Green Eyed Monster (1/1)
by Aries

Fandom: XF (M/K)

Rated NC-17 m/m sexual situations and bad language. If either of these bothers you, what the heck are you doing here? Out, out, out!

Archive: Allslash, Archive X, TER/MA, All Things Rat. Anywhere else, please ask me, first.

Summary: An agent from Alex's academy days, appears briefly and stirs up some trouble for our boys. Schmoop and angst abound.

Disclaimer: As much as I wish they were, they aren't mine. They're *his*. Even though they have much more fun with me...

Author's notes: After reading the Admission series, my buddy Nela was clamoring for another M/K torture piece. This is for her.

Big shout outs to Nic, Orithain and the lovely Pat. Kissy, kissy!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"It's over."

Soft creak of leather as he entered the office and closed the door behind him.

"I know. Have they all been found?"

"Most of them. Some of them, dead. Suicide."

"Expected as much. How about our cigarette smoking friend?"

"Among the dead."

"Gee, I wish I could work up some tears for the bastard but I just can't."

Silent nod.

"You know about your sister?"

"Yeah."

"I'm sorry, Mulder."

"At least I know for sure, now. I can stop chasing my tail and move on. What about you?"

"Me?"

"You're free. As promised. Where will you go?"

"I don't...I...I haven't really thought about it. *Somewhere*. I don't know."

"As long as it's as far away from me as possible."

It was meant as a sarcasm, but somehow it just didn't come out that way. Krycek looked up just in time to see the fleeting spark of sadness cross his face. He waited. Hoped. Nothing more was said.

"Well, if there's nothing else..."

"No...you can...go."

Four steps toward the door.

"Krycek."

"Yeah?"

"Good job."

He turned to meet the steady, somber gaze. A full ten seconds passed before he answered.

"Thanks."

Another long pause.

"Have nice life, Mulder."

The door squeaked softly as he opened it.

"Krycek."

Another reprieve.

"What?"

"Want to grab a beer before you go? You know...celebrate..."

"You. Want to have a beer. With *me*."

Small shrug. "This wouldn't have happened without you. There are a lot of thank you's Alex, that will never get said. But I'm saying it."

"What have *you* got to thank me for?"

"Peace of mind. My sanity. Least I can do is say thank you and buy you a beer. How 'bout it?"

"Fox Mulder wants to buy *me* a beer. *There's* an offer that'll never come again."

"Is that a yes?"

Yet another long silence. Then, "Yes."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Eighteen months later.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Alex!"

Mulder threw his keys down on the coffee table, stripped off his jacket and tossed it onto the couch.

"Hey, Alex!"

He loosened his tie and headed for the yard.

"Yeah, like he's really going to hear me above that racket."

He lowered the volume on the boom box by the door, as he entered the backyard. A sable head, streaked red by the sun, jerked up from amongst a jungle of tomato plants. A wide, white smile brightened the dirty face. Alex jumped to his feet as Mulder approached.

"I thought you weren't coming home till tomorrow?"

"My part of the investigation is over. All that there was left to do was some medical reports. Scully's taking care of that." He stopped within inches of his lover and looked for a clean spot to kiss. That accomplished, he drew back and smirked. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Goddamn woodchuck is in my vegetables again. If I find him, he's toast."

Slow shake of the golden-brown head. "You need a hobby."

"I've *got* one."

"I mean a relaxing hobby. This woodchuck has made you insane."

"When I back a truck full of explosives up to the garage, *then* you can call me insane."

Mulder gave no answer. He was too engrossed in watching a bead of sweat make its way down Alex's throat, cutting through the dirt and grime, picking up more moisture along its journey, gaining speed, rolling down the shirtless chest and finally disappearing beyond the top edge of Alex's farmer jeans.

Only *he* could be this sexy, *this* filthy.

"Are you almost done out here?"

"Why?"

"I'm feeling kinda grubby after my flight." With one finger, he traced a line down the same path that the bead of sweat had taken. "I was thinking a long, warm shower might be nice."

Alex grinned. "*Really* long. I'm pretty dirty."

Mulder removed his finger from his lover's chest and slipped it into his mouth. "Let's go."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex lifted his second slice of pizza from the box. "Sorry about dinner. If you'd let me know that you were coming home today, I'd have had something prepared."

"This is fine, babe. Don't worry about it."

Mulder slouched down in the patio chair and sipped at his beer. "God, it's good to be home." He looked around the yard, peering into the gathering dusk.

Alex had done an awesome job in the brief eight months after they'd bought the house. Who the hell would have ever thought that Alex Krycek, hired gun, would turn out to have such a green thumb?

They'd worked together inside, painting, papering and such, but by the time they'd gotten around to the yard, Mulder's vacation time was up and Alex ended up taking the chore on, alone. He'd worked all day, every day, while Mulder was at work and soon, the overgrown, weed-infested scourge of the neighborhood had become the envy of same. The day that three elderly ladies from the neighborhood garden club had appeared on their doorstep to invite Alex to join, Mulder nearly died laughing.

"Why'd you turn em down?" He asked between fits of laughter, after the women had gone. "You might have enjoyed it. And who knows? Maybe some day, they'd make you their president."

Alex shot him a dirty look. "Yeah and that'd make you my first lady. Would you like that, Fox?"


Alex looked up from his pizza. "What's so amusing over there?"

"Huh?"

"You've got this silly smile on your face."

"I was thinking about that day when Mrs. Miller and her friends asked you to join their club."

"I still see nothing amusing about that."

"I wish I'd had a camera handy. The look on your face was priceless."

Before Alex could respond, the phone rang. Giving his partner a largely ignored grimace, he reached for the phone.

"Hello? Uh, whoa. Hang on. This isn't Agent Mulder. Yeah, he is...hold on."

Alex held the phone out across the table. "For you."

"Thanks." Mulder took the phone, noticing the slightly odd expression on Alex's face. He made a mental note to ask him about it after the call.

"Mulder...yeah, hi...Agent Scully should be able to provide you with that information...yeah? Odd. Unless she accidentally turned it off. Try her again. She's got all the documentation...no kidding? yeah, that *is* a coincidence. Well, I'll see you then. Okay...yeah."

He hung up and turned to Alex, who still had the same look on his face.

"What is it?"

"Who was that?"

"The agent that Scully and I were working with. An Agent Richardson."

Alex's brow creased. "Mark Richardson?"

"You know, I don't even know the guy's first name." He reached into his back pocket for his wallet. "I've got his card..." He pulled the card out and raised his eyebrows. "Yeah. Mark. How'd you know?"

"I went to the academy with a Mark Richardson."

"Alex, that was how many years ago? And you remember his voice?"

"Some people are good with faces. I'm good with voices."

"That's amazing. But why do you look so disturbed?"

"Do I?"

"Yeah."

Alex shrugged it off. "Just strange, I guess. I never thought about any of the guys I knew back then. Never thought about whether or not any of 'em were still with the Bureau. Why shouldn't they be? Just cause *I'm* not..."

Mulder studied him intently. If he was trying to sound regretful, he wasn't pulling it off. He knew with certainty, that Alex had no regrets about not being an agent anymore. There had to be something else bothering him. He decided to let it go for now. He'd been gone four days and had no desire to instigate any heavy conversations. Still, there was something about the small change in Alex's mood...the darkening of his eyes, that made Mulder pull his chair up alongside its twin. He tilted Alex's face toward his and laid a long, soft kiss on his lips.

"What was that for?" Alex murmured when they separated.

"I need a reason to kiss you?"

Alex mouthed the word no.

"You done eating?"

"I guess. Why?"

"Let's clean this up and go to bed."

"Tired?"

"No."

Alex grinned. "Didn't you get enough in the shower?"

Mulder picked his lover's hand up and brought it to his lips, before pressing it over the rapidly hardening bulge in his jeans. Alex stroked him gently.

"I guess not."

Mulder rose to his feet, pulling Alex up by the front of his shirt. "Come on."

Quickly, they cleared away the pizza and beer bottles, then retreated to the bedroom. Once inside, Mulder jerked the younger man against him, taking his mouth in a hard kiss that left them both struggling for breath.

"I missed you," Mulder rumbled as he moved in for another kiss.

"Really?"

"Of course. Don't I tell you I miss you everytime I'm gone?"

Alex nodded slowly. "I just figured, you know, this case kept you so busy. There was that one night that you didn't call at all..."

"Yeah, but you know why that was. I told you how late I got in. I didn't want to wake you at that hour." He brushed a knuckle down the top line of Alex's nose. "I called you the next morning."

"I know. But do me a favor? Next time, call when you get in. I don't care what time it is."

Mulder observed his lover curiously. "Okay." His hand moved in a slow, firm line, up and down Alex's back. "*And*...it doesn't matter *what* I'm doing, I'm never too busy that I'm not thinking of you and missing you. You read me?"

Alex smiled and closed his eyes. "Yeah."

Mulder's hand slid up his back and into his hair, massaging his scalp lightly, while his other hand busied itself with the buttons on his shirt.

"Anytime I'm gone, doesn't matter for how long...could be a night...I miss you. I miss your smile." He nuzzled Alex's neck, prompting a soft sigh. "I miss your smell. I miss tasting you..." He pulled the shirt away and let it drop to the floor. "I miss the sweet way you wake me up, some mornings..."

Alex opened his eyes and met his lover's heated stare. Mulder tugged at Alex's lower lip with the tip of one finger, then released it. "Waking up in this mouth beats the hell out of that damned travel alarm."

Alex captured the finger between his lips before it could get away.

Mulder's eyelids drooped and he inhaled deeply. "I don't know if it was your intention, but...you've got me completely spoiled, Lexei. And now I'll never let you go."

Alex released his finger. "Promise me, Fox."

"I promise." Mulder backed Alex up to the bed. "Never let you go." They dropped together onto the mattress. "Never, never, never, never..."

He lowered his head to Alex's chest, kissing the warm, smooth skin. Moving lower to tease one rigid nipple.

Alex gasped aloud, arching into his lover's mouth.

"Fox..."

Mulder's teeth clamped down on the nipple and tugged gently. A low hum tried to push its way past Alex's compressed lips.

Mulder released the hard peak and slid up to drop a kiss on Alex's forehead. "Something tells me that you're not in the mood to play tonight."

Alex turned glazed green eyes up to the man above him and said nothing.

Mulder stroked his cheek. "Tell me."

"I'm sorry, Fox. I c...I can't...please..."

"It's okay, babe. I understand. How do you want it?"

Alex pressed up against him. "You know."

Mulder studied him for all of a second and a half before brushing his lips with his own. "I know."

Alex arched violently, an abrupt shriek cutting the air as Mulder gave his nipple a hard twist. He proceeded to finish undressing his writhing lover before removing his own clothing. Having accomplished his task in only seconds, he pulled the nightstand drawer open, producing the tube of lubricant. Alex squirmed impatiently beneath him as he readied himself.

"Fox..."

"Hmm?"

"Cuff me."

No questions asked, Mulder retrieved his handcuffs from his pants pocket and secured Alex's wrists to one of the vertical slats of the headboard.

"Okay?"

Alex nodded. "Now fuck me."

"I'm *going* to..."

"*Now*. Please..."

"All right, babe. Just take it easy."

"I can't." Alex writhed and arched beneath his teasing touch. "I need it now..."

Mulder lifted Alex against him. "Okay, baby, okay. I'll take good care of you..." He executed two small, teasing thrusts, then drove home with one hard push.

The sound that ripped from Alex's throat would have stopped anyone else cold, but Mulder knew that was the *last* thing his lover wanted. He held Alex's hips in a bruising grip and slammed brutally into him.

Alex's cries pierced the humid July air as Mulder wrapped a hand around his cock and began to milk it.

"That good, baby?"

Alex strained against the cuffs, moaning through gritted teeth. "So good...harder...*harder*.."

Mulder called up the strength he needed to give his lover what he begged for.

The line between pleasure and pain blurred, melding the two as Mulder took Alex screaming over the edge. The younger man's muscles contracted violently around him and he was gone, joining Alex in blissful oblivion. He collapsed on top of the perspiration drenched, heaving chest, too exhausted to move. The fact that Alex didn't immediately wrap his arms around Mulder, didn't occur to him until a few hours later, when he awakened and realized that Alex was still cuffed to the bed. Mulder lifted himself carefully off of his sleeping lover and reached for the key. He unlocked one wrist and as he was working on the other, a soft moan drew his attention. He looked down to see a slight glitter appear under the fluttering eyelids. He quickly released Alex's wrist from the other bracelet and lowered himself onto the mattress, beside him. Alex winced as he moved his arms. Mulder rubbed them gently and whispered against his cheek.

"Go back to sleep."

He lightly kissed the heavily stubbled skin and watched as Alex's eyes drifted shut. He then rested his head on the same pillow his lover's occupied, and fell asleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex felt blindly for the ringing phone then pulled it up to his ear.

"H'llo. Mmm hmm....s,okay." He rolled back toward his lover, draped a leg across his thighs and placed the phone in his hand. "Scully."

Mulder paused to kiss the top of the dark head that had come to rest on his chest, before lifting the phone to his ear.

"Yeah...uh huh. Yeah, he did...no? Hmm. I don't know....all wrapped up? Okay...no, don't worry about it. Yeah. I will. You too."

He disconnected and dropped the phone onto the floor. Alex trailed a string of warm kisses across his chest.

"Everything okay?"

"Yeah. Scully just wanted to tell me that things were all wrapped up and that she was heading home. She said to apologize again for waking you."

"Did Richardson finally get in touch with her?"

"Yeah. She said her phone was on and in working order, the whole time. I don't understand why he couldn't get in touch with her."

"Strange," Alex said softly.

"Uh huh."

Alex was quiet for a while, then gave voice to the question that had been floating around in his head since yesterday. "Fox?"

Mulder stroked his back and shoulders. "Hmm?"

"Yesterday, you told Richardson, _see you then,. Do you have to go back there?"

"Oh. No. He's coming to DC. Next week, he starts a two week seminar, so he said he'd look Scully and me up when he got here. You know, if I didn't know any better, I'd think that Scully was flirting with him a little."

"Maybe she was," Alex said flatly. "The Richardson I remember could charm the leaves off the trees and was a very good looking man...unless he's suddenly gone bald or been horribly disfigured," he added in the same low voice.

"No, he's good looking. And yeah, he seems very charming."

So he'd noticed.

Alex went silent.

"Hey." Mulder shook him gently. "Did you go back to sleep on me, or what?"

"No..."

"What do you want to do, today?"

Slow shrug and a softly uttered, "I don't know."

"I don't believe *that*. There isn't a Saturday that goes by that you don't want to drag me off to some new greenhouse that you found on the net. I can't believe that we've finally hit everyplace between here and Pennsylvania....Alex?"

Alex blinked, hearing the slight concern in Mulder's voice and forced himself out of his dark thoughts. "There...there is this one place..."

Mulder hugged him tightly and kissed the side of his head. "Thought so..."

"They're supposed to specialize in ornamental grasses..." He started to pick up steam. "You know how I said I'd like to put a natural screen up on the south border?"

"Yeah, I know."

"Well, it isn't that far. If we got a quick bite and left soon, we could be back before dark..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

One Week Later

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Ouch! Shit!"

"What did you do?" Scully asked, as she opened the door of their shared office.

Mulder mumbled around the finger, still in his mouth. "Paper cut."

She entered the office, followed by a well-dressed man, average height and weight, glossy black hair and eyes to match. The man's eyes rested a little too long on Mulder's mouth.

"God, those suckers hurt, don't they?"

Mulder pulled his finger from between his lips and stood up. "Richardson. How are ya?"

"Pretty good. Agent Scully found me wandering the halls, looking for your office." He looked around. "Pretty far removed from the rest of the population, isn't it?"

Mulder smiled. "Yeah. We like it that way. When did you get into town?"

"Last night. Seminar doesn't start till tomorrow."

Mulder nodded.

Richardson looked from one agent to the other. "You two free for lunch?"

"Ohhh, I'm sorry, I'm not," Scully said with sincere regret.

"Hmm, too bad." He turned immediately to Mulder. "Guess it's just you and me."

"Uh..." He would have declined...wanted to, but he felt bad for the guy. He seemed so eager for company. "Y-yeah. Sure."

Richardson's face lit up. "Great! When's a good time?"

"I don't know...one-thirty?"

"One-thirty, it is. Well..." He looked around. "I'll just go find something to do until then..."

Mulder glanced at Scully, then back at Richardson. "If you don't mind being bored for a couple of hours, you can hang out here if you want to. I've got some reports to catch up on."

The other man smiled. "You don't mind?"

"No...like I said, you'll probably be..." Mulder met the eyes that seemed to want to bore a hole through his skull. "..bored to death..."

"It's only a couple of hours." Dark eyes scanned the room again then came back to rest on Mulder. "There's enough interesting stuff around here to keep me occupied for that long, at least."

Scully watched the exchange, suddenly beginning to feel just a bit apprehensive. "Mulder...listen, I can probably put those two autopsies off for a while..."

It was Richardson who answered. "No! Uh...hey, don't go screwing up your schedule for *me*."

"I don't think it'll be that big a deal. The cadavers are in no hurry..."

"I appreciate your willingness to put your work aside to entertain me Agent Scully, but *really*, I wouldn't hear of it. I didn't come here to disrupt anything and I'd feel terrible knowing that I did. Maybe we can all three, have lunch another time before I go."

Scully turned wary eyes to her partner. "All right then...another time."

Richardson blew out what could only be described as a soft sigh of relief. Scully studied him with slightly narrowed eyes.

"Okay, well..." she looked back to Mulder, who was standing, quietly oblivious to the whole thing.

//Mulderrrrr. How can a guy as brilliant as you, be so dense sometimes?//

"I gotta go, Mulder. I'll talk to you later, okay?"

"Later, Scully. Tell the stiffs I said hey."

"Right." She nodded at the other man. "Agent Richardson."

He gave her a dazzling smile. "Agent Scully. See you soon."

Once Scully was gone, Richardson turned to face Mulder. "Well. Please, go on with your reports. I'll just look around, if you don't mind?"

"Not at all."

Mulder seated himself and returned his attention to his computer.

Richardson wandered around the office, looking at this and reading that, occasionally stealing a lengthy glance at Mulder. After half an hour, he spoke up.

"I'm sorry to disturb you..."

Mulder looked up.

"This is fascinating stuff. A...*beast*woman?"

Mulder tipped his head and raised his eyebrows. "Believe it or not."

"A man who could change into a woman and back again at will?"

"Fascinating case. The only witness left alive was some poor sap who was attacked in his car outside of a club. He *insisted* that he got into the car with a woman, but when she got out, she was a man. This person and others from the group he belonged to, had this strange ability to mesmerize their victims with nothing more than a touch," he demonstrated on the area between his thumb and forefinger, "here."

"Really?"

//Shit, I'd pay a king's ransom for that ability right now...//

"You must have seen so much over the course of your career."

Mulder gave him a half smile. "Yeah, I have." His eyes slipped back toward the computer.

"I'd really be interested to hear more, if you wouldn't mind...while we're at lunch, maybe?"

Mulder stopped typing and looked back up at him. "You're really interested, or do you just want to see how crazy _Spooky, Mulder really is?"

Richardson opened and closed his mouth.

"You can't tell me that you never heard that in the academy, at least."

"Well...yeah. But there were a few of us who *didn't* laugh."

Mulder raised an eyebrow.

//*This* sounds familiar...//

"If you really want to hear some of the more interesting cases..."

"I really do." Richardson grinned. "I'll shut up now, though. I've distracted you from your reports long enough."

Mulder nodded and returned to his computer.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mark Richardson sat quietly, eyes trained on the man across from him.

"...so, for every call we get that I think could be legit, there are twenty or more that turn out to be hoaxes or the wild imaginings of some bored, stressed or just plain crazy people. Fortunately, we usually find that out *before* we make the trip."

"You do a lot of traveling?"

"More than I'd like."

"But you've seen so many different places..."

"Yeah, well it's not everything it's cracked up to be. Long flights. Longer work days. It's tiring."

Richardson smiled. "But still, you do it."

"Yeah. The traveling isn't as extensive as it used to be, but like I said, it's more than I'd like." Mulder glanced down at his watch. "I gotta get going. I have a three-fifteen meeting with the A.D. and if I'm late..."

Richardson held his hands up. "Hey, I know. My A.D. is a real bitch to work for. So...listen...what about dinner one night?"

Mulder pressed his lips together and shook his head. "Sorry, can't make dinners. If you'd like to have lunch again before you go, that'd be great. I'll find a day and time when Agent Scully will be able to join us and get back to you."

"...Sure. Uh...I'd love to hear about more of these odd cases of yours. Would she mind?"

Mulder chuckled. "Probably."

"Well, we can set up a lunch for the three of us, but maybe just you and I could get together again at another time. I wouldn't want to bore Agent Scully."

Mulder shrugged. "You're *that* interested?"

"Oh, Agent Mulder. I'm very interested." His eyes quickly caressed the length of the man who had just risen from his seat. "*Very* interested."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You didn't eat much."

"I know. I kinda had a big lunch."

Alex propped his chin up against the heel of his hand. "Yeah? That's not like you. Scully and I usually have to fight with you to have lunch, at *all*."

"I know. But I went out to eat with Agent Richardson..."

Alex froze when he heard the name.

"...and I ate and talked, ate and talked and before I knew it, lunch was gone."

"Richardson?"

"Yeah. Remember I told you last week, that he was coming to town? Well, he's here. And he asked us to have lunch with him."

"Oh.....Scully still flirting with him?"

"No, now that you mention it. She seemed a little tense for some reason...almost cool. Maybe she was just upset that we went out to lunch without her."

Alex picked his head up. "Without her? How come?"

"She had a couple of autopsies scheduled. She was going to blow them off till later, but Richardson insisted that he didn't want to take her away from her work."

Alex's jaw tensed. "So, what'd you talk about?"

Mulder shrugged. "Work. He seemed very interested in the stranger cases. Said he'd like to talk more about them. I..." He held up a finger and reached for the ringing phone. "Hello? Yeah....when? How were the bodies found?" He sighed into the phone. "Yeah...right. I'll be there, soon."

Mulder hung up and looked apologetically at his lover. "Sorry. Body found in Fairfax, in a dumpster. Pretty gruesome from the sound of it."

"Sounds like what happened in Richmond last month."

"I know. That's what they're afraid of." He dialed Scully's number and looked back to Alex. "Listen, don't...Scully? It's me. Yeah, sorry but I just got a call from Skinner's office. We gotta go to Fairfax. I'll be by in twenty minutes. Okay." He disconnected and turned once more to Alex. "I have no idea how long I'm going to be." He skimmed Alex's jaw with two knuckles, then rose from the table. "Don't wait up, okay?"

"Okay."

Five minutes later, Mulder left the house. Five minutes after that, Alex left as well.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mark Richardson opened his hotel room door and squinted at the man in the hall. It took him a few seconds, but recognition flashed in his dark eyes.

"Alex Krycek? Holy shit!"

"Richardson."

"How the hell are you, man?" He stepped away from the doorway. "Come in!"

Alex stalked slowly into the room.

"How did you know I was here?"

"Not that hard to find out...how've you been, Mark?"

"Fine! Wow, I can't believe this! I almost didn't recognize you. It's been years. You were a skinny kid back then but," he eyed Alex appreciatively. "You filled out. Very nicely."

Alex ignored the comment.

"So, where the hell have you been? Nobody's seen or heard from you in years! I think I've run into just about everybody we knew from the academy, except for you. Are you still with the Bureau?"

"No."

"No? What happened?"

"Long boring story."

Richardson shrugged. "Okay...man, what a coincidence that you're here. You'll never guess who I had lunch with today?"_ Alex remained silent. Waiting.

"Fox-fucking-Mulder. Can you believe that shit? God*damn*, Alex. You should see him. He's more fucking gorgeous than he used to be. I wanted to drag him up on that table and fuck the life out of him..."

Alex had all he could do to stay cool. He took a long breath in through his nose and let it slowly out of his mouth.

"Forget it, Richardson."

"Forget...are you out of your mind? Listen Alex, I think I can get him. I can't explain why, but I've got the strongest feeling that he'd be open to an experience with another man..."

"Richardson."

"What?"

"It's not going to happen."

"Why not? You know something? Well obviously you do, or you wouldn't be saying that to me. Shit, is he married? I didn't see a ring..."

"No, he isn't married, but he's in a very serious relationship. With me."

"*You*?" He threw his head back and laughed. "Bullshit."

"It's true. Apparently, you didn't recognize my voice on the phone the other day when you called our house, but I recognized yours."

The smile fell away from Richardson's face. "You're...you're not kidding."

"No, I'm not."

The smile crept back. "You *dog*, you! You were always the quiet one. All those times our little group would get together and start talking about how we wanted to do him, you never said a word...goddamn. They say it's the quiet ones you gotta watch out for...so tell me...how is he?"

"I didn't come here to discuss our sex life with you."

"Aww c'mon, Krycek. It's the least you can do! Tell me about that mouth. Those lips were just *made* for giving head..."

Alex displayed remarkable control. "Leave it alone, Richardson. And leave him alone. That's what I came to tell you."

Richardson folded his arms across his chest and smirked. "You sound serious."

"I am."

"So, you two are exclusive?"

"Very."

"*Very*. Ooooh, sounds like looove..."

"After all these years, is that still a difficult concept for you to grasp?"

"I'm happy and proud to say, yes. Yes, it is."

"Well, that's too bad."

"Spare me your sympathy, Krycek. I don't believe for a second that you *love* the guy..."

Alex's eyes glittered cold and hard.

Richardson went on. "You know what *I* think? *I* think that you've got a damn good thing going here. He's a freak, isn't he? Insatiable? He'll do anything you want, whenever you want it and you don't want to share that with anybody. Well, I can't blame you. *I* wouldn't want anybody else horning in on my action, but I'm sorry, pal. I gotta try. I watched that ass today, and all I could do was imagine burying myself in that..."

The air left his lungs in a quick blast as Alex slammed him against the nearest wall and held him there with a forearm, pressed against his throat. His voice, low and dripping venom, sounded in the other man's ears.

"I don't think you understand, Richardson. I'm not asking you. I'm not *suggesting.* I'm *telling* you. He's off limits. Leave. Him. Alone."

Hard green eyes held Richardson against the wall, even after the arm was removed from his throat. Richardson brought a hand slowly to his neck and rubbed.

"Do we understand each other, Mark?"

"Yeah," Richardson whispered, then cleared his throat. "Yeah, I think we do."

"Good. Then there'll be no need for me to visit you again."

Alex turned and walked toward the door. Richardson's voice followed him.

"Sorry our only meeting after so long, had to turn out like this."

Alex's only answer was a long stare. He closed the door softly behind him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

three days later

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mulder."

"Agent Mulder. It's Mark Richardson."

"How's the seminar going?"

"You know what they're like. Long...boring as hell...."

"Yeah, I've managed to avoid most, but there were a few that I had no choice about. You've got my sympathies."

"Well, good. Then maybe you'll take pity on me and go have lunch? I need some stimulating conversation or I'm going to go crazy."

"Umm..."

"Please say you're free. I gotta get out of here for a little while, at least."

"Uh, yeah. I guess I can take an hour. Want to meet me at the same place we went to before?"

"Yeah, that's great! What time?"

Mulder checked his watch. "Twelve-thirty?"

"I'll see you there."

"All right, then."

Richardson smiled to himself as he dropped the phone back into it's cradle.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder entered the restaurant and almost immediately spotted the man waving at him from a corner table. He approached and took a seat.

"How long have you been here?"

"About ten minutes. Thanks for meeting me."

Mulder nodded. "No problem."

Richardson wasted no time.

"Actually, I wondered if it might be."

"I don't follow you."

"Look Agent Mulder, I don't want to upset your partner, but I thought I had to at least clear this up..."

Mulder cocked his head. "Why do you think you've upset Agent Scully?"

"Uh..." He wrinkled his nose. "I don't mean her. I meant...Alex."

Mulder stared at him a full ten seconds before responding. "Would you care to elaborate?"

"Alex and I went to the academy together."

"That, I know."

"Oh. Well...he visited me the other night. Did you know that?"

"No."

"He...he's under the impression that...well....let me say this. I'm bisexual, okay? And Alex is under the impression that I may have designs on you. I'm sorry if this makes you uncomfortable, but I don't want any trouble."

Mulder listened silently.

"Alex always was what I would describe as _quietly intense,." You know, bordering on the verge of obsessive. I'm sure you know that he graduated in the top ten percent of our class. Anything he involved himself in, he gave a hundred and ten percent to. Now that's fine where work is concerned, but in relationships, it can be a bit much. That's why I was shocked to find out that you were a couple."

Still, Mulder said nothing.

"I don't know you really, but I think I'd have to say that to me, you don't seem like the type of man who likes to be held on to, too tightly." He held up his hands. "I could be wrong. At any rate, I just want you to know that I've got no plans. And the thing is, I don't think Alex believed me. He was pretty irate. Could you just maybe, convince him that I'm no threat to him? Even though he almost put me through my hotel room wall, I still like him. Always have, and I wouldn't cause him any trouble."

Mulder's eyes flicked down to the table. "I'll talk to him."

"That's all I ask. Now, um...if you'd like to beg off on lunch, I'll understand."

Mulder hesitated for a moment, then spoke. "No. We're here. There's nothing wrong with having lunch, right?"

Richardson gave him a wide grin. "Right. I'm glad you're not pissed. I hope Alex won't be."

Mulder nodded.

"Okay! Well, I feel better. Listen...tell me more about that Tooms guy..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex turned the shower off and slid the door open, to find Mulder standing there, holding a bath towel.

"Shit!"

"Sorry. Didn't mean to scare you. I just walked in as you were shutting the water off."

Alex blew out a short breath and planted a wet kiss on the other man's mouth, before taking the towel from him.

"You home for the day?"

"Yeah."

"Early."

"I know. I wanted to talk to you about something."

Concern washed over Alex's features. "Something wrong?"

"Nothing we can't straighten out." He ran the back of his hand down Alex's arm. "Get dressed. I'll wait for you in the living room." He exited the bathroom, leaving Alex confused and curious. Quickly, he dried off, dressed, and joined Mulder in the living room.

"So..." He took a seat next to Mulder on the sofa. "What's up?"

"Why didn't you tell me about Mark Richardson?"

//That fucking son of a bitch.//

Alex tilted his head downward and said nothing.

"Alex..."

He didn't even attempt to play dumb.

"How did you know?"

"We had lunch today."

Alex's head snapped up. "You what?"

"Surprised he'd get within fifty yards of me after you attacked and threatened him?"

"What the hell is he up to?" The question was more to himself than it was to Mulder.

"What makes you think he's up to anything?"

Alex met his eyes. "I know him."

"You *knew* him."

"He hasn't changed a bit."

"Okay, so tell me. Tell me what he's like. Tell me what justified you going over to his hotel room and slamming him up against a wall. And then tell me why you said nothing about it to me."

Alex closed his eyes then opened them slowly. "There was a group of us at the academy. A small group. Five, to be exact. Gay and bi. We hung out together. Usually just to talk. We just felt more comfortable with each other. Fox Mulder was a well-known name around there. Everybody knew about the profiling genius who was just a little on the quirky side...we talked about you a lot. But usually the conversation would end up taking a sexual turn. This was something, Fox, I never would have told you, but since you need to know about Mark Richardson, I guess you're going to hear all of it. They'd say the raunchiest things. I'm saying *they*, because these were discussions I never took part in. I'm not saying I wasn't there. I was. Smiled. Uh,ed Ah-ha,ed. But that's all. Anyway, they'd speculate on your orientation. Talk about, in graphic detail, the things they'd like to do to you and what they'd want you to do to them. Took bets on how much of a freak they thought you'd be...and Richardson was the ringleader."

Mulder lowered his eyes for a second, then again raised them to Alex's downturned face.

"I went to his hotel room the other night because I wanted to see if he was the same sneaky asshole I remembered, and he is. After he asked me where the hell I'd been the past few years, he jumped right onto the subject of lunch with Fox Mulder. Told me what he wanted to do to you in that restaurant. I told him to forget it and he laughed at me, saying that he was pretty sure he could *get* you. I stopped him at that point and told him that we were together. He didn't believe me at first, but when I told him that it was me who answered the phone at home the other night, he had no choice. He started asking personal questions, none of which I answered. I told him to leave you alone. He refused and said some more stuff that I really didn't like and yeah, I slammed him up against the wall and told him one more time, to stay away from you. Then I left."

Mulder considered what he'd just heard, then asked softly, "Why didn't you tell me about it?"

Alex shook his head. "Because if I told you *that*, I'd have to tell you the rest and I didn't want you to have to hear that stuff. I didn't want you to know that you'd been the object of a bunch of guys, sleazy fantasies."

Mulder placed a hand on Alex's thigh. "I appreciate you wanting to protect me," he said softly. "But I still think you should have told me."

One corner of Alex's mouth tightened then relaxed. "Sorry."

Mulder squeezed his leg. "So. Richardson was that big a jerk?"

"Huge. Thing is, he got away with. He was so bloody smooth and good looking. He'd turn on the charm and get almost anything or anybody he wanted."

"You?"

Alex looked him in the eye. "No."

Mulder nodded his acknowledgment. Paused, then asked. "Is that all?"

"What do you mean?"

"I just think there's something more. I sense more in you than just anger toward this guy."

Alex's eyes flicked away.

"Are you worried?"

Alex rose from the sofa and moved toward the sliding doors.

"I don't trust him as far as I can throw him."

Mulder left the sofa and came to stand directly behind him.

"He's not the one you have to trust."

No response.

"Do you trust me, Lexei?"

Alex lowered his head. "Of course I do. But like I said, he's so damn smooth...and good-looking..."

"He may be those things," Mulder placed his hands gently on Alex's shoulders and turned him around. "But he's *no* Alex Krycek."

Alex stared across the short distance, into warm, hazel eyes.

"He's no competition, Alex. Not in his wildest dreams."

Alex lowered his eyes.

"Look at me, Lexei."

Wary green eyes rose to solemn hazel.

"There's only you." Mulder slipped his fingers through his lover's hair and gently tugged. "You're *it*. Do you understand me?"

Alex tried to swallow past the lump forming in his throat. He nodded mutely.

Mulder held Alex's head still while his lips descended for a long, gentle kiss. He broke the kiss and moved slowly to an ear, licking and nuzzling. Alex leaned into it, moaning softly.

"Lexei..." Mulder's whisper tickled the sensitive interior. "I want you..."

Alex's fingers clenched in the older man's shirt, but he never said a word. Mulder's hand moved to the front of his shirt, deftly undoing the buttons and pushing the material away from his shoulders. Alex shrugged out of the shirt and let it fall to the floor. Before he could make another move, his lover's mouth was there, tracing a moist path across his shoulder. He stopped at the fleshy curve at the base of his neck and began to apply a light suction.

"Fox..."

The word died on his lips as Mulder's mouth covered his once again. The older man's hands moved down and began to work on his pants. Once unfastened, they pulled the denim down until they dropped freely to the floor. Alex kicked them away, then reciprocated, pulling at his lover's clothes, until he was naked as well.

Too impatient to move them to the bedroom, Mulder pulled Alex to the floor and sprawled over him, again devouring his mouth.

The thought that Fox was just doing this to boost his feeling of security, flitted across Alex's mind, then quickly dissipated as the mouth left his and began a teasing journey down his chest, stopping to thoroughly torment both nipples. Alex moaned through gritted teeth as Mulder bit down gently and pulled at one tight peak.

"Fox, please..." Alex arched into the body above him, seeking greater contact, begging for more.

Mulder abandoned his present pleasure and began to move again, on a steady downward path, licking and teasing his way to the twitching muscle. His tongue inched out and danced lightly around the head, bringing Alex's back at least five inches off the floor. He smiled at the reaction, then took his mouth away, leaving the younger man twisting in agony.

"*No*...please...I n...need...shit!"

Alex issued a choked cry of surprise as his lover unceremoniously sucked his entire length into his mouth. His fingers tangled in Mulder's hair and he automatically began to thrust into the wet heat.

Normally, Mulder would have stopped Alex, preferring to tease and torment, bringing him along at his own pace, but today he didn't have the heart. Though Alex tried to temper his insecurities, Mulder knew with certainty, that they still existed. Sex wasn't a cure-all, not by a long shot, but right now, physical reassurance was what he needed and Mulder could never refuse him anything.

Alex continued to thrust frantically, feeling the intolerable pressure begin. In a heartbeat, he was being rocked by a series of shattering explosions. Loud, gasping sobs pushed past his lips as he empitied himself down his lover's throat.

Alex collapsed and went still, whimpering softly as Mulder released his now depleted cock and then began to gently lick him clean. When he finished, he raised himself to his hands and knees, straddling his lover's motionless body. He kissed the perfectly bowed lips, then the tip of Alex's nose.

"I know you're tired," Mulder whispered, "but I gotta have you, baby."

He crawled forward until his own rigid cock bobbed just above Alex's face. He lowered his hips until Alex was able to take him easily into his mouth, which he did, eagerly.

"Mmmm, God..." Mulder moaned, just above a whisper, as Alex's talented mouth worked on him. Reluctantly, he pulled away just a couple of brief moments later, leaving Alex protesting softly.

"No....Fox, let me...."

"Shh." Mulder stroked Alex's cheek then pushed himself onto his side, pressing himself up against his lover. He turned Alex and pulled him back against his chest. He grasped his cock by it's base and began to slowly work it between the smooth cheeks and into the tight opening. Alex pushed backward, wanting all of Fox, all at once.

Mulder gave in to the silent plea. He lifted Alex slightly, bringing his right arm under and around his chest, then wrapped his left arm low, around his waist and entered him with one hard thrust.

Alex bit back a sob. His fingers dug into the arms clamped around him as Mulder quickly established a forceful rhythm.

The arm around Alex's chest, moved up to encircle his neck, drawing his head back against Mulder's shoulder. "You're too fucking beautiful," Mulder grated into his ear as he slowed his movements. "My beautiful Lexei...do you know how much I love you?"

Alex gasped at his lover's words. Words he needed so desperately to hear.

Mulder increased the speed and strength of his thrusts. "I love...you, Lexei....love you..." He groaned harshly into Alex's hair as his body convulsed violently, then went slack.

Alex lay quietly, still wrapped tightly in Mulder's arms. He stroked the arm around his neck, waiting for his lover to recover. A short time later, Mulder began to stir. He dropped several small kisses onto the dark head and raised himself up enough to be able to see Alex's face.

"I guess you're going to need another shower," he smiled down at the younger man.

Alex shifted and looked up. He gave Mulder a smile that didn't quite reach his eyes. "Come with me?"

"Yeah."

Both men rose and gathered up their clothing, then headed in to the bathroom.

"Hungry?"

"A little."

"Want to go out somewhere?"

"If you want."

"Ruby's?"

"Sure."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The server led the two men to a corner table at Mulder's request and took their drink orders. Once she was gone, Mulder turned to Alex and brushed the tips of his fingers across the top of the other man's hand.

"I won't have lunch with Richardson anymore."

Alex lowered his eyes to the table. "It...it's okay. Like you said, it's you I have to trust. And I do."

"I don't even know the guy. And even if I did...it's not worth getting you upset over. I'll tell him to get lost, tomorrow, if I hear from him."

"Fox..."

"It's *done*, Alex. Now let's just forget about Mark Richardson, okay?"

Alex grasped Mulder's hand and brought it to his lips. "Okay."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The dark-eyed man watched from his vantage point at the bar, as the two at the corner table, began their meal.

//Small city, boys.//

He smiled, tossed back the remainder of his beer and summoned a waitress.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"You're not going to poison him."

"No? And why not?"

"You wouldn't have the heart."

"Might I remind you what it was I did for a living..."

Mulder smirked. "I don't care *what* you say, Alex. I don't care what you *did*. You can't kill him. You *know* you can't."

Alex stared at him for a few seconds, the sighed. "Okay. Maybe I can't. But I'm going to try to trap him. Then I'm going to drive him to Florida."

Mulder let out a hardy laugh. "Be sure to take the scenic route."

Alex rested his chin in his hand. "Shit. I'm going soft."

Mulder favored him with a heated stare. "I can fix that for you..."

Just as Alex was about to answer, a waitress approached the table. "Excuse me guys, but this drink is for you." She placed a glass down on in front of Mulder. "From an admirer."

"Who?" Alex spun in his chair, looking around the restaurant, before Mulder could respond.

"I'm sorry, I'm not supposed to say." The waitress retreated quickly, before any more questions could be asked.

Mulder stared down at the drink, then looked around the room. "This is a new one. Wonder where it came from?"

Alex jerked his body around in his chair. "Are you kidding? It's *him*."

"Richardson? Come on, Alex. Do you see him anywhere around here?"

"No. But he wouldn't stay, knowing I'd be looking for him."

Mulder thought about it. Alex had a point. But still...

"Could've been anybody, Alex."

"I know. But it was *him*."

"Okay. Let's just say for a second, that it was him. So what? He's just trying to get to you. And you're letting him. Forget it. I'll talk to him tomorrow and everything will be taken care of."

"Don't bet on it."

"Come on Alex, cut it out. You're getting paranoid."

Alex gave no indication that he'd heard a word that was just said to him. He continued to look around, muttering to himself.

"I'm going to rip his head off."

"No, you're not...*Alex*."

The stress placed on his name, brought his attention back to Mulder.

"We have no proof that it was Richardson who sent this drink."

"I don't *need* proof."

"Just...*stay* away from him. I'll take care of this."

"A good *talking to* isn't going to get it, Fox. I'll communicate with him in a language he'll understand..."

"I *said*, I'll take care of it." It came out a little more forcefully than he'd intended. His tone softened, immediately. "Please, Alex. We don't need any trouble."

Alex studied him for a second, then his gaze dropped to the table. "Fine. You want me to leave him alone, I'll leave him alone."

"To avoid *trouble*. Okay?"

"Yeah. Sure."

One word answers. Great. Just wonderful.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The ride home was a long, silent one. Alex sat sulking in the passenger's seat, eyes never leaving his window. Mulder sighed softly, not knowing how to deal with his lover's pensive mood. It was a funny thing. They'd fought constantly and violently *before* they became lovers, but they'd been together a year and a half now, and had only ever had minor disagreements. Now there was *this* and Mulder was at a complete loss.

He stole frequent glances across the short distance, hoping to catch Alex's eye but the younger man refused to turn away from the window. Finally, he stopped trying and just concentrated on getting them home as soon as possible.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The door swung open and Mulder stepped back, allowing Alex to enter first.

"Hey, uh...I got some work I really should try to get finished." Mulder took a step in the direction of his office. "Want to come with me?"

Alex turned his wary green gaze on his lover, who gave him a coaxing smile.

"I'll let you look over my shoulder..."

"I don't think so. I'm kind of tired, I think I'll just," he jerked his head in the direction of the bedroom, "turn in."

The smile faded from Mulder's face. "O-okay. I won't be too long."

Alex nodded and as Mulder took a couple of tentative steps toward him, he moved away and off toward the bedroom. "Goodnight," he called softly and disappeared into the hall.

Mulder stood quietly, in the middle of the living room, until he heard the bedroom door close. He inhaled deeply and turned toward his office.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex's eyes snapped open and he turned toward the clock.

Eleven-twelve.

Twenty minutes later than the last time he looked.

He'd been in bed for an hour and a half, now. No sleep in sight. No shock, it was impossible to sleep knowing what he'd done to Fox, tonight. He was behaving like a child and he hated himself for it. Fox didn't deserve the cold-shoulder. He hadn't done anything wrong. So, he didn't exactly see this Richardson thing the same way. So what? The point was, he said he'd tell the guy to get lost. So, he didn't believe that it was Richardson who sent him that drink. Truth of the matter was, they *hadn't* seen him, so they really *didn't* know for sure that it was him.

//Stop being an idiot. Go find him. Put your arms around him, give him a big wet one, then fuck him right there, in the chair.//

Alex slipped out of bed and made his way quietly, to Mulder's office. The door was ajar and he was just about to push it open the rest of the way, when Mulder's voice, soft and low, broke the silence.

"I dont know how to deal with this. His suspicion seems to be growing and I don't know what to do to quell it. Got any ideas?"

Alex backed away from the door and moved back toward the bedroom. He dropped onto the bed and took a few steadying breaths.

Scully. That's who he was talking to. It only made sense. He wanted advice from his partner on how to deal with his lover's growing insecurity.

//Go back. Talk to him. Apologize. He'll *tell* you that he's been on the phone with Scully.//

Instead of heading back toward the office, he lay down, curling himself around a pillow and stared at the wall.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder entered the bedroom and peeked over Alex's back. It was hard to see in the darkness, but it looked as though he was asleep. He stripped down to his shorts and slipped into bed, behind his lover. He longed to fall asleep, wrapped around Alex, but kept his distance. He'd shied away from an overture once tonight, and Mulder just wasn't up to another rejection. He settled back against the pillows and closed his eyes.

Alex lay very still, listening as Mulder shifted time and again, trying to get comfortable. Finally his movements stilled and his respiration became steady and even. Even after he was sure that Mulder was asleep, Alex remained on his side, pillow clutched to his chest, staring into the darkness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Morning, Scully."

"Morning. You don't look so good. Bad start?"

"He was in a darker mood this morning, than he was last night. I tried to talk to him. He just blew me off, saying that he was okay. He's *not* okay, Scully. This thing with Richardson has really got him bent out of shape. I don't know what to do, other than what I told him I *would* do."

"Well, maybe once he knows that you actually talked to Richardson and told him to bug off, he'll feel better."

"I don't know. I hope so, but from the way he acted yesterday, I'm really...I'm not sure."

"See what today brings, Mulder, then take it from there. What else *can* you do?"

Mulder shook his head. "Nothing I can think of. By the way, sorry for calling so late, last night. I just didn't know what else to do..."

"I told you last night Mulder, don't worry about it. I had a feeling that this guy would be trouble."

"I thought for a little while there, that you might have had a thing for him," Mulder teased.

He's a handsome man. Very personable." She shrugged. "I thought he may have been paying a little extra attention to me, but I began to see that it might have just been an attempt to get next to you. And from what you told me last night, I'm sure of it."

"Uh huh. I'm not going to wait and see if he shows up or calls today. I'm going to find *him*."

"What are you going to tell him?"

"The truth. I don't think it's a good idea to see him anymore, outside of possible business."

"He's going to ask why."

"And I'll tell him that it's created problems in my personal life, and my relationship with Alex is more important to me than anything else."

"Sounds good. Any reasonable person would understand that."

"I don't think there'll be any problems after I talk to him."

"I hope not."

Mulder cocked his head. "You almost sound like Alex."

"Just seems to me, Mulder, than this guy is a little more persistent than most. *Why* did he ask to get together with you, right after Alex went to see him? Why did he say all the things he said? I think he's *looking* to cause trouble. Keep an eye out for it."

"I will."

Scully checked her watch. "Okay. Well, we got a meeting with Skinner in a few minutes...you *did* prepare for it, didn't you?"

"Yeah," He lifted two folders off of his desk. "I got the reports finished last night."

"Wow. With everything that went on, you still managed to get your work done?"

"Yep. I won't vouch for its accuracy, but..."

Scully patted his arm. "I'm sure Skinner'll let you know all about it. Let's go, before we're late."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Richardson."

Mark Richardson turned in the direction of the low, masculine voice. He smiled as Mulder approached from the top of the stairs and descended to where he stood.

"Hey! Surprised to see you here."

Mulder steered him down the steps and off to a less crowded spot on the lawn, outside of the conference center.

"I got an hour and a half for lunch. Wanna grab something?"

"That's what I came here for. I can't."

Richardson laughed. "Let me get this straight. You came all the way over here, to tell me that you can't have lunch me? And we didn't have a lunch date to begin with?"

"What I mean, Richardson, is that I can't have lunch with you *anymore*."

"Oh. I see. Let me guess. Alex is pouting?"

"He's disturbed by it. And I don't want to do that to him."

Richardson looked away. "No, no. Wouldn't want to disturb Alex baby..."

"I'm sorry, I didn't catch that. What did you say?"

"Hmm? Oh, nothing. Well, what can I say? You gotta do what you gotta do, right? Having a harmless, friendly relationship isn't worth you sleeping on the sofa. You gotta live with the man and I can see where he could make life pretty miserable for you, if you crossed him..."

"Alex isn't an unreasonable or vindictive man. And I'd thank you not to make him sound that way. I love him and if something bothers him, it bothers me."

"Hey," Richardson held his hands up. "Sorry man, no offense, okay? I just call em like I see em. You know him better than me, obviously, and if you're happy with your life, who am I to say anything to the contrary? Tell Alex he can relax. I have no intention to try and take you away from him."

Mulder nodded curtly. "Fine. I gotta go."

"Okay, then. Sorry for all the trouble."

He watched Mulder turn and leave, a tiny smile glued to his lips.

"*Try*? Ha!"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder entered the silent house and looked around. No sign of Alex. He moved down the hall, looking in room after room. Finding each one empty, he headed toward the yard.

Alex squatted between a row of tomato plants, staking the quickly growing stalks, to keep them from falling over. He neither heard nor felt Mulder's approach and when the older man spoke, he spun quickly to his feet.

"Sorry," Mulder reached out, touching his arm.

Alex took a few steadying breaths and glanced at his watch. "I...I didn't realize it was this time already. Sorry, I guess dinner is going to be late." He started to move past Mulder, but was stopped by a gentle hand around his upper arm.

"Forget about dinner. We can send out for something, later. I want to talk to you."

"About?"

"Richardson. I saw him today. Told him there'd be no more lunches."

Alex stared at a spot on the ground, just beyond where Mulder stood. "I'm sure dinners would do just as well..." He raised his eyebrows. "Breakfast'd be even better."

"Alex, stop it. Listen to me. He can want whatever the hell it is that he wants. It doesn't matter. Wanting isn't *getting*. He'll never *get* me. I made myself very clear. Said what I had to say, then left. This is done. Over. Okay?"

Still avoiding Mulder's eye, Alex nodded.

"Alex, what is it? I thought this'd make you happy."

"I...I am. It's just...it's...I'm sorry I put you through this."

"S,okay. It's done. Let's just forget about it. Can we do that?"

"Yeah."

"Alex," Mulder called softly. "Look at me."

Sad green eyes flicked up and away, three times, before settling on steady hazel.

"I missed you, last night. When I got to bed, you were asleep."

Alex looked away briefly, then back.

"I wanted to put my arms around you and pull you against me, but I was afraid to."

"Afraid?"

"Yeah. When we got back from the restaurant, I started to move toward you in the living room, but you turned away and went into the bedroom. In eighteen months, you've never turned away from me. That stung. I wasn't really up for another rejection, so I kept my distance."

Alex drew in an unsteady breath and released it. "I'm sorry," he said on the exhale. "I'm really.....Christ, I'm....so stupid...I didn't mean..."

Mulder stepped forward and reached out to stroke his hair. "It's all right. Forget it. Can we just get back to our life?"

Alex nodded mutely.

Mulder traced the bottom swell of his lip with his thumb. "I want to kiss you, Lexei. I haven't kissed you since yesterday. I haven't...touched you. I can't...I need to."

Alex took two steps forward, right into his lover's waiting arms. Their lips met in a surprisingly tender kiss. One that shook Alex to the ground. "I'm sorry," he murmured against Fox's mouth. "I'm sorry, I'm s..."

The rest of his apology was muffled by Mulder's mouth, again covering his. But this time, the kiss was much more demanding and Alex gave in easily to it, winding one arm around his lover's neck and plunging his free hand into the soft golden-brown hair.

Mulder pulled Alex tightly against him. He fed hungrily on the younger man's lips, stripping away all residual insecurities and fears, leaving only want and a need so strong, it bordered on desperation.

Alex whimpered in protest as Fox tore his mouth away, but a whimper was all he had time for, before he was spun around and pushed to his knees in the dirt.

"Don't move."

He remained, shaking on his knees, as he heard the quick retreat and return. The next thing he heard was the clinking of a belt, then the soft monotone again, right behind him.

"Pull your pants down."

Alex quickly obeyed and when he was done, was pushed forward so that he was now down on his hands and knees, hidden from casual view, by the tangle of plants around him. Mulder kneeled behind him and ran a hand up his back, then down, stroking and caressing the taut muscles of his ass. Alex moaned softly, wiggling against Mulder's touch. The hand left his skin momentarily, then returned, this time gliding down the cleft and teasing the tight opening

Alex gritted his teeth and pushed back, trying to impale himself on the slick, probing fingers. Mulder obliged him, pushing two fingers into him at once, forcing a low, drawn-out groan from his throat. Alex bucked against the hand, forcing Mulder's fingers in, up to the last knuckle, then continued to rock, his cries growing louder and more demanding, with every thrust.

Mulder leaned over his back and began to withdraw his fingers from the clutching muscles. "Easy, Lexei," he whispered as Alex fought the retreat.

"Nooo," Alex whined, as the presence inside him was completely removed.

"I've got something better for you," Mulder promised, as he grasped his thickly lubricated cock and guided it to the prepared opening.

Alex's head snapped back and he cried out into the late afternoon air, as he felt his lover's cock stretch and enter him in one smooth stroke.

"Sshhhh baby," Mulder whispered unevenly into his ear as he set a slow, easy rhythm. "The neighbors'll hear."

"Fuck the neighbors."

Mulder let out a short, hoarse laugh as he continued to move. "*That's* my Alex."

"Hard...harder, Fox..."

Mulder picked up the pace, grunting softly at the sensation of his balls slapping against the backs of his lover's thighs. He reached down and wrapped his fingers firmly around Alex's cock.

"God...oh yeah...do me, Fox. I'm ready..."

Mulder began to stroke Alex's cock with his lube-slick hand as he continued to pump his ass. Alex cried out again and again, jerking his hips back and forth, forcing Mulder into a wild pace.

"Alex..." Mulder thrashed against the younger man, trying desperately to hold back the scream that was forming in his throat. He pressed his face into Alex's back in an effort to muffle the sound when it came, but Alex's cries errupted at almost the same moment, echoing around the yard and beyond.

Alex collapsed to the ground and Mulder fell on top of him, pressing his body into the cool, soft dirt. After several minutes, Mulder stirred, lifting himself off of his lover and helping him into a sitting position. He smiled softly, brushing some dirt away from Alex's cheek. "Sorry," he whispered. "Guess this wasn't the best place in the world for that."

Alex displayed a lazy, satisfied grin. "You kidding? I love it when we just drop down and do it wherever we are."

"Doesn't say much about self-control, does it?"

"I don't care," Alex murmured into his shoulder. "I'll start worrying when you're suddenly *able* to control your impulses."

Mulder kissed his temple. "I love you."

Alex turned and met his eye. "I love *you*," he whispered hoarsely.

Another kiss. "I think we could do with a shower,"

Alex nodded in agreement. He rose to his feet and pulled Mulder up after him. They pulled their clothing into some semblance of order, then headed, arms wound around each other's waists, to the house.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The next night

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Hello?"

No answer.

Alex's voice lost some of its sleepy quality and took on an edge of insistence. "Hello?"

Click.

Mulder raised his head from the pillow. "Who was it?"

Wide awake now, Alex drummed his fingers on his leg. "I don't know. But this is the third time since yesterday. I'm getting a little fed up."

"Probably just some kids fooling around. They'll get tired and move on to a new number."

Alex fought hard to keep the thoughts from entering his head. So far, he was losing ground. "I don't know."

"Don't know what?" Mulder's nearly incoherent voice drifted up from amongst the pillows.

"It's never happened before."

Mulder reached up and pulled Alex down beside him. He tucked an arm around the younger man's waist and nestled his head against his chest. "Go back to sleep."

Alex absently stroked the head under his chin and stared up at the ceiling.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"C'mon Fox, you're gonna be late!"

Mulder sauntered into the kitchen, tie undone, sorting through an armload of paperwork.

"I hate this, I really hate this..." he muttered to himself. "I can't find that Raleigh file that I was working on, just yesterday..."

Alex sighed and took the papers from him. "Sit down and eat. I'll look for it."

As Mulder picked through breakfast, Alex searched. "Fox," he dropped the last paper back into the pile. "It's not here. Are you sure you didn't leave it at the office?"

"No, I..." a sudden thought came to his mind. "Shit. I did."

Alex rolled his eyes and walked toward the sink.

"Oops."

"Yeah, oops. I don't...."

The ringing phone interrupted the beginning of his speech.

"Hello?...Who's *me*?" He pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it for a second, then hung up.

Noticing his disturbed expression, Mulder asked, "Who was it?"

"I don't know...whoever it was, he was whispering very softly."

"What'd they say?"

"Just, _it's me,. When I asked who _me, was, they hung up." He glanced at Mulder, then looked away.

"And you didn't recognize the voice?"

"I wasn't really paying close attention..." The muscle in his jaw began to work convulsively. "..and as I said, he was whispering very softly."

Mulder nodded. "Well...I gotta go." He rose from the table and gathered up his paperwork, slipping it into a large folder. "I'll see you later." He approached the younger man, who still stood leaning against the sink. Threading a hand through his hair, he pulled Alex forward and planted a long, thorough kiss on his lips. He drew back slightly, dropped another light kiss on Alex's nose, then turned and left.

Alex remained where he stood, a good long time, playing and replaying the voice in his head, trying to prove or disprove his theory about who it belonged to. When his head began to ache, he abandoned his efforts and went about his daily business.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scully gathered up her jacket and headed for the door. "Ready?"

"Yeah," Mulder said, shutting his computer down. "You go on ahead, I'll be right there. Just gotta hit the head."

"Okay, I'll meet you at the car."

Mulder followed her out the door and took a left down the hall, leading to the men's room. Ten seconds later, Mark Richardson pushed at the partially open office door and peeked inside. Visually confirming that the office was empty, he quickly slipped inside and scanned the room.

"Oh, yeah..." He spotted Mulder's suit jacket, thrown across the back of his chair and crept over to it. He held the garment up to his face, inhaling deeply. "Mmmmm." Searching the inside pockets, he found what he was looking for. He pulled Mulder's wallet out and quickly rooted through it. He yanked the agent's driver's license from the wallet, stuffed it into his own pocket, then replaced the wallet and laid the jacket carefully, back across the chair. "This is the most fun I've ever *had* at a seminar," he mumbled to himself, before slipping quietly out of the office.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex answered the phone and was greeted by the apologetic voice of his lover.

"It's me, Lexei."

"Let me guess. You're going to be late."

"Afraid so." He spoke above the blare of sirens, behind him. "Can you hear me?"

"Yeah."

"There's been another murder."

"Jeez. Same thing?"

"Looks that way. Listen, don't hold dinner and don't wait up, okay? I have no idea how long I'm going to be."

"Okay. So, I guess I'll see you when I see you, huh?"

"Yeah. I gotta go. Scully is calling me. Uh...everything okay?"

"Yeah, fine."

"All right. Night, babe."

"Bye."

Alex disconnected and looked down at the dinner he'd already started. He shrugged. "Maybe he'll eat it anyway, if he doesn't get in, too late." He covered the prepared chicken and popped it into the oven.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Morning, babe."

"You sound exhausted."

"Been a long night."

"You coming home?"

"No, not right now. I still got some work to do."

"Fox, don't push it, okay? You gotta get some sleep."

"I won't be here all day. But I really do have to get this wrapped up first. I just wanted to call and check in."

"Okay. Well, get your work done and get your ass home. I'll give you a nice warm bath, maybe a massage..."

Mulder groaned softly into the phone. "I'll get through this as fast as I can."

"See you soon."

Alex hung up and as he was turning away from the phone, it rang again. He smiled, sure that it was Fox again. He snatched up the phone.

"Yeeees?"

A perky female voice responded. "Good morning, Mr. Mulder..."

Alex tried to inform the girl that she wasn't speaking to Mr. Mulder, but she rattled on at a breakneck pace, keeping him from getting a word in, edgewise.

"...this is Amy from the Monument Hotel. Housekeeping found your license this morning while cleaning in one of the rooms, and we just thought we'd let you know that it was here. So whenever you'd like to pick it up, or if it's more convenient, we could messenger it to you..."

Alex held the phone in a death grip, his knuckles turning white, as he listened to the girl rattle on. When she was through, he asked softly, "The room...the room you found it in...that was Mr. Richardson's room..."

"Uh...yes! Yes, it was. Will you be by to get it?"

"Um, yeah. Yeah. At some point. If there's a change in plans, I'll let you know."

"All righty then. You have a good day, Mr. Mulder."

Alex let the phone fall into the cradle and leaned against the wall for support. His head moved slowly, from side to side. "No," he whispered to himself. "No, no, no, no..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder trudged into the house, glazed, blood-shot eyes searching for his lover.

"Alex?"

No answer.

He was home, his pickup was in the garage. Mulder called again. Still no answer. He headed for the backyard and found Alex slouched in a chair on the patio, staring blankly into the yard. He touched the back of the seated man's head.

"Hey. You didn't hear me calling you?"

No response.

Mulder frowned, moving to Alex's front and squatting before him.

"Lexei? What's wrong?"

Dull green eyes rose to his and stared.

Mulder placed a hand on his thigh and rubbed gently. "Talk to me."

Alex spoke in a flat, listless tone. "Scully drive you home?"

"No. I had my own car, why would Scully drive me?"

"I didn't think you'd want to be driving around without your license."

"What?"

"Oh, you haven't realized yet, that you lost it."

"I lost my license?" Mulder patted his jacket, feeling for his wallet. He pulled it out of the inner breast pocket and looked through it. He looked up at Alex. "It's not here. How did you know?"

"Got a call this morning. Someone found it."

"Where?"

"Why didn't you come home, last night?"

Mulder inclined his head a fraction and drew his eyebrows together. "I was working. I told you that."

"Not *all* night."

"Yes, *all* night."

"You took *some* time for a break."

"Alex...where do you think I was last night? Who found my license?"

"You're going to play this out to the very end, aren't you?"

Irritation laced the tired man's tone. "Alex, I don't know *what* the hell you're talking about. *Who* found my license?"

"The Monument Hotel."

Mulder shrugged, shaking his head.

"It was found *at* the Monument Hotel...in Mark Richardson's room."

"*What*?"

Alex continued to stare.

"Oh, and *you* think that I...Alex...tell me you don't believe that I spent the night with Richardson."

"What was your driver's license doing there in his room?"

"I don't *know*, but I wasn't *there*! I didn't even know where he was staying!"

Alex hurled himself out of the chair, practically knocking Mulder to the ground.

"Stop it Fox, okay? Just knock it the fuck off!"

Mulder watched, dumbfounded, as Alex began to pace.

"When did it start? Hmm? When? While you were on that case with him? No, couldn't have been. He would have bragged about it when I went to see him. So...it must have been after...huh...tell me...was it him you were on the phone with the other night?"

"Alex, you're not being rational."

"Answer me! The night we went out to eat and you got that drink from an *admirer*...you were on the phone later, in your office. Were you talking to him? Making plans?"

"I was talking to Scully! And if you were there, eavesdropping, thinking it was him I was talking to, why didn't you come in and bust me?"

"Because I wasn't sure! I didn't *want* to believe that it was him. Then everytime I picked up the phone after that, the caller would hang up. Well, except for yesterday when he must have thought it was you who answered, then realized it wasn't and hung up. Awfully suspicious, wouldn't you say, Agent Mulder? *Now*, you spend the night out on a *case*, and your license turns up the next morning, in Richardson's hotel room! You tell me. What the *fuck* am I supposed to think?"

"You're supposed to believe me when I tell you, I *never* spent the night with Richardson. That the extent of my relationship with him was one case in common, and two lunches. You're supposed to look in my eyes and *know* that when I tell you that there's a logical explanation for all of this, I'm telling you the truth!"

"What's the logical explanation, Fox? Tell me. I'm listening."

Mulder closed his eyes and shook his head. "I don't know. But I'll find *out*."

"You mean, you'll think one *up*."

Mulder stared at him, disbelief glittering in his eyes. "What the hell is wrong with you? A year and a half ago, I gave you my heart and my soul...and my *trust*. I thought you did the same." He looked around. "We bought this house together. Made a home. We promised our lives to each other. Now someone as inconsequential as Mark Richardson is trying to fuck that all up and you're allowing it. I thought we meant more to you than that."

Alex glared at him. "I thought we meant more to *you*. How was he, Fox? I never did him, but I heard stories about his expertise. Is all the hype true?"

Mulder stared for a few seconds more, then his eyes dropped away. He raised a hand and turned toward the house. "I can't...I can't do this with you..."

Alex threw his hands up. "And hell, why would you *want* to? After you've done it with *him*..."

Mulder continued on his way, taking out the lamp on the end table with a vicious swipe of his arm.

Alex ignored the crash and followed the other man halfway into the room. He watched as Mulder picked up his keys and moved toward the front door.

"Don't forget your license," he yelled, as the door slammed shut.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mulder, what are you doing here? I thought you were going home?"

"I did. But I couldn't...I couldn't stay."

Scully stepped aside as allowed her partner to enter.

"What the hell happened?"

He spun to face Scully. "Alex thinks I slept with Richardson."

"What? Why?"

Mulder dropped onto the sofa and covered his eyes with his hands. "Somehow, my license turned up this morning at the hotel he's staying at...in his *room*. Alex took the call from the hotel this morning and he's really gone around the bend."

"Did you tell him you weren't there?"

He looked up at Scully. "Of course I did! He doesn't believe me."

"Well, *I'll* tell him, then."

"No."

"What do you mean, no? I can straighten this out, Mulder. You never left my sight for more than a few seconds, last night."

"I don't want you pleading my case. He needs to believe *me*. That he doesn't, just shows what little trust he actually has in me." He closed his eyes and lowered his head. "I can't believe this," he whispered. "I thought we were...I thought..."

Scully took a seat beside him and squeezed his shoulder. "Mulder...let me tell you something. Something you really should have known or at least had a clue about. For a good many years, Alex was alone. He had only himself. Nobody to talk to, nobody to trust. Suspicious of everyone and everything. His survival depended on that. Then, and I'm still trying to figure out *how* it happened, but you two got together. And I could see the love grow between you. He worships you Mulder, and he's become a much different person because of you, but it's hard to completely change those survival instincts. Forgive the comparison, but it's like trying to domesticate a mountain lion."

Mulder looked up at her out of the corner of his eye.

"Okay, maybe not *exactly* like that, but you get my point. He can't help his suspicion or his insecurity, Mulder."

"But in eighteen months, he's never acted like this, before."

"It was always there beneath the surface, there's just never been a reason for it to come out, before. It took years to ingrain those instincts in him, Mulder. It's not gonna take just a few months to make 'em go away. You gotta have a little more patience."

"I want to Scully. I've tried. It's him that I want. *Only* him. I don't know how many more ways I can say it to him."

"You have to keep trying till you find the *right* way...if you want to save your relationship. And I know you do. And *where* is Richardson in all of this? Seems to me, he's the one who should be in the hot seat, here."

"I don't know. After what I just went through with Alex, I couldn't think about anything else."

She pushed the hair back from his forehead, only to watch it flop stubbornly back into place. "You look like you're about to drop. Why don't you crash here on the sofa? I was just about to have a nap, myself. Maybe once we've both had a little rest, we can tackle this thing more rationally."

Mulder nodded slowly. Scully patted his hand as she rose to her feet, then moved off toward her bedroom.

"Don't worry. It'll be okay."

Mulder dropped onto his side and closed his eyes. "I hope so, Scully," he murmured, then dropped into a heavy sleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Four and a half hours later

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Scully stood outside Mulder and Alex's house, ringing the bell.

No answer.

She hesitated, then pulled the key out of her bag. Taking a deep breath, she unlocked the door and stepped into the house.

"Alex? It's me, Scully. You here?"

More silence.

She moved through the house, checking room after room, then decided to try the yard. She frowned, noting the mangled lamp on the floor of the living room, and proceeded to the patio. The mess that greeted her eyes, made her jaw go slack. The garden. The beautiful garden that Alex had worked so hard to build, lay before her in shambles. Movement from the left caught her eye. It was Alex, ripping stringbean plants out of the ground and hurling them into the air.

"Oh, my God."

Scully moved cautiously toward him, calling his name.

"Alex...Alex?"

The third utterance of his name snapped his head in her direction.

"Alex, what..." She looked around in disbelief. "Why are you doing this?"

Wild green eyes stared through her and she couldn't help being reminded of the comparison she'd made this morning, of him to a mountain lion. He stood, chest heaving, dirty and scratched, making not a sound except for the occasional rasp of air that pushed past his constricted throat.

"Alex..." She held a hand out to him. "Stop this."

"Why?" He drew his eyebrows together, "What does it matter?"

"You're going to snap out of this state you've worked yourself into, and then you're going to hate yourself when you realize what it is you've done."

He shrugged, laughing bitterly. "What have I done, Scully? Pulled up a few plants? Chopped up a few bushes? Big deal. Big fat, *fucking* deal!"

"It's more than that Alex, and you know it!"

"No, it isn't. Anything more than this was just an illusion. A beautiful world I built up in my head."

"That's not true, Alex. You and Mulder are real. I never in a million years could've imagined it, but...just stop this, okay? Come sit down and talk to me."

Alex stood immobile, clenching limp strands of string beans in both hands.

Scully inched closer and touched his arm. "Come on."

Slowly, she led Alex through the mess and, righting one of the four chairs he'd knocked over, sat him down. She pulled another chair upright and dropped into it.

"Mulder would kill me if he knew I was here..."

"So, why are you?"

"Because he's miserable. And I knew you would be, too."

Alex looked away.

"He's at my apartment, Alex. I left him there, asleep. He came there this morning after your fight." She waited for some reaction. Got none, and went on. "He was at the crime scene *all night*, with *me*. Your accusations are groundless, Alex, not to mention completely crazy. You hurt him...are you listening to me?"

Alex looked up at her. "His license was found in Richardson's room this morning. What'd it do, hop out of his wallet, and hitch a ride downtown?"

Scully raked a hand through her hair and sighed. "I don't know how it got there. And neither does Mulder."

Alex jerked his head to the side.

"I know what this looks like and it's easy to believe what seems so obvious, but this is where trust comes in. If you love him and want to keep him, you *have* to trust him."

"I *did* trust him," Alex hissed sharply. "And look what it got me."

"Trust doesn't always equal hurt, Alex."

"No? Then why do I hurt so much right now?"

"You're hurting needlessly. Mulder did nothing wrong. And it's killing him that you don't believe that."

Alex lowered his gaze to the ground, clenching and unclenching his hands.

"Mark Richardson is the man we need to concentrate on, here. He's at the bottom of this mess. I don't know how, but he had to have gotten hold of Mulder's license somehow...I know what you told Mulder about him. Is he the type of man who'd go so far as to do something like this to cause trouble?"

Alex massaged his temple with the knuckles of one hand. "Absolutely."

"Well, there you go."

"Scully, Richardson is a heartless, manipulative jerk, but he's not Houdini. "*How* did he get Fox's license out of his wallet without his knowledge?"

"I don't know. If you believe it fell out of his wallet at Richardson's hotel, why couldn't it have fallen out at the restaurant they had lunch at? Or in the office, one day while he was there? Richardson could have picked it up and kept it till he thought the time was right to cause trouble."

"Maybe."

"That's a hundred times more believable to me than Mulder being in his hotel room. How about you?"

Silence.

"Alex?"

Alex's knee began to bounce up and down. His head came up and he looked out at the aftermath of his rampage. His throat worked convulsively and a bright gleam appeared in his eyes. "Jesus."

Scully just barely heard the whispered regret. She placed a hand on his shoulder and kneaded gently.

He turned his head to her and asked in a small voice, "What am I going to do?"

"What do you *want* to do?"

"I want to back this day up about seven hours and do it over again."

"Okay, what do you want to do, that you're *able* to do?"

"I want to go to him. Tell him I'm sorry...beg him to come home..."

Scully smiled. "Then go do it."

Alex looked out into the yard, again. "I...I don't want him to see this..."

Scully got to her feet. "Come on, I'll help you clean it up."

He looked up at her in a bit of a daze.

"Come on." She grasped his hand and pulled him up and into the garden.

Almost two hours later, everything was gathered up, put through the shredder and placed into the mulching bin. What was left over was piled neatly beside the bin. Alex looked around at his nearly empty garden.

"Months of work shot to hell in one afternoon...by the same lunatic who did all the work in the first place." He turned to Scully, again on the verge of tears. "You're right. I hate myself."

"I knew you would. So see, you're not quite the lunatic you think you are. If you were, you'd be too crazy to feel bad about what you'd done." Scully rubbed his back. "Don't worry, Alex. It isn't like you contaminated the soil. You can replant. Now you have some experience. You know what to do to make it flourish and you know what to avoid to keep it from dying. And your second effort will be more beautiful than your first."

"Thanks, Scully. Not only for helping me clean this up, but for the advice."

"No problem. Now why don't you go get cleaned up so we can go?"

"Okay."

Halfway into the living room, Alex stopped. "Scully?"

"Yeah?"

"What if I apologize and he doesn't accept it? What if he doesn't want to come home?"

"He will." She clapped her hands and shooed him into the hall. "Now, get going."

Twenty minutes later, they were on their way to Scully's apartment. When they arrived, Scully got out of her car and walked over to Alex, who was still in his truck, hands gripped tightly around the wheel.

"Come on," she coaxed. "You don't have to be afraid."

"I am, though. If he doesn't want to talk to me...if he doesn't want to come home..."

"He *will*. Now, come on!"

Finally, with a little more coaxing from Scully, they reached her apartment. Scully unlocked the door and walked in, followed at a distance, by Alex. She looked around at the empty apartment, then at Alex.

"Maybe he's in the bathroom. Mulder?" She called, moving down the hall. "Mulder?" A short silence, then she returned, alone. "He's not here."

Alex bowed his head and let out a heavy sigh.

"Maybe he went back home," she offered. We could have passed each other, you know."

"Yeah. Maybe."

"He *must* have. Where *else* would he go?"

There was more to her question than just the obvious. Alex bit his lower lip and turned away.

"Alex...you're not thinking..."

"N-no. No." He shook his head. "Like you said, he probably went home. To pack his clothes...or *my* clothes..."

"Or to talk."

"You didn't see the way he left. He was done talking to me."

"He was hurt and upset. But maybe after a few hours sleep, he thought better of it. Why don't you go home? I'll bet he's there right now, wondering where *you* are."

Alex nodded. "Yeah. Thanks, Scully."

She gave him a sympathetic smile. "It'll be okay, Alex. Trust me. Go on. Go to him and get this straightened out."

After she sent Alex on his way, Scully leaned up against the door, banging her head against it.

"Shit, shit, shit."

She snatched up her keys and left the apartment.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mark Richardson's eyes widened as he opened his door. Quickly, he summoned a smile to his face.

"Hey! Wh-what are you doing here? How'd you know where I was?"

Mulder walked past him and entered the room, looking around. "Wasn't hard. The doorman at the Monument'll tell you just about anything you want to know, for a twenty. Why'd you move?"_ Richardson shrugged. "I didn't care for the Monument. Lousy service."

"*Really*? I think they served *you*, very well."

"What do you mean?"

"How'd my license wind up in your room?"

"Huh?"

"Cut the shit, Richardson, how'd you do it?"

"Do what? Mulder, I have no idea what you're talking about."

"Sure, you do. Somehow, you managed to get hold of my driver's license and plant it in your room, for housekeeping to find this morning, knowing that they'd call my house."

"I did no such thing, Mulder. I mean, how *would* I? Did it ever occur to you that *Alex* may have done it, to try and convince you that I was up to no good? To make *sure* that you stayed away from me?"

"Bullshit."

"Really? As wigged out as he is over the fact that we had lunch together? How do you *know* that he wouldn't pull a stunt like that? *I* wouldn't put it past him..."

"How the hell would you know what he would and wouldn't do?"

"Look. Mulder. I understand that you wouldn't want to believe Alex capable of something so low, but...if he's *that* insecure, who knows? Poor guy. I think you ought to consider getting him some help..."

"No, *you're* the one who needs help."

"That must have been some fight you guys had to get you this upset. Listen, why don't we go get a drink or something? Calm your nerves. Maybe it'll help you see things a little clearer..."

"That's just a little old, isn't it Richardson?"

"What is?"

"The bourbon and sympathy ploy. Ply me with liquor, then sashay me back here for a little fun?" He spat out an acid laugh. "Not even in your wildest dreams, pal. There isn't enough liquor in Washington, to get me into bed with you."

"You got it all wrong."

Mulder shook his head. "The only thing I had wrong was the way I treated Alex, behind this whole thing. You're every bit the conniver he said you were. I don't know *how* you got your hands on my license and at this point, I don't care. What matters is, you failed. You didn't get me, and you have *not* split Alex and me up. Now spare yourself any further embarrassment and give it up."

Richardson emitted a loud, snorting chuckle. The facade was gone. "Well you know, you win some, you lose some. And you know, that goes both ways."

"What the hell are you talking about?"

"My original description of Alex's personality was no lie. I don't believe for half a second, that this hasn't affected him. In fact, I'm willing to bet that it's driving him crazy...crazier than he already is. He'll be suspicious of you from now on. It'll just be a matter of time, before you've had all you can take." He smirked. "You won't stay together for much longer...if you really are still together *now*..."

Mulder's hands clenched at his side. "Alex was right. You *are* a sleazy bastard."

Richardson smirked. "Answer me a question, would you, Mulder? Is he the only man you've ever been with? If he is, then that might explain things. See, I'm trying to figure out what the hell it is that's got you so loyal to this nut. I think he *is* your first. Tsk, tsk. You don't know what you're missing. I could show you things Alex has never even heard of. Might just put things in a different perspective for you. And you'll end up thanking me for being the one who gave you your wake up call." He took one step toward Mulder and lowered his voice to its most seductive tone. "What do you say? Give me two hours and I guarantee at the end of it, you won't even remember his name."

He never saw the blow coming. He started to sink to the floor, but a hand clenched in his shirt, prevented him. Jerked him up and held him as the second blow compounded the already excruciating pain, and the third, numbed his face and knocked him across the room and onto the bed. He tried to focus on the infuriated man standing above him. A low, angry growl filtered through the ringing in his ears.

"Stay away from me, and stay the fuck away from Alex. If I have even the slightest idea that you're messing with him in some way, you'll get a lot worse than what I've given you, today. Do you understand me?"

Richardson nodded, wincing with the pain that the movement brought.

"I'm not kidding, Richardson. Leave Alex alone. You'd do well not to test me."

Mulder turned and stalked out without another word, slamming the door behind him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Who is it?"

A muffled, "It's me," came from the other side of Scully's door.

She threw it open and immediately began to shout at the man outside. "Mulder, where have you been and what the bloody hell are you doing back *here*?" She looked down at the hand he was cradling with the other. "And what happened to your hand?"

Mulder looked up through a curtain of golden-brown lashes. "I went to get my license. And then I tracked Richardson down."

She pulled him inside. "And?"

He shrugged. "I confronted him. He denied everything...at first...then he got arrogant. Said a bunch of stuff I didn't like...I cold-cocked him, told him to keep the hell away from me and Alex...then I left."

"You *hit* him?"

"He pissed me off."

Scully couldn't help the smile that came to her lips. "I should be shaking my finger at you, but I can't. Whatever he said, I'm sure he deserved what he got. The snake. Come on, let me take care of this for you." She inspected the hand, made him move all the fingers, then announced that nothing was broken. She pulled him into the kitchen and made him sit for a while, with a bag of ice on his hand, then led him to the bathroom and cleaned up the blood. "You cut up these two knuckles pretty good."

"Must've cut em on his teeth."

"God Mulder, did you at least leave them in his mouth?"

Mulder shrugged.

Scully finished cleaning the wounds, then bandaged his hand. "You never answered my second question. What are you doing, *here*? Why didn't you go home? *Tell* me you didn't go home and now you're back here."

"No, I didn't go home."

"Why *not*?"

"Alex was so upset. I don't know how to begin to try to convince him that he's wrong, without upsetting him even more."

Scully wrinkled her nose and squinted. "Uh, Mulder?"

"What?"

"Don't get mad, okay?"

"What'd you do?"

"You know how you told me not to go talk to him?"

"You went to talk to him."

"While you were asleep."

Mulder opened his mouth, but before any sound could come out, Scully was talking again.

"I'm sorry Mulder, I couldn't stand by and do nothing when there was a chance that I could help."

"Scully..."

"You were so unhappy when you got here, earlier..."

"Scully..."

"And I knew that if I could just *talk* to Alex..."

"Scully!"

"Yeah?"

Mulder heaved a long sigh. "What happened?"

She smiled at him. "He came back here, with me. But of course, *you* were gone. I sent him back home, hoping that maybe you'd gone there. And in the meantime, I went out looking for you. Needless to say, I didn't find you. I couldn't reach you on your cell..."

"I don't have it with me. He came back here with you?"

"*Yes*. To talk."

Mulder lowered his head and said nothing.

"Go *home*, Mulder. It's been two hours since he left here. He must be going crazy, wondering where you are. I'm surprised he hasn't called me."

"Are you sure he wants me there, Scully?"

"*Yes*, for the love of God!" She turned Mulder around and shoved him toward the door. "Now would you get the hell out of here!"

Mulder stopped in the doorway and turned back toward her. "Thanks, Scully. For interfering."

"No problem." She smiled sweetly, then slammed the door in his face.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder carefully unlocked the door, wincing at the pain in his hand. It was beginning to throb, but he pushed the pain aside and quietly entered the house. He moved slowly, letting his eyes adjust to the darkness. As he made his way to the living room, he saw a figure seated at the far end of the sofa, softly outlined by the evening light coming in through the sliding doors. He moved cautiously toward the motionless form, stopping just a few feet away.

Alex sat silently, hands folded neatly in his lap, head tilted downward. The sudden feeling of a presence beside him, brought his head up. His eyes rose to Mulder's face, unable to see his eyes in the darkness.

Silence hung for what seemed like any eternity, between the two men, neither knowing what to say or even how to begin. Finally, it was Mulder who spoke.

"Scully said that you'd gone to her apartment to talk to me."

Alex nodded slowly, again lowering his head.

"When we didn't find you there, she figured you must have come back here. S-so I came right back. That was a few hours ago..." He fell silent, picking at a non-existent thread on the leg of his jeans.

"And you've been sitting here in the dark ever since?"

No answer.

"You think I've been with Richardson the past few hours, don't you?"

Again, Alex gave no answer, but his heart began to pound in dreaded anticipation.

Mulder released a long, soft sigh. "I *was* with him..."

The glittering slits of green disappeared and Alex's head hung lower.

Mulder kneeled in front of Alex and rested his hands on the other man's knees. "I was with him, Alex, but not for the reason you're thinking...he moved to another hotel this morning. I tracked him down and confronted him about this business with my license. He didn't come right out and admit to it, but I'm positive that somehow he got hold of it and planted it there as a means to drive you nuts and hopefully put a wedge between us. He made a pass at me. Said a bunch of things about you that ticked me off...I hit him..." Alex's head rose a fraction. "...I gave him a warning he's too smart to ignore, and I *left*."

Alex's eyes opened and the first thing that caught his eye was Mulder's bandaged hand. He reached out to touch it, then drew away.

"You hurt your hand when you hit him?"

"Yeah. Scully said nothing was broken, but I guess I really should put some more ice on in."

Before he could say another word, Alex was off the sofa and heading for the kitchen. Mulder followed and found him wrapping some ice cubes in a dish towel.

"You should have done this as soon as you got in," Alex said, finishing his task. He handed the bundle to Mulder, but did not meet his eye.

"Thanks." Mulder put the compress down on the table and unwrapped his hand. There was a fair amount of swelling and by the looks of things, there was going to be quite a bruise. Alex glanced at the wound, then turned away, rocking back and forth.

"Tell me what I've done to make you think the worst of me," Mulder asked softly, as he leaned against the counter, holding the ice to his hand.

"Nothing."

"Then, why?"

Alex displayed a mirthless smile. "Don't know. Must be the insanity kicking in."

"You're not crazy."

"No?" Alex wrapped his arms around himself and then began to rock from side to side, rolling against the other end of the counter. "Guess Scully didn't fill you in about the garden."

"What about it?"

Alex gave no response. He only continued to rock slowly, with his head tilted down toward the floor.

Fairly certain that reiterating the question would only garner more silence, Mulder moved carefully around Alex and out to the yard. He flipped on the flood lights and stood, shocked, looking around at the almost bare garden. When he'd regained his composure, he re-entered the house. He found Alex in the same spot in which he'd left him.

"What happened?" Mulder asked softly. "You worked so hard to make the yard beautiful. Why'd you ruin it?"

"It's what I do...ruin things..." He began to mumble to himself. "What the hell made me think I could have something good? Do one good deed after years of bad, and I start to think I can have the world. Stupid, fucked up bastard..."

Mulder dropped the ice pack down behind him and walked toward Alex. "Don't talk like that. You came through Alex, when it really counted. Millions of lives were saved and that couldn't have happened without you. That wasn't some little boyscout's good deed for the day. You're a good man. Decent and caring..." he stopped when he was standing directly in front of Alex. "..loving." He reached out to touch the heavily stubbled face, but Alex turned away.

"Don't touch me."

"Why not?"

"I don't deserve it."

He turned and fled the room.

It took Mulder a second to register what had just happened and then he was after Alex, following him down the hall to the bedroom. He came in as the other man was pulling a suitcase out of the closet.

"What are you doing?"

"I can't stay here, I can't..."

Mulder stepped forward and took the suitcase away, just as Alex dropped it on the bed.

"You're not going anywhere."

"Give it back."

"No. This is your home."

"It's *your* home. I was just passing through."

"Bullshit. *You* make this home, Alex. If you're not here, *I'm* not here."

Alex spun toward the dresser and started pulling clothes out. "This was a dream, Fox. That's all it was..."

Mulder came up behind him and wrapped his arms tightly around his chest, pinning his arms to his sides. "Lexei...*stop* it. This is no dream. It's real. We hit a little bump, that's all."

Alex struggled against the man who fought to restrain him. "You were so fed up with my shit, you *left*. That's no little bump. Let me go!"

"No! I'll never let you go, Lexei..."

"Don't call me that!"

"Why?"

"I'm Alex Krycek. Double crossing, murdering, hateful, low-life."

Mulder tightened his hold. "No, you're not. You're my sweet, fun-loving, wise-cracking, beautiful, Lexei. And I love you..."

"Stop!"

"And you love me."

Alex pushed again, but Mulder's grip was too tight.

"I don't hear any denials, Lexei. You can't, can you?"

"Please, let me go."

"Tell me you don't love me."

"How can I love you? If I did, would I do what I did to you this morning? If I did, I would have trusted you!"

"Then say it."

No response.

"Say it!"

Alex's head dropped and he started to tremble. Mulder's grip on him loosened and he turned the younger man around to face him. He wrapped his arms around him again, this time in a tender embrace, which proved to be Alex's undoing. His hands clenched in Mulder's shirt and he began to cry.

Mulder held Alex securely to him with one arm while he stroked the soft, sable hair with his free hand. "Remember the other day when you asked me to never let you go, Lexei? I promised you I wouldn't. I keep my promises. I'll never let you go. Never let you go..."

Alex's sobs quieted and Mulder pulled back a fraction, kissing his forehead. "It's late. We're both exhausted. Why don't we get some sleep and we can talk about this more tomorrow, when we're both a little more rational?"

Alex stood quietly, with his head down and his eyes closed. Mulder slipped a hand under his chin and lifted.

"Hey. Open your eyes."

The younger man shook his head and attempted to turn his face away. Mulder wasn't having it.

"Look at me. Alex..."

Almost blue eyes, streaked with red, slowly opened and still avoided looking into those that stared intently.

"Why can't you look at me?"

Alex wrenched his face out of Mulder's light grasp and turned it downward. The older man sighed softly.

"Okay. No more questions, tonight." He began to unbutton Alex's shirt and was stopped immediately, by a hand on his. "You can't sleep in your clothes. I was just helping you get them off."

"I can do it." Alex replied flatly.

Mulder stared at him, more confused than before. He removed his hands from the shirt. "Okay."

Alex turned away and undressed slowly, then got into bed. Mulder watched him lay rigidly on his side and close his eyes.

"Um," he spoke to the prone man, "Scully said I should keep my hand wrapped, so I gotta go do that. I'll be right back."

Alex's eyes opened halfway and he nodded almost imperceptibly.

Mulder went quickly to the bathroom, wrapping his hand and undressing in record time, afraid that Alex may try to sneak out, while he was gone. But when he returned, Alex was still in bed though now, he was rolled over onto his side, facing the wall. Mulder shut the lights off and slipped into bed behind him. He wrapped an arm around Alex and snuggled against his back. The younger man's body automatically stiffened in response.

"I'm not letting you go. I'm not spending another night like the last one." He kissed the back of Alex's head and tightened his hold a bit. "I love you, Lexei."

Alex stared silently at the wall, shivering in the warmth of his lover's arms.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder blinked in the early morning sunlight and looked down at the man wrapped securely in his arms. Alex snored softly, his dark head resting on Mulder's chest, arm tucked around his waist. Mulder inclined his head, planting soft kisses in his lover's hair

//Thank you God, it was just a really long, really awful dream...//

Alex stirred and nuzzled the sprinkling of hair beneath his cheek. As consciousness began to overtake sleep, he froze. Stiffened and pulled away. Mulder turned onto his side, facing the man who was now laying on his back. He hesitated, then spoke.

"I woke up a few minutes ago and found you fast asleep in my arms. I didn't drag you there. You came to me on your own. And whether you were asleep or awake when you did, you know it's where you wanted to be."

Mulder reached out and stroked the back of his hand down Alex's cheek. The younger man flinched at the touch.

"Talk to me, Lexei. Tell me why you're doing this. Why do you suddenly feel like you don't deserve to be happy?"

A good fifteen minutes passed before Alex spoke. Mulder strained to hear the low, scratchy voice.

"Remember that night after everything was over and you offered to take me out for a beer?"

"Of course."

"I was scared."

"Of what?"

"Of you letting me walk out of your office. I didn't know where I was going or what I was going to do. But that wasn't the frightening part. I'd been wandering from place to place for years. Only difference would be, that I wouldn't have to steal anything or kill anybody." Keeping his eyes averted, he took a breath and continued. "What really scared me was never seeing you again. I never dreamed that you and I would ever work together, much less say so much as a civil word to each other. Then fate threw us together. I always felt an attraction to you, but months of being with you day in and day out, strengthened it to a degree that shocked me and when it was over and you told me I was free to go, all I could think was that I didn't want to be free if it meant not seeing you anymore. When you stopped me at the door and invited me out for a beer, I didn't know what the hell to do. My hopes soared, then I shot them down, telling myself that you and me becoming *friends* would be an amazing miracle. Anything more than that was pure fantasy..."

Mulder remained silent, waiting for him to continue. A few seconds later, he did.

"When we were walking out to the parking lot, I was sure that this time, it was the end of the line. When you reached out to shake my hand, I felt my knees go weak. When you didn't let it go and you stroked my knuckles with your thumb, I thought my heart would come out of my chest. I don't even remember how we wound up against your car..." Alex closed his eyes and swallowed hard. "I only remember how everything started to spin when your arms closed around me and your mouth covered mine. I couldn't...I couldn't think, I couldn't...I could only feel and God, it felt so good. I couldn't remember the last time I'd felt anything but pain and emptiness. And I took what you offered me that night and every day afterward, and pushed who I'd been and what I'd done as far away as I could make it go. And then I buried it. For a year and a half, I'd become someone else. And you were happy with who I was. God knows how long I would've gone on that way, if Richardson hadn't dug up the part of me I'd buried." He laughed softly, bitterly. "I actually started to believe that I was who I'd been pretending to be. I actually believed that I deserved you and everything good that came with you. Richardson reminded me of where I came from and who I'd become. I began to see bits and pieces of the real me when he showed up. Driving you out of here yesterday and destroying the yard really drove it home."

Mulder listened, shaking his head.

"You can drape me in nice clothes, stick me in a beautiful house, give me a hobby and a trusting, handsome, upstanding man to share my life with, and underneath it all I'm still the same scum I started out as." He looked around. "I don't know why I let you convince me to stay, last night. I shouldn't be here, I shouldn't..."

Mulder swung his body over Alex's, straddling him from above before the distraut man could decide to bolt.

"You're exactly where you should be." He laid a hand on the side of Alex's face to stop him from turning away. "And I'm tired of seeing you look everywhere but at me." He caressed his lover's face. "I love your eyes, Lexei. Let me see them...please."

"I can't, I..."

"Look at me."

"Don't make me."

Mulder nuzzled his jaw. "Lexei..."

Alex shuddered and finally turned glassy eyes up to meet those of the man above him. The intensity of Mulder's gaze caught and held him in a vice-like trance. All at once, he became agonizingly aware of every last inch of the body that rested so intimately against his and the hardness that pressed into his own growing erection.

"You've got the most beautiful eyes I've ever seen," Mulder whispered to him. "So much depth. Even behind all the pain I see in them right now, there's so much more. I see love. And need." His head lowered slowly, afraid to startle Alex and ruin his progress. Gently, his lips brushed the younger man's, drawing a soft gasp. His tongue inched out, carefully tracing the line of Alex's lower lip.

Alex's eyes drifted shut and he opened his mouth to his lover in offering. Mulder accepted the invitation, sweeping inside, tasting and stroking the smooth sweetness. Alex's soft moans vibrated on his tongue as it found it's mate, coaxing and teasing, until the moans turned to whimpers of frustration.

Mulder pulled away, leaving Alex panting and flushed. He could feel the younger man struggling to keep from writhing beneath him and he watched as his hands, those wonderfully talented hands, clenched in the pillow, on either side of his head. He reached out and gently began to pry one hand away. Having finally accomplished the task, he held that hand firmly, while working on the other. When finally, he held both of Alex's hands in his own, he moved them to his back.

"Touch me, Lexei."

Alex locked his muscles, resisting the attempt. Mulder lowered his head and brushed Alex's lips.

"You gave me your mouth, baby. Surely you can't think that I'd be satisfied with just that. I want the rest. Give it to me. You know you want to."

Alex shook his head and squeezed his eyes shut, trying unsuccessfully to stop the quivering that told Fox a different story.

"What are you doing, Alex? Every little thing about you tells me that you want me. Why are you fighting so hard to deny it?"

No reply.

"Okay. You don't want to touch me, you don't have to." Still gripping Alex's hands, Mulder raised them above his head and pinned them there. "But before I let you out of this bed, you *are* going to give in..." His mouth came down on Alex's, drinking in the weak cries of protest. His hips began a slow grind, gently rubbing their cotton-covered erections together. When Alex's body began to arch up against his, Mulder broke the kiss and moved to his ear, whispering, "Tell me what you want, Alex. Your body is already saying it loud and clear. Now, give me the words." Alex bit his lip as Mulder traced a moist line down his throat, then nibbled at the base. "Tell me where you want to go baby, and I'll take you there."

A small, choking sound was all the answer Alex could muster.

Mulder took a chance and released his hands. He slid down Alex's body, licking and nipping at the sensitive skin. He stopped at one brown nipple and pulled it into his mouth, sucking at the tight bud and flicking his tongue across the tip.

Alex twisted beneath him and emitted a loud whine. His hands left the pillow and clenched in his lover's hair.

Mulder teased him for a while longer, then again began his trek south, grazing the soft skin and fine sable hairs of Alex's belly, before making it to the amazingly hard, yet always velvety smooth length of muscle that stood out from the dark, crisp curls.

His eyes closed in sensuous anticipation of that first taste. His tongue slithered along it's surface, and a long moan rose into the air. Unsure of whether it came from him or the beneficiary of his intimate caress, Mulder tossed the thought away and worked his way to the blunt tip. Once there, his tongue danced around it, lapping at the fluid that had formed.

Alex squirmed beneath Mulder, unable to think about anything but the dull throb of his body and the relief he knew his lover would bring. "Please," he whispered in a broken voice. Please..."

Mulder smiled in triumph. One last pass of his tongue over the head of Alex's cock and then he was swallowing its entire length, taking in every last inch, right down to the base. Alex shrieked and bucked against Mulder, trying in vain to push himself deeper into the older man's mouth. Mulder grasped his hips to hold him still, then began to slide up and down on the shaft, at an agonizingly slow pace.

Alex's head rolled from side to side. The pressure was building to an intolerable level. Mulder sensed his growing anxiety and sank back down to the base, sucking and swallowing until Alex's body tensed and he came, shooting an endless stream of fluid down his lover's throat. Loud, sobbing moans echoed through the bedroom, then faded as he fell into that peaceful lethargy that always followed.

Mulder slid up beside him, kissing his cheek, then the tip of his nose, and finally his mouth. His eyelashes fluttered, then his lids rose and he stared up at the ceiling. The smile faded from Mulder's face as he watched Alex's eyes well up and spill over. The tears slipped silently down the sides of his face and into the pillowcase.

"Alex..." he called softly, brushing the tears away with the back of his hand. "Alex, *please*. Can't you accept what I have to give you without feeling guilty about it?" He buried his face into the pillow beside Alex's head. "I didn't mean to make you feel worse." He picked his head up and cupped Alex's face in one hand. "All I wanted to do was make you feel good. Can't you understand that you're worthy of being loved? I love you for who you are."

"For who you want me to be..."

"No. Why is it so hard to believe that *this* is who you are? Those years that you spent working for those bastards, have *passed*. They went down in flames and *you* lit the match, Alex. You didn't go down with them and that was *your* choice. A soulless killer or a crazy man wouldn't have the conscience or the heart to make the decision that you did. And all this time that we've been together. All the fun we've had. All the hard work on this house...the late nights that I drag in here, and you're waiting for me with a warm meal and a massage...the countless ways you show me your love, every day...you're going to tell me that man isn't really you? Bullshit. You can tell me it isn't you from now till hell freezes over and I won't believe it. So we had a fight. So you were so upset over me walking out, that you trashed the garden. So you've got an insecurity issue that neither one of us knew about till now. So we found out that things aren't as perfect as we thought. So what? We'll talk about it. We'll work it out. But I'm *not* going to stand by and let you punish yourself for it. And think about this. Whatever pain you inflict on yourself, you inflict on me."

Alex blinked and brought his gaze down from the ceiling, to Mulder's face. Mulder stroked his cheek.

"Don't you know how much it hurts me to see you like this? Don't you know that if you *left* me, it'd break my heart?" He studied Alex intently. "Would you break my heart, Lexei?"

Alex shook his head, unable to tear himself away from his lover's hypnotic stare.

"Why not?"

"Because I love you."

"Do you mean that?"

"Yes."

"Can a heartless killer love?"

Alex's eyes glazed over and a single tear escaped the corner of his eye. Mulder kissed it away.

"Would he cry?"

He pulled Alex into his arms and held him while the younger man wept softly into his shoulder.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Alex chanted between shuddering breaths.

Mulder tightened his embrace and rocked his lover slowly. "Shh. Don't. It's okay. It's okay..."

Alex clung tightly to Fox, allowing himself to be soothed by the steady beat of his heart and long, smooth strokes of his hand, up and down his back. They lay quietly together for a while, then Alex spoke.

"I'm sorry I didn't believe you."

"You believe me now?"

"Yeah."

"Absolutely?"

Alex nodded. "And I'm sorry for all the stuff I said to you. If I could take it all back..."

"Don't dwell on it. What's done is done. Just let it go, okay?"

"But I hurt you..."

"You were hurting, too."

"I caused my own pain. I deserved whatever I got. You didn't ."

"Don't say that. You don't deserve to hurt and you've got to stop thinking that you do."

Alex gave no immediate reply. He simply turned his face into Mulder's chest and breathed deeply. After long seconds, he asked, "How's your hand?"

Mulder pulled his right hand away from Alex's back and looked at it. "I hadn't even really thought about it." He bent and unbent his fingers. "A little sore, I guess. But not bad."

Alex reached for the hand and pulled it to his lips. After planting a few soft kisses along the line of the bandage, he held it to his cheek. "You said you hit him..."

"Yeah."

"Just once?"

"No..."

"I didn't think so. Not from the damage I saw last night."

"He was asking for it."

"And you think that now, we've heard the last from him?"

"Yeah, I do."

Alex nodded then scattered a few warm kisses across his lover's chest. "I know you want to talk *all* of this out, but can we just forget about it for a little while?"

Mulder hugged Alex to him. "Sure. You tired?"

"Not really. I was kind of thinking that...um..."

"What?"

He dropped more kisses onto Mulder's chest, then a few up the column of his throat. "Can I...would you let me..."

By the time Alex reached his chin, Mulder's eyes had dropped shut. He tilted his head downward and moaned at the touch of Alex's lips on his. The younger man slid up, covering Mulder's body with his own, continuing to tease his mouth. Mulder threaded a hand through his hair and opened his mouth, inviting him to deepen the kiss. He did and was immediately rewarded with a deep groan of pleasure. Mulder's cock had gradually softened after he'd brought Alex to orgasm a while ago and they'd begun to talk. Now, it jumped back to life, hardening almost instantly at the feel of his lover's mouth on his.

Alex pulled away from the kiss and licked the stubbled line of Mulder's jaw, loving the feel of it against his sensitive tongue. He continued, sweeping up to Mulder's ear, nipping gently at the lobe, then probing the interior. Mulder cocked his head, tilting it into the teasing caress.

"I love you," Alex whispered, his words drawing a hard shudder from his lover. Mulder's fingers tightened in Alex's hair, jerking his head back to center, where he quickly devoured the younger man's mouth. With his free hand, he began to tug at the underwear he still wore, getting an immediate assist from the man on top of him. Mulder groaned as Alex pulled away to get the briefs all the way off, but in an eyeblink he was back, being pulled once again, down to Mulder's searching lips.

Alex lay sprawled along the length of Mulder's body, once again surrendering his mouth to his lover's hungry kiss. Mulder's hand wandered restlessly, up and down his back, then came to rest on the rounded curve of his ass. He pressed down, while pushing up with his hips, impressing on his lover, the extent of his arousal. Alex groaned into his mouth and rolled his hips slowly, teasing his lover's cock to even greater hardness.

Mulder tore himself away from Alex's mouth. "Alex," he panted, "I need you..."

Alex reached down between them and stroked the silky length of Mulder's erection, ignoring his own. "Tell me what you want. I'll do anything..."

"Anything you do to me feels like heaven, baby."

Alex's eyes took on an odd expression. "Please, Fox. Tell me what you want."

Two pairs of eyes locked. One pleading, the other studying. Mulder chewed on his lower lip.

"Lick my nipples."

Obediently, Alex slid down his chest and began to lick gently at one hard peak.

"Mmmm, yeah. Flick it....oh, that's it...now, suck it...Jesus, Alex...Christ..."

Alex worked Mulder's nipple just the way he instructed, then moved on to the other when he was told to. Mulder stroked the dark hair lovingly, thoroughly enjoying Alex's attentions. When it finally hit him that Alex hadn't and wouldn't deviate from his last instructions, he issued a new one.

"Work your way down to my cock. Slowly."

Again, Alex immediately complied, kissing and licking his way down Mulder's chest and belly, pausing to tease the small indentation of his navel, before continuing on toward his goal. As he approached, Mulder spoke again, this time in a noticeably shaky voice.

"Tease me, Lexei. Don't let me come until I tell you to."

Alex repeatedly grazed Mulder's sides and hips with his palms, while the tip of his tongue skittered along the heated surface of his lover's cock. As he worked, he listened attentively to every moan and sigh, expertly gauging the level of Mulder's arousal, adjusting speed and pressure as needed.

Mulder's head rolled slowly on the pillow. Short, audible breaths escaped past his parted lips as Alex followed his instruction, to the letter.

//Jesus, he'so...//

His neck arched, snapping his head back into the pillow, as a warm wetness engulfed him completely and a light suction began.

"Oh shit...oh...God...baby....no....I can't...." He gritted his teeth and just as he was about to pull Alex off of him by his hair, the pressure began to subside. "Damn Alex, that was close," he whispered, struggling to control his breathing.

Alex licked and nuzzled him gently, giving him a chance to come down a bit. When Mulder's respiration slowed to a reasonable rate, Alex resumed, building the agony to another near-explosion, unerringly pulling away at just the right moment.

Mulder gave him no chance to repeat it. He closed his fingers in Alex's hair and pulled him up, into a numbing kiss. "You're just too goddamn good," he murmured appreciatively into the younger man's mouth. "But I've had about all I can take. I need to be inside you..."

Alex nuzzled his jaw. "How do you want it?"

Hazel eyes glistened in the bright morning light. "Your call."

"I'll take it any way you want to give it to me."

Mulder gazed up at his lover, a million questions buzzing through his head. Their sexual relationship was generally one of give and take, neither one being constantly dominant or submissive, but very lately and most especially this morning, it seemed that Alex had become more compliant than Mulder had ever seen him. He drew the fingertips of his bandaged hand down Alex's cheek, thinking. He stretched up the scant few inches it took for him to kiss the beautifully bowed lips. He let his head drop back onto the pillow and he stared up into his lover's face. His faint whisper barely made it up to Alex's ear.

"Ride me."

Alex's face contorted with an emotion Mulder couldn't quite recognize, then it was gone. He sat up slowly, drawing his hands down the older man's chest as he did.

Never taking his eyes off of Alex's, Mulder bucked, bouncing his lover up and down. "Come on, Lexei," he whispered, rubbing his hands over Alex's thighs. He bucked again. "Take it."

Alex rose slightly, grasping Mulder's cock, to help guide it, then lowered himself, slowly taking in every last inch. Mulder's eyes closed and a look of pure ecstasy washed over his features as he felt the tight heat close around him.

"Baby....oh God, baby....slow and easy..."

Alex moved a fraction at a time, keeping a close watch on Fox's reactions, taking care not to take him too close to the edge. His own cock screamed for attention, but he ignored it, instead concentrating all his energies on Fox and what *he* needed.

Mulder lay still, allowing Alex to do the work. Only his hands moved, wandering over Alex's chest and arms, stroking and gently pinching his pebble-hard nipples. Alex groaned with pleasure, then as if realizing his mistake, gently pushed the hands away.

Mulder's eyes opened and held on his lover's. He moved one hand purposefully down to Alex's cock and wrapped his fingers around it. He watched the glazed green disappear behind closing lids as he tenderly stroked the velvety length.

Alex arched his neck and moaned deep in his throat as Mulder worked him in a steady rhythm, comparable to the one he had set.

// So good, so...no. No....//

Alex opened his eyes and pried Mulder's hand away. He grasped the other hand and brought them both up to his mouth, then intertwined their fingers and wound Mulder's arms around his waist, effectively pinning his own hands behind his back. Mulder stared up at him in obvious confusion.

"Lexei..."

Alex leaned over Mulder, offering his mouth, knowing that he'd never refuse it. As he kissed Alex, he bent his knees and tilted his pelvis, providing cradling support and insuring that Alex remained fitted tightly to him. As Mulder fed on his lover's lips, Alex began a rhythmic contracting of his muscles, milking the cock inside him, even as he continued to rock back and forth.

Mulder tightened his arms around Alex's waist, pulling the younger man's arms back into a slightly more uncomfortable position. Alex issued not a single whimper of complaint, but rather squeezed the muscles surrounding Mulder's cock, harder, taking his lover dangerously close to the edge.

Mulder knew how close he was and made no attempt to alter Alex's movements. "I'm ready baby," he rasped. "Can't..can't hold it..." He jerked upward, forcing Alex to move faster.

Alex's eyes closed and he obeyed the silent command, thrashing against his lover. His own body ached with need but he refused to give in to it. This was for Fox... His eyes snapped open as he felt his hands being released and himself being yanked down on top of Mulder's chest. He moaned frantically as his cock became trapped between their bodies and he felt the pressure immediately build to a point beyond return. He struggled, trying to free himself, but Mulder's grip was strong and insistent.

"Come on, Lexei...come with me," he gasped into the younger man's ear as he pressed upward, driving all rational though from Alex's mind.

Unable, and no longer willing to maintain control of his needs, Alex let go, taking them both screaming over the precipice, then into the dark, comforting quiet.

Long minutes passed before Mulder regained enough of himself to attend to the man lying passively in his arms. He rubbed Alex's perspiration-dampened back and dropped several kisses into his hair.

"I'm hungry, all of a sudden. How about some breakfast?"

"Yeah, okay," Alex said softly, attempting to get up. "What do you want?"

Mulder held him to his chest. "To know what *you* want. I'm cooking."

"No, I'll do it."

"No, you don't." He rolled Alex underneath him and kissed his nose. "You cook and take care of things around here, all the time."

"But you work so much..."

"Yeah, but I've got nothing pressing going on this weekend. So..." he gave Alex another quick kiss, "I'm going to take care of *you* for a change."

"Fox..."

"This isn't up for discussion," Mulder warned. "I'm going to go grab a shower. You stay right here and relax while I do. When I get out, I'm going to make us breakfast. Got it?"

Alex's eyes fell away from his face and he nodded.

//No argument? Okay, who are you and what the hell have you done with my Alex?//

Mulder decided to let it go. "What would you like?"

Alex shrugged. "Whatever *you* want."

Mulder emitted a soft sigh and rose from the bed. "I'll only be a few minutes."

Alex's eyes followed him to the bathroom, then closed as he swung the door shut. He turned on to his side, pulling a pillow against his chest, trying to replace the warmth lost when Mulder left him.

Almost ten minutes went by when he'd decided that he couldn't stay in bed any longer. He spun to his feet and pulled on his underwear, then walked toward the bathroom. The water was just stopping as he opened the door. He grabbed the towel off the rack and waited. The door slid open and Mulder looked up, a bit startled.

"Sorry," Alex apologized, wrapping the towel around him. "I just...I had to get up."

"S,okay. You just kinda startled me."

Alex rubbed the towel across his dripping chest and arms, then turned him around and started on his back.

"You know..." Mulder said, just realizing what Alex was doing, "I can dry myself."

"I know," Alex stopped, responding with just a tinge of hurt in his tone.

Mulder turned back to face him. "Hey," he tried to lighten the mood. "If you get your jollies from drying me off, far be it from me to stop you."

Alex held the towel out to him. "Here," he said softly. "You're right. You can do it yourself."

Mulder snagged the towel and quickly wrapped it around Alex's wrist before he could let it go, and pulled him forward. Their faces were only inches apart. "Finish," he hissed softly against the younger man's lips.

Alex stood frozen for a number of seconds, then took the towel from Mulder's loosened grip and moved to complete his task.

Mulder stood still, eyes drifting shut as Alex rubbed the soft cotton gently, over every inch of him. He felt his cock begin to stir as the towel moved up his thighs, then between them. A barely audible moan sounded into the humid air.

Alex watched his lover's erection swell to its full length. He looked up to find Mulder staring down at him, hunger blazing again in his eyes. Maintaining eye contact, he leaned forward and gingerly ran the tip of his tongue up the underside of the solid shaft. Mulder cut off a hoarse groan and grabbed hold of the towel, pulling Alex up in front of him. He backed the younger man slowly into the side of the pedestal sink, then abruptly spun him around to face it.

"Bend over."

Shaking, Alex did as he was told. He closed his eyes and waited. Mulder left and returned quickly, slathering his cock with lube, as he did. One hand slid up Alex's back and grasped his shoulder, while the other guided his cock to the small opening. He plunged forward, pulling a sharp gasp from the man under him. Once inside, his hand moved to steady Alex's hip as he pumped relentlessly into him.

Alex gripped the sink with one hand and the nearby towel rack, with the other. He gritted his teeth as Fox slammed into him, using hard, fast strokes. The whimpers above him, grew louder, then ended on a sharp cry as Mulder emptied himself into his lover. Alex remained folded over the sink, until Mulder regained enough strength to move away from him. He stood up straight and turned to find himself immediately enfolded in Mulder's arms.

"You're just too fucking irresistible," Mulder muttered into his throat.

Alex wound his arms around his lover. "Any time you want me," he whispered into Mulder's hair.

Although he knew that Alex was sincere, the statement troubled Mulder. Again, he pushed it aside and hugged Alex to him. The hard length of the younger man's cock brushed against his thigh. He pressed into it. "Let me do something about this."

Alex stiffened and started to pull away. "I'm okay. What I really need is some breakfast. All of a sudden, I'm starving."

Mulder studied him, suspicion shadowing his eyes. "Yeah?"

Alex nodded, not quite meeting his gaze.

"Alex..."

"Really Fox, I'm not...I just...don't really feel up to it."

One golden-brown eyebrow arched upward." Doesn't look that way to me."

"Just a reaction. But I really don't feel like it."

Why didn't you tell me that, a few minutes ago?"

"I mean, for *me*."

He had to say it. "So, what you're telling me is, you let me fuck you just now, without really wanting to."

"No, that's not what I'm saying. I wanted very *much*, to satisfy you..."

"Alex, it turned you on, there's no denying that." He looked down at the other man's still rigid erection, for emphasis. "You're going to stand there and tell me that you don't need to come?"

"I did, not all that long ago."

"So did *I*. What's your point?"

"It's just not that strong an urge, right now." He tried to smile in the face of Mulder's concern. "Food is about all I can think about at the moment, yet you seem intent on starving me."

Mulder stared at him a full ten seconds, before dropping a light kiss on the bridge of his nose.

"Looks like I could use another shower. Mind sharing yours with me?"

Alex rubbed his head against Mulder's shoulder. "Of course not."

They stepped into the shower together, Mulder behind Alex. Mulder washed quickly, then kissing the back of the younger man's neck, he left him to finish his shower, alone.

Alex finished washing, then adjusted the temperature so that the water was almost ice cold. He forced himself to stand under the spray until his cock went limp and shrank, and his teeth began to chatter. Still, it wasn't enough. Not enough.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex entered the kitchen and stood in the doorway, watching Mulder at the stove. He was so busy, he hadn't even noticed Alex's arrival.

Fried eggs over medium, bacon...wheat toast. His favorite breakfast. And Fox was making it for *him*. His stomach began to flutter and turn.

"Hey." Mulder turned to reach for a bowl on the table and finally spotted him. "How long have you been standing there?"

"Few seconds." Alex walked in and opened up the refrigerator.

"What are you doing?"

"Getting the juice and the cream. Need anything else while I'm in here?"

"Yeah. I need you to sit down. I'll take care of everything." Mulder took the carton of orange juice from him and led him to the table. He pulled out a chair and gently pushed Alex down into it. He picked up the folded paper at the other end of the table and handed it to him. He then picked a glass up from the counter and poured the juice. "Here." Alex took the glass and set it down in front of him. "Don't you move from this chair. I've got everything under control." Mulder leaned down and brushed his lips against Alex's forehead, then turned his attention back to the eggs.

Alex unfolded the paper and began to read an article on the front page. Two paragraphs in, he bent the paper in two and dropped it down onto the table. He sat quietly, staring at the table, until Mulder placed his dish in front of him.

"Eat up."

Alex smiled at him and picked up his fork. Ten minutes later, Mulder wearied of watching him play with his food.

"Did I screw it up?"

"No, it's good."

"Then why are you eating like there's glass in it?"

"I'm sorry, I'm just not very hungry, now."

"Something is still bothering you."

Alex could hear the worry in his voice. He looked up and reached for one of Mulder's hands. "I'm okay, Fox. Please don't worry."

"That's kind of hard to do, you know, Lexei?"

"I...I know. I'm sorry."

"I don't want apologies. I want you to be all right."

"I *am*..."

"You're *not*. Talk to me. What's got you so bugged?"

"*Nothing*."

"Bull."

Alex let go of Mulder's hand and left the table. He moved over to the windows and looked out. Mulder followed. He stood directly behind Alex and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"I just want to forget all about this," Alex said softly. "I feel so foolish." He turned to Mulder, eyes pleading. "Can't we just go back a few days? Go on like it never happened?"

"But it *did* happen. And I really don't think that shoving it into a corner is the best thing."

"But I'm all *right*. I just flipped out for a little while. It was stupid jealousy, that's all."

"All that you said to me, came out of a little jealousy? I don't think so. That may have triggered it, but it's deeper than *just* that. We can work it out, Alex. Come on, we started to talk about it, this morning..."

Alex shook his head. "No. No, no. I was j...I was babbling, that's all. Can't you just ignore it?"

"I don't think I can."

Alex closed his fingers in Mulder's shirt and rested his head on his shoulder. "*Please*, Fox. I'm all right, I *swear*. Please, please..."

Mulder wrapped his arms around Alex. "Okay." He rubbed a hand up and down the younger man's back, attempting to soothe him. "Okay, Lexei. I won't push."

They stood that way, together in front of the window, for a long while before Alex pulled himself away from his lover's protective embrace. "Sorry you went through all that trouble," he said, nodding toward their ice-cold breakfast.

"You're still not hungry?"

Alex shook his head. "But if *you* are, I'll get you something..."

"No, I ate enough. You're the one who hasn't had a bite."

"I'll make up for it at lunch." He walked away and began to clear the dishes. Mulder moved to help. He scraped the food into the disposal and handed the plates to Alex, then leaned against the counter and watched him stack the dishwasher.

"What do you want to do today?"

Alex turned the appliance on and turned to face Mulder. "I don't know. Whatever. You have something in mind?"

"Nope." Mulder reached out and pulled Alex into his arms. "And how about we keep it that way? Let's do absolutely nothing. Let's just stay home. Barbecue, watch a movie...cat nap." He inclined his head and nipped at the younger man's chin. "Fool around..."

Alex wrapped his arms around Mulder's waist and buried his face in the side of his neck. "Okay."

"Okay to all of it? Or okay to fooling around?"

"All of it." Alex lifted his head and brushed his cheek against Mulder's. "You could use some rest."

"You too."

"You're the one who has to go to work tomorrow."

"So?" He kissed Alex's neck. "I'm going to finish cleaning up in here..."

"I'll do it."

"No, no." Mulder slipped his fingers through Alex's hair and held his head motionless. He looked into the eyes that refused to remain still. "I got other plans for you. Why don't you go wait for me in the hammock? I'll be there soon."

Alex hesitated, then moved away. He stopped at the door and looked back at Fox, who had already turned to his work. He pushed the door open and exited the kitchen. He walked slowly through the house and out to the back. Pausing on the patio, he looked around the yard. A tidal wave of regret washed over him as he viewed what was left of his beautiful garden. He felt his stomach lurch and was instantly grateful for not having eaten breakfast. He took two deep breaths and moved toward the hammock.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Green eyes drifted open and looked up at the man standing beside the hammock.

"Move over."

Alex made room for Fox, who dropped in beside him.

"You were asleep."

"No..."

"Yes, you were. I was standing here for at least five minutes, watching you."

Silence, then a soft query. "So what are these plans you have for me?"

Mulder studied him for a few moments, then pulled him against his chest. He slowly combed his fingers through the soft sable hair. "Just this."

"You made it sound almost ominous."

"Did I? Sorry. I just wanted you to relax." He continued the soothing caress. "Close your eyes. Go back to sleep."

"I don't think I can. I don't know how it is I fell asleep in the first place."

"You're tired. No big mystery in that." Mulder looked down and caught Alex's eyes skittering across the remains of his garden. "I know it may not make you feel any better but, it's not so bad. We can replace the bushes and most of the plants and you can replant your vegetables next year. "In fact," he offered, hugging Alex tightly, "I know I talked about just relaxing today, but if this really bothers you all that much, we can go out and get some stuff and start restoring it, today."

Alex glanced up at Mulder, then back out to the garden, but gave no answer. Mulder released him and rolled out of the hammock. He grasped the younger man's hand and tugged him to his feet.

"Let's go."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Well," Mulder grunted, pulling the last tub of hydrangeas out of the pickup, "this is a pretty good start, dontcha think?"

Alex nodded.

Mulder looked at his watch. "Well, we blew right through lunch, but we can have some dinner then get started, if you want."

"Fox, why don't you just take it easy for the rest of the day? You've got work tomorrow. I've got all day tomorrow, to take care of this..."

Mulder shook his head. "If you're tired then, yeah. It can wait till tomorrow. But I can't stand to see that look in your eyes, every time you look around the yard. The sooner we can rebuild it, the sooner maybe, you can start to feel better."

"I understand and I appreciate what you're trying to do...look, I tore it up, *I'll* fix it."

"Alex, I had a hand in this, too."

"You had nothing to do with it. It was me."

"I may not have cut or pulled anything up, but I won't let you shoulder all the responsibility. If I had been a little smarter and realized what Richardson was up to from the jump, we might not be where we are, right now."

"Yeah, we would. Because nothing would have filtered through the jealousy and suspicion I felt. This is *my* fault. I have to fix it myself, or I won't feel right. Please understand."

Impatience crept into Mulder's tone. "I can't. If we can work together, why shouldn't we?"

Alex's gaze dropped to the ground. "I'm sorry. You're right." He picked up a flat of ivy and turned toward the yard.

Mulder remained a while longer, standing by Alex's truck. He closed his eyes and opened them slowly. Then, picking up the hydrangea, he followed Alex into the yard.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder stood in front of the grill, supposedly tending to the steaks, but he was a million miles away. The light touch of a hand on his arm, startled him. He turned and came face to face with Alex, who'd just come out of the shower. The light from the citronella torches sparkled in his eyes and added a warm glow to his still-damp hair. Mulder stared, speechless, at the sad, beautiful face.

"Are you still not talking to me?"

"I was never *not talking* to you, Alex. I just didn't know what to say. You've got me very confused, you know?"

Alex took one tiny step at a time, until he was molded into Mulder's body. "I'm sorry," he rasped softly, slowly raising his palms against the older man's chest. "I'm sorry." He lowered his head to Mulder's shoulder and pressed closer.

Mulder wound one arm around him and rested his cheek against his head. "It's okay," he said flatly. "Let's just have dinner, all right? These steaks are just about done." He released Alex and returned his attention to the grill. Alex lingered a few seconds longer, then disappeared into the house. A while later, he reappeared, carrying two small bowls of salad and a couple of bottles of beer.

Mulder approached the table with a platter containing the steaks and a couple of baked potatoes. He set the platter down and sat back as Alex immediately began to serve the food. They ate in virtual silence, neither man really enjoying his meal. When they'd finally dispensed with the pretense of eating, Mulder picked up his beer and looked out into the darkened yard.

Alex watched him for a while, then cautiously rose from his chair and came to stand in front of him. Mulder looked up into his face, then followed it down, as Alex sank to the tiled patio floor. He sat motionless, as the younger man carefully placed a hand on his thigh and laid his head on his lap. Long minutes passed, before Mulder raised a hand and began to stroke and pet the glistening dark hair. Alex's eyes drifted shut and he released a long shuddering breath.

Just as Mulder thought he might be falling asleep, Alex's hand began to move higher on his leg, rubbing back and forth. Almost unnoticeably, he shouldered his way between the older man's legs, moving his head against his groin. Mulder continued to finger-comb Alex's hair, as he nuzzled the growing bulge.

Alex stopped for a moment, and looked up into his lover's glittering hazel eyes, silently asking for, and receiving his approval. He unbuttoned Mulder's jeans, then drew the zipper down, revealing the midnight blue boxer-briefs that barely contained a rather impressive erection. Mulder lifted his hips, allowing Alex to pull his jeans and underwear down and off. As soon as the garments were removed, Alex leaned down, pressing his face against his lover's cock, inhaling the smell that was his, alone.

Mulder let his head fall back and a tiny sigh escaped his throat. All the encouragement Alex needed to take things a step further.

Slowly, his tongue inched out and stroked the underside of Mulder's cock, eliciting a barely noticeable twitch in the older man's upper lip. The strokes became increasingly bolder until the man at Mulder's feet, had him squirming helplessly in his seat.

A deep moan rumbled in Mulder's chest as Alex worked him, neglecting not one inch of rigid flesh. Then, using his tongue only, he scooped the fuzzy sac that rested heavily on the chair, into his open mouth. Mulder's fingers curled into his lover's hair and he arched upward.

Damn good. That's what Alex was. A flick of the tongue. Sweep of those impossibly thick eyelashes and Mulder was all his. Mulder knew it and had never been the least bit ashamed to say so. It made Alex smile whenever he heard the claim. A blessed constant in his life, he knew this was one thing that was no lie. The heat that radiated between them could never be fabricated. Time and even now, conflict, could not cool it. If this was all he had, all that was left, he wanted it. If this was all there was to hold Fox to him, he'd use it and use it, well. Please him in any and every way he knew how, just to go on waking up next to him in the morning. The thought that he'd actually tried to leave last night, scared the hell out of him. What if Fox had let him go? What then? He needed Fox, even as he tried to push away the man's attempted sexual demonstrations of love. A perverse form of self-punishment for the way he'd screwed up, but to his mind, it was appropriate. Necessary.

Mulder writhed in his chair, completely overcome by the pleasure that Alex never failed to deliver. When the younger man moved once again to his aching cock, his hips jerked upward, searching for the wet heat, he loved so much.

Alex obliged, wrapping his lips around the head and probed the small opening with his tongue. The bitter promise of Fox's inevitable explosion, teased his mouth. His tongue slid down the underside, then back up, dancing briefly around the tip, before his head dropped and he swallowed his lover's cock, down to the base.

Mulder's mouth fell open and a quick gasp tumbled out, as he bucked once, then fell back into his seat. Alex sucked gently as he pulled up, almost to the head, then slid back down the glistening shaft and stopped halfway. Mulder groaned and bucked again, then again, when Alex still hadn't moved. By the third time, his frustration had gotten the better of him, and he tightened his fingers in the younger man's hair and repeatedly jerked his hips and down, brutally forcing himself in and out of the compliant mouth.

Alex was an expert in the art of *giving head*, but when *he* was in control of the situation. He had no intention to control *this*. He attempted to relax his throat and take his lover's ample length as he had so many times before, but Mulder's erratic movements threw him off balance and he choked several times. Still, he refused to let go, taking the punishing strokes as best he could.

Mulder's increasingly frantic whimpers signaled his coming climax. Alex moved a bit lower on Mulder's cock, giving him a shorter distance to travel, as he continued to assault the younger man's mouth.

"God...mmph...oh, shit....Alex...God..."

Mulder bucked one last time and exploded into Alex's mouth, crying his name into the still, night air. He collapsed into his chair, struggling for breath, as the man on the floor, gently lapped at his gradually softening cock. He slumped in the seat, only vaguely aware of movement and the absence of Alex's presence. An eternity filled with nothing passed, and he felt gentle hands on him, under his arms, pulling him to his feet.

"Come on," the soft voice coaxed, "time for bed."

"The dishes..."

"All done. Let's go."

More asleep than awake, Mulder allowed Alex to lead him to the bedroom, where he was stripped of his clothing and lowered to the mattress. By the time Alex had gone into the bathroom and returned, Mulder was again, sound asleep. Slowly, he removed his own clothes, then slid under the sheet.

A soft sigh broke the silence as Mulder stirred, then went still. Alex turned carefully onto his side and studied his lover. He watched the gentle rise and fall of Mulder's chest for a while, then his gaze wandered up to his face, drinking in the beauty of the sleep-softened features. From the heavy fringe of golden-brown lashes, to the moderately stubbled jaw, to his mouth...that mouth. Soft and beautifully full and...Mark Richardson was a lousy, sneaky son of a bitch, but he was right on the mark about his theory. These lips were just made for...shit, and Alex's cock agreed one thousand percent. It throbbed within the confines of his underwear, begging to feel the wet heat of that mouth, surrounding him. He attempted to push his body's demands away. He lay rigidly still and closed his eyes. Sometime in the early hours of the morning, he fell asleep.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder entered the kitchen, tempted there, by the smells of breakfast. He walked up behind Alex who was at the stove, and laid a hand on his shoulder.

"Morning."

"Good morning."

"Smells good."

"Hungry?"

"Yeah." Mulder firmed his grip on the younger man's shoulder, and turned him around. His eyes automatically fell to the light bruise around the right corner of Alex's mouth. He winced, as if slapped. "Alex, I'm..."

"What?"

"Did I do this to you? Last night?"

Alex's twisted to kiss the hand that still rested on his shoulder. "It's okay."

"Does it hurt?"

"No."

"I'm sorry."

"Don't be. It's *nothing*."

"I shouldn't have been so rough. It won't happen again..."

Alex's eyes turned a deeper shade of green. "Was it good?"

"Good enough to wipe out any memory of what happened after, and how I got to bed."

"Then don't worry about it. It's well worth a little bruise to know that I satisfied you."

"Not to me." His hand moved up to Alex's cheek and his thumb brushed gently across the injured corner of his mouth. "Not like this. I didn't want to hurt you, Lexei."

"You didn't hurt me." Alex covered Mulder's hand with his own. "Besides...there are lots of times when we're uh...less than tender with each other."

Mulder said nothing. Alex continued, reinforcing his point.

"Remember that hickey I gave you a few weeks ago?" he teased softly. "That was probably a heck of a lot more painful than this. And a lot more noticeable."

A hint of a smile crossed Mulder's lips. "You sure it doesn't hurt?"

"I'm *sure*...speaking of hurt, how's your hand?"

"A little sore, but..."

"I *told* you, you shouldn't have done all that work yesterday."

"Is the yard looking better?"

"Yeah."

"Do you feel better?"

Alex nodded.

Mulder threw his words back at him. "Then it's well worth a little soreness, to know that I made you feel better."

Alex's gaze dropped to the tiled floor between them. He watched the terra cotta patch disappear, as Mulder moved closer. The older man tilted his face up and looked across the very short distance, into his eyes. He searched their green depths for a number of seconds, then very gently, kissed him.

Overly sensitive due to his still unsatisfied state, Alex sighed softly into Mulder's mouth and unconsciously writhed against his body.

Mulder wound an arm around Alex's waist, then slid his hand down to the younger man's ass, rubbing slowly, as he pushed against the solid bulge with his thigh. "Is this for me?" he murmured against Alex's mouth.

//Oh yeah, it's for you. All for you. Take it. I need you to...oh God, I need...//

Alex tensed and pulled away. Avoiding Mulder's questioning eyes, he tried to keep his tone light. "No time for that, now."

"Alex, I've *always* got time for you..."

"Later, okay?" //Oh, that's good. Like he's not going to remember later, that you said that.// "Come on, have some breakfast. You gotta get going, soon."

He managed to coax Mulder to the table and placed his breakfast in front of him. Mulder eyed him warily, as he took the seat across the table and began to pick unenthusiastically at his food.

"You've eaten next to nothing, since yesterday," Mulder commented softly.

"I'm eating..."

Mulder opened his mouth to argue, then thought better of it.

//Don't. Don't upset him, then leave him to brood all day.//

He changed the subject. "Listen I don't know if you remember, but we're supposed to have that party this weekend for Langly's birthday..."

"Yeah, I remember."

"If you're not up to it, we can go out, instead. Or just skip it altogether..."

"I'm fine, Fox. The party'll go on as planned."

A small wrinkle formed on Mulder's brow. "Are you *sure*?"

"Positive." Alex glanced at his watch. "You'd better get going."

Mulder nodded. "Yeah." He pulled his chair back and rose from the table. Alex did the same and followed him to the door. Mulder swung the heavy oak open, and turned to Alex, who stood quietly behind him. He reached out and ran his knuckles down the younger man's cheek. "See you, tonight."

Alex gave him a soft, half smile and nodded.

Mulder's hand dropped from his face and wrapped itself around his upper arm.

"Come here."

Alex took three steps forward and found himself immediately encircled in the older man's arms, immersed in a long, sensuous kiss.

Reluctantly, Mulder pulled away and with one last melting glance at his lover, turned and walked toward the garage.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Hey."

"Morning." Scully shed her suit jacket and draped it across the back of her chair. "God, it's like a sauna in here. Don't tell me the AC is out."

"They promised it'd only be for a little while."

"Oh yeah, right. I've heard that before." She dropped down in the chair beside Mulder's desk. "So....how was your weekend?"

Mulder emitted a soft sigh before speaking. "Confusing, is the best word I can come up with at the moment."

"I didn't hear from you. You didn't show up on my doorstep..."

Mulder smiled. "No. We'll work it out...soon as I figure out *how*."

"I'm not following."

"Well like I said, he's got me confused. In the course of one day, he's gone from one end of the emotional spectrum, to the other." He looked from his desk, to Scully's face. "My _mountain lion, has turned into a docile, declawed housecat."

Scully squinted at him. "Huh?"

"He's loaded with guilt over what happened. And as a result, he's being completely agreeable. Except when it comes to sex...or anything involving *him*."

"You're really losing me, Mulder."

"He's being unselfish to the point where it's more like punishment. He's punishing himself, Scully, for a situation that he sees as completely his fault. He thinks he's been fooling himself *and* me for the past year and a half."

"Fooling you, how?"

"He thinks that he'd only been masquerading as a decent human being all this time and that this mess with Richardson had caused the *real him* to resurface."

"Is he nuts?"

"*He* thinks so. He sort of went off the deep end, Saturday night. It wasn't till late Sunday morning, that he stopped talking about leaving."

"Leaving?"

"Said it wasn't his home. That he didn't deserve me or the house or anything else good in his life. I had to take his suitcase away from him and literally restrain him, to stop him from pulling his clothes out of the drawers. Then he just came apart. After a while, he let me put him to bed, but he stayed frozen, with his back to me...even when I put my arms around him and pulled him against me. We woke up yesterday morning and it almost started all over again. But I got him to talk. A little, anyway. I was straddling him to keep him from leaving, one thing led to another and I ended up..." he paused for a moment, then continued. "This isn't what it sounds like but...I held him down and forced him to accept a little pleasure. I knew he wouldn't be able to deny what he felt, for long. As soon as I had him past the point of refusal, I let him go. When it was over and he recovered, he lay there, staring up at the ceiling. Tears started streaming down his face." Mulder's gaze dropped again to the desk and he shook his head.

"I don't understand, Mulder. Why was he crying?"

"Guilt. He felt...he *feels* like he doesn't deserve my attention...or my affection."

Scully rolled her eyes. "What are you going to do about it?"

"I don't know. I mean, just because I know what the problem is, that doesn't mean that I have the slightest idea how to solve it. I gotta do something though, and soon. I don't know how much longer I can take this. I want *my* Alex back. Stubborn, opinionated, wise-ass answer for everything...aggressive..."

"Aggressive, huh?"

The right corner of Mulder's mouth curved into a trace of a smile. "There are times when we can get pretty...exuberant. And Alex can give as good as he gets..." He raised and lowered his eyebrows. "*Better*. And ordinarily, a litle bruise or a scratch on either of us won't bother me, but...I uh...I left a bruise at the corner of his mouth, last night. I didn't realize it till this morning. I feel terrible about it. I think it's because he's being so passive. I think that he thinks he needs to pay for hurting me and destroying the garden and...I'm just...I'm very uncomfortable with the way he's acting. I don't want to *use* him, Scully. But that's what it felt like, last night and especially this morning, when I saw his face."

"I don't know what to say, Mulder. Just sit him down and talk to him. Tell him how you feel."

"I've tried to talk to him. He just keeps saying that he's all right and he asks me if we can't please forget about it."

"Tell him *no*! Tell him *you* want to talk about it and get it settled."

"I tried to insist, yesterday morning. He got almost hysterical on me. I got scared and promised not to push."

"Jeez, Mulder..."

"After that scene Saturday night, I would have done anything to keep him calm."

"I understand that you don't want to upset him Mulder, but this has *got* to be confronted."

"I know. I...I just...I think I'll give him a little more time. He's still too vulnerable."

"Well, you gotta play it the way you think you need to. Just don't let it go on too long. It's not good for either of you."

"I know."

Scully gave him a sympathetic smile and patted his hand. "Okay, heart to heart hour is over. Time to get to work."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder pulled into the garage beside Alex's truck and breathed a sigh of relief. He'd secretly feared that once he was out of the house, Alex might take off. He thought many times during the course of the day, that he should call. Go home for lunch even, but neither of those thing was something he ordinarily did, and he didn't want to make it look to Alex like he was checking up on him. He lifted his suit jacket front the seat beside him, and headed toward the house.

The front door swung open, as Alex was crossing through the living room. He stopped in his tracks, his fingers tightening involuntarily on the rim of the laundry basket that he held. He returned Mulder's wary smile as the older man moved toward him.

"Hi."

"Hi."

As he moved in for a kiss, Mulder took notice of the bruise that seemed to have darkened a bit, since this morning. He cautiously covered Alex's mouth with his own, then pulled away.

"What'd you do, today?"

"Worked outside, mostly." He shifted the basket in his arms. "Laundry..."

Mulder nodded.

"Diner'll be ready, soon."

"Okay, I'll go change."

Alex rubbed his cheek against the palm that rose to caress it. Mulder paused for a moment, staring intently at his lover, then retreated to the bedroom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Dinnertime passed uneventfully. The two men made small talk, discussing Mulder's work and the birthday party they'd had planned for the weekend.

"Have you seen Skinner?" Alex asked, after a sip of iced tea.

"Yeah, we had a meeting with him, this afternoon."

"Is he coming?"

"He said he was pretty sure he could make it."

"Really?"

"Yeah, I know. Shocked me, too. Well you know, it's been a long time. He had to come to the realization sooner or later, that you and I aren't just some ten minute fling. His only choices were to accept that, or flush our friendship."

"He may accept us, but it's only *because* of your friendship. He'll always hate me."

"He shouldn't. You two are even and it doesn't help anything to hold grudges. Maybe he realizes that, as well."

Alex shrugged. "We'll see."

Mulder grinned at him. "Yeah, we will."

When dinner was finished, Mulder rose to help Alex clear the table. Alex of course, protested.

"Leave it, Fox. I can handle it. Why don't you go relax?"

"I *can't* go relax, I've got some work to do, and I'm trying to put it off." He smirked at Alex. "Why don't *you* go relax, and *I'll* take care of this?"

"Uh uh. Out. Get to work."

Mulder sighed and put his dish down on the counter, giving Alex an exaggerated whine. "I don't want to..."

"Yeah, I know." Alex turned him toward the door and gave him a gentle shove.

"When you're done, will you come and find me in the office?"

A slight hesitation then, "Okay."

Mulder disappeared from the kitchen, leaving Alex to himself. He moved slowly around the room, taking his time, cleaning up. When he cleaned everything he could possibly clean, he left the kitchen and walked down the hall, to Mulder's office. He stood in the open doorway, watching his lover root through case file after case file, muttering to himself all the while.

"Come on, come on...one goddamn little time discrepancy and my whole case is shot to shit..." Mulder threw another file down on the pile to his right, and caught something in the corner of his eye. He swiveled his chair around and found Alex lingering in the doorway. He pulled his glasses down to the tip of his nose and smiled. "Ah. Distraction."

"Sorry. You asked me to join you, so I..." He turned sideways, ready to leave. "I'll just go find..."

"No!" Mulder reached out, knowing he was too far to touch Alex. "You misunderstood me. I'm *grateful* for the distraction." He waved his outstretched hand. "Get in here."

Alex stepped into the room and looked around at the chaos. "This is some mess. Can I help you find something?"

"I'm looking for a nineteen ninety seven file. There were six murders committed in Augusta, Georgia and surrounding cities. They had a striking similarity to those that are happening around here. Officials are hesitant to make a connection, but if I can find the times of death of the Georgia victims, I'll have proof that they can't ignore."

Alex sat down on the floor and opened up a file. "What's time of death got to do with it?"

"All four of the victims in this area, have the same approximate TOD."

"How approximate?"

"Within a few minutes."

"And you're betting that these other victims were killed around the same time of day?"

"Night. Morning, actually. Between three fourteen and three nineteen."

"Any other similarities?"

"None that I can pinpoint, so far. There's got to be something...wait...I got it. This is the file I'm looking for."

Alex sat at Mulder's feet, arms draped around bent knees, waiting quietly for the older man to finish reading. He smiled as he watched a bright sparkle appear in the gold-flecked eyes.

"Got your proof?"

"Three sixteen...three fifteen...three fifteen...three eighteen...three seventeen..." He looked from the folder, to Alex. "...three fourteen."

"Now, you just gotta sell it to those yahoos, running the investigation."

"Yeah." Mulder tossed the file onto his desk and switched the computer on.

Alex pushed himself to his knees, and began sorting and stacking the folders.

"You don't have to do that, Lexei. It's my mess, I'll clean it up."

Alex looked up from his task. "It's okay. You just get to work on your report. That way when you're done, you can just go to bed."

Mulder gave him a grateful smile. "Thank you."

Alex returned the smile and went back to sorting and stacking. When he was through, Mulder was still pounding maniacally at the keyboard. Alex unfolded himself and rose from the floor. The movement caught Mulder's attention.

"Where are you going?"

Alex shrugged. "I don't know, I just..."

"Don't leave, okay?"

"You're so busy, you won't even know I'm gone."

"Yeah, I will. I know this sounds stupid, but...I hate being in here, alone. I work a lot better with you in the room."

Alex frowned his confusion.

Mulder reached out, running a hand down his hip and leg. "I just like to feel you near me. Okay?"

Alex gave him a tiny smile and nodded. He turned toward the sofa and dropped down into it. He picked up a magazine from the small stack on the floor and began to leaf through it.

Satisfied, Mulder returned to his work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder hit _print, and stretched his back and arms. He brought his left arm down in front of his face and looked at his watch.

//Jesus, twelve thirty-three.//

The chair issued a tiny squeak as he spun around and looked at Alex. A soft smile graced his lips, as he watched his lover sleeping peacefully on the sofa. He rose to his feet, stretched again and walked quietly over to the unconscious man. He lowered himself to the thick, forest green carpet, sat by Alex's head, and studied his face. "So beautiful," he whispered almost inaudibly, the back of his hand, grazing the surface of the thick, sable hair. Matching eyelashes drifted upward and sleep-glazed eyes attempted to focus on the figure before them. Mulder's hand traveled down to Alex's face and lingered at his cheek, his thumb tracing light circles, just below the bone. The green eyes became more alert. They watched the ever-present pout of his lover's lips become more pronounced, and his hazel eyes change and darken to a turbulent black-green. His heart began to pound double time, as Mulder leaned in and brushed his jaw with his mouth.

"Remember what you said this morning?"

Alex swallowed past the lump forming in his throat. He continued to stare up into Mulder's eyes, saying nothing.

"You said, *later*. Well, it's later."

Still, nothing.

Mulder's hand traveled down to the buttons on Alex's shirt, undoing one at a time. "How about the other morning? Do you remember what you said, then?"

And...nothing.

"You said, anytime I wanted you. I want you, now." He undid the last button and swept his hand back and forth across Alex's chest, pushing the shirt away, as he did.

Alex's eyes rolled up and his lids dropped over them, as Mulder continued to caress his heated skin.

"I've been thinking about you, all day..." One hand slid up to his throat, then back down, arching up on fingertips as it went. "Carried my jacket around in *front* of me, quite a lot..." He watched Alex's mouth drop open as his fingers wandered over a flat nipple. Heard the soft gasp as he gently pinched the hardening nub. "I could see you so clearly in my mind, sprawled on our bed, stroking your cock..." He shifted into a kneeling position, allowing himself better access to his lover's body. "...teasing yourself..." His left hand joined his right, giving equal attention to the other nipple. "...waiting for me..." He rolled both nipples between his fingers, pulling a low moan from Alex. "Did you jerk off today, Alex? Or did you save it all up for me?"

Alex's head rolled back and forth against the cushion. His breaths came in shallow pants as Fox's words as well as his touch, sent an electrical surge through his body.

Mulder lowered his head down to Alex's, nibbling and licking at his ear. His coarse whisper tickled the interior. "Tell me you waited for me. Tell me you're so frustrated right now, that you're ready the climb the walls..."

Alex whimpered his name, softly.

"What is it, Lexei? What do you want?" Mulder's hand slid down to the hard bulge in the lightweight pants that Alex wore. "Is it this?"

Alex jerked against his hand and was rewarded with a gentle squeeze. Whatever little will he had when he first woke, was gone. He needed what Fox was offering. He couldn't last another hour without it, and he hated himself for his weakness.

"Please...Fox, please..."

"Have you waited for me since the last time? Has the pressure been building since Sunday morning?"

Alex nodded frantically.

Mulder unbuttoned Alex's pants and slid the zipper down. "You can't wait another minute, can you?"

"No...no, *please*. I can't...I..."

Alex's frantic sobs were abruptly cut off as Mulder's mouth came down on his. He plunged his hands into the golden-brown hair, loving the silky, sensuous feel of it, as it flowed between his fingers. His soft cries for fulfillment became more demanding as his lover's tongue plunged into his mouth, stroking and teasing everywhere, and the hand at his crotch, worked his cock free of his clothing.

Mulder pulled away from the kiss and smiled as Alex twisted and moaned. He caught the hands that were blindly reaching for him and held the wrists together in one hand. His other hand skimmed the underside of Alex's cock. "Easy, babe. Take it easy..."

Alex's eyes fluttered open and stared up at the older man. Mulder bent down and dragged his tongue across a nipple, sending a shudder through him.

The golden-brown head rose, then the man. He stared down into Alex's tortured green eyes as he unbuttoned and discarded his own shirt. Slowly, he shed his pants and underwear, then backed up and settled in his chair.

"Get up."

Alex did as he was told and stood trembling, waiting for his next instruction.

"Come here."

The younger man approached and stood within inches of the chair. Mulder spread his legs and silently instructed Alex to step between them. His eyes slid down the lean body and settled on the rock hard erection, bobbing in front of his face. He leaned forward and nuzzled the head, then teased the weeping tip with his tongue. Alex bit back a sob and turned his face.

"Look at me, Lexei." Mulder waited, gently rubbing the backs of Alex's thighs, until the younger man obeyed. When their eyes finally met, Mulder's hands slid up to his ass, squeezing and caressing. "You always love to watch me suck you. Watch me." He leaned forward again, eyes still turned up to his lover's face, and circled the head of his cock with his tongue.

Reluctantly, Alex kept his eyes on Mulder. His lower lip trembled as the older man suckled the blunt head for a few moments, then released it, kissing the very tip.

"Fuck my mouth, baby."

Alex squeezed his eyes shut and shook his head.

"Do it."

"Fox, don't...please, no..."

"Yes."

Mulder opened his mouth and took the half of Alex's length inside. He tightened his grip on the younger man's ass, and pulled him forward. When Alex refused to move, Mulder pushed him back, then forward again. A few more encouraging pushes and pulls, and Alex could take no more. He began to move on his own, thrusting steadily, down Mulder's throat. He moaned softly, as he felt his body begin to tighten. The moans turned to frustrated whimpers, as Mulder released him and pushed him back. He brought his legs together and began to pull Alex toward him, again.

"Straddle my legs, then sit down."

Alex moved over Mulder and lowered himself onto his legs, sitting close to the other man's knees.


"No." Mulder gripped his hips and pulled him forward, as far as he could go. "Right here." He grasped both cocks together in one hand and squeezed. Alex's eyes fluttered, threatening to close. Mulder's other hand came in to play, now holding one cock in each and slowly stroking. "God, that's good," he whispered. "But your hand would feel better." He released his own cock and wrapped Alex's hand around it. The younger man's head fell back as he began an almost identical rhythm to that of his lover. Soft, impatient sounds emitted from his throat.

Mulder brought his free hand up to the back of Alex's head and pulled it down, until their foreheads were resting against each other. He reduced the pressure on Alex's cock, pulling a moan of protest from the other man.

"Slow it down, baby. Not yet, okay?"

"But I...I can't...I can't..."

"Breathe, Alex. Yes, you can. Come on...relax."

Alex drew a hard breath and released it. Then another.

"That's it," Mulder cooed. "That's good." He continued to feather Alex's cock with light strokes. "I ever tell you how absolutely gorgeous you are when you're turned on, like this?"

Alex closed his eyes and frowned.

"Your skin flushes and your eyes...God, baby, your eyes turn this incredible shade of green." He curled his fingers in the sable hair and gently pulled Alex's head away from his. As he did so, the heavy lids lifted halfway. He smiled up into forest-green eyes. "Just like that. Beautiful."Alex's gaze skittered away and came to rest upon a stack of files on the floor, just to Mulder's left. He inhaled sharply as his lover regained his attention with a long, slow pull on his cock.

This time, Mulder held his eyes as he reached back, pulling one of the desk drawers open. He produced a tube of lubrication and released Alex long enough to squeeze some into his hand and apply it to his own cock. He patted Alex's ass with one hand. "Up." Alex obeyed, lifting himself enough for Mulder to position his cock. "Okay babe, it's all yours."

Alex sank down, wiggling just enough to help work his lover's cock into the tight muscle. Tiny whines escaped his compressed lips, when Mulder pushed upward, slowly burying inch after inch of his erection in his ass. When Alex was fully impaled, he ceased movement and turned tormented eyes to Mulder.

"It's okay," Mulder breathed. "I don't want to wait anymore, either." He began to move, prompting Alex to do the same. The younger man rose slightly, then lowered himself, groaning softly as he did. He repeated the action slowly, again and again.

Mulder slid down a fraction, in the chair, for a better angle. He knew he'd achieved it, when Alex's lips parted and a long, low growl pushed past them. His hips jerked upward, in search of confirmation. It came in the form of a loud, sobbing cry.

"That's the spot, huh baby?" he panted, executing the same move, over and over. Alex cried out in answer. Mulder wrapped his fingers around his lover's cock and began to slowly milk it. "I know...I know. It's time to come, now. Come with me, baby."

Gratefully, Alex rocked faster, feeling his orgasm build.

Mulder wound an arm tightly around Alex's waist and increased the speed of the hand, pumping his cock. "God....that's...oh...I love...love you, Lexei..."

Alex's eyes flew open, then dropped shut again, as he felt the sudden rush of tears. He buried his face in Mulder's shoulder and shuddered violently as he came. And cried.

Mulder thrust into Alex twice more and his own hoarse cries filled the room. He released his lover's quickly softening cock and brought his sticky hand up to join the other, around his waist. He rested his head against the one still burrowed into his shoulder.

Alex lay limply against Mulder's chest, intermittent shivers, still coursing through his body.

"Babe," Mulder whispered sleepily into his ear. "Come on, this is going to get uncomfortable for you. How about a nice warm shower, then we can go to bed?"

No response.

"Alex?" Mulder pushed him away a bit, just far enough to see his face. His eyes were closed and his eyelashes were spiked with moisture "Jesus Lexei, what's wrong?"

Alex lowered his head almost to his chest, and shook it back and forth.

Mulder was fully alert, now. "Talk to me, Lexei. Tell me what's wrong. Did I...did I do something? Did I..."

Alex looked up at Mulder, wide-eyed. "No," He choked in his rush to get the word out. "It's nothing you did. It's...it's nothing." He struggled to compose himself. "I'm okay. I'm...you didn't do anything..."

"I *must* have."

"No! Please, I'm all right. Just a little...a little overwhelmed, I guess."

Mulder searched his bloodshot eyes. "I don't believe you."

Alex again shook his head.

"*Tell* me, Alex."

"No. There's nothing..." Alex disengaged himself and got to his feet. "It's late. You're going to be tired in the morning."

"Don't change the subject."

"I'm not. There's just nothing to talk about. I'm okay, Fox. Please don't worry. I'm tired, I want to go to bed."

Mulder rose and took Alex's hand. "All right. Okay. Let's go have a quick shower first, then we can turn in."

Alex nodded and allowed Mulder to lead him into the bathroom. Fifteen minutes later, they were in bed, Alex settled stiffly against Mulder's chest, being petted and caressed, as both men stared into the darkness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Four days later
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Wait a minute, wait a minute. What did you do?"

"What do you mean, what did I do? I put the stuff in the bowl, like you said."

"All at once."

"Well...yeah. Why, shouldn't I have?"

Alex smiled and heaved a patient sigh. "No, you shouldn't have."

"But your instructions say..."

"Nevermind, Fox. It's okay." Alex took the bowl and dumped the contents down the dispenser. "Let's start over." He separated the ingredients into groups. "Now. Measure these out first. Mix them. Then throw this group in and mix that. Okay?"

"I don't get it. What difference does it make *what* order they go in?"

It just does. Are you going to do it?"

"Yeah, I said I'd help, and I will."

"Okay."

"You know, I forgot to ask Scully at work...is she still making lasagna?"

Alex answered, without turning from his potato salad. "As far as I know. When I talked to her yesterday, she said that she was going to."

"Shit."

Alex turned and smiled, as he watched Mulder pick bits of eggshell out of the bowl. He covered the potato salad, shoved it into the refrigerator, then walked up behind Mulder. "I'm done, Fox." His hands slid back and forth across the other man's shoulders. "I can take over, now."

"I'm screwing it up that badly?"

"No...well...yeah."

Mulder hooked his thumbs in the back pockets of his jeans and moved away from the counter. "Sorry. Instead of helping, I'm just making extra work for you."

"It's okay. I appreciate you wanting to help."

"Maybe I could just be your gopher."

Alex looked around. "Thanks, but...I think I've pretty much got everything I need, right here."

Mulder nodded, leaned against the counter and sighed. "I hate to just hang around here while you do all the work." He leered suggestively. "Not that I don't *enjoy* watching you do all the work..."

Alex made no more comment, than a soft laugh.

Mulder wandered over to the refrigerator and opened the door. "Want a beer?"

Alex glanced quickly over his shoulder. "No, thanks."

"Anything?"

"No."

Mulder pulled a Corona off the second shelf and a chunk of lime, from the Ziplock bag, beside the six-pack. He sat at the table, squeezing, then dropping the lime into the bottle. He watched his younger lover move confidently around the kitchen and smiled. Things hadn't been too bad in the last few days. He thought he'd finally figured out what things sent Alex off the deep end, and did his damndest to avoid them.

First, keep completely off the subject of last weekend. No questions, no references. He could do that. For a while, anyway. At least until he thought Alex was more himself.

Second, no overly sweet gestures or words. Those seemed to really throw Alex. It drove Mulder crazy not to tell him that he loved him. It wasn't too long after they'd become a couple, that Mulder discovered how demonstrative *and* verbal he could be about his feelings and he liked it. Now, he found himself having to alter those habits and it didn't thrill him a bit.

His smile started to fade. Maybe things weren't as okay as he'd talked himself into believing...

Third...and this was really killing him...sex. Alex gave it to him, whenever and however he wanted it, but did everything in his power to thwart Mulder's attempts to give *him* any pleasure. On that rare occasion when Mulder had managed to get past his defenses, Alex would afterward drop into a very quiet mood, bordering on depression.

Christ, this wasn't right. It couldn't go on, he couldn't let it. He couldn't allow Alex to go on punishing himself, but he was at a loss on how to stop him.

He refocused on Alex, who was just pouring the batter into the pans. When he got them into the oven, he picked one of the beaters up out of the bowl and licked it.

"Mmmm. This cake is going to be good." He held the beater out in offering. "Want some?"

Mulder shook his head quietly, as he took a long swallow of his beer.

Alex lifted the utensil again to his mouth. His tongue slithered from between the irresistibly bowed lips and traveled up the cool steel, taking with it, more of the thick mixture.

Mulder watched hungrily, each pass of that luscious tongue. His respiration grew erratic, as he imagined that it was his rapidly growing erection, that Alex was so blissfully licking.

When both beaters were clean, Alex dropped them into the sink. He then resorted to using his fingers, to swipe the remaining batter from the bowl.

Mulder watched his lover innocently enjoying the cake batter and wondered what he would do, if he knew the effect his actions were having on him.

Almost as his thoughts were completed, Alex looked up, two fingers in his mouth, and caught Mulder's eye. A year and a half with the man was more than sufficient for Alex to know exactly what that look in his eyes meant. He froze for a few seconds, then pulled his fingers from his mouth. His tongue inched out to lick away the speck of batter, at the corner of his mouth. He glanced down at the bowl, then up at Mulder. "You sure you don't want some?"

Mulder rose from his chair and started slowly, toward the man standing against the counter. "You make it look so good," he said softly, "maybe I'll have a little."

Alex dipped his fingers back into the bowl and held them up to Mulder's mouth, as the older man reached him.

Mulder wound his arms around Alex's waist, pressing the full length of their bodies together. He opened his mouth, inviting Alex to slip his fingers inside. His eyes closed as he very thoroughly, sucked every last bit of batter from his lover's fingers. When he finished, he drew away and opened his eyes, finding that Alex's eyes were now shut. Not for long, as the younger man sensed that his lover was staring at him.

A sliver of green appeared under the heavy lids, then more became visible and more, as Alex's interest in the activity to his lower right, grew.

Mulder dipped one finger into the bowl and brought it up to Alex's face. The younger man's eyes never left his, as his finger drew a line of batter down the soft cheek. Mulder pitched forward and slowly licked the sweet mixture away. He felt the muscle twitch in response and found himself wishing that he could be sure whether the reaction was good or bad. He backed away just a few inches and scooped up a bit more of the bowl's contents. His eyes flicked down to Alex's chest and his finger soon followed, distributing another line of batter there, from the base of his throat, down to the third open button of his shirt. A small grunt formed in the convulsing throat, as Mulder's tongue performed a sideways swipe, removing the batter, one tiny section at a time. When all traces were gone, Mulder lifted his head and met his lover's eyes.

"You're right," he whispered. "It *is* good." His finger rose again, more batter at the tip, and smeared it across Alex's lips. He repeated the same process, slowly licking the batter away, moaning softly as he did. "So, so good..."

Alex gripped the edge of the counter for support, sure that if he didn't, his increasingly shaky legs would not hold him up much longer. He fought to control the soft whimpers as they continued to escape past his lips, but to no avail. Control seemed to be slipping away quickly.

Alex's condition did not escape Mulder's notice. He moved in without hesitation, pressing his advantage. Both arms clamped around Alex's waist and he covered the younger man's lips with his own, muffling the tiny cries. One hand slipped downward, over the taut muscles of Alex's ass and pulled him into the hard warmth of his body.

"Do something for me Lexei," Mulder murmured against Alex's lips.

Alex's hands moved restlessly, up and down his lover's back. "What?"

"Fuck me."

Alex's hands stilled and Mulder could feel his body tense. He kissed the younger man's chin, moving to his throat, then rested his head upon his shoulder.

"Please? It's been so long since I've felt you inside me..."

"Fox....Fox, I..."

Mulder slid down, brushing every inch of Alex's body, along the way. He settled on his knees, before the younger man, and wrapped his arms around Alex's legs. He rested his cheek against the solid bulge in his lover's pants. "I need you, Lexei." He rubbed his face against Alex's crotch. "Please."

Alex ran a trembling hand through Fox's hair. "God, don't do this to me," he whispered in a barely audible voice.

Mulder reached for the top button of Alex's pants and released it. Next, he pulled the zipper down and slipped his hand inside the slitted fold of his underwear. Alex's hips jerked reflexively as his lover's fingers curled around his rock-hard erection and pulled it free of the material. He lapped at the small bead of fluid that appeared at the tip.

Alex gritted his teeth and held himself up against the counter with one hand, while the other clenched in Mulder's hair.

"Lexei..." Mulder continued to tease the head of his lover's cock. "Baby..."

Alex summoned every last bit of resolve that he had left and pulled away from Mulder's mouth. Closing his eyes, he inhaled deeply. As he exhaled, he opened his eyes, to find his lover still on his knees, looking up at him. Waiting.

"Please, get up."

Mulder stroked the back of Alex's thigh. "Why?"

"I j...I...don't you want to go into the bedroom?"

Mulder remained on his knees for a moment, then rose to his feet. He studied his lover closely.

"No."

Alex's eyes shifted to his face, then slipped quickly away. "So, what do you..."

"Nothing. Forget it."

//Shit. Oh, damn.//

He reached out, grazing Mulder's arm with his fingertips. "No...no, Fox. I'm sorry, I didn't...I want to, I just..."

"No, you don't," Mulder said softly.

"I *do*. Please don't look at me, like that." Alex grasped Mulder's hand and tugged. "Let's go..."

Mulder stood his ground, shaking his head. "It's okay, Alex. Nevermind."

"*Nooo*..." Alex stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Mulder. He rubbed his cheek against the older man's and pressed his body into the one that stood stiffly before him. "I want you, Fox." He nuzzled and kissed Mulder's throat. "You know I do."

"I *don't* know that, Alex. I saw hesitation all over your face, a minute ago. I don't want to push you into anything you don't want to do."

"You're not pushing. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. Please, Fox. I'll do anything for you." Soft kisses rained over Mulder's face and neck. "Anything..."

"For me."

"Yes."

"Even if you don't want to."

"I told you, I *do*."

Mulder could see the spark of panic flickering in his eyes. He raised a hand to Alex's face, brushing his thumb over his cheekbone.

"I didn't mean to upset you," Alex croaked, as he slowly leaned forward, tentatively touching his lips to the other man's. "I didn't..."

Mulder brushed his mouth back and forth against Alex's. "I know."

"I'm sorry, Fox..."

"It's okay..."

"I'm..."

Mulder covered Alex's mouth with his own, cutting him off in mid-sentence. If he heard one more _I'm sorry,, he believed he'd go mad.

Alex immersed himself in his lover's kiss, grateful that Fox wasn't angry with him and determined to do nothing to change that. His hands traveled up the front of Mulder's shirt and started undoing the buttons. The moment he got the last one unbuttoned, Mulder pulled the shirt off and started on his. When both men were naked from the waist up, Mulder moved quickly, ridding them both of the rest of their clothing. He led Alex over to the kitchen table and pushed him against it.

"Up."

Alex shot him a confused look. "But I thought you wanted..."

"I changed my mind." Mulder rubbed his hand up Alex's chest to his neck. He stopped halfway and closed his fingers around the younger man's throat, tightening them to the point of mild discomfort. "I want you on the table. Now."

Alex's cock twitched at the low, commanding tone in his lover's voice. He leaned back against the edge of the table and pushed himself onto the burnished oak. The coolness of the wood felt good against his heated skin. He waited quietly, trying to swallow past the light pressure on his throat.

Mulder uncurled his fingers and moved his hand away. Smoky hazel eyes never left glazed green, as he stepped forward and slipped both hands between Alex's knees. He pushed the younger man's legs apart and moved between them. His hands glided up and down the well-muscled thighs as he pitched forward then stopped, his lips just shy of Alex's. "Move forward," he rasped, the vibration of his words, tickling Alex's mouth.

Alex obeyed without delay, then stopped, unsure of how far Mulder wanted him to go.

Mulder leaned back far enough to keep their lips from touching. "A little more."

Alex slid forward again.

"That's good." Mulder ran a hand through Alex's hair and tilted his head back. "Now, lay back."

More soothing coolness spread over the length of Alex's back as he lay on the table. Mulder tucked his hand under his knees and lifted. Alex needed no instruction. He immediately wrapped his legs around Mulder's waist.

Mulder looked down at his lover, on his back, on their kitchen table. Eyelids half closed, the thick sable lashes shading glittering, forest green. His lips, so soft and inviting, parted to allow the heavy breaths an exit. Christ, he was fucking beautiful. And though Mulder knew that this was wrong, this...one-way encounter, he couldn't resist. He reached down and ran two fingers over the head of Alex's dripping cock, forcing himself to ignore the soft grunt, then brought the fingers to his own cock, combining Alex's fluids with his own. He spread the slickness over as much of the surface of his cock as he could, then guided it to his lover's ass.

Alex arched up off of the table as Mulder drove into him. His eyes flew open at the brief flash of pain, then settled back into their half-mast position, as pleasure quickly replaced the discomfort.

Mulder pumped relentlessly into his lover's body, repeatedly pulling Alex's ass hard, against his own hips. He tried to keep his eyes open. He wanted to be looking at his Lexei, when he came, but it was impossible. It was as if weights were attached to his eyelids and they slipped shut.

Alex scratched at the smooth wood, struggling to keep from wrapping his hand around his throbbing cock, as Mulder jerked his body back and forth across the table.

"Alex," Mulder moaned. "Oh, *Jesus*..."

Alex whimpered as his lover tightened his hold on his hips and slammed into him. The heavy table groaned in protest, then gave in to the force of Mulder's thrusts, sliding a fraction at a time, in a forward direction.

"It's....I'm...oh God, Alex...oh God..."

Mulder's harsh groans filled the kitchen as he emptied himself into his lover, then collapsed onto his chest.

Alex's legs fell away from Mulder's waist and hung over the side of the table. He lay rigidly beneath the weight of his exhausted lover, praying that Mulder would recover enough to move off of him. His still very erect cock was now trapped between their bodies and any second now, he was going to break...

As if he'd heard Alex's thoughts, Mulder lifted himself on weak arms, above the younger man. As he rose, Alex pulled himself up into a sitting position. Mulder glanced down at the other man's continued state of arousal and felt a knot tighten in his stomach. He raised weary eyes to his lover's face.

"Lexei..."

Alex moved slowly off of the table and picked up his pants. As he put them on, he spoke softly. There was definite pain behind the forced lightness in his tone.

"Why don't you go take a shower and go to bed? You look so tired."

"What about you?"

Alex buttoned and zippered his pants, then slipped his shirt on. "The cakes still has a few minutes to go. I'll clean up, take them out of the oven, then I'll be in." He walked up to Mulder and handed him his clothes. The two men stared quietly at each other for a moment. Alex was the first to break eye contact.

"Are you all right?" Mulder asked softly.

Alex nodded and gave him a trace of a smile.

"Alex..."

"I'm fine. Better, now that we're okay?"

Mulder's gaze fell away from Alex's for a moment, but rose up again, quickly.

//Okay? Jesus Christ, how can *we* be okay, when *you're* not okay?//

He nodded and slid one arm around Alex, pulling him close.

"You won't be too long?"

"No."

Mulder kissed the side of Alex's head and released him. He exited the kitchen, leaving the younger man standing alone, by the table that was now, going to need a thorough cleaning. Alex moved slowly, taking care of the table and the rest of the kitchen. When the cake was done, he removed the pans from the oven, covered them and retreated to the bathroom. Five minutes later, he was shivering under an icy cold spray.

//Stupid, fuck. You almost blew it, this time. You could have pushed him away for good. You're so fucking lucky, you know that? Not that you deserve to have any luck...//

His erection subsided and shrank but it wasn't until almost ten minutes after that, that Mulder's voice startled him into shutting the water off. He stepped out of the shower and quickly wrapped a towel around his waist. Mulder stood in the doorway, staring at him.

"I thought you'd be asleep by now."

"I'll go to sleep when you come to bed," came the soft reply.

"Just let me brush my teeth and I'll be right there."

Mulder glanced around the bathroom, frowning, then looked back to Alex. "Okay." He turned from the doorway and headed back to the bedroom. He slipped under the sheet and propped himself up against the pillows.

No humidity. Clear mirror.

Alex had taken a cold shower.

Mulder had given some thought to the fact that Alex may have been relieving himself afterward, but that thought, little comfort that it was, just got tossed right out the window.

//Jesus Christ, Lexei...what do I do? How do I get through to you?//

As Mulder contemplated this new revelation, Alex moved silently into the dark room. He felt the gentle depression of the mattress and Alex slide over beside him.

"I hope the cake didn't fall."

"Just a little bit. Nothing that can't be camouflaged."

Mulder turned his head in Alex's direction and studied his lover's profile. "Alex."

"Hmm?"

He opened his mouth but no sound would come out.

Alex looked over at him. "What is it?"

Mulder closed his mouth and sighed heavily.

The younger man pressed himself against Mulder's side, wrapping an arm around his waist and resting his head against his shoulder. A sliver of fear tightened his chest. "Fox?"

Mulder brought a hand up to Alex's back and stroked it's length. "Nothing, Lexei. I just...I..." He couldn't stop the words. Couldn't stop hoping that sooner or later, they'd really sink in and mean to Alex, what they used to. "I love you."

Alex made a conscious effort to keep his muscles relaxed. He closed his eyes, turning his face into Mulder's chest. He nuzzled the light sprinkling of hair, then kissed the warm skin. "I love *you*."

Sensing Alex's struggle, Mulder's hand began to move in firm circles, across his back and shoulders, soothing and massaging the taut muscles.

To his surprise, Alex found himself relaxing under Fox's loving caress. Soon, a calm blackness surrounded him and he dropped heavily, into unconsciousness.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Ten forty-two.

Holy shit.

Alex blinked and sat up. His hand automatically went to the vacant spot beside him. Cold. Fox had been up for a while.

He slipped out of bed and headed into the bathroom. Still, no Fox. He shrugged off his lover's absence, assuming that he was simply somewhere else in the house, and turned on the shower.

Twenty minutes later, Alex swung the kitchen door open and glanced around. Everything was in its place, except for the note on the table. He walked over and looked down at the hastily scribbled message.

'babe,
Got a call about the murder case. Should only be a couple of hours. Love you,
F,

Alex drummed his fingers on the oak as he thought.

//Okay. A couple of hours usually means, three or four. So, I guess I'd better start preparing, earlier.//

He threw the note away and, grabbing a Pop Tart, went to work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex covered the soda and beer with ice and closed the cooler lid. He looked down at his watch.

Three twenty-two and he hadn't so much as received a phone call from Fox. He'd thought of calling the cell, but Fox had left without it, this morning. Alex found it on the seat cushion of the sofa, while he was straightening up.

//Come on Fox, call. I'm getting worried.//

Worried for his lover's safety *and* worried about the fact that their guests would be arriving soon. And knowing Skinner's penchant for punctuality, *he'd* be the first to arrive.

//Oh, that'd be interesting. Me and Skinner, alone. Can we say, *uncomfortable*?"//

He walked the perimeter of the yard, insuring that all of the citronella torches were full, when he heard the phone ringing in the house. He broke into a sprint, and entering the house, snatched the phone up from the coffee table.

"Hello?"

"Hi."

"God, Fox." He took a deep breath and released it. "I was getting worried."

"I know, I figured you would be. I forgot my cell phone at home."

"Yeah, I found it on the couch. You okay?"

"Fine. This just ran *way* longer than I thought it would. There was so much information to check and double check. I'll be home in a little while."

"Okay. Everything's ready."

"Thanks, babe. I'm really sorry..."

"It's fine. Just drive carefully and I'll see you soon."

"Bye."

Alex hung up and breathed a sigh of relief. He walked into the kitchen to make some last minute checks. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The ringing doorbell just about scared Alex out of his skin. He checked his watch as he walked to the door.

Five thirty-one.

//Shit, shit, shit. It's him, I just know it's him...//

Alex took a deep breath and opened the door.

Walter Skinner stood on the other side of the threshold, holding a bottle of...something, and glaring at the man who'd just opened the door.

"Krycek."

//How the hell does he *do* that? His jaw never moves...//

Alex nodded his greeting and stepped aside, allowing the man to enter.

Skinner brushed past him, looking around. "Where's Mulder?"

Heavy sigh. "He's not here."

Skinner spun on his heel. His eyes narrowed on the younger man. "Where *is* he?"

"Actually, he should have been home by now. He left the house this morning on some call about that serial murder case and hasn't come back, yet."

"Have you heard from him?"

"Yeah. Two hours ago, he said he'd be here, soon..."

Skinner scowled, and took another look around. "Have you tried calling him?"

"Can't. He forgot his cell phone."

"Great," the older man mumbled under his breath. He turned piercing eyes back on Alex. "Scully here?"

"Nobody is here, yet..."

Skinner jerked his head away.

"But I'm sure somebody'll show up, soon." //*Please*, somebody show up, soon...// "Uh...you want a beer or something?"

"No."

//Afraid I'll poison you?//

"Well, you wanna," Alex waved his hand between Skinner and the direction of the yard, "follow me out to the patio? Have a seat?"

Skinner hesitated for a moment, weighing his options. Follow the son of a bitch, or turn around and leave. His upper lip twitched as he considered Mulder. The man was an agent of the FBI, under *his* direction, but they'd been through far more shit together than most bosses and employees, and they'd developed a bond of friendship as a result.

He remembered the day Mulder had shown up on his doorstep to *talk*. An unexplainable feeling of dread settled over him as he invited his agent in. He recalled having the need to sit down, as Mulder revealed his purpose for being there. He sat quietly, allowing Mulder to say everything he had to say. When Mulder had finished, he remained silent. The other man had just dropped a bombshell in his lap and he was torn between his duty as Assistant Director and his feelings as a friend. Friendship won out, though Mulder's choice of a partner disturbed him beyond words. Alex Krycek was the last name in the world that Skinner would ever have expected to come out of Mulder's mouth, but come out, it did.

After the initial shock, Skinner composed himself and confronted Mulder's admission. He pulled no punches with his friend, explaining that he would *never* like or trust Krycek, but if he was Mulder's choice, then somehow, he'd come to terms with it.

Well, it'd taken over a year and a half, but here it was. It was time. He'd come this far. If he turned back now, he had no doubt it would adversely affect his friendship with Mulder and he didn't want that. He raked a critical eye over the young man standing at a safe distance.

Krycek cleaned up good, he admitted grudgingly to himself. The bastard apparently still had a thing for black, though. Black pleated pants, black silk shirt, tucked neatly inside. His eyes flicked up to Alex's face. The silver hoop in his ear stood out against the tanned skin, as did the green of his eyes. Skinner fought back the sudden urge to beat the shit out of him. Instead, he waved Alex on, following the younger man out to the patio. He took a seat and handed Alex the bottle of wine.

"I'll go put this on ice," Alex said, grateful for the chance to get away, if even for a minute.

"Come on Fox, come on...please..." he muttered to himself, as he dumped the bottle and some ice into a bucket. He walked slowly back to the yard, hoping, praying that the front door would open before he got there.

No damn such luck.

Alex dropped into the farthest chair from Skinner's, nervously drumming his fingers on the table. Skinner was the first to speak.

"Nice place."

"Thanks."

A short stretch of silence.

"Thanks for coming."

Skinner shrugged. "I like Langly and the guys. And I'm here for Mulder."

"I know. It means a lot to him."

Skinner's eyes narrowed. He wondered if he'd just imagined the softness in Krycek's tone as he spoke of Mulder.

"Do you really care?"

Alex looked up at him. "Of course, I do."

Skinner gave a barely perceptible nod. He scanned the yard, then his eyes fell back on Alex. "You look as though you've adjusted well to civilized living."

Alex waited a number of seconds then, "But?"

"Is there a but?"

"Seems like you've got something more to say."

Skinner sat back in the chair and folded his hands in his lap. "I'm just wondering."

"About?"

"Is it really possible for a hired thug...a cold blooded killer, to completely turn his life around in the course of a couple of years?"

Alex dropped his gaze to the table and said nothing.

"I'm going to say this once, Krycek, then I'll never say it again..."

Alex looked up, noting the deadly serious tone of his voice.

"You ever pull anything dirty and I promise you, there won't be anyplace in the world that you can hide."

Just as Skinner finished his threat, the doorbell rang. Alex rose from his seat and left the patio without excusing himself. He went to the door and swung it open. Scully stood on the other side, with Frohike, Langly and Byers behind her.

"Hey!" She shoved the promised lasagna at him and strode in. The three men followed closely behind her.

"Hi, Scully." Alex nodded at the men behind her. "Guys." Then to the scrawny blonde. "Happy birthday, Langly."

"Yeah." Langly inched closer to Frohike, who eased closer to Scully. "Uh, thanks."

Byers surveyed the room. "Where's Mulder?"

"He's not here."

Scully raised one red eyebrow. "Not here?"

Alex explained the situation.

"Well, no wonder you don't look too happy," Scully said. "I believe I'd be a little ticked off, myself."

"I'm not mad. I'm a little worried..."

"Let's give him a little longer. Then I'll go looking for him."

"How about you tell *me* where to look, and you can stay and entertain Skinner."

"Is...he's here?"

Alex nodded.

Scully pointed in the direction of the patio. "Out there?"

Another nod.

"How long?"

"Twenty two minutes, fifteen and a quarter seconds."

"That had to be uncomfortable."

"Just a little."

"Okay well, fellas? Why don't you just mosey out to the patio? We'll be out there in a minute."

As soon as the trio was gone, Scully turned her attention to Alex. "You've been here alone with Skinner for almost half an hour? You have *got* to be furious with Mulder."

Alex turned toward the kitchen with Scully close on his heels. "He's doing his job, Scully."

"Come on, Alex. You know and I know, that it probably isn't anything that couldn't wait till Monday. Tomorrow, even. But he gets engrossed in something, and everything else fades into the background."

Alex remained silent, as he placed the lasagna in the oven to warm it.

"What did Skinner have to say?"

"Nothing."

"You sat in silence for over twenty minutes?"

"Not completely."

"It's that *not completely* that's got me worried. What'd he say?"

Alex shrugged. "He just made a couple of observations...gave me a little advice..."

"Advice...Alex, what did he say?"

"He's a good friend to Fox. I appreciate that."

Realizing that an attempt to get any more information out of Alex would be futile, Scully changed the subject.

"So...I've starved myself all day for this. What do you say we get some of this food out there?"

"Sure. We can't keep everyone waiting forever, can we?"

Scully laid a sympathetic hand on Alex's arm. "He's okay. I'm sure he'll be walking in, any minute."

*Any minute* turned into five, then fifteen, then twenty. Five of the people seated around the table made light conversation, while they ate. The sixth sat quietly, moving his food around on his plate, glancing from time to time, into the living room. Scully sympathized with Alex's mood, not to mention his discomfort, and repeatedly attempted in draw him into the conversation, but had limited success in pulling many responses from him.

The sound of the front door being opened a few moments later, drew everyone's attention. Mulder walked through the living room and out to the patio, looking very much like a little boy, in big trouble.

"Hi everybody. Sorry I wasn't home when you got here. Time really got away from me."

"Mulder, where the heck have you been?" Scully demanded, from her seat next to Alex.

"I think I've got some new information in this serial murder case, but we can talk about that, later." He reached out and slapped Langly on the back. "Happy birthday, Langly."

"Thanks, dude."

Mulder smiled at his friend, then nodded in Skinner's direction. "I'm glad to see you could make it."

Skinner nodded back. "Of course, I'll expect a report on my desk on Monday."

"Right." Mulder glanced over at Alex. He grimaced, noting the expression that his lover was trying hard to mask. He moved to Alex's side and cautiously squatted beside his chair. "I'm sorry Lexei," he began, oblivious to the look of disgust on Skinner's face, at hearing the endearment. "After I called you, I ran into the detective in charge of the case and we started talking and..."

"It's okay," Alex interrupted softly.

"I can't blame you for being upset."

"I'm not," the other man protested not so convincingly. "I was just worried about you."

Mulder placed a hand on Alex thigh and stroked lightly. "I'm sorry," he mouthed.

Alex gave him a slight nod and a weak smile.

"I'll be back in a few minutes, okay?"

Another nod.

As he rose, Mulder cupped the back of Alex's head and pressed his lips to his forehead. He then turned to the rest of the group, who were doing their best to ignore the little scene. "I'm gonna go grab a quick shower. I'll be back in a few."

Once he was gone, Scully attempted to fill the silence that had descended on the patio.

"I almost forgot, Alex. I talked to my mother this morning and she told me to remind you about your lunch date, next week."

For the first time so far that evening, Scully saw a tiny flash of happiness in Alex's eyes.

"I haven't forgotten."

After her initial disappointment in finding out that Mulder would never be her son-in-law, Margaret Scully met and took an immediate liking to Alex. With both of her sons so far away, she'd sort of informally adopted Mulder, and now Alex.

Alex was a bit apprehensive at first. He hadn't had a mother figure in his life for a good twenty years or so, but Margaret's easy-going manner and doting concern, won him over, quickly.

Margaret immediately saw past and worked her way around the young man's defenses. She reached inside, seeing into his heart as only Fox had been able to do, and she knew not the Alex Krycek that he'd presented to the world, but the real man. The one who wanted to be trusted and loved and who wanted so desperately to trust and love in return.

"Tell her I'll give her a call on Monday, okay?"

"Will do."

The other men listened to the conversation, dumbfounded. Alex glanced around, noting the looks on the four faces and quickly lowered his head.

"I'll um...I'll go check and see if that lasagna is warm enough, yet."

Alex slid his chair back and quietly entered the house.

Frohike was first to speak his mind.

"You let your mother have lunch alone with *him*?"

Scully jumped to Alex's defense. "And why not?"

"*Because*!"

"Good reason, Frohike. Look, Alex happens to be very close to my mother. She treats him like a son...just like she does, Mulder."

"Mulder, *yeah*...but him?"

"My mother happens to think that Alex is very sweet."

Skinner muttered from his seat at the far end of the table. "Yeah, sweet like a cobra."

"That's not true. You guys really need to cut him some slack, you know? He's had a rough few days. Can't you please just be nice?"

Langly spoke up. "So, what *is* up with Boris? I did notice that he doesn't really seem to be himself."

"Yeah," Byers concurred. "He hasn't tried to scare either of these guys, since we got here."

"*Alex* does that in fun, because he knows that Frohike and Langly are afraid of him. If they would just treat him like a regular person instead of some kind of evil, butcher knife wielding lunatic, they'd find him to be quite normal and very likeable."

Langly repeated his question. "So why's he so quiet?"

"I told you, he's had a rough few days. He'll be fine."

"Well, I just wanted to know...you know what they say about quiet people. What if he suddenly snaps? Mulder could come back out here and find us all drowning in our own blood."

"For God's sake, Langly. Don't you ever have times when you're not quite up to par?"

"Yeah..."

"So, why can't Alex? He's *fine*. Just be a little more sociable, would you? You *are* in his house.."

"Mulder's house."

"Mulder and *Alex's* house. I don't know what gives you guys the idea..."

"I'm back." Mulder spoke purposefully, making all aware that he knew what was being discussed. He looked around. "Where's Alex?"

Scully nodded in his direction. "He's checking on the lasagna."

Mulder nodded and pushed away from the doorframe. "Thanks, Scully." He spun in the other direction and headed off toward the kitchen.

Alex stood at the counter, staring down into the lasagna. His right hand closed loosely on the handle of the knife, tracing the perimeter of the pan. Through the thick veil of his lashes, he saw movement. Though the figure was blurred, he had no trouble recognizing it as his lover. Mulder's presence had a feel all its own and Alex knew it well. He stopped his repetitious action and began to cut into the lasagna. He looked up, giving Mulder the brightest smile he could manage.

"Smells good, huh?"

Mulder approached slowly, and stopped Alex's hand. With his hand firmly encircling the younger man's wrist, he removed the knife and placed it down on the counter.

Alex's eyes rose to meet Mulder's gold-splashed stare.

"If you're upset with me Alex, say so."

Alex's eyes fell away from his face. "I t...I told you that I wasn't. I was just really worried about you. You could have been in an accident or *shot* or..."

Mulder broke in. "Or insensitive, or unthinking, or..."

Alex shook his head.

"Who got here, first?"

Alex's voice dropped to near zero volume. "Skinner."

"How long was he here, before Scully arrived?"

"A little over twenty minutes."

"Bet it seemed like an eternity."

Alex shrugged.

"Look, Alex, I know Skinner, and I know he came here with no intentions to become your best buddy. I'm sure that spending twenty minutes with him wasn't the most fun you've ever had. I'm so sorry you had to go through that, alone. I should have been here."

"Fox, this case is important. If you can stop this nut before he kills again..."

"I could have had that stuff faxed to me. Or at the very least, gone out there, gathered the information, come home, and worked on it, here. *That's* where the case is. All that talking I did with investigators, will have no real bearing."

"You didn't know that until you talked to them."

"Still..."

Alex rubbed Mulder's forearm. "It's okay," he said, forcing the cheeriness into his voice. "I'm just happy you're home."

"You didn't look the least bit happy when I walked out onto the patio a little while ago."

Alex spun away from the older man, startling him. "What do you want from me, Fox? Do you want me yell at you and throw a tantrum? Would you feel better, then?"

Mulder's voice raised a bit. "Maybe I would, yeah! Then I'd know that you were alive!"

Alex paused for two beats, then turned around to face Mulder. He took a step forward and laid both hands on the other man's chest, stroking erratically, with one. "I'm sorry, Fox..."

Mulder rolled his eyes up and closed his lids over them. His jaw clenched and unclenched.

"I didn't mean to snap at you..."

"Alex..."

"Don't be mad at me..."

Mulder raised his hands to Alex's back and pulled him into a gentle embrace. "I'm not mad at you," he said, trying to reassure his panicked lover.

//How the hell did this get turned around? *I* should be worried about *him* being mad...//

Alex buried his face into the side of Mulder's neck and held on to him, tightly.

"It's okay Lexei," Mulder whispered into his hair. "I'm not mad, *really*. "It's okay." He held Alex for a while longer, then pushed him away, not quite as gently as he'd intended to. "Come on, now. Let's get back outside. They're going to be wondering what happened to us."

Mulder caught the wounded expression as Alex nodded and turned to cut the lasagna. He moved up behind him and draped an arm across his chest. He kissed the back of the younger man's neck.

"Hey."

"What?"

"Did I tell you how handsome you look tonight?"

Alex rubbed his head against Mulder's cheek, but gave no answer.

"Did you wear this for me?"

"I know you like black..."

"I like black when *you're* in it." He cupped Alex's cheek and turned him into a long, sweet kiss.

The knife clattered to the tiled counter and Alex turned to face his lover, their mouths never losing contact. Alex wrapped his arms around Mulder's neck and the older man deepened the kiss.

Alex's body screamed at him. To push it farther. To stop it. To drop to his knees and pull Fox's zipper down...

"Oh God, get a room, would you?"

Both men broke off the kiss simultaneously and looked toward the door. Scully leaned against the frame, grinning. "I just came out to make sure you weren't killing each other. I should have known better."

"Sorry Scully," Mulder looked back to Alex, drawing his fingertips down his cheek. "He's just so damn hard to resist."

Alex's eyes closed momentarily, then the heavy lashes lifted. "We uh...should get out there."

Mulder nodded, still holding his lover's eyes with his own.

Scully rolled her eyes and stepped forward. She picked the abandoned knife up and finished cutting the lasagna. "Okay, let's go." She picked up the pan and bustled out of the room.

Mulder took Alex by the hand and led him through the doors, after Scully.

"We were kinda finding it hard to believe that you got lost in your own house, Mulder."

"Yeah Frohike, okay..."

Scully set the pan down and started to serve. Alex took the seat he'd had, next to Scully's, and Mulder took the seat next to his, pulling the chair over until the arms touched. He interwove his fingers with Alex's and pulled the younger man's hand up to his mouth for a kiss. And another.

"This is a nice place, Mulder."

"Huh?"

The impatient baritone sounded again. "Very nice house. Very tastefully decorated."

"Thanks." Mulder's eyes left Alex's and came to rest on Skinner. They sparkled with pride. "Alex did a good portion of the work and he picked out all the furniture and whatnot."

Skinner pressed his lips together and fell silent.

//Wonderful. The Martha Stewart of the underworld...//

For the next half hour, the small group ate and talked, laughing at the occasional joke or comment. Even Skinner seemed in better humor, cracking the rare smile. Alex stayed close to Mulder, quiet, reserved, speaking only when spoken to, then retreating back into himself.

When it started to rain not long after they'd finished eating, everyone ran for cover. Scully insisted that Mulder stay in the living room with the others, while she helped Alex get everything put away in the kitchen.

"Everything okay?" she asked after a few minutes of silence.

"Okay?"

"Yeah. With you and Mulder. Things sure *seemed* okay when I walked in on you earlier..."

"Everything's fine."

"You're sure?"

"Yeah." Alex began putting all the food away, while Scully stacked the dishwasher. She closed the door and turned the appliance on, then stood watching as Alex shoved the last of the leftovers into the refrigerator. She wasn't sure she believed him, but what could she do? It was pointless to push him. Nobody put up walls faster than Alex...except maybe Mulder. She made a mental note to time them one day and compare.

When they finished, Scully led the way back into the living room, where she took a seat between Byers and Langly on one of the two sofas. Skinner and Frohike sat diagonally from the facing sofas and across from each other, in single wingbacks. Alex sank to the floor, beside Mulder, who was seated on the other sofa. He leaned into the older man's leg, seeking the comfort of contact. Sensing Alex's need, Mulder combed a hand through his lover's hair. Listened to the soft purring sound that his action triggered and wished suddenly that they were alone.

"I feel like playing Monopoly," Scully blurted out, interrupting a conversation between Skinner and Byers. Skinner snapped his head around.

"Where'd *that* come from?"

Scully shrugged. "I just feel like playing Monopoly. Who's up for it?"

"Oooh! I haven't played that in years!" Frohike waggled his bushy eyebrows at Scully. Wanna play in teams, Scully? I'll be your partner..."

"I never was very good at it, but I'll be the banker," Byers volunteered. "Keep you all honest..."

Langly leaned forward. "Are you insinuating they we're cheaters?"

Byers pitched forward in his seat as well, meeting the other man's eyes. "Some of you are, *yes*."

Frohike jumped in. "Listen, narc..."

Mulder watched the argument, an amused smirk twitching at the corners of his mouth.

"Settle down fellas," Skinner mumbled. "I'm in. Mulder?"

Mulder shrugged, still petting the sable head by his leg. "I guess." He leaned close to Alex's ear. "Lexei?"

The younger man looked up at him. Damn, his eyes were that shade of green again, and his mouth...his mouth was only inches away...

"Okay."

"I'll get it." Scully popped out of her chair and moved off in the direction of the hall closet.

Mulder moved in closer, whispering softly. "Let's kick their asses and get em the hell out of here."

The close proximity of his lover's mouth, tempted Alex to tilt his head up for a kiss, but he quickly checked himself. As he backed off a fraction, Mulder's hand at the back of head, stopped him. He looked up into the other man's eyes, seeing something that couldn't exactly be classified as anger, but some emotion close to it. The hand pulled him back and Mulder's lips tenderly covered his, catching him by surprise.

Just as the younger man began to melt into the kiss, Mulder pulled away just long enough to tip his head from left to right and cover his lips once again.

His point. To the occupants of the room and the man he was kissing...Alex was his. And he had no intention of ignoring or hiding that fact. And the people in his life had better recognize and accept that.

Mulder finally broke the kiss, leaving Alex flushed and just a bit out of breath. He gave his lover another brief, chastising look and slid down to the floor beside him. The younger man pushed over until their legs touched, then rested his head on Mulder's shoulder.

Seemingly satisfied, Mulder laid his hand against Alex's face, stroking his cheek with his thumb. He scattered a number of kisses in the dark hair.

Scully returned with the game, startling the other men out of their fascinated observance of the scene. She placed the box down on the coffee table and began to set up the board. "Okay you losers," she sang, "prepare to get beaten like you've never been beaten before."

Byers picked up the money and began distributing the proper amount to each team. "You're pretty confident."

"Melissa and I used to beat the pants off of my brothers when we were kids."

Mulder smirked at her. "Yeah well, that was a long time ago and *we're* not you brothers."

"You're *still* gonna lose."

"Okay. We might have showed you some mercy, but since you want to be arrogant about it..."

Half an hour into the game, an argument broke out between Frohike and Langly.

"Hey! Where do you think you're going? You can't get out of jail, *yet*."

"Sure I can. This is my third try. On your third try, you can pay your money and get out."

"This is only your *second*."

"It is not! If you'd pay attention to the game and stop trying to smell Scully's hair, you'd *know* that."

Mulder covered his eyes and laid his head back against the seat cushion of the sofa. "I need a drink."

Alex rubbed the older man's thigh. "I'll get you something. What do you want?"

Mulder opened his eyes and squinted up at Alex. "Uh...vodka and orange?"

Alex nodded and hoisted himself to his feet. "Anybody want anything to drink?" After he memorized all the requests, he disappeared into the kitchen and came back sometime later, with a large tray full of various drinks and a big bowl of Doritos. As he was setting the bowl down, he noticed Mulder, rolling his head back and forth, across his shoulders. Alex set the emptied tray aside and sat on the sofa, directly behind his lover. He swung one long leg over Mulder's head so that the older man now sat between his legs.

Mulder's eyes dropped shut and a long sigh escaped his lips, as he felt Alex's warm hands begin to rub and caress his shoulders and upper back, making the occasional foray up the back of his neck, to ruffle the golden-brown hair and massage his scalp.

As the game resumed, Alex worked slowly and silently, loosening his lover's knotted muscles. When he felt Mulder completely relax, he ceased his ministrations and leaned in to murmur in his ear.

"Better?"

Mulder tipped his head back to meet his lover's eye. "Better."

Just as their lips touched, that irritated baritone interrupted.

"Come on Mulder, it's you turn."

Mulder took the time to plant another brief kiss on Alex's mouth, before turning his attention back to the game. When he had finished moving their piece around the board, Alex wrapped his arms loosely around his chest and shoulders and rubbed his face against the lightly stubbled one to his right.

Mulder reached up, raking his fingers through his lover's hair, again and again. He smiled as he felt Alex's lips, soft and moist against his cheek, skimming the line of his jaw...teasing his ear. The urge to throw Alex onto his back and do him right there on the sofa was strong, but Mulder kept his guests in mind and managed to suppress his desire.

Despite the distraction, Skinner and Langly won, prompting another argument between Langly and Frohike.

"Aren't you ashamed of yourself, cheating at Monopoly?"

"You're calling us cheaters?"

"No, I'm calling *you* a cheater. How *else* do you explain it?"

"Uh...you *suck*?"

"Kiss off, hippie jerk." Frohike nodded in the direction of the other two men. "What about them? You beat them, too!" He singled Alex out. "As ruthless as *he* is, you *had* to have cheated..."

Frohike meant nothing insulting by the remark, but Mulder could feel the slight sag of Alex's body, behind him. He moved up to the sofa and wound an arm around Alex's waist, pulling the younger man back against him.

"Okay, okay," Scully jumped in. "I'm as shocked as anybody that I didn't win, but hey. That's life. Come on you guys, it's late. Let's get out of here."

After the game was put away and everyone was supplied with a doggie bag, the guests began to file out the door.

"Thanks for the party," Langly directed his conversation mostly at Mulder, only occasionally sending Alex a brief glance.

"You're welcome. See you soon."

Scully gave both men a hug and stepped back. "Thanks guys. See you later."

Alex nodded. "Thanks for cooking, Scully. The lasagna was excellent."

"How would *you* know?"

The others said their good-byes and left, leaving Skinner standing with the two men at the door. Mulder spoke.

"I hope this isn't the first and last time you visit."

Skinner opened his mouth, then closed it again. He glanced at Alex, looked back at Mulder, then spoke. "I'm uh...sorry it took me so long to get here."

Not exactly a direct answer, but it wasn't a negative response, either.

Mulder nodded. "See you Monday."

Skinner turned narrowed eyes on Alex once more and nodded. "Krycek."

"Goodnight," Alex replied softly.

Skinner walked away and Alex closed the front door. He was immediately spun around and slammed up against it. Before he could take a breath, his lover's lips came down, hard and insistent on his.

"I've been waiting all night to get my hands on you," Mulder growled into Alex's mouth as he practically ripped the younger man's shirt open.

Alex writhed against him, returning his kisses with equal passion. "I know. I could feel it every time you touched me. Let me relieve some of that tension for you..."

"Alex..."

Alex moved away from his lips, nipping his way down his throat. He cupped the older man's ass and pulled him forward, grinding their erections together. "Let me..."

"Let's go to bed, Lexei..."

"You want to wait that long?" Alex turned them both around, reversing their positions. Mulder sagged against the door and moaned as his lover ran a hand down his chest and let it rest on his crotch. "You're so hard, Fox. Have you been this hard all night?"

Mulder grimaced and nodded.

Alex unbuckled Mulder's belt, then undid his pants, sliding them down to the floor. He stroked the older man through his underwear. "A little better but not perfect, is it?" Not waiting for an answer, he pulled the boxer-briefs down, releasing his lover's throbbing erection. He touched the glistening tip with one finger, then brought it up to his lips.

Mulder watched entranced, as Alex closed his eyes and licked the bead of moisture away. As soon as the younger man's finger left his mouth, Mulder took its place, drawing Alex into another hard kiss. One hand made its way down to Alex's pants but was immediately stopped before it could undo the button.

"I want to undress you, Lexei..."

Alex gave no answer. He simply slid to his knees and engulfed the head of Mulder's cock in his mouth. Mulder's head fell back against the door and a quick gasp escaped his lips.

"Lexei...don't....wait.....wait, please....don't.....aww, *shit*!"

His thoughts jumbled and his words slurred into unintelligible sounds of pleasure as Alex sucked him completely into his mouth, then withdrew slowly.

When again, only the head remained in his mouth, Alex swirled his tongue around it, then gently probed the small opening. The low, feral moans coming from above his head, told Alex that Fox was past the point of argument. He relaxed his throat and swallowed his lover's cock, to the base.

Mulder cried out, arching into Alex's mouth. One hand gripped the doorknob behind him and the other clenched in the sable hair as he struggled to maintain his balance.

Alex sucked harder, drawing louder moans from his lover. He brought one hand around to the front, fondling the heavy sac that hung below Mulder's cock and at the same time, gauging just how close the older man was to orgasm.

Mulder was very close as it turned out, and from his frenzied movements and heavy respiration, Alex determined that it was time to take him all the way.

Mulder's rumbling sobs echoed through the otherwise silent house, as his orgasm hit. Alex sucked him dry, then lovingly cleaned him with his tongue as the older man leaned trembling, against the door. When he was finished, he rose to his feet and met Mulder's eyes, which were just beginning to open.

The two men stood staring, reading each other, then Mulder's eyes fell away and he bent to pull up his pants. When he straightened, he looked back at Alex, who frowned at the expression that now filled his lover's eyes.

"If this is the way it's going to be," Mulder began softly, "don't touch me again."

For a moment, Alex could do little more than watch, stunned, as Mulder moved past him and out of the room. Eventually, he regained enough composure to turn off the lights and follow the older man into the bedroom. He arrived in the empty room, then heard the shower go on. He seated himself at the edge of the bed and waited until Mulder emerged from the bathroom, clad in a pair of black boxer-briefs and matching tank. Alex watched as the older man moved silently to the closet, withdrawing two pillows and a light blanket.

"What are you doing?" he croaked, almost afraid to ask.

"I'm going to sleep in the office." Mulder did not meet Alex's eye as he walked past the bed and out of the room.

Alex's head began to spin.

//No. *No*.//

He followed Mulder down the hall and into the office.

"Fox. Don't. Don't do this. Please? Come to bed."

"I can't, Alex. I'm tired." He dropped the pillows onto the sofa, then spread the blanket. "I'm tired of this." He looked up, into frightened green eyes. The sight ripped into his heart, but he continued. He had to. "I want *my* Alex back. *All* of him. Not just the bits and pieces that you see fit to dole out. Until I can have all of you, the way you *were*..." He shook his head and sat down at the edge of the sofa.

Alex approached and dropped to his knees. He moved to wrap his arms around his angry lover. "I'm sorry, Fox."

Mulder grasped Alex's upper arms and firmly pulled him away. "Go to bed, Alex."

Hurt joined fear. "I can't...I can't go to bed without you. I can't go to sleep, knowing that you're in here..."

"Try."

"Fox, *please*. I'll do anything you want..."

Mulder emitted a short, harsh laugh. "You don't get that part, do you, Alex? Doing *what I want*, won't make me happy. Our relationship used to be give and take. Now, it's only one-sided. Everything I want. Whatever *I* want. What about what *you* want? I can't *stand* the way you're punishing yourself. I told you and I *told* you...apparently my word doesn't mean jack shit, because you're still doing it. Well, I've had it. You know, I'm used to having my words fall on deaf ears. Very few people believe or even care about what I have to say, but I thought you were different.."

"I s-sorry, Fox...I'm..."

"You know," Mulder rasped, "if you say that one more time, I do believe I'll beat you."

Alex flinched as though he *had* been slapped. He stared wide-eyed at Fox, not knowing what to do.

Mulder swung his legs onto the sofa and flipped the blanket over himself. He turned onto his side, facing away from Alex. "Go to bed."

Alex hesitated for a moment, then slowly got to his feet. He moved to the door, then paused once more.

"Fox."

No response.

A light glaze covered one eye as Alex looked at the motionless form on the sofa. Seeing no other choice, he moved away from the door and down the hall, toward the bedroom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Eight seventeen.

Mulder lay awake, as he had been since last night.

The dull ache in his chest would not let him sleep. He'd never intentionally slept apart from Alex. The knowledge that his lover was lying alone and miserable in the bedroom, gnawed a hole straight through him.

Mulder rubbed his eyes, wincing at the burning, sandy feel.

It was Sunday. He probably should stay where he was and *try* to get a few hours sleep, but as long as things between him and Alex remained like this, he knew that sleep would be damn near impossible.

He flipped the blanket off and headed for the closed door. The moment he turned the knob and stepped out into the hall, the tempting smells of breakfast invaded his nostrils.

Breakfast?

He really expected that Alex would still be in the bedroom brooding, not out in the kitchen, cooking a full breakfast.

Mulder let out a long sigh and made for the bathroom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex looked up from the stove and watched as Mulder quietly entered the room. He was showered and clean shaven, but looked pretty much the same way Alex did. Like hell.

Bloodshot hazel eyes, met puffy green. Alex gave Mulder a tiny, shy smile. Receiving no response, he quickly dropped his gaze back to the stove. Mulder's voice regained his attention.

"You didn't have to do this."

"I always make you a big breakfast on Sunday."

"You must be tired. You don't look like you slept much."

"I'm okay."

An obvious lie. Mulder chose not to address it.

He seated himself at the table and pretended to read the paper, while Alex finished cooking. A few minutes later, breakfast was served. Both men sat silently picking at their food. Mulder waiting for a word...*something* from Alex that said he was ready to start dealing with this problem. But Alex wasn't talking. Not so much for lack of something to say, but more out of fear of saying the wrong thing.

When it had become obvious that nothing was going to get solved this morning, Mulder shoved his barely touched plate aside and pushed away from the table.

"I got some work to do," he announced softly. He started to turn away from the table, then stopped and turned back. "Sorry about breakfast."

Alex lowered his eyes to his hands, folded in his lap and gave a weak nod. Long after Mulder had gone, he sat staring at nothing in particular. Finally, he rose and began to clear away the dishes.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder lifted his glasses onto his forehead and rubbed the bridge of his nose.

//God, what a headache.//

He glanced down at his watch.

Four eleven.

His eyes rose to the door.

He hadn't heard a peep from Alex, all day. He wondered what he was doing. He missed him.

The soft knock startled him. Alex never knocked. Of course, he'd never closed the door before, either

"Yeah."

The door opened slowly and Alex drifted in. "I umm..." His eyes skittered all over the room as he spoke. "W-would you like some dinner? You haven't eaten all day."

"I'm not really hungry."

"You have to eat, Fox."

"Have *you*?"

Silence.

"A pizza would be fine with me. I'm really not up for any big meal."

"What time do you want it?"

"I don't know. An hour or so, I guess."

Alex nodded. He hesitated for a moment, then asked, "You almost through?"

Mulder turned back to face the computer. "Not really." He absently raised a hand to his own shoulder and massaged it.

//You *would* have been done hours ago, if you'd kept your mind on your work...//

Alex lingered in the doorway. Should he or shouldn't he? Finally, he took a few cautious steps forward and gently laid his hands on his lover's shoulders. "You should have taken a break," he murmured as his hands began to work out the kinks.

Mulder groaned softly and let his head fall forward.

//Oh God, that's good. So good, so....*good* to have his hands on me...//

And his mouth. So lightly brushing the back of Mulder's neck...

Mulder's head jerked up and his eyes opened. He pitched forward and rolled his chair away, effectively rejecting Alex's attempt at affection.

The younger man backed away, hands clasping tightly together. "I'm sorry. I....you just....I thought maybe..."

"I meant what I said last night, Alex."

Alex nodded. "Sorry. I shouldn't have done that. For a minute, it just seemed like you wanted..."

Mulder spun out of his chair and sent it slamming against the desk.

"Stop it! Just knock it the fuck off, would you?"

Alex stared, stricken.

"Were you listening to me, last night? I don't *want* this, _whatever Fox wants and to hell with what *I* want,, bullshit! Mulder raked his hand through his hair and began to pace. "You know, after what I said to you last night, making breakfast for me was the bloody *last* thing I expected you to do! What the fuck was *that* about, anyway?"

"I...I," Alex stammered, " told you, I always make breakfast for you on Sunday..."

"After last night?!? Who the fuck are you? *My* Alex never would have taken that shit from me, never*mind* turn around and make me a big breakfast the next morning!"

"But...this..this mess is all m..my fault. I just...I just want to try to make it up to you..."

"Do me a big favor Alex, and *don't*. Okay? I...can't...*stand*...it. I tried, I did. I *tried* to be patient. I kept hoping that you'd just get over this, but god*damn*! You just seem to get more and more pathetic!"

Alex's breath caught in his throat. He stared mutely at the enraged man, who had started to approach him.

"You want me to use you, Alex? You want to wash my clothes and serve me food....sit at my feet like a fucking puppy?" He grasped Alex's shirt with both hands and yanked it apart, snapping three buttons. "You want to be my bitch? Suck my cock...let me come in your mouth, then take yourself into the bathroom for a nice, cold shower? You really think this shit makes me happy?" He shoved the stunned man away. "Do you?"

Alex's eyes filled with tears, but he remained silent.

"This shit is driving me crazy, Alex. I don't know what the hell to do with you and you know, I'm really too tired to try to figure it out, anymore. It's on you. Let me know when and if you're ever ready to go back to being *my* Alex." Mulder retrieved his chair and dropped into it, spinning his back to the other man.

Two teardrops fell, one after another, as Alex stared down at the floor. He turned and exited the room, closing the door silently behind him.

The moment Alex's presence was no longer felt, Mulder's head rose. He stared at the door for long moments, then dropped his head into trembling hands.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder opened his eyes and glanced around. Pale light filtered in through the blinds of his office window, making it somewhat easier to read the clock on his desk.

Five seventeen.

He looked down at himself. Still dressed in the same clothes that he wore the night before.

He swung his legs off the sofa and sat up.

Sofa? How did he get *there*?

The last thing he remembered was the...oh God, the awful things he said to Alex and the terrible look of hurt in those beautiful eyes, just before he turned his back on him.

"Jesus," he whispered into his fist.

Taking a deep breath, Mulder hoisted himself off of the sofa and exited the room. He moved slowly to the bedroom and paused at the door.

//What are you going to do? Wake him up at five something in the morning and ask to have a heart to heart? What makes you think he'd want to talk to you after what you did? When he went nuts on you last week, *you* left. Shit. Maybe he did the same. Maybe he left last night after you fell asleep. I mean, could you blame him? You were a rotten bastard, last night. If I were him, I don't know if I'd ever forgive you...//

Attempting to mentally prepare himself for the possibility that Alex might not be there, Mulder carefully turned the knob and pushed the door open.

Fingers of pale light made their way into the room and slatted across the bed, revealing Alex, fully clothed, on Mulder's side of the bed, curled tightly around his lover's pillows.

Mulder stepped silently into the room and squatted beside the bed. A sad shadow of a smile curved his lips as memories of the first night, more specifically the first morning, that he and Alex had spent together, invaded his thoughts.

Mulder had awakened first, feeling a warm presence behind him. Recalling the night before and thinking that only something completely and utterly unholy could have done the things that Alex had done to him last night, he turned to look upon the demon, but found no such creature. Instead, he found himself looking at the most innocently beautiful face he had ever seen. He couldn't take his eyes off of that face, and he knew in that instant, that he would never want to wake up next to anyone other than this man, for the rest of his life...

Mulder blinked and refocused on the same sweet face that he'd looked on that morning, almost two years ago. He reached out and feathered the surface of Alex's hair with the back of his hand.

"I love you, Lexei," he whispered under his breath. "Please, come back to me." He drew his hand back, rose to his feet, and left the room.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex blinked in the bright morning sunlight and sat up. A glance at the clock and some quick subtraction, told him that he'd had about three and a half hours of sleep. It was more than he thought he'd get, given the events of the night before.

The pain came back in a rush as he recalled Fox's words and the look of disgust in his eyes as he said them. After he'd left the office, he remembered staggering through the house and out to the yard, where he fell into a chair and sat staring out into the darkness. Sometime later, he came back into the house and went straight into the bedroom, where he collapsed, fully dressed, onto the bed and lay there wide eyed, until sometime after four. _He swallowed back the threatening sting of tears and got out of bed. But now that he was up, now what? He didn't know what to do, what he should...

He couldn't face Fox...not that Fox wanted to see him, *anyway*. But it was only seven thirty, and chances were great, that the other man was still in the house.

Should he stay there in the bedroom until he was sure Fox was gone? Yeah, maybe.

Okay, a shower first, then a shave and maybe by then, enough time would have passed for him to safely venture out.

Twenty-five minutes later, Alex opened the bedroom door and stood, listening. All was quiet.

He moved down the hall, slowing his pace when he reached Mulder's office. The door was wide open and no sound came from within, so he carefully peeked inside.

No Fox.

Alex entered the living room and looked around. Again, there was no sign of the other man. He took a deep breath and headed for the last place Fox might be.

The kitchen door squeaked gently as he swung it open and looked inside.

Empty.

Alex didn't know whether to be relieved or scared. He headed back to the bedroom and came to stand in front of Fox's closet.

What if he had no intention of coming back after work? What if he'd come in last night and packed his clothes?

//One way to find out.//

Alex closed his eyes and slid the door open. He opened his eyes slowly and nearly sank to the floor in relief, when he found all of Fox's clothes just the way he'd hung them, neatly, by color.

//What the hell are you so happy about? It's not like you're going to throw your arms around each other and everything's going to be fine and wonderful. He's furious with you. He can't stand the sight of you.//

Alex backed away from the closet and sat heavily on the bed. He closed his eyes and hung his head.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Morning, Mulder." Scully tossed her bag onto her desk as she entered their shared office.

"Morning."

"Oh, hell. What's wrong?"

"Nothing."

"Oh, *please*. You can't do nonchalant, Mulder. Just give it up and tell me why you've got a face, a mile long. You're beating yourself up over *something*, what is it?"

"What makes you think I'm doing that?"

"I'd know that look of self-loathing, anywhere. Tell me what happened."

Mulder sighed and rubbed at the corners of his eyes. "Your partner is a prick, Scully."

"That's just a little harsh, isn't it?"

"The truth is seldom pretty. Haven't we learned that?"

"I'll ask you again. What happened?"

"I don't want to go into the whole thing, I just...I can't. Suffice it to say, that I was so...*rotten* to Alex last night, I don't know that he'll ever forgive me for it."

"Come on, it couldn't have been *that* bad."

"It could have been and it was."

"Can I ask, why?"

"I couldn't take his behavior anymore. I'd had it and I let him know, none to kindly. If you could have seen the hurt in his eyes, you would have wanted to string me up from the highest tree. But instead of apologizing, I let him leave the room and I just stayed there, in my office. Fell asleep on the couch. When I got up this morning, I found him asleep in the bedroom, still dressed, curled up with my pillows." He smiled sadly, a bright gleam coating one eye. "You ever see him sleep?"

"I don't think so."

"You'd have remembered if you had. So beautiful. Almost angelic..."

Scully arched one eyebrow. "Ooookaaaay..."

Mulder frowned and looked away.

"I'm sorry Mulder, it's just kind of hard to imagine, you know? Listen, whatever happened, you've got to straighten it out, you know that. It'll just eat you up until you do."

"I know Scully, but I don't know how to..."

The ringing phone interrupted Mulder's sentence.

"Mulder. Yeah..what?................We'll be right there." He dropped the phone into its cradle and looked up at his partner. "We gotta go. Morelli and his boys have who we believe to be the killer, in Alexandria."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Hello?"

"Alex?"

"Hi Maggie."

"Are you okay? You don't sound well and the phone rang so many times before you answered it..."

"Sorry. I'm okay. Maggie? Would it be all right if we postponed lunch for another day?"

"I *knew* it. Something's wrong. Are you ill, Alex?"

"Not really."

"I raised four children, sweetheart. Don't try to snow me."

No response.

"Okay, look. If you don't want to go out for lunch, that's fine. I'll pick something up and come over there."

"Maggie...you don't...I..."

"I'll be there in an hour."

Margaret Scully disconnected and Alex dropped his hand to his side, letting the phone dangle from his fingers. After a moment, he placed it on the kitchen table and leaned back against the cabinets and slowly slid to the floor.

An hour and ten minutes passed, before Alex heard the doorbell ring. He lifted himself from the spot he'd been sitting in since Maggie's call, and went to the door.

Eyes as blue as Scully's and bright with concern, skimmed the figure in the doorway.

"Alex, you look like death."

Alex stepped aside and allowed the petite woman to enter. She shifted the two bags she carried into one hand and grabbed Alex's wrist with the other. Pulling him along behind her, she entered the kitchen and set the bags down.

"Sit down, here." Maggie pulled out a chair and pressed him into it. She studied his face for a few seconds, then pulled up a chair for herself. "Your eyes are bloodshot and all dark underneath. You haven't slept, have you?"

"Not too much."

"Where's Fox?"

"Work, I guess."

"You guess? Don't you know?"

"Y...yeah. He's at work."

Maggie frowned. "Does he know you're not well?"

Alex swallowed down the lump that had suddenly appeared in his throat and lowered his head, a bit.

"Alex?"

"I'm not sick, Maggie. I'm okay."

"Okay, you're not sick. Then it's got something to do with Fox. Did something happen between the two of you?"

"I'd really rather not talk about it."

"I don't want to pry, honey. Whatever happened between you and Fox is your business. But look how it's got you. You need to work it out, whatever it is. Can you do that?"

"I don't...I don't know. I don't know if he even wants to, anymore."

"Aw sweetie, it can't be as bad as all that."

"You weren't here."

"No, I wasn't. But let me just tell you this. Fox loves you, Alex. I'm as sure of that as I am, my own name. And I'm just as sure that you two will get through whatever trouble you're having." She patted his hand. "Now, how about some lunch?"

Alex wrinkled his nose at the offer.

"I'm not leaving here until you eat something..."

The young man sighed. "Okay, since you went to all the trouble."

Maggie gave him a brilliant smile and began removing the contents from the bags. "You're going to love this. The cutest little French sandwich shop opened up downtown..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"Mulder. Mulder?"

Mulder turned his head in the direction of his partner.

"It's after six. We could be here for quite a while, yet. Shouldn't you call Alex?"

"Yeah. I should. I've been telling myself that for over an hour, now."

"So?"

"So, I don't know what to say to him."

"What do you *want* to say to him? Besides, _I might be pretty late,?"

"I want to tell him that I'm sorry about last night and that I love him more than he can know."

"Sounds pretty good to me."

Mulder pulled his cell phone from his inside breast pocket and walked away, trying to find a quieter place within the precinct, to make his call. Finally, he found a spot and dialed his home number. The phone rang four times before he heard a brief rustle and a soft, hoarse, _hello,.

"Alex...it's me."

Silence.

"Umm, look, uhhh...I'm going to be late. The suspected killer has been caught and I might have to be here at the police station for a while, yet....Alex, are you there?"

"Yeah."

Mulder closed his eyes and drew a steady breath.

//What the hell did you *expect*?//

"All right, then. I'll uh...I guess I'll see you when I get home, if it's not too late."

"Uh-huh."

"See you later, then."

"Bye."

Mulder leaned forward, pressing his head to the wall in front of him, phone still to his ear.

//Well, that went well.//

He pressed 'end, and shoving the phone back into his pocket, rejoined Scully.

"That was quick."

"Yeah."

"Okay...you didn't tell him, did you?"

"I don't think it would have done much good if I had."

"Meaning, you didn't."

Mulder ignored Scully's last statement and moved down the crowded hall, toward the interrogation room. "Let's see if we can't move this along, huh?"

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex lay back against the pillows, blindly flipping through channel after channel. He shifted again and again, unable to find a comfortable position on the stiff pillows. His focus on the television blurred as he thought back to Fox's call, a couple of hours ago.

He was shocked at hearing the soft monotone, telling him he'd be late. He truly had not expected it. He didn't know what to think at all, really. He didn't know what to do, he didn't know what to *feel*.

Not true, exactly. He *did* feel something. A few things, actually. Hurt, confusion, regret...hurt...loneliness...hurt...

Alex closed his eyes and tried to think of something else. Something happier. A tiny smile played at his lips as he recalled the first night that he and Fox spent in their new home.

Boxes everywhere, furniture in complete disarray. And instead of straightening the mess out, they opted to leave everything as it was until morning. They'd cracked open a big bottle of champagne and drank the whole thing, while they ate five-alarm buffalo wings and bacon and cheddar potato skins.

By the end of the bottle, neither man was feeling much pain...

"What's so funny?"

The more Alex looked at Mulder, the more he giggled.

"C'mon, tell me!"

"Nothing..nothing, it's just.." Alex broke into hysterics.

Mulder leapt from his little patch of floor, landing with surprising grace, on top of his lover and pushing him onto his back.

"You gonna tell me?"

Alex pushed against Mulder's chest, but he was laughing to hard to have much effect.

Mulder easily pulled the younger man's hands above his head and pinned them there. "Tell me what's so funny, or I'll *really* give you a reason to laugh.

Alex's eyes widened. "No," he choked. "No Fox, don...*don't*!"

Screeches of laughter bounced off of the bare walls, as Mulder mercilessly tickled the man beneath him.

"Cut it...*out*...*shit*....I can't...can't....*breathe*!"

"Are you going to tell me what you were laughing at?"

"*Yes*! Just stop!"

Mulder drew his hand back but remained poised to resume the assault, if Alex didn't talk.

"It was nothing..." Alex drew a deep, shuddering breath. "You just..you have this spot of sauce right on the tip of your nose..."

"That's *it*?"

"Yeah." Alex grinned up at him. "It's just funny! It's been there for like, five minutes now. How can you not know it's there?"

"Why didn't you say something instead of letting me sit there, looking like an idiot?"

Alex began to laugh again. "I just wanted to see how long it'd take before you noticed, if at all."

"Great. Thanks."

"I'm sorry." He smiled up at Mulder. "Let me get it off, for you..."

The trapped man lifted his head off the floor, far enough to make contact with his captor's nose. His tongue inched out and licked at the orangy-red spot. "Wait...it's kinda stuck..."

"Stuck?"

"Yeah..." More laughter. "It's been there so long, it's started to dry..."

Mulder lifted his hand to rub at his nose.

"I said I'd get it off."

"You also just said that it was *dry*."

"So? Just takes a little more work, that's all...."

Alex's tongue swiped at the sauce a couple more times. "There. It's gone." His eyes took on a devilish gleam. "Oh...wait...there's some over....here...." Again, the tongue slithered out, this time making contact with the older man's lips.

Mulder groaned softly and his lips parted far enough to let his own tongue slip past them, making contact with the one teasing his mouth.

The amused gleam in Alex's eyes was quickly replaced with one of desire. He gathered up the necessary strength and rolled the older man onto his back, sprawling along the length of his body.

Mulder sent up a lazy grin. "Are you trying to take advantage of my slightly inebriated condition?"

"Yes. Would you care to protest?"

"Only if you stop."

Alex's soft laughter vibrated against Mulder's lips, then the interior of his mouth, as they came together. The laugh melted into a whispered moan, when the man beneath him threaded a hand through his hair and deepened the kiss.

Mulder shifted position slightly, trying to relieve the increasing discomfort in the crotch of his jeans. The action caused him to brush against his quickly hardening partner.

Alex broke the kiss and buried his face in the curve of Mulder's throat. "I have a question for you," he murmured against his lover's rapidly pounding pulse.

"What?"

"Why the hell are you still dressed?"

"I was just about to ask you that same question."

The two men undressed each other, practically ripping the clothes from their bodies, then fell together again, Alex still on top, slowly rolling his hips, rubbing his full-blown erection against Mulder's. The older man's eyes rolled up into his head and his lids dropped over them.

"Mmmm."

"Like that?"

Mulder nodded silently.

Alex kissed him again. Hard and long, then pulled away, smiling.

"Now, what?" Mulder panted.

"You know, we gotta do this in every room in the house, before the week is out, or we'll have bad luck."

Mulder's eyebrows drew down into a distinct frown. "Where the hell did you get *that* from?"

"It's true."

"I never *heard* of it."

Alex kissed him again, laughing. "Okay, I made it up. But it sounds good, doesn't it?"

"You're shameless."

Alex shrugged. "I know. But you love me."

Mulder clasped a hand at the back of the younger man's head and pulled him down into another kiss. "Yes, I do."

They made love twice that night, intense desire fueled by the joy and excitement of embarking on this new life together.

They fell asleep, entangled on the mattress, on the floor of the bedroom that would be theirs, happiness radiating from every pore.

Two rooms down, six to go...

Alex's smile faded as he came back to harsh reality and wondered if he and Fox would ever have nights like those, again.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder slipped into the house, moving deftly through the darkness. A quick glance into the empty living room, and he moved on to the kitchen. Also empty. He proceeded to the bedroom and pushed the door open. His heart began to beat a little faster, when he found the bed, still neatly made.

//Calm down. He's gotta be here, somewhere. His truck is still in the garage...//

Mulder checked the bathroom, then journeyed back down the hall, to his office. That room, like the others, was vacant.

As he leaned against the door, thinking of where to look next, a slim band of flickering light down the other end of the hall, caught his eye. He walked toward the light and paused at the door of the guest bedroom. He listened to the faint drone of the television and leaned his head against the door.

//Shit. Okay. Go in? What if he's asleep? Do I wake him? I'm sure he's had as little sleep as I have. All right. If he's asleep, I leave him alone. If he's awake...if he's awake? Yeah, good question. What the hell do I do, if he's awake?//

Making the decision to play it by ear, Mulder turned the knob and pushed the door open. The television provided a strobe-like effect, flaring unsteadily across the figure on the bed. Mulder approached carefully and looked down at his lover, propped against a mass of pillows. His thick sable eyelashes gently swept the swell of his cheek and his mouth...that perfectly bowed, infinitely kissable mouth, parted slightly, making visible, just the tiniest flash of white teeth.

Mulder studied the beautiful face, feeling the strong urge to wake the sleeping man and ask him...demand, if necessary, that he come back to their room with him. But what right did he have? After the way he'd treated Alex last night, he was lucky that the younger man was still here, in the *house*.

Tomorrow. Maybe tomorrow. He'd take the morning...the *day* off, and they'd talk. Get this all straightened out. Hopefully.

He eased the remote from underneath Alex's hand, and shut the television off.

The soft click, snapped Alex's eyes open. Mulder heard the sudden intake of breath, and flicked the t.v. back on. Startled but exhausted green eyes, met his.

"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you."

Alex glanced at the clock. Eight minutes after midnight. He looked back at Fox, but didn't meet his eye.

"Just get in?"

"Yeah. They've got the bastard. There's a good case against him, I don't think he'll slip the noose."

"Thanks to all your work."

Mulder shrugged, then took a seat at the very edge of the mattress. "Uh...so...since you're awake, could we...would you mind..."

Alex sat quietly, staring down at his loosely folded hands.

"I'm really sorry about last night. I was such an asshole. I didn't mean the things I said..."

"Sure you did," Alex said flatly. "Or you wouldn't have said them. It's okay. You're right. I am pathetic."

"No, Lexei..."

Alex nodded. "This is my problem, Fox. I won't bother you with it. When I've got it worked out, I'll let you know, okay?"

Mulder sat with his head down, hearing his own words, coming back to haunt him.

"You look really tired," Alex said softly. "Why don't you go to bed?"

//Not without you, Lexei. Come with me. Let's fall asleep wrapped in each other's arms, like we used to...//

Mulder hesitated a moment, wanting desperately to give voice to his thoughts, but the words refused to come. He got to his feet and moved slowly toward the door. He stopped there, hand on the knob. He spoke to the man in the bed, without turning his head.

"Goodnight, Alex."

Receiving no answer, he opened the door and slipped out as silently as he'd arrived.

Alex watched the closed door for what seemed like an eternity, hoping that Fox would come back through it, promising him that everything would be okay and ask him to please, come back to their bed.

When he realized that it wasn't going to happen, he rolled onto his side and closed his eyes, trying to ward off the pain that swept through his body. He finally fell into a fitful sleep, sometime in the early morning.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Mulder entered the kitchen at seven twenty-two, looking around at the pristine room.

//But...//

He stood, hands resting on a chair, frowning in confusion.

//That's *bacon* I smell, I know it...//

His eyes fell on the stove. The oven was on, the knob turned to *warm*. He pulled the door down and found a covered plate inside. He retrieved an oven mit from the counter and removed the plate. Taking the lid off, he found the bacon he'd been smelling, accompanied by a stack of pancakes.

//Alex...//

He couldn't believe this. Alex had apparently gotten up long before he had, made him breakfast, then conveniently, disappeared.

Mulder set the plate down on the table, then sat in front of it. He hadn't much of an appetite, but Alex had gone to the trouble of preparing it for him, so he at least had to try.

To his surprise, he ate about half of the meal. Much more than he imagined he could.

Much as he hated to do it, he scraped the rest down the disposal, then placed the dish in the dishwasher. The thought to seek Alex out and at least thank him, crossed Mulder's mind, but if Alex had wanted to talk, he wouldn't have made himself scarce.

Mulder pulled open a drawer at the end of the counter, removing a pad of paper and a pen. He scribbled a brief message across the yellow paper, then left for work.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Three hours later
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex entered the kitchen and went to the refrigerator for some orange juice. He poured himself a glass and leaned against the counter, taking notice that the oven had been shut off. On his way to the stove, he noticed the small piece of paper lying on the table. He slid the paper toward him and tilted his head at a slight angle to read.

_Thank you.,

He stared down at the note for a while, his thumb stroking across the two word message. Finally, he picked the paper up and let it drop into the garbage.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Another lonely night.

Mulder had come home early today, hoping that Alex might be in the mood to talk. But after the younger man fixed dinner, he excused himself, then retreated into the guest bedroom, not to be seen for the rest of the evening.

Mulder had tried once to initiate a conversation while Alex cooked, but it went nowhere...

"Can I help? Is there anything I can get...chop..." He gave Alex a wary smile. "Slice, dice, puree?"

"N-no. I got it under control. Why don't you just go relax? Dinner should be done in half an hour or so."

He should have said something more. *Done* something...pulled Alex away from the goddamn stove, spun him around and laid a long, tender kiss on him, *begged* him to talk this out, but *noooooo*. What did he do? He turned around and went out to the living room, where he brooded in front of the fucking t.v. for forty-five minutes until Alex came out, carrying a plate and a bottle of Corona. He set them down on the coffee table, placed a neatly folded napkin beside the plate, then left Mulder alone...

Mulder grimaced, propping himself up against three pillows, while hugging the fourth to his chest.

How long was this going to go on? He couldn't take much more of the silence. He couldn't take much more of the loneliness. He needed to see that smile that greeted him at the end of every day...feel those strong, sure arms around him...hear his lover's sweet, passionate whispers in his ear...

Sleep came to Mulder, painfully slow. Every waking moment, plagued by thoughts of his Lexei, hurt and alone as he was, tossing and turning, lying sleepless in the bed he owned, but was not really his.

//We gotta stop this, Lexei. We gotta...before *we* stop...//

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Alex's eyes opened and he looked at the clock.

One fifty-six.

Great. Less than thirty minutes after he'd finally fallen asleep, he was awake again.

Something roused him. He didn't know *what*, but...

He listened in the darkness, hearing nothing but silence, then...there it was. Abrupt. Terrified.

Fox.

Alex bolted from the bed and fled the room. Before he reached the bedroom, Fox's voice sounded again, literally screaming...*Alex's* name. The sound froze him for a split second, then he was throwing the door open and falling onto the bed beside the sweat-soaked, sobbing man.

"Alex!"

"Fox..." Alex stroked his damp hair away from his forehead. "*Fox*, wake up..."

Damn.

It'd been more than six months since the last nightmare. He was doing so well...when they first moved in together, Alex had discovered that Mulder had frequent nightmares. He'd wake up in the middle of the night, screaming his sister's name. Sometimes it only took a few minutes to calm him down...sometimes longer. Sometimes, the only way to stop the incessant shaking, was to occupy him with other things. Alex would kiss him gently, skimming his body with loving caresses, until Fox began to whimper not with fear, but with need. Then Alex would make love to him, making him forget the terror and pain of his sister's loss.

But this wasn't Samantha's name, Fox was screaming. It was *his*...

"Alex, noooo...Alex!"

"Fox!" Alex shook him gently. "Wake up, baby..."

Mulder's thrashing subsided and his eyes drifted open. The first image within his focus, was that of Alex's frightened, concerned face. He reached up, touching the younger man's cheek, and began to tremble violently. "Alex....oh God, Alex..."

Alex pushed himself up into a sitting position, against the headboard and pulled Fox into his arms, rocking him gently. "It was just a dream, Fox. It's over. It's okay..."

Fox clung tightly to Alex, pressing his face into the younger man's chest, as Alex continued to rock him, and for that moment, they weren't two men whose relationship teetered on the brink of destruction. They were just Alex and Fox, wrapped in the warmth of each other's arms, giving and receiving comfort.

Alex stroked the golden-brown head, scattering tiny kisses over the crown, as Fox continued to shudder uncontrollably.

"What were you dreaming about?"

Mulder took a few hard breaths and began to speak. "It s-started out like all the..the r-rest. Samantha floating out the win..window and me not being..." another long, shaky breath, "being able to do anything...then it changed...I don't...I don't know where I was, but...it was dark, and...you were..." he tightened his grip on the front of Alex's t-shirt, "...were there. You were in this black pool of w-water, I guess. You were struggling....drowning, and you kept...kept calling me...reaching out for me, and I just..." his words started to come out in gasping sobs, "I just stood there, watch...watching...I didn't...I didn't..."

"Easy, Fox." Alex rubbed his back. "Come on, breathe..."

"I didn't do anything to save you..."

"It's the same as with Samantha, Fox. You were paralyzed..."

"No! You don't...don't get it! I *could* have saved you...I know I could've, I just...I just, *didn't*. I stood there. I watched you slip into that blackness. Then I realized....oh *God*, I realized that I wanted to pull you out. I *tried*, but it was....it was too l-late. You were gone." The tremors increased. "I let you go...I let you go..."

"You didn't let me go, Fox. I'm right here. Look at me. Please, look at me..."

Mulder turned tormented eyes up to Alex's face.

"See?" he whispered. "You didn't let me go."

The two men stared at each other for long moments, Alex still lovingly stroking Fox's cheek. Finally, it was Fox, who tilted his face downward.

"I can't...I can't s-stop shaking..."

"Are you cold?"

The other man nodded.

"I'll get you a blanket..." Alex loosened his hold on Fox and started to move away, but the older man would not release him.

"No." He looked up again, into unsure green eyes. "Don't let me go...please."

Alex hesitated, then slowly relaxed back against the headboard, again encircling Fox in his arms. "Okay." He rested his cheek on top of the quivering man's head and gently rubbed his back and arm.

A long silence passed before Alex curved a finger under Fox's chin and lifted his head. "You're still shaking. It's not just the dream, is it?"

Mulder blinked, trying to keep his focus on the sea of deep green above him. "I can't...can't lose you..."

Alex shook his head, opening and closing his mouth. Wanting to speak, but unsure of what to say. So he decided against speech. His head lowered slowly to his lover's, tentatively brushing the full lips with his own. The tiny gasp emitted by the man in his arms, prompted a deeper kiss.

Mulder groaned into the other man's mouth and wound an arm around his neck. It wasn't very long at all before they were kissing as passionately as they ever had, tongues stroking and caressing, teasing each other with the promise of what was yet to come.

"I need you Lexei," Fox whimpered against Alex's mouth.

Alex nodded, then slipped a hand under Fox's shirt, stroking his overheated skin, loving the feel of the rippling muscles, beneath his fingers. "I missed you so much, Fox. I'm so..." He stopped, biting back the words. Fox pulled away from his mouth and met his gaze on a level.

"You don't..." Fox drew a shaky breath. "..have to apologize, Alex. But go...go ahead, if you feel you need to. I know, *I* do."

Alex studied him for a moment, then spoke. "I'm sorry for all of this. I've caused us so much trouble...please forgive me."

Mulder imparted a tender, shaky kiss on Alex's lips, then replied. "I'll accept y-your apology, but I'm the one who needs to beg forgiveness, not you. I was awful to you baby, and I hate myself for it. I'm so s-sorry I hurt you. Can you forgive *me*?"

"You wouldn't have had to do what you did if I wasn't acting the way I was..."

"Can we talk it all out, Lexei? Make it right?"

"I want that more than anything."

Mulder smiled, raking his fingers through his lover's hair. "I love you."

Alex returned the smile as the other man moved in for another kiss. And another. And still another, until both men were panting heavily, tearing at the scant clothing that each of them was wearing.

Once they were naked, Alex rolled Fox under him and attacked his mouth once more, thrusting his tongue into the wet heat.

Fox surrendered himself to his lover, happier than he could ever express, to have him back. "Lexei," he whispered between kisses. "My Lexei..."

Alex's mouth moved away from his lover's, licking and nibbling at his chin, then the sensitive flesh underneath. He worked his way down to Fox's throat, then made a sudden detour north, paying loving attention to his ear.

"Jesus, I missed you..." His teeth clamped down gently on Fox's earlobe and pulled, before teasing the interior with the tip of his tongue.

Shivers raced down Fox's spine as he writhed beneath his lover. His fingers clenched in the lean muscles of Alex's back, prompting a deep groan. Fox shuddered, feeling the vibration pass into his ear and straight through the center of his body.

Alex left Fox's ear and worked his way back down, pausing along the way, to trace the ridge of his collar bone with the tip of his tongue.

"Mmmm....Alex..."

The younger man smiled against his lover's quivering flesh, then continued on, working his way down to one hard, brown nipple.

Fox hissed in surprise, feeling the gentle graze, then the sharp pinch of teeth, as they clamped down and pulled.

"Oh, God. You're driving me crazy, Alex....*Alex*!"

Alex held Fox's nipple firmly between his teeth and flicked at the tip with his tongue, sending the older man into a frenzy.

"Christ, I can't..can't stand it! Been too long, Lexei. Please. *Please*!"

"You're right." The soft, smoky voice drifted up to Fox's ear. "It *has* been too long. And that's why were going to wait. I want this to last."

Soft whimper. "How long?"

"As long as I can make it."

"*Nooo*"

"Oh, yes."

Alex was back. And he was taking no prisoners.

"Relax, beautiful. It's going to be a long night."

Alex returned to the reddened little peak, gently feathering it with tiny, teasing lashes.

God, he loved the way Fox tasted. He loved the sounds, soft and not so soft, that he made. He adored the way he felt...hard and soft....rough and smooth...how did he ever go...how the hell long was it? Made no difference, it *seemed* like a lifetime, without experiencing all the pleasures his lover's body had to offer.

Fox's head rolled frantically against the pillows, as Alex moved to torment his other nipple. He plunged his fingers into the sable silk, unsure of whether he wanted to pull Alex away, or hold him closer.

No matter, as Alex was going to do exactly what *Alex* wanted to do, anyway.

God, Fox was glad to have him back...

Alex's teeth closed around the second nipple, treating it to the same type of attention that the first had received.

"Oh God, oh....*shit*!" Mulder gritted his teeth, taking every bit of painful pleasure that Alex saw fit to dish out. "You're killing me, Alex. I hope you know that..."

The smoky, seductive tone crept again, into Fox's auditory nerve, curling around his brain. "I know that you love it...don't you?"

No answer.

A sharp pull on the flesh, recaptured between Alex's teeth.

"Fuck!"

"Don't you?"

"Yes! Alex, I'm *begging* you!"

"It'll do you no good."

"What *will*?"

"Nothing. Not tonight." Alex smiled at the low whine. "Don't worry, baby. I promise, it'll be worth the wait."

"You mean, the...torture..."

"Such a harsh word." Alex turned his attention back to Fox's nipple, bestowing a series of delicate licks and kisses.

Mulder's hands moved on Alex's back, using quick, erratic strokes, his respiration rate almost matching that rhythm.

Alex began to move again, drifting south at an excruciatingly slow pace, taking care not to ignore a single square inch of skin. His heart pounded in an almost identical rhythm to that of his lover and his own cock screamed for release, but he absolutely refused to rush this. It felt so goddamn good to have his Fox writhing beneath him, begging for his touch and it felt even better to finally be able to give them both what they needed without feeling that crippling guilt and self-hatred.

Fraction by fraction, Alex worked his way down to his lover's twitching cock, nipping at the salty-sweet skin, then thoroughly soothing the tiny irritations with his tongue. He moved down another inch and felt the moist tip, brushing the underside of his chin. He hooked two fingers around the base and pulled Mulder's cock away from it's resting place. Then, parting his lips, he brought his mouth down over the head, but would not let it touch the warm interior.

A low, warning rumble came from somewhere above his head.

Alex ignored the sound and drew his mouth away.

"Alex...."

The younger man rubbed his cheek ever so gently against the velvety shaft.. "Hmm?"

"I'm really...*really* ready..."

"I know you are," Alex whispered absently, intently watching his own finger, run circles around the swollen head, spreading a thin coating of pre-cum over the blunt surface.

"Well," Mulder spoke again, trying to rein in his impatience. "Do you think maybe...we could get on with it?"

"Mmmm........nope."

"W-what do you *mean*, nope?"

Alex continued to entertain himself, now tracing a path along the vein on the underside of Mulder's cock. "Nope. As in, no. Uh-uh. No way, Jose..."

Mulder drew in one shaky breath. Then another. He spoke to Alex in a soft, barely controlled voice.

"You *do* realize that I'm going to have to make you pay *big* for this..."

Alex's voice came back in a smooth purr. "Ooooh, you promise?"

"You can bet the ranch on it."

The younger man moaned his satisfaction and began inflicting dozens of tiny, butterfly kisses up and down his lover's length. Reaching the tip for the fourth time, he released a series of quick tongue lashes all around the head.

"Oh, *Jesus*...Alex...*please*. If you *love* me..."

"You know I love you, Fox."

"Then, please. For *God's* sake..."

"Have you ever studied my cock, Fox?"

"*What*?"

"Have you ever looked at it?"

The impatience was seeping through, again. "Yeah. Sure. Looks pretty much like mine."

Alex propped his head up in his hand and observed the organ in question. "Maybe at a quick glance, but I think they're like hands. No two are the same."

"I'm gonna kill you..."

"For instance, yours curves the tiniest bit to the left...*my* left, not yours..."

"You're a dead man..."

"Does mine?"

"Does yours, *what*?"

"Curve."

"I don't...look, Alex. I'll check it out later and describe it in minute detail to you, okay? But for now, would you just *please*..."

"You might think this is kind of sick, but...you know when I best like to give you head?"

"Right *now*?"

"After we've come in from a run or just finished working out. I love that salty, clean sweat taste..."

"God, I can see it now. _Gee, Mr. medical examiner, I don't know *what* killed him. I hadn't even fucking, *touched* *him* *yet*!,"

"You shouldn't clench your jaws like that, Fox. That's how my uncle Vlad wound up with TMJ. Poor man couldn't even open his mouth to eat. He had to be fed through a straw..."

Mulder covered his eyes with his hands. "You can't kill him. You'd regret it, later. You love him, you can't kill him. You *can't* kill....ohhhhhhhhhh, yessssssssssss......"

Making the sudden decision to play nice, Alex opened his mouth and slid it over the entire length of Mulder's cock.

Mulder's face contorted in intense pleasure, as his lover used ever talent at his disposal, to bring him to the very edge of orgasm.

"No, don't stop! Don't..."

Alex released Fox from his mouth and slid up over his body.

"Shhh. Easy." He grinned at the man beneath him. "That was close, huh?"

Through gritted teeth. "*Yes*."

Alex dropped his head to the other man's, dragging his tongue heavily, across his mouth. "You can't come yet."

"Oh God, why not?"

"Because I want to be inside you, when you do."

"Well, *get* there, would you?"

"All right, all right. Now, where did I put the lube..."

"You've got three seconds to find it."

"And if I don't?"

"You're going in without it. Sure as shit wouldn't be the first time."

Alex smirked, pulling open the nightstand drawer. He made a show of rummaging through the contents, then produced the tube. "Hmm. Feels kinda light. I'd better remember to put that on my shopping list..."

Mulder groaned and tilted his head back against the pillows. A few seconds later, he felt a hand in his hair, and his head being tipped forward, pulled into a soul-melting kiss. Alex released him long moments later, and whispered against his mouth.

"I love you, Fox."

Mulder's eyelids lifted and he found himself staring up into the sober, green gaze of his lover. Before he could respond, he felt himself being lifted and positioned. A loud gasp escaped his lips, as he felt himself being stretched and entered, slowly.

Alex threw his head back, releasing a long moan, as he struggled to get control of his body. It screamed at him. Pleaded with him, to plunge ahead and put an end to this torture he'd created for Fox and himself. But he couldn't. Not now. He couldn't deny either of them the pleasure of this moment. He moved slowly within his lover, pushing forward a bit, then pulling back, repeating the process, over and over, until he was completely sheathed in Fox's tight heat.

"Ohhhhhh, yes....Lexei...it's been so long...."

Alex lowered himself onto Fox's chest, his trembling arms no longer able to hold him up. The older man's arms immediately wrapped around his back, stroking and massaging the taut muscles.

"My God," Alex said in a breathless whisper, rocking slowly. "You feel so, *so* good..." His mouth came down tenderly on Fox's, drinking in his lover's soft whimpers. His tongue dipped into the dark warmth, searching for and quickly finding its mate...caressing and tasting the sweetness that belonged to Fox, alone.

Involuntary shudders ran through Mulder's body as Alex continued to feed on his mouth, and began a series of slow, deep thrusts. He tightened one arm around the younger man's back, while his other hand wandered downward, stroking over the tense muscles of his ass.

Alex broke the kiss and buried his face in the curve of his lover's shoulder, concentrating all his efforts on maintaining control. A difficult thing to do, since Fox was squeezing his ass, pulling him in tightly on every downstroke.

"Fox...*damn*...Fox, don't...I can't hold on, if you're..."

Mulder showed no signs that he'd heard a word of what Alex was trying to say. The only thing that filtered through the sensual haze he was in, was the urgent demands of his body. He tilted his hips, giving Alex greater access, then joined his left hand with his right, coaxing his lover to increase the speed and strength of his thrusts.

Alex held up well under the pressure, but when the soft, gasping moans began, he threw in the towel. Alex Krycek was a man who had always prided himself on his patience and restraint, but he learned early on, that he had no defense for those sounds. They were as irresistible to him as the man who made them.

Slipping one hand under Fox's head and the other between their hips, Alex grasped his lover's cock and began to milk it in time to his movements.

Mulder's head twisted to the side and a loud sob tumbled from his open mouth.

"It's right there Fox," Alex panted. "You feel it?"

Mulder nodded, unable to speak.

"Come on, then. Come with me...come on, baby..."

Mulder's body tightened as his orgasm hit, squeezing his lover's cock in a vise-grip. The sensation resonated through Alex's whole body. He groaned through gritted teeth and drove into Fox with all his strength, feeling the rush of his own release, only seconds later. Their hoarse cries tore through the room as Alex continued to pound into his lover, refusing to quit until sheer exhaustion caused him to collapse. He fell on top of Fox, intermittent shudders running through his limp body.

"Alex..." The almost inaudible whisper sounded, long minutes later.

No answer.

"Lexei..."

"Hmm..."

"Let go."

Alex moaned softly, already slipping back into unconsciousness. Mulder worked a hand between them. "Baby, let..." He managed to grasp Alex's hand, which was still wrapped tightly around his cock. "..let...go."

Alex heard and understood, loosening his grip and moving his hand away. He let it drop on the pillow, beside Mulder's head and the older man could not resist turning his head to taste himself. He wrapped his arms around Alex's back and stroked it slowly, while he dropped several kisses onto the head, nestled against his shoulder.

"Fox?"

Mulder smiled at the sleepy mumble.

"Yeah?"

"Can't move..."

He laughed softly. "It's okay. I don't want you to." He tightened his hold on his lover. "Go to sleep."

There was no need for that last instruction. Alex never heard it.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

//What the hell is that? Oh...the phone...//

Alex's head jerked up and looked around. His action caused the man beneath him to stir. He stretched over Fox and grabbed for the phone...

Scully's eyebrows rose at the sound of the hoarse _hello,.

"Alex?"

"Yeah. Scully, what's..."

"I'm sorry I woke you, but...Alex, would you have any idea where Mulder is?"

Alex looked down at Mulder, whose eyes were just beginning to open, then glanced over at the clock.

Nine forty-three.

"Shit."

"What?"

"Uh, Scully..."

Mulder blinked up at his lover, noting his expression, then lifted his head to look at the clock.

"Oh, shit."

"Alex?"

"Hmm?"

He could hear the smile in her voice. "Is that Mulder, I hear cursing?"

Before Alex could answer, Mulder took the phone from him.

"Sorry Scully, I completely forgot to set the alarm."

"Uh huh. Will you be coming in today, or should I go see Morelli without you?"

"N-no. I'll be there. Give me an hour, okay?"

"You got it. Hey, Mulder?"

"Yeah?"

"Sorry I woke you boys up."

Mulder grinned into the phone. "See you soon." He hung up and turned his attention to the man draped over his chest. They stared at each other for a long while, Mulder stroking Alex's cheek, then he spoke. "I don't want to leave you, today."

Alex strung a trail of moist kisses across Fox's chest, before answering. "I know you don't. But you've got work to do."

"Scully understands. I should call her back."

Alex sat up and grasped Mulder's arms, pulling him up as well. He kissed the older man's chin, then the corner of his shoulder. He leaned forward until his forehead rested in the same spot. "Go to work, Fox. We've got plenty of time to catch up."

Mulder threaded his fingers through Alex's hair and pulled his head away from his shoulder. Their eyes met and held.

"Last night was incredible."

Alex kissed his arm, then gave him a thoroughly heart-melting pout. "So, you don't want to make me *pay*, anymore?"

"Oh no, you're still going to pay for what you did to me. Oh *God*, you're gonna pay..."

Alex's face brightened. "Later?"

"You must be the only person I know who looks *forward* to being punished."

Alex dropped a hand to his lover's thigh, tracing light circles on it, through the sheet. "Only if you're the one dishing it out..."

Mulder groaned softly. "If I don't get up right now, I never will."

"Okay." Alex threw the sheet off and slipped out of bed. He motioned to Mulder to do the same. "Let's go. You told Scully an hour and we've already wasted about fifteen minutes. Go get into the shower. I'll get your clothes."

Mulder swung his legs off the bed and looked Alex up and down. Mostly down. He stepped forward and wound his arms around his partner's waist. "I got a better idea," he murmured, pressing their erections together.

Alex groaned. "Your better *idea* is going to make you later than you already are."

Mulder just smiled and wrapping his hand around Alex's cock, led him into the bathroom.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

"An hour, huh?"

Mulder bustled into the room and yanked open a file drawer. "I know. I'm sorry, I got stuck in uh..." he looked up at Scully's amused face. "traffic."

"Right."

Mulder tried to cover his grin as he searched through the drawer.

"I called Morelli and told him that we couldn't make it there until twelve-thirty. He wasn't thrilled to have to juggle his schedule around, but he did."

"Thanks."

Scully drummed her fingers on Mulder's desk. Waiting. Finally, she'd had it.

"Mulder..."

"Hmm?"

"What the hell *happened*?"

Mulder pulled the found file out and closed the drawer. He walked over to his desk and dropped into the chair, before he spoke. "We still need to do some talking...clear the air, but now, we're both in agreement about that. We're traveling the same path, again."

"I can safely assume that the kissing and making up phase has begun, though?"

A soft smile curved Mulder's lips. "Yeah."

"Thank *God*. Well, come on. We'd better get out of here. Morelli's mad enough."

Mulder quickly scanned the file for the information he was looking for, then jumped up and headed for the door. "Okay, let's roll. The sooner we wrap this case up, the sooner this day will be over."

Scully walked out after him, laughing. "You know Mulder, there was a time when I'd practically have to drag you away from work at gunpoint..."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

God, this had to be the damn longest day on record.

Mulder pulled into the garage beside the black pickup and looked down at the clock, before cutting the motor.

Six eleven.

He grinned, recalling his conversation with Alex, earlier this afternoon. He was up to something. The devious tone in his voice left no doubt about that. He'd asked when Fox would be getting home, then insisted on pinning him down to an exact time. When asked about it, Alex said nothing more than that he'd had a special dinner planned, and if Fox was late, it would be ruined.

He exited the garage and walked slowly to the front door, looking around. Nothing out of the ordinary, so far. He unlocked the door and pushed it open, causing a piece of paper attached to a string, to drop down in front of his face. He yanked the string away from the doorframe and read the note.

_Hi handsome. Please go directly into the dining room.,

Smirking uncontrollably, Mulder followed the written instructions. He walked to the dining room, sniffing at the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen. The smirk turned into a full grin, when he opened the door and found the dining room alight with at least a dozen candles and their favorite music, wafting softly through the air. His gaze fell to the table, which he noticed was exquisitely set...for one.

"What the..."

Mulder walked over to the table and found another note on his plate.

_Sit. Relax. Pour yourself a glass of wine and wait for me.,

Shaking his head, Mulder seated himself and pulled the bottle from the ice bucket, beside the table. Having filled his goblet, he returned the bottle to its resting place. He lifted the glass, momentarily entranced by the way the shimmering candlelight reflected in the burgundy pool, then brought it to his lips.

Having spent the majority of the day in a smoke-filled police station, his throat had become a bit irritated, and the chilled wine felt like heaven. Fox sat quietly, letting the wine and the music do their job, while he contemplated the meaning of the single place setting.

A quarter of the way through his second glass of wine, he heard the door open. He smiled into the goblet but did not turn around.

"You were early," the low seductive voice came from directly behind him.

"You were so adamant about me not being late, but I didn't figure it would be a bad thing to be early."

"It's not. I just hadn't intended for you to wait so long."

Mulder raised his glass for another sip and nearly choked as he caught Alex out of the corner of his eye, coming around his left side, carrying a large silver tray and wearing nothing but an earring and a decidedly evil, little smile.

"Dinner is served."

Mulder gaped at the man beside him, unable to say a word.

It was an even better reaction than Alex had expected. He set the tray down and moved closer to his shocked lover, skimming the slack jaw, as he glided around to the back of the chair. "Let's get your jacket off." He gently pushed Fox forward, and worked the suit jacket down his arms, and off. Draping the garment across the closest vacant chair, Alex returned to Fox's line of sight. The left corner of his mouth slanted upward, as his hands slid up his lover's shoulders, coming together at his throat. He loosened the tie enough to slip it over Fox's head, then dropped it down, around his own neck. He then turned back to the table and began serving the contents of the tray.

Fox watched all of this, mesmerized and still, very speechless. Not even his thoughts would come to him in a coherent pattern.

Alex finished serving the food, then picked the pale celadon napkin up, and placed it neatly over the prominent bulge in Fox's lap. He then leaned back against the table, and lifted a forkful of tender Chateaubriand to the older man's mouth. "Open up," he instructed in a soft, singing tone.

Fox finally found his voice, raspy though it was. "Are you going to eat?"

"Ate already."

"Why?"

Alex slipped the fork into his opening mouth. "So I could give you all my attention."

Mulder chewed the meat and swallowed.

"Good?"

He nodded. "Where are your clothes?"

Alex gave him a cryptic smile. "Would you like me to go put something on?"

Mulder shook his head.

"You sure?"

"Very sure." The seated man raised a hand to Alex's thigh and swept the length of it.

"Ah, ah, ah. No dessert till *after* dinner.

Mulder pulled the corner of his lower lip into his mouth and let his hand drop from Alex's leg.

Alex speared a tiny red potato and popped into the other man's mouth. "How was your day?"

"Long. One of the longest, I can remember."

"Aww. My poor Fox. Well, you're home now. You can relax."

"And how do you suggest I do that?"

Alex cocked his head, giving Mulder a curious look.

"You're leaning against the dining room table, *naked*, less than six inches from me, feeding me my dinner and you want me to relax?"

"Is it that much of a distraction?"

Mulder snorted around a mouthful of food. "Like you didn't know."

Alex continued feeding him. "You've seen me naked a million times..."

"This is just a little different though, you know? You truly shocked me."

"I gathered that from the look on your face."

Mulder took hold of his necktie, just brushing Alex's chest with the backs of his fingers, and tugged gently on the silk. "Looks good on you."

Alex merely smiled and held another forkful up to his lover's mouth.

Mulder closed his lips around the fork and pulled the food away, never taking his eyes off of Alex's. When he'd swallowed, he wound the tie around his fingers. He patted the table with his other hand. "Hop up."

Alex raised one dark eyebrow. "You're supposed to be eating..."

"I will. Up."

Alex sighed, seating himself on the table.

"You know..." Mulder began, picking bits of food out of the plate. "..this is very good. Excellent. But it would taste that much better..." He lined the contents of his hand up, along Alex's thigh. "..if I ate it..." He nuzzled the other man's knee. "..like this..."

Alex sucked in a quick breath, as his lover picked the first morsel up, dragging his tongue along the skin as he did.

"You're an evil, evil man..."

"You started it," Mulder murmured against the younger man's thigh. "Now, I'm going to finish it."

By the time Fox had finished his dinner, Alex was a wreck. He fought to control the tremors that passed through his body, every time Fox's mouth grazed his skin. When the last bit of food was eaten away, he released a long breath of relief.

Fox rose to his feet and planted his hands on either side of Alex's hips. "That was the most delicious meal I've ever had." He leaned in, laying a soft kiss on Alex's lips. "Thank you."

"You *really* want to thank me?"

The older man leaned in, stopping when their mouths were only fractions apart. "Sure, I do."

"Fuck me."

Mmmm, I don't know..."

"Please?"

Mulder rolled his eyes toward the ceiling, giving his lover's request some thought.

Alex rubbed his head against the lightly stubbled cheek. "Fox..."

"What?"

"I need you," he whined softly, licking his way up to the Fox's ear. "*Please*."

"Maybe."

Alex slid off the table and wrapped himself around his partner, grinding their hips together. "Do me..." He let out a sharp gasp as Mulder suddenly spun him around. The older man grasped the end of the necktie, winding it around his hand, until he held it snugly to the back of Alex's neck.

"Slut." The amused whisper dripped like honey from Fox's lips.

"Is it going to get me what I want?"

"And then some."

Alex groaned at the feel of his lover's lips traveling up the side of his neck. Mulder held the necktie taut with one hand, as the other crept up and down his chest. Over and over Mulder's fingers skimmed his nipples, teasing them for just a moment, then flitted away. Alex twisted within his lover's grasp, his moans becoming increasingly anguished.

"Good?" Mulder plucked at one nipple, pulling a strangled cry from his captive.

Alex drew a gasping breath and nodded.

"Remember what I promised you this morning?"

"Yesss."

Mulder walked him over to the nearest chair and pushed him to his knees in front of it. "It's payback time." He loosened his hold on the tie and slipped it over Alex's head and off. He grabbed both of the younger man's wrists, wrenching his hands behind his back and securing them together with the knotted tie.

The blood thundered through Alex's body as he was pushed down over the seat. He closed his eyes and made a conscious effort to try to control his ragged breathing as Mulder ran a hand lightly, over his back.

"Comfy?"

"Oh, yeah. This is great, thanks."

"Do I detect a note of sarcasm in your tone?"

"Nooo."

Mulder removed his hand and pulled another chair up. He lowered himself into it and studied the man in front of him.

Alex opened his eyes. "What are you doing?"

"Just admiring the scenery."

"The *scenery* would like to make a request."

Mulder tilted his head in curiosity.

"It's one very simple request."

"I'm listening."

"Fuck me!"

Mulder leaned forward, resting his forearms on his thighs. "You've got some damn nerve, you that? How long did I beg *you*, last night?"

"I don't know, I wasn't keeping time."

Mulder dropped to his knees beside Alex's head. He brought his face down to the one resting on the chair and whispered into the exposed ear. "I was."

Alex whimpered softly.

"And now you're going to pay me back with interest."

"Come on, Fox..."

"You were looking forward to it, this morning. What happened?"

"Can't a guy change his mind?"

Mulder's tongue inched out, tickling the sensitive interior of Alex's ear. "Sure. But that doesn't mean that *another* guy is obligated to listen." He smiled to himself, listening to the sound that came out of Alex, undecided on whether it was a laugh or a sob. Maybe both. "So. What have you got for dessert?"

Alex wiggled his ass. "It's right here. Come and get it."

Mulder moved around to the rear, investigating Alex's offering. "Mmm. Looks good." He snapped his fingers. "You know, I just had a thought..."

"Should I be scared?"

"I don't think so...do we have any ice cream?"

"Uh. No."

"You didn't sound very convincing."

"No...really...no ice cream."

"Think I'll go check for myself." Mulder rose to leave the room but before he got to the door, he stopped. Doubling back, he freed Alex's hands, only to tie them in front of him, to the leg of the chair. "You stay put, now."

"Oh, like I've got a choice?"

The older man planted an affectionate peck on his cheek, then left the room. What seemed like an eternity later, he was back.

"Allllleeex..."

Alex gritted his teeth and squinted. "Yeah?"

"I thought you said we didn't have any ice cream?"

"Is that what you said?" *I* thought you said, iced *tea*. Cause see, we're out of *that*. I gotta remember to put it on my shopping...Ow! Hey!" Alex winced at the stinging slap delivered to his right ass cheek.

"Shame on you. Lying to me..."

Another slap. This time, across the left cheek. Alex's body jumped and his cock throbbed in response.

Mulder smiled at the low, frustrated growl. "That turn you on?"

"No."

"*Another* lie..."

Another slap.

Another moan. This one, louder than the last.

"You'll be really pissed in the morning, if you come all over the carpet," Mulder warned.

"I can't think that...that far...ahead."

"Ohhh...poor Lexei. Let me cool you off a little."

"Shit!" Alex's muscles seized, as his lover rubbed a spoonful of ice cream over his ass.

"Relax, babe. Enjoy it. Isn't it soothing?"

"S-soothing? It stings!"

"It won't in a minute. Oops, it's starting to run..." Mulder got on his knees behind Alex and licked the dripping ice cream off of his skin.

"God...oh God...Fox..."

"Mmmm." Mulder ignored him and spread more ice cream over him, this time, working the spoon into the crevice of his ass.

"*Christ*! Watch it with that thing, would you? You're in sensitive territory, there!"

Mulder's only response was a soft, nasty chuckle.

"I *really* think you're enjoying this a little too much," Alex hissed into the seat cushion.

Mulder observed the intermittent jerk of the younger man's hips. "No more than you are." The spoon moved in an upward direction, then away. Mulder discarded the utensil, then laid his tongue flat against the smooth flesh, and began to lick the thin layer of sticky sweetness away. Alex clenched his teeth together so tightly, his jaw was beginning to ache. Mulder worked slowly, savoring every twitch, every muffled groan. When every last visible bit of ice cream was gone, he gently spread Alex's cheeks and returned to his task. Alex jerked against his mouth, a loud roar breaking from his constricted throat. Mulder cleaned him thoroughly, taking extra care to tease the small opening, which prompted a long stream of curses to pour from the younger man's mouth. Mulder lifted his head and leaned over Alex, pressing his chest to the perspiration dampened back. He rocked his hips against his lover's ass, taking his torment a notch higher. "Such profanity. I can't believe I let you kiss me with that mouth...and *other* things..."

"It's cause I'm just so *fucking* good..."

Mulder reached down, untying Alex's hands and pulled them both into an upright, kneeling position. His hands wandered over the body in front of him, intentionally ignoring that one thing that was begging for his attention. "Very true. Why don't you show me *how* good..." He rose to his feet and walked around the kneeling man, coming to a halt, in front of him.

Alex looked up at his still, fully clothed lover. His hands slowly rose up the backs of Fox's thighs and over the curve of his ass. Pressing his hands there, he leaned in and rubbed his cheek against the rock-hard bulge. Heard the soft hiss of breath, and tipped his head to the right, closing his teeth over the restrained shaft, and pulling gently.

Fox's fingers plunged into the dark hair, closing around the silky strands. He closed his eyes, enjoying the sensations a while longer, before Alex released him and reached for his belt. He opened his eyes and looked down to find his lover looking up at him through the thick fringe of his lashes. He touched one hand to Alex's cheek, sliding his thumb back and forth, across the smooth skin.

The kneeling man turned his face into the touch, hungrily licking at Fox's palm. Once he had the belt undone, he made quick work of the rest, pulling the garments off of Fox's lower body. Fox favored him with those looks that would drop most women and quite a few men where they stood, and began unbuttoning his own shirt, as Alex wrapped his mouth around the head of his cock.

"Oh *God*," Fox whispered, tilting his head back, as Alex proceeded to tease him mercilessly. "Easy, baby. Easy..." He struggled to get his respiration under control as his lover's mouth slid delicately, up and down on his cock. He shook his head and pulled Alex away by his hair. "I can't," he panted.

Alex smirked up at him. "I was barely touching you."

"I know, but...I couldn't. I couldn't even take *that*."

"Well then..." Alex risked a soft kiss on the weeping tip. "You're ready to explode....*I'm* ready to explode...what do you say we do it together? *Now*."

Mulder studied Alex for all of ten seconds, before he pulled the younger man to his feet and hauled him out of the dining room and into the bedroom. He practically threw Alex down onto the bed, before spinning him onto his stomach and shoving a couple of pillows under his hips.

Alex shook with anticipation, as Fox jerked the nightstand drawer open and reached for the lube. Hastily slathering his cock with the gel, he draped himself over Alex's back and worked a slick finger into his ass. Alex whimpered softly and pushed back against the probing finger.

"Fox...please..."

"I know, baby. Hang on." Fox added a second finger, adequately stretching his lover, then removed them, leaving Alex twisting in agony. He emitted a shaky laugh, gripping Alex's hip with one hand. "Hold still, will you?" His other hand grasped his cock by the base, guiding it, slowly thrusting into the man beneath him.

Alex clutched at the sheets, pulling them away from the mattress and burying his face in the pale yellow material that was gathering in a heap, by his head. His muffled cries prompted increased movement from Fox, who had now given up any thoughts he may have entertained about dragging this out a minute longer.

"Oh, yeah..." Fox grunted into Alex's ear, squeezing a hand between his lover's hips and the pillows, to take hold of his cock. He rocked forcefully against Alex, increasing the tension, and jerked the cock in his hand faster, trying awkwardly, to match the speed of his thrusts. "I'm...oh...Jesus..." Fox pressed his face into the side of the younger man's neck, groaning loudly, as he spent himself inside of his lover. Alex came seconds later, screaming into the sheets and coating Fox's hand and the pillow with warm, slick fluid.

They lay joined together, struggling for each breath. Fox moved first, inclining his head to kiss Alex's shoulder. He licked his lips, then his lover's shoulder, enjoying the salty sweet taste.

Alex moaned, then shifted as much as the weight pressing down on him would allow.

Fox kissed him once more, then gently disengaged himself, drawing another moan, this time, one of protest.

"Now my back is cold," Alex grumbled at the man who had just dropped onto his back, beside him.

Fox snickered softly and pulled himself up, covering Alex's back with his chest. "Okay?"

Alex snuggled happily into the sheets. "Mmm hmm."

The two men lay quietly together, content with the silence for a while. Then Fox spoke up.

"Sleepy?"

"Thought I would be, but no. You?"

"No." He eased himself off of Alex and waited, while the younger man flipped over and propped himself against the pillows, tossing the soiled one onto the floor. Alex spread his legs, pulling Fox between them. The older man backed himself against Alex's chest, sighing contentedly, as a pair of warm arms came around him. He entwined the fingers of one hand with Alex's, and brought the hand up to his lips.

Alex nuzzled the side of Fox's head and whispered against it. "I can't tell you how happy I am to be here with you like this, and how scared I'd been that I might never be, again."

"I know. Me too." Fox held on to Alex's hand, bringing his arm back down, across his chest. "I hated sleeping alone in this bed."

Alex nodded in agreement. "I couldn't stand it. That's why, after that first night, I moved to the guest room."

Fox tipped his head up so that their eyes met. "Do you sleep there when I'm away?"

"No. It's different, then. You know...there's nothing wrong, you're coming back. It's comforting to sleep on your side of the bed with your pillows. But knowing that we were in the same house and you didn't *want* to be with me..it was just too much to take."

"I'm sorry." Fox reached up, cupping the back of Alex's head. "That was one of the stupidest things I've ever done. I tortured us both, needlessly."

Alex tightened his arm around his lover's chest. "Hey, I was driving you crazy. I'm shocked that you were able to put up with it for as long as you did..."

"What happened, Alex? Can you explain it to me? I'm not pushing for answers that you may not have, I just want to understand as much as I can."

"Sorry, it's not going to be much. I just know that I was fine, until you mentioned the name Mark Richardson. The jealousy overwhelmed me. I can't explain it. I *knew* him and I knew what he'd be up to. And I *knew* I should have trusted you, I had no reason *not* to, but I couldn't help myself. And I could feel the anger. I wanted to kill him. That's no exaggeration, Fox. I had to fight every instinct I had, to keep from whacking the guy. I hadn't had a thought like that in ages. But it cropped up," He snapped his fingers. "just like that. I pushed the anger as far away as I could. I didn't want to be who I could feel myself becoming...I didn't want to be who I used to be. But every time his name was mentioned. Every time something happened that involved him, I felt myself slipping another notch." Alex rubbed his cheek into the golden-brown silk under his chin. "I uh...I never told you or Scully but...I went looking for Richardson, after I left her place that day. I wanted to kill him in the worst way. I didn't find him of course, which is a good thing, for him. And me, I guess. And you." Alex sighed. "I could've screwed up the rest of our lives, if I had."

Mulder said nothing. He rubbed Alex's arm, soothing the younger man, and let him continue.

"I just came home, after I couldn't find him. I don't even know how I got back here. The thought kept running through my mind, that wherever he was, you were with him. I didn't know what to do. I wanted to kill *him*, that much was clear. But as far as you were concerned...everything was a blur. I was so confused...when Scully came over to talk to me, I was a mess. I'd worked myself into such a state. But she kept talking to me and some of the sense she was making, managed to make it through the rage and I started to see a way out of the place I really didn't want to be in, in the first place. She helped me clean up the mess in the garden and convinced me to go back to her place and talk to you. When we got there, and you were gone, something inside of me, snapped. Again, she tried to tell me that everything would be fine and that you were probably home, waiting for *me*, but I couldn't believe that, a second time. I told her I'd go home, but getting Richardson was the only thing I could think about doing. I kept seeing these images of him touching *my* Fox. Doing things to you only *I* should do..." Alex's eyes misted. "And I couldn't stand it. When you walked in and found me sitting in the living room, I'd already had myself convinced that you were there to tell me that we were done. Needless to say, it surprised me to hear what you *did* have to say."

"And you believed me..."

"Yeah. Well, it occurred to me that it would be very easy to check out your injured hand story and you'd know that, so why would you lie about it, you know? And then the guilt came sweeping in. And all of a sudden I couldn't look at you. I couldn't stay, knowing what I'd done. I felt lower than dirt. Like I used to feel, before. And the scum that I was before, wasn't good enough to be near you. Not nearly good enough..."

Fox turned onto his side and pulled Alex's head down for a soft kiss. It said all it needed to say. The younger man continued.

"Yet, I needed you. I was so screwed up. I felt I had to leave, but I *wanted* to stay and when you stopped me from packing my bags and told me you loved me...after all that had happened, it just ripped me in two. I *really* hated myself, then. And every time you touched me and I accepted the pleasure, I felt like I was taking something that wasn't rightfully mine. Like I was stealing. And I hated myself some more. I had to try to fix it. To replace what I'd taken from you, and then I started to *over*compensate, I guess, for my failings. *That* started to piss you off and I didn't know which way was up. I lost sight of myself. I didn't know where I belonged in your life anymore, if *anywhere*, until last night."

"Why did last night change things?"

"I was feeling useless. Like a contemptible piece of shit, you'd just scraped off your shoe. I was sure that it was just a matter of time until you'd realized what I already had. That I was just in the way, and we'd be history. Then last night...you needed me. And there was no time to think about all that had happened or the consequences for what *could* happen. All of a sudden, I was *me*, again. Not the cold-hearted assassin of the past, not the jealous, pathetic, insecure jerk, I had become. I was the man you trusted and loved. The *real* Alex...holding you and making you believe that everything was okay. You put yourself in my hands. You trusted me to make it all right and that trust restored my strength and my identity."

Fox kissed the base of Alex's throat. "I'm so glad you're back. I *missed* you."

Alex hugged Fox to him and nodded silently.

"Promise you won't disappear on me like that, again?"

"I promise."

Fox curled up against Alex's chest. "And listen, if you want to punch me for all that stuff I said to you..."

"No. It hurt like hell Fox, but I know that you were desperate."

"Still. I'm so sorry. I love you, Lexei and I never should have let myself blow up like that."

"It's all right," Alex whispered. "Let's just start over, okay?"

Fox tilted his head, looking Alex in the eye. "Okay."

The younger man slipped a hand through Fox's hair and his head descended for a long, tender kiss. When he pulled away, he smiled down into sparkling hazel eyes. "I've got something I want to show you."

Fox chuckled softly. "I've seen it, but I'll be happy to take another look..."

"Anybody ever tell you, you've got a dirty mind?"

Fox recoiled in mock astonishment. "*Never*."

"Very convincing. Do yourself a favor, okay? "Don't quit your day job."

Fox flipped himself back into his original position, resting his back against Alex's chest. "So, what do you want to show me?"

Alex reached into the nightstand drawer and pulled out a rather battered looking, black leather bound book. He lowered the book onto Fox's thigh, laying his hand on top of it.

>Fox placed his hand over Alex's and looked down at the book. "What's this?"

"It's a journal. I started it the night I came to you with the offer to help."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I wanted some kind of documentation. Some way to keep everything straight. And in case something happened to me, you'd have it as a point of reference. Someplace to go, if you needed to." Alex smiled into his lover's hair. But somehow, it wound up being something more. I wrote in it almost every day, until shortly after we got together."

"Where've you kept it all this time?"

"I went to Byers and told him about it. Told him that it was in a fireproof box, under the fifteenth floorboard in the living room in my apartment and made him promise never to tell you about it, unless I was dead. When we moved in together, I gave it to him and held him to the same promise."

"How come it's taken you almost two years to show it to me?"

"I don't know."

"What made you decide to show it to me, now?"

Alex shrugged. "I just thought...I just...it's part of me. And you should know. I never let you in on my thought processes, how I came to the decisions that I had...how and why I felt the things I felt during that time, and since all this confusion, I thought maybe somehow, it might help to...I don't know. Maybe there could be something in there...understanding...validation." He dropped his forehead into Fox's hair and heaved a deep breath. "Just...read it, would you?"

Fox rubbed the back of Alex's hand, making no move to pick the book up.

Alex waited, anxiety slowly creeping in.

"Fox?"

The older man turned his eyes up to meet his lover's. His soft smile eased the apprehension.

"Thank you."

"What for?"

"For finally giving me every last little bit of yourself."

Alex looked from his lover, to the journal, then back again. "Is that what I did?"

The smile broadened. "Yeah." Fox lifted the journal and set it down a few inches away. "Can this wait for just a little while?"

"Yeah, I guess...why?"

Fox turned, pushing Alex down onto his back. "I really want to read your thoughts and I will, but right now, there's something I want even more..."

Alex giggled softly as he clamped his arms around his lover, dragging him down on top of his quickly hardening body. "Fudge ripple?"



END