"Tell me a story," she said one day.
It was a warm day, one of the last warm days before the seasons changed. The news had filtered in from the Antarctic in faxes and coded messages, and they both knew that the real change had already come. With almost jovial dread, they toasted the forthcoming end of the world, and marked the occasion with a good old-fashioned comfort screw.
"A story?" he said, cocking an eyebrow.
"A fairytale. The good guys win, the bad guys lose, and all's right in the world. You know."
It was a hopelessly self-indulgent thing to ask, and she half-expected him to laugh at her outright. But Alex had softened these last few months - watching Marita, lying there day after day had done that - and so he drew her into the crook of his shoulder and humoured her.
"Once upon a time, in the days that are yet to come - assuming there are any," he added "- there will be a land where no-one gets hurt." He traced his fingertips over the scar on her belly. "Children like Gibson will play, and no-one will try to take them away, and they won't need brave, beautiful soldiers to guard them."
It touched her, somehow, that he remembered that.
"Protectors won't die," he went on, and the tender note in his voice turned grim. "They won't be blown up with bombs in their cars for giving vaccines to innocent women." She wondered if he meant Scully or Marita or both.
She took up the thread. "Evil men will not be allowed to prosper," she said. "They will not be allowed their smoking rooms and their plans. They will not be allowed to collude and control." She ran her fingers through his hair. "There'll be no disease," she said more gently. "They won't hurt anyone like that again."
Alex's eyes were bright when he kissed her.
"No-one will need to lie," he murmured against her cheek, and for one shining moment she allowed herself to believe it was Fox's breath she felt there. "He'll know the truth, Diana. He'll come back. He'll love you like he did in the beginning."
She clutched at his hair, and she wasn't sure whether the sound that fell from her lips was a sigh or a sob.
"We'll find a cure," she said between deep, hasty kisses. "We'll make her better. Gonna make it all better. Alex-"
It was the best love she'd ever had.
"Tell me a story," he said one day.
The winter had passed, season of her discontent, and there were more changes, these ones brokered with heat and fire. The evil men were gone - most of them, anyway - but there were more to take their place. Fox knew the truth, and he understood, but they were as adrift as they had ever been. Marita was alive, and better - after a fashion - but her eyes were as dead as before.
Their fairytales had come to pass, but they had not come true. They were imperfect and hollow, little lies they told each other to make it all okay.
"Once upon a time, in the days that are yet to be, there will be a world without hurt," she said, taking his hand. "People will love, and they will not be parted, and they will be free."
"I'd set you free if I could, Diana," he murmured when his mouth was on her and his hand was on her breast.
"I know you would," she said, and she arched beneath him, and she didn't think of Fox.
The love was slow and sad that time. There was passion between them, and empathy too. She found herself looking at Alex, found herself wondering what would happen if their fairytales never came true. Wondered if they might cleave and make a story of their own.
There was a part of her that wanted that.
In an imperfect world, perhaps her imperfect lover was the perfect choice. He could not give her the truth she found in Fox, but his lies were kind.
"Tell me a story," she said that last morning in Tunisia.
Her fairytale hadn't come true - most of them didn't, she supposed. But Alex had done his best. She was as free as she would ever be. Fox was lost to her, on a path she could never follow, but no-one would ever hurt her again. He hadn't lied about that.
He didn't indulge her this time. "Are you sure about this?" he said instead, stroking her hair back against the pillow, his voice unusually solemn. "You could have it, you know. You're starting fresh. No-one would ever have to know."
He thought it was Fox's, she could tell. The casual surprise, the questions he asked. With carefully-worded queries, she learned that he believed he couldn't father children himself. That the radiation took it when he took the oil.
She thought about telling him. She could be happy with him, she sensed. Maybe happy enough to risk being drawn again into the life from which he had tried to set her free.
"Tell me about Marita," she said instead.
"There's a guy in Carthage," he said. "I'm heading over there tomorrow. He says he has something that might help. Another strain of the vaccine."
"I'm glad," she said, and she was, even if it hurt as well.
"Are you sure about this?" he said again. "If you want to have this baby, Diana, I'll help you."
She looked at him, not her white prince, but her dark knight, and yes, she wanted it. She wanted the happy ending - the love, the family, the world without hurt. She wanted the children who played without fear. She wanted it all.
But it was a world he could never have himself. A world he wanted for her, that he could only give her by setting her free.
They told each other stories, little lies to make it all okay, she thought. She could spare him one lie more.
"I'm sure," she said, and with her lie, she set him free.