Familiar with the streets of London, Alex chose to walk to Portobello
Road from his hotel. The morning mist had burned off, allowing glimpses
of spring sunlight through the otherwise perpetually gray sky
commonplace to the region. His leather jacket might prove to be overly
warm, but he could always unzip it.
In contrast, the wet street and sidewalks were awash with color in the
market place. He passed knots of tourists, and smirked over arguments
going on in various languages, understanding just about all of it,
while the local vendors could do nothing more than apologize over their
lack of comprehension. Sure, Alex could have translated, but he didn't
really give a damn.
Finally reaching his destination, he stepped into the shop. Savoring
the fragrant aromas of coffee beans and tealeaves, he weighed his
choices. One thing about the British--they did have some excellent
blends of tea.
Prepared to return to his hotel room and make use of the complimentary
teapot and hot plate, Alex tucked his spoils within his jacket to
meander back up the road.
Along the way, a few onlookers had stopped on the sidewalk to gawk at a
minor fender bender. The drivers were standing on the street, both
perfectly intact. It was the British driver who was causing the
distraction with her shrilling at the other driver--another foreigner
who didn't seem to understand a word she said.
Fuck. To get past the gathering throng, Alex tried to slip between them
and yet another storefront.
The sun had broken through the clouds again, creating a reflection on
the windowpane of a rare bookshop dealer. He had to squint to see
through the glare, but right up front, amidst a plethora of books, was
one with a painting on the cover that blew him away.
To hell with the shrilly bitch, the crowd, or the tea; Alex rushed into
the shop, to the display in the window. He didn't care what he knocked
down to get at that book.
At last, he seized it in his bare hand. It was full-sized, with a
glossy dust jacket. A dust jacket that displayed an unbelievable oil
rendition of the most incredible model. A model Krycek knew,
An elderly clerk rushed up and quickly began to straighten the books
Alex had knocked down. "I beg your pardon, sir, but I'd be more than
Alex read the name off the dust jacket. Somerton. Perry Somerton. "Are
there any other books by this artist?"
Through his glasses, the old guy peered at the book then cleared his
throat. "Uh, yes, sir. In the art and photography sections. I'll show
you there straight away." Only he went on fixing the books.
"Show me there now," Alex demanded dangerously.
At once, the old guy led Alex off. Amidst the seemingly unorganized
clutter, it would have taken him all day to find the art section on his
own. Which, fortunately, was adjacent to the photography section.
Nervously, the clerk took Alex to the S's. Then held out another
stately looking book. Only that one had a plain, glossy black and white
dust jacket that simply read "Somerton."
Tucking the first book under his prosthetic arm, no sooner did Alex
take the second book when the clerk vanished.
At the end of the aisle, Alex lay the second book open on a table
bearing more stacks of books. Whoever the hell Somerton was, he or she
exhibited a level of talent to be reckoned with. There was everything
from pencil to charcoal to watercolors, and oil paintings. The subjects
covered still life, landscapes, animals, and humans with equally
impressive talent. That was a hell of a thing. Most artists tended to
be good at only one particular subject.
The text was nominal; it provided the titles of the artwork and little
else. This became even more disconcerting to Alex when he stumbled
across more artwork of the same exquisite model who graced the cover of
the first book.
When he found a few portraits, there was no doubt. He didn't even have
to read any titles. It was Mulder.
Young and innocent with an abundance of thick, wavy hair that grazed
his shoulders, but damn if it wasn't Mulder.
And they were beautiful sketches and drawings. Nude drawings. Drawings
that showed off Mulder's every single awe-striking asset. Drawings that
hinted at a warm familiarity with the subject. Oh, and not just every
delicious curve and line of muscle and tendon of his body--front and
back--but his generous male endowments in full erection.
Who the hell was this Somerton dildo so Alex could hunt it down and
slice its throat?
Hastily, he scrabbled to the last pages of the book. There, he found
what he was looking for: a photo of the artist with a brief biography.
An annoyingly good-looking blond prick. Then Alex read the summary.
Oxford grad with a masters degree in fine arts, with honors.
In moments, he was in the photography section, fumbling through the
S's. He yanked out the first book with the name "Somerton" on the
spine. Then tossed it on the table where he'd left the other two books.
All he had to do was open it to understand why the clerk had
disappeared in such a hurry; the photos were erotic male nudes.
No photos of Mulder, but Alex had to slam the book closed. He had
enough of a hard-on, already, from studying the drawings of his
A check of the biography in the photography book revealed that Somerton
was a Londoner.
Alex bought every book on the artist in the shop and arranged to have
them delivered to his hotel room or to be forwarded to his present P.O.
Box in the States. He wasn't sure how long he'd be in London, now--at
least until he'd tracked down the pervert.
The clerk had neatly wrapped the two books of varied artwork for Alex
to take with him. He wasn't going to wait around for those books to be
delivered to his room. While opening his first purchase, he paused,
eyeing those goddamn books that sat on the small table by the window.
It took a monumental effort not to rip them open and to fully savor
those pictures of Mulder this time and find any others he may have
Patience deteriorating, he left the teapot full of water on the cold
hot plate, seized the parcels, and rushed back downstairs.
At the concierge's desk, he tore just enough of the brown wrapping to
reveal the spine of the book. He wasn't about to flash Mulder's nude
likeness around. "Can you tell me where I might be able to procure any
of this artist's actual work?"
The concierge was more helpful than anticipated. It seemed the prick
had a studio there in London. The concierge was courteous enough to
place a call for Alex to ascertain the hours and days it was open.
It was around one-thirty when the taxicab dropped him off on the
sidewalk at the address Alex had been furnished. To his disdain, while
he'd been hoping to be let out at some crappy dive that reeked of stale
food from some cheap next-door deli, instead the place was modern
London posh. Lustrous hardwood floors, expensive, state-of-the-art
lighting fixtures, pristine, off-white walls. A pretty receptionist,
wearing a low-cut, ostrich feather-trimmed collar greeted Alex. She
offered him tea, espresso, or wine.
"I'd like to talk to Mr. Somerton," he told her, declining any
"Do you have an appointment?" she asked.
"What? You mean I need an appointment?"
In answer, she stepped behind the desk and began to peruse an
appointment book. "And what is the nature of your inquiry?"
"The nature of my...?" To beat the holy crap out of him, then find out
how he got a hold of those photos of Mulder to commit to canvas. "To
buy some of his artwork."
"Oh. Well, then." She looked up again. "Why don't you have a look
around? I'll be happy to quote the price of any piece you may be
"Specifically, I'm interested in this painting." Only then did Alex
tear a little more wrapping from the book.
She blinked at the printed dust jacket. "I'm sorry, sir, but I'm not
familiar with that particular piece. May I?" She reached for the book.
"No, you may not." He tucked the book against himself again. "That's
why I need to talk to him. How can I find this particular piece?"
"I-I dare say it was probably sold some time ago. That looks like his
"I don't care, I want to find it. That's why I need to talk to this
Taking a seat at the desk, she steepled her forefingers, showing off
her expensive nail job. "I'm sorry, sir, but it's doubtful Mr. Somerton
has any idea of the whereabouts of the painting, either. However, if
you give me the title of the painting I can make sure he receives your
inquiry. If I can have your name and a number where you can be reached,
someone will be in touch--"
"Doesn't the guy have a phone? Can't you just give me his number? An
"Mr. Somerton only sees clients by appointment." She checked the book
on the desk again. "As it is, he should have just returned from a photo
shoot, yesterday. He's quite busy, you know. How long will you be in
"That depends." Alex tried not to sound as sarcastic as he felt. "Did
he get back from this shoot or not? I can't rearrange my schedule for
this guy, either."
"I'm afraid I don't know for certain, sir. If he has, the inquiry--"
"Can you find out? Now?"
She opened a drawer and took out a business card. "I'll tell you what.
Why don't I refer you to Mr. Somerton's agent?"
In the taxi, after reading off the address to the driver, Alex
carefully unwrapped the book. Somehow, the page with the painting
seemed to have disappeared. He was sure they'd reach the agent's office
before he could locate it. Once he did, he snapped the book shut loud
enough to cause the driver to jerk his head and glance back.
Divine inspiration. This goddamn jerkwad had so obviously been getting
inspired ogling Mulder's naked body. Considering all the paintings and
sketches there were of him, clothed and unclothed, no doubt at one
point or another, the degenerate wouldn't have been able to keep his
hands off. And considering how young and innocent Mulder looked at the
time, he'd probably been taken advantage of. Hell, he'd be pretty
innocent about something like this, even now.
Replacing the paper to hide the cover, Alex relaxed a few degrees,
recalling that even so, Mulder could always think straight in a crisis.
The receptionist at the agent's swank office made a similar attempt to
talk Alex into making an appointment. At least the agent was present,
unlike the Somerton slob who didn't bother to go to his gallery and
probably hadn't even dragged himself out of bed yet. Alex insisted he'd
wait if she could try and work him in to talk to the agent however
briefly sometime during the afternoon.
The moment her reception duties occupied all of her attention, Alex got
up, pretending to admire the dcor on the shelves then surreptitiously
slipped into the other room. She didn't see him until the last moment,
and by then it was too late.
A gaunt blond guy in his late 50s to early 60s sat behind a huge,
mahogany desk that dwarfed him. He was animatedly gabbing away on the
phone. Though his office was as opulently furnished as the rest of the
place, it was cluttered and messy. He wore an obscenely expensive
designer suit, perfectly tailored to fit his bony body, and his legs
were crossed in an effeminate manner.
Though he didn't hang up, he gestured, cigarette in hand, for Alex to
sit down welcoming him in despite his unannounced intrusion.
Just then, the receptionist poked her head in. "I'm dreadfully sorry,
Mr. MacAlister, but this fellow--"
"Never mind, dear." He waved a hand at her, scarcely covering the
mouthpiece as he continued his conversation.
Tempted to rip the phone jack out of the wall, Alex shifted
impatiently, standing before the desk. He'd already been fucked around
that day more than he usually put up with.
With some manipulations, the agent finally got the caller off the line.
Then he uncrossed his legs and sat forward in his expansive chair,
elbows on the desk, to look Alex over. "And what can I do for you, my
"I'm looking for a painting by one of your clients," Alex stated
flatly. "Perry Somerton."
"Oh, of course." The agent took another draw on his cigarette, still
scrutinizing Alex. "I'd be more than happy to help you. He's quite
gifted, wouldn't you say? Have you been to the gallery?"
"Yeah. And I was referred here."
"I see." It seemed to take the guy some effort, but he finally quit
gawking, and turned his chair away to open a credenza behind him. "You
wouldn't by any chance know the title of the painting you're looking
for, would you?"
While the old queen's back was turned, Alex secured the book against
himself with his prosthetic arm then made a subtle reach for the
Rolodex. "Divino Spiratu. At the gallery, they told me it was one of
Somerton's older pieces of work."
Apparently, the agent was familiar with the title. He'd probably
drooled over Mulder, too. For a moment, the old queen paused, then
swiveled back in his chair with a portfolio, forcing Alex to step back
without locating the indexed info. "The boy's quite marvelous, isn't
Defensively, Alex narrowed his eyes. Was this old fuck blatantly
admitting his lust over Mulder's body?
MacAlister casually proceeded, not missing a beat. "He began drawing
when he was two or three."
Once more, Alex breathed. "Whatever," he dismissed. "The painting."
"It wasn't until he was attending university that he seriously took up
photography, but that certainly didn't interfere with his talent."
"The painting?" Alex reiterated, allowing his lack of patience to show.
Laying open the portfolio, MacAlister displayed paintings of other
nudes, also evidently Somerton's work executed with irritating skill.
"These are some of his more recent paintings that may interest you."
Alex glanced at them only long enough to ascertain that they weren't
Mulder. "I'm really only interested in the paintings or drawings of the
one, particular model."
"Oh, I see. Well, that's going to be a bit of a problem."
"Mr. Somerton has never sold any of those studies. He absolutely
refuses to." Leaving the crushed-out cigarette in an art deco-styled,
frosted glass ashtray, MacAlister leaned back in his chair. "I finally
gave up trying to change his mind."
That was better still. Ideally, Alex would prefer to get a hold of all
of them. "Well, I'd like to discuss it with him, myself. I'm not
worried about cost. I'll only be here in London another day then I've
got business, elsewhere. Can you give me his phone number and address
so I can arrange a meeting with him, personally? The lovely lady at the
studio offered to make me an appointment, but I'm afraid I just don't
have the time to wait a week or two and it'll be a long time before I
have another chance to return to England."
"There'd be no point in it, my dear sir." MacAllister smiled
understandingly. "Mr. Somerton simply won't part with them. It's not a
"Anything can be coaxed into a financial matter. Let me speak to him,
"Given the proper sort of seller. Mr. Somerton's not and never has been
very cooperative with the business end of things, I assure you. What I
can do is discuss the matter with him, myself, and express your
"I've heard this song and dance, already; the lady at the art gallery
performed her version of it. Like I said, I don't have time to wait
"I'll talk to him today. This evening." Sitting upright again,
MacAlister found a note pad and pen on his desk. "If I can have your
name and number."
"Tyson. Adam Tyson. But now, if you haven't been able to persuade Mr.
Somerton to sell these studies before, I don't see any way your
discussion with him is going to bring about any different results. I
suppose we'll just have to forgo this entire transaction."
Straightening his leather jacket, Alex made to leave. "I was prepared
to begin at a six digit bid." He started for the door.
Behind him, MacAlister cleared his throat. "Why-why don't I give him a
ring him right now and see what he says?"
Pleased, Alex returned to take one of the leather visitors' seats.
Before the agent could lift the phone, the secretary buzzed him. "Never
mind that right now," he said to her. "I'll be there in a few minutes.
Get Perry Somerton on the line for me, will you?...Yes, I know, I
know." He was beginning to sound as impatient as Alex felt. "Just get
Perry on the line, first."
As expected, there was some delay. Obviously, the snob thought he was
too good to talk to anyone on the phone--even his own agent. Alex began
to formulate a strategy for dealing with an arrogant British asshole.
Once MacAlister got his client on the line, the conversation was
surprisingly short. He stated the situation, waited, then responded,
"Very well, then. I'll send Mr. Tyson over, directly." Evidently, the
agent didn't know his client as well as he thought.
Exactly one street over from the art gallery, the taxicab stopped.
Son-of-a-bitch. The ostrich-feathered whore at the gallery could have
easily just instructed Alex to walk to the other side of the block. He
pressed the buzzer for the intercom and the unmarked door unlocked. He
didn't see any cameras, but he knew someone must have been watching for
The interior of the building was austere. Not like the opulent interior
of the gallery. On the upper floor, the strong, pungent odor of
chemicals struck him. Specifically, photography chemicals.
Another buzzer. Then he realized the steel door was already open a
Cautiously, he entered.
Inside, he passed through a dark, empty anteroom. Beyond that, another
door stood wide open, inviting him into a studio. The large space was
illuminated from a row of high windows, a light box, and a single work
lamp. There were metal shelves stocked with supplies, state of the art
equipment, workspace counters and tables, and plenty of cabinets.
There was only one inhabitant in that room, and he was hunkered over
the light box with a magnifying loupe. Unlike the showpiece bitch in
the gallery, this assistant was dressed in rather ordinary, wrinkled,
baggy, casual clothes, and athletic shoes.
Clearing his throat, Alex announced himself, playing the game. "My name
is Tyson. I have an appointment to speak with Mr. Somerton."
"Oh, yeah, I know." The guy looked back over his shoulder.
Alex was surprised when he recognized the artist from the photo in the
biography. Or at least sort of recognized him.
The blond curls he'd seen in the photo had been cut short enough to
suggest only a hint of wave. A gold hoop glinted at the guy's right
ear, he was tanned, and sported a thin moustache and modified beard. He
appeared more mature than in the photo, but not by much. Worse than
that, he was actually at least ten times more goddamn good-looking than
the small photo had alluded. Unlike Alex who chose to wear an earring
in his left ear, this guy didn't mind proclaiming his homosexuality.
He got off his stool and stood to take Alex's hand. Krycek noticed the
guy wore a natural-colored macram bracelet on his right wrist and in
fact, gold hoops in both ears.
"Perry Somerton," the guy introduced himself. Motherfucker was even
taller than Alex. "I understand you're looking to buy some paintings."
Backing to the stool, Somerton gestured at another one close by.
Though Alex stood in front of the stool, he didn't sit. He did extend
the book, relieving it of the brown wrapping. "That's the painting I'd
like to start with."
The guy's long, thick eyelashes flicked on sight of the cover. "Holy
shit. I never saw this dust jacket before. Where'd you find this?"
"At a rare bookshop here in town. Does it matter? Your agent told me
you aren't interested in selling."
Blinking, he set the book on the counter between them. "My agent told
you right; I've no interest in selling that painting or anything
related. I was awful put out to allow those paintings in any book, in
the first place. So I sure as hell won't sell them. I'm flattered, but
that's all there is to it." Withdrawing to his stool, he perched again
and resumed studying the negatives on the light box with the loupe.
"I'm talking a hundred thousand pounds as an opening bid. Your agent
seemed quite interested."
"Don't give a damn," Somerton murmured, focused on the negatives. "I
only agreed to meet you to tell you as much, myself, so you'd leave off
him about it."
Goddamn prick. Though he was skinny, he was wiry with hard muscles. And
big enough to put up a hell of a fight. "Can I at least see the
paintings? As opposed to reduced prints?"
It was a moment before he answered. "Won't make no difference; I won't
At last, Alex drew the other stool closer and perched on the edge. "The
reason I'm interested is because I personally know the model in those
Pay dirt. Somerton fumbled, dropping the loupe, and looked to Alex
"Even if you won't sell any of the originals, I'd like to see them,
just the same." Painful as it was, he glanced at the book to pick it up
and hide the front cover. "How did you come to know Fox Mulder?"
Consternation settled on Somerton's brow. He reached to a multi-line
phone tethered by a long cord and lifted the receiver. "I'm sorry, Mr.
Tyson, but I'm going to have to ask you to leave now or ring security."
A defensive posture wasn't something Alex had anticipated. In fact,
nothing he'd anticipated about the guy had proven to be accurate, yet.
Somerton was far from a snob and like his agent had warned, wasn't
remotely swayed over money.
Alex stood. "Now wait a second. Let's not get bent out of shape over
this. I merely asked to see the paintings, even if you don't want to
sell. I don't see how that can be misinterpreted to warrant calling
Evidently deliberating, Somerton paused then replaced the receiver.
Frown intact, he finally advanced, "Take off that jacket."
Confused, Alex glanced down at himself. He even allowed a slight laugh
to help put Somerton at ease. "My jacket? What's that got to do
"Do you want to see the paintings or not? Take it off."
"You mean...if I take off the jacket, you'll show me the paintings?" He
reached for the zipper, and looked around the room. He saw only
photography-related equipment, but there were several doors that led
elsewhere. "Where are the paintings?"
A timer at the end of the counter went off, arresting both of them.
Rising, Somerton headed for one of the doors. "Pardon me; I've got film
to tend. You can either see your way out or get the jacket off. I'll be
back in a moment."
Instead, Alex eyed the proof sheets on the counter. He began to examine
them under the work light affixed beneath the cabinet. Using the loupe
that had been abandoned, he started at what he saw. More well-built
males like in Somerton's other works, but these were dressed for an S&M
club: latex suits, chaps, vests, penis pants, studded-leather body and
cock harnesses, cuffs, and collars. Some subjects were bound by their
cuffs and black leather straps, some with nylon rope. Not just their
arms and legs but their cocks and balls, too. In some of the photos,
the models were posed with like-attired, unbound subjects who wielded
different objects of painful gratification.
Catching his breath, he had to admit the photos were artfully done. In
fact, the sight of the supple muscle, hard bodies, and erections was
damned arousing. Suddenly, it was too hot for the jacket; Alex stripped
from his leather outerwear, down to his long-sleeved Henley then picked
up the loupe again. It wouldn't hurt to humor the artist--for the time
Eventually, Somerton returned, shutting the door again. He thoughtfully
went around Alex, to lean on the other side of him. "Hmm. If you'll
model for me, I'll let you have a look at the--"
"Model for you?" Alex pushed away from the counter. "To take your
pervert pictures? Not in this life. I'm no model, anyway."
Perching on the other stool, Somerton stroked his beard. "That's all
right. I'm quite used to working with all sorts. You've quite an
interesting face, plus you've got the body for it. What happened to
your left arm?"
Totally taken off guard, Alex picked up his jacket. "You wouldn't tell
me how you know Fox Mulder; why should I be any more forthcoming?"
"You want to see the painting," Somerton said matter-of-factly.
"Fine." If he had to pose for the pervert, then so be it.
"I'll do it--pose for you."
For another moment, Somerton continued to study Alex, then finally
responded. "Very well. Let's be off, then."
"What? Where are we going?"
"I told you the paintings aren't here. Fox is for home, not work."
Somerton's casual use of Mulder's given name stole the breath from
Alex's lungs. He sized up the taller man again. Could this be some sort
of trap? Yeah, right, the Consortium placed copies of the damned book
all over town, just in case he happened to walk by. Who would have
thought paranoia was catching?
"Are you all right, Mr. Tyson?" Somerton asked, apparently noticing
something untoward about Alex's reaction.
"Are we doing this or not?" Krycek asked testily.
"Only if you want to see the paintings," Somerton said.
On their way out of the studio they paused by one of the racks of
supplies where a leather jacket hung. Next to it on one of the shelves,
a dark purple, full face, graphic motorcycle Symax helmet rested.
Somerton tucked it under his arm then took down a solid anthracite one
from another shelf and handed it to Krycek.
"You've got a bike?" Alex asked.
Perry just smiled on their way through the studio space.
As they passed a small security office on the ground floor, Somerton
acknowledged a couple of guards. Evidently, he hadn't been bluffing
about the security. Then he led the way out a steel door exit at the
rear of the building. In the alleyway between the rows of business
fronts, Alex instantly espied a two-tone deep violet on violet Honda
Fuck. Alex didn't want to be impressed with the A.C.E. Tourer VT100 so
he repressed his envy and kept his mouth shut. Watching Somerton
effortlessly throw one long leg over the bike, Alex balked slightly at
the prospect of sitting in such close proximity with the stranger.
Oblivious, Somerton fixed on his graphic helmet, mounted the bike, and
cranked the engine. Expectantly he looked back at Alex.
Lacking any choice, he donned the anthracite helmet and with a push of
the button lowered the front of the helmet. The bulwark this
established between them was nominal; he still had to slide onto the
back of the motorcycle with the guy and hold onto him for stability.
"Yob tvayu mat," Alex swore as he unwillingly placed his right arm
around Somerton and tried not to notice how goddamn sleek and toned the
waist felt beneath the fitted leather.
They zipped through the crowded London streets with a dexterity
practically befitting a motocross bike. This forced Alex to hang on
tighter than he'd cared to in the first place--especially on the
turns--his inner thighs pressing into the hard muscles of the rider.
God, he hoped it wouldn't give the libidinous queer ideas.
Fortunately, at the accelerated rate they reached their destination--an
underground parking structure--in haste.
Gliding into a parking space between a sleek, black, sporty sedan and a
white Porsche Boxster, Perry cut the engine and pulled off his helmet.
Taking the hint, Alex climbed off the back of the bike and took off his
own helmet, eyeing the black vehicle, trying to place it. The size of
the alloy rims rivaled those on a full-sized pickup, making a
substantial statement. Adding to the effect, the car rested on--what
were those? Fifty series--perhaps even forty series?--tires of high
performance Toyo rubber. The no-nonsense racing spoiler and body
molding were irrefutably sexy.
Dismounting next, Somerton led the way toward the elevator. Krycek hung
back a short distance taking in his surroundings. The two men entered
the elevator and Somerton put a key in the slot next to the P2. They
rode in silence until the doors opened again into a large, airy room.
Alex stepped out first and looked around at the art-covered white
walls. One particular painting caught his eye; his black boots echoed
on the walnut floors as he crossed the room to stand in front of an
artist's rendition of a large landscape.
"Can I get you something to drink?" Perry offered.
Alex wanted to ask for a straight shot of Vodka, but shook his head in
"Well, make yourself at home. I just need to grab a couple of things."
"I thought you were going to show me the paintings," Alex said, turning
a murderous look on Somerton.
"They're at my home. I don't live here, Mr. Tyson, this is where I
entertain and sleep when I'm in town. I'll just be a minute."
Alex turned his attention back to the landscape, his anger simmering.
So the little fuck's been to Quonochontaug, he thought as he stared at
the view of the backyard of the Mulder's summerhouse. He hadn't
realized how long he'd been staring at the painting until Somerton
cleared his throat behind him.
"Ready?" Somerton asked.
Back in the garage, Somerton deactivated the alarm as they approached
the VT100, but it was the taillights of the gleaming, black sedan that
flashed--not those on the bike.
"All right," Krycek heaved. "What the hell is it?"
Opening the trunk, the blond tossed his overnight case in. "A 2000
Nissan Skyline GT-R R34."
Once more, Alex fought himself not to be impressed. From what he knew
of them, they were premiere cars both on and off the racetrack in
Japan. With six cylinders, they cranked around three hundred
"Want a look under the bonnet?" Somerton queried with a teasing smile,
as if reading Krycek's mind.
Exasperated, he headed up the left side of the vehicle. "No, I don't.
Let's just hurry up and get where we're going."
In the Skyline, Alex leaned his head back against the headrest in the
passenger seat and studied Somerton's profile. It was annoyingly cute
with a perfect nose and long eyelashes.
Hell, Mulder often teased Krycek about his long eyelashes, because he
liked them; he hated to imagine that his lover may have noticed the
characteristic in this prick.
After their stop at the artist's riverfront flat, they had gone by
Alex's hotel. He had his own duffel packed and ready to go in moments.
Then left instructions to have the order from the bookshop routed to
the P.O. address in the States for certain, and checked out of his
room. He still wasn't sure how all this had happened. It was a little
too reminiscent of the time he'd spent working with Mulder. "So how did
you meet him?"
"Fox, you mean. We attended the same university."
"And just because of that, he took off his clothes for you?"
Perry smiled at the memory. "Hardly. He had no idea how beautiful he
was. He thought I was daft, wanting to draw him. He used to hide behind
his books, swotting."
That sounds just like Mulder, Alex thought to himself.
"Were you in an accident?" Somerton suddenly asked.
"If you're one of those sick fucks who gets off on amputees you can let
me out right here."
"Is that what you think?"
Alex let out a sigh and turned his head to look at the countryside
streaking by his window. How do I get myself into shit like this? he
"I was just curious. You don't have to tell me, if it makes you
"Uncomfortable? Why should it make me uncomfortable? It was in Spain.
At the bull run in Pamploma. Right at Hamburger corner, I got pinned
against the wall. I heard and felt the bone crack right before the
bull's horn ripped through the other side of my arm. You ever heard
that sound?" Krycek looked to Somerton levelly, eliciting no horror.
"The sound of your own bones breaking?"
He glanced to Alex, blue eyes sparkling in amusement and chuckled. "You
aren't half a liar."
Goddamn motherfucking asshole...Krycek glared out the windshield.
That's right the son-of-a-bitch went to Oxford; he had to be pretty
damn smart. "What were you doing in Rhode Island?"
"Sounds like you know Rhode Island pretty well yourself. Why would that
Biting down on his lower lip, Alex continued to stare through the
windshield as they waited at a stoplight. Feeling Somerton's eyes on
him, he turned to look at the Englishman.
Somerton's bright blue eyes were fixated on Alex's mouth.
Realizing all this thinking about Mulder had caused him to emulate one
of his lover's endearing nervous ticks, Alex turned to look out the
"I spent summers with Fox in Quonochontaug," Perry offered breaking the
Alex exhaled hard. Every time Somerton called Mulder by that hated
name, he wanted to pull out his gun and splatter the man's brains all
over the dash. Too bad he wasn't carrying his weapon.
"What do you call him?" Perry asked.
Okay, now that was downright spooky. "He prefers to be called
'Mulder'," Alex enunciated acerbically, figuring it didn't matter
anyway. Everyone who knew anything about Mulder knew that.
"By distant acquaintances."
"Distant, my ass!" Krycek started. "Look, who the hell do you think you
are? You don't have a clue. You obviously don't know fuck one about
"I knew him well enough to be invited to stay at the Mulders' summer
home in Quonochontaug, didn't I?"
And how the hell did he know how to pronounce that damn word so easily?
Hardly anyone other than the Mulders' could say it. "You could have
found out about it and gone there any time."
"When was the last time you were there?"
"What difference does that make? The point is you don't know him or
you'd know he hates to be called Fox."
"Actually, the point is if you knew him as well as you profess to you'd
know that he doesn't hate it at all."
Seizing his seatbelt, Krycek nearly freed it to lunge into the backseat
and dive for the nine-millimeter H&K in his duffel. It wouldn't be an
easy maneuver over the front seats even if he had both arms. "Ne pizdi,
Instead of insulted, Somerton was impressed. "What's that? Is that
Russian? Tyson isn't really your last name, is it? What are you after?"
"I already told you."
"You also told me your name is Tyson and it isn't."
"Does it really matter what my name is, all things considered? You've
just asked me to participate in a rather bizarre proposition--you sure
as shit can't expect to take any legal action in the future, in light
of the circumstances." Impatiently, Alex assessed that they seemed to
be heading out of town. "Where the fuck are we going anyway?"
Completely unruffled, Somerton glanced at Alex again. "Amesbury."
"Amesbury? Where's that?"
"Just north of Salisbury."
"How far is that?"
"Do you have somewhere to be, Mr. Tyson?" Somerton checked the onboard
So did Krycek. It was 3:40 in the afternoon. He sighed. Anywhere but
there. "If I did I wouldn't be here, would I? So how far is it?"
"About eighty miles, so you may as well get comfortable."
"I think I'm about as comfortable as I'm going to get."
"Why don't you have off that jacket? I'd like to have mine off if you'd
just grab the wheel a moment." Without waiting for Alex's affirmation,
Somerton released his seatbelt and proceeded to do as threatened.
Because he used a knee to attempt to steer in the middle of heavy
traffic, Krycek was forced to obey. "Shit, are you trying to get us
Somerton just laughed.
Another twenty minutes later, eastbound on one of the major motorways,
Alex was already bored. It had seemed easier not to talk to the
khueplet; he'd been driving Krycek crazy. By then, it was getting too
fucking warm in the car. With a quick evaluation of the unit, he
cranked on the air conditioner.
Seconds later, Somerton punched it off. "Don't go mucking about with my
"It's fucking hot in here." Krycek lowered the window halfway.
"I told you to have that jacket off, didn't I?"
"I said fuck off."
Once more Somerton was amused instead of insulted. "How do you say that
"What was that?" Further entertained he laughed.
"It means leave me the fuck alone." At that point, Alex released his
seatbelt and took off the jacket.
"Your American's too good and your Russian's pretty impressive. You
must be second generation. I'd like to learn to cuss in Russian. What
was that again?"
Ignoring Somerton Alex leaned against the door to sleep during the
course of the long trip, strategically draping his jacket on his lap.
If he succeeded in falling asleep, he sure didn't want to wake up to
find the oversexed homo leering at him.
Who the fuck was this interesting fellow and how did he come to know
Fox? Perry mused.
An hour into the trip, the bloke had fallen asleep. Turning on the
stereo hadn't disturbed him so Perry had closed the passenger side
window to deaden the road and wind noise.
Perry stole a glance at his companion as he turned into his long
driveway. Stopping outside the gate, he lowered the window and punched
in the security code. He drove through as the gate opened. "We're
here," he said reaching out to shake Tyson's shoulder.
He woke instantly, throwing up his right arm to protect himself.
Pulling back, Perry eyed his guest. This bloke was more tightly wound
than anyone he'd ever met.
"Nice house," Tyson said staring up at Perry's French chateau-style
estate on the hill.
Perry smiled at the easy way his passenger shifted seamlessly into what
would be considered normal behavior. Parking the Skyline in the circle
in front of the main entrance, he climbed out of the driver's seat and
greeted Finnegan, his assistant, who came out of the house,
demonstrating his consistently impeccable timing. "Could you bring in
the luggage and ask Fielding to park the car?"
With seeming reservation, Tyson followed Perry up the steps and into
"We'll be having an extra guest for supper," Perry informed Svetlana,
his housekeeper when she appeared. "We'll be in the studio. Will you
inform me when Mrs. Elden-Beck arrives?"
"Of course, sir," she replied.
Evidently recognizing her accent, Tyson addressed her in her native
language. "YA nadeyus' chto ya ne zastavl'ayu Vas slishkom mnogo
dopolnitel'noj raboty," he said.
Delighted, she flushed. "Takoj prekrasnyj mal'chik nikogda ne mog byt'
nikakoj nepriyatnost''u," she said, patting his cheeks.
In pleasant surprise, Perry looked after the old woman as she bustled
off toward the kitchen. "That's the first time I've ever seen her
"What would she have to smile about?" Tyson asked coldly. "She breaks
her back for a spoiled Westerner who doesn't have the manners to call
and let her know she'll have a guest to feed and an extra room to
clean. Only a party member could live like this. And you don't just
have one ostentatious house you have two. Now show me the damn
paintings so I can get out of here."
Perry led the way up to the second floor, into the east hall. He
pointed out the studio doors at the end. "Go on in. Svetlana will bring
He was met with another hostile glare from those striking, green eyes
before Tyson proceeded down the hall, alone.
For a man who thought he was anything but desirable, Mulder would have
been disturbed and embarrassed by the number of photos of him, Alex
thought, standing in the center of a mahogany-paneled and floored room.
Even though he'd come to see the painting, and the artwork showcased in
the room weren't Perry Somerton creations, Alex was drawn to the photos
of Mulder. There were several taken in his youth that Alex had never
seen before. One in particular made his blood run cold. In a small
frame was a photo he's seen many times: a pre-adolescent Mulder with a
small girl with long, brunette hair.
Turning away, he found himself face to face with a picture of a
youthful Mulder and Somerton in black tuxedos, arms draped around each
other. As in the paintings, Mulder's hair was unfathomably long and
shaggy--for him, anyway. Though he'd tried to smile for the camera, his
slight underlying anxiety wasn't lost on Alex. It could have been, if
he didn't know Mulder so well. To Alex's perturbation, he found that
that wasn't the only photo of the two together.
At the other end of the small room was another pair of doors, which
Alex bypassed on his way to the other side. This indicated he was in an
anteroom of some sort, decorated with a center table and settees on
both sides. If Somerton didn't show up before Alex finished inspecting
that room, he'd gladly take the liberty of further exploration upon
Goddamn, did the son-of-a-bitch take incredible pictures; he managed to
both vividly and eloquently capture Mulder's beauty in every shot. The
fact that they depicted a considerable time span was no less
Before Alex could pry himself from his scrutiny, he heard his host's
and the housekeeper's voices in the hall through the open doors. At his
insistence, he brought in the tea service, himself.
While he set the tray on the table, Alex lingered by the wall, savoring
his survey. What he wouldn't give to own many of the photos. "I suppose
these are also part of your personal collection."
"Everything in here is my own personal collection, yes."
"Well, I don't see any of the paintings."
"If you're so eager to see them, why haven't you undressed already?"
With their tea, Perry led Alex through the second set of double doors.
Beyond, was a vast room with the same mahogany floors, that opened into
one of the turrets he'd noticed on his survey of the house from
outside. In there, the scent of oil paints, paint thinner, and
photography chemicals filled the air. Within the room stood an
entertainment center, a built-in wet bar, and plush, sectional sofa. At
the far end of the large room, Alex saw the trappings of a photography
studio. A set with backdrops, standing studio lights, tripods, and
ample photography equipment.
Turning to Alex, Somerton gestured at one of a couple more single
doors. "Loo's right there. You can get undressed."
Naturally, Alex balked. "Wait. I thought you said some missus somebody
is coming by."
"Oh, just my mum. You needn't get your knickers in a knot. And she
won't be here for a couple more hours. I'll set up while you undress."
"Der'mo," Alex mumbled. "Look, I thought you said you wanted to do a
painting. This looks like a photography studio."
Amused, Somerton nodded toward the turret. "Art studio's in there.
You'll find dressing gowns in the loo, if you're shy."
Alex stood in the bathroom and reminded himself to breathe. Finding his
resolve, he sat on the commode and worked off his scuffed boots. "Why
am I doing this?" he asked himself. "It's just a stupid painting."
"Did you fall in?" Somerton called through the door.
If that sentence had come out of Mulder's mouth, Alex would have
laughed. But in this case, the familiar sense of humor just added to
"Tie a knot in it, already--I'll be right out."
After toeing off his socks, Alex stood and shucked off his jeans and
boxers. That just left the hard part. Hanging his leather jacket on one
of the hooks on the wall, he wiggled out of his long-sleeved Henley and
stared at his reflection in the mirror. Finally, he released the straps
and carefully removed his prosthesis and hung it by his jacket. Then he
gingerly peeled off the liner. Grabbing one of the robes off the hooks,
he slid it on and used the countertop to brace one side of the fabric
to loosely fasten the belt. If he was lucky, the nearly empty sleeve
would scare Somerton off, but he doubted it. Stepping back into the
photo studio he found it empty.
Late afternoon light filtered in through the long windows of the
turret. It was an art studio, all right; there was an easel, a drafting
table, and art supplies on tables. A canvas was set on the easel, which
was stationed to view a waiting fabric-draped stool. More lights were
trained to illuminate both the subject and the canvas. The tea service
was on the closest table to the spot lit area.
In front of the easel, Somerton perched on a cushioned stool equipped
with a backrest and wheels, where he meticulously sharpened art pencils
over a tambor cart. A spiral of steam from his teacup rose beneath the
work lights. Surprisingly, he used a battery-powered electric
sharpener, as opposed to a knife or at least a simple hand-held one
like Alex thought all true artists used.
Pausing by the fabric-draped stool, he found the pot steeping on the
service tray along with a waiting empty cup, milk, and sugar. At last,
some tea to appease his craving. "How," Alex began, "how do you want me
to pose? Like I said, I'm no model and don't know the first thing about
this shit, either."
"That's rather a waste, innit? Let's have off the dressing gown."
Taking his time about it, Alex tugged the belt loose. "I thought no
self-respecting artist would dare go near an electric pencil
"What I may lack in self-respect," Somerton replied distractedly, while
he continued to sharpen, "I try and make up for in common sense,"
That was a hell of an answer. Alex was nonplused. In a moment, Somerton
was standing before Alex, prompting him to remove the robe. Expecting
or at least hoping to invoke some sort of sign from his host that he'd
changed his mind about the whole thing once his curiosity had been
satisfied, Alex watched for any telltale body language. With those sky
blue eyes, it would be impossible to miss a reaction, even if Somerton
was adept at keeping a straight face.
It happened, all right, but for the wrong reason.
The sight of Alex's missing arm didn't faze Somerton in the least; it
was when his gaze swept down his model's body that the pupils flared,
just before long, dark blond lashes obscured them. Then he deftly posed
Alex on the stool using strictly verbal prompts before returning to the
The whole scenario, almost from the start had been veering out of
control. The way Krycek had been planning to execute the situation had
been thrown all off kilter. He should have the coordinates of where the
goddamn paintings were stashed by now. Under cover of night, he meant
to slip in and steal not just the one on the cover of the book, but
every nude painting of Mulder he could find. Of course he hadn't those
kinds of funds to actually purchase them, and even if he were to steal
that, too, he wouldn't give a cocky rich-ass prick like Somerton a
Somehow, Alex wound up stark naked, right in front of the annoying
son-of-a-bitch, unnerved and growing more so with each excruciating
second. If Alex had to be there, he'd better get some answers.
"So I guess you did know Mulder," he allowed. "I saw the photos of you
Concentrating hard on his work, Somerton snatched the pencil from his
mouth while he worked with another. "Not 'did'; couldn't very well stop
knowing him, could I?"
"You mean you still have contact with him?"
"Technically, until one of us dies, we'll still know each other."
Damn son-of-a-bitch. Where'd he learn how to double-talk like he did?
"What I don't get is how come I don't know anything about you already."
Somerton wasn't expected to know how to answer that one, but in time,
while Alex puzzled, it came. "It hasn't occurred to you that you
weren't supposed to?"
"Fuck this shit!" Krycek got up and snatched the robe off the nearby
stool where Somerton had draped it and struggled to replace it in a
hurry. "I want to know who the fuck you are and I want to know now!"
Sitting up behind the canvas, Somerton regarded Alex surprised but
amused. "If you really want answers, Mr. Tyson, you're going to have to
be a lot more forthcoming than you've been."
"You know what?" Alex finally gave up on tying the robe shut. "I'm
fucking out the door. Getting a look at those paintings isn't worth
these bullshit head games."
Switching off the light over his easel, Somerton got up. "And I prefer
not to show them to you. You've evidenced behavior far too tenacious
for me to trust."
On his way out of the turret, Alex halted. Like anyone who had close
connections with Mulder, Somerton had apparently learned all the
necessary precautions. His radar had been raised. Because of Alex's
persistence, those paintings would probably be locked up in a Swiss
vault by that evening. "What do you want from me?" he asked.
"Come back and sit down. We'll start over," Somerton said, retaking his
Alex turned back around and started to remove the robe once more.
"Like you were."
Alex adjusted himself on the stool until the artist was satisfied with
"Now, tell me how you know Fox," Somerton ordered as he tucked the
other pencil behind his ear and continued to draw.
"I met Mul-der," Alex stressed the name, "while I was at the FBI."
"You don't really expect me to believe you were ever an agent."
"I was a damn good agent, you self-righteous prick," Alex snarled.
"Ahh." Somerton gestured with his pencil.
Alex repositioned himself on the stool.
"And?" Somerton prompted.
"There is no 'and'. I was Mulder's partner for a brief time."
A smile lit up the Brit's eyes before it reached his mouth.
"God, what now?" Alex asked beginning to get agitated again.
"Partner is such a generic term. It can mean so many things. I worked
with him; I was in business with him; I was fucking him...Which one of
those applies to your relationship with Fox?"
Alex sighed. "I worked two cases with him at the FBI."
"And that's all there was to it?"
At the very last, Alex thought he heard footsteps on the hardwood floor
in the outer room, just before he heard an elder woman's voice call,
"Svetlana said you were up here."
Hastily, Alex hopped off the stool, nearly knocking it over to grab the
robe to cover himself.
A slender, silver-haired lady dressed in expensive, eclectic, draping
clothes entered. On seeing Alex, she remarked, "Well, what've we got
here?" She walked up to stand behind Somerton. "Go ahead and sit back
down, dear," she waved at Alex. "I love to watch Perry work."
Frozen, Alex just stood and gaped.
"He's shy," Perry smirked.
The lady pinched Perry's ear right above his earring. "Don't be
"Ouch. Jeez, Mum," Perry said, jerking his head away.
"And where're your manners?" the woman asked.
"Mum, this is Adam. He's..."
"Yes?" she prompted, seemingly amused at her son's hesitation.
"He's a mate of Fox's or something."
"Really?" She looked to Krycek again, appearing impressed. "Is that so?
What a coincidence."
"Not really," Somerton explained. "He looked me up 'cause he recognized
Fox from my paintings."
"You sold some of your paintings of Fox?" she inquired.
"Don't be daft. Mr. Tyson spotted them in an art book on my work and
has more than a keen interest in purchasing them."
In defense of his actions, Alex spoke up. "I have every right to my
reasons. But then your son blackmailed me into taking off my clothes
just to let me have a look at the paintings."
>From her handbag, the woman took out a pair of glasses for a better
look at the canvas. Apparently pleased with it, she readjusted her
glasses and approached Alex to size him up at a closer distance.
"I'm Anora Elden-Beck," she formally introduced herself. "Perry's mum.
Can't say I appreciate your description of my son's tactics, but I can
see why he'd make such a negotiation with a fellow with your assets."
Somerton provided her with little more insight. "Adam there says they
only worked together, but it's pretty obvious there's a lot more to it
Like mother like son, Alex thought, still holding the robe over his
lap, looking anywhere but at her. Evidently, the oversexed, old dame
had probably been remarried a dozen times during the course of her
life. And they both liked men.
"You think they've slept together?" she asked her son.
"I get that impression," Somerton allowed dryly.
"Is that so?" she asked Alex. "You've been carrying on with my
"What?" Alex nearly stood up again. "Son-in-law? What the hell...?" he
looked to Somerton and saw only his studious expression as he
concentrated on the canvas and Alex's body.
"Essentially, yes," Mrs. Elden-Beck went on. "Perry and Fox were
married some time ago. Common-law alone should take precedence."
Stunned, Alex turned away to struggle into the robe.
"I suppose," Somerton said, "it's time we break for dinner, at any
rate. Need some help with the dressing gown, Adam?"
"Look," Alex flustered. "If Mulder was married or ever had been, I'd
know about it." He startled again when he realized Somerton was behind
him, helping him off the stool and keeping him adequately covered on
slipping him into the robe.
"I've got the wedding band and documents to prove it," Somerton stated
calmly. "What my mother failed to mention is that we're more or less
"I need to..." Alex broke off as he headed out of the turret.
While Perry temporarily repaired his station, his mother went on, her
voice taking on a guarded tone.
"I'm not sure about all this."
"I dunno. Adam keeps calling him Mulder. Some of his mates call him
that, but I can't imagine a lover doing it. It seems odd..."
"If that's what you suspected, how could you invite him 'round for a
"He's a right looker, that one. Makes a striking model. And," he added,
"don't you think I'd want to get to know him?"
"If it was me in your place, I'd be right furious."
"It's not as if I'm pure as the driven snow, Mum."
She pinched his ear again. "I don't want to hear it."
"Ow." Just as he reached to bat her hand away, she let go. "I won't
have an ear
left by the end of this evening if you don't leave off. Look, it don't
mean we care any less
for each other." He went on strengthening some of the pencil lines and
others with the drafting eraser.
"I can tell you, if Halley and I were ever separated like this, I
couldn't bring myself to run off and sleep about."
"That's easy enough for you to say, being as you and Dad have been
together forever. You know the subject matter of my most lucrative work
is awfully compelling. Wanking isn't half--"
"Per-ry!" she rebuked. "There's no point in pretending it don't bother
you, being separated. I know you." Still behind him, she ruffled his
hair. "If you were all right with it, you'd be back to your old self."
"What you mean?" he said, mildly annoyed with her perspicacity. "I'm
perfectly all right."
"Oh, no you're not. For starters, if you were, you'd quit having your
hair cropped off. I know how much Fox loves your hair--same as I do."
She kissed the top of his head.
"That's just plain loony, Mum. It's not you and Fox who keep after it
day in and day out, is it? It didn't occur to you I might just be tired
of it all?" He took a sip of his cooling tea. As well as he knew Fox,
it was surprising to learn that he'd taken a lover. Or so Adam seemed
to be. "To be honest, whatever's going on between Mr. Tyson and Fox
seems right fascinating."
"Good lord, Peregrine," his mother lamented. "I've never understood
you, and from the looks of it I never will."
Over dinner, Perry's mother proved to be no less an asset. Without his
father around, she was free to be her candid, inquisitive self.
"So," she asked their guest. "How long have you and Fox been sleeping
Tyson had redressed to a much greater extent than hoped; he'd replaced
everything but the leather jacket. He'd only have to put himself
through all the same amount of trouble to undress, after dinner.
"Pardon me, ma'am," he enunciated pointedly, "but what or if anything
transpired between Mulder and I, it wouldn't be any of your--"
"Bloody hell," Perry interrupted. "It bloody well *is* my business how
long you've been sleeping with my husband, isn't it? My mum asked you a
simple question; if it wasn't her business, too, I'll be the one to let
her know, not you."
After setting down his fork, Tyson wiped his mouth with his linen. "Six
years. Off and on."
"Six years." Perry considered. What had been going on six years ago?
Nineteen ninety-four. "How much off and how much on over those six
"An answer for an answer," Tyson proposed. "I gave you one. All your
mother said was that you were married 'some time ago'; what does that
Toying with the fork, Perry hesitated. "We married in 1989, soon after
he graduated Quantico."
For a second, Tyson froze. "That was eleven years ago."
"We met eight years prior to that, at university, like I told you.
Same-sex marriage is hardly recognized anywhere, so Fox and I arranged
other means through which to legalize our commitment to each other. We
share numerous palimony agreements that entitle us to essentially the
same rights we'd have if our marriage were legal. In other words, we're
about as married as two people of the same sex can possibly be in any
society on this planet."
In another moment, Tyson shrugged and resumed eating. "Sorry, old boy;
I guess Mulder just lost his taste for blonds."
"Are you suggesting your relationship with Fox has been steady and
serious over the past six years?"
"If you figured that much in his life, I'd know 'bout it."
"Maybe *you're* not supposed to know about me."
"Bollocks," Perry's mum said abruptly.
"What's that, Mum?" Perry prompted her, amused.
"Bollocks," she repeated. "Fox could never keep a secret like that from
you. And you'd have come across Mr. Tyson already if he and Fox were
all that involved. He's just trying to get the better of you, Perry."
Leaning back in his chair, Perry regarded Tyson. "I think Mum's right."
"You can believe whatever you want," Tyson replied. "What does she know
about commitment? How many times has she been married?"
"Just the once," Perry's mother responded happily. "To the father of my
two lovely boys. Wonderful fellow he is, too."
Confused, Tyson glanced back and forth between Perry and his mother.
"But she said her last name was something else. Elton--Alden--"
"Elden-Beck," Perry supplied. "Same as mine. I use my middle name as a
surname to keep my career and the family name well apart from each
other. Like Mum. She's always used Anora Bryson as her professional
name. We'd rather not be associated with the snotty Elden-Becks and
they're happy enough with the arrangement. My father understands.
Always has. He's never been particularly proud of his heritage,
Pushing his plate away, Tyson seemed to have lost his last shred of
patience. "Enough already. Show me the goddamn paintings now. I did
what you asked."
"Hardly," Perry scoffed. "I've only started the preliminary sketch. I'm
afraid it's going to take a little while longer.
"Fine, let's get it over with," Alex said through clenched teeth as he
pushed back from the table.
"You look tired, Adam," Perry remarked, looking up from his canvas.
"I just want this over," Alex responded, cracking his neck.
"Give me a minute," Perry said and disappeared into his photo studio.
Slumping to a more comfortable position, Krycek hooked his heel on the
rung of the stool and leaned forward, elbow on his knee. He'd been in
horrific predicaments before, but despite the present non-life
threatening situation, he'd have to rate this one on par with some of
his worst moments.
Somerton returned with a digital camera.
"What's that for?" Alex asked warily.
"I'm going to take a couple of continuity shots then you can turn in.
I'm ready to turn in, myself," Perry said. "We can get on with it after
"How many times do I have to tell you I want this over," Alex growled.
"It hasn't been as bad as all that has it?"
"I don't particularly enjoy being displayed like an Amsterdam whore."
Perry laughed. "If you could just hold that pose again a minute."
Making no effort to disguise his impatience, Alex readopted the
Like a practiced professional, Somerton swiftly framed his shots. The
motor drive thankfully expedited the photography session.
Shutting down the camera, he glanced up. "Oh, I almost forgot. Your
room's past the balcony where we came up, first door on the left. See
you at breakfast, then."
Climbing off the stool, Alex wrapped himself in the robe. He went to
collect his belongings from the bathroom before heading off to sleep.
In front of the computer in the turret off the master suite, Perry
waited for a response to his hastily-sent instant message. On retiring
to his room, he had showered then slipped into his silver, silk pajamas
before stationing himself, one knee raised so his bare foot was tucked
up next to him on the ergonomic seat, to compose a brief of the
situation. He was sure that his husband's friends, the Lone Gunmen,
could help him with the mystery that was Adam Tyson. It should be early
evening East Coast time and the blokes were sure to be available, if
He jumped at the relatively loud computerized knock in the otherwise
silent room that emanated from the speakers. A response from Frohike
appeared in the messenger window. "Turn on your webcam, dude."
In doing so, the webcam window opened and Frohike's image flickered
onto the screen. He adjusted his glasses to peer at his own screen.
Then he added to his message. "What's with the beard and short hair?
Going for the conservative look these days?"
In his timeless manner, the only change Frohike had ever made to his
appearance was to do away with the length of his hair in back.
Amused, Perry smiled. "The dashing Byers look. Just got lazy and sick
of it all 1 day. What can you tell me about Tyson?"
"Need more description."
"He claims to have ongoing sexual liaison with Fox for 6 years. Very
good-looking. Dark hair. Green eyes. Missing left arm for reasons yet
Addressing someone off-camera, Frohike looked aside and spoke. He and
his addressor exchanged another few words then he returned to the
keyboard. "Oh, shit. That's Alex Krycek. Steer way clear of him. He was
once employed by same thugs who've been after Mulder. Watch your back!"
Onscreen, Frohike pointed wildly at his webcam.
"Checking up on me?"
Perry startled outright at the abrupt inquiry from close behind.
Leaning into view, Adam--or Alex, according to Frohike--reached forward
and punched off the main switch of the master power device. The
computer went dead.
Regarding the guest in a new light, Perry pressed his chair back for a
The fellow had replaced his black trousers beneath the dressing gown.
Beyond that, he was barefoot, his hair was damp, and the left sleeve of
the gown was empty. Evidently, he'd also helped himself to a shower and
not fully redressed.
Relaxing, Perry lowered his foot to the carpet, slid comfortably down
in his chair, and rocked. "That was rather rude, wasn't it? My hard
drive's going to have a wobbly when I power up again. What you doing
poking about my house, anyway?"
Casually, Alex strolled around the study area. "Is it any more polite
to perform unauthorized background checks on your guests? All right, so
you know my name. And a little about my employment background. But that
was a long time ago."
"It must have been, if you're shagging Fox. He wouldn't make a bed
partner of you, otherwise. Still, he must have been hard to convince.
He's never been one to hand out trust very easily."
Settling on the corner of the desk return, Alex waited. "Now that the
introductions are aside, you can pretty much figure out why I want
"And you can pretty much 'figure out' why I've been refusing to sell
them at any price." Perry got up. "I am flattered that you appreciate
my husband as much as all that. You've gone to an awful lot of bother
over the things." He started for the dressing room of the master suite.
Realizing Alex wasn't following, Perry turned back. "Come along, then."
With a hunted expression, Alex joined his host in the main part of the
"What is it you do for a living now, Mr. Krycek?" Perry asked.
"I'm self-employed and have several private investments."
"Self-employed at what?"
"Does it matter?"
"You can't blame me for wanting to know." Perry proceeded to the
dressing room. "Of course if you'd rather not to tell me, I'll find out
in time." Opening the walk-in closet, he switched on the light inside
to collect the framed paintings from between the built-in cupboards
where they were hidden. Minding the glass, he brought them out to prop
against the exterior of the closet doors.
Crouching down, Alex attempted to spread them out for display--an
awkward task for someone with only one hand.
Perry knelt on the carpet to assist.
When they were all set up, Alex marveled silently over each painting
under the dressing area lighting.
"As it happens, they've become a bit of a burden," Perry admitted.
"I've been wondering what to do with them."
Puzzled, Alex frowned. "A burden? They're fantastic. These paintings
should be mounted on the walls. Why do you have them hidden away in a
"For a start, there's a certain amount of pain involved in looking at
them when Fox and I are apart. I think I'll just give them to you."
"Give?" After the effort the poor bloke had put in over the course of
the day, it was no wonder he about choked.
"Well, even though I had no intention of parting with them, you are
sitting for me. That should settle it."
Alex continued to study the paintings a while longer.
Perry waited patiently. "I'll wrap them then have them packed for
transport by the time you leave. And I'd prefer my agent doesn't find
out about all this; he's likely to draw and quarter me, himself."
At length, Alex cleared his throat, gaze still fixed on the paintings.
"I'm not exactly sure what to say. I suppose I should thank you, but
you did put me through a lot of crap. On the other hand, I can't really
fault you that; anyone who's all that well-affiliated with Mulder would
be an idiot not to be paranoid. I guess I had you figured wrong."
Forgoing words, Perry crawled behind his guest and slid his hands down
the lapels of the dressing gown. He loosened it.
Instantly, Alex shot to his feet and turned to face Perry. "What are
Standing, Perry looked down what he'd managed to expose of the smooth
chest. "Don't get the wrong idea--the paintings are yours free and
clear, in any event. But you are quite a looker, even if you weren't
shagging my wedded mate. The combination of the two makes you all the
more alluring. Not to mention my curiosity about what Fox has been
enjoying these past six years, behind my back." Taking the knot in the
dressing gown belt, he tugged Alex toward the bed.
"Hey, now wait a second," he protested. "You just gave me the right to
tell you to fuck off and I'll still get the paintings."
"I did, yeah." Keen on getting a close view of Alex's chest, Perry drew
the dressing gown further open beneath the belt.
"I don't get you." Alex retreated sharply into his own space. "You
should be pissed off and want to kill me. You've treated this whole
thing in the weirdest way. Don't you ever get mad?"
Amused, Perry laughed. "Haven't had any reason to."
Alex blinked. "When I saw the cover of that book, I was ready to go
ballistic. Knowing some lech had been leering at Mulder's body then had
the audacity to sell prints of the painting to the public market. If
your relationship with him really is the way you claim, you have ten
times more reason to want to see me dead."
"We've been through much worse over the years. I've had a few moments
when I lost it, but not many. If you take yourself and everything too
seriously, that's rather like setting yourself up in advance for
disappointment and disaster, innit? Give fate half the chance to get
the better of you and it'll run you over, for sure. Not much of a way
to spend a lifetime." Perry eyed Alex's chest once more from that
proximity. "Course, we're all entitled to our own ways. And our own
opinions. You can tell me to sod off. I'll see you back to your room if
you'd like or you can be on your way." Waiting only a moment through
Alex's hesitation, Perry went to switch off the dressing area lights.
It was fairly dark in the suite at that point, other than the dim
illumination from the distant lamp by the computer. He fully expected
Alex to be gone on turning back and thereby nearly crashed into him.
"Sorry. I'll have a light on by the bed in a flash so you can see your
way to the door."
"Wait." Alex's voice had dropped in volume and octave. "As much as you
piss me off, I have to admit you're pretty damn intriguing, yourself.
Look at all you have. Money. Talent. Intelligence. Looks. Personality.
All that's reason enough for him to have married you. I guess I can't
deny that I'm curious, too, about the one person he really chose to
Accepting the telling admission as affirmation, Perry went to turn on
the bedside lamp. He could see Alex's tense expression then. Returning
to him, Perry untied the dressing gown. That time when he slowly ran a
hand over Alex's lean body, he made no move to intervene.
There was no divorcing the connection between Alex and Fox when Perry
pressed his guest back on his renaissance-style bed. Beneath the half
tester canopy draped with amber damask, on the cushions of crushed
velvet and brocade, Perry threw Alex's dressing gown open, laying his
It was possible his chest was smooth by design. Fox had really fancied
Perry's that way. Whereas Perry had an affinity for the pattern of
thin, sexy hair on Fox's. All Fox had had to do was state his wanton
desire of his lover's smooth, blond chest, and Perry adopted the habit
Whatever the case, it was a fitting look on Alex with his pale pink
nipples. Up close, Perry observed that they'd provide a pleasant effort
to capture for shade, on canvas. Intently, he traced them with his
mouth and tongue, teasing them erect.
His manual exploration proceeded further over Alex's chest and belly,
taking sensual inventory of the curve and line of each muscle. With
desire, Perry soon enhanced his exploration with his mouth.
For a while, Alex had been silent. That silence was eventually broken
by deep respirations and quiet gasps of pleasure. Perry's fervent
sucking on the pink tits elicited impressive response. When he could
force himself to let go, he glanced down; sure enough, the front of
Alex's dark trousers stood tented by an unmistakable erection.
The moment Perry took the waistband to unfasten, Alex caught his
breath. He raised his hand to impede, hesitated, then before Perry
could unzip, Alex tugged on the shirt of his host's silk pajamas. "It's
time I get to see something."
In Perry's singular enthusiasm, he'd not thought to undress. He got up
on his knees and unbuttoned the shirt. Removing it made even less
secret of the fact that beneath his matching trousers, his own erection
was quite evident. Tossing his shirt aside, he reached for Alex's
waistband again, but was arrested.
"Fuck," Alex groaned, getting up on his elbow to draw from reach. A
fetching crease furrowed the bridge of his nose. "You look like *that*
and you want to paint *me*?"
Glancing down at himself, Perry laughed. "I get by, I guess."
"What? Are you fucking kidding? God, it just figures you not only look
like a male supermodel, you've got the body of one, too."
The compliment carried a decided significance, coming from Fox's
extramarital paramour. Doubly enticed, he went at Alex's trousers
again. His erection had daunted several degrees but hadn't gone soft.
Though he exhibited some mild resistance, he gave in to Perry's
persistence. It didn't take too much of a struggle to get the trousers
down past a thin thatch of dark hair that well suggested what Alex
would look like bare. A rather interesting thought. The thick, cut
pecker was only firm by then and nowhere near it's full state.
Nevertheless, it was all the more handsome, close-up.
Knowing that the very piece of equipment pleasured Fox evoked deep
arousal in Perry. He pulled the trousers the rest of the way off, to
uncover the long legs. Amused, he felt and saw Alex perform another
survey of his competition. Of note, he didn't ask that Perry do any
Not to worry. He positioned himself between the thighs again and took
the conical, fully exposed bell cap into his mouth. Not only was it
scrummy, it felt fantastic and perked up, immediately. As he worked it
toward the back of his throat pumping the base, it quickly responded.
That was always a hell of a turn-on, let alone in Fox's fellow.
One swift sweep to the nightstand later, Perry had doffed the remainder
of his night ware and climbed back on the bed between Alex's legs.
Managing condom wrappers had required some practice, but Perry had
finally learned with the aid of some of his photography models, how to
tear them with his teeth. And how to roll the things down in the most
All of a sudden, Alex scrambled back and sat up. "Now, wait--"
Ignoring him, Perry played at his condom-covered bell cap with the
lubricant. Then he stalked his guest. "You were enjoying our
interaction well enough a minute ago..."
"I don't bottom for anyone."
"I gathered as much. Only I don't set much stock in that sort of
"I don't care what you set stock in; I'm just telling you how things
Backing to a kneel, Perry was ready to accommodate. He nodded toward
the nightstand. "Help yourself."
With the lamp on, Alex had a somewhat better view of the room, though
much of it was still cast in shadow. It wasn't like the modern dcor
in the house in London. The bedstead was an impressive, beautifully
detailed, renaissance-style antique made of walnut. It was crowned with
a half-tester from which hung a set of damask, amber drapes. The tones
on the thick bedspread consisted of various shades of amber and purple
on ivory, a background that really brought out Somerton's golden hair
and earrings. Alex wondered if Mulder had chosen the fabric colors.
Sure, he was color-blind, but he could still match like with
like--whatever the heck he saw.
The other furniture that Alex could see also appeared to be walnut
antiques of similar renaissance design. The nightstands matched the
bed. All of it was quite a contrast to the way Mulder lived. Why he'd
give this up to live in that crummy little apartment didn't make much
sense. It could be argued that he wasn't the pretentious type but from
what Alex had picked up about Somerton, neither was he. Nor was he
stupid enough to live in a dinky apartment when he had money. Mulder
shouldn't have been either.
One-by-one, the snap judgments Krycek had made about Somerton were
being shot down. There was no mirror on the ceiling nor an array of
them surrounding the bed. No strategically mounted cameras that Krycek
could spot, either. If there was a collection of gay porno tapes, he
sure didn't see evidence of it. In fact, in neither house had he
witnessed the anticipated plethora of statues and/or paintings of male
If practically nothing else anyway, the judgment Alex had made about
Somerton's advances had just been proven. He hadn't known Mulder and
Krycek were having an affair at the time of the first come-on to do the
modeling job. Alex now faced the very situation he'd been anticipating
all along. What he'd not expected was an opportunity to turn it
down--and a casual one at that--and even less that he wouldn't take
advantage of such an opportunity.
Maybe that was because everything else about Somerton was nothing like
Alex had thought. The truth was he was cool. Amazingly cool. To the
point that it was frustrating, yes, only that had everything to do with
Alex's position in the situation. In fact, to Alex, in spite of
himself, it seemed as if Dr. Mulder, with his advanced degrees in
psychology and everything, oughta undergo some serious psychoanalysis,
himself, for leaving this find.
Once again throwing Alex's bearings off, Somerton had just done another
one-eighty. Knowing Mulder, it required a dominant aggressor to get
anywhere with him. So the fact that Somerton didn't jump Krycek and
demand his way was more surprising than the proffered chance to decline
sex. Like Mulder, Somerton came off like an alpha for the most part.
Except every now and then, he exhibited a flash of beta personality. In
fact, Mulder was kind of like that. Apparently, the two were compatible
because they shared the ability to be both alpha and beta, by nature.
Thereby, Somerton didn't need to be the extremely aggressive type; a
perfect dominant-submissive symbiotic balance between them would do the
trick just as well, if not better.
Krycek tried not to over-analyze the precise mechanisms of the
relationship he held with Mulder. Not that he hadn't wondered many
nights. It was like making a wish on a shooting star; if spoken out
loud, it wouldn't come true. It had started as an admiration through
reputation from afar. But, when he actually came face to face with
Mulder, the sparks of hostile disdain he turned on Alex ignited the
flame of something much greater. Something that deeply enticed him, yet
opposed and interfered with his occupational duties and then
livelihood. Whatever it was, it tortured him. As reckless and
irrational as it may have been, he had to have it.
To achieve it, he had to be aggressive--damned aggressive. To his
astonished delight, though Mulder fought, he aroused. Still, it had
been a lie when Krycek told Somerton he only topped. Somewhere along
the way, Krycek had willingly given in to Mulder's alpha side and
allowed him to satisfy it as the aggressor when he so desired. Far from
discomfiting, in fact it surpassed all of Alex's euphoric dreams to be
ravished by Mulder.
With all Somerton had going for him wrapped up in that package, even
Mulder couldn't have resisted. Though Mulder could be stone blind to a
lot of things, Somerton had an ingenuous charm about him that had been
irritating the hell out of Krycek. Because it was so freaking genuine,
it was really hard to find fault in the guy.
Then there were those fucking incredible good looks. Dazzling, bright
blue eyes, long, curly eyelashes and blond hair--and that body. Jeezus,
most men would kill to have a body like that. Not to mention a decent
length of cock, and--Oh, fuck. What was Krycek thinking?
It had been one thing when Somerton was on Krycek. Actually, it had
been one hell of an arousing thing. Considering who Somerton had to
practice on, it was no wonder he got to be so damn good at it. He was
probably great at every aspect of sex; with the mutual relationship
between them, he and Mulder, they would have shared equal time doing
While Alex contemplated, Somerton closed the distance between them
again. He didn't say anything, but went down on Alex again, once more
placing his hard-on at the mercy of that skilled tongue, mouth, and
throat. Falling back on his elbow, he found himself panting. It wasn't
exactly fair. Then again, Alex hadn't initiated this. Just when he made
up his mind to pull away, he couldn't. This guy had experience
deep-throating Mulder; it was no wonder he had no problem taking Krycek
all the way in.
It became apparent Somerton intended to satisfy his guest, no matter
what. Like everything else about the Englishman, that didn't make a
whole lot of sense. How did that benefit him? Yeah, well,
whatever--Alex was past the point of worrying about it. Despite his
delirium, between his eyelashes, he did see Somerton get up on his
knees, inadvertently showing off his great shape again. Then Alex
succumbed to an explosive orgasm that left him reeling. God, only
Mulder could do Alex like that.
Feeling the bed shake, he peered through his eyelashes again. Somerton
was on the edge of the mattress, tying off the condom he'd just
removed. What Krycek expected was that Somerton would press for
cooperation after the favor he'd just granted. Apparently not. Unused
condoms were stripped off, not tied off. The fluid-filled tip of the
prophylactic indicated he'd benefited after all. And that his motives
were genuine. Just like Mulder.
Another few moments later, Alex opened his eyes again and found he was
alone. He wasn't sure where the bathroom was in the room, but could
hear the water running. Was he invited to stay or was he expected to
leave? Somerton hadn't said a word. Did he want to stay? Sticking
around made him uncomfortable. Still, a million questions nagged at him
and this would be the one time to ask--with Somerton's guard down.
Getting off the bed, Alex replaced the dressing gown. That way it would
appear that he was preparing to leave, if he wasn't welcome. He folded
his pants and draped them on a chair on the pathway out of the room.
Very nice set up, he observed, now that he had a chance to turn on
another lamp and explore. The shut door of the bathroom turned out to
be opposite the large dressing area.
His short-lived search concluded when Somerton exited the bathroom
wiping his face with a towel, dressed in only the pajama pants.
"Are you leaving?" he asked.
Alex found himself unable to respond with words. It wasn't an
unattractive idea, crawling back in the warm bed with the sexy artist.
He missed being able to sleep without having to wonder if he was going
to wake up with a knife in his back, figuratively or literally. He
began to like the idea of falling asleep with someone safe. But, just
because he was safe with Somerton didn't mean Mulder wasn't going to
add this to his list of cardinal sins. He had the feeling that this was
going to go straight to the top. First, you helped them abduct Scully
then you killed my father, and then helped them kill Scully's sister.
Number one on the list was now going to be you slept with my husband.
"Come to bed, Alex," Perry coaxed, interrupting Mulder's voice echoing
in Alex's thoughts.
Alex nodded, allowing Somerton to guide him back toward the inviting
bed. He froze when Somerton rested his hand on his left shoulder.
"Take off your robe. I'll see if I can't rub some of the kinks out," he
Mulder was the only one Alex let touch him there and he wasn't sure he
wanted that to change.
"I bet you let Fox do it for you," Somerton said.
Alex lifted his eyes to Somerton's searching blue gaze, more than a
little uncomfortable with his eerie insight. "Okay," he said.
Perry peeled the dressing gown off of Alex's stiff but unprotesting
body and turned him toward the bed. "Lie down; I'll be back in a
Alex sprawled out on the bed and rested his chin on his right forearm.
"You don't have to look like a lamb being led to slaughter," Perry
mused, straddling Alex's hips. Opening the bottle of baby oil, he
poured some into his hands and let it warm before firmly stroking up
and down Alex's broad back.
Alex felt himself begin to relax under Somerton's hands. "Can you do my
neck?" he asked.
Perry moved his hands higher and began to knead Alex's neck. "You're in
knots," he observed.
Alex replied with a tired moan.
"Does that hurt?" Perry asked.
"Yeah, but don't stop."
Perry continued to rub Alex's neck and shoulder with strong, sure
strokes. "Is it okay to touch you here?" he asked resting his hand on
the top of Alex's stump.
"You might as well before you die of curiosity."
"I didn't mean to be cheeky."
"Sure you didn't. And you're still wondering how I got like this."
"Only if you want to tell me the truth."
Alex's memory flashed back on the crush of bodies holding him down as
the boy cut into him with a machete.
"I'm sorry," Somerton whispered by Alex's ear, placing butterfly kisses
along his neck. "I didn't mean to make you relive it."
At first, Alex didn't know what that meant but then realized he was
breathing hard and his skin was clammy.
Perry sat back and began the massage again, only this time with the
intent to sooth. "Go to sleep, Alex," he said, continuing to stroke.
Before settling in bed to fall asleep with the TV, Mulder returned to
the living room to power down the computer. In his pajama pants and
open shirt, he sat down a moment and stirred the monitor to life. What
the hell, he'd check his email one last time for the night.
As he'd removed his contacts already, he reached for his glasses' case
on the desk. He found email from Frohike. The oldest was emblazoned
with the subject line of BLITZKRIEG IN UK! READ NOW! Knowing Frohike's
sense of drama and humor, it could mean anything. The fact that it had
been typed in uppercase text, however, suggested a possible legitimate
urgency to the message.
Upon opening the post, Mulder saw the time of receipt recorded at 6:36
p.m. that evening, a little over three hours ago. So much for
"Dude. The shit just hit the fan. If I were you, I'd grab the next
flight to the UK. The last two people you'd ever want to find out about
each other just have. And your mistress didn't look thrilled just
before he cut off contact."
"Mulder," Alex threatened, rolling away from the questioning finger
that trailed down his chest toward his groin.
Perry set the cup of tea he'd brought for his guest on the nightstand
and leaned over to press his mouth against the inviting ear.
"So you really call him Mulder," Perry whispered into Alex's ear.
Surging upright, Alex bumped the side of his head into Perry's chin.
"Good afternoon to you too," Perry laughed, rubbing his chin.
"Afternoon? What time is it?" Alex asked, looking around for a clock.
"Doesn't matter. Take your time. Have a shower, eat some lunch," Perry
said, nodding toward the plate of sandwiches next to the teacup. "I'll
be in the studio when you're ready."
Alex responded to the warm, friendly kiss brushed along his mouth and
sat back against the headboard as his host sauntered through the open
Heaven help Krycek if he tried to mess with Perry. It was actually kind
of funny. Imagining the confrontation. As well meaning as the Lone
Gunmen were, the boys had never had the pleasure of getting to know
Perry's full potential. Without even trying, he could kick ass before
anyone knew what was happening. It never even had to reach a physical
level, though he was six foot three and had a hell of a tough, lean
build. If it came down to it, he could do serious damage. Mulder had
heard about or witnessed the results, though they rarely occurred...
That didn't mean a trip to England wasn't warranted.
What was Scully going to think if Mulder were to suddenly run off to
the British Isles without explanation? She'd have a million and ten
questions. So he had to come up with something to tell her.
For a few years, he'd been interested in the computer-based research
going on behind the manifestations of crop circles. Despite that it was
a Saturday, Mulder went in to the office that morning to piece an
excuse together to go to England. Prudently, he started out by ordering
the airline fare from his office line to get to Heathrow. Then came the
set-up. The files he'd acquired so far, some slides of
computer-generated crop circles, then the phone call.
They'd been working an interesting case. Hopefully, Scully would have
some lab results by then. Her cell phone rang three times before she
answered. "Hey," he said. "What're you doing?"
"At the moment, I'm buying groceries," she replied warily. "Like any
normal person does on her day off. What're you doing?"
"Did you get those lab results on the Szczesny case?"
"I got the preliminaries. It turns out--"
"Tell you what. Why don't you bring lunch and you can fill me in?
Something else has come up I'd like to tell you about."
She hesitated. "Lunch? I still have to go back to the hospital to
finish up the report."
"It's actually pretty fascinating and it shouldn't take long to
Interference buzzed through the phone line, indicating she was probably
impatiently checking her watch. "All right,I guess. I'll be at your
"I'm at work."