the arm of the sofa next to me. He puts an arm around my shoulders and whispers, "Thank you for being my brother. And for not forgetting about me."

All these emotions are going to do me in. It's so much easier not to feel, but it's not exactly living. I twist my body and put an arm around him, pulling him into a hug. "I may not have been there, but I never forgot about you. Not even for one day." The words are so hard. "I do love you, little brother."

That sniffling sound behind me must be Walter.

"I know." Lyosha kisses each of my cheeks. Then he stands up and goes to Tatiana who takes him in her arms.

There doesn't appear to be a dry eye in the room.

When I look at Walter, he manages a weak smile. "I'm proud of you, Alex."

And that really gets me. I bite my lip, trying to deal with the onslaught of emotions.

Walter turns me in his arms, so I'm straddling his lap. He runs his hands up my back, massaging gently. "Shh," he whispers. "No more today, I promise."

I sag against him, knowing Walter will make sure this is the end of the emotional roller coaster. Dealing with physical danger is so much easier. I know I couldn't do any of this without him. He's my reassurance and my safety, and I realize I would never have been able to come here without him. So, in a way, he's given me back my brother. I didn't think I could possibly love him any more.

**

I really am proud of him. He walked through hell and back tonight.

And I meant it when I said 'no more today.' If I have to gag Lyosha, Alex is going to get a respite. The kid's infuriating. And completely lovable. Just like his big brother.

Vlad looks a little shell shocked. Tatiana whispers something to Vlad, who then disappears and returns a moment later with a carton of ice cream and bowls. He serves up a big bowl for Alex and hands it to him with a smile. Alex engages on the surface, but I can easily tell that he's completely shut down emotionally.

An hour later, Alex and I crawl into bed. I give him a head to toe rub-down. When I ask him to flip over, it seems like a major effort, so I slide up next to him and pull the blankets over us. He settles into my arms in our usual going to sleep position.

When I think he's almost asleep, he murmurs, "I wondered once if I'd have a future without the two of you." His fingertips trace the line of my jaw. "I'm glad I don't have to find out."


Sunday, 27 August 2000
1:27 P.M.


The household has been more lighthearted today. As a group, we made pancakes and a complete mess in the kitchen. Alex sat at the breakfast table and made useless editorial comments on the process. He got a couple of good laughs out of his brother.

Then Tatiana took Alex by the hand and made him do a couple of pancakes. He gave me a helpless/forlorn look, but I let Tatiana do her thing. He burned himself on the griddle, and tried to flip them over with a spoon, but managed to produce a few edible products.

After brunch, Vlad drags Alex off for a walk, Lyosha is on the phone with a girl, leaving me alone with Tatiana in the kitchen. She puts one last plate in the dishwasher, then turns to face me. "Do you know what my most vivid memories of Sasha are?"

"I'd love to hear anything about Alex when you knew him."

"The most vivid was a day a few months before Sasha was taken away. I was in the kitchen with Yelena and the twins, and Sasha was in the great room with all the other children. Yelena and I heard the car. We figured it was just their father. He came home more frequently than their mother. They hadn't seen their mother in many months, not since before the baby was born, and none of them had yet to see their new sibling. I went to the window and saw their mother get out of the car. I felt so much dread. Oh, how I hated that woman. She was carrying something small. We went to tell Aleksandr that his parents were home.

"He was lying on the floor, trying to read a story to the kids. Kostya and Kseniya were lying across his stomach, Kostya half asleep. Nikolai was trying to show Ivan how to tie his shoes using Sasha's feet. Miya and Valeriya were sitting on either side of him, telling Nikolai to be quiet so they could hear.

"Before we could say anything, the door opened and their mother stomped into the room. She looked at her children briefly, told Sasha to sit up, handed him her bundle, turned around and left. Sasha had just revealed Aleksei's dark head when his father touched his cheek, told him not to worry and said they'd be home in a couple weeks. I'll never forget it because Sasha didn't care about anything but the baby. He only had eyes or care for his new brother. Yelena was upset, crying in the kitchen. Sasha just showed the new baby to the children." Her eyes are teary, but she seems to push it away.

I must be getting used to the sadness... all I feel is the delight of Lyosha's arrival.

"My second most cherished memory is the first time I took Sasha to my bed. He told me that you know about that. He was young, but looked even younger. And yet, he was everything my husband was not. I was so unhappy I had even become grateful I couldn't have children because I couldn't bear to have that brute be their father. But Sasha... he was a good father. His mother was always yelling at him about his lack of good moral sense. No wonder he was confused. Who wouldn't be with that woman telling you that you had no morals?"

"Yeah, she wasn't setting much of an example."

Tatiana shakes her head. "Unfortunately, the third most vivid memory of Sasha, is the look in his eyes every time his mother called him Alex. I think he disliked the name because it was the name his mother used, and they were always at odds. Later, he said it was because he didn't want 'that American bastardization' of his name. But it was really always about his mother."

I don't want her to stop, so I continue to gaze at her silently.

"I can see that he doesn't suffer from the same affliction anymore, but call him Aleksandr every once in a while." Tatiana lightly touches my cheek. "To help him remember the things that were good."

"I will."

As Tatiana walks away, I notice Lyosha standing in the doorway. He leans against the countertop and gives me a thoughtful look.

The pose is so Alex-like that it makes me smile.

I'm glad he heard that conversation. The more he learns about Alex without having to ask him, the better.

"You used to be into girls, right?" Lyosha asks in an arch tone.

Well, I wasn't expecting that. "Yeah," I reply cautiously, anticipating another sex conversation.

"This holding-them-afterward thing... do they grow out of it, or are we stuck with it for life?"

At first I take him at face value and feel a little sad. But then I realize this is the young man who comforted his brother last night. This is all macho bullshit. "Nah, they don't grow out of it. But you'll grow into it, I think."

He grins at me. "Good. I don't want them to grow out of it. I kind of like it... they're all soft and clingy. It's fun."

Yeah, I knew he was that kind of kid. "Yeah, well, I guess that's the downside to life with Alex. He's all firm and clingy."

He wrinkles up his nose, which makes him look even more like Alex. That would be Alex appraising my slime beverage. "So, um, are you two planning on having any kids?" Lyosha inquires.

"No, I think it will take Alex a lifetime to survive having a kid brother."

"Uh-huh." Lyosha rolls his eyes. He sits down at the breakfast table, his expression shifting to a more serious one. "I've been thinking about last night. I'm becoming an adult, and that means that I do need some answers. But it hurts Alex so much, so I thought I'd ask you a few things."

I sigh heavily, a little worried about what I'm about to get into. But, on the other hand, I respect his choice. He's protecting his own interests and Alex. "Fair enough. I'll give you as many honest answers as I consider appropriate."

"Is Alex still a spy? Are you doing that with him?"

"Sort of." That's not very helpful. "I retired from the Bureau, and Alex and I decided to devote our careers to an important cause. I'm sorry I can't tell you more about it."

"Is it dangerous?"

"Yes." I tap my fingers on the table, not wanting to continue, but Lyosha is growing up and I think he deserves more of the truth. "It's possible that we could be killed, but I'm staying real close to your brother to keep him as safe as possible."

He considers for a moment, then asks, "When dad came back from seeing Alex, before we came to New Zealand, he said Alex was going to die. But then he didn't. Is this part of what you do? Is that the kind of danger?"

"His illness was related to our work, but we found a cure, so that shouldn't happen again." The desire to show my respect for Lyosha by giving him complete, candid answers is warring with my need to prevent his nightmares.

"Is he still being blackmailed?"

"No."

Lyosha frowns. "But I thought the blackmailers were the reason I'm not safe. So why am I still hiding?"

I don't know how to answer this, to give him even a small piece of the picture.

He insists, "I was only a baby when they killed my family. I couldn't possibly have any information or be of any use to anyone. Why do I have to hide?" I can see the anguish in his expression, a painful reminder of the price he's paid for all of this. It only makes it worse that he pays that price and has no understanding of why.

I feel like I have to offer him something. I hope Alex would agree. I start to speak, then stop myself, reviewing every word silently in my head for nightmare potential. "What they want is in your genes."

"What?" Lyosha eyes me with disbelief. "What's so special about my genes? Alex has the same parents."

I'm going to have to stop answering your questions very soon, Lyosha. I'm sorry, but I can't let you have much of it.

"Yours are special. In your entire family, you're the only one with the genes they want."

He opens his mouth to ask another question, but I cut him off. "I'll tell you as much as I can, then I need you to stop asking, okay?"

Lyosha nods a bit sullenly.

"They think you're dead. If it became known that you were alive, a lot of people would come looking for you." I hate telling him this. Hate it more than anything I've ever said to anyone. "If you were found, it's very likely that you'd be used as a lab rat, without any regard for your safety or well-being."

He blinks at me a few times in surprise. "How do you know that's what they would do?"

Damn, he really goes for the jugular. The kid's instincts are too good. "Because they've done the same to others. I've seen the results." I killed one of their test subjects myself... just two weeks ago.

"Isn't that... illegal? Immoral?"

"Yes, it is. That's why Alex and I are working to prevent it."

Lyosha nods, then seems to be mulling it over for a moment. "Alex is scared for me because he knows... first hand. Doesn't he?"

I cover my feelings in an instant. Lyosha is too fucking smart. I never should have started this conversation.

Breathe, Walter.

Before I can respond, Lyosha adds, "I knew something happened to him, and you're so evasive about this." He meets my gaze directly, and I have to force myself not to tell him to shut up. Because I'm afraid to hear what he's going to say next.

But he goes on, "I wasn't sure, but now that I've seen how mom and dad react to him... there's something not right about him. Maybe you've been around him so long you don't see it."

"I see it, Lyosha." I'm all too painfully aware of the damage that's been done to Alex.

The hurt look on his face is hurt for his brother. I think Lyosha's starting to empathize with Alex. I'm grateful for it, if it means Lyosha's more gentle with him.

He drums his fingers on the table. "Mom and dad have been telling me more about my brothers and sisters. I'd wanted to ask Alex about them, but... it's really hard for him, isn't it?"

"Yeah. It's better if you get that information from your parents."

Lyosha nods and sits still for a long time, a pensive expression on his face. "My genes? Is there something wrong with me?"

"No. We have no data that indicates any health problems of any kind." I'm glad he asked this. He does need this information. "If we ever learn of anything that would affect your health or decisions about your health, we'll let you know right away."

"If I decide to have children..."

There's a thorny topic. He might produce offspring that have the same immunity. "I don't think your children would have any health problems, either, but they would be of interest to the same parties that would like to get their hands on you."

"Shit." He gapes at me. "Maybe I won't have kids."

"I'd like to think you were going to wait a few years anyway." I try to smile.

"Definitely," he replies, with enthusiasm.

"When the time comes that you're considering having children, you get in touch with me and we'll talk about it again, okay?"

He nods. "Thanks, Walter, for answering my questions."

"Sure," I reply wearily, feeling as if I've aged ten years in the last half hour.

I rise slowly to my feet. Lyosha does the same and kisses me on each cheek. I ruffle his hair with my fingers, only realizing after the fact that this is something I do to Alex. I pull my hand away feeling a bit embarrassed.

He smiles at me. "I think I'm going to be taller than Alex."

"Yeah, I think so. Be sure to tease him about it when you get there."

I grab a beer from the fridge and exit the house into the backyard. I need downtime.

Some time later, Alex finds me. He stands at the entryway to the gazebo. "Want some company?"

I guess it's time to stop pretending I'm looking at the scenery. "Always, when it's you."

He steps in and sits next to me, his arm resting loosely around my waist. "You okay?"

"Yeah, just... worn out. Spent a half hour alone with Lyosha..."

"And?" he prompts gently.

I give him a brief summary of what I told Lyosha. "You weren't there, so I used my own judgment as to wh-"

Alex interrupts me with a quick kiss. "I trust you to make the best choice, Walt. Probably more than I trust myself. He needed to know something." His hand slides up my back. "Thank you... for talking to him. I felt at the end of my reserves after last night, and I didn't know how I could give him what he needed."

"He came to me so you wouldn't have to." I hope Alex can see Lyosha's love.

He looks faraway for a moment, then offers me a half smile. "He turned out good, didn't he? I'm glad."

"Yeah, he did turn out good. Thanks to you and his parents."

It occurs to me that I'm protecting Lyosha for the same reason Alex is. Because both of us want desperately to undo what happened to Alex. But we can't, so we hold onto Lyosha to try to make it better for him. It's all we can do.

Something has changed in the way I look at Alex's impossibly hard life. As he curls closer to my body, I realize that Lyosha is not the antidote to Alex's pain. I am. "Love you, Alex," I whisper into his ear. My love for him is very powerful. It's transformed both of our lives.

"I know you do. It means..." he pauses for a breath, "everything."

I pull him onto my lap and crush him in my arms.

A few hours later, we say goodbye to Lyosha and his family. I manage to give Lyosha those Russian-style cheek kisses without feeling too silly. Alex and I promise to try to visit at least once a year. Alex and Lyosha spend a few minutes away from the rest of us, heads bent close, whispering to each other. When they're done, Alex pulls an envelope out of his jacket and gives it to Lyosha.

I settle into the driver's seat and head for the highway. Giving his thigh a quick squeeze, I ask, "Alex, what was that little tete-a-tete about? I mean, unless it's a secret brother thing."

His hand settles on mine, gently stroking my fingers. "Earlier, Lyosha said he'd like to be trusted with the details of his safety procedures." He shrugs. "I guess he has to start doing it for himself someday, so I gave him most of it."

Alex is starting to treat his brother like a man. I'm certain it's not easy for him.

This visit was important for us, but it meant more to Lyosha than all the protective measures and all the money Alex has provided for him.

During the drive back, Alex phones his solicitor who informs him that the owners of the beach condo have agreed to our offer.

We're leaving in the morning. Headed to Geneva. To a world of problems that seem impossible today. Not just impossible... unimportant. Being with Alex, seeing Lyosha, buying another home. Anything else can't possibly matter, can it?

Once we hit Orewa Beach, I stop at the hardware store to buy a few supplies. Alex doesn't ask what the stuff I'm buying is for, but I can see the curiosity on his face.

He munches on take-out, while I replace the doorknob on the pantry door and install a new thermostat.

After I touch up the paint on our closet door, I sit next to him on the floor. "You look worn out, Alex."

He nods, but seems lost in thought. After a long silence, he offers, "You know, I used to hate the name 'Alex.'"

I kiss his temple. "But you don't anymore?"

He gives me a half smile. "No. Not anymore. And it's because of you. When you looked at me and knew who I was and where I had been, and still accepted me... loved me, I-" He breaks off abruptly, then hesitantly continues, "I finally accepted the name. It was no longer the name I was forced to use, it was just me." He looks at me curiously. "Did that make any sense?"

"Yeah." I take his fingers and press them to my lips. For many years, he's been a man designed by others. Now, he's living his own life. He's finally integrating his past into his present... and future. Our future. "It's a good name. Makes me think of a brash young agent getting fresh with me in the halls of the Bureau. Fucking in a trashy motel room. Clandestine dinner at Horikawa. You and Sharon giving blow jobs to carrots. You in bright yellow shorts at the house in Scotland."

Smiling, he wraps his arm around me and kisses my jaw. "Good memories, Walt. I think we should keep 'em."

"Yeah, and make some more." I tousle his hair.

We sit silently, just being close. Touching. After a time, I say, "On this trip, I've been thinking about what's important and what's not."

His arm tightens around my waist. "Mm hm," he says cautiously.

"Keeping Lyosha safe, and you and I together. Those are important." I run a hand up his back, gently rubbing. "Saving the planet and our miserable species. Those are important, too. But not as important. At least not..." I trail off, struggling to find the right words. "We need to have a life together. A real life, not just fighting the colonists. I want to give you that, Alex."

Alex pulls back enough to meet my gaze. "I want you to know that having you is more than enough. But..." He trails off for a moment.

That's why I have to give it to you, Alex. Because you'd accept the life of soldiers, having only a few spare moments to ourselves. But, for the first time in my life, I won't. I'm too selfish now. Fought too hard to have you. Need our time together. Need it like air. Won't give it up.

"I want a real life," he continues. "With you."

"Good. That's what we'll do then."

Alex slumps onto the floor, resting his head in my lap, but there's a soft smile on his face.

I pet his hair. "You know, if you change your mind about 'Alex' and want to go by something else, it had damned well better start with an A, since I've got you tattooed on my body, AK."

He peers up at me. "A's, huh? Hmm... How about Alan? Or Albert? I know... Antoine."

"Alex," I reply firmly.

"Alfonse?"

"Alex." There's a hint of a threat in my tone.

"Archimedes?"

"AL-EX."

Tired of the game, he wraps himself around my waist. "Okay." His body slips into a slug-like fatigue.

"Don't fall asleep yet, beautiful." I tap his shoulder. "Can I talk you into a walk on the beach?"

He gives a sigh of contentment. "I suppose I could be persuaded."

Rising, I extend a hand and help him to his feet. He looks exhausted, but it's our last night here. I want to enjoy it.

It's a cool night, so we put on jackets.

If anything, the beach is more beautiful after dark. The sounds of the waves are the most perfect soothing sound. The crisp, fresh sea air seems to heal and invigorate with every breath. My lungs are happy. My whole body feels good.

I increase the walking pace. Alex falls behind a bit. Suddenly, I'm hit in the back and sand is flying all around me. I turn to confront a laughing Alex.

My eyes fall to the sand. I reach for a long cord of seaweed. Running at Alex, who's still laughing and wiping the sand off his hand, I wrap the strand around his body, so he's loosely tied up. He gives a mock struggle, his eyes filled with laughter. "Okay, you've caught me, Muscle Man. Are you going to have your way with me?"

I try to look mean. "Count on it, Krycek."

"Just..." he bats his eyelashes at me, "be gentle."

My face shifts into a frown. "That doesn't sound like much fun." I tug my bound lover into my arms and smack him lightly on the ass.

Suddenly, he hooks my knee and we both fall to the sand. The breath is knocked out of me by Alex falling on me.

Laughing, he struggles for air. "You're right. It doesn't."

Once I can breathe again, I scoop up a handful of wet sand and stick it down the front of his jacket, under his shirt.

He gives a yelp of indignation and rolls off me. "You play dirty." He gets to his knees and wiggles around trying to get the sand out of his shirt.

Watching him move like that in the light of stars and a half moon, it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen. I realize that I'm looking at him 'that way'... the way he talks about.

To fake him out, I offer a complacent smile, then leap to my feet and start running up the beach. "I may be old, but I'm fast. If you catch me, I have something for you."

I hear faint sounds behind me that are getting closer. Alex moves quietly even when he runs. I glance back. He's gaining... a determined expression on his face. I pick up the pace, heading for a rocky outcropping that could offer us a little privacy. An important consideration when planning acts of public indecency.

I can hear the rasp of rapid breaths behind me as he gets closer. Then, suddenly, I'm tackled to the ground. We wrestle around until Alex is straddling me. He bounces a few times. My beautiful lover is a bit heavy for that game. "What'd I," he gasps for air, "get?"

Offering a bemused grin, I reply, "What'd you think?"

He leans down, resting his chin in his palm, his elbow digging into my chest. "But," he blinks at me a few times, "I already had you."

"Oh, well, if you're not interested..." I wrap my arms around him and rise to my feet, intending to lift him with me, but somehow he ends up going ass-first into the sand.

"Oops, sorry," I call out, reaching for his hand.

He looks up at me, then takes my hand. Without warning, he pulls hard, pulling me back onto the ground. "Uh-uh. I caught you, and you're mine now."

My lips find his forehead. After kissing a circle around his face, I gesture twenty feet down the shore. "Do you think I could be yours over there? Behind those rocks?"

Alex appears to give it serious consideration. "I suppose." He gets to his feet, grabs my hand and hauls me toward the rocks.

"In a hurry now, huh?" I tug him to a halt and turn him to face me. Leaning forward, I brace my shoulder in the middle of his body, grab him around the legs, and stand up.

"Walt!" he half screeches as he finds himself butt-up over my shoulder. "What are you doing?" His hand lands on my ass. "Hey, nice view."

I manage a slow jog, with Alex groping my butt, reaching the rocks and finding a half decent patch of sand behind them. I lower us in a very wobbly fashion to the sand. "You weigh a ton, Alex. I haven't run with anything that heavy since boot camp."

He rights himself, then straddles my lap. "I'd hate to think you're getting out of shape."

I try to imagine Alex with me on his shoulder, running through sand. Not very damned likely. I give him a smart-ass grin.

Pushing him off me and onto his back, I pin him to the sand. "Out of shape, eh?" I grind my denim-clad groin across his.

Giving me a heated look, he wraps his legs around me and replies, "Well, not much."

I make a low growl. "Hey, I'm the fittest, damned sexiest muscleman you've ever had the pleasure to be fucked by." I press down tightly on his arm and shoulder. "Admit it."

Alex rubs his crotch against mine and offers me a sultry smile. "You're the fittest... sexiest..." he leans up to give me a quick kiss. "Period."

"Uh-huh." My tongue slides into his mouth. As I devour him, his body yields, molding itself to mine. Breaking the kiss, I say, "Tell me how badly you want to suck my cock."

His expression instantly shifts to one of intense lust and surrender. He takes a gasping breath. "I crave it... just thinking about the spicy taste of your skin makes me hard." His legs tighten around me. "Love the f-feel of you sliding into my throat." He swallows convulsively as if he can actually feel it. "Want to suck you so badly." The plea is all over his face. "Please let me."

His words in that damned sexy voice of his reach my groin without subtlety. I feel as if I'm going to collapse on top of him with the exigent need to feel his lips around my hard-on. "You belong to me, Alex," I whisper, as I brace myself on one hand to open my fly with the other.

Alex's eyelids become heavy. "Always," he murmurs. "Only for you."

With a groan, I manage to free my cock. I can feel the cold moist ocean air on my ass.

Releasing his arms and legs, I shift up his body, so I'm hovering over his face. His tongue immediately finds my cock, sliding along the underside, until he can suck one of my balls into his mouth. He works it with his tongue, then moves to the other.

I'm already impossibly close to coming. Just being close to his body, hearing the soft breathing sounds, the tease of his hot mouth as it sucks at my skin... Nothing, no one, could ever turn me on the way he does.

His impatience is evident as he quickly moves his mouth to the head of my dick. He sucks gently for a moment—sending rushes of pure sensation through my body—then takes me all the way into his throat.

I cry out with animal pleasure. The urge to fuck is too strong. My hips make the decision for me and I fuck him as slowly as I can. The feel of his tongue on my cock as it slides in and out of his mouth is perfect pleasure.

Alex's hand clutches at my hip as he moans around my cock. His hand encourages me to fuck him faster, then his fingers slide around to tease my balls, caressing and rolling them in his hand.

I can feel the blood pulsing in the veins of my cock. In the microcosm of the moment, nothing exists—not even the beach—except his mouth, my cock and our need to be together.

My entire body seems to liquefy as I feel my cock begin to spurt. The orgasm consumes me. My body burns, almost insubstantial with pleasure, then collapses into an unexpected collection of flesh and bones.

Alex's breathing is rapid as he continues to lap at my softening cock. His fingers slide along this inside of my thigh. I shiver at the touch, then realize how cold my ass is in the night air. I shift stiff limbs down his body, intending to pull up my pants, but somehow I end up lying next to him, my bare ass on the cold sand.

My lips start at his ear and keep moving until I find his mouth. His lips part on a breathless moan. Our tongues tangle and I can still taste myself in his mouth. Hmm... need to taste him, too. But the kiss is too good. I explore his mouth as if discovering it for the first time. When he senses my retreat, he follows, refusing to end the kiss, sucking hard at my tongue. I wrap an arm around his waist and pull him closer.

Encouraging his tongue into my mouth, I slide my hand around to the fly of his jeans. With a few jerky movements, I'm able to get the buttons open. His hips press toward me as his tongue continues to trace the contours of my mouth. Easing my hand into his pants, I wrap my fingers around his hard-on.

Alex gasps, drawing the air out of my mouth. Struggling to breathe, he pulls his mouth away. His eyes are completely passion-dazed. He nuzzles my neck, licking and sucking at my skin.

I stroke him slowly. I love touching his cock—the firm, throbbing flesh... tool for his pleasure. And mine. But Alex's whimper reminds me that I can't do this for long.

Slipping from his embrace, I scoot down his body and push the head of his cock into my mouth. I suck gently on the ridge. His hips and legs tremble, but he makes no other move. There's a plea in his soft moan.

I take my time on the head, sucking and nibbling. Running around it with my tongue. Tasting him. Enjoying the feel of the soft skin in my mouth. A shudder passes through him and one of his heels thumps on the ground.

A smile tries to form itself on my face. I take a deep breath around him, then swallow him completely, savoring the deep throbbing sensation... his dick or my throat? I lower my mouth on and off him, and attempt a growl when he's deep inside me. His tortured groan fills the air and his whole body begins to shake.

He's trying so hard not to fuck my face. I simply have to make him lose control. As I pull back, I tighten my lips around his shaft and squeeze, then push back down hard again.

Alex makes inarticulate noises deep in his throat. When I repeat the motion, he manages, "Fuck!" before he loses control and his hips thrust up. His body moves of its own accord, seeking my mouth.

The musky smell of Alex, the sea air and the desperate sounds of his pleasure fill me with indescribable emotion. A sense of... aliveness. As if I am more alive today than I was yesterday. And much, much more than I was the day I was introduced to Agent Krycek.

Alex begins to come. His muscles spasm as he calls out my name and his cum shoots into my mouth. Still lapping at his cock, I swallow, tasting him. Alex on the beach. In the cold fucking sand.

I love you so much.

**

I blink, but suddenly everything is different. Walter's wrapped around me, my cock is back in my pants.

I feel warm.

I realize I must have fallen asleep for a bit. But it's still dark, and I can hear the sounds of the waves hitting the shore. I reach up and stroke Walter's cheek.

And I feel loved.

I never expected this for my life, and suddenly, I'm so intensely grateful, I can barely breathe.

"Morning, beautiful." He pulls a piece of seaweed out of my hair. "Or night. Whatever."

I wrap my arm around him and hold on tightly. We have to go back to the real world soon. But, for now, it's just Walter and me. And it's perfect. "Lyubof' maya," I murmur before finding his lips for a gentle kiss.

** End Defend **

Only the Epilogue remains!

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Series conclusion: Exigency: Epilogue


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