Boots On by Skinner Box
Author: Skinner Box
Title: Boots On - A Valentine for Sociopaths in Long Term Relationships
Rating: PG-13 for language
Spoilers: Two Fathers, One Son; slight for Requiem
Summary: 2011. The world is saved. Interpersonal relatioships are trickier.
Notes: Thank you to drovar and the fine folks of the Spenderfic list. Thank you as always to Meir.
Disclaimer: The X-Files and these characters belong to Chris Carter and Fox Broadcasting. I play with them out of love and for no profit.
A Valentine for Sociopaths in Long Term Relationships
by Skinner Box
Saturday afternoon. Reading, both of them. Sprawled on the couch in typical fashion, facing each other, backs against the armrests, legs a warm and untidy tangle between. Dip and rise of the book propped on his partner's chest with every breath. All of a sudden it's too much.
Not the cold little thread of thought calculating all the ways he could kill or incapacitate Jeff in a flat minute from where they are. Normal, that one is, useful. It's kept them both alive.
No, it's that sinuous whisper trailing above and around and through. Words. Trickles and chains and coiling writhing adders of them. Live with a man long enough, let his and your worlds interlock, and you know every little poisoned truth and lie that spilled will burn like acid. The physical simplicity of taking his lover's life is something to be shrugged off like snow at the door. Alex knows how to kill anyone, after all. But those words.
Jeff is the only person he knows he could tear asunder without a touch.
"Think I'll go for a run," Alex says, pulling his feet away and rising. Jeff looks up from the fat biography of Tesla.
"Want company?" When Alex shakes his head no, Jeff gives him a little smile and says, "boots?"
"Yeah." Alex is pulling them on by the closet under the stairs. He still does this, runs hard across the fields in boots and street clothes. Four years since he called himself out of the game, the planet more or less saved for now, lesser ambitions burned off like the hair on your arms and face when you use a Rebel flamestick. But he keeps the nanos activated in his blood, still has the subdermal implant behind his ear that lets him talk to strange, hive-minded entities who think in metaphor. And when the urge to tear down all he's built is just too strong he stomps his feet into handmade boots like a second, stronger skin and runs his just-past-forty body ragged.
June is far too hot to run in a leather jacket. But it's a tool as much as the arm he paused to strap on before leaving. Survival is at least half about having enough pockets. There's wind as always, and with the dry spell it means a harsh grit that rises up from the hummocky field in angry spirals. Pelted and choked from every direction, sun a slap to the back of the head like Mulder's spiteful hand a hundred years ago, Alex gets his feet under him and - goes.
The illusion of escape is as much the point as the physical relief. Or the not quite illusion. He's got enough on and about him to just keep going. More than once he's survived with less. Run, then hitch or steal a car, bus to airport to anywhere.... Alex has to keep spitting to keep his passages clear. He squints as a dust devil rises in his face, feels the bunch and stretch in a calf as he pushes off a tussock.
He won't, of course. There's this weird emotional elastic that only stretches so far. Realistically, a roof, a job, even another pair of arms willing to go around him when he cries out in the night are not unobtainable elsewhere. Book Road. Turn or cross? Cross. The jar of pavement under his feet after dirt and grass. His lungs burn now from more than breathed-in grime, muscles starting to go satisfyingly acid across shins and up quads.
It's history, fuck-it-all. No one else in this life knows. No one in a new life would believe. That's the connection he can't stand to break. Jeff's brains, his wry humor, that essential goodness a life of real horror never managed to kill, baffling mix of strength and vulnerability and the way his body just demands that Alex be there, fully present for everything they do together. All that he's strong enough to break away from. But Jeffrey dammit fucking used-to-be Spender knows. Everything. And that's just too impossibly sweet to ever walk away from. Feeling the hum of strain and stress, scalp to ribs to wrist to toes, Alex wheels around and pushes his body into the south wind. Running towards home.
Jeff is out back, leaning against the rail of the deck they added on last year, built it themselves with plans from the lumberyard. Wind blowing the grey streaked curls around. Not the mop top of their early days, but not repressively shorn like the ill-fated fibbie wore either.
Was he watching for Alex? Doesn't look like it, but he's happy Alex is back. He's got a water bottle in one long fingered hand. Hands it over with an easy smile as Alex jogs to a stop below him, breathing hard. Bends easily from the waist to do it- more flexible now than he was twelve years ago. Still here.
Alex drains it, then tilts his face past Jeff into the waning afternoon sun. He can feel the sweat and windborne grime recombining across his face and neck. Suddenly it seems important to make a clean breast of... something.
"Every time I came back I put your life at risk."
No kidding. But it's all that makes it through his throat.
Jeff's reaching down again, rests his hand on Alex's messy head. There's laughter in his voice, that gentle streak that ruined him for the game, that didn't burn off even with the abduction and all that followed.
"I was dead, anyway, Sashele," he says. "Go get cleaned up, I'll start dinner."