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: Sex. Aliens. Nightmares. Adventure. Wedding. Death. Home.
Series: Exigency. This story is best read after Defend.
Beta Thanks: Betagoddess Helen... so glad you could do our last one!
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: Epilogue
(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
January 2001
12:02 A.M.

I emerge from the bathroom. Walter's already in bed and looks half asleep. It's been a long day, but he's not going to sleep quite yet.

I crawl in next to him and give him a little shake. "Not until you kiss me."

"Mmm." He rolls over, eyes half closed and reaches out with his mouth. By carefully shifting my position, I'm able to put my mouth under his. For being barely awake, it's a decent kiss.

Taking pity on his exhausted state, I maneuver him into one of his going-to-sleep positions. Within seconds, he's softly snoring. I'm tired, too, but sleep is frequently elusive, so I take a few minutes to watch my lover sleep. Leading the Resistance is exhausting work. We spent most of the last five months in Geneva. We arrived back in DC from our latest trip just two hours ago.

We took a few breaks, one so I could spend three weeks with Jeremiah Smith at one of his camps. An overnight trip to Walter's family for Christmas. Another, very recently, for my arm surgery in preparation for the robotic arm. They allow eight weeks for healing between the surgery and receiving the new prosthetic. The nanos had me healed within a week. Of course, we don't want to confuse NASA, so we wait.

I lightly stroke the side of Walter's face. He's too zonked to even stir. The last few months were busy, but, true to his word, we made plenty of time for us. For our relationship. And I've never been happier. I'm not sure he has either. At least, I'm happy when I'm with him. Recently, I've been feeling a little edgy. I can only conclude that it's something short-term... getting used to our new work.

The remaining members of the Resistance in Geneva treat us like gods. In a sort of annoying way where they try to guess what we want and throw it at us before we ask. Mr. Meek follows Walter around like a puppy. Much to my amazement, Walt's developing the timid man into a leader of sorts. He's no major intellect but, because of the way he dotes on Walter, we can trust him more than anyone else at the site.

Walt found out how much the Resistance had been paying me and immediately gave me a pay cut. I guess sleeping with the boss isn't always an advantage.

We met with the Rebels for a long debriefing. They have held up their end of our agreement, at least as far as we can tell. Mr. Green maintains regular contact with Walter, occasionally delegating a mission to the Resistance. Walter and I have gone on two missions ourselves, but always together and with generous backup support from other operatives. I try to avoid the rebels as much as possible as they make me extremely uncomfortable. The last time I saw Green, I know he sensed something about me, because he tried to communicate telepathically. Fortunately, due to Jeremiah's help, I was able to pretend I wasn't hearing him. It still made me nervous. I don't like the idea of so many people knowing I'm not 'normal.' It's some consolation to assume they think I'm just another abductee.

On this recent trip to Switzerland, Walter finally gave in and let me hire a few security men for us. They follow us around Geneva, checking dark alleys before we pass by and generally making a nuisance of themselves. But it's a necessary evil. My responsibilities within the Resistance have increased dramatically and keeping a constant eye on Walter's back was becoming difficult. Of course, Walter immediately told them their first priority was to look after me. Raised my hackles a bit, but then he informed the beefy bodyguards that they took their orders from me, not him. We only brought one of our bodyguards back with us, so tomorrow I have to recruit a few more men in the States. Ultimately, we're going to be followed wherever we go on the globe, with two exceptions. Scotland and New Zealand.

Geneva seems to be taking orders from Walter. The various operatives around the world are mostly in line, though a few have gone AWOL. We're beginning to trust that we can give fairly routine work to the old Resistance. But neither Walter nor I trust these people with anything Walt deems morally ambiguous.

We returned to the U.S. this week so Walter can begin assembling the strategic component of the new Resistance. He hopes to convince Scully to play a major role. I sometimes worry about the amount of trust we extend to Scully, but I guess she's proven herself.

I kiss Walter's shoulder and curl up next to him. I wonder if I can convince him we need some time off soon. Lyosha's turning 18 next month. I suggested getting him a Jeep Wrangler and Walter told me to arrange it through the solicitor so Vlad wouldn't scale it down to a Hyundai.

Wrapping my arm around Walter, I try to calm my brain so I can sleep. I could beat off... that would work. But I prefer to save it for Walter. It's not like I'll have to wait long. Well, unless he wants me to, but that's different.

Inevitably, my face finds his armpit and I feel sleep pulling me under.

...Alex...

...Alex...

What? This is the strangest dream.

...Alex...

What?!

...Wake up. I need to talk to you...

Huh?

...Alex...

This is awfully repetitive. What! There's something familiar. And my head hurts.

My eyes pop open. I'm in our bedroom. It's dark. I glance at the clock. 3:02. What a weird dream. Still, it's better than having nightmares, which have been increasing of late.

...Alex...

Fuck.

Then it clicks.

...Jeremiah?...

...I have your friend...

...Who? Oh, oh... him. Um, is he, uh, all right?...

...He will be...

...Do you need us?...

...No. He'll return to you when he's ready...

...Okay...

...Try to contact me in a few days...

...I can't....

...You can. You just have to focus...

...Not my strong suit...

I can feel Jeremiah's chuckle reverberate through my brain, then I know the connection is gone. I reach over to flip on the light and pinch myself. Nope. Wasn't dreaming.

Walter stirs and captures me with a strong arm. "Everything okay?"

Is it? This is good news, I think. My head is throbbing, but not exactly painful. "Jeremiah just contacted me."

Walter sits up and rubs his forehead. "On the phone?"

"Um, no." I tap my temple. "A little more directly."

"That Zen shit he was teaching you?"

Does Jeremiah even know what Zen is? I try not to laugh. "I'm not sure-"

He suddenly grabs my arm. "Did he find Mulder?"

I blink at him a couple times. "Yes."

"Where?! Is he okay?"

"I don't know where. Jeremiah said he would be okay, but he's not right now."

Walter's eyes fall shut for a moment, then he smiles at me. "He's going to be all right," he says more to himself than to me. He leans back against the headboard. "But he didn't tell you where he was?"

I shake my head. "He said Mulder would return when Mulder was ready."

"Fuck." He takes my hand and gives me an odd look. "You want to be the one to tell Scully he's back but we don't know where he is?"

I raise an eyebrow. "If I knew where, I still wouldn't tell Scully. Because she wouldn't be able to keep herself from going there. And frankly, we need Jeremiah around more than we need Scully to see Mulder right now."

"Chicken," he mutters in reply and reaches for the phone.

**

"Dana, it's Walt."

There's a hesitation. "It's rather early here." She doesn't sound *too* annoyed.

"I know. We're in D.C." I chuckle into the phone. "I have some news that couldn't wait. Mulder has been found."

"What?!" She sounds much more awake. "Where?"

Fuck. "We don't know. The, uh, message didn't specify. But we were told that Mulder should b-"

"I'm on my way right now." The line goes dead.

But... Fuck. I hang up the receiver and turn to Alex. "She's coming over."

Alex's expression is rather comically frozen in horror. "Why?"

"I don't know... must be love. That's what I'd do if it were you, AK." Against the protests of my fucking weary jetlagged body, I get out of bed to find some pants.

Alex stumbles out of bed as well. Literally stumbles out of bed. "God, that made me lightheaded." He tugs on some jeans. "You know, we could just go back to bed and ignore the phone when she arrives."

I wrap an arm around his waist. "C'mon. You're the one who didn't ask where he was."

Downstairs, I pour a big glass of orange juice for the two of us and a smaller one for Dana. Our bodyguard emerges from the guest bedroom on full alert. We send him back to bed, then sit in the living room, yawning. I clean my glasses. Alex clings to me like a limpet.

When Scully arrives, she bursts into the room. "I want to hear this message." Her pregnancy is much more obvious than the last time we saw her, but she only waddles a little.

"Uh, I'm afraid that's not possible." I wink at Alex.

Uncomprehending, she stares at me. "Why not?" She's too amped up to be happy that Mulder's alive. Give her a few minutes to blow off steam and it will sink in.

"Alex, would you like to answer her question?"

Alex gives me a you're-gonna-pay-for-this look. His gaze shifts to Scully. "Scully, I'm sorry... I didn't ask where they were because Jeremiah doesn't want to be found."

"You didn't ask? You spoke to him?"

"Uh, yeah."

Her eyes narrow and she looks between Alex and me. "You spoke with him... on the phone?"

I meet Alex's eyes.

Tell her whatever you want.

Alex shrugs, then looks back at Dana. "No. Not on the phone." He takes a breath. "He contacted me telepathically."

Her eyes widen with disbelief. "What!?" she screeches.

The bodyguard reappears, in a pair of flannel boxers brandishing his handgun.

Scully takes in the image with a wrinkled brow.

"We're fine. You can go back to bed," Alex says to the man.

Dana jerks her thumb in the direction of the departing bodyguard. "Houseguest?"

"Security," I mumble, eager to see how Alex and Dana are going to get through the knots in this discussion.

She nods as if she understands, then turns her attention back to Alex. "What the hell are you talking about?"

Leaning against the wall, Alex rolls his eyes. "Jeremiah Smith contacted me telepathically."

She glares. "Of course he did. Why didn't I think of that?" She turns her glare on me. "So we don't know that Mulder's back?"

Alex huffs. "Sit and spin, Dana."

She smacks him on his good arm. Hard enough to make him wince.

I can't decide which one of them to frown at. "You two are more than I can deal with at this hour of the morning." I adjust my glasses, as if it will help. "We do know Mulder's back, Dana, because Alex can communicate telepathically with Smith. He spent a few weeks with him last November. Smith, uh, tutored Alex."

She crosses her arms over her chest. "Okay, then. Contact him now and find out where they are."

Alex flashes me a pleading look. He mentioned that he doesn't 'send' very well.

I put a hand on Dana's shoulder. "He's still learning, Dana. He's not sure he *can* contact Jeremiah."

She looks like she wants to hit somebody. "Can't you at least try?"

"Even if he did, I don't think Jeremiah is going to tell us where they are." I don't know what I can say to convince her. "He's much safer if we stay away. He said Mulder would be well soon and can return when he's ready."

Before Scully can object again, Alex offers, "Dana, I'll try to contact Jeremiah and find out how Mulder's doing, but I'm not going to do anything to compromise his safety or the safety of the people he's healing."

Dana seems to sag a bit and steps into the living room to sit on the sofa. When we join her, she looks at me with moist eyes. "He's going to be okay?"

I put my arm around her shoulders. "I think so. Smith has been healing these people all along. He should recover."

She nods, looking very small and very tired. She looks over at Alex. "How long have you and Smith been... talking?"

"Not long."

"Wonderboy," she mutters under her breath. "Is there anything you don't do?"

Alex looks at her blankly. "I'm sure any response I might have Walter would consider inappropriate, so I'll just keep my mouth shut."

"He's back." Dana's head falls on my shoulder. "I'm... afraid to hope, Walt."

"I know." I stroke her hair. There's nothing to say. Only having Mulder in front of her to poke at with her medical tools will reassure her.

About an hour later, we put Scully to sleep on our sofa, since the guest room is occupied. Alex and I creep back upstairs, wash up and collapse into bed.

As Alex settles into my arms, I murmur, "Can you turn your brain off for the night?"

"I sure as hell hope so." He kisses my chest. "Good," he yawns, "night."


Four Days Later

Dana and I are at National Airport a few minutes before Mulder's flight is due to land. I've never seen her nervous before. She sits down, fusses with the drape of her clothes over her slightly prominent stomach, stands up, paces a bit, then sits down again.

I want to talk to her about something that could wait, but it might be a useful distraction. "Dana, I want to ask you... a favor."

She seems to come back to the present. "Okay. What is it?"

"When you, I mean after today, sometime soon, would you, uh, tell Mulder about Alex and me?"

Dana blinks at me. "Well, that's going to be... sticky." She gives me a dubious look. "You sure you don't want to do it?"

Oh, I'm *very* sure. "Positive," I reply with complete conviction.

She nods reluctantly. "Okay. I'll tell him."

I inform her about our plans to create a North American headquarters for the Resistance. She seems open to the idea of leaving the Bureau to work with us, but can't really consider it until she spends some time with Mulder.

She tells me the baby is doing fine, although she's had some dicey on-the-job incidents. I make a mental note to kick Doggett's ass. He damned well better take better care of her. Of course, Dana won't have any of that... especially from him.

When the plane pulls up, we stand watching passengers disembark. Guess Mulder didn't take first class. I sure would after an alien abduction.

I stand back slightly from Scully as we wait. Eventually, he emerges from the jet way. Dressed like he's been shopping at K-mart, but sporting a goofy Mulder grin.

He's back. He looks fine. Okay, thinner and sort of frayed. But basically healthy. I've never been so damned happy to see him.

Thank you, Jeremiah.

Scully meets him halfway, and they're oblivious to the rest of the world as they embrace for a long time, forcing the other passengers to walk around. Eventually, Mulder pulls back and looks down at Scully's stomach, shaking his head in amazement. He puts both hands on it. "How thoughtful. You brought my basketball."

Dana gives a watery laugh. My own eyes are a little wet. He means so much to her.

Oh, Christ. We found him. A lump of guilt slides off me like slush on a doormat.

Mulder turns a curious eye to me. "You came to greet me? I'm touched."

Well, I'm the one who lost him... Scully stands aside and I pull Mulder into a hearty embrace. "Welcome back."

When I release him, he gives me a perplexed look. "You're all choked up, sir. I guess we got along better than I thought."

Dana wraps an arm around Mulder's waist and leads him out of the path of other passengers.

"You can drop the 'sir,' Mulder. I'm not your boss anymore."

"Really? Don't tell me we work for Kersh again?"

"Baker. I've retired."

He looks at me assessingly, but says nothing. I can see something in his eyes--a tiredness, something dark--whatever they did to him was hell. Dana watches him closely.

I reach out and squeeze his shoulder. "I'm sorry I let them take you."

Mulder shakes his head. "It was my choice."

"What?!" Scully and I blurt out at the same time.

"I could see the others and I joined them. I wanted to know what it was like."

Scully regards him with a mixture of horror and regret.

You son of a bitch... even though Dana and I had both long known it was likely that he'd chosen to go.

Suddenly, I have knots in my shoulders. I open my mouth to express my displeasure, but stop myself. He's suffered enough for his choice. "I'm glad you're home safely. I'll leave you to each other."

I kiss Dana on the cheek. "I'll be expecting a call from you."

She squeezes my hand and nods.

As I'm walking away, I hear Mulder say, "Is there something you need to tell me about you and Sk..."


The Next Day

I steal a mushroom from Alex's plate. "So you think we can convince one of the ex-Secret Service guys to work for us? It's a step down from protecting the... um, maybe it isn't. I didn't vote for him. Did you?"

Alex cocks his head to the side. "Vote? I've never voted."

"Uh-huh." The words 'Alex' and 'citizenship' just don't seem to resonate. Just as I'm stealing another mushroom, a loud pounding arises from the front door.

The security man appears from nowhere. After checking the door, he pops his head around to the dining area. "There's an angry man at the door."

Alex rolls his eyes. "White guy? Goofy hair? Big nose?"

"Yes, sir."

"Shoot him."

He looks like he's thinking about it, so I jump in. "No. Get lost. I'll handle this."

The security guard looks to Alex for confirmation. Alex nods.

Mulder is still pounding at the door. "Let me in, Skinner. We need to talk."

Well, shit. This is going to be fun.

Alex and I rise. I gesture to the stairs. "Better let me talk to him alone."

He looks as if he's about to protest, then reluctantly heads upstairs.

I step to the front door, opening it slowly. "Nice to see you again, Mulder."

He storms into the room, looking around. "Where is he?" Without waiting for an answer he heads for the dining room, gesturing wildly at the pair of plates on the same side of the table. "What a nice little domestic situation." He swings around and glares at me. "Where is that rat bastard?"

I plant myself between Mulder and the stairs. "He went to the market."

"In the middle of dinner? And just as I arrive? How convenient." He gives me an aggravated look. "How could you do this?"

"The same way anybody does it, and for the same reasons."

He gets close, almost in my face. "He's using you. For what, I don't know. But I'll find out."

Mulder's still fuming, so I just meet his gaze and say nothing.

He points his finger at me. "You don't know him like I do. You can't trust a word he says. Every time he turns up, everything goes to shit."

"You're wrong, Mulder. I know him better than you do."

Mulder shakes his head in aggravation. "Just let me get my hands on the son of a bitch and I'll find out what he's up to."

I shift my body toward him and straighten my spine. "Let's be clear about one thing. If you want to harm him in any way, you'll have to come through me first."

Mulder gapes at me in disbelief. "What has he got hanging over you?"

Love.

I give him a harsh smile. "I'm not going to defend our relationship to you, Mulder. Things have changed. A lot of things. There's a war to be fought and, if that means anything to you, you don't have time for this nonsense."

But Mulder's not inclined to listen. He rants for a long while, continually trying to change our positions, so he's closer to the stairs. Pity for whatever he's been through is the only reason I don't toss him out the door on his butt.

After about 15 minutes, Mulder has given no sign of giving up the fight. I finally lose all patience and slam him face-first into the wall. "Mulder, if you want to have a civilized conversation about Alex's past and my relationship with him, I'm willing. But I've had enough of your tantrum."

He struggles against my hold, but is unable to break free. When he finally stops fighting, I release him. He turns around slowly and looks at me as if I've betrayed him. "I can't believe you would do this. After everything he's done. To me... to Scully... to you, even."

He seems a little more subdued, like he's getting himself under control, so I try to give him an honest answer. "He's done some terrible things. Some terrible things have been done to him. That's in the past. Today, he's more than my lover, he's a key player in the Resistance. He helped us find you. I believe in redemption. Do you, Mulder?"

"When it comes to him? No."

Mulder makes a dive for the stairs, but not fast enough to evade my interception. Fortunately for Mulder's continued longevity, Dana arrives. I leave her to get control of her partner and head upstairs to check on Alex, calling back over my shoulder, "If he comes up these stairs, I'm going to shoot him." I take the stairs two at a time.

**

I heard Walter on the stairs, so I'm not surprised when he enters our bedroom. I get up from the bed, where I've been pretending to read, and cross to him. "You look... annoyed."

He stalks around the room a bit. "No, I'll be annoyed after I calm down."

I intercept him during one of his orbits, and wrap my arm around his waist. "So he wants my liver for breakfast. It's what we expected... right?"

Walter frowns at me. "Was it just last week that I was missing him? Can we ask the aliens to take him back?"

I chuckle and kiss the side of his neck. It's not an understatement to say that Mulder wants me dead. But I don't think that knowledge is going to make Walt feel any better right now. I try to reassure, even though I'm skeptical. "He'll get over it."

He sits on the edge of the bed and sighs. "He's been through so much... god knows what exactly. I tried to be understanding. He doesn't know you the way I do. But he's such a bratty child sometimes. And too fucking single-minded."

I do know what he's been through. Jeremiah told me. Information I'm not going to offer, but if I had to choose between his experience or the labs in Geneva, it wouldn't be an easy choice. Though 'being on planet earth' is a pro I hadn't considered previously.

I sit next to Walter. "So, what do you want to do? We spend so little time in D.C., we only have to fix this if it's what you want." I already know it's what he wants. Walter wants to work with Mulder. I hope that doesn't mean I'm supposed to start trusting Mulder. Or liking him.

"I told Scully to deal with him." He removes his glasses and rubs his forehead. "It's in her hands now. I can't get through to him. If she can't, no one can."

My lips touch his ear. Then it's up to the good doctor. Of course, there's one other possibility, but I need to think on it some more. Just how committed am I to bringing Mulder into the game?

A moment later, Scully calls up, "We're leaving."

Then Mulder hollers, "Skinner, he doesn't love you. Guys like him-" He's suddenly muffled and the front door opens and shuts.

"Wrong, Mulder," Walter says in a low voice, taking my hand and bringing it to his lips.

**

Two Days Later

I hang up the phone after a long call with Russ. He's part of the resistance now, though he's still leading the nanocyte research, today largely focused on understanding how to manufacture and DNA-encode nanocytes. Until we master that technology, we cannot offer their healing ability to anyone not already infected with them. His lab has sprouted three other facilities, including one in Singapore where he hired a small staff to study alien physiology.

Russ also proposed, designed and oversees our new ultra-secure distributed data warehouse, where we store and protect data from Geneva, the X-files, our nanocyte research and other sources. We hired two expert data analysts to help us manage and mine the data. Both were former Pentagon employees, referred by former Senator Matheson (now Secretary of Defense).

I glance at the clock. Alex is late. He left early this afternoon to meet with Morgan and said he'd be home with dinner by 7:00.

The information Matheson gave us in exchange for his nanocyte cure wasn't particularly useful, but he occasionally sends us helpful tidbits from his new Cabinet role. More importantly, he's open to listening to what we have to say. There might come a time when we need someone who can get to the president quickly.

I hear Alex's key in the door. When he enters I meet him at the door He looks like he's been in a brawl. Black eye, bruised face, split lip.

I feel a surge of adrenalin, but there's no one present to take it out on.

If you're responsible for this, Morgan, you're a dead man.

First things first. "Internal injuries?" I query.

He shrugs, then winces. "I don't know." Handing me a bag of takeout, he adds, "Morgan's interested in working with us. I didn't give him much info, but I think he'll be useful."

Just like my lover to share irrelevant facts instead of telling me what the fuck happened to his face. Resisting the urge to get testy, I lead him to the couch and make him lie down while I reach for the phone.

Alex stops me with, "Don't bother. She's probably already working on Mulder."

"Wha-at?!"

Alex closes his eyes. "Mulder. She's working on Mulder." He takes a deep breath, face briefly twisting with pain. "He looks worse anyway."

Mulder? Fuck.

Gesturing menacingly with the phone, I inquire, "Who initiated this encounter?"

Alex opens one eye. "I did. But he hit first, so don't lecture." As an afterthought, he adds, "You should have seen the shocked look on his face when I hit back."

Don't lecture? "Fuck, Alex. What the hell were you doing... going to see Mulder?"

"Trying to make peace. I... I know how much it upset you when he was taken and I didn't want... Hell, I don't know. I guess I didn't want my problems with Mulder to stand in the way of you two working together."

"So, what, you had a nice rational conversation with him and now everything's copasetic?" I'm starting to wonder about this fight. Alex knew Mulder would get physical. And he's plenty smart enough to avoid a fight if he wanted to. I notice he's very mellow about this whole thing, and very relaxed. More relaxed than I've seen him in recent weeks.

Alex gives me an oh-please look. "Of course not. He yelled, maligned me and everyone who's ever known me, questioned my parentage--not that I blame him there--and accused me of 101 violations of the penal code."

I toss the phone on the coffee table and sit next to him. "So just what did you accomplish, slugger?"

He rests his hand on my thigh. "Maybe nothing. Maybe we'll be able to be in the same room without killing each other. Who knows."

Sighing heavily, I squeeze his hand. "Do you need a doctor?"

"I'll be fine. It's a good thing my type 1 nanos are all gone... no more nano episodes." He looks thoughtful. "Mulder doesn't have the luxury of nanos. He's going to feel bad for a long time, and I... can live with that."

"Fucker deserves it," I mutter, even as I realize that maybe Mulder does deserve a little time to get used to Alex being one of the good guys. Still, I'm glad he's hurting or I'd want to hurt him myself.

I rise to find ice and pain relievers but a knock at the door interrupts. The peephole reveals Dana. I admit her.

"I slipped in with one of your neighbors." She glances toward the sofa. "I came to see how the other patient is doing."

Offering a wan smile, I reply, "I feel like the parent of a third grader who beat up another kid on the playground."

Smiling, she nods, then she gets a good look, at Alex. "Um, why hasn't he cleaned up those cuts yet?"

I roll my eyes. "He stopped to pick up dinner. And then I had to yell at him first. I was just getting to it."

Shaking her head, she moves to Alex. "Dinner? It took you two hours to get dinner?"

Alex scowls at her. "I had an errand to run, Doc. Don't bug me."

Flashing Dana a look, then turning my gaze onto my bad-boy lover, I say, "Do tell, Krycek. She won't bug you, but I will."

Alex gives me a sullen look. "No."

All right, pal, I'll torture it out of you later.

Scully examines Alex carefully. Leaning down, she fingers his chain. Alex bats her hand away. She looks incredulous. "You stopped at a jeweler?"

Alex gives her an annoyed look.

She stands and mutters, "I'm going to get some first-aid supplies." As she passes me, she whispers, "Mulder said Alex went ballistic when he yanked that chain off."

"Shut up, Dana," Alex calls after her, with false cheer.

I sit next to him and fake an upper cut to the only unbruised spot on his face. "Next time, medical care first, you bonehead."

He grabs my hand and kisses the palm. "I'm really clear on my priorities, thank you."

"Stubborn bastard." I capture his hand and kiss the fingertips. "See if I let you out of the house again without an escort."

He offers a half smile.

Dana returns and nudges me out of the way. A few minutes later, she pronounces him in reasonably good shape. "Except for a bruised kidney. If you notice any blood in your urine, call me."

Alex rolls his eyes. "Sure, doc. I'll be certain to do just that."

She gives him an indulgent look. "Walt gave you that chain, didn't he?"

Alex's defensive expression relaxes a bit. "Yeah. And if Mulder ever touches it again, I'll rip his balls off."

"Actually I think your fight calmed Mulder down a bit. He said he'd try not to start another one with you." She zips up her medical bag and looks up at me. "He got fired today."

I blink at her. "What happened?" Not that I can't imagine Mulder getting fired.

"He and Baker met with Kersh to discuss his absence. Kersh was being... well, Kersh. Mulder got angry and demanded to know who Kersh was working for besides the Bureau. So Kersh fired him. Baker tried to prevent it, but Kersh called security."

Fuck. That must have been quite a scene.

Rising, she meets my gaze. "Mulder wants to work with you, and the Resistance. I told him he'd have to find a way to work with Alex." She shrugs. "I think he'll try."

He's not known for mastering his emotions in the workplace, but it's something. "Thanks, Dana."

I walk her down to her car. When I get back to the apartment, I find Alex on the sofa, moving the ice pack on his face.

I open the bag of take-out and peer inside. "You want some cold Chinese food?"

Alex shakes his head. "You know this needed to happen."

"Hmm... maybe. I know you could have prevented it... found a way to talk to Mulder so he couldn't pound the crap out of you."

"I didn't want to prevent it. Mulder needed to get it out of his system. And I-"

"Hey, you know, I don't appreciate your using your face to help Mulder vent his spleen." I take a calming breath, then carefully stroke the side of his jaw.

He offers me a weak smile. "I also needed him to know I'm going to hit back. And that I'll win." He looks at me intently. "And, most importantly, that he's not going to be able to drive me away from you."

"That he will never achieve." I grab a potsticker and hold it to his lips. Sometimes this is the only way to feed my fractious lover.


The Next Day

Alex and I are having breakfast on the patio, when the phone rings. I step inside the living room to retrieve it.

"I have some news for you, sir." It's Mulder. His speech is a little stilted, like he's talking around a swollen lip.

Returning to the balcony, I reply, "What is it, Mulder?"

Alex gives me a what-does-he-want-now look and seems to lose interest in his breakfast.

"Kersh is dead. Shot in his apartment last night." His bland tone conveys very little emotion.

I cover the phone and whisper to Alex. "Kersh was murdered last night."

Alex mutters, "Things are improving."

Mulder continues, "I'll bet you didn't know old flabby ass was a pedophile."

"Really?"

Alex looks at me curiously.

"He was with a very underage prostitute--who took a bullet in the shoulder, but she's going to make it."

"What a low life. He won't be missed."

"So, speaking of sexual peccadilloes, when did you become an ass pirate?"

Shit. I am *not* discussing my sexual history with Mulder. "A long time ago," I reply curtly.

"That's cool, Walter. I don't have any problem with that, it's just your-" He stops himself with a great deal of effort. And a heavy sigh. "Uh, look. Scully told me what you're doing... with the Resistance. And I want to be a part of it. I guess you heard I got fired?"

"Yeah." Spit it out, Mulder. I'm not going to help you.

"If I try to get along with... him, will you let me in on the action? You need my expertise in this area. Besides, if you don't let me in, I'll keep looking on my own."

It's a good threat. I know what a nuisance he can be. And, there's no question he's got the brains and drive to help us. "I want you on the team. I have from the beginning."

Alex gives me a half smile, and mouths, 'I knew it.'

I point to his plate and mouth, 'Eat.'

"Okay, then." Mulder sounds a bit relieved. "Doggett told me you had an alien at your house."

"Yeah." I know how much Mulder had wanted to do that... prove it to disbelievers. And I didn't really believe until he was taken. It doesn't feel right that I'm the one who proved it. "Mulder, I'm sorry for all the times I only partially believed you, and any time I didn't give you the support you needed. I was wrong."

Alex rolls his eyes, but eats some more eggs.

"Sounds like you and Scully have been reading the same script." He pauses, then adds, "All that matters is that you both believe now, and we're finally in a position to do something about it. Listen... I have a question, but I mean it sincerely, so don't get in a huff."

Uh oh. "What is it, Mulder?"

"Are you *sure* Krycek's not driving some other agenda? Someone else's agenda?"

"I'm sure." Mulder's going to have to trust me.

"I guess you're at the most risk. After all, you're the one who has to share a bed with... him. Okay. I'm in." He makes it sound like I've been trying to persuade him to join us. "Can we meet sometime to talk about your plans?"

"Yeah. I want you to come to Geneva." And I'll have to find a partner, or a watchdog, to keep you out of trouble. Too bad Dana's having a baby.

We make arrangements to meet early next week, then I terminate the call. Glancing up at Alex, I offer, "He's trying, but I don't expect much."

Alex shrugs. "He'll either deal with it, or he won't. Doesn't change anything we have to do."

Nodding, I reply, "Would you try not to goad him? He's bad enough on his own."

He gives me a mock pout. "But he's such an easy target." Covering my hand with his, he continues, "I'll leave him alone."

"Thank you."

I finish the last of my slime beverage, then Alex and I get to work on the budget for the North American site. After a half hour, the phone rings again. It's Baker. He feels responsible about Kersh. I try to discourage that waste of emotion. And inform him that I'm going to steal Scully. He figures she'll want a nice quiet job after the baby is born, so he was going to talk to her about managing one of his units. I disagree. She's going to care about the world her baby grows up in. And she won't tolerate being left on the sidelines. Even though Gjersee and Mallory are now permanently assigned to the X-Files, I suggest to Baker that he partner Doggett with an agent friend of John's from the New Orleans field office. With everything we know now, they're going to need the extra manpower.

After the call, Alex and I retreat to the office to put together an offer for Scully. I don't want her to have any reason to say no.

When we're done, Alex nudges me in the ribs and teasingly says, "You made me take a pay cut and you're offering her *that*?"

I grin unrepentantly. "Yeah, well, she won't work for sexual favors. Although we haven't asked her... we could put it in the proposal and see-"

He gives me a shake, then kisses me soundly. "Don't even think about it."

**

One Week Later

After dinner, Walt and I clear away the dishes. He stops me from leaving a stack of them on the microwave. What's wrong with that?

Then we return to the table to pitch our proposal to Scully.

Dana reads it through carefully, then looks up at Walt. "You want me to run the base at Nogales?"

"Yes. I chose Nogales so the staff can live in the States and you could be involved in Lavagetto's work. But if there's somewhere else you prefer...?"

She shakes her head in bemusement. "I'll have to think about it. But let's talk about this item..."

We discuss the proposal details. She has concerns about security, which I think about almost constantly, so I'm able to address her issues. She actually tries to negotiate us down on salary, which is nearly four times what she makes now. But Walter is firm on the offer. I think she deserves it, but since the budget is my responsibility, I stay out of it.

I have to fight off a smile because, after we found out about Mulder's inheritance, Walter offered him a pittance of a salary.

We're able to effectively counter most of her objections by either changing her job description or ensuring her she'll get what she wants. In the end, she gives conditional agreement. She wants to be involved in the planning stages now, but doesn't want to start until after the baby is born.

Scully folds up the offer and tucks it in her purse. "Where will everyone else be based?"

"Alex and I will travel, spending most of our time in Geneva and Nogales." He gives me a slightly nervous look. "We didn't spell it out in the proposal, but Mulder will be working for you, Dana, so you can decide his location options."

She frowns. "Oh, you spring that on me *after* I've accepted." She shakes a finger at Walter. "Chicken."

Walter removes his glasses and rubs his forehead. "You know as well as I do that it's the only reasonable option. He needs you. And he's going to need a partner. Someone who can keep him out of trouble."

"That's a tall order." She nods thoughtfully. "I was thinking about recruiting Nate Gjersee... I think he might make a good partner for Mulder. He seems easy going, but I don't think he'll take any shit. He's proved more than willing to go toe-to-toe with Doggett every day."

Walt glances at me. "What's your opinion, Alex?"

"I think Gjersee cultivates that California-surfer-boy attitude so people will underestimate him. I think he's more than capable of handling Mulder. But would he want to?"

"Make him an offer, Dana." Walt puts an arm around my shoulders. "Money man here will handle the costs."

"I will." She pauses, then blandly says, "Incidentally, Mulder asked me to marry him."

Walter gives her an expectant smile. "Are congratulations in order?"

I try not to turn up my nose in distaste.

Scully gives an emphatic shake of her head. "I don't think Mulder and I are cut out for that kind of partnership."

"I understand," Walter says quietly.

She looks at us both thoughtfully. "It's still hard to believe that this is real. That we have an international organization with thousands of people working to prevent the colonization." She smiles at me. "And all of this has come from the love between the two of you."

I feel myself flushing. What an odd thing to say. I glance at Walter who has a satisfied smile on his face. "An unusual byproduct," I mumble absently.

"I guess it did." Walter reaches across the table to take her hand. "Don't forget the brilliant doctor who saved our asses more times than we can count. We owe you everything."

"No you don't. I'm just doing my job and looking out for my baby."

I find myself saying, "Well, whatever you're doing, it works." She turns her gaze on me. "Thanks, Dana." It's been a long time since I felt I owed someone--well, someone other than Walter--but I do owe Dana. A lot.

**

Geneva, Switzerland
February, 2001
One Month Later

I can hear Mulder's and Alex's voices getting closer. They're arguing. Again. At least I don't have to worry about them coming to blows, because one of our security guys is glued to Mulder.

Abruptly, the squabbling duo is in my office. Unsurprisingly, Alex seems annoyed, and there's a hint of something else. Mulder looks determined. The bodyguard, standing in the back of the room, appears to have a headache.

"Oh, come on, Mulder." Alex slams a stack of files on the meeting table. "You're up to your ass in more 'truth' than you can even process, and you're still convinced we're trying to hide something from you? You are so fucking paranoid."

Mulder points his finger at Alex. "There are parts of the system that have been encrypted and I'm told only you have the encryption key."

"Just because you don't know *everything* doesn't mean there's a conspiracy." Alex's expression is tight, faint dark circles under his eyes.

"You're hiding something!"

I generally try to let them work out their differences without my interference, but I don't have a sense of humor on this particular matter. "Mulder. Shut. Up."

He rounds on me. "What are you hiding?"

Rising, I step around my desk, approach him and give him a hard look. "I'm only going to say this once, so you better listen. The files that only Alex has access to are medical files. Alex's medical files. And you don't need to know what's in them."

"Medical files? The only reason he'd have medical files at this facility is-" He stops suddenly, gaping at me, then at Alex. "Shit."

Alex glares at Mulder.

When Mulder gets himself back together, he asks, "But some of the files were in the strategic-"

Alex cuts him off this time. "Mulder, yours were not the only parents in the Consortium." He waits for that to sink in. "If we find data about your family, I promise you can encrypt it and keep everyone out of it. In the meantime, keep your nose out of my fucking business."

I have to think to close my jaw. I didn't expect Alex to share *this* with Mulder. And I doubt Mulder's capable of appreciating his candor.

I have to end it. "Mulder, this conversation is over. I don't want to hear a word out of your mouth about it. Ever again. Got that?"

Mulder's staring at Alex as if he's never seen him before. He turns his gaze back to me. "Uh, yeah. Whatever." He turns and heads out of my office, followed by his shadow. I can tell he's still piecing things together. Sometimes I wish he weren't so damned smart. But at least he's on our side. More or less.

Alex plops into one of the chairs. "Remind me why we wanted him working for us?"

"Yeah, well, we just need to channel all that energy into something productive." I stand next to Alex's chair and give his shoulder a squeeze. "You okay?"

"Yeah." His body tension tells a different story. "When we brought Mulder with us, I didn't expect him to choose me as his guide."

I'm surprised that Alex hasn't figured that out already. Mulder's watching him. Waiting to catch him at something nefarious.

But Mulder isn't the problem. "You've been on edge and sleeping badly. I'm... concerned."

Alex looks up at me. "I'm fine." He captures my hand and squeezes it. "Geneva isn't my favorite location in the world. Add Mulder to the mix..." He trails off and shrugs.

I meet his gaze. That's true, but it's also bullshit. And we both know it.

It's something about our new lifestyle. And it's not jetlag. Alex isn't the type to worry about the future of the planet--the only thing besides Alex that worries *me*--so what else is bothering him?

I decide to let it go. For now.

Sighing, Alex reaches for one of the files. "In other news... one of our operatives in Singapore was arrested for something stupid." He scans the paper. "Defacing public property or some such shit. He actually called in to his handler asking for assistance." Alex shrugs. "I don't think we can do anything."

"Is that a caning offense in Singapore?"

Alex nods. "Yeah. That's what he's hoping to get out of. I don't want to expose us to prevent one of our operatives from getting spanked. I think we should stay out of it."

"Find him an attorney, but if the courts find him guilty, he can still work with a sore ass."

My lead man in Geneva has just stepped into the conference room and flutters a bit at my words.

The man's not the most dynamic leader--Alex calls him Mr. Meek--but he's doing okay. Follows orders pretty damned well.

Alex holds out his hand and Mr. Meek delivers whatever he was expecting. After reviewing the paper, he mutters, "Some of our department heads don't like my new budget." He gets to his feet. "Do you need me for anything right now?"

I shake my head. "Not at the moment. Be back in time for Mr. Green?"

Looking less than thrilled, he mutters, "Sure." He heads into his office through the connecting door.

Turning to Mr. Meek, I toss him the report he gave me this morning. "This summary of detected alien activities is very useful. Can you get me this every week?"

"Yes, sir."

When I sit, he sits across from me and we discuss the report. After a half hour or so, the meeting has come to an end. He rises to depart.

"Lester, can I ask you something?"

"Of course, sir."

I stand and lean against my desk. "The other day in the elevator, I tried to talk sports with one of the geophysicists and he got all bristly. Wouldn't say anything but yes or no. And the red-haired woman in the graphics department leaves her desk every time Alex or I come into the section. Why is everyone so afraid of us?" I can guess why, of course, but I need to understand clearly what's in the wind about us.

He plays with his fingers for a moment. "Um, well, you know, you're the boss."

"No. I've been the boss before. That's not it."

Mr. Meek looks like he wants to evaporate.

"C'mon, give it to me straight."

"Well, a lot of people think that you or Mr. Krycek might kill anyone you didn't like."

"Oh." No surprise, given our first visit to this place. "Do you believe that?"

"Oh, no, sir," he replies emphatically.

He's probably telling the truth. "So that's the rumor?"

"Yeah."

"Is there more to it?"

He looks at the floor. "Well, there's one rumor that you two have done this before... taken over another organization and that you select your, um, mistresses from the administrative pool. And, well," he gives me a pained look, "there's a rumor that you actually... uh... sleep with..." he takes a step back. "Each other."

Mistresses, huh? I don't think Alex would approve. "Okay. Anything else?"

"Yeah. Some people say you've killed more than a hundred people."

"Uh huh." Sadly, it might be true, if you count 'Nam, but I don't think that's what he means. "For the record, I do sometimes yell at my employees, but I don't ever kill them. See if you can spread that around, okay?"

"Yes, Mr. Skinner."

"Thank you."

I think back on the lives we took when we first came to Geneva. It wasn't right... what we did, but it wasn't wrong either. I do not allow myself to forget when we cross the line. I have to always know just where that line is, and if I don't know precisely where, I have to at least know where the gray region begins and ends.

It's not the memory of Alex's torturers that keeps me in line. It's another face and the thick smell of cigarette smoke that clung to him. I intend to run this organization and not become another Spender. That means I can't ever cross the line and forget I did. I have to carry the guilt and touch it a little now and then. It hurts. If it hurts, then I'm still okay.

**

I spend a couple hours convincing the department heads that my budget is the right way to go, then head back to my office. I have another one of my this-is-too-fucking-surreal moments. It's still hard to believe that this is all happening. Walter and I are together. We're running the Resistance. Working with Mulder and Scully. This feels so foreign, I don't know what to do with it sometimes.

I run into Mr. Meek on the way back and hand-off a bunch of things that need follow-up. I'd really like to play hooky and go for a ride. Take some time to let my brain empty. But I have things that need to be done this afternoon.

When I get back to Walter's office, I notice his admin isn't at her desk. Ah... the Tiny Terror must be inside. I enter his office and lie on the sofa to watch the show.

"Uh uh," she says forcefully, shaking her head. "The head of that department is a weasel. You can't give him *more* responsibility. You need to demote him to engineer. He was good at *that*."

Walter glances at me wearily. "How do you know all this, Bernice? You've only been in Geneva for a few weeks."

Walter was unable to seduce Kimberly away from the Bureau, only because he needed someone who could travel. But she sicced her four-foot-nine maniac cousin on him instead. A former assistant at the FDA, she was looking for a little excitement. Aliens and near-constant jet lag seemed to fit the bill.

I wouldn't dream of telling her this, but she's done a good job of reducing Walter's stress. I've theorized that she does it by simply refusing to allow anyone to see him. Walter tried to get me to hire an assistant, but I refused. I didn't tell him it's because I can't bear the idea of having *another* person I'm forced to deal with on a daily basis. The senior staff and my security detail push my limits as it is.

She taps his arm with the back of her hand. "You hardly have any work for me, so I get around. Get to know people. The man's definitely a weasel. His direct reports are loafing around 'cause they can't figure out what they should be doing."

"Okay, Bernice. I'll assign the project to someone else." He signs a document and passes it to her.

"We need to change telecom providers. Our T-3 is down almost 40 percent of the time. Here's my recommendation." She hands Walter a piece of paper.

He glances at it, nods absently and puts pen to paper, then asks, "Anything else?"

"There have been some complaints about the new expense report procedures. It's much more difficult than it used to be."

Walter looks relieved. "Talk to him."

Bernice turns on me, but I intercept. "No dice. If someone has something to say, they can talk to me directly."

She gives me a look of bland disapproval. "No one will talk to 'Psycho Boy' about the expense procedures. They could be spending half their workweek doing it and you'd never hear about it, buddy."

Walt fights back a laugh.

I raise an eyebrow. "Tough." At her continued mind-drilling stare, I concede, "Fine. You can set up an anonymous 'suggestion' box and people can submit *specific* complaints. Otherwise, I don't want to hear it. And if they're all in your handwriting, I'm going to ignore them."

She gives me a smug smile. "Fine." Passing a few papers to me, she adds, "Here's the new expense procedure I developed. It will save everyone, including yourself, PB, a great deal of time." PB... Psycho Boy. Lovely nickname.

We exchange a glare, then she turns back to her previous victim. "Now you get your ass into the lunchroom, or you're going to miss lunch again." With that, she stalks out of the room.

I head to the door and stick my head out to catch the Tiny Terror. "By the way, *TT*, these new procedures don't go anywhere until I approve them." I offer her a slight smile, then close the door and lock it.

I cross to Walter and rotate his chair around so we're face to face. "I think we should leave her here."

He gives me a grim smile. "Would it be unmanly for me to phone Kimberly to whine? She's the one who said her second cousin was 'a bit assertive.'"

"She lied. In any case, if Bernice doesn't work out as your admin, we can always send her after the aliens."

"It wouldn't be so bad if she wasn't always right. You know you're going to approve that proposal." He shakes his head. "I hate to admit it, but I think I kind of like her."

I stare at him for a moment. "Well, you have to work with her, so if you like her... whatever. I think you need to give her more to do, so she'll have less time to be right."

"Good plan. So what's TT?"

I smile benignly. "Tiny Terror. I think it's rather apropos, don't you?"

"Yeah. With her around, I think we can dispense with most of the security detail." He removes his glasses and pinches the bridge of his nose.

Slipping to my knees between his legs, I reach for the fastening on his pants. "I think I know how to help you... relax."

"Hmm, okay. But don't tell Bernice I didn't have lunch."


NASA Goddard
Greenbelt, MD
March 2001
One Month Later

Walter sits placidly while I pace around the exam room shirtless, waiting for the tech to return with my new arm. My first appointment to pick up the arm was last week. They presented me with what they called a 'stock' arm. Said mine wouldn't be ready for another week. I was instantly suspicious, because during the planning and the surgery, I assumed I would be getting a stock piece of equipment. But no one will tell me anything. I know Walter's in on it, but I've been unsuccessful at getting any information out of him. And I've tried everything, dammit.

My first week with the loaner arm was... different. It's certainly more useful. The two knuckle-like joints on each finger provide incredible dexterity, but it takes some getting used to. Walter had to buy me some plastic cups so I wouldn't break every glass in the house. It's a little difficult to control the strength of the damned thing. I've snapped more shoelaces than I can keep track of. And the left-side belt loops are missing on all my jeans. I haven't quite figured out how to pick up something small or thin--like paper--but I can pick up my clothes, shoes, whatever else. I can grasp and twist... and break off the door knob. They tell me I can do a 360 degree rotation of my wrist, but I haven't been successful at it yet. It just seems weird.

The one thing I don't like is the way it looks. It's very... mechanical in appearance. Well, they do call it the robotic arm. It's sort of a flat gray titanium. I can wear it in the shower... which is nice, because it helps immeasurably. Walter's asked me to touch him with it, but I haven't wanted to. It feels so foreign. Like an object, not part of me. Even more so than my normal prosthesis.

My pacing is also partly due to the fact that I'm still uncomfortable in any type of medical facility. Uncomfortable, but not panicky like I used to be. Tearing down the medical arm of the Resistance seemed to have killed many of my personal demons. Literally and figuratively.

When the tech finally returns, he hands a large box to Walter, then leans back against a counter. I flash Walter a look of confusion. What's going on?

Smiling, but oddly nervous, Walt explains, "I, uh, got involved in the development of your arm. Sharon found an artist and I worked with him, using the photos they took of your upper body. I... If you don't like it, you can always go with a stock arm, or we can design you another one." He places the box unceremoniously on the lab bench.

Part of me is instantly touched, and another part is afraid I'm going to look more like a Picasso than I do now.

I offer Walter a tentative smile and step up to the bench. Taking a deep breath, I open the box. I blink a few times, not quite able to take it in. Nestled in the custom-cut foam cushioning is a completely different arm. A *green* arm. The lines and look of it are less robotic in nature, and yet it seems even more foreign. Because it's *green*. Dark green... sort of a bold green.

Walter puts a reassuring hand at my back. "Just try it on," he says gently.

Nodding to the tech, I hop onto the table to give him room to work. Unlike last time, he carefully shows Walter how to connect it. This is the downside to this type of arm, I can't put it on, or take it off by myself.

Once it's attached, the tech has me run through various range of motion exercises after which, he makes lots of tiny adjustments. I glance up at Walter and he's giving me *that* look. I tap the tech on the forearm. "Could you give us a few minutes?"

The tech nods and departs. I hop off the table and move to stand in front of the mirror.

It looks... right. Somehow it belongs on my body. The smooth lines of the 'forearm' match those of my real arm. The hand is even shaped like my hand--knuckles, indents where the nail-bed should be. The smooth green titanium surface conceals all the mechanical parts. It's not clunky like the stock arm. It's kind of elegant, I think.

The heat in the gaze of the man standing behind me is the final confirmation. "It's perfect," I murmur. "Thank you, Walt."

A smile teases his mouth. "It looks even better than I'd imagined," he says softly. "You're so fucking beautiful."

Turning around, I reach up with both hands to touch his face, then slide them around to the back of his neck. Pulling him forward, I capture his lips.

Walter moans softly as my tongue slides into his mouth. After a long, sweet kiss, I pull back and whisper, "Love you so much."

There's a tap at the door. I forgot about the rest of the world for a moment. "Come in."

The tech sticks his head in. "Sir? A couple of the doctors and some of the other techs asked if they could see your arm. We don't get very many custom jobs."

I shrug. "I guess."

Leaning against the exam table, I try to be patient as a parade of personnel come through to see the arm 'on.' There's a bit of ooing and ahing, and a few questions for Walter about the artist.

When they're done, the tech says we can go. I give a start of surprise. When I picked up the other arm, I had to stay the entire day.

Before we leave, the tech asks Walter, "Sir, did you want to order the spare arm?"

Walter dips his head in my direction.

I nod. "Order it."

"In green?"

"Yes. Just like this one."

I drive back. Walter's uncharacteristically quiet. When we get back to the condo, he takes me by the new hand and leads the way upstairs.

In the bedroom, he gives me a sensual grin. "Take off your clothes."

Shrugging out of my jacket, I let it fall to the floor, then reach for the hem of my T-shirt. After toeing off my shoes, I use the new hand to tug open my jeans. I hear a ripping sound, but decide to ignore it. I wiggle my jeans down past my hips, then kick them away. Keeping focused on Walter, I lean against a wall and lift both arms up, clasping them over my head. "Do you still like it?"

His eyes narrow with appreciation, but he says only, "Lie on the bed, on your back, with your arms up like that." His voice is a low rasp.

Pushing away from the wall, I move to the bed and lie down. I bring my arms above my head and separate my legs slightly.

"God, Alex. You look like..." There's no strength behind his voice. He clears his throat. "... like a superhero."

I blink at him. It's so incongruous with who I really am it's hard to digest. But that's part of why I'm here... why my life has changed so much. Because of the way Walter looks at me and what he sees.

"Pose for me," he says in his possessive voice.

That tone causes me to shudder as it touches some need deep inside. I sit up, then get to my knees facing him. Letting my knees slide apart, I drag my left hand down my chest, then past my crotch. Sitting back on my heels, I rest the green hand on my inner thigh.

Encouraged by Walter's heavy-lidded stare, I turn so that I'm kneeling, facing away from him this time, then drop into a position he hasn't seen in a very long time. All fours. I separate my knees, then look back at him.

His face is tight. I've seen him turned on before, but he's smoldering.

Keeping my legs apart, I kneel up, then bring both hands to the small of my back. I hold them there for a moment, as if I'm bound, then slide them down to my ass, cupping my ass cheeks and pulling them apart.

"That is the sexiest..." He breathes heavily for a moment, then starts peeling off his clothes. "Let's try it out." When his pants are in a heap on the floor, I can see that he's very hard. My mouth waters and I feel a surge of lust that leaves me breathless.

He slides sinuously onto the bed, then on top of me. I gasp with appreciation, then wrap one leg around him, rubbing my body against his. A low rumble comes from deep in his throat. "Put your arms around me. I want to feel you."

I bring my arms around him, one at his shoulders, one at his waist and squeeze him like I've often wished I could.

"Feels good," he says softly. He relaxes into my embrace and just lies there for a moment, experiencing it.

Then with a heavy sigh, Walter rolls us over, so I'm on top of him. "Support your weight with the new arm and touch me with your right hand."

It takes me a couple tries to get everything to work the way I want, but then I'm braced on the new arm as my fingers seek out the familiar contours of Walter's body. I slide my hand from his neck down to his hip, then slowly back up, tracing every rib, circling his nipple, then stroking his neck.

His hips are moving slightly, though I can tell he's trying to hold back his reaction. "Now switch and touch me with your left."

I brace my right arm and briefly loom over him before shifting my weight. Focusing on the movement, I bring my hand up to his collarbone, then slowly slide it down to his waist. Trying not to do it too hard, I grasp his hip while leaning down to give him a quick kiss. When I pull back, I slide my hand back up. My eyes follow the movement, taking in what this hand cannot feel... the softness of his skin, the definition of his muscles, the tickle of his chest hair. My thumb slides over his nipple, then up to his neck, tracing a path to his ear.

The shallowness of his breathing tells me this isn't just a novelty for him. He's very turned on.

"Is it cold?" I ask.

"A little," he says. "We won't do this in the snow." He gives me a faint smile, then taps the bed near his left hip. "Lie next to me... and jack me off."

I slide onto my right side and, in the next instant, realize he means for me to jack him off with my new hand. I meet his heated gaze. "Walt... I don't want to accidentally hurt you."

"It's okay," he says, pulling me closer with a hand at my waist. "Don't squeeze, just curl your fingers."

Feeling both aroused and trepidatious, I reach for his cock. Using full concentration, I curl my fingers around his shaft, then look up at him. "Okay?"

"Yeah... I really want this, Alex."

I begin to move my hand on his erection, completely captivated by the image of this artistic metal--part of my body--clasping his thick cock.

Walter's expression softens and his hips begin to move. Now that I'm confident of my grip and my rhythm, I turn my attention to the rest of my lover's body. I love the way he looks when he's aroused... the flush in his skin, his fierce expression, the tension in his muscles. My lips and tongue find his nipple, then I take it between my teeth, biting gently. Then a bit harder.

"Harder... on my cock, both," he gasps out.

I increase the speed of my hand as I bite down on his nipple until I feel his body tension shift. I quickly release it, then soothe it with my tongue.

"Oh, yeah... fuck," he groans. His body's moving against me to the rhythm of my hand. "God, I love you touching me."

I love the raw sound of his voice when he's close. It creates a tingle in my spine.

There was some novelty with the new hand at first, but now it's just me, touching him. He's always said he just wants me to touch him... with anything. And I finally understand.

I shift my position so I can play with his neck, licking and sucking at the sensitive flesh. His body tension tells me he's about to come, so I increase the pace and pull back so I can see his face. Contorted, as if in agony...

With a roar, he begins to come. I can see waves of pleasure passing over his features, as if each pulse of his cock is reflected in his face. His breathless sounds make me aware of my own arousal, my desperate need for him.

He makes a faint whimper, his body tension seeping away, as he stills under my touch.

Bringing my hand up, I lick away a few drops of his cum, then lightly stroke his jaw. He would never believe me, but he's incredibly beautiful to me, too.

**

I curl into Alex's body, enjoying the lassitude. Images are floating around in my head. Mostly Alex the superhero. I love it.

Wrapping an arm around his waist, I mumble, "Your new hand just lost its virginity."

He enfolds me in both arms.

That feels so good. Of course, for the purposes of hugging, Alex should have eight arms. The sex would be pretty interesting, too. Funny how his new arm feels symbolic of the changes in our lives. We've found a way to become whole.

I sit up a little so I can look at him. I reach out and take each of his hands in one of mine. "Now you have two beautiful hands." I bring his real hand to my lips and kiss his palm. Then I do the same to his new hand.

He smiles. "Thank you... for the arm. I confess, I didn't really like the industrial appearance of the other one."

I could tell. I wanted him to have an arm that he could love, not just tolerate.

He does look like a superhero. Lean, handsome body, with the beautiful green titanium arm. The color of the arm makes his eyes electric green.

Running my fingers down his chest, I give his groin a gentle squeeze. "Tell me what you want."

The cool metal of his fingertips touches my lower lip. "Suck me," he manages in between moans.

My mouth waters instantly. With a low growl, I push him onto his back and pounce. I give him a thorough kiss, exploring every inch of his mouth.

You know, Walt, you should keep this man.

I think I will.

Smiling into his neck, I work my way down his body. Minutes blur into one another as my senses are filled with the taste, sight and smell of him. The occasional cool brush of titanium adds a new dimension of sensation.

Soon, tremors rack his body for a long time, then he becomes boneless. I lick the cum off his cock, enjoying the taste of him and the sprawl of his limbs. He looks... wasted.

Eventually he lifts his new arm, a piece of sheet dangling from his clenched hand. "I have to learn how to control this thing," he offers, sounding completely wiped out.

"You will," I say, rearranging my body so I can curl up next to him. "But, uh, you won't be jacking me off while you're coming."

Alex presses his face into my neck and laughs. "Yeah, I like your dick attached, too."

**

Geneva, Switzerland
April, 2001
One Month Later

The staff meeting drones on, and I tune out a rather dull piece about the ongoing dismantling of some of the former Resistance's questionable operations. I make a few notes about some things to handle in Annemasse when I'm there in a couple of days. We're going to train all of our field operatives there, and I want everything to be perfect.

The meeting captures my attention again when one of the scientists gets up to give his report on some colonist activity. He points out some erratic microburst radiation traffic over Antarctica. I notice Walter making notes out of the corner of my eye.

Mulder asks if there's a working theory about the purpose for the unusual activity. The question has barely left his mouth when the answers start filling my brain. The data is coming so fast, I'm unable to prevent a faint gasp.

I have limited time to get somewhere secure, so I give Walter our pre-arranged signal. The fact that he's already on his feet and pulling back my chair, tells me he interpreted what was happening already.

Distantly, I hear him dismissing the staff meeting, saying we'll finish tomorrow... he and I have an urgent call to take care of. I let him handle everything, just focusing on keeping a normal appearance and not letting myself get overwhelmed by the foreign information in my head.

"Just another couple minutes, Alex," Walter cautions as he guides me toward our offices. Once we're inside, he sits me at my desk and goes through the security ritual.

I'm nearly vibrating with the need to get this out of my head. Walt keeps me grounded with the security countdown. Everything's locked, equipment is ready, he just has to finish scanning the room. Even though we think there's no chance of a security breach in this office, we always take every precaution.

"Thirty seconds, Alex."

I hold the edge of the desk with a white-knuckled grip, waiting for the go ahead.

Walter concludes his scan of the room back at my desk. "Clear."

Oh thank god. I open my mouth and the words start to tumble out.

**

I make notes of the first couple minutes of Alex's ramblings, as those are usually the most critical. So, the radiation activity we've observed is them building a new breeding facility. I have a meeting with the Rebels in a few days, which is good since we have something urgent to talk about.

After double-checking everything one more time, I rub Alex's shoulders. It seems to help him relax a little, though I'm not sure he's really aware of me.

Double checking is unnecessary, but it gives me something to do. Alex's office is one of the most secure places in the building, so he can record the memories he gets rather than write them. With the right stimulus--like today's staff meeting--he gets so much data, he doesn't have time to write. Sometimes he just locks himself in his office, and lets it flow out of his brain. But when it hits him hard, or promises to be an especially long session, I stay until he's finished.

It's always rather eerie. He stares into space and just rattles off information. He has no clue or concept of what he's talking about. Advanced scientific theories no one in our organization can understand, cultural references, things in languages Alex never learned but understands. We've found that we can increase the amount of data by an order of magnitude by doing it this way.

Advanced voice recognition software churns the hours of rambling into tomes of data. At first, the software choked on nearly a third of the words. But as we've built up enough alien and scientific language in the dictionary, Alex only has to revise about five percent.

Long sessions leave him completely drained, so I'm on hand in case there's a problem. Today looks to be one of those sessions. When it hits him that hard, it's usually because there's a ton of information.

We have so much information at this point that we don't worry much about being able to keep the rebel aliens well supplied in exchange for their help. Alex's biggest security nightmare is making sure that data is impossible to hack into. Working with Russ, they devised a procedure where Alex loads this type of data into the data warehouse himself, using his personal encryption keys. No one has access without going through Alex. Even then, Alex will extract only a small subset of information and make it available.

We've given the Rebels a little of this information. Unfortunately, they're now convinced we're conducting secret experiments on the colonists. How else could we know so much about their biology? Their strengths and weaknesses? We always manage to deflect them, but we pick and choose what to give them very carefully.

When the adrenaline has receded a bit, I grab a book and settle on the sofa for the wait, Alex's voice a soothing drone in the background.


Three Days Later

Bernice buzzes me. "Sir, Lester is here. Says he needs to see you."

"Send him in."

Lester enters, looking more meek than usual. "Is Mr. Krycek in today?"

Something financial no doubt. "He's in Annemasse for the rest of the day... setting up the new training facility." Alex avoids Lester, so if Lester needs him, I'll probably have to intervene. "Why don't you call site security and have them get a message to Alex?"

"Uh..." He shifts from one foot to the other. "I don't really need to talk to him. I need to talk to you... I just wanted to make sure he wasn't around."

I give Lester my full attention. There shouldn't be anything he can't talk to Alex about. Except... "You found something?"

Wringing his hands, he nods. "You said I was to tell you, even though Mr. Krycek said to tell him."

"You found, what? A file?"

"I don't know. It's a box, but it's sealed and I didn't let anyone touch it."

Christ. "Where is it?!"

He seems to fold a bit and twitches his hand toward the door. "It's in Bernice's office. I didn't want to leave it..."

I'm already on my way to the door. There's a large file-storage box by Bernice's desk. I seize it and bring it into my office, setting it on my desk.

"How many people know about this?"

"Um, the clerk who found it, me, and..." He trails off and points to my outer office.

Meaning, my security guard and Bernice. I don't have to worry about them. "Lester, you're not to tell anyone about this.

After a quick chat with my bodyguard and Bernice, I lock my office door and contemplate the box, wondering what problems lie within. It's just now after lunch, and Alex should be back from Annemasse by 7:00. I hope that's enough time to deal with this... whatever it is.

I take a long slow breath, then open the carton. Files. Reports. Photos. Receipts. Videotapes. Notebooks. A cornucopia of the horror it was to be born into the Krycek family.

Surveillance photos of the Krycek kids, only a few months before they were executed. Absurdly, I feel as if I must somehow protect Alex from that terrible past crime. Almost hear the cries of his siblings demanding my protection, as well. There's no justice I can offer them except the continued survival of their youngest and oldest siblings.

It would be easy to destroy all the photos, every reminder of that time, but these may be the only pictures Alex will ever have of his lost siblings. Except for the one photo he has of the 11 of them together. Most of the pictures show the sweet, mundane life of the Krycek children before Alex was taken. Especially sad are a few photos dated after Alex was taken from them. There's something subtly wrong in their faces. It's fear, I think, that has drawn the innocence from their expressions.

A cold report outlining their assassination shocks me. These guys were secure enough in their untouchability to document their work. The inhuman words of the report are easier to bear than the photos. Until the last page: "Sold the control subject to the gulag. Took the team out for vodka."

Alex can't see this. *Can't.*

Rising, I move to my window, which overlooks the forest. I manage to think of other things for a while. I finally coax myself back to the box. I can endure this if it means that Alex doesn't have to.

I find a half page torn out of a lab notebook, with a chemical formula on it. Over the top, in another person's handwriting it reads, "They used control subject DNA for subject 10!!" Alex's DNA was used in Lyosha? That might explain why they look so much alike.

A group of reports detail Alex's training as an operative and early assignments. People he killed for them. I'm sorry for your losses, I think silently to the anonymous survivors of Alex's victims, wondering if I'm lamenting good people or not.

The videotapes are well labeled: the Geneva experiments performed on Alex. I buzz Bernice and ask her to shred them immediately, along with the reports of Alex's operative career.

I feel bad making this decision, which rightfully belongs to Alex, but it doesn't stop me.

I sort the rest into two piles: scientific data and family personal information. I load each into its own fire-safe, then set two different combinations. Both go into the master safe in my office. One for research. If we can find someone we trust to conduct it. One for Alex, for later. Not now. Maybe never.

I feel a little better when it's all locked away. I postpone a few meetings, then head where need drives me... to the gym.

When Alex returns to the condo, I'm sprawled on the sofa, halfheartedly working on a beer. He leans over me and kisses my forehead. "Hey." He nudges me with his hip, so I make room for him on the couch.

"Alex," I begin.

The tone of my voice makes him abort his cuddle and shift into a sitting position, turning to meet my gaze.

"Lester found a box. A box of, uh, pain. About you and your family. I've-"

All the color drains out of Alex's face and he opens his mouth to speak.

"Hold on. Let me finish." I give his shoulder a light squeeze. "I've gone through it. Destroyed some of it. Saved some of it, double locked in my safe. There's nothing you have to see. Ever. Nothing important you need to know. But, it will be there--if and when you need to see it. Understand?"

He stares at me blankly for several seconds. His mouth opens and closes a few times as he tries to find something to say. Eventually he's staring past me, lost in thought. His color seems a little more normal when he finally offers an oblique nod and a softly murmured, "I trust you."


Crystal City, VA
May 2001
One Month Later

I serve another square of lasagna, then pass the plate back to Antonio.

I notice Sharon watching Alex, who's still picking at his first piece of lasagna. He seems to get tired when we spend too much time with other people. I'll have to plan more alone time.

"Thanks, Walter." Antonio squeezes Sharon's hand. "Sharon tells me you're a spy. You working for the CIA or what?"

"Not exactly." I glance at Alex seeking inspiration. He smiles benignly, as I reply, "I work for, uh, a private organization."

It's more than I should have said. It's enough to get Antonio going with about a thousand questions I can't answer. Finally, I manage to shake him off, convincing him that our work is highly classified.

Alex gives me a subtle smirk. "That's my man... Spy by day, Italian chef by night and wild man in bed."

Sharon chuckles.

Groaning, I formulate a pithy retort, but I'm interrupted by the phone. It's Dana. She's on her way to the hospital. Since I'm part of the birthing team--my job is to keep Mulder sane, which is, of course, a tall order--I have to go. Alex stays with Sharon and Antonio, promising to join me later. Every time Alex steps out of the house, he's got two security people at his back, so I don't worry about him as much as I used to.

I make apologies to Antonio and Sharon. If I leave them here, I know she'll wash the dishes, but it can't be helped. I give her a big hug and promise to call her soon.

She seems happy... I once thought my affair with Alex would only cause her pain. But it hasn't. Our divorce freed both Sharon and me to find happiness in our own ways.

I manage to beat Mulder to the hospital. He's excited, but becomes increasingly nervous as we wait and fuss over Dana. He asks her to marry him twice while she's having contractions. Though obviously in a great deal of pain, Dana is calm. Her mother takes charge, shooing Mulder and I out of the room at intervals--whenever Dana gets cranky.

Alex arrives in time to distract Mulder from his anxiety. As Mulder is about to make some caustic remark, he notices Alex's hand, which is atypically free of gloves. Once Alex notices the direction of Mulder's attention, he rotates his wrist 360 degrees.

Mulder looks a little appalled. "Is your entire arm green?"

Alex shrugs. "Anything's possible."

Mulder scowls and retorts, "I'm surprised you're here. I wouldn't think you'd have much interest in the process of bringing life *into* the world."

Alex flips him off with one metallic finger. It's an eerily menacing gesture. "Actually, I'm just here for the entertainment of watching you become a father."

"Oh, yeah. That." Mulder grimaces. "My own father was an asshole, so I'm terrified that I'm going to become an asshole at the moment my kid is born."

"Don't worry, Mulder. You're *already* an asshole."

"Well, that's a relief," he replies, giving a mock punch to Alex's left shoulder. Outwardly, Alex appears nonchalant, but I know him well enough to see his tension rise.

Mrs. Scully calls us back in. Dana actually smiles when she sees Alex and gestures him over. "Just one more time... after the baby's born. Okay?"

Alex nods. "Okay, but you don't have anything to worry about."

Mulder looks curiously between the two of them, a question on his face. I already know what's going on. Someone tried to scare Dana into believing her baby wasn't human. She was so upset about it, Alex confidentially told her an abridged version of his abilities... that since his infection by the Piper Maru oil, he's been able to sense aliens, and that he didn't sense her baby was anything but human. Alex's insight calmed her dramatically.

Ultimately, we all get to watch the birth. It's a messy affair and the baby comes out looking like road-kill, but little William is healthy and human. Dana seems very pleased by his appearance, but he's just a pasty-skinned blob as far as I can tell. She has Alex touch him, just to be sure. Alex reluctantly does as she asks, commenting, "I certainly hope he takes after his mother."

Mulder seems oddly astonished by his son, as if he's never seen a baby before. He carries it around showing it to anyone who will stand still for more than a few seconds, including a Puerto Rican janitor. I've never seen him like this. It's almost cute... in a dorky way.

Dana was going to name her son after Mulder's father, but Alex shared some other confidential information with her a few weeks ago... it made her a little green, so she decided to name the baby after Mulder--using his middle name--instead.

At my urging, Mulder agrees to go home so mother and baby can get some sleep. But first he has to propose to her again.

Her response? "No! Go away. I'm tired."

He opens his mouth, but I press a hand over it. "She's tired."

I bend down to kiss Dana's cheek.

"Thank you for coming, Walt," she says in a tired voice. "I wanted to you to be here."

"Sure, Dana, but I don't baby-sit."

She manages a smile.

Alex heads home, leaving me to make sure Mulder actually departs.

On the way out of the hospital, Mulder says, "You two are really chummy. What do you think it will take to get her to say yes?"

"A personality-altering brain tumor," I reply blandly.

"Hers or mine?" he asks, looking vaguely distressed.

My only response is a shrug.

"Well," Mulder tosses off, "not everyone can have the perfect relationship like you and the assassin boy wonder."

At Mulder's car, I wait for him to drive away before heading for my own.

When I get to the house, there's a note from Alex.

--
Gone for a bike ride. -A
--

My bodyguard announces that Alex's man is gone as well. Good. Alex has sneaked out to ride alone a time or two. I think I've finally gotten Alex to agree to not do it again. Although, he's been riding so much lately. He's becoming obsessive about it. And after a full night at the hospital, he should be asleep. I guess I can understand it, though. He seemed uncomfortable most of the time in the maternity ward. He only stayed because Dana wanted him to.

I'm worried about him. Something's not right. He and I are good--better than good actually. But something's eating at him. I can see the stress, but the causes I can detect are too minor to explain his response.

I head upstairs and climb into bed. Alex returns an hour later, sweaty and looking tired. After he shucks his clothes, I pull him into bed. He smells pleasantly raunchy. "You okay?"

He nods. "The birth was really," he wrinkles up his nose, "gross."

I kiss his temple. "Yeah, makes me glad I'm a man."

**
** End Part 1 **

Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us

In Part 2...
Alex is cranky.

Next part in series


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