Exigency by Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu

Authors: Zoe Takashi & Louise Wu,  Email Us
Website: http://slashfactory.com/
Series: Exigency. Previous part: Yield6.

Exigency: Yield
(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 7


Federal Bureau of Investigation
Tuesday, 9 August 1994
7:42 A.M.

After flipping through all the information for this morning's briefing, I glance at my watch. "Come on, Mulder. We have to get up to Skinner's office."

Mulder slowly rises from behind his desk, looking like he hasn't slept in a week.

I'm dreading walking into this meeting--perceived as Mulder's partner--with alternate theories about Scully's abduction that prominently feature alien conspiracies. Makes me wish I'd gotten a better job description.

There's something surreal about this situation--two hours ago I was in the shower with Walter, licking water droplets off his chest and now I'm preparing to espouse theories of alien abductions.

I'm acutely aware of the knife Walter gave me secured at my waist next to my gun. My fingers trace the outline of it through my jacket. Get a grip, Krycek.

We're not late, but Mulder and I are the last to arrive. Mathis is talking to Walter, and standing entirely too close, in my opinion. Mathis' two senior suck-ups are hovering nearby.

Jennifer Gough walks over to greet us. I thought she was working some other high-profile case after her success running the V.B.I. lead on the Bingham kidnapping. She wouldn't be here if she weren't heading up this case.

While she talks to Mulder, I notice the other occupant. Fortunately, no one is paying attention to me because I can't prevent the start of surprise at finding Spender in the room. Why the hell would he be attending a briefing in Walter's office?

"Let's begin." Walter's voice, in full A.D. mode, resonates in the room.

Everyone settles at the table and I'm stuck between Mathis and Mulder. Lovely. And I really hate having my back to a door.

Agent Gough, then Mathis give quick updates on the current status of the investigation. Walter asks questions to clarify a few points.

After a few minutes, Walter rises and begins walking around the table. "According to the reports I reviewed, Agent Scully's research states that Duane Barry's propensity for violent, deviant behavior is due to brain damage from a bullet wound in the head. Is this the operational opinion?"

Walter stops between Mulder and me, looking to Mulder for an answer. Mulder doesn't respond... just stares at nothing. Great.

I'm forced to answer. "Yes, sir." I clear my throat, resisting the urge to strangle Mulder. I wish he'd do anything besides sit there looking hung over.

"Is there another?"

I hate life. "He's convinced he's going to be abducted by aliens. That by taking someone else to the abduction site, he won't be abducted himself."

Walter walks around to my other side. "That he's following orders from alien voices in his head?" His tone is less than believing.

"Yes." Please kill me now.

"Well, that's an interesting spin on the Nuremberg defense." He looks pointedly at Mulder and receives another non-response. "Which explanation do you subscribe to, Agent Mulder?"

"There's a question of how he could've gotten to her in the first place." And Mulder finally speaks. Great timing, you pain in the ass.

Mathis jumps in. "And you think these alien voices told him?" Mathis has a knack for making any bad situation worse.

Mulder seems to wake up. "Agent Scully was carrying a small piece of metal that was removed from Duane Barry's abdomen. An implant he described as a tracking device." He's just citing the evidence but there's something confrontational in his tone.

"Agent Scully thought that you had made a major miscalculation in Duane Barry's psychosis. Is that true?" Too bad Mathis hasn't had one of Spender's lectures on 'how to get along with Mulder.'

Mulder replies, "Yes, but that still doesn't explain how he could have found her."

My gaze flicks to Spender. Something doesn't seem quite right about this... I'm even more certain he's involved. I wonder how he managed to get control of Duane Barry?

Walter's voice draws my attention back. "Where would he be taking her?"

Mulder looks despondent. "I don't know. He... he talked about a mountain but he wasn't specific about the location."

"Well, however he got to her, and whatever his motives, he took Agent Scully's car and weapon. I think we all understand the seriousness of this matter and should proceed ahead quickly with all possible resources. I need you to turn over your files to HRT-"

Mulder interrupts, "I'd like to brief them myself si-"

"Go home, Agent Mulder, you've been up all night. Get some sleep."

Mulder stands and steps close to Walter. Too close. My fingers curl into a fist.

"Sir, I know Duane Barry. I've been in his head, I know how he thinks-"

Walter raises his voice and says, "You're too close to this case." His tone shifts to placating. "If we can use you, we will."

"Sir-"

"That's an order, Agent Mulder." Walter turns to me. "Make sure he gets home safely."

More Mulder-sitting. How perfect.

Mulder is insistent about not being driven home... but not quite as insistent as I am about taking him. Before he'll get out of my car, he makes me promise to call him if anything comes up.

Around 12:30 P.M., Jennifer Gough finds me with information that a patrolman in Virginia was killed by a man matching Duane Barry's description. The patrol-car video is being couriered over. Reluctantly, I dial Mulder's number. He doesn't answer so I try his cell phone. When he picks up, the faint noises in the background tell me he's not at home.

Mulder not following orders is not my problem.

Barely two minutes after I hang up with Mulder, my cell phone rings. Since only Spender has this number, it's not a big stretch to figure out who's calling.

"Krycek."

"We need to find Scully before Mulder does."

What the hell? "Understood."

The line clicks off. So, if Spender did set this up, even he doesn't know where Duane Barry is going. If they really needed to get rid of Scully, I'm sure I could have handled it much easier and with a lot less confusion.

At 3:00 P.M., I find Agent Gough for an update on the investigation. When I return to my desk, there's a note from Mulder that Scully is still alive, and a print-out of a shot from the video. Interesting.

I call Spender with the minor update.

He pauses for a moment then replies, "Mulder is working outside the investigation again. Keep him talking to you, Alex." Again, he abruptly clicks off.

I feel a major headache coming on. Walking to Mulder's office, I grab two cups of coffee--seems to be something FBI agents do.

Mulder's listening to tapes from the hostage negotiation two days ago. Out of the blue, he asks where the patrolman was killed and jumps up to find a phonebook. He rips out a page with an ad for Skyland Mountain.

"You know where he's going?" There's a team of 12 people upstairs who haven't got a clue and Mulder's already figured this out?

"Get your car and meet me downstairs."

"Where are we going?"

"Just get your car."

"What about Skinner?" I have a feeling Walter will be less than happy about us disappearing to pursue Duane Barry.

"I'll deal with Skinner."

Which means you're not going to do a damned thing. That's great, Agent Mulder. An unhappy Walter Skinner doesn't affect your sex life.

Coat in hand, Mulder disappears.

Needing to talk to Spender--but strangely enough, wanting to call Walter--I head to the parking garage and dial Spender's number.

When he answers, I say, "Looks like Mulder found her."

"Where are they going?"

"He thinks Scully's been taken up to Skyland Mountain. I'll hold him off until they locate her."

I hear a sound behind me as Spender replies, "It would be best to keep Mulder away, but your cover is the most important thing. Don't compromise it, Alex."

Mulder's approaching. "Wait, here he comes. I'll be in touch."

"Alex-"

I hang up, not missing the warning tone in his voice.

Mulder dashes around the car. "Come on, let's go."

I get behind the wheel and leave the parking garage. We're not even on the road five minutes and Mulder is incredibly twitchy.

"Pull over." Mulder's voice startles me.

"Why?"

"Just pull over."

I pull to the side of the road and Mulder jumps out of the car. He circles to my side and yanks open the door. "I need to drive."

"Get serious, Mulder."

"Come on, Krycek. Move it."

Gritting my teeth, I get out and move to the passenger seat. Once we're moving again, I ask, "Did you talk to Skinner?"

"No." His voice is toneless and he doesn't look at me.

"Nice way of 'handling' him, Mulder." I can't keep the irritation out of my voice.

He gives me a sharp look but doesn't reply. An uncomfortable silence descends over the car.

It bothers me more than it should that he didn't talk to Skinner. I realize it's because I don't like to see Walter upset. And that is psychotic.

The urge I've been fighting for days rises to the surface. I want to find Walter and tell him everything. But what exactly would that serve? It would do nothing but end our relationship and make me an immediate target for the Consortium. Possibly make him a target, too. And that is not an option.

I struggle to figure out why this is so bothersome. What is it that I really want? I want... I want him to be with me. I want to sleep in the same bed with him every night and... I've really lost it. My perspective is fucked up by too much good sex.

Walter is married. He's around for the sex and telling him the truth would just make me an ex-lover on the run from the Consortium while he patches up his marriage. Thank you, no. I have to get out of this before I do something stupid... like trust Walter. I'm sure a little distance from him will bring me be back to normal.

I have a feeling Mulder may be my key to that distance. If you want to get in trouble at the Bureau, who better to hang out with?

Lost in my ruminations about Walter, I'm barely aware of the next hour and a half. Until Mulder nearly drives head-on into a truck. Despite his obvious exhaustion, he refuses to give up the driver's seat. Rather inanely, I try to keep him awake with conversational tidbits--convinced we're both going to die in a car accident in the next few minutes.

The random discussion serves to break the ice and a more comfortable silence descends. My mind wanders back to Walter, half hoping I'll never see him again and half hoping I will. I'm not prone to moodiness, and I don't have a word for how I feel. I force my brain to turn away from these thoughts... torturing myself doesn't seem productive.

Out of the blue, Mulder says, "Look, I know you think we should have told Skinner, but if he sends the whole cavalry, Duane Barry might go over the edge."

Maybe the word for how I feel is hopeless. "You're right." I remind myself that my job is to watch Mulder, not rein him in. But I really don't want to talk about Walter... in any context.

"If we find him first, we'll notify the Bureau. All right?"

"Yeah." I have to get my brain off Walter. The only reason I can think of for Mulder to bring up this topic is because he's sensing something in my attitude. I desperately search for a way to change the subject. "You really think he tracked her down with that implant?"

"Well, that's the easiest explanation." He pauses for a second. "It's also the most implausible."

"Is there another possibility?"

"Somebody could have given him her address. I don't know who."

Gee, I do.

I spot the turn-off for Skyland Mountain, and within a few minutes, we're grilling the resort attendant. Duane Barry was here about 45 minutes ago.

The tram is closed. Looks like we're going to be chasing her up the mountain. Then Mulder threatens the operator with his weapon, insisting that it's now open.

Nice finesse there, Mulder.

He only half listens to the tram operator's warnings, then shuts me out of the tram.

I quickly ask, "What are you doing?"

"Stay here and whatever happens, don't let him stop the tram." Mulder ignores the rest of the instructions from the operator.

I watch the tram begin to ascend, thinking about what Mulder just said. Interesting idea.

Inside the control booth, the operator freaks out about Mulder's speed. Him breaking that cable and dying is not going to solve any of my problems.

Eventually, Mulder heeds the warning and slows down at the tower, then immediately speeds up again.

Do I let him make it to the top? If I stop the tram, there will be some suspicion and, of course, there's the tram operator to deal with. "How close is he?" Suspicion could be a good thing.

"Should be up top in a minute." The tram operator pauses to look at the monitor and I reach for my gun. "There he is."

I bring the butt of my gun across the back of his head and he collapses.

Okay, first, deal with Mulder.

I stop the tram. Mulder's voice bleats out over the radio--trying to determine what's going on. I dial Spender's number. "I've got him stalled up there. I'll hold until you advise."

"We have people almost in position. Keep him away as long as possible but don't compromise your objectives."

"Understood. Do you have a cleaner en route?"

There's a hesitation. "Yes. Is anything compromised?"

I certainly hope so. "No."

"Someone will call you directly. Allow ten minutes, then call in your location to the FBI." Spender clicks off and barely 20 seconds later, the phone rings again.

I give my location and task to the cleaning crew.

As I hang up, I notice Mulder crawling out on top of the tram. Mulder, you fucking idiot. There's no way he can make it to the top of the mountain without falling.

Shit, shit, shit. Reluctantly, I restart the tram. Mulder nearly falls off when the car lurches into motion. I forget to breathe while he struggles to get back on top.

He makes it to the top. I'm both relieved and annoyed. I have an unconscious body, a cleaner on the way and it served absolutely no purpose.

Except perhaps to raise Mulder's suspicions... which will be useful. To me, if not to Spender.

I place a call to Agent Gough and apprise her of the situation. She's less than happy and states that she has to escalate to Skinner, but will immediately send the local sheriffs.

A few minutes later, a black sedan pulls up, followed by an ambulance. Three men in dark suits climb out of the sedan and two paramedics hover in the background.

One of the men approaches me and I show him into the tram operator's booth.

He looks around, quickly taking everything in, then returns to his car. "What was he hit with?"

I gesture to my gun. He holds his hand out and I turn it over. He disappears into the ambulance and returns my weapon a few minutes later. No doubt, this is the cleanest this gun has ever been.

"Go be seen somewhere else."

Cleaners are such prima donnas.

**

8:15 P.M.

Kimberly taps on my door and announces Agent Gough. The lines on Gough's forehead don't suggest good news. "Sir, Agent Krycek just called. He and Mulder are looking for Duane Barry on Skyland Mountain near Warrenton in Virginia."

"What?!"

"I guess Mulder got some sort of lead and thought he could find his partner himself."

Shit. I'm going to have to put a leash on that man.

She continues, "Skyland's about an hour from where the patrolman was killed but, other than that, I don't have any reason to suspect Barry went there. Should I send a team or just wait for Mulder to report?"

"Agent Gough, if Mulder's there, he's probably on to something. Get a backup team there ASAP."

Gough opens her mouth to respond, but a chirp interrupts. She answers her cell phone. "Gough. ... And Agent Scully? ... I see. We're on the way." Switching off the phone, she turns to me. "That was Krycek. They found Barry, but Agent Scully wasn't there."

Fuck. This case bothers me. The pieces just don't add up right. I reach for my coat. "I'm going with you to the mountain." Mulder, your ass is going in a sling.

Stepping into the outer office, I instruct Kimberly to get us a helicopter.

"Agent Gough, we can take two members of your team. Meet me on the roof in ten minutes."

Baker finds me at the helipad, anxious for news. Gough brings Gjersee and Mallory.

Baker informs me that Mathis wants to come, but he's not there on my timetable, so I offer Baker the last remaining seat and instruct the pilot to take off.

I sit next to the pilot, listening to him negotiating our take-off with the Secret Service.

Fuck. I hope we can still find Scully alive. I hope Alex doesn't get embroiled in anything nasty. Again.

During the noisy flight, I manage to speak to the County Sheriff. He sounds competent but he hasn't found any trace of Scully, outside of the trunk of Barry's car. I inform Gough that she's taking over the search when we land. It's probably too dark to find Scully, but I need to know someone I trust is looking at the evidence.

We land first on top of Skyland Mountain, discharging Gough and Gjersee. Taking off again, our second landing is on a field off route 211. We're met by a bland but solicitous investigator from the Virginia Attorney General's office who drives us to the visitor's center.

Inside the building, I find Alex and Mulder. Alex looks unharmed. Mulder looks disheveled and like he hasn't slept in two days. I try to remind myself that he didn't create this mess. "You got Duane Barry?"

"Yes, sir." As usual, he doesn't bother trying to justify his misbehavior.

"Agent Mulder, you disobeyed my direct order."

A voice calls out, "Call the paramedics!"

I follow Alex and Mulder deeper into the facility.

Barry appears to be choking. Mulder kneels next to a pair of guards, leaning over Barry. "What happened?"

One of the men says, "He was gagging..."

"Duane? Duane?" Mulder calls out, trying to make contact with the man who clearly can't breathe, much less speak. "Duane!"

As Barry wheezes and finally stops breathing, I fear we've lost our last chance to find Scully.

Paramedics brush past us and attempt to revive him. Mulder, Alex and I watch as it gradually becomes clear that Barry is gone.

Giving up on Barry, I glance at Mulder. He's in trouble. Again. But he's also lost his former partner, who was keeping him sane.

Leaving the small room, I take a seat in the lobby and dial Gough. There's no news. After instructing her to report every twenty minutes, I find a cup of coffee and sit down with Mulder and Alex to review their day.

Alex seems distracted, looking at his hands a lot and letting Mulder answer all the questions. Something's bothering him, but I'll have to get it out of him later. It crosses my mind to reprimand him for this, but I know how persuasive Mulder can be.

I instruct Alex to drive Mulder home for the second time today.

The crappy coffee makes my stomach burn.

In less than 24 hours, we've lost an agent, the perp and our only witness.

**

Washington, D.C.
Wednesday, 10 August 1994
6:04 A.M.

After leaving my car in a garage, I enter the small coffee shop where I was instructed to meet Spender. He's not here. Someone brushes past me with a large cup of coffee. "He'll meet you in your car."

I clench my jaw. I really hate this shit.

Returning to the parking garage, I climb into the driver's seat and am immediately assaulted by an intense cloud of smoke. I glance at Spender and clear my throat.

He stubs out his cigarette. I guess there are some perks to meeting in my car.

I might as well get to the point. "Skinner's expecting my report on the Duane Barry incident. What do I tell him?"

"The truth."

Huh? He can't really mean the actual truth. "What do you mean?"

"Confirm Mulder's version of events. You've earned his trust, the object now is to preserve it."

"For how much longer?" I'm starting to worry that he's trying to pair me up with Mulder for life.

"Until your assignment is completed."

Spender is not one for clear answers. There's an easier way to deal with this situation. Well, easier for me. "If Mulder is such a threat, why not eliminate him?"

"That's not policy."

He's got to be kidding. Since when do we have a policy about not killing people? "It's not? After what you had me do?"

"Kill Mulder and you risk turning one man's religion into a crusade."

Jesus, that's deep. I can see the line of people waiting to jump on Mulder's bandwagon. "What about Scully?"

"We've taken care of that."

I resist the urge to roll my eyes. "How?"

"We tell you only what you need to know."

Hardly. "I think I have a right to know."

"You have no rights, only orders to be carried out. If you have a problem with that, we'll make other arrangements." Spender climbs out of the car.

He does not like to be challenged, and it's suddenly clear just how expendable I am. But something doesn't quite make sense. Constant reminders about preserving my cover, but he'd have me taken out for crossing him on Mulder? I wonder what's really going on here.

I drive to the Bureau. As I'm preparing to get out, I contemplate the cigarette butts Spender left in my car. I should remove them.

I consider what's going to happen next... meeting with Walter, Mathis and Gough.

Looking back at the butts, I decide I just don't care.

**

10:36 A.M.

This case is really bugging me. Alarm bells have been ringing in my brain long enough to give me a headache. Or maybe it's the smell of my Pentagon observer's cigarette. I'm starting to suspect that anything he's interested in is going to get fucked up.

Alex doesn't think Mulder killed Barry. Mulder's not my calmest agent, but I doubt he'd kill a witness, especially not the only witness to Scully's disappearance. But, if not Mulder, who?

I review the forensic report at the assembled meeting. "Victim appears to have expired from prolonged hypoxemia, secondary to asphyxiation."

I pass one of the ME's photos to Mathis.

"Several possible etiologies," I continue. "The most likely is strangulation due to the presence of contusions and a bruised larynx. Do you want to speak to this, Agent Mulder?"

Defensively, Mulder responds, "I didn't kill him, if that's what you're suggesting."

"But you attacked him?"

"I was interrogating him about Agent Scully. He wasn't cooperating so I pushed him."

Predictably, Mathis has to goad him. "And you lost control."

Mulder replies, "Momentarily. But then I left the room. He was very much alive, I spoke to him. Agent Krycek spoke to him."

I interject, "Agent Krycek says he entered the room because the suspect was gagging."

Mulder's quiet for a moment, then asks, "Is Agent Krycek asserting that I killed him, too?"

"No. He corroborates your story. But the fact is, we've got a dead suspect, Agent Mulder, and no other plausible cause of death. OPC wants the both of you to take a lie detector test. You're to report there immediately."

OPC's involvement in this case isn't going to illuminate it. But they'll give Mulder hell. He probably deserves it.

Mulder rises to leave, but turns back at the door. "There is another plausible cause of death."

I dread the answer before I even ask the question. "Which is?"

"Poisoning by injection or ingestion."

I reach for the report. "Poisoning?"

"You won't find that on the Navy pathologist's report."

Still looking for a believable explanation, I probe further. "What are you saying, Agent Mulder?"

With an adamant tone, Mulder continues, "That the autopsy is incomplete. That the military covered up the toxicological findings."

"And why would they do that?"

"Because they know where Scully is," Mulder replies with his usual fanatical fervor. It makes me want to doubt him, but there isn't a toxicology summary in the report. He could be right.

Mathis and Mulder spar again while I sort out the next steps in my head.

After Mulder leaves, I tell Gough to chase down the toxicology report. Mathis looks like he's about to object, but I shut him up with a glare. I want some answers on this.

Glancing at my unwanted observer, who's puffing his cigarette, I have a bad feeling I'm not going to get the kind of answers we need.

**

"Alex?" At Mulder's voice I glance around. "Alex?" I feel his touch on my shoulder. "Can I borrow your car keys?"

"Why, where are you going?"

"There's someone I've gotta see."

What the hell is he up to now? "Yeah, but we're scheduled at OPC-"

"I know, just give me the car keys please."

With no obvious way out of this, I hand him the keys.

"Thanks."

I watch him walk away, certain something's up.

On my way to check out a Bureau car and follow Mulder, I run into Mathis.

"Where's Mulder?"

I shrug. "Haven't seen him."

"Come on... get up to OPC and let's get this finished."

5:52 P.M.

After spending the entire afternoon looking for Mulder, I decide to try his desk. Hearing his voice, I approach quietly, staying out of visual range.

I listen to his half of the phone conversation. He's trying to track down the tram operator. After a few minutes, it's apparent he's learned the man is missing.

Mulder slams the phone down. "God dammit, what did you do with him?" He quickly dials another number and I hear him trying to finesse a look at my Bureau file.

I silently turn and leave. That's it. Game over.

Mulder has my fucking car keys, so I catch a cab back to my apartment. This is what I wanted... I should be pleased. So why am I so fucking pissed?

At home, I change into jeans and a T-shirt and quickly pack a few important things. I need to call in. Tell the Consortium that my cover is blown. Instead, I do the most impossibly stupid thing in the world. I call Walter.

He answers on the second ring. "Skinner."

I feel myself break out in a sweat at the sound of his voice. "It's Alex." God, what do I say? "Can you talk now?"

"Yeah."

"I..." Need to get it together. "I need... I mean, can I see you? Tonight?" It hits me that I feel slightly panicked. I'm completely losing it.

"Are you all right?" There's a hint of unease in his tone. I wish he wouldn't worry about me.

I pause for a second to regain my equilibrium. "Yeah. Fine."

"That's bullshit. Do you want to talk about it?" Still that damned note of concern in his voice.

"No... I mean, I just want to see you. Nothing's wrong." If I hadn't sounded like a hysteric, this would probably have gone smoother.

Walter sighs into the phone. "I can break away in about an hour, but if this is urgent I'll leave now."

"Walter, there's nothing wrong, I... fuck. Of course an hour is fine... anytime is okay." Now I'm babbling. Lovely.

"Okay," he says in a dubious tone, "I'll be there in about an hour and a half."

Every survival instinct I have tells me to call this off... to tell him not to come over, but I simply reply, "Okay."

I toss my bag into the closet and pace the apartment. This may be the most colossally idiotic thing I've ever done. Mulder could approach Walter about his findings at any time. Or worse, Spender could find out my cover is blown and send his goons while Walter is here. Just the thought makes me queasy.

But the need to see him again--one last time--is too strong. I can't analyze it; I just have to do it.

An hour of agitated roaming and some of my nervous energy is depleted. A part of me screams that I'm making a huge mistake by leaving, but any way I look at the situation, the only answer is to go. My own confusion over the decision reinforces the need to get out of here... and the sooner the better.

Fatigued by my own agitation, I strip out of my clothes and take a shower... a little hotter than usual. When I feel semi-rational again, I dry off and put my jeans and T-shirt back on. And immediately resume pacing.

I'm mentally kicking myself for even staying in this apartment after my cover was compromised, when there's a knock at the door.

I brush my hair out of my face and answer it.

Walter.

Just seeing him ratchets my sense of panic up to a nearly intolerable level. This is completely insane. I turn on my heel and walk toward the kitchen. "Do you want anything to drink?"

Suddenly, he's behind me, strong arms capturing me around the waist. His lips find the back of my neck. I'm torn between fleeing and surrendering. I stand still, my fingers digging into his arms even as I tip my head forward. I close my eyes, blocking out anything but his presence.

He kisses a path down my jaw line, slowly turning me in his arms. His lips press against each of my eyelids. "Look at me, Alex."

I hate reality.

Opening my eyes, I meet Walter's assessing gaze. I realize he's reading me. Fuck. Walter's one of the only people--maybe the only--who can look at me and see beyond my careful neutrality. My eyes flick to the left, disconcerted by his stare.

He seems to come to some sort of conclusion about me, kissing me on the temple. "I'll have a Coke, or whatever." His arms retract. I'm torn between relief and dismay.

I nod and retreat to the kitchen, grabbing a Coke and a bottle of tea. I return to find Walter on the sofa. Too agitated to sit, I hand him the Coke, then lean against the arm of the chair. I should say something... I asked him to come over, but I'm at a loss.

"I hope I made it clear that I don't fault you for anything that happened yesterday," Walter offers gently.

Well, you should. "I... yeah, you did."

Walter's eyes flick to his hands for a moment, before he looks at me again. "Have I done something that upset you?"

"What? No... of course not." I hesitate for a second. "Walter, I just wanted to see you... nothing's wrong."

Everything's wrong.

**

I'm somewhat relieved that this--whatever it is--isn't my fault.

Alex's 'I'm okay' act is a good one. It would have worked on me a month or two ago. But now, I know him too well.

Now, I know how Sharon feels when I won't talk.

I keep hoping he'll give me a clue what he needs from me. Extending an arm, I encourage him to sit beside me.

He hesitates for a long moment, then abruptly moves toward me. After setting his tea on the table, he curls up next to me, arm coming around my waist.

My fingers reach automatically to stroke his hair but maybe that's not the right thing. Instead, I rub his neck. "I hope you know you can always talk to me."

Alex is completely still and silent. So close, but unmoving. It's so unlike him... I'm afraid for him, but I don't know why.

Fingers still massaging his tight neck, I ask, "Would you like to go for a walk? Sometimes I walk around Georgetown when I have a lot on my mind."

Fuck, I'm no good at this. He needs something, and I'm just lost. Out of my depth.

He remains silent for so long I begin to wonder if he's listening at all. Finally, he looks up at me and says, "I need you." There's a desperation in his eyes and voice... I've never seen him like this.

His words pierce me, triggering my own longing for him. I can't breathe for a moment. "I'm here, Alex, and... uh, I'll try to be here whenever you need me." I pull him a little closer, more to reassure myself than him.

I want to tell him I intend to leave Sharon, but promises he can't believe are meaningless. Instead, I make a mental promise to talk to her this week.

He looks at me for a long time and his expression slowly shifts from desperate to agonized. I feel such a strong desire to make him feel better, but I'm baffled by his distress.

Leaning forward, he brushes his lips across mine.

Alex has never before kissed me tentatively, but our lips are barely in contact. He brings a hand up to stroke the side of my face. His tongue slips out and glides along my lower lip, then he sucks it lightly. Releasing the tingling lip, he begins to explore my mouth.

My tongue teases his, but I don't take the lead.

His hand slides behind my head, holding me as he kisses me harder. He slowly raises the intensity, sucking my tongue and nipping at my lips.

He releases my head and his tongue retreats at the same moment. His lips part further, offering his mouth to me. Only then do I take control. My tongue assaults his mouth, tasting and feeling the smooth interiors. I'm marking my territory.

It's elemental the way our bodies respond to each other. He arches into me, moaning against my lips. The raw sound seems to vibrate in my groin. His hand fists in the material of my shirt and the other clings to my shoulder.

I should stop this, before we end up fucking again. But I want him. And I know he wants me. And sex may be the only way I can assuage his pain, if he won't talk.

Withdrawing my tongue, I kiss across the surface of his chin and down his neck. "Is this what you want? What you need?" I ask in a breathless voice.

His head falls back, exposing his throat to me. He whispers a response, and I only catch the last few words. "...anything you'll give me."

The words bite a little... he'll take whatever I give... it's not enough. Even if I were divorced, I'm not sure I could give him what he deserves... the connection, support, whatever he wants from me. Fuck, I don't even know what he wants.

My own need to touch him overwhelms me... my emotions are in freefall. Turning my body toward his, I slide one hand up his T-shirt and massage the warm muscles of his back.

Alex shifts his legs so one slides behind me and the other is draped across my lap. He grapples with my tie as his legs close around my waist, drawing us even closer together.

I tug the shirt over his head and admire his slender but well-muscled chest. The bronze pennies of his nipples draw my fingers. He drops his hands behind him, bracing his weight and arching his chest toward me. I tease one nipple erect, then the other and he hisses with pleasure. Then I brush across them with the pads of my fingertips.

His breathing accelerates and his gaze is intense, still with that faint edge of desperation. "I want you, Walter." His voice is low and husky, laced with desire. "So badly."

I brush my lips across his cheek, realizing for the first time that he reciprocates my feelings. "I want you, too, Alex." Covering his face with kisses, I struggle to find words to express myself, but I don't know how to say what I feel, what I want, what I need. "You're not alone." Maybe someday I'll finally discover the right words. I wonder if he'll be happy to hear them.

He shifts onto my lap, arms and legs wrapped around me. He's still for a long time, breathing against my neck. Then his fingers remove my tie. "Please, Walter... I need to feel you."

I groan my assent, needing our clothing to evaporate. Clumsily, I attempt to unbutton his fly.

Alex yanks my shirt out of my pants, fingers making quick work of the buttons. His hands glide across my chest, separating the material and pushing it off my shoulders.

His eyes flick to my chest, his mouth opened in astonishment as he sees the bluish remains of the mark he left. The last time.

I offer him a self-satisfied grin.

Alex bites his lip, and there's a strange expression on his face. He looks almost... flustered.

Leaning down, his lips pass over the mark before he fastens his mouth on one nipple, sucking it lightly and teasing it with his teeth. His hands move to my belt as his lips move to the other nipple.

Alex's impassioned frenzy drives my own. I manage to get my hand inside his jeans, but I can't go any further. "Alex, stand up."

He struggles off my lap, and rises to his feet. Keeping eye contact, he slowly pushes his jeans off his hips and down his legs.

So fucking sexy... those slender hips and the cat-like way he moves.

I work hard on my body but it will never be beautiful. Like his.

"God, Alex..." Abruptly, I rise and press myself against his naked body, hands squeezing warm flesh, cupping his ass. One hand wanders to the front of him and gropes his cock. "Mmm... I love the way you're always hard for me."

Alex pushes against my hand, seeking my touch. His mouth finds the side of my neck, and he kisses a path to my ear. "Anything you want..." His voice is a throaty whisper. Warm hands slide up my back.

His passionate reply seems to pulse through my body, stimulating every nerve ending and filling me with indescribable feelings. I growl my lust, while feeling the weight of his cock in my fingers, loving that his body is mine to take. I stroke his erection, thumb brushing the sensitive underside, palming the shaft.

Alex groans and a shudder racks his body. Grabbing my shoulders for support, he gasps out, "Can't keep standing... don't." He takes a gulp of air, helplessly thrusting into my hand.

Suddenly, I need to be inside him. At the same moment, Alex says, "I... fuck me, Walter. Please... need to feel you inside me."

Frantic and a bit delirious, I nod. I kick off my shoes and jettison my slacks. Slipping behind him, I wrap an arm around his front and nudge the back of his knee with my knee. He whimpers faintly. I catch his weight as he allows it to fall forward, and lower us both to the floor.

I push Alex's torso down until he's on hands and knees. He immediately shifts his legs apart and his back heaves with labored breaths. With a twist I'm able to reach the cabinet door, retrieving the lube and a condom.

Why can't the condom and the lube just apply themselves?

Bending forward, I nibble a path down his spine, until my face is pressed against his crack. I lick down to his anus, drawing circles around it with my tongue. He trembles and makes little distressed noises I know signify anything but distress.

I groan loudly into his ass, before pulling myself away. The condom wrapper resists my fingers, until I snarl at it, finally releasing the condom. "Fuck, I need to be in you," I mutter, rolling the latex onto my cock. I grab the lube and squirt a blop onto my fingers.

Not bothering to warm the lube, I bring two slippery fingers to Alex's anus, massaging the crinkly skin. Groaning, he pushes against me. He opens easily to the first finger's probe, moving frantically against my hand. "Please, Walter, just fuck me," he growls, his voice raspy with lust.

I push a second finger inside him, opening him up hastily, before withdrawing and positioning my cock. I wrap my fingers around my shaft and brush the tip across his anus once, before pushing inside. As I enter him, it flashes in my mind that his ass belongs to me. The thought very nearly makes me come. I gasp for air and spit out, "Don't. Move."

He gives a whimper of protest but obeys. The muscles in his back quiver and glisten with sweat.

I'm shaking a bit myself, as I try to regulate my breathing. I want to fuck him so badly, but I have to regain control first. Closing my eyes, I force my mind to a Zen-like state, where my body is detached. Control. Control. Deep breath. I'm there.

My eyes flick open to the beautiful sight of Alex on his hands and knees, my cock embedded in his ass. I withdraw slowly and begin to fuck him.

With a guttural groan, he pushes back to meet every thrust, each movement an invitation to fuck him hard.

Gripping his hips, I gradually increase the pace. The molten heat of his rectum envelops my cock. "Talk to me," I mutter. Unable to see his face, I need his voice to tell me where he's at.

"Can't... think..." He drops his head down and struggles to breathe, pushing hard against me. "Please... harder," he gasps out. "Need to feel you."

Groaning, I bend my body so I'm over his, and slam into him. I find a rhythm that feels perfect, taking his ass hard and fast, feeling every twitch of his body beneath mine. He stops fighting the fuck--stops trying to push it further--and relaxes, accepting whatever I give him.

Wrapping my arms around his chest, I pull him into an upright position. I hold him tightly to me, my hips still driving my cock into him. I gnaw gently on the back of his neck, enjoying the salty, musky taste of his skin.

He moves restlessly, then drops his head down, arching his neck. "Walter... please."

I know what he wants, but I have to focus or I'm going to go too far. Grasping the flesh of his neck between my teeth, I gradually increase the pressure. Once I begin to bite, I feel a flare of need to bite harder.

My cock slides in and out of his ass. The wonderful tight heat of his body is making me lose control again.

I increase the force behind the fucking, so I have to hold on tight to keep from knocking us both across the floor. Groaning into his neck, I can't stop my teeth from sinking in deeper.

Alex's hands grasp my encircling arms. He keeps his ass positioned to receive my cock, and his neck exposed to me. He whimpers, "More."

And, god, I want to. I get a head-rush imagining the taste of his blood in my mouth. But I won't hurt him to get it. Instead, I shift the bite slightly and gnaw at him, trying to give him as much sensation as possible without breaking the skin.

**

I groan when he moves his mouth. I could tell he was close to drawing blood and I needed it... a mark that would last more than a few days. My ass feels raw under the force of his thrusts, but I want him to wound me.

His hand closes around my balls and I gasp as I'm swamped by sensation. Then his fingers circle the base of my cock, and my body shakes as my orgasm hovers just out of reach. He'll only have to stroke me once.

I shift my knees a little further apart, and his penetration feels sharper, almost painful. I need that, moving my legs a little more... stretching my ass further.

The force of his driving hips feels like it's enough to shatter the bones in my pelvis, but I always want more with him. I've never understood it... I always want more, but whenever he touches me, it's always enough.

His teeth loosen, slip and tighten again in my neck. I gasp at the pain, keeping my head angled down so he can keep biting.

The pattern of Walter's breathing tells me he's a hair's breadth from coming. I've never before been able to read someone's body so well... or have them so completely know mine. For a few seconds I hate it. His next thrust intensifies the fire under my skin, and I wonder how I'll get by without it.

Walter's fingers close around my cock and he strokes me. As the orgasm begins to rip through my body, I'm most intensely aware of his presence--his smell, the feel of him against my skin, his cock in my ass, his arms around me. Then nothing but sensation, and I feel a choked scream burn my throat.

A deep sound that must be coming from Walter follows my scream.

I find myself held in warm arms. I'm sitting backward on his lap. Walter's sitting on his heels, his shrinking cock still inside me. The sound of his breathing slows as his lips brush across a tingly place on the back of my neck. Fingers trace a pattern across my chest.

I should get up and conclude this, but I'm powerless to move away as long as he's touching me. My head falls back to rest on his shoulder. I absently run my hands along his arms. There are twinges of pain in the back of my neck. I hope it lasts.

I'm calmer now... and completely desolate.

Walter kisses my head, nuzzling me with his scratchy cheek. "Thank you, Alex. That was..." He clears his throat. "... well, you know, wonderful."

Lifting my head, I twist my neck around to look at him. "It always is... with you." My voice is barely a whisper. I feel almost unable to talk. Life really sucks.

His arms cross over my chest, holding me tighter. "This isn't... I mean, I really..." He makes a soft sound of exasperation.

I have no idea what he's trying to say, but I can tell he wants to communicate something to me. Something he considers to be important. I'm sure it will be better if I don't hear it. Reaching up behind me, I blindly feel for his face, stroking down his cheek, then running my fingertips along his lips.

He kisses my fingers. "I really care about you, Alex."

Oh, Christ. It feels like he just ripped me apart. I'd be sunk if he hadn't said the name. The constant reminder that I'm a lie. He would never actually say that to me.

I grab the arms wrapped around my body and hold on to him, whispering, "I'm glad you're here."

Walter's body seems to relax. It was hard for him to say that. We sit silently, just offering each other light touches. His steady breathing lulls me to a false sense of calm.

Eventually, he stirs and chuckles quietly. "I think my legs have gone numb."

"It's probably a good thing... wait until you feel the carpet burn." My knees sting from the abrasion. Reluctantly, I pull out of his arms and kneel up, gritting my teeth at the sensation of him finally pulling out of my overly-tender ass. It's the last time. I fight back the painful thought.

Moving forward, I turn to sit on the floor, wincing at the pain when my glutes absorb my body weight.

There's a hint of a smirk on his face, but when he attempts to stand his own movements are stiff and awkward. Once upright, he holds out a hand and helps me to my feet. His chocolate brown eyes radiate warmth as he pulls me closer. For the first time, I notice he looks slightly vulnerable when he's not wearing his glasses.

I decide there's no point in fighting this. I'll take whatever he gives for as long as he's here. Wrapping my arms around him, I relax against his body.

By unspoken agreement we stagger to the shower. Not entirely sure I want to join him, the decision is made when Walter tugs me in with him. It seems to go on forever... languid touching, kissing. This time, he washes me, warm fingers carefully soaping my arms, chest, legs and ass. Every minute is like an addictive torture, but the gentle smile on his face is the worst.

I think the torture's over when I take the soap from him, but touching him is almost unbearable. Running my soapy hands over every part of him, I try to memorize how he feels. I wonder why I decided to do this to myself.

Walter brushes a finger across my jaw line. "Alex?"

Stilling my hands, I look at him. "Hmm?"

"What's wrong?"

"I..." Apparently my 'nothings' aren't working, and I don't have the reserves to keep deflecting him. "I can't... I'll tell you, but not now." Not that he'll have the opportunity, but if he ever asks me again, I will tell him. "Walter, please let it go." I don't have enough defenses against him and, if he pushes, I know I'll do what he wants and tell him... the whole sordid mess.

He nods. "All right." Kissing my forehead, he murmurs, "Whenever you're ready."

Grateful, I wrap my arms around him and angle our bodies under the shower spray, rinsing off the soap, and obscuring my face so he cannot see how hard this is. It's difficult to believe that the hardest thing for me to do is to not talk to him.

After all the hot water is gone, we dry off and get back into our clothes. I start to put on my boots, but realize how strange it would be for me to wear shoes for an evening at home.

Walter finishes his Coke... it must be flat and tepid by now. I expect him to take a seat but he doesn't. Instead, he offers me a sad smile and says, "I think I'll head home... unless there's something I can do for you..."

He's leaving. "No. Thanks for coming over, Walter... I know it was sudden."

Walter puts a hand on my shoulder. "I want to be here... whenever you need me, Alex." He leaves a trail of kisses in my hair.

It's been almost ten years since I've been so acutely aware of being called 'Alex.' There's not any space between us, but I try to get closer anyway, putting one arm around his waist and the other around his shoulders. My mouth finds his, and I try to say goodbye.

The tentativeness of his body tells me he knows there's something wrong. He kisses me softly and gently. Too softly and gently, when I want it demanding and possessive. We both linger over the kiss much longer than our normal 'goodbye' kiss.

When he finally breaks away, he gazes deeply into my eyes, seeking answers I wish I could give him. I keep my expression blank, but I cannot control whatever he sees in my eyes. I could look away, but I probably owe him this.

Almost reluctantly, he takes my right hand and kisses my fingertips. "I'll see you tomorrow." Then he gives me another soulful look and reaches for the door.

I resist the urge to cringe. As he starts to open the door, I grab him for a quick, hard kiss. "Good... night, Walter."

Then he's gone. I wait for a few minutes to be sure he's had time to leave. Like flipping a switch, I turn it all off... something I learned to do years ago.

Then I make the call. A raspy voice answers the special number I thought I'd never use.

Taking a breath, I finish it. "I'm compromised."

**

Driving home, I worry about Alex. Something is troubling him, but I have to trust him to talk about it when he's ready. I'm more determined than ever to tell Sharon about Alex. He needs to know I can be there for him. And I can. I want to be. More than I've wanted anything in a long time.

I'm tempted to accost Sharon the instant I get home, but I need to think through carefully what I'm going to say to her. She deserves that much.

Underlying these concerns is elation. I'm not alone in my intense feelings. Alex and I are both experiencing the baffling discovery of unexpected feelings. I feel young and alive and optimistic about the future in a way that I haven't in many years.

My lack of availability has to be at least part of what's bothering Alex. I'm glad he stopped pretending nothing was wrong. At least he trusts me enough to admit it.

I'm going to talk to Sharon this weekend, so I can tell him I'm taking action that will make it better for us.

Us.

I'm not sure I've ever thought that before.

As I open the door to the house, I realize it feels very different than it did a few months ago. No longer a monument to my failures. Now it's just a strange place where I live with a woman I don't belong with.

Sharon passes me in the hall and gives me a bland smile.

Everything has changed.

It's better for me. Much better. My deepest wish is that it will somehow be better for her, too.


Washington, D.C.
Thursday, 11 August 1994
8:03 A.M.

Mulder is a few minutes late for an emergency meeting he requested this morning. I remind myself not to go at him again. It feels like I've never done anything but give him grief. Not that he doesn't deserve it. But I've already given him hell twice for going to Skyland Mountain without calling it in. And once for missing his first lie detector appointment. He annoys the piss out of me, but I respect the man, too.

Finding Scully is what really matters.

A tap on my door and Mulder appears, looking like he's given up sleep and shaving again. Skipping the preliminaries, he blurts out, "I know what happened on Skyland Mountain yesterday."

"What?"

He hands me a report but says nothing. Unusual behavior for the talkative agent.

I scan the document, hoping for a clue to Scully's whereabouts. Unexpectedly, Alex's name features prominently. Shaking my head in confusion, I start rereading the document from the top. I must have misread something.

But, in fact, Mulder is naming my lover as a suspect in Duane Barry's murder.

Jesus, fuck, Mulder. There's no way my Alex is a hired killer.

I hope the hitch in my breath is the only clue to the rush of feelings.

I keep my head down and glue my eyes to the paper before me, so I don't reveal anything. Why is Mulder going after Alex? This can't help us find Scully.

And that's my lover you're accusing, you son of a bitch.

Pretending to still read the damned report, I regulate my breathing. And step through my mental calming ritual. Breathe. Relax. Calm.

Focus on the problem. This is a Bureau matter. Deal with the personal issues later. There's no place for feelings here.

Mulder is probably wrong about most of this, but it's my job to listen.

Blank. Flat. Professional.

"This is a serious allegation, Agent Mulder."

"Only so far as it is true."

My eyes fall on the words that form the crux of his accusation, which I read out loud. "Agent Krycek was hired or suborned by an outside agency to impede a federal investigation and may be responsible for the death of a suspect in a capital murder case."

"It goes on."

"And the possible murder of the tram operator at Skyland Mountain." The urge to strike out at Mulder is growing.

But I am calm. Relaxed. Professional.

"There's a lot of blood on this document, Agent Mulder. Are you standing behind this, going on the record?"

"Yes, sir."

"Well, then you damn well better have the facts to back it up." Or so help me god, I won't wait for OPC to take you down.

This is a straightforward Bureau matter...

Get the other agent in here. That's the fastest way to clear this up.

I buzz Kimberly. "I need to see Agent Krycek. Immediately."

Fuck, even as a Bureau matter, this is ugly.

It could destroy Alex's career. I rise and walk to the window, to keep my face from Mulder's view.

This could destroy Mulder's career, too. And we haven't a clue how to find Agent Scully. This situation just keeps getting uglier.

But I am still calm.

"I can't protect you, Agent Mulder. Past a point, this will become a larger Bureau matter." I force myself to face him. "All right, what have you got?" Let's hear your outrageous theories.

Mulder surprises me with an evidence bag. "I found this in Agent Krycek's car. He doesn't smoke." He tosses it on my desk. My intestines clench. It's a cigarette butt. My ashtray is full of them. From Smith. Same brand. It rings true that Smith's up to no good.

"Agent Krycek was the last person with Duane Barry before he died. He was also the last person to see the tram operator before he disappeared. When I got to the top of Skyland Mountain, I saw an unmarked helicopter working the area."

Alex and Smith? Doesn't make sense...

"I believe that Agent Krycek gave away the whereabouts of Duane Barry and Agent Scully to whoever he's working with."

"And who is that?"

"I don't know, the military? Some covert organization within the government? Whoever it is that man who smokes those cigarettes works for."

"Why?"

"Because Agent Scully got too close to whatever it is they're trying to deny. Because she had hard and damning evidence--that metallic implant--in her possession. Or because her termination would prevent further involvement with me and my work."

It holds together as well as most of Mulder's theories. Could part of it be true? "Do you think Agent Scully's dead?"

"I don't know. How far do you think they'd go?"

Someone has tried to stonewall Mulder's work. Smith fits. Would they kill an agent to meet their ends? Fuck, she's probably dead like Barry. Just another witness eliminated.

Mulder asks, "What do you know about Agent Krycek?"

"I didn't give him the assignment, I only-"

Saved by the telephone.

It's Kimberly. "Sir, Mathis told me Agent Krycek didn't come in today. I called his house but I got the phone company message that his phone has been disconnected."

What!?

It is instantly apparent to me that Alex was saying goodbye last night. Oh, Christ. Could any of these accusations be true?

Breathe. Calm. Professional.

"Yes. Thank you."

Hanging up the phone, my mouth opens and I manage to speak. "Agent Krycek didn't show up for work this morning. His home number has been disconnected."

I think I'm numb.

Mulder's voice intrudes, "That's it? He's gone, he just disappears into the woodwork?"

I need to be alone. "So it would appear."

Mulder marches around my office. "Who are these people who can just murder with impunity and we can't do anything about it?"

"Let it go, Agent Mulder."

"Like hell."

"There's nothing you can do."

"What can you do about it?"

The Bureau matter, Walter. The Bureau matter.

Someone's covering up something here. "There's only one thing I can do, Agent Mulder. As of right now, I'm reopening the X-Files." Get Smith and his cronies, dammit. I'll fight the Director if I have to. "That's what they fear the most."

I'm going to find Alex. He's got to have an explanation. Please don't let him be any part of this.

The snick of my door closing punctuates my numbness. I'm vaguely aware that Mulder is gone.

Rising, I lock the door. But it isn't enough. Pressing the intercom, I bark at Kimberly, "No interruptions."

As I stand at the window looking out but not seeing, an icy sensation travels up my spine. Alex was saying goodbye last night. He knew he was leaving. But why? Could he really be involved in this?

I feel like I know him but, at the same time, I don't know him at all.

If he was involved in something illegal, he wouldn't discuss it with me. But I felt sure he wanted to talk to me last night. Wanted to, but couldn't.

Fuck, if he was involved in something nefarious, was our affair part of it? He or Smith could have blackmailed me... Oh, Christ. No.

I keep remembering last night. 'I need you,' he said, his voice desperate. That was real. And the look in his eyes before we said goodnight.

Suddenly, I have to find Alex. If I demand an answer, I know he'll give me one. I slip on my coat and open the door. Hastily, I ask Kimberly to cancel my morning meetings.

Half an hour later, I park my car on the far edge of the visitor's lot. The same place I always park when I visit Alex.

An elderly man is weeding the garden out front.

I approach him and ask, "Can you direct me to the manager's office?"

A smudge of soil across his chin, he smiles up at me. "I'm the manager."

Opening my credentials, I hold them for him. "I'm with the FBI. I need access to apartment #3. Will you let me in?" Don't ask for a search warrant. I'm not in the mood.

Scratching his face with a dirt-smeared hand, he rises and pulls out a pair of glasses to examine my shield. "Walter Skinner?"

"Yes, sir. Federal Bureau of Investigation."

"I think Mr. Michaelson moved out last night?"

"Michaelson? Apartment #3?"

"Yeah. Tall young man with dark hair? Rides a green bicycle."

Fuck. I feel like I'm standing in quicksand. "What makes you think he moved out?"

"Moving van here late last night."

Christ, how is this possible? "What time?"

He shrugs. "Well, they woke me up around one thirty. That's why it's in the lease... moves are only allowed between nine and nine."

"Did he give notice?"

"No, sir. I thought to call the police, but it was a regular moving company. You know, United Van Lines. Did someone steal his stuff?"

"I don't know."

"You're a friend of his, aren't you?"

"Yeah," I reply absently.

"Did something happen to him?"

"I. Don't. Know," I repeat, trying to keep my frustration out of my voice.

Calm. Blank. Professional.

I ask, "Have you got a key to the apartment?"

"Yeah, sure."

I follow the manager to his unit at the opposite end from Alex's. He locates the keys and steps back outside.

"Sir, I need to go in by myself."

With a reluctant shrug, he passes me the key.

I can feel the tension in my shoulders as I walk to Alex's door. It feels wrong to unlock it. His door. Without an invitation.

My fingers twitch on the grip of my gun. I have a premonition that I'm going to find his body. Shaking myself, I twist the key and turn the knob.

The apartment appears empty.

I do a quick search, checking all hiding places. No Alex. No bodies. No furniture. Nothing of any kind.

Holstering my firearm, I lean against the wall in the hall, trying to put the pieces together. Sudden disappearance. He knew he was leaving last night. False name. Where did you go, Alex? And why?

I walk through the empty rooms again, recalling fond memories that only make me ache. And looking for answers. A spot of blood, or any evidence he was coerced, and I wouldn't ever stop looking for him. He is mine to protect... or was.

But I find nothing.

Crushed outlines in the carpet show where the furniture was. I have rug burn on my knees from that spot over there. Less than 24 hours ago.

This can't be happening.

There has to be an explanation or a note or something.

As always, the apartment is immaculately clean. I search the closets and cupboards, finding more nothing. As if some drinking glass concealed in a corner by his kitchen aliens would explain... Behind the bedroom door, I find a scrap of paper. A red and black wrapper. Valrhona. I hold it to my nose and smell the chocolate. It instantly reminds me of his mouth. I bolt out of the apartment.

I catch my breath in the parking lot. Fuck, I can't do this.

My brain replays images of him from last night. Alex was a man making choices. Not running from a threat. I'm almost positive. But the threat would be easier to understand.

What have you gotten into, Alex?

And why do I feel so dead inside?

Evidence needs to be taken, but I can't deal with it. I want to be alone. And I'm too fucking close to the case. God, my lover has become 'a case.'

Way too fucking close to the case. For the first time it occurs to me that my own career may be at stake here, too.

I realize I'm still holding the scrap of chocolate wrapper. After tucking it into my pocket, I reach for my cell phone.

A woman's voice answers.

"This is A.D. Skinner. Put me through to Mathis. ASAP."

Last night, I was more optimistic about my life than I had been in years. That life just crashed and burned.

"Mathis."

"Something's happened involving Agent Krycek. I need you to assign Gjersee to investigate. Immediately."

"What's happened?"

"I'll explain to Gjersee."

"Sir, if I'm going to work the case, I need-"

I cut him off. "Gjersee will report to me on this one."

"What? Why?"

"Find Gjersee. I want him in my office in an hour. And tell Baker I need Mallory. Same assignment."

"But sir, what about-"

"One. Hour." I hang up.

Fidgeting with nervous energy, I walk to a liquor store to buy a bottle of Scotch. It's 9:15 in the fucking morning.

I march back to Alex's building. Sitting in my car, I take a swig out of the bottle, still in the brown paper bag. The perfect image of a fucked-up businessman...

Dammit! What if this is just Alex's way of ending our relationship?

My eyes sting as I'm forced to admit I feel hurt.

I thought the cheating husband was supposed to cause the hurt. I remember him brushing off Nick. I should have realized what it said about Alex. Our relationship meant something to me, but not to him.

But I seem eager to torture myself by wondering what part of it was real. The sex? Missing me when I was in Kansas City? Needing me when he woke up scared in the hospital? The pained longing I saw in his eyes last night? Just how good an actor was he?

I cap off the bottle. More than a sip would make this already impossible day even more impossible.

Unable to face my office yet, I lock the car and walk around the block.

I really and truly want to kick Mulder's ass. For accusing my lover of murder. Of course, he doesn't know he's accusing my lover. I have no illusions about Krycek being a model agent. I can easily imagine him getting into trouble, but murder seems improbable.

But I'm forced to admit it looks like he's interfered with this case. Probably broke the law. Possibly enough to cost him his badge.

The name of a good criminal attorney comes to mind. The need to protect him is so strong. Please call me, Alex. Come forward. I'll do whatever I can to help.

I need to help. I need to understand.

After circling the block twice, I drive back to the office. Kimberly greets me with a stack of messages. "Sir, Mathis and Baker both want to see you as-"

I hold up a restraining hand. "Not. Now. Kimberly."

Her eyes open wide.

C'mon, Walt. Hiding your feelings is what you do best. At least Sharon would say so.

Oh, fuck. Sharon. Her life, too, will pay a price for this. I step inside my office and kick the door closed.

Flipping through the message slips... there are none from Alex. Or the mysterious David Michaelson. I check my cell phone. No messages. I log on and check my email. Just a lot of bureaucratic nonsense.

C'mon, Alex. You must have left me a clue somewhere. You wouldn't just leave me like this. Would you?

I go to my private bathroom and shut the door. I just stand there, leaning against the wall. I want to break things to vent my rage, but I'm hardly aware of feeling anything at all.

The real problem is that I feel everything. Far too acutely.

I stand there for twenty minutes, breathing and trying not to think. Leaning awkwardly against the towel holder, so I don't have to look at myself in the mirror...

When Gjersee and Mallory arrive, I give them Mulder's report, a copy of Agent Krycek's personnel file and a brief summary of my conversation with his landlord. "Find him. I don't care what it takes. Find him."

Both of the agents give me puzzled looks. "Yes, sir."

"And report to me. Not Mathis or Baker. Or Mulder. Or anyone else. Until I authorize the information to be released."

Gjersee asks, "May I ask why, sir?"

I make up something. "If one of our agents has been... suborned--and that's a big if--I don't want you to make any assumptions--Agent Krycek may be a victim here. But if someone has been suborned, it may involve other parties."

The real reason is I want a chance to deal with whatever they learn. Quietly. Before I have to face anyone on the official issues. Before the affair becomes public, and I'm forced to resign.

After the meeting, I lead Gjersee and Mallory to the parking garage. In a noisy corner, I inform them that I believe my office is bugged and we will have to discuss this case away from the Bureau. I give them my cell number and the addresses of two future meeting locations in D.C.

The rest of the day is a blur. I can barely concentrate.

When I think of Alex, I tell myself they're going to find him. And he's going to answer my questions. But I don't allow myself to consider that everything may turn out okay.

I work late on anything and everything I can find to keep myself occupied. Kimberly's inbox and her desk look like something out of a Kafka novel.

While hunting down the meeting notes she hands me every morning, I find a small stack of papers attached. A few organizational announcements go in the wastebasket. One of the documents is a sealed copy of Alex's lie detector results.

Fuck. I fold the envelope and cram it in my pocket. It needs to be read but... just not now.

After answering a month's backlog of email queries, I give it up and head home. But the car seems to lead me elsewhere. Anywhere else.

So I walk the streets of Georgetown. It's pretty dead on a Thursday night before the school year starts. A tiny café seems inviting, so I step inside and order a cup of decaf and a scone. Seated at a tiny table in the corner, I open the envelope.

He passed, in a manner of speaking. According to our tests, he told the truth about everything. Even the control questions where he was supposed to lie. Agent Krycek is apparently a female from Yugoslavia.

It gives me a very bad feeling.

My head is ready to explode from running all the possible scenarios. They settle into a few basic categories.

Very bad is Alex is a hired killer. And somehow he was using our relationship.

Bad is Alex is involved in something illegal. And cut and ran when he had to.

Good. Is there a good? It's all a misunderstanding. Alex is safe somewhere and innocent of all charges. My law enforcement brain doesn't buy it for a second. But I want to believe it. Pathetically.

Arriving home in the wee hours of the night, I'm too tired not to sleep.


Washington, D.C.
Friday, 12 August 1994
7:36 A.M.

The full-strength coffee at the pancake house tastes like battery acid, but I'm going to need it today.

California-raised Gjersee has fresh orange juice and a bowl of granola. "United Van Lines has no record of the move. Nor do any of the other big moving companies."

"What about his phone?"

Gjersee shrugs. "The telephone company has no record of service at that address for the past 15 months. I checked out the telephone panel behind the building. There's no clear evidence of tampering, but there were a large number of spiders and webs inside it, with none around the connections to unit three. And there was a faint outline of a black box of some kind underneath the panel, where it wouldn't normally be seen."

Mallory tentatively asks, "Sir, do you really think he's gone bad?" I meet his eyes. He's a recent Quantico grad. The class before Alex's.

Grimacing, Gjersee looks at his cereal bowl. Both of them seem... despondent.

Shaking my head, I remind myself not to take out my frustration on them. "What I think is unimportant, Agent Mallory." I stir my coffee for no reason. "How'd he pay the rent?"

Gjersee glances at Mallory, encouraging him to answer.

"Money order, sir. From the Post Office." He flips through his note pad. "The apartment was rented by a 30-something woman, a brunette, about average height. She used a corporate credit card for the deposit. We have the card number and a record of the transaction, but it's a dead end. The company doesn't exist. The bank number on the charge card is not valid. The card address is a cemetery in Houston."

Gjersee gulps the last of his orange juice. "Our conversations with the neighbors were the most interesting."

I almost don't want to hear this.

"A couple of the neighbors had seen him with a 20-something man they describe as 'gay appearing.' Blonde, blue eyes. Average height."

Nick.

"And several witnesses reported suspicious men loitering on the premises. White males, under the age of 40. One wearing a Mets ball cap. A dark haired one with a scar across his eyebrow. It sounds to me like someone was surveilling Krycek."

That's more bad news for me. "Did the neighbors mention seeing anyone else?"

"No, sir."

I should be relieved, but I'm not. My prints are all over his apartment. It's only a matter of time before Mallory and Gjersee start asking me questions.

And there's so much more here than my career blowing up in my face.

Later in the afternoon, Mallory phones me from Davenport. I take a walk behind the Hoover Building to call him back. Alex's parents, Vincent and Rachel Krycek were killed in a car accident in 1987. Mallory pulled his high school yearbook. Over the name Alex Krycek is a photo of a blonde-haired, brown-eyed boy who, according to Mallory, bears no resemblance to the man we know as Alex Krycek.

Terminating the call, I feel some part of myself shut down.

It's over. One way or another, Alex and I are finished. Some twisted part of me doesn't want him to be found anymore.

An hour and a half later, Gjersee calls from Houston. Repeating the same drill, I phone him back. David Michaelson died in a car accident in August, 1993. Far too many car accidents in this case. Michaelson was a 47-year-old accountant. Unmarried. No children. Alex's former lover? I feel a twinge of some feeling that might have been jealousy two days ago.

Alex's student ID from his freshman year at Rice shows a photo of the green-eyed brunette who disappeared yesterday. So when Alex Krycek showed up at Rice, he was no longer the same young man who left Davenport.

Instead of returning to my office, I sit out by the fishpond.

I have to accept that I've lost him.

That I was a fool.

Who knows what Krycek intended to use me for, but like a not-very-gracefully aging man, I fell for the ploy. Needy enough to believe he was genuinely attracted to this balding bureaucrat...

I cared about him. I gave him feelings that I owed Sharon. I risked my marriage and my career and it still wasn't enough. Ready to leave Sharon...

And now he's made me a fool. Just like every other middle-aged idiot who cheats on his wife. What a loser...

When I finally get home it's almost nine. Sharon is in the living room, listening to Vivaldi.

"What's wrong, Walter? You look grim."

"There's something I need to discuss with you."

"Okay." She tweaks the remote control and the music gets softer.

"I had an affair."

Sharon doesn't seem surprised, just watches me and waits for me to continue. Her face is resigned, tired.

I slump onto the couch, a few feet from her. "It was going on for a couple of months, but it's over now." I study my hands intently for a moment, before I answer her unasked question. "It's never happened before. I've always been faithful."

Sharon nods. She believes me.

"I... It was a man. An agent."

"Alex from Chez Mitani?"

I hadn't thought we were obvious. "Yes. How did you know?"

"He is very handsome. And you've been different since the day he came here... calmer, even happy, I think."

I grimace at her words. This truth is probably the cruelest thing I did to Sharon. I was happy with Alex. Until yesterday.

"Did you break it off?"

I'm ashamed to answer. "No." I wouldn't have ended it either. Not to spare her, even though that would have been the right thing to do. I needed him too badly. So I betrayed Sharon and lost my lover. "He... he left. He's gone. No longer with the Bureau, I think."

Sharon eyes me curiously. "Did he leave because of your affair?"

I shake my head. "I don't know why he left, Sharon."

She scoots closer to me on the couch and rests her hand on my shoulder. "And now you're hurting because he's gone."

"Don't." I pull my body out of her grasp. "Don't comfort the fool who cheated on you."

We sit in silence for a long time. She finally says, "I always thought you'd be better off with a man."

"What?" That is not what I expected from her.

"I mean... in a relationship with a man. Most women need more than you're capable of giving, but perhaps another man would be more accepting."

I'm astonished by her aplomb. But I guess I've already hurt her so much that a little more doesn't matter.

I sleep fitfully and find myself wide awake at 3 A.M. thinking about him again. My cock hard. Some of it had to be real, didn't it? It seems reasonable in the night, when I remember how he looked in his tux at the country club.


Washington, D.C.
Monday, 15 August 1994
7:08 A.M.

The restaurant is bustling when I arrive. Gjersee and Mallory are already at a table in a closed section. Something about that gnaws at my gut.

"Agents," I say calmly as I sit down.

"Sir." Gjersee gives me an uncomfortable look and Mallory won't meet my eyes.

Here it is. I wonder what I'll do for my next career.

There's a pitcher of coffee in the center of the table. "Sir, there's something else I learned at Rice University." Gjersee's words seem rehearsed.

I nod at him.

"Alex Krycek was openly gay in college." Gjersee watches my reaction intently.

"And?"

"I think I know who paid his hospital bill... and why."

I knew it was coming. I meet his gaze, unashamedly. It's what I've done. I have to live with it.

Mallory's eyes are wide. It doesn't look like he's breathing.

Gjersee grimaces. "I was wondering what I should put in my report."

Oh. That. "Agents, it would be entirely inappropriate for me to tell you what to put in your report." My tone is harsh. "Do what you believe is right. You have my word that I will not attempt any form of retribution."

Gjersee's expression calms. "Thank you, sir."

**

8:59 A.M.

I stare at the wall in Morgan's guest room. For the first time in four days, I allow my mind to drift to Walter. The thoughts--and strange feelings--are always there, but I have forced myself to ignore them. Because there's nothing to do about it. My fingers reflexively close around the knife at my waist.

Presumably Spender ordered Morgan to keep me out of sight because I've been holed up in this room since they picked me up Wednesday night. I could have wandered around the house, but I didn't want to see anyone.

My hand touches the back of my neck, stroking the still-visible bite mark. Have I made a mistake?

Fortunately, a sound from the door keeps me from going any further down that path.

"You ready to go, kid?" Morgan looms in the doorway, filling up the entire space.

I don't respond. Even apathy seems like too much effort.

After a few moments, Morgan sighs and says, "Okay, let's go."

I rise and follow him to a big SUV and climb in. We drive for a couple hours. Morgan tries to engage me in conversation, but it's just noise to me.

Eventually, we arrive at what looks like an office complex. As we pull up in front of a building, Morgan murmurs, "I wonder if I got the right location?"

Finally having caught my interest, I turn to stare at him. He wonders if this is the right location? That's not very Morganesque. After a moment of thought, I conclude he knows he's dropping me at the wrong place. Deliberately. I'm curious about what's going on, but not inclined to ask.

As I move to get out of the vehicle, Morgan says, "Listen, kid, if this goes bad, you just find a way to get in touch with me."

I nod tersely and get out. I recognize that he's offering me refuge, but I only need to be saved from how dead I feel.

No one is inside the building lobby. I should go check one of the doors and see where it takes me, but I just stand there. After several minutes, a door opens and a tall, well-dressed older man steps into view.

"How intriguing." His voice is clipped and there's a faint British accent. "Considering that you are still alive, I must assume that you are the oldest child."

He manages to hit on one of the few things that would truly catch my attention. Suspiciously, I reply, "Yes." I suddenly have dozens of questions, but wait to see what he'll do.

After a pause, he asks, "Of how many?"

I consider for a moment, deciding if I should answer. He obviously knows something about me and I'm willing to play to see where this goes. "Eleven."

The well-dressed man looks startled. "Eleven? That's nearly a complete-" He cuts himself off and calmly continues, "That is irrelevant now."

I step closer to him, but he doesn't react. There's about six feet between us. "How did you know I was the oldest? How did you even know who I am?"

He's obviously considering how much to tell me. It seems like we're playing the same game, but what information could he possibly get from me? Morgan delivered me to this man on purpose. I file the thought away for later, when I'll need to figure out how these people connect.

After a long silence, he answers, "If you were not the oldest child, you would never have been allowed to live. But, regardless, you should have been terminated. I recognized you because you very clearly have your father's looks." He gives me an assessing glance. "But your mother's stature. Fortunate for you on both counts I would say."

I fight my need to throw this man to the ground and beat the information out of him. He knows something about the death--apparently not accidental--of my siblings. And he will tell me. "How did you know my parents?"

"You might say they worked for me." How cryptic of him.

"Might say?"

"Yes."

Gritting my teeth and losing my patience, I demand, "What do you know about my family?"

"I'm not here to answer your questions, Mister...?"

Ignoring his request for my name, I reply, "Really? Then why are you here?"

"What is your name, young man?"

I can see this conversation could go in circles for hours. "Krycek. Alex Krycek."

He blinks in surprise. "Well, now, that is very interesting. But I'd like your birth name, not your alias."

I grit out, "That is my birth name." Well, more or less.

A look of enlightenment crosses his features, as if the world suddenly makes sense. I wish he'd fill me in on the punch line. "Well, I begin to understand what happened to Rachel and Vincent. Not that it didn't need to be done, but we would prefer it to have been for our purposes."

"What are you talking about?"

Stepping back and gesturing for me to enter the room, he replies, "Come along, Mr. Krycek. Our mutual friend will be looking for you soon and it seems as if we have some information to exchange."

With a feeling like trepidation, I precede him into the room.

Thirty minutes later, I follow him down a series of corridors, my mind reeling. I'm almost not able to process the information he's given me about my family and how Spender's involvement in my life has been something less than coincidental.

But I now know that Aleksei is in more danger than I could ever have suspected. No one must know he survived the fire. I'll have to be even more careful in the future.

And now, I'm following this strange man, not even listening to him explain about this facility. A few minutes later, he stops in front of a door with a coded lock. He keys in the code and we enter what appears to be a laboratory.

He gestures to an observation window. "See for yourself."

I guess I should have been paying attention, but I really have no interest in anything right now. Feigning interest, I step up to peer through the incredibly thick Plexiglas. All thoughts of my family flee, and my mind tries desperately to make sense of what I'm seeing. "What the fuck is that thing?"

"The point of all our work, Mr. Krycek." His tone is cold.

I watch the creature in the observation room, my mind cycling on one thought: I can't believe Mulder is right about all this shit.

After long moments of stunned gaping, I turn my attention to the man and try to focus on what he's saying. As he talks I realize I feel something... something I can't quite define.

I'm still trying to process the strange emotion when he leads me to an empty conference room. "Our mutual friend will be along."

Carefully considering what to say, I reply, "I take it he doesn't know I met with you?"

"No. He does not. I like to keep up with what he's doing. He doesn't always report everything. A most annoying habit. It's unlikely he will want you to be seen by me or some of the other members, as you would be recognized by many." With that, he turns and leaves. It wasn't exactly an answer, but I see no reason to mention any of this to Spender.

I guess Morgan both works for and spies on Spender. Interesting. I'll have to ask him about it one day.

Lost in thought, I'm not sure how much time passes before Spender erupts into the room, yelling, "Years of training and you can't manage to preserve your cover for a couple weeks with Mulder?"

I just lean back and watch him.

"Were you, or were you not, clear on your primary objective?"

"Quite clear," I calmly reply.

He seems to get angrier and abruptly gestures me out of the room. I wonder if there's a firing squad on the other side of the door.

Spender's movements are stilted, fingers moving jerkily to his mouth with the ever-present cigarette. This cannot all be about me.

I follow him through another series of corridors, then down a couple floors to a medical facility. He enters a room that looks like a large hospital ward. There are about 20 people in beds. None of them appear to be conscious.

Spender stalks over to one bed and lifts the chart. I recognize the occupant. Dana Scully. My mind flashes to Walter's face when he heard she was missing.

I clear my throat and, in a neutral tone, ask, "What are you doing with her?"

He turns to glare at me. "I hardly think you're in a position to ask questions."

Unable to stop myself, I snap, "Have I ever been?"

He looks like a man sucking on a lemon. "You're of little use anymore. Perhaps we should volunteer you for these tests."

I shrug, disinterested in his mind games. But I am curious what he means by 'tests.' "What will you do with her when your tests are finished?"

Now calm, he looks down at the chart. "If you're still alive, I may have you kill her."

Damn. I keep my voice even. "That doesn't seem like a very good idea. Mulder will be harder to control if anything happens to her. Possibly Skinner as well, if he suspects your involvement in her abduction."

Spender slaps the chart down. "Your judgment, especially with regard to Agent Mulder, is questionable, and I am not interested in your opinions." He stalks off, obviously expecting me to follow. But I saw a flicker of something in his eyes... maybe he'll leave Scully alive--return her to Mulder and Skinner.

And why should I care about that? My time with Walter Skinner has distorted my perspective. This is what I needed... the end of our relationship, so I can get back to normal. And yet, I feel as if I've made a huge mistake, but I'm not sure when.

I follow Spender, thinking I'd rather feel nothing than this constant ache and annoying sense of wrongness.

**

September 1994

I reviewed Krycek's training record from Quantico. It looks like someone greased his way into Violent Crimes, even into the Academy. His psyche profile was especially suspicious.

Gjersee and Mallory interviewed a former lover of Agent Krycek's. A man who recognized a security photo of Mr. Smith. Said he'd seen Alex with him on a couple of occasions.

I signed an arrest warrant for the former agent. And stopped following the investigation.

Never hearing any rumors about me or receiving any reprimands, I assumed that Gjersee and Mallory didn't share the information about me. It wasn't in their final report.

Sometimes, lying in bed at night, I think of Alex and wonder. Remembering his face contorted with pleasure. 'I need you,' he said that last night. Was it real? But during the light of day I'm certain I'm just deluding myself.

Sharon suggested a separation and I moved out. Just to get out quickly, I rented a townhouse in Alexandria. I miss the little bastard, but it is easier to miss him alone.

I miss Sharon, too. Especially the one from our early days together. In spite of the way I shut her out, she was the only person I could really talk to.

Sharon used to tell me I had to learn to listen to my heart. I dismissed the advice as pop psychology at the time. But a month after Alex's disappearance, I remember.

My heart tells me that much of what happened between Alex and me was real, but it will only hurt me more to listen.

**
End
12 April 2002

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