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Prisoner of The Heart IX - The Angel on Your Shoulder

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The Angel on Your Shoulder

The rented Chevy Malibu moved quickly down the highway… as fast as its driver dared go. Eighty was already too fast but she genuinely feared for the sanity of her passenger if she dropped to a lower speed.

He sat almost catatonic, glazed eyes fixed on the road as the vehicle ate up the miles between the airport and the hospital.

She didn’t know what to say to him. Didn’t know how she could possibly comfort him. Instead, she reached out and took the hand that lay limply on the car seat. She squeezed it gently, getting no response at all from him. Ten minutes passed, and she cleared her throat softly.

“We’ll be there in about 15 minutes.”

He uttered not a sound except for the long, pained intake of breath. It came out in stuttering gasps, and his eyes drifted shut. The ringing of his cell phone startled him. His eyes flew open and dropped to the screen, and he jerked the device to his ear.

“Langly. “

“Nothing yet. I just didn’t want you waiting and wondering all this time. Are you there yet?”

“Few minutes out.”

“Okay. We’re working on it, dude. We’re giving it all we’ve got.”

“I know you are. Thank you.”

“I’ll check in again in about three hours just to give you an update.”

“Okay.”

“I know it’s pointless to tell you not to worry but try, okay? We won’t let you down. Talk soon.”

Slow nod…not that Langly could see it, and he disconnected.

“They’ll find him, Mulder. If anyone can, it’s them.”

“But what if they’re too late, Scully? “ Mulder asked. His voice crackling with barely contained anguish.

“They won’t be, “ Scully said with a confidence she didn’t feel. “Everything is going to be okay. You’ll see. Just have faith…have faith.”

“I know… I...I know Samantha said I wouldn’t see her anymore, but… I believe she reached out to me through my phone…” Mulder drew a painful breath. “I keep asking her… if there’s any way at all she can help… she hasn’t answered. Maybe she’s really finally completely gone.”

“I’m sorry, Mulder. You’ve had so much to deal with almost all at once. Better days are coming. You and Alex *will* get through this. You *will* be happy.”

Through glazed eyes, Mulder studied his partner’s profile. She glanced over at him, offering an encouraging smile, and a single tear made its way down his cheek. He closed his eyes and lowered his head.

 

**********

Peter sat quietly, head bowed. He’d been here for ten hours, barely moving from his post by his brother’s bedside. The nursing staff took pity on him and had a recliner delivered to the room about five hours ago. It was a basic hospital recliner, but far more comfortable than the plastic chair he’d been sitting on. He’d refused several offers of food, knowing that nothing would sit well right now. All he could manage was some tea, and even that threatened to come back up on him once or twice.

A soft sound drew his attention. Red, weary eyes lifted and focused on the only sibling he had left. He rose unsteadily to his feet and leaned over his little brother.

“What is it, kid? What do you need?”

Glassy green eyes blinked slowly and searched the room.

“Soon,” Peter promised, knowing what it was that Alex was looking for. He pushed a few sable strands of hair back from the pale face. “Any time now.”

***********

Scully pulled into the hospital parking garage and shut the motor off. Before she could unbuckle her seatbelt, Mulder had his undone and was throwing the passenger’s side door open. He rose unsteadily to his feet and staggered in the direction of the elevators. Scully caught up and linked her arm through his, hoping she could keep him from keeling over before they made it to Alex’s room.

“Easy, Mulder.”

They made it to the elevator, and she pushed the button for the fifth floor. The door swished open seconds later, and the couple stepped inside. Muddy brown eyes watched the red digits go quickly from G to 5, and when the door opened, he began to tremble violently.

“Breathe, Mulder. Come on, breathe.”

“I’m okay. I’m…I’m okay.” Mulder looked for a sign that would point them in the right direction. Before he could locate one, a passing nurse stopped and asked if she could be of assistance.

“We’re looking for room five thirty-two,” Scully said.

“Take a left at the end of this corridor, then your first right, and you’ll find it,” the nurse responded, looking from Scully to the man who himself looked as though he should be laid up in one of the rooms there in the cardiac ward.

“Thank you,” Scully said softly, then steered her devastated partner down the hall. When they made it to the doorway of Alex’s room, she knocked softly on the open door. Peter’s eyes opened, and he rose from his chair. He watched as Mulder wobbled into the room and lowered himself to the edge of Alex’s bed. Scully approached and gathered Peter into her arms, wrapping him in a comforting embrace.

“Dana… what am I going to do? What am I…?” Peter tightened his hold on the woman who, in a relatively short period of time, had come to mean so much to him. “He’s my baby brother. I feel so helpless.”

“I know,” Scully whispered. “The Gunmen are moving heaven and earth to find Jeremiah Smith. They *will* find him. I know it.”

“We need them to be as good as you say they are,” Peter pleaded. “I don’t know how long he can last.”

“What happened, Peter? It was hard to understand what you were saying in your phone call.”

“I don’t know, I don’t… He seemed fine when we got home from his appointment. A couple of hours later, he started having difficulty breathing and he said he felt exhausted. All the color drained out of him…I couldn’t reach his doctor. I couldn’t reach anyone in the office, so I rushed him here. I keep trying to get hold of the doctor but I get no answer. They’re at a loss here as to why this has happened so quickly, especially right after a thorough checkup *and* a biopsy that checked out fine. They’re doing everything they can to stabilize him, but they don’t know. He’s not responding as well as they’d hoped.” A watery gaze slipped to the bed. “I can’t lose him, Dana. Please tell me I’m not going to lose him.”

“You’re not going to lose him,” Scully murmured, hating herself for making such a promise. “You’re not.”

As the two stood quietly near the door, Mulder leaned over his still love, planting several tender kisses over his warm face. Heavy, sable lashes fluttered and lifted halfway. Slivers of glittering green shifted and located the source of the feather light touches.

“Fox.”

Mulder’s name came out on an exhausted breath, and tears burned the backs of the seated man's eyes.

“Yeah baby, it’s me. I’m here.”

“M’sorry.”

Mulder swiped at his face as a tear fell. “There’s nothing for you to be sorry about. You hear me? *Nothing*. “

“Samantha…” Alex struggled to stay alert. His eyelids dropped shut and lifted twice, and then the battle was lost.

Mulder didn’t need to hear any more to know what it was that he was trying to say.

“Don’t you worry about that. All I want you to do is rest. Conserve your strength. Think about getting better and getting out of here. Think about the amazing life we’re going to have. You and me, Alex. Okay?”

Eyes still closed, Alex mouthed the word ‘okay’.

Mulder sat with him until he was sure he was asleep, and then he turned to Scully, who was looking over Alex’s chart.

“Is this normal? Should his rejection symptoms have occurred so quickly and so severely?”

“Right from the beginning, Mulder, there was nothing normal about Alex’s transplant, so I don’t know how to answer that. We have to go back to the source, and study it if we’re to figure it out. But Peter still can’t reach anyone.”

Mulder turned red-rimmed eyes to Alex’s brother. He approached him slowly, and the two weary, grief-stricken men embraced, seemingly holding each other up.

“He loves you so much,” Peter whispered. “He’s loved you for such a long time. And I know you love him. You deserve a shot at a long and happy life together. I’ve been praying for it. Someone’s listening. They have to be.”

The words, uttered with such sincerity, released a torrent of agony, and Mulder broke down in Peter’s arms. Scully was there in an instant, helping to hold him up long enough to get him to the recliner. Long minutes passed before his sobs abated, and he turned a heartbreaking gaze on his partner.

“We *had* him, Scully. He could have seen to it that this wouldn’t happen.” He shook his head as another tear fell, followed by two more. “We agreed that it would be best if we didn’t do anything to attract attention. We did that for the greater good, and we’re being punished for it. Now he’s gone. Disappeared into the woodwork, and we have no idea where to find him or how.” His eyes shifted to Alex. “And now I’m sitting here watching him…” He choked on the last word, unable to finish his sentence. “Peter… I’m sorry. I should have insisted. I should have…”

“You and Alex were thinking about the world at large, and that’s such a noble thing, Mulder.”

“Fuck nobility.“ The words were uttered softly, but with all the grief and anger that Mulder felt. “Look what it’s done for us. “

Peter lowered his gaze and Scully drew in a long breath and exhaled softly. What could either of them say after that? Nothing was going to bring the despondent man any comfort at this point.

“I think I’m going to go see if this hospital has a chapel,” Scully said. “Light a candle, say a couple of prayers. Get God in on this.”

Peter rose to his feet. “I could use a walk and a little change of scenery. I’ll go with you.”

“Mulder? Do you want to come? “ Scully asked softly.

Blood shot eyes turned up to the couple. “There is no God. “

“We’ll umm… We won’t be long. My cell is on if you need me.”

Mulder nodded absently. He rose to his feet and approached the bed, smoothing the sheet around Alex.

Scully and Peter vacated the room, and it wasn’t until they were halfway down the hall that Peter spoke.

“I know that you’re Catholic. I guess I didn’t know *how* Catholic. I didn’t take you for the candle lighting, praying type for some reason.”

“Doesn’t really fit does it?”

Peter shrugged. “I guess not. You two are quite the pair. You and Mulder I mean.”

“That’s why they wanted to team us up,” Scully said, “And ultimately, why they wanted to break us apart.”

“And my father figured prominently into all of that?”

“Very much so.”

“I’ve never known a more black-hearted son of a bitch. I’m so sorry Dana. I know I have nothing to do with anything he’s put you and Mulder through, but he will never be sorry for any of it, so I just feel the need to apologize for him.”

Scully’s only response was to shake her head and link her arm through his as they walked.

“Do you know that bastard had the nerve to show up to Alex‘s appointment? “

“This last one? “

“Yeah. I have no illusions, I know as sure is my name is Peter, that he was not there out of any kind of fatherly concern. I think he just likes to show up on occasion to yank our chains.”

Scully pace slowed. “Peter… what went on at that appointment? What was said, if anything?”

Peter thought for a moment, accessing the memory. “I remember coming down the hall after Alex‘s biopsy. I was heading to his room. The old bastard was standing several feet from the door with the doctor. I wasn’t close enough to hear what he said, but he was speaking. The doctor was looking at the floor. By the time I reached them the doctor had left. I asked him what the hell he was doing there, and he gave me his typical bullshit line about being a concerned dad. He asked if Alex got everything out of his visit to Mulder that he had hoped for. Of course with that fucker, everything is always a double entendre. Nothing means exactly what an ordinary person would think it meant. Everything he says is always dripping with sarcasm. I wanted to beat the shit out of him. I told him to leave us all alone, and he left.”

“Was that the last time you saw the doctor?”

“Yeah, actually it was. “

“Peter… Mulder and I have had enough dealings with this man to know that he is perfectly capable of the worst things anyone can imagine. You know this as well as we do, if not better. “

By now they were at a full stop, and Peter was staring down into deadly serious eyes.

“What are you thinking, Dana? As if I couldn’t already guess? “

“I’m thinking that it’s possible, and damn near probable that Spender did something to cause this. “

Peter’s breath left him in a hard rush. “Shit. “ He stared hard into Scully‘s face then smacked the side of his head. “Oh shit! Why did I not think of this? Why the hell didn't it occur to me? “

“Don’t beat yourself up, Peter. You’ve had more significant things on your mind since Alex was brought in. We have to get back to the room. Mulder needs to know. “

**********

A nurse tiptoed quietly into the room, taking care not to disturb the sleeping man whose head lay on the mattress beside the patient. She quickly checked Alex‘s vitals then exited the room. As she did, she bumped into Peter and Scully. “How is he? “ Peter asked softly.

“No change,“ the nurse said, and then offered by way of encouragement, “Look at it as a good thing. At least he isn’t any worse. “

Peter nodded and thanked the woman and then looked down at Dana. “I think Mulder being here is encouraging him to fight harder.”

“I wouldn’t doubt it. “

The couple entered the room, and Scully lightly placed her hand on her partner‘s shoulder. His head jerked up, and for a moment he looked frantically around the room until his vision cleared and he saw Scully standing beside him.

“You’re back from the chapel? What time is it? “

“We never made it to the chapel. It’s only been a few minutes since we left the room. “ Scully pulled up a chair and sat next to Mulder, placing her hand on his knee. “We have something to tell you.“

Panic set in as Mulder looked from one somber face to the other. “What is it? “ He turned to look at Alex, still asleep, and then he looked back at Scully. “Tell me.“

“The smoker might well have something to do with this.”

Mulder’s tone went from worried to ice cold in nothing flat. “How do you know that? What happened? “

Peter relayed the story that he had just told Scully.

Quiet rage took over. “Where is he?”

“I don’t know. He appears and disappears at random, and he never lets anyone know where he’s at.”

“You must have some idea,” Mulder hissed.

“I can tell you the places he *has* been, but that’s no guarantee that he *will* be at any of those locations. Hell, he’s probably not even in the state by now.”

Mulder stalked over to the table by Alex’s bedside and grabbed up the notepad and pen that was there. Shoving them at Peter, he growled, “Write it down.”

As Peter wrote, Scully reached up, laying her hands on either side of her partner‘s face, and turned him to look at her.

“Mulder, let me check these places out. You stay here. “

“No, Scully. You can go with me if you want to, but I’m going.”

“Mulder, what if Alex wakes up and you’re not here? What do you want Peter to tell him? That you’ve gone off gunning for Spender? Do you really think that’s something he needs to hear in his condition?”

“Peter, just tell him I had to leave for a bit and I’ll be back.”

“And where would you have had to go? We’re in New Mexico.”

“I have to find him Scully,” Mulder whispered harshly. “He has to reverse this.”

“I know. But I’m just as capable of getting him back here as you are. In this case, probably more so,” Scully explained. “You’re not in control of your emotions, Mulder. Understandably so. He could say something to set you off, and in the state of mind you’re in, you could kill him. Then where will we be? Let me find him… if that’s even possible. Please, Mulder. Stay with Alex. He needs you.”

The golden brown head dropped, and Mulder squeezed his eyes shut.

“The nurse was going out as we were coming in. There’s been no change in his condition…” Mulder raked his fingers through his hair, whimpering softly.

"That could well be a good thing in this case,” Scully reassured him. “Since he’d arrived, they’d only been able to slow the progression of his condition. Since *you’ve* been here, he’s held steady. Stay with him, Mulder. Your presence is helping. Who knows what will happen if he wakes and you’re not here. His stable condition is buying us time.”

He hated it when she made sense.

“Okay.” He took a deep breath and looked to Peter. “You got that list?”

“Yeah, but no need for it now.” Peter looked from one confused partner to the other. “I’m going with you.”

“Peter, no. You should stay.”

“Hell no,” Peter said firmly. “Mulder is here. He’s the one Alex is going to miss if he isn’t here. He’s the one who *needs* to stay. I can’t let you do this alone. I won’t.”

There was no time to argue.

“Okay,” Scully breathed. “But you stick with me and do what I say,” she commanded. “Understood?”

“If this was any other time and any other place, I’d be really turned on right now,” Peter joked weakly. He nodded. “Understood.”

“Good. Let’s go. We’ll start with that doctor’s office.”

Peter headed to the door, preceded by Scully. He stopped to face Mulder briefly before following her out. “Call me if anything happens.”

“I will, but turn your sound off,” Mulder instructed. “If you’re sneaking into any place where there are people, we don’t want anyone knowing you’re coming.”

“Got it.”

“You be careful and listen to Scully. I don’t want to have to explain to Alex how his brother got dead,” Mulder said bluntly.

Peter blew out a quick breath and nodded. He approached the bed quickly and covered Alex’s hand with his own. Dropping a kiss on the sable head, he whispered, “I love you, kiddo. Keep fighting.” Then he was gone.

**********

“Byers… come on, it’s your turn.”

The bearded man stood in front of the board that the trio had constructed, tracking the possible movements of one Jeremiah Smith. Bloodshot eyes studied what they had so far, which wasn’t much, and he shook his head.

“We’re missing something. What are we missing?”

“I don’t know, but it’s your turn to sleep,” Frohike answered.

Byers held his ground, stroking his beard thoughtfully. “I’m not tired.”

“Bull,” Langly answered, coming into the room with two cups of coffee. “You look about ready to drop. None of us is going to be any good to Mulder if we can’t function. Go sleep. We’ll wake you in four hours.”

Byers looked from one man to the other. “Okay, I… I guess you’re right.” He looked down at his watch. “It’s almost time to call Mulder. “

“I’ll do it,” Frohike said.

Byers nodded and left the room. The two remaining men looked at each other, and Langly ran his hand over his head.

“What the hell are we going to do?” He asked. Every time we think we might be getting somewhere, it turns out to be a dead end.”

Frohike shrugged. “What *can* we do? Just keep looking.”

“We’ve never let Mulder down. But this time… I just don’t know. “

“Hey man, we’re the friggin' Lone Gunmen,” Frohike answered, his tone oozing with confidence. “We don’t fail.”

Langly stared for a moment at his friend and nodded once.

“I just wish I had some bit of good news for Mulder right now. I’m sure he could use it.“ The small man leaned back in his chair, folding his hands on top of his head. “Well, no sense in procrastinating.“ He pitched forward and picked up his cell phone. Hitting the speed dial number for Mulder, he waited only one ring before a hoarse voice answered.

“Yeah?”

“Mulder, it’s me. Doing our check in. “

“Nothing yet? “

“No, man. We’ve hit a lot of dead ends, but this is far from over.”

“Thank you, Frohike. I hope you guys are managing to get some rest.“

“We’re sleeping in shifts. We just sent Byers in to lie down for a few hours. How is he?”

“Not good, but he’s holding his own right now. Scully and Peter are out looking for Spender.”

“Krycek’s brother? “

“Yeah. She convinced me that it would be best for me to stay here with Alex while she went looking for Spender. Peter didn’t want her to go alone so he went with her and promised to follow her lead.”

“Whoa. Okay. Can he handle himself?”

“I hope so. Or Alex may never forgive me.”

“Yeah…uh… why are they looking for him? What do they think he can do? Or more to the point, what do they think he would *want* to do?“

“We have reason to believe he could be the cause of Alex’s rejection. He showed up after the biopsy. Peter saw him talking to the doctor as he was walking down the hall toward Alex‘s room. It looked a little suspicious. Of course, anything involving him would look a little suspicious. We need to track him down and find out what the hell he did and make him reverse it. Unless you find Jeremiah Smith first, in which case, we’ll just be tracking him down to kill him.”

“Good luck with that,” Frohike mumbled. “If he could be evil enough to do this, and we all know he can be, I don’t think he’ll be overly anxious to take it all back.“

“He’ll take it all back, “ Mulder promised, venom dripping from every word. “He’ll take it back, or instead of a bullet between the eyes; he’ll die slowly, and it’ll be as painful as I can make it.”

No sense in asking him if he meant those words. Frohike knew that he did.

“We’re gonna get back to work here, okay? We’ll check in, in three hours unless we come up with something before that.”

“I’ll never be able to thank you guys enough.”

“No thanks necessary, dude. Just make sure I get a seat right next to Red at the wedding reception, and keep Porter away from her.”

Mulder smiled into the phone. “That’s Peter. And I think you’d better start looking for another girlfriend. They kind of like each other a lot.”

“Dammit. Okay, we gotta get back on the trail so we can make sure you get that reception.”

Mulder cast a soft gaze on his unconscious lover. “Thanks again, Frohike. For all you guys are doing and for understanding how much I love him.”

He disconnected and set the phone down, then settling himself on the edge of Alex’s bed, he lifted his hand to the other man’s face. He stroked the lightly stubbled cheek gently.

“It seems we have a cheering section, babe. It might make the guys a little green around the gills still, but they like us. And they’re doing everything they can for us.” A bright gleam covered one eye. “You just hang on, okay? Stay with me, Alex. Please, stay.”

********************

“This is impossible.”

“Peter, are you sure this is it?”

“*Yes*. We were just here!”

The couple spun in slow circles looking around the deserted building.

“How the hell did they get out of here so quickly? It doesn’t even look like a medical facility anymore.”

“Well… If we were unsure about your father’s involvement before, I don’t think we have to be anymore,” Scully said.

“When I find him, he’s a dead man.”

“Take a number,” Scully sighed, anger and exasperation saturating her tone. “Where to next?”

**********

“Hi. I’m Rachel. I just came on shift, so I’ll be here for you till about six tomorrow morning.” The new nurse erased the day nurse’s name from the white board and scribbled hers in. She took a look at the previous report then went about the business of checking Alex over. Once she was finished, she turned to Mulder, who had been watching closely.

“His temp is a little bit higher than it was and his blood oxygen level has decreased a little. It’s not as bad as it was when he was admitted, but it’s lower than we would like to see it. I’m going to get him on some oxygen and a fever reducer. How long has he been asleep?”

“Two…. two and a half hours maybe, I don’t … I don’t remember.”

“It’s okay,” Rachel said softly. “I’ll be right back.” Less than ten minutes later, she returned with medication, which she added to Alex’s IV, and a mask, which she hooked up to the oxygen. Gently fitting it to Alex’s face, she turned to Mulder, fixing a concerned gaze on him. “If you don’t mind me saying so, honey, you look awful. Have you eaten?”

“No, I…umm…” Mulder ran a hand through his hair. “I had a couple of crackers on the plane.”

“The plane… how long ago was that?”

“Early. This… this morning sometime.”

“You need to eat. And you need some rest. You won’t be any good to him in this condition. Please, let me get you a sandwich or something.”

She barely heard his whispered thank you. Giving him a compassionate smile, she left, plunging the room once again into silence broken only by the faint beeps and clicks of the monitors. When she returned some twenty minutes later carrying a wrapped ham and cheese sandwich, a package of peanut butter crackers and a bottle of water, she found Mulder sitting at the edge of the recliner, his chest resting against the bed while he gently stroked Alex’s hair. She cleared her throat as she came through the door, hoping not to startle the man who was so intently focused on the other.

Mulder lifted his head and turned it in the direction of the soft sound.

“He’s waking up.”

Rachel put the items down on the table and advanced toward the bed. She smiled down at her patient.

“Hello, Alex. I’m your night nurse. My name is Rachel. We’re going to take good care of you, but we need your help, okay? Positivity is all important. And will. You have to fight to get through this.” She tossed her head in Mulder’s direction. “Looking at this handsome fella here, I’d say you have plenty of reason to bounce back.”

Mulder gave her a weary smile.

“We that obvious?”

Rachel chuckled. “Little bit, yeah.”

Alex blinked several times, trying to focus on the nurse’s voice, but his concentration was fixed elsewhere. Namely the sensation of one of Fox’s hands wrapped around his and the other traveling soothingly through his hair.

“He’s going to get through this,” Mulder said, speaking more to Alex than to the nurse. “We’ve got a crew working on it night and day.”

Though she didn’t understand his statement, the nurse offered an indulgent smile. “Eat that sandwich. If you need me for anything at all, I’m right down the hall.”

“Thank you,” Mulder mouthed more than spoke, and he returned all of his attention back to Alex, who was watching him intently. “Hey, pretty eyes.” He lifted the younger man’s hand to his mouth, dusting his knuckles with a tender kiss. “You’ve been asleep for a while. How do you feel?”

“……….Tired,” came the muffled answer. Alex grimaced and plucked ineffectually with his right hand at the oxygen mask.

“No baby, you gotta leave that on. Your oxygen levels were too low.”

Alex’s brow creased and he moaned in frustration.

“Okay,” Fox murmured, giving in. “But just for a couple of minutes.” He pulled the mask down then dropped a kiss on the tip of Alex’s nose. Sable lashes swept down and back up.

“Fox,” he breathed softly. “…… kiss me.”

It would never have occurred to Fox to refuse. His eyes burned with unshed tears, and he leaned forward, covering his lover’s dry, perfectly bowed lips in a sweet, lingering kiss. Drawing back, he stared down into weary eyes so filled with love; he had to catch his breath. He wished he could capture the purity of this exact moment and discard the rest, but for now at least, it was a package deal. Bad with the good. Ugly with the beautiful. He kissed Alex once more then replaced the oxygen mask over his mouth and nose.

Blessing with the curse.

To keep himself from crying, he initiated a mostly one sided conversation.

“Before you ask, Peter is with Scully. We have reason to believe that Spender is at the bottom of this, and he’s assisting her in trying to get some answers.”

There. That didn’t sound too suspicious.

The crease between Alex’s eyebrows deepened.

“Lab?”

“Probably where they’ll end up but right now it’s more like information gathering.” He changed the subject quickly, before Alex could do much thinking. “Babe, the Gunmen are looking for Jeremiah Smith. “

Almost closed eyes struggled to open.

“Can’t… can’t.”

“Yes, we can. And we will. We shouldn’t have let him go in the first place without taking care of you.”

“Too much ….danger.”

“I understand what you’re saying, Alex. But look what’s happened. We need to find him. I won’t lose you,” Fox said, putting all the authority into his tone that overwhelming terror would allow.

“Fox…”

“It’s not up for discussion. Nothing in this world is more important to me than getting you well.”

Had he not been so exhausted, Alex might have put up more of a fight. Instead, he let his eyes drop shut and gave the hand around his a feeble squeeze.

“You’ve done way too much talking,” Fox cautioned. “Rest, okay?”

“Noo.”

“Yes.”

“……Wanna….”

Mulder waited patiently; half hoping that Alex would pass into sleep before he could finish his sentence.

“…fool around...?”

Fox burst into laughter even as his eyes welled up. “Love to,” he answered, swiping at his eyes. “Soon.”

Alex went silent and within minutes, was asleep. Emitting a long sigh, Fox laid his head down on the mattress and closed his eyes. He opened them some twenty minutes later, startled awake by his buzzing phone. He jerked his head up then pulled the phone to his ear.

“Mulder.”

“It’s me.”

“Where are you?”

“The apartment that Spender maintained here. It’s empty now. As were the medical facility and office.”

“Completely empty?”

“Yes. I don’t know how they cleaned these places out so damn fast, but they did. To me, this is as big an admission of guilt as if he walked in right now and said, ‘I did it’.”

“I want him dead, Scully,” Fox rumbled unto the phone.

“We have one more place to check, but there’s no reason to believe it’ll be any…what? Call you back.”

“Scully? Scu….”

Fox jerked the phone away from his ear and stared at it.

What the hell was going on?

Five minutes. She had five…no, *two* minutes, and he was calling back.

Two minutes later, neither Scully nor Peter answered their phones.

“Shit, ssshit.” Fox flung himself out of the chair and prowled the length of the room, tapping his phone against his leg. “Scully…Scully, come on.”

The phone vibrated again a couple of minutes later, and his knees practically buckled with relief.

“Scully, what…”

“While I was talking to you, Peter saw a shadow move across the doorway,” Scully said, out of breath. “He took off out of the apartment and I followed. He tackled a man who was running down the hall toward the elevator. I cuffed him and we threw him into my car. I’ll let you know what, if anything we get out of him.”

Hope surged in Fox’s chest. “Okay. Call me back.”

“Right.” Scully disconnected and turned toward the car where Peter stood, impatiently glaring at the man in the back seat.

“Seriously…. I’d start singing if I were you. What were you doing here?”

The man shrugged nonchalantly. “I heard there was an available apartment in the building. I wanted to check it out.”

Before Scully could draw a breath to respond, Peter had him out of the car and landed a hard right cross, knocking him back against the vehicle. Quickly yanking him back, Peter landed another blow, and the cuffed man crumpled to the ground.

“You’re going to tell us what we want to know, motherfucker. You’re going to tell us or you’re never going to make it out of this parking lot alive.”

Scully blinked in amazement. She quickly composed herself then approached the man as Peter hauled him back to his feet. She stepped between the two, reaching back and placing a hand on Peter’s shoulder, and she leveled an icy stare on their reeling prisoner.

“I suggest you take him seriously. If you don’t tell us everything we want to know, I *will* not hold him back again.”

The man spit out a stream of blood then lifted his eyes, one of which was rapidly swelling, to the woman.

“I was following you.”

“For who?”

He glanced from Scully to Peter and said nothing.

“For *who*.”

Still no response.

“Dana, step away.”

Scully shrugged and took one step to her left. Peter moved in, and the man flinched away.

“All right! All right. You know him.”

“Say his name.”

“Come on man, he’ll have me killed if I…”

“Well, *I’ll* kill you right now, so…who’d you rather take your chances with?”

It didn’t take long to figure out.

“S-Spender.”

“And what were you supposed to do?”

“Just… report back and tell him what you were up to.”

“How’d he know we were even here?”

“I don’t know.”

Peter sidestepped Scully, snatching the man and pulling him forward then slamming him for all he was worth, against the car.

“Hey man, I don’t know!” The man shouted, squeezing his eyes shut as pain exploded through his back. “He only tells me as much as I need to know to do my job!”

Scully studied him for several seconds, and then turned to Peter. “Get his phone.”

Peter spun the man around and slammed him back up against the car, knocking the wind out of him before patting him down. He pulled the phone as well as his wallet out of the inside pocket of his jacket and handed it to Scully. Continuing to frisk the man, he also found his gun, holstered to his right hip.

“Call him. Tell him we caught you spying on us, and you had to kill me, but you took him alive,” she instructed, nodding in Peter’s direction. “Tell him that you’ll bring Peter to him. No, wait. On second thought, ask him what he wants you to do.”

“What if he doesn’t answer the way you want him to?” Peter asked.

“He will. That sadistic son of a bitch won’t be able to resist having you brought to him so he can brag about what he did before he has this asshole kill you.”

Peter studied Scully for a minute before nodding. “You’re right.” He turned a withering gaze on the man in his grip. “You’re going to call your boss. You’re going to say exactly what the lady tells you to say, or I promise you, I’ll slit your throat from ear to ear, and then I’ll stand here and watch you choke on your own blood.” For emphasis, Peter reached down lifting his left pant leg, withdrew a switchblade. He pressed the button and, with a quick swishing sound, the gleaming silver blade rose from the base.

Mouth hanging open, Scully watched the scene then cleared her throat, drawing Peter’s attention.

“We gotta talk,” she breathed, surprise and admiration saturating her tone. Her eyes flicked back to the panic-stricken man.

“Okay. Here’s what you’re going to say…”

**********

The old man drew deeply on the cigarette between his yellowed fingers, letting the exhaust fill his lungs before blowing it out. Gray tendrils of smoke rose upward, curling lazily around the ceiling light in the living room of the modest house that he maintained on the outskirts of Las Cruces.

No one knew about this place. Not Peter, not Alex, not anyone in his ‘employ’. A man had to have *some* privacy.

His phone rang, and he turned down the sound on the already softly playing television.

“Yes?”

“It’s me.”

“Yes, Dale?”

“I have news. Un… unfortunately things didn’t go *exactly* according to plan.”

“No? Tell me.”

They caught on to the fact that I was tailing them, and…”

Long sigh. “They never would have known your predecessor was there. You just can’t find reliable help anymore… what happened?”

“There was a scuffle. I had to… to kill the woman. I managed to take your son alive, though I had to knock him out. I used her handcuffs to restrain him. He’s gagged in case he comes around. He’s in my back seat.”

“Where is she?”

“Trunk.”

“Well… this is not the scenario I envisioned, but when all one’s been given are lemons… I’ll have to think about this. Take them to that empty heating and refrigeration place at the end of Mesa. I’ll meet you there in forty minutes.”

“Yes, sir.”

Scully had been listening with the phone situated between them. She terminated the call and Peter threw the man none too gently into the car.

“How long from here to there?”

“No more than about 10 minutes.”

“Let’s go. Peter, un-cuff him.”

“What?”

“He’s driving. I’m riding shotgun…” the redhead shrugged, “literally, and you’re following in my car. Call Mulder as soon as we leave and tell him what’s going on. When we turn in to the place, find the closest place to park out of sight and meet us there. Make sure you stay out of sight,” she reiterated.

Peter stood scratching his head “Dana, I…”

“There’s no time to argue. Do what I say. Now.”

Peter let out a hard breath. He quickly un-cuffed the man and, giving him a warning glare, spun around and headed to Scully’s rental.

“All right, Dale. Let’s roll. And FYI… if you even think about pulling anything funny, I’ll blow your brains out. I’m trained to take over a vehicle from an incapacitated driver, so don’t think I won’t do it.”

Two minutes later, both cars pulled out onto the road and headed to their destination. Peter pulled out his phone and punched in the speed dial number for Mulder. The phone barely rang before the anxious man’s voice sounded on the other end.

“What the hell’s going on?”

Peter filled him in, and Mulder shook with the effort it took to contain his worry and rage.

“What’s her plan?”

“I’m not sure. I’m hoping she’s got one by the time we get there.”

“Jesus.” Fox knew his partner. She was a good agent. One of the best. But it didn’t do much to assuage his concern. “Listen...you two, be careful. Do *not* take any unnecessary chances. You tell her if I don’t hear from you in an hour and a half, I’m calling in the feds.”

“Will do. How is he?”

“Same. He leveled off after the meds and oxygen. He’s asleep.”

“Okay, we’ll that’s… that’s good, I guess. Mulder, I see them turning into someplace. This must be it. Gotta go.”

“Be *careful*,” Fox repeated.

“Okay. Talk later.” Peter disconnected and drove past the car in front of him. Scanning the area, he found a used car lot a couple of hundred feet up the road. “Oh, thank you.” He pulled into the lot and parked amongst the two dozen or so cars. Quickly backtracking, he reached the building and trotted over to the car parked between the side of the building and a line of bushes.

“That was fast, Scully whispered as he appeared at her door.

“Used car lot right up the road. Can you believe it?”

“Wow. Maybe luck is on our side, huh?”

“Yeah. So what’s the plan?”

“ You stay with him. I’m going to check this out to make sure we don’t have any unplanned for company.”

“Danaaa.”

Scully withdrew her weapon. “It’ll be fine. Umm… have you ever fired a gun?”

“Dear old Dad made sure both Alex and I were trained. I’m not the firearms expert he is, I prefer my switchblade, but I can handle a gun well enough.”

Scully blew out a hard breath and reached down, pulling her Smith and Wesson out of her ankle holster. “I always carry two. I guess Mulder sort of rubbed off on me,” giving Peter a crooked smile. “The grip’ll be a little small for you, but I’m sure you can manage.”

Peter nodded, and she was off before he could tell her to be careful. Holding the gun on the driver, he spoke.

“The warning still holds. One stupid move, Dale, one word other than what we tell you to say, and I will kill you.”

The man sat quietly, hands on the wheel as Scully had instructed, and he closed eyes.

How the *fuck* did he get tangled up in this shit? He knew from others that of the two brothers, Krycek had the lion’s share of temper and cojones, but with him out of action at the hands of the smoker, his brother seemed to have stepped right up into his boots, and was doing a rather convincing job of it. And now, his ass was on the line.

He *really* didn’t get paid enough for this bullshit.

Close to fifteen minutes passed, and before Peter could really start to get nervous, Scully returned.

“It’s clear. Whether or not it’ll stay that way is anyone’s guess. Does he ever travel without security that you know of?”

“I think it really depends on the situation and whether or not he feels safe,” Peter answered.

“Well, let’s hope he feels safe. Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going inside. You’re going to put the cuffs on and sit on the floor in front of the second column to the left of the door. I want him far enough inside that he can’t make a quick getaway.”

“Okay, but what good am I going to be to you if I’m in cuffs?”

“Only one will be fastened. The other will just look that way. Just sit with your back against the column. This will be in your pocket.” She pulled a small recorder out of her jacket. “We’re going to record the whole thing for insurance purposes.”

“You come prepared, don’t you?”

“Yeah, well, the Gunmen are a paranoid bunch. They make sure we’re always well equipped.”

“I guess so. Where will you be?”

“I’ll be in range. And you… *Dale*…. I’ll have a good view of you. Face him and don’t give him the slightest impression that you’re not alone, or I’ll drop you. Speak when spoken to without hesitation, and you make damn sure he doesn’t suspect that anything is up. Because if he does…” Scully moved in, stopping when they were only inches apart, and letting the man see the deadly intent in her eyes. “… I *will* drop you. Now… if you’re a very good boy, I’ll seriously consider cutting you loose.”

“Why should I believe you?” Dale asked warily.

“I’ll give you one minute to weigh your options.” Scully checked her watch. “And…go.”

“………….*Fuck*. Okay.”

“Very good.” She emptied the weapon she’d taken from him then handed it to him. “It’s going to look suspicious if you’re not holding your gun when he gets here. Now, let’s get this show on the road”

**********
A black Lincoln rolled into the deserted lot, gravel crunching beneath its tires. The driver exited the vehicle, stopping to light a cigarette before looking around and entering the building.

Dale drew in a nervous breath knowing that, somewhere in the darkness, a gun was trained on him. From his place on the floor, Peter felt his simmering hatred threaten to bubble up and spill over. He glared at the approaching man and pretended to struggle against the cuffs.

“Well…Peter,” Spender shook his head, clucking his disappointment. “Was your infatuation with Agent Scully so great that you would assist her in trying to track down your own father?”

“Stop. Stop referring to yourself as our father. No father would do what you’ve done to us.”

Spender took a long drag and blew it out before he replied. “Really? What have I done?”

Peter’s fingers bit into his palm as he fought to hold his position.

“You did something to make sure that Alex rejected his heart. You killed Dana!”

Spender lifted a hand to his chest, looking surprised. “I? No, my boy. From what I understand, Dale here killed your girlfriend. Right, Dale?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Speaking of which… when we’re finished here, you’ll pull the car up right alongside the building, and set it and the building on fire. There’s a can of gasoline in my trunk to aid you.”

“Yes, sir.”

“By the way Dale, what happened to your face?”

“Oh.. .you remember I told you there was a scuffle. She got a couple in before I took her out.”

Spender chuffed out a soft laugh. “How I did admire Agent Scully. I can certainly see why you were so enamored, Peter.” He looked past Peter into the darkness. “Ah, well…”

Peter closed his eyes and bowed his head.

“And as for my other willful, disobedient son… well…” He puffed thoughtfully on his cigarette then rolled it between his fingers. “Alex has always been hard to handle. But since he took it into his head to… pair up with Agent Mulder… well, I’m sure you can see how ill advised that was. How impossible it was for me to allow it to continue.”

“What did you do to him?” Peter hissed, lifting his head.

The smoker observed the glaze that covered Peter’s eyes, and he gave his son a sickly smile.

“You were always close. Believe it or not, I find that rather touching. So… if you’re troubled by this recent turn of events, and I’m quite certain that you are… perhaps you might want to place the responsibility for Alex’s fate on Agent Mulder. He’s been far too great an influence on our boy.”

Peter repeated his question. “What did you *do*?”

“*I* did nothing. However, his surgeon proved to be…unreliable and, dare I say, negligent.”

“He did something during Alex’s biopsy.”

Spender shrugged and said nothing.

“On your say so, you son of a bitch!!” Peter roared, launching himself off the floor and at the old man, thankfully catching him by surprise. He grabbed Spender, propelling him backward, the force of his attack so brutal, they both ended up on the floor. Spender on his back, and Peter on top of him.

Dale stumbled backward and, seeing an opening, sprinted for the door. A bullet ricocheting off the cement floor stopped him cold. In seconds, Scully was in the room, shoving him out ahead of her.

“Down on the floor! Now!” She quickly cuffed him then turned her attention to Peter, who was heavily involved in trying to choke the life out of his father.

“Peter. Peter! Let him go.”

Peter showed no sign that he had heard the command. The already pasty face turned a paler shade of white, if that was possible, and Spender swatted ineffectually at his son’s hands.

“Peter! We need him to tell us what they did to Alex! He can’t do that if he’s dead!”

That made it through the haze of rage and Peter released the gasping man, leaving him alone on the floor, and he roared his frustration.

“*Fuuuuck!!!!*”

“Come here. Peter, come here!”

Peter stalked over to Scully, and she released him from the cuffs then snapped them around Spender’s wrists before he began to recover. Searching his limp body, they found two phones and a billfold containing nothing other than forty-two dollars in cash.

“I’m going to call Mulder. Watch them but don’t *touch* them. Understand?”

The enraged man stood, chest heaving, staring daggers at the father he would just as soon kill as look at.

Scully heaved a couple of deep breaths then walked away to make her call.

“Well,” Spender wheezed when he had stopped coughing long enough to speak, “Agent Scully. Alive. It seems I underestimated you, Peter.” He paused in the attempt to drag more air into his lungs. “You’ve been spending too much time in the company of your brother.” Another cough rumbled in his throat and chest. “Although you do seem to be more the emotional sort. Alex was more, oh…”. Cough. “Ice cold. Calculating. That’s what made him the best, you know.”

“Stop talking about him in the past tense.”

“Yes, of course, forgive me. He*is* still alive…isn’t he?”

“You soulless fucker. You’re going to tell us how to reverse what you and your *doctor* have done.”

“But I don’t know what he did. I couldn’t fix Alex if I wanted to, and…”

“And you don’t want to.” Peter shook as the hatred he felt for the man swelled.

Watery blue eyes shifted to the left, and found the other handcuffed man who was really hoping that he would continue to be ignored.

“Dale… I can’t tell you how disappointed I am. Yet, not overly surprised. Good help is *so* hard to find. You realize, of course, that you’re fired.”

“Shut up,” Peter growled. “Where’s the doctor?”

“Do make up your mind Peter. Do you want me to shut up or do you want me to tell you where the doctor is?”

“Where the fuck is he?”

“I’m afraid I don’t know where he is. I suppose you’ll have to try to find him. I just hope you can do that before it’s too late.”

Peter moved in, squatting on the floor directly in front of his father’s face. “Here’s something for you to chew on. If it does end up being too late, there'll be no reason in the world for me to keep you alive. And I promise you. Mulder and I will take great pleasure in killing you as painfully and as slowly as we possibly can.” He backed away and rose to his feet. “Think hard, and think fast.”

Several feet away, Scully was talking to her partner.

“…I think this was the easy part, Mulder. He’s not going to suddenly find some love for his son and make everything okay.”

“I know. But we have a better chance now than we did an hour ago. I’ve been thinking about it. I need to be the one to talk to him.”

“Why do you say that? “

“This asshole understands nothing but threat. Real and imminent threat. Who represents that most to him? I mean besides Alex. You’re my partner and best friend. You’re involved with Alex’s brother. You know what losing him would do to us and you’ll move heaven and earth to make sure that doesn’t happen but you don’t have enough skin in the game, you know? You’re not *directly* emotionally involved. You’re not apt to lose your temper and blow his head off without just cause. Peter is much much more likely to do that…“

“I already had to stop him from strangling him to death.“

“He…I want to say I’m surprised but I guess I can’t. But I think… I think that somewhere deep in Spender’s rotting heart he doesn’t actually believe that Peter… his son… could actually kill him. He doesn’t really think that Peter has it in him to actually finish the job.”

“I don’t know Mulder. I sure as hell believed it.”

“It just matters what Spender believes. How out of the way is that place?”

“It’s way off the road. No one would be driving by unless they were looking specifically for it.”

“Stay with him. Send Peter back to the hospital.”

“What’s he saying?”

Scully looked over at Peter. “He wants you to go to the hospital so he can come here.”

“No. Uh uh. I want in on this.”

“Give him the phone, Scully.”

Scully extended her hand to Peter. “He wants to talk to you.”

“Mulder…“

“Peter… great job. I’ll take it from here, though. You stay here with Alex. He needs one of us to be here.”

“He needs *you* to be there. He didn’t stabilize until you got there. What happens if you leave and he starts to tank?”

“And what happens if you’re not able to get anything out of Spender?”

“I can’t guarantee that I will, but trust and believe, it won’t be for lack of trying. Mulder, I’m begging you. Stay with Alex. I know you want a piece of my father. But he’s not going anywhere, I promise. You’ll get your time with him. Right now Alex needs you. If there’s anything to be gotten out of him, I’ll get it.”

“Settle this, guys,” Scully said loudly enough to be heard by both men.

“Okay,” Fox gave in. “You have four hours. If you can’t get anything out of him by then, it’s my turn. Deal?”

“Deal,” Peter said on a heavy breath. He handed the phone back to Scully and walked away. She watched him make his way over to Spender then pulled the phone up to her ear.

“Mulder.”

“He’s got four hours.”

The line went dead, and Scully tipped her head back asking for a little divine intervention before going to join Peter.

**********

“Find anything?”

Langly took his glasses off and tossed them down on the table, rubbing his eyes, he shook his head.

“I thought I had something a little while ago but I hit a brick wall.”

“Shit.”

“Yeah.”

“Well, come on. It’s your turn. Go get some sleep. Byers is in the shower.”

The blonde put his glasses back on and got up, stretching loudly. “I gotta call Mulder. Then I’ll turn in.” He motioned to the monitor. “You can pick up where I left off.”

Frohike took his place behind the desk and started reading. “Where’re you hiding, Smith? Where the hell are you hiding?”

Langly dropped into a chair in the next room and hit speed dial.

“Mulder.”

“It’s Langly.”

“You don’t have to say it. I can hear it in your tone.”

“We’re doing all we can dude.”

“I know you are. Umm… Scully and Peter found cancer man.”

Langly pitched forward. “And?”

“He had the doctor do something to Alex during this last biopsy. Peter is trying to get something out of him now.”

“…Yeah? I’m shocked, Mulder. I thought you’d be on that like white on rice.”

“I wanted to be. But Peter insisted that I was the one that Alex needed here. He isn’t wrong. With the exception of that one instance earlier where his blood oxygen dipped a bit and his temp was up, he’s stayed stable since I got here. While the anti-rejection meds haven’t turned him around, they do seem to be keeping him from declining any further.”

“We gotta get something cooking then, while he’s still stable.”

“Yeah.”

“We will. You try to rest. You sound beat.”

“I…I will. Thanks Langly.”

Mulder hung up and checked his battery life. Wrinkling his nose, he reached into the inside pocket of his jacket and pulled out his charger. Plugging the phone in, he checked once on his sleeping love, deposited a soft kiss on his forehead, then settled his six foot frame as comfortably as he could into the recliner. He checked the time then whispered aloud.

“Three and a half hours, Pete.”

He closed his eyes and tried to sleep.

**********

“Let’s try this again. Where. Is. The. Doctor?”

The old man sat on the floor, arms stretched uncomfortably above his head. His face bled from two cuts inflicted on either cheek.

Spender winced at the pain his oldest son visited on him, but he said nothing.

“Even after my assurances to the contrary, you’re betting that I won’t kill you, aren’t you? You don’t think I have the stomach for it. Either that, or you’re thinking that Agent Scully will step in.”

He had to admit it to himself; the soft, menacing laugh, coming from the son he’d never have expected it from, did make him nervous. And the fact that Peter had actually had the guts to slice into his face didn’t help matters at all.

In another part of the building, Scully sat with their other captive.

“You said you’d let me walk.”

“I said I’d consider it,” she replied, busily trying to access the cell phone that they had taken from Spender.

“I helped you. I did exactly what you said.”

“Yes, you did. Tell me, Dale… what would you do if you were free?”

“Get as far the fuck away from this place as possible. You people are crazy.”

As if on cue, a tormented wail drifted up from the front of the building.

“Yeah, well…” Scully’s eyes lifted to the terrified man. “You hear that Dale? If I ever see your face again… if you ever so much as breathe in my direction or anyone else’s that I care about, it’ll be you making those sounds. You get me?”

“Yeah. Yeah. I swear to God, and on my dead mother, if you let me go, you’ll never hear from me again.”

“Okay, Dale. I’m going to let you be as good as your word. Just you remember, I’m as good as mine. I’ll un-cuff you when we get to the back door, and as soon as I do, you take off, understand? You go as far away from here as you can.”

“I understand.”

“You got money?”

“You took everything including my wallet.”

“Oh, yeah. Sorry. Scully reached into her coat pocket and returned the wallet. “Your license is going to expire in two months. Better remember to take care of that. Oh, but… I’m keeping the phone.”

Dale nodded.

“Okay… let’s go.”

When they reached the back entrance, Scully handed the man his keys, and he was gone. After relieving herself of her grateful burden, Scully pulled out her phone and placed a call to the Gunmen.

“Hey, Red.”

“Frohike. If I can find someplace open, I’m going to be over-nighting two phones to you. I need you guys to get into them and see if there’s anything in there we can use. I’m sorry, I know we’ve put a lot on your plate as it is, but we need to do all of this through unofficial channels.”

“No problem, Red. We’re here to help.”

“I’m grateful, and I know Mulder is. I’ll let you know when you can expect them.”

“Okay. Talk to you later.”

By the time Frohike made it back into the other room, Langly had gone, and Byers had now taken his place at the computer.

“Scully’s sending us a couple of phones to hack.”

Byers looked up from the computer.

“Who do they belong to?”

“I’m going to guess that at least one of them belongs to dear old dad. Don’t know about the other.”

“They got him?”

“Oh yeah, you were asleep. Yeah, she and lover boy are working on him now.”

Byers lifted one eyebrow.

“I know, I know. But they all feel that Mulder’s place is at the hospital.”

Byers shrugged. “Guess they know what they’re doing.”

“I gotta go make a sandwich or something. I’m starving.”

Frohike turned and headed for the kitchen, and Byers called out to him, asking for something to eat as well. Hearing no reply, he called a little louder.

“Frohike!”

“Yeah, I heard!”

Now satisfied that he wouldn’t spend the next few hours hungry, Byers returned his attention to his hacking duties.

**********

Fox awoke with a start, not remembering for a split second where he was. When reality sank in, despair replaced discomposure, and he raised both hands to his face, hiding it in his palms before drawing a deep breath and then lowering the leg rest so he could slide to the edge of the seat.

“Hey,” he called softly, finding a pair of sleepy green eyes staring at him. “Have you been awake long?”

“A while,” Alex answered wearily.

“Did you try and wake me and I didn’t hear?”

Slow shake of the sable head. “Wanted to… watch you.” Alex slid his hand over so that their fingers were touching. “Pretty Fox.”

A small flash of white appeared behind Mulder’s smiling lips. He moved closer, dusting Alex’s cheek then the corner of his mouth with a light kiss. “Oh, yeah?”

Alex closed his eyes and nodded. “Always thought…” he took in a breath then released it as his lashes lifted, and he looked at the other man with his heart in his eyes. “… you were gorgeous.”

Mulder chuckled softly. “So you’ve said. You got some lousy taste, Krycek. But I’m grateful for it.” The smile faded a bit but did not disappear all together. “How do you feel? “

Alex’s nose wrinkled. “Been better.”

“Been worse? “

Slight shrug then a nod.

“Tired but…. breathing better.“

“Your blood oxygen level is much better. As long as it stays that way you won’t have to wear the mask.”

Alex slowly lifted his hand to Fox’s face; letting his fingers graze first his lover’s heavily stubbled cheek, then wander over his lips. Fox caught him by the wrist and deposited a tender kiss in his palm then, pressing his cheek into Alex’s open hand, he stared silently into fathomless green eyes.

“Fox…”

“Hmm?”

Alex’s thumb rasped over Fox’s unshaven jaw.

“…..I love you.”

Perhaps it was fatigue. Or the gravity of the situation. But there was something in Alex’s tone that made Fox’s heart thud painfully in his chest, and brought a rush of tears to his eyes. He blinked them back and did his best to smile.

“…Always remember.”

And then the effort failed.

“Alex….don’t.”

“Have to.”

“No.” The tears he’d been fighting to hold back flowed freely now. “No, you don’t. You’re going to have years and year...years to tell me you love me. Every morning and every…every night, and every hour in between.”

“M’not giving up,” Alex said wearily. “So much to live for now. But just…just in case. I wanted to.. say it. Want you to remember.”

Fox shook his head. “Please, baby. For me. Don’t talk that way. Don’t even think that way.”

Alex brushed the tears away as they continued to fall.

“M’sorry. Don’t cry. Didn’t mean to…”

Fox laid his head down on the bed, against Alex’s shoulder, his fingers curling around his lover’s forearm, and Alex buried his face in his hair.

Long minutes passed before Fox was able to compose himself. He lifted his head and sniffed.

“In…” he stopped and cleared his throat. “...in such a short time you’ve come to mean everything in the world to me, Alex. No one was more surprised than I was about that. I fought it tooth and nail, but when…when I finally fell, I fell hard. Now I can’t imagine my life without you in it. I need you, baby. You have to stay with me.”

“Want to stay,” Alex answered. “I’m trying.”

Fox swiped at his eyes. “I know you are,” he whispered. You’re holding steady, and that’s… that’s good. Your doctor will be in on rounds in the morning and we’ll talk about what we’re going to do to get you where you need to be to get out of here.”

Alex nodded and closed his eyes. “‘Kay. Getting sleepy.”

“You’ve been doing a lot of talking. Rest now. I’ll be right here.” Fox placed a soft kiss on Alex’s mouth.

“You sleep too,” Alex sighed without opening his eyes.

“I will,” Fox promised, kissing him once more. “I love you, baby.”

He wasn’t sure that Alex had heard him. Sniffing, he stayed for a bit longer on the edge of the recliner, watching the rise and fall of Alex’s chest, then he slid back, putting the leg rest up, and he closed his eyes.

**********

“Well… we tried, Dana. I give up. We’re not getting anything out of him.”

Blue eyes glanced from Peter to the man on the floor.

“Do you want to let Mulder try?”

“It’s pointless. Let the Gunmen see what they can find in the phones.”

“So what do suggest we do here?”

Dark eyes lifted to the wrinkled, pasty white face. “What he wanted to do to you when he thought you were dead.”

“Peter…remember what Mulder said. If we thought our last resort was necessary, he wanted a piece of it.”

“I don’t want to look at this waste of skin a second longer,” Peter muttered, fixing an ice cold stare on the old man. “I don’t want him taking up another inch of space or breathing a bit of air. Not another fucking minute. Mulder will understand.”

Scully paused for a moment then inhaled and exhaled loudly. “I’ll move his car closer to the building.”

Watery blue eyes flicked from one face to the other.

“You won’t do it,” he said to both, making one last stab at bravado. “You’re a federal agent, and you…you don’t have the nerve.”

They didn’t buy it.

Scully stared blankly at him for a moment then moved to the exit. He heard a car start, and as it moved closer, his head snapped around, and he spoke, the anxiety in his tone now, more than evident.

“If you kill me, you’ll never find what you need to save your brother’s life.”

“You refuse to give it to me now… I have no reason to keep you alive.”

He heard the trunk pop and a minute later, Scully appeared in the doorway.

Peter reached down and hauled their prisoner none too gently to his feet then dragged him to the car. Spender stared wide eyed at the can of gasoline on the ground by the car, and he gasped loudly.

“Wait… wait!”

“We’ve waited long enough,” Peter said flatly, and he shoved his father hard, causing him to fall backward into the trunk. Quickly, he lifted the old man’s legs, which were hanging over the lip of the cavernous opening, dropping them inside the trunk, and Spender began to plead in earnest.

“I’ll tell you how to find the doctor. Just… don’t do this.”

“Not good enough.”

Peter slammed the trunk shut, and Spender heard the sound of liquid splashing.

“Please! I’ll get him back here! I’ll tell him to fix Alex!” came the muffled cries from within the compartment. “You have my word!”

“Your word isn’t worth shit, *Dad*.” Peter shouted to make sure he was heard.

“You have me… you’re not going to let me go. If I’m lying, you can kill me then.”

“Well… that’s true.”

Several seconds passed before the trunk lid opened.

“Dana, can I have the phones?”

Scully pulled Spender’s cells out of her pocket and handed them to Peter.

“So tell me… What would you need two phones for? “

“Lots of people carry two phones. One for personal use and one for business. It’s not so surprising, is it? “

“Which one do you use to speak with the doctor?”

“The silver one. “

“Pass code.”

“200512”

Once in, Peter scrolled quickly to the phone book. “What’s it under?”

“…Alex’s doctor…what else?”

Peter glared at him and found the number. He handed the phone to Scully then hauled Spender out of the trunk.

“You’re going to call him… on speaker. And you’re going to tell him to get back here immediately and undo what he did. If you say anything else. Anything that even remotely sounds suspicious, back in the trunk you go, and I promise you, you will not be coming back out.”

Peter hit the number for the doctor and turned on the speaker. Two rings and a soft voice answered.

“Yes?”

“I need you back here immediately. You must undo what you’ve done.”

“Is this a game?”

“Certainly not. I wanted to see if it could be undone, and it has. Now I want you to repair him.”

“Then why remove all traces of the facility? Why rush me out of the country?”

“Yours is not to question why, Doctor Scott. You need not understand my motives. Just return just as fast as humanly possible and bring with you the means to save my son.”

Peter’s eyes closed for a moment, as if that would shield him against the obscene mention of the word ‘son’.

Spender gave the doctor the name of the hospital and Peter terminated the call.

“You see?” Spender wheezed. “Total cooperation. Might I have a cigarette?”

Peter glared at his father. “Smoking is detrimental to your health.” He turned to Scully and blew out a long breath. “Now what?”

Scully turned to the old man. “We didn’t give you the name of the hospital. How did you know?”

“Lucky guess.”

She turned to Peter. “Did you call ahead to the hospital before you brought Alex there?”

Peter’s eyes flicked from Scully to his father, and narrowed. “No.”

“So Dale had been tailing you for longer than you thought. Isn’t that right?” She asked, turning to face Spender, but got no reply.

“I’ll take that as a yes… I don’t trust this SOB as far as I can throw him,” Scully said, scrolling through the phone, finding nothing more than a few numbers belonging to what looked like local businesses… restaurants, car dealership, utilities companies…

“We have to take our chances and hold on to this one in case the doctor tries calling him, but I still want the Gunmen to get into this other phone to see if there’s anything hidden in here that we wouldn’t be able to see on first look. I’ve been looking for an overnight shipping place and there’s one about fifteen miles from here.” She turned a glacial stare on the old man. “Where did you come from tonight?”

“I maintain a residence on the outskirts of town.”

“And you’re alone there? “

“Yes. You have my word.”

“Please… cut the ‘you have my word’ crap. Peter, you drive him in his car and follow me to the shipping place. From there we’ll go to his house. Once we’re on the road, I’m going to call Mulder and fill him in. “

 

Once they were rolling, Scully pulled out her phone and made her call. A sleepy, disoriented voice answered before the phone could ring a second time.

“I’m sorry Mulder, if you were sleeping.”

“It’s OK. I didn’t mean to fall asleep anyway. What’s going on? “

“You should be getting all the rest you can. We’re on the move. We made Spender call the doctor, giving him no more information than he wanted him back here, pronto. As extra added insurance though, I’m dropping a cell phone…actually two, off at an overnight shipping place and hopefully the Gunmen will get them some time tomorrow. So you hold tight. How is he doing? “

“The same. We talked a bit and it wore him out. He’s sleeping.” Fox’s gaze fell softly on Alex. “Every time he closes his eyes I’m terrified that he won’t open them again.”

“Don’t think like that, Mulder“

“I know… I just finished telling him a while ago not to do that, and what am I doing? I’m just so scared.”

“I know. But we’re going to fix this, Mulder. One way or another. Why don’t you try to go back to sleep and I’ll call you if any problems arise or if anything really important comes up.”

“Okay. I’ll do the same.”

“All right. Talk later.”

A few minutes later both cars pulled up to the sparsely lit facility, and Scully jumped out of her car and ran to the door. She pulled on the handle several times, rattling the glass door, then knocked to get the attention of the two employees, who were doing their level best to ignore her.

“Guys! Come on, I need your help!”

“We’re closed, lady!” One of the men finally yelled as he continued to stack boxes.

“Oh yeah, asshole?” Scully muttered, pulling her ID out of her pocket and flattening it against the glass. “FBI. Open the door!”

The men exchanged glances, and one of them quickly shuffled to the door to inspect the ID more closely. Mouthing the word “shit”, he unlocked the door and let her in.

“I need to have these phones over-nighted to this address.” She shoved the phones and address at the guy.

“Umm… I don’t know if we’ll get this on the truck on time.”

“Where’s the truck?”

“Maybe it’s still out back but I’m not sure.”

“Well, check. And if it is, stop them. And if it just left within the last few minutes, call them back.”

“I can’t call them back, lady…. “

“You can, and you will. Get on it! Now!”

The man fumbled for his walkie-talkie and called out to the truck.

“Frankie, are you out there?”

There was a loud crackle then someone answered.

“Yeah. What is it? “

“Don’t leave. I got another package for you.”

“Aww come on, Charlie. I was just getting ready to back out!”

“Sorry, man. But a lady just came in with this and said it’s very important. “

“They’re all fucking important. Send it on tomorrow’s truck.”

“You don’t get it, Frankie. She’s standing right here and she has a badge. Not just any badge, a fucking FBI ID, and she ain’t playin'. This has to get to where it’s going,*tomorrow*.”

“Shit… Well hurry up and get it packaged up and out here. You know we’re timed. “

“Charlie, tell Frankie that if he has any trouble, he can refer your bosses to me. “ Scully reached in her pocket and handed him a card. The young man took the card and hastily boxed up the phones. He ran the box out to the back then came in and handed Scully a receipt.

“Here you go. It should be in their hands by tomorrow, noon.”

Scully thanked the young man, paid him, left a fat tip and exited the building. Giving Peter the thumbs up and waving him forward, she got into her vehicle and let him take the lead.

Once back out on the road, she called the Gunmen.

“Package is on its way, you should have it by noon tomorrow. “

“We’ll let you know the second it’s in our hands. How’s it going over there? “

“We made Spender call his doctor and order him back here.”

“How do you know he won’t double cross you?”

“I don’t know it for absolutely sure but right now it’s all we’ve got. He does know, though, that his life won’t be worth a plug nickel if he tries anything funny. We’ve got him and we’re not letting go of him. “

“Well you all just be careful. We’re still working all the angles over here, and we’ll let you know the second anything important comes up. “

“Thanks, talk soon.”

Nearly twenty minutes later, both cars pulled up to a modest ranch style house, set far apart from the neighboring homes by a very large plot of land. They pulled side-by-side into the driveway, and everyone got out. Letting their prisoner lead the way into the house, Scully and Peter entered with guns drawn. They searched the entire house and, satisfied that they were alone, Peter pushed Spender into a chair.

“This is going to get rather uncomfortable,” he informed his son. Can you at least cuff my hands in front of me so I’m not leaning back against my arms? “

“You think I give a shit about your comfort? Do you give a damn how uncomfortable my brother must be when he’s struggling to take a breath? Sit there and shut the fuck up.”

For how long? It will probably be a good many hours until the doctor gets here.”

“Then I guess your ass’ll be sitting there for a good many hours.”

“Peter, maybe we can tie his arms to the arms of a chair.”

“Thank you Agent Scully.”

Scully spared barely a glance at Spender before she drew Peter aside, speaking in hushed tones.

“We’re not going to get anything out of him if he’s sure there’s no hope at all that he *might* come out of this in one piece. So you’re going to see me making some concessions. It doesn’t mean that I give rat’s ass about his comfort. You can continue to play it the way you have been. Just give in eventually, if I insist.”

Peter blew out a highly exaggerated sigh. “‘Kay.” He walked away, raking his fingers through his hair, and Scully turned back toward their prisoner.

“I’ll tie you to a chair. But first, do you need to use the bathroom?”

Wary eyes slipped from Scully to Peter, who was still turned in the other direction.

“Not at the moment, but… I’m sure it wouldn’t be the most comfortable of situations for either of us if you were to escort me and my son is so upset, that I fear he may drown me in the toilet.”

“You may be right about that,” Scully agreed flatly. “I’ll stand right outside the door when necessary.”

Spender nodded as Scully guided him to his feet and into a chair more suitable for her purposes. Once he was secured, she took a seat on the sofa and cleared her throat.

“So…your son is in a hospital. His body is rejecting the heart of your dead daughter, thanks to you. My question to you is how?”

The old man cocked his head slightly. “How?”

“Yes. How? They’re your children. Blood of your blood. How in God’s name can you do all that you’ve done to them and not have a moment of regret or remorse? How can you look into the eyes of your last remaining healthy child, and not let the anguish that you *must* see there, move you in any way?”

The silence that followed her question turned Peter around.

“I’ll answer that, Dana. He has no heart. He has no soul. There’s nothing but a deep black void where those things should be. We’re not his children. We’re merely the byproducts of a physical act. Tools to be used at his discretion. And if he *can’t* manipulate us, then we’re useless to him, and we’re tossed out with the trash. Isn’t that right? *Dad*? “. He put all the venom he could into the word. “I never thought I could hate. I mean, really hate. Even with all I knew about you…all I knew that you’d done… I never truly, deeply hated you. Didn’t think I had it in me.” He shook his head as he fought to suppress the stinging at the backs of his eyes. “I guess I just didn’t have the impetus until now.” The vision in his right eye blurred. “If he dies, you’re done. Over. I hope you understand that.”

“I would say you’ve made that abundantly clear.”

“Good. So you give me everything. Every scrap of information you’ve got on how to save my brother, and you give it to me now, and I’ll consider not killing you.”

“I have no more information than how to contact Dr. Scott, and I’ve done that. He’s on his way by now or should be soon.”

“You’re full of shit,” Peter spat. “You’re not the type to not know what his people are doing, down to the slightest detail.”

“That may be so. But I’m not a doctor. I don’t have the ability to understand such complicated medical matters. That’s what people like Dr. Scott are for.” He shrugged and offered a sickly smile. “I merely give the orders.”

Peter glared at the old man then pitched forward so that there were only a couple of inches between them. The smell of stale cigarettes assaulted his nose but he held his position until he’d said what he wanted to say.

“You’d better pray your orders have been followed tonight. And that they were given in time.”

Almost black eyes met Scully’s intent gaze. “You want to start looking around the living room while I take the bedroom?”

Scully nodded, and the two began a search for anything at all that might be helpful.

For several minutes all was quiet but for the sound of shuffling papers and opening drawers. Then…

“So… if you don’t mind me asking…how serious are you and my son?”

Scully shot him a brief look of disgust and gave no answer.

“It’s all right, you know. I’m not opposed.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Surprised, but… I mean, Peter is reasonably intelligent…good looking. That said, I am surprised that he could land a woman of your caliber. Honestly, I thought you and Agent Mulder would eventually end up together. What children you would have had. Intelligent, beautiful… Who would have thought that you wouldn’t be at all his type? I certainly wouldn’t have imagined. And to find out that my Alex had the same bombshell in store for me. His children with the right woman would have been extraordinary. But instead he and your partner have taken it into their heads that they’re attracted to each other. Well, you can imagine my shock and disappointment. Two talented, resourceful, handsome, brilliant men. Such a waste,” he clucked softly.

Scully searched the last drawer in his desk and then pulled in out, turning it over to inspect the bottom, then she turned her attention to him.

“And so he had to be punished.”

“Hmm…you know how willful some children can be. You impose rules for their good, and they oppose you at every turn.”

“And you know you can never lead Alex back into the fold; so he’s got to pay the ultimate price,” Scully said, trying to maintain a calm exterior. “Even though your threats were originally made against Mulder, you knew that harming him would make Alex ten times more dangerous, so you changed your course. But you miscalculated. You didn’t count on Peter.” Her cool slipped a bit. “And you didn’t count on me.”

“I suppose I didn’t,” Spender replied, his tone softly jovial. “Not entirely. I understand Peter’s attachment to his brother, though I didn’t believe he would have the nerve to react as he has. But you, Agent Scully, what’s your stake in this? I mean yes, I understand your loyalty to Mulder, and your fondness for my boy. But you owe Alex nothing. You’ve always hated him, and rightfully so. Yet, you’ve thrown in a hundred and ten percent. You’ve gone above and beyond for him. For all of them.”

“My reasons for my actions go far beyond your capacity for understanding. You’d have to be a feeling human being first.”

Peter completed his search of the bedroom and had begun on the small kitchen while Scully moved into the hall, clearing out the closet. The ringing of Spender’s phone brought both of them into the living room. Scully snatched it up and issued a soft warning before allowing the old man to answer.

“You know what to say.” She put the phone on speaker and held it out toward Spender’s face.

“…Yes?”

“I’ve got a flight out at nine a.m.; I should reach the hospital by early afternoon.”

“Thank you doctor. Do you need anything before you arrive? Any sort of preparation to be done?”

“Just make sure the room is clear of staff when I’m working. I need to administer three injections, waiting one hour between the first two, and two hours between the second and third. I’ll pose as a friend or relative and stay to monitor him.”

“All right. Call again when you land.”

The doctor disconnected and Scully pulled the phone away and deposited it in her pocket. Pulling her own phone out, she called Mulder.

“Scully… what’s going on?”

“I’ve got the smoking man’s phone and his lackey’s phone on the way to the Gunmen to see if they can get any hidden information out of them. We’re at his house. We’ve got him tied to a chair while we turn this place upside down. We found a second phone on him, and Peter *coaxed* him into calling the doctor. He’s on his way back here. He should get to the hospital by early afternoon tomorrow. Listen Mulder, you’re going to have to find a way to keep hospital staff out of the room for only as long as it takes the doctor to do three separate injections.”

“Three?”

“Yeah. There’s a one hour wait between the first and second shot, and two hours between the second and third.”

In Alex’s hospital room, Fox blew out a long, anxious breath as he bent over at the waist. “Do you trust this, Scully?” he asked as he straightened up.

“Spender’s neck is quite literally on the line. I don’t think he has any doubt left that you and Peter will kill him dead if this goes any way but right, and that I won’t hold either of you back. We have him, we’ll have the doctor. He has no choice. He’d rather live to fight another day, you know?”

“*Live*.”

“Mulder…”

No response.

“Let’s just…concentrate on getting Alex out of danger first and then we can figure the rest out.”

Silence greeted her suggestion.

“Mulder, please. I know. I…I know. Umm… have you heard anything new from the guys?”

“They’re doing everything they can think of. Nothing yet.”

“How is he?”

“Pretty much the same. He’s asleep. Has been for a while.”

“Okay, well, you should be sleeping too.”

“All I can do is cat nap. Every little sound wakes me up. I keep thinking it might be him, you know?”

“Yeah. Well, at least close your eyes. Even if you can’t sleep, you can try and rest.”

“What about you? It’s really late.”

“Once Peter and I finish searching the house, we’ll take turns napping.”

“Okay. Be careful though, please. I know he’s tied up but I still don’t trust that snake as far as I can throw him.”

“We will. Talk soon.”

Scully disconnected and returned to her search. Two hours later, after turning up little more in the small house than a file on some questionable activity by a local politician and a few boxes overflowing with an unhealthy amount of scratch tickets, Scully and Peter agreed that they would nap in shifts.

While Scully nodded off quickly on the sofa in the small office just off the living room, Peter continued to quietly poke around, unaware that Spender, who had also seemed to be asleep in his chair, was now awake and watching him.

“I certainly could use a cigarette.”

Peter turned and fixed a hateful glare on the restrained man.

“Shut up.”

“Have you never had an addiction, Peter? Oh, yes, I freely admit my weakness. I’m addicted to nicotine. Terrible things, addictions. You and your brother were smart for never taking up smoking. But Alex’s current addiction has proved far more detrimental to his health than cigarettes, hasn’t it?”

“I’m going to tell you one more time to… Shut. The. Fuck. Up.”

Spender pushed his luck.

“He threatened me, you know. He was so desperate to satisfy his…addiction that he tracked me down and threatened my life. I have no doubt that he would make good on his threat. Our Alex, whatever else he might be, is a man of his word and, at one hundred percent, is fully capable of making good on a warning. His instincts, his abilities, and his temerity are unparalleled,” he said, admiration saturating his words. “One would have to get up pretty early in the morning to outmaneuver him.”

Peter stood staring at his father for a full thirty seconds before moving slowly toward him. He stopped just inches in front of the seated man then let loose with a vicious backhand that split the old man’s lip and broke open the superficial cut that he had inflicted earlier to the withered cheek.

“I said,” he rumbled with malicious intent, “Shut. Up.”

**********

 

“Hey…Byers…you okay?”

The bearded man stood looking out into the darkness, defeat weighing down his normally squared shoulders. He turned his eyes to his diminutive compadre, and he let out a long, shaken breath.

“We’ve never let Mulder down.”

“No, we haven’t.”

“There’s a real danger of that, this time. And the feeling gets stronger and stronger with every passing hour.”

“I know,” Frohike mumbled. “I don’t understand how this thing happened with him and Krycek, but there’s no mistaking that look in Mulder’s eyes when they’re together or when he talks about him, is there? And the really insane part is, I see that same expression on Krycek’s face.”

“Crazier than that,” Byers added, “I believe it. Whoever thought we’d be saying that we believed anything that came from Alex Krycek?” He straightened his posture. “If this is really real, and Mulder has a chance to be happy… I’d be damn proud to say we had a hand in facilitating that.” He moved toward the door, a renewed sense of purpose in his stride. “Come on. Let’s find Jeremiah Smith.”

**********

Scully walked stretching into the living room, and squinted down at Peter, who sat quietly in a chair in a corner of the room. Bloodshot eyes looked up, and he gave her a worried smile.

“You look so tired. Why don’t you go get another hour? I’ll wake you if anything happens.”

“No. It’s your turn,” Scully argued softly, running her fingers through his hair. “Believe me; I’ve operated on less rest than this.” She glanced at the restrained man, asleep in the chair, several feet away. “Uh…. What happened? He seems to have more injuries than before I went to sleep.”

Peter fixed a cold stare on Spender and shrugged. “I told him twice to shut up. He wouldn’t.”

Scully blew out a hard breath. “He’s testing you.”

“Yeah, well…how am I doing, pops?” He asked softly.

Scully ran her hand back and forth across his shoulders. “Go on,” she insisted. “Go lie down.”

Peter dragged himself out of his chair and trudged into the next room. He let out a low groan as he dropped down on the sofa and was out within minutes. Scully took his place in the chair and picked up the file they’d found, reading the contents. She sighed, shaking her head in disgust.

**********

A curtain of lashes lifted partway then fell back down as consciousness took its sweet time about creeping in. The lashes fluttered and lifted again, rising higher than before. Weary eyes scanned the near dark hospital room and found what they had sought. They focused on the still figure, on the too small recliner. The light from the hall lightly caressed parts of the face that Alex loved, throwing the rest into deep shadow. His gaze fell on Fox’s unshaven cheek then traveled down to his mouth. In their relaxed state, his lips took on an even fuller appearance, and the perfect, magnificent pout, emphasized by the wealth of stubble, released a long sigh from Alex’s throat.

There it was. All the reason in the world for him to fight to stay, packed into a six foot, hundred and eighty pound, pouty lipped, hazel eyed package. God, the man was more beautiful than any man had a right to be…

A shadow across the doorway drew his attention from the sleeping man, and he weakly raised a hand to the nurse, and her face, still shrouded in darkness, turned to the recliner, and she nodded her understanding. She tip toed into the room and checked the monitors, then leaned in close to Alex’s head, speaking in barely a whisper.

“Shift change. I’m Nancy. It’s time for your meds. I’ll be out of your way in a sec. How do you feel?”

“Wrung out,” Alex murmured. “When will the doctor be in?”

“He’s due at seven for rounds. I believe he’s going to discuss another type of anti-rejection protocol to see if we can’t lift you out of this. You’re no worse… these meds have got you holding steady, but we need to make you better.”

Alex nodded.

Nancy administered the medication and offered Alex a smile as she slipped quietly out of the room. Not more than twenty minutes later, Fox’s eyes flew open, and he jerked himself onto a sitting position.

“Jeez,” he whispered, rubbing his hand over his face, trying to clear the nightmare that had awakened him. He looked up at the bed and found Alex asleep. Checking his watch, he stood and stretched before stepping into the hall, just outside the door. Pulling his phone out of his pocket, he frowned down at the letters that popped up on the screen when he woke the device.

*nrs*

Fox blinked, trying to decipher the letters. “Samantha?” He called softly. “Is that you? What is this? Does it mean something?”

Well, of course it meant something. But what?

**********

“Langly…. Langly, wake up.”

The skinny blonde sat up and squinted around the room, then felt for his glasses. Adjusting them on his face, he blinked up at Frohike’s anxious face.

“Time to get up already?”

“Not quite, but something just happened, and we need all three of us on this.”

Langly jumped off the bed and followed Frohike out the door. As soon as they reached the room that doubled as “find Smith headquarters”, Byers shoved his phone into Langly’s face.

“natl plants?”

“This came in a couple of minutes ago. Like, out of nowhere. No number.”

“That’s weird.”

“Yeah. Remember what Mulder told us about Samantha contacting him through his phone?”

Langly’s eyes grew wide. “*Yeah*. You think it’s her? And if it is, what’s she trying to tell us?”

“Well…” Byers scrubbed his hand over his beard. “What if these letters that don’t make any sense are part of a larger word? Plants seems pretty straightforward.” He got up and wrote the letters on the board and the three studied them for the next half hour, arguing about their possible meaning.

“Natural?”

“Natural plants? What sense does that make? Plants *are* natural.”

“Not if they’re artificial.”

“So maybe…*un*natural plants?”

“And what would that have to do with *anything*?”

While Frohike and Langly argued, Byers continued writing.

“Wait.” He stopped and yelled at the others. “Wait!”

“What?”

“What if… what if it’s an abbreviation? If it’s Samantha, she’s got to give as much information expending as little energy as she can. What if this is..,” he wrote out ‘Nat’l’.

“…National?”

“Yeah. National…plants.”

“That doesn’t make any more sense than natural or unnatural plants,” Frohike muttered.

Silence descended on the room as three pairs of eyes focused on the board. Several minutes later, Langly slapped his forehead.

“We may be taking plants too literally. What if it’s just another word for something else? Byers, you said that Samantha had to be economical with her communications. What if plants was just *easier* for her?”

“Okay, so….” More silence then Byers looked up at his friends. “Arboretum. National Arboretum.”

Frohike’s mouth dropped open. “You think he’d be *here*?”

“Hide in plain sight,” Byers breathed. Last place he worked was a park. Maybe he has a thing for plants.”

Langly jumped into the chair in front of the computer and began searching.

**********

The bathroom door opened, and Peter dragged Spender none too gently back to his chair and fastened him in.

“It’s getting light out,” Spender observed. “I’m a bit hungry. I’m sure you two are as well. “I have food. Can we have a little breakfast? It is the most important meal of the day, you know.”

“I’m going to kill him,” Peter informed Scully softly. “Seriously.”

“You just don’t know when to shut up, do you?” Scully asked the old man before retreating into the kitchen. “Haven’t heard anything from Mulder,” she said to Peter. “I hope they’re sleeping.”

“I was thinking that too. Let’s give it another hour then try texting him.”

**********

“Hey there. Shift change.” The young brunette came in and erased the night nurse’s name then wrote her name on the board. “I’m Jamie. I’m just going to check Mr. Krycek’s vitals and I’ll be out of your hair… how’d he pass the night?”

“He slept a good part of it. At least while I was awake…” Fox rubbed at his eyes, missing Jamie’s frown as she read Alex’s temperature. “I didn’t mean to sleep as long as I did.”

“From what I understand, you’re wearing yourself out looking after him,” she replied, attaching the cuff to check Alex’s blood pressure. “You need to sleep too or what good will you be to him, you know?”

The slight jostling woke Alex, and he looked up at the nurse.

“…..time is it?”

Fox heard and was off the chair an instant, moving to the vacant side of Alex’s bed.

“It’s six o’clock.”

“Night?”

“No, baby,” Fox answered softly. “Morning.”

Alex looked to the girl, now checking his pressure for the second time.

“….who’re you?”

“I’m Jamie. Your day nurse.”

Alex frowned.

“How do you feel Mr. Krycek?”

Fox picked up on the concern in her tone, and waited for Alex’s answer.

“Lousy.”

“Worse than the last time your night nurse checked you?”

“Nancy?”

Jamie cocked her head and chalked the mistake up to confusion. “No, Mr. Krycek, your nurse was Rachel. Any worse than when she came to check on you?”

Alex took a slow stuttering breath and nodded.

“What’s going on?” Fox asked, terrified of the answer.

Jamie completed her exam and sighed softly. “His temp is up, his blood pressure is high, and his pulse ox has dropped a bit.”

Fox doubled over and let out a hard breath as if someone had punched him in the gut.

“Don’t panic,” Jamie said in her most soothing voice. “I’m going to find the doctor, okay? He’s already on the floor beginning his rounds.” She put the oxygen mask on Alex and exited the room, leaving Fox to deal with what she’d just said. He took two steadying breaths, for all the good they did, and he leaned over Alex, brushing his love’s forehead with a soft kiss. He was warm. Too warm.

“The doctor will be here soon. He’s going to change the plan of attack and you’ll feel better soon.”

“Fox…”

The soft, muffled sound of his name brought tears to his eyes.

“Don’t talk, sweetheart. Save it for later when you’re feeling better.”

“Nancy…”

“Rachel was your night nurse, remember? Jamie just relieved her.”

“No,” Alex breathed. “Nancy… while you were asleep…”

Fox took a moment, trying to understand and process what Alex was saying. He gasped loudly when it struck, and he pulled his phone out to look at the mysterious message again.

Nrs

Nurse.

Nancy. Nurse Nancy.

A warning from Samantha.

And he’d slept through it.

“Baby… what did Nancy do? Alex?”

Alex’s lashes fluttered. Fox repeated his question.

“What did Nancy do?”

“…Medicine.”

Oh, god. Oh, FUCK.

“…………Fox……… worse.”

“Okay baby, okay…the doctor’s coming.” Fox spun around burst through the doorway and into the hall. “Where’s the doctor?” he boomed. “I need him in here NOW!”

Seconds later, the doctor and nurse, who were already on their way to the room, ran through the door. Jamie pushed Fox out the door with a promise to let him back in as soon as they were finished. Pacing wildly, he yanked out his phone and hit the speed dial number for Peter.

“Mulder, we were getting ready to…”

“He did something,” Mulder rasped, not giving Peter a chance to finish his sentence. “Even with you watching him every minute, he managed it.”

“What? Mulder, what’re you..,”

From the kitchen, Scully heard the anxiety in Peter’s voice and joined him in the living room.

Before Fox could answer, he heard the code blue call, and Jamie again appeared in the hall. He watched, as if in a dream, two more staff come running down the hall wheeling a tray. As Peter’s voice, panic-stricken, yelled into the phone, asking what was going on, they disappeared into the room.

“Alex,” Fox breathed, dropping the phone from his shaking hand. “Alex!” He sobbed, trying to get past Jamie, but another nurse, a stocky man, appeared behind him, restraining him and wrestling him, as gently as he could, away from the doorway. Jamie picked up the phone and lifted it to her ear.

“…Hello?”

“Who’s this?” The voice on the other end shouted.

“I’m Mr. Krycek’s nurse.”

“I’m his brother! What the fuck’s happening?”

“Your brother is in some distress. Is it possible for you to get to the hospital?”

“…oh my god…oh my god…”

The line went dead, and Jamie grimaced, setting the phone down in front of Fox. The man had managed to get him into a chair and was standing beside it should he decide to bolt.

“I spoke to Mr. Krycek’s brother,” she said gently. “I’m not sure because he hung up, but he may be on his way.”

Fox pressed the heels of his hands into his eyes and rocked back and forth.

“Nancy… who on the staff is named Nancy?”

Jamie frowned at hearing the name again. “We don’t have a Nancy on staff…Warren, am I wrong?”

“Alex said… he said Nancy. Nancy came in while he was… was asleep, and administered meds.”

Jamie shook her head.

“That’s... that’s impossible.”

“Check the cameras.”

“But sir…”

Fox leapt to his feet, reaching into his back pocket as both nurses jumped in front, ready to repel him, should he head for the door. He pulled a leather bifold out and flipped it open in front of their faces. “Check the fucking cameras,” he hissed.

There was no argument this time. Jamie ran to the nurse’s station while Warren stood his post by Fox’s side.

All was quiet in Alex’s room, and honestly, he didn’t know how to interpret the silence.

Meanwhile, at Spender’s house, Peter and Scully were hastily shoving the old man, chair and all, into a closet.

“You can’t leave me in here,” Spender gasped.

“Oh yeah, we can,” Scully shot back. “You might want to use this time to say some prayers.” She slammed the door shut, locked it, and dashed out behind Peter, who had already headed for the car.

“I’ll drive, she called, and Peter offered no argument. The spinning tires kicked up some gravel on the road, and they were off, moving at breakneck speed, toward the hospital. Peter tried Fox’s phone, not expecting to get an answer, but Fox picked up on the second ring. His voice, soft and hoarse, answered.

“Peter…”

“What’s happening?”

“It…it happened fast. He just… went south. They had to intubate him. They just let me back in. A nurse…a nurse came in… it’s my fault, Pete. I fell asleep. She put something in his IV. It’s my fault. If I wasn’t sleeping so heavily, I’m sorry Peter, I…I…”

“Mulder,” Peter gasped. “Mulder, no. No, it’s not.” Peter looked to Scully for help. She had been listening on speaker, and she broke in.

“Mulder, listen to me. It is not your fault. You were asleep. You were *exhausted*. There’s absolutely no blame in that,” she said firmly, knowing that her words would not sink in. “We’re on our way to you. We should be there in about fifteen minutes or so. In the meantime, *please* keep it together. Alex needs all your strength, okay?”

Fox took a stuttering breath and looked at his pale, still lover through his tears. “Okay…” another difficult breath. “…okay.”

“We’ll be there soon.”

Scully disconnected and reached across the seat to squeeze Peter’s trembling hand, and wondered to herself how the hell she was going to hold not one but two total wrecks together…

**********

“Son of a bitch.”

Two men held their breath while the one pounding on the keyboard began to smile.”

“We got him.” Langly pressed print, snatched the paper off the printer, and all three men shot out the door. Once in the van, Byers called Scully.

“…Byers….”

“We found him, Scully. With a little help…. A lot of help. He’s working at the National Arboretum. We got his address and we’re on our way to him right now. We’ll check his residence first and if he isn’t there, one of us will wait in case he returns and the other two will continue on to the arboretum.”

“Oh, my God…This isn’t a moment too soon,” Scully breathed. “We don’t know how the smoker managed it, but he had someone put something in Krycek’s drip. He’s gone downhill fast. You’ve got to get Smith here double quick. Spender’s doctor is due in early afternoon, but after this, honestly, I don’t know that we can trust that he’s coming to help.”

“Oh, God. How’s Mulder?”

“We haven’t reached him yet, but from what I heard on the phone, he’s in bad shape.”

Byers groaned then spoke to the other passenger in the van. “Frohike, are you still in contact with that pilot?” Scully heard a faint ‘yes’. “Call him. Ask him to be standing by at whatever airport his plane is at. Tell him this is a level five emergency.”

Frohike made the call while Scully waited on the line. Five minutes later, Byers gave her the good news that they had secured transportation, and he would let her know the second they had Smith in the air. Scully thanked them profusely as they screeched into the hospital garage.

“At least we’re coming in with some good news,” she said to Peter as the two jumped out of the car and ran for the elevators. Reaching the fifth floor, they bolted down the hall and burst through the open door to Alex’s room to find Fox sitting beside the bed, head resting face down on the mattress as he slowly stroked the unconscious man’s arm. His head jerked up, and he turned tear-drenched, bloodshot eyes to the couple.

Peter moved on quaking legs, to the other side of the bed. He lifted a hand to his brother’s head, gently stroking the sable strands. “Hey kid,” he whispered. “I’m here. It’s gonna be okay.” He looked around at the machinery that hadn’t been in the room the last time he was there, and his eyes filled with tears. “You’re gonna be okay.”

Scully moved to Fox’s side, placing a hand on his shoulder. “The Gunmen located Smith.”

Fox blinked up at her.

“He was right in DC. Working at the National Arboretum. They’ve gone to find him. They’ll tell him what happened, and they’ll have him on a plane out here. There’s a charter on standby.”

A dim light of hope flickered in the muddy brown eyes.

“…Really?”

“They’ll call the minute he’s in the air. I’ll be at the airport waiting when he lands.”

Fix blew out a stuttering breath and turned back to Alex. “You hear that baby? Help will be here soon. You just hold on, okay? Hold on, Alex.” He looked up at Scully and then at Peter. “Cameras caught a woman dressed in nurse’s clothing coming in here this morning before the shift change. No one recognizes her. They’re searching the hospital but so far they haven’t turned anything up. This had to have been in motion beforehand. I don’t know how else to explain it.”

“It’d be just like him,” Peter said, murder glittering in his eyes. “In fact, I’ll bet that’s what he meant.”

“What?” Scully asked.

“One of the times he was prattling on. He started extolling Alex’s ‘virtues’, and he had this little smirk on his face when he said something about having to get up pretty early in the morning to get the jump on him. Those weren’t his exact words, but close enough. He’s very fond of that cryptic shit.”

“Where is he? What did you do with him?” Fox asked with ice cold calm in his voice that scared the hell out of Scully.

“He’s tied to a chair and locked in a closet at his house.”

“When this is all over, and Alex is home with us, you and I are going to pay your father a visit,” Fox said flatly, gaining a nod from Peter.

Scully bowed her head and closed her eyes.

********************

“Hello, gentlemen. Can I help you?”

“Yes,” Byers said, pulling out a photo of Jeremiah Smith. “We’re looking for this man. We understand he works here. There’s an emergency, and we need to locate him immediately.”

The man glanced at the picture and shook his head.

“Sorry guys, but we can’t give information out on employees.”

“We understand. But if he’s here, if you could just call him to the office. Tell him that Mr. Byers and Mr. Langly need to see him here immediately. Tell him the emergency involves Mr. Mulder.”

The young man stared for a moment then heaved a heavy sigh, and picked up the phone. “Hey, Gwen. It’s Harry. Is that new guy in? The one with the old type name. Yeah, you know who I mean. Tall, thin…. Knows way too much about every plant here…yeah, yeah…Ephraim. I got two men here looking for him. It’s an emergency, they say. You sure? Oh. Okay. Thanks.” Harry looked up and shook his head. “Sorry, fellas. He was scheduled to work today. Should’ve been here two hours ago. He never showed.”

Byers lifted his hand to his forehead, trying to massage away the beginnings of a massive headache. “Thanks.” He reached into his breast pocket and pulled out a card. “If he does show, please have him call this number immediately.”

The young man nodded and took the card, offering his hope that they have a successful search.

“Are you freakin' kidding me?” Langly said as the two men exited the office. He pulled his phone out and called Frohike. “Smith didn’t show for work today,” he said the second Frohike answered the phone.

“Ah, no. No, no, no. He hasn’t come back here either. What the hell are we going to do?”

“We gotta let Scully know.”

“Great, well, *you* call her and tell her that we came up empty. Judas Priest… Mulder’s gonna lose his mind.”

“I know. Leave him a note if you haven’t already, and just stay there. We’ll circle back around to pick you up.” Langly hung up and looked at the other man who had just started the van. Byers sat there for a second and then met his friend’s defeated gaze. Not a word was said between them as Byers turned away, shifting the van into gear as Langly hit Scully’s number.

“..Langly?”

Jesus, he could hear the hope in her voice. And Mulder was probably right there, listening.

“Scully…”

Something was wrong. She could hear it in his tone.

“Langly? What…”

“Smith *is* an employee at the Arboretum. But he never showed up for work. And he’s not at his residence. We don’t know where else to look.”

“Oh my God, oh my God… Mulder and Peter are going to lose it.”

“You’re not with them?”

“No, I went to get some food to try and make them eat. I’m heading back to the room now.”

“I can’t tell you how sorry we are. We were talking about this earlier… we’ve never failed Mulder. And now when it’s most important, we can’t help him.”

“You guys have *not* failed him. You’ve gone above and beyond trying to help him. You’ve done more than most family members would do. He’s so grateful for you. And so am I. And so is Peter.”

Silence met her words.

“I’m coming to the room. Talk later.”

Scully disconnected to find Alex’s doctor in the room, speaking softly to Fox and Peter. He gently squeezed one man’s shoulder then the other, and he headed for the door. Scully stopped him outside and asked for an update.

“Preliminary analysis of the contents of the bag can’t be identified as any medication or toxin known to science. With that said, we don’t know how to counteract it. We’ll continue to attempt to stop this downward slide, or at least slow it down to buy us more time to further analyze that substance, but…time, Miss Scully, is not something we have a whole lot of.”

Scully’s eyes closed, and she took a long, steadying breath. “How long do you think?” She asked, terrified of what the answer would be.

“I’m really not sure. Hours…a day if we’re lucky. Mr. Tate and Mr. Mulder know.”

Scully nodded. “Thank you, she croaked. The doctor offered her a sympathetic smile and walked away. Praying for strength, she entered the room. Two sets of eyes lifted immediately.

“Have you heard from anyone?” Peter asked. “Is Smith on the way yet?” He didn’t know Scully well enough yet to read all the little nuances in her expression and body language, but Fox knew them as he did his own.

“They don’t have him.”

“N-no. Not…” No use in sugar coating it. “He wasn’t at home and he didn’t show up to work. Aside from leaving messages in case he shows at either place, the guys have hit a brick wall.” Scully dropped her head, and for the first time, a few tears escaped her closed lids. “I’m sorry guys, I’m so…”

Peter rose and took Scully in his arms as Fox buried his face in Alex’s shoulder. Once Scully pulled herself together and made sure that Peter was okay, she approached her partner and laid a hand on his back.

“Mulder…”

The soft, broken utterance of his name pulled him upright. The light she’d earlier seen beginning to flicker in his eyes was gone, and it was replaced by a look so heartbreaking, the tears again began to flow.

“Why?” Fox asked on a soft sob. “Why has it happened this way? Samantha promised. She promised that we’d live a long happy life together. She promised.”

Scully opened her mouth but no sound would come out. Fox looked down at the face of the man he’d never in a million years have imagined loving but now couldn’t imagine living without. “He’s leaving me,” he whispered. “And there’s nothing I can do to make him stay.”

Peter bowed his head, shoulders shaking as he cried quietly.

“The…doc..” Scully’s voice cracked and trailed off. She tried again. “The doctor is doing everything… he’s trying everything he can think of to slow things down. Maybe we’ll get lucky.”

Fox gave no response. There was no indication that he was listening. He had already turned back to Alex, tenderly stroking his hair, kissing the hand he held within his own, and whispering sweet words into his dying love’s ear.

Long minutes passed, and Peter, whose tears had since dried, and had been sitting in silence, got up from his chair.

“Dana? Would you and Mulder… would you do me a small favor?”

Glazed blue eyes rose to meet his gaze.

“Of course. What do you need?”

“Could I have just a few minutes alone with my brother?”

Scully took his hand and nodded. Peter grasped the hand that held his and lifted it to his lips then released it.

“Mulder,” Scully called softly, touching her devastated partner’s shoulder. “Mulder, come with me for a bit. Peter needs a few minutes alone with Alex.”

Fox lifted his head from its resting spot near Alex’s arm, and fixed a muddled gaze on the woman.

“Peter needs a few minutes, okay? Then we can come right back.”

Fox blinked and turned his head back to Alex.

“I’ll be right back, baby, okay? I promise. Right back.”

Scully helped Fox out of his chair and led him into the hall, closing the door behind them.

“Hey, kiddo,” Peter began. “You know, never until now did it ever occur to me to wonder if you ever minded me calling you that. You being who you are, I guess you would have let me know, in no uncertain terms, if you did mind. Anyway…I need to talk to you. I want you to know…” He stopped, attempting to compose himself as he watched his brother’s already slow heart rate decrease slightly. “ I uh… I want you to know that I’m proud of you. So fucking proud. I know you don’t think that there’s anything for me to be proud about, but you’re wrong. You’re the smartest, most courageous person I know. It took guts, kid. Real balls to stand up to that asshole all these years. How many times have you outsmarted him? Man, it drove him *nuts*. I always knew when you had gotten the better of him. It was the only time I’d see him lose his cool.” Peter chuckled softly. “And it took some *serious* cojones to do your own thing in these later years, knowing what an evil, vindictive, remorseless son of a bitch he is. And my *God* … what it took to let this relationship with Mulder happen. I know… I know it took a while to get over that fear, but it wasn’t fear for yourself, I know. It was never that. It was fear for him. Fear for *his* safety that kept you fighting against your feelings for so long. That and the crazy notion you had that you weren’t good enough to be with him. That he deserved better than you.

“I’m glad you figured it out. That you know now that you are worthy of him. Worthy of his love. And he loves you so much, kid. I’m glad that you know. That you each know what it is to be truly, deeply loved by the other.” Peter sniffed back more tears.

“Thank you, Alex. Thank you for being my brother. I know we irritate the shit out of each other, and I know you’ve wanted to kill me at least a dozen times while you and Mulder were figuring this thing out, but under all the threats and frustration, I know you were grateful for the push.

“I also know how many times you’ve pulled my ass out of the fire and taken the heat for some screw up of mine. Big brothers are supposed to take care of their younger siblings but, somehow, you were always the one looking out for me.

“I hope during this past year, I’ve made up for some of that.” Peter drew a deep breath and let it out as he fought to control his grief. “There’s one more thing I can do for you, and I promise I’ll make it happen.” He leaned in close, kissing the warm forehead. “Mulder may never forgive me, but I’m doing this for you. I’m picking up where you left off, kid. I’m keeping him safe. And I’m going to make sure that that fucker answers for what he’s done.” He swiped at overflowing eyes. “I gotta go now. I don’t know if I’ll get to talk to you again so in case I don’t… I love you, baby brother. And I’ll see you on the other side.”

One more kiss, then Peter straightened up and walked out without looking back.

“You can go back in. Thank you guys. Uh… Dana, I need some air.”

“I… do you want me to go with you? I’ll get Mulder back inside and…”

“No, I’d… I really need to be alone for a while.”

“Okay. I understand. Are you okay? I’m sorry; I know that’s a stupid question.”

“Yeah, I’m …. I’m all right. I just need some time alone.”

Scully nodded and guided Fox back into the room, leaving Peter to himself.

Back in his seat by the bed, Fox took Alex’s hand in his, and dropped a kiss on his knuckles before pressing the hand to his own cheek.

“I’m back, baby. When I was sitting in the hall, I started thinking about the last few months. ..about everything that happened to get us where we are. Remember that night we were yelling at each other in your bedroom?” A soft smile curved his lips. “You we’re so damn stubborn. But so was I, I guess. Even so, I wanted so much to grab you and just shake the shit out of you. Then I wanted to kiss you until I felt you surrender to me. Did you know that? Could you feel it? I think you could. And I think you would have given in to it. Especially knowing now, how irresistible I am to you…”

Scully sat a few feet away, listening to the one way conversation. It continued with only brief breaks while Fox tried to compose himself, and it wasn’t until she’d looked at her watch that she realized that it had been about forty-five minutes since Peter had left for some air. She pulled her phone out and called his number. When it went straight to voicemail, she began to worry.

“Peter,” she called softly. “I’m getting concerned.” Please call me back. As she disconnected, she looked up at the monitor to find that Alex’s condition was deteriorating.

“Jesus,” she whispered. “Oh God, please.”

Fox heard the faintly uttered plea, and he continued to talk to Alex, not bothering to stop the tears as they fell.

“How about… how …about the n-night of your birthday?” He cleared his throat and went on. “I know we were a bit awkward, but still…to say that it was incredible is such a huge understatement. I never.. never dreamed I could feel the things you made me feel that night, and it really sealed the deal. I knew I would never w-want to belong to anyone else.” He placed a heart-breaking tender kiss on the unresponsive lips. “I’m yours, Alex… until the day I die.”

Scully wept softly into a wad of tissues, her shoulders quaking.

This wasn’t right. It wasn’t fair. Her partner, her best friend … the ‘brother’ closest to her heart, had only just found love. Had been made complete, and here it was, being ripped away. And he’d never be the same.

And Peter. Having lost every sibling over the course of many years, all due in no small part, to the monster they’d had the supreme misfortune of calling father. And now, he was about to lose the last. And *he’d* never be the same.

She wouldn’t know where to begin to put either of them back together.

How could this happen? How could the bad guy be allowed to win? Where was the justice? Where the hell was their happily ever after?

She blinked rapidly, trying to clear her blurred vision. When her surroundings became a bit sharper, her regard fell to the rolling tray, where her key ring lay. Alone. The small frown that had formed as she looked at her keys grew deeper as she unerringly recalled that when she had put them down, Peter’s keys had been there too.

“….No.”

She tried Peter’s phone again.

“Peter…Peter, where are you?” She said to the voicemail recording. “Where did you go?”

Even as she asked the question, she knew the answer.

**********

The black Lexus turned into the driveway of the nondescript house and rolled to a stop. Killing the engine, Peter got out and headed toward the front door. The key turned much too easily in the lock, and he cursed to himself as he pushed the ever so slightly ajar door open. Looking around the room, everything appeared to be as they’d left it when he and Scully had lit out of the place, earlier.

Heading straight for the closet, rage bubbled up in his throat, and spilled over.

“*Fuck!* FUUUUUUCK!!!!!”

The closet was empty but for the chair that he and Scully had lashed Spender to. The ties they had used lay coiled haphazardly on the floor. Nothing was broken. Someone had let him out.

At this point, he didn’t give a shit who’d done it, he only cared that his revenge had been denied, and he didn’t know if he’d ever have the chance again to realize it.

Peter went berserk, trashing the house as his roars of hatred and grief vibrated the air. When his anger spent itself some twenty minutes later, he sank down on the floor, in the middle of the carnage, and he cried.

**********

A band of filtered sunlight fell into the otherwise gloomy room as the heavy metal door opened. It disappeared as the door swung shut, and three dispirited men shuffled in. Two fell into nearby chairs and one stared at the board where they’d scribbled all the information they’d gathered.

Useless. Every bit of it.

He picked up the eraser and slowly dragged it back and forth across the board.

Useless. Every one of them.

**********

Scully stood just outside of Alex’s door, looking up into eyes almost as blue as her own. She willed herself to process what the doctor was saying to her. There was no way that Mulder or Peter would be able to.

Peter… she wished he would call her.

“…and there just seems to be nothing known to us that can stop it. I’m so sorry.”

Scully nodded her understanding.

“Is Mr. Tate in the hospital? He might want to be here. It could be any time.”

“I… I can’t seem to locate him,” Scully answered, just barely able to be heard. “I’ll keep trying his phone.”

The doctor patted her shoulder. “We’ll try to remain as unobtrusive as possible. He’s being monitored carefully from the nurses’ station. We’ll be here when we’re needed.”

“Thank you.”

Scully re-entered the room to find Fox up on Alex’s bed. He’d found a way around the wires and tubes, and was lying beside his motionless form, arm tucked around his middle, head nestled in the curve of his shoulder.

“Mulder…” it was on the tip of her tongue to tell him that he probably shouldn’t be there, but at this point, it was the *only* place for him. She bit back the admonition, but Fox heard all the words she couldn’t bring herself to say.

“I won’t let him leave without feeling my arms around him. He’s going to know that I’m right here with him. He’s going to feel my love and take every bit of it with him.”

The tears began again. “He will, Mulder.” Scully placed a hand on her friend’s shoulder, knowing that nothing could bring him comfort, but needing to try.

Alex’s respiration was decreasing, his heart rate slowing considerably, and Scully knew that the time was coming quickly that they’d be saying goodbye. Fox knew it too, and he pressed closer, laying his hand over Alex’s heart…the heart that been Samantha’s, and had provided both of her brothers with the chance, brief though it was, to know real love.

“I love you baby,” Fox murmured, stroking his thumb over Alex’s chest, feeling the ridged surface of his scar on each pass. “Wait for me. And while you’re waiting, take good care of Samantha. Spend the time getting to know her. And before you know it, I’ll be there. We’ll be together again. Forever.”

A small sob escaped Scully’s throat as she watched the line on the heart monitor go straight. Her tear drenched gaze fell to Fox, who lay silently, holding the body that was now nothing more than an empty vessel. Her eyes stayed glued to them until she felt the approach of the doctor and two nurses. She watched them advance toward the bed and try to gently move Fox away.

“No,” he croaked, tightening his hold. “N-no.”

“Mr. Mulder, we’re so sorry. Please give us a few minutes to do what we have to, and then you can stay with him a bit longer.”

Scully rose to her feet and wrapped her hand around Fox’s bicep, pulling gently.

“Mulder,” she called softly. “Please. Come on. Let them take care of him then we can come back.”

It took a few minutes before Scully was able to get him up and away from the bed. As they were moving slowly into the hall, they heard the doctor announcing time of death, and Fox sank to the floor, his legs going out on him completely. It took Scully and two nurses to get him up again and into a chair. As he sat nearly catatonic, Scully moved a few steps away and again tried Peter’s phone. She left yet another message, avoiding telling him that his brother had passed, then she made one more call.

“Hello.”

“….Byers.”

She didn’t have to say it. He could hear it in her tone.

“……When?”

“Just a few minutes ago.”

“We’re so sorry. Please tell Mulder for us. And Krycek’s brother.”

“As soon as he turns up, I will.”

“He, who?”

“Peter. He left here over two and a half hours ago on the pretense of needing some air.”

“Pretense… where do you think he went?”

“There’s only one thing that I can think of that would take him away from his brother’s death bed. And I’m scared.”

“You need help. We’re coming out to you.”

She would like to have declined the offer…told Byers that she’d be fine, but he was right, and she knew it. She needed all the help she could get.

“Thank you guys. Thank you so much.”

“I’ll let you know when we’re leaving.”

A few minutes after Scully hung up, the doctor and the staff he’d come in with, exited the room.

“You can go back in, now. Have you reached his brother?”

“No, I’m afraid not.”

The doctor nodded and retreated.

“Mulder. We can go back in, now. Can you make it?”

Fox rose unsteadily to his feet and shuffled toward the room, staggering back a step as absolute silence hit him head on. All the hardware had been removed. All the tubes and wires gone, and Alex lay there, looking for all the world like he was merely asleep. Shaking violently, he made it to the bed before collapsing down beside the still body. Drawing one leg up, he draped it over Alex’s legs then wrapped his arm around him and laid his head on the still chest and he closed his eyes.

**********

Peter didn’t know how his car found its way back to the hospital, but here he was, pulling into a parking space in the underground garage. Only then did he pull out his phone and listen to the roughly half a dozen messages left by Scully. All of them were her basically asking where he was and that he needed to call her and get back to the hospital. She gave no details but he was sure that he’d be coming back to the news that his little brother was gone.

He took two fortifying breaths and got out of the car. Minutes later, he was traveling the corridor that would take him, more than likely for the last time, to Alex’s room. He came through the door, immediately taking in the sight of Fox lying motionless, wrapped around his brother’s body, and Scully, slouched in the recliner, face buried in one hand.

Feeling his presence, Scully pivoted off the chair and rose to her feet. She’d save the questions for much later. For now, all she wanted to do was wrap the devastated man in her arms.

“How… how long?” Peter rasped.

“About thirty minutes.”

He released the woman who, from here on out, would be his only comfort and he moved slowly toward the bed. Fox gave no hint that he might have detected Peter’s presence. Alex’s brother sank carefully down on the edge of the mattress and took Alex’s left hand in his. He said nothing, simply sitting there and looking down into the slack features of his last sibling.

An hour passed, and a nurse crept into the room, speaking softly to Scully, who nodded her understanding. She let a couple of minutes pass, praying for strength she’d need to get both men past the next part of the process. Rising stiffly, she approached Peter first.

“They… they need to take him now,” she whispered against the side of his head before planting a soft kiss there. Peter nodded, indicating that he’d heard. Lifting the still warm hand to his cheek, he squeezed his eyes shut as he fought to contain himself. Even through crippling grief, he knew that it would take the two of them to help Fox to let go. Rising shakily, he followed Scully to the other side of the bed.

“Mulder…… Mulder, it’s time to go now.”

“……go?”

“They have to…. to take… him.”

“No. No, Scully. Please. Don’t let them.”

“They have to.”

Mulder tightened the arm that held Alex to him, and buried his face in his chest.

“Don’t take him from me.”

Scully began to sob, and Peter moved in, leaning over Fox and speaking softly into his ear.

“Mulder…come on. Please. Come with us. Alex isn’t here anymore.” Fox whimpered, shaking his head.

“He’s with Samantha now. We need to let that fact comfort us.” He knew Alex would want him to do and say what he could to calm Fox, and so he swallowed his own anguish for the moment, and tried his best. “Come with us, now. Please.”

At least ten more minutes passed before Peter and Scully were able to get Fox to release his hold on Alex’s body, and another five minutes before they could gently get him off the bed and lead him out of the room. They got him about twenty feet down the hall and could go no further.

“We’ll never hold him up long enough to get him to the car, “ Scully said, lowering her overcome partner into a chair in the small waiting area. “I’m going to go ask for a wheelchair.”

Peter kept an eye on Fox while Scully walked to the nurses’ station.

“Can we get a wheelchair please? I’m afraid Mr. Mulder is in no condition to make it out of here.”

“Of course,” the nurse said. “We’ll get one right up.”

“Also…” Scully reached into her pocket and showed the woman her ID. If a man comes looking for Mr. Krycek’s room, or if you notice anyone trying to sneak in, have security hold him and call me immediately.” She handed the woman her card, thanked her again, and returned to the men.

Reaching Peter, she wrapped her arms around him, holding him in a comforting embrace, and he rested his cheek on the top of her head. Fox sat quietly, head down, until the wheelchair arrived.

“Mulder, come sit over here, okay?” Scully pulled him up by his arm, and he sat heavily in the chair. Once they made it to the ground floor, Scully left Peter with her partner while she went for the car. She pulled it up to the doors minutes later and they loaded Fox in.

“Come with us,” Scully said to Peter. “We can get your car later.”

“No. I’m… I’m okay, I promise. I need some time to myself.”

“Peter, I’m sorry, but the last time you said that to me you disappeared for almost three hours.”

“I know. I’m sorry. We’ll talk when we get home. Please, Dana. Just give me this time. I’ve got the apartment key. I won’t leave you hanging.”

Scully blew out a long breath and nodded. She got into her car and pulled away from the curb, leaving Peter to stare after them. He turned around a minute later and headed back into the garage.

**********

Scully pulled up to Peter’s apartment building and parked.

“We here,” she announced softly, not entirely sure that Fox was aware. They’d made the entire trip in complete silence, not that she’d expected anything more. She watched Peter’s car pull ahead of hers, and she waited in the car, watching him step out slowly then bend, resting his hands on his knees as he drew a deep breath. Righting himself, he moved over to the passenger’s side of her vehicle and opened Fox’s door.

“Mulder? Let’s go inside.”

Muddy, bloodshot eyes lifted to the man’s face, and Fox gave him a confused frown.

“The apartment,” Peter explained gently.

Fox tilted his head slightly, still staring up at Peter. Still, he said nothing. Scully reached into the compartment and pulled on his arm.

“Come on, Mulder. We all need to get some rest.”

The trek to the apartment was a slow one, but finally, they made it. With a shaking hand, Peter inserted the key into the lock and swung the door open.

The fact that he would never walk into this apartment again to find Alex there hit him full force, and he stumbled into the living room and fell to the sofa. Lying on his side, he wrapped his arms around his middle in an attempt to hold himself together.

Scully guided Fox inside, shutting the door. She left him where he stood and came to kneel beside Peter, covering his upper body with her own, stroking his back and murmuring soothingly to him. When she looked up several minutes later, she saw Fox moving, as if in a trance, toward the hall. She heard a door open and close, and then silence.

At least she didn’t have to worry about him trying to leave the apartment. Now able to give Peter more of her attention, she pulled herself up to the sofa, encouraging him to rest his head in her lap.

“…….You know where I went.”

“…I figured.”

“I went there to kill him.”

Red eyelashes dropped slowly over exhausted eyes.

“He was gone.”

That wasn’t at all what she’d expected to hear.

“What?”

“He’s gone. Someone came and got him out.”

“…Who the…”

“I don’t know. No locks broken. Doors intact. And I missed my chance. The last thing I could have done for him, and I fucked it up. I failed him.”

“Peter… of course you didn’t. How could you know that that would happen? ….Honestly, I’m glad he was gone before you got there.”

“How can you say that?”

“Easily. What would have happened if you had run into whomever was there getting him out? You could have been killed. Then both Mulder and I would have lost the man we love.”

Peter looked up at her with wide eyes. It wasn’t the best time or place to say it, but now it was out there and she wouldn’t regret having said it or wish she could take it back.

“Dana…” a single tear rolled down his cheek as he reached up to pull her down into a tender kiss, then hugged her to him as the two shared a moment of love and grief. Scully’s ringing phone parted them.

“Yeah… Langly.”

“We’re at the airport. Since we had already charted that flight for Smith, we’re going to use it. We’ll be there in about four hours.”

“Thank you so much, Langly. See you soon.”

Scully disconnected and then looked down at her despondent lover. “I’m sorry; I had no chance to tell you. The Gunmen are flying out. To say they’re upset, about not having been able to deliver Jeremiah Smith to us, is an understatement. They figured I would have my hands very full with you and Mulder, and they needed to feel useful.”

“That’s very nice of them, “ Peter responded softly. “They’re good friends to you guys.“

“Yes, they are.”

Peter’s eyes shifted around the apartment then glazed over. “What am I going to do, Dana?” He gasped. “He’s gone. He’s really…”

Scully held him while he cried it out, and some thirty minutes later, he drifted into sleep.

Unwilling to move for fear that she would wake the exhausted man, Scully sat quietly, wondering what Mulder was doing in Alex‘s room and hoping against hope that he had fallen asleep as well.

**********

The bright early afternoon light streamed in past the gently swaying desert palms outside of Alex’s bedroom window, creating a cheerful riot of radiance on the bed and wall. Fox stood just inside the doorway, as he had been for over half an hour, as yet unable to make himself move any farther into the room. His gaze skittered around the large space, and his mind played out scenes from his time here with Alex.

Fighting like a couple of hormonal teens…

Lying together, Alex wrapped securely in his arms after a particularly bad nightmare…

Watching TV together in silence because neither one of them knew how to discuss his feelings without probably ending up in another fight…

His eyes came to rest on the framed pictures on the table beside the bed, and then he found himself moving toward them. Picking up the first photo, memories flooded his consciousness of the day Scully had insisted that it would be a great idea for him to send a picture of himself along with the CDs he’d burned for Alex. Feeling more than a bit uneasy about it, he’d finally acquiesced, and Alex’s reaction had Scully crowing ‘I told you so’ for days on end…

Fox ran his fingers over the frame then set it down and picked up another photo.

Purposely sexy, this one was sent with more CDs loaded with even sweeter love songs as part of Fox’s “fight dirty” campaign to get Alex to Virginia after he’d changed his mind about making the trip out with Peter.

Fox carefully fingered the clearly expensive wooden frame that looked very much like the one before it. Alex hadn’t gone down to the local drugstore for these. He’d obviously wanted something beautiful and elegant to surround the photos that he treasured.

That was no guess. Scully had told him what Peter had said to her one night soon after Alex had received them. Often was the time that he’d entered Alex’s bedroom to drop a load of laundry or to comfort his brother after a nightmare, and he’d find one of the photos lying on the bed beside him or cradled against his chest. He’d even taken one with him when he’d gone for his biopsy, so he could look at it while he lay in recovery.

He set the frame down and picked up the top CD case from the stack on the table behind the photos. He found the case empty, and he walked over to the CD player on the dresser, and reached for the play button. Pausing for a moment, he curled his shaking hand into a fist, then opened his fingers and hit the button.

**********

There's a story in my eyes
Turn the pages of desire
Now it's time to trade those dreams
For the rush of passion's fire
I can feel you tremble when we touch
And I feel the hand of fate
Reaching out to both of us
I've been holding back the night
I've been searching for a clue from you
I'm gonna try with all my might
To make this story line come true
Can you feel me tremble when we touch
Can you feel the hand of fate
Reaching out to both of us
This love affair can't wait
I can't hold back, I'm on the edge
(I can't hold back)
Your voice explodes inside my head
I can't hold back, I won't back down
‘Cause it's too late to turn back now
Another shooting star goes by
And in the night the silence speaks to you and I
And now the time has come at last
Don't let the moment run too fast
I can feel you tremble when we touch
And I feel the hand of fate
Reaching out to both of us
There’s a story in my eyes,
Turn the pages of desire
Now it's time to trade those dreams
For the rush of passion's fire
I can't hold back, I'm on the edge
(I can't hold back)
Your voice explodes inside my head
I can't hold back, I won't back down
‘Cause it's too late to turn back now
I can see you tremble when we touch
Ooh, and I feel the hand of fate reaching out to both of us
This love affair can't wait
I can't hold back, I can't hold back
I can't hold back, I can't hold back
~ I Can’t Hold Back
Survivor
**********

 

The anguished roar coming from Alex’s bedroom brought Scully and Peter to frightened wakefulness. Peter sat up quickly, and Scully bolted down the hall, throwing the bedroom door open to find Fox draped across Alex’s bed, pillow clutched to his chest, his tortured, window shaking howls bringing tears to her eyes.

Silently, she approached and laid a hand on her inconsolable partner’s head. Peter appeared in the doorway, shaking as he stood there. Scully lifted teary eyes to his face and he shook his head.

“I can’t. I’m s-sorry, I…”. He turned and fled the room, leaving Scully alone with Fox, whose roars had since turned to heart-rending sobs.

Leaning over Fox, Scully rested her upper body on his back, and her cheek on his head. “I’m here, Mulder. Let it out. Just let it all out…..It’s going to take a very long time I know, but we’re going to get through this. You and Peter and me. Together.”

“I want him back,” Fox gasped between sobs. “ I want…. w-want him back.”

“I know,” Scully whispered, stroking his convulsing back. “God, I know.”

**********

The taxi pulled up to the building and the trio got out, looking around at the area briefly before entering and locating the apartment number that Scully had provided. Frohike took a deep breath and knocked softly. Several seconds later, the door opened and exhausted blue eyes blinked out at them.

“Guys.”

Scully embraced all three men at once then beckoned them inside. As they crept into the living room, the man that Frohike recognized as Alex’s brother came into view.

Sitting quietly, staring down at his folded hands, Peter willed himself to greet the new arrivals. He lifted weary eyes to the concerned faces and nodded.

“Thank you for coming such a long way.”

Byers stepped forward and offered his hand.

“We’re so very sorry for your loss.”

Another nod and Peter asked if anyone would like anything to eat or drink.

“No, we’re fine, thanks,” Langly said. “Anyway, we’re here to help take care of you guys. We’re sorry we weren’t able to find Smith for you.”

“You tried,” Peter whispered. “It’s all anyone can ask.”

He didn’t understand that these men weren’t the type who tried and failed, especially when it was for Mulder, and the fact that they *had* failed was eating them alive.

Frohike looked around the room and turned his attention to Scully.

“Where’s Mulder?”

“He’s been in Alex’s bedroom since we got here. He won’t come out. He won’t eat, he won’t drink anything. All he does is listen to the music he’d sent Alex a few weeks ago, and cry.” She sighed heavily. “I don’t know what to do with him.”

“Can we see him?” Byers asked.

“Go ahead. First door on the left. Don’t be disappointed if he doesn’t even acknowledge your presence. He’s completely overwhelmed.”

“Okay.”

The men moved into the hall toward the indicated door, and Langly knocked. Waiting a few seconds, he turned the knob; they entered the bedroom, taking in the spare but expensively furnished surroundings. There on the large, plush bed lay their friend, looking pretty much the way Scully had warned that they would find him. Byers advanced first.

“…..Mulder?” He called softly. “It’s Byers. Frohike and Langly are here too.”

The golden brown head lifted slightly, and puffy, bloodshot eyes stared at the man belonging to the voice. “Why?” He asked, his voice hoarse from hours of crying.

“You’re our bud,” Frohike offered, stepping closer to the bed. “You’re hurting, and we’re here for you.”

Fox closed his eyes and lowered his head to the pillow he had clutched to his chest.

“Thank you.”

“Is there anything we can do?” Langly asked. “Anything at all?”

Fox shook his head. “Just please… I want to be alone, okay?”

“Okay, dude. But we’ll be right in the next room for a while if you do need anything. And we’ve got a motel room nearby, so any time, night or day, you call, and we’re here.” Frohike laid a hand on Fox’s shoulder, squeezing gently. The other two men followed suit, and they quietly exited the room.

“Did he talk?” Scully asked as the Gunmen appeared in the living room.

“Not much,” Byers replied, “but he knew we were there. He thanked us, then he asked to be alone.

“Please, guys.. have a seat. “

Byers and Frohike sat down in the chairs that faced the sofa, and Langly retrieved the bag that they’d left by the door when they came in.

“We uh… got the phones. They arrived just before we left. Good thing. We’d actually forgotten all about the fact that they were coming. I don’t know if any of this means anything anymore, though?”

Receiving no answer one way or the other, he withdrew a laptop and the two phones. Setting them down on the coffee table and ignoring the chair that Scully had pulled up for him, he sat cross legged on the floor and booted the computer up.

“Spender is gone,” Scully informed the men.

“*Gone*.”

“We had his arms and legs tied securely to a chair, and for good measure, we locked him in a closet. Peter went back to the house some time after we had come back to the hospital, and someone had been there. There must have been another key in amongst all the keys we’d found hanging in the kitchen. We were in such a rush to get to the hospital… we never thought of taking all the keys with us. Anyway, someone had shown up there. Why, we don’t know. He couldn’t have contacted anyone. You’ve got one phone and I’ve got the other.” She pulled the second phone from her pocket and laid it on the table in front of Langly. “Also, the doctor never arrived at the hospital. I had staff and security looking out for him; he never got there.”

“So, if there’s anything on those phones we can use to possibly track him down, I want it,” Peter broke in. “Everything and anything you can get.” Dark blue eyes that at once burned hot and cold, stared at all three men. “I want him.”

Something about him.. the look in his eye.. his tone.. they weren’t sure, but it definitely brought Alex Krycek to mind, and the three men shivered a bit.

“Anything that’s in there, we’ll get,” Frohike promised nervously, jabbing Langly’s shoulder and pointing at the computer and phones.

“Okay, uh…” Langly breathed, cracking his knuckles and going to work.

Peter rose from the sofa and stretched. “I gotta do something,” he said to Scully. I’m going to go crazy just sitting here. You want to help me make some sandwiches?”

Byers rose instantly.

“I can help Scully do that. Please, we’re here to take care of *you*.”

“I so appreciate that,” Peter breathed. “But I need to be busy.”

Reluctantly, Byers reclaimed his seat, and Peter followed Scully into the kitchen.

For several minutes, the two worked in silence, pulling down plates and everything necessary to make the sandwiches. Then…

“I suppose I need to make arrangements.”

Scully stopped what she was doing and lowered her head. “Yeah, I uh… I guess so.”

“….He didn’t want anything. No service or anything like that. No burial. He asked to be cremated and his ashes spread at sea. He liked the water. But that was before Mulder…before the transplant. But in the hospital, he said to me, just in case, that while he still wanted to be cremated, he wanted to be with Mulder. Whether it was in the same grave, if Mulder was going to be buried when his time came, or in the same urn if he was going to be cremated. And if there was to be no vessel, then he wanted them to be released into the wind together. “. Peter’s voice cracked a bit and a couple of tears escaped. “Do you think Mulder would be all right with that?”

“I’m positive he would be,” Scully promised, putting the mustard bottle down and taking the distraught man in her arms. “I’m sure there’s nothing he’d want more.”

**********

“Hello, Alex.”

“…….Samantha?”

“Yes, brother.”

Alex looked around, slowly raising his hand to his chest.

“I’m dead.”

“Yes, you are.”

“I saw…I saw myself. In my hospital bed…I was looking down at myself and…and Fox.” he frowned, drawing his tented hands up to his mouth. “…Fox. He was lying with me…crying.” He turned glittering eyes up to his sister and clenched his fingers in the black shirt he wore. The shirt Fox had picked out for him on their DC shopping trip. “I felt him. His pain. I felt it. I still can. It’s so…*deep*.” He wrapped his arms around himself and closed his eyes. “Fox…..baby…”

“He is in a tremendous amount of pain,” Samantha agreed.

“Can you help him? Go to him…tell him I’m with you. Maybe it’ll help in some way.”

“I can’t visit him anymore. I’m too far away, now.”

“But you’re here. I can see you.”

“Yes. Because I’m only one plane away from you. I’m too far from where Fox is. That window is closed to me now… mostly.”

“So, I’m where you were?”

“Yes.”

“And I can visit him?”

“No.”

“Why? You did it. Why can’t I?”

“You’re not supposed to be here, Alex.”

“I don’t understand,” Alex whispered. “If not here, where *am* I supposed to be?” He stopped and thought for a minute. “…Hell. Right?”

Samantha laughed softly. “No, silly.”

“Then, where?”

“Our father took you away from Fox. You were supposed to have decades of happiness together and that terrible, evil man ruined it. But it will not stand, Alex. I won’t let it.”

Alex shook his head at his sister. “What are you saying? I don’t understand.”

Samantha cocked her head, listening to something that Alex couldn’t hear, and she gave him a sweet smile.

“Tell my brother I said hello.”

A long, loud gasp echoed in the sterile room, and the body that had been lying on the cold, stainless tray for the better part of twelve hours, sat up. The sheet fell away from his chest, pooling around his waist, and he looked around the mostly dark room. His frantic search ended when a slender figure, drenched in shadow came into view.

“You must be a pretty important man, Alex Krycek.”

The disoriented man stared, unable to find his voice.

“Your sister has been bound and determined to rectify your father’s wrong. She expended an enormous amount of energy to get a comprehensive message to me. To make sure I got you back to where you belong.”

Wide green eyes stared as the man stepped into enough light to make himself recognizable.

“You’re alive. You’re perfectly healthy. You will never reject Samantha’s heart. I also did something about that scar. Except for two inches.” Smith lightly touched the only remaining evidence of Alex’s transplant. “I left it as a reminder of your sister’s gift.” He smiled at the expression of utter shock and confusion. “Now, unless you want to spend the rest of the night in this icebox, I suggest you wrap that sheet around your waist and go scare the hell out of the nurses. When Mulder gets here, tell him I’ll reach out to him tomorrow night.”

Smith receded back into the shadows and disappeared from sight, leaving a much shaken and very naked Alex, to make his presence known to the outside world.

**********

“Mulder…it’s ten-thirty. Are you sure I can’t get you anything to eat? You haven’t had anything decent since we got to New Mexico.”

“I’m not hungry,” came the raspy reply from somewhere beneath the blanket and pillows.

“All right. I’ll leave you alone tonight, but tomorrow you *are* going to eat if I have to have all three of the Gunmen sit on you while I force feed you, do you understand?”

No answer.

Heaving a worried sigh, Scully shut the door and returned to the living room, where Peter was shutting off the lights. The Gunmen had left at nine-thirty, promising to continue working on the phones, and Scully and Peter decided to turn in.

“Nothing?”

“He just refuses to eat,” Scully lamented. I’d like to say he’s trying to sleep… I noticed his pants and shirt on the chair, and he was under the blanket, but I guess that doesn’t mean a whole lot.”

Following Peter to his bedroom, Scully took the offered t-shirt and disappeared into the bathroom before returning ten minutes later, drowning in the makeshift nightgown. Peter was already in bed, and she crawled in beside him, propping herself against the pillows, and taking him into her arms.

“Dana.”

“Hmm?”

“I love you too.”

Saying nothing, Scully closed her eyes and hugged Peter tightly.

In Alex’s bedroom, Fox lay awake, breathing in the lingering scent of his deceased lover on his sheets. The last CD finished, and the silence closed in on him like a tomb. Slowly he rose to put new disks in the changer; he stood there looking down at the dresser. He turned on a lamp and slowly, he opened one drawer after another, gently fingering Alex’s clothing. Next, he walked to the closet and pulled the door open. Running his hand over the shirts and sweaters and jackets that hung within, his fingers brushed a dark, soft article, and he pulled it off the hanger. One eye glazed over when he recognized it as the shirt he’d bought for Alex the day they’d gone shopping together. Alex had said that he left the clothing he bought at Fox’s apartment, but he must have taken this one shirt with him.

Fox hugged the shirt to his chest and closed his eyes, reliving that moment when he had picked the shirt off the rack, holding it out to Alex.

“Here, try this on. “

Alex had smiled and taken the shirt from him, disappearing into the dressing room.

Damn sexy was how he’d referred to Alex when he’d stepped out of the cubicle, wearing it. He remembered the shy smile and laughed at the sweet absurdity of Alex’s reaction to his assessment.

“Are you laughing at me?” Alex had asked, and Fox had approached the younger man slowly, draping his arms around him.

“No, he’d answered softly. “I guess I just find it kind of funny that you would react that way to a compliment. It’s… adorable.”

“*Adorable*… I’ve never been accused of being *that* before. “

Fox had shrugged and moved closer, brushing their lips together. “First time for everything.”

They had drawn quite a bit of attention when Fox had moved in for a deeply passionate kiss, and a short time later when they had exited the store, Fox had heard one woman say to another, “damn they’re hot aren’t they?“

Tears again falling unchecked, Fox slipped Alex‘s shirt on, fastening the three middle buttons before sinking back down onto the bed and letting the agony have him.

**********

A low groan rose from the pillows as the ringing phone woke Peter and Scully at the same time.

Snatching the device off the nightstand, Peter jerked it to his ear and uttered a weary hello.

“Mr. Tate. I’m so sorry to disturb you, but….This is Phillip Baldwin, the on-call doctor at the hospital. Mr. Tate, I’ve got some incredibly shocking news for you. Please. If you aren’t sitting, I suggest you do so. “

“I’m…. I was asleep. What’s…. why are you calling me? “

A few seconds passed, and then the phone dropped from Peter’s hand, and he sat staring at it as the doctor could be heard calling his name. Scully snatched it up and raised it to her ear.

“Hello? Who’s this?”

“Doctor Baldwin. I’m the on-call doctor at the hospital. Who am I speaking with? “

“Dana Scully. I was at the hospital with Mr. Tate in his brother’s room. What are you calling about at this time of night, Doctor? “

Scully‘s breath caught in her throat and her eyes grew wider as she listened to what the doctor had to say. Her hand began to shake, and she let the breath out.

“…What?”

“I know this sounds incredible Miss Scully. But every bit of what I have said to you is true. We found Mr. Krycek wrapped in a sheet, wandering the halls. We have him in a room and are doing a thorough exam. I don’t know how else to say this… from what we can see so far, he seems in perfect health. “

It took Scully a good long while to force any intelligible sound past her lips, but when she finally spoke, she asked what room Alex was in, and told him that they would be there as soon as they possibly could.

Disconnecting, she turned her attention to Peter, who sat visibly trembling and staring at her in mute shock.

“Get dressed. I’ll go get Mulder.”

Still unable to speak, Peter lifted himself off the bed and moved on quivering legs to the dresser. He pulled out some clothing and began to get dressed as fast as his shocked body would allow.

A slender band of light moved across the bed as Scully opened Alex‘s door. She couldn’t tell if Fox was awake or asleep, but she called his name softly as she approached the bed.

“Mulder… Mulder? “

Fox shifted slightly on the bed but said nothing.

Scully turned the bedside lamp on and lowered herself to the mattress.

“Mulder, I need you to get dressed and come with me. “

“What for? “ Fox replied wearily.

“The hospital called. I don’t know how else to say this except… Alex was found alive and wandering the halls of the hospital a little while ago.”

Fox’s head lifted slowly from the pillows and he focused a glittering, confused stare on his partner.

“The doctor said that preliminary exams show him to be in perfect health. Mulder… If that’s true… It’s got to be Smith. He must have found out somehow. “

Fox began to hyperventilate and Scully put an arm around him, rubbing his back gently.

“Calm down. Mulder… breathe. Come on, you need to settle down. We have to get dressed and go to the hospital. “

Fox fought to get his respiration under control; he stumbled off the bed, pulling his jeans on, and stepping into his shoes. “Peter, “ he gasped… “Where’s Peter? “

“I left him getting dressed. I’m going to run to put something on and then we’ll go. “

Fox staggered into the living room where Peter was waiting. The two exchanged dazed glances and seconds later, Scully was racing into the room, grabbing her car keys and hustling the two thunderstruck men out of the door and down to the car.

**********

“Blood pressure, one twenty over eighty. Blood ox, one hundred percent saturation. Pulse, sixty BPM.”

“How many times are you going to check? I feel like you’re just *waiting* to find something wrong,” Alex complained as the cardiogram machine was wheeled in.

“We’re not *trying* to find something wrong Mr. Krycek, believe me. But we do want to make absolutely sure that you’re all right. Surely you can understand our bewilderment. As far as we’re concerned, you’ve been dead for several hours.”

Alex was quickly and efficiently hooked up, and the nurse started the machine. Minutes later, he was disconnected, and the doctor looked over the results. “Incredible,” he muttered. “You realize, we’re going to need to do more tests. “

Alex groaned. “I know, I know. But I’m telling you, I haven’t felt this good since….ever.”

“We’re so glad to hear that, “ Dr. Baldwin said. “But I just don’t understand any of this. Can you tell me one more time what you remember?”

“I woke up. It was dark, it was cold. I sat up, got off the slab, wrapped the sheet around myself, and walked out the door into the hall. “

Well, it was true… He just conveniently left out the parts that they really didn’t need to hear

“You were somewhat disoriented. “

“Wouldn’t you be if you woke up on a slab in the morgue?”

No response.

“Where’s my family? “

“I’m sure they’ll be here just as soon as humanly possible. I’m thinking it might take a little while for the shock to wear off so they can get moving. Your brother dropped his phone when I gave him the news, and I spoke to a Dana Scully. “

Alex nodded. “What about Fox? Did you talk to him at all?”

Rachel, the nurse who had been on the night before, spoke up.

“Mr. Mulder,” she said to the doctor. “Mr. Krycek’s partner. He spent the entire night here.” She then turned to Alex with a wide smile. “Boy is he going to be ecstatic to see you. “

Alex closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.

Fox…

“Mr. Krycek, are you all right? “

“Fine. Just anxious for them to get here. “

**********

Scully‘s rental pulled into the hospital garage, the tires squealing on the pavement as she cut the wheel sharply and parked in a spot closest to the elevators. Before she could even throw it into park and cut the engine, the front and rear passenger’s doors were flying open and the two men were jumping out of the vehicle. She ran to catch up to them and all three boarded the elevator.

It was the longest elevator ride in the history of elevator rides, Peter thought to himself, as the lift took them to the fifth floor of the hospital. The doors swished open, and the trio moved as swiftly as their shaking legs would allow. As they made the turn into the hall that led to room 529, Fox picked up on absolute music to his ears.

“Seriously? Can’t you like…bring the entire staff in here at once so I don’t have to go through this 50 more times? My name is Alex Krycek. I’m 39 years old. I was born April 9. My residential address is 2548 Casa Madera, Las Cruces. My *home* is…” he stopped dead in the middle of his rant and looked up at the man who had just come through the door, then he continued softly. “….with him.”

How Fox made it the ten feet from the door to Alex‘s bedside, was a miracle. He fell to the mattress and the two collapsed into each other’s arms. Peter was there instantly, on the other side of the bed, and he wrapped his arms around both men, sobbing his brother’s name over and over. Scully settled nearby, one hand covering her mouth as she wept softly, witnessing their joy.

The staff that was present stepped back, smiling as they remained unobtrusive for a time, letting the men have their moment. When Peter finally sat back, he held his hand out to Scully and pulled her forward.

Cheek resting on the top of Fox’s head, Alex’s lashes lifted, and he trained a watery gaze on a pair of bright blue eyes. He smiled and held his free arm out to Scully, and she sank into a grateful hug.

Absolutely unwilling to let go of Alex for fear that this would all turn out to be a very vivid dream, Fox tightened his hold on the younger man, drenching the front of his hospital gown in tears. “You came back to me,” he whispered. “You came back.”

Alex nodded, for the time unable to find the words to express his feelings. Gently, he cupped Fox’s chin and lifted so that they were now face-to-face, their lips mere inches apart. Without hesitation, he moved in and covered his lover’s mouth with his own, proving to Fox and to himself that this was most certainly not a dream.

Rachel and the other nurse, who was present, blushed and Rachel fanned tears away smiling as she averted her gaze.

When the men separated a small eternity later, Doctor Baldwin stepped forward and asked to see Peter in the hall.

“Alex? I gotta go talk to the doctor for a bit,” Peter said, still swiping occasionally at his eyes. “I’m taking Dana with me. I think she should be there too. Mulder, do you wanna come?”

“Scully’ll absorb more than either one of us will,” Fox replied, still intensely focused on Alex. He lifted the younger man’s hand to his lips, planting a soft kiss on his knuckles while gazing mesmerized into the beautiful sea of emerald set in the face that just one hour ago, he never thought he’d see again.

Out in the hall, Scully and Peter stood arm in arm, still trying to process the events of the last hour as Doctor Baldwin approached.

“Let’s have a seat, shall we?”

The group entered the small visitor’s room just down the hall, and sat down.

“I don’t know how to explain this, the doctor said. “Mr. Tate, your brother was dead. There was no doubt about that. Yet, twelve hours later, according to him, he woke up alone in the morgue, got down off the table, wrapped the sheet around himself and walked out of there on his own power. Not only that, but we can’t find a thing wrong with him. His heart is strong and steady, his lungs and his mind are clear. His EKG is perfect. We’re waiting on his blood work but I strongly suspect that it’ll all come back fine.” Baldwin shook his head in absolute wonder. “I don’t use this word lightly…”

“What word is that?” Peter asked.

“…Miracle.” Baldwin looked from Scully to Peter. “Why do I feel like neither of you is as confounded as I am?”

Scully shook her head. “We just… I think we’re all just too stunned to really react.”

The doctor looked from the woman to the man and back again.

“There’s one more thing.”

“What’s that?” Peter asked.

“His scar. It’s gone. All but a couple of inches of it in the middle of his chest. It’s just….” He snapped his fingers.

Peter gasped softly as he tried to find something to say. Finally, he gave up and rested his elbows on his knees and rested his face in his open palms.

“Like I said… miracle.”

They sat in silence for several seconds, then Baldwin slapped his knee and rose to his feet. “Well… I’m sure you’d much rather be in there with your brother than sitting out here with me. Except for vitals checks, we’ll all leave you alone. If he remains stable throughout the night, and his blood work comes back fine, I think we’ll be able to release him tomorrow.”

Peter and Scully got to their feet, and Peter shook the doctor’s hand.

“Thank you. *So* much. Umm…. can we keep this quiet? I mean, my brother has been through so much. The last thing he needs is to be hounded by reporters and curiosity seekers.”

“I’ve already spoken to the staff. We’ll do our best to control information leaks, but you know how that goes.”

Peter nodded and he and Scully headed back in the direction of Alex’s room.

“Hey, kiddo,” he breathed, once again struck by the fact that his brother was alive and well and sitting here in front of him. “How do you feel?”

“Great,” Alex said from the shelter of Fox’s arms. “Scully, could you close the door?”

Scully pushed the door shut then approached the bed, waiting.

Alex looked from Fox’s glittering green and gray stare to the faces of his brother and Scully.

“It was Smith.”

Peter emitted a hard breath. “We thought so. What else could it have been? …You saw him.”

“He was there. We spoke. Well…that’s not right… *he* spoke.”

“How the hell did he know? The Gunmen tracked him to the National Arboretum using the clue that we believe Samantha left on their phone, but they never made contact with him,” Scully said. “How did he know?”

Alex again locked eyes with Fox.

“Samantha said hi.”

Fox’s mouth fell open and he frowned at the statement.

“I left my body. I could see myself… lying dead…and you.” His eyes glazed over, holding Fox’s gaze. “Lying with me. I felt every second of your grief. All of it. And then I was in this place, filtered light all around me, then Samantha appeared. She could do that because we were only one plane apart. She said I didn’t belong there and she was doing everything she could to get me back here to you. She stopped talking for a second. It was like she was listening to something. Then she told me to tell you hi, and the next thing I knew, I was waking up in the morgue. Smith said that I had to have been pretty important because Samantha expended a ton of energy to reach out to him with a message clear enough for him to understand.”

“He must have been on his way before the Gunmen figured their message out,” Fox murmured. “Do you know where he went? I need to see him. To thank him…”

“He’s going to contact you later today,” Alex answered, leaning into Fox’s caress.

“This is all so incredible,” Scully sighed. “Oh. Damn. The Gunmen. I have to call them.”

Peter speared his fingers through his hair and reared back in his seat. “Oh God, *yeah.* They need to know.”

Scully leapt to her feet and stepped into the hall to make her call; Peter smiled at Alex, shaking his head.

“I’m afraid if I take my eyes off you for more than a few minutes, you’ll evaporate into a cloud of smoke.” He laughed softly, breaking into tears. “I’ve got my little brother back.” He rose to his feet and came to sit on the edge of Alex’s bed. “My brother is back.”

Alex left the warmth of Fox’s arms to submit to his brother’s embrace.

“I love you, kid,” Peter sniffed.

Alex nodded. “I love you, Pete.”

It was probably the first time Peter had ever heard those words from his brother. He hadn’t minded. He knew that Alex just wasn’t the type to vocalize his feelings. He knew Alex loved him, and that was enough. But now there was this. He didn’t know if it was the fact that he’d literally come back from the dead or perhaps the brief time before that, that he’d spent loving Mulder, had softened him a bit… whatever it was, hearing his baby brother say that he loved him was almost as much of a miracle as Alex’s resurrection.

What a night this was turning out to be.

********************

 

“…and he just…. got up and walked out of the morgue.”

“That’s about the size of it.”

“And he’s not like….a zombie or anything.”

“Frohike…”

“What? It’s a legit question.”

“No, he’s not a zombie.”

“Infreakincredible.”

“My thoughts exactly.”

“Mulder must be beside himself.”

“That, Frohike, is the understatement of the year. Since I have you on the phone… had you guys come up with anything?”

“Yeah, we were hoping to finish up tonight and bring you everything tomorrow….well… later today,” Frohike said, looking at his watch.

“Great, thanks. I think we’re all going to sleep a good long time, so maybe later in the day. Mulder will also be talking to Jeremiah Smith about then. Maybe we can just all have one big meeting.”

“Okay, just let us know what time.”

“Will do. Thanks so much to all of you.”

“No thanks necessary, Red. Tell Krycek we’re glad he’s alive and…. I can’t believe I’m going to say *this*…. himself.”

“I will. Goodnight.”

Scully re-entered the room and took a seat beside Peter.

“The Gunmen said to tell you that they’re glad you’re alive and that you’re not a zombie.”

Alex frowned at her. “Huh?”

“Never mind. You must be exhausted.”

Alex shrugged. “Can’t say that I am, but… you three look fried.”

“Little bit,” Peter answered. “I was wide awake after the doctor called, but now I feel like I’ve been doing hard labor for a week.”

“Our bodies have been in overdrive for a few days,” Scully reasoned. “We’re gonna crash and crash hard.”

“Go home,” Alex insisted. “I’m totally fine.” He tightened his hold on Fox. “Go sleep.”

“Mulder can’t leave with you clinging to him like that,” Scully observed jovially.

“I didn’t *mean* him,” Alex mumbled, snuggling against Fox’s chest.

“Glad to hear it because if you did, I’d have to fight you,” Fox murmured, kissing the top of his lover’s head.

Alex laughed softly then lifted his head slightly, looking down at Fox’s upper body.

“…Is this my shirt?”

“…....maybe.”

“How come you’re wearing it?”

“From the time we got back to the apartment after…” He couldn’t say it. “…I went into your bedroom and stayed there. Listened to our music, lay on your bed…looked at your clothes…. I found this hanging in your closet and I recognized it as the one I’d bought you in DC. I put it on. I wanted to wear it because it was yours. I wanted something that had been close to your skin, on mine.”

“I was wearing this shirt when I was… wherever I was… when I was talking to Samantha. I guess subconsciously it’s what I chose to wear for eternity. Funny that we were both wearing the same shirt.”

Fox drew his hand up and down the other man’s back. “Yeah, it is.”

Alex brushed the heavily stubbled cheek with his knuckles and looked up into sparkling eyes. “Looks good on you.”

“Looks better on you,” Fox whispered back before taking Alex’s mouth in a deep kiss.

“Oh, god… that’s our cue to go.” Scully stood up, followed by Peter. “You two go to *sleep*. You’ve got all the time in the world to play kissy face once Alex gets out of here.” She planted a light kiss on the heads of both men then stepped back while Peter said goodnight.

“You’ll call me if anything at all comes up that I should know about, right?”

“I promise,” Fox said, kicking off his shoes and maneuvering himself so that Alex could draw the sheet up over both of them.

“You want a blanket?”

“It is a little chilly in here. You want a blanket baby?” Fox asked softly, running his hand slowly up and down Alex’s arm.

“Yeah, that’d be good, thanks.”

Scully pulled a light blanket out of the closet, and she arranged it over them.

“Good?”

“Mmm hmm,” Alex answered, already beginning to feel sleepy despite his assertion to the contrary.

“Goodnight, guys. See you later.”

“Night, Scully,” Fox mumbled absently, eyes closed in pure bliss as he and Alex cuddled together under the blanket.

Grinning broadly all the way to the elevators, the couple walked arms around each other.

“What do you think the odds are that they get any sleep?” Peter asked.

“I don’t know,” Scully said, shaking her head. “If you’d been grieving my death for half the day, and I just…woke up, would we be able to get much sleep?”

Peter chuckled. “Probably not.” The smile fell from his face as they boarded the elevator. “This is real, right? My brother is alive.”

“Very much so.”

“It’s so… incredible. A short while ago, and please don’t take this the way it’s going to sound but….I was alone in the world. No blood ties, you know? My last remaining sibling had been taken from me…”

They stepped off the elevator and traveled the short distance to Scully’s car.

“….And I couldn’t even avenge him. I felt... and if I’m being completely honest, l *still* feel, so useless.”

“I can’t tell you how to feel, Peter,” Scully said. “But I can tell you that you’re feeling that way unnecessarily. If it weren’t for you we wouldn’t have nabbed Dale or Spender. You're the one who got him to talk. It was you who got him to get his doctor on a plane…“

“But what came of any of it? “ Peter asked. “Nothing. Spender has disappeared, the doctor never made it to New Mexico that we know of… we don’t even have Dale. “

“Dale was a small fish. A drone. He knew nothing. He would just weigh us down. Spender will resurface. Trust me on this. We have his phones. The Gunmen will wring them dry, and whatever information is in there, if it’s useful, it’ll be ours. I’m thinking that one of two things happened to the doctor… He either never had the intention to come to New Mexico or was just stringing Spender along until he could disappear, or the same person who got to Spender, got to him. I don’t have to tell you this, but there are so many layers to this organization. It’s nearly impossible to get them all.” Scully reached across the seat and took Peter’s hand. “Maybe not now. Maybe not next month or even next year, but… justice will be done.”

“I don’t want justice,” Peter rumbled. “I want revenge… and I have no intention of waiting that long.”

Scully emitted a long sigh and said nothing more for the remainder of the trip. They arrived back at Peter’s apartment and shuffled slowly into the bedroom. Undressing and falling into bed, both dropped into a deep sleep and wouldn’t stir until hearing the ringing phone that would wake them later in the day.

**********

“You’re still awake.”

“So are you.”

Alex shifted and looked into his lover’s shadowed face. Drawing his fingers down the stubbled cheek, he inhaled deeply and let it out on a soft moan.

“What’re you thinking about?” Fox whispered, rubbing his cheek in the soft sable strands on top of Alex’s head.

“….About how lucky I am. And I’m wondering what makes me so…”

“….so what?”

There was a long pause and then a barely audible answer.

“…Deserving.”

Fox shook his head, pulling Alex closer. “Don’t, baby. Don’t ever think that you’re not deserving of life. Of happiness. You are. *We* are.”

Alex pulled back, returning Fox’s gaze for all of ten seconds before their lips met with a passion bordering on desperation. When they parted, Fox reached for the controller and reclined the bed so that they were lying flat. He shifted Alex onto his back, taking his mouth again before the two began pulling at each other’s clothing. When everything lay on the floor, Fox slid up over Alex’s flushed body, letting his lover bear his full weight.

“I never thought I’d feel you again,” Fox gasped, gently writhing against the man beneath him. “Never thought I’d taste you.”

Alex moaned into the feather light brush of Fox’s mouth. He draped one long leg over his hip and pushed up against him, letting their rigid erections rub against each other.

“Fox,” Alex groaned into his lover’s open mouth. His fingers tangled in the golden brown silk at the back of the older man’s head. “Please…”

“Please what, baby?”

“You know.”

Fox nodded. “I know. I just want to hear it.”

Alex lifted his hips, thrusting rhythmically against the other. “Please make love to me.”

Fox sank into another kiss, caressing every inch of skin that his hands could reach as Alex twisted and moaned beneath him. His mouth wandered over the stubble roughened chin and throat, licking and nipping, then he hit the soft, smooth chest, and when he didn’t encounter the ridged surface of Alex’s scar, he lifted his head and looked down. Finding the scar gone except for a remaining couple of inches, he quickly looked up into Alex’s face, shock registering in his eyes.

“Sorry,“ Alex breathed softly. Forgot. Tell you later. “

Understanding that now was not the time for questions that could certainly wait, Fox returned to the business of making love to his man. And as Alex’s cries for satisfaction grew louder and more desperate, they jostled Fox out of the sensual fog he’d been immersed in.

“Alex….baby….”

“Hmmmm…”

“Uhh…. Shit.”

A curtain of sinfully long lashes rose halfway, and Alex frowned up at his lover.

“Whaaaaat?”

“Two things… We have no lube…“

Alex shook his head. “Don’t care. Fuck me, Fox…need you…”

Fox took a deep fortifying breath and continued as Alex reached up, biting into his shoulder and the base of his neck.

“Jesus…baby, please. Listen…”

“Nooo.”

“Oh God, you’re killing me… Please, Alex. Listen. We’re also in a hospital room. Neither one of us is exactly quiet even in the most ideal circumstances. What do you think will happen if we don’t use any lubrication? Every nurse on this floor will come running. We don’t really want that, do we? “

Alex whimpered in frustration, but he wasn’t quite so far gone that he didn’t understand Fox’s point.

“I really don’t think I can wait till we get out of here. I feel like I’ll lose my mind if we wait even ten more minutes. “

“I know,” Fox breathed, moving to Alex’s side and letting his hand slip down to the other man’s rock solid erection. Gripping it gently, he began to stroke. “Just let me take care of you. Let me take the edge off, okay? But you have to try and stay quiet. “

Perfectly bowed lips fell open on a long gasp as Alex bucked into his lover’s hand. Strong white teeth glittered in the room’s spare light, and they clenched together in the effort to remain quiet as Fox’s hand moved faster along his length.

Fox draped one leg over Alex’s thighs, thrusting hard against his hip. It was coming. Like a speeding train with no brakes. He buried his face into the pillow beside Alex’s head, groaning loudly, and Alex followed immediately, turning his face into Fox’s hair to muffle the sound of his own cries of completion.

Both men lay panting heavily for several minutes, and then Fox shifted, winding his arm around his lover, burying his face in his chest, and Alex felt a wet warmth trickling over his skin. He didn’t need to ask why Fox was crying. He was sure it was for the same reason as his own tears.
Wrapping his arms around the other man, they cried out all their fear, their grief, their frustrations, relief, gratitude, and all their love.

The massive emotion dump immediately following their physical release left both men drained and drifting into the deepest, most restful sleep they’d had in a very long time. When the duty nurse came in at 5 am, she found them still unconscious, wrapped around each other, and from the amount of skin that was showing…naked.

She lifted a hand to her forehead and shook with silent laughter.

//Ah damn//

She had to wake them before the a.m. nurse showed up. Rosemary was due in, and she would *not* find the situation nearly as adorable.

“Hey…guys? Umm…” She lightly touched the shoulder of the dark one. The one that everyone was saying had come back from the dead. His head jerked up off the lighter one’s chest, the movement jostling him for a moment before he settled back into sleep.

“Morning,” the girl whispered. “Uh…I gotta check your vitals and whatnot before shift change so if you could… you know.”

Alex gave the girl a sheepish grin and sat up, making sure that he and Fox were properly covered.

“Couple of minutes, okay?”

Smiling, the nurse nodded and drew the curtain.

“Fox,” Alex called, gently shaking his lover awake.

“Hmm?”

“We fell asleep. Gotta get dressed. The nurse is here to do her check.”

“‘kay.” Fox sat up rubbing at one eye. “Oh. Oops.”

“Yeah,” Alex chuckled softly. “Oops.”

Five minutes later Fox was back in his clothing and securing the back of Alex’s hospital gown.

“Shit!”

Alex jumped, feeling the small pinch to his rear as he turned back toward the bed. Smirking, Fox opened the curtain to find the grinning nurse waiting.

“Have a good night boys?”

Both men smiled in answer.

The young woman stepped forward to monitor Alex’s vitals, and when she was done, she wished them both the best and made her exit.

Two hours later, the doctor entered to find both men dozing peacefully. Fox woke first, sitting forward on the recliner and shaking off the lethargy, then Alex.

“Good morning, gentlemen. Well… it seems the reports are true. I had to see it to believe it.” He approached the bed, beginning his exam. “I pronounced you yesterday, Alex. And here you sit, very much alive. Can you tell me how that is?”

“No,” Alex lied. “I can’t.”

“Everyone around here is chalking it up to a miracle.”

Alex lifted his gaze to the other man’s. “Don’t you believe in miracles, doc?”

The doctor hesitated for a moment, considering the question. “I don’t know. Even with what could be a bonafide miracle sitting before me, I don’t know.” He sighed and got up. “But here’s the good news. “You, young man, are as healthy as a horse...”

Fox smirked. //And hung like one too.//

“…and you can go home.”

“Great.”

“I’ll send up the release forms for you to sign and then you can be on your way.”

“Should we call Peter and Scully?” Fox asked.

“They’re probably still asleep. If we don’t hear from them before I’m done checking out, what do you say we just take a cab?”

“Okay.” Fox rose, depositing a sweet kiss on the tip of Alex’s nose then disappeared into the bathroom. Alex sat quietly, contemplating his incredible fortune when Fox’s voice, coming from the bathroom, startled him.

“Ah, *crap*”

“Fox? You okay?”

The sound of running water ceased, and Fox trudged out of the bathroom shaking his head.

Uh… babe. What are you wearing?”

Alex frowned for all of two seconds, and then his eyebrows lifted.

“Ohhh. No clothes here.”

“Right. Guess we gotta call after all.” Fox pulled out his phone while Alex headed for the bathroom, and he hit Scully‘s number. The phone rang twice before Scully picked up, sounding very sleepy and disoriented.

“Dammit, you guys were asleep.”

“Mulder… Time is it? Everything OK?”

“Everything’s fine. They’re releasing Alex. We were going to wait until he was ready to go and if we hadn’t heard from you guys we were just going to take a taxi back to the apartment, but we forgot that Alex has no clothes. That’s why I called.”

Oh, OK. No problem. We slept pretty well. I don’t recall waking up at all, so we’re good. How about you guys? Did you sleep? “

“Yeah, we slept… you know…eventually. “

She could hear it in his tone and she didn’t even have to ask.

“Mulder… You guys are in a hospital for crying out loud. You couldn’t put a lid on it until later? “

“Oh believe me, Scully… We put a lid on it. But just so you and Peter know… later on? All bets are off. “

“God… Maybe we’ll get a motel room tonight. “

“Might not be a bad idea. “

“What might not be a bad idea?”

Fox turned to find Alex coming out of the bathroom.

“Scully and Peter getting a motel room tonight. “

Alex was about to ask why when the nurse walked in with his release forms.

“Here you go my friend. You are ready to rock ‘n’ roll. Just sign here, here and here and we’ll have a chair brought up for you in a couple of minutes.”

“Well we have to wait until my brother gets here. He has to bring me some clothes.”

“Oh, I suppose that would be helpful right? OK, well, by the time he gets here you’ll be good to go.”

“OK, Scully, you heard it. We’re waiting on you. “

“We’ll get up now, grab a quick shower and get dressed and we’ll be on our way. “

“Thanks. See you soon.“ Fox disconnected and drew Alex into his arms, planting a couple of kisses on his cheek.

“They’ll be here soon.”

“Good. I’ve had enough of hospitals to last me two lifetimes. I just want to go home and start our lives.”

“Speaking of which… I’ll have to get back to DC soon. Skinner must be about ready to can both Scully and me. I’m going to have to think of something to tell him. The truth comes to mind, though I don’t know how he’ll take it. ….Anyway… There’s nothing holding you here anymore. Do you still want to move back to DC?”

Alex gave Fox a soft smile before leaning forward until their foreheads rested against each other.

“What do you think I meant when I said I wanted to go home? Home is wherever you are.”

Fox’s shoulders shook in silent laughter. “Oh.” His smile faded a bit. “What about Peter? “

“I think he’ll come. In fact, I’m sure of it. He’s nutty about Scully. He won’t want to be away from her any more than I would want to be away from you. “

Fox inhaled slowly and let it back out, his smile disappearing completely.

“Last night my life was over. Done.” He reached up skimming the younger man’s cheek with his knuckles. “My heart stopped when yours did.
“Samantha gave you to me once. And now she’s done it again. I know it was Jeremiah Smith who actually physically brought you back but it was because of her. Because she refused to give up on you. On us. A million thank you’s over the course of a million lifetimes can never be enough...for either of them.”

“I know,” Alex said. “And I also know this. Samantha knows exactly how grateful we are. We’re her brothers. She gave us a gift and she’d be goddamned if she was going to let that no good evil son of a bitch take it away from us. Not exactly her words but close enough. You know that saying, ‘you’ve got an angel on your shoulder’? That’s Samantha. She’s the angel on your shoulder, Fox. And mine.“

When Scully and Peter arrived, a short while later, the men were more than ready to leave.

“Hey, kid. You look fantastic,” Peter said, still amazed that his brother was alive and well. “Here are your clothes.”

“Thanks, Pete.”

Alex took the clothing and walked into the bathroom to change.

“You still look tired,” Scully observed, looking up into Fox’s face.

“I’m sure it’s going to be a few days before any of us feels well and rested, Fox said. “But it’ll come.”

Alex emerged from the bathroom dressed and ready.

“Let’s get the hell out of here.”

“Okay, kiddo.” Peter motioned to the orderly waiting with the wheelchair. “Let’s split.”

“I feel ridiculous sitting in a wheelchair when I’m perfectly capable of walking out of here,” Alex grumbled.

“I know baby,” Fox soothed. “But it’s hospital rules.”

“Oh *really*? How come I never heard that all the times you were fighting with the staff at any number of the hospitals that you’d been in and out of over the years?”

Fox glared down at the annoyed red head and shook his head, drawing his finger across his throat.

“Oh yeah?”

“*Yeah*,” Scully said to Alex, ignoring her partner’s efforts to shush her. “Remind him of it the next time he’s in the hospital.”

“What makes you think I’ll end up in a hospital again?” Fox asked as they moved toward the elevator, ignoring the stares and whispers as they passed.

“*Yeah*, what makes you think that?” Alex asked, looking from one partner to the other.

“Because the man is an injury magnet. Gunshot wounds, concussions, hypothermia… you name it.”

A long groan rose from the wheelchair as Alex was rolled to the curb of the sidewalk. He looked up into his lover’s eyes as he reached for his hand.

“Am I going to have to cover your ass on every case?”

Fox shrugged and kissed the hand he held. “I wouldn’t be against it.”

Peter went for the car, which was parked close by and, a short time later, they were on their way home.

“You know,” Peter said, stopping at a red light, “it occurs to me that none of us has had a good meal in days. What do you say to a big buffet dinner? We’ll have the Gunmen over…make a party of it.”

Alex frowned at the back of his brother’s head from his spot in the back seat.

“The….they’re *here*?”

“Oh, yeah. I’m sorry Alex,” Scully said. “When I said last night that I was talking to them, it never occurred to me to mention that they were here.”

“What are they doing in New Mexico?”

“When they’d heard what had happened, they knew that Dana was going to have her hands full dealing with Mulder and me, and they wanted to help. They felt terrible about not being able to deliver Smith to us. They wanted to be useful somehow.”

“Wow,” Alex said, and nothing more.

Conversation was kept light for the duration of the ride; when they made it home, Peter suggested they all take nap, predicting that once the guys and Jeremiah Smith arrived later, it was going to most likely end up being a long night. Everyone agreed whole heartedly, and both couples retreated to their respective bedrooms.

“This feels good,” Alex murmured, turning to face Fox, who stood leaning in the doorway, watching him quietly. One corner of his mouth lifted, and his head tilted slightly.

“What?”

Fox pushed away from the door frame and approached slowly.

“You’re here.”

“Yeah,” Alex breathed into his lover’s mouth before submitting to a soft kiss.

“Just last night this room was filled with indescribable agony.” Fox watched his own hand lift to Alex’s head and rake through the sable strands. “And now it’s filled with indescribable joy.”

Alex’s lashes drooped heavily, and he leaned into Fox, nuzzling the hand that had now slid down to cup his cheek.

“I can’t stop touching you,” Fox rasped. “I need to keep reminding myself that this is real.”

Alex’s eyes drifted open, and he moved in for a lingering kiss. “Come to bed, he whispered against Fox’s mouth. “Let me prove to you that it’s real.”

Hands clenched in Fox’s shirt, Alex backed up to the bed. He fell onto his back, pulling Fox down on top of him and he coiled himself around the older man, kissing and nipping everywhere his mouth could reach.

“Fox… I need you… right now.“

Fox nodded, capturing his lover’s mouth in a deep kiss. His hands wandered the length of Alex’s body, pulling at buttons and zippers until Alex was naked and squirming beneath him.

“Baby…“ It came out somewhere between a gasp and a moan, and when Fox’s hand grazed his very rigid cock, his whole body bucked, thrusting upward, seeking greater contact.

“You know, “ Fox whispered, moving to pull his borrowed shirt off, “ I think we have a situation here similar to the hospital.“

“What?” Alex asked, assisting with Fox’s jeans.

“No lube?“

“Oh… Yeah, none.“

“People in the next room…“

“They’re not people,“ Alex rumbled. “They’re Peter and Scully.“

“So, we don’t care if we embarrass the hell out of them?“

“No,“ Alex said, rolling Fox beneath him and straddling his hips. “We really don’t.“

“Just checking,” Fox panted as he lifted up on Alex’s hips to position him where he wanted him. He gripped his cock about midway and held it steady while Alex lowered himself onto it. Gritting his teeth, he sank down a millimeter at a time.

“Ahhhh, *Jesus*, Fox…”. Alex leaned forward, resting his hands on the other man’s chest for support as he froze in place for a moment.

“You okay?” Fox asked, concern mingling with lust. “Is it too…” a soft gasp interrupted the question as Alex sank a bit lower.

Alex chuffed out an uncomfortable laugh. “Oh yeah, it’s too…”

“Stop, then. Get up. I’ll run out to the nearest drug store and…”

Eyes blazing with desire held him in place even as Alex’s hands pushed him into the mattress.

“Like hell you will.”

Fox knew that growl well, though he’d never heard it in a blatantly sexual context before.

Since the day that he and Scully had walked in to that medical facility and found Alex on the verge of death, up until just two days ago, he had been so different than Fox had remembered him. Remorseful, subdued, sweet, unsure, self-loathing and dare he say it…frightened, Alex. Wanting Fox’s love but consumed with the thought that he didn’t deserve it.

Not that he didn’t love that Alex. He sure the fuck did. But this man. Right here, right now… this was Alex Krycek in his most basic form….the cocksure, ice cold assassin with the blistering hot gaze and honey and gravel voice that stirred things inside of Fox that he never would have admitted to anyone, not even himself. This Alex would take him screaming into a place that he never had imagined existed. This Alex would tear him down…shred him to bits and leave him begging for more. He knew that as well as he knew his own name, and he would love this side of him every bit as much as the other.

**********

“What the hell was that?”

Wide blue eyes peeked out from around Peter’s shoulder, and the man groaned.

“What do you think?”

Scully blinked up into her lover’s face. “Nooo.”

Another howling sob rose into the air, and Peter nodded.

“Oh, yeah. They’re at it.”

“Well, so are we but *we’re* not going to have local law enforcement here, investigating a murder. We probably should have taken the hotel room thought seriously, huh?”

Peter laughed softly. “Yeah, probably. Well… what are ya gonna do? I’d much rather be dealing with this than what life was *last* night.”

Scully laughed and closed her eyes, pulling Peter back down to her.

“Too true.”

**********

Alex rocked slowly against Fox, now fully impaled on his cock. And just to make things interesting, he occasionally rose up and slammed himself back down, pulling a teeth rattling cry from each of them.

‘Alex, I… baby, I can’t…”. Fox held Alex’s hips in a bruising grip and forced him into a faster rhythm. Once Alex was moving on his own at the pace he’d set, Fox wrapped a hand around his cock and began stroking it in time to the younger man’s motions. Alex’s head snapped back and a long, gurgling sob filled the room. Seconds later, first one then the other reached their flashpoint, and Alex fell forward into Fox’s arms, panting heavily. Fox held him tightly, one hand stroking his perspiration dotted back.

“Ohhhhh myyyyy Gooood.”

Alex’s response rumbled against his shoulder.

“Mmmmmm…..”

“That was….” Fox began, stopped then began again. “I don’t have a word for what that was.”

“Mmmmmmm…”

“Is that all you can say?”

“Mmm hmm.”

Fox smiled and kissed the side of his lover’s head. “Need a minute?”

Alex slowly raised four fingers.

Fox lay quietly, stroking and massaging his back, and a few minutes later, Alex lifted his head and trained a hazy green gaze on the man under him.

“God*damn*.”

Fox threaded his fingers through Alex’s hair, tugging gently.

“Yeahhh….you okay?”

“Might be tough sitting down for a couple of days but…”

“You should’ve let me run out for some lube.”

“No,” Alex breathed, brushing his lips over his lover’s plush mouth. “I wanted to feel every inch of you.”

…And did you?”

“Every. Blessed. Inch.”

“You still would’ve felt it with the lube, *and* you would’ve been able to sit down later,” Fox reminded him. “…Maybe.”

“Yeah, but…for literally months, everything has been about making things as easy as possible on me. I’ve been treated like I was breakable.” Alex focused an intense stare on the other. “I didn’t want *easy*. I wanted to *feel*.” He brushed his mouth over Fox’s and moaned into it. “I want to know that you’re giving me all you’ve got without fear of breaking me.”

Fox’s tongue slithered out of his mouth, swiping at Alex’s chin. “You sure about that?”

“A hundred and ten percent sure.”

Fox started to say something then stopped, sucking a corner of his bottom lip into his mouth.

“That’s so sexy.”

“What is?”

“When you do that thing with your lip…what we’re you going to say?”

“Just that it was…”. Fox heaved a long sigh. “Incredible. I can feel a difference in you. The way you move, the tone of your voice…the look in your eyes.”

Alex leaned in, meeting Fox’s mouth in a teasing kiss. His tongue dipped into the older man’s mouth, stroking over its mate just once, then he withdrew.

“It’s for you,” he murmured. “It’s *because* of you.”

Sinking down onto Fox’s chest, he closed his eyes, allowing himself to be petted and stroked.

“Tired?”

“Mmm hmm.”

“You *should* be.” Fox rolled Alex to the mattress and laid his head on the other man’s chest for all of five seconds before his head jerked up.

“Wait a minute.”

“Hmm?”

“Your scar. You were supposed to tell me what happened.””

“Oh, yeah,” Alex answered, eyes still closed. “Our friend Jeremiah Smith’s doing. Guess he figured that while he was at it, he might as well get rid of the scar…well most of it. He said he left a couple of inches as a reminder of Samantha’s gift.”

“Ohhh.” Fox tightened his arms around Alex and kissed his chest. Those were the last words out of his mouth before he drifted into sleep. Minutes later, Alex followed, and they didn’t wake until Fox’s phone rang some four hours later.

Groping around, he located the offending device and jerked it up to his ear.

“Mldr.”

“Agent Mulder. It sounds like I woke you. I’m sorry.”

“No. N-no, that’s all right. I’m very glad you called,” Fox said, rolling onto his back and immediately finding himself with an armful of sleepy Alex.

“I would like to speak with you before I go back. May I come to your host’s apartment tonight?”

“Yes… yes, we would all like to talk to you about what happened and thank you in person. Six o’clock okay?”

“That’s fine. What’s the address?”

Fox gave the caller Peter’s address and disconnected.

“So he’s coming here?” Alex asked, his voice husky from sleep.

“Yeah.” Fox kissed the top of his head. “We’d better get up and get showered. Get the Gunmen over here at the same time…figure out food. I’m only just really realizing how hungry I am.”

“Yeah, me too.” Alex pulled himself up and off the bed then held his hand out. Come on. We’ll save time if we shower together.”

Smirking, Fox got up and followed his lover into the bathroom.

“Time saving…uh huh…”

They arrived into the living room some thirty minutes later, showered, dressed, and very much aroused from the merciless teasing they’d inflicted on each other.

“Let me tell the two of you something right now,” Scully said, by way of greeting as she entered the room from the kitchen, a bag of chips in her hand. “There was nooo need for all that this morning. You start making noise like that tonight, *you’re* going to spend the night in a hotel.”

“What? We can’t help that we’re….passionate,” Alex responded, kissing the side of his grinning lover’s head.

“Please Krycek , there’s passionate and there’s …there’s….”

“Yeees?” Alex asked sweetly.

“Oh God, never mind.”

“We’ll behave ourselves tonight,” Fox promised, coming up behind Scully and massaging her shoulders, and Alex looked at him like he had six heads. Fox closed his eyes and shook his head.

Smirking, Alex turned away and looked around. “Where’s Pete?”

“He ran out to the store for a couple of things.”

Alex quickly pulled out his phone and shot his brother a text.

“Jeremiah Smith will be here at about six,” Fox informed Scully as Alex continued to communicate with Peter.

“Okay, good. I’ve been in contact with Byers. They’re going to get here at about five. They’ve got some stuff that they’ve pulled out of the smoker’s phone. There was nothing interesting in his lackey’s phone.”

Fox nodded, pulling Alex to his side and dropping a kiss on his temple, as the younger man came back to join them.

“Let's order some food, then. They’ll be here soon,” Alex said, reaching into Scully’s bag of chips and grabbing a handful. “What do you guys feel like?”

“I’ll eat just about anything,” Scully answered. “I'm so damn hungry.”

“Okay.” Alex popped a couple of chips into Fox’s mouth then followed it with a kiss. “I’ll call the Italian joint down the road. What do we think? Lasagna, antipasto…a few pizzas…”

“Garlic bread,” Scully added, and Alex pointed at her in acknowledgment, pulling out his phone and placing their order.

“Be here in about an hour. So…”. Alex dropped down onto the sofa, pulling Fox with him. “Have you and Peter talked about your living situation?”

“A bit,” Scully said. “But we’ve been mostly focused on you, so...”

“Well…now that you don’t have to worry about me anymore…what’s the plan?”

“Not sure. I can’t really speak for your brother. What’s *your* plan?” She asked, watching the two men snuggling together, and a smile curved her lips. “As if I couldn’t guess.”

Hugging Alex to his chest, Fox rested his cheek on top of the sable head and gave his partner a sweet smile.

“You realize,” Scully said softly, taking a seat across from the sofa, “you and I might not have jobs to go back to. Skinner didn’t buy the ‘family emergency’ thing, I’m sure.”

“You don’t think so?”

“Mulder…family emergency… both of us…at the same time…”

“She’s right, Fox,” Alex said, sitting up and running his fingers through his lover’s hair. “You both may have blown your careers right out of the water.”

“I hope that’s not the case,” Fox answered, “but speaking for myself, if it is…” He raised one hand, palm up, and shrugged.

Scully nodded. “Agreed.”

Alex sighed heavily. “Listen… guys… I understand what you’re saying. But…”

“No buts,” Fox broke in. “There’s nothing more important to me than you.”

Alex lowered his gaze then looked back up into sparkling hazel eyes. “You don’t have to work, you know. Either of you. Unless you really want to.”

Fox tilted his head, waiting for the explanation.

“Peter and I made sure, years ago, that we would be set when that fucker went down. It’s funny, you know? He spared no expense to educate and train us.” He laughed softly. “But his ego never allowed him to believe that we could be smarter than him. “While he was busy tangling with me, Peter was moving money around.”

Scully laughed loudly. “How the hell did he never know?“

He never moved so much at once that it would be noticeable. We’d been doing this for years. A little at a time but it added up. We wouldn’t be filthy rich, but it’d be enough to keep the four of us living comfortably for the rest of our lives.” Alex returned his attention to Fox. “That said, I realize that your job is important to you, even though the alien nonsense is behind us. I just wanted you to know if Skinner cans you both, you’ve got something to fall back on. And if you decide to do something else, that’s great too.” He laid an enthusiastic kiss on Fox’s smiling lips. “We’re free, Fox. Free to do anything we want.”

The turning of the doorknob drew everyone’s attention to the entrance as the door swung open. Peter strolled in carrying four bags, and Alex rose quickly, grabbing two bags from his brother’s hand. He lifted one eyebrow, asking a silent question, and Peter rolled his eyes and indicated one of the bags that Alex held.

I’ll help you put those away,” Scully said, getting out of her chair.

“No, Scully, I got it.”

Scully insisted, and Alex shrugged. “Okay. Have it your way. He put one of the bags down on the counter then cleared out of the kitchen and snuck off with the other, leaving Peter and Scully to their work. Chuckling softly, he re-entered the living room to find Fox standing at the glass doors. He approached slowly; sliding his hands up the other man’s back, then draped his arms around his neck and rested his head on one broad shoulder.

“What’re you thinking about?” He whispered as Fox grasped his hands and kissed both palms.

“About how close I came to losing you for all time. And about how, at this moment, I can’t imagine spending a day, let alone several days away from you. That’s what it’ll be if Scully and I still have jobs to go back to. Out of the apartment at seven, back at six or so… if I’m lucky…out of town cases…”

“Are you considering quitting the Bureau?”

“I think I am.”

Alex turned Fox around to face him. “Do me a favor, Fox. Think about it. Don’t let emotion make the decision, okay? Lots of couples... most in fact, live their whole lives this way. Work…home…work… home…”

“We’re not most couples,” Fox murmured, brushing the slightly upturned tip of Alex’s nose with his own.

“Well, that’s true,” Alex agreed. Then a crooked grin lit his face. “We’re much prettier.”

“Oh my God, *really*?”

Alex buried his face in Fox’s shoulder and snickered at Scully’s exclamation coming from the kitchen.

“I guess she found it.”

“Found what?”

“Got you a present.”

Scully chose then to come stomping out of the kitchen, and she slapped a long tube against Alex’s chest.

“You had your brother buy you *lube*?”

“Yep.” He lifted the tube and let it slide down the bridge of Fox’s nose. Twin pools of green fire burned into Fox’s eyes. “It’s on, now.”

Fox groaned, submitting to a fierce kiss, and Scully wedged her hands between their chests, pulling them apart and stepping in when she saw daylight.

“Oh no, it’s *not* ‘on now’. We’ve got people arriving here very shortly, not to mention lots of food; you two are going to behave yourselves. Is that clear?”

Alex sighed heavily. “Is she always this bossy?”

“Yep.”

“Beautiful. I’m gonna put this away”, he said, showing Fox the tube. “Be right back.”

“If it makes you feel better,” Peter broke in as he emerged from the kitchen, nodding to Alex as he passed him, “while I was out, I called and got us a hotel room for the night.”

“You did? But Mulder promised that there wasn’t going to be any noise tonight,” Scully said, looking pointedly at her partner.

“Mulder promised,” Alex purred from the hall then backed up, poking his head into the living room, giving Scully his patented Krycek smirk. “I didn’t.”

Scully groaned and spun on her heel, heading back to the kitchen. Shaking his head and chuckling, Peter followed in her wake.

Alex reappeared almost ten minutes later. He stopped at the living room entrance, leaning against the doorframe.

Feeling the heat of his lover’s stare on him, Fox turned away from the glass doors, and he gasped softly. He advanced slowly, stopping in front of his lover, drop dead gorgeous in basic black and wearing a simple silver hoop in one ear.

“What are you doing?” As if he couldn’t guess.

“Just felt like changing into something decent.”

“You mean *in*decent, don’t you?”

“What?” Alex looked down at himself. “Shirt is buttoned… mostly…pants aren’t tight…although I gotta say, they *are* feeling a wee bit snug in the crotch area…”

“Uh huh.” Fox’s arm snaked around Alex’s waist and pulled him against the impressive bulge in his jeans.

“Okay,” Alex moaned, writhing against the other. “Now *that’s* indecent.”

Fox shook his head, looking Alex up and down.

“You’re so fucking sexy.”

Just as Fox was about to pull him in for a kiss, the doorbell rang, and he cursed softly, contenting himself with a light peck before the other man moved away to answer the door.

Two of the three men in the hall jumped back as the door whispered open. They stared wide eyed at Alex…not the quiet, subdued Alex they had encountered in Virginia with Mulder several weeks prior, not the pale, fragile back-from-the-dead Alex they had expected to see… this was Alex Krycek. *The* Alex Krycek. The one they all had known and feared. His lips turned up into a trace of a smile, and he stepped aside. “Gentlemen…come in.”

Byers entered first, glancing at Alex, and his cohorts inched cautiously past. Alex prowled in behind them, and Langly and Frohike stumbled to the side to let him pass.

Fox stepped forward, smiling at the group.

“Guys.” He shook everyone’s hand and gave each a hug. “I don’t know how to thank you.”

“*Thank* us…we didn’t get Smith,” Langly said. “We failed you when you needed us most.”

“No, you didn’t,” Fox said, willing his friends to believe him. “You worked your asses off to help me.” He looked to Alex then back at the Gunmen. “*Us*. We can never be grateful enough.“

“Fox is right,“ Alex said. “I know that you did what you did for him. Nevertheless, I’m very grateful to you.“

There was a slight pause and Byers nodded. Then Langly spoke.

“Mulder loves you. You make him happy. That’s important to us.” He cleared his throat and changed the subject. “We got some stuff off of Cancer man’s phone… the one that Scully sent. He’s got his fingers into everything from politics to energy to sports… and you aren’t the only one he’d been medically experimenting on,” he said, directing that last bit of information at Alex. “We found the names of a couple of facilities scattered around the US, one in Canada, two in Russia and one in the UK.”

“That son of a bitch,” Mulder mumbled. “We have to find him and put a stop to all this shit once and for all. I can never make him be dead enough for what he’s done.”

“It’s my fault that we’re even still looking for him,” Peter said as he and Scully came in from the kitchen. I should’ve killed him yesterday.”

“Not without me you shouldn’t have.”

“Yeah, okay, okay. Eastwood…Bronson … take it down a notch. I understand how you feel but Alex is right here…”

“No thanks to that murdering fucker.”

“I know. But now that we can all think a little more clearly, we need to step back and figure out what we can do to neutralize him in a way that doesn’t involve Alex and me car pooling to the state prison on visitor’s day.”

“Scully’s right,” Alex said to both men. “I get it. I do. If he had ‘killed’ either one of you, I would hunt him down, kill him, dig him up then kill him again, and it still wouldn’t be enough.”

“Exactly,” Peter said, “so…”

“No,” Alex said firmly. “Pete, you’re the…‘office manager’. And you’re my brother.” His attention went to Fox. “And *you*. You’re the good guy.” He walked slowly toward the other man and cupped his face in his hands. “And my *everything* *else*. I won’t have you putting yourselves at risk. There’s only one of us in this room who can find and, to use Scully’s word, neutralize him before he or anyone else knows what’s happening, and be home in time for dinner.”

“You *are* feeling better,” Peter mumbled, shaking his head.

“Yeah.” Alex turned his head in his brother’s direction. “And more than up to this. Prison isn’t even the worst that could happen to you.” He turned back to Fox, holding his lover’s green and amber gaze. “I saw what losing me did to you. I felt it.” He tilted his head ever so slightly. “Would you want that agony for me?”

Held entranced, Fox shook his head then submitted to a long, soft kiss.

Scully watched, amazed at how easily Alex got the situation under control. Yeah, she supposed it would fall under the heading of ‘playing dirty’, but in this case, it was for a damn good cause.

The ring of the doorbell broke the spell and saved Fox’s friends from dying of embarrassment.

“Food,” Peter called and hurried to the door. Byers followed, assisting with the bags and boxes. The two men carried everything into the kitchen and Scully joined them.

“Frohike…what was it that appeared on Byers’ phone? What was it that you thought Samantha was trying to tell you?”

“It said, ‘natl plants’. It took a little while but we came up with National Arboretum. And that’s where we tracked him to… except he wasn’t there.”

“Yeah. It seems he was already on his way here,” Fox said. “Samantha wasn’t taking any chances.”

“Let’s *eat*!” Peter called from the doorway. Alex waved Langly and Frohike ahead, and he took Fox’s hand, drawing it to his lips. “Come on. Let’s go eat.”

**********

“Here’s what I don’t get,” Frohike said, around a mouthful of pepperoni pizza. “He can make sick people well. He can heal wounds. But to bring someone back from the dead? How did he do it? I mean, it’s beyond incredible.”

“I didn’t know that was in his repertoire either,” Mulder replied, giving Alex a bite of his garlic bread. “But I can never be grateful enough that it is.”

The doorbell sounded, and Mulder rose to his feet. “That must be him.”

Gray-blue eyes met sparking hazel as the door opened, and a Mulder stepped back to allow the last guest admittance.

“You look happy.”

“That’s the understatement of a lifetime.” Mulder shook the man’s hand and pulled him in for a heartfelt hug. When they parted, Mulder waved him in. “Join the party.”

Three steps in, and he stopped, coming face to face with beneficiary of his good deed.

“And you look extremely well.”

“I *feel* well. And more grateful than I can ever express.” Mulder moved to Alex’s side and slid an arm around him.

“We both are. How can we thank you?”

Smith tilted his head, absorbing the bliss they radiated, and he smiled. “Just cherish each other. And don’t let that light ever fade from your eyes.”

Mulder smiled and motioned him into the living room where introductions were done.

“You know Dana Scully.”

Smith took Scully’s hand and placed a light kiss on the back.

“Thank you, for your help on this.” Scully said, offering her brightest smile.

“This is John Byers. Richard Langly and Melvin Frohike you already met.”

“The Lone Gunmen,” Smith said as he shook each man’s hand.

“You’re a tough guy to track down.”

“That was the idea, right?”

“And this is Peter Tate. Alex’s brother.”

“Mr. Smith.” Peter took the proffered hand. “Thank you so very much for giving my little brother back to me.”

“I’m happy to have been of help. But your sister…she deserves just as much credit.”

Alex accompanied Smith deeper into the apartment. “We’ve got plenty of food. Would you like something?”

“Umm… sure. I could do with a bite.”

Once he was settled with a heaping plate, the conversation began.

“How did Samantha make you understand what was going on? All I and the Gunmen had received were very brief messages. Abbreviated words that we needed to decipher.”

“She expended a tremendous amount of energy. To do that, she had to *absorb* a tremendous amount of energy. The night I got the message, my electricity went out. Not just mine, but the entire building. I tried to use flashlights to see, but the juice had been sucked out of every battery I had…except for my cell phone. The text came in at one a.m. It said, ‘Fox needs you. Brother Alex dying’. She gave the name of the hospital, and the city and said, ‘go now’.

“I didn’t know what I was going to find when I got here. A little detective work revealed that Alex had passed just an hour before.”

Even with Alex there, right beside him, the words were like an icy dagger in Mulder’s heart. He expelled a shaky breath as he lowered his head and closed his eyes. A warm hand closing over his brought his attention to his lover’s face. His arms came around Alex, holding him tightly as the younger man leaned into his chest and the sable head came to rest on his shoulder. Mulder buried his face in Alex’s hair, and the two sat quietly, absorbing each other’s warmth.

“I waited until night time to get into the morgue. As long as I’d reached him within a twenty-four hour period, I could bring him back.”

“So you just what? Hung around the hospital waiting until night fall?” Frohike asked. “Why didn’t you contact Mulder?”

“Because I had to stay out of sight. Remain incommunicado, just in case. Besides… I had one more bit of business to attend to.”

Mulder lifted his head, and his brows drew down into a frown.

“Here in Las Cruces?”

“Yes. You see, Samantha had left another message. She wanted to make sure that her brothers were protected.”

“…..What was the message?”

“‘Stop Spender. Forever’. And she supplied an address.”

Peter stared then rose slowly to his feet.

“It was you. What did you do with him?”

Smith hefted a thick slice of lasagna on his fork and examined it. “Let’s just say that CGB Spender will never trouble any of you ever again.”

Silence descended on the room for several seconds as everyone stared in shock at the man enjoying his dinner.

“Wow,” Scully breathed, first to recover. “I’m…” She turned wide eyes to Mulder. “…I don’t know what to say. This day just gets more and more bizarre.”

“*Never* again?” Alex asked, looking to Smith for clarification. “Like…the world is rid of him? For all eternity?”

Eyebrows raised, Smith nodded before looking up from his nearly empty plate. “That lasagna is very good. Is there any more?“

“Yeah! Oh, yeah!” Three people jumped up to fill another plate, and Peter began pulling out the few bottles of liquor that he kept in the house.

“Oh my goodness, this is just as much as I had the first time,” Smith complained good-naturedly, accepting his second helping from Alex.

“So, eat what you want and throw away the rest. There’s still plenty left for anyone who wants it,” Mulder said, laughing as Frohike jumped up to refill his own plate.

Peter entered the room with a three quarters full bottle of whisky, an unopened bottle of rum, and a half full bottle of vodka.

“Wish I had some champagne for the occasion, but this’ll have to do.” Once everyone had their liquor of choice, the group raised their glasses and toasted. Peter led it off.

“To you, Mr. Smith. You returned my baby brother to me, and rid us and the world of the plague that was our father. For that, I can never be thankful enough.”

Mulder went next. “To Samantha. Thank you for everything, little sister. I’d say you’ll never know how grateful we are but…you know. In your infinite incorporeal wisdom, you knew.” He looked to Alex. “You knew that this *had* to be. You looked inside and saw straight through to my heart, and you didn’t give up. You gave me the love of my life… twice… and we’ll live the rest of our lives together, doing you honor.”

Alex gave him a soft smile and leaned in for an achingly tender kiss.

Then Scully. “To you guys.” She raised her glass in the direction of the Gunmen. “Wherever, whenever, you’ve always got our backs. We truly don’t know what we’d do without you.”

Langly went next. “To freedom!”

“Yes!”

“To…friendship.” Byers lifted his glass, nodding at the group.

“To Doctor Who!”

All eyes turned to Frohike.

“Doctor Who?” Byers asked, amazed. “Really??”

“*What*? There’s a con in Albuquerque starting in a couple of days!”

“Oh, *yes*!” Langly high fived the other man.

“Good God,” Byers groaned, burying his face in his hand.

“Tell you what, guys,” Alex said, thoroughly amused. “Book yourselves into the best hotel you can find. Make sure you get all the bells and whistles, okay? I want you to shoot the works. It’s on me.”

“Wow, really?”

“Absolutely.”

“Damn,” Langly gushed. “Thanks, Krycek. You’re not such a bad guy after all.”

“No? Hmm.” Alex shrugged. “We’ll see about that.”

The smiles faded from Langly and Frohike’s faces a bit.

“He’s kidding.” Frohike looked to the other man for agreement.

“Yeah. Oh, yeah. He’s just…” Alex gave Langly a hint of a smirk. “….kidding.”

“Y-yeah, so….. where were we?” Frohike asked, clearly uneasy. “Smith?”

Jeremiah looked around at the assembled group. “You know, I never knew what I was missing all this time that I’ve been here. Perhaps with Spender gone, I can loosen up a bit and stop looking over my shoulder. You people are fun.” He smiled at his new friends and raised his glass. “To love.”

“To love.”

“Love.”

“Who’s left?” Byers asked, as Alex got up and moved past him to pour a little more whisky.

“Alex?” Scully asked softly. “You got a toast?”

He stood quietly for a moment, gathering his thoughts, and then he took a breath.

“I… it’s kind of hard for me…” He stopped and began again. “It’s hard to express myself.” Another pause. “… Umm… I’d spent many years not feeling. Not *wanting* to feel. It was the only way most times, to get through the day. Now it’s all I want to do. It’s an amazing thing. To enjoy a meal. To smile and laugh. To look forward to falling asleep and waking up because now it’s in the warmth of someone’s arms. To have family and friends,” he murmured, motioning around the room. “To want to live. I mean *really* live…to want to love and be loved.” Eyes glowing a deep green held his Fox entranced. “The reason …the one and only reason for this change. All these…feelings…is sitting here in front of me… looking at me with eyes filled with everything a person could ever dream of or desire…..and it’s there for me.” Alex lifted his glass. “To you, pretty Fox. I love you more than you’ll ever know.”

The atmosphere was filled was more than one kind of silence including some embarrassment, but not one of the people present could look away when Fox rose to his feet and moved slowly toward Alex. He stopped when their bodies were just barely touching. Alex set his drink behind him, and Fox melted into his arms. Smiles formed as the others watched Alex’s eyes drift shut and his arms tighten around his love. A few of the smiles turned to grimaces when Alex’s fingers closed in his hair and gently pulled his head back for a tender kiss.

“Ohhhhh, all right, all *right,*” Peter half groaned, half laughed. “A couple of us are gettin’ a little queasy here.”

“Then don’t look,” Alex rumbled against Fox’s mouth before moving in for a more passionate kiss.

Jeremiah Smith smiled and again raised his glass, aiming it in Fox and Alex’s direction. “To love,” he said softly.

“They really are sweet,” Scully said, shaking her head. “I never thought I’d use that word to describe Krycek, but… there you go.”

“Yeah, yeah….. oh, crap.” Peter slapped his forehead with the heel of his hand. “What about the doctor? And that *nurse*? Mr. Smith, do you know anything about them?”

“It’s Jeremiah, and no. My guess is that if Samantha gave me no information on them, she doesn’t consider them immediate threats.”

“This woman, whoever she is, administered the kill shot. She may have been just following orders, but she needs to pay. Just like Scott does. Like Spender has.”

“Understood. But they’ve disappeared into the wood pile. They aren’t ever going to come looking for you, so if you *did* decide that you wanted to make a clean break and just get on with your lives, you could do that with no fear. That’s all I’m saying.”

Peter studied Smith for a moment then lowered his head. The man was making perfect sense. He knew that. Perhaps time would temper his appetite for revenge, but right now it was too new. Too painful.

“Pete.”

Dark eyes lifted to find Alex watching him.

Releasing Fox from his embrace, Alex approached his brother and rested his hands on his shoulders. “I’ll say the same thing to you that I said earlier to Fox. You know how you felt when I was gone. Would you wish that on me? On Scully? These people may not be as sneaky as Spender. They may not have the same resources to get things done. But backed into a corner, who knows what they’d be capable of. Let it go. For me.”

Peter let out a hard sigh then pulled his brother into a bear hug.

“OK, great,” Frohike said, slapping Byers on the back and getting up for another drink. “Now that we’ve established that nobody’s killing anybody, can we get on with the festivities? More food, more booze… music, dancing…”. He looked around the room and thought better of that last idea. “Wait a minute. We got seven guys and one woman. Scratch the dancing.”

“Five guys,” Fox chuckled. “I got a dance partner. And, if you and Langly’ll pair up, then Scully can alternate between Peter, Jeremiah and Byers.”

“Forget it!”

Fox shrugged. “Fine, you can just watch us then.”

Laughing, Peter loaded the CD player and took Scully’s hand. “Come on, lady. Let’s dance.”

“Wait a minute, *wait* a minute. What the hell is that?”

Peter sent his brother a haughty glare. “Whaddaya mean, *what* is it? It’s music!”

“Is that like…country music?”

“You got a problem with country?”

Alex listened for another few seconds. “I’m thinking so, yeah.”

“Mulder, do you see anything wrong with this music?”

Mulder wrinkled his nose. “Well… I mean….when I think of dancing, the Texas two step isn’t exactly what comes to mind.”

“Danaaaa…”

Scully clenched her teeth and grimaced.

“Sorry, Pete. Three against one.”

“I like country,” Byers said helpfully.

“You’re not dancing,” Mulder reminded him.

“Fine. I’m outnumbered. What do *you* want, as if I couldn’t guess?”

Alex smirked. “Be right back.”

While he waited, Fox walked over to Jeremiah, who was enjoying his drink in the open doorway of the balcony.

“Beautiful night.”

“I’ve never been to New Mexico,” Jeremiah answered. “It’s quite nice. I may have to come back on vacation someday”

“Speaking of vacation. What about your job at the Arboretum? You haven’t been there that long and you’ve disappeared without letting them know what happened.”

“I did call, actually, but obviously after the Gunmen had been there. I told them there was an emergency and that’d I’d had no time to call before I left. They told me that two men were there looking for me about an emergency. It fell in perfectly with what I’d told them. They told me to take all the time I needed.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

The music changed, and Mulder heard a song that he recognized as one from the CDs he’d given Alex. A gentle warmth slid up his back and settled on his shoulders. He turned and met Alex’s loving gaze.

“Better?”

“…Much.”

“S’cuse us, Jeremiah.”

The other man smiled and nodded, and Alex took his lover’s hand and led him into the living room, where Scully and Peter were already swaying to the unbearably romantic ballad. Alex wrapped his arms around Fox’s neck, as Fox’s arms went around his waist, and they began to move.

Glowing green eyes met glittering hazel and remained locked. Alex’s fingers wandered up into Fox’s hair, combing through the thick fringe of golden brown, and his breath flowed over the other man’s mouth as he whispered against it.

“I never believed in magic. Maybe because I never saw it working for me. But it’s here now. It’s this incredible, energetic vibration, and it comes from you. I feel it everywhere we touch. I taste it on your lips. I see it swirling in those beautiful, changeable eyes.”

Fox deposited a soft kiss on his lover’s lips.

“I’m not magic, Alex,” he murmured softly. “We are.”

“Kind of hard to take your eyes off of them isn’t it?“

Byers turned quickly, startled by the voice coming from directly behind him. He offered Smith a little smile and nodded.

“I guess it’s true what they say about there being a thin line between love and hate. If anyone would have told me that this would be a possibility, I would have bet every cent I have …and Langly’s and Frohike’s too, against it. The day we went to see Mulder about having seen you on that newscast, he was there…in Mulder’s apartment. Shock is far, far too mild a word for what the guys and I felt. But… all that aside, they seemed so natural together. I don’t know what other word to use.”

“There’s nothing *un*natural about love. That’s what most humans have yet to learn.”

The two men fell silent and watched the subjects of their conversation, gliding together, oblivious to everything and everyone around them.

“……..Never before did I know how loving someone could be….now I can see you and me for a lifetime…. until the last moon is rising, you’ll see the love in my eyes… My love…“

Scully lifted her head from Peter’s shoulder and followed his gaze to the other couple.

“That’s…..Alex. I didn’t know your brother could sing.”

“Neither did I.” Peter stared at him, flabbergasted. “He never really even listened to music, let alone sang. I’m as surprised as you are right now.”

“…. I’ll be yours until the sun doesn’t shine, till time stands still…until the winds don’t blow. When today is just a memory to me, I know….I’ll still be loving ….I’ll still be loving you…”

Held completely entranced, Fox swayed to the rhythm of the song, not hearing a note of the CD version, but rather, Alex’s soft, smooth tenor in his ear. His fingers curled gently in his lover’s shirt, and he emitted a long, rapturous sigh, wishing there was a way to put this moment on loop, and let it play out for all eternity...

“…So, there’s a breakfast with the cast on the last day,” Langly said, pointing at the screen of his laptop. “It’s kind of pricey though.“

“He told us to shoot the works,” Frohike reminded him. “Let’s do it.”

“Oh man…. Okay….” Langly looked up. “…. Who’s singing?”

“I don’t know. I wasn’t paying attention. Nice voice though.”

Blonde eyebrows raised high above the rims of his glasses as Langly ID’ed the singer.

“Shit…Krycek?”

“ What? Get outta here…“

Langly jabbed a finger in the direction of the sound, and Frohike’s mouth dropped open.

“I wouldn’t have believed it if I wasn’t hearing it with my own ears.“

“…..Why, though, you know?“ Langly asked. “Why would we think that ex-triple agent assassins can’t have talent?“

“I don’t know,” Frohike answered. “I guess there’s a lot more to Alex Krycek than any of us would ever have given him credit for.”

As the song faded into another, Fox pulled back and stared transfixed into Alex’s eyes.

“For a guy who didn’t even really even listen to music… Did you learn that for me?”

Alex shrugged, feeling a bit uncomfortable. “I didn’t purposely learn it. I guess I just listened to it so much that the words just kind of got stuck in my head.“

“Did any of the other songs just kind of get stuck in your head? “Fox whispered, brushing his lips against his lover’s. “Because you realize, I’m going to want you to sing to me all the time now.”

“Oh, really… You’re that impressed, huh?”

“Floored.“

Alex grimaced slightly. “Come on…okay yeah, I’ve discovered that I can kind of carry a tune, but let’s not get crazy”

“I’m not exaggerating.”

“No, but you’re biased.“

“Yeah, I’m sure that I am but I’m also right. You’ve got a great voice…” Fox brushed the bowed lips with his own. “…as if you weren’t sexy enough.”

Alex chuckled softly. “You’re cracked.“

“Call me whatever you want… just keep singing to me.“

They danced to two more songs and then Scully snatched Fox away when Peter had had enough. Smiling happily, Alex watched them for a few moments, then he wandered out onto the balcony and stood there, gazing out into the star strewn New Mexico sky.

“May I join you? Or would you rather be alone?”

Alex turned and smiled at Smith, motioning for him to come out.

“How are you doing?“

“To be honest, I think I’m still a little stunned.“

“Understandable. One minute you’re lying in a hospital bed with your sister’s transplanted heart failing, the next minute you’re dead and talking to aforementioned sister, and the next thing you know, you’re waking up on a slab in a morgue, and your health, your entire life has been restored. That’s a lot to digest.”

Alex’s cheeks puffed out as he blew out a long breath. He bowed his head, resting it against his fingertips.

“When you put it like that…”

“Yeah… I said, you must be a pretty important guy. It seems I was quite correct.”

The right corner of Alex‘s mouth twitched upward and dropped back down, and he shook his head.

“You don’t believe that?“

“In the grand scheme of things…“ He again shook his head. “I mean… To Peter, yes, I understand. I’m his brother. Not to mention his only remaining sibling. To Fox…“. He paused, unable to complete his sentence.

“You know you’re important to him, but you don’t feel that you deserve to be.”

Silence.

“I’m a student of human nature and relationships as you might imagine. And your relationship with Agent Mulder fascinates me. Would you mind discussing it with me a bit?“

Alex shrugged.

“What is it about Fox Mulder in particular?” Smith asked. “What makes him the perfect one for you?“

Alex laughed softly and sniffed.

“It would be easier to tell you what about him *doesn’t* make him the perfect one for me. That, I can sum up in one word….nothing.”

“Yes but we’re not taking the easy way out. I won’t learn that way. What about him makes him so perfect for you? What makes you love him?”

Alex inhaled deeply then blew it out.

“Right off the top….he’s smart. I mean, really smart. The man graduated from Oxford at the top of his class…with honors from the Academy…he was the star of the VCU at the Bureau. He can profile like nobody’s business. He’s well versed in so many subjects, he can hold his own in any conversation, yet there’s this innocence, this… childlike wonder about him…

“He’s gorgeous, and he doesn’t even realize it. He’s got this sexy little mole, right about here…“ He pointed to his right cheek near the corner of his mouth. His eyes change color with his moods, and his pupils dilate unevenly. And that mouth…they do this pouty thing. When he sleeps, when he’s upset or worried…” his mouth twitched up into a soft smile. “They may sound like insignificant things to someone else but it all just does me in…

“I love his walk … that long smooth gait. And his voice. I would let him read the telephone book to me, cover to cover.“

Smith chuckled warmly, encouraging Alex to continue.

“He’s very passionate about the things he believes in…he’s stubborn as hell when he feels he’s got a reason to be. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve butted heads over the last several months … he’s got a really dry sense of humor…” Alex’s gaze dropped to the floor. “I’ve never been pursued before…not for any good reason, anyway. But as much as I tried to push him away, he didn’t quit.” He looked up and at the other man. “Oh, he wanted to several times, but like he said a little while ago, Samantha always calmed him down and got him to look inside. And once he did that, he knew that he couldn’t give up.” Alex laughed softly. “Until the next time I pissed him off.”

“You didn’t really want him to give up.”

“No.”

“You were terrified that he would…and at the same time, terrified that he wouldn’t. Because you were afraid that your father would hurt him.“

“… Yes. At the time… the shape I was in… staying away from him was the only way I could think to keep him safe. I’d kill or die to protect him.”

Smith stared into the other man’s face and knew it was true.

“You have killed for him haven’t you?“

“I have. And would again,“ Alex added unapologetically, anticipating Smith’s next question.

“You’ve loved him for a long time.”

“……Yeah.”

“And he’s loved you, though he’d fought it for many years.”

Alex let out a short laugh. “He fought it… hard. If anyone had told me that he’d love me or even *tolerate* me for that matter, I’d have laughed, shot them twice, laughed again then shot them once more just for good measure. I rarely came away from an encounter with him unscathed.”

Smith cocked his head and waited.

“I’ve sustained many a split lip at his hands over the years. Black eyes… a fractured rib… he almost shot me once. Probably would have if Scully hadn’t shot him first.”

Smith’s eyebrows lifted toward his hairline. “*What*?”

“Long story.”

“I’ll bet….” He studied Alex for a moment then murmured, ”You never fought back.”

“No.”

“Because you felt he was justified.”

“He was. I deserved everything he gave me.”

“Everything except for his love.”

“I’m doing a little better with it but…it’s been really hard to believe it…Not that he loves me. I know with all my heart that he does. Now. But for a while there I thought he was just under Samantha‘s influence. I mean, there was no way possible that he could love me. I wasn’t the type of man that *anyone* loved, let alone him. He was the good guy. I was the bad guy. The really bad guy.” Alex lowered his gaze to the tiled floor. “He deserved much better than me. But he loves me,” He whispered with conviction. “After everything I’ve been and done, by some miracle, he loves me. And I’ll spend every day of the rest of my life fighting like hell to remember that I *am* the man who deserves his love.”

“That’s a battle that you *must* win, Alex. If you have any residual doubt, it’ll have an effect on your life with him, and not in a good way. I know you want to make him happy.”

“More than anything.” Alex breathed, turning to watch Fox, who had since finished his dance with Scully and was now talking with Peter and Langly.

“Look at him,” Alex sighed. “I love him so much, I literally ache with it. We’re no more than 25 feet apart, and I miss him.”

“You’ve got it bad, my friend,” Smith laughed. “The wonderful thing is, he’s got it just as bad. You realize, don’t you, that his list of the things that make him love you is just as long as yours, and growing every day.”

“How do you know that?” Alex whispered, his voice catching on the next to last word as his gaze dropped to the floor.

“It’s in his eyes,” Smith answered. “They just glow with adoration. And his voice takes on a completely different timbre when he speaks to or about you.”

“I notice it but I thought maybe I was just seeing and hearing what I wanted to.”

Smith shook his head slowly. “I promise you everyone in this room notices it.”

Glittering green eyes lifted to meet steady blue; they shifted back to the one who held his heart.

Inside the living room, Mulder’s eyes left Peter’s face and shifted to the two men on the balcony. Finding Alex’s gaze fixed on him, he stared back.

Arms folded across his chest, Smith leaned back against the railing and smiled. He waited several seconds more, then murmured softly.

“Go get ‘im.”

Needing no more than that, Alex crossed the threshold and entered the living room, laser focused on the man who stood frozen, watching his advance.

He hadn’t touched either man, but Peter and Langly backed up a couple of steps, seemingly forced apart by the energy that
preceded Alex into their space. He stopped a breath away from Fox and lifted his hand, drawing his fingertips down the older man’s cheek then across his bottom lip. Fox’s lashes drooped over glittering pools of green and gray, and his tongue inched out to touch them.

“I missed you,” Alex rumbled softly. “I couldn’t stay away from you a minute more.”

Fox draped his arms around his lover’s neck, pressing the entire length of their bodies together.

“We’re in trouble if we can’t be in the same apartment and not ache to be in touching distance.”

Alex nodded in agreement and claimed a voracious kiss before drawing back and gently grinding his hips against the other man’s.

“I don’t know how much longer that can wait,” he whispered. “Think we can sneak out of the room with no one noticing?”

“Maybe,” Fox murmured, pressing back. “But I’m sure they’ll figure it out soon afterward when they start hearing all those pretty noises you make when I’m deep in your ass.”

Alex’s cock throbbed within the confines of his clothing, and he turned his head, groaning into the side of Fox’s neck.

“You’re being bad, Fox.”

“Do you want me to stop?”

“Jesus, no…I need to remember to add it to my list..”

“List?”

“Of things that make me love you.”

“You have a list?”

“It’s not written down anywhere, but yeah.”

Fox nodded and nuzzled Alex’s ear. “So do I.”

“Really?”

“Are you surprised?”

“I…I don’t…Smith said you did.”

Fox drew back and gave Alex an amused and somewhat confused smile.

“He did?”

“He’s very intuitive.”

“I *guess*. Anyway,” Fox purred, returning to kissing the side of the other man’s neck.

“I suppose we should knock it off though, before we get carried away and scar all these nice people for life, right?”

Long sigh. “Yeah… should we split up again?“

“Don’t wanna.” Alex brushed his mouth over the mouth he could never get enough of, then closed his teeth on the plush lower lip and pulled gently before dragging his tongue over it. “Have to kiss you…”

“Oh God, how long are they going to be like this?” Frohike asked Scully, watching Fox and Alex make out from a far corner of the room.

“Hard to say, “Scully replied, smiling. “I think we’re in it for the long-haul, though.”

“Fantastic. Call us when they’re out of the honeymoon phase.“

“I think you’re going to have a long wait,“ Jeremiah Smith said, coming up behind his two new friends, biting into his third slice of pizza that evening. “Those boys are so in love with each other, they can’t see straight.”

“Listen, I’m happy for them and all, but is all of that necessary?” Frohike asked, waving his hand back and forth.

“Not to everyone I suppose, but for them… as necessary as breathing.” He patted Frohike on the back and wandered away. “I think you’d better get used to it.”

The party continued until about ten-thirty, when Smith rose to his feet and announced his departure.

“Thank you so much for the dinner and the companionship. I can’t remember the last time I spent such a pleasant evening.” He bowed to Scully. “And thank you for the dance, lovely lady.” Scully smiled and curtsied.

“Thank *you*, Jeremiah. Were it not for you and Samantha, this party wouldn’t have been possible,” Mulder replied, again shaking their new friend’s hand.

“And I thank you,” Alex rasped, taking his hand next. He shook his head. “Those words seem so insignificant for what you’ve done for us.”

Smith covered Alex’s hand with his own. “Be happy.” He leaned in close. “And keep singing to him.”

Alex closed his eyes briefly as Fox slipped an arm around him and kissed his temple.

“See?”

Everyone else said their goodbyes and thanks, and then Smith was gone. The Gunmen followed several minutes later.

“You guys have a great time at your convention and don’t forget what I said. Anything you want, on me. Let me know the second you have reservations, and I’ll take care of it. Byers, are you going with them?”

“Uhh…” Byers looked from Alex to his friends and back again. “Yeah, I guess. I mean, I love Doctor Who. I just feel kind of weird about letting you foot the bill.”

“I insist. It’s the very least I can do.”

“Thank you,” Byers said meekly. “It’s very generous of you.” Alex held his hand out, and Byers took it, shaking briefly before first Langly then Frohike followed.

“We appreciate this Krycek, really. We don’t know how to thank you.”

Alex moved in, still holding onto the small man’s hand.

“Ah, don’t worry, Frohike, I’ll think of something.” He backed off, finally releasing the quaking man’s hand while giving him a sly smirk and a wink.

Frohike’s eyes widened to double their size, and he backed up quickly, almost tripping over Byers in his haste to put distance between himself and Alex.

When Alex shut the door, Fox doubled over laughing. “You’re terrible.”

“Yeah, but they make it so easy.”

Scully disappeared into the bedroom to pack an overnight bag for her and Peter; Alex’s brother leaned against the kitchen doorway, folding his arms over his chest.

“So, kid…you’ve been holding out us.”

“How do you mean?”

“You can sing your ass off.”

“Owwhhh,” Alex growled, turning his head away from Peter’s expectant gaze. “You know, that wasn’t meant for any of you to hear.”

“But we did. And we’re all damn impressed. So now, I hope you know you’re singing at my wedding.”

“I’m not singing at your… “ He stopped and put a hand up. “…Wait a minute.” Alex and Fox glanced at each other then turned quickly back to the other man.

“Did you ask Scully to marry you?” Both men whispered in unison.

“No…. You know… not yet.”

Mulder moved closer. “So you’re planning on it?”

“Planning on what?”

The three men jumped apart, trying way too hard to look nonchalant as Scully entered with the bag.

“What’re you three up to?”

“Nothing,” Peter answered much too quickly, making Scully squint at him suspiciously.

“….Uhhhh huh. Well…enjoy your night, guys. Try not to scare the crap out of the neighbors, okay?”

“Yeah, we’ll give it our best shot,” Alex said, waving them off. You go have some fun, and Pete, we’ll continue that conversation another time.”

“Is anyone going to let me in on this?”

“Nope.” Alex gave her a hug then backed away, smiling sweetly. “Have a good night.”

Chuckling, Mulder accompanied them to the door. “Thanks for giving us a night alone. We’ll try to keep the cops out of it.”

“Great. See you sometime tomorrow.”

Fox shut the door and turned around to find that Alex had disappeared. Checking the kitchen, he found it empty. “Alex?” He called softly as he came back into the living room. Movement in the hall caught his eye, and he turned to find Alex leaning against the doorway of his bedroom. Neither man moved until Alex held out his hand, silently beckoning Fox to come to him.

Slowly, Fox walked into the hall, taking his lover’s hand, and then he was being pulled gently along until they stood in the middle of the room. Alex withdrew a small remote control from his pocket and hit play.

“One more dance.”

The words, a cross somewhere between a rumble and a sigh, entered Fox’s ear and went straight down to his cock, which had been screaming its need for most of the evening.

One arm snaked around Fox’s waist, and the other took his hand, kissing it before holding it pressed lightly between their chests. Fox’s free arm automatically wound around Alex’s neck, and they began to rock in a languid rhythm.

“Where’d the candles come from?” Fox asked, having just taken notice of the dozen or so lit pillars, scattered around the room.

“You didn’t notice the bag that I took from Peter earlier. The lube wasn’t the only thing I had him buy.”

“Sneaky.”

“Mmm hmm. All part of my plan.”

“Plan to….”

Alex’s open mouth met with Fox’s, his tongue teasing the other’s before withdrawing.

“To seduce you.”

Fox mouthed the word ‘oh’, brushing his cheek against Alex’s; he said no more, letting the music fill the silence.

Several seconds passed and then Alex’s voice, so sweet and bewitching, sent a shiver through him.

“….I..have never been so much in love before…
What a difference a true love made in my life… so nice, so right.
Loving you gave me something new that I’d never felt… never dreamed of…
Something’s changed, no it’s not the feeling I’ve had before… oh, it’s much much more…”

The muffled chime of Fox’s incoming text went completely unnoticed, so lost were the two men in each other. The hand at Fox’s waist snuck under the hem of his t-shirt, sweeping the soft cotton upward. Alex’s other hand joined that one, and he pulled the shirt up and off, baring Fox’s warm back and chest for his loving caress.

Claiming a sweet kiss, Fox went to work on Alex’s shirt, undoing button after button; he swept the edges aside and let his fingertips dance along the smooth planes of his chest and abs. Alex shrugged out of the shirt, letting it drop to the floor, and they began to move again, in time to the music.

Hands and mouths wandered everywhere they could reach, and as Alex’s hands slipped down to Fox’s denim encased rear, gently squeezing and pulling his hips in closer, the older man released a shuddering groan.

“So hard…”

“You too,” Alex whispered into his hair. “Come to bed pretty Fox, and let me love you.”

He backed the captivated man to the bed and took his lips in a hungry kiss before pushing against his chest and letting him fall back onto the bed. In an instant he was there, efficiently ridding Fox of the remainder of his clothing and then his own.

Fox pulled himself up against the pillows, and Alex followed, straddling Fox on his hands and knees. Leaning down, he dragged his tongue over his lover’s lips then moved down over his chin, his throat, and continued downward to bathe the expanse of his chest.

Fox’s back arched up off the mattress as the tip of Alex’s tongue teased one rigid nipple.

“Baby…..ah, shhhhhit.”

Alex’s teeth closed gently on the tight peak and pulled, wrenching a low growl from the beneficiary of his attention. His cock throbbed in response, and he let go, looking up through the curtain of his lashes, into glittering slits of green and gold.

“I’ve been waiting all day for you.” His head dipped again, and he swiped at the other nipple, drawing another moan from Fox. “It was so hard not touch you the way I wanted to with all those people around.” Slowly moving south, he licked and nipped at the heated flesh, and when he wandered into dangerous territory, Fox whimpered his name, and his hips bucked up off the bed. “I want to taste you, Fox. I want to feel you in my mouth. Is that okay?”

Okay?? Was he fucking *serious*??

“Please,” Fox gasped. “Oh God, Alex, *yes*.”

Not exactly sure how this would turn out, but more than willing to let his instincts guide him, Alex slipped lower, experiencing the sensation of the thatch of wiry hair brushing his chin then tickling his mouth and nose as he nuzzled his way to the exceptional length of muscle that stood out from it. Starting from the base, he let his lips dust the hot, velvety soft surface, all the way to the flared head, and then his tongue inched out, delicately lapping at the bead of fluid that had formed there.

Fox twisted and moaned, completely overwhelmed by the alien, yet utterly breathtaking sensations that Alex was delivering. When he felt himself being drawn into the moist warmth of the other man’s mouth, his lips fell open, and a long, harsh groan rolled in his throat.

Every nerve ending in Alex’s body vibrated in response to the incredible taste and feel of Fox in his mouth, and the mind shattering awareness that those sounds that Fox was making were for *him*. He took more of his lover’s cock into his mouth… as much as he could comfortably swallow, and he wrapped his fingers around the rest, gently pumping as his head rose up and down on the long, thick shaft.

“Alex,” Fox panted, his head rolling from side to side on the pillow. “Jesus, baby, it’s…you’re…”

Alex applied more pressure as his head rose, and anything Fox thought to say was lost. The only sound that came out of him now was a feral sob as he struggled to keep from exploding.

Sensing his lover’s precarious state, Alex pulled all the way up, releasing him with a soft sucking sound. His tongue danced around the head, teasing the opening at the tip, and his name, released on a frustrated whimper, reached his ears. Kissing and licking his way back up to the older man’s mouth, Alex laid a hungry kiss on him, letting him taste himself.

“Baby…”

Golden brown lashes lifted then dropped back down, refusing to stay up.

“Will you do something for me?”

“Anything” came the faint, rasping reply.

“I want you to fuck my mouth and come down my throat.”

Fox inhaled sharply, and his hips bucked involuntarily.

“Will you?” Alex asked, nipping at his bottom lip. “Please say yes.”

“*Yes*, ” Fox gasped, his hips thrusting rhythmically. “Want to… so much.”

Alex made his way back downward, moving slowly, teasing Fox every inch of the way, and by the time his lips again closed over the head of his rock hard erection, Fox was wrecked. Groaning through gritted teeth, he lifted his hips again and again, seeking to bury himself deeper into the recesses of Alex’s mouth.

“Mmmmm…Sasha…. my baby…”

Having had no intention to control Fox’s movements, Alex inhaled deeply through his nose and relaxed as much as the excitement of the moment would allow, but when the head of his lover’s cock hit the back of his mouth, he choked, and he realized that control was going to be necessary. Gripping Fox’s hips, he slowed him down and guided him into an easier rhythm, giving himself a chance to recover. Now in command, he took a bit more in on every down stroke, and before he could reach his goal, he felt Fox’s muscles begin to seize, and a frantic groan begin to roll in his chest. Again employing his hand, he went shallow with his mouth, quickening his pace, and Fox blew, his deafening roars of completion reverberating through the room.

Alex swallowed every bit of the bitter fluid that Fox released, and when he was sure that his lover had finished, he pulled away, swiping at the small stream of ejaculate that ran out of the corner of his mouth, and he lovingly cleaned the slowly softening organ with his tongue.

Fox lay completely still. He didn’t even appear to be breathing, and Alex settled his body beside the other man’s, pressed up against his side and combed his fingers through his hair.

“Are you okay?” He whispered, stringing a line of tiny kisses along the stubbled jaw; dusting the corner of those beautiful, pouting lips. Fox took a sudden, sharp breath, and let it out on a long stutter. His eyes fought to open, and when they did finally, they turned to meet his lover’s wary, green gaze.

An exhausted smile twitched, and a soft, low moan vibrated in his throat. He lifted a hand and rubbed his thumb over Alex’s mouth.

“That was mind-blowing.”

Alex kissed the tip of Fox’s thumb then sucked it gently into his mouth. Golden brown lashes drooped, and the older man groaned his approval.

“So, you’d let me do it again?” Alex asked, gently biting the pad then licking it.

“Every day, three times a day if you want.”

“Well,” Alex rasped, “that wouldn’t leave much time for other things, but I’d welcome the chance to practice. I want to be able to take you all the way down my throat.”

“Oh, God,” Fox rumbled then shuddered. “That’d kill me for sure.” His lips curved into a lascivious smile. “What a way to go.” The smile faded, and he trained an adoring gaze on the younger man. “I love you,” he murmured and pulled Alex in for a sweet kiss. Long seconds passed, and Alex pulled back, resting his cheek in his palm. Drawing lazy designs on Fox’s chest, he nuzzled his lover’s cheek and grinned.

“…..Sasha?”

Fox emitted a breathy laugh. “I thought that was just in my head. Guess not, huh? Do you mind it?”

Alex shook his head. “Never had a nickname before.”

“No one ever called you Sasha? Your mother? Friends?”

“Nope. You’d be the first. I like that.”

Fox smiled and kissed him again. “While we’re on the subject…. Pretty Fox?”

Alex gave him a sheepish grin and shrugged. “It just….” He swept his hand in a straight line from left to right. “Flows. Besides, you *are* damn pretty.”

Fox laughed softly. “Okay.” He threaded his fingers through Alex’s hair, anchoring them in the sable strands. “So, I guess we’re official, now.”

“Now?”

“Yeah. You know, since we got nicknames and all…”

Alex chuckled at his logic.

” Hey…we haven’t taken care of you yet.”

“Oh, we will,” Alex promised. “I’m waiting for you.”

“Me?”

“To be ready.” The hand that was resting on Fox’s hip drifted downward and lightly stroked his not so soft cock. “Hell-o… you’ve apparently got some amazing recuperative powers.”

“I think,” Fox began, squirming against Alex’s hand, “that it’s got just as much to do with you as it does with me.”

“You saying that I turn you on?”

“Beyond words. Just the sound of your voice gets me hard, did you know that?”

“I *didn’t* know that. But thanks for the info.”

Fox drew a deep breath and let it out. “I see a devious glint in your eyes.”

“Devious?” Alex moved closer, brushing Fox’s ear with his mouth, then he moaned into it, “…me? I don’t know the meaning of the word.”

Fox groaned deep in his throat, and his cock swelled. It was almost as hard now as it was before, and that fact didn’t escape Alex’s notice.

“Would you look at that…. It works.”

“Uh huh.”

He reached across Fox’s chest for the tube on the nightstand, and the other man reached out and took it from him. Alex watched as Fox unscrewed the cap and squeezed some out onto his fingers. He cocked his head when the older man set the tube back on the table.

“That’s not a whole lot there, Fox.”

“It’s enough,” Fox breathed, applying the gel to his lover’s rather impressive erection. “Don’t want to make it *too* easy… not that accommodating *that* could ever be described as easy.”

Alex shook with silent laughter. “Sucker for punishment, pretty Fox?”

“Ooooooh….”

A confused frown creased Alex’s brow, and he cocked his head. “What?”

“Punishment….I just had this image of you spanking me.”

“You’re a dirty boy,” Alex purred, his tone dripping with admiration.

“Gets ya hot, don’t it?” Fox asked grinning, as he stroked Alex’s cock a little harder.

Growling, Alex sprang up, straddling Fox in one quick move.

“As if you didn’t know.”

Settling his full weight on top of the other man, Alex initiated a kiss so ferocious, it touched off an answering reaction in his lover, and as quickly as that, all control was lost.

“Shit!” Fox winced at the sudden sting of teeth clamping onto the curve of his shoulder, and he automatically tried to pull away, but Alex sounded a low, warning growl and increased pressure as he held Fox in place. His head snapped back, and Fox moaned through clenched teeth. His fingers dug into the other man’s back, and his cock pulsed in response to the painful pleasure.

Alex’s fingers plunged into Fox’s hair, tangling in the golden brown strands, holding his head immobile for the all out sensual assault. Fox strained and bucked against him, at once fighting and pleading.

“Alex…I…. fffffuck. Baby, please…”

Alex released his hold on Fox’s shoulder. “Please, what?” he asked the gasping man.

“Fuck me…. *please*.”

“Soon.”

“Nowww.”

“*Soon*.”

“*Now*.”

Catching Alex by surprise, Fox shoved the younger man off of him, flipping him onto his back, and the struggle for dominance was on. For a few minutes they wrestled, each gaining and losing control several times before Alex finally won.

Taking Fox snarling, face down to the mattress, he held the other man there, using his full weight while he grasped his cock at the base and worked it between the muscular cheeks of his lover’s rear, and drove it home. Once there, he hoisted Fox up to his knees and, with one hand entangled in his hair, kept his head pressed into the pillow.

If no one heard the deafening screams emanating from Peter’s apartment, it would have been a minor miracle. Having got exactly what he was aiming for, Fox rocked wildly against the overwhelming presence inside of him, urging Alex to greater ferocity. He released his hold on Fox’s hair and reared up, slamming into him again and again. A loud, breathless growl accompanied each lunge, and Alex detonated, emptying himself into his gasping lover.

Both men collapsed, Fox to the mattress, and Alex on top of him. Pausing for a moment of rest, Fox rolled the exhausted man off of him then snatched up the lube, quickly stroking some onto himself before swinging his body over Alex’s and pulling him into position. The younger man’s body, limp and sweaty from his very recent exertions, tightened as it was filled his lover’s commanding presence.

Ragged, breathy moans broke the temporary silence. It was Fox’s turn, and he gave as good as he got, slamming into Alex mercilessly, while the drained man clutched at him, whimpering his name and begging for everything he had.

“Don’t s-stop…don’t…”

“Harder?” Fox asked, his breathless question barely audible through the roar in Alex‘s head.

“*Yesss*,” Alex hissed, clawing at his lover’s back and shoulders.

Calling up every ounce of strength he had, Fox doubled his efforts, forcing a hard grunt from both men with each powerful thrust. The sounds became louder and more desperate, and moments later, Fox’s orgasm hit with devastating force. As his window rattling howls died down, he fell forward, sprawling boneless over Alex’s body, and both men lay motionless except for the heaving breaths Fox took to pull oxygen back into his lungs.

At least fifteen minutes passed before Fox moved. Sliding off of Alex, he dropped to the bed and turned onto his back with a long groan, and the younger man rolled onto his side, wrapping his arm around Fox’s middle and laying his head on his perspiration slick chest.

“Hooooly shit,” Fox breathed, wrapping his arms around his lover. “You okay?”

Alex answered with a soft purr and a kiss planted in the middle of Fox’s chest.

“We go at it that hard very often, and we’re going to have to get some soft cushioned chairs,” Fox moaned softly, brushing his lips into the wild sable hair under his chin. “God, you’re an animal.”

“We’re a perfect match, then,” Alex answered, tightening his arm around the older man.

“Yeah, we are,” Fox murmured, adoration saturating every word.

Alex rolled to his feet. “Be right back.” Fox watched him disappear from the room then seconds later heard the water running in the bathroom. When Alex reappeared, he was carrying a damp facecloth. Gently washing the stickiness from his lover’s spent organ, he returned the cloth to the bathroom. Re-entering the bedroom, the smile fell from his face, and he lay beside Fox and pulled the other man into his arms.

“What’s wrong, baby?”

Fox shuddered, burying his face in Alex’s shoulder and hugging the younger man tightly to him.

“You all right?” Alex asked, feeling the tremor.

Fox nodded, pulling him impossibly closer. “You’re here,” he breathed. “I’m not going to wake up to that hell I was in last night.”

Alex lifted his head and focused a heavy lidded stare on his lover. “It’s not a dream,” he whispered.

Silence descended on the room for a good many minutes, and then Fox’s voice broke the quiet.

“….What was it like?”

Alex didn’t need to guess. He knew what Fox was asking.

“It was quiet. Unlike any quiet I’ve ever known. You know how even in a quiet room, there’s sound? How you can like…*hear* the energy? There was nothing. I imagine that’s what it might be like to be deaf.

“I didn’t feel myself. There was no sensation of being confined to a body, yet I could feel *you*. Your grief. It was… vast. I knew it would never end for you. It would never even subside in time.

“When Samantha appeared and I asked if I could visit you, I had had the intention of staying on that plane so I could stay with you. Even if it wasn’t in the way we had planned, I couldn’t stand the pain that you were in. All I wanted was to make it better somehow, but she told me that I couldn’t visit you because I wasn’t even supposed to be there.

“I thought maybe it was just a detour on my way to hell. She laughed at me and told me to tell you that she said hi and all of a sudden I was back in my body.”

“…You would have stayed, knowing that you could never have moved on?” Fox asked, hugging Alex a little more tightly.

“I was desperate to stop your pain… or at least lessen it a bit. I wasn’t thinking about having to remain here even after you’d passed on.”

Fox drew a long cleansing breath and let it out slowly. “Well, I guess then, we’d have had to hang out there together, because there’s no way I would’ve moved on without you.” A tiny smirk twitched at his lips. “We could’ve traveled the world, haunted Scully and Peter, had ghost sex…”

Alex burst into laughter. “You’re nuts.” He lifted his head and focused shining eyes on his lover’s face. “I love you so much. And I’m beyond grateful and amazed that it’ll be many, many years before we have to figure out how to have ‘ghost sex’.”

“In the meantime,” Fox purred, letting his hands wander lovingly over Alex’s bare back and shoulders, “we can be figuring out sex among the living.”

“I’d say we’re off to a blazing hot start.”

“Mmmm hmm.” Fox’s smile faded a bit. “I hope you don’t mind but… I think it’s going to be a while before I can let you out of my sight.”

“Fine with me,” Alex answered softly, letting his fingertips travel slowly down the length of Fox’s torso then back up, gingerly circling one nipple before continuing on to his throat, over the unshaven chin and across the plush bottom lip. “I don’t want to be away from you either. I need you in touching distance.”

Fox’s head dipped, and he captured two of Alex’s fingers in his mouth. The younger man watched through lowered lashes as Fox sucked his fingers deeper.

“That mouth…”

Turning a sultry gold ringed, green and gray stare on the other man, Fox parted his lips and swirled his tongue around both digits once before releasing them. “Are you okay?” he asked, noticing the look of discomfort that quickly crossed Alex’s face.

“Damn,” Alex breathed. “I’ve never gotten hard *that* fast. “Gave me a head rush.”

“Ohhh…sorry.”

Alex’s tone lowered to match Fox’s. “For?”

One corner of the full lips turned upward. “For being so damn sexy.”

Alex shook as he laughed quietly. Turning sparkling eyes up to Fox, he skimmed his lover’s cheek with the back of his hand. “Yes, you are,” he moaned. “Soooo so sexy. And you’re not the least bit sorry about it, ya liar.“

They met in an open mouthed kiss, tongues stroking and teasing and, as Alex swung himself over Fox, settling himself on top of the other man’s body, his fingers tangled in the golden brown silk, holding Fox still for an all out assault on his mouth. Fox’s groans vibrated against his lips, and he pulled away just far enough to incur a desperate series of whimpers.

“I love the way you taste,” Alex growled, nipping at his lover’s full bottom lip. “All of you. I can’t seem to get enough.”

Fox nodded. “Alex….”

“…Hmm?” Alex answered absently, drawing his tongue across Fox’s lips.

“I want to taste you too.”

Alex drew back, meeting his lover’s earnest gaze.

“Can I?” Fox asked softly, skimming his hands up and down Alex’s back. “Will you let me take you into my mouth and suck you dry?”

Alex’s hips jerked involuntarily at the blunt request, but it left him unable to push any sound past his lips other than a shaken gasp.

“Please, Alex,” Fox begged, writhing obscenely against him. “Please let me…”

//Yesss. Yes, yes, yes, yes…//

The sound still wasn’t coming out, though. The thought of having Fox’s mouth, those… sinfully beautiful lips wrapped around his cock, rocked him to his core.

//But why wouldn’t he want to? *You* did…//

“Sasha…”

//Ahhhh, *fuck*//

 

Alex closed his eyes and drew in a long breath before rolling himself beneath Fox. Tangling his fingers in the other man’s hair, he pulled him down in the direction of his cock.

An excited, joyful moan broke past Fox’s lips, and he worked his way south, stopping occasionally to lick and nip at Alex’s overheated flesh. When he reached his destination, he paused to bask in Alex’s reaction to the feel of his warm breath, flowing over his cock. Ever so gently, he brushed his lips over the rigid column of muscle, and Alex convulsed, softly sobbing his name.

“What is it, sweetheart?” Fox whispered, letting his tongue dance lightly over the velvety soft skin. “What do you need?”

“Suck me,” Alex gasped. “Need to feel your mouth around…around me.”

“I know.” Fox opened his mouth, taking Alex in but trying not to make contact. A nearly impossible exercise given the thickness of the younger man’s erection.

Alex gritted his teeth, suffering the exquisite torture of feeling the warmth of the interior of Fox’s mouth surrounding him but not its softness, stroking and sucking him senseless.

“Foooox,” he whispered, slowly lifting his hips. The tip of his cock grazed the roof of Fox’s mouth, and Fox pulled back, leaving him squirming and whining at the loss. “Don’t tease me,” he gasped, tangling his fingers in Fox’s hair. “Please… baby…” His mouth fell open and a long, hard groan tumbled out as Fox’s mouth closed around him and sucked him in.

Fox didn’t know which excited him more…sucking Alex’s cock or the sounds that the action produced. He grasped the younger man’s hips in a gentle attempt at controlling their erratic movement, but when that didn’t work as well as he’d intended, he again pulled away, incurring a stream of what he only could assume were Russian curses.

“Shhhh. Easy, baby.” He kissed the tip of his frustrated lover’s cock then tenderly licked the head. “Let me, okay? Just lie there and let me take care of you.”

Once again he was enveloped in moist heat, and Alex’s head rolled from side to side as he panted his lover’s name. The urge to buck into Fox’s mouth was strong, but Alex fought it for all he was worth, wanting so much to give the other man what he’d asked for. His fingers curled in the sheets as he willed himself to give total control over to his lover, and Fox rewarded him for it, most spectacularly.

Gently cradling the exceptional length of thick muscle, Fox worked his way upward, using long, firm strokes. The sounds emanating from somewhere above his head told him that he was doing it right. As he reached the flared head, his tongue swirled around it, lashing and soothing, probing the weeping tip.

“Jesus,” Alex gasped. “Fox… baby, I can’t take…”. His words died in his throat as all at once he was drawn into a tempest of sensation. Fox’s mouth closed over him, and the older man sucked half his length inside. Gentle fingers curled around the other half, working in unison to slowly drive Alex out of his mind.

And he wasn’t the only one hanging onto rationality by a very slim margin.

The feel of Alex in his mouth…the smell, the taste of him. The sobs and growls and pleas for more vibrated through every nerve in Fox’s body, and left him trembling in anticipation of the moment when he would feel Alex’s inevitable explosion. It also left him again, hard as stone and dying for release. But not now.

Heavy sable lashes lifted, and Alex stared up at the ceiling for a moment, wondering what the hell he had ever done good enough in his life to be given *this*. He blinked and lowered his gaze to the golden brown head moving up and down on the solid length of his erection, and in that instant, every coherent thought was obliterated, replaced by basic, feral need. A coarse growl rumbled past gritted teeth as Fox moved faster and the pressure on his cock increased. Alex’s eyes snapped shut and his body took over, heedless of the promise he’d made to Fox to allow the older man to have complete control.

Fox would have smiled had his mouth been able to stretch any farther than it already was. Alex was losing control, just as Fox knew he eventually would, and the younger man’s hips began to jerk upward in an erratic rhythm. The hand wrapped around the base of his cock kept him from thrusting far enough into Fox’s mouth that he might choke, but otherwise, he did nothing to rein him in. He tucked his free hand under Alex’s ass when it lifted off the bed, and he squeezed the clenching muscle as he continued to suck Alex into a wilder state of insanity.

Having temporarily lost the capability of speech, all Alex could do was growl and sob as Fox drove him toward the edge, inciting the explosion that blasted its way upward and outward, and ended in a free fall back to the softness of his bed and the warmth of the tongue that was now gently cleaning away all evidence of his orgasm.

When he was finished, Fox crawled up over the limp form of his lover and, kissing him softly, settled down beside him and pulled him into his arms.

Moaning wearily, Alex snuggled against Fox, resting his head on his chest. A soft smile curved Fox’s lips, and he nuzzled the top of Alex’s head. Silence filled the room for more than ten minutes, then the sable head lifted, and Alex fixed a hazy stare on the man in whose arms he lay.

“You okay?” He croaked, stroking the sprinkling of golden brown hair on Fox’s chest.

“Couldn’t be better,” Fox said, skimming his knuckles over the younger man’s cheek. “I think I know now how you felt.” He stroked Alex’s back, loving the feel of his muscles rippling beneath his fingers. “I’ll never get enough of this. It’s… mind blowing.”

Alex nodded and uttered a silent “yeah”. He lowered his head to Fox’s chest, sighing softly. “…… You’re not upset with me?”

“About…. Oh.” Fox chuckled into his lover’s hair. “No. I expected it.”

“You…you did?”

“Mmm hmm. Wanted it, in fact.”

Alex lifted his head again and squinted down into twinkling eyes. “So, it was your plan all along to drive me to the point where I *couldn’t* do what you asked?”

Fox gave the other man a sweet smile. “I wanted to see how far I could push you. Not very, as it turns out.” He laughed at the pout his statement produced. “I was kind of taking it as a compliment. I affect you that deeply?”

The pout disappeared and Alex brushed his mouth ever so gently over the other man’s. “Like you wouldn’t believe.”

Fox submitted to a long, tender kiss then, tightening his arms around Alex, both men lay silently for a long enough period that both fell soundly asleep.

**********

Morning.

A head poked up from the tangle of sheets and pillows. Golden brown lashes lifted halfway and one hand raked through matching hair. Sleepy hazel eyes peered at the clock, reading the time. Grunting softly, he turned his attention to the one who was still sleeping soundly beside him. A soft smile curled his lips, and he reached out to gently smooth a few strands of the tousled hair.

Lowering his head back to the pillow, Fox studied the sleep softened features of the man who had become, in an unnervingly brief amount of time, his entire world. Less than two days ago he lay here alone, grief stricken, broken beyond repair. His world ripped away from him. Now here it lay. Love had given Alex to him and love returned him.

One eye glazed over. “Thank you, Samantha,” he whispered as the moisture gathered and fell. “Thank you for knowing how much I needed him.”

The soft sigh broke into his one way conversation; he swiped the tear away and watched as the flushed lips twitched then parted slightly to allow Alex’s tongue to moisten them before a low moan rolled in his throat. Fox’s mouth trembled into a smile as Alex’s eyes slowly blinked open then focused on his face.

“Mornin’ pretty eyes.”

Alex stretched lazily then lifted a hand to his lover’s cheek. “Mornin’,” he rasped. “Time is it?”

“Ten-thirty.”

“Wow. We slept what? A good seven hours or so?”

“There about.” Fox kissed the fingertips that brushed over his bottom lip. “How do you feel?”

“Stiff. Sore.” He tried to clear his throat. “A little hoarse. How about you?”

“About the same.”

“What a night.”

Fox laughed softly. “Yeah…at least we didn’t get any visits from law enforcement though.”

Alex stroked a hand across Fox’s chest, holding his gaze. “We should probably get up.”

Fox moved closer. “Mmm hmm.”

“We don’t know when Scully and Peter are going to get back.”

“True,” Fox breathed, threading his fingers through Alex’s hair as he draped a leg over the younger man’s hip.

“And umm…w-we don’t want them walking in…..on….” Alex lost track of his thoughts as Fox’s mouth brushed his, and he felt the hard warmth of his lover’s cock pressing against his own.

“In on….” Fox repeated, skimming his fingertips down the middle of Alex’s back as he teased the other man’s lower lip, nipping and licking at the soft flesh.

Alex grasped a handful of hair and pulled Fox into a hungry kiss. He rolled the older man beneath him and, as he reached over to the nightstand for the lube, Fox thrust rhythmically against him.

“Thought you were stiff and sore?”

“I am,” Alex rumbled. “But not too stiff or sore to take care of *you*….”

**********

“We probably should have called one of them.”

“Why?”

“Just to let them know that we were on our way back,” Peter said, stopping in front of the door to his apartment and putting the key in the lock. “You know, just in case they’re…. busy.”

“Oh lord, Peter, you know and I know that they’ve been at it half the night at least. They’re probably fast asl….” Scully froze, listening to the guttural moans coming out of Alex’s bedroom.

“You were saying?” Peter asked, dropping their bag by the door.

A sharp yelp and subsequent growl startled Dana into action. “Oh my god,” she gasped, turning back toward the door. “Forget about breakfast with them. Let’s go out.”

Gladly, Peter followed her out the door, momentarily turning his ear to the increasingly ferocious sounds coming from behind the closed door. Shaking his head, he smiled and exited the apartment, shutting the door softly behind him.

**********

Soft, rumbling purrs filled the space that had only moments before, vibrated with a cacophonous racket. Alex lay draped over his lover’s perspiration dotted chest, licking the small wound he’d inflicted on Fox’s shoulder. One hand stroked his sweat slick back while the other busied itself combing through his hair.

“Such a beast,” Fox moaned. Closing his fingers around a bunch of sable strands, he pulled Alex’s head up and gazed into glowing eyes. “God, I love you.”

An almost shy smile curved Alex’s lips. “Even after this?” He asked, brushing his fingers over the bruised shoulder.

“Especially after that.” Fox smiled up into his lover’s confused face. “I love that you put your ‘brand’ on me.”

“My *brand*.”

“Mmm, says I’m yours.”

Alex laughed softly. “It won’t last.“

“No,“ Fox agreed. “But it’ll be nice, for a little while at least, to look in a mirror and think about how your mouth felt sucking on my shoulder…”

Alex’s respiration deepened.

“And your teeth sinking into the muscle…”

Sable lashes fluttered, suddenly too heavy to keep all the way up.

“I was so hard.”

The perfectly bowed mouth fell open on a soft gasp, and Fox reached up, sucking the bottom lip into his mouth and bit down gently. Releasing it, Fox whispered against it.

“I am again.”

“So you are.” Alex dropped his head to the older man’s shoulder. “Good god, Fox… We’re never going to make it out of bed today.”

“It wouldn’t be a bad thing.“

“Not so sure about that.”

“Are you talking about Peter and Scully?“ Fox asked dropping his hand to the curve of Alex‘s rear, stroking and gently kneading the firm muscle.

Moaning softly, Alex nuzzled Fox’s shoulder. “Yeah. Peter, I can handle but your partner scares me just a little bit,” he croaked, showing a trace of daylight between his index finger and thumb. “Don’t *ever* tell her I told you that.”

“Okay, I won’t tell her… if…”

“*If*…. blackmail, Fox? I thought that was *my* M.O.”

Fox smiled sweetly and said nothing.

“Okay…..if, what?”

“*If*…” Fox flipped Alex beneath him and attacked.

**********

“We’ve been gone for two hours. I’m telling you right now; if they aren’t out of that bedroom by the time we get there, I’m going in after them.”

Peter laughed uneasily. “Listen, you may be able to handle your partner, but I’m not ashamed to admit that my brother does scare me a little bit. And now that he’s back at better than full capacity…” He shrugged and shook his head. “*I’m* not butting in on playtime. So if *you* do, you be sure to tell him that I had nothing to do with it, okay?”

Five minutes later, the couple entered the apartment and all was quiet except for the sound of water running.

“Well, whaddaya know?”

Chuckling, Peter picked up their bag and headed into his bedroom. Dana moved out onto the balcony and leaned on the railing, closing her eyes as she absorbed the early afternoon warmth. Soon they’d all be walking out of this apartment, never to return again. Not all at once…Peter would have to stay behind to wrap things up, but she supposed that Krycek would be returning with Mulder. She really didn’t think that either of them could stand to be away from each other for even a day. At least not right now, when the pain of Alex’s death, brief though it was, was too fresh. She couldn’t blame them. But *if* Skinner didn’t can them both, she didn’t know how they’d handle the separations that came with the job…

“There you are.”

Dana turned around and smiled up at Peter.

“So… you want some help packing up before I have to leave?”

Peter’s face brightened. “You wouldn’t mind?”

“No, of course not. This way it won’t take you so long to get there.”

Peter laughed and wound his arms around the petite woman. “Ahh. An ulterior motive.”

“Of *course*.”

Peter came in for a brief peck that quickly turned passionate.

“Oh *god*. Look at 'em…acting like a couple of hormonal teenagers. Have you two no self-control?”

The couple broke the kiss and Scully glared at the grinning men standing in the middle of the living room.

“Mulder, are you seriously lecturing us about self-control? You, who doesn’t know the meaning of the word. *Either* of you.”

“S’cuse us. We can control ourselves just fine,” Alex huffed. “We simply choose not to exercise that option.”

“Uh huh.” Scully moved away from Peter. “So…when are you heading back?”

“Guess it should be soon,” Mulder answered. “What d’you think babe?”

“All I’ve got to do, literally, is pack my clothes and personal items, and I can be ready by tomorrow.” Alex looked to his brother, who was currently involved in nuzzling Scully’s neck. “Pete, what about you? You don’t have to do too much more, do you?”

“Nope. Clothes, personal junk… we can leave the furniture behind.”

“The building is Consortium owned isn’t it?” Scully asked.

“Technically, though dear old dad was the last one alive that we knew of.”

“So what happens to it now?”

Peter looked from Scully to Alex. “I don’t…you know, I was so focused on getting the hell out, it didn’t really occur to me. Who the hell *does* own it now?”

Saying nothing, Alex shrugged.

“Crrrap. I guess we should…find out? I mean… something should be done with it, right?”

Sighing heavily, Alex walked over to the computer and turned it on. “What do you say we find out?”

Peter left Scully’s side and took a seat at the desk. Nearly two hours later, he sat back and looked up at his brother, who was reading over his shoulder.

“Shit,” Alex whispered. “What… I mean… I didn’t think about any of this, did you?”

“No,” Peter mumbled, scanning the screen. “I’m pretty damn sure the old man didn’t have a will and, even if he did, I’m sure we wouldn’t be in it. But as we are his only remaining family…“ Alex grimaced at the statement. “.. I know, I know. But as we are, I’m guessing we inherit all of this?”

Alex shook his head. “Even if we could prove he was dead, which we can’t…would you want any of it? By all means, transfer the money. We can give to some worthy causes and pad our own numbers and give those two,” he said, tossing his head in the direction of the kitchen, where their respective partners were making lunch, “not just a good life, but a really good life. As far as everything else goes…” he shook his head and shrugged. “Even if we could have it free and clear, I don’t want a fucking thing to do with it.”

“Agreed,” Peter murmured. “We’ll just leave it.”

“Leave what?” Scully asked, as she and Fox entered the room with lunch. Alex got up to relieve Scully of two of the four glasses of lemonade that she had clutched to her chest.

“Spender had properties. Lots of them. Besides that, there’s the money. Peter is going to transfer that just like he has been all these years, but regarding the buildings… Even if we could take control of them, we don’t want them.”

“What kind of properties are they? “Fox asked.

“Mostly rental properties.”

“What will happen if you walk away?” Scully asked. “I mean, sooner or later, someone is going to realize that the owner of the buildings has sort of vanished. What happens in cases like those? Does anyone know?”

“My guess is that sooner or later, the states will step in. I don’t know how long that would take.“ Peter replied.

“States?”

Alex nodded. Six in all. New Mexico, California, New York, Texas, Nevada and Virginia.”

“*Virginia*. Please don’t say Alexandria,” Mulder muttered.

“Yyyyeah, it is, though,” Peter said.

“OK,” Scully broke in, “but what are the odds? Every state is loaded with rental properties..it *certainly* doesn’t mean that…”

“Dana’s right,“ Peter said. “What are the chances?“

Alex looked to Peter, a slight grimace etching his features. “Does it give an address?”

Peter tapped at the keyboard and seconds later had an answer. “Says here, 2630 Hegal….”

The three others groaned loudly.

“…Place….shit.”

“That son of a bitch,” Mulder growled. “And exactly how long have I been paying him rent?”

More tapping. “God…. A little over five years.“

“I can’t even believe this.” Mulder began to pace. That chain-smoking, pasty-faced bastard was my *landlord*?”

“Well,” Peter said, trying to make things better, “at least he wasn’t your father.”

“You got me there.”

“You know,” Scully began, slowly pacing back and forth, “ I know and totally understand about your reasons not to want to keep any of the properties, even if you could prove that Spender is dead. But…“

“But?“ Alex asked, eyebrows arching toward his hairline. “What *but* could there possibly be?“

“What’ll happen to all the people who are tenants of these buildings? Any time a new person takes possession of a building, you can be sure that they’re going to go up on the rent. It’s happened to my building twice. Some people simply couldn’t afford the increase and had to move. What if you guys could actually do some good for some people?“

Peter cocked his head to one side. “Such as?“

“Why don’t you do a little more research and find out the details on these buildings and what the rents are? I would bet my eye teeth that dear old dad was not the most generous of landlords. He probably soaked the hell out of them. What if you could *decrease* the rent? That’d be kind of a philanthropic thing to do.”

“This is all a moot point though, really,“ Mulder said. There’s no way they can prove that he’s… wait a minute… maybe they don’t have to prove it.”

“No?“ Peter folded his arms across his chest and leaned back in his chair. “What are you thinking?“

“What if he signed everything over to you guys?“

“That would be kind of a neat trick,” Alex began, “except for the fact Jeremiah Smith has disa… ohhhh, I think I know where you’re going with this. “

Mulder smirked at his lover and said nothing.

“Yeah? Well, clue *us* in,” Scully demanded.

“You think he’d do it?”

“Think who’d do *what*?”

“Why not? I mean, in the grand scheme of things, this is nothing compared to what he’s already done.”

“What the hell are you two talking about?” Peter asked, looking from one man to the other then back again.

Mulder’s gaze switched from Alex’s face to his brother’s. “Jeremiah Smith.”

“What about him?” Peter’s eyes widened. “Oh god, you’re not thinking of asking him to resurrect that son of a…”

“In a manner of speaking,” Fox shrugged.

“Oh, *hell* no. Have you both lost your…”

“Oh!” Scully shouted. “I get it!”

Eyebrows raised, Alex looked at her nodded.

“Our friend Jeremiah is a man of many talents,” Mulder explained. “Not only can he heal people and bring them back from the dead, but he can also take on the physical characteristics of any person.”

Peter’s confused expression slowly melted away as understanding dawned.

“Mulder, that’s… that’s…”

“Diabolically brilliant,” Alex finished, eyes glowing with admiration. “Let’s call him.”

Smirking, Mulder pulled his cell out of his back pocket and hit Smith’s number. Two rings later, he answered.

“Jeremiah. Fox Mulder. Are you still in Las Cruces? …When are you leaving? ….Might we ask you for another favor? …Could you come back to Peter’s apartment and we’ll discuss it? …As soon as you can make it. Great, thanks.” Mulder disconnected and scrolled to his text messages. A wide smile spread across his face, and he shook his head.

“What’s the smile for?” Scully asked. “And when is Jeremiah coming?”

“He’ll be here soon. And uh…. I haven’t looked at my phone since earlier yesterday, but it appears Samantha sent a message last night.” Fox showed the phone to Alex, who chuckled softly.

“What’s she say?”

Still smiling, Mulder lowered his head. “Uhh…it was just one word.”

“Okay, so what was the word?”

“…Animals.”

“Another cryptic message to figure out?”

“Not so cryptic,” Alex murmured, scratching the back of his head then smoothing down the disturbed strands.

Scully cocked her head. “What do you think it means?”

“Well, it came in late last night; a while after everyone had left. I uh… I think she was watching us.”

Scully held her hands up in front of her. “Ooookay, all right. Say no more; I get it. And I have to say, I agree completely.”

“What makes you say *that*?” Alex asked. “You weren’t here last night.”

“Yeah, but we were for a short time this morning,” Peter chuckled. “And we can definitely understand why she’d say that. The sounds coming out of that bedroom did *not* sound human.”

Alex lowered his head, laughing softly. “Come on, we’re not *that* bad.”

“Oh, you don’t think so? Set a recorder one night so you can hear yourselves.”

Alex lifted his head, sending his brother a sneer. Fox sidled over to him and leaned in, whispering something in his ear, and the sneer turned to a smirk and then a lewd chuckle. “That’s true,” he murmured then turned to brush his mouth over the other man’s. “You’ve got such a dirty mind.”

“Oh *god*,” Peter moaned. “You two…”

“What?” Mulder said all wide-eyed innocence. “All I said was…”

“Never mind!”

Before Mulder could respond, the buzzer sounded.

Peter bolted for the door, breathing a loud sigh of relief. “Excellent timing,” he said to the smiling man and waved him in.

“Oh?” Smith entered and looked around at the small group. Noting the ‘cat that ate the canary’ expression on two of the faces, he began to laugh. “You boys embarrassing these two?”

Alex shrugged, reaching out to shake Smith’s hand as he approached. “Probably.”

“So what can I do for you?”

“Well,” Mulder began, offering Smith a seat, and then he began his pitch. “Here’s our dilemma …”

**********

“Long day.”

“Yeah,” Alex sighed, as he rid himself of the last of his clothing and dropped onto bed beside his weary lover. “Productive though. I’m all packed up, thanks to Jeremiah we’ve got a plan for the properties, Pete should be able to join us in just a few days…” He turned his head to meet Fox’s gaze. “We’re starting our lives… the four of us.”

Fox pulled Alex into his arms and hugged him tightly. “Seems like a dream.”

“I know,” Alex murmured, brushing his fingers over Fox’s chest. “So much hell over this past year… for both of us. And now it’s all just melting away. Here we are. Together. Happier than I think either of us could have ever imagined.”

“Yeah,” Fox breathed, kissing the top of Alex’s head. “It’s incredible.”

“Most incredible is this.” Alex lifted his head and looked into softly glowing eyes. “…You love me.” He frowned as a light glaze coated one eye. “You love me,” he repeated almost inaudibly, amazed at his own words.

“Yeah. I do,” Fox said. “And don’t you ever forget it nor have even an instant of doubt, you understand me?”

Giving the other man a virtually imperceptible nod, Alex lay motionless, mesmerized by the limitless depth of emotion he found in the soft gray green gaze. Fox reached up and ran his fingers through the heavy sable silk.

“Maybe I should show you.”

“Show me…”

Fox pulled Alex down until they were sharing breath. Tenderly, he brushed his mouth over the other’s, and his whispered words vibrated against the perfectly bowed lips.

“How much I love you.”

“I know… but I’ll never stop you from showing me if you want to,” Alex moaned before covering Fox’s mouth in a sweet kiss that touched off an equally captivating response. Minutes later, they were laying front to back, Fox dropping small kisses along the line of Alex’s shoulder. The arm tucked under and around him, pulled him in close as he guided his slick cock in past the rounded muscles of Alex’s rear. The younger man arched his back while his head pushed into Fox’s shoulder. A long moan escaped his lips as Fox breached his entrance, and he sobbed his lover’s name.

“What is it, baby?” Fox breathed against the side of Alex’s throat as he inched ever so slowly inside. “…..Tell me.”

Alex’s head rolled from side to side. “Can’t, I…… never….never felt…”

Fox’s teeth closed around his lover’s earlobe and pulled gently. Releasing it, he whispered directly into Alex’s ear, making the object of his ardent attention, shudder.

“Never felt what?”

“……So …*much*.”

The emotion drenched statement required no clarification.

“I know, sweetheart,” Fox sighed, gently wrapping his free hand around Alex’s cock. “Me either.” He began to stroke it in time to his lazy thrusts, and a soft, stuttering moan escaped Alex’s lips.

For several minutes Fox kept them both teetering on the edge of shattering ecstasy, and when he was sure that neither of them could take any more, he let them tumble into the abyss.

Alex’s breaths left and returned in ragged gusts. He wound an arm around the back of Fox’s neck and moved his hips in counterpoint to his lover’s. “Jesus,” he hissed through gritted teeth. “Foooox… I can’t…mmmmh…can’t…”

“You don’t have to,” Fox answered, his response every bit as urgent as Alex’s broken plea. “I’m with you. I’m… come on…. Come for me, Sasha.”

Alex’s head snapped back, and a low groan rumbled past gritted teeth. Every muscle in his body contracted, and the increased pressure further hastened Fox’s orgasm.

“That’s it,” he gasped, milking Alex’s cock as he bucked erratically into the younger man. “My beautiful… beautiful…” His mouth fell open, and a long, choking moan joined Alex’s. When it was done, they lay curled together, slowly coming down. Fox began to pull away, but Alex gripped his forearm and pushed back against him.

“Nooo. Stay.”

Smiling at the sleepy demand, Fox pressed a soft kiss into Alex’s hair and pushed his gradually softening cock deeper inside its warm home. “Okay?” he asked, rocking gently against the other man.

“Mmm hmmm.” Alex inhaled deeply and exhaled a soft, satisfied moan. Fox rested his cheek against the silky sable cushion of his lover’s hair, and he closed his eyes. Just before he drifted into sleep, Alex’s voice reached him, hoarse and saturated with adoration.

“I love you…”

***************
Six days later
***************

Eyes, blue as a July morning searched the crowd of people de-planing from flight 547 from New Mexico, by way of Alabama. The straight flight had been detoured, no thanks to an unruly passenger. Once the troublemaker had been escorted off the plane, it continued on to BWI, and landed at 12:23 a.m., three hours later than it should have arrived.

“Dana!”

A wide smile lit the woman’s face, and she headed in the direction of the voice. The man lifted her off the ground in a bear hug and planted a sound kiss on her lips. The two who had accompanied her to the airport, stood at a distance, smiling at the scene. As the couple completed their greeting, they joined the others.

“About damn time,” Alex groused good-naturedly as he embraced his brother and slapped him on the back. “We we’re getting ready to pitch a tent in the parking lot.”

“People are crazy,” Peter breathed, greeting Mulder in the same manner as he had Alex.

“What happened?” Scully asked. “They only said that you’d had to detour.”

“Some idiot was yelling and cursing at his wife on the phone, and then he started swearing at the attendants when they told him he needed to hang up and shut it off. He wouldn’t stop, so they got fed up and dropped his ass of in Alabama.”

“Good God. Well, let’s get your bags and get out of here.”

Half an hour later, the foursome was piled into Mulder’s car and on their way to Georgetown.

“So, I understand that your boss isn’t any too happy about all of this.”

Mulder glanced at the darkened figure of Alex‘s brother in the rearview mirror. “That would be an understatement,” he answered.

Alex continued the thought. “He’s not as bent out of shape about you as he is about me, Pete…obviously, though you are my brother and that doesn’t sit well with him at all. Mother Teresa could’ve been my aunt, and Skinner would’ve been suspicious of her.”

“Fantastic. So what, then? Is he ‘ clean your personal effects out of your desks and hit the bricks’ kind of bent out of shape; or is he, ‘if Krycek and his brother breathe the wrong way, you’re gone‘ kind of bent out of shape; or is he… ‘I think you’re both insane but it’s your life’ kind of bent out of shape?”

Mulder chuckled softly. “I think it’s some of C and a whole lot of B.”

“Is it going to be awkward dealing with him now?”

“Probably, for a little while,” Scully said on a yawn. She laid her head on Peter’s shoulder and smiled sleepily as he wound an arm around her. “ I think things’ll level off when he sees how happy we are.”

“I don’t know, Scully,” Mulder droned. “I don’t think that’ll happen until we’re all celebrating our fifteen year anniversaries together. And even then, it’s kind of iffy.”

“I’m afraid I have to agree with Fox,” Alex said, reaching across the seat to comb his fingers through the driver’s hair. “Skinner will never like or trust me, or by default, Peter. I don’t ever see us having drinks and hors d’oeuvres together at the Bureau Christmas party.”

“Well…if it gets too uncomfortable you both know that you don’t need to be there.”

Mulder nodded his acknowledgment.

“So, what’ve you two been up to this past week? You settled in okay, kiddo?”

“Yeah, not that I had much settling in to do. My clothes are unpacked and just about everything else I brought is in a storage unit until we find a place.”

“Have you decided on a house or a bigger apartment?”

“No sense in getting another apartment only to end up breaking a lease when we find a house, so we’ve just jumped straight into house hunting,” Mulder said as he took the Georgetown exit.

“Makes sense. Think that’s what we should do, Dana?”

No answer.

Peter lowered his voice. “She’s asleep isn’t she?”

Alex turned around and smiled. “Yeah,” he murmured. “She’s out.”

Some fifteen minutes later, Mulder pulled up to Scully’s building, and he and Alex got out to retrieve the bags from the trunk. Alex opened the rear passenger’s side door and waited.

“Dana,” Peter called softly, gently shaking the sleeping woman awake. “Come on, honey. We’re here.”

The red head lifted slightly, and half mast eyes looked around.

“Home already?”

“Yep.” Peter slid out of the car and helped her to her feet.

“Just get her inside. We’ll take care of the bags,” Alex offered. “Maybe if you don’t jostle her around too much, she’ll go right back to sleep.”

The two men preceded the other couple to the building, and Mulder used his own key to let them in.

“Get her to bed,” Fox whispered. We’ll leave your stuff here near the door.”

“Thanks guys. I’ll call you tomorrow, kid.”

“Okay goodnight and uh… welcome home,” Alex called softly as his brother steered Scully into the bedroom. A flash of a smile was all the answer he got as the two disappeared past the doorway. Mulder locked up, and a minute later, he and Alex were on their way back to Alexandria.

“I could’ve driven,” Fox sighed from the passenger’s seat as he stretched his arms and legs.

“Yeah, but you’ve been up since five. You’ve had a long day.”

“You were up at that time too,” Fox argued softly, laying his head on the driver’s shoulder.

“Yeah, but I was home all day. You were at work. I’m just glad it’s the weekend. You can sleep all day if you want.”

“Only if you stay with me,” Fox mumbled, finally beginning to feel real exhaustion.

“If I stay in bed all day with you, how much sleep are you actually going to get?”

“Why?” Fox croaked. “Do you plan on not *letting* me sleep?”

Alex laughed softly, shaking his head. “You and I both know that you’ve got no self-control whatsoever.”

“Izzat right?”

“Yes, that is right.”

“An’ you’re the model of restraint, right?”

“Exactly.”

“Bullshit.”

Alex chuckled softly and kissed the top of the golden brown head still nestled against his shoulder.

“Whatever you say, honey.”

********************

What was that?

Daylight?

Fox blinked in the early morning brightness and turned his head to the left. A crooked smile curved his lips as the slack features of his still sleeping lover met his gaze.

It had been a week since Alex had come to live with him, and the joy of waking up next to him every morning, of knowing that everything about this was his to keep, had only increased.

Fox took in a deep breath and released it on a happy sigh. A moment later, sable lashes began to flutter then opened halfway. Alex took in a long breath then stretched as he let it out. A sleepy smile formed, and he reached out to stroke Fox’s cheek.

“Morning, pretty Fox. What time is it?”

“Seven forty-nine,” came the husky response. Fox grasped the warm hand and brought it to his lips. “How’d you sleep?”

“Like a rock. You?”

“Same. Still tired, though.”

“We didn’t get to sleep till probably after two. That’s less than six hours after a really long day.” Alex moved closer and gently swept his hand over Fox’s eyes. “Go back to sleep.”

“What’re *you* gonna do?” Fox asked, snuggling closer and clinging to the other man.

“Also go back to sleep, apparently,” Alex’s amused response rumbled in the golden brown silk brushing his chin.

Slowly, one long leg swept over Alex’s thigh and draped itself over his hip.

“Or…”

“ I thought you were tired… I also thought that you had better self-control.”

“I do.”

“…I mean… that’s what you told me yesterday.”

A straying hand wandered down past the waistband of the younger man’s underwear and over the curve of his rear.“It wasn’t yesterday, it was earlier today.”

“Whatever. You said it.”

“So?”

“So, you’re tired. You should get some more sleep.”

“Don’t want to,” Fox moaned, nibbling at Alex’s throat.

“You see? Complete lack of discipline.“

“Not being able to do something because you have no willpower and not *wanting* to do something are two different things.”

“Ah. Thanks for clearing that up.”

“No problem. Now…..”

Any further argument was lost as he was jerked into a ravenous kiss. His cock, which had been slowly awakening, snapped to attention and pushed insistently against Fox’s, and he grunted into the other man’s mouth as he was unceremoniously rolled onto his back.

“Don’t move,” Fox murmured against his lover’s lips, then he began a leisurely journey south, teasing and nipping his way down to the sizeable erection that twitched impatiently within the confines of Alex’s boxer briefs.

Alex’s mouth fell open on a hoarse moan, and he arched off the bed as Fox reached his destination, gently nuzzling the solid muscle still hidden from him.

“Fox…”. It came out as a cross between a whisper and gasp. “Baby… oh, god…”

Fox’s teeth closed delicately around the fabric covered cock, and he pulled up slightly, driving Alex into a desperate frenzy. Then all of a sudden, he stopped. Alex’s eyes snapped open, and he looked down in time to see Fox sliding back up to meet his gaze.

“Sorry…I guess I see what you mean about me having no self-control.”

A suspicious frown creased Alex’s brow. “….And?”

“I’ll try to behave.”

“…When?”

Fox shrugged. “Now.” He lowered his head to the pillow beside Alex and closed his eyes.

“….Uh….sweetheart?”

“Hmm?”

“Don’t take this the wrong way but, if you don’t suck my dick, and I do mean right now, so help me, I’m going tie you down and…”

A devious glimmer lit Fox’s eyes, and he cut off Alex’s tirade with a smirk.

“…I’m not exactly sure if you’re meaning that as a *threat*, but let me clue you in, baby doll. I’m not taking it that way.”

“Oh, no?”

“Nope.” Fox’s tone dropped to a smoky purr. “All it does is make me about 13 different kinds of hot.”

So… I threaten you and you think that’s a turn on.”

His answer came in the form of a low moan, and his hand whispering over Alex’s still concealed cock.

“Freak, “Alex whispered as he pulled Fox in for a more demanding kiss. “Now get back down there”, he growled, releasing the plush mouth. “You’ve got some unfinished business to attend to.”

Chuckling softly, Fox slid back down to take care of “business”, and it wasn’t until he’d brought Alex to a very loud finish, that he rose once more to meet his lover’s eyes.

“I believe that concludes my portion of our transaction, Mr. Krycek.”

Sable lashes fluttered as Alex dragged air back into his lungs.

“Hmm?”

“I’ve fulfilled my obligation. Now it’s time for a little reciprocity.”

“I said *you* had unfinished business. I said nothing about myself. Besides, I’m tired.”

“Oh, is that right?”

“Yeah…you drained me.” Alex squirmed briefly, and then sighed as he made himself more comfortable.

“If you fall asleep on me Krycek, you and me are gonna fight.”

“No sense in trying to turn me on,” Alex purred. “I’m beat.”

“Not *yet*, you’re not. But you go ahead and fall asleep and see what happens.”

“You are demanding, aren’t you?” Alex croaked, a hint of a smirk twitching at his lips.

“Your fault.”

“Oh, I can’t *wait* to hear this,” Alex mumbled to himself then directed the question at his smug lover. “How precisely am I to blame for your greed?”

Fox lowered his head until they were nose to nose. “Because,“ he whispered, “you’re so damn sexy, I can’t get enough of you.” Slowly, his tongue stroked the other man’s lips then teased them apart and slithered inside. A soft groan rolled in Alex’s throat as he engaged Fox in a seductive duel, lasting for several minutes until Fox took his campaign a step further.

Alex arched against Fox, his mouth breaking from the other’s as his head pressed back into the pillow. A long gasp escaped his lips, and he moaned his lover’s name.

“What is it baby?” Fox asked, gently grinding his hips against Alex’s. “What do you need?”

“Mmmmmm…. you’re playing dirty, Fox.”

“No, I’m not,” Fox murmured. “You are.” He hooked his hands under Alex’s knees, lifting and holding the younger man’s thighs against his hips, and the grinding became more rhythmic.

“*Ssshhhit.* How,” Alex panted, “…how do you figure *that*?”

“All those sounds you’re making. Have you any idea what they do to me? Or that faraway look you get, when you’re lost in the moment… or the way your body moves against mine when you’re begging to be fucked? …You’re doing it right now.”

A rough, drawn out groan was all the answer Alex could give.

“Aren’t you?”

“….Dammit, Fox…”

Fox's hips jerked hard against his lovers, prompting a sharp cry.

“Dammit Fox, what?”

“*Yes*.”

“Yes, what?”

“You fucker.”

“That’s sweet. Yes, what?”

“Yes, I want you to fuck me.”

“You sure?”

“….Are you serious?”

Fox smirked and gave a tiny shrug as he lessened the pressure. “I’m getting mixed signals. Your words are saying one thing and your body is saying something else.” Again he lowered his head to brush his mouth over Alex’s. “What is your body saying Sasha?” He dragged his lips over to the younger man’s ear and moaned into it. “What’s it saying?”

Alex’s mouth fell open on a soft gasp, and his body trembled.

“Please, Fox. I’m begging you. Please fuck me.” To punctuate his plea, his body began to undulate, rubbing lewdly against Fox’s.

“Mmmm, yeah,” Fox moaned as he reached for the lube. Alex squirmed and whimpered impatiently while he waited for Fox to prepare, and when he felt himself being stretched to accommodate his lover’s generous proportions, the whimpers morphed into a long, grating sob.

“That’s it,” Fox whispered. “That’s what I wanted.”

There was no gentleness, no teasing. Only fast, agitated movement, and the increasingly thunderous growls of the man who’d had no intention of controlling his own actions.

Alex coiled himself around his lover, his head restlessly rolling from side to side as he pleaded for more. Harder. Faster. Fox gave him what he’d asked for, and inside of three minutes, the air vibrated with howls of extreme pleasure. When the racket dissipated and their cries turned to soft purrs of contentment, Fox lifted his head and focused a weary, satisfied smile on the other man.

“Now, was that so hard?”

One eye opened and trained a hazy green gaze on the face hovering above.

“Was what so hard?”

“Admitting that so soon after you’d come, you needed me to fuck you.”

“You didn’t just want me to admit it, you wanted me to *beg* you for it.”

“Only because you really wanted to.”

“……Jerk.”

Fox shook with silent laughter. He planted a kiss on the tip of Alex’s nose and grinned down at him.

“Tired now, Pookums?”

“I was tired *before*. But did you listen to… wait waaaaait, wait. Hang on….*Pookums*?”

Fox shrugged. “Lots of couples have more than one nickname for each other.”

Alex stared blankly. “….And I look like a Pookums to you.”

Another shrug.

“Okay…okay. I’m going to have to come up with something equally as ridiculous for you.”

Fox’s mouth turned down into a delicious pout. “You don’t like it? I thought it was cute.”

“It’s *not* cute, and knock that off.”

“What?”

“*That*,” Alex huffed, pointing his finger at Fox’s mouth and wagging it back and forth. “That…that…*thing* you do.”

“Thing?”

“You *know* what I’m talking about. That pouty sulky thing. It drives me nuts, and you know it, which is why you’re doing it.”

“You should be too tired to be going nuts…shouldn’t you?”

Alex drew a long breath and let it out heavily. “You’re impossible, you know that?”

A smile replaced the pout, and Fox rolled onto his back, tipping his head to the left so that it rested against Alex’s.

“Yeah….and you know it too. And still, you love me.”

Alex lifted himself on one elbow and rested his cheek in his hand. He stared down at the other man, the softness of his smile reaching his eyes, and then his voice.

“Still…..always.”

Fox’s smile faded as he reached up to caress his lover’s jaw.

“What?” Alex whispered, holding Fox’s gaze.

The smile returned briefly then faded again, and Fox shook his head.

Concern crept into Alex’s tone. “Tell me.”

There was a long pause then Fox began, his voice low and full of restrained emotion. “Sometimes… just for a split second, I find myself back there. In that hell. Feeling you leave me and being unable to do anything to stop it. Or afterward, lying on your bed. Alone. Knowing there was no way I could live a happy, full life without you. Not wanting to. And then I snap back.” His gaze, which had grown distant, refocusing on Alex’s face. “And you’re here. It’s not a dream. I’m not going to wake up alone.”

Alex grasped Fox’s wrist and pressed a soft kiss into his palm. “Nope. You’re stuck with me.” He leaned in and captured Fox’s mouth in a tender kiss before snuggling up to the older man.

Fox wrapped his arms securely around his love, and closed his eyes.

“Always.”

-------------------------

Sixteen months later
--------------------------

“Let’s *gooo*!”

“I’m coming!”

“You’ve been saying that for twenty minutes!“ Alex bellowed from the foot of the stairs. “May I remind you that the ceremony can’t start until you and I are there?!”

Finally he heard movement and Fox appeared at the top of the stairs. He smiled as the other man descended and stopped in front of him.

“God*damn*, you’re gorgeous,” he breathed, taking in the way the classic black tux fitted Fox to absolute perfection.

“Says the GQ cover model,” Fox responded, taking a moment to appreciate Alex in the matching ensemble.

One corner of Alex’s mouth lifted in response then, aiming a quick peck at the tip of Fox’s nose, he grabbed his keys off the hall table. Taking Fox’s hand, the couple walked to the door.

“Let’s go, pretty Fox. We got a wedding to get to.”

They stepped out onto the wraparound porch of their hundred and twenty-year-old Victorian house, and Fox pulled the heavy oak door shut and held it while Alex locked it. Descending the stairs, they walked around to the side, pulling the carriage house doors open and got into Alex’s vintage Cadillac.

Over the last year plus, Fox had learned a few things about Alex.

One, he loved antiques. Things with a story to tell. Things that were built to last. And Fox was on board with that.

While house shopping, Alex was automatically drawn to the older homes. The older the better, in fact; when they’d come across the Queen Anne with the doors that didn’t close quite right, the drafty windows that were sure to triple the winter time heating bill and the wood gutters that would all need to be repaired and/or replaced, Alex fell head over heels in love. Fox saw them living with restoration crews for months and months to come, but truth be told, he loved the house too, and even if he hadn’t, he loved Alex. And he’d live with the sawing and hammering for ten years if that’s how long it took, because of that joyful sparkle that he saw every day, in those beautiful green eyes

Two…Alex loved cars. Soon after he moved to Virginia, he’d bought a Mercedes SUV. He had wanted to get one for Fox, but Fox insisted that it wasn’t practical for sitting in beltway traffic and especially not for the Hoover parking garage. His Ford had sustained far too many mysterious dents and dings over the years, and he’d be really pissed if something that expensive got damaged. Alex had acquiesced, insisting though, that they at least upgrade Fox to a Lincoln.

And then there was the Caddy. Alex had found a mint, ‘59 baby blue Cadillac Sedan DeVille for sale that had basically been kept cloistered away in a garage in Arizona and only come out for the numerous car shows its owner would take it to. The man had passed away, and his son, who’d admitted to hating the car for reasons he’d not divulged, had immediately put it up for sale… for a hefty price of course. Apparently the man had nothing against *money*…

Fox remembered well the night five months ago, that Alex had fallen into bed beside him with his laptop.

“Look at *this*.”

Fox put his glasses on and peered at the screen.

“Nice.“

“Isn’t it?”

“Mmm.”

“I’m going to call tomorrow.“

“You… you are?” Fox looked from the monitor to Alex then back to the monitor. “Am I seeing that price right?“

“I don’t know. What are you seeing?”

“Fifty grand?“

“Uhhh, yep.“

Fox shook his head and smiled.

“What? You think I’m crazy?“

“I *know* you’re crazy, but… that has nothing to do with this,” Fox laughed. “Buy it if you want, babe. It’s your money.”

“It’s *our* money, “Alex replied softly but left no room for argument. “If you think it’s too frivolous, I’ll forget about it.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” Fox had insisted. “If you like it that much, call. It’s not like you can’t…” he stopped, noting Alex’s chastising glance, then began again. “…*we* can’t afford it.”

And so, over four weeks later, a car trailer pulled up with Alex’s…their…latest acquisition. The sparkle in Alex’s eyes, when the car was unloaded, was worth the endless days of phone calls to transport companies and investigations of said transport companies, and preparation of the carriage house in anticipation of the Caddy’s arrival. And just like that, they had three vehicles with, as Alex had observed, highly amused by the look of horror on Fox’s face, room in the ground level of the carriage house for a couple more.

Three…Alex was insatiable. His sexual appetite, matched only by Fox’s, grew and grew. It had seemed that familiarity did nothing at all to temper their desire for each other. It had only stoked the fire and, as Scully had observed, rendered them almost impossible to be out in public with…

Speaking of Scully…

Alex pulled into the church parking lot noting that, from the small handful of cars, they had at least made it there before most of the guests.

The couple entered the church through the back door and separated, Alex going off in search of his brother and Fox finding the bride’s ready room, where Scully, her mother and maid of honor were putting the finishing touches on the bride’s makeup. Mulder knocked softly and waited until Scully‘s cousin allowed him entrance. He smiled his thanks at the gawking woman and took two steps into the room before stopping cold and blowing out a long, appreciative breath. Cerulean eyes lifted, and a brilliant smile lit the bride’s face.

“Mulder, you’re gorgeous.”

Mulder shook his head and strode over to where his partner sat. “I was just about to tell you the same thing,” he murmured, giving Scully a gentle hug and a light peck on the cheek. Straightening up, he greeted Mrs. Scully, who properly introduced him to her niece Eileen. After a polite two minute conversation, he turned back to Scully.

“Sorry for missing the rehearsal. Of all times for a flight to get delayed.”

“No big deal, really. Standard wedding procedure. And hey, I’m just happy they found the issue with the landing gear *before* you took off. Get everything accomplished that you had intended to?“

“Yep. We never expected it would drag on this long but it’s finally all over and done. There’s no need for *CGB* to put in any more appearances.”

Mulder lingered for a short time longer then excused himself and went off to check on the groom, promising to be back before they had to get moving. Once he was gone, Eileen turned to Scully and blew out a hard breath.

“*Wow*. He’s *beautiful*.”

Dana’s lips quirked up into a smile.

“Yeah, he is that.”

“Listen, not that Peter isn’t a good looking man. He sure is. And he seems like a sweetheart and you can see in his eyes how much he loves you but… how did you work all these years with *that* and never…” She glanced at her aunt and censored her thoughts. “Never….get together?”

“Mulder and I developed a deep bond, but it never went down that path. He’s more like a brother than anything.”

“*Lord*… is he married?”

Dana‘s eyebrows lifted in amusement; Margaret Scully rolled her eyes and smiled.

“Not in so many words…”

“Huh?“

“He’s attached, Eileen. As attached as anyone can possibly be without a certificate.”

“Figures. All the gorgeous ones are.”

Dana laughed softly and returned to her makeup.

**********

“*Pete*… would you sit down and relax? By the time you get to the reception you’re going to be too tired to enjoy it.”

Pacing like a caged animal, Peter drew one hand across his chin.

“It’s hot in here. Don’t you think it’s hot in here?“

“You wouldn’t be hot if you would sit. Your ass. *Down*!”

The door opened and Mulder poked his head in.

“How’s it going?”

Alex shook his head. “He’s a wreck. I’ll bet *Scully* isn’t this nervous.”

Mulder chuckled as he watched Peter pass by him for the third time. “She’s doing fine.”

“You see?” Alex tossed in his brother’s direction. “If someone was going to pass out at the altar, I’m pretty sure no one would believe it would be the groom.”

“I can’t help it, guys. I can’t help it… She’s so beautiful and smart and… and…*good*. What the hell does she want with a guy like me?”

“Oh my god, he sounds like me,” Alex mumbled then got to his feet and grasped his brother’s shoulders, forcing him to stop moving. “Listen to me. Pete….*Pete*. There’s no one you know with a past as checkered as mine. And no one with less reason to love me than that one,” he said with a nod in Mulder’s direction. But he does. And Scully loves you. Very very much. “In less than…” He looked down at his watch. “Fifteen minutes, you’re going to be exchanging vows with the woman you adore. And you’re going to have a rich, happy life….if you don’t drop from a stroke first!”

“Okay…okay.” Peter rubbed his hands on his thighs. “You’re right. She loves me. I mean, she wouldn’t be marrying me otherwise, right?”

“Right. Now sit your ass down and take a couple of deep breaths.”

Alex waited until his brother dropped heavily into a chair before turning his attention to Fox.

“Twenty bucks says he forgets his vows.”

Fox burst into laughter then quickly choked it off, feeling guilty for finding the situation amusing.

“*Alex*…”

Sable eyebrows lifted. “*What*? Look at him. Do you really think he’s going to be able to remember his own name let alone…?” Alex turned to glance at his brother then groaned. “Oh, for…Pete!” He rushed to join the panicked groom. “Not like that! Jesus, you’re gonna hyperventilate and hit the floor!”

Laughing, Mulder exited the room and returned to Scully, who was now posing for a few pictures with her mother and cousin.

“Perfect timing! Get over here Mulder; we need a picture with the father of the bride.”

The confused photographer looked from Scully to Mulder but asked no questions as he took the requisite shots then excused himself, announcing that he would now head over to get a few photos of the groom and best man.

“How’s he doing?” Scully asked once the photographer was gone.

“Oh, y-you know,” Mulder stammered. “A little nervous but otherwise, ready to go.”

//Ready to go straight to the ER//

Several minutes later, it was time to take position. Mrs. Scully preceded Eileen, meeting Scully’s brothers at the back of the church. Situated between her sons, she took each by an arm and, stretching up to murmur something into Bill’s ear; they started down the aisle and took their seats. Next, the maid of honor moved forward, drifting along in time to the music. Meanwhile, Peter stood as still as a statue, watching the doorway. Leaning in, Alex murmured instructions into his brother’s ear.

“Don’t lock your knees, Pete. Loosen up. Come on man, breathe. That’s it…good. You’re doing okay.”

As Eileen got closer, her jaw went visibly slack. She moved to her position, unable for long seconds, to take her eyes off of the drop dead gorgeous man by Peter’s side. His brother. That was it. Dana had said that his brother was his best man.

Damn! What were they putting in the Virginia water? These men were *fine*.

The music stopped and then the wedding march began. The small congregation rose to their feet and watched, smiling as Scully, in an elegantly simple ivory gown, proceeded down the aisle on Mulder’s arm. He escorted the bride to her place in front of the altar and, kissing her cheek, he turned to shake the groom’s trembling hand. He then took his seat beside Mrs. Scully, completely missing the scorching glare from Bill Jr.

Alex *didn’t* miss it.

As Scully turned to hand her bouquet to Eileen, the other woman’s eyes flicked to Alex then came right back to Scully, giving her a wide eyed stare. Shaking with silent laughter, Scully merely shook her head.

The ceremony began, and in spite of extreme terror, Peter did all right with a little discreet coaching from his brother. When Father McHugh pronounced them husband and wife, he nearly sank to the floor with relief. Alex gave him a tiny shove from behind, sending him stumbling into his bride’s arms and they shared their first kiss as a married couple.

The recessional brought Alex and Eileen into each other’s company for the first time, and she smiled the considerable distance up into his face.

“Hi. Eileen. Maid of honor.”

Alex chuckled. “Hi. Alex. Best man.” He offered his arm, which Eileen took without hesitation, and they followed Dana and Peter down the aisle to the continuous sound of applause and whistles.

Pictures followed outside, and then everyone piled into their vehicles for the drive to the reception venue.

“Well…they did it,” Fox said, smiling broadly as he settled into the passenger’s seat. I thought your brother was going to pass out a couple of times there, but he made it.”

“I know,” Alex chuckled. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so nervous.” He shook his head and changed the subject completely. “You know, it’s incredible. Did you ever think you’d see the day when Scully would have to call me her brother-in-law?”

Fox dissolved into laughter. “I’m sure *she* never thought it.”

Alex shook his head. “…..I was surprised and happy for Scully that Skinner actually showed up. Seems like he’s coming around just a little bit.”

“A little,” Fox agreed. “I don’t know that we should expect to see him at the reception but at least he made an effort to go to the ceremony.”

“Yeah… And I thought Frohike was going to jump out of his seat when the priest asked if anyone had any objections.”

Grinning, Fox nodded. “I know. He’s been lusting after Scully for years, and in sweeps *brother rat* to take her away from him.”

Alex burst into laughter.

“Poor bastard.”

Arriving at the venue, the two exited the car and walked hand in hand into the building. The first in the wedding party to arrive, they took a quick spin around the room, where staff was rushing to make last minute adjustments.

“Very nice,” Alex observed. “Tasteful.”

The sound of voices and laughter drew their attention to the door. A group of guests entered, including the Gunmen, Jeremiah Smith, a few people from the Bureau, and, shockingly, A.D. Skinner, walking side by side with Kimberly, his secretary.

“Holy crap, he came,” Fox muttered, tracking Skinner’s movement.

“Think you should go talk to him?”

“I….I *guess*?”

“Great.” Alex slapped his lover's arm. “Let me know how it goes.” And with that, he was off, leaving Fox glaring in his wake.

“Asshole,” Fox hissed then started toward his boss.

“Sir…I’m very glad to see that you came. I know Scully’ll really appreciate it. Hi Kim. Glad you could make it.”

The redhead smiled and nodded, looking from Mulder to Skinner, who had yet to respond, then back to Mulder. “Of course,” she said softly. “I like Dana very much. I’m honored to have been invited.”

Mulder returned her smile then cleared his throat. “ Well… the table assignment cards are over there if you want to find yours.”

Skinner nodded then finally spoke.

“I thought it very fitting that Scully would ask you to stand in place of her father.”

“Oh. Yeah. I was honored.”

Skinner’s eyes shifted, scanning the room.

“Where’s….” He cleared his throat and began again. “Where’s Krycek? I saw him with you when we first came in.”

Mulder paused; surprised that Skinner would bring Alex up at all, let alone ask where he was.

“He’s around here somewhere.”

Skinner nodded. “How’s the new house?”

“It’s an *old* new house, so… a lot of repairing and restoration work. But we love it. You’re uh… you’re welcome to come by and see it any time.” He motioned quickly to Kim, not wanting to leave her out. “You too, Kim. Any time.”

“I love old houses,” Kim replied. “I may take you up on that.”

Skinner shifted uncomfortably. “Well… we should go find our table. See you later, Mulder.”

Mulder watched his boss’s retreating form, turning away only when he saw Skinner and Kim seat themselves at the ‘honored guests’ table with the Gunmen and Smith.

The Scully family and Eileen arrived minutes later, and while they waited for the bride and groom to make their appearance, Margaret Scully drew Mulder aside and gave him a heartfelt hug while the elder Scully sibling glared from a distance.

“Thank you, Fox.”

“What for?” Mulder asked returning the hug.

“For standing in as father of the bride. Truth be told, I was a bit upset when Dana told me about her choice. Not that it had anything to do with you,“ she hastened to add. “ but I immediately thought that it should have been her brother Bill to have that honor. But Dana explained the reason for her choice, and the more I thought about it, the more fitting I realized it was. Family isn’t just in the veins.“ She placed her hand lightly over her chest. “It’s in here. You and Dana have been as close as any family, and you probably know more about her over these last several years than her brothers, or even myself. No one has spent more time with her than you have. No one else has been through what you two have been through together.” Blue eyes welled up and spilled over as she took his hand. “So, thank you Fox. I’ll always consider you a part of my family. And, if it’s all right, I would love to be able to get to know Alex better. It couldn’t be more clear how you two feel about each other.”

Mulder’s mouth slanted up into a soft smile. “Thank you, Mrs. Scully. Your offer means a lot to me.”

“Maggie.”

“Okay…Maggie.”

She patted his hand and looked around. “Now, where’d you misplace that handsome man of yours?”

Mulder treated her to a full smile. “I have no idea. I guess I should go find him, shouldn’t I?”

**********

“Did you see him sitting there with Mom, all smug?”

“I don’t know, Bill, he looked pretty humble to me.”

“Are you kidding?”

“No, I’m not. Listen, I know that having a non-family member stand in Dad‘s place doesn’t sit right with you…I’m disappointed myself. And the fact that it’s Fox Mulder just makes it that much worse for you, because you hate the guy so much. But that was our sister’s decision and she explained to us *why* she made it. We have no choice but to accept it. So, can we please do that and not ruin the most important day of Dana’s life?“

“It’d be a lot easier if he wasn’t right in front of my face, flouncing around with that… that….” He trailed off on a disgusted grunt.

“Are you referring to your sister’s brother-in-law?” Charlie asked. “I believe his name is Alex. And I don’t recall seeing either one of them*flounce*.”

“I couldn’t give a good damn less what his name is…God, I knew it, you know? I knew Mulder had to be a little light in the loafers.”

“How the hell did you know that?”

“Seriously? Look at ‘im! It’s obvious he’s a fem. He’s such a pretty boy.”

“He *is* pretty, isn’t he?” A low voice sounded behind the two men. Alex stared and cocked his head slightly. “Interesting that you noticed.” He took three steps forward, bringing himself into the other men’s space. “And he’s more man than you’ll ever know, Lurch. Now… why don’t you take your brother’s advice and don’t do anything to ruin your sister’s and my brother’s day. I really don’t want to have to speak to you again about this.”

Bill took half a step forward and looked down at the man who was about two inches shorter than him. His slight height advantage gave him a false sense of security.

“Is that right?”

He should have been smart enough to take the answering smile as a warning. As Alex was drawing breath to respond, a voice drifting in from his right came not a moment too soon.

“Hey, kiddo,” Peter called, suspicion lacing his tone. “What’s up?”

Alex turned a bright smile on his brother and sister-in-law as they reached the three men.

“Just chatting with your new in laws,” Alex said innocently, making Peter that much more sure that they’d just barely avoided having to have Bill Jr. med-flighted off the front lawn of the venue.

Scully knew it too, and she’d bet good money that whatever was going on, Bill had started it.

He hadn’t taken it well when she had informed them of her choice to ask Mulder to give her away, as she knew he wouldn’t, but he had done his level best to ‘understand’, or at least she thought he had. She should have known that whatever he was really feeling would bubble up to the surface today…

“Bill,” she began firmly. “If you’re having a hard time with this, and you need to…”

“Oh, look! What a nice picture this’ll make. The siblings!”

Scully pasted a smile to her face and addressed the photographer’s assistant.

“Hi… we’d like that but can you give us just a few minutes please?”

“Oh, sure!”

Still smiling, the bride turned back to the group of men.

“Now, listen, Bill. And you too, Charlie, in case this is something you *both* need to hear…again. Fox Mulder is my partner. But much more than that, he’s my best friend. A third brother.” If she had been standing a little closer she would probably be able to hear Bill‘s teeth grinding. “He and I have shared more and seen each other through more in the last several years than you could possibly fathom. We’re as much family as you are… more, in some respects…”

Alex’s eyes grew wide and he twitched at Scully’s no nonsense handling of her brothers.

Charlie stared at his sister, stricken. “*Dana*…”

Scully’s tone softened. “I don’t mean that as a poor reflection on you. Either of you. You’re my brothers and I love you both dearly. But I have a bond with Mulder that I could never have with you. The places we’ve been, the things we’ve done and seen. My life has been changed, my mind has been opened in a way I never thought they could be. And that has all happened with Mulder.“

“Yeah? “Bill huffed. “What about all the danger you’ve been in?”

“No more than Mulder. We’ve saved each other’s asses more times than I can count.”

“And that makes him and his boy toy here card carrying members of the family?”

“Of *my* family? Absolutely”

“So what are you saying?” He asked, putting a snide drawl in his voice. “I won’t be invited to your house for Thanksgiving dinner?”

“If we do Thanksgiving dinner, Mulder and Krycek will be there. And you will be invited… Provided you can find a way between now and then to squash this ridiculous hatred you have for Mulder. If you can’t, I’m sorry Bill, but you will not be welcome in our home. I hope you’ll think about it and come to a decision that will bring us all together rather than rip us apart.”

Clearly stewing, Bill walked quickly away, passing Alex, who stood quietly, one arm crossing his midsection, and the elbow of his other arm resting on his wrist. Knuckles pressed to his mouth, only his eyes followed Bill’s departure.

Peter stood silently eyeing his wife and her remaining brother.

“Charlie? What about you?”

Alex stood across from his brother, separated by about ten feet, waiting for Charlie’s answer when he felt Fox approaching from behind.

“What’s going on? “The new arrival whispered.

Alex leaned back a bit and murmured, “Bill Scully, that’s what’s going on.”

“Ah, shit. He just stormed by me inside, all red-faced.”

Alex‘s expression changed, and he faced Fox more fully. “Did he say anything to you?” He asked, taking on a menacing tone.

Fox shook his head. “Calm down, he just gave me a dirty look, which is par for the course with that guy.“

Alex nodded and the two returned their attention to Scully and her brother.

“I’m sorry about all of this Dana. I’ve never had the extreme dislike for your partner that Bill obviously has; though I can understand his resentment. I’m open to getting to know him better though, if only for your sake. I hope Bill will come around, but I wouldn’t count on it. Out of all of us, he’s the most like dad. Rigid and downright unyielding when he believes he’s right.”

Scully lowered her head. “I know. I don’t want to have to eject him from my life, Charlie, please believe that. Not only would I lose one of my brothers, but quite probably Tara and Matthew too. I don’t know that she would stand up to him if he decides to get spiteful and forbids her to have anything to do with me.”

“I know what you’re saying. I hope he comes around, I really do. In the meantime… This is your day, and we shouldn’t be talking about this. We should be having fun and being a family… At least as much as we can be.” Charlie looked to Peter and stuck out his hand. “ I’m so sorry Peter. None of the last few minutes should have happened. Congratulations, and welcome to the family.”

Peter took Charlie’s hand and gave it a warm shake.

“Thank you, Charlie.”

Scully motioned the photographer forward and then noticed that Mulder had found them.

“Good you’re here. Let’s take a few pictures before we go in.”

Twenty minutes later they entered the building, and the celebration began. The requisite reception line formed, and Eileen leaned in toward her cousin before the first guests reached them.

“Seriously?”

“Seriously what?”

“What you told me before we got here.”

“Oh. Yeah.” Scully laughed at her cousin’s doubtful expression. “Wait a little while. You’ll see.”

Eileen groaned and prepared to meet the first guest in line.

With only about fifty guests in attendance, the meet and greet didn’t take very long. While Scully had a large extended family, not everyone lived close enough to join them, and she didn’t have very many friends and acquaintances due to the nature of her job. And since Peter had neither, that cut down considerably on the number of guests.

Having insisted that they did not want a ‘head table’, Scully and Peter opted for a round table, at which would be seated the two of them, Alex, Eileen, Mulder and Mrs. Scully. With only six people at a table that accommodated eight, the group had plenty of elbow room, but as they took their seats, Eileen watched the two men settle in, sitting very close together, and Mulder laid his arm across the back of Alex’s chair. Leaning in, he whispered something into the best man’s ear then planted a soft kiss on his temple.

“Now do you believe me?”

Eileen gave Scully a sideways glance and blushed furiously but said nothing.

Rising from his seat at the honored guests table, Father McHugh asked for a moment so that he might offer a brief blessing before dinner. The room went quiet, and as the priest spoke, Alex glanced up to catch Bill Scully quietly entering the room with his wife and son, and taking their place at the table with Charles and his family. His hopes for an improved attitude, however, went straight to hell as Bill fixed a bitter stare on Fox.

“… in your name, Amen.”

The servers began circulating with the first course, and making sure that everyone had what they wanted to drink. During the flurry of activity, Charlie took the opportunity to pull Bill aside.

“I thought you’d left.”

“We got as far as the parking lot. We sat there a while, discussing it, then for Dana’s sake, we decided to give it one more try.”

//*We*…//

“Okay, good. But maybe you can wear a more pleasant expression. I saw you during the blessing. If looks could kill, Fox Mulder would be dead.”

“I came back. Doesn’t that count for anything? Won’t anyone allow me a *little* time to work on the rest?”

“You’ve had a little time, Bill. You’ve had since Dana told us about this, seven months ago. If anything, it seems your animosity has grown. Stop it. Stop it or you’re going to lose your sister.”

The two men returned to the table. Tara gave her husband a wary glance then, saying nothing, turned to attend to their son.

**********

“So…Mr. Smith. I understand that you’re the one we have to …thank…for Krycek’s resurrection.”

Jeremiah looked up from his salad and gave Skinner a pleasant smile.

“I brought him back to where he belongs…to the life he was meant to have. But I couldn’t have done it without Samantha’s help. She led me to him.” He tilted his head, noting the vaguely sour expression. “Not an Alex Krycek fan I take it?”

When Skinner gave no ready answer, Langly spoke up.

“At one time you’d have been hard pressed to find anyone who was a Krycek fan, Mulder included. Now? I know it seems crazy but…”

Sharp brown eyes peered over the tops of Skinner’s glasses. “You’re right. It does seem crazy. But I can’t deny the change I’ve seen in *Mulder*. I’ve never seen him smile so much, or actually be in a rush to leave work every day.”

“Love’ll do that to a person,” Smith said. “And those boys *are* in love, you know. Totally and completely.”

“I think it’s sweet,” Kimberly interjected, momentarily turning her attention to the couple in question, smiling as Mulder slowly drew his hand up and down Alex’s back. “They’re adorable.”

“Sweet and adorable. Not words I would ever use to describe Krycek.”

“Listen, the guy still scares me, okay?” Frohike admitted. “But he’s really not exactly the same as he was. We noticed it when we had first seen him and Mulder together. He seemed kind of subdued and unsure, I guess you could say. He’s much more….” He waved his hand, looking for a proper description. “….*Krycekian* now than he was then, but there’s still something about him that’s … I can’t believe I’m going to say *this*…softer.”

“That’s love, fellas. It can and does perform miracles.”

Skinner grunted softly at Smith. “It’d have to be one *hell* of a miracle.”

“Might I suggest you spend a little time with them?” Smith said softly. “See for yourself.”

“I can’t see me spending any amount of time in the presence of Alex Krycek.”

“That’s your choice of course, but if you’ll forgive me for saying this, it’s based on feelings you just don’t seem to *want* to change, even if they’re no longer valid.”

Skinner stared at the other man for several seconds then quietly returned his attention to his salad.

When dinner was over, Alex rose to his feet and asked for a moment of quiet. He looked down at his brother and new sister-in-law and shook his head.

“Wow…I…unreal is the only way I can describe this moment.” He looked out at the mostly smiling group. “Two years ago none of us would have imagined ourselves here.” He turned his gaze to Fox, then back to the newlyweds. “Yet, here we are. Living lives I’m pretty sure we couldn’t ever have even dreamed of.

“Pete, I couldn’t have wished for a better wife for you. She’s everything you deserve and more. Brilliant, strong, beautiful, resourceful, loyal…she’ll make your life everything it always should have been. I’m so grateful for that.” His gaze fell on the bride. “And Scully…”he motioned toward his brother with his free hand. “I…” He let the hand drop and sighed heavily. “Sorry.”

The room erupted into laughter.

“I’m kidding… you know…mostly.” More laughter. “While my brother would readily agree that he definitely got the winning end of this deal, I don’t think he realizes how much he brings to the table. Intelligence, a good heart, humor, tenacity, faithfulness.” He smiled at Scully. “And this I know with all my heart. I can see it in his eyes, and I can hear it in his voice every time he talks about you…he’ll love you for the rest of his life.

“I’m so glad we get to be part of each other’s lives. It’s been and will continue to be fun growing and learning together. I’m especially glad that we’ve got you, Scully, to keep us all rounded up. It’ll be a full-time job I’m afraid, but I know this; if anyone can keep this unruly bunch in line, it’s you.” He raised his glass, cueing everyone to do the same. “To my brother and my new sister-in-law. May you have an eternity of love, health and happiness.”

Scully and Peter took the obligatory sip of their champagne, then both rose to thank Alex for his toast.

“*Sister-in law*… you know, it didn’t even occur to me until just now.” Scully wound her arms around Alex’s neck for a heartfelt hug. “Don’t go crazy with it.”

Alex chuckled. “I’m going to use it every chance I get, just to bug you.”

“I’m sure.”

Alex released her then turned to Peter, who wrapped him in a bear hug.

“You’re right, kiddo. I don’t think any of us would have imagined being where we are. It’s incredible. And I can’t be thankful enough that you’re here to share this with me.”

“That makes two of us.”

When the men separated, they all returned to their seats briefly before the newlyweds were called to the floor to cut their cake. That accomplished without incident, the wedding party began to mingle with the guests, and Mulder found himself the focus of a group of people from work.

“No one here wants to spread fake rumors, Mulder. It doesn’t seem to be a secret, so we didn’t think you’d mind much if we just came out and asked. So, you’re in a relationship with a man?”

Mulder gave the agent named Clark, a hint of a smile.

“Yes, I am.”

If at that point anyone was surprised, they did a good job of hiding it.

“One more question if you don’t mind?”

Mulder shrugged. “Shoot.”

The spokesman looked around at the small group. “A couple of us have been around for several years, and we think he’s with the Bureau. Or was at one time.”

“A couple of you have good memories,” Mulder said pleasantly but offered nothing more.

Not wanting to push, Clark nodded his acknowledgment and changed the subject.

“It’s a nice reception. We’re happy for Scully.” At that, everyone spoke up, adding their agreement.

“She looks so happy.”

“Her gown is beautiful.”

“Her groom is a good looking guy.”

“It was so cute the way he stuttered through the vows. Poor thing, he was so nervous.”

“You two spent so much time together, I kind of thought that you were… well… obviously not.”

A sudden hush seemed to fall over the group and they shrank back. Just then, a looming presence made itself known.

“Clark…Evans…” Skinner nodded at the rest whose names he could not readily recall. “Having a good time, I trust?”

“Yeah. Oh yeah! Wonderful time. H-how about you A.D. Skinner?”

“Very nice, thank you.”

Mulder glanced around. “Where’s Kim?”

“The Gunmen are entertaining her.”

“Oh boy.”

“She’s genuinely having a great time with them.”

Mulder chuckled. “Okay, then.”

The group excused themselves and hurried off, leaving the two men alone.

“I hope you didn’t mind,” Skinner said, but you sort of looked like you could use some rescuing.”

Mulder gave the older man a hint of a smile. “They weren’t making nuisances of themselves, but after seeing Alex and me together, they did have questions.” He shrugged. “It’s okay. I’d rather deal with curiosity than rumors…. So, are… are you enjoying yourself?”

“It’s a very nice reception. Scully looks happy.”

“She is. Very happy.”

“……So do you.”

A surprised hazel gaze flicked to Skinner’s face.

“…I’ve never been so happy.”

“There’s no disputing it. I’ve… I’ve had blinders on…intentionally, I realize. And it isn’t fair to either you or Scully. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to reach a comfortable place with Krycek. I may have more luck with his brother for the simple fact that we have no history, but…”

Mulder lowered his head and nodded.

“But I’ll do my best. You have my word.”

The golden brown head rose, and Mulder eyed the other man warily.

“Thank you.”

An uneasy silence descended then Skinner took a sharp breath.

“Well. I’d better not leave Kimberly alone for too long. God knows what those three are feeding her.”

Mulder chuffed out a short laugh. “Right.”

Another second of hesitation, and Skinner walked away, leaving Mulder alone. He stood quietly for a moment, considering Skinner’s words, and then he turned and walked back toward the tables.

**********

“So, where are you going on your honeymoon?”

“Italy, France and Austria,” Peter answered, lacing his fingers through Scully’s and lifting her hand to his mouth for a soft kiss. “Our gift from my brother and Mulder.”

Jeremiah Smith leaned back in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest. “Very nice. You’ll be able to spend a good amount of time in each country I hope?”

“A week in each,” Scully breathed. “I still can’t…”

The band leader’s voice interrupted the rest of her response.

“Can we have Mr. and Mrs. Tate to the floor please? It’s time for your dance.”

A good many of the guests joined the family and formed an informal square around the outer edges of the dance floor as the music started and the couple began to dance.

Alex stood watching, hands in his pockets, wearing a contented smile. He thought it would be a good long time before he’d stop wanting to pinch himself. Neither he nor Peter had ever dared to conceive of a happily ever after. Yet, here it was. Peter had met, fallen in love with and married a woman he’d never have imagined would want anything to do with him, let alone love him back.

And as for him…the love of a lifetime…his age long heart’s desire had been given to him. And with him, Alex was living a life that he’d thought was reserved only for the best of the best…the most deserving of people. When would it ever stop feeling like a dream?

Sable eyelashes fluttered closed for a moment, and Alex inhaled deeply as he felt the warm presence of his love at his back. One arm wound around his shoulders, and the other around his middle as Fox gently nuzzled the side of his neck.

“I missed you.”

The low murmur sent a succession of vibrations down his spine and spread into his nether regions. He lightly grasped the arm around his shoulders and tilted his head.

“I missed you too.”

Sharing a tender kiss, the men turned their attention back to the newlyweds. Neither had noticed the number of eyes that were focused on them.

The clearly uncomfortable and still mildly disapproving stare of Skinner.

The inquisitive stares of the other agents.

The happy, admiring gaze of Smith.

The quietly horrified stare of father McHugh

The hateful glare of Bill Junior.

The amazed gawk of Eileen.

The accepting yet pained stares of the Gunmen.

When the song ended and Peter pulled Scully into a long, sweet kiss, the room erupted into applause, accompanied by a round of ‘awws’ from a good many women. When they separated, a beaming Scully waved the crowd in.

“Come on! Everybody join us.”

Another song began to play, and the guests paired up and slowly made their way out onto the floor. Among them, Fox took his lover’s hand and led him to a spot just a few feet away from the newlyweds. Alex melted into his arms, and they began to move.

“This feels so good,” Alex whispered against the other man’s cheek. “It drove me nuts not being able to be close to you for more than a few minutes at a time, all day.”

“I know,” Fox said, tightening his arm around his lover as they rocked together. They went silent, each absorbing the other’s heat and reveling in the seductive sway of their bodies…

“They’re ruining Dana’s wedding.”

Tara didn’t have to ask who Bill was talking about. She did a quick scan and found the objects of her husband’s ire.

“They’re dancing, Bill. How is that ruining the wedding?”

Bill’s tone took on a note of impatience. “They’re men. You have noticed that, haven’t you?”

“Yes, Bill. But they haven’t killed anyone, they’re not swimming naked in the fountain outside… they haven’t started a fight… How have they ruined anything?”

“Do I really have to explain it to you?” He asked, becoming increasingly annoyed that his wife had the nerve to actually argue the point. He stopped dancing and released her. “We’re leaving,” he announced, finally glad to have what he thought was a valid reason for making his exit. “I don’t want my son around this.”

“Why?” Tara asked, finding her anger. “You think they’re going to recruit him? Come on, Bill. Do you really want to behave this way at your sister’s wedding?”

“Behave what way? You mean do I want to do what I should have done when I first discovered that her tutti frutti partner and his *boyfriend* were going to be here?”

“Which was *what*, exactly? Refuse to take part in your sister’s wedding?”

“Take *part*? You mean walk my mother down the aisle then sit there while that outsider gives my sister away?”

Tara glanced around then turned an angry stare on her husband. “Keep your voice down.” She turned and walked away, hoping to diffuse the situation before it really got out of hand, but he followed her straight to his mother, who was keeping Matthew entertained.

“Let’s go. Now.”

Maggie looked up, wide-eyed. “Go?”

“We’re leaving.”

“You know what Bill? I’m staying. Go if you want.”

“I’m taking my son *out* of here.”

“What? Why?” Maggie asked, hearing Bill’s last proclamation as she approached.

“He’s come to the decision that he doesn’t want Matthew around Dana’s partner and Peter’s brother.” Tara fixed an unflinching gaze on her husband. “But I’ve decided otherwise.”

Maggie handed the toddler to his mother. “Bill… I’ve about had it with you today. You’ve been nothing but miserable and spiteful, and if you *can’t* find it in your heart to behave as you should, then maybe it *is* time for you to go.”

“Fine. But my family is coming with me.”

“I *said*…no.”

Bill blinked at his wife’s no nonsense response.

“….You can bet we’ll be talking about this later,” he snarled softly.

“Oh yeah, we will,” Tara promised.

Scowling at both women for a moment longer, he whirled around and stormed out.

“I’m sorry Mom,” Tara sighed. “He just won’t stop. He hates Fox Mulder so much, and now that he knows that he’s in a relationship with another man, it makes it that much worse. I’m in total disagreement with him, and I’m afraid that it’s going to cause an awful lot of trouble.”

“I don’t think Dana would want there to be problems in your marriage. Maybe you should go and talk to him and just agree to disagree and never bring it up again.”

“….No. I can’t do that. I’ve kept my mouth shut about certain things in order to keep the peace, for years. I’m tired of my feelings and opinions counting for so little. It’s time to take a stand.”

Warily, Maggie nodded in agreement and pulled her daughter-in-law into a hug. “I’m with you, Tara. I love my son, and that’s why I have to do what I can to keep him from being too much like his father. He was a good man. Steadfast, strong and a wonderful provider. But he was as stubborn as they come, and Captain Scully was *never* wrong. I gave in to him far too often, and that was wrong of me to do.

“When Dana joined the FBI, it put a bit of wedge between them. He loved her dearly, and deep down he was always proud of her, but he had it settled that his daughter was going to be a doctor with her own practice. It was hard for him to reconcile himself with the fact that she was not of the same mind. They butted heads quite a bit. Her brothers saw that, and since they wanted to be just like dad, they went along with his way of thinking. Bill more so than Charlie. There’s a little flexibility to him. But his brother…”

“I know,” Tara sighed. “Bill seems to think that strong equals rigid. I have to do what I can to keep Matthew from growing up with that mindset.”

“I’m sorry for the both of you that I didn’t do the same.”

Tara hugged her mother-in-law. “Come on, Mom. Let’s forget about this for now and go enjoy ourselves.”

 

**********

“Oh, I love this song,” Dana said, instantly recognizing the music intro as the band began a new tune.

I know, “her mother replied. “You used to make me play it over and over again when you were a little girl.” She looked up as Peter approached. “Is that why you asked me what her favorite song was? So you could make sure that they played it?“

“Something like that.” Peter held his hand out to his bride. “Let’s dance.” He drew Dana out onto the floor and into his arms, as a familiar voice began to sing.

“My love must be a kind of blind love
I can’t see anyone but you…“

A bright smile lit her face as she looked from Peter to his brother then back at Peter. “Did you two plan this?”

“I informed him that night that we heard him singing to Mulder in New Mexico, that he would be singing at our wedding.”

Dana‘s brow furrowed but she would save the questions until after the song was over.

“…but I can’t see a thing in the sky
I only have eyes for you…“

“Ohhhhh my lord,” Eileen murmured to Tara, who was sitting between her and Margaret Scully. “Gorgeous *and* he sings.” Sighing, Tara nodded her agreement.

Maggie smiled, and her gaze fell on Fox, standing not more than six or seven feet away, completely entranced. “Fox is one lucky man, isn’t he?”

“Yeah,” the other two women breathed in unison, and they turned their attention back to the stage.

“…You are here, so am I…”

Not too far away, a clearly surprised Skinner watched from his table.

“Can’t believe it, huh?” Frohike asked around a mouthful of cake.

“You don’t seem surprised.”

“Nah. Heard him before.”

Skinner curbed his curiosity and turned back to listen.

“…Maybe millions of people go by…”

Alex’s gaze went from the couple who had stopped dancing and were watching him, to the one who had never taken his eyes off of him.

“…But they all disappear from view
And I only have eyes for you.”

The small group erupted into enthusiastic applause, and Scully and Peter approached to hug him.

“You two are very sneaky,” Scully said, blinking away the light mist that covered her eyes. “Thank you, Alex. That was beautiful.”

“Yeah, thanks kid. I really appreciate it. That was awesome.”

“Glad to hear it. And just so you know…that was nerve wracking as hell, so, you know… thanks for *that*.”

Peter burst into laughter. “What? If you were nervous kid, believe me, nobody knew it. You did a fantastic job.”

“Okay, don’t get carried away. Well….at least nobody ran screaming into the parking lot, so there’s that.”

“Oh god, please. Mulder, tell him how good he was,” Peter said to Mulder as he moved in from Alex’s left.

“You can’t ask him,” Alex said before Fox could respond.

“Why not?”

“*Because* … nobody’s got a more prejudiced opinion than he has.”

“True,” Fox said, wrapping Alex in his arms and dusting the corner of his mouth with his lips before the younger man turned into a full kiss. When they parted, Fox guided the sable head down to his shoulder and gently stroked Alex’s back. “But even if I didn’t love you desperately, my opinion would be the same. You’re fantastic.”

A muffled grunt came from the vicinity of his shoulder.

“It’s true. I’ll bet half the women and more than a few men would have been more than happy to throw their underwear and phone numbers at you.”

Alex lifted his head and focused a sparkling gaze on his lover.

“You’re a crackpot.”

“Yeah, but you love me,” Fox rumbled before claiming a longer, deeper kiss.

“Oh, don’t you two start,” Scully groaned.

Alex pulled out of the kiss and smirked at Scully. “We’ve been perfectly well behaved all day.”

“The day is not over, Krycek. And oh yeah, while you’re both here… What do you mean you told him in New Mexico that he would be singing at our wedding? You didn’t ask me to marry you until *months* after that.”

“Oh… Well…“ Peter looked from his brother to Mulder for help but none was forthcoming. In fact, just the opposite happened.

“Yeah, Pete…“ Alex turned in Fox’s arms, now standing back to front with him, with the older man’s arms wound around his middle. “What have you got to say for yourself?“

“You knew all about this, Krycek. Don’t stand there acting innocent. And I’m pretty damn sure that if you knew, Mulder knew too. Were the three of you scheming about this all that time?”

“*Scheming*,” Fox mumbled. “Is she saying that we were all in cahoots?”

Alex shrugged. “*Yeah*, I mean, that’s what it sounds like. Scheming… *us*… can you imagine?”

“Oh, *please*.” Dana turned to face her husband, a soft smile curving her lips. “You knew back then that you wanted to marry me?“

Fox rested his chin on Alex’s shoulder and held him closer as the two grinned uncontrollably.

“Yeah,” Peter breathed. “I guess I did.”

Dana blew out a soft laugh, shaking her head.

“I love you.”

A huge smile lit Peter’s face as he reached for Dana’s hands. Mesmerized by the light in her eyes, he stood quietly staring into their brilliant blue depths.

“Kiss ‘er, ya dope.”

Throwing his brother a half hearted glare, Peter moved in for a sweetly passionate kiss.

“Awwww,” Fox and Alex cooed in unison. “Aren’t they sweeeet?” Alex added while Fox made kissing noises.

“Looks like you’ve got your hands full, Dana,” Tara observed as she approached with her son.

“You have no idea.”

“We haven’t really met yet, but, I’m Tara, Dana’s sister-in-law. I just wanted to tell you, Alex, that you have a great voice. The song was wonderful.”

Alex gave Tara a smile and offered his thanks.

Scully gave Peter another kiss and drew Tara away from the men. “Sometimes I feel like the ring master of a circus.”

“Aww, you love them though. I can see it in your eyes.”

“Yeah, they’re idiots, but they’re my idiots. But enough about that. I want to thank you for staying. I know that can’t have been an easy decision.”

“Easier than you think. Easier than *I* would have thought,” Tara replied, smiling as Matthew held his arms out to his aunt. “Dana, your dress, “she warned as Scully took the baby.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m not. So… I just saw that you two and Mom had words, and then I saw him leave. What tore it?”

“He started in on your partner and your brother-in-law, and the fact that they’re a couple. He said he didn’t want his son around them, and he insisted we leave.”

“Oh, for…”

“Yeah. I refused, and he stormed out.”

“I’m sorry Tara.”

“Don’t be. The only one who should be sorry is your brother. He’s behaved terribly. And of all places, at your wedding.”

“Yeah, well … I’m not going to let him spoil my day.”

“That’s the spirit.”

The women talked for a few more minutes and when they returned to where the men had been, they found that Peter had asked Maggie to dance with him, and Alex was now dancing with Eileen while Mulder was involved in a conversation with Kimberly and some of the other people from the Bureau.

Seeing Scully approach, Mulder offered her his arm.

“Come on, Scully. How about a dance with the ‘father of the bride’?”

Scully took his arm, and he led her out onto the floor. Sweeping her into a smooth rhythm, he smiled down at her.

“Happy?”

“Deliriously.”

“I can see it all over your face… Peter’s too.” He went quiet for a moment then smiled. “Who knew we’d be a family? I mean the four of us. It seems so surreal sometimes, doesn’t it?”

“That’s an understatement,” Scully chuckled. “But I couldn’t be happier about it…. Umm…Mulder…. by the way, I have to apologize for my brother.”

“No you don’t. You’re not to blame in the least for his behavior.”

“I know. But he’s my brother. He’ll never apologize so I’ll do it for him.”

Gently rubbing his partner’s back, Mulder shook his head.

“It’s no surprise to me at all that his attitude toward me hasn’t changed. And now, in his mind, he’s got even more reason to despise me.” He shrugged. “Oh well. I’m not going to fall apart because Bill Scully hates me. What does bother me is that he chose today to act out.”

“I know,” Scully sighed. “I’ll deal with him after we get back. And he’s not going to like it.”

They finished their dance, and Scully traded Mulder for Alex, and Mulder asked Eileen if she’d like to dance.

“So, you and Alex have been together close to a year and a half?” Eileen asked, blushing a deep pink as Mulder turned a quizzical gaze on her. “We talked a little during our dance.”

“Yep. Almost,” Mulder answered politely.

“Have you known each other long?”

“Yeah, we’ve known each other for several years.”

Eileen nodded, looking down for a moment then back up and not quite meeting Mulder’s eyes.

“And it took you that long to get together? I…I’m sorry, I shouldn’t ask so many questions. My mother always tells me that I’m too nosy.”

Mulder laughed softly. “It’s okay. I don’t mind. There was a lot standing in our way,” he said tactfully and left it at that.

“Well…. I’m glad that whatever it was, you got through it. You’re a stunning pair.”

Mulder smiled down at the woman who was just about Scully‘s height. “Thanks. But Alex is the stunner in this couple.”

“He said the same thing about you. You know, I had to admit to being a little surprised when Dana said that you were together.… I tried not to stare too much, but you’re hard not to notice. You two just exude love and devotion. It’s really extraordinary. And you’re *both* very handsome men. You complement each other beautifully.”

“Thank you. That’s very kind of you to say.”

When the song ended, he led Eileen over to Alex and Scully, who were already walking toward them. The second they were in touching distance, Alex reached out and, snaking an arm around Fox’s waist, pulled his lover to him.

“We didn’t eat much. I’m kinda hungry now. Wanna go get something?”

“Okay.”

Linking fingers, the two excused themselves and headed toward the buffet.

“You had the prime rib right?”

“Yeah. I had a little. It was really good. So were those rosemary potatoes.”

“Yeah, I wouldn’t know since you ate all of mine.”

“I saved you a couple.”

“Yeah, okay. This time I’m…”

Fox stopped talking as another presence made itself known. Both men turned to stare silently at the new arrival.

Skinner cleared his throat and glanced from Mulder to Alex, on whom he let his gaze rest.

“Krycek.”

Alex nodded in greeting.

“I’m sorry, I’m sure this is incredibly awkward for all of us, but……” There was a long uncomfortable pause, then, “You and Mulder seem very happy together. There’s no denying that. I don’t know if Mulder has mentioned it, but I told him today that I’ll do my best to accept your relationship.”

Alex stared at the older man for a moment then nodded again.

“I appreciate that. It’ll make things less stressful for Fox at work.”

“…I only know a fraction of the story but Mulder has intimated that the whole of it is long and extremely difficult.”

“He’s right about that.”

Mulder watched warily but said nothing.

“Please believe that I *am* glad that everything turned out all right. I’m sure that if it hadn’t, he would have been devastated.”

“More than you could ever know,” Mulder replied, finally breaking his silence as he absently stroked his lover’s back.

Sharp brown eyes shifted to Mulder.

“I’d like to understand. But if you prefer not to tell me the whole story, I respect that.”

The couple looked at each other for a moment then turned back to Skinner. Mulder answered for them both.

“Maybe some day.”

“Fair enough. Well, I’ll let you get back to the party. Gotta go see Scully and her husband. I’m going to be leaving soon.”

“Oh. Okay. Is Kim leaving too?”

“No, she’s going to hang out with the other agents for a while longer.”

“Didn’t you come together?”

“Yeah, but Agent Silva is going to give her a lift home.”

Mulder nodded. “Well, thanks again for coming. I know it means so much to Scully.”

“I’m glad I came. See you on Monday, Mulder……..Krycek.”

“Thanks for coming…Goodbye.”

Sable eyebrows lifted as Alex faced Fox.

“Well… that was unexpected.”

“No kidding. Which reminds me… you know when you threw me under the bus and took off on me earlier? I meant to tell you that I’m going to beat your ass.”

“First of all, I have no idea what you’re talking about and second…” Alex moved closer and purred into his lover’s ear. “…..You promise?”

Fox chuckled lewdly. “Kinky bastard.”

“If I *didn’t* respond that way, you’d think something was wrong with me.”

“True.” Fox moved in and teased Alex’s lips apart for a kiss that promised all sorts of things. Pulling away, he nipped gently at his lover’s bottom lip. “What were we doing before Skinner showed up?”

“Mmmm….food, I think,” Alex whispered into Fox’s still open mouth before swiping at his lips with his tongue.

“We’d better eat then, before Scully sees us and throws a pitcher of ice water on us.”

“Wouldn’t put it past her. Okay, food now. Kink later.”

**********

The reception was winding down. The only people left were the bride and groom, Mulder, Alex, Eileen and Maggie. They sat around the table, having one last drink before going their separate ways.

“Now, don't forget, you’re picking us up at ten, so don’t you go home and get all involved in…” Scully glanced at her mother, then back at the men. “….stuff. You go right to bed.”

Alex gave her an innocent nod. “Right to bed. Scout’s honor.”

“To *sleep*, Krycek. We gotta get to the airport two hours before our flight.”

“We know,” Mulder said, rising when Scully did. The rest of the group followed and said their goodbyes. Scully and Peter thanked everyone, and a short time later, the men were in the Cadillac and on their way home.

“It was a nice wedding, huh?” Fox asked, taking a left at the light before hitting the highway.

“Yeah,” Alex sighed from the passenger’s seat. I’ve never seen Peter so happy. I mean okay, his knees were knocking, he was sweating like a pig, and he almost hyperventilated himself into a coma, but other than that…”

Fox burst into laughter. “Poor guy.” The laughter faded and was replaced by a contented smile. “I’ve never seen Scully so happy either. She was … incandescent.”

Alex leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. “Yeah,” he breathed.

Fox said nothing more, choosing to let Alex doze for the rest of the ride, and when they arrived home, he opened his eyes, hearing the familiar crunch of gravel as Fox pulled into the yard and up to the carriage house.

“Have a nice nap?” Fox asked, brushing some hair away from his face.

“I wasn’t sleeping,” Alex mumbled, rubbing at one eye before opening his door.

“Sure you weren’t.”

They opened the doors, and Fox pulled the car in while Alex waited. That done, they walked hand in hand to the house, and proceeded straight up to the bedroom. Undressing and hanging up their tuxes, they opted for a warm shower together, and both fell into bed, completely exhausted. Not even the feel of his lover’s naked body pressed up against his back could tempt Alex to wake up.

“……..Sasha?”

“…….Hmm.”

“……………….Will you marry me?”

*That* did it, though.

Alex lay there, trying to get his brain to comprehend what his ears had heard. At least that’s what he *thought* he’d heard.

It was, wasn’t it?

Naaah, couldn’t have been.

But…it really did sound like he said…

Slowly turning onto his back, Alex tried to focus on the heavily shadowed face.

“What….did you just ask me to…” He let the rest of the question hang. What if that wasn’t what he’d asked? How weird would things get if Fox had denied saying it? Alex bit his bottom lip and stared, uncertainty swirling in his eyes.

Fox looked down at the other man, unsure of whether he should repeat his question.

Shit, he couldn’t turn back now. If Alex *had* heard him correctly and he tried to cover it up, what would Alex think? But he was looking at him now. Those bottomless, emotion-laden eyes were now laser focused on him, and before he lost his nerve, he had to say it.

“I asked you if you’d…” //saaaay iiit// “….marry me.”

Holy fuck, he had heard right.

Alex’s mouth fell open, and he stared hard, searching for something…a clue that said perhaps Fox was just joking, but he found nothing other than deepest sincerity and a little trepidation.

“….. Why…..I…I don’t understand,” Alex croaked.

“I’ve just… I’ve been thinking about it for a while and more-so since we’d started getting closer to Scully and Peter’s wedding and today it just…”

Alex continued to stare, dumbstruck.

“If…if you’d never considered it or if you don’t want to, tell me. It’s okay.”

Alex opened his mouth to speak but he couldn’t get any sound to come out.

“I took you by surprise. I’m sorry Alex; I really didn’t mean to put you on the spot. Let’s just…”

“No.” It came out as a hard gasp. “No, I…” Both men sat up and Alex turned on the lamp on his nightstand. Blinking at the older man, he took a breath…two. “You really want to m…to marry me?”

Fox lowered his gaze for a moment and nodded. His eyes lifted, and he searched Alex’s face. “More than anything.”

A heavy mist coated Alex’s eyes making them look like liquid emerald. Fox swept away the moisture that spilled over from his left eye and moved closer.

“I know it’s not recognized everywhere but it doesn’t matter to me. As long as we can exchange rings and some license *somewhere* says that you’re my husband, I’ll be happy.”

Another tear fell. “You want to marry me.”

Warily, Fox moved closer. “Yeah. What d’you…”

The remainder of his question was cut off as Alex practically leapt into his arms and engaged him in a fiery kiss. The next thing he knew, he was being dragged down to the mattress and attacked, and when Alex finished with him some thirty minutes later, both men lay sweaty and panting, tangled together in the sheets.

First to regain his senses, Fox opened his eyes halfway and turned his head to face Alex, who was still barely conscious.

“……..Was that a yes?”

A trace of a smile twitched at the corner of the bowed lips. Slowly, sable lashes fluttered, and a weary gaze focused on the other man.

“…Yes.” With some effort, he lifted his hand and cupped Fox’s cheek. “Every time I think that life can’t possibly get any better…”

Fox covered Alex’s hand with his own. “It’ll only keep getting better, baby.” Green-gray eyes ringed with gold sparkled with joy. “We’re gonna get married.”

Alex laughed softly as his eyes again filled with tears.

“Sorry, I just… I can’t tell you what hearing the words does to me.”

Fox answered with a soft smile and a tender kiss. “If hearing them does what saying them does, I think I know how you feel. Thank you, baby.”

Curiosity crinkled Alex’s brow. “What for?”

“For saying yes and making me the happiest man alive. Wait… that’s not right. You loving me has already done that. Damn. Well now, I don’t know *how* to describe it.”

Alex stared at Fox, his heart in his eyes.

“You don’t have to. Just like you know how I feel, I know how *you* feel.” He shook his head in wonderment. “I don’t know that I’ll ever get over the fact that this is mine. That *you’re* mine. How did such an impossibility become a reality?”

Fox smiled sweetly. “We’ve got an angel on our shoulders…remember?”

They made love again, slowly, tenderly, and long after they’d fallen asleep, Fox’s phone made a faint plinging sound.

//…..Congratulations 💚💚//