Remember Me
Series: Part IV of Not On My Watch

Rated NC-17 language, violence and m/m sexual situations
Archive: Allslash, Archive X, TER/MA, All Things Rat, Den of Sin, Slashville. Anywhere else, please ask me first.

Summary: Bad things happen when Skinner makes an unwise decision based on his hatred of Alex. Kids...uh, hey, kids? I know it looks bad, but put the pitchforks and torches away and just keep reading, okay? I mean, there are four hundred and someodd pages here. Something good has got to happen *sooner* or later, right?

Disclaimer: Mulder, Krycek, Scully, Skinner and Cancer Man belong to CC. All other characters belong to me. Hey, CC, wanna trade?
Humongous thanks to Ori for having the patience to beta this thing. You've gone way above and beyond the call of duty on this one, and I couldn't be more grateful. As always, huge thanks and smoochies to Nic and Ori for much enthusiasm...even when said enthusiasm would occasionally manifest itself in the form of threats! I really enjoy them, anyway. Sue was hollering for yet another club scene, so, here ya go, Sue!

Feedback is always most welcome! I like being stroked and petted and loved and...wait....that's Fox. Well, hell, I like it too. You can reach me at MMCUSN@aol.com

********************
Remember Me
by Aries

Prologue
********************

The early autumn sun washed the open field in its warm glow, spotlighting the lone, dark figure amongst the pillars of white. As motionless as the slabs of stone, the figure stared unblinking at the mahogany casket.

Only a short time ago, the field had been dotted with color, the hallowed silence broken by the sounds of rifle fire, a lone bugler playing taps, and a somber voice offering to a grieving mother the thanks of a grateful nation.

Family and friends offered their condolences and slowly faded away, leaving three people huddled together in their grief, and one who would now forever be alone.

The mother watched through a haze of tears as, oblivious to their presence, the solitary figure slowly approached the mahogany casket, dropping to his knees in front of it, and rocked back and forth. The mother looked to the woman beside her.

"Who is that?"

The younger woman drew a deep breath then spoke. "That's..."

A hand on her arm made her cut off her words, and she looked up to the male in their small group. He gave her a tiny shake of his head, but she would not be dissuaded.

"He never would have lied to her if she'd asked him." She placed her hand on the mother's back, stroking gently.

"...That man was your son's lover. His name is Alex."

********************
Five days earlier
********************

Fox stood fidgeting impatiently as the elevator made its slow ascent to the fourth floor.

He sighed heavily and leaned his head against the wall.

One day he was sure the damn thing was going to just stop in mid-climb, and with his luck, he'd be the one stuck inside.

Now if Alex was stuck in there *with* him...

He'd begun to smirk, considering the possibilities, when the elevator lurched to a stop and the doors wheezed open.

He stepped into the hall and strode toward apartment forty-two, almost colliding with Alex as he threw the door open. Fox jumped back and cursed softly.

"You scared the shit out of me."

Alex shifted the bag of garbage from one hand to the other and gave his lover a disappointed pout.

"That's a nice greeting."

"Sorry." Fox stepped forward, slipping an arm around the younger man's waist, and laying a long, tender kiss on his mouth. "Better?" he asked, pulling away just far enough to look into Alex's eyes. The other nodded and initiated a second kiss. When they parted, Fox asked him how long he'd been back.

"About fifteen minutes," Alex answered then hefted the bag, wrinkling his nose. "Not a minute too soon from the smell of this. Is this the same garbage from when I left three days ago?"

"Nooo." Fox stopped, looking into space. "Well, wait..." He looked back to his lover, grinning sheepishly. "Yeah, you know, it might be."

Alex gave him a deadpan expression then walked off toward the trash chute, mumbling.

"Can't leave him alone for more than two days..."

Fox grimaced and rolled his eyes, turning toward the door, and Alex's voice followed him.

"I *saw* that."

The grimace turned to a grin, and Fox entered the apartment, removing his outer coat and suit jacket, and, not daring to toss them over the back of the chair, hung the coat up in the closet and took his jacket into the bedroom.

As he was unknotting his tie, Alex appeared behind him and reached around, unbuttoning his shirt.

"Miss me?"

Fox smiled and closed his eyes, letting his lover undress him. "Of course, I missed you. What happened? You said you'd be gone a week."

"Yeah, I know." Alex finished with the buttons and slipped the shirt off. "Ran into a bit of a roadblock. No biggie, but it's going to be a couple of days before I can finish. So," he purred, pulling Fox's undershirt out of his pants and sliding his hands underneath, "I thought I'd come home...spend the weekend with my baby."

"You're so sweet."

"Yes, I am." Alex lay his head against the older man's back as he continued to stroke his chest. "You hadn't made any plans this weekend, had you?"

Fox smirked. "Well...actually, I had made a date."

Alex lifted his head, and one corner of his mouth slanted upward. "Is that so?"

"Yeah. See, Skinner's got these new flavored lubes, and...*ouch*!"

Alex grinned, gently skimming his fingertips over the nipple he'd just twisted. "That hurt?"

"Yes!"

"Good."

Fox turned and wrapped his arms around the younger man's waist. "You know I was just yanking your chain."

"Mmm hmm." Alex leaned in and nuzzled his lover's neck. "I got something else for you to yank."

The sound that came from Fox's throat was something of a cross between a laugh and a groan. "I'll remind you that you said that a little later."

"*Later*?"

"Yeah." The older man pressed a couple of kisses into his lover's hair. "I'm starving. *And*, I got something I want to talk to you about."

Alex growled into Fox's shoulder. "All right. What do you want for dinner?"

"I don't know...hey, it's Friday...wanna go out?"

"Out to dinner?"

"Yeah." Fox began to sway, gently grinding his hips against the other man's. "Maybe a little dancing..."

A wicked grin tilted the corners of Alex's mouth, and he began to move with his lover. "We haven't been out in a long time."

"I know." Fox placed a hand over the younger man's ass, pulling him in closer. "Sound good?"

"Sounds great."

"Well," Fox rumbled against Alex's mouth, "let's go get ready."

"Yeah...hey, wait. What'd you want to talk to me about?"

"I'll tell you at dinner." Fox took his lover's hand and led him to the bathroom. They showered together, taking the time to work each other into a high state of arousal, then got dressed and left. Alex's laughter drifted through the living room and into the hall as Fox opened up the closet door and grabbed a blanket on their way out.

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

They chose a casual pub near the club and settled down to a light dinner.

"So..." Fox speared a tiny red potato and looked up at Alex. "Have you ever heard the name Henry Lieber?"

The younger man raised his eyebrows. "Yeah. I've heard it. He was a doctor. Neurology..."

"*Was*?"

"Yeah. Well, as far as I know, the guy is dead. He was on the Consortium payroll, but he'd double-crossed them somehow, and they made him go away. I don't know any of this firsthand, it's just what I heard."

"What else did you hear? What was he doing for them?"

"Sick shit. To say that he fucked with people's minds would *not* be merely a figure of speech. He was doing all kinds of experiments. Stuff no reputable doctor would ever attempt...why do you want to know?"

"According to the information I got today, the good doctor is still alive and very busy."

"Doing what?"

"Brain transplants."

Alex cocked his head. "Brain....transplants..."

"Lieber is apparently attempting to transfer the brain of an E.B.E. into a human head."

"*Why*?"

Fox shrugged. "Because he can? Seriously, I have no idea. This is what I've got to find out."

"Fox...assuming that Lieber is still alive and doing what you heard he's doing, that's gotta take a whole truckload of cash. Who the hell would be bankrolling....oh...wait..."

Fox nodded. "I know what you're thinking. Rumors of his death were leaked by the Consortium."

Alex nodded. "Then they could cloister him in some out of the way place where he could continue his work undisturbed. Where does your information say he is?"

"The mountains of Vermont. He's supposedly been there for the last two years. Scully's due back from Quantico on Sunday. I'm going to talk to her then about booking a flight."

Alex chewed on the inside corner of his lip and drummed lightly on the table. "Do me a favor, babe, and let me run a check first. I know somebody in their research stable. Let me see what I can find out about it before you go up there. The more information you have, the better, right?"

Fox smiled, recognizing the concern in the younger man's voice. "Okay, go ahead and check it out." He reached across the table, foraging through Alex's plate with his fork, and pulled out a piece of chicken. The younger man watched, chin resting in his palm as the chicken disappeared into Fox's mouth.

"Good?"

"Yeah." Fox reached for another piece. "Why is it that no matter what it is you order, it always tastes better than what *I* get?"

"It's all in your head."

"Is not."

Alex stared at the other man, shaking his head slowly. "Okay. Want to switch?"

Fox smiled over at him. "Do you mind?"

"Does it matter?"

"Of course, it does."

"Okay, I mind."

"No, you don't." Fox switched plates and dug into the chicken.

"Yeah, I *do*. That chicken is really good!"

"I know."

"I've shot people for less, Mulder. Did you know *that*?"

Fox puckered his lips, making soft kissing noises.

"Don't do that."

"What?"

"*That*." Alex waved his fork at his lover. "That kissing thing."

"Why not?"

"Because it makes me want to drag you up on this table and fuck the life out of you, that's why not."

Fox shook his head, giving Alex a smug grin. "Not tonight, babe."

"What's that?"

"Nothing. Eat your dinner."

"You mean *your* dinner."

"Not any more. You traded with me, remember?"

"I didn't trade with you. You *took* it."

"You wanted me to have it."

"Oh, did I? Well, thanks for telling me. Up till now, I thought I was enjoying my own food."

Nearly half an hour later, they had finished eating and were on their way to the club they'd visited only once before.

Fox pulled into the parking lot and smiled over at his lover. "You've been kind of quiet. Still brooding about your chicken?"

"No," Alex mumbled, staring down at his hands.

"Yes, you are." Fox leaned over, stroking the other's stubbled cheek. He kissed a path along Alex's jaw and lingered at his ear, delicately probing the sensitive interior. "I'll make it up to you," he moaned softly, making the younger man's eyes drift shut and his body shiver.

"Yeah? How?"

Fox pulled back a bit and smiled. "I'll think of something. Come on. Let's go."

He threw his door open and exited the car, and just as Alex was himself stepping out, Fox came around to the passenger's side and pressed him into the side of the car. "You know what?" he asked, his lips grazing his lover's.

Alex moaned softly, writhing against him. "What?"

Fox slipped a hand between then, caressing the bulge in Alex's jeans. "I'm seriously tempted to fuck you right here against the car."

Alex's hips jerked against the older man's hand. "Don't expect me to protest."

Fox chuckled lewdly and drew Alex's zipper down, slipping his hand inside and brushing his fingers along the solid, velvety shaft. "I didn't think you would." He wrapped his hand around his lover's cock, squeezing in a gentle rhythm. "I think we'll wait, though."

"What," Alex panted softly, "not enough of an audience out here for you?"

Fox looked around the sparsely populated lot, then back at the other man, giving him a Cheshire grin. "All I have to do is rip your clothes off and throw you up on the hood. This entire lot'll be full up in five minutes."

Alex squirmed against him. "I dare you."

The older man shook his head, still smiling. "Some other time. Wouldn't be any fun if the tension was lost, would it?" Even as he spoke, his hand increased the speed of its strokes, taking Alex dangerously close to the edge.

"Fox...oh, shit...baby, I...oh, *God*...what...*no*."

Fox released him and quickly zipped his jeans up, giving him a chaste peck on the tip of his nose. "You didn't think I was actually going to let you come, did you?"

Alex let his head drop back against the roof of the car, moaning in agony. "Sadistic son of a bitch."

"Mmm hmm." Fox licked a trail up his lover's throat, stopping halfway and sucking the tender flesh into his mouth. Alex clutched at his jacket, issuing a pained whimper as he applied more suction, but he refused to let go until he was good and ready. Finally, after a quite a few seconds, he released the younger man, leaving a large, reddish-purple patch where his mouth had been.

"Fox," Alex whispered through gritted teeth, pawing at his shirt, "come on. Please..."

"Nope."

The younger man rested his forehead against Fox's shoulder, whining softly, and he grinned, satisfied. He had Alex just where he wanted him, and now it was time for a little fun. He slapped his lover on the hip and took his hand, pulling him toward the entrance.

"Not too crowded," he observed as they walked in, checking his watch. "Of course, it *is* still a bit early." He leaned to his left and pressed a kiss to Alex's temple. "Let's get something to drink."

The two men walked to the bar, and Fox ordered a couple of beers. Bar traffic was light, and they received their drinks immediately. Fox gathered the two bottles together in one hand and placed the other at Alex's back, steering him toward a sofa near the dance floor. He sat first, leaning against the overstuffed arm, and stretching one leg along the length of the sofa while he planted his other foot on the floor. He pulled Alex down between his legs, and the younger man nestled against his chest.

"Comfortable, baby?"

Alex gave no answer. He was too deeply engrossed in watching his lover's lips close around the mouth of the bottle. His tongue flicked at his own lips as Fox tilted his head back and closed his eyes, taking several long swallows. As Fox pulled the bottle away, he leaned in, lapping gingerly at the residual moisture that shimmered on his lover's mouth.

Fox moaned, letting his hand wander up and down Alex's back as the younger man finished licking the beer away, then moved down over his chin and throat, settling down to bathe the exposed skin of his chest. He drained his bottle and set it down, now able to use both hands to caress his lover.

"Alex...baby..."

Alex looked up, reading the deep lust in the amber-flecked eyes, and awaited his lover's word.

"Let's dance."

As Alex had done once several months ago, Fox moved to the most conspicuous spot on the third tier and pulled the younger man into his arms. They moved slowly, in time to the ballad that was playing, Fox's hands roving over Alex's back, and his lips pressing the softest of kisses into his hair.

Alex melted into the older man's touches, practically purring as he rubbed his cheek against his shoulder. They swayed gently, their bodies touching everywhere, and when the music changed to a harder, driving beat, it was some time before they even noticed.

It was Fox who rose first from the sensual fog they'd been immersed in. He slid his fingers through Alex's hair and pulled his head back even as his body pressed closer.

Alex moaned at the feel of his lover's hard cock pushing against his, and he focused on stormy green-gold eyes. Fox trained an intense stare on his lover as his body began a different rhythm, provoking and seducing Alex into identical action. Soon, the two were writhing together, driving each other to a more frenzied tempo.

The air vibrated and the floor shook as all at once, the two men found themselves in the middle of a throng of pulsing bodies. The temperature around them rose noticeably as the crowd pressed closer and closer, and before he knew it, Alex found himself sandwiched between his lover and another man who had boldly attempted to turn the couple into a trio. A possessive flash of Fox's eyes put an end to the man's aspirations, and he slunk away, leaving the men to each other. But the brief incident and Fox's instant reaction only served to arouse Alex further, and he clutched at his lover's ass, rhythmically humping his thigh. His head fell back and his mouth dropped open at the sensations his action generated, but before he could reach a climax, Fox jerked him away, abruptly spinning him around and pressing against his back.

Alex's moans went unheard by all except the one whose body cradled his. He reached back, draping one arm around Fox's neck while the other rested along the one the other man had wrapped around his waist. His head fell back against Fox's shoulder, and he allowed himself to be swept along, becoming one with his lover.

Fox wound his free arm around Alex's neck, rendering his head virtually immobile, and while he rubbed himself against the younger man's ass, his tongue teased the sensitive interior of his ear, pulling a restless groan from the beneficiary of his attention.

Other dancers slowed to almost a dead stop as they watched, entranced by the two who seemed oblivious to all but each other and the music that drove them. Even the disc jockey seemed aware of what was going on below, fading in a harder, more erotic beat and taking the heat a few degrees higher.

Alex's hand left the arm Fox had wound around his waist and curved up and back so that both arms were now hooked around his lover's neck, and he slithered against him, making the bulge in Fox's jeans grow ever harder.

Fox cupped Alex's jaw and turned his face to the right until he was able to take the younger man's mouth in a searing kiss. His hand then dropped to Alex's chest, slipping beneath the leather jacket to caress his chest.

Alex whimpered into Fox's mouth as his lover's hand moved feverishly over him. The cotton of his t-shirt shifted with each pass of Fox's hand, and, soft and worn as it was, it still felt like sandpaper to his hardened nipples. As he began to squirm, Fox clamped his arm around his chest and the hand at his waist skimmed downward over his denim-covered cock then up, undoing the first button on his fly. The second fastening gave quickly, and Fox's hand slid inside. Alex pulled away from his mouth, and he cried out as Fox's fingers curled around his cock and slowly but firmly began to jerk it.

"You want to come for me, baby?" Fox growled in his ear as they continued their wild undulations. He knew the answer as surely as he knew his name, but he so enjoyed hearing his lover beg...

A low mewling sound vibrated in Alex's throat as his body tightened notch by agonizing notch.

"Tell me..."

Alex gritted his teeth and forced himself to speak. "Yes...*yes*. Please, Fox. Want to come..."

Fox pulled his hand out of his lover's jeans, prompting a loud whine of protest. His hand swept upward and under the t-shirt, stroking the smooth, overheated flesh as his tongue mercilessly teased the interior of Alex's ear. "Right here?" he asked, finding a nipple and tugging sharply at it.

"*Yes*."

Fox delivered a stinging bite to the other man's earlobe, making him wince. "You *want* to come in front of all these people, don't you?"

Alex nodded mutely, pushing back against his lover's crotch.

"Fucking slut." Fox brought both hands up to the neck of Alex's t-shirt and pulled, ripping the worn material in two, then spinning him so that they were again face to face. "I love you." Without removing Alex's jacket, he shredded his t-shirt, removing it piece by piece from his body and hurling the scraps at various members of their growing audience. When he'd removed the last bit of material, he grabbed a handful of leather and hauled Alex against his chest. "Do you love me?"

Alex clung to the front of his lover's shirt as their hips moved in unison. "You know I do."

Fox plunged the fingers of one hand into the sable hair and just barely brushed his mouth against his lover's. "Show me."

At least eighty percent of the group dancing on the third tier was now watching as the dark-haired man caught fire, provoking his partner into a ferocious, rhythmic duel. The two thrashed against each other, hands and mouths clinging to hot, slick skin as they careened toward the outer edges of rationality.

Alex pushed Fox beyond that fine edge as he slid down his lover's body, dropping to his knees in front of him. If the music was not so loud, a round of gasps could have been heard as the kneeling man pulled his partner's zipper down and promptly withdrew his cock, sucking the entire length down his throat.

A strained growl ripped from Fox's throat as his fingers sank into his lover's hair, and he began to blindly thrust into his mouth...

The crowd, the blaring music...it all just went away as Fox closed his eyes and let himself drown in the wet heat that now encompassed him. He pushed harder and faster, needing more. So good. God, he needed...

His eyes flew open as Alex tucked him back into his jeans and rose to his feet. Before he could protest, the younger man coiled around him, licking his mouth and jaw.

"Please, fuck me," he begged, nipping at Fox's chin, and before he could make a second request, he was being hauled across the dance floor, moving through the crowd that quickly parted to allow them passage.

They reached the main floor, and Fox stopped short, causing a rear-end collision with his lover.

"*Shit*." He looked around then, before Alex could ask what he was cursing about, he grasped the younger man's wrist and headed for the exit.

"Fox..." Alex strode behind Fox, following his purposeful steps through the parking lot. "Why are we going..."

They reached Fox's car, and the older man shoved Alex against it, tugging at the remaining fastened buttons on his jeans. He jerked the pants down and abruptly spun Alex around, bending him over the hood of the car. He reached a shaky hand into the pocket of his jacket and produced a small tube of lubricant. Quickly, he pulled his own jeans down to the tops of his thighs, stroked the lube on, and pulled Alex's hips back against his.

"Would take too long to get the blanket and go back inside," he explained while he worked his cock inside his lover's squirming ass. "Besides, didn't you want me to fuck you out here?"

Alex clawed at the hood as he felt every inch of his lover push inside of him. "God...oh, God, Fox, please..."

"Let 'im have it!"

Fox's head jerked up and around at the sound of the voice that came from somewhere behind. At least two dozen men had followed them outside and stood in a semi-circle a few feet behind. The one who had shouted at them smirked at Fox.

"Come on, gorgeous. He's begging for it. Do 'im."

Fox turned back and leaned over Alex's back, licking the side of his neck. "We've got company. You wanna take this home?"

Alex growled at the amused tone. "I swear to God, Mulder, if you move a muscle other than to fuck me, I'll rip your dick off."

"Well, isn't that sweet? I guess I'll just take that as a 'no'." Fox drew back and surged forward, pushing Alex up another fraction over the hood. The younger man cried out, sending a hum of appreciation rippling through the crowd behind them.

"Make 'im scream..."

Fox chuckled into Alex's ear as he began to pump steadily into him. "Your fans are making requests."

Alex's brow wrinkled, and he moaned into the pewter metal. He could hear nothing but Fox's voice and the sound of his own cries.

Fox kissed Alex's earlobe then straightened his back and grasped a handful of sable hair with one hand as he steadied his hip with the other. He pulled out halfway then rammed back in, repeating the action again and again, quickly building the pressure in his lower body to an intolerable level. Beneath him, Alex yelped and pleaded for release. His lover's frantic pleas accompanied by the growing shouts of the crowd, worked him into a frenzied state. He increased his pace, simultaneously sliding his hand around to Alex's cock and jerking it in time to his thrusts.

The group held its collective breath as the men against the car tumbled out of control, shuddering and thrashing, their strangled screams rising into the September night air.

Fox's thrusts became erratic then slowed to an intermittent spasm as he emptied himself into his lover. Their screams faded into soft whimpers of exhaustion, and Fox slumped down over Alex's back, resting a moment before pulling the younger man up and readjusting their clothing. He then turned around so that he was the one leaning against the car and Alex was resting against his chest. As he wound his arms around his lover and kissed the top of his head, two from the dispersing group approached. Fox recognized the voice of the man who spoke as the one who was shouting suggestions.

"Not that you need to hear this from anybody else, but," the man began, "you two are totally fucking hot."

Fox gave the man a small grin as he pulled Alex more tightly against him.

The man continued. "I remember you two. You were here a couple of months ago. You set this joint on fire. I think *everybody* got some that night. The regulars were pretty disappointed when we didn't see you for a while."

"We're pretty busy," Fox answered softly, stroking his lover's back.

The other man nodded. "I'm Steve, by the way." He motioned to the other man. "This is my friend Morris. We'd love to buy you guys a drink...you coming back in?"

"We don't share."

Steve looked from the man to whom he'd been speaking, into glittering green eyes. "Hey, I don't blame you," he said to Alex as he turned around and leaned back against Fox. "If I had somebody in my life as hot as either of you, I wouldn't want to share him, either."

Alex looked from Steve to his companion then back.

"Oh...no...Morris is just my friend. We're not *together*. So...you coming back in?"

Alex arched his neck and looked back at Fox, who shrugged then looked at his watch.

"It's not really late, and we've got no place to be tomorrow." Fox kissed the younger man's forehead. "You want to stay a while?"

"Yeah, for a while."

Fox gently pushed Alex away and unlocked the car door.

"What are you..." A broad grin lit his face as Fox pulled the blanket out of the back seat. "Who the hell wound *you* up tonight?"

"You complaining?"

"Did that *sound* like a complaint?"

Fox shut the car door and walked up alongside his lover, slipping an arm around his waist. He motioned with his head to the door, and all four men moved back toward the club.

Morris let out a low chuckle and nudged Steve as they walked. "These guys are my new heroes."

Back inside, they located and claimed a vacant sofa and one chair. As Fox draped the blanket over the leather cushions, Steve found another empty chair a few tables away and pulled it up, sitting beside his friend. He caught a passing waiter and, after getting everyone's drink orders, settled back in his chair and smiled at the couple wrapped around each other on the sofa. "So, you didn't tell us your names."

Alex studied the man's face for a moment, then, obviously deciding that he was okay, spoke up.

"Alex." He looked to the man beside him, gaining a nod of approval, then glanced back at the other two. "This is Fox."

Both men stared for a moment, obviously expecting somebody to tell them that it was a nickname, or short for something else, but when no more information was forthcoming, Morris raised his eyebrows.

"Everybody call you that?"

Fox shrugged. "Very few people, actually. I was never very comfortable with it, so most people call me by my last name. Only Alex and my mother call me Fox."

"So..." Steve cocked his head, staring into the hazel eyes. "...that's the name on your birth certificate?"

"Yeah."

A crooked smile lit the other man's face. "Your mother able to see into the future?"

"How's that?"

"How else did she know that you'd grow into that name?"

Fox grimaced but made no remark. Alex, on the other hand, couldn't let it go by without comment. He turned to the older man and, combing his fingers through the golden-brown hair, smiled softly.

"He's beautiful, isn't he?"

Fox forgot his previous mild irritation and closed his eyes, reveling in Alex's tender touch.

"Gorgeous." Morris heaved a long sigh. "You're one lucky s.o.b...actually, that goes for both of you. You're a perfect match...how long have you been together?"

"We've known each other a number of years, but we only got involved less than a year ago."

Steve gasped in mock horror. "God, what took you so long?"

Fox opened his eyes and gave Alex a smile only they two understood. "Long story."

"Ah. Well, the important thing is you're together now. It would have been a crime if you'd never found your way to each other."

Alex smirked at him. "You don't even know us."

Steve burst into laughter. "I'd have to be deaf, dumb, *and* blind not to realize that you two belong together."

As the group made light conversation, Fox inched closer to Alex until he was practically in his lap, nuzzling and kissing the side of his lover's face and neck.

Finding it more and more difficult to concentrate on what was being said, Alex finally gave up and pulled Fox into his arms, initiating a hard, breath-stealing kiss. Fox squirmed in the younger man's embrace, wanting to get closer, and when Alex finally released his mouth, he found himself in the perfect position to access his lover's chest.

"I think we've been forgotten," Steve murmured to his friend, eyes never leaving the two in front of him.

Alex heard the vague statement and struggled to open his eyes while Fox lovingly bathed his chest. "S-sorry, guys." He swallowed against the sudden dryness that had claimed his throat and petted the golden-brown head that was now over his nipple. He winced as the older man sucked the nub into his mouth and fought to compose himself enough to string more than two words together. "Didn't....ah, *shit*....Jesus, Fox....uh....didn't mean to ignore you."

"S'okay," Morris stopped to clear his throat, then began again. "Uh...we certainly understand. Maybe we should just leave you two..."

"No, Alex interrupted, a sly grin curling his mouth. "No, it's okay. You guys were nice enough to buy us a drink," he purred, gently combing his fingers through his occupied lover's hair, "it'd be rude to just dismiss you..." his eyelashes fluttered, and he released a shuddering sigh as Fox moved to the other nipple, his tongue moving in long, firm strokes over it. "...S-so, how long have you been coming here?"

"Uh..." Steve tore his gaze away from Fox and forced himself to meet Alex's passion-glazed eyes. "About two years. I uh...I met Morris here, actually. We were..." He paused, moistening dry lips as he looked back to the other man and found him slowly moving toward Alex's crotch. "Umm....w-we met at the bar. Turns out we'd both been dumped and, uh....we uh, just sat drinking and commiserating. We became good friends..."

Alex nodded and shifted ever-so-slightly, making it easier for Fox to unbutton his jeans.

"Christ," Steve whispered, watching Fox pull the denim aside then begin licking Alex's cock from base to tip. "What...what about you guys? We've only seen you here once before."

"Yeah," Alex spoke slowly as he attempted to regulate his breathing. "This is...only the s-second time we've...been...here..."

Fox looked up at Alex out of the corner of his eye, gently teasing the tip of his lover's engorged cock, then smiled and swallowed the entire shaft in one fluid motion. At that point, three of the four men gasped loudly, and Alex's hips bucked, raising himself and Fox both a couple of inches off the sofa.

"Oh, my God," Morris moaned, raising a trembling hand to his forehead. "S-Steve, I don't think I'm going to survive this..."

Steve tilted his head to the far right, intently studying Fox. "Shit. I've *never* been able to do that without choking..."

Alex, head thrown back, eyes closed, managed a tremulous grin. "Show 'em how you do it, baby."

Slowly, Fox pulled back from the glistening shaft, placing a kiss at the tip before glancing over at the two men. "First of all," he instructed in that slightly amused, deadpan tone, "you've got to really like the guy you're doing. Willingness to please is a key factor." He paused to take a swipe at his lover's cock, then continued. "Second, is relaxation. If you're not relaxed, it just ain't gonna happen."

The others leaned forward, listening studiously.

"Now," he grinned, "a couple of deep breaths...relax your throat, and..."

Morris whimpered as he watched the whole of Alex's cock disappear past the most luscious lips he'd ever seen. "Oh, God. Oh, shit. Oh, God. Every last, freakin' inch."

Alex would have loved to enjoy the looks on the faces of the others, but he was presently absorbed in the amazing sensations generated by his Fox's mouth gliding up and down the length of his cock. He tangled his fingers in the hair at the back of his lover's head, not to guide Fox, but just for the simple added pleasure of touching him. "That's it, baby," he whispered breathlessly. "Feels sooo goddamn good..."

Fox drew his head up, sucking his way to the top of his lover's cock, then opened his mouth and flicked at the head and underside with his tongue.

"God...no, baby, please. Don't tease..."

As Alex's fingers tightened in Fox's hair, and he attempted to pull him back down, Fox closed his teeth around the head and growled softly, letting Alex know that he was still very much in charge. The younger man immediately submitted, dropping his head back against the cushions and mumbling.

"God, you're going to pay big for this."

Steve moaned at the images that suddenly flashed through his mind. "Oh man, I'd give good money to see that." But he had the distinct feeling that Fox's 'payment' would be made in the privacy of their own bedroom.

Fox released his lover's cock from his mouth and gently rubbed his cheek against it. His eyes drifted open and turned up in the direction of their two-man audience. He gave them a tiny grin and, keeping his eyes on Morris, gripped Alex's cock at the base, swirling his tongue around the head.

Morris dug his fingers into the arm of his chair, and his leg began to bounce up and down. "I can't take it. Steve, I can't, I..."

Apparently he was able to 'take it' a lot better than his friend. He glanced over to find that Steve had already unzipped his pants and was steadily jerking his rigid cock.

"Awww, *fuck*." Morris pulled his own zipper down and went to work on his erection.

Now satisfied that he was about to make three men come, having only touched one of them, Fox sank back down on Alex and concentrated on bringing him to a second orgasm.

"Oh, *yeah*...oh, *God*, yeah," Alex panted as his hips rose and fell. "Don't stop, baby, please...mmmh...please, don't stop..." He thrust twice more into Fox's mouth then went rigid, groaning harshly into the humid air.

Fox swallowed the bitter, vaguely salty fluid, and when Alex finally collapsed, he pulled back, gently cleaning the exhausted shaft then rested his head in the younger man's lap. He smiled over at the two men sprawled in their chairs.

"Is everybody happy?"

Morris did nothing but moan, but Steve lifted his head and spoke up.

"Ohhh, yeah. God, that was better than watching a porn movie..."

Fox kissed his lover's depleted cock then zipped him up. He sat up, kissing Alex's chest, throat, and chin before settling on his lips. Seconds later, he broke the kiss and nuzzled the stubbled cheek. "You alive?"

One eyelid rose, revealing a sparkling pool of green. "Think so."

"Glad to hear it," Fox purred against Alex's jaw. "Cause I'm dyin'."

A lazy smile curved the younger man's lips. "You are?"

Fox gently bit down on Alex's lower lip and pulled. "Like you didn't know...come on, let's go home."

"Home? What for?"

"So you can make me pay like you promised."

Alex stroked Fox's back. "Oh, you've given the last performance of the evening?"

Fox chuckled softly. "Yeah, it was tons of fun, but enough's enough. Let's go."

Alex groaned softly, lifting his head. He focused on the two men who were only just now regaining some of their strength. "I keep telling him we'd make a fortune in porn, but does he listen to me?" Fox smacked the back of his head, knocking loose a soft grunt. "Well, guys, it's been real, but the boss wants to go home now."

Steve nodded. "Okay, we understand." All four men wobbled to their feet and said their good-byes.

"It's been an honor and an education," Morris said, grinning broadly. "I hope we see you guys again soon."

Fox nodded, winding his arms around Alex's waist and resting his head on the younger man's shoulder. "I'm sure we'll run into each other again. Thanks for the drinks, by the way."

"Oh, thank *you* for letting us hang with you a while," Steve replied as he and Morris escorted the other two men to the door. "I had more fun tonight than I remember having in a long, long time."

Hand in hand, the two men moved out into the parking lot and, saying one last good-bye, headed toward their car.

Smiles, waves, and the occasional 'goodnight' greeted them as they walked, and when they finally closed themselves in the car, Alex turned to Fox.

"I think we've made some friends."

"I think you're right."

Once Fox had pulled out of the parking lot, Alex slid across the seat and placed a wandering hand on his thigh. "Have a good time tonight?"

Fox grinned but kept his eyes on the road. "Yeah, I did. You?"

"Oh, yeah. I love it when you're like that."

"Like what?"

"Slutty."

"Looks who's talking."

The younger man laughed softly. "I guess we just bring it out in each other...you enjoyed the hell out of teasing those two guys, though."

"What tease?" Fox asked innocently. "They got off."

"Yeah, but not the way they would have preferred to."

"Alex, you think everybody in the world wants to fuck me."

"That's 'cause they do. And do I have to remind you about how right I was about your boss and your partner?"

"No, that's okay. I think I got it the first few dozen times."

Alex shrugged, letting his hand stroke the inside of his lover's thigh. "Your leg is trembling...how come?"

"Oh, I don't know," Fox answered. "Couldn't have anything to do with the fact that I got you and two other guys off, and I'm still hard as a rock."

"Awww. Are ya?" Alex placed his hand over the prominent bulge in the older man's jeans, rubbing lightly. "Just think cool thoughts. It'll go down."

"Don't fuck with me, Krycek. You're gonna do something about this the minute we get home."

"I am, huh?"

Fox shot him an irritated look and said nothing.

"Okay, well, I do remember telling you that you were going to pay for teasing me."

"That's right...."

"But maybe my idea of payment is letting you suffer."

"And maybe I'll just have to kill you."

"Anybody ever tell you, you get violent when you're frustrated?"

"So, don't let me get frustrated."

Alex inched closer, murmuring in the other man's ear. "But you know how I love living on the edge..." He unzipped Fox's jeans and slipped his hand inside.

Fox took a steadying breath and focused on the road. "Alex..."

"Take it easy, I'm not going to do anything. I just wanted to touch you."

"Yeah, and tease the shit out of me."

Alex wrapped his fingers around his lover's cock and squeezed gently. "Well, you know, what's good for the goose..."

"Prick."

"Yeah, but you love me."

Fox made it home in record time, breaking more than one speed limit, and they burst through the door, tearing at each other's clothing, and not stopping until they were naked and wrestling for dominance on the bedroom floor. The match ended with Fox handcuffed to the bed, legs thrown over Alex's shoulders, and the younger man fucking him like there was no tomorrow.

Alex gripped Fox's hips hard enough to leave bruises as he drove into him again and again, and each time he hit the older man's prostate, a wild scream rattled the windows.

"You like that, baby?" he whispered through gritted teeth and again slammed against his lover.

Fox released another long wail and nodded frantically. "More...please..."

"Never get enough, do you?"

Fox shook his head from side to side. "Never...never enough of you." He opened his eyes and stared up into forest-green eyes. "Love you..."

Bullseye.

God, the man knew how to hit him where he lived. Alex leaned in, moving Fox's legs down to his waist, and covered his mouth in a soft kiss. He pulled back and reached for the key, unlocking his lover's cuffs, and they made love, kissing and caressing well into the early hours of the morning, when they finally fell exhausted and satisfied into each other's arms.

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

Saturday, noon.

Alex blinked in the bright sunlight that flooded the room, then stretched and looked to this left. A pair of slate-flecked eyes watched him. Tiny lines appeared at the corners of Fox's eyes as he smiled softly.

"Morning."

"I think it's more like afternoon," Fox murmured.

Alex stretched again, purely feline in his movements. "Mmmmm, is it?"

Unable to resist, Fox reached out to stroke his lover's chest. "Yeah, I think so."

Alex rolled onto his side and stared at the older man, contentment radiating from his every pore. Fox grinned at the expression on his face.

"What?"

"Nothing. It's just...you're beautiful in the morning."

One golden-brown eyebrow arched upward. "Oh, yeah? I thought everybody but you was hideous in the morning."

Alex laughed softly, shaking his head. "I guess you and I are unique, then." He swept two knuckles across the older man's lower lip. "Get enough sleep?"

Fox looked over at the clock and did some quick calculations. "Let's see, the last time I remember seeing was three-thirty, so......yeah, it's more sleep than I usually get. You?"

"Yeah, I guess, but for some reason, I have no desire to get out of bed."

Fox propped his head up in one hand. "So, what are we going to do, stay here all day?"

Alex slid closer, draping his arm over Fox's waist. "Wouldn't be a bad thing."

Fox growled, moving in toward his lover's mouth. "No, I suppose it wouldn't be so..." The ring of a cell phone interrupted Fox's statement. He looked over to the nightstand at his phone. "Not mine."

Alex pulled a pillow over his face, groaning loudly into it. Only Fox and his contacts had his number. And since Fox was only inches away from him...

He snatched up his jeans where he'd dropped them beside the bed, and pulled the phone from the back pocket.

"*What*? ....When? I thought you said not until....fuck. Fine. And I'll tell you right now, if you fucked up my Saturday for more bullshit, I'm coming to find you." He disconnected and threw the cell over at the chair at the foot of the bed, where it promptly hit the cushion and bounced to the floor.

"You're going to break that thing one day," Fox warned, draping an arm and a leg over the frustrated man.

Alex heaved a harsh groan, pressing the heels of his hands to his eyes. "Baby..."

"I know," Fox broke in. "It's back on sooner than you expected."

"Yeah. I gotta get a flight out as soon as possible."

Fox moved away quietly and retrieved the phone from the floor. Sliding back up on the bed, he handed it to Alex. "Better call the airport."

Alex whined pitifully, encircling his lover in his arms. "Don't want to."

Fox burrowed into his lover's warmth. "I don't want you to, either, but..."

"I'm sorry, babe."

"I know. Me too." Fox handed the phone to Alex and lay quietly as the younger man made his call. When it was done, he looked up expectantly. "So?"

Alex hugged Fox tightly to his chest and planted several small kisses into his hair. "Four-ten."

"Well, we'd better get our asses moving, then."

As Fox started to move away, Alex caught him by his arm and pulled him back.

"What's the rush? It's only twelve-thirty. All we gotta do is shower and drive to the airport."

"Saturday traffic, Alex. And you gotta be there an hour ahead of flight time."

"That still leaves us plenty of time."

Fox grinned down at him. "For?"

Alex shrugged and rolled the older man under him. "For...stuff..."

'Stuff' lasted almost an hour, and by the time they'd dragged themselves into the shower, it was one-thirty. They got on the road at two and made it to Dulles by three-ten. Alex checked in, and they sat quietly together until boarding time. When his flight was called, he turned to Fox and, giving him a soft smile, gently squeezed his hand and backed away.

"I'll call you as soon as I get there," he promised. Fox nodded, and Alex suddenly remembered one more thing. "I'll get that information for you and let you know what's what, okay?"

Fox nodded again and formed the words 'I love you' with his mouth.

Alex smiled and puckered his lips briefly, sending a tiny kiss Fox's way, then disappeared from sight.

Alone again for who knew how long, Fox turned and headed for home.

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

Fox unlocked the door and pushed it open.

Empty apartment. Still and quiet and...

Damn, it felt empty.

He picked up the evening paper that had been dropped outside his door and stepped inside. Dropping the paper down on the coffee table, he noticed the light flashing on his answering machine. He crossed over to the desk and rewound the two messages.

The first was from Scully, telling him that she got stuck subbing for one of the instructors and wouldn't be back from Quantico until Monday night. The second brought a smile to his face.

"I love you, baby. Talk to you soon."

Fox rewound the brief message and closed his eyes as he listened again to the husky voice. He inhaled deeply and opened his eyes as he exhaled, catching sight of a slip of paper peeking out of the newspaper. He walked over to the coffee table and brought the paper up before his eyes. After reading the message, he let his arm drop to his side, cursing softly.

//What to do, what to do...//

According to the message, somehow the Consortium had learned that it had been discovered that Dr. Lieber might still be alive and that his whereabouts were no longer secret, and they were scrambling to move him and his entire lab to another location. In the message, Fox had been provided with the exact location of the lab and a map of the property. And now he stood here, the gold in his hand, with no Scully to accompany him and no time to wait for word from Alex.

//He'll be pissed as hell, Mulder, if you don't wait like you promised.//

//Yeah, but what if they move everything while you're waiting and you lose your opportunity?//

Fox growled and paced for a few moments, then picked up the phone and dialed Alex's cell. Unable to get through, he disconnected and dialed Scully's number. Her phone was also out of service.

"Well, they can't scream at you and tell you that you didn't try this time."

Making one last stab at responsibility, he punched in Skinner's number.

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

Christ, what a long flight.

Alex sat down on the twin bed in his modest little hotel room and looked at his watch. Fox would probably just be waking.

He picked up the phone and dialed.

"It's me. Yeah...I got a couple of questions for you. What do you know about Dr. Henry Lieber?" ......What do you mean, all at once? ........What? When? Who? Oh, yeah, I know him...dead? No shit. Just on suspicion? Damn, they're not fooling around. Okay, that answers my other questions...yeah, thanks. I'll be in touch."

Alex disconnected and immediately dialed home. The phone rang three times, and he prepared to leave a message, when he noticed that Fox had changed the greeting on the machine...

"Hi. Tried to contact you but couldn't. No time to wait. Gone to check out what we discussed. Leave a message."

"Shit!"

Somehow, Fox had come by the same information he had. Dr. Lieber's concealment had been compromised, and they were switching locations.

And not that it would have changed Fox's mind if he *had* known, but Alex wondered if his information had also included the fact that Smokey had had a senior member of the group killed on the suspicion that it was he who had leaked the doctor's status and location.

He paced the floor, raking his fingers through his hair.

If they could off Irving so easily, then they wouldn't hesitate to kill anyone else who got in their way...especially if it was a man they wanted dead in the first place.

"Shit. Shit, shit..." He dialed Fox's cell and got the not in service message. Trying to remain cool, he tried Scully's number and got the same recording. "Dammit!" He tossed the phone on the bed, paced for a minute, then snatched it up again and dialed Skinner. At the sound of the soft baritone, he spoke.

"Skinner, it's Krycek."

"What the hell do you want at this time in the morning?"

"I got a question for you. I'm out of town, and I need to know if you know where Fox is."

"You mean you haven't tagged him with a tracking device?"

"I don't have time for your bullshit, Skinner. Has he or has he not contacted you with his whereabouts in the past twelve hours?"

"He's on a *case*, Krycek. That good enough for you?"

"Where?"

"If he wants you to know, he'll tell you when he sees you."

"Dammit, Skinner, this is important! Is Scully with him?"

"No."

"*No*?"

"That's what I said. She's out of town."

"She's still at Quantico? She was supposed to come back today!"

Silence.

"Fuck! Skinner, listen to me, and listen good. Fox has gone to Vermont..."

"Thought you didn't know where he was?"

"Oh, for the love of...*listen*, would you? He could be in danger. The man he's gone to investigate is big time trouble. The people he's involved with will do anything...kill *anyone* to maintain his privacy. We already know that if given the opportunity, they'll get rid of Fox. He's got no backup, Skinner. You gotta stop him..."

Skinner propped up a few pillows and sank back against them. "How do I know that's the real reason you don't want him to go up there? Could it be that he'll find something that *you* don't want him to find?"

"The only thing up there I don't want him to find, Skinner, is a bullet with his name on it. Now get your ass up to Vermont, and get him out of there! I'm on my way home as soon as I can get a flight."

No answer.

"Did you hear me?"

"Oh, yeah, I heard you."

"You gotta believe me..."

"Krycek, I would have trouble believing you if you told me the sky was blue."

"I'm not lying, you stupid son of a bitch!"

"Oh, yeah, that's going to get me right up there..."

"*Fuck*!" Alex hung up on Skinner, vowing to deal with him later, then called the airport. Not waiting for a commercial flight, he chartered a private plane and, as soon as the arrangements were made, he tried Scully once more.

Still, nothing.

He hurled a stream of curses into the air, gathered up his things, and rushed back out.

Four hours and at least a dozen tries later, Scully answered her phone.

"Scully."

"God. Thank God. Scully, it's Alex."

"Why the hell are you bugging me on a Sunday, Krycek?"

Alex explained himself to Scully much in the same way he did to Skinner but fortunately got a different response.

"Sounds just like him. You really think he's in that much danger?"

"I know these people better than you do, Scully. They'll kill him if they find him there. I tried to tell this to Skinner, but he won't hear it."

"You can't really blame him, Krycek. Hell, I don't know why *I* should believe you, except that there's this little voice in the back of my head that tells me I should."

"Listen to that voice, convince Skinner, and the two of you get the hell up there! I'm in the air, but it'll be at least eight hours before I land. Keep your phone on; I'll be in touch."

He gave her the directions to the lab in Vermont, begged her again to hurry, and disconnected. "God, Fox," he whispered, staring out the window. "Please watch your ass."

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

"Skinner."

"Sir, it's Scully."

"What is it, Agent Scully?"

"Sir, I need your help."

"With what?"

"I just finished talking to Alex Krycek. I'm on my way to the airport. Sir, I need you to meet me in Vermont."

"Oh, please, Scully. You don't really believe that garbage that Krycek is shoveling, do you?"

"I do, sir, or I wouldn't be going to Vermont."

"What the hell did he say to rope you in?"

"I...I don't know that he said anything different to me than he said to you, but...it was something in his voice. He's worried."

"Of course, he's worried. Worried that Mulder will find something up there that'll finally expose him for the lying bastard that he is."

"No, sir. I wish I could explain to you why, but I don't believe that's so. I've watched them closely these past months. Krycek has never once given me even the slightest cause for suspicion. Yes, he's arrogant and abrasive, and he takes great pleasure in irritating the hell out of us, but I can say with all certainty that he loves Mulder, and he's frightened. Not for himself, but for Mulder's safety. Please, sir. I've tried reaching Mulder on his cell phone, but I get no answer. *I'm* worried. Please, meet me in Vermont."

Skinner ran a hand over his head as he paced. "All right, Scully, all right. I'll meet you there."

"Thank you, sir. See you soon."

Skinner set the phone down and stared out into the street below for several seconds before turning and heading to the second floor.

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

"Are we ready?"

"Yes."

"There will be...*nothing* left behind for anyone to find?"

"Nothing."

"Excellent. I suppose it's time we left, then."

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

"Agent Scully." Skinner picked his way through the maze of equipment and personnel, finally reaching the pale woman who stood staring at the rubble that might have once been a grand house. "What happened here?"

Scully opened her mouth, eyelids fluttering rapidly. "I...I don't know, sir. I got here only a little while ago and found this." She motioned to the still-smoking remains with a shaking hand.

The A.D. took a long gulp of air. "Agent Mulder?"

"His rental car was found..." Scully stopped, fighting to remain poised. "It was found on the side of a road about half a mile from here."

Skinner looked from Scully to the demolished house. "It doesn't mean he was inside."

"No," she whispered, "no, it doesn't. They're searching now for...bodies, but because of the force of the blast and because the ensuing fire burned for so long before anyone got here, they really don't expect to find anyone."

Skinner stepped away from his agent and moved a few feet closer to the scene, scanning the area.

"Sir?"

He heard nothing except the roar of machinery and the growing internal whisper of guilt.

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

Alex disembarked and sprinted over to the car rental counter, looking at his watch.

Eight-fifteen p.m. and no contact with Scully. He'd tried several times to call her with no luck. He'd tried Fox as well, each time in vain, and his continued inability to to reach his lover was winding him tighter and tighter with each failed attempt.

Fortunately, the counter was deserted, and he was able to breeze right through. He raced out to the lot, found the car, and screeched out onto the interstate, again punching in Scully's number as he drove. Again there was no answer, and his curses vibrated within the too-small compartment of the compact car.

It had been several hours since that initial contact with Scully, and he had no idea if he would even find her at the lab, but since he couldn't reach her, he had no choice but to go there first.

The closer he got, the worse he felt, and he told himself that it was just the anticipation and the stress of not having been able to reach Fox that was working on him. He inhaled and released a shaky breath, mentally fortifying himself, and punched his speed up to ninety.

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

"Sir..."

Skinner spun around, turning a sharp gaze on the investigator who had approached him and Scully from behind.

"What have you got?" Scully snapped, noticing that the man held a small, dark object in a plastic bag.

"A wallet." The investigator held the bag up, and Scully snatched it from him.

Skinner turned a withering stare on him. "You can't turn up a single body, yet you were able to find a wallet?"

"Things just happen that way sometimes, sir. No one knows why..."

"Oh, my God."

Skinner's attention turned to his ashen agent. He simply stared into her pain-riddled face, too afraid to ask.

Watery, cerulean eyes rose to meet his. "It's Mulder's wallet, sir," she choked, fingering the charred leather. "God...oh, my God..."

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

As Alex turned onto the access road indicated on the map, the flashing lights he saw in the distance did nothing to assuage his growing sense of dread. He drove up to the roadblock and leapt out of the car, streaking toward the barricade only to be stopped by a uniformed guard.

"Sorry, sir, you'll have to turn back."

"What happened?" he asked, desperation shaking his voice. "What the hell happened up there?"

"What happened up there is no concern of yours, sir. Please get back in your car..."

"The hell it isn't! I gotta get up there! Now, either you let me through, or..."

The guard interrupted Alex's threat. "No one allowed on the premises, sir, without authorization."

"Is Agent Scully here? Find her. She knows I'm coming."

"The guard looked at his clipboard. "If she knows you're coming, then you should be on this list, shouldn't you? What's your name?"

"Krycek."

"Nnnnnope. No Krycek. Sorry..."

Alex snatched the guard, dragging him up against the barrier. "Find Agent Scully," he hissed. "Find her now, or I'm going to feed your little clipboard to you, piece by jagged piece..."

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

"Agent Scully, I'm sorry, but you're needed outside."

Scully turned red-rimmed eyes to the man standing in the doorway.

"There's a man at the barricade. He's got hold of the guard and refuses to let him go until you authorize him."

Skinner ran a hand over the top of his head. "Tall, thirty-ish, dark hair?"

"Yes, sir."

Scully turned away from the man, closing her eyes and bowing her head. "Let him through."

Seconds later, Alex burst through the entrance of the base trailer, wild eyes darting around the small interior. Finally, his gaze fell on the woman who sat quietly, shoulders slumped and eyes to the floor.

"Where is he?"

He watched a tear drop from her eye, then turned his attention on the man who stood behind her. "Skinner?"

Skinner opened his mouth to speak and, not knowing how to say what he had to say, took a deep breath and tried again.

"Krycek..."

Alex sailed at the older man, his momentum propelling Skinner backward and slamming him against the wall. "*Where* is he??" he roared, clutching the front of Skinner's jacket so tightly it cut off his air.

It took four men and Scully to finally pry Alex away, and they had a difficult time holding onto him as he fought the restraining hands. "Tell me where he is, you son of a bitch!" He railed at the shaken man, thrashing against the four men who still held him.

"Alex," Scully called, trying to get his attention. "*Alex*, stop! Stop, and listen to me!"

Slowly, Alex ceased his struggle then fixed a dark green stare on her. The men released their hold on him and backed off a couple of steps.

Scully lifted a hand to his arm and took a moment to compose herself. "Alex, there...you can see, obviously, that there was an explosion. It leveled the house, and...Alex, Mulder's rental car was discovered not far from here, and..."

"And, *what*?" Alex half-demanded, half-pleaded.

"And, they found this in the rubble." She produced the wallet and backed away as he gingerly plucked it from her palm.

Alex turned the burned object over then opened it up to examine the remains of the contents. Slowly, he shook his head as he stared down at Fox's badly damaged, but still recognizable, ID. He looked up at Scully, still shaking his head, then over at Skinner. A murderous gleam coated his eyes, and he again lunged at the A.D., but the men who had been restraining him jumped between the two.

"You fucking son of a bitch!" Alex screamed. "I *told* you he was in danger! I *told* you!"

Scully again got between the enraged man and his intended victim. "Alex, stop it! You can't do this!" She motioned to the men who were again holding him, and they wrestled him outside. She turned to Skinner, who had sunk into a chair, one hand covering his face. "Sir..."

"I'm all right," he whispered. "Go see to him."

Without another word to him, Scully retreated to the outside and closed the door behind her. She approached Alex and instructed the men to let him go and stand by the trailer door. As soon as they released him, he spun in the direction of the leveled house and the hoards of people scouring the debris.

"They've found no bodies," she said softly, "but as they haven't yet, they really don't expect to."

"He..." Alex began, blinking back the tears that scalded his eyes. "...Scully, he could be trapped somewhere under all that stuff. Maybe he's unconscious, or..."

"Alex..."

Alex whirled to face her. "He *could* be!" He jerked back in that direction. "I gotta find him..."

"Alex, don't..."

Before Scully could finish her sentence, Alex was racing up toward the smoldering rubble. He started on the first pile he came to, throwing aside blackened timbers and chunks of cement.

Scully watched helplessly as he tore through that pile and started on another. It was pointless to talk to him right now; she knew he wouldn't listen. She would let him wear himself out then try again. While she waited, she sat down on the bumper of one of the police cars and closed her eyes but opened them again almost immediately as Alex's voice, strained and desperate, sounded in the crisp night air, calling to his lost lover. She started to cry softly as he stumbled around the wreckage of the house, his calls becoming louder until they turned into harsh wails.

The sound brought Skinner from the trailer, and he approached the police car, standing beside Scully. "What is he doing?" he asked, watching the madman tear around the site.

"He's looking for Mulder," Scully said flatly, her eyes following Alex's wild movements.

"He thinks he's alive?"

She shrugged weakly. "He's in denial, sir. Very common in such situations." She turned blood-red eyes up to her superior. "We were so wrong about him. We let hatred blind us. And now that I can finally admit that....it's too late."

Skinner nodded and took a shaky breath. "And my blindness might very well have caused this. Krycek was right. If I had listened to him, if I had..."

"We don't know that, sir. We don't know that it would have changed the outcome at all."

"But we don't know that it wouldn't have. He's gone from all our lives, and it could very well be my fault." Tormented brown eyes watched as the man whom Skinner had too late come to realize truly loved Fox Mulder lurched through the ruins in a futile search for him.

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

Alex was faltering.

He'd dug until his hands were raw, and then dug some more, but now he'd begun to weaken. He tugged ineffectually at a beam wedged between two rocks but could not budge it. When he finally realized that his strength was drained, he sank down on the ground and stared blankly at the commotion that went on around him.

Policemen and FBI agents swarmed around the area. Backhoes dug and cranes lifted while dogs sniffed, but the only thing they'd turned up to prove that someone had been in the house was a platinum wedding band and some brass buttons. That and, of course, Fox's wallet.

Alex looked down at his bleeding hands then clasped them together. If all this hardware and trained personnel could only produce those few things, what chance did he have?

He looked around once more, praying for a miracle, but one was not to be had.

"Alex." Scully waited for a response and, getting none, she squatted before the exhausted man. "Alex, come with me."

Dazed, green eyes blinked at her.

"Alex, come get some rest. They'll call us if they turn anything up."

"I can't," he said, just above a whisper. "What if..."

Tears again sprang to Scully's eyes. "Alex, listen to me. There is no 'what if'. They are *not* going to find him alive...chances are great they won't find him at all..."

Alex bowed his head. "No..."

"I don't want to believe it either," Scully told him, sniffing back a sob, "but we're faced with undeniable proof, here. Refusing to accept it isn't going to change the facts."

"He can't be dead, Scully. I can't, I can't..." Alex choked on his words. "...I can't lose him."

"I'm sorry, Alex. You'll never know how sorry. You know what Mulder meant to me. I keep praying that I'm going to wake up and find out that this has all been a terrible dream."

Alex brought his hands to his face, shuddering violently.

"Oh, my God." Scully noticed Alex's hands for the first time since coming to talk to him, and she rose to her feet, closing her fingers around his wrists. "Alex, come with me. You need medical attention." She tugged and pulled and finally got the now silent man to his feet. She walked him slowly past the scurrying workers toward the command base.

Skinner watched warily as Alex moved blindly past him and up the two steps into the trailer. He followed at a discreet distance, settling himself against the far wall as Scully sat the nearly comatose man in a chair and tended to his scraped and bruised hands. When she was through, he motioned to her and stepped away.

"Alex," Scully called softly, touching one bandaged hand. "There's a cot over there. Why don't you go lie down?"

Alex shook his head, staring at the floor.

"You're exhausted. You need rest."

No response.

Scully dropped her head, heaving a long sigh. She turned in Skinner's direction and joined him at the other end of the trailer.

"He's in rough shape," she informed him, running a hand through her hair. "I don't...I don't know what to do for him."

"What about you?" he asked. "You need to rest as much as he does."

"I can't. Not until they've moved every pebble."

"We have."

Scully and Skinner turned in the direction of the voice at the door.

"We've just begun a second search."

"You found nothing more?" Scully asked the head of the search team.

"No, ma'am. Nothing at all. We've gone through that rubble with a fine-tooth comb. This second search is really just a formality."

Skinner turned his head and closed his eyes.

"I'm really very sorry," the man offered. "I know the man we were looking for was one of your own."

The man disappeared from the trailer, leaving behind him a silence so final that it rendered the two agents speechless. Not a word more was spoken in the trailer until day broke, and an officer came in to ask if anyone would like a cup of coffee and some breakfast.

Scully declined the offer and moved toward the door.

"Where are you going?" Skinner asked, rising stiffly from the chair he'd occupied for most of the night.

"To see if they're almost done."

"I'll go," Skinner volunteered, nodding at the man who hadn't spoken or moved since the night before. "He needs to get up, and you know he won't let *me* near him."

Scully nodded her agreement and, when Skinner had gone outside, walked over to Alex and placed a hand on his shoulder.

"Alex, I think we'll be leaving soon."

Unresponsive eyes turned up to hers.

"They're almost done with the second search. It's just about time for us to go home."

*Home*?

The place he'd come to know as home...the only place he'd *ever* think of as home, had in the blink of an eye become something completely different. Every room, every stick of furniture would now be reminders of what would never be again. He'd never come *home* to find Fox making a disastrous attempt at dinner...never return in the middle of the night and crawl into bed to wrap himself around his sleeping lover...never feel their slick, warm bodies pressed together in the shower...

"I can't. I have...I have to stay."

"Alex, there's nothing here for you."

"Fox was here. It's the last place he was."

"Yes..."

"Then this is where I want to be."

"Alex, I...I can't let you stay here. Mulder would want you to go home. He'd want me to make sure that you were all right, and that's what I'm going to do."

The door opened and Skinner walked back in. "They, uh...they're just about finished. I'm going to stay behind here to tie things up, but you," he looked back and forth between Scully and Alex, "should go on home."

Scully nodded and looked down at the seated man. "Alex, I'm going to call the airport and book our flight. You're coming back with me, do you understand?" When silence was her only answer, she pulled out her cell phone and dialed the airport.

Three hours later, she and Alex were sitting side by side on a plane, Alex tightly clutching the remnants of his lover's wallet.

"Alex, I..." Scully stopped, unsure of whether or not she should broach the subject, then decided to go ahead and ask. "...I know this is the last thing on your mind, but I have to bring it up. There are..." She stopped again, swallowing down the sudden rush of tears. "...there are arrangements that need to be made. Mrs. Mulder has to be contacted. The service has to be planned..."

Alex turned from her, curling up in his seat.

"I'm sorry, I just need to know how involved you want to be. I think Mulder would want *you* to take care of things, but I'd understand if you weren't up to it, and I'm here to lend you whatever assistance you need..."

In another time and place, Scully offering him her help would be a funny thing...fodder for many a wisecrack, but now, her words barely registered in his head.

Scully could see that Alex was not with her, and she abandoned her attempt to engage him in conversation. She leaned back in her seat and closed her eyes.

There was time enough to make the necessary preparations. She would give him a while longer then try again.

//I *am* trying, Mulder. I promise, I'll keep trying.//

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

Scully pulled up outside of Hegal Place and, with a shaking hand, turned the engine off. "Alex," she called softly to her silent passenger, "Alex, we're here." Receiving no response, she forced herself to get out of the car and circled around to the right side where she opened the door and reached inside, tucking her hand in the crook of Alex's arm. "Come on."

Alex tightened, refusing to move. "No," he whispered. "No, no..."

Scully closed her eyes briefly, praying for the strength she was going to need to get them both through this. "Alex...you can't just sit out here in the car forever. You have to go inside sooner or later."

Ten minutes and a lot of coaxing later, Scully managed to get Alex out of the car and walking toward the building. Every step was an effort, and when she finally got him into the elevator, she took a moment to catch her breath and brace herself for the trip down the hall to the apartment.

When the doors opened, she said a silent prayer, led Alex into the hall, and began the trek to number forty-two. She felt the trembling of his body increase with every gained step, and by the time they reached the door, Alex was ready to crumble.

Scully attempted three times to insert the key into the lock, but her quaking hand made it difficult for her to perform the task. Finally, she succeeded and pushed the door open. One unsteady step at a time, she entered the dark apartment, turning the ceiling light on in the dining room. Brightness flooded the area, and a deep, burning sorrow flooded her heart. She choked back a sob and turned to look back toward the door.

//Oh, no.//

"Alex?" She hurried to the entrance, afraid that he had bolted, but when she reached the threshold, she found him there in the hall, sitting on the floor just outside the door. She squatted beside him and put a hand on his shoulder. "Alex, what are you doing? You can't sit out here. Come on in."

Silent shake of the sable head.

"I know it's hard. It hurts like hell, but we have to...there are things we need to do..."

"You do them," Alex said, voice just barely above a whisper.

"Are you sure you don't want *any* part of this? Consider it carefully, Alex. In time you may regret not doing it. You and I both know Mulder would want you to handle his service."

Alex turned, pressing into the wall. If he could have burrowed through it, he would have. "I can't, Scully. Please, I...leave me alone." He clutched the wallet to his chest. "Just please leave me alone."

Knowing there was no reasoning with him at this point, Scully rose to her feet and drifted back into the empty apartment. She left the door wide open so she could at least keep an eye on him, and she set about making her phone calls. She lifted the phone in one trembling hand and punched in the first number of many.

"Byers. It's Scully..."

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

The view from the third passenger window of the small jet was a breathtaking one, not that Skinner had noticed. He sat staring out at the dazzling white clouds, not seeing a thing.

Mulder...Fox...beautiful, brilliant, irrepressible Fox. Gone. Just gone.

And it was his hatred and distrust of a man that Fox trusted implicitly and loved dearly that had caused this.

//I never thought...Jesus, Mulder, if I'd known...I'm sorry, I...your life is over, and I don't know what to do or say..I'm hurting. God, I'm hurting so much, but I...what right have I got thinking about myself when I'm the one who could have stopped this? It's because I was so stubborn that Scully is going through what she is now, and...and Krycek...I never dreamed that he could be so...my God, he really does love you. I can't blame him for wanting me dead. If our situations were reversed, I wouldn't stop until he'd paid dearly for what he'd done...//

Skinner lowered his head and covered his eyes.

//You were a true believer in anything paranormal, Fox, and more than once you made me a believer too. I know that if you can, you'll find a way to let Krycek and Scully know...they need something, some comfort, something...Scully is staying strong, though I know this is killing her, but Krycek is a mess. There doesn't seem to be anything that can be done for him. No one to draw strength or comfort from. Not from Scully, and damn sure not from me. He needs you, Fox. I don't...I don't know if you can really hear me or not, but if you can, please know how sorry I am...if there was a way...if I could go back and fix this, I would. I'd gladly trade places with you. You've lost out on a lifetime of love, and I'll never forgive myself for taking that from you...//

He gritted his teeth, forcing the trembling of his body to cease.

//I wanted it to be me. I wanted it more than I could say, but more than that, I wanted your happiness. Please believe that. I'm so sorry that I refused to see that you *were* happy. If I had....God, why didn't I see it?//

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

Two hours had passed, and still Alex refused to come into the apartment.

Scully tried three times to coax him in, but no luck.

Calls made, she now sat on the sofa, eyes wandering around the apartment.

So many years running in and out of this place. So much time spent fixing broken door locks, scrubbing blood off the floors...rooting around in his empty refrigerator...

All done. All over and done.

He'd gotten himself into so much trouble over the years. Faced death more times than she'd care to count, but somehow he'd always slipped the noose.

Not this time.

She couldn't believe it. Couldn't believe that this time he was really gone. This had to be some kind of joke...some horrible joke, and soon someone would start to laugh and apologize for pulling such an awful prank and getting everyone all riled up.

No dice.

She bowed her head and, for the first time since discovering that Mulder had perished in the explosion, really let go. She cried until she couldn't cry any more, and when she was done, she sat. Just sat until thoughts of Alex made her rise. She started toward the open door to check on him, and halfway there, the phone rang, and she turned back to answer it.

"Scully, are you all right?"

"Yes...yes, sir," she whispered into the phone.

"I'm back."

"You are?" She looked at her watch, only now just realizing that she and Alex had been back for almost six hours.

Alex.

God, had he been sitting out there all this time?

Cordless phone to her ear, she walked to the door and peeked out. There, in the same spot, Alex sat, head against the wall, eyes closed. His chest rose and fell slowly, and she determined that he'd fallen asleep.

"...should tell her..."

Scully moved away from the door before she spoke, afraid of waking the exhausted man. "What was that, sir?"

"I was asking if you'd called Mrs. Mulder."

"No. That's the one call I didn't make."

"I think we owe it to her to tell her ourselves. You stay there and try to get some rest. I'll go and see her myself."

"Thank you, sir, I appreciate that."

"How's Krycek?"

"Not good. He's actually asleep right now....in the hall."

"The hall?"

"He refused to come into the apartment. He sat down on the floor in the hall, and he fell asleep there."

"You can't leave him out there."

"And I can't force him to come in...wait a minute..."

Scully watched quietly as a shadow moved across the doorway. Little by little, Alex inched forward. Finally, he made it inside and moved slowly across the room. Still holding the wallet to his chest, he crossed over to the fish tank and sprinkled some food into the water. Not meeting her eyes, he drifted into the bedroom and closed the door behind him.

"Scully....Scully?"

Scully readjusted the phone against her ear. "I'm sorry...he just came in. Fed the fish, and went into the bedroom."

"At least he's inside now."

"Thank God, I was beginning to think I was going to have to put a blanket and pillow out there for him." Scully paused, rubbing her forehead. "Uh...I started making phone calls...notifications. The Gunmen wanted to come right over, but I held them off. Alex is way too unstable to deal with visitors."

Skinner went silent for a moment, then, "How do you think he's going to handle the service?"

"I don't even want to think about that."

"Well...I'd better get going. The sooner I get this visit to Mrs. Mulder over, the better. I'll call you when I get back."

"All right, sir. Thank you."

Scully set the phone down and looked in the direction of the bedroom. Reluctantly, she rose to her feet and wobbled toward the closed door. Knocking softly, she called Alex's name.

"Alex? Alex, can I come in?"

No answer.

"Alex, please. Just say something to let me know that you're all right."

Still nothing.

"Answer me, or I'm coming in."

She waited a few seconds and opened the door to find Alex sorting laundry.

"What are you doing?"

"Gotta separate his clothes for him, or he winds up with pink and green underwear."

Scully's mouth fell open.

//God...oh, please, God...//

"Alex."

Alex lifted a pair of jeans and fished through the pockets. "He left some tissue in his pants once. Got all over everything in the washer."

"Don't do this. Please, Alex, this is hard enough."

He set one basket aside and picked up another, giving no indication that he'd heard a word she'd said. Scully walked up to him and snatched the basket away, bent on making him hear her.

"He's not going to be wearing any of this stuff, Alex...*ever*! Now, stop this!"

Alex picked up the full basket and hurled it across the room, scattering clothes everywhere.

"Shut up! Just shut up and get out!"

Scully stared, stunned as Alex sank to the floor, leaning against the footboard of the bed, and pulled a shirt into his lap. She stood frozen for a moment, then slowly approached, touching the back of his head.

"I'm sorry," she whispered. "I'm just...I'm so tired, and...there's so much to do..."

"Then, go do it. Or go home and sleep. Just get out and leave me alone."

"All right. All right, I'm going. But I'll be back, Alex. I'm not going to let you just curl up here with his clothes and die..."

Alex heaved himself off the floor and spun in her direction. "Why the hell do you care?" he literally screamed. "You hate me! You never wanted me to have him! Well, you got your wish, didn't you? I don't have him any more!"

"Shut up, Krycek!" Scully screamed back. "You think you've got a lock on grief? You think you're the only one in any pain? Think again! I loved Mulder! And yes, I hated you. *Yes*, I never wanted you to have him! But I'm not blind, you idiot! I came to understand over the last few months that you really did love him, and all I wanted for him, first and foremost, was to be happy and to be loved the way he deserved to be!" Her voice lowered several decibels. "You gave that to him." Tears sprang to her eyes. "And it kills me that his life was cut short just as it was really beginning."

Alex stared at her, his eyes welling up. His lips began to quiver, and a short, choked whimper pushed up from his throat. He swallowed it back, but another soon took its place, and before long, his entire body was wracked with heaving sobs. Unable to hold him up, his knees gave out, and he again slid to the floor, but Scully met him there, taking him into her arms and holding him while they both cried themselves to exhaustion. Sleep stole in quickly then, wrapping both in blessed oblivion, even as Alex lay wrapped in the arms of the woman who would now be his only comfort.

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

A distant ringing startled Scully out of sleep. She blinked and winced as her muscles protested against the position they'd been twisted into for the last three hours. She flinched as the sable head that had been resting in her lap jerked up and Alex looked dazedly around the room. She placed a hand on his shoulder, gently pushing him away and pulled herself up. "It's the phone," she explained, dragging herself toward the shrilling object beside the bed. "Hello?"

"Agent Scully."

"Yes..." Scully stopped to clear her throat, then started again. "Yes, sir?"

"I'm with Mrs. Mulder."

"How is she?"

"Not too good. I'm going to get a hotel room and accompany her to D.C. later today..."

Scully looked at her watch, noting that it was very early in the morning.

"Since she's obviously in no condition, and you know all of Mulder's friends and associates, she's asked that you take care of the service."

Scully ran a hand through her hair and rolled her head back along her shoulders. //Never even thought of her.// "Yes, sir."

"How's Krycek?"

Scully looked down to the man who had since crawled up onto the bed and was now lying on his side with what she could only assume was Mulder's pillow crushed to his chest. "Drained. We were both actually asleep when you called."

"Oh. Well, sorry, but I thought you'd like to know about Mrs. Mulder."

"Yes, sir, I'm glad you called. "I'll see you later today, then." Scully placed the phone down on the nightstand and sat at the edge of the bed. Swollen, blood-shot eyes looked up at her.

"How is she?"

"Not too good, Skinner says. It'd be crazy to think that she would be anything else, I guess. Losing one child is devastating enough. I can't imagine what it must be like to lose two." She looked down at the man who had since buried his face in his pillow. "Why don't you go back to sleep? I think I'll go into the other room and start working on a list of things we have to do."

"No," Alex mumbled into the pillow, shaking his head. "I can't go back to sleep." He got up, and, carrying Fox's pillow with him, he trudged into the living room. Scully followed, watching him curl up in the corner of the sofa. He placed the pillow over the arm and laid his cheek against it. The pain that contorted his face brought a fresh sting of tears to her eyes.

"Alex?"

"It smells like him, you know." Alex turned his face into the cornflower-blue colored puff, inhaling as he hugged it gently.

Scully lowered her head for a moment, composing herself then took a notebook and pen from Fox's desk and sat down in the chair opposite the sofa. "All right....Alex? Are you ready?"

"No," Alex whispered softly. "But I never will be, so..."

He went along with every suggestion Scully made, absently nodding or uttering a soft 'okay', until she made one particular proposal.

"...and I was thinking that it might be appropriate for Skinner to say a few words..."

"No."

"...Alex..."

"*No*." Alex lifted his head, eyes glittering with hatred. "I don't want him anywhere near this."

"Alex, you can't hold him responsible..."

"Bullshit!" Alex leapt from the sofa and began to prowl back and forth, his eyes never leaving the seated woman. "This is *all* his fault! He couldn't see far enough past his own goddamn jealousy, and look where it got us!" He stopped short, hands clenching at his sides. "He took him from me, Scully...he took my Fox!"

"Alex, please." Scully turned sympathetic eyes up to him. "I understand how you feel, but you have to try to understand. Skinner didn't trust you. Neither did *I*. "

"But you *believed* me! If I had been able to get through to you when I got through to Skinner, Fox'd still be here!"

"We don't know that," Scully said to him in her most soothing voice. "It's impossible to know a thing like that. Alex, please don't be so hard on Skinner. He's feeling the pain too."

"I don't give a *shit* what he feels."

Scully raised a hand to her forehead. "Okay, I won't ask Skinner to speak. But *please*, promise me you won't start anything with him."

"You just promise *me* you'll keep him out of my sight."

By the time they'd finished reviewing the arrangements, Scully was able to make the necessary calls and get the service set for two o'clock the next day. Skinner informed her when he and Mrs. Mulder had arrived in town and that the woman had wanted no part of going to her son's apartment as of yet. She was having a hard enough time dealing with the news of his death; there was no way that she'd be able to handle walking into this apartment. The news was a relief to Scully, as she had not the strength or the desire to deal with Mrs. Mulder's reaction to Alex.

A good part of the day was spent greeting friends who had dropped by to offer their condolences. Though many had come, none stayed very long after encountering Fox's grieving lover. Those who had no idea about Alex were shocked, to say the least, and were too uncomfortable in his presence to linger. Those who did know and understand, cut their visit short for the simple reason that Alex's mood was far too unstable for his comfort or theirs.

As the last of the mourners left, two men Scully had never seen before appeared at the open door.

"I'm sorry," one of them said softly. "But, this *is* the apartment of Fox Mulder?"

"Yes. Who are you?"

The spokesman pointed to his companion then to himself. "This is Morris. My name is Steve. We...we're acquaintances of..." The man caught sight of Alex as he wandered out of the kitchen and called his name.

Alex turned at the sound of the vaguely familiar voice and motioned the two men in. "It's okay, Scully," he said flatly. "I know who they are."

Scully stepped aside and allowed the men to enter.

"Alex, we...we hope you don't mind us dropping in on you like this, but...Morris here called me up earlier and told me to turn on channel seven. We saw the report about an Agent Fox Mulder of the FBI having died in an explosion in Vermont. That name...it was so much of a coincidence for someone *else* to have such an odd name. Uh...Morris here works for the DMV, so he tapped the database and came up with the ID. When we saw the driver's license picture, we knew..."

Alex sat stiffly on the sofa and lowered his head.

"...We, uh...we thought we'd come by to offer our sympathy and see how you were doing."

"Thank you," Alex whispered. "That was nice of you."

Morris fidgeted nervously, then sat beside Alex. "We don't know you very well at all, but...there was no doubt in the world how much you loved each other. God, I can't believe it. How are you doing?"

Alex reached into his back pocket, producing the battered wallet. "This is all they found of him at the scene." His hands trembled. "I'm waiting....I keep waiting to wake up and feel his head on my chest and my arms around him, but it never happens." A tear escaped one eye. "I want to wake up. God, somebody please wake me up."

Scully approached and dropped down on the other side of Alex, gathering him into her arms as he started to sob quietly. She looked from one man to the other as she held on to Alex. "Thank you for coming," she stated softly. "I'm Dana Scully. I'm...I was Mulder's partner."

Steve nodded. "I see. Please accept our sympathies."

"Thank you."

"I'm glad to see he's got somebody to lean on," Morris said, indicating the man in her arms.

Scully pressed her lips to Alex's ear, murmuring some soft words of comfort as she stroked his back, then looked back to the man who had remained standing. "I don't know how much help I'm being to him, but I'm doing my best."

"Well," Steve said, touching her hand, "Morris and I had only just met Alex and Fox, but we just feel so awful about what's happened. If there's anything at all we can do for you, we hope you'll let us know."

Steve pulled a card from his wallet and placed it down on the coffee table. "That's my name and number. Please feel free."

"Thank you so much." Scully continued to stroke the man who refused to lift his head from her shoulder. "I appreciate your gesture, and I know Alex does too."

Morris rose to his feet and he motioned to Steve, silently suggesting that they go.

Steve nodded his agreement, then looked back to Scully. "One more thing...uh...I assume there's going to be some sort of service? We'd like to attend if you don't mind."

"Of course we don't mind. Two tomorrow at Arlington."

One at a time, each man placed a gentle hand on Alex's shoulder, uttering one last word of condolence before exiting. When they were gone, Scully spoke to him.

"Alex....it's been a long day for both of us. How about you go into the bedroom and try and get some sleep?"

A few seconds passed before Alex lifted his head. He sniffed, swiping at his eyes with the back of his hand. "Do me a favor?"

"Sure. What do you want?"

"I want...I want you to go home tonight."

"Y-you do?"

Alex nodded slowly, looking down at the cushion between them.

"May I ask why?"

"I don't know, I just...I...I think I need to be alone."

Scully studied him intently, trying to gain some small bit of insight into his thoughts. "Alex, are you sure? I really don't mind staying."

"I'm sure. Unless you plan on moving in with me, I'm going to have to be alone at some point, right?"

"All right. Of course you're right, but...I'm going to call you in the morning."

Alex nodded.

"Please, get some sleep, okay? Tomorrow's going to be a very long day."

The thought of tomorrow and what he would have to face, sent an icy dagger through Alex's heart.

"Alex..." Scully murmured, noting the look of anguish that crossed his face. "Are you sure you don't want me to stay?"

"No," he whispered, taking in long, painful breaths. "No. Please."

Reluctantly, Scully gathered her things and departed, leaving Alex alone with his grief. He wandered from room to room, straightening and cleaning, and when he could do no more, he retreated to the bedroom, undressed, and crawled into bed. He shut the light off and lay in the darkness.

Alone.

From here on out, it was back to the void. Back to hell.

No, that wasn't right. He couldn't go back to a place he'd never been, and he'd *never* been to a hell like this one before. Had never felt pain this deeply. The things he'd done and seen over the years had made him tough...hard, but these months with Fox...the time he'd spent loving and being loved had stripped away the calluses and left him vulnerable. And the agony was twenty times worse than anything he'd ever experienced.

He turned onto his side and curled himself tightly around his lost love's pillow, whispering into its softness.

"Fox...baby, I'm so lonely. I can't...I don't know what do. It hurts so much. It won't stop..." The tears began to slide past his closed eyelids. "It won't let up," he whimpered softly. "It hurts to think...it hurts to breathe...I can't do this. I can't..." The whimpers turned into sobs, growing louder and more labored, until he wore himself out and drifted into sleep.

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

Eight-thirty five.

There was no way in hell Alex was still asleep. In fact, Scully doubted that he got more than three hours.

She picked up the phone and dialed, hearing three then four rings. The machine picked up, and her knees weakened as Mulder's voice told her that no one was home and to please leave a message. She gathered her wits and called out to Alex.

"Alex. Alex, pick up, it's Scully."

Nothing.

//God, where the hell is he?//

"Alex.....*Alex*."

She cursed softly and hung up. Grabbing her coat, she dashed out the door and headed out to Mulder's apartment.

The soft knock at the door of apartment forty-two went unanswered, and Scully unlocked the door, moving cautiously inside. Except for the soft hum of the aquarium filter, all was quiet. No footsteps, no running water...not a sound.

Scully walked from room to room, making a visual check as she called Alex's name, but turned up nothing. She noted in her search that each room was as neat as a pin. The bed was made, no dishes in the sink...not that she expected there to be any. She hadn't seen Alex eat a thing since he'd shown up at the explosion site in Vermont. She had no idea how he was still standing, let alone taking off to God only knew where.

//He'll be back. He knows the service is at two. He won't miss it. //

She'd like to miss it, though. Attending this funeral for Mulder ranked right up there with her father's and sister's funerals as the worst moments of her life, and she'd give anything in the world not to be doing it. But she would. She owed him that much. There was nothing *more* she could do for him.

A tear formed in the corner of one eye, shimmering there, suspended for a moment before making a lazy path down the curve of her cheek. Just when she thought she could cry no more, another tear followed and still another until a fresh reserve came forth, stinging her already irritated eyes and blurring her vision.

She sat heavily on the sofa, head in her hands, weeping softly. When she was through, she went into the bathroom and ran a washcloth under cold water. Holding it to her eyes, she walked back into the living room and resumed her seat on the sofa.

Ten o'clock came and went. Ten-thirty....eleven...

No Alex.

Now adding worry to her depression, Scully scribbled a note telling him that she would meet him at the cemetery and left it on the coffee table, where she hoped he'd be sure to find it.

"Come on, Alex," she whispered as she exited the apartment, "please show up."

All the way to Mrs. Mulder's hotel, she tried to reach Alex with no luck. By the time she reached the room, her nerves were shot. She took a few shaky breaths and knocked at the door. Seconds afterward, the door swung open, and a pair of tired, brown eyes peered down at her over the tops of the familiar glasses.

"Have you slept at all?"

Scully looked up at Skinner, shaking her head. "So little it isn't even worth mentioning."

"I can see that," he responded. "You look terrible."

"You don't look so great, yourself. How about Mrs. Mulder?"

Skinner stepped aside and motioned Scully in. As she entered, the figure of Tina Mulder came into view. Sitting ramrod straight in a chair by the window, gazing out into the bright, noonday sky but not seeing a thing. Scully approached and softly cleared her throat.

"Mrs. Mulder."

Watery blue-gray eyes turned up to the petite red-head, and the woman gave her a ghost of a smile.

"Thank you very much for making the arrangements, Miss Scully. I...I'm afraid I didn't know my son nearly as well as I should have in his adult years, and I would have had no clue about what to do, who to invite..."

"It's perfectly all right," Scully countered.

The woman looked from Scully to Skinner, then back again. "I do know that he had the utmost respect for the both of you. You were good friends to him..."

Skinner bowed his head, unable to respond.

Scully took the woman's hand and said, voice quavering, "I can't begin to tell you how much...how sorry I am..."

A soft hand covered her own.

"You don't have to try to find the words, dear. I can see it all over your face." Her hand slid away, and she looked back toward the window. "I'd never have dreamed that I would outlive both of my children...Samantha...my beautiful, little girl. So full of enthusiasm. Her rambunctiousness drove me to distraction sometimes...now all I have of her is those memories..."

She took a long, stuttering breath and blinked back the threatening tears. "And Fox. My brilliant, handsome, idealistic son. I was proud of him, you know. I should have told him. He should have known. A child should always know that his parents are proud of him. But I've been so wrapped up in my grief over Samantha all these years, I suppose I forgot a lot of the time that I still had a child who needed my attention and my approval." Her head dropped and her shoulders slumped. "And now, it's too late."

Skinner watched from a distance as Scully sat on the arm of the chair and held the woman while, for the first time since he'd broken the news to her, she cried openly.

When her sobs had finally abated, Mrs. Mulder raised her head and dried her eyes. "It must be near time to go."

Skinner checked his watch. "As a matter of fact, yes. The car should be downstairs in about ten minutes."

The woman nodded and rose from the chair, smoothing her skirt. "I'll just go freshen up, then." She lay a hand on Scully's shoulder in a brief gesture of thanks, then disappeared into the bathroom, leaving the two alone. As soon as the door closed behind her, Skinner came to stand beside Scully.

"Where is Krycek?"

"I don't know."

"You don't *know*?"

"No, sir. I called him earlier, got no answer, and went by Mulder's...the apartment, and he wasn't there. Everything was neat and tidy, but he was gone."

"Maybe he left early for Arlington."

"I told him I was going to call him this morning. And he knew that he and I were going to go together. We talked about it while we were planning the service. We were going to meet you and Mrs. Mulder there."

Skinner looked toward the bathroom door then back at Scully. "I've made no mention of him at all because I had no idea if she knew about him or not. Now, I get the feeling that she's completely ignorant."

"Mulder had never discussed with me whether or not he'd told her. And Alex gave no clues either. I think you're right. I don't think she knows."

"We can't drop this on her, Scully. Not now. She's had enough of a shock..."

Before they could finish their conversation, the door opened and Tina Mulder emerged, composure intact and her head held high.

"I'm ready."

Skinner tossed Scully an apprehensive look then stalked toward the door and opened it. He helped Mrs. Mulder on with her coat, and the three walked out to meet the waiting car.

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

The group was larger than Scully had thought.

Through television and newspaper, word of Fox's Mulder's death had spread quickly, and the turnout for his funeral was enormous. The faces of people whom she'd recognized but whose names she could not remember dotted the crowd of friends, co-workers and acquaintances, and at the front of the large group, the three most familiar stood, forlorn eyes meeting hers as she approached. She nodded to the Gunmen, and she and Skinner helped Mrs. Mulder into her seat.

"Excuse me just a minute," she whispered to the woman, then made her way over to the three men. "Guys."

They completed a round of hugs, then Langly spoke for the group.

"I can't believe we're here. This is like some horrific nightmare."

Scully nodded, eyes cast downward.

Frohike looked around, noting that one person was missing. "Where's Krycek?"

Scully closed her eyes for a moment then opened and raised them. "I don't know," she whispered. "I'm afraid of where he might be...what he might be doing. He's so unstable right now."

"Who the hell would have thought?" Frohike asked no one in particular. "Alex Krycek..."

"I know," Scully cut him off before he could finish. "I sure as hell didn't believe it at first. But his heart and soul belonged to Mulder, and the agony he's in right now is unbearable." She glanced around the area, searching for the man in question, but to no avail. "I should get back now. But listen. After the service, you three need to meet us back at Mulder's apartment. In the..." she took a deep breath and continued. "In the event of his....death....Mulder wanted a specific group of people to get together after his funeral and hear his last wishes. You three are included in that group."

The men looked at each other, then to Scully. "All right," Langly agreed, speaking for the other two. "Of course, we'll be there."

Scully rejoined Skinner and Mrs. Mulder, who sat dry-eyed throughout the entire service until she was presented with the flag that had draped the empty symbol of her son's passing. She sobbed then, flanked by two who patted and reassured her while fighting to keep themselves together.

When the service had ended and the mourners had departed, the three stood quietly staring at the casket which would be lowered into the ground after they'd gone.

Unable to stand the sight for another minute, Scully was just about to suggest that they depart when movement caught her eye. She watched frozen as Alex stepped out of seemingly nowhere, drifting unsteadily in the direction of the grave. He stopped a few feet away, staring at what lay in front of him, then took the few remaining steps and came to a halt directly in front of gleaming mahogany casket. Scully flinched as she watched him waver, then sink to his knees. She watched his body tremble then begin to rock back and forth...

This wasn't happening. This could *not* be happening.

Alex closed his eyes, willing himself away from here. God, please, anyplace but here. But when he opened them, here was where he remained, on his knees, in front of a casket belonging to, but containing nothing of his beloved Fox.

He seemed to neither see nor hear the three who stood only a few feet away, and when the feather-light touch of Scully's hand came to rest on his shoulder, he gave no response.

"Alex," Scully called to the clearly distraught man. "Alex, come on. Why don't we go home, now?"

Alex lifted his hands to the casket, bracing himself as he continued to rock. He shook his head, choking back a soft whimper.

"I know, Alex. God, I know. But you can't stay. Please..."

Alex again refused to get up, and then another hand touched his arm.

"Krycek..."

Eyes that glowed a hateful green turned up to Skinner, and the older man removed his hand as Alex hissed at him.

"Don't touch me. Don't talk to me. Don't *look* at me." His gaze returned to the casket. "Look at *this*. *You* did this." He shook violently. "We were happy and you couldn't stand it..."

Skinner shook his head. "Krycek, that's not true. I never...you can't ever think I ever wanted *this*..."

"But this is what you *got*. You wanted to keep him away from me. He loved me and you hated it. Everything I ever wanted. Everything I ever loved..." He leaned against the mahogany box. "...is now *here*. It's all over. One phone call. One minute of disbelief and it's all gone." He closed his eyes and draped himself over the casket. "My beautiful Fox..."

Scully risked a glance at the older woman who stood motionless watching the scene, then again attempted to get Alex to leave with her.

"Alex, don't do this..."

"It's empty," Alex wept against the wood. "Nothing. There was nothing left of him...like he never even existed..."

"But we know better."

Scully stepped aside and watched, more than a bit surprised, as Tina Mulder approached and lay a comforting hand on the sobbing man's shoulder.

"He'll always be with us..."

Alex turned glittering eyes up to the woman. "I can't live on memories."

Mrs. Mulder squatted beside him. "I know you don't think so right now." Her hand moved slowly back and forth across his shoulders. "You're quite a surprise...Alex...I had no idea...but at this point," she shook her head, "I'm glad he had some happiness...some love in his life. He obviously meant the world to *you*."

Alex stared as the tears silently fell.

"The pain will never completely leave you. But it will, in time, become manageable. And one day you'll think of him and smile."

Alex shook his head, knowing that such a time would never come. Not for him.

"Alex," Scully called, taking his hand. "Come with us. We have to go back to the apartment. There's something else we need to do."

"I don't want to do anything," he whispered flatly.

"I'm sorry, Alex, but you have to." Mrs. Mulder rose to her feet, speaking in a commanding tone. "If you loved Fox as much as you appear to have, you *must* come with us. It's what he wanted."

Alex looked from the woman, who had no intention of taking no for an answer, to the casket.

"You said it yourself, dear. He's not in there. Why do you want to stay here and stare at an empty casket?"

Scully watched in shocked silence as Alex rose slowly to his feet and took the woman's outstretched hand. She and Skinner followed at a discreet distance as Tina Mulder led her son's despondent lover away from the gravesite.

Scully drove Alex back in his own car while Skinner and Mrs. Mulder took the limousine back.

Silence prevailed for the first five minutes of the ride, then Mrs. Mulder spoke up.

"What was that between you and the young man?"

//You knew it wasn't going to go by without mention.//

"Suffice it to say, Mrs. Mulder, that there is quite a bit of history involving the four of us."

"You, Alex, my son and Miss Scully?"

"Yes, ma'am."

"From the anger he displayed, I gather it wasn't a good history."

"No. No, it wasn't. I couldn't believe it when I discovered that he and your son had become a couple. Neither could Scully. But Mulder insisted that there was good in him and he had found it. Circumstances being what they were, I couldn't accept it. I was sure that Krycek was using him for some dire purpose." He leaned forward, pressing his hands together. "I was wrong. But I discovered that too late. If I had trusted Mulder's judgement...if I had believed Krycek when he called to tell me that your son was in danger...I might have been able to prevent this..."

The woman frowned, shaking her head in confusion.

"I know I'm telling this to you in bits and pieces, but the long and the short of it is, I was wrong about Alex Krycek's intentions toward your son, and Mulder could very well be gone as a result of my distrust. I can never be sorry enough, Mrs. Mulder. If I had it to do over again...if...if I could go back and change things..."

"But you can't." Mrs. Mulder took in a deep breath. "You're a fair, honorable man. My son always said that about you. If you distrusted this Alex, you must have had very good reason to do so."

"At one time, yes. But no more. I was wrong. Your son told me I was wrong, but I wouldn't hear him."

"Because you wanted to protect him."

"Yes."

He'd never tell her that there was more to the story than that. There was no point. It was his cross to bear, and he'd do so privately.

"But I was *wrong*."

"And your integrity allows you to admit that. Don't blame yourself, Mr. Skinner. It'll eat you up. I don't know that you'll ever be able to mend fences with Alex, but you've got to settle it with yourself. Fox wouldn't want all this misery on his account."

Skinner nodded, looking down at his tented hands. "I know."

"Good. Now fix it."

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

Everyone who was supposed to be there was already at the apartment when Scully and Alex arrived. Alex looked past Skinner, Mrs. Mulder and the Gunmen to the man who sat at the dining room table with an open briefcase before him. He turned to Scully, eyeing her warily.

"Who is that?"

"The lawyer."

"Lawyer?"

"Yes. Mulder's lawyer."

His brain couldn't function far beyond his grief. "Why is he here?"

"Mulder wanted his will read right after his funeral."

"*Will*."

Scully took his hand to prevent him from bolting. "Yes, Alex. There are things he wanted to say, and the lawyer is here to convey his wishes."

"I..." he shook his head, trying to pull his hand from hers, "..I don't want to hear this...I don't have to be here..."

"Alex, you do. Mulder wanted you and the people you see here together to hear this. Now, come on. The sooner we get started, the sooner it'll be over."

Alex let Scully lead him to the chair at the head of the table and took a seat beside him. Mrs. Mulder, Langly and Frohike also sat, leaving Skinner and Byers to stand.

The attorney bid everyone welcome and extended his deepest sympathy on their loss, then pulled a number of pages from his briefcase.

"On this, the occasion of the passing of Fox William Mulder, I will now read to you his Last Will and Testament..."

Having gone through the formalities, he then pulled out another folder and began to read.

"Hello, everyone. I've obviously died or my attorney wouldn't be reading this to you. I don't know how I went or when, and who is there to listen to this, so I can only speak in the here and now. I've also never done this before, and I have no idea where to start, so I'll just jump right in...

"Langly, Frohike and Byers. Hey, guys. You've been great friends and even better allies over the years. I don't know what I would have done without you. You're the only ones who've never said to me at any time, 'Mulder, you're crazy.' I'm sure you've thought it many times, but you never said it...of course, coming from three guys who are just as crazy as me, I don't know how much water it'd hold anyway. I want you boys to have some stuff. To Frohike, I leave my vast video collection. I know you've had your eye on it for years, and there's no one I'd rather give it to. Byers, I want you to have my telescope. There's nothing more relaxing than a summer night spent looking at the stars. Just don't let Frohike use it to spy on that blonde who lives on the sixth floor across from you guys. Langly...to you I leave all my old superhero comics. I've had them since I was a kid, and I know that no one would appreciate them more than you..."

Langly shifted in his seat. "Aww, *dude*." His gaze fell to the table as Byers cast him a chastising look. "I...I mean...that was really generous of him..."

The lawyer moved on.

"A.D. Skinner. Walter..."

Skinner bowed his head and closed his eyes.

"As a boss, I couldn't have asked for any better. Your professionalism and dedication to duty are unparalleled. I meant what I said that night that I told you I believed that you'd be director someday. As a friend, you've gone above and beyond any reasonable expectation, often putting yourself on the line for me and my causes. You'll never know how grateful I am for that.

"I'm leaving you a picture. You may not recall it at the moment, but when you see it, it should come back to you. We were all at that stupid convention a couple of years ago in Memphis. Remember the director called you into his office, told you that his records showed that somehow you'd managed to avoid every Bureau function, and gave you a direct order to attend? And you were so ticked off about it that in turn you made Scully and me go too? Remember how, in spite of everything, we wound up having a pretty good time at the social on the last night? I've got a picture that the staff photographer snapped of the three of us. Scully made some off color comment about A.D. Weinshull's toupee, and you spit your drink out all over me. The photographer caught us all laughing our asses off and you trying to dry my suit with your tie. That was the first and last time I'd ever seen you laugh. Look at it from time to time, Walt, and remember that you're human, with a human's needs and emotions. Don't be afraid of them. Embrace them and you'll see that sometimes amazing things can happen. Trust me on this, Walt, I know from which I speak."

Skinner pushed away from the wall and moved past the group assembled at the table. He stopped in the middle of the living room, hands in his pockets, staring out at nothing in particular.

Of the seven people in the dining room, five turned their eyes his way, looking on in sympathy. One of the remaining two organized his papers, and the other one sat motionless and silent, head down, eyes cast to the floor.

The attorney cleared his throat softly and continued on.

"Scully..."

Azure eyes welled up at the mention of the name Fox had used so often. Scully could count on one hand the amount of times over the past six years that Mulder ever called her Dana. And in those six years, 'Scully' had become as common to her as her first name.

"...You're a rock. I hope you're not laughing because I mean that sincerely and with the utmost love and respect. You were always there with me. Always the one I could lean on. Even when I insisted on standing alone, you were there standing at the edge of my sanity, waiting to catch me should I topple into the abyss..."

Scully sat, eyes squeezed shut, fighting with every last ounce of strength she possessed to keep her composure. A gentle hand over hers opened her eyes, and she looked across to Tina Mulder who gave her a trembling smile. She returned the gesture and lifted her chin, listening stoically to the rest of her partner's words.

"...We've been through so much together, Scully. So much tragedy has befallen you as a result of your loyalty to me and the X-files, and you've never wavered. I don't know that I deserved such devotion, but I'll be forever grateful for it. And for you. I couldn't have wished for a better friend. I love you, Scully. And I think you know that I wouldn't leave the X-files to anyone but you. I trust you to see the work through, and even though your ideas don't usually gel with mine, I know you'll still treat each case with respect...and hey, Scully? Try not to get too excited, but this also means that you can have my desk..."

A smile curved Scully's lips as tears rolled over them.

"...I know it's a much nicer desk than yours. Just do me a favor, okay? If they should try to stick you with someone else, don't go as easy on them as I went on you. And for God's sake, don't let them touch any of my stuff....well, I guess it's your stuff now, but *still*..."

"*Easy*," Scully whispered, smiling. "Mulder, what were you smoking when you wrote this?"

"Scully, I'm going to talk to you again in a little while, but right now, I have to move on....Mom."

The only remaining Mulder looked up at the mention of her name.

"As I said at the beginning of this, Mom, I'm speaking to you all in the here and now. If this is the version of my will that you're hearing, chances are not much has changed to warrant revision. That in mind, the first thing I want to do is say I love you. And I'm sorry I wasn't able to find Samantha for you, or at least find out for sure what happened to her. I never stopped looking, never stopped trying, but it was never enough. I'm sorry, Mom, I failed you. I would have loved to have been able to bring her home to you. Especially now that I'm gone. I hate the thought of you being all alone. I know we hardly saw each other, but I think there's something to be said about just knowing that someone is around.

"I wasn't sure what I could give you that would have any real meaning for you, then I thought about the summer I took some vacation time and visited you in Rhode Island. Remember I found all those old photo albums in the basement? You told me I could have them since they'd be mine someday anyway. Well, I guess they're yours again. And in addition to that, I've put some money aside for you. Please don't fuss about it; just take it and use it on a nice vacation or something. I'm sorry I haven't got anything more tangible to leave you, but I was never the type to have a lot of 'things'. I have what I need, and that's about it. And speaking of what I need..."

The attorney placed the typed page on top of the pile to his right and picked up a handful of new pages from his left.

"Alex."

For the first time since the group had assembled at the table, Alex showed some signs of life. His head jerked up, and he looked wide-eyed at the attorney.

"God, I knew yours would be the hardest message to write..."

"No," Alex gasped, leaning over, clenching his fingers in his hair. "Don't. Don't read it..."

The attorney stopped, and Scully rose from her seat, coming to squat in front of the shaking man. "Alex," she whispered, lightly rubbing his thigh. "It's okay..."

"*No*." He began to rock, hands still tightly clasped in his hair. "It's not okay. I don't want to hear it...I can't...I can't, Scully."

"Why? You heard the rest..."

"He's saying goodbye," Alex sobbed, rocking faster. "I can't hear it. You weren't supposed to leave me, Fox...you weren't supposed to..."

"Alex, come on..."

"I need more. We were supposed to have years and years together. We were supposed to..."

The group watched in stunned silence, moved by the bereaved man's outburst.

"Alex...Alex, listen to me. If you don't stop this, I'm going to have to sedate you..."

He looked up at her, profound grief shimmering in his eyes. "I don't want to say goodbye," he whispered. "I want him back."

Scully pulled her chair alongside Alex's and sat down, pulling him against her. "I know." She stroked his back and shoulders. "I know you do. I want him back too. But that's impossible. Please, Alex. Let Attorney Brownell finish reading this. No one wants to hear it, but it's what Mulder wanted. Please let's respect his wishes."

When she had calmed Alex enough to continue, she nodded to the lawyer, and he began to read.

"Little more than a year ago, you and I were adversaries. To the world, and to myself, if only on the surface. And now, at this moment, I can't imagine my life without you. You're every beat of my heart, my every breath...which is why I'm not going to sit here and give you the big, 'you've got to be strong, life goes on' speech. I wouldn't want it if our situations were reversed. I wouldn't believe it. And I know that there wouldn't be a thing anyone could say or do that would ease my anguish. I know you like I know me, and I know that this is how you're feeling. No one can help you, baby, though I hope that someone will want to. You've got to work through this on your own. In your own way.

"As I write this, I don't know what happened to end my life. I can only hope it wasn't pointless and *some* good came out of it. I know you don't give a damn right now about whatever or whoever may have benefited from it. I don't know if you ever will. But baby, please try to remember that there are things to be done. The world will not stop because I did. But it might if you don't continue to fight those who seek to steal the future. For all I know, they might have been the ones to steal *our* future. Don't let them win, Alex. Take them down. I know we were going to do it together, and I'm so sorry for whatever it was that happened to change that. But I'm still with you, baby. Think of me, and I'm there. I know that right now that's little consolation to you. Memories and mental images wouldn't be nearly enough for me either. I'd need to touch you. To be able to look into those incredible eyes and put my arms around you.

"You know, there were nights when I lay awake watching you sleep, and my mind would drift. I'd think about lying there alone...about living without you should anything ever happen to take you from me. I know, it was a morbid thing to do, but I couldn't help it. What we do is dangerous, and the risk of one of us getting killed is so much greater than if we were a couple of CPAs. Anyway, I tried to imagine the rest of my life without you, and I couldn't do it. In such a relatively short period of time, you've become everything in the world to me. Our lives are so intertwined I don't think we know anymore where one of us ends and the other begins. I like that. I like the idea of us being so completely connected. Unfortunately, sweetheart, at this moment it's as bad as it is good. I know the emptiness you feel in your heart. I know the hole my departure has left in your soul. But, close your eyes, Alex, and feel me. I'm with you. You just have to believe..."

Shuddering, Alex closed his eyes. A few seconds passed, and he shook his head. "I can't. I can't feel him."

"You're overwrought, Alex," Scully explained softly. "Later. When it's quiet." She looked to the attorney. "I'm sorry. Please continue."

The man gave a somber nod and read on. "Scully, I told you that I'd talk to you again later. Well it's later. If you haven't done so already, please, *please* accept what Alex and I had and recognize his loss. Look at him and know that this is no lie. He's truly suffering. He loves me...as much as you *know* I love him.

"Over the last few months I got the feeling that you might have been starting to come around. You haven't been nearly so impatient with him, and I thought I even saw you smile once while you were watching him yell at me about the mess on top of my desk. Hard to deny his charm, isn't it? You're not making comparisons to rattlesnakes, are you, Scully?"

Scully smiled and lowered her head. "Mulder..."

"Mom, I have to talk to you again, too. I can only imagine how shocked you were when you found out about Alex and me. I'm truly sorry you had to hear it this way, but there's something I need you to understand. I didn't not tell you because I was ashamed of our relationship. I love Alex deeply...completely, with no shame or reservation. I didn't tell you simply because there never seemed to be a good time. I never felt comfortable enough to say anything to you about us. Every time I thought I might, I'd think about how badly you'd most likely react. You and I don't have a very close relationship to begin with, and I thought that if you knew, you'd disown me altogether. And part of a mother is better than none. That's probably unfair of me to say. I don't know you well enough to say how you'd take it. I'm sorry, Mom. I'm sorry I let you find out this way..."

"No, I'm sorry, Fox," Tina Mulder answered softly, reaching for Alex's hand. "I'm sorry that you felt the need to make so many apologies."

"Forgive me for the interruption, Alex, but I had to speak to my mother and Scully about us, and I thought then would be a good time.

"Baby, I'm leaving you the apartment and everything in it. I'd made arrangements some time ago for you to take over the lease if anything ever happened to me, providing of course that you want to. It's no palace, but you always seemed happy enough to return here to me after being away. You seemed comfortable and content here, and I thought maybe you'd like to stay. I wish there was something more meaningful, more personal to leave you with. All I can give you is all my love and gratitude. Yes, I'm grateful to you, Alex. Because of you I didn't leave this earth never knowing what it was to be in love. You've saved my life so many more ways than I think you realize, and I thank you. And I love you. I may be gone, but my love will always remain. Remember that. Remember me, and I'll always be with you.

"You know, I have no idea how to finish this, so I guess I'll just put an end to my rambling and say thank you to everyone and have a good life."

The attorney gently placed the pages down on the stack and stopped speaking, leaving the room in deafening silence.

Alex sat, eyes closed, head at a slight downward tilt, Tina Mulder on one side of him and Scully on the other. When it was clear that he would say nothing, Scully spoke up.

"Thank you, Mr. Brownell." She looked around the room. "Thanks, everybody. Umm..." She inclined her head, whispering to Alex, "We should invite them to stay for something to eat. Do you mind?"

"I don't care," he replied almost inaudibly.

Scully paused for a second then looked up. "Please stay and have something to eat. Lots of nice people dropped food by yesterday, and the kitchen is full."

Half an hour later, the little group was sitting around the living room picking at the contents of their plates and sharing their favorite Mulder stories. Even Tina Mulder had them chuckling with some her favorite memories of his brief childhood. Scully sat listening and smiling politely, but her attention was divided between the small assemblage and the one who had refused to join them.

Alex sat alone in the same chair he'd occupied during the reading of Fox's will. Hands folded in his lap, head down, it almost looked as though he were deep in prayer. But Scully knew that his mind was far from anything so divine.

Quietly, she snuck away in the middle of Frohike's story about how Mulder and the Gunmen first met and came to sit down beside the motionless man.

"How about something to eat?"

No answer.

"Alex." She placed a hand on his knee. "Alex, come on..."

"I still can't feel him."

"Alex, cut it out. You're going to drive yourself crazy. Now, you haven't eaten anything in days, so far as I can determine. You can't go on like this. I'm going to get you something. What do you want?"

Tormented green eyes closed again. "To be with my Fox."

Completely missing his meaning, Scully emitted a heavy sigh. "I meant food. I'm going to get you some. What do you want?"

"Nothing."

"Alex, were you listening to Mulder's words?"

His jaw tightened. "Every word is echoing in my head."

"And don't you think you'd be dishonoring his memory if you don't do what he asked?"

"He also said that he knew I had to do this in my own way."

"Not if your way is starving to death. Now, dammit, Alex..."

A soft knock at the door cut her off in mid-sentence.

When it had become obvious that Alex had no intention of getting up to answer the door, Scully pushed herself out of her seat and went to see who was there. She opened the door and frowned out at the man with dirty-blonde hair and a deer-caught-in-the-headlights look on his face.

"Can I help you?"

"Uh..." The man looked past her at the group in the living room. "N-no. I..I guess I have the wrong apartment..." The man departed quickly, but before he could take ten steps away from the door, a low voice stopped him.

"Kessler."

The small man stopped in his tracks and turned to face the bleary-eyed man standing in the doorway.

Suspicion etched Alex's tired features. "What are you doing here?"

The man looked warily from Alex to the woman standing behind him. "I...uh, I..."

"Alex, you know this man?"

Alex nodded. "Kessler, why are you here?"

The other man approached cautiously, looking around. "I need to talk to you. Privately, though."

Alex's eyes narrowed. "Come in."

Kessler shook his head. "All those people."

"This has got to be important, Kessler, for you to come looking for me. I want to know what it is. We can talk in the kitchen." He turned to Scully. "Scully, would you..."

"I'll create a diversion, and you can slip into the kitchen." Scully turned and walked back into the apartment, heading straight for the window behind Fox's desk. All eyes followed her, and Alex and the other man walked quickly into the kitchen.

"Who was at the door?" Mrs. Mulder asked as soon as Scully turned to face the group.

"Just an acquaintance coming by to extend his sympathies. He couldn't stay."

The older woman nodded then looked around. "Where did Alex go?"

"Oh, I...I finally talked him into eating something. He's in the kitchen."

The conversation resumed, and Scully stood half-listening, wishing that she was part of another conversation...

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

"What are you doing here?"

The blonde man looked nervously at the door. "You sure nobody's going to come in here?"

"Scully'll keep everyone out. Now, *why* are you here?"

"Only the people and equipment that they *wanted* to be rid of went up with that house. Lieber, the smoker and whatever staff they deemed necessary packed up and got the hell out of Dodge just before they blew that place to kingdom come."

"You were there?"

"No. Obviously, or I might not be *here*. But I know where *they* are. I thought you might like to know, after....after what they did. I'm sorry, Alex. I heard he was there."

A homicidal glint lit Alex's eyes. "Where are they?"

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

"...I've never seen the Director turn such a vivid shade of purple..."

The crash of the kitchen door startled Skinner into silence, and all six heads turned to watch Alex storm into the hall and toward the bedroom. As they did so, the other man quietly slipped out of the apartment.

"What the hell's that all about?"

Scully pushed herself away from the window. "I don't know. I'll be back in a minute." She quickly followed in Alex's wake, finding the bedroom door closed. Without asking permission to come in, she opened the door and entered to find Alex throwing up the lid to a large black suitcase. She rounded the bed and came to stand behind him. "What the..." She watched in horrified fascination as Alex took stock of his arsenal. "What are you doing?"

"There's something I gotta take care of."

"Alex...*Alex*!" She had to wedge herself between him and the bed to get his attention. "What is it that you've got to take care of with all *this*?"

"That motherfucker is still alive."

"Who?"

"The smoking man. And his Doctor Frankenstein. That explosion was no coincidence. Rumors had begun to surface that Lieber was still alive, and so they had to move him and remove all traces that he'd been there in Vermont. Blowing Fox up with the house was an added bonus."

Scully raised a hand to her forehead. "That man...Kessler...he told you this?"

"Yeah."

"And who is *he*? How do you know you can trust him? How do you know he's not setting you up? I'd be willing to bet that they'd like to see you dead, too."

"I'm sure they would," Alex murmured. "But believe me, Scully. They're all going out before I do."

"Alex, you can't go...where *are* you going?"

"They've got another place in Leesburg. You believe it? Guess they figured that right under our noses was the best place to hide."

"Well, you can't just blast your way in there..."

Alex slammed a full clip into one handgun, put it down on the bed, and reached for another. "Sure, I can."

"After what they did, you don't think they'll be expecting you at some point? You're Alex Krycek. They'll be prepared."

"No amount of preparation in the world is going to save that son of a bitch."

"God...I'm going with you."

"No, you're not."

"Yes, I *am*. I want that bastard as much as you do."

"You *can't* come."

"Don't tell me what I can and can't do..."

"I'm *telling* you! You stay your ass right here. I do *not* want to be responsible for you..."

"*Responsible* for me? What am I, eight?"

"What the hell's going on in here? We can hear you yelling in the living room."

Both heads turned in the direction of the door.

"Let's see if you can get *this* right," Alex hissed at Skinner as he packed up his weapons and pushed past him. "Keep. Her. Here."

As the younger man disappeared from the room, Scully turned to follow, but Skinner took hold of her arm, spinning her around to face him.

"What's he talking about? And where the hell is he going armed like that?"

"He found out that the smoking man is still alive, and...I don't have time for this. He's going on a suicide mission, and I've got to stop him. Now, please let me go."

"Uh uh. No way. You're not going anywhere..."

"*Sir*..."

"...Not without me. If Krycek needs backup, he's going to need more than just you."

Scully stared up at her superior for a moment, then checked her shock, and the two headed out into the living room.

"What is going on here?" Tina Mulder asked, approaching the two even as they made their way toward her. "Alex came in here, kissed me, thanked me, and flew out of here like someone was chasing him..."

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Mulder, but we don't have time to explain. We've got to catch up to Alex before we lose him."

And with those few words from Scully, she and Skinner were out the door and hot on Alex's trail.

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

Alex's car screeched off of the exit and onto the highway, heading in the direction of Leesburg.

Trying desperately to keep his mind on the task at hand, he increased his speed to almost eighty and thought about the satisfaction he would derive from spattering the walls and soaking the floors with that motherfucker's blood...

An image in his rearview mirror caught his attention and he cursed aloud, seeing that Skinner and Scully were right behind him. Realizing that there was nothing he could do about it now, he drove on, each mile bringing him closer to his revenge.

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

"I've told you before, I do not allow smoking in my laboratory."

Watery eyes squinted as the man inhaled one last time from his cigarette. The smoke rose in leisurely fashion creating almost a halo-type effect over his head.. "I should think you'd be more generous in my case, after all I've given you...the sacrifices I and others have made to protect you..."

"You protect me because of my work. No other reason."

The man gave the doctor a sickly smile. "How is it coming?"

"It will go a lot better without interruptions. I'm at a critical stage now. The second phase must be initiated within ten hours so that I may proceed with the next step."

"Then why are you not working on it now?"

"There must be a rest period. All the phases cannot be initiated at once."

"Well. By all means, then I won't push you. This is an important project to me, and I want it done perfectly." He dropped the cigarette on the floor and crushed it under his shoe, bringing an angry, red flush to the doctor's cheeks. "I expect to be notified when the second phase is complete." He walked out of the lab, leaving the irritated man to fume over the contamination of his lab.

"Hector!" Lieber screamed as he stalked away. "Hector, where *are* you? My lab must be sanitized!"

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

 

Two cars sat unoccupied off the side of a lonely road while three figures picked their way up toward the house indicated in the directions that Alex was given. The structure came into sight, and Alex moved full speed ahead until Skinner's voice brought him to a halt.

"What the hell are you doing? Are you just gonna go through the front door?"

Alex's brows drew down into a deeper frown than the one that had already carved itself into his forehead. He stared at Skinner for all of three seconds, then very matter-of-factly said, "Yeah."

"Are you out of your mind?"

"Look, Skinner." Alex walked back, stopping when he was face to face with the other man. "I didn't want you here. I didn't want *either* of you here, but *especially* not you. I don't have time now to screw around with you, so keep that shiny head down, keep Scully covered, and stay the fuck out of my way." He walked away, leaving the other two stunned.

"This is the guy who just a few hours ago was numb with grief?" Skinner rumbled softly to the woman beside him.

Scully nodded as they moved forward, following Alex. "The people responsible for Mulder's death are allegedly in that house. His grief has turned to fury, and I'm afraid we're going to have a real mess on our hands if we don't find them before he does...not that I don't want to kill that smoking bastard myself..."

Skinner said nothing in response as they approached the house. A muffled shot and thud startled them as Alex dropped a guard that they hadn't even seen up on a secondary roof of the house.

"You sure you don't want to go while the getting is good?" he asked, kicking at the man to insure that he was indeed dead. Receiving no answer, he turned and glared at the pair. "He was getting ready to put a bullet right between your eyes, Wally, and you didn't even know it."

Skinner took a deep breath. "We'll be more alert," he offered, double checking his second weapon and cuffs.

Alex watched him, an incredulous expression on his face. "You're not going to need any cuffs."

"No?"

"No."

"Why not?"

The younger man's voice was flat and emotionless, but his eyes glittered with deadly intention. "Nobody's walking out of here."

"I can't let you kill everybody here, Krycek."

"You want to stop me?" Alex asked softly. "Shoot me. But you'd better make sure I don't get up."

No more was said as Alex located and disabled the security system, and the three slipped into the house. They checked room after empty room, and just as Scully was about to suggest that they'd been had, two men dropped out of seemingly nowhere, taking them by surprise. One man grabbed her from behind, and the other easily snatched the gun out of her hand.

"Drop your weapons," the armed man instructed.

Alex and Skinner stood their ground, guns pointed at the two guards.

"Do it, or my friend'll snap her pretty neck."

"You're wrinkling the lady's blouse. Let her go," Alex said softly, "and I might consider killing you both quickly."

The man smiled. "You *must* be Alex Krycek. Nobody else would be so arrogant in a situation like this."

"Oh, you've heard of me?"

"We know all about you."

"Good. Then you know there's no way you're going to get out of this alive."

Before the man could draw another breath, the one holding Scully had dropped to the floor, a bullet between his eyes. All he had time for was a look of horror, and he was joining the first man, the blood quickly gushing from his throat.

Paying no more attention to the two, Alex stepped toward Scully, who stared dazedly down at the dead men.

"Are you all right?"

She nodded in silence.

"That was a hell of a chance you took, Krycek."

Alex looked over at Skinner with an expression that said he'd almost forgotten the other man was there. "You don't get it, Wally. These assholes aren't looking to bring us in alive. He *would* have killed Scully whether we surrendered or not."

Without another word, he spun and stalked off in the other direction, eyes continuously scanning for more traps and guards.

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

As the fifth man fell, word had reached the smoking man that Alex Krycek was in the house, and he wasn't taking any prisoners.

"Idiots!" he hissed at the frightened man who had come in to tell him. "We spent time and money training you people. Why is it none of you can contain this man?"

Even as he asked the question, he knew the answer. Aside from Krycek's innate abilities, he was now also a man with nothing to lose. Taking Fox Mulder from him had made him ten times more dangerous. But the smoker had hoped that these new men...these people he'd spent so much money training would prove to be a deterrent against their prototype. No such luck. Now, he must make a decision and make it quickly.

Abandon Lieber and their project to save his own skin, or take the time to try and make it to the lab to get the man and the evidence before death found either of them.

One last long drag on his cigarette and the decision was made.

Better to live to fight another day.

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

Alex had split off from Scully and Skinner, giving them one more warning to watch their asses, and he went in search of his targets.

Along his way, four more men fell, and when he reached the wide corridor to a wing of the house that most likely housed the lab, he met up with the most resistance he had encountered thus far.

Three determined men burst through the door in front of him and opened fire. Alex dove behind a celadon-colored divan, returning their barrage.

Having no place to hide, the men dropped quickly, one by one. When all was quiet and the cream carpet was stained a deep crimson, Alex stood and walked toward the bodies, searching each for weapons and a key to the door which would certainly be locked.

As he had finished searching one body, a soft moan caught his ear. He turned, narrowing his eyes on the other two bodies. Both appeared motionless, but further inspection revealed that one was still breathing, though just barely. He moved over to that man, staring down at him.

Dark eyelashes fluttered and a hollow blue stare attempted to focus on the face that floated above. The coppery taste of blood filled the man's mouth as it began to move, spilling its warm contents.

"Alex, move."

Alex looked up from the dying man into Scully's face. "He's dead."

"Not yet, he isn't; now move and let me see what I can do..."

Alex stared up at her, cocking his head to one side. He looked back down at the man, placed his gun to his forehead, and before Scully could voice her objection, pulled the trigger. He looked back up into her stunned face.

"I told you, he's dead." He searched the body and, producing a key, rose to his feet and moved to the door. "Where's Skinner?"

"Right...God." Skinner moved into the hall, scowling down at the bloody scene. "What the hell..."

Scully simply shook her head as Alex tried the lock and opened the door.

"What does this lead to?"

"The lab," Alex threw back at Scully as he strode into the outer room, turning over furniture and everything else that wasn't nailed down, seeking out his quarry. Turning up nothing, he tried the only other door in the room. Finding it locked, he tried the key, but the wooden structure would not yield. He backed up a few steps and kicked the door open, splintering it in its frame. His eyes scanned the room, seeing nothing but equipment, but someone was here. He could smell the fear.

Taking another moment to scan the room, he focused on a locker-style cabinet and stalked toward it as Scully and Skinner searched the rest of the room. He swung the door open and hauled the terrified doctor out, throwing him into the middle of the room.

"Please," the man practically screamed, hands shaking as he held them out in front of him. "Please don't kill me."

"Alex," Scully said softly to the man who held his gun trained on the doctor's head. "Alex, don't. Let's take him in. This man has a lot to answer for from what I see here. Maybe he can lead us to the rest..."

"I...I can't," the man whimpered. "I don't know anything outside of what happens here in the lab..."

"You might as well roll over," Alex spat at the man. "If you think your benefactor is going to get you out of this somehow, you're sadly mistaken. I know him. He's got a yellow streak a mile long. He's *gone*. Left you to take the all the heat."

"He...he wouldn't," the doctor said, anger tingeing his voice. "I'm too important. My *work* is too important."

Alex laughed bitterly. "Not if it means *his* ass. I know all that he's sacrificed to keep your sick experiments going. Money...property...his own people..." Alex cocked his weapon. "My Fox..."

"Krycek..." Skinner took a step forward. "Krycek, secure your weapon. This isn't going to help..."

"Maybe not," Alex said flatly, steadying his aim. "But it won't hurt."

Two men burst into the room, and everyone took cover in the hail of bullets. In the few seconds it took to put them down, Lieber had made his way to a desk and reached into the top drawer. Skinner saw him pull a gun out, aiming it at Alex, and the A.D. fired, pumping two rounds into the man's chest.

Alex and Scully spun around just in time to see the doctor slump over the desk, blood staining the white blotter under him. They looked from the gun in his hand over to Skinner.

"He was aiming right at you," he said to Alex, shock registering in his tone, then looked to Scully. "I had no choice."

An expression crossed Alex's face, so completely peculiar and altogether frightening it made Scully shudder. She waited for him to say something, but not a word passed from his lips.

Skinner said something in Scully's ear, and she turned back toward the silent man. "Alex." She drew nearer, touching his arm. "Let Skinner clean this up. The doctor is dead, and you said it yourself; Cancerman is probably miles away from here by now. We've gone through every room in the house...there's no one else. Why don't you let me take you home now?"

The savage glint had gone from his eyes, leaving only wretched sorrow and weariness. "I...I just want to sit for a while." Securing his gun, he rested it on the desktop and lowered himself to the oak surface, staring down at the floor.

"Okay. Okay, you rest a minute, then we'll go."

"Alone, Scully." Alex looked up at the woman who stood mere inches from him. "Please? I just need a minute to myself. Go wait outside. I...I'll be there soon."

Red eyebrows drew down into a distinct frown. "Alex..."

"Please." The word came out in a whisper so soft she almost didn't hear it.

"All right. But if you're not out in ten minutes, I'm coming back in to get you, do you understand?"

Alex nodded and looked up at the man watching from the doorway. No words were spoken between them, but somewhere in the look they exchanged, an understanding...a truce of sorts seeped through.

Scully passed between Skinner and the shattered door, and the A.D. followed, leaving Alex sitting amid the litter of bodies. He looked at the two on the floor and the one behind him still slumped over the desk and released the safety on his gun.

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

"We shouldn't have left him alone," Scully lamented as she walked beside Skinner out the front door. "He looks so despondent. I think I'm going to go back."

"He only asked for a few minutes, Scully, what do you think he's going to do? It's not like there's anyone left to kill."

Scully stopped dead in her tracks, staring wide-eyed at her superior. "God...yes there is."

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

Alex lifted the gun, staring at the black metal.

For years, his only friend. All he could depend on...many times, all that stood between him and certain death.

And now, it would perform one last service for him.

His mouth curved into an ironic little smile.

//How the hell else did you expect it to end? You didn't really think you'd get go grow old with him, did you? You had to know that something would happen sooner or later to fuck it all up.//

A tear formed and spilled from one eye.

//But not this. God, why this? He didn't deserve it. The world needed him. I needed him.//

He turned the weapon, now staring down the length of the barrel.

//I'm sorry, baby. I can't stay. I think you know I can't. Wait for me. I'll be there soon.//

His head turned, and he tuned in to the brief, faint sound coming from someplace not so far away.

He listened intently but did not hear the soft clink again. Still, his hearing was too finely tuned to dismiss the sound as nothing.

He rose from the table, weapon poised, and began looking around.

There it was again.

His eyes narrowed on the very cabinet he'd pulled Lieber from. Striding over to it, he looked inside, quickly finding a latch. He opened the back panel and found himself looking at a narrow door.

//Shit. Cancerman?//

//No, you couldn't be that lucky.//

But somebody was making noise in there.

Gingerly, he opened the door and found himself in another corridor. The clinking sounded again, and this time he knew he was on the right track. He stole quietly down the dimly lit hall and stopped in front of the first of three doors. Quickly, he kicked it open and ventured inside, gun first.

Nothing. A tiny, completely empty, windowless room.

The second room revealed little more. A chair, a toilet, and a bed frame, and that was all.

By process of elimination, the third room must be the one where the survivor or survivors were hiding.

He stood listening for a moment, then kicked the door in, gun at the ready. What he found nearly made his knees buckle.

This room, small and windowless like the first two, also contained a chair and toilet, but there was an entire bed in this one, and chained by the wrists to one post, curled against the headboard, there was a man. Clad in blue hospital scrubs, days worth of stubble covering his face...amber-flecked eyes wide with fright...

Alex stumbled to the bed, letting his gun fall to the mattress. He leaned over the shivering man, trembling hand tenderly petting the limp, golden-brown hair.

"Fox..." The vision before him blurred as tears glazed his eyes. "Oh, God, Fox. My baby..."

Fox flinched away from the touch, whimpering softly, and panic seized Alex.

"Fox, look at me. Come on, baby. It's Alex. Please, look at me." His pleas brought no response, and the panic deepened. "What the hell did they do to you?"

"Alex!"

The faint sound of Scully's voice snapped his head around. "Scully! God...I'm sorry, baby, I'm sorry," he apologized as Fox wedged himself closer to the headboard. "I didn't mean to scare you. I'll be right back." He took the time to remove his jacket and drape it over the shivering man before bolting out into the little hall.

"Alex, where are you?"

"I'm here! There's a secret doorway in the cabinet I took Lieber from."

"*What*?" Scully appeared in the doorway, looking around in shock. "Alex, what the..."

"Scully, come on! I need you!"

Scully watched as Alex disappeared into a room, and she followed quickly, her mouth almost hitting the floor as she entered.

"Oh, my *God*. Mulder..." She rushed over to the man on the bed, dropping down beside him. "Mulder?"

"They did something to him," Alex rasped as he worked at picking the locks on the cuffs. "He's scared to death. He won't talk. It's like he doesn't recognize me."

"Mulder?" Scully gently turned Fox's face toward hers. "Mulder, can you hear me?"

Alex freed Fox's hands, and he pulled the jacket around himself, not allowing either of them to touch him.

"Fox," Alex called softly, wiping away his tears as they fell. "Sweetheart, it's us. It's Alex and Scully. Don't you know us?" He looked up from the unresponsive man's face to Scully. "We gotta get him out of here."

Scully nodded. "Go find Skinner. Let me see if I can do a cursory exam."

"All right. I'll be back, Fox. Please let Scully look at you." He caressed the older man's hair. "Okay?"

As Alex ran from the room, Scully tried to gently pry his jacket away from Fox. "Come on, Mulder, let me have a look at you."

Fox tightened his hold on the jacket, refusing to let her take it from him.

"Mulder," she called softly, holding back the flood of tears that threatened to spill over. "Mulder, please. I'd never hurt you. I need to see if you're injured anywhere. Please..." Seconds later, she managed to wrestle the leather away and ran her hands over the squirming man. Noticing he was especially protective of his arms, she coaxed him to let her have a look. She closed her eyes, cursing softly. "Oh, God, Mulder..."

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

"Skinner!"

"I've been looking all over for you!" Skinner bellowed as Alex came into view. "Where's Scully?"

"Call for an ambulance."

"What? Why? Did something happen to her?"

"No," Alex called over his shoulder as he turned back in the direction that he came. "It's not for her."

"Then, who?"

Alex broke into a sprint. "Fox!"

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

"Alex, they've been injecting him with something. He's got needle marks in both his arms. That's probably what's induced this psychosis, whatever it is."

Alex approached the bed carefully, afraid to frighten Fox again. "God, I wish there was somebody left to kill," he said softly, sitting on the edge of the mattress.

"You *did* say Fox!"

Alex and Scully each held up a hand as the A.D. stormed in the direction of the bed.

"Easy," Scully murmured. "He's frightened enough."

"Of us? What the hell's going on? Mulder..."

"He doesn't recognize us," Alex said, his palm whispering over the back of Fox's hand. "They did something to him."

Skinner approached cautiously, standing before the two men. "Mulder?"

No reaction.

"God, it's good to see you. We thought you were dead."

Fox clutched the jacket to himself, saying nothing.

Skinner winced, taking in the image before him.

Mulder, rumpled and unshaven...Christ, but alive...terrified of God only knew what, and Krycek, ecstatic that his lover was still alive but worried to death about his condition...stroking him tenderly and crooning soft words of comfort to him. Skinner closed his eyes and dropped his head, for the moment unable to face this thing that was quite likely his doing.

"Is the ambulance on its way?"

Scully's words startled him, and he turned in her direction. "Yeah. They said fifteen minutes."

What seemed to Alex like an eternity later, the ambulance arrived.

Fox fought the E.M.T.s, not wanting to be touched or moved, but finally, under Alex's strict supervision, they got him out of the room and into the ambulance. Almost ready to depart, the men each grabbed an arm and tried to restrain him. He struggled against their attempts and, for the first time since Alex had found him, uttered an intelligible word.

"No....n-*no*..."

"Stop it," Alex pushed their hands away. "Leave him alone. You're upsetting him."

"Mister, *everybody* we gotta restrain is unhappy about it. You saw the hard time we had just getting from the house to here."

Again the man reached for Fox's arm and immediately found the muzzle of a gun in his face. "I said," Alex warned softly, "no restraints."

The man drew back, never taking his eyes off of the gun. "L-look, I know you law enforcement types look out for your own, but..."

//Law enforcement?//

Alex shrugged and went with it. "He'll be fine. No restraints."

"Okay. Okay."

The object of the exchange watched quietly, his eyes coming to rest curiously on the tall, green-eyed man who seemed to have taken on the role of his protector.

Alex put his gun away and settled himself by Fox's stretcher. His eyes met those which continued to stare up at him.

"It's okay," he reassured Fox, lightly covering the older man's hand with his own. "They're not going to tie you down. I promise."

The ride to the hospital was a relatively uneventful one, and when they reached the hospital, Alex escorted Fox as far as the emergency examining room, but the doctor insisted that he wait outside while Fox was checked out. While he paced up and down, Scully walked in.

"Where is he?"

"In there," Alex indicated to Scully with a toss of his head. "They won't let me be with him..."

"Hospital rules, Alex..."

Before Scully could finish, a ruckus arose from inside the examining room.

Not giving a damn about protocol, Alex burst into the room, closely followed by Scully, to find two male nurses trying to hold Fox down while the doctor attempted to draw some blood.

"Wait...*wait*!" Alex yelled, pushing his way to the bed. "Let him go!"

"Sir, you can't be in here!"

"Listen to him!" Scully told the doctor as she moved toward him. "The needle is frightening him."

"Who are *you*?"

"I'm his doctor. He's been injected with something...a number of times, and it appears to have done something to his mind. He doesn't seem to know anyone, and he's frightened to death of being restrained and of needles. Now, please." Scully motioned to Alex. "Let him see if he calm him."

The nurses backed away at the doctor's instruction, and Alex took a seat at the edge of the bed. "Fox." He laid a soothing hand on the agitated man's shoulder. "Fox, look at me."

Wild, gilded eyes stared up at him. "No needle."

Alex shook his head, gently pushing the hair away from Fox's forehead. "No, Fox. Listen to me. They're not going to inject you with anything, I *promise*. They just want to take a little blood so they can figure out what those men put in you."

Fox eyed him doubtfully.

"Trust me. I didn't let them restrain you in the ambulance, right? I swear, nobody's gonna hurt you. I won't let them."

Fox looked from Alex to the doctor and Scully, who stood waiting at a distance. His gaze came back to Alex then dropped to his own hands resting in his lap. "Okay."

A smile of relief curled Alex's lips. "Thank you. As soon as we figure out what they did to you, we'll know how to treat you."

The doctor stood silently for a moment then, determining that the patient was calm, he cleared his throat.

"All right, sir, thank you. His doctor may stay, of course, but you're going to have to wait outside."

Alex shot the man a withering glare, then turned back to Fox, the hostility gone in an instant. "I'll be right outside, but Scully'll be here. She won't let them hurt you."

A look crossed Fox's face that gave Alex the impression that he wanted to say something, but he remained silent. The younger man gave him another reassuring smile and squeeze of his hand and vacated the room, leaving him with the woman who had just claimed to be his physician. She approached the bed as the doctor prepared to take his blood.

"How're you feeling?"

Fox shrugged.

"Come on," Scully coaxed good-naturedly. "I know you can talk. I heard you."

He winced as the needle slid into his vein. "What's happening? Why do you seem to know me but I don't know you?"

"Because, Mulder...the people who've had you the last few days...they did something to you. Something to erase your memory. Or at least suppress it. We'll know better when we're able to do some tests."

Fox looked down at his hands for a moment, then back up at the pretty red-head. "Why do you call me Mulder and he calls me Fox?"

"Mulder is your last name. Fox is your first. You're not really overly fond of Fox. Only Alex and your mother are allowed to use it."

A slight frown creased his brow. "Then, is he my brother?"

//Oh, boy.//

"Mulder, let's save all the questions for later, okay? Let's just get you all checked out and up to a room, then maybe we can talk."

He fell silent, letting the staff poke and prod for a while, then spoke again. "That bald man said you all thought I was dead..."

Scully smiled to herself but allowed the amusing observation to pass.

"Come on, Mulder, we're almost done here. Then you can ask all the questions you want."

Twenty minutes later, Scully came out to get Alex who had remained right outside the doors, wearing a hole in the tiles.

"Well?"

"He checks out okay. A little dehydrated, but that's all."

"That's *all*? He doesn't know us!"

"Well, yeah, there's that."

Alex growled down at her. "What's *wrong* with him?"

"We won't know until the tests come back. I've come to tell you they're taking him up to a room. You go with him; I'm going to join the doctor in the lab."

Alex spun toward the examining room, but before he could make it to the doors, Scully stopped him.

"He's asking questions, Alex. He seems rational enough to take the truth, but tread lightly." She smiled at the anxious man. "I didn't have to tell you that."

He returned her smile and entered the examining room, finding the orderly preparing to take Fox up to his room.

"How are you feeling?"

"Tired," Fox said softly. "Confused."

"I know," Alex replied, stroking the other man's hair. "We're going to see what we can do to fix that."

They took the back elevator up to the third floor ward, and, as soon as Fox was settled in his private room, he began asking questions.

"I want to know who I am."

Alex pulled up a chair and sat close to his lover's bedside. "You're Fox Mulder. You're an agent with the FBI."

Fox sat quietly, waiting for more.

"You live in Alexandria. Not too far from here. Uh...Scully...she's your partner. Has been for six years. The other man you saw is Skinner. He's your boss..."

Fox watched the other man carefully, noting that he avoided introducing himself.

"You work within a special unit...hell, you *are* the special unit..."

"Who are you?"

Alex stopped, almost choking on the words he bit off. "I...I'm Alex."

"I know your name. I've heard Scully use it. But who are you to me?"

"There you are."

Both men turned their attention to the door where the hulking form of A.D. Skinner loomed. He stepped into the room and spoke to Alex before turning his attention on the man in the bed.

"Everything is secured at the house."

Alex nodded.

"So, Mulder," he began, never letting his eyes rest for long on the man in the bed, "I heard your voice as I was walking toward the room. I guess you're feeling better."

"I'm all right," Mulder answered warily, sizing up the new presence. "You're my boss?"

Skinner shot Alex a curious look.

"He still doesn't remember anything."

A look of regret crossed the older man's face, and he stepped forward. "Yeah. I'm your boss."

Fox nodded. "You thought I was dead?"

"Yeah."

"For how long?"

"A few days."

Fox watched out of the corner of his eye as the man called Alex closed his eyes and lowered his head. His attention came back to Skinner, and he shrugged. "Gonna make me make up the work?"

The smile that lit the other man's face should have surprised and delighted him. Instead, he just watched in mild fascination. "Is that funny?"

Skinner couldn't wipe the smile away. "It's just so like you. It was good to hear."

"Oh." Fox looked to the other man who still had his head down. He hesitated, unsure of whether or not to ask, then the words just spilled forth. "Are you all right?" He could see a smile form, and Alex looked up at him.

"I'm fine."

He wanted to ask Alex if he was so fine, then what was with the bright glaze over his eyes, but decided against it. This was already too much to take in, and they'd hardly told him a thing.

Alex watched Fox lift a hand to his forehead, and he pitched forward in his seat, placing a hand on the bed. "Fox?"

The older man removed his hand and opened his eyes.

"What's wrong?"

Fox shook his head. "Really tired, all of a sudden. My head is starting to hurt."

Alex rose from the chair and came to sit at his lover's bedside. "Close your eyes, then. I want you to go to sleep."

"I want to talk," Fox protested. "I hate this feeling of not knowing..."

"I know," Alex soothed, "but there's all the time in the world for questions. Right now, you need rest."

Fox looked apprehensively around the room then back into damp, green eyes.

"What is it?"

"When I woke up there, I was always sick and cold."

Alex frowned and sighed softly. "Did you sleep after they injected you?"

Silent nod.

"You were more than likely feeling the effects of whatever they put in you. Nobody's going to do that to you here."

Fox studied the man, chewing nervously on his lower lip.

"Trust me, Fox. Nobody's going to do anything that'll hurt you. They'd have to come through me first."

"And that's harder than trying to get through six heavily-armed guards."

Fox glanced over at the other man, almost forgetting until hearing his voice that he was still in the room. The statement made him even more curious, but for some reason, he believed it.

"Come on, close your eyes."

Fox looked back to Alex then slowly let his eyelids fall. Minutes later, he was asleep.

Alex sat quietly, unwilling to take his eyes off the miracle that lay sleeping not more than two feet away. He reached out, letting his fingers whisper over the golden-brown strands of his Fox's hair.

"Tell me I'm not going to wake up and find out that I've been dreaming."

Skinner moved closer. "I was just thinking that same thing."

"A few hours ago," Alex whispered softly, afraid of waking the exhausted man, "my life was over. It was all done. And now, here it is." A few tears escaped his eyelids. "And he doesn't know me."

"He will," Skinner reassured him. "As soon as Scully figures out what they gave him, she'll know what to do to bring him back."

Alex turned his head to face the other man. "I don't mean to sound ungrateful. Jesus, I can never be thankful enough. But what if he never remembers?"

"Then he'll just have to get to know you all over again."

"And what if he doesn't fall in love with me the second time around?" He gave Skinner a pained grin. "Maybe you'll get lucky after all."

Skinner shook his head. "Not a chance. It's just his memory that's been erased. His personality seems intact. He's the same man, Krycek. The same man who loves you deeply." Sad eyes fell to the motionless form. "He'll always be yours."

Alex stared for long seconds, amazed that he and Walter Skinner would ever be sitting together in the same room, let alone discussing his love life. His gaze slipped away and returned to the sleeping man. "We've got to call his mother."

"Oh, damn. With all the excitement, I forgot about her." Skinner pulled out his cell phone and dialed Fox's number. The phone rang three times, and a tired woman's voice answered.

"Hello?"

"Mrs. Mulder, it's Walter Skinner."

"Mr. Skinner, what is going on? We've been worried to death about you since you left."

"The Gunmen are still there?"

"Yes. They didn't want to leave me alone."

"Please thank them for me, and accept my apologies. We've been very busy..."

"Doing what? Did you find Alex? Is he all right?"

"He's fine, ma'am. Mrs. Mulder, I need to tell you...it's going to be quite a shock, but...are you sitting?"

"Yes. Mr. Skinner, you're starting to worry me."

"No. Please don't be. It's wonderful news...I'm at a hospital not all that far from you."

"A *hospital*?"

"Yes...with your son."

"My...."

"Mrs. Mulder? Mrs...."

"Skinner?"

"Yeah. Who's this?"

"Frohike. What the hell is going on? Mrs. Mulder is pale as a ghost."

"Is she all right?"

"She looks like she's in shock. What'd you tell her?"

"Mulder is alive."

"*What*?"

"It's a long story, but we've got him in the hospital. Do me a favor and get Mrs. Mulder here, okay?" Skinner gave directions to Frohike then disconnected. "They're on their way. The poor woman is in a state of shock."

"She'll be better once she sees him," Alex answered, watching the steady rise and fall of Fox's chest. Although the movement soothed and reassured him, he still felt the need to touch his lover's hair...his arm. Just for contact. Just to prove to himself that this was not a dream. His eyes closed as his fingertips fluttered over Fox's forearm, recognizing instantly the texture of his skin. "He *feels* real..."

A gentle hand on his shoulder lingered only until he turned and looked up into Skinner's face.

"I'm dying for some coffee. You want anything?"

Alex shook his head and returned his gaze to his slumbering love.

"You should have *something*, Krycek. Scully's worried that you haven't eaten in days. I know you don't want to get sick *now*. Mulder's going to need you, and you can't help him if you're not firing on all eight cylinders."

Alex release a conciliatory sigh. "Okay. Just get me whatever."

Skinner nodded and exited, leaving Alex time to run through the horrid, shattering events of the last few days. He shuddered as he saw himself bursting into the trailer in Vermont and Scully delivering the news that the only thing that had ever meant anything to him was gone. He recalled the blackness that had enveloped him and the consuming desire to sink deeper into that dark world, never to return. He would have done just that only a few hours ago if Fox struggling against his chains hadn't attracted his attention.

Now, here they were. And even with Fox lying here in front of him, alive and for the most part well, the happy ending was in peril.

Alex leaned forward, resting his head next to the unconscious man's. He watched the occasional flutter of the golden-brown eyelashes and relaxed pout of the absurdly beautiful lips, and he ached. He ached with the joy of feeling his love so near and with the agony of knowing that this was as close as he might ever get again.

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

Scully entered the hospital room to find two men asleep and one watching them, almost hypnotized by the sight.

"How long has he been out?"

Skinner blinked, shaking himself out of his trance. "I came back in with something for him to eat, and he was asleep. That was..." he looked at his watch. "A little over two hours ago."

"God, he's exhausted. I don't know if we should wake him or not."

"I think he'll be pretty ticked off to find out that you came in with some news and *didn't* wake him right away."

"Yeah, I suppose. Besides," she said, tilting her head to one side. "if he stays in that position much longer, he's going to be pretty sore."

"I've slept in much stranger positions."

Two sets of eyes turned toward the bed where Alex was sitting up and stretching.

"What have you found?"

"Obviously a creation of the good doctor Lieber..."

"Oh, my God."

Scully cut off her explanation, and all three looked in the direction of the door. There, Tina Mulder stood, ashen and shaking, eyes trained on the sleeping man.

"Fox..."

Skinner was at her side in an instant, taking her slowly toward the bed. "He's all right, Mrs. Mulder. But he's very, very tired. We're trying not to wake him."

The woman came to stand at the edge of the bed, taking Alex's hand and staring down into the pale face of her son. "What happened? Where was he?"

Alex gave her the short version of events, conveniently leaving out the gorier details, and by the time he was through, Mrs. Mulder had to be lowered into a chair, where she sat and wept softly.

"Thank God. Thank you, God, for bringing him back." She turned watery eyes up to Alex. "And thank you. If it wasn't for you going to that house, he might never have been found."

Alex lowered his eyes, quiet for a moment, then looked up at Scully. "You were starting to tell us about what you discovered."

"Yeah. Mrs. Mulder, I was just starting to tell them that Mulder has been injected with a combination of drugs to induce memory loss. We've been able to identify all but one component. I'm going back to the lab to see if I can't come up with some clues."

"What's the importance of identifying this component?"

Scully turned to Skinner. "We can't proceed safely with treatment without it."

"So, his memory will never return if you don't identify that last drug?"

Skinner risked a quick glance at Alex. The younger man sat, listening stoically for his answer as his hand rested over Fox's.

"I...I don't know, Alex," Scully answered honestly. "You know I'll do everything I can."

Skinner's regard moved from Alex to Tina Mulder. "Are Frohike and the others here?"

"Yes. They're in the waiting room."

"Scully, why don't you take them with you? Maybe they can be of some help."

Scully nodded and walked over to the older woman, squeezing her hand. "We'll figure this out, Mrs. Mulder."

The woman smiled through a haze of tears. "I know you will."

Scully took a few steps forward until she was standing directly in front of the bed. "Don't worry," she whispered to Alex and dropped a light kiss on his cheek, then did the same to Fox. She straightened up, addressing the whole group. "I'll be in touch."

When she was gone, Tina Mulder rose from her chair and made her way back over to the bed. "He'll be fine," she reassured Alex, petting the sable hair.

"We've had one miracle," he whispered to her. "What right have we got to expect another?"

"I don't know, dear. But it never hurts to hope."

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

"Oh, you have *got* to be kidding me."

"Are you sure we're at the right house?"

"Positive." Scully banged her hands on the steering wheel. "Sonofabitch!"

She jumped out of the car with the three men in close pursuit and found the nearest policeman. Shoving her badge in his face, she identified herself and asked what the hell was going on.

"I don't know," the officer shouted above the wail of a siren. "It just...it *blew*."

"When?"

"Not more than half an hour ago. We've got four men unaccounted for."

Someone shouted the officer's name, and he excused himself, running toward the sound.

"I can't believe this," Scully mumbled staring at the wreckage of the house she'd been in not more than a few hours ago. "There goes our best hope of identifying that last drug."

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

Wary, hazel eyes watched the woman as she sat at the edge of the bed, staring down at her hands. She looked up and was startled to find Fox awake and looking at her.

"Oh, my goodness, Fox."

"Are you my mother?"

She smiled even as tears stung her eyes. "Yes, sweetheart. You really don't know me at all?"

Fox shook his head. "I'm sorry."

"No." The woman covered his hand with her own. "Don't you be sorry. I've heard enough apologies from you to last the rest of my life."

Her son stared at her curiously.

"Never mind, honey. It isn't your fault you don't remember. But your partner is out trying to find the answer to making you better."

Fox's attention drifted from the glassy blue eyes that looked so lovingly on him, scanning the room, then coming to rest on the man who was asleep in the chair nearby.

"He hasn't left here, you know. And I really don't think anyone can make him. But he needs rest, and he needs to eat. Maybe if you told him, he'd do it. He loves you so much."

Golden-brown eyebrows drew down into a frown. "Loves me?" He looked up at her. "Please tell me."

"Tell you what, dear?"

"I asked him, but then that other man...Skinner came in. Then Scully came in..."

"What did you ask him?"

"What is he to me?"

Tina Mulder cocked her head. "I thought you would have been told by now, I'm sorry. I...I think I should leave that conversation for the two of you."

"No. No, please," Fox whispered, taking care not to wake the other man. "I don't want to wait anymore. Please tell me."

The woman could not resist the pleading look in her son's eyes. "Well, I don't know what you refer to each other as, but he's your boyfriend, I guess I could say. I'm sorry, I'm not really up to date on the current term for it."

"You mean, we're..." He looked back to Alex. "...gay?"

His mother smiled. "Knocked me for a bit of a loop, too. I had no idea until today." She looked at her watch. "Yesterday. Apparently you've been together for several months."

Fox continued to stare at the sleeping man. "You said he loves me?"

"Very, very much."

"Do I love him?"

"From the tone of your will..."

"My will?"

"Oh, Fox, this is all too much for you to swallow right now. Why don't you wait..."

"No, please. My will?"

"We were sure you were dead, honey. The proof...we had a funeral then went back to your apartment for the reading of your will. Your letter to Alex was so heartbreaking, and it left no doubt in my mind that you adored him."

"I don't understand. If you all thought I was dead, how did they find me?"

"Alex got a tip on the whereabouts of the men who had supposedly killed you. He took off to find them...to avenge your death, I assume. Your boss and partner followed him, and they found you. Well, Alex found you from what I was told. Thank God."

Fox stared at her for a while then looked back at Alex. "I didn't know what it was...the way he looked at me. The tone of his voice when he talked to me...and he was so protective." He shook his head and looked away. "I don't know what to do. How to act with him...with any of you."

"It's all right, sweetheart. We understand. Alex understands. We're just so thankful that you're alive, and you're well. I can't tell you what the last couple of days have been like for us." She looked to the man in the chair. "And poor Alex. He was shattered. He took it so hard, Fox. We were all so very worried about him."

Before she could continue, a soft moan drew their attention.

Alex stretched then sat bolt upright in the chair as though he had been frightened. His anxiety eased as soon as Fox came into focus. He blinked, looking at his watch, then rose from the chair.

"It's late," he whispered to mother and son. "Mrs. Mulder, why don't you let me see about getting you someplace to sleep?"

The woman sighed softly. "Thank you, Alex, but Mr. Skinner got us rooms at the motel directly across the street. He came in to let me know some time ago. I wanted to stay a while, though."

Fox glanced up at Alex then back to his mother. "You look really tired. You should go get some sleep."

The woman nodded. "I am exhausted. I think some rest would do me good."

"I'll walk you to your room," Alex offered.

As Mrs. Mulder rose, Alex got her coat and draped it over her shoulders.

"I was really hoping to hear from Miss Scully," she said, sliding her arms into the sleeves.

"I'll let you know as soon as there's something to report." Alex slipped his jacket on and waited while Fox's mother said goodnight to him.

"Go back to sleep, Fox." Mrs. Mulder kissed her son lightly, then, unable to resist, wound her arms around him. "I love you, sweetheart. That's something I didn't say nearly enough." She released the obviously uncomfortable man and backed away. "Goodnight."

"Try to go back to sleep," Alex advised softly. "I'll be right back."

Fox said nothing in answer. His gaze merely skittered away, and he chewed on the inside corner of his lip.

Once outside the room, the two moved quickly to the elevators.

"He looks a lot better than I expected to find him," Tina Mulder said by way of conversation.

"Yeah."

"Alex, I have to tell you..."

The elevator doors opened, and they came face to face with Scully and her three companions.

"What are you doing back here, now?" Alex asked, afraid to know the answer.

"They blew the place, Alex," Scully answered wearily. "I don't know how they got around security, but they did. That avenue is closed to us."

Mrs. Mulder raised her hands to her eyes as Alex turned away and gazed sightlessly out the lobby windows.

"Now, what?" the older woman asked.

"I don't know, Mrs. Mulder. I honestly don't know. I guess it's back to the hospital lab to make sure there isn't anything we may have overlooked. Other than that, I really don't know what to do." Scully walked toward Alex and put a hand on his shoulder. "I'm sorry, Alex. I know it's far from the news you wanted to hear."

Alex shrugged. "It's not your fault. You're doing everything you can."

"Well, listen, I'm beat. No sense in trying to get anything else done when I can't even see straight. I'm going to go get a few hours of sleep, then I'll be back."

"Okay. I was just going to walk Mrs. Mulder across the street."

Scully nodded. "We've all got rooms in that motel, so she can come with me and the guys. Skinner got a room for you as well, you know."

Alex shook his head. "I'm not leaving him."

"Didn't think you would. Well, goodnight. Try to get a little sleep, okay?"

"Okay."

The group departed, and Alex walked back in the direction of Fox's room. Outside the door, he took a couple of deep breaths and entered.

"You still awake?"

Silent nod.

"Why?"

"Because I'm not asleep."

It sounded for a minute like a typical Fox and Alex routine. The thought made Alex smile.

"Well, close your eyes. It's really late."

The hazel eyes drifted shut but a couple of minutes later were open again.

"She...my....mother...told me."

"Told you what?"

"About us."

Alex paled. "Sh...she did?"

Fox nodded, not meeting the other man's eyes. "She didn't want to at first. She said it was a conversation I needed to have with you. But you didn't seem too keen on telling me, so I insisted."

Alex looked down at the floor, at a loss for something to say.

"It's true?"

"...Yes."

"I...I...I don't know what to...I'm sorry."

"What about?"

"We're...we were...I don't know what tense to use..." He drew a deep breath and released it. "She told me that we were in love. She told me how hard you took it when you thought I was dead. I don't know what to say to you. I don't know what you're feeling."

"I'm fine," Alex answered, forcing himself to look Fox in the eye. "I'm just so relieved..."

"I understand that you don't want to upset me," Fox broke in. "You've been protecting me since you found me...do you want to hug me or something?" He watched the younger man's body twitch at the question.

"I'm all right, Fox," Alex lied in his most reassuring voice. "All I want is for you to go to sleep."

"But maybe....m-maybe if I touch you...maybe something will come back to me."

Alex closed his eyes and fought against the trembling of his lower lip.

"It...it's worth a try, isn't it?"

Bloodshot eyes opened and Alex hesitated before taking one, then two and more steps toward the bed. He sat at the edge of the bed, fidgeting with the corner of the blanket until Fox touched his arm. He looked up into the eyes he adored then leaned slowly against Fox's chest, wrapping his arms around the older man's waist. Fox's arms wound uncertainly around his back, and Alex lay against his love, listening to the steady rhythm of his heart.

There was no holding it.

Two tears escaped, one after the other from one eye, and Alex began a faint trembling. In no time, the trembling had turned to violent shudders, and he began to cry openly.

Fox listened to the anguished sobs of the man in his arms, and while he felt much compassion for him, uneasiness was the prevailing emotion. Hard as he tried, nothing came back to him. Not a flash, not a glimmer. Nothing at all.

Alex's sobs abated, and he pulled himself from Fox's stiff embrace. "I'm sorry," he sniffed, wiping at his eyes. "I...I didn't mean to put that on you."

"It's all right. I can't imagine how you must feel. It's got to be hell."

"It'll work out." Alex smiled through his tears. "You're alive, Fox. Yesterday, that wasn't even a possibility. If the devil had come to me with an offer to bring you back with the stipulation being that you'd never know me, I'd take it in a heartbeat."

"And be miserable knowing that we'd never be together?"

"I would live with it. There was and never will be any worse hell for me than you being gone from this world. I need you here...even if I can't have you in my life the way I did."

Fox lowered his head. "Doesn't seem very fair to you."

"Don't worry about me. I suppose I should be grateful that we lasted as long as we did. It was a hell of an accomplishment."

"What do you mean?"

Alex shrugged. "Nothing. I...I'm just tired. Why don't we get some sleep, okay?"

"No." Fox gave him that all too familiar determined look. "Why did you think we wouldn't last?"

Alex sighed wearily. "Let's just say I was always a bit insecure. Never felt quite worthy of you. I guess this is someone's way of telling me I was right."

"You sound like someone who's given up."

"I...I'm sorry," Alex looked down. "I didn't mean to come across that way. It's just that I'm really starting to feel the exhaustion right now, and I can't think straight." He looked up into the other man's eyes. "I'll fight for us for as long as it takes. I won't stop looking for a way to restore your memory until I'm sure that every possibility has been exhausted."

"And then?"

"And then, I guess it'll have to be all up to you. You'll have to decide whether or not you want to get to know me all over again. But, Fox...if you don't...if you find you don't want to try and rebuild what we had...if you feel no attraction to me, please tell me. I need you to be honest with me, okay? No matter how much you think it'll hurt me."

Fox gave no answer. He merely studied the other man's face.

Such sincerity in his eyes. Pretty, deep green eyes, fringed with long, dark lashes...eyes he could almost imagine himself falling into...

"Fox, please."

"I promise."

Alex nodded, satisfied. "Go to sleep, now." He adjusted the covers around Fox's shoulders, letting his hands linger for a bit longer than he needed to, then rose and took his seat in the chair.

"How can you sleep in that thing?" Fox asked, watching Alex try to settle his six foot frame into the small chair. "You should go to the motel."

"I'm not leaving you alone."

"I'll be fine."

"Yes, you will, Because I'm not leaving here until you do. Now, go to sleep." Alex sat up quickly, startled by the object that landed on his chest. He smiled over at the other man, realizing that Fox had tossed one of his pillows over at him. He tucked the pillow under his head and closed his eyes, mumbling a soft goodnight.

Fox sank down into the remaining pillows, not sleeping but watching Alex in the dim light.

In a way, he almost thought himself crazy to trust this man....this man who had rescued him from that tiny, dark room, and the things those men had done to him...stayed with him and protected him from the things he feared...this man who had just cried in his arms and showed him that, in no uncertain terms, he was deeply loved.

Crazy or not, he *did* trust this man.

This total stranger.

He stared at Alex until his head began to hurt and his eyes grew tired, trying to remember something about him...anything at all, but his efforts were fruitless. Finally, he gave up and closed his eyes, just missing the misty rays of dawn as they slowly filtered in through the closed blinds.

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

"Scully."

"It's Skinner."

"You're there?"

"Yeah. They're still sifting through the rubble, but they've found all four of the officers who were missing. One had left the area just before the explosion, and the other three were found dead inside. They're questioning that fourth officer now. So, have you found anything?"

"Nothing at all. I've never seen anything like this. The properties are completely unrecognizable."

"You know what Mulder would say."

Scully sighed, a faint smile curving her lips. "I know." The smile disappeared. "Sir, I'm afraid we're fast approaching the end of the road, here."

"Just what I *didn't* want to hear. How's Mulder this morning?"

"He and Alex were asleep when I checked in on them at about eight. I left orders that they weren't to be disturbed. Maybe a good long rest'll help."

"You really think so?"

"......No. But it's all I can think to say right now."

"Well...it's after one. You think they're still asleep?"

"I assume so. I left a note for Alex, asking him to call me when he woke up, and I haven't heard from him. They're so tired, I don't doubt that they could still be out. I'm getting ready to quit, so I'll go up and check on them. God, I am *not* looking forward to telling Alex. Of all of us, he's got the most to lose."

"I know. I never thought I'd see the day when I felt sympathy for Alex Krycek."

"Me either. But he's shown me a lot...especially in these last few days. A person would have to be made of stone not to see how much he truly loves Mulder...speaking of Mulder...did you see Mrs. Mulder before you left?"

"Yes. She's not feeling well. I think it's all the excitement. She was just going to rest for a while. I told her if she felt worse to call you."

"All right, well, she hasn't called, so I guess she's okay. I'm going to go up now and get this over with."

"Good luck, Scully. I don't envy you."

Scully disconnected and, removing her gloves and lab coat, headed for the exit.

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

Alex groaned softly as he woke. He opened his eyes, blinking in the brightness of the day, then looked at his watch.

"Damn."

"I don't know how you slept so long in that little chair."

He looked over at the man who was sitting up, staring at him.

"I've slept in much worse places than a chair." He stretched then rose and approached the bed. "How are you?"

Fox shrugged. "Not so tired...still don't remember anything."

"Well, it's afternoon, already. Let's hope Scully's down in the lab, finding something."

"I thought she was going back to the house."

Alex blew out a long breath. "She did. She came back last night as I was walking your mother to the elevator."

"I take it she didn't find anything helpful."

"She couldn't....Fox, they blew the house up."

Fox went quiet, picking at the edge of the blanket. "These people are awfully fond of blowing stuff up, aren't they?"

"Yeah."

The door opened, and Scully walked in, doing her best to smile.

"Ah, you're awake."

Alex picked up on her tone right away but said nothing.

"Find my life yet?"

Scully cast a wary glance at Alex. "Did you tell him about..."

"Yeah. Just now."

"I'm s...I wish I had better news, guys."

"You couldn't make an identification."

"No, Mulder. I'm afraid we're on our own."

Fox glanced from Scully to Alex and back again. "So, I'll never remember. My childhood or my parents...the life, the career I had..." He looked back to the man who had lowered his head. "...him..."

"Mulder, don't think like that. You could very well remember everything in time. In my opinion, those drugs I was able to identify should not permanently erase your memory."

"But the one you *couldn't* identify. You have no idea how it reacts with the other drugs."

Scully closed her eyes. "No, I don't."

"So the possibility that my memories are gone for good exists."

"Yes," she said, unable to lie to him. "Yes, there's always that possibility."

Fox fell silent, his attention now focused on Alex.

The younger man stood quietly, head down, eyes to the floor.

Scully broke the silence. "You know, Mulder, once you get home, back into your own apartment where things are really familiar, it could all come back to you," she snapped her fingers, "like that."

"And if not?"

"If all else fails, then we'll just have to reacquaint you with your life. Start at the very beginning and take you right through it. We'll tell you stories, show you pictures, take you places...anything and everything that you knew, you'll learn again." Noticing that her partner had started to look a bit overwhelmed, she added, "Little by little, of course. We'll move at a pace you're comfortable with. Do you want that?"

Fox was silent for a moment then nodded.

Scully gave him a reassuring smile. "Okay, well, I have to go talk to your doctor. He told me this morning that he thought you might actually be ready for release, but he wanted to give you the once-over first."

"All right. Uh...where's...where's my umm...I feel funny saying it."

"Your mother?"

"Yeah."

"She *is* your mother, Mulder. She may be a stranger to you, but you've been her son for all of your life. She's not feeling well, so she stayed at the motel room."

"What's wrong with her?"

"Nothing much. She's just overcome by all that's happened in the last couple of days. She's exhausted...like we all are." Scully stepped forward and squeezed his hand. "I'll go talk to your doctor, now."

"Thank you."

When Scully was gone, Fox turned to face the one who was now staring out the window.

"So, I guess I'll be going home, soon...wherever that is."

Alex faced him with a trembling smile. "Yep."

Fox swallowed down the lump that seemed to have formed in his throat. "Wh...what she said was true. Maybe...maybe once I'm in more familiar surroundings..."

Alex nodded. "Yeah, maybe."

Fox lowered his head. "If...if, umm, nothing rings a bell, and I have to be taught...about my life...will..." He stopped, unsure of how to proceed.

"Will, what?" Alex asked gently, walking toward the bed.

"Will you help me?" Fox looked up, letting Alex see the chaos that raged behind his eyes.

"Of course I'll help you," Alex whispered. "Any way I can."

Fox nodded, chewing on his lower lip. "Thank you."

"You don't need to thank me, Fox. I'd do anything in the world for you."

Fox went quiet for a moment then thought of something. "Do we live together?"

"Oh...uh...yeah. But...but I can find someplace else if you're going to be uncomfortable with that."

"No," Fox was quick to answer. "No, I want my life just the way it was. I think there's a better chance of me remembering if everything's exactly as it was."

Something in his words struck at Alex's heart, and the younger man turned away.

"What? What did I say?"

When his question received no answer, he started guessing.

"Does it have to do with me wanting everything to be just like it was?"

Damn, he was always *way* too good at guessing.

"Oh...we're...and we must...shit."

Alex turned to face him. "Don't sweat it," he said as lightly as he could. "Things don't have to be *exactly* like they were. Us living in the same apartment is close enough. I'll sleep on the couch."

Fox ran his fingers through his hair. "God, I feel like shit."

"Don't. We're going to take this as slowly as you need too. And please, Fox, remember what I said. If at any time you feel that you don't want to go on trying, I want to know."

Fox nodded his agreement.

Scully re-entered the room, followed by the admitting doctor. She smiled at Fox then moved to Alex's side, waiting for the doctor to give his patient the once-over.

"How're you feeling today, Mr. Mulder?"

"Aside from not knowing who I am? Great."

"Well, once you get home, it might all come back to you."

"Uh-huh. And when'll that be?"

"As far as I'm concerned, if you check out okay, you can go home today," the doctor said, wrapping the blood pressure cuff around Fox's arm.

Alex watched a jumble of anticipation and fear battling for control in his lost lover's eyes, and he fought to keep himself from wrapping Fox in his arms and promising him that everything would be all right. Comforting words from a stranger, he was afraid, would hold little consolation and might only add to Fox's despondency.

After announcing that Fox was fit to leave, the doctor wished them luck and left to see to the release forms.

"That's great," Scully smiled, coming to sit on the edge of the bed. "You'll feel so much better, Mulder, when you're out of here and back home."

The look on Fox's face brought Alex immediately to his side. Before he could ask any questions, Fox looked over at Scully then up at him.

"You keep talking about this place called home, but I get no picture in my mind at all. I don't know where it is, I don't know what it looks like...how long I've lived there..."

"It's got to be scary, Mulder," Scully admitted. "You've got no choice but to trust people you don't know from a hole in the wall to tell you who you are and where you live...what your life is like. I can only imagine how frightening that must be. But please do trust us. We're all your friends and family, and we'd never hurt you."

Fox shifted his attention from the woman known as Scully to the man who stood silently by his side. He gave Alex an almost timid smile and shrugged.

"I guess we should go home then."

Alex said nothing; he only returned the smile.

"You know, I just had a thought. Mulder, you've got no clothes."

"I hadn't even thought of that," Alex responded to Scully's statement.

"It's okay," she held her hands up and turned to Fox. "Mulder, what size do you...oh...damn. I'm...I'm sorry....damn. Alex, do you know?"

"Yeah."

When Alex had written down the correct sizes and Scully had gone, he returned his attention to the man in the bed. He reached out, stroking Fox's hair just once before removing his hand. Fox watched hand curl into a fist and drop to his side.

"Still feeling apprehensive about going home?"

Fox nodded and shrugged at the same time, then asked an off-topic question.

"How did we meet?"

Alex blew out a short breath. "That's a long one. Are you sure you want to get into that right now?"

"Gotta start sometime."

"True." Alex gave him a nervous grin. "Just remember the story has a happy ending, okay?"

Fox tilted his head. "Starts out rough?"

"You might say that. I was uh...assigned to you.."

"Assigned to me...you're with the FBI too?"

"Not anymore."

"You're too young to be retired...what happened?"

"I screwed up big time is what happened. There were these men..."

Before Alex could explain, the door opened and Skinner and Tina Mulder entered. He stepped back as the woman approached and laid a gentle kiss on her son's forehead.

"Hello, sweetheart," Mrs. Mulder spoke to Fox then looked to Alex. "How are you boys today?"

Fox was first to speak. "Okay. How are *you*? We heard you weren't feeling well."

"Yes, I was feeling rather ill this morning, but I'm much better now." She took Fox's hand and smiled down at him. "And I hear you're going home. That's wonderful. You'll feel so much better once you're back there."

"That's what Scully said."

"You don't believe it?"

"I...I don't know. I want to believe that once I walk through the door, everything's just going to hit me in the face, but..."

Mrs. Mulder caressed her son's cheek. "But what, Fox?"

"But...if having my mother, my co-workers and the man I'm supposed to be in love with here with me isn't bringing my memory back, why should a few familiar rooms and some furniture do it?"

"We don't know, Mulder," Skinner finally spoke. "The thing that finally triggers your memory could be something so small, so insignificant. We just don't know."

"Skinner's right, Fox," Alex agreed, bringing a mild look of surprise to the A.D's face. "Don't be disappointed if it all doesn't just come rushing back to you as soon as you walk in the door. You're going to have to be patient."

"Am I the patient type?"

Alex gave him a small grin. "Depends on the situation."

Fox's eyes fell away from the other's face. "Well, do me a favor, okay? If I start to become too big a pain in the butt, let me know."

"Your personality hasn't changed, Mulder," Skinner informed him good-naturedly. "We'd start to become seriously worried if you *weren't* a pain in the butt."

A small pout formed on Fox's mouth, making Alex's heart swell. "You mean I aggravate you people?"

"It's just that you're rather..." Skinner looked to Alex then back at Fox, searching for the right word. "...intense..."

"You're saying I'm a *big* pain in the ass."

"No..." The word fell simultaneously from the lips of the other two men.

"Yes." The attention of all three men fell to the woman who looked around the room. "Well, he is. But I'm your mother, Fox, and I say it with love. You're a big pain in the ass. You're stubborn, opinionated, single-minded...I could go on, but sooner or later I would end up repeating myself. But the point, dear, is that all of these things are what make you, you. We wouldn't have you any other way."

"I'm back."

Four sets of eyes turned toward the door.

"What, did they have a clothing section down in the gift shop? Alex asked, surprised at Scully's speedy return.

"No, but there was a strip mall with a Sears in it."

"*Sears*..."

"Sorry, Alex, I didn't have time to find a J.Crew."

Alex emitted a sigh of distaste then withdrew the jeans and simple vee-neck sweater from the bag. "I guess it's okay," he mumbled, letting the items fall back over the underwear and sneakers in the bottom of the bag.

"Well, why don't we go back to the motel and let them get ready to leave?" Skinner advised the two women.

They all moved in the direction of the door, Mrs. Mulder dropping a kiss on her son's head first.

Alex placed the bag on the chair closest to the bed then drew closer to Fox. "We'll meet you over there, all right?"

Skinner nodded. "Take your time."

When the three had gone, Alex turned to Fox and gently drew the covers back. "Okay, let's get you showered and dressed."

Fox swung his legs off the bed and stood, taking a moment to balance himself. Alex stood beside him, prepared to help.

"I'm okay," Fox said softly, taking a tentative step toward the bathroom.

"You sure?"

"Yeah." Fox took another step, and then another. "Just a little wobbly, but it's getting better."

By the time he reached the bathroom, he was walking almost normally, and Alex waited nervously outside the door, listening for any thumps or thuds that would tell him that Fox had lost his balance. In the twenty-five minutes that it took for Fox to shower and dress, he heard no such noises, and he blew out a long breath of relief when the door opened and the older man walked out into the room.

"Feel okay?"

"A little tired," Fox complained. "I didn't even do much."

"You're still a little weak. You'll be fine in another day or two."

Fox nodded. "So...considering I'm wearing clothes from Sears...do I look okay?"

Alex laughed softly. "Baby, you could make a burlap sack look good." A bit too late, he bit his tongue, mentally chastising himself for his slip, but if the endearment bothered Fox, the older man never let on.

Fox watched Alex move past him and gather the things they would be taking with them. That done, he guided Fox to a chair and eased him into it.

"Why don't you rest a minute while I go and see about getting us the hell out of here?"

Fox sat quietly and waited the few seconds it took for Alex to disappear from and re-enter the room. He was followed by a nurse and an orderly pushing a wheelchair.

"Time to go."

"That was fast."

"They were on their way here, anyway."

Fox signed himself out, and they left the hospital. Slowly, they walked across the street to the motel where they met up with their group.

Three men Fox did not recognize accosted him the moment he and Alex came through the doors. He flinched and backed up a couple of steps as the three flocked around him, patting him on the back and smiling.

"Welcome back to the living, dude," the skinny blonde grinned. "Hey, Mulder, can I still have your comic books?"

"*Comic books*..."

Fox looked from the blonde to the small man who had just wrapped his arms around his waist. "Ignore him, Mulder. Damn, we're glad to see you. That video collection would have meant nothing to me with you gone, anyway."

"Back off, you cretins," the taller, bearded man said to the other two. "You're scaring the poor man, for God's sake."

Frohike released Fox who immediately moved in Alex's direction, feeling the need to be closer to the man he'd come to associate with security.

"Sorry about that, Mulder," the well-dressed man apologized. "We're just so glad to see you."

Fox looked at the oddball trio and frowned. "Who are you?"

"Damn, this is freaky," Langly commented, stepping forward. "We're your friends, man." He introduced himself then the other two. "We've known each other for years. We help you out on some of your cases. You know, provide you with certain..." He looked to Skinner then back. "...information..."

Fox shrugged. "Okay..."

A gentle hand on his arm drew Fox's attention to the man at his side.

"Nothing?"

Fox looked back at the three and shook his head.

"No biggie. Ready to go home?"

"I guess."

Alex gave him a heartening smile, and the group moved out to the parking lot. There, they divided up into three smaller parties and got into their vehicles. The Gunmen left together while Tina Mulder went with Scully and Skinner, leaving Alex and Fox alone.

Alex opened the door, and Fox slid into the car. He watched the younger man round the front of the vehicle and drop into the driver's seat, giving him a tiny grin when forest-green eyes turned his way. Alex returned the smile and started the car.

Fifteen minutes later, they were on the highway and heading back to Alexandria.

"So..." the soft monotone broke the silence. "Tell me about these men."

"Huh?"

"Before Skinner and my mother came in earlier, you were saying you screwed up big time and then mentioned some men."

Alex shook his head. "God, Fox, this is such a complicated story. Are you sure you don't want to start with your mother at the beginning of your life and then work forward? By then I might actually have my thoughts together enough to give you a coherent account of what happened."

"I don't want to wait that long. My life...my present life is with you, right?"

Alex nodded.

"Then that's what I want to know about. I want to know about now. I want to know about us."

"Your present life also involves Scully and Skinner and your work...it's a huge part of your life..."

"My memory may be gone, but I'm not stupid," Fox said in that persistent voice that Alex knew all too well. "Why are you trying to throw me off the subject of our life?"

"I...I'm not, Fox, it's just...I told you, it's very complicated. And long. I'm afraid that if I leave something out, if I miss something...it might throw a false light on our relationship."

"Just start at the beginning, take your time, and tell me the truth."

Alex sighed softly. "All right. You started out in the Violent Crimes Division. Your talent for profiling suspects had grown to almost legendary proportions. You're brilliant, Fox...bordering on genius. You've helped catch some of the most elusive criminals the FBI has ever known. One day, you happened across the X-files..."

"The what?"

Alex groaned inwardly. If the word X-files didn't jog his memory...

"The X-files. A bunch of unsolved cases that, because of their nature, were filed away and buried. You dug them out and became so immersed in them, that you left the VCU and devoted all your time to them. You were allowed to do so, for what reason, I'm not sure. In time, people began to sit up and take notice of your work. It made certain groups nervous..."

"Why?"

"I gotta go back a little bit. When you were a boy, your sister was abducted. She was never returned. You witnessed this, and you never got over it. You believed that she was abducted by aliens..."

Fox cocked his head. "Little green men?"

"Well, you always said that they were gray...but anyway, the X-files...these unsolved cases were all supernatural in nature, and some of the information you dug up pointed to a conspiracy within our own government. You didn't know it at first, but these people I mentioned before started to get really nervous. They knew you. They were well aware of your brilliance and your tenacity. They arranged to give you a partner...Scully. You know she's a doctor...they thought that someone with a background in science would be an obstacle. She was there to debunk your work and lead you back into the Bureau mainstream. But it didn't work out quite the way they wanted it to. She still challenged you, but you two formed a bond that they couldn't break. Even after they shut the X-files down..."

Fox listened quietly trying to absorb what Alex was telling him.

"That's where I came in."

Fox turned in his seat, facing Alex more fully.

"I'd heard about you in the academy. Your cases were used as examples in classes, and everyone knew the name Fox Mulder. They also knew your nickname."

"I had a nickname?"

"You still do, though most people only use it behind your back."

"Can't be too flattering, then. What do they call me?"

"Spooky. Because of the work you do. You're considered to be a bit...eccentric."

"People think I'm nuts?"

"Some. I never did."

"Why not?"

"I don't know. I just...I had more respect for you than that...even though I didn't even know you. Anyway, I was approached one day just before graduation by a group of men. They said they'd been monitoring that year's class, looking for someone with some very specific qualities. They'd finally singled me out and asked if I'd be interested. They told me that it was of the utmost importance to national security, and that I would be doing my country a tremendous service." He stopped to emit a soft, harsh laugh. "I was so dazzled by the idea and so proud that out of my entire class, these men thought *I* had what it took."

Fox shifted in his seat but remained silent and attentive.

"They began to train me. It was intense, and some of it came in contrary to what I believed, but they convinced me...almost brainwashed me into believing that I would be working in the best interests of the country. They trained me in espionage, Fox. They trained me to kill. I took to it like a duck to water, and still I was proud of myself. I was doing so well...they were so happy with me. I thought I was going to be a hero....stupid kid."

"A little over a year later, they came to me with my first assignment. They told me that they were going to partner me with Fox Mulder, and I couldn't believe it. I was going to get to work with the legend. They didn't tell me what the assignment was until the next day, and I was left to imagine us in all sorts of situations, working together...saving the world. I prayed to God that night that I would remember everything I was taught and that I would impress you and do well. The next day, they explained to me that you were unwittingly working in an area that was damaging to national security. My job was to distract you from your job and somehow rein you in. I didn't understand. I asked them why they just didn't tell you that what you were working on was harmful to the country. They said that you had gone way beyond the realm of rationality...that you had become dangerous, and they feared what would happen if they confronted you."

"And you believed it?"

"I didn't want to. But hell, I didn't know you, and I had no reason to believe that they would lie to me. I took the assignment and did my damnedest to do my job, but..."

"But, what?"

"I became attracted to you almost instantly. I still did my job, but it was that much harder. I reported to them every other day, and having met Scully and seeing the bond you shared, it wasn't hard for me to report that she was a definite obstacle to the mission. They had her...removed..."

Fox tilted his head. "Removed?"

"They took her. They arranged an abduction much like your sister's. You went off to find her after hearing a phone call that she tried making to you just before she was taken, and I followed. My instructions were to keep you from reaching your destination no matter how I had to do it."

"Even if you had to kill me?"

"Even if I had to kill you."

"You obviously didn't."

"I never would have. There'd been plenty of instances, Fox. Plenty of opportunities, but I would never take them. I did my job to the best of my ability, but I drew the line at hurting you. Anyway, Scully was taken away, and I was pulled off the assignment. We didn't meet again for a long time. Scully was returned some time later, and Skinner reopened the X-files."

"You...you said we didn't meet again for a long time. What did you do in that time?"

Alex shook his head. "Awful stuff. Things I still have nightmares about..."

"So...for the most part, you were a hired gun."

"I did much more than that, but yes. And I continued on that way until they decided it was time to get rid of me. That's when I came to the conclusion that Alex Krycek would stop being a pawn. I went on to become a major player in their game, and they had no choice. They either played with me, or I blew them all out of the water. I made them think I was still with them, though for my own purposes. But I was working against them...I still am."

"So, when did we team up again?"

"We didn't. So many things happened, Fox. So many things you couldn't get past...before I split from the Consortium, I..." He sigh softly. "The car really isn't the place for me to say this to you. We're almost home. Can you wait for the rest until you're settled?"

Fox studied the man carefully, trying to read his expression. "Okay. If you insist."

"I just really think it'd be better."

Fox nodded and sank into the seat, trying to process what had been told to him so far. It was a fantastic story, one he was sure was loaded with more details than what Alex had given him, but it was more than enough for him to think about right now.

The man was a killer...and from what he'd understood, a triple agent. And, apart from what he'd already told Fox, it was apparent that he'd done something even more disturbing. So disturbing, that he wanted to wait until Fox was comfortably settled before telling him about it.

Yet, they'd supposedly gotten through all of it...whatever all of it was, and had fallen madly in love.

//God, it all sounds so insane when you put it that way.//

Fox quietly watched the younger man's face out of the corner of his eye, appreciating the curl of his dark lashes and sad pout of his mouth, and he wondered how one who appeared so loving and patient could be what Alex was telling him he'd been.

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

"So, what do you really think?" Tina Mulder's voice resonated in the silence of the car.

Scully turned back to look the older woman in the eye. "Think about what?"

"Will he ever really remember?"

"I wish I could say for sure, Mrs. Mulder. The truth is, I really don't know."

"I don't know what he'll do...what his life will be like if he can't remember."

"I don't know that either. We'll just have to help him through it the best way we can."

Tina Mulder nodded. "He was obviously happy before this happened. The one thing I want for him, even if he never remembers, is to have that happiness back."

"He will be," Scully assured her. "He's the same person he was. Alex is the same. And he loves your son. Whatever it was that brought them together in the first place will bring them together again. It may take a little while, but they'll be happy."

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

Alex pulled into the parking garage and shut the engine off. Looking over to the passenger's side, he noticed that Fox looked a bit pale.

"Fox? Are you all right?"

"Y-yeah. I'm...so, this is it?"

"Yeah. Come on, let's go up."

They entered the building and rode the elevator up to the fourth floor in silence. When the doors opened, Alex stepped into the hall, waiting for Fox to join him before moving toward apartment forty-two. They reached the door, and he handed the key to the other man. Fox looked to him curiously, and he motioned silently to the lock.

Fox looked down at the key in his hand for a number of seconds before finally inserting it into the lock and turning it. He inhaled deeply and opened the door, stepping inside.

Alex hung back a bit, letting Fox enter first and look around. He stepped into the apartment as Fox moved slowly forward, taking everything in. The older man spun in a slow arc, investigating everything in his line of sight, then turned to Alex, a hopeless expression on his face.

"Nothing."

"Fox..." Alex moved forward, stopping when they were only inches apart. "You knew that the chances of you remembering everything the minute you walked in were slim. You need time to absorb everything. Don't push it. Just try to relax, okay?"

Fox nodded, lowering his eyes. He stood quietly, feeling the proximity of the man in front of him and almost wishing that Alex would pull him into his arms.

Alex stood in front of Fox, breathing deeply, inhaling the scent of him, and mentally willed himself to keep his hands off of the confused man. Before he could give in, Fox moved away, drifting in the direction of the fish tank.

"Hey, guys," he said softly. "Remember me?" He rested the fingers of one hand against the glass. "I don't remember you..."

A sound in the direction of the doorway drew his and Alex's attention, and they turned to find the rest of their group coming through the door.

"We just came in to see if..." Langly let his statement trail off, noting the looks on the faces of the two men.

Scully stepped forward, laying a hand on Fox's shoulder. "Take it slowly, Mulder. Try not to force it."

"Yeah, yeah," the unhappy man answered softly.

Tina Mulder approached, pulling her son toward her. "Fox, I'm going to spend one more night here in town, then I'm going home to give you time to re-adjust here." She turned to Alex. "Maybe in a week or two, if nothing has happened, you might come out for the weekend?"

Alex looked to Fox for a response. Receiving none, he answered the best he could. "That's fine with me, Mrs. Mulder. We'll talk about it a little later, all right?"

"All right, dear." She looked back at Fox. "We're going to leave you alone now, sweetheart. You get some rest, and I'll see you tomorrow before I leave."

Fox nodded silently, head tilted downward. The woman pressed a kiss into his hair and backed away, taking the rest of the group with her toward the door. Alex said goodbye to everyone, thanking them for their help, and the door closed, leaving them alone once more.

"Want to see the rest of the apartment?"

"Okay," Fox answered flatly, and Alex took him on an abbreviated tour, ending with the bedroom. Fox looked around, investigating both closets when Alex had pointed out to him which was which. He stood in front of his own closet, noting the couple dozen suits and various ties and shirts, then looked into Alex's closet, his eyes wandering over the very different wardrobe. "Looks like you're a lot more comfortable than I am."

The other man smiled. "You don't wear suits twenty-four seven. You've got plenty of your own jeans and whatnot."

"I didn't see any."

"That's because your suits take up all the closet space. Your casual clothes are in your drawers." Alex slid open each drawer, pointing out the rest of Fox's clothes. As they were exiting, Fox stopped, his gaze falling on the bed.

Alex backed up and approached from behind. "What is it?"

"It's not fair to you."

"What isn't?"

"We shared this bed, right?"

"...Yeah."

"It's not fair for you to have to sleep on the couch."

"Fox, we've been through this. It's all right. Really."

Fox sighed softly and moved past Alex, leaving the room. He re-entered the living room and sat down on the sofa, once more looking around. "Can we finish talking, now?"

Alex chewed on his lower lip...a habit he seemed to have picked up from his lover, and sat in the chair across from him. "Sure, why not?" he answered softly. "Where were we?"

"You were going to tell me about something you did."

"Yeah...right. Something I did. Umm...Fox, these men I've told you about...your..your father was part of their group..."

"Father. My father..I've heard nothing about him until now. How come?"

"...He's deceased."

"Oh. But...but at one time he was involved with these people?"

"Yes. I...I knew of him, but he was long before my time. I'd never seen him...had no idea what he looked like or anything...and one day...one day they came to me with a new assignment. They wanted me to kill a man. By then it was no big thing to me, and it's only now that I can look back and think how terrible that was. To think of killing someone as just another job..."

Fox waited patiently, but for some reason, his heart had begun to thud.

"The man they wanted me to kill..." Alex licked nervously at his lips. "Fox, it was your father." He watched a look of disbelief cross Fox's face and then horror. "I didn't know, Fox, I didn't. I was handed an assignment, and I did the job. I had no idea who it was I was to kill. I didn't even know you were there..."

"I was where?"

"There...in the house. I was hiding in the bathroom...the shower, and when he came in to get some pills...after I shot him, I heard your voice. I knew it was you...I'd never forget the sound of your voice. I heard you call to him, and I was sick. I really didn't know, Fox. I...I ran, I didn't know what to do. If...if I'd known, I never would have..."

Fox tilted his head, sending Alex a confused frown. "You killed my father?"

"Yeah, but...God, this is worse than the first time. Fox, did you hear me? I didn't know until later that he was your father."

Fox shook his head. "I don't know...I can't remember him, I can't picture the man's face, but..."

Alex left his chair and squatted in front of Fox. "Fox...baby..."

Fox looked up, hearing the term of affection.

"We got past it. I ...I lied at first. I told you that I didn't do it. I don't know why...I...I'd already become interested in you, and I guess I thought that if I told you the truth that there'd *never* be a chance for us, if you...not that you'd ever given me the slightest impression." He covered his face with one hand. "I don't know, I...it was stupid. I told you a long time later. I explained it, and even though you hated me for a lot of other reasons, at least I'd told you the truth, whether you believed it or not."

"You're telling me," Fox interrupted softly, "that I forgave you for killing my father and that you and I became lovers."

"Yes."

"When did all this supposedly happen?"

"Your father died years ago. You and I became lovers last year."

Fox sat stone still, eyes cast to the floor. "How did we end up together?"

"I caught wind of a hostage situation that you were involved in out west, and I went and got you out."

"*You* did. Wasn't the FBI was involved?"

"The place was swarming with law enforcement, but they were playing it by the book. There was no time for that. Those men would have killed you and everyone else in that lodge. I went in and got you."

"And then, what?"

"I have a cabin in Oregon. I took you there. You were very sick, and you were wounded. I...I took care of you..."

"What about Scully? She's my doctor, right?"

"Scully didn't know where you were. I slipped you out without anyone seeing."

Fox lifted his head and looked flatly at Alex. "Why?"

"If they'd known, they never would have let me take you."

"So you kidnapped me?"

"Sort of."

"Let me get this straight. You killed my father...you kidnapped me...what else have you done to my family?"

"Nothing. Fox, please. You're getting too upset. Let's just stop here for now. I'll get you something to eat..."

"No. I want the rest."

"It can wait a little while."

"No, it can't. I want to know the rest, right now."

Alex bowed his head in resignation. "Fine. I'd...I'd been planning for some time to get you up to the cabin. I'd wanted you for so long, and when you were so close to the cabin...I had the opportunity, and before I could chicken out, I took it."

Fox shook his head in disbelief. "I don't understand. What...*what* were you hoping for?"

"The impossible." Alex lifted his head and met Fox's eyes. "And it happened. Somehow, it happened. We got past all the bullshit and found each other. It was rough at first; you didn't want to admit what you felt for me, but you did after a while, and we spent a few perfect days together."

"Just a few?"

Alex nodded. "You had to get back to the real world sooner or later. You didn't want to, though. You wanted to stay there with me."

Fox ignored the implication. "You didn't come back with me?"

"No. I...I had things to do, but we talked on the phone a couple of days, then you told Scully about us, and we ran into problems."

"What kind of problems?"

"Well, she hated me. She didn't trust me as far as she could throw me, and she thought I'd done something to you."

"Something?"

"She wasn't entirely sure that I hadn't brainwashed you somehow."

"You didn't, did you?"

"No," Alex whispered. "Everything you felt for me, you felt on your own."

"Why'd *Scully* hate you?"

"A lot of the same reasons you had...and I...I was involved with her sister's death."

"Her *sister*." Fox sat back, leaning his head against the cushion of the sofa. "Jesus. You killed her sister?"

"No. N-no. I was there. The guy I was with...he shot her."

"Why?"

"It was a mistake." Alex clasped his hands together. "Oh, God...the bullet wasn't meant for her."

"Who *was* it meant for?"

"...Scully." Alex looked up into appalled eyes. "Fox..."

"You were trying to kill my partner?"

The younger man blew out a soft breath. "Yes."

"Oh, this is good." Fox rose from the sofa and began to pace. "Let me see is I've got this right, now. You killed my father. In a screwed-up murder attempt on my *partner's* life, you...excuse me, your *companion* kills her sister...whoever the hell it is you worked for had her abducted while you kept me from saving her...God knows what happened after that...and years later, you kidnap *me* and hold me prisoner at some cabin in Oregon." He spun on his heel and addressed the man who remained on his knees in front of the sofa. "Have I got it right so far?"

"Basically."

"And you're telling me that I'm in love with you."

"Yes."

"You're a kidnapper, a spy and a murderer. I can only assume that I can add consummate liar to that stellar list. So, why the hell should I believe you?"

"I guess you have no reason to." Alex rose to his feet and faced the older man, looking at him through glazed eyes. "But for what it's worth, everything I've told you is the truth. You can ask Scully and Skinner if you like. They know how much I love you."

"*How* do they know?" Fox's voice took on an agitated tone. "How do *I* know? Because you've told us? How much are your assurances worth?"

Alex flinched at Fox's words.

"You've done all these things...you've hurt me and my friends and family, and you want me to trust you...you *expect* me to trust you...don't you?"

"You did once. And we were happy. I'd hoped that you would again." Alex looked away, unable to meet the accusing, gold-flecked stare. "I uh...I...I'm going to go. I'm not helping you; I'm only making things a lot worse. That isn't what I wanted to do."

Fox watched Alex drift from the room, staring in his direction even after he heard the bedroom door open and close. A million questions ran through his head even as tremors began to course through his body.

This was who he'd been sharing his life with? This man, this hired thug who had come into his life under the most dishonest of circumstances...this kidnapper, this murderer...

He lowered his head into his hands.

This man who had rescued him from those who had stolen his memory...protected him from the things he feared...the same man who refused to leave his side, treated him so gently...looked at him with such love.

The man who had wept like a child in his arms...

Fox lifted his head and watched as Alex re-entered the room with a single, large leather bag slung over his shoulder, and his trembling increased.

"I'll uh...I'll call Scully," Alex said to the man on the sofa. "Let her know." His eyes left the floor for moment to look at Fox. "If you need..." He broke off his offer. "I'll check in with Scully to see how you are."

Inexplicable panic set in as Fox watched Alex move to the door.

"*No*."

The younger man stopped and turned around, noting the expression of fear on Fox's face. He left the bag by the door and approached slowly.

"What is it? Fox, are you all right?"

"Don't," Fox answered on a shaky breath. "Don't go."

Alex gave him a confused stare.

"...Please."

"But..."

Fox said nothing more. He only looked up at the other man, his eyes pleading.

Alex opened his mouth, his lips moving but no sound coming out. Finally, he forced himself to speak.

"Are you sure?"

The other man nodded.

Alex hesitated, then backed off a step. "Okay," he said on a coarse whisper then retrieved his bag. Casting a sidelong glance at the seated man, he moved slowly into the bedroom.

Fox sat a while longer, eyes darting around the room, then got up and went to the bedroom.

The door was open, and he stepped cautiously inside, quietly watching as Alex put his clothes away.

Alex hung his last pair of jeans up and shut the closet door to find himself being watched. Not knowing what to do, his gaze skittered away, and they stood in awkward silence.

"I sh...I shouldn't have reacted that way," Fox said long seconds later. "I should've thought about it..."

"You feel the way you feel," Alex answered softly. "There's nothing to think about."

"No, I...there was. I completely forgot that it was you who took me out of that house...and how you were right there for me the whole time. I don't know...I don't know everything that happened; I shouldn't have..." Fox stopped, searching for something apologetic to say. "...I think Scully and Skinner are too smart not to know if you're lying. I'm sorry. I shouldn't have jumped on you like that."

"It's all right," Alex said, sadness still flowing through his voice. "All you know of me is what I've told you so far. It's not hard to see how you would think what you do about me."

"I shouldn't have done that to you," Fox apologized again. "I won't do it again. I'll just listen to everything you have to tell me, and I won't judge. I promise."

Alex could sense the anxiety in the other man...could see it in his face and hear it in his voice. He wanted so much to do something to relieve Fox's fear, but he had fears of his own. He was afraid that if he touched the other man, it wouldn't end there. He'd want to hold him. And holding Fox in his arms was all he'd ever needed to arouse his desire. That couldn't happen. Not now. He was terrified of pushing him farther than he was ready to go. He had no idea what effect it would have on Fox, and after the near-disastrous result of the conversation they'd had just a little while ago, he wasn't particularly anxious to find out.

"Are you hungry? I can go see what's in the kitchen..."

Fox shrugged, unsure of what to say. He wasn't especially hungry, but he thought that if he ate, Alex would too, and he remembered hearing from Scully about how little the other man had eaten in the last few days.

"Yeah, I...I guess."

Alex nodded and moved around Fox, heading out of the bedroom. "Why don't you go relax? Watch t.v. or something, and I'll get something ready."

Fox wandered back over to the sofa, picking the remote up off of the coffee table. He turned the set on, but his attention kept getting drawn away. His eyes scanned the room over and over, trying to pick something out. Anything at all that looked the slightest bit familiar, but nothing his gaze fell on rang a bell. They were all just objects to him. Things that occupied space in a place that was his only because a lease said so. And in the kitchen, there was a man. A handsome, sad, sweet killer who loved him but whose love he couldn't return.

Though he couldn't deny that he felt something. He'd trusted this man from the beginning, and with the exception of the terrible way he'd treated him earlier, they'd gotten along exceptionally well. And just now when Alex had been about to leave, the feeling that had come over him was one of sheer panic. He felt safe with this man. Protected.

Fox closed his eyes, feeling the onset of another headache. He tried to clear his head of all thoughts and simply relax, but it wasn't an easy thing to do. So much information to process. So much emotion all at once.

He swung his legs up on the sofa and lay down, pulling a throw pillow over his face, blocking out all light, but the pain did not lessen. In fact it increased, building to a throb that drew him to his feet and out of the room.

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

Alex pulled two plates down from the cabinet, preparing to serve a meal made up of the food that people had dropped by during their brief period of mourning. The thought that Fox's friends and acquaintances should be informed of his return flitted across Alex's mind but disappeared just as quickly as Fox drifted in, looking dazed. Alex dropped the serving spoon he held and rushed to him.

"Fox, what's wrong? You don't look good."

Fox closed his eyes for a second then reopened them. "My head."

"What? Does it hurt?"

The other man nodded.

"Okay, come on." Alex guided him out of the kitchen and into the bedroom, laying him down on the bed. "Stay here. I'll go get you some aspirin and some food."

Once he was sure that Fox was as comfortable as he could make him, Alex rushed to the kitchen and got his dinner. He returned minutes later and set a tray down over the older man's legs. Next, he went into the bathroom and grabbed a bottle of Motrin out of the medicine cabinet. He came back into the bedroom and sat on the edge of the bed.

"How bad is it?"

"Hard to keep my eyes open. Hard to think."

Alex shook three tablets out of the bottle and placed them down on the tray. "Okay, you have to try to eat a little bit. I don't want the pills to upset your stomach."

Fox struggled to sit up while Alex held the tray, then he forced himself to eat while the younger man looked on, worry creasing his brow. A third of the way through the meal, he pushed the plate away.

"No more."

Alex frowned, disappointed that Fox had eaten so little, but he decided that it would just have to do. He placed a glass of water in the older man's hand and held the pills out to him. Fox took the offering, dropped the tablets into his mouth, and washed them down. Alex took the tray away and tucked the light blanket up around Fox's shoulders. He shut the light off, plunging the room into semi-darkness.

"Better?"

Fox nodded and let his eyes close.

"Try to sleep, okay?" Alex threw caution to the wind and raised his hand to Fox's head, tenderly stroking the other man's hair. "You'll feel better when you wake up."

Fox moaned softly, tilting his head into the caress and bringing a tiny, sad smile to Alex's lips.

His beautiful, lost Fox. Returned to him by some miracle, though only in part. The piece of him that knew Alex as the man who adored him was gone...possibly forever, and now Alex would have to try all over again to win his heart.

Alex continued to gently pet the golden-brown head, watching the matching eyelashes flutter as another soft moan escaped Fox's slightly parted lips.

Fox needed him here, that much was clear. Alex could read it in his frightened, uncertain gaze when the older man had apologized for turning on him and asked him to stay. But dependency was a poor substitute for love, and Alex had to wonder if the sins he'd very recently revisited upon them would prove to be too great an obstacle for Fox to overcome in his present state. He could only pray that they weren't.

He sat for at least half an hour after he was sure that Fox was asleep then rose from the bed. Leaning over the other man, he deposited a soft kiss on the top of his head, picked up the tray, and slipped quietly from the room.

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

Fox opened his eyes to find himself surrounded by total darkness.

He sat up quickly, heart pounding as he searched the void. Finally realizing that he hadn't awakened feeling ill or cold and that he wasn't chained to the bed he lay on, he began to relax. He took two deep breaths and fumbled for the lamp he remembered seeing on the table by the bed. Pale light washed the room, and he scanned the area, finding himself alone. His heart rate began to increase again as he listened to the silence.

"Alex?"

Not realizing that he had called far too softly to be heard, panic set in. He got out of bed and passed through the open door, making his way to the living room.

The room was quiet and fairly dark, but a few slim bands of moonlight passed through the slitted blinds, falling across the figure on the sofa.

Fox drew a steadying breath and crept over toward the sleeping man. He carefully lowered himself to the coffee table, sitting at the edge and studied the sleep-softened features of the one he knew only as his guardian.

He wondered idly, as he contemplated the heavy sweep of lashes and relaxed bow of the man's lips, how someone who looked so nearly angelic in sleep and behaved in such a sweet and patient manner could possibly be what Alex had told him he'd been. But he *had*, at least in part, witnessed Alex's anger when the EMT had insisted on restraining Fox to the stretcher. He hadn't hesitated to draw his gun on the man, and the look in his eyes had been one of pure malice. But the moment his attention had returned to Fox, that had all melted away and only the man he'd come to know over the last couple of days had remained.

Such a contradiction, he thought. Able to go from malevolent to loving in a matter of seconds...

Fox stopped breathing as Alex shifted. The sleeping man settled into a new position and sighed softly. The sound resonated in Fox's ears and sent an unexplainable flutter through his lower regions.

He lifted himself carefully off the table and settled into the nearby chair where he continued to watch Alex sleep until he himself drifted into slumber.

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

Alex opened his eyes at quarter to seven, and the first thing that came into his line of vision was Fox sprawled in the chair across from the sofa, arms folded over his chest, head tilted to one side...fast asleep.

He sat up and swung his legs off the sofa, stretching before rising to his feet, then walked over to the chair. He kneeled beside the sleeping man and laid a gentle hand on his knee.

"Fox."

"Hmm."

"Hey," Alex whispered, rubbing the spot on which his hand rested.

Almost gray eyes opened halfway, and Fox frowned as he took in a deep breath.

"Oww...."

"Neck hurt?"

The older man nodded and winced as he lifted his head.

"What the heck were you doing sleeping in the chair? I left you fast asleep in your bed last night."

"I didn't mean to fall asleep," Fox croaked as he massaged his own shoulder. "But I woke up and it was dark and quiet. I just...I came out to see where you were, and I sat down for a little while..."

Alex gave him a hint of a grin. "Why don't you go back to bed? It's still early."

Fox hesitated a moment, looking into patient, green eyes then, "N-no, I'm awake."

"You sure?"

"Yeah."

Each man fell silent for a moment, staring curiously at the other. Fox was the first to break the spell.

"I think I'll go take a shower. Maybe the warm water will help with some of the stiffness."

Alex gave him a soft smile and got to his feet, allowing Fox to rise from the chair. When the older man had vacated the room, Alex dropped back onto the sofa, turning the t.v. on. He watched the news, paying only partial attention to the reports. Most of his mind was focused on the day ahead, wondering what it would bring. He was still speculating when Fox emerged from the bathroom some twenty minutes later, wearing jeans and a lightweight, slate blue sweater that served to enhance the gray in his eyes.

"I...I got these clothes from one of the drawers you said were mine," Fox stammered, noting Alex's stare.

"Hmm? Oh, *yeah*, those are your clothes. Did you think they weren't?"

Fox shrugged. "You were staring."

Alex rose and walked over to the other man. "I'm sorry," he apologized softly. "I didn't mean to make you uncomfortable. It's just that I still can't believe you're really here. I guess I need to keep reassuring myself."

Fox lowered his eyes and said nothing. Even though he didn't know Alex, the younger man knew *him* well enough to realize that he was feeling uneasy.

"I'll go get showered and dressed, and then we can have breakfast?"

"Okay," Fox answered noncommittally and moved toward his desk, tentatively poking around.

Alex journeyed to the bathroom and brushed his teeth then stepped into the shower. He closed his eyes, letting the soothing spray flow over his body. Thoughts of him and Fox together, washing and teasing each other, soon crept into his head and brought his cock to almost painful attention.

//Oh, God.//

Images of the two of them pressed together under a torrent of steaming water played in his head as he passed the sponge over his chest.

Mouths and hands everywhere, sliding over warm, slick skin...the cold contrast of the tiles as Fox pushed him against the wall, tongue exploring the muscled contours of his back...

Alex groaned softly within the confines of the shower as his hand moved the sponge lower, working in small circles toward his throbbing erection. He flinched as the sponge touched the head of his cock, his mind simultaneously seeing Fox's hand slide around and grasp the swollen shaft, teasing with light strokes.

He heard himself whimpering and begging to be fucked, and he could hear Fox laughing softly in his ear, a low throaty sound that turned his insides to hot liquid.

//Please, God...please, Fox...//

//Please, Fox, what?//

//Please fuck me.//

//You want it now?//

//Yeah, now.//

Alex wrapped the sponge around his cock and began to jerk it as he imagined his lover pushing between the cheeks of his ass and into his body.

//Jesus, baby, you're s-so tight. So hot...squeeze me, Alex. Yeah...that's it. God, that's good...//

Alex's muscles tightened as he increased the speed of his strokes. He could almost feel Fox's hand around him, pumping harder as he slammed into his ass.

//Come on, baby. Come for Fox...nice and hard...//

Alex leaned back against the wall as he tightened his grip, and the sponge flew over his cock. Harsh groans filtered through his gritted teeth as he came, shooting a warm geyser of fluid over his fist. He lay his head back against the tile, his breaths coming in short gasps as his orgasm subsided. Once sufficiently composed, he pushed himself slowly away from the wall and continued with his shower.

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

Fox opened cabinet door after cabinet door, cursing softly to himself as he looked for a bowl to crack some eggs into.

"What are you doing?"

The other man turned at the now familiar sound of Alex's voice and sighed heavily.

"I thought I'd get breakfast started, but..."

Alex approached slowly. "But, what?"

"I don't..." Fox paused, sighing again impatiently. "...I don't know where anything is."

"It's all right," Alex soothed. "I'll show you...well, I see you already found the pots and pans..." He opened a cabinet door. "Here are the dishes and glasses." He closed that door and opened another. "The mixing bowls are here. The smaller ones are in front, and the bigger ones are in the back..."

"I *looked* there."

Alex began to laugh but cut it off when a wounded expression crossed the other man's face. "I'm sorry," he said, touching Fox's arm lightly. "It's just that I've heard that before."

"Heard what before?"

"What you just said about looking there. You'd be looking for something that I told you would be in a certain place, you'd turn the room upside down looking for it, then yell that you couldn't find it. I'd come in and pull it out of the exact spot where I told you it'd be, and you'd give me that 'I *looked* there' line." He gave Fox a tiny smile and a shrug. "It was just funny."

Fox couldn't help returning the smile. "Yeah, I guess it would be."

Alex gave the older man a toss of his head. "Come on, I'll show you where everything else is."

When the kitchen tour was finished, Alex began breakfast, Fox helping a bit then contenting himself to settle into a chair at the table, watching the younger man over a glass of orange juice.

"Alex?"

"Yeah?" Alex answered, not shifting his attention away from the omelet he was preparing to flip.

"Am I the same person you knew?"

Having successfully completed his task, Alex turned to face the seated man. "What do you mean?"

"Am I any different? I mean aside from the obvious."

"No, I wouldn't say so."

Fox studied the other man's face. "Is that the truth?"

"I've considered the possibility that your personality might undergo some sort of change, but, Fox, it's only been a day. Yeah, it's the truth."

"What if you find in a couple of days that it has?"

"That's why I made you promise to tell me if you decided that you didn't want to be with me."

"But maybe...maybe it'll be *you* who decides that."

Alex cocked his head, unsure of where Fox was going with his statement.

"I mean...maybe I'll change so much that it'll be you who doesn't want to be with *me*."

"No."

"You can't say that."

"Yes, I can. I don't care how much you change; I'm here for as long as you want me to be."

Fox shook his head. "No. No, I don't want you to hang around just because I might want you to. If you think I've changed too much...if I've turned into someone you don't want to be around, don't stay. You...you've been so good to me. I wouldn't want to put you through that."

"Fox..." Alex pulled a chair out and sat down, staring directly into the older man's eyes. "You'll never change so much that I wouldn't want to be with you."

"You don't know that."

"I *do* know that."

Fox fell silent, staring back into intense, green eyes.

He was so sure, so positive, Fox felt he had no choice but to believe.

"Damn, my omelet."

Alex bolted out of the chair, just barely saving breakfast from catastrophe. He served the omelet with wheat toast and coffee, and as they ate, Fox began asking more questions, requesting that Alex pick up where he left off the night before. Reluctantly, the younger man did as he was asked, and Fox listened without judgement, just as he had promised.

When breakfast was finished, they sat at the table sipping more coffee, Alex continuing to fill Fox in on his life. Fox broke in only occasionally to ask questions.

The doorbell rang in the middle of Alex's story about their encounter in Hong Kong.

"Must be your mother."

"Oh, yeah. She said she'd come by before she left, didn't she?"

Alex nodded and exited the kitchen with Fox close behind. They separated at the dining room, Fox moving into the living room, and Alex going to the door.

"Hello, Alex," Tina Mulder greeted the man at the door. "How are you?"

Alex gave the woman a warm smile. "Pretty good. You?"

"A bit fatigued; I'm afraid I didn't sleep very well. Never could rest properly in a bed other than my own."

Alex nodded his acknowledgement and stepped aside, allowing her to enter.

Scully walked in behind Mrs. Mulder and stopped in front of Alex.

"So, how'd you guys do last night?"

Emerald eyes lowered to the floor. "Not as badly as we could have."

"What's that mean?"

Alex glanced over to where Fox stood. His mother had engaged him in conversation, and his attention remained with her.

"We talked about how our relationship began years ago, and let's just say that he didn't take some of the facts very well."

Scully winced. "He seems okay, now."

Alex nodded. "Yeah. He was real upset with me, though. I mean, to the point where I had packed a bag and was going to call you and let know that he was alone."

"Oh, my God. But...you're still here. What happened?"

"He realized that if I went, he'd be alone. He associates me with security. He apologized and asked me to stay. You should have seen his face, Scully. He was scared. And so damn confused."

"Poor Mulder," Scully murmured, then realized that it had to have been hard on both of them. "God, and you must have been dying a thousand deaths."

Alex nodded. "He was so shocked. I was sure he hated me."

"It doesn't matter that he's lost his memory, Alex. Mulder associates more than just security with you. It may not be a conscious thing, but he's attracted to you. He always has been, and he always will be. You're in his blood like he's in yours. It took me a long time to come to that realization, but I have. It'll come back to him, too. Just give it a little time."

Alex gave his newfound friend a grateful smile. "Thank you."

Scully smiled back and moved past him into the living room to join Fox and his mother. "So," she took the opportunity to break in during the small silence, "how're you feeling today, Mulder?"

Fox gave the new arrival an unsteady smile. "Not bad." He looked up to meet the eyes of the man who had come to stand behind Scully. "We've been talking."

Scully nodded, noting the look that passed between them. "Yeah, Alex told me. I'm glad everything's okay."

Fox continued to hold Alex's gaze with his own. "Yeah...me too."

"Well, Fox," Mrs. Mulder took her son's hand. "I must be going, now. Mr. Skinner was good enough to arrange for my transportation home." She stepped forward and wrapped her arms around Fox's neck. "I wouldn't be going if I didn't know that you were in very good hands." She turned and smiled at Alex, holding her hand out to him.

Alex hesitated for a moment then took the woman's hand and moved toward them.

"You trust Alex," she instructed in her most motherly tone, placing her son's hand in the other man's. "He loves you so very much, and he'll take care of you."

Alex lowered his eyes, a bit flustered by the woman's display of confidence. He kept his grip on Fox's hand slack, allowing the other man room to pull away if he wished.

Apparently, Fox didn't wish. He held onto Alex's hand and smiled down at the woman. "I trust him."

"Good. Well, it's time that I left. I'll call you when I get home, all right?"

Fox nodded.

Mrs. Mulder kissed one man, then the other and departed, followed by Scully, who called out that she'd be in touch soon as she closed the door behind her.

The men stood together, hands still linked until Fox noticed the look of discomfort on Alex's face. He gently pulled his hand away and cleared his throat. "Sh...she really likes you."

"Yeah," Alex shrugged, casting his eyes downward. "Go figure."

Fox hesitated then stuttered a bit before he got the words out.

"I...I like you too."

Alex gave him a sad smile and inched away. "I'm gonna go clean up the kitchen."

"I'll help you," Fox offered, following the younger man from the room.

They ended up talking again about their history, and by late afternoon Fox had begun to grow weary. He bowed his head, lightly rubbing the bridge of his nose.

"Another headache?" Alex asked, concerned as he came to sit on the sofa beside Fox.

"Yeah...it's starting to hurt a little."

"Okay, no more for today. Why don't you lie down and I'll go get us some dinner?"

Fox began to rise. "I want to help."

"Nope." Alex gently held him down. "You rest. Close your eyes."

"It's not that bad," Fox protested, but Alex would not accept any argument.

"Maybe not, but it'll get worse if you don't relax. Now, come on. Lie down."

Grudgingly, Fox complied with Alex's request, lying on his back and pouting up at the other man.

Alex's heart leapt in his chest. The expression was so purely Fox, for a moment he could almost forget that this man lying in front of him wasn't exactly who he'd been just a week ago.

"I'm not a baby," Fox muttered, the pain in his head making him a bit cranky.

'But you're *my* baby,' was on the tip of Alex's tongue, but he choked back the words and merely gave Fox a tiny grin.

"Stay put. I'll call you when dinner is ready."

Fox sighed heavily, closing his eyes when Alex had disappeared from his sight. He couldn't even recall having a thought before his eyes were again opening. He blinked sluggishly, hearing the gravelly, soft tones of the other man's voice.

"...Come on, Fox, wake up."

"Hmmm."

"Dinner's ready."

Fox winced as he pulled himself into a sitting position.

"How long have I been asleep?"

"About an hour and a half."

"Really?"

"Yeah. How's your head?"

"A little heavy, but okay."

"Hungry?"

"I guess."

"You want to come sit at the table, or you want to eat here?"

"N-no, I'll get up."

Alex rose from his knees and helped Fox to his feet, following closely as he wobbled to the dining room table. Once the older man was seated, he served the meal, and they ate in companionable silence.

"Must have been hungrier than I thought," Fox commented, looking down at his virtually empty plate a few minutes later.

"Good," Alex smiled. "That's good. Am I pushing my luck or can I tempt you with a little..." His voice broke and his words were abruptly cut off as Fox's body jerked and his eyes squeezed shut. Alex flew out of his chair and was by the other man's side instantly, dropping to his knees in front of him. "Fox...what is it? Where does it hurt?"

Fox's hands rose to his head, fingers curling in his hair as he grimaced.

"Your head? Damn, again?"

Slight nod.

"Okay, come on. I want you in bed." Alex managed to get Fox out of his chair and steered him toward the bedroom, guiding him down to the mattress. When Fox settled onto his side, Alex sat beside him, tenderly stroking his hair. "Fox?"

The older man lifted his eyelids halfway.

"Can you give me a clue? Do you know what brought this pain on?"

"Noise."

"Noise? What noise?"

"Loud. Like a cannon," Fox whispered.

Alex shook his head. "Where? I don't...did you hear it in your head?"

Another nod.

"Was there anything else? Another sound? Could you see anything?"

"Nooo," Fox whined softly. "Just...a loud noise."

"Okay," Alex cooed. "Shhh. Rest. I'm going to call Scully and let her know what's going on."

As Alex rose, Fox tried to sit up, wincing with the effort. "No, don't."

"She's your doctor, Fox," Alex argued softly, coaxing him back to the bed. "There's something wrong with you, and she should know."

"I'll be all right. Please..."

Alex frowned down at the other man. "Why don't you want me to call her?"

Fox closed his eyes and turned his head into the pillow, refusing to answer.

"Fox..."

"I don't want to go back to the hospital."

"Who said anything about a hospital?"

"She's a doctor. She'll want me to go."

"Not necessarily. And if she does, it'll be because she feels it's the best place for you to be."

"*No*."

"You don't have to be afraid of the hospital, Fox..."

"I don't want to go to another strange place," Fox moaned, lifting a hand to his forehead. "Want to stay...here. Please, Alex. Please..."

"All right." Alex lowered his head to the other man's, murmuring softly against his cheek. "All right."

"Promise," Fox begged, closing his fingers in Alex's shirt, holding the younger man against him.

"I promise," Alex whispered, at that precise moment willing to say anything to calm the frantic man. "No hospital. Now, will you please let me call Scully?"

Fox moaned softly in protest.

"Fox?" Alex tucked a hand under his cheek and turned his face until their eyes met. "Trust me?"

Fox stared up at the younger man through slitted eyes then let his lids drop. He nodded once, and Alex let his thumb sweep across his chin before picking up the phone and dialing Scully's number.

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

Scully slid down to the floor between her sofa and coffee table, preparing to dig into a quart of Ben and Jerry's Chunky Monkey ice cream when the phone rang. She dropped her spoon onto the table and snatched up the phone.

"Hello?"

"Hi, it's Alex."

"Hi. What's up?"

"I'm calling about Fox."

Scully pulled herself up out of her slouch. "Is he okay?"

"He's having headaches, Scully," Alex said softly into the phone, not wanting to wake the man who had quickly slipped into unconsciousness.

"Headaches? What kind of headaches?"

"Hard to explain. The first two I'd definitely categorize as regular headaches. They seem to have been brought on by stress and exhaustion. He started with each one after we'd been talking for a while..."

"Nothing odd about that."

"No, I guess not, but this one that just came on him after dinner. I'm not so sure I'd call it a headache, exactly."

Scully drummed on the tabletop. "What *would* you call it?"

"We hadn't been talking. We had a nice, quiet dinner. He ate well, and I was about to offer him some dessert when he was just...blindsided by pain. I got him into bed and asked him to tell me about it. He said he heard a sound. Like a cannon blast...in his head. That's it. Just that one, loud sound, and it caused him so much pain."

"Does it still hurt?"

"I don't think so. It's at least subsided enough to let him sleep." Alex reached down to let his fingers skim over the golden-brown surface of the sleeping man's hair. "He's out cold."

"Hmm. Alex, I have to say that if that continues, he'll have to be examined...have some tests run, but..."

"You don't mean we'll have to put him in the hospital, do you?"

"Possibly. Why?"

"We can't, Scully. He's terrified of going back to a hospital. He didn't want me to call you for fear you'd suggest that. I had to promise him that there would be no hospitals."

"*Alex*..."

"I know, I know, but you didn't see him, Scully. He was really uptight."

"I understand, Alex, and I sympathize. The last thing I want to do is shake him up any more than he has to be. But if there's something wrong with him and the best place for him is a hospital, then that's where he should go."

"I know, but....last resort, okay? I promised him..."

"You shouldn't have done that," Scully chastised.

"Yeah, *you* look into those wide, scared eyes. *You* sit here with him clinging to you and begging you to keep him out of someplace he really doesn't want to be, and then tell me you wouldn't do exactly what I did."

Scully sighed into the phone. "You know, Alex, I never thought I'd say this to you."

"Say, what?"

"You're a *sap*."

"S'cuse me?"

"You are. When it comes to Mulder, you're like...warm Jello."

"Warm *Jello*..."

"Yeah. All he's gotta do is give you that wounded puppy look, and you're all done."

"He's not playing me, Scully; he's really scared."

"I don't doubt that he is. And I know that he needs some special care right now, but, Alex, you've got to be firm with him."

"I will be if there's absolutely no other choice. But he trusts me, Scully, and I'm not going to do anything to break that trust if I can help it."

"I know. You seem to be the only one he trusts completely. I wouldn't want to do anything to change that either. And anyway, I don't really think hospitalization is necessary. Not right now. Don't get your hopes up, but I think the pain Mulder experienced could possibly be connected to a memory."

In spite of Scully's warning, Alex's heart leapt. "You think?"

"The sound; the cannon blast. Could've been a gunshot. Maybe he's starting to remember a case...an instant where he had to use his gun."

Sable eyebrows arched curiously. "Maybe."

"Keep a close eye on him. If he experiences pain not associated with any sounds or visions, let me know."

"I will. Thanks, Scully."

"Night, Alex."

Alex dropped the phone onto the bed and watched Fox sleep. A tiny smile curved his lips at the thought that his lover's memory might actually be returning. He leaned over and planted a soft kiss on the stubbled cheek then turned the light out and exited the room.

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

 

The next several days brought no more pain for Fox, but there were no signs of his returning memory either. He did suffer one minor headache, but that was after a lengthy history session. Some Motrin, a couple of hours of rest in his darkened bedroom, and he was fine.

Alex continued to display unlimited patience and concern, and things seemed to be going well. But when night came and Fox retreated to the bedroom leaving Alex to the sofa, the reality of just how far apart they still were settled in over the younger man like a metal casket lid.

Night after night he lay alone, dreaming of the day when Fox would know him and accept him back into his heart and his bed. Night after night he'd take refuge in his own memories, recalling the love and unquenchable passion they had shared.

Tonight he lay sprawled on the sofa as usual, light from the t.v. flickering over his body, immersed in his fantasies. His hands wandered over his body, imagining that they were the hands of his Fox, stroking and caressing him, slowly driving him to that sweet madness the way only Fox could do.

"Baby," he whispered roughly into the darkness. "Oh, God, I need you so much..."

One hand slid up and over his throat and chin, pausing as he licked at his own fingers, then his hand continued up, sliding through his hair and down the side of his neck. His hand traveled down to his chest, brushing and plucking at one hard nipple while the other stroked the sensitive insides of his thighs.

"Too long," he whimpered. "Please, baby, it's been too long..."

His hand inched higher, cupping the sac that hung just beneath his throbbing cock, caressing the fragile skin gently. He breathed deeply, trying to maintain his control, but it was quickly slipping beyond his grasp. He whimpered softly as his fingers curled around the base of his cock, and he began to squeeze in a gentle rhythm. His breaths came in short, soft gasps, the sound of his lover's name being carried on each one...

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

Fox rolled from one side of the bed to the other, awake and restless, for what reason he did not know. He only remembered opening his eyes over half an hour ago, trembling and tense. He almost called to Alex but decided to keep silent. The other man had been so good to him, so patient and kind. He hated to take advantage of that. He had to stop depending on Alex for every little thing and learn to take care of himself.

He lay there, staring up at the darkness when a sound, almost inaudible, caught his ear. He listened for a few seconds more, and though he heard nothing, he decided to get up and check.

Quietly, he crept to the doorway, afraid of waking Alex, and he froze.

There, bathed in bluish light, writhing on the sofa as he stroked and caressed himself, was Alex.

Fox watched entranced as the man's muscles rippled and flowed under his touch. Perfectly proportioned and powerfully built, he was absolutely beautiful. God, how could he not remember, how could he not...

One hand skimmed and pinched Alex's nipples as the other slowly and lovingly milked his cock. His head tossed from side to side as he felt the pressure build, and he knew he wouldn't be able to hold out much longer. He increased the speed of his strokes, and a long hiss rose into the air.

Fox covered his mouth to keep himself from whimpering as he watched Alex jerk himself to completion, his cries muffled in the softness of his pillow. When he was done, the younger man turned his head so that he was facing the ceiling, and a barely audible sob escaped his lips.

"Fox..."

Fox's heart pounded painfully in his chest as he watched the man he owed his life to curl into a miserable ball, lying quiet and still.

He didn't know how long he stood there, but it was only after the soft sounds of sleep had reached his ears that Fox returned to his bed, mimicking Alex's position.

Only sleep hadn't been as merciful to him as it had to Alex. He lay awake well into the light hours of the morning, finally dozing off just before eight.

At eight-thirty, Alex crept into the room, smiling down at the sleeping man.

God, he hated to wake him, but Scully *had* arranged for him to visit the Hoover Building today, and after many refusals, Fox could no longer blow her off.

When he finally agreed two days ago, he looked hopefully to Alex and asked if he would accompany them. The look of disappointment in his eyes when Alex gently declined broke the younger man's heart, but for reasons he would just have to make Fox understand, he couldn't go with him.

He'd be okay, he told himself as he watched Fox mope around the apartment that night. After all, he'd be with Scully, and she'd never let anything happen to upset him...

"Fox." He touched the older man's cheek, removing his hand the moment the other man began to stir. "Time to get up."

Eyes still closed, Fox frowned into this pillow, moaning softly.

"Come on, Fox; Scully'll be here in about an hour."

Fox sat up, rubbing at his eyes. They felt like someone had thrown sand in them. He blinked up at Alex, letting the younger man see how red and swollen they were.

"God, you look terrible. Didn't you sleep?"

"A little."

"Another headache?"

"No. Just couldn't sleep."

Alex studied the other man for a moment, then reached for the phone.

"What are you doing?"

"Calling Scully. You can do this another time."

"No, it's okay. I'd rather just get it over with."

Alex dropped his hand to his lap but retained his grip on the phone. "You're exhausted. There's no reason you have to do this *today*."

"No, I want to. I've been putting her off for over a week now. I gotta do it sometime. I'd really prefer it to be now."

"You sure?"

Fox sat staring into Alex's face, remembering the cause for the previous night's insomnia. Unconsciously, he drew a corner of his lower lip into his mouth, chewing at the flesh.

Alex caught his breath and watched the gesture that never failed to arouse him. He forced his eyes back up to Fox's, catching the look of mixed emotion that swirled within the amber of his eyes.

"Yeah," Fox rasped, moving away and out of bed. "Yeah, I'm sure. I'd better go shower." He attempted to shake off the remnants of his too-brief slumber and walked to the bathroom, leaving Alex sitting on the bed, confused and concerned.

Fox returned to the bedroom minutes later, body dry, hair still damp, and wrapped in a towel. He stopped short and watched uncertainly from the doorway as Alex moved around the bedroom, laying out his clothes for him. As he stood trying to decide whether or not to turn around and go back to the bathroom till Alex left, the other man looked up and gave him a hint of a smile.

"Got your clothes all ready."

Hazel eyes slid away. "Thanks."

"I'll uh...I'll go get breakfast ready."

Alex brushed past the older man, the intoxicating scent of shampoo and damp Fox invading his nostrils as he moved.

Fox stood quietly until he heard the door close, then he walked over to the clothing laid out neatly on his bed. He let his hand drift over the navy blue suit and sighed. This would be the first time since coming to this apartment that he had put on anything other than comfortable jeans and shirts.

He unwrapped the towel, dropping it onto the bed and began to dress. He pulled the t-shirt on over his head then wrestled the white boxer-briefs over the erection that begun to blossom when he walked in practically naked and found Alex in the bedroom. Sitting on the bed, he pulled on the navy socks, trying to block out images of Alex on the sofa, stroking his cock and whimpering his name, but the thought would not let him be.

It wasn't fair. The man was suffering. He'd been through so much hell in the last couple of weeks. From thinking at first that Fox was dead to finding out that he was alive but had absolutely no memory of him or the love that they'd shared...having to live day after day in such close quarters and never submitting to the desires Fox knew he felt...

Fox drew in a deep breath and let it out slowly as he rose and pulled his pants on, then his shirt, fingers moving slowly over the buttons.

When he was fully dressed, he looked at himself in the full-length mirror.

The suit looked alien to him, but no more, he supposed, than anything else in his life. He tilted his head back, staring at the ceiling for a moment, then composed himself and walked out into the kitchen.

The appreciative smile on the face of the other man comforted him a bit as he took a seat at the kitchen table.

"You look great," Alex murmured as he placed a hard boiled egg and a couple of slices of bacon in front of Fox.

"Thank you. I...I feel kind of funny, though."

Anxiety washed Alex's features. "You mean, sick?"

"No. No, just...weird. This is how I always dress?"

"When you're working, it is."

Fox shrugged and bit into his bacon. Alex took the seat across from him, and the two ate in virtual silence until the ringing buzzer drew their attention.

"She's early," Alex commented as he pushed himself away from the table and walked out to let Scully in. Fox took another sip of his coffee, hesitated for a few seconds, then followed the younger man, already finding Scully standing in the dining room talking with Alex.

Blue eyes lit up as Scully looked up at her partner.

"Mulder! It's you!"

Fox shrugged. "If you say so."

"You ready to go?"

"I suppose." Fox looked to Alex, who stood by, quietly watching the exchange. He approached slowly and stood close enough that Alex could feel the warm fan of his breath on his face. "See you later?"

Alex cocked his head, listening curiously to the question in Fox's voice. "Of course."

Fox nodded, timidly raising one hand and letting his fingertips stroke a few inches of Alex's chest before he turned away and headed to the door.

Alex stared after him, shaken by the tiny gesture. He took an unsteady breath and called to Scully before she could close the door.

Scully looked to the man who was already in the hall. "I'll be there in a sec, Mulder. Why don't you get the elevator?" She took one step into the apartment, waiting to hear what Alex wanted to say.

"He...he said he didn't sleep very well last night..."

Scully smiled reassuringly. "Don't worry, I'll bring him back safe and sound."

Alex nodded and let her leave. When the door closed, he walked into the kitchen to clear the table, his mind going in a hundred different directions.

That was the first time since he'd found Fox that the older man had touched him in such an intimate manner. There were certainly *more* intimate ways to touch him than a light caress to his chest, but it was a combination of Fox's touch, his proximity, and the look in his eyes that led Alex to believe that there might be more meaning behind it than just a need for reassurance.

He sighed heavily as he collected the plates.

//Don't go reading stuff into a simple touch. And even if he *did* mean something by it, what point is there? He doesn't know you.//

He stopped halfway to the dishwasher and tilted his head up, breathing deeply to try and quell the sickening thud of his heart.

//God, he doesn't know you.//

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

Fox sat in the car, staring out the window, feeling more and more apprehensive the farther Scully drove him from his apartment. He shifted uneasily in the passenger's seat, trying to listen to Scully as she spoke.

"Skinner was glad to hear that you were coming in today."

"I haven't seen him since I got home."

"He didn't want to bother you. He knew you needed to rest."

"...Alex told me about him."

Scully's head snapped around in Fox's direction, and for the first time his eyes left the window.

"And you."

The red-head blew out a long breath. "Well...it's part of our history..." She gave him a hopeful glance. "If Alex told you everything, Mulder, you know that your happiness is my main concern...and Skinner's. And you're happy with Alex. We know that and we both accept it."

Fox lowered his eyes to his lap.

"Mulder?"

"Yeah?"

"What is it?"

"Nothing."

"I know that look, Mulder. It isn't nothing. Now, tell me."

Fox shook his head. "I told you, it's nothing."

"Okay, fine. I won't push. But, please. If there's something you feel you can't talk about with Alex, but you want to get it off your chest, know that you can come to me. You always did."

"Thanks."

Scully waited a few more minutes, hoping her partner would change his mind, but he fell silent and spoke not another word until they reached downtown.

"That's it," Scully pointed to the Hoover Building as she rounded the corner and pulled into the parking garage. The guard at the entrance smiled at Scully, then at Fox.

"Agent Mulder. Damn glad to see you."

Fox nodded but said nothing.

Scully returned the middle-aged man's smile. "Thanks, Mick. See you later."

They pulled into Scully's designated spot and exited the car, Fox following a few steps behind as they walked toward the elevators. They got into the empty car and Scully pushed the button for Skinner's floor. Before they could reach their destination, the elevator stopped and three people got on, all of whom recognized Fox as the agent who had recently come back from the dead. Not knowing him well enough for more, they all offered a polite welcome back then turned to face front.

Fox looked over to Scully, who offered him a quick smile, then turned away, losing himself in his own thoughts.

The doors opened, and Scully nudged him, coaxing him to step through the small group and out onto the floor. The moment he did, two people stopped and detoured in his direction, each grabbing his hand and shaking it vigorously. Others noticed, and soon a large group had flocked around him, shouting words of welcome and slapping him on the back. He looked around dazedly, from one strange face to another, wishing with all his heart that he was back in the security of his apartment with the only person he truly felt safe with.

"Okay, everybody, okay," Scully's voice cut through the clamor. "Agent Mulder appreciates your good wishes, but can you all just back off a bit and give him some air?"

Slowly, the crowd of well wishers and curiosity seekers backed away and allowed them to move forward. Before they could reach Skinner's office, the door jerked open and the A.D. stalked into the hall to see what all the commotion was about. The stern expression softened when he saw Scully moving toward him with Fox in tow.

"You made it."

"Finally," Scully beamed up at him.

Sharp brown eyes assessed the man standing quietly before him. "Good to see you, Agent Mulder. You're looking well."

Fox's gaze skipped around, looking at everything but Skinner. "Thanks...Alex has been taking very good care of me."

He didn't know why he said it; he just felt a need to.

"I knew he would." Skinner's gaze dropped to the carpet, and he stepped aside, allowing the agents to enter. "How do you feel?"

"Okay," Fox answered softly, looking around the room, trying to get some sense of familiarity.

The A.D. leaned against his desk and watched the other man intently. "So, what are your plans for the day?"

"Well," Scully answered, "we have to go down and get him a new ID, then I thought I'd take him on a quick tour of his favorite haunts. The forensics lab, Requisitions, Ballistics..."

Skinner gave her a ghost of a grin. "Saving the office for last?"

"Yeah, since that's where we'll probably be spending the most time."

Fox only half listened to the conversation, noting how the two discussed him as though he wasn't there.

"I would have called you, Mulder, or stopped by, but I figured that the less distraction you had, the better."

Fox nodded absently, shifting from one foot to the other.

"Have you been able to recall anything at all?"

"No."

"Well, don't sweat it. It's probably just too soon. Maybe the more of your routine that you fall into, the better it'll be for you."

"Yeah, maybe."

"Well," Scully broke in, disrupting the awkward silence, "we've got places to go and people to see. Ready, Mulder?"

"Yeah."

Scully shot the A.D. an apologetic glance and ushered Fox back into the hall.

All at once, Fox wished he was back in Skinner's office as more people accosted him. As they made their way to the elevators, the faces and voices around Fox blurred and blended until they became nothing more than smears of color and a loud hum.

Thousands of bugs swarmed the inside of a compartment...some sort of vehicle, then disappeared from Fox's mind's eye as a flash of blinding pain hit him.

"Mulder? Mulder!" Scully shoved aside the few people who were still hovering around them and grasped her partner's biceps. "Mulder, talk to me. What is it?"

Fox grimaced, bringing his fingers to his temples.

Scully threw open the door that they stood directly in front of, apologized to A.D. Fisher's secretary for the intrusion, and guided Fox down onto the small sofa against the wall.

"Mulder..."

"Bugs."

"What? Bugs?"

Fox nodded, taking a few slow, deep breaths.

"What about bugs?"

"Tons...tons of bugs. All around. Inside a car..."

"Oh, Mulder," Scully murmured, smoothing her hand across the lines in her partner's forehead. "I think it's starting."

"What?"

"That thing about the bugs. It sounds like a memory."

Fox blinked up at her. "That happened?"

"Yes. Years ago. How's the pain?"

"Subsiding."

"You want to go home?"

Yes. God, yes, he wanted to go home...

"No."

//*No*?//

"We can do this some other time."

"No. I'm here. Let's get it over with."

"Mulder, Alex will *kill* me if I bring you back all wrecked."

"I'm fine," Fox protested, trying to rise to his feet, but Scully held him down.

"Same stubborn son of a..."

"What's going on?"

Scully looked up in the direction of Skinner's voice.

Skinner noted the surprised expression and explained his presence.

"Agent Pierce was in the hallway when Mulder collapsed. He came to tell me."

"He didn't *collapse*. He's experiencing some pain in his head."

"Well, what's wrong with him?"

"The pain occurs in conjunction with what I believe to be flashes of memory..."

"But he said he hadn't remembered anything..."

Fox looked from Skinner to Scully and back again until his head started to spin.

"Stop!"

The two fell silent, staring in surprise at the agitated man.

Fox leapt to his feet. "Just shut up, the both of you!"

"Mulder..."

"You're talking about me like I'm not even here! You did the same damn thing in his office. I'm right here! I may be confused, but I'm not stupid!"

"Mulder, we're sorry," Skinner apologized softly before Scully could say anything. "Why don't you go home? Get some rest..."

"All I've *done* is rest. And what has it gotten me? The sound of some blast? The memory of a few bugs? Is that the shit I'm going to remember?"

"It's a *start*, Mulder. You have to be patient," Scully told him calmly.

"I've *been* patient," Fox moaned as his anger deflated.

"I know." Scully stroked the hair back from his forehead. "I know you have. But you have to continue to be. This could take some time."

"Or that could be it," Fox whispered. "Maybe I've remembered all I'm going to."

"Don't think that way."

"How do we know?"

"Exactly," Scully pointed out. "We *don't* know. We don't know that any more will come to you, and we don't know that it *won't*. Now, come on. You've got to keep positive."

Fox ran a hand over his face and gazed wearily at the two before him. "I'm sorry, I..."

"It's all right," Skinner reassured him, laying a hand on his shoulder. "You go get some rest. You can come back another day...as many times as you want to till you acquaint yourself with the building..."

"No, I want to do it today."

Scully looked from Fox to Skinner, shaking her head. "This is where you came in. He insists on doing this today."

"All right," Skinner agreed grudgingly. "But if you start feeling worse, I want you to go home. Krycek'll have our heads if he doesn't get you back in the same condition you left in."

Fox nodded his agreement, and the three walked out together, separating in the hall. Fox and Scully made it to the ID room with a minimum of fuss, encountering only a few acquaintances along the way, but once they got inside, it was a different story. Once again they were descended upon, Fox doing his best to remain pleasant as he was patted, and welcomed, and questioned.

And so it went.

Everywhere they went, the same scenario with different strange faces played out, and by the time they'd finally made it to the basement, Scully could see the weariness in her partner's face. She unlocked the door and pushed it open, stepping aside to allow Fox to enter first.

Fox walked in slowly, taking in all the equipment and file cabinets. He stopped in front of his desk and lifted the plaque that bore his name. He brushed his fingers across the letters then set the plaque down. His attention drifted to the wall to the side of his desk, and he walked toward it, eyes flitting from one item to another. He turned from the vast collage of pictures, articles and posters, and stared at Scully.

"Am I some kind of nut?"

Scully broke into laughter. "I've been asking that question for years." Noting her partner's confused stare, Scully erased the grin from her face. "Didn't Alex tell you what you did?"

"Yeah, but," Fox stammered, "I...I didn't know I was as deep into it as it looks like I am."

"It was your whole life, Mulder."

"Was?"

"Before Alex. Now the X-files take second priority."

"They do?"

"Yeah. Nothing comes before Alex."

Fox sat down on the desk, eyes cast to the floor. "Nothing?"

"Absolutely nothing. He owns your heart, Mulder. As you own his. I guess you haven't found that out yet?"

"He's...he's been so good to me. So attentive and gentle..."

Scully gave him a understanding smile. "So...nothing has...*happened*."

Fox understood the woman's meaning, and his silence was her answer.

"Can I ask you a question?"

He looked up into sincere, blue eyes. "What?"

"Have you given it any thought at all?"

Fox's eyes slid away. "Thought?"

"Yeah, Mulder. I saw the way you touched him this morning. I know the attraction is still there....Mulder?" Scully heaved a long sigh, taking the man's silence as an unwillingness to discuss that particular subject. She had no idea that he was just as confused about his and Alex's sexual relationship or lack thereof, as he was about everything else in his life.

Scully dropped the subject and began pointing out a few prominent files and articles, giving Fox the short version of each corresponding case, and before they knew it, it was almost four o'clock.

"Damn," she cursed, looking at her watch. "We should've gone a couple of hours ago. I'm surprised Alex hasn't called me."

Fox shuffled through the files he had laid out across his desk, not giving any indication that he'd heard her.

"Mulder," Scully called, snapping her fingers only a few inches from his face. "Come on. It's late and you're exhausted. Your eyes are all dark underneath. Have you got a headache?"

"Little bit."

"It's more than a little bit, I think. You didn't even hear me when I was talking to you a second ago. Come on, let's go."

They left the office and made their way down to Scully's car without any major hassles, and once Fox was settled into the passenger's seat, Scully drove out of the parking garage and into the bright, late afternoon sunlight.

"Shit."

"The light hurt your eyes, Mulder?"

Fox nodded, closing his eyes and turning his face.

"Damn, and I don't have my sunglasses with me." Scully pulled the passenger's side visor down, but the sun was too low in the sky for it to be of much good. "Sorry, Mulder. It's going to be a while before we get out of this direct glare."

"S'okay," Fox croaked, slipping out of his coat and pulling it up over his face.

Silence prevailed on the remainder of the trip to Alexandria, and when they finally reached Fox's apartment, Scully had to practically drag the fatigued man up to the fourth floor. Before she could ask him for his key, the door flew open, and wild, green eyes quickly surveyed the scene. He looked from the man who was practically out on his feet to the woman he had trusted to make sure Fox didn't come home this way.

"What the hell happened?"

Scully winced at the hissed question that was also an accusation. "Alex...calm down."

"Calm down? *Look* at him." He cast Scully harsh stare and slipped an arm around Fox's waist. "Come on," he instructed softly as he moved Fox into the apartment and straight through to the bedroom. The older man sat quietly, attempting to help when Alex began removing his jacket and unbuttoning his shirt. Once Fox was stripped down to his underwear, Alex lay him back against the pillows and tucked the sheet up around his chest. "Your head hurt?"

Fox nodded slightly and closed his eyes, sighing with the relief of finally being home.

"Go to sleep," Alex purred, leaning in close to the other man's ear. "You always feel better after you rest."

Scully stood in the doorway, watching Alex tend to his weary lover, a tiny smile gracing her lips. But the smile disappeared when Fox fell asleep and Alex then turned his less than gentle attention on her. He rose from the bed and motioned her out into the living room.

"Now, *what* the hell happened?"

"Alex, Skinner and I both asked him if it might not be a good idea for him to come home. Especially after the attack..."

"*What* attack?"

"Why don't we sit down?"

"I don't want to sit down, Scully," Alex fumed. "I want to know *why* you're so late, *why* he's so tired, and *what* the hell this attack he had was. You were supposed to be there to prevent this shit!"

"You yell a little louder, Alex, and you're going to wake him up."

Alex clasped his hands behind his head and stalked away, spinning on his heel and returning. "Start at the beginning, Scully," he said softly, through gritted teeth, "and don't leave out a thing."

Scully lowered herself to the sofa and relayed the events of the day, starting at the beginning and not stopping until she'd reached the very end. When she was through, she looked up expectantly at Alex.

"He...you think he remembered something?"

"It seems that way. Hopefully, this is just the beginning. Unfortunately, if it is, these attacks may become more frequent."

"Isn't there anything we can do? It hurts him so much."

"I know. But short of keeping him doped up, I don't see where there's anything we can do. It's got to run its course."

"*Damn*."

"You're going to have to stay cool, Alex. This might get a lot worse before it gets better."

"I will. But, God, how much worse?"

"I told you that he really let Skinner and me have it in A.D. Fisher's office. He just...blew. Shocked the hell out of us." Scully raised her eyebrows. "I would say that his personality might be getting a little out of whack. You've got to be prepared. He could be prone to some pretty wild mood swings."

Alex nodded his understanding, then apologized. "Sorry I got so bent out of shape."

"It's okay, you were just worried."

"Yeah, I was. You *still* should have brought him home sooner, though."

Scully sighed in exasperation. "How did I know that was coming? Alex, you ever try to *make* Mulder do something he didn't want to do?"

"He didn't want to come home?"

Scully laughed softly. "He didn't want to *leave* home. More to the point, he didn't want to leave *you*." She watched as Alex's gaze dropped to the floor. "But he felt that putting in an appearance at work was something he had to do, and he wanted to get it all over with in one day, so he wouldn't have to go back again. He's confused and uncertain, and here with you is where he feels safe."

Alex blinked. "I...I told you that he seems to associate me with security..."

Scully rolled her eyes, mumbling, "But that's not all it is."

"What'd you say?"

"Nothing. Look, I'm going to go. I'll give you a call tomorrow. Or you call me if anything happens that I should know about."

"Yeah, all right."

Scully picked herself up off of the sofa and made her way to the door with Alex behind her. "Sorry about keeping him out so long."

Alex nodded then closed the door as Scully walked away. Without delay, he headed directly into the bedroom to check on Fox.

Asleep but not at rest, the older man twitched and shifted, plagued by what dream, Alex didn't know. He sat carefully at the edge of the bed, listening to Fox's uneven respiration and hoping that he would soon settle into a peaceful sleep, when the other man's eyes snapped open and his frightened gaze swept the room, moving past Alex as though he were not even there.

"Fox," Alex called softly, lightly touching his arm. "Fox, look at me. It's Alex. You're home."

Recognition dawned and relief flooded the older man's features. His body slumped against the pillows, and he closed his eyes, drawing deep, steadying breaths.

"What were you dreaming about?"

Fox took a few more breaths before opening his mouth to answer. "People. Hundreds of faces all around me...unrecognizable. And this hum...loud...it hurt my ears. The people kept getting closer...closing in, and I was drowning..."

"You were overwhelmed today," Alex reasoned. "Those people meant well, Fox, but I think it might have been just a little bit much for you all at once like that. Maybe you should have broken your visit up into two or three days."

Fox shook his head.

"Fox," Alex began gently, "you can't just stay holed up here indefinitely. You have to get out sometime." He saw the look of dejection in the other man's eyes and immediately regretted his statement.

"Trying to get rid of me?"

"No. No, of course not. I just mean that you should go out. Get some fresh air...learn to be with other people again."

"I don't know them."

"You didn't know Scully. You didn't know Skinner or me..."

Fox turned onto his side and closed his eyes. "And I still don't."

Alex touched his sheet-covered leg. "What do you mean?"

"I don't *know* you," Fox shouted, jerking himself into a sitting position and startling the younger man. "You're a...a...kind stranger who feeds me, tells me stories about my supposed life...you tuck me in at night, you're right there with me when I'm not well...you're supposed to be the most important thing in my life, and I don't *know* it! I try to remember what it is I felt for you, and I can't!"

"It's all right," Alex whispered, trying to calm the agitated man. "It'll come back to you."

"And what if it doesn't?" Fox continued to rail. "What are *you* going to do?" He bowed his head, squeezing his eyes shut for a moment before resuming. "Are you going to be happy to spend the rest of your life out there on the couch, jerking off?"

Alex blinked, for a second unable to speak. By the time he was able to compose himself enough to respond, Fox had fallen back to the pillows, hands pressed to his temples.

Pushing his shock aside, Alex raised his hands to the golden-brown head, pushing the older man's hands away. Gently, he massaged Fox's temples, cooing softly to him.

"Easy. Breathe, Fox. Nice and easy...that's it..."

In time, Fox's respiration steadied, and he fell into a heavy sleep. Alex sat watching him, still disturbed by Fox's last words.

//Has he been watching me when I think he's asleep? Jesus. One more thing to screw him up...//

He sighed inwardly, dreading the next time Fox awoke, knowing that they were about to face the question of their sexual relationship head-on.

//God, how the hell should I handle this?//

He leaned forward, brushing a soft kiss against Fox's jaw, and then quietly left the room.

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

Fox watched from the doorway as Alex, oblivious to his presence, folded and stacked towels in the bathroom. He advanced quietly and slid one hand up the younger man's back.

Alex snapped to attention and spun around, meeting a pair of troubled, hazel eyes.

"God, you scared me."

"Sorry."

"It's okay." Alex shook his head. "People can't usually sneak up on me like that. I guess I must have been pretty deep in thought." He looked at his watch. "You've been asleep for almost three hours. How do you feel?"

"Headache's gone."

"Good. So..." //Ah, shit.// "...why do you look like you've lost your best friend?"

Fox shifted nervously from one foot to the other. "I didn't mean to...I shouldn't have yelled at you like that."

"Don't worry about it. I know you're just frustrated with your situation."

Fox stood chewing on his lower lip while Alex finished stacking the towels, then...

"Alex?"

The younger man turned to face him. "Yeah?"

"Can we talk some more?"

Alex could read it all over his face. "About what?"

"You and me. The life we had before this happened."

"What...what would you like to know?"

"Everything. You've told me detail by detail about everything else, but you've only ever given me a rough outline on us. I want to know about our day to day life. What our routine is...if we've got one...what we have in common, where we differ..."

//Oh, here it comes...//

Fox's gaze dropped to the piece of floor between them. "...what our sex life is like..."

//Damn, damn, shit, damn.//

"Uh..." Alex stopped to clear his throat. "...okay...how about some dinner, first? You hungry?"

//Good stall.//

"No, I'm not."

//If it had *worked*.//

"Are *you* hungry?"

//Okay, this is just as good.//

"Yeah, actually, I am. I didn't have any lunch."

Fox nodded. "Okay, it can wait until after you eat something."

Alex took as long as he could with dinner, but sooner than he'd wished, he was through, and it was time to face the music.

The two men entered the living room, Alex tucking himself into a corner of the sofa with Fox sitting not more than six inches away. The older man turned sideways, hands folded in his lap, waiting quietly while Alex fidgeted with the hem of his shirt. When he could stall no more, he opened up his mouth to speak.

"I don't know how to start this," Alex explained. "Maybe if you asked me a question..."

Fox nodded. "What's a normal day for us?"

Sable eyebrows arched high. "'Normal' is a tough word for us. We're each away a lot."

"Because of our jobs?"

"Yeah."

"Do we ever travel together?"

Alex gave Fox a quick grin. "Hasn't happened yet. Anyway, uh...there are times when neither of us have got any place to be, so I usually just hang out here while you're at work...cleaning up the mess you'd made while I was gone...I cook, do the laundry and stuff..."

A tiny smile curved Fox's mouth. "A triple agent/homemaker."

Alex returned the grin. "Hey, I like things neat and orderly. Call it a compulsion."

"You said you clean up my messes. Am I a slob, or what?"

"I wouldn't call you a slob, no. You're just not as particular as I am."

"Sounds like you're just trying to be nice."

Alex answered with a soft laugh.

"So, what about after work?"

"Nothing special. We eat...maybe watch t.v...sometimes we discuss your cases...you know, nothing any other couple doesn't do at the end of the day."

"What about time off? Weekends?"

"Sometimes we go out. Sometimes we stay home. We've taken a couple of weekend trips..."

"Where've we gone?"

"We drove down to Rhode Island once. You remember I told you that your parents had a summer place there..."

"Yeah."

"And back in July we flew to Martha's Vineyard."

"Where I lived when I was a kid?"

"Yeah."

"What'd we do?"

A wistful expression covered Alex's face. "We rented a cottage near the beach. You took me on a tour of the island, then we rented a boat and went sailing up around the Cape...spent a little time in P-town." He looked at Fox. "Provincetown. The very tip of Cape Cod. It's beautiful there. Like being at the edge of the world." He inhaled and exhaled slowly. "We did some sightseeing...and God, did we see some sights."

"Like what?"

"P-town is sort of a gathering place for gays. We saw some serious flamers." An easy smile graced the perfectly bowed lips. "That was fun. It was nice, though. It was someplace we could be...ourselves, without having to worry, you know? We could hold hands walking down the street...kiss if we wanted to, and not get any funny looks..."

"What's it like?"

"What's what like?"

"Kissing me. Do you enjoy it?"

Alex clasped his hands together in an effort to keep Fox from seeing the way they trembled. "Very much," he whispered hoarsely to the floor. "I've never known anyone who kissed the way you do."

Fox fell silent for a minute, observing the mix of discomfort and desire on the younger man's face, then asked another question.

"Do we have sex often?"

"...Yeah."

"What's it like?"

Alex dropped his head, burying his face in his hands. "God..."

Fox waited while Alex took a long breath then released it.

"I...I don't know if I can find the right words...you make my wildest fantasies seem ordinary. Making love with you is an exquisite experience, and every day it just gets better."

Fox inched closer as Alex spoke, letting his hand rest on the other man's knee. "Alex."

Shimmering green eyes turned up to meet his gaze, and suddenly the words that Fox had planned to say left him. His hand crawled up the younger man's leg, and he leaned closer, nuzzling Alex's jaw. Alex's mouth fell open, and a long, soft gasp tumbled out as Fox's lips moved up to settle over his ear.

"Show me, Alex," Fox whispered, his tone pleading, causing the other man to shudder. "I want to know what it's like..."

To know what it's like.

He didn't know. He couldn't remember ever touching Alex; ever kissing him or making love to him. He was a stranger to Fox...

"N-no." Alex gently but firmly grasped Fox by his shoulders and put a few inches distance between them. As he struggled to recover his breath, Fox lowered his head, already taking his rejection in the worst possible way.

"Fox," Alex reached out to lay a comforting hand on the other man's shoulder, but Fox shrank away. "Listen to me. Please, *please* don't think that it's because I don't want you. Christ, nothing could be further from the truth, but you said it yourself. You don't *know* me. I'm a complete stranger to you. I...I couldn't ask you to..."

"You didn't ask." Fox lifted his head, despondent eyes searching the younger man's face. "I offered. I thought you'd be happy."

Alex rose and began to pace slowly, hands clasped to the back of his head. "I appreciate it so much, Fox. I do, but I couldn't let you fall into bed with a man you don't know."

Fox shook his head, not understanding at all. "But...I...I'm getting to know you. You've been so good to me. I believe you are who you tell me you are, and I trust you..."

"Those things are good, Fox, but they aren't enough of a reason." Alex stopped pacing and groaned up at the ceiling. "Oh, *God*, who's saying this?"

Alex returned to the seated man and kneeled in front of him. "Fox...I'm sorry." He tried to smile through his pain. "In a way, it's your fault. You've got me spoiled. I need to know you love me. I need to see it in your eyes." He shook his head sadly. "I see a lot of different emotions, but right now, love isn't one of them."

Fox frowned at the man in front of him. "But...all you've done is give. And all I've done is take. It's not right, it's...you've lost a lot too."

Alex covered Fox's hands with his own. "I don't want you as some sort of repayment. I don't *need* to be repaid. I'm here with you because I love you. I'd walk through fire for you, Fox."

The older man turned away, unable to face the adoration he saw in the beautiful, green eyes.

"I'm all right, baby," Alex whispered, gently rubbing the back of Fox's hand. "Thank you for thinking about me."

Fox turned back and forced himself to meet the other man's gaze. "Would you do me a favor?"

Alex squeezed his hands. "Anything."

"I've n-noticed that once in a while you call me baby. It's like a...a slip..."

"Sorry."

"No, I...is that what you usually call me?"

"Yeah, usually."

"Then, why are you trying not to?"

Alex's lips parted, but no intelligible sound came out.

"I don't think it'd be too much on my delicate psyche if you did."

Alex lowered his gaze.

"Please, Alex," Fox begged softly. "Could you please treat me the way you used to? At least, a little bit?"

Alex looked up at Fox, and a slow smile curled his mouth. He raised the older man's hands to his lips, planting a tiny kiss on the knuckles, then pressed them to his cheek, nodding his agreement.

They passed the rest of the evening in quiet discussion, and by the time Fox had started to grow fatigued, Alex was completely worn out. The discussion had mostly covered their sex life, and Alex had done a more than satisfactory job of bringing himself to painful arousal with some of his favorite memories.

He walked Fox to the bedroom at ten-thirty, sitting with him as had become his custom, until the older man fell asleep.

"Honest to God?" Fox's sleepy voice asked as he settled back against the pillows. "Right in the middle of a dance club?"

Alex nodded wearily. "And in the parking lot."

Hazel eyes widened. "You didn't tell me about the parking lot."

"I don't know how I could have left that part out."

Fox returned the grin he saw twitching around the corners of the other man's mouth. "Got a bit of a wild streak, don't I?"

"Yep." Alex brushed the tips of his fingers along the underside of Fox's chin. "We're a hell of a match."

Fox's smile grew broader. "It wasn't very nice though, what you did to Skinner."

Alex shrugged. "I know, but we weren't exactly bestest friends. He wanted my man, and that wasn't cool with me."

"You're *cool* now, though, aren't you?"

Alex nodded. "Yeah, he finally got it. 'Course, it took your *death* for him to figure it out."

"Figure what out?"

Alex paused for a moment, staring at the curious man, then spoke. "That I love you."

The sensual blend of honey and sandpaper wrapped Fox in its seductive warmth, caressing his nerves and producing the most delicious tingles in his lower regions.

Screw good sense, he wanted this man. And, he decided to himself, he would get him. One way or another, Alex Krycek was going to fall.

"What's that about?"

"Hmm? What?"

"That look." Alex squinted down at the other man, trying to see into his thoughts. "I know *you*, remember?"

Fox gave him a sweet smile then made a show of stretching and yawning. "God, I'm beat."

Alex studied the older man for a bit then nodded. "Go to sleep, then."

Fox closed his eyes, a tiny hint of a smile playing at his lips. "Goodnight, Alex."

Alex released a long sigh then raised a hand to Fox's head, gently petting his hair. "'Night, baby."

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

Alex preceded Fox into the apartment, removing his coat and tossing it over the hook.

"You think I would have remembered that you'd done the exact same thing to me before..."

Fox slowly removed his coat, watching the way the younger man's rear moved in the black wool pants. "If you *had* remembered that I liked the chicken better, we could have been finished eating a lot sooner, and we wouldn't have missed the movie. I hope that tape you rented doesn't suck."

"It can't possibly be worse than the one *you* insisted on renting the other night."

"It wasn't that bad."

Alex dropped his head and raised his eyebrows. "Fox, the woman was an eyeball-sucking alien. Now forgive me for being impertinent, but don't you think that if the woman *you* were married to for fifteen years was chowing on your neighbor's eyes, you'd have some sort of clue?"

"Yeah, but if the husband *knew*, it would have made for an awfully short movie..."

"Which would've been the best thing that could've happened."

Fox responded with a soft grunt.

"I'm gonna go change," Alex said as he moved toward the bedroom. "Be right back."

Fox watched Alex until he disappeared from sight, smiling softly.

The week and a half that had passed since their talk had been a good one. With the exception of one major headache that seemed to be associated with the memory of some guy with yellow eyes and abnormally long fingers, he felt pretty good. His sworn mission to seduce Alex was slow and occasionally frustrating, but he was determined to triumph.

He'd kept his plays subtle, preferring stealth tactics over anything overt. An 'accidental' flash of ass as he was getting out the shower, a brush of the crotch as he moved around Alex in the kitchen...smoky looks that made the younger man lose his train of thought in conversation...

Alex emerged from the bedroom wearing worn, faded jeans with a hole at mid-thigh and a stretched-out t-shirt that might once have been yellow. His hair stood up in soft, aimless spikes as he briskly rubbed his fingers through it and dropped down on the sofa, executing a long, feline stretch.

Fox sucked his lower lip into his mouth as he watched the younger man in all his tousled magnificence laid out before him like an offering.

"God, that's better," Alex moaned as he concluded his stretch. "I don't mind putting on civilized clothes once in a while, but it always feels so good to come home and take them off." He eyed Fox, who was still standing in the middle of the floor. "You gonna go change?"

The corner of the older man's mouth twitched, and he brought a hand up to the neck of his shirt, beginning to slowly undo the buttons. "Yeah. Why don't you put the tape in? I'll be back in a minute."

Alex nodded, eyes set on the moving hand and each new inch of skin it revealed. When Fox turned and walked toward the bedroom, he drew a deep breath and rose to pop the tape into the VCR. A few minutes later, Fox returned, also dressed in jeans, but wearing a sage green, loose-fitting, button down shirt, undone except for the bottom three buttons.

"You're right," he said, pushing Alex's legs aside and sprawling on the sofa. "This is much better. Okay," he said, motioning to the television. "....Alex?"

"Hmm?" Alex turned his attention away from Fox's chest, trying to forget about the way the light from the screen lent a soft glow to the scattering of golden-brown hairs.

Fox suppressed a devious grin. "The tape?"

"Yeah. Oh, yeah." Alex hit the play button on the remote, and the two settled back to watch the movie.

Ten minutes in, Fox shifted position and rolled his head back, groaning softly.

"What's the matter?" Alex asked, as if Fox didn't know he would.

"I don't know, my neck kinda hurts."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah, I...damn, you hear that crack?"

Alex frowned and slid his hand along the back of Fox's shoulders. "Has it been bothering you or did it just start?"

"Just started a little while ago."

"Hmm. Relax." One hand joined the other, and Alex began to gently but firmly massage Fox's shoulders and neck.

The older man's eyes rolled up behind drooping lids, and he emitted a long, sensuous groan. "Mmmm....you could make good money doing this."

"You said that to me once," Alex recalled, losing himself in the moment. "Then you changed your mind."

Another soft moan. "Why?"

The younger man inched closer, whispering his answer in Fox's ear. "You said you didn't want my hands on anyone but you."

"I can see me saying that," Fox whispered back, turning his head so that their lips almost touched. "There's magic in those hands."

Alex felt himself begin to sway as his blood pressure rose and his cock strained against the zipper of his jeans. Close enough to taste, Fox's mouth presented too great a temptation for him to resist. He leaned forward, shivering at that first soft whisper of his lover's mouth brushing his, and every reason he'd given Fox for not touching him dissolved into nothing.

He'd won. A week and a half's worth of frustration finally paid off. Alex was going down like the Hindenburg, and there was no stopping now. Fox was damn proud of himself.

Alex moaned as his tongue touched its sorely missed mate, and just before he moved in to devour Fox's mouth, a harsh sound vibrating against his lips stopped him cold. He pulled away and Fox fell forward, hands clenched to his temples.

"Shit. Fox?" Alex swung around so that he was now sitting in front of Fox. He slipped a hand beneath the tortured man's cheek and tried to lift his head, but Fox was too tense. The older man rocked quickly back and forth, hard, agonized sounds rising from his throat. "Easy, baby," Alex instructed as calmly as he could. "Breathe. Come on, Fox, breathe."

Fox's body tightened another notch as waves of grief washed over him. //Alex?// He saw himself wandering in the dark from room to room, searching. He felt the fear rising into his chest as he realized he was alone. Then, he saw himself lying on the sofa, despondent, phone in his hand, calling Alex's number again and again, and getting no answer. His groans turned to sobs as he heard Scully's voice, angry and desperate, telling him that Alex, the cold, heartless son of a bitch, had used and left him...

"Jesus...baby, come on. Talk to me. Please, Fox." Alex stroked his lover's hair, not knowing what else to do to comfort him.

"Hurts," Fox whimpered, still rocking. "God, it hurts."

"I'm sorry, baby." Alex wrapped his arms around Fox and laid his head on the older man's shoulder. "I wish I could take it away." He kissed the back of Fox's head and laid him back on the sofa. Quickly, he shut off the lights, leaving only the glow of the television for illumination and returned, kneeling on the floor by the sofa. "Is that better?"

"No," Fox whispered, turning onto his side. "You left me..."

"What?" The word was barely out of Alex's mouth when he realized what Fox was saying. He must have been remembering the time when Alex had left, afraid of ruining his career and his life. "God...I told you about that, Fox, remember? I told you why I left."

Fox's body spasmed, and he uttered another pained groan.

An image of Alex, darkness partially shadowing his face, materialized. //*He's* mine.// A gun, held by the man Fox had adored and pined for, pointed at his head.

"You...were going to shoot me..."

"No. God, no, baby."

The memories were returning in disjointed pieces and bringing with them a rush of emotion that the confused man was unable to process.

"Fox," Alex called, trying to be heard through the roar of pain. "We talked about that, too. I would *never* hurt you. I was shot because I wouldn't hurt you..."

He didn't know how much Fox had heard of what he'd just said. The older man seemed to have shut down, trying to close himself off from the pain and the memories that brought it.

"Fox, can you hear me?"

No answer. Only Fox's labored breathing told him that the other man was still with him. He rose from the floor, promising Fox he would return, and went to the bedroom, pulling a pillow and blanket from the closet. He managed to lift Fox's head high enough to tuck the pillow under it, then covered him with the blanket. He sat on the floor, tenderly stroking the head of the unresponsive man and speaking softly to him.

"I wish there was something I could do to make this easier, sweetheart. But Scully said we're just going to have to tough it out. It's going to get worse before it gets better, but it *will* get better. And in time, you'll remember it all. You'll remember me, and you'll know how much I love you." Alex lay his head on the pillow beside Fox's. "It's going to be okay. We're going to get through this, I promise."

Almost an hour later, Fox's respiration slowed and evened out, indicating that he was finally asleep. Alex kissed his forehead and lay down there on the floor, refusing to be any more than a few inches away. He laid awake for most of the night, alert to any sound that Fox might make, and just before dawn came, his eyes began to close.

As Alex slept, Fox awoke. Disoriented, he looked around the room, trying to get his bearings.

//What the hell am I...//

And it came back to him. The returning memories and the excruciating pain that filled his head and his heart.

And Alex.

He could see nothing through pain that blinded him, but he could feel Alex there, trying through words and touch to provide comfort. He couldn't recall the words that the younger man spoke, and he had no idea if he'd responded to them. All he could remember was the terrible hurt that suddenly flooded in and almost drowned him...and the one whose constant love and determination kept him afloat.

He sat up, lowering his head into his hands, and caught sight of the figure just to his right. He turned his head and saw Alex, asleep on the floor, and his heart swelled. And this time not just with compassion or lust. For the first time, he thought that even if his memory never fully returned, he could in time fall in love with this man.

Carefully, he slid down to the other end of the sofa and got to his feet. He crouched beside the sleeping man, hating to leave him there on the floor, but there was no way to get him to the bed or the sofa without waking him. He pulled the blanket from the sofa and draped it over Alex, gaining a soft sigh as the younger man shifted position on the area rug. Quickly, he grabbed the pillow and placed it down on the floor next to Alex's head, smiling as the younger man's face came in contact with the soft cotton. Alex moaned and clutched the pillow, pulling it under his cheek, then settled down.

As satisfied as he could be, Fox moved away and headed toward the bathroom, hoping that a warm shower would relax away the remnants of last night's headache.

He closed the bathroom door and ran the shower while he stripped off his clothes, then stepped under the warm spray. He adjusted the shower head to a more vigorous setting and groaned as the water pounded against his still-tense muscles.

As Fox washed, his mind began to wander, reflecting on what had almost happened the night before. His eyes dropped shut as his body remembered the sensations Alex's touch and his near-kiss had aroused. As much as he wanted his memory to return, he cursed its extraordinarily bad timing last night. Were it not for that damned headache, he and Alex might have awakened in each other's arms this morning.

Fox whimpered at the thought.

He wanted so much to experience the things that Alex had described to him. He wanted to be himself again, and, dammit, he wanted Alex...

Unconsciously, his hands began to wander over his body, stroking and kneading the soapy flesh.

But as he'd discovered the affection he felt for the younger man, understanding also began to dawn. Suddenly he knew what Alex had meant about needing his love as well as his body, and he realized that it wouldn't be fair. Memory notwithstanding, Fox had it all; Alex's mind, his body, heart and soul belonged to him. And Alex deserved no less in return. Until Fox could give exactly what he got, he had to give up on the idea of seduction. Last night proved to him that it wouldn't take much to melt Alex's resolve, and he couldn't. He just couldn't coax the younger man into doing something he felt wasn't right. He couldn't put the resulting guilt on him.

That decided, there was still the small problem of the aching erection that screamed for relief.

Fox continued stroking his chest with one hand, lightly pinching and pulling at his nipples while the other slid down over his cock. He inhaled deeply, taking the warm, moist air in through his nose as his fingers wrapped around the granite-hard erection. He stroked himself gently, thinking of the feel of Alex's hands expertly working across his neck and shoulders...his mouth hovering just outside his ear, that smoky, seductive voice whispering into it. The feel of his lips...the all-too brief taste of his tongue...

Fox grunted as the gentle strokes of his hand grew vigorous and more insistent. The hand on his chest moved to the wall, supporting himself while he jerked his cock faster. A coiling began in the pit of his stomach, winding tighter and tighter, and finally it snapped and Fox's cries bounced off the walls of the shower as he came over his hand and on the wall in front of him.

He leaned into the wall, taking a moment to regain his strength before resuming his shower. When he finished, he grabbed the towel he'd placed nearby, rubbing it over his head before beginning to dry himself. He cursed softly as the phone began to ring and, wrapping the towel around his waist, sprinted out to the living room.

Fox grabbed for the phone, cursing again as he saw Alex pull himself up and look around the room.

"Hello?"

"Fox? Hi, sweetheart, it's Mom."

"Oh...hi...M-mom. How are you?"

"I'm fine. How are *you*? It's been almost a week since we talked last."

"I...I'm okay." Fox's gaze shifted to Alex, who had now lifted himself up to the sofa. The younger man stared uncertainly at him while rubbing the back of his neck and shoulders.

"Have you remembered anything since the last time we spoke?"

"Y-yeah, actually, some stuff came to me last night."

"Did you get another headache?"

"Yeah."

"Was it very bad?"

"Worst one yet. But I remembered more."

"Oh, Fox. Alex was with you, wasn't he?"

"Yeah." Fox gave the younger man a soft smile. "He was here, taking care of me as usual."

"You're very fortunate, Fox."

Fox closed his eyes and answered softly, "I know."

"So...I asked you last week, and you promised you'd let me know *this* week. When are you coming to visit?"

"Oh...uh...can...can I call you back about that in a little while? Alex was asleep, and I just got out of the shower..."

"Oh, goodness, Fox, why didn't you just tell me that in the first place? All right, give me a call later. I'm not going anywhere today, so call anytime."

"Okay, I'll get back to you today."

"You'd better, Fox William, or I'm coming up there..."

Fox smiled into the phone. "I will, I promise....all right...yes...okay...talk...talk to you later.....bye."

Fox hung up and shook his head. "She's persistent."

"Now I know where you get it from."

Fox smiled over the other man. "Can we go up this weekend and get it over with?"

"Any time you want. How do you feel?"

"Better." Fox looked down at himself. "I'm dripping all over the floor, here. I'll be right back."

He retreated to the bedroom, finished drying himself, and threw on some clothes. He re-entered the living room to find Alex curled up on the sofa, pillow under his head and blanket pulled up to his chin. Weary, green eyes blinked up at him, and the other man started to get up.

"No." Fox sat at the edge of the couch, placing a hand on Alex's arm. "You're tired. Why don't you go back to sleep?"

"I'm okay."

"You couldn't have slept very well lying on the floor." He pulled the blanket off and tugged at the pillow. "In fact, get up and come with me."

Alex rose and followed Fox into the bedroom. The older man tossed the pillow onto the bed and motioned to it with his hand. "Lie down."

"I'm awake now."

"Did I ask you if you were awake? No. I said, lie down."

Alex's lips twitched up into a tiny smile. "Yes, sir." He stretched out on the bed and looked up at the other man. "'Kay?"

"Turn over."

"Huh?"

Fox leaned over the younger man, planting his hands on either side of Alex's head. "Turn over."

Alex obeyed, lying on his stomach and pulling the pillow under his head. He felt the depression of the mattress as Fox sat down, then gentle hands gliding under his t-shirt and up and down his back.

"You're exhausted," Fox purred softly, massaging Alex's tired muscles. "I want you to go back to sleep."

"Fox..."

"Shhh."

"Nooo, I want to talk."

"What about?"

"Last night. You were in so much pain...so upset..."

"I'm all right," Fox promised. "Everything is fine. Go to sleep."

Alex moaned, struggling to vocalize his next response. Fox's hands caressing and soothing him were pure heaven, and in no time at all, a warm lethargy had washed over him, and he drifted off.

Fox continued to rub Alex's back and shoulders, unwilling to remove his hands from the smooth, taut skin just yet. He studied the relaxed expression, smiling at the pouting lips crushed into the pillow, and marveled at the long, thick curtain of lashes that fell over his cheek.

Fox pulled his hand from under Alex's shirt and raised it to the sable head, tenderly petting the glistening strands. A few more lingering touches, and he got to his feet, pulling the blanket up over the sleeping man and headed out to the living room to call his mother.

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

"I hope you don't look like that when we get there."

Fox turned from the window and looked over at the driver. "Like what?"

Alex looked over the tops of his sunglasses, grinning at the other man. "Like you're going to the gallows. She's your mom, babe; she won't bite."

Fox nodded and returned his gaze to the window.

"What are you thinking about?"

"I haven't remembered anything in a few days."

"And?"

"They were coming pretty regularly."

"Doesn't mean anything, Fox. And anyway, weren't you getting a little tired of having those headaches every day?"

Fox sighed impatiently. "I'm *tired* of running from place to place, meeting this one and that one...I *hate* those sympathetic looks that people give me. I hate being talked to like an imbecile. People think because you've lost your memory, you're automatically stupid."

The unexpected tirade took Alex by surprise. "They mean well, Fox. I guess it's just hard for people to know how to talk to a person they might have known for years, and who, now, all of a sudden doesn't know them from a hole in the wall. Besides, we're going to see your *mother*. She doesn't act that way with you."

"Yeah, but when I talked to her yesterday, she was talking about having some...aunt *somebody* over, and some other friends of hers who haven't seen me in years. I don't *want* to see her friends. I don't *want* to see aunt whoever." He sat pouting for a moment, then looked to the other man. "Turn around. I want to go home."

"What? Fox, we're about fifteen minutes from her house! How can we just turn around and go home? That's a long, damn drive..."

"I don't care."

"*Sure* you don't care. You're not the one who's driving."

"Oh, *sorry*. Get me a fucking map and I'll drive back, okay?"

//Oh God, oh God, oh God...//

"Babe," Alex called softly, "take it easy."

"Don't talk to me like that," Fox warned between gritted teeth. "I *hate* when you talk to me like that."

Alex swallowed the urge to slam on the brakes and wrap his fingers around Fox's neck.

"Okay, then, how about this? We're now *ten* fucking minutes from your mother's, and we are *not* turning around and going home. We're going to spend the goddamn weekend with her, she's going to talk to you about your childhood, show you pictures until your eyes cross, and feed you tapioca pudding until you puke. That better?"

Alex waited warily for Fox to blow up at him, but the older man surprised him by crossing his arms over his chest and slouching in his seat, not saying another word.

When they arrived at Mrs. Mulder's home some eight minutes later, the woman opened up the door and walked out onto the porch, her wide smile fading as she saw the troubled expression on her son's face.

"Fox, honey, what's wrong?"

"Nothing, M-mom. Just tired. It was a long drive."

The woman gathered Fox into her arms and gave Alex a questioning glance over his shoulder. He held up a hand and shook his head, giving her the signal to wait until later. She kissed Fox's cheek and pulled him toward the house. "Come on in, boys. I've made Fox's favorite for dinner."

Fox lowered his gaze and emitted a disturbed sigh as he followed his mother into the house. Alex kept a few steps behind, carrying their two bags and hating himself for not turning around the minute Fox had asked him to.

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

"It was such a shock, Fox..." Aunt Alice glanced curiously between the two men who sat across from each other. "I'm so very glad that it turned out that you *were* alive, but it was still a shock when it seemed so certain that you were dead. I'm sorry, dear, that I couldn't make it to your funeral, but my arthritis, you know..."

Fox simply stared at the woman.

"And then when your mother told me that you'd lost your memory...my goodness. Do you still not remember anything?"

"I've started recalling a few things," Fox said softly, playing with his blueberry pie.

"Well, that's wonderful! I'd hate to think that you would never remember your mother. Poor woman, it's bad enough that her daughter is gone..."

"I've got him back, Alice," Tina Mulder said to her sister-in-law. "That's all that matters to me."

The other woman let her gaze fall on Alex. "And you're the one who actually found him, is that right?"

Alex had been hoping that the woman would just ignore him, but no such luck.

"Uh, yeah. That was me."

"And you're...friends?"

//Not at the moment, no.//

"Yeah."

The woman raised an eyebrow. "*Close* friends?"

"Oh, for goodness sake, Alice, I *told* you about their relationship. Why are you trying to make them uncomfortable?"

"Have I done that?"

"You promised you'd watch what you said..."

Fox leaned forward, rubbing his temples while the women bickered. Alex noticed immediately and spoke up.

"Excuse me, ladies, but I think Fox is getting pretty tired..."

Tina Mulder looked to her son, concern instantly washing her features. "Fox? Oh, sweetheart, have you got another headache?" Receiving no answer, she left her chair and came to sit on the arm of his chair. "Honey, you should have said something. Alice, I've got to get him to bed."

"All right, all right," the other woman said, getting up. "I know when I'm being kicked out. Fox, dear? I hope you're feeling better, soon." Alice looked up at Alex. "It was very nice meeting you, Alan."

"Alex."

Three pairs of eyes fell on Fox, who remained sitting, head in his hands.

"What's that?"

"His name is *Alex*."

A tiny smile touched the younger man's lips as he witnessed Fox's quick, instinctive defense of him.

"Oh," Alice said coolly but never offered an apology. "Well, I'll be going now. Goodnight everyone."

When Alice had gone, Tina turned her attention to her son. "Come on, sweetheart. I'll take you upstairs." As she hauled Fox up by his arm, his eyes met Alex's, and the younger man thought he saw a tinge of regret in them.

"Alex?"

His eyes shifted from Fox's to his mother's.

"It's early. Will you stay and talk with me for a while?"

Alex looked quickly from Mrs. Mulder to Fox, then back again.

"Yeah. Sure."

Fox lowered his eyes and let his mother lead him up the stairs and into the bedroom. She waited while he went into the bathroom and prepared for bed, then pulled the covers back and pulled them up to his chin. "You'll feel better after a nice, long rest," she cooed, stroking his hair. "I know it was a very long ride."

He nodded silently.

"I probably should have waited to have your Aunt Alice over. She *can* be a bit much, but I thought it would be good for you to meet people you knew..."

"It's all right," Fox whispered, looking toward the door.

His mother smiled. "So...aren't you proud of me?"

"What?"

"I'm proud of myself. I've become very progressive over the last few weeks."

Fox's glaze again flicked from his mother to the door and back again. "What do you mean?"

"I'd never have dreamed I would accept my son being involved with another man, but...you know, thinking that I'd lost you forever, Fox, opened my eyes. It doesn't matter to me who you love. I'm just happy that you've *got* someone to love...and who loves you. Goodness, and Alex does love you. You can see it all over his face when he looks at you. And so, I put you in the same room together. I..." Mrs. Mulder cocked her head, watching her son fidget and look to the door for the fourth time. "Well...why don't you get some sleep, hmm? I'm going to go downstairs and talk with Alex for a little while."

Fox nodded, his eyes flitting around the room then settling on the patch of blanket just below his chest.

"Goodnight, honey." Tina Mulder kissed the top of her son's head and exited the room, closing the door softly behind her.

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

Alex sat playing absently with his napkin, wondering how Fox was faring in a strange bed, in a strange house. He knew Mrs. Mulder meant well, but Fox wasn't used to any bed but his own. And he was used to Alex being there when he fell asleep.

He lowered his head and sighed.

Of course after that episode in the car earlier, and in spite of the incident with Aunt Alice and the look he thought he'd seen in the older man's eyes as his mother was accompanying him upstairs, he wasn't sure Fox would want him anywhere near him.

"I don't think he's going to sleep anytime soon."

Alex looked up into kind, blue eyes.

"I believe he'd like to see you."

Alex gave her a small grimace. "Are you sure about that?"

Fox's mother sat down on the edge of the coffee table. "All right. Tell me what happened."

Alex scratched the back of his head. "He gets very uncomfortable in unfamiliar surroundings. He'd decided, fifteen minutes from here, that he wanted to go home. I tried to reason with him, we ended up yelling at each other, and..."

"Oh, dear. Well, I'm glad you came, but I certainly don't want him feeling uncomfortable."

"Yeah, I think I goofed. I should have called you, made our apologies and taken him back home."

"Well, Alex, if it's any consolation, I think he's sorry too. Why don't you go up and talk to him?"

Alex gave the woman a grateful smile and with no more hesitation than that, headed for the stairs.

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

Fox switched on the small lamp by his bed and sat up. His headache hadn't subsided, but it wasn't getting any worse, either. He looked around at the strange pictures and furniture, trying to calm his anxiety by telling himself that these were things from his childhood, but it did no good. Maybe he'd be better able to cope if...

His thought was interrupted by the soft squeak of the door.

Alex stood in the doorway, casting a wary glance Fox's way. "How's your head?"

Fox looked away. "Same. Thought you were talking to my mother?"

"I was. I'm done." Alex approached the bed and cautiously lowered himself to the edge. "Can't sleep?"

Slow shake of the golden-brown head. Then, "I didn't want to tell her that I..."

"That you what?"

Fox's head dropped lower. "Can't sleep without you being there."

"Well, I'm here."

Fox nodded then lifted his head. "I'm sorry about what happened earlier, Alex. I acted like a spoiled brat."

"Yeah," Alex agreed softly, "but you've got good reason. It's not like you aren't under a tremendous amount of pressure."

"Still..."

Alex reached out and stroked Fox's stubbled cheek. "It's okay," he whispered. "I'm sorry too. I should have taken you home when you asked me to."

"No. I...I had to do this some time. I shouldn't have gotten so worked up about it. It isn't like you weren't going to be with me."

"Okay, so we're both sorry," Alex concluded. "We friends again?"

Fox gave him a tired smile. "Do friends generally share a bed?"

"Ohhh, yeah. I guess your mother thought she was being..."

Fox finished Alex's sentence for him. "Progressive."

"Hmm?"

"That's what she told me when she was up here. She's so proud of herself."

"Yeah...so...I guess I can..." Alex looked around. "...sleep on the floor..."

A look of disappointment crossed Fox's face. "The floor?"

"Better than the chair," Alex reasoned.

A hopeful hazel gaze met his eyes. "The bed is even better."

Alex stared in surprise. He thought Fox had given up on his little attempts at seduction days ago.

"The bed?"

"Yeah. It's big enough..."

"Uh...yeah, it is, but..."

Fox shook his head. "I'll behave, I promise. But I...I'd really like to sleep next to you...okay?"

Alex hesitated for a moment then agreed softly. "Okay. I'll uh...I'll be back." He disappeared into the bathroom and shut the door behind him.

"Oh, God," Alex whispered to himself as he pulled his toothbrush out of his bag. "Okay, come on. You've slept with him before and not done anything. It's easy. It'll be nice to just lie with him."

//Yeah, but never when you haven't touched him for weeks and weeks.//

Alex brushed his teeth, stripped, and pulled on a pair of mocha brown, brushed cotton pants and a t-shirt, grateful that it was long enough to help camouflage the erection that had instantly blossomed at the thought of sleeping next to his Fox after so long. He emerged from the bathroom and crawled under the blanket, lying as close to the edge of the bed as he dared. All was quiet for a moment, then Fox called to him.

"Alex?"

//Don't look at him, Christ, don't look at him. I can hear the pout in his voice. If I look at him, I'll be finished.//

"Yeah?"

No answer.

//Dammit, he's going to make me look at him.//

Alex turned his head slowly and looked into mournful, gold-flecked eyes.

God, he knew how to use those eyes.

And that mouth. Turned down into a perfect, beautiful pout.

Alex sobbed softly to himself.

"What is it?"

"Why are you so far away?"

//Oh, kill me now.//

"Sorry." Alex slid toward the middle of the bed, his weight shifting Fox into him.

"I won't bother you, I promise," Fox murmured, happily curling himself into Alex's side.

//Is he kidding?//

For the first time in many weeks, Alex felt the warm length of his lover pressed against him, and his entire body vibrated with joy.

"Alex?"

"Hmm?"

"You okay?"

"Yeah. Why?"

"You're shaking."

"I'm uh...a little chilled, I guess."

"Really?" Fox moved in closer, wrapping one arm around Alex's chest. "Better?"

//Well, that all depends on how you look at it. Ah, hell.//

Alex wound his arms around the older man, hugging him close. "Yeah. That's much better."

Fox nestled his head against Alex's chest, listening to the strong heartbeat, practically purring with contentment. "I feel better, too. 'Night, Alex."

Alex's hand involuntarily began to move, sliding up and down Fox's back. "Good night." He lay suffering in silence, listening to the older man's respiration slow and deepen.

Dammit, he was asleep.

Unbelievable.

Alex groaned softly and tried to focus his attention on something other than his aching cock, but the only thoughts that would come to mind were things like...how good Fox smelled and how his hair tickled the underside of Alex's chin...how beautiful he was, slouched in his seat in the car, pouting...God, how much he wanted to flip the man onto his back and rip the thin nightclothes from his body.

//Stop, stop, stop. His memory is returning. It won't be that much longer...//

He inclined his head, burying his face in Fox's hair.

//Fuck it, it's not soon *enough*. I need him *now*.//

//C'mon, Krycek. You've been in worse situations than this. You're *tough*. You can take it. Besides which, you're in his mother's house, and neither one of you is exactly *quiet*.//

At least another hour passed before Alex finally fell asleep, and when he woke a little after seven the next morning, a pair of alert hazel eyes were staring at him.

"Morning."

Alex gave the other man a sleepy smile. "How long have you been awake?"

Fox shrugged. "A while."

"How do you feel?"

"Pretty good considering that other than what I've been told, I have no damn idea where we are."

The smile faded from Alex's face. "I'm really sorry about yesterday, babe. We should've gone home."

"I thought we got through that already? I'm okay. I had to do this."

"I know, but I guess I'm still feeling guilty." Alex touched the older man's cheek. "I don't ever want to do anything to hurt you."

"You haven't hurt me. You're trying to help me. If it wasn't for you, I'd probably still be hiding in the apartment, afraid to come out and face my life. If I want my memory to come back, I have to take an active part in making that happen."

A tiny smile from Alex was all the response he got.

Fox pulled himself up, resting his head in his hand and looked down at the younger man. "You still look tired. Did you sleep?"

"Yeah."

"Why don't I believe you?"

"Don't know."

Fox sighed softly. "Well, I'm going to get up. I heard her moving around downstairs, so I guess I'll go down and keep her company. Why don't you go back to sleep?"

Alex shook his head. "I'll stay here as long as it takes for you to shower and dress, but then I'm getting up."

"Alex..."

"I had plenty of sleep," Alex insisted. "I'm fine." He waved Fox off. "Go on."

Fox cut him another suspicious look then slipped out of bed and headed toward the shower. When he was out of sight, Alex pulled a pillow into his face and groaned into it.

Jesus, he was gorgeous in the morning. Hair all over the place, falling down into his sleepy eyes...lips all rosy and swollen from hours of sleep...that impossible-for-a-blind-man-to-miss morning erection...

Alex moved the pillow down to his chest, hugging it tightly, trying to keep himself from thinking that in another time and place, they'd be lying in each other's arms, making love the whole morning. He missed those long, slow Sunday morning fucks that usually came after a wild Saturday night...

They would often go out on the weekends they were together, and whether it be just to dinner, movies, or dancing, for some odd reason they would usually end up driving each other into a frenzy and would be on each other like animals, sometimes before they even made it inside the apartment. And then, the next morning, whoever woke first would wrap himself around the other and rouse him with gentle kisses and caresses, and they would make love for hours, not getting up until mid afternoon, if at all.

The opening door startled Alex out of his reverie, and he pulled himself up, blinking at the man who had just entered the room.

"All yours," Fox smiled as he crossed over to his bag, returning his toiletries.

Alex nodded and dragged himself out of bed, gathering up his clothes. As he passed by Fox, the older man planted a soft kiss on his shoulder, taking him a bit by surprise. He stopped, staring for a moment, and when Fox's expression took on a look of uneasiness, Alex smiled and leaned in to brush his lips against the shaven jaw. He retreated to the bathroom, jerked off quickly in the shower, and joined Fox and Mrs. Mulder downstairs.

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

"Fox, stop apologizing. It's all right," Tina Mulder told her son for the second time. "I explained, and everyone understands. I thought that maybe seeing people you used to know would help, but if it makes you uncomfortable, we'll do it another time when you think you're ready."

Fox looked down into his orange juice. "Thank you."

She smiled hopefully at him. "Do you think you're at least up to looking at some pictures?"

Fox looked at the man who sat beside him, and the two burst into laughter.

The woman looked from one man to the other, confused.

"Sorry," Alex apologized. "But your mention of pictures reminded us of a conversation we had in the car yesterday."

Mrs. Mulder nodded, still confused, but she didn't ask Alex to elaborate. "I've got old eight millimeter films, too, Fox, if you'd like to see them."

"Okay, let's just start with the pictures and see how it goes, okay?" Fox asked.

"Of course, dear. Now, you two get out of here and let me clean up breakfast, then I'll get out the albums."

"Let me help you," Alex offered, already getting up and clearing the dishes from the table. Fox also rose to help, bringing a bright smile to Tina Mulder's lips.

"You know, I spoiled my family terribly," the woman said. "They never lifted a finger to help with the housework. I never asked them to. I suppose that was a bad thing, but I was just so old fashioned. I'm glad to see I haven't completely ruined my son."

The two men helped to clean the kitchen, and when they were through, Mrs. Mulder dragged out the photo albums.

Fox sat and looked at picture after picture while his mother identified each one, but he recognized not a single soul. Even pictures of himself as a young boy rang no bells for him. Two hours and a headache later, they had seen all the albums, and he agreed to try the home movies.

At Mrs. Mulder's direction, Alex pulled the old Bell and Howell projector down from the top shelf of the hall closet and set it and the screen up. He loaded the first reel, and they watched a very young Fox Mulder standing over his baby sister's bassinet and smiling into the camera.

"You were so happy when we brought Samantha home," his mother said softly. "You felt so grown up when we sat you on the couch and put her in your arms..."

Fox watched the small, black and white version of himself rock the tiny bundle. He smiled proudly, his mouth moving, obviously saying something to the camera.

"Do you remember what I was saying?"

"You were talking to your father. If I remember correctly, you were telling him that she smiled at you." The woman paused. "I didn't have the heart to tell you that a three-day-old baby didn't know how to smile...she grew very attached to you, though. Followed you everywhere once she learned how to walk..."

Fox watched, fascinated. This was his life. It obviously was. Even thirty some odd years later, there was no mistaking that the small boy was him, yet he couldn't remember.

The reel ran to its end, and Alex rewound then removed it. Mrs. Mulder handed him the next reel, and Fox watched himself and his now two-year-old sister playing on a beach while a much younger Tina Mulder sat beside them on a bench.

Alex's back straightened, squinting at the screen as the man in the background caught his eye.

Younger, yes. Darker hair and a few less wrinkles, but he was sure the man who stood a number of feet away was the smoking bastard.

As soon as he completed his thought, the man pulled a pack of cigarettes out of his shirt pocket and slipped one into his mouth. Now Alex was sure. He said absolutely nothing and let the scene pass by Fox's unknowing eyes.

Four reels later, he noticed Fox starting to get a bit edgy. The older man watched as he and Samantha, now in living color, waved from in front of the aluminum Christmas tree. He blinked rapidly as he watched himself unwrap a gift and hold it up to the camera. As he read the word Stratego on the box, he doubled over roaring as unimaginable pain pierced his head. In seconds, Alex was at his side, followed by his mother.

"Fox?" Alex called, trying to keep him from slipping too far into the pain. "Breathe, baby. Come on, work through it."

Tina Mulder's eyes filled with tears. "Fox, oh, my God, Fox." She turned a frightened gaze up to Alex. "Is this what happens to him?" The other man nodded his answer, and she stifled a sob. "My God...he's in agony."

Alex placed his hand palm side up under the older man's. "Stay with me, Fox," he instructed gently. "Squeeze my hand. Let the pain go."

Another wave hit and Fox's body contracted. He squeezed Alex's hand with all his strength, making the younger man wince.

"S...Samantha..."

Violent tremors shook him, and he began to sob.

"I tried...sorry...I'm so..."

"Fox," Tina Mulder whispered, "sweetheart, it's all right." She again looked to Alex. "It's like he's remembering."

"He is. That's what's happening when he experiences this type of pain. He must be remembering when she disappeared."

"Can't stop them...Samantha..."

"*Fox*. It wasn't your fault. You were just a boy. You couldn't have stopped it," his mother reasoned desperately. "I know that. It's all right, sweetheart..."

Fox continued to squeeze Alex's hand, moaning occasionally as the pain surged. A few minutes later, his grip loosened, and his body went slack.

"Baby?" Alex called softly. "Fox..." He stroked the perspiration-slick forehead.

"Hmmm..."

"Does it still hurt?"

The older man released a long sigh and pulled automatically to his left, blindly seeking the comfort of Alex's arms.

Alex held Fox to his chest, casting a wary glance toward Mrs. Mulder. "These episodes take everything out of him," he explained, stroking the older man's back. "I don't know if I can get him upstairs to the bedroom. Can we just put him down here?"

"Of course," Mrs. Mulder answered, quickly getting to her feet. "I'll get him a blanket."

As the woman hurried from the room, Alex laid Fox on his back and gently hoisted his legs up on the sofa. He sat on the floor by his lover's head, tenderly caressing his hair. "It's okay," he crooned, kissing Fox's nose and forehead while the other man fought to breathe evenly. "Easy..."

A blanket came down over Fox, and Tina Mulder took a seat at the edge of the sofa near his feet. She looked to Alex for an update on her son's condition.

"The pain's subsided. He'll sleep soon."

"Is he going to go through this every time he remembers something?"

"He has so far."

Mrs. Mulder covered her mouth. "How much can he take?"

"I don't know," Alex whispered, turning adoring eyes back to Fox. "I keep praying that the rest will all come back at once so he can be done with it." He looked back at the woman. "I uh...I hope your feelings weren't hurt earlier..."

Mrs. Mulder stared confused for a few seconds, then she realized what Alex meant.

"No. No, I ..." She gave him a weary smile. "All right, my mother's pride was hurt a bit, but it's perfectly understandable that he would turn to you. You've been his lifeline from that very first day. You were the one who found him, for goodness sake. It's you he trusts. I'm very grateful that he's got you."

They sat and talked for over an hour, and, when Alex was sure that Fox was out, he excused himself and went upstairs to pack their things for the ride home. When he returned some fifteen minutes later, Fox was still asleep with his mother watching him from the nearest chair.

Alex set the two bags down at the end of the sofa and lowered himself to the floor by Fox's head.

"He hasn't budged," Mrs. Mulder announced in a hushed tone. "Not a twitch, not a sigh."

"Don't let it upset you," Alex offered. "He's exhausted. He won't move an inch for hours sometimes." Alex pushed a few stray hairs away from Fox's face. "He needs time to recharge."

"So he can go through it all over again."

Alex nodded, his expression growing distant. "If I ever find that sonofa..."

"I'm sorry, Alex, I can't quite hear you. If you what?"

Alex took a deep breath and released it. "Nothing. Just thinking out loud."

Almost two more hours had passed before Fox began to stir. Mrs. Mulder set her teacup down and moved closer to the sofa.

"He's waking up."

Alex lifted his head from the cushion beside the older man and watched as Fox's eyelashes fluttered and lifted. The older man squinted up a him and lifted a hand to his face. Alex grasped the hand and pressed a kiss into his palm.

"Better?"

Golden-brown lashes swept downward then back up. "Just tired."

"Fox?"

Fox's eyes shifted from Alex's face to his mother's. Tina Mulder leaned over her son and kissed the top of his head.

"Goodness, Fox, you scared me half to death. Are you sure you're all right, now?"

Alex helped Fox sit up, and the other man nodded. "I'm okay. The pain's gone. It just leaves me kinda weak for a while."

"Would you like something, dear? Some juice, water...something to eat?"

Fox wrinkled his nose. "No food....some juice?"

"All right, dear. I'll be right back."

Once Mrs. Mulder was gone from the room, Fox turned his attention back to Alex, who had since risen to sit beside him on the sofa.

"How long was I out this time?"

"About three hours."

Fox grimaced. "Sorta late to drive back, huh?"

"No." Alex leaned in and kissed the older man's forehead. "Not too late."

"But by the time we get home, it'll be..."

"Doesn't matter," Alex interrupted. "I know you want to go home, don't you?"

Fox averted his eyes.

"Fox..."

"Hmm?"

"Tell me."

Fox nodded silently.

"Then we'll go."

"But you're tired too. I could see it this morning..."

"Would you quit worrying about me? I'm fine. We're going home."

Fox closed his eyes, leaning gratefully into the younger man's embrace.

Alex wound an arm around Fox and kissed the top of his head as he stroked his hair with his free hand. "That was an important memory you had," he murmured into the older man's hair.

"It was like I was right there and it was really happening."

"It *did* really happen."

"But I mean right then at that moment. Alex, is she dead?"

"No one knows for sure, really. Well, no one who would tell us the truth. That's one of the things that drove you so hard."

"Finding out what happened?"

"Yeah. You wanted so much to give your mother some kind of closure."

Fox was quiet for a minute, then began to speak. "But, Scully told me..."

"Here you are, dear."

Both men looked up as Mrs. Mulder entered the room with a glass of orange juice. "Are you sure I can't get you anything else?"

Fox took the glass. "No, this is fine, thank you."

"Alex? Can I get you anything?"

"No, thanks. I'm fine."

They talked quietly while Fox drank his juice. He reassured his mother three times that he was fine now and well enough to travel, and half an hour later, with the promise to call the moment they got in, the men left Tina Mulder's house and started home.

Alex watched Fox relax, sinking into his seat as they turned onto the highway, and he smiled.

"Feel better?"

Fox gave the younger man a relieved smile, then it faded a bit. "I hope she wasn't too upset that things didn't go exactly the way she'd planned."

"I don't think so. She just wants you to be all right, you know?"

"Yeah."

"Hey, what were you going to say a little while ago before she came back into the room?"

Fox lowered his head and thought. "Oh, you mean when we were talking about my sister?"

"Yeah, you started to say, 'but Scully told me', and then your mother came in."

"You had said to me that the search for my sister was the main thing that drove me."

"Yeah."

"But that day that Scully and I went to the office, she told me that *you* were what drove me."

Alex tossed him a curious look.

"She said that my work *used* to be number one, but now you took priority over *everything*. Is that right?"

Alex shrugged. "It's what you told me. It's certainly the way you made me feel."

Fox nodded. "I believed her when she said it, but I just wanted to know if you felt that way."

"Yeah, I did. That's why I left you. I was afraid of you throwing everything away for me. I didn't feel I was worth you losing it all."

Fox cast him an odd stare. "Alex, I don't remember what we had. I don't remember who you were three months ago, but I've gotten to know you, and the man I know right now is well worth any sacrifice I could think to make."

Alex's head snapped around to look quickly at the man in the passenger's seat, then he looked back at the road, blinking rapidly.

What did that mean? A declaration of love? No, if that was what Fox meant, it was what he would have said. So, what *did* it mean? And how the hell should he respond?

Having no idea, Alex chose to remain silent.

Watching the younger man's expression, Fox sought to elaborate but then thought better of it. He could just see himself getting in way over his head and probably doing or saying something to ruin everything.

He sat quietly for a moment, not moving or speaking, and when the silence got to be too much, he pitched forward and turned the radio on. Leaving the station where he found it, Fox slouched in the seat and closed his eyes, letting the music relax him. Only minutes later, he sat up and winced.

"What's the matter?" Alex asked, reaching across the seat to touch Fox's arm.

Fox let his head drop, squeezing his eyes shut. "Music. You and me in a car...not this one, another one." He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. "You were singing." He looked to Alex, trying to keep his focus through the slightly greater than average pain.

"That could have been almost any time," Alex said softly. "Come on, sit back and close your eyes."

"I'm okay, it's not that bad. I've never heard you sing."

Alex shrugged. "Not recently I guess, no."

"Guess I haven't really given you much to sing about lately, have I?"

"Come on, Fox, cut it out. You're here. You're alive, and we're together. That's more than I had two months ago. I couldn't be happier."

"Sure you could."

Alex released an exasperated sigh. "Would you please just shut up and close your eyes?"

Fox laid his head back against the headrest, obeying Alex's soft command with a deep frown.

Keeping his left hand on the wheel, Alex reached over with his right, petting the disturbed man's head. Minutes later he began to sing softly with the radio, watching the frown slowly fade from Fox's face. Just as he thought the older man was falling asleep, Fox emitted a long sigh, uttering a single word on the breath.

"Nice."

Alex rolled his eyes and smiled, continuing to sing even after he was sure this time that Fox was indeed asleep.

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

Fox rose from the warmth, beckoned out of his pleasant dream by a soft, comforting voice.

"Come on, babe, wake up. We're home."

Fox straightened up, yawning and rubbing his eyes. "Already?"

"Well, yeah, I guess it'd seem kinda fast when you slept most of the way."

He blinked over at the younger man. "I did?"

Alex gave him an amused smirk and a nod. "You'll probably be wide awake at three o'clock while I'm dead to the world."

"I don't know, I still feel like I could sleep for a week."

"Well, let's get upstairs then, before you wake up completely."

They made it up to the apartment, and Alex sent Fox directly into the bedroom while he locked up and fed the fish. That accomplished, he walked into the empty bedroom and looked around.

"Fox?"

He heard the faint sound of a toilet flushing then the sound of running water, and Fox entered the room, clad in a pair of charcoal gray pajama bottoms and a t-shirt.

"Still sleepy?"

The older man nodded.

"Well, get to bed." He kissed the side of Fox's head. "Goodnight."

Fox opened his mouth to protest as Alex walked out of the room, but stopped himself. Yes, they spent last night together in the same bed, but there was little choice. His mother had stuck them together in the same room, and there was no way he was going to let Alex sleep on the floor or in a chair when there was plenty of room on the bed. Plenty of room...leaving no real reason that they should fall asleep wrapped in each other's arms except that they wanted to.

Fox climbed into bed, his rambling thoughts prohibiting sleep.

It had felt so good to be cocooned in Alex's warmth, listening to the soothing beat of his heart...secure in the protective circle of his arms...

But the flip side of that wasn't nearly so innocent.

The intoxicating scent of him...the seductive flex of muscle beneath Fox's touch...the raging erection that screamed his name...

He covered his face with his hands, groaning softly.

What to do, what to do.

He knew if he asked Alex to come in and sleep with him, the other man would do so without question, but how fair was it? He knew Alex's feelings on the matter, and he also knew how easily the younger man would give in to coercion. So how could he ask him to once again suffer a night like the last one? Sleep had mercifully taken him before his growing lust could overwhelm the joy of closeness, but seeing the exhaustion on Alex's face this morning, Fox knew that the younger man had not been so fortunate.

It was an impossible situation, one they had no way out of. It seemed, for now at least, that they were doomed to drown in their desire for each other, never relieving the sensual agony outside of the regular jerk off sessions each seemed to have relegated himself to.

Fox flipped onto his stomach, groaning again at the sensation of his rigid cock pressing into the mattress.

Speaking of jerking off...

Out in the living room, Alex settled on the sofa for what he saw to be a long, sleepless night.

Waking up this morning next to Fox had been a divine thing. For a moment, looking into the eyes he so adored, he hadalmost been able to forget everything that had happened during the two months before. But memories of a night spent in frustration, arms wrapped around a man who couldn't recall his love, had raced in, shattering his peace.

He'd masked his suffering as best he could. He knew that Fox recognized his frustration; he'd already expressed his guilt over it, but Alex was fairly sure that the older man hadn't a clue as to the real extent of his torment. And as long as Fox remained in this limbo, Alex would see to it that he never knew the truth of his agony.

He turned onto his side, hands tucked between his thighs, recalling the feel of his love's body against his. So warm...soft skin stretched over tight muscles. The butterfly tickle of breath against his chest as Fox breathed...

Alex moaned and slid one hand up to cup his balls while the other grazed the underside of his stony erection. He turned his face into the pillow, muffling any sounds he might make, hoping that it would be enough to keep Fox from hearing.

Rapidly, he milked his cock, gently squeezing his balls as he thought of Fox's mouth, so hot and wet, sliding up and down on him, driving him up the walls...

Alex whimpered into the pillow as he quickened his pace, imagining Fox's hands caressing his ass, stroking and teasing over the puckered opening, making Alex beg for what he wanted. Then finally, two fingers, cool and slick, working their way inside, probing and stretching as his lover's exquisite mouth worked him over.

He whispered Fox's name into the pillow as he came, coating his hand and soaking the sheet that covered him. He lay panting for a few minutes, and when he recovered, he rose from the sofa, dragging the soiled sheet into the bathroom. He threw it into the clothes hamper, pulled a fresh sheet from the closet, and returned to the sofa where he promptly fell into a deep, dreamless sleep.

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

The following several days were scattered with bits of returning memory for Fox and, of course, by accompanying pain. Sometimes mild, sometimes severe, but always present at the slightest shred of recollection, the pain had begun to wear heavily on Fox. Hours of lethargy would often be followed by bursts of energy...and temper, and Alex was about ready to tear his hair out. After one particularly bad episode, he picked up the phone and called Scully.

"Scully."

"Hey. It's Alex."

"Hi. You sound like hell."

"Then I sound better than I feel."

"What's wrong? Bad day?"

"You could say that. I don't know how much more either of us can take."

"What's happening?"

"The pain and the frustration of remembering only scattered bits and pieces is wearing him down. It hits him three, four times a day, now. He's so tired."

"Where is he?"

"Asleep. He just had a really bad one."

"What'd he remember?"

"That day outside of his apartment when he was going to shoot me, and you shot *him*. He remembered quite a lot of it. More than I think he's ever remembered before. He was rambling about that, and then being in a boxcar with a bunch of skeletons, and an explosion..."

"That was extremely traumatic, Alex. If it weren't for Albert Hostein and his family dragging Mulder from under the rubble of that explosion, he would have died."

"Well, he just relived that today. And there was nothing I could do to help him. And then he got mad at me for trying to bring him out of it. He started accusing me of not wanting him to remember. I *do* want him to remember, Scully, but he was in so much pain..."

Scully could hear the grief in the man's voice. "It's got to be an awful thing to have to deal with day after day, Alex, but from the frequency of these events, I'd say he's pretty damn near close to a breakthrough. Hang on."

"I am, I...I just needed someone to talk to."

"Well, I'm glad you called me. It's been three days since I've talked to either of you. I'm trying hard not be intrusive, but look, if you need some time to yourself and you're afraid to leave him alone, I'll gladly go stay with him while you get out for a little while."

"He'd probably get pissed at both of us...accuse us of thinking he needs a babysitter."

"But you need the time off. I know you feel it's your responsibility to stick with him, and you've done that. Nobody could ask for more than what you've done. But, Alex, for your own sanity, you've got to get away from him for a little while. Just a few hours. Go to a movie. Go for a walk or a drive. I'll be perfectly happy to sit there and let him rant at me for a few hours."

Alex closed his eyes and breathed a relieved sigh. "That sounds great. Thank you."

"How about tomorrow? I can be there around two-ish."

"Tomorrow's good....yeah...great...I'll see you then."

Alex disconnected and tossed the phone down beside him on the sofa. As he picked his head up, a figure in the doorway caught his attention. Startled for a moment, he quickly recovered and went to the other man.

"Fox, what are you doing up? You've only been asleep for about half an hour."

"Surprised?"

"Yeah, I guess. You're usually out for hours after one of those bad trips."

Fox glanced at the phone and then at Alex. "I heard you talking."

"Yeah, I...I was talking to Scully. She wanted to know how you were."

"I didn't hear the phone ring."

"No, I called her."

"Why?"

"Because we haven't spoken to her in days, and I wanted to say hi."

"What was that about tomorrow?"

"She's going to come by to see you. What's with all the questions?"

Fox shook his head and looked down at the floor.

Alex's tone softened. "You look like you're about to drop. Come on, back to bed."

Fox let Alex lead him back to the bedroom with no fuss, and when the younger man pulled back the blanket, he slipped quietly into bed.

Alex leaned down and deposited a kiss on the other man's forehead, then pulled away and watched quietly as Fox drifted into sleep. He sat for a long while after, studying the unconscious man, watching the rise and fall of his chest, admiring the long, golden-brown sweep of his eyelashes...the relaxed set of his beautiful mouth, and a deep melancholy washed over him, bringing the sting of tears to his eyes. He blinked rapidly, fighting them back and again focused his gaze on his precious, tormented Fox.

"I love you," he whispered, barely loud enough to be heard. "And I swear on my life that I'll get you through every last bit of this. If I could take your pain away and make it mine, I'd do it in a heartbeat, baby, but I can't. All I can do is be with you and love you...and hope it's enough."

He placed a tender, lingering kiss on the sleeping man's lips, then left the room.

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

Fox sat in front of his computer, pulling his glasses up and down the length of his nose while he stared at the screen. "So, this Jersey Devil thing that I'm reading here is what I was remembering this morning," he tossed at Alex as the younger man crossed through the room.

"Yep," Alex called from the hall before he disappeared into the bedroom with an armload of laundry, then reappeared several minutes later. He pulled up a chair and sat on the other side of the desk, watching Fox bang away at the page down key as his eyes quickly scanned the monitor.

He'd awakened early this morning and in good spirits. Even the single memory he'd had just before breakfast did not dampen his mood. The pain was minimal, and the duration, short.

Good. Maybe it would be a good day. If Fox was still feeling fine in a couple of hours, maybe he'd suggest a walk...

Feeling the other man's eyes on him, Fox looked up over the tops of his glasses and gave Alex a leering grin. "See something you like?"

A bit taken aback by the question, Alex hesitated before carefully wording his response.

"You're the only man I've ever known who looked good in glasses."

Fox took the glasses off and looked at them. "Do I?"

"Yeah."

"Intelligent type of good, or sexy type of good?"

"Both."

Fox put the glasses back on and stared at the younger man. "That's a nice, safe answer."

"It's a truthful answer. You ever hear the phrase 'smart is sexy'?"

"I probably have, but I don't remember."

Alex read Fox's expression and immediately regretted his innocent remark.

"I'm sorry, baby. I...I didn't mean..."

"Yeah, I know you didn't mean...but it's hard not to slip sometimes, huh? Hard to remember all the time that you're living with a mental invalid."

"Fox..."

Fox ripped the glasses off and threw them down onto the oak surface, then shut the computer down and shoved his chair away from the desk. Spinning himself around, he stared sullenly out the window.

Alex buried his face in his hands, praying for strength. He sat for a brief time, hoping that Fox would snap himself out of his sudden mood, but no such luck. Quietly, he rose from the chair and walked out of the room, leaving the brooding man alone.

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

Alex rushed to the door, checking his watch as he walked. Noting the time, he deduced that it had to be Scully coming for her visit with Fox. He swung the door open and ushered her inside.

"So, where are you going?"

He shook his head, looking anxiously toward the bedroom. "I'm not going out."

"Why not?"

"Shh. I think he's sleeping. He had another episode about an hour and a half ago. Not as bad as some, but not nearly as mild as this morning."

"Okay, but, Alex...I'm a doctor. I'm perfectly capable of taking care of him. *Go*."

"I can't, I..."

"Yes, you *can*. This is as much for him as it is for you. I know he needs you, Alex, but sooner or later he's got to know that you can't be here with him twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. Besides, it'll give him time to miss you."

"But I...I haven't said anything to him about going out. I don't want him to wake up and not find me here."

"Oh, for God's sake, it's not like he's going to wake up to an empty house. I'll be here. I'll tell him you went out for a while."

"He was upset with me this morning. I don't want to upset him any more."

Scully studied the man, squinting up at him as he spoke.

"I just don't think it's a....what...what are you staring at?"

"Gray hairs."

"What?"

"Three of them." She pointed to the left side of his head. "Right there."

Alex gave her a disbelieving sigh and turned away.

"I'm not kidding. Haven't you noticed?"

"No."

Scully shook her head. "I'm not going to have two wrecks on my hands, Krycek. Get your jacket, grab your car keys, and get the hell out of here. I don't want to see you for at least three hours, are we clear?"

Alex cast a hesitant glance in the direction of the bedroom then looked back into determined blue eyes.

"Good*bye*, Alex."

"God." Alex lifted his jacket from the hook, checking the pocket for his keys and cell phone, then slowly started for the door. "I'll keep my phone on. If there's a problem, call me."

"Don't worry," Scully assured Alex as she opened the door and shoved him out into the hall. "Everything'll be just fine." And with that, she closed the door in his face. Rolling her eyes, she heaved a long sigh and stalked into the living room. "God, what basket case."

Alex stood on the other side of the door, weighing his options.

Walk back into the apartment and insist on staying home, or do what Scully said, and take a few hours for himself, and risk facing holy hell when he returned.

//Oh, come on. Scully's right. She's there; it's not like he's alone. She'll explain that you went out, and he'll be fine. He's a bit out of sorts, but he's not homicidal. What the hell can possibly happen?//

He walked away from the door and headed for the elevators and three hours of peace.

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

"He lives."

Fox walked into the living room over an hour after Scully had arrived.

"Hi, Scully."

"How do you feel?"

"Not bad," he replied, eyes searching the immediate vicinity. "Where's Alex?"

"He went out for a while."

"Out?"

"Yeah."

"To the store?"

"No, Mulder, just *out*. He's been with you day and night for weeks on end. He just needed a little down time, you know?"

Fox's eyes immediately took on a wounded expression. "He said that?"

"No, *I* said that. I had to shove him out the door. He didn't want to leave you." She approached, taking Fox's hand and led him to the sofa. "But don't you see the condition he's in? He's knocking himself out trying to do and be everything you need. He's worn out."

Fox lowered his head. "I guess I haven't really gone easy on him."

"You need him, Mulder, I understand that. But maybe you've been clinging to him just a *little* too tightly, huh? He'll never, *ever* admit it...hell, I don't think he *knows* it. He loves you so much, in his eyes there could never be anything wrong with what you're doing. He'll continue to be at your beck and call until he drops, but is that what you want? I know you care more for him than that."

"I do, I..." Fox bit his tongue, choosing not to let Scully in on what he'd only very recently realized himself. "I don't mean to...I don't want to hurt him, Scully. I'm s-so tired. I want to remember, but it hurts so much when I do. I get so frustrated, and I guess I take it out on him because he's the only one here. I don't mean to. I don't mean to," he concluded on a broken whisper.

"Right. And that's why he needs to get away for a little while. It's not good for either of you to be constantly in each other's faces."

Fox nodded. "When he gets back, I'm going to..."

The ringing phone interrupted his statement.

"Probably him checking on you," Scully sighed as Fox reached for the phone.

"Hello?"

"...Alex?"

"No...Alex isn't here right now. Can I take a message?"

"Uh...n-no That's okay. Thanks."

After the caller hung up, Fox pulled the phone away from his ear and stared at it.

"Mulder? Scully called cautiously, noting the disturbed look on his face. "Mulder, what is it? Mulder!"

Fox dropped the phone and lifted himself from the sofa. He walked into the bedroom, closing the door behind him, giving no indication that he'd heard Scully calling his name.

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

"Morris? Yeah, it's Steve. Listen, I gotta tell you this, 'cause I really can't believe it..."

Morris dropped into his favorite chair, phone tucked between his ear and shoulder, remote control in one hand and a T.V.Guide in the other. "Can't believe what?"

"It's been almost three months. I thought I'd call Alex and see how he's doing, you know?"

"That was nice. I wish I'd thought to do that. How is he?"

"I don't know. Check this out. I called his apartment, and a man answered. I wasn't sure that it wasn't him, but it didn't sound like the voice I remember. Not the voice that belonged to him, anyway."

"What? Steve, you're confusing the hell out of me."

"It sounded more like Fox."

"Uhhh...huh."

"I'm not crazy, I know it wasn't him, obviously, but it was someone who sounded like him. Shit, Morris, Alex has got another man."

Morris sighed heavily. "I...I can't believe that. You saw him, Steve. *I* saw him. He was completely shattered. There's no way in hell he's got himself a new piece this soon."

"So, who the hell would be there while Alex wasn't?"

"The hell I know! Did you talk to him?"

"Just for a few seconds. At first I was taken by surprise, and I didn't say anything. I thought it *could* have been Alex, so I said his name. The guy told me that Alex wasn't there and asked if he could take a message."

"So, did you leave a message?"

"No. I told him it was okay, and I hung up."

"You just hung up?"

"Yeah, I didn't know what else to say. I was just so stunned."

"Damn, Steve, if Alex *does* have somebody else, I hope you didn't cause any trouble by hanging up like that. You know what *you'd* think if you were in a new relationship with somebody and a strange man called your lover's house looking for him..."

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

Scully turned with a start as she heard the key in the lock. She stood up and waited for Alex to enter, glancing nervously toward the bedroom. The minute Alex saw her face, he stalked toward her, readying a barrage of questions.

"What's wrong? Why didn't you call me? Where is he?"

"Alex, *Alex*. Calm down. I can only answer one question at a time."

"You can start right now."

"Okay...in answer to your first question, I don't *know* what's wrong. You got a phone call a little over an hour ago, and Fox flipped out. I have no idea who it was. I tried to get him to tell me, but he won't talk. Second, I didn't call you because there was nothing to tell. He hasn't gone berserk, he hasn't tried to kill me or commit suicide. He's had no headaches or anything of that sort. Third...he's in the bedroom where he's been since the call. I keep checking on him, and he's okay...sort of..."

"*Sort* of?"

"He just refuses to talk. He's just lying on the bed, pretending to be asleep, I think."

Alex's mumbled question was more to himself than to Scully. "Ah, shit, what's *this* all about?"

"I suggest you go find out. I'll wait out here."

"No. No, you should go."

"But, Alex..."

"It's okay," Alex cut her off. "I'll deal with it, whatever it is. I really think it's best if you go home. Thank you, Scully, I appreciated the help."

Grudgingly, Scully departed, leaving Alex alone to cope with whatever darkness Fox was now immersed in.

Slowly, he approached the bedroom and pushed the door open. As Scully had said, Fox lay on the bed, curled on his side, eyes closed.

"Fox?" he called softly, hoping not to wake the older man if he was indeed asleep.

Hazel eyes opened and stared blankly at the wall they faced.

"Babe, Scully told me that something happened to upset you while I was gone."

"Have a nice time?"

"Nice? I...just took a drive. Walked a little..."

"Stop off anywhere?"

"Like where?"

"I don't know," Fox answered flatly even as he turned accusing eyes to the other man. "Someplace you could get a nice, quick fuck."

"*What*? Fox, what are you..."

"Haven't you told your playmates not to call while your amnesiac, overly-dependent, *stupid* former lover is home alone?"

"*Playmates*? What the hell are you talking about? Fox, who the hell called here?"

"Don't know. Sorry, he didn't leave his name. I'll try to take better messages in the future."

Alex turned away, hands clenched in his hair. "I don't believe this. I don't fucking believe this. What the hell else can happen? I don't *have* any fucking *playmates*, Fox. Even if I wanted to, when the fuck would I have the time? I'm with *you* twenty-four goddamn hours a day!"

Fox pushed himself off the bed and spun to his feet. "Where there's a will, there's a way. You're a resourceful man from all that I've learned about you. I should have known. I mean, it's impossible, right? To expect that you'd be satisfied with jerking off a few times a week...sooner or later you'd need a real man to fuck. Or men...how many have you found?"

Alex whirled around to face the irrational man. "What difference does it make? Huh? Whether I tell you none or twenty, it makes no difference. You're going to believe what you want to believe." He shrugged carelessly. "Okay, twenty's too much. Too unbelievable even for me. How about four? Good round number. I've got four young, horny little bitches on a string, and I'm having the fucking time of my life..."

Rage filled Fox's eyes, and he bolted forward, knocking Alex into the wall with a loud thud. He held him there, clutching the front of the younger man's shirt.

"You son of a bitch!" Fox's enraged sob echoed throughout the room. "You goddamn fuck! I trusted you! All that shit you told me...all those sweet *lies*. You made me believe, and then you put a knife through my heart." Tears shimmered in his eyes as he slammed Alex again into the wall. "You made me love you, you *bastard*..."

Alex's eyes widened with shock.

"You made me...and it took too long," Fox choked, his grip going slack. "It's too late, and I have nothing. I don't want to remember," he gasped, just barely retaining his hold on Alex's shirt. "I don't want to...not if it hurts more than this..."

"Jesus." Alex wrapped his arms around the limp man, holding him up. "Fox, please. Baby, listen to me." His eyes filled with tears, and he buried his face into the side of the older man's neck. "I love you. It's just *you*. I swear to God, I don't know who called. I don't know...but there's nobody else. It's just you," he repeated, trying to make himself heard and understood. "Only you."

"I'm sorry," Fox stammered, trembling as he clung to the man who held him. "I can't...I keep trying, but I...I don't want it to be too late. I love you, Alex. I s..I still don't remember loving you before, but I love you now. If it's not the same, I'm sorry, I...don't leave me..."

Alex shook as he fought to remain in control of himself while he backed Fox to the bed. Gently, he laid the other man back against the pillows and joined him, resting his head on Fox's chest. He wound his arms around his lover and felt himself wrapped in an answering embrace. "It's perfect," he choked, shuddering deeply, and then he let himself go, crying copious tears as he clung to Fox.

"I love you," Fox cried into Alex's hair. "Tell me it's not too late."

Alex tightened his hold on his lover. "It would never...never be too...late. I'll love only...you...only you till I die." He lifted his head, blindly seeking out the other man's mouth even as Fox sought his.

Their lips touched, the taste of salt and desperation strong on each. Alex pulled himself into a more accessible position, opening his mouth to Fox in offering, and the older man took it in violent haste, the kiss muffling his cry as pain exploded in his head.

Visions of the two of them naked and sweating, Fox pounding again and again into Alex while the younger man clawed at him flooded his head. Their snarls and whimpers resonated, compounding the pain. He fought it frantically, refusing to give in this time. He needed Alex more than he needed relief, and he would rather die naked in his lover's arms than stop this now.

Alex grunted in shock as he found himself spun onto his back. Fox fell on top of him, again finding his mouth while one hand tore at the buttons of his shirt. While he understood and shared Fox's desperation, he couldn't help feeling that there was something wrong. Already drenched in sweat, and his body extraordinarily tight, Fox presented to Alex a picture of a man in pain. He tried to pull to away, to ask the older man if he was all right, but Fox grabbed hold of his wrists, pinning them to the mattress beside his head.

"Fox..." Alex managed to grind out past his lover's bruising kiss. "Wait..."

Fox sobbed his protest as Alex struggled to free himself. "No," he pleaded, fighting back as his hips ground into the other man's. "Need you..." His body jerked and an agonized groan tore from his throat as more images of them writhing together in front of a fireplace filled his head.

Alex used the moment to catch Fox off guard, taking control and rolling the older man off of him. Now the one on top, Alex held him down, doing his best to soothe the tortured man.

"Fox....baby, stop," he pleaded, attempting to stop Fox's thrashing. "I know you're hurting. I can see it."

"Nooo," Fox wailed through gritted teeth then opened his eyes halfway. He panted heavily in a frantic attempt to regulate the pain. "Please..." He strained against Alex. "Fuck me."

"Baby, I can't," Alex gasped. "Not like this..."

Anger mixed with agony, and a loud roar escaped Fox's throat. "Fucking bastard!"

Alex wrapped himself around Fox, holding him tightly as the enraged man bucked and screamed under him. "I love you, Fox," he whispered into his struggling lover's ear, "I love you, baby...trust me...I won't let you go..."

Some of the fight ebbed slowly from Fox though he continued to spew curses at his captor...fortunately for Alex, as his strength too had begun to dissipate. He loosened his hold as Fox stopped bucking and soon was able to release him.

Still wracked with pain, Fox had barely enough strength left for a feeble whimper, but the deep furrows in his brow told Alex of his continued torture.

Alex lifted himself and lay alongside Fox, stroking his sweat-soaked hair. "I know it hurts," he whispered. "God, I wish with all my heart that I could take the pain for you...breathe, baby. Deep....slow....come on, focus on my voice. Please, Fox."

Fox released a hard breath, and his body twitched then returned to its limp state.

"Let him go, dammit," Alex grated softly, more tears welling up in his eyes. "He's had enough."

The memories continued to come fast and furious, a wild mix of times and events returning to their owner with no particular logic to their order.

Alex held Fox to him, unable to offer more than comforting touches and soft words of love. The helplessness he felt frustrated him beyond measure.

Fox lay shuddering in Alex's embrace for longer than Alex would be able to remember, his weary, pained moans sounding at longer and longer intervals until they had ceased altogether.

Alex lifted his head and gazed down at the man whom he was sure had fallen asleep, but to his utter surprise, exhausted, hazel eyes stared up at him from beneath a veil of moisture-spiked lashes. Tenderly, he dragged his knuckles down the older man's cheek and kissed the tip of his nose. "Is the pain gone?" he asked softly, unsure of what the answer would be.

Fox's eyes closed and he nodded once. His lids lifted again, just barely enough for slivers of green and gold to be seen.

Alex released a relieved sigh and kissed the flushed lips. "You need to rest. Close your eyes."

"No."

Alex's brow wrinkled, hearing the barely audible response. "Baby, this was the worst one yet. You're wrung out."

Fox took a difficult breath and licked at his dry lips. "So much."

Alex cocked his head. "So much what?"

"Remembered." The older man took a couple of slow breaths and continued. "I know them. Scully...my mother...Skinner..." He swallowed past the dryness in his throat. "...Cancerman...he was in the movie we saw..."

Alex nodded. "I know. I saw him."

Fox's eyes drifted around the room. "I know where I am," he said hoarsely. "And I remember loud music...a club...lots of people dancing...it was hot..." His brow wrinkled as he jumped from one memory to another, then he looked up at Alex. "I saw you..." He raised a weak hand to the younger man's face. "Snow...falling in your hair...trees and quiet. When you talked to me, the sound echoed..."

"Sounds like the cabin I told you about in Oregon."

Fox's gaze fell from Alex's face. "I...have visions, but...I don't *know* it. I need to know it."

"Okay." Alex kissed the older man's forehead. "As soon as you're better, we'll go up."

"No. Now."

"Fox, we can't. Not right now..."

"I need to go now." Fox's tone rose just a bit. "Please."

"Baby, you are in *no* shape to travel. Give it a couple more days."

"Nooo. I can't. It's..." His hand left Alex's face and touched his own temple. "...right here. I don't want to lose it. Please, Alex. I'll be all right. Please. It's there. Don't let me lose it..."

"Christ," Alex whispered. "I can't believe I'm doing this...all right. All right, Fox, but listen. I'm going to call Scully. I want your doctor there."

"No." Fox shook his head. "Just us. Just you and me. I'll be all right. I promise."

"How can you promise me that? You can't foresee these episodes. You've remembered a lot, but you've still got a ways to go. What if the next time is even worse? That cabin is in the middle of nowhere."

Fox turned to his side, burying his face in Alex's shirt. "Please, Alex. If you love me..."

"Oh, God, don't do that to me." And suddenly Scully's words came tinkling back to haunt him.

//When it comes to Mulder, you're like...warm Jello.//

Pleading, amber-flecked eyes turned up to Alex, and he caved.

"God, please don't let me live to regret this."

Making Fox promise to close his eyes and rest, Alex set about making the preparations for their trip. Three hours later, he gently shook the older man awake.

"It's all set, Fox. A jet is waiting for us at the airport, and I've packed a couple of bags. How do you feel?"

Fox lifted himself into a sitting position. "Tired."

"No pain?"

"No. Just really heavy."

"You gonna make it down to the car okay?"

Fox gave a brief nod as he rose unsteadily to his feet. "Just give me a minute to go to the bathroom and wake up a little."

Alex followed the older man to the bathroom, hand resting lightly on his back to provide balance. Once Fox was inside, he waited nervously just outside the door in case he was needed, but a few minutes later Fox emerged, looking pale and exhausted, but otherwise all right.

"I'm ready."

"Baby, are you sure?"

"Yes."

Fox's flat, insistent tone left no room for debate. Alex led him out of the apartment and on to what he prayed wouldn't turn out to be the biggest mistake of his life.

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

"Hello?"

"Hi, Scully. It's Alex. I didn't wake you, did I?"

"No. I was just getting ready to go to bed. How's Mulder? Did you find out what was bothering him?"

"Yeah, I did. He's all right. He's asleep."

"Well, what happened? Can you tell me? Who called?"

"I don't know who it was. Neither does he. That's where the problems began."

"Huh?"

"It was a man who called. He asked for me by name, and when Fox asked if he could take a message, the caller said no and hung up. His imagination started cooking up a bunch of bad explanations, and he tore into me when I went in to talk to him."

"He...he thought you were fooling around?"

"That's the long and the short of it, yeah."

There was a brief silence, then an amused female laugh. "He's *jealous*, Alex!"

"Ohhhh, yeah."

"That's great!"

"Ordinarily I'd agree, but in his state of mind, he really went off the deep end."

"Oh, boy."

"Yeah. I wasn't sure I was ever going to be able to calm him down." Alex began to smile. "Then he said something that knocked me on my ass."

"What?"

"He said he loved me."

"....Really?"

"Yeah."

"Oh, my God, Alex, that's *wonderful*....uh....isn't it?"

"Yeah, it is. But it gets really wild after that..."

"Oh...uh, that's okay. You don't have to elaborate on the hot, animal sex. I think I got a pretty good picture in my mind..."

"No. No, no."

"No?"

"I mean, we were heading that way...God knows he was pushing hard enough. But he'd starting remembering again, and the pain was horrible. It went on for what seemed to me like forever. He fought it...and me, every step of the way, but the pain broke him down."

 

"My God. You're sure he's okay?"

"Yeah. As okay as he can be right after an episode as bad as that one. Scully, he remembers you."

"He does?"

"Yeah. And his mother, and Skinner, and a bunch of other stuff."

"Thank God. Maybe this is finally close to being over."

"I think so. He said there were images in his head of Oregon, but they were just that. He insisted on going there so he could remember."

"What'd you tell him?"

Silence.

"Alex?"

"Yeah?"

Scully placed a hand over her face. "Alex, where are you?"

"On a plane."

"How did I know? Krycek, are you insane?"

"Yes. I tried to talk him out of it, Scully, believe me. But you know how he is."

"Uh huh, and I know how *you* are."

"*Don't* say it."

Scully emitted an irate sigh. "No sense in screaming at you now. But I want communication, you hear me? I want you to call me, and I want to be able to call *you*."

"I'll keep my phone on."

"All right. Call me when you land."

"I will."

"Do *not* forget, or I swear I'll come looking for you."

"I won't forget. Talk to you later."

Alex disconnected and dropped the phone down onto the plush seat beside him.

"She very mad?"

Startled green eyes turned in the direction of the soft monotone.

"She's not real happy." Alex came to sit down on the sofa beside the prone man. "What are you doing awake? I thought you'd be out until we landed."

Fox shrugged.

"Want anything?"

"No."

"You sure?"

Fox nodded, shifting so that he could wind an arm around Alex's thighs and rest his head in his lap. The younger man's hand came down on his head, gently petting his hair.

"Alex?"

"Hmm?"

"I'm sorry."

"What for?"

"All the shit I've put you through. I don't know if I'll ever be able to make it all up to you..."

"Make it *up*...Fox, you don't have to make *anything* up to me." Alex leaned down, covering Fox's upper body with his own. "You didn't ask for any of this," he murmured against the older man's cheek. "It was *done* to you by a man who I swear on my life will die slowly and painfully if I ever get my hands on him..."

"You didn't ask for it, either," Fox countered. "And you didn't have to deal with it. But you did. It was more, I think, than most people would have put up with. I know I got pretty weird on you sometimes...like tonight."

Alex kissed the stubbled cheek. "It's all right. Don't worry about it."

"I'm taking you down to hell with me, Alex. It isn't right."

"It's right that I am wherever you are. For a few of the worst days of my life, I thought you were dead." Alex hugged Fox tightly to him. "And I wanted to be, too. I wanted to be where you were. There was no place else for me."

Fox pulled himself up, coaxing Alex to lie on the sofa, then he crawled into his lover's arms. "That thought makes me shudder, but...I know I would feel the same." He looked up with what for the first time in many weeks, Alex could unmistakably recognize as adoration. "I love you."

The three softly spoken words sent a rush of warmth spreading through Alex's body. His eyes drifted shut, and his arms constricted, holding Fox securely to his chest. "I wish I could tell you...God, I wish I could explain how good it feels to hear that."

A clipped gasp rose from the older man, and Alex looked down, tilting his head up. "What's the matter, babe?"

Eyes squeezed shut, Fox waited a few seconds before answering. "You and me...and Scully. On a plane. After you were shot. Guilt...relief..." More pain jerked his head back. "You were unconscious...doped up after...after Scully took the bullet out. Had to...carry you into the cabin. When you woke up..you w-wouldn't talk to me...wouldn't look at me."

Alex gently rubbed the older man's temple, raising a small sigh. "I told you that Scully and I weren't the best of friends back then. She didn't trust me. She'd managed to put doubt into your mind about me, and I was so hurt to think that after the time we'd spent together, you would go back to thinking that I was out to do you wrong."

Fox nodded slowly. "I know. I was so sorry. I told her that I would never doubt you again."

"And you never have. Now, relax."

"It's not that bad," Fox argued softly.

"But it's there. Come on, just lie here and let me hold you. It's been way too long."

Fox went silent for a moment, then murmured contentedly, "I remember this feeling."

Alex smiled, kissing the top of his lover's head. The older man looked up at him, eyes shining.

"And I know I've only ever felt it with you."

The statement earned him another kiss and a squeeze.

"Try to sleep," Alex instructed softly. "It'll be quite a while yet before we land."

Fox closed his eyes and dozed for a little while, but soon enough the headache returned, accompanied by more memories. He suffered the pain in silence while Alex slept, thankful that it was nowhere near as excruciating as it had been earlier. When they finally landed, he was exhausted but encouraged by all he had remembered.

As promised, Alex called Scully then rented a car, and they began the drive to the cabin. Fortunately, it hadn't snowed yet this season, so the drive was an easy one.

They traveled along for at least forty-five minutes in virtual silence, Alex hoping that Fox would nap, but the other man remained awake, eyes darting back and forth, taking in all that the moonlit sky would allow. Several minutes later, his head snapped around, staring at a motel they'd just passed. He raised his index finger to the window and turned to face Alex.

"We stayed there." He smiled at the flash of white teeth.

"Yeah, we did. Do you remember when?"

"After the first time we were here together. You stayed the night with me and left the next morning before Scully got there."

"That's right." Alex watched Fox's head lower. "You okay?"

"Yeah, I...I was just..." He took a stuttering breath. "...remembering what we did...we're pretty good together, huh?" The sound of soft, breathy laughter drifted to Fox's ears from the driver's side.

"We're *damn* good together."

"I can..." Fox frowned in concentration. "..I can hear someone telling us that we're...totally fucking hot." He paused then looked Alex's way. "Exact words."

Alex let out a louder, hearty laugh this time. "I believe that was Steve."

"Steve?"

"Yeah. One of the two guys I told you that we'd met at that club."

"Oh. You'd never told me their names."

"Steve and.......Morris. That was the other one. After you did me outside against the car, they just *had* to meet us. Heard one of them say that we were his new heroes. And it was Steve who introduced them and told us that we were 'totally fucking hot'. They were nice guys. They even came by the apartment after they'd heard on the news that you had died. They wanted to see me and extend their sympathy. Scully said they went to the funeral...hey....." Alex paused, thinking for a moment, then glanced over at Fox. "You know, I just had a thought. I wonder if it could have been one of them who called...you know, to see how I was doing."

"If it was, why would they call and not leave a message?"

"I don't know...maybe you scared him."

"*Scared* him?"

"Yeah." Alex began to chuckle. "Maybe he thought it was your ghost or something."

"Oh, God..."

"You've got a very distinctive voice, Fox; even on the phone, it's very recognizable."

"To *you*, maybe, but to a person I'd only met, what? Once?"

"Once is all it takes." Alex reached across the seat and stroked his lover's jaw. "No one could forget you."

Fox nuzzled the other man's hand. "You're prejudiced."

"I'm *right*. No one who meets you can ever forget you. You're too damn gorgeous."

Fox grinned. "You don't have to lay it on so thick, you know. I'm a sure thing."

"Oh, you think I'm just trying to get you into bed?" Alex asked, falling happily into a mild version of one of their familiar verbal sparring sessions.

"Aren't you?"

"Well...*yeah*...but I'm not just pulling your leg..."

"No? What else are you pulling?"

Alex laughed softly. "Oh, no, you don't. You're not dragging me into that."

Fox slid across the seat, pressing himself into the younger man's side. "Why not?" he moaned into Alex's ear, nipping lightly at the lobe.

"Jesus, Fox, cut it out."

"You don't like that?"

"Are you kidding? Fox...shit...come on, stop...." Alex managed to wedge a hand between himself and the older man, pushing him away. "I'm *driving*, here. You want to kill us?"

Fox moved back over to the passenger's side and slouched in his seat. "No," he said in a small, pouting voice.

Alex whimpered pathetically. "Don't do that. Come on, baby..."

"Don't do what?"

"*That*. You *know* how desperate I am for you. Teasing me like that is a damn dangerous thing to do right now. I'll never be able to concentrate on the road."

Fox sighed heavily. "Okay."

"Twenty minutes," Alex promised. "Twenty minutes and we'll be there."

True to his word, Alex pulled up in front of the cabin some twenty minutes later. The men pulled the bags out of the back of the car and walked up to the house. Fox surveyed the outside of the structure while Alex fumbled for his keys.

"I get a feeling of familiarity, looking at it."

"Good." Alex finally found the key and turned the lock. He opened the door and switched on the lights, flooding the room in a warm amber glow. "How about now?"

Fox stepped across the threshold, carefully studying his new surroundings. He moved forward, lightly running his hand along the back of the sofa which sat in front of a large, picture window. Glancing from the window toward the middle of the room, his eyes fell on the stone fireplace and to the plush throw rug in front of it, and a vivid image of him and Alex bedded on a blanket of fleece flashed in his head. The glow of the fire played over their bodies as they made love in front of its comforting heat. Every moan, every tiny whimper resonated in his mind and brought the now-expected pounding in his temples that signaled the pain to come.

"No..."

Alex dropped the bags by the door and rushed to the man who had begun to double over beside the couch.

"Again?"

Fox nodded, heels of his hands pressed to the sides of his head.

Alex lowered him onto the sofa and gently wrestled his jacket off. As he turned to toss the jacket onto a nearby chair, a shriek cut the quiet of the room. He fell to his knees beside the sofa, watching the man he loved suffer what seemed to be the most agonizing torment yet. A heavy sweat had broken out all across Fox's face, mingling with the tears that had begun to escape past his tightly closed lids. A protuberant network of veins appeared on the sides of his head as he strained against the pain that had yet again gripped him, and a short, harsh, intermittent groan sounded deep in his throat.

Fear, irrational perhaps, but strongly felt, filled Alex's heart as he tried in vain to make Fox comfortable. Always in the back of his mind, that thought, that goddamned nagging thought that this life he'd found with Fox was simply borrowed and not meant to keep shoved its way to the surface. And maybe...maybe those few torturous days he'd spent thinking that life was indeed over...maybe they were fate's cruel way of saying, "Check it out, Alex, this is what it's like. This is the blackness that'll be your life...but not quite yet. We'll give you a taste now, give him back to you, then yank him away again later at our leisure."

He couldn't help thinking of the irony of losing his love in the place he'd found him, and he screamed inside, protesting violently against that part of his mind that had never left him completely at peace.

//*No*. Nooo. He's mine. I don't care...//

"I don't care if I don't deserve you," Alex's thoughts took the form of a pleading whisper. "I don't care if you weren't *meant* to be mine, I can't...I...baby, please, I can't be without you." He stroked Fox's perspiration soaked brow as the older man's body continued to spasm. "Fox....baby, can you hear me?"

No answer.

//Fucked up, didn't I? I shouldn't have brought you here. No matter how much you insisted, I shouldn't have. No matter how mad you got at me, I should have said no.// He lowered his head to the sofa beside his lover, suffering his own torment. Minutes later, Fox's body began to slowly relax, his anguished moans fading away, and Alex lifted his head.

The creases on Fox's forehead and around his eyes had not disappeared, but they had softened. His fingers, clenched tightly in his hair, had loosened their hold, and his mouth, drawn into a thin line of pain, had relaxed into a pale, weary pout.

Alex watched the rise and fall of his chest, and though it wasn't quite the normal rate, it was far from the shallow, frantic heave of only a few minutes before. He closed his eyes and offered a silent thanks, then kissed Fox's cheek and lifted himself to his feet.

Keeping one eye on his unconscious lover, he first built a fire then moved about the cabin, putting away the groceries and other items they'd stopped to buy. When he was finished, he returned to check on Fox, who lay motionless on the sofa, now breathing slowly and evenly. He retrieved two fleece blankets and a pillow from the bedroom closet and draped one blanket over the sleeping man, tucking it securely around him. He sat for a while caressing Fox's hair, then he shut the lights off, wrapped himself in the second blanket, and lay down on the floor in front of the fireplace. Though he never would have believed it could happen, shortly afterward, he was asleep.

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

Weary, hazel eyes opened, unable to focus at first, seeing only hazy objects bathed in an orange glow. Fox blinked, scanning his surroundings until he found what he was looking for.

Alex, wrapped in a blanket on the floor, asleep.

His eyes closed and a slow smile curved his lips.

Alex. Not just the man who'd rescued him from certain death and spent every minute of the next few months caring for him. This was his Alex. God, his Alex. The man he'd loved for the past year with every bit of his heart and soul.

This moment of true recognition was worth every second of agony he'd suffered.

Everything he knew...every little detail about this man and their life came back to him. He was whole again...*they* were.

Taking a quick inventory, he determined that all the pain was gone, and though he felt like he could sleep for a week, sleep would have to wait. There were far more important things on his mind right now...

Alex moaned softly as he began to dream. Breath, soft as a whisper caressed his face and lips, then a mouth, warm and sweet, touched his.

//Baby...//

His lover's mouth left his, traveling down his chin and throat, stopping to nibble at the sensitive skin between his neck and shoulder.

//Oh, God, I know you're a dream, but...it feels so good. Please don't let me wake up...//

The moment he'd said the words, he felt himself rising out of the comforting darkness.

//No....no, no, n...//

He was waking. He was sure of it, but...the sensation of his dream Fox's mouth on his skin remained. In fact, it grew stronger. And now a definite presence settled itself over him...

Alex opened his eyes and nearly jumped out of his skin. Straddling him on his hands and knees, staring down into his shocked face, was Fox.

"You're beautiful in the firelight."

Alex blinked, emitting a quick breath. As he struggled for something to say, Fox lowered his head, rubbing the tips of their noses together. Finally, he managed to squeeze a few words past his constricted throat.

"What are you...Fox, what...are you all right?"

The older man nodded. "*Very* all right."

Alex frowned up at him. "What are you...what do you mean?"

"I mean," Fox whispered, slowly running his tongue along Alex's lower lip, "I remember."

Understanding lit Alex's eyes. "...Everything?"

"Everything. I feel complete. I feel like me. And you..." He sank lower, resting his full weight on top of the stunned man. "...you feel like heaven."

Unconsciously, Alex arched upward, pressing himself against his lover. "Fox....God....your head...how's your head?"

"It's fine. I'm fine."

"You're exhausted. I can see it."

"I'll sleep later."

"Later?"

"Yeah. When I'm done with you."

Alex's cock leapt, pushing into the solid heat just above it. "When'll that be?"

"I don't know." Fox brought his head down again, brushing his lips against the younger man's. "When neither of us can see straight?" He covered Alex's mouth, deep groans rumbling in the chests of both men. His tongue swept the interior of his lover's mouth, reacquainting itself with its taste and texture as Alex's arms wound around him, locking them together.

They kissed slowly and thoroughly, teasing each other until each man's body throbbed with its own need. Alex threaded the fingers of one hand through Fox's hair, trying to hold his head where it was as the older man released his lips and started to pull away.

"Baby," Fox whispered into his insistent lover's mouth as he wriggled out of his grasp, "I need...I need to feel you..." his words were cut off as Alex pulled him down for another searing kiss. When the younger man released him several dizzying seconds later, he drew a deep breath and frowned down into smoky green eyes. "What was I saying?"

Alex writhed against him, licking his chin. "You need to feel me..."

Fox emitted a soft, agonized moan. "Yeah." He began pulling at Alex's clothing and didn't stop until the other man lay naked and panting beneath him. He stared down at his lover, fingers touching and stroking the flushed skin with reverence. "How could I forget you? It doesn't seem possible."

"Doesn't matter," Alex replied, arching beneath the loving touches. "You came back to me. That's all I care about..." His eyes fluttered open. "Well...there might be a couple more things I care about right now."

Fox's grin sparkled in the firelight. "Yeah? Like what?"

"Like the fact that you're still dressed..." Alex's hands slid down to the front of Fox's shirt and started undoing the buttons. "...like...licking the sweat off your chest as you're fucking me nice and slow...and deep..."

Fox shuddered above the younger man as his shirt was pushed away from his shoulders. Quickly he moved his arms, letting Alex finish removing the garment, anticipating his lover's next move.

Before moving on to Fox's pants, Alex paused to pay homage to his lover's upper body, running his hands with gentle impatience over his back and arms while his mouth explored the convulsing throat and expanse of his chest. His head swam as the texture and taste of Fox's skin filled him, once again saturating his parched senses and promising long awaited sustenance to his love-starved body.

Patience ticking away like so many seconds on the face of a clock, Fox whimpered and moaned as Alex continued to explore, leaving no inch of exposed skin untouched. When finally he felt his lover's hands tugging at the buttons on his jeans, he sucked in a hard breath, praying for the strength to let Alex undress him at his own pace. On trembling arms, he lifted himself far enough for the younger man to get at the remaining buttons then push the pants down to his thighs.

"I can't reach," Alex breathed, squirming beneath Fox, trying to push his jeans lower. "Help me..."

Reluctantly, Fox pushed himself to his feet, kicking off his shoes and pulling the jeans down, taking his underwear and socks with them. He stood above the younger man, bathing in the lust-filled green gaze before sinking to his knees, straddling his lover's hips.

Alex's cock jerked, straining toward the presence that hovered just above it. He reached out to Fox, wordlessly begging the other man to come to him, but Fox remained where he was, out of reach, smiling down at his frustrated lover. Alex began to sit up but was promptly pushed back to the blanket. Passion-glazed eyes fought to stay open as Fox reached down, petting the virtually hairless chest.

"Did you miss me touching you, baby?"

Alex lost the fight to keep his eyes open. They dropped shut and he nodded slowly.

"Tell me about it."

Alex inhaled and exhaled slowly, measuring each breath as Fox's hands traveled over his chest and shoulders, leaving thousands of tiny pin pricks in their wake. "It was..." His chest inched upward then fell sharply as he spoke his next word. "...torture. I wanted you every second of every day. I thought about this. Fantasized...dreamed about it. Started thinking it was all I'd ever have." Apologetic eyes opened and turned up to Fox. "I'm so grateful you're alive. If it's all I could ever have, if you'd never learned to love me again, I'd still..."

Fox leaned in, taking his lover's mouth in a deep, soul-shattering kiss, and released it long seconds later. "I know," he whispered before gently sinking his teeth into the swollen lower lip and pulling. "But you're human, Alex. There's nothing wrong with wanting back the life you knew." He gave the younger man a tender smile. "It makes me happy to know that it meant that much to you."

"It means everything to me," Alex croaked against Fox's mouth, letting his hands glide over the older man's back and ass.

Fox grinned. "Yeah, but not at the moment, huh?"

"Always."

"Mmm hmm." Fox shifted and bore down, pushing his cock against Alex's. "What's *that* mean to you?"

"Ah, damn...means you're ready to fuck." He pushed back. "So am I. What do you say we get to it?"

Fox gave the younger man an evil little grin and sat up. "Soon." His hands again began to wander over his lover's smooth chest, the palms and fingertips just barely grazing the hard nipples.

"Don't think I can wait for *soon*."

"No?" Fox rose up on his knees, letting his hand drop down to Alex's groin, brushing his fingers through the short, dark curls. "But I wanted to make you feel good."

"God, Fox, if I felt much better, I think it'd kill me." Alex grunted loudly and arched his back as Fox's fingertips skipped over the length of his erection. His mouth fell open, allowing soft, gasping pants to escape as the teasing fingers closed around his cock and stroked it gently.

"You're not dead, yet..."

"Sadistic...bastard," Alex wheezed. "Mmmmmm, God, I love you." A low chuckle was all he heard before the hand released him. He waited, eyes closed for it to return, but when several seconds passed, one eye opened. "Aww, *shit*."

Fox kneeled over him, burning amber gaze on his face. He wrapped both hands around his own cock, stroking himself slowly. "You seemed to be enjoying it so much..."

Alex watched, entranced as his lover worked his own cock, a look a carnal bliss on his face. "Thank God," he whispered, stroking Fox's thighs.

"Why are we thanking God?"

"Nothing's changed. You're still an outrageous slut."

Fox laughed softly as two fingers passed over the head of his cock, swiping the bead of fluid from its tip. He offered the fingers to Alex, who quickly sucked them into his mouth, swirling his tongue around the two digits. The younger man moaned, tasting his lover for the first time ages, and when Fox tried to pull his fingers away, he encountered some resistance.

"Come on, let go," he coaxed.

Alex shook his head, growling stubbornly.

"I got something better for you..."

Grudgingly, Alex drew back, releasing the fingers and waiting. Fox crawled forward, now straddling his lover's head, and grasped his cock at the base, pointing it toward the anxious mouth. He sucked in a hard breath as Alex's mouth closed around the head and his hands clenched in Fox's ass, pulling him forward. In one jerk of his hips, his cock disappeared into Alex's mouth, and the younger man held him motionless while he greedily suckled the entire length.

"Oh, Jesus..." Fox half-laughed, half-whimpered, "how could I forget that mouth?" He smiled down at the man joyfully devouring his cock. "*Who's* the slut?"

Alex's fingers clenched in Fox's ass, and he moaned around the cock that filled his throat, the vibration sending a deep shudder through Fox's body.

Fox doubled over as a strong rush of desire weakened his body. Leaning on his hands, he attempted to compose himself and began to pull away, knowing that if he didn't, he'd be all done.

Alex knew also and let him go, allowing Fox to settle back into his original position. He watched his lover's lashes slowly rise, revealing eyes dilated to near-blackness.

"Come on, baby," he hissed softly, stroking Fox everywhere his hands could reach. "You know you wanna fuck me."

Fox inhaled sharply as Alex's fingers flicked lightly over his nipples.

"Come on, do it."

Fox's blood boiled as Alex arched upward in invitation. Jaw clenched tightly, he tried valiantly to hold himself in check, but the man beneath him...his love, his eternal weakness, was quickly wearing him down.

"Please, baby," Alex whimpered in that tone that drove Fox mad. "I need you." He clawed at Fox's nipples, drawing a low growl from the older man. "I know you need me." Alex urged him to shift position so that he was now kneeling between his parted thighs. He reached up, pulling the other man down on top of him, then promptly wrapped his legs around his waist. "Take it."

Unable to bear up under that kind of pressure, Fox tucked his hands under Alex's ass, stroking and squeezing the rounded muscles. As the fingers of one hand teased the small, puckered opening, Fox leaned in for a hard, hungry kiss. When he pulled away from the panting man, he paused, eyes searching his immediate vicinity. "Where's the lube?"

Alex froze, staring up at Fox in stunned silence.

"What?"

"Shit. I...I guess I got out of the habit of always having some with me..."

"You don't *have* any?"

"No, but...we must have left some here somewhere."

"You mean I have to get up and go look for some?"

"I'm sorry." Alex started to pick himself up, gently pushing Fox off of his chest. "I'll help you." He quickly found himself flat on his back with a hand on his chest. His breath caught in his throat as he looked up into Fox's eyes. At this angle, they reflected the firelight and looked themselves like twin balls of flame.

"No." The fiery gaze bore into him, searing everyplace it touched. "Don't you move. I want you hard and ready when I get back."

Alex moaned and squirmed as the flatly issued command sent tingles through him. "But I'm already hard...*and* ready."

Fox rose to his full height, spitting out one more order before he stalked away.

"Make sure you stay that way."

Alex watched Fox disappear from the room then turned his attention to his aching cock. While he knew that there was no way in hell he'd go soft during Fox's absence, he was happy to obey his lover's last order. He tucked one hand under his head while the other drifted down toward his cock, gently stroking and pulling at the engorged shaft. His respiration deepened, and his eyes closed as his body urged him to work harder, but his brain was apparently still functioning well enough to override the petition.

//Nice and easy, Alex. Don't get too enthusiastic.//

Meanwhile, in the bedroom, his patience just about reaching its limit, Fox rummaged through another drawer.

"*Shit*. Come on, come on...I swear to God," he muttered to himself, "I'll go get some fucking cooking oil if...ah, *yes*!"

He snatched up the tube and whirled back in the direction of the living room, freezing a few steps from the doorway.

//Ohhhh, yeah...//

Washed in flickering orange light, Alex lay sprawled on the thick bed of fleece, one hand lovingly caressing his erect cock. He was so immersed in his activity that his body jumped and he emitted a little gasp as Fox's voice sounded just inches from his ear.

"So pretty."

Alex smiled and stretched with feline grace, letting his hand slide upward until it came to rest on his chest. He stretched up, slowly licking Fox's mouth. "Find it?"

Fox grinned and held up the tube.

"Good. Now, fuck me."

"But you were doing such a good job by yourself," Fox teased as he unscrewed the cap.

"Don't take this the wrong way, Fox, but I've jerked off enough the past few months to last me a lifetime."

"Awww," Fox pouted as he squeezed some gel out into his hand and deftly applied it to his cock, "but I love watching you."

Alex groaned and pulled Fox down to him the moment the older man tossed the tube aside. "Okay, but later." He threaded his fingers through his lover's hair and covered his mouth in a bone-deep kiss. When they separated, Alex pulled his legs back and draped them over Fox's waist. "Come on, baby," he purred, anchoring his fingers in Fox's hair. "We've both waited way too long."

"I know," Fox breathed against his mouth as he positioned himself and slowly pushed at the tight entrance. He felt the muscle begin to yield to his gentle assault and the man beneath him shudder with joy, and his fortitude melted away. In one long glide, he buried himself to the root in Alex's heat, drawing a jubilant cry from them both.

Alex clung to Fox, his beautiful Fox...finally reclaimed, belonging once more. His eyes stung with unshed tears, and he softly whimpered his lover's name.

Fox lowered his head to Alex's shoulder, drowning in his love and the dazzling pleasure his body provided.

He was home. The comfort of Alex's arms and the slick heat that surrounded him attested to it.

Fox began to move slowly and carefully, afraid to end the dream. But his movements, gentle as they were, sparked a riot of sensation in both men, and they reacted.

The long awaited feel of his lover's cock moving deep within him released two tears, and to keep himself from crying, Alex let his head fall forward until his mouth met with the other man's flexing shoulder. His lips parted and his tongue dragged over a patch of skin before sucking the flesh into his mouth.

The mild pain jarred Fox out of the sensual fog he was lost in, waking him to his lover's need. He allowed Alex to mark him, then pulled away to look down into his eyes. He mouthed the words 'I love you' and moved in toward the younger man's waiting mouth. Just barely brushing his lips, Fox moved to his neck, fastening his mouth on the tender flesh.

Alex's back arched, a harsh moan rumbling in his throat. He gritted his teeth, enduring the sweet pain as Fox picked up the pace, thrusting harder into him. His cock screamed as the pressure built to a level beyond what he could stand, and he willed his tongue to work, begging his lover for more.

"Fox...oh, Jesus, I..." He clawed at Fox's back as his head pressed into the pillow, baring more of his throat. "Please, baby, please..." His mouth fell open, and a sharp cry tumbled out as Fox's teeth closed on his throat, and the older man worked a hand between them, grasping his cock.

Overwhelmed, Alex's head began to swim as he bucked against Fox, urging him to move faster. Fox finally tore his mouth away from his throat, leaving a mark so deep and red it would remain for several days, and the older man drove hard into him, grunting with every thrust.

"Come on, baby," Fox grated as he jerked his lover's cock. "Come with me..."

Alex whimpered frantically as Fox slammed into him again and again, taking him to within a breath of total meltdown. It was the older man's mouth closing tenderly over his that pushed him that final fraction over the edge, and his body filled with a prickling heat as he came endlessly, ripping his mouth from Fox's and screaming his name.

His hand drenched in semen, Fox continued to pump Alex's cock as he found his own release. Sobbing incoherent words of love, he exploded deep inside the younger man, filling him with slick warmth, and refused to stop thrusting until sheer exhaustion forced the issue. Finally, he collapsed on top of Alex's heaving chest and slipped into virtual unconsciousness. It wasn't until the other man had begun to shiver that he opened his eyes. He lifted his head and gazed down into moist eyes.

"Are you cold?"

Alex stared up at his lover and nodded as one tear dropped from the outside corner of his eye.

Fox kissed the dampness away and gently lifted himself off of Alex and lowered himself to the younger man's side. He wrapped them securely in the blanket and pulled Alex into his arms. "Is that better?"

"Better," Alex sniffed, burrowing into his lover's warmth.

Fox lay stroking Alex's back in silence for some time before calling his name.

"Alex?"

Another soft sniffle. "Yeah?"

"Is something wrong?"

"No."

"No?"

The younger man shook his head. "It's just...I'm..." He bit his lower lip and began to shake, able for the first time to really let go. "I thought...I thought I'd lost...you...even after I...found y-you, and you were r-right...in front...of me, it...it was like..." Alex broke into soft sobs. "Thought I was...getting what I deserved..."

"What? What you *deserved*?"

"My..." Alex took a few deep breaths. "...my punishment."

"For what?"

"Everything bad I've ever...ever done in my life."

"God." Fox tightened his arms around the younger man. "No, baby. Please don't think that way. Life is *not* out to punish you. Things turned out okay, didn't they? I remember everything, our life is back on track...we're here at the place we fell in love, in front of a warm fire..." He grinned into Alex's hair. "...naked and wrapped in a blanket...where's the punishment in that?"

Alex sniffed and shook his head, trying to get closer to the man he was already pressed as close to as he possibly could be.

"It's all right," Fox whispered, feeling Alex's trembling subside. "You and I have been to hell and back, and we're still here. We belong to each other, and nothing you've ever said, or been, or done is ever going to change that. Okay?"

"Okay." Alex turned red-streaked eyes up to Fox's. "I love you."

The older man smiled and took his mouth in a soft kiss. "I love *you*, baby."

Alex tucked his head under Fox's chin, breathing in the scent of salt and sex and Fox, and a tiny, contented smile curved his lips. Before another word could be uttered, both men wafted gently into sleep.

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

Fox snuggled down into the warmth of the blanket, moaning softly. Though his eyes were closed, he could tell that morning had come.

The first full day as the man he was.

Memories and life intact, he opened his eyes for the first time in several weeks, anxious to start the day.

But something was missing.

He looked around, rubbing the sleep from one eye. "Alex?"

No answer.

He listened, trying to detect some sound, but there was nothing. No footsteps, no rattling of pots and pans in the kitchen.

He looked to the window.

Outside, maybe, getting more firewood?

Fox stood up, shivering in the slight chill. Alex had not started a new fire which he found odd, seeing as there was enough wood there in the house to keep the blaze going well into the afternoon. He wrapped the blanket around himself and went to the window, looking toward the wood shed, but found no trace of his lover.

Deciding to search the house, Fox first checked the kitchen. He pushed the door open and glanced around, finding the room empty and cooking utensils untouched. Concern creeping in, he moved a little faster, checking the bedroom. That room was also empty, but now closer to the bathroom, Fox could hear sound. A muffled moan sounded behind the closed door, and he rushed over, knocking softly.

"Alex? Babe, you okay?"

There was silence for a moment, then a harsh, wretching sound, combined with more moaning.

Fox threw the door open and gasped, finding Alex on the floor, draped over the toilet.

"*Shit*. Alex?" He crouched down beside the pale man, tenderly stroking his hair. "God, you look awful. What happened to you?"

Alex shook his head weakly. "Woke up feeling sick. Stomach is turning." He squeezed his eyes shut. "My head..."

"Okay, uhh..." Fox located a washcloth and ran it under cold water, then gently swabbed Alex's face and the back of his neck. "Do you want to stay here a while longer?"

"No," Alex whispered. "Just dry heaves, now."

Fox frowned, kissing the top of the younger man's head, and helped him to his feet. Slowly, he walked Alex to the bed and, balancing the younger man with one hand, he pulled the blankets back with the other. "Come on, lie down."

Alex carefully lowered himself to the mattress, and once horizontal, he became restless, moaning with each increasingly labored breath. "Can't...can't..." He pulled himself up, and Fox stacked the pillows behind him, helping him lean back against them.

"That better?"

Alex took two deep breaths in through his nose and nodded. "Not so bad." He turned watery eyes up to his worried lover. "God, I feel like death."

"I don't get it. You were fine last night, weren't you?"

"Yeah."

Fox hesitated for a minute, thinking about what to do then stroked the hair away from Alex's ashen face. "You don't feel like you have a fever, but I'll take your temperature anyway, then call Scully." He vanished into the bathroom and returned seconds later, popping the thermometer under the younger man's tongue. While he waited, he checked Alex's pulse, then went for the phone. Punching in Scully's number as he returned, he pulled the thermometer out of Alex's mouth. "Ninety eight point...Scully. It's me."

"Mulder? Hey, how are you?"

"Good."

"Alex told me yesterday that you remember quite a bit. That's wonderful."

"I remember it all."

"All? Really? Oh, thank God. When did it happen?"

"Last night."

"How do you feel? How's your head?"

"I was really suffering last night, but I'm fine, now."

"Oh, Mulder, I'm so happy. Alex must be thrilled..."

"Alex is why I'm calling, Scully. He's sick."

"Huh? What do you mean, sick?"

"*Sick*. I woke up this morning and found him hanging over the toilet. His head is pounding, and he's throwing up."

"Any fever?"

"No, I just checked it. No coughing, no sneezing, no stuffiness. It's just his head and his stomach."

"Doesn't sound like anything serious. Just a bug, maybe. He felt all right yesterday?"

"He said he did."

"Did you eat anything after you got in?"

"No, nothing. Almost immediately after we walked in, everything I hadn't remembered yet came back, and I was in terrible pain. When it was over, I fell asleep for a while."

"Maybe he ate something while you were asleep."

Fox caressed the younger man's cheek and softly called his name.

Alex's eyes fluttered open. "Hmm?"

"Did you eat anything after I fell asleep that first time?"

"No."

"He didn't eat anything, Scully. When I woke up, he was asleep on the floor in front of the fireplace. I woke him up, told him that everything had come back to me...we made love and fell asleep. Next thing I know, he's throwing up in the bathroom."

Scully went silent for a moment, tapping her fingers on the phone, then shifted in her chair, draping one leg over the arm. "You know what, Mulder? I just had another thought. Since this seems to have come on so suddenly, I was wondering if it might not just be due to the let down."

"The what?"

"The let down. I can't think of a better way to phrase it at the moment. For a long time now, he's been running on pure adrenaline. Heartbreak, severe depression, worry, not eating right, not sleeping well, worry, worry...then everything he's been so uptight about all this time is all right. Your memory comes back; you know him; you love him. His mind is at rest...his *body* is at rest...all this after weeks and weeks of turmoil. He's coming down off a prolonged high, and it's shocking his system."

"Like withdrawal."

"In a way. Only not nearly so bad. Give him a day or two, and he'll be fine."

Fox sighed into the phone. "I can't believe I didn't think about that."

"You're too close, Mulder. He's sick, and you were too worried to think objectively. Just make sure he eats lightly, keep him hydrated, and let him rest. If he's absolutely no better tomorrow, call me."

"Okay. Thanks, Scully."

"No problem. Tell him I said hi, and I hope he feels better soon."

"I will."

"Good to have you back, Mulder."

Fox smiled into the phone. "Thank you. Good to be back. Talk to you later."

Fox hung up and dropped the phone down onto the mattress by Alex's leg. He covered the other man's hand and placed a chaste kiss on his nose. "How do you feel, baby?"

"Not good," Alex breathed softly.

"Can I leave you alone for a little while? I'm going to go get dressed then get you something to eat and drink."

Alex turned his face into the pillow. "Nooo, no food."

"You gotta put something in your stomach, Alex. I'm just going to make you some toast."

The other man grimaced. "The thought turns my stomach."

"As long as the actual food doesn't." Fox leaned in, kissing his lover once more, then gathered up some clothes and headed for the shower.

For the fifteen minutes Fox was gone, Alex lay trying not to move. The slightest disturbance seemed to upset his stomach, and he was in no condition to try and make a run for the bathroom. He whimpered softly into his pillow, wishing the hammer would stop clanging in his head and the midgets jumping around in his stomach would take a damn break if only for a few minutes.

//God, just kill me now.//

When Fox returned, he found Alex in the same position, looking as miserable as he did when Fox had left the room.

The depression of the mattress sent a fresh wave of nausea churning through Alex's stomach. He whined almost inaudibly, lifting one hand only an inch or two off the bed, splaying his fingers.

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," Fox said quickly, freezing his position. "God, it's that bad?"

Alex took in a few slow breaths, trying to quell the uneasiness. He nodded only very slightly and said nothing.

"Okay, Scully said that your body might just be reacting to all the stress it's been under for the last few months. You should be okay in a day or two..."

"Or *two*?" Alex inhaled sharply through his nose, stamping down another threat of revolt. He opened his eyes and spoke more calmly. "If I feel like this tomorrow, I want you to shoot me."

"It'll get better, I promise."

"Now."

Fox gently rested a hand on Alex's thigh. "Baby, if I could make it happen, I would. Listen, I'm going to go get your toast and make you some weak tea, and I'll be back." Very carefully, he stood up and again left the room. Running his hands through his hair, he walked into the kitchen and ran some water into the teakettle and set it on a high flame. He located the bread that Alex had bought last night and set two slices in the toaster, waiting until the water was boiling to make the toast. While he waited, he leaned against the counter, allowing himself to feel a little frustration.

He'd so wanted to wake up in his lover's arms this morning. He'd wanted to wrap himself around Alex's naked, warm body and kiss him awake, feeling the younger man's cock harden against his thigh...

The whistling tea kettle roused him out of his fantasy. He cursed softly and poured the hot water over the teabag he'd dropped into the mug, then toasted the bread. A few minutes later, he took Alex's breakfast into the bedroom where the younger man lay panting softly through his open mouth.

"Okay, babe, you gotta try and eat some of this."

"Don't want to," Alex whimpered, closing his eyes at the sight of the toast.

"Alex, you have to."

"No, I don't."

"Please try."

"Just the sight of it turns my stomach."

Fox studied the younger man for a moment, then softly called his name.

"Alex?"

"What?"

"Are you pregnant?"

Green eyes glided open and glared at the older man.

Fox cleared his throat and gave Alex a tiny, conciliatory smile. "Humor's the first thing to go. Guess you're *really* sick, huh?"

No answer.

Emitting a long sigh, Fox set the plate and mug down on the nightstand. He gently settled himself on the edge of the bed and picked up one of the slices of toast. Tearing it in two, he held the smaller piece up to Alex's lips. "Come on, take a little bite."

Alex flinched, moaning in protest.

"Alex..."

Each bite was a struggle, and when Fox finally got the other man to finish the small piece of bread, he reached for the tea. "Now, take a sip."

The first couple of sips went down well, but the third created a small tidalwave of queasiness. Alex groaned, wrapping his arms around his stomach, and Fox ran for the basin he knew was in the bathroom. He returned, diving for the bed just as Alex began to wretch. He held the basin, grimacing and looked away as the younger man vomited every bit of his breakfast into the shallow pan.

When he had finished, Alex pushed the basin away, bringing Fox's attention back to him.

"I'll uh..." Fox glanced down at the basin and looked quickly away. "I'll go get rid of...this.." He flushed the remains of Alex's breakfast and rinsed the pan, bringing it back to the bed in case it was needed again. "Here," he said to the whimpering man, placing the basin down on the bed beside him. "I'll go get you something to rinse your mouth. He disappeared and came back quickly, carrying a glass and a towel. Alex rinsed his mouth, spitting the mouthwash into the basin, then collapsed back against the pillows. Fox dabbed at his mouth and chin with the towel and again took the basin away to clean it out. When he returned, Alex opened his eyes part way and fixed a glassy green stare on him.

"Told you it turned my stomach."

"Yeah, you told me," Fox responded softly, caressing his hair. "I'm sorry, baby, but I'm just trying to help you." He leaned forward, gently resting his forehead against Alex's. "I don't want you to be sick."

Alex closed his eyes, too miserable to be aroused by Fox's proximity and the soft tone of his voice. "I'm not too thrilled about it, either," he complained and turned his head to the side.

Fox chewed on his lower lip and pulled back. "Why don't you get some sleep? I'll go get a fire started and find something to read, I guess."

"You're mad, aren't you?"

Fox tilted his head. "Mad?"

"At me."

"What? Why would I be mad at you?"

"I'm sure you thought like I did, that..." Alex took a deep breath and continued. "...that we'd spend all day in bed..."

"Yeah. I did think that, but, Alex...why would I be mad at you? You're *sick*, baby. And chances are, you're sick as a result of all the time you spent driving yourself crazy over me." He laid a tender kiss on the other man's lips. "We'll have our time together. By tomorrow you'll be feeling a lot better."

"I'll be dead by tomorrow if I have to deal with this the whole rest of the day."

"Weren't sick much, were you?"

"No. Couldn't afford to give in to illness. Couldn't lie around sick. Might not get up the next day."

Fox nodded. "Well, you're past that. And you're not going to die if you're sick for a day or two."

"Feel like it."

"I know." Fox kissed him again. "But try to relax. Go to sleep, and you'll feel better when you wake up. Then we'll try some food again."

Alex wrinkled his nose.

"Hey, remember when you were taking care of me up here? "

"...Yeah."

"Good. Keep that in mind the next time I come in here with more food."

Alex sighed softly and extended his fingers.

Fox slid his hand over to the younger man's, intertwining their fingers.

"Sorry I'm being a pain."

"It's okay." Fox raised Alex's hand to his lips. "You're not good at being sick." He shrugged and smiled. "I'm not very good at playing nursemaid, either."

Alex returned the smile. "Should've seen your face when you had to go clean out the basin."

"Find that amusing, did you?"

Alex nodded, moaning as his stomach flipped again. "It'll be funnier tomorrow," he whispered. "Gonna shut up, now."

"Okay." Fox sat quietly stroking Alex's head until he was sure that the younger man was asleep, then went into the living room and lit the fireplace. He ate a light breakfast then stretched out on the sofa with a book he'd dug out of the bookcase in a far corner of the room. Within an hour, he was sleeping soundly. Three hours later, the sound of Alex's voice woke him.

"Fox..."

"Hmm?" Fox sat up quickly shaking off the remnants of sleep. "What're you doing up?" he asked the man swaying over him as he reached for his hand.

Alex hitched the blanket he had wrapped around himself a little higher. "I called you but you didn't answer."

"I'm sorry, I guess I was in a pretty deep sleep." He pulled on the younger man's hand. "Come on, sit down before you fall down."

Alex sank down beside his lover and bowed his head, pulling the edge of the blanket up to his nose.

"Are you okay? You feeling worse?"

"No..."

"Why did you call me?"

The younger man shrugged. "I woke up and I didn't...I didn't want to be alone."

A slow smile lit Fox's face. He sat back against the arm of the sofa and stretched one leg out along its length. "C'mere." He held his arms out, and Alex melted into them. He kissed the top of the sable head and mumured against it, "Okay?"

Alex nodded, snuggling into his lover's embrace.

"You must feel a *little* better," Fox said. "You couldn't even move earlier without feeling sick."

"Stomach's not so bad. Head's still pounding."

"Well, if you'll try to eat, I can give you something for that...okay?" A few seconds ticked off before Alex answered.

"Okay." Alex wrapped his arms around Fox's waist, grumbling in protest as the other man tried to slip from beneath him.

"Baby," Fox chuckled against the side of the younger man's head, "I *have* to get up to get your food. I'll be back as fast as I can."

Reluctantly, Alex let him go and watched as he disappeared into the kitchen. When Fox returned some fifteen minutes later, he had tucked himself into a corner of the sofa and closed his eyes.

"You're not sleeping, are you?"

"No."

Fox set the tray down on the coffee table and took a seat beside Alex. "Okay, let's eat."

Alex looked down at the single, large bowl of chicken soup and stack of saltines and wrinkled his nose.

"I'll just give you the broth and the crackers," Fox explained. "I'll eat the rest."

Grudgingly, Alex opened his mouth for the first spoonful. He swallowed and made an unpleasant sound. "This is canned soup."

Fox looked at him with a deadpan expression. "What did you think you were going to get in fifteen minutes time? Homemade?"

"No," Alex pouted, "but the stuff in the package that you mix with boiling water tastes better."

Fox continued to stare. "The stuff in the package."

"Yeah."

"Why didn't you tell me that before I went into the kitchen?"

Alex sank lower into the blanket. "Thought you knew what I liked."

Fox raised his eyes heavenward, heaving a long sigh. "How can I know which of the two you prefer, Alex, when you make everything from scratch at home? Christ, you do everything but grow the vegetables and kill your own chickens." He looked back to the other man and found nothing visible but a pair of glazed, green eyes staring warily at the soup over the edge of the blanket. Fox lowered his head, smiling to himself, then tilted forward and planted a kiss on Alex's forehead. "Be back in a few minutes."

Leaving Alex bundled on the sofa, Fox again journeyed to the kitchen in search of the dry, packaged soup. After a brief search, he located a box and proceded to boil some water. He leaned against the counter, arms crossed over his chest, considering their latest obstacle. Though hardly serious, it was certainly frustrating to both men to be so ready and willing but unable. Yes, they made love last night, and yes, it was wonderful. But it was just a tease. An apetizer before the main course that fate seemed bent on delaying.

Fox sighed softly, turning to tear open the package and spill the contents into the bowl, and his thoughts turned to Alex himself.

Big, bad Alex Krycek. Ice cold assassin with a glare that could melt a glacier and an attitude as big as all outdoors...a man whose path people fell over themselves to get out of...acting very much like a six year old. The sight of him wrapped up to his nose in that blanket with that pathetic, puppy dog look on his face was as endearing as it was absurd. Fox laughed softly to himself as he retrieved the boiling kettle from the stove and added the water to the contents in the bowl. He stirred the mixture a few times and carried the bowl out to the living room. He sat at the edge of the sofa and, balancing the bowl in one hand, he dipped the spoon into the soup, holding it up in the general vicinity of Alex's mouth.

"Okay, here you go. Re-hydrated soup. Disgusting as it is..."

Alex looked from the spoon to Fox's face and back again before pulling the blanket away from his face and accepted the offering. Slowly, he ate about half the bowl and a few crackers, then refused any more.

Afraid to push the issue and make him sick again, Fox chose to give in without a struggle. He finished his own soup, polished off the remainder of the crackers, and removed the tray. By the time he returned, Alex's eyes were closing.

"Tired?"

Small nod.

"How's your stomach?"

"Little queasy, but not bad."

"Okay, well you try and go to sleep." Fox rose and started to walk away, but Alex's weary voice stopped him.

"Where are you going?"

"I was going to wash the dishes later, but you're going to go to sleep, so I might as well do it now." He groaned inwardly at the wounded expression on the younger man's face and again seated himself. "I'm sorry, baby," he said, petting his lover's head. "I'll stay until after you fall asleep."

Seemingly satisfied, Alex closed his eyes, sighing contentedly as Fox continued to stroke and pet him.

Soon enough, all sound ceased, and Fox determined that Alex was asleep. Carefully, he lifted himself from the sofa and disconnected Alex's cell phone from the charger, taking it with him as he passed into the kitchen. He turned the phone on and punched in Scully's phone number. When it rang a third time, he prepared to leave a message, but Scully picked up, voice soft and out of breath.

"H'llo?"

"It's me."

"Hi. Mulder, hang on for just a second, okay?"

"Okay."

Placing the antenna of the phone between her teeth, Scully picked up the grocery bag she'd dropped and hauled it and the other four into the kitchen. Bags now laid out on the counter, she dropped the phone back into her hand. "Okay, sorry. I had my hands full. How's it going? Alex any better?"

"A little. I just got him to eat a little soup, and now he's sleeping."

"Good. Sleep's just what he needs. So...what's up? How're *you*? Still no headaches?"

"Nope."

"Excellent. I can't tell you what a relief it is to hear that. I've been thinking about you all day."

"Yeah?"

"Yeah. I guess whatever that was that those bastards injected you with had no long term effects."

"Guess not."

"I still want to find that smoking son of a bitch and put a bullet in his head, though. Of course, I'd have to take a number and get in line behind Alex..."

"He never told me, Scully. How many people *did* you find in that house?"

"Quite a few."

"He killed them, didn't he?"

"Yeah."

"All of them?'

"Yeah. Except for Lieber. Skinner got him."

"Skinner?"

"He was going to shoot Alex. Skinner killed him."

Brief silence, then, "Wow."

"They've been decent to each other ever since."

"Yeah, now that you mention it. Who the hell would have thought?"

"Not me, that's for sure."

More silence.

"So," Scully said, "you have any idea how long you're going to be up there?"

"I don't know. I'd like a few days of uninterrupted happiness, though, you know?"

"As soon as he's better, there'll be nothing left to stand in your way...Mulder? Are you laughing?"

"Yeah...yeah, sorry, but...speaking of him getting better...you'd have to see this to believe it."

"See what?"

"Alex. He's being such a baby."

"A baby?"

"Yeah. He really can't deal with this being sick thing. It's unbelievable. This man has been in worse situations than you or even I could probably ever dream of, yet a little nausea and a headache have turned him into a little boy."

Scully snickered into the phone. "Something tells me that if he was by himself, he wouldn't be doing that."

"I know. I think he's really enjoying being coddled. He'd done for himself for so long. Nobody to worry about him. Nobody to take care of him."

"I'm sure you're giving him all the attention he needs."

"I'm trying. God knows he deserves more than I could ever do for him after all the shit I've put him through, but I'm giving it my best shot."

"Mulder, none of what happened was your fault."

"It kinda was, Scully. I promised him I wouldn't go up to that house until he had some information for me, and what did I do?"

Scully sighed softly. "Okay, well I can't say much about that except that like always, Mulder, you do exactly what you want to do."

"I hadn't actually intended to sneak up there behind his back after I promised him I wouldn't, but according to the information I got, they were packing up and moving everything. I *couldn't* wait. I called Skinner and told him."

"I know. He still can't forgive himself for not believing Alex when he called and told him to stop you."

Fox pulled a chair away from the kitchen table and sat down. "Alex never told me that he called Skinner."

"He did. Skinner just thought he was up to something and refused to go after you. He finally was able to get in contact with me. I'd been watching him closely the last few months, and I was sure that he was genuinely worried. *I* got hold of Skinner and asked him to go to Vermont. He met me there, and you know the rest."

"Yeah."

"Even now, Mulder, with you being alive and well, he's eaten up with guilt. He feels if he'd believed Alex, a lot of what happened could have been prevented."

"He shouldn't be taking all that on himself."

"I know, but what he shouldn't do and what he *is* doing are two different things."

"I'll talk to him when we get back. I don't blame him. Alex doesn't blame him..."

"Well, I wouldn't go *that* far."

"What d'you mean?"

"I don't know how Alex feels about that now, even though they seem to have called some sort of truce. You'd have to ask him about that, but he went insane when he got up to Vermont and found out what we thought had happened. He tried to kill Skinner. Took four guards to pull him off. He laid every bit of the blame for what had happened at Skinner's feet."

Fox sighed softly in to the phone. "I guess I would've done the same if our situations were reversed. The thought of losing him...I can't explain to you what it does to me. I'd be looking for someone to kill, too."

"I understand. I mean, I really, finally understand. Watching Alex was heartbreaking, Mulder. He was in really bad shape."

"He hasn't given me much detail on that."

"He probably just doesn't want to relive it."

"Then, would you tell me about it?"

Scully finished putting the last item away then dropped down into a chair at the kitchen table. "Well...I told you about Skinner...after Alex went after him a second time, I had the guards take him outside. I tried to talk to him, but he wasn't listening. He got it in his head that you could be alive under the rubble of the house, and he spent hours digging with his hands, looking for you. He finally collapsed, and I took him back into the command trailer, cleaned and bandaged his hands, and he sat there. I mean, literally sat there not moving, not talking until I made him leave with me the next morning."

Fox broke in. "Why'd you let him spend hours digging for me?"

"I didn't want to, Mulder, but if I didn't, he would have had it in the back of his mind that you *could* have been under there and he didn't do everything he could to find you. He had to come to the conclusion himself that he wasn't going to find you."

Her statement was met with an understanding silence.

"Anyway, I finally got him home. Another horrific experience. First, he didn't want to get out of the car. Took me God knows how long to get him to come into the building. Then, when we got to the door, he refused to go into the apartment. He sat on the floor outside the door for *hours*. Fell asleep out there. When he finally came in, he went into the bedroom and started sorting laundry...talking about you in the present tense. I...I couldn't take it. I tried to get him to see what he was doing, and he blew up. We both did. We started screaming at each other, and the next thing I knew, we were both on the floor, holding on to each other and crying like babies. I think if I had to name the single most important point in our relationship, that would be it. We became friends that night. Anyway, we planned your service...or I did, though I promise you, Mulder, I tried to get him to make the decisions. He was just too far gone to do it. The only thing he had an opinion on, and was adamant about, was Skinner's involvement. I thought he should deliver the eulogy, and Alex flat out refused to let him have anything to do with it. I'm just grateful he didn't bar Skinner from attending the funeral..."

Fox sat draped over the table, eyes closed as he listened to Scully describe his lover's reaction to his 'death' and the details of his funeral.

"...and the turnout was huge. I couldn't believe all the people who showed up..."

"What, you didn't think I knew that many people, or you didn't think that I was that well liked?"

Scully smiled into the phone, hearing the humor in her partner's voice. "A little of both, actually. Anyway, I was worried to death about Alex. He wanted to be alone the night before, and when I called him that morning, there was no answer. I went to your apartment, and he wasn't there. I waited as long as I could, then met Skinner and your mother, and we went to the cemetary. I kept looking for him throughout the service, Mulder, and I couldn't find him. When it was all over and it was just your mother, Skinner and myself left, he appeared. Like out of nowhere. Again, I had a bad time with him. He draped himself over the casket and refused to leave. It was your mother who got him up and led him away from the grave..."

"My mother?"

"I was about as shocked as you are right now. She was wonderful to him right from the start. She had no idea who he was when he first appeared. I *had* to tell her. I felt I owed it to you both to tell her the truth..."

"I appreciate that, Scully."

Scully paused, then continued. "She took to him immediately. She was so broken up about losing you and, from what I could determine, was feeling all sorts of guilt over the way your relationship had deteriorated over the years. She actually thanked Alex for bringing you happiness. She stuck pretty close to him during the short time she was here, and though no one could really bring him any comfort, I think he appreciated her effort. He uh...he was practically catatonic during the reading of you will, until the lawyer got to him. He didn't want to hear it. He really came unglued..."

"I didn't mean for that to happen," Fox murmured, regret and pain tinging his voice. "I just wanted him to know how important he is to me."

"I know. He knows. He just was in no shape to handle it. Somehow, we managed to get through it, and a little while later, this man showed up at your door."

"Who was it?"

"Someone Alex knew. He's the one who gave Alex the heads-up on the smoker and Lieber. Told him where they were hiding. He tore out of the apartment, Skinner and I followed, and the rest, as they say, is history."

Fox blew out a long breath. "All that, and then he spent weeks more being tortured. No wonder he's sick now."

"His body just needs this little period of readjustment, and he'll be fine. Just keep doing what you're doing. He certainly does deserve all the attention you can give him."

"Thanks for talking to me, Scully. And thanks for sticking by him. I have to say, I'm amazed as well as grateful...to you and my mother. I know it was an impossible thing to bring him any kind of comfort, but I really thank you for trying."

"No thanks necessary. Just try and remember to talk to Skinner when you get back, okay? Everybody's doing okay now, but he's still having a tough time."

"I won't forget. I'll talk to Alex and then talk to Skinner."

They conversed for another few minutes, then Fox hung up and washed and dried the dishes. That done, he returned to the living room, finding Alex still soundly asleep. He sat on the coffee table, studying the younger man.

//I'm sorry, baby.//

Until now, he really hadn't realized just how much hell he'd put Alex through. Unwittingly, yes, but it did nothing to assauge his guilt.

Fox slid down to his knees, leaning over the sleeping man. He lightly touched Alex's cheek, watching his lover's mouth twitch. Unconsciously, his tongue flicked over his lips as the overwhelming urge to kiss Alex hit him.

//Don't, you'll wake him.//

Fox pulled himself away, picking up the book he'd settled down with earlier, and took a seat in the chair across from the sofa. He read for over three hours, looking up over the book every so often to check on Alex, who remained soundly asleep the entire time. Finally, he decided to go see what he could make for supper that might not upset Alex's stomach further. Aside from soup which he felt sure Alex would *not* want to eat again, he had no idea what to feed a sick man.

"Should've asked Scully," he mumbled, rooting around the cupboards and refrigerator looking for anything that could be considered non-threatening to an upset stomach. Finally deciding on scrambled eggs and toast, he took everything out he thought he would need, then moved back into the living room, where he found Alex just opening his eyes. He crossed over to the sofa and squatted before the sluggish man.

Alex moaned sleepily and blinked up at him. "What time is it?" he asked in a garbled tone.

"About six-thirty. I was just in the kitchen looking for something for supper. How does scrambled eggs and toast sound?"

"You really wanna know?"

"Can you think of something you'd rather have?"

Alex shook his head and closed his eyes. "Not even if you *could* cook."

Fox grinned, tilting his head to the side. "What? Is that humor I hear?"

"Nothing funny about the way you manage to mangle lemon pepper chicken."

"That wasn't my fault," Fox shot back, remembering the incident of six months ago down to the finest detail. "Frohike and Langly came by, and they insisted that cinnamon went in it."

"*Cinnamon*, Fox? Think about that. And then think about who said it to you."

Fox's mouth twisted into a thoughtful pucker. He looked down at the younger man then smiled. "You're insulting my cooking. You *must* be feeling better."

"Not wonderful, but not nearly as bad as this morning."

"Good. Then the eggs won't kill you."

Alex groaned as Fox stood up and headed in the direction of the kitchen. Minutes later, he heard the cheerful clang of pots and pans, and an uncontrollable smile came to his face.

Fox was trying so hard to make him feel better. Of all the things the other man had done for him, to date this had to be the sweetest. Alex knew how inexperienced he was at taking care of anyone other than himself, and the effort he was putting in, in Alex's opinion, was a true labor of love.

He sat contemplating his unbelievable good fortune until Fox entered the room, grinning broadly. The older man carried with him a tray containing a single plate loaded with what actually did look like scrambled eggs, several slices of toast, a cup filled with what Alex suspected was more of that damned tea, and a lit candle.

Fox set the tray down on the coffee table and pulled the whole thing closer to the sofa. "Huh? Huh?" He nudged Alex gently with his elbow as he sank to the floor beside him. For the first time since yesterday, he heard the younger man laugh.

"I'm proud of you."

Hazel eyes sparkled. "And guess what else I did."

"What?"

"I soaked everything in hot, soapy water so it'd be easier to clean, just like you're always after me to do."

Alex stared blankly. "Okay, who are you, and what have you done with my Fox?"

Fox smirked at the snide query then jumped to his feet. "Almost forgot." He walked over to the CD player, loaded a couple of disks, then resumed his position on the floor beside Alex. Kissing the younger man's forearm, he murmured, "Ambience."

Alex raised his eyebrows and opened his mouth, uttering a silent 'oh'.

Fox picked the plate up from the tray and held a forkful of eggs to Alex's mouth. Alex took only half of what was offered, afraid of swallowing too much at once, and Fox shoved the rest into his own mouth. He nodded, smiling as he looked hopefully to the younger man. "This isn't bad."

"Actually, it's pretty good," Alex agreed. "You got them fluffy like I showed you."

"See, you might not think so, but I pay attention."

"I'm impressed."

Alex ate far better than Fox expected, and when the meal was over, he removed the dishes to the kitchen, washed and dried everything, then returned to find Alex still awake and looking a bit more alert than he'd been all day.

"I think by tomorrow, you'll be back to yourself," Fox commented hopefully as Alex leaned forward, making enough room for Fox to sit in the corner of the sofa.

"I hope so. I've had enough of this to last me the next twenty years," Alex replied, lying back in his lover's embrace.

"You'd better never get the flu or pneumonia or anything," Fox laughed. "I don't think either of us would survive it."

"Have I been that much trouble?"

Fox kissed the top of Alex's head. "No. You haven't been any trouble at all."

"Liar."

"I am not. I'm completely serious."

"Uh huh."

Fox drew back, looking into dubious, green eyes. "Let me ask you a question."

"What?"

"All those weeks you were taking care of me, cooking, cleaning, worrying...dealing with my headaches and mood swings, and once in a while I'd thank you or apologize for being so much trouble, what would you say to me?"

Alex gave Fox a slow smile and lowered his head, but the other man refused to be put off. He slipped two fingers under the stubbled chin and lifted, searching his lover's eyes. "What did you *tell* me?"

"I told you that you were never any trouble."

"Why wasn't I?"

"Because I love you."

Fox nodded. "So, why can't you believe it when *I* say it?"

Alex's eyes again lowered, and he shrugged his answer.

"You know all that stuff I said to you in my will?"

Frowning, Alex looked up to the other man.

"I talked to Scully earlier," Fox said in answer to the silent question. "That was no bullshit, baby."

"I know..."

"I don't think you really do," Fox countered gently. "I don't think you really, truly understand how important you are to me. How necessary. This may sound sappy, I don't know. But I don't care...my heart beats for you, Alex. I can't breathe without you..."

Alex attempted to look away, but Fox wouldn't allow it.

"You know how you feel about me. You know what it did to you when you thought I was dead. What makes you think it'd be any different for me? What makes you think I love you any less than you love me?"

Alex opened and closed his mouth several times before he was able to answer. "I...I know you love me."

"Exactly the way you love *me*." Fox took Alex's hand and placed it over his heart. "I feel it as deeply as you do. For every reason imaginable. You need to know it, and remember it, and never, ever doubt it. Please, baby."

Alex wound his arms around Fox, pressing his head to his chest. His heart pounded out a joyful rhythm, beating in concert with Fox's. "I won't doubt it...never."

Stripping naked, the two men moved to the floor, Fox throwing down several pillows and covering them with the fleece blanket. They held on to each other, content to lie in silence, stroking and nuzzling until the soft music sent them into a sound sleep less than two hours later.

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

"Hmmmm...."

Fox writhed languidly, floating on a cloud of sweet sensation. Blindly he turned his head to the side, nuzzling the pillow beneath his face, sighing his lover's name. His only answer was an increase in pleasure, and soon his eyes began to flutter and open. A soft gasp tumbled from his lips as he woke, and he lifted his head, looking down at the sable head moving slowly between his legs. Automatically, one hand dropped, gently clutching the silken strands, and he again uttered Alex's name, this time on a louder, husky groan. The younger man's head lifted, and a devilish gleam lit his eyes.

"Good morning."

Fox's head dropped back against the pillows, and he groaned aloud. "Feeling good?" he gasped, earning himself a sly grin.

"You tell *me*." And with that, Alex's head dropped again, and he sucked his lover's cock down his throat.

"Shit! Oh, God, yeah. Aww, baby, you feel fantastic. Jesus, thank you," Fox panted, "thank you."

Happy in his task, Alex worked his mouth and tongue, stimulating every inch of his lover's swollen cock. Fluttering his tongue along the underside, he lifted his head until only the flared tip remained, then probed the tiny opening, tasting the drop of fluid that had formed there. He drew back, releasing Fox from his mouth, and slid up the length of the older man's body. He kissed Fox deeply, sharing the taste of sleep and arousal. "Aren't you going to ask me what I want for breakfast?" he purred against his lover's mouth.

Fox tried to laugh, but it came out as more of a groan. "Okay, what do you want for breakfast?"

"Mmm......." Alex licked a line across Fox's lower lip. "French toast."

Golden-brown eyebrows arched in surprise.

"...Big ass slab of ham..."

"I got a big ass slab of *something* for ya."

Alex grinned, running his tongue along the older man's chin then moved down the length of his throat. "...cocoa..."

Fox moaned as Alex moved down to his chest, first flicking at one aroused nipple and then the other. "What happened? I had a hard time feeding you *toast* yesterday."

"I know." Alex nipped at the hard, little peak beneath his lips. "But I feel great this morning, and I'm starving."

"So am I," Fox complained, restlessly running his fingers through Alex's hair.

"Okay, well, I'll go shower, and then I can get it started."

Fox's fingers tightened in the younger man's hair. "There's something *else* you started that you need to finish," he rasped between clenched teeth.

"Yeah?" Alex asked innocently, letting his hand slip down his lover's cock. "What's that?" He gasped softly as Fox pulled his hair, tipping his head back.

Fox stared down into a taunting green gaze. "Suck my cock," he whispered, the words coming across as a firm order...one Alex would be more than happy to obey...in his own good time. Fox's eyes closed, and a long, tormented whine escaped past his lips as Alex sucked a nipple into his mouth, lashing at it with the tip of his tongue. The whine turned to a harsh groan as he felt the younger man's teeth close around the nub and tug gently. "Baby, *please*," he begged, incurring another tug, sharper and more insistent this time.

A loud yelp rose into the air, followed by a soft moan as Alex soothed the reddened nipple with his tongue. Slowly, he worked his way south, licking and nipping at his lover's heated skin, following the light trail of golden hairs that led down to the darker, heavier patch of curls. He nuzzled the thick muscle that rose proudly from the patch, and it jerked toward his face, begging for more. Alex's tongue inched out, grazing the side of his lover's erection, working from base to tip, then again. He continued to lightly lick the shaft, listening to Fox's moans grow louder and more frantic, and when he was sure the older man could take no more, he swallowed the entire length of it, sucking and licking continuously, his mouth silently insisting that Fox give it up now.

Fox arched, his back coming several inches off the floor. He emitted a loud, sobbing gasp, hips thrashing as he now pumped his cock in and out of Alex's mouth.

Alex gripped Fox's hips, not to stop him, but simply to regulate his erratic movements. He forced the older man into a rhythm fast enough to satisfy Fox's need but controlled enough to keep himself from choking.

Beyond speech, Fox whimpered and sobbed as he drove again and again into Alex's mouth. His orgasm approached like the roll of thunder...an easy rumble churning in the distance, but growing with a steady intensity until it was directly overhead, and there was nothing Fox could do but ride it out. He gathered up fistfuls of fleece, groaning harshly through gritted teeth as he came down his lover's throat.

Alex tucked his hands under Fox's ass, tightly clutching the tense muscles as he sucked greedily at his lover's cock, swallowing every drop released into his mouth. When the groans had turned to exhausted whimpers, Alex released him, tenderly bathing the slowly diminishing erection. The whimpers faded into soft purrs of contentment, and Fox lifted a weakened hand to his head.

"Love you," Fox whispered, petting Alex's hair as the younger man continued to lick him clean.

Alex planted two kisses on the softening shaft and turned a smoldering gaze on the weary man. "Prove it."

Golden-brown eyelashes lifted, and glittering hazel eyes attempted to focus on the other man's face. The intensity of Alex's stare warmed Fox inside and out, and he smiled down at him. He took a moment to stretch then pulled himself into a sitting position, leaning forward to kiss his lover. The taste of himself on Alex's lips drew a low moan from him, and he pulled the younger man closer, deepening the kiss.

Mouths separating only for the amount of time it took to get to their feet, the two men stood locked together, feeding hungrily on each other as their hands roamed over hot skin and taut muscles.

"Shower," Fox ground out against Alex's mouth before again consuming the swollen flesh.

Alex nodded his agreement, and the two stumbled to the bathroom, reluctant to take their hands or mouths off of each other for the few seconds it would take to make the trip. They made it into the bathroom, and Fox groped inside the shower for the knob, turning the water on. That accomplished, his hand returned, gently rubbing over Alex's ass before cupping one cheek and pulling the younger man closer.

Alex groaned into his lover's mouth as their cocks pressed together, the sensation shooting a jolt of electricity straight through his body. He clutched at the older man's back, rubbing his head against the stubbled jaw. "Water must be warm enough," he panted, moving close enough to step backward into the tub. "Yeah. Perfect." He pulled Fox under the water, watching the spray immediately flatten his hair and spike his eyelashes. He combed the soaked strands back from Fox's face and moved in for yet another kiss.

Fox met his lover's lips with enthusiasm, sucking Alex's tongue into his mouth as his hands roamed over the wet, slick back, stoking and massaging the flexing muscles.

Alex bucked against the other man, his muffled moans barely heard in the swish of the water. As Fox pulled back then bit down on his lower lip, he groaned, wincing at the pain it created. Yet his cock throbbed in response, and he writhed frantically against the other man, whimpering for more.

Fox's teeth sank deeper into the tender flesh, released, then caught it again, growling as Alex's fingers dug into his ass. He moved forward, backing Alex against the tiled wall and abruptly freed his lip. Alex's gasp of relief died a fast death, catching in his throat as Fox shifted to his shoulder, sinking his teeth into that tender curve at the base of his neck. He felt the younger man shudder, and he paused, enjoying each little tremor that ran through the body in his arms.

"Do it," Alex hissed, clawing at his lover's back. "Please..."

Fox bit down a little harder then paused again, tightening his arms around the younger man, holding him still...

Alex's head snapped back and his eyes squeezed shut as Fox broke the skin. His mouth fell open on a silent scream as pure, animalistic ecstasy transcended the pain and took him to a place he'd feared he'd never see again.

Fox sucked and lapped at the blood that dripped from his lover's shoulder, shivering as the coppery taste flooded his mouth. His cock throbbed with renewed life, and he pulled his mouth away from the small wound long enough to spin Alex around and push him face first against the wall. The younger man whined, pushing his ass back against Fox's groin, and Fox pushed back, pinning him to the wall. Taking two hard swipes at Alex's shoulder, he moved up to the younger man's ear, pressing his lips to it.

"Don't move," he commanded softly, then turned away just long enough to snatch up the bath wash and sponge. He squeezed a generous amount into the sponge and began to gently wash Alex's back, moving down to his ass and legs. The entire back of the younger man's body now covered in suds, Fox moved the sponge over his own front, insuring that his quickly hardening cock was good and slick before he dropped the soapy puff by his feet. He moved up behind Alex, letting his slippery cock press into the crevice of the other man's ass.

"Please," Alex gasped, pushing back against Fox. "Fuck me...f...fuck me..."

"I plan to," Fox grated as he held his cock at the base and slowly worked the head into the tight opening. He paused, again fastening his mouth to the closing wound, and, with one hard push, buried himself inside his lover's heat.

Alex clawed at the wall, his knees almost giving out as pleasure crashed down on him from all sides. His lover's hand wrapping itself around his rigid erection took him outside of his own mind, snapping the constricting bands of rationality, and he screamed. A loud, desperate, feral scream that went on forever it seemed, as Fox sucked at his shoulder and pumped his cock in time to his urgent thrusts.

The sound of his lover's screams pounded in Fox's ears, driving him into a frenzied rhythm. Snarling against Alex's shoulder, he slammed into his ass, pumping a second flood of semen into him.

Alex immediately followed his lover, the scream turning into a sob as he came over Fox's hand and the tile in front of him. He sagged against the wall when it was done, choking on each attempted breath. Fox leaned into him, head resting on his shoulder while he gathered the strength to stand on his own. Long minutes later, the older man pulled out of him and straightened up.

"That just about killed me," Fox moaned, turning Alex to face him and wrapping his arms around the younger man. "Are you all right?"

Alex rested in his lover's arms, momentarily incapable of speech. He winced and moaned softly as Fox tenderly kissed the wounded flesh, then nuzzled the older man's chest. "Couldn't be better."

"This is going to leave a bitch of a mark," Fox informed him, lightly drawing his fingertips along his shoulder. "Maybe even a permanent scar."

Alex lifted his head and gave the other man an exhausted smile. "God, I hope so."

His response received a soft laugh, and Fox backed them under the water. "Better hurry up and get out of here before the hot water runs out."

They washed each other, kissing and teasing, then dried off. Fox insisted on cleaning the bite wound with an antiseptic, then they dressed and headed into the kitchen for breakfast.

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

Fox sat at the kitchen table, cheek resting in the palm of his hand, watching the younger man wolf down his breakfast.

"Making up for yesterday?"

"Told you I was hungry."

Fox sent him an amused grin. "I'm glad you're feeling better."

"Me too." Alex lowered his fork to the plate, returning Fox's smile. "This feels so good. I was terrified sometimes that we'd never get back to being us."

"You were very patient."

The smile faded from Alex's face. "I'd wait forever for you."

Silence fell over the room as the two stared at each other. Fox leaned in, reaching across the short distance and touched his hand to Alex's cheek. The action closed the younger man's eyes, and he turned into the caress, depositing a tender kiss in the warm palm. Fox drew his hand away slowly, trailing his fingers along Alex's jaw, then let the hand rest in his own lap.

"Glad it didn't take that long."

Not taking his eyes away from his lover's, Alex nodded in response.

"I'm sorry I didn't wait for you to call me," Fox said softly.

Alex's eyes widened in surprise. "Where'd *that* come from?"

"Talked about it with Scully yesterday. I caused you so much grief...but I had reason to believe that they were picking up and moving..."

"I know," Alex interrupted. "And I wish to God you'd waited, but I understand why you didn't."

Fox's eyes lowered to the table top. "Can you understand why Skinner didn't go running up to Vermont when you called him?" He looked up into dark eyes, waiting for an answer.

"I can understand it, but...it...I didn't care what his reasons were at the time. All I cared about was that you were on a collision course with disaster, and he had the best chance of stopping you. I was so focused on getting you out of there, I couldn't see that he felt he had plenty of reason to distrust me." Alex blinked several times and bowed his head. "When I finally made it up there and found all those emergency vehicles and what was left of the house...and Scully broke the news and handed me your wallet..." He shook his head. "I needed someone to blame, and Skinner fit the bill...and he was right there in front of me. I saw red...no, red isn't even what I saw...it was sort of a dull, reddish, blackish...I can't tell you how much I hurt. I can't tell you how badly I wanted him dead." He ran a hand through his hair and fell silent.

Fox pulled his chair closer and kissed the top of Alex's inclined head. "But you did get over it..."

"I realized toward the end that he really was feeling like shit about it. He put his ass way out there, following me to the place where I found you. He watched me kill a whole lot of people...he killed Lieber himself."

"To save you."

"Yeah. But you know I...even though I understand why, I still can't help thinking that if he'd only listened to me in the first place, what happened might have been prevented. I don't know that we'll ever be good friends, Fox, but we can at least be in each other's company without wanting to kill each other."

"More than I ever would have expected," Fox murmured into Alex's hair

The younger man picked his head up and laid a gentle but thoroughly arousing kiss on his lover's lips. "You wanna go out and get some firewood while I start cleaning up here?"

Fox nodded and moved in for another kiss. Meeting Alex's open mouth, his tongue swept inside, coiling around its mate even as Fox rose from his seat. He pulled away slowly, sucking on Alex's tongue as he moved. "Be back in a few," he whispered, brushing his lover's mouth with his own, then turned and vacated the room, leaving Alex squirming in his chair.

Alex sat for a few seconds more, calming the racing of his heart before he rose and started clearing the table.

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

Long trails of vapor streamed from Fox's mouth as he picked up as much firewood as he could carry. He turned his face upward, observing the sickly gray clouds and sniffing the air.

Snow sky.

He'd seen enough of them in his lifetime to recognize one.

As he walked toward the house, he lifted his head, sniffing the air. For some reason, this sky...the stillness in the air...it reminded him of Martha's Vineyard and the blizzard that had paralyzed the island in nineteen seventy-eight, his senior year of high school. It was the last winter he'd spent at home, and as it turned out, one hell of a sendoff.

Everything had come to a standstill as a massive winter storm rolled through and dumped three and a half feet of snow on Southern New England and the islands. He recalled how the howling wind had drowned out the sounds of his mother yelling at him from the doorway as he waded out into the yard and stood there marveling at the heavy snow and ferocious winds that had combined to inflict absolute chaos on the island. He'd closed his eyes, leaning a bit into the wind to remain upright as the blizzard had swallowed him, shutting out the world and creating a vortex of sound and sensation where only he and the storm existed.

The pure sensuality of those few moments consumed him, and though he'd always remember it, he'd never again experience anything like it until several years later when he'd rediscovered it in the arms of the beautiful, green-eyed, walking contradiction who had all at once corrupted and cleansed his soul.

One year ago, Alex had enveloped him as the snow had, his devastating energy blinding Fox and taking him away from everything he knew. He was turned upside down and inside out, and for the first time he'd met the man inside himself. It was no one he'd recognized but was anxious to know.

He'd shocked himself as more and more of his hidden self emerged over the past year. He'd thought that even Alex might have been surprised, never imagining that he'd been equally matched. Fox's appetite for excitement was every bit as great as his, and together they were incendiary. The heat they created reached far beyond whatever space they inhabited, leaving no one around them unscorched...

He smiled to himself as he reached the door, balancing his armload and opening the door. Pushing it closed with his foot, he deposited the wood in its place by the hearth and looked toward the kitchen. From the sound of the running water, he assumed that Alex was doing the dishes. He rose and walked to the kitchen, carefully pushing open the swinging door.

He watched quietly as the younger man rinsed and stacked the dishes, and his heart swelled. As easily as Alex could heat him up, he could inspire the tenderest of emotions as well.

Domestic Alex Krycek had to rank up there as one of the truly amazing wonders of the world. Here was a man who'd lived most of his adult life in the most unconventional way possible, and now, for the love of one man, he was here in the middle of nowhere, standing in the kitchen of the cabin he owned but might have never set foot in again, washing and rinsing breakfast dishes.

Fox approached silently and let his hands slide up the length of Alex's back, coming to rest on his shoulders. He leaned forward, letting the tip of his nose and then his lips graze the back of the younger man's neck, and was rewarded with a tiny shiver.

Alex raised a damp hand and covered one of Fox's as he inclined his head, giving the older man better access.

Fox smiled and licked then kissed the fine hairs at the base of Alex's neck. "Goosebumps?" He rumbled, amused at his lover's reaction.

"You know how sensitive the back of my neck is," Alex moaned as Fox moved higher, getting closer to his hairline.

"Yeah, I know." Fox nuzzled the sable fringe. "I love the way your whole body trembles..."

Alex moaned and closed his hand around Fox's, dragging it to his lips. "Your hands are cold," he whispered, delicately licking at the pads of Fox's fingers.

The older man inhaled deeply and let the air out in a long sigh, ruffling Alex's hair. "Yeah. I think it's going to snow."

"I hope it does."

"Why?"

"I don't know," Alex murmured, lifting Fox's other hand to his mouth. "Just something about being inside, making love by the fire while it's snowing like hell outside...like the first time we were here..."

"Mmmm. You almost done with those?" Fox asked, referring to the dishes.

"Yeah." Alex released his lover's hands and went back to rinsing the dishes. A tiny smile curved his lips, and his eyes closed as Fox's hands returned to his shoulders, massaging gently. The older man continued to kiss and nibble at the back of his neck. "Not going to get anything done if you keep that up," he warned softly.

Fox's hands traveled down the other man's arms, slipping into the warm water, joining the hands already there. "How about I help you, then?" His hands glided over Alex's and took the plate from him, placing it in the rack. As his lips moved to the side of the younger man's neck, finding the throbbing pulse, he pulled a soapy glass from the other side of the double sink and plunged it into the clear water, rinsing it clean. As it joined the dishes already in the rack, Fox continued to rinse each item in the same manner until everything was clean and Alex was wrecked. He wrapped one arm around the younger man's waist and tilted his head back until it rested against his shoulder. His free hand wandered over Alex's chest, undoing the buttons of his shirt as his mouth explored the exposed throat.

Alex reached back, plunging his damp fingers into Fox's hair, holding the older man's head in place as he writhed against him. Fox's hands and face...even his hair might have been cold after his trip outside, but the stony bulge that pressed against his ass was quite warm, bordering on hot. He wanted that heat. He needed it, and he damn sure was going to have it...

Fox groaned as Alex pushed back against him, wedging his restrained erection between them. He undid the last button of the younger man's shirt and let his hand skim over the impressive mound at the front of the worn Levis. Feeling Alex's body jerk against him, he gently squeezed the protrusion and kissed a path up to his ear.

"You know what I want?"

Alex flinched and moaned as the tip of his lover's tongue teased the inside of his ear. "I think I have an idea, but you can tell me anyway."

"I want to make love to you in the snow." Fox smiled as a tiny shiver ran through the younger man. "Does the thought alone make you cold?"

"Cold? Oh...yeah, I guess it would be cold..." A soft, throaty chuckle and the feel of Fox's hand slipping past the waistband of his jeans sent a another shiver through him.

"I can just imagine the steam rising off your body as each flake falls on it." His teeth closed on Alex's earlobe, giving it a playful tug. "I could lick them off as they melted..."

"I can't believe I'm even considering it."

"Really? *You*?"

Alex's laugh faded into a groan as Fox's hand found his cock. His hips thrust forward as the hand teased him to greater hardness, and the sounds of his soft whimpers filled the room.

"Knowing you, I wouldn't be able to believe it if you *hadn't* considered it," Fox whispered.

"You trying to tell me something?"

"Nothing you don't already know."

"Oh, really?"

"Mmm hmm. I don't have to tell you how outrageously easy you are."

Alex turned in Fox's arms, coiling himself around the older man and rubbing his head against his jaw. "Only for you, baby."

Fox hugged his lover to his chest and kissed the side of his head. "Let's go see if it's snowing."

Hand in hand they walked to the living room, stopping in front of the picture window. Fox leaned against the back of the sofa and pulled the younger man back against him. "Not yet," he said, searching the sky, "but soon."

Alex nodded, eyes scanning the treeline. He froze for a moment then tapped Fox's arm. "Hey. Look."

"What?" Fox asked, presently more interested in the taste of the younger man's neck.

"Eagles," Alex whispered. "Remember?"

Fox looked up to the window and smiled as he watched the two birds rising above and dipping below the tops of the trees. "Yeah." He squeezed Alex to his chest. "I do remember."

They watched the birds in silence for a while, then Fox kissed his lover's jaw. "I read someplace once that they mate for life."

Alex turned his head to the side, looking into glowing pools of hazel. "Yeah?"

Fox nodded and moved in for a long, loving kiss. He concluded with a series of smaller pecks to Alex's chin, cheek and ear, then looked back to the window. "I think I see a few flakes."

Alex's gaze followed Fox's, and he grinned broadly. "I think you're imagining things."

"Am not. You don't see that? Look." He pointed to a spot just to the right of Alex's line of vision. "Right there. You see?"

"No, I really don't...oh, wait. Okay, yeah, I just saw one...*one*."

"There'll be more," Fox purred into Alex's ear. "You still up for it?"

Alex smiled and pushed back against the other man. "Why don't you see for yourself?"

Fox undid the button at the waistband of Alex's jeans and drew the zipper down. Gently, he reached inside and closed his fingers around his lover's raging hard-on. "Guess so."

Alex pushed himself away, leaving the warmth of Fox's arms. "Why don't you get our jackets? I'll go get a blanket." He smiled at the older man as he tucked himself back into his pants and moved off toward the bedroom.

Still leaning against the sofa, Fox pitched forward, bending at the waist and taking a few steadying breaths.

//Down, boy. Easy...//

"You okay?"

Fox straightened up, looking into concerned, green eyes. "Fine. I just..." He walked toward the younger man, pulling him into his arms. "Just a little overwhelmed, I guess. I've got my life back." He kissed Alex's mouth briefly. "And it's better than ever."

"We've been incredibly lucky, that's for sure," Alex said, running one hand up and down Fox's back. "Now, how about we go outside and play in the snow?"

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

The flakes were visible now, falling gently around the two men as they walked in silence. Alex squeezed Fox's hand and motioned with his head to a small grouping of trees at the edge of the forest. The older man gave him an approving smile, and they moved in that direction. By the time they reached the desired spot, the snow had become a heavy flurry, now sticking to their hair and jackets. Alex unrolled two blankets and laid them out on the ground, smiling up at his lover.

"Don't want to feel the cold ground under us." He sat on the blankets and pulled Fox down to him, immediately pressing their mouths together.

Fox's hands burrowed under Alex's jacket, running them over the chilled skin of his chest. Alex hadn't buttoned his shirt before putting his jacket on, citing the pointlessness of such an act, and Fox had to agree.

Alex moaned into Fox's mouth as the other man's fingers whispered over his taut nipples then traveled on down to his pants. The top button had remained undone, and the older man made quick work of the zipper. Alex sank down onto his back, allowing Fox to remove the clothing from his lower body. He shivered as the flakes fell down on his bare skin and as Fox moved in to lick a number of them away.

"Are you too cold?" Fox asked as his tongue swiped at a flake that had deposited itself in Alex's navel.

"Could be warmer," Alex stuttered, pulling at the other man's pants. "Friction works..."

Fox assisted in the removal of his lower garments and covered the younger man with his body. "Better?"

Alex grinned up at Fox, writhing against him. "Yeah. Your ass is gonna get cold, though."

"Hey, *somebody's* ass has got to freeze." He moved in, taking his lover's mouth in a hungry kiss. "You're worth the frostbite."

Alex stared up at Fox for moment then shrugged out of his jacket and shirt. "Fuck me, baby."

A rush of vapor puffed from Fox's open mouth, and he sat up, removing his own jacket and shirt, and for long moments, neither man moved, thoroughly entranced by the sight of the now steadily falling snow dusting their aroused bodies. Finally, Alex rose into a sitting position, facing the older man. "I think I changed my mind." He smiled at the older man's look of confusion and leaned in, licking the melting snow from his shoulder. "I want to fuck *you*."

Before Fox could respond, he was being pushed onto his back and covered by his lover's body. He wrapped his arms around Alex, feeling the heat beneath the cool, wet surface of his skin. As the younger man groped for his jacket and pulled the lube out of the pocket, Fox licked his chest and shoulder, swallowing the moisture and stoking the internal fire that raged in them both. He grunted as Alex pulled far enough away to unscrew the cap and squeeze the contents of the tube into his hand.

"Two seconds, baby," Alex reassured his impatient lover while he stroked on the gel. That accomplished, he moved into position as Fox wound his legs around his waist. He grasped his cock at the base and carefully guided it into the tight opening, gasping at the intense heat that surrounded him. "Oh, God. Ohhhh, God..." He stopped, fighting to maintain control as violent tremors passed through him.

"Easy, baby," Fox whispered, kissing Alex's shoulder and ear. "Easy..."

"I...I'm..." Alex looked down into his lover's face. The beauty of him lying there, heavily flushed skin covered in quickly accumulating snow, spiked eyelashes drooping to conceal oceans of sparkling amber...short puffs of steam pushing past those sinfully full, rosy lips was too much for Alex's overloaded senses to take. "Can't," he sobbed, digging his fingers into his lover's ass and pushing fully into him. "I can't..."

Fox pulled Alex down to him, hugging the younger man tightly to his chest and trapping his swollen cock between their bodies. "All right, baby. All right..."

Alex moved slowly at first, but quickly gained speed and strength, driving forcefully into the other man over and over again as he gasped for air.

"That's it, baby," Fox encouraged softly in Alex's ear. "God, I love you. Come on...right there...oh, *shit*, it's right...right there..."

The frigid temperatures and driving snow no longer stung Alex's skin. It all just disappeared, leaving only the sensation of his lover beneath and around him, and the sound of his voice, pushing Alex closer and closer to the edge of insanity.

"Don't hold it," Fox grated against the side of Alex's neck as he rocked against him. "Let it go. Come on, baby, I wanna hear you scream..."

Alex gritted his teeth, feeling the familiar tightening of his insides, and the roar built in his throat as completion danced within his reach. Fox's muscles contracted around him as the older man's own orgasm hit, taking them the rest of the way.

The virtual silence was pierced with echoing cries as both men came violently, thrashing against each other, then went still. Brief seconds later, both began to tremble as they came down from the high of intense arousal, and the cold started to register in their sluggish brains. Alex lifted his head from Fox's shoulder, kissing the older man gently before moving away to retrieve their clothing.

Fox shuddered as cold air came between them, and he sat up, taking the garments offered to him. Once dressed, they wrapped the dry side of both blankets around themselves, sharing a sweet kiss before returning to the shelter of the cabin.

Fox's hand held securely in his, Alex walked into the welcoming warmth of the cabin and went directly to the bedroom where they shed their clothing and wet blankets. Hanging everything up to dry, they stepped into a warm shower, tenderly washing then drying each other, then lay down in front of the fire, wrapping themselves in another thick blanket.

Fox inched farther down into the fleece cocoon, snuggling against Alex's chest and closed his eyes. Seconds later, he began to smile, then laugh softly.

"What?"

Fox laughed harder, prompting Alex to slip two fingers under his chin and force his head up. "What's so funny?"

"We are," Fox sniffed just before a fresh burst of giggles. "Freezing our asses out in the snow..."

Alex grinned down at his lover. "Yeah, it was *your* idea, remember?"

"Yeah, yeah, I know. Tell me you didn't enjoy it, though."

"I'd be lying if I did, and you know it."

Fox grinned, kissing the younger man's chest. "You think it's a bad thing?"

"What?"

"The way we feed off each other's insanity."

"Nah. It's definitely a good thing. We understand each other so well." Alex stroked his lover's hair as he stared up at the ceiling. "We share the same thoughts. The same needs and desires. I had a tough time believing it even though I wanted to with all my heart." He kissed the top of Fox's head. "But you'll be happy to know that you've finally drilled it into my thick head. We belong to each other in so many more ways than I can count."

"Hallelujah," Fox mumbled. "Light dawns."

Alex gave the older man a sharp smack across his ass, generating a surprised yelp.

"You prick," Fox complained, rubbing the sore spot. "That *hurt*."

"*Good*," Alex smirked. "Here I am, pouring my heart out to you, and what do I get? Sarcasm."

"Thought you liked my acid wit?"

Alex slid a hand down to Fox's ass. "And *I* thought you liked being spanked."

"What makes you think *that*?"

"I don't know," Alex purred, delivering another stinging slap to the older man's ass. "Could have a little bit to do with that sound you just made...and the way you're rubbing against me."

"I am not," Fox moaned softly, squirming against Alex's hip.

"No?"

Another hard slap.

Another yelp.

"No."

"Do I have to beat the truth out of you?"

The question got Alex a long, needy whine as Fox writhed lewdly against him.

"Damn, baby, didn't take you long," Alex commented, smiling at the feel of his lover's solid erection digging into his upper thigh. He rolled Fox beneath him and pinned the older man's wrists to the floor on either side of his head. "I love you, you beautiful, insatiable slut."

Fox lifted his head from the floor, trying to reach his lover's mouth, but Alex stayed just out of reach.

"Alex..."

"Yeah, baby?"

"Come on." He tried again, just touching the younger man's lips before Alex again pulled back.

"Nope."

Fox arched up, pushing his hips into Alex's. "Please..."

"You gonna admit you're a freak?"

"I'm not a *freak*."

Alex sighed, shaking his head. "Baby..." He lowered his head to Fox's ear, singing softly. "Baby, baby, baby, sweet baby..." The older man shuddered as the low, melodic tone vibrated along his auditory nerve. "You are, beyond a shadow of a doubt, the freakiest, kinkiest....freakiest..."

"You said that already."

"I know, shut up. Where was I? Oh yeah....sluttiest freak it has *ever* been my joy to know. Now, recognize it and let's move on."

Fox stared seductively up at the younger man. "No."

"Ah, my love," Alex crooned. "Your lips say no, but your dick says yes...so, I guess I'll just have to find better use for your lips."

Fox panted softly, waiting to hear what Alex had in mind for him. The younger man lifted himself away and sat back against the nearest chair. "C'mere, babe."

Fox crawled toward the other man and allowed himself to be positioned so that he lay across Alex's lap. He looked up into forest-green eyes, reading his lover's intention, and lowered his head, gently licking the length of Alex's aroused cock.

Alex's eyes closed briefly as he inhaled through his nose, then opened as he exhaled. His hand swept up and down the older man's back, just skimming the top curve of his ass.

Fox licked Alex from base to tip, reveling in the taste and feel of his lover on his tongue. As he reached the head, his tongue danced around the tip, teasing the small opening. Hearing Alex's harsh groans of pleasure, he opened his mouth, letting the head slip inside.

Alex slouched a bit, his respiration deepening. "Come on, baby," he whispered, kneading the muscles in Fox's back. "Suck me..."

Completely ignoring Alex's request, Fox kept his mouth slack, only lightly lashing at the head with the tip of his tongue. His disregard earned him a biting slap, and his ass tightened in response.

"I said, suck me."

Fox writhed shamelessly, his cock throbbing at the sting in Alex's touch and his words. His lips closed around the head of the other man's cock, and he applied a light pressure.

"Harder, Fox," Alex instructed softly. "*All* of it."

Fox shivered, moving lower on the velvety smooth shaft until, inch by inch, it disappeared completely past his lips.

Alex's free hand moved gently over Fox's head as he fought to steady his breath. "Oh, yeah...my baby. Jesus, that mouth..."

Fox whimpered as the head of Alex's cock hit the back of his throat. He wrapped his arms around the younger man's waist, increasing the suction as his tongue fluttered over the underside. As he pulled up, Alex's head fell back and he groaned though clenched teeth.

"God...beautiful, fucking beautiful....slut..." Alex inflicted another blow across Fox's left ass cheek, and the older man's body jumped in reaction. "Harder, baby. Faster."

Fox whimpered around his mouthful, and his head rose and fell in answer to his lover's command. The hand in his hair tightened, and Alex began to buck, now thrusting steadily into his mouth. Fox met each thrust, his moans becoming more frantic.

"Oh, God...Christ...don't stop..." Alex gritted his teeth, digging his fingers into Fox's ass as he came long and hard, pouring his semen down his lover's throat.

Fox swallowed all that Alex had to give him, refusing to let go until the younger man's body went limp and soft purrs of contentment rumbled in his chest. He pulled himself up, nuzzling the exhausted man's chest and throat, then licking at his lips. "Alex," he whimpered, trying to rouse his lover. A low moan was all the response he received, and he pressed closer, rubbing his aching cock against Alex's thigh. "Baby, I'm hurting. Please..."

Tired, green eyes opened halfway, studying the distressed face in front of them. Alex raised a hand to Fox's cheek, letting his thumb sweep over the downturned mouth. "Tell me," he whispered wearily.

"What?"

"That I'm right."

Fox whined impatiently, curling himself around the other man. "About what?"

"About you being an insatiable, incurable freak."

"You're right," Fox agreed without hesitation. "I *am* a freak. Okay? I'm an unbelievable slut. But all the blame belongs to you." Fox slithered against Alex, loving the feel of his lover's skin against his. "You did this to me."

"That's blame I'll gladly accept." Gently, Alex pushed Fox away then stretched out on his back. He held his arms out, and the older man fell into them, covering his mouth with ravenous kisses.

"I need you," Fox gasped between attacks on Alex's mouth. "Please let me..."

Alex moaned, threading his fingers through Fox's hair. He lifted the other man's head away from his and stared up into desperate, gold-flecked eyes. "You know I can't say no to you when you look at me like that. Where's the lube?"

Silently cursing himself for not bringing the tube with him, Fox leapt to his feet and stalked into the bathroom, snatching the lube from the edge of the sink where he'd left it, then returned.

Alex held his hand out as Fox kneeled beside him. "Give me that."

When the older man handed the tube to him, Alex motioned for him to lie down on his back. He rose to his knees then straddled Fox's hips, squeezing some gel out into his palm. Fox squirmed beneath him, anticipating his touch as he rubbed his hands together, warming the gel. Smiling down at his lover, he gently grasped his cock, applying a thick coating.

Fox bit down on his lip, making a low, grunting sound in his throat as Alex caressed his cock longer than he had to.

"What's the matter, baby?" the younger man teased. "Can't take it?"

Fox shook his head, whining pitifully.

"All right, all right. No more teasing."

Just as Fox's hands clamped down on Alex's waist, preparing to spin the younger man onto his back, Alex's hands closed around Fox's wrists.

"No."

Alex's eyes darkened to near-blackness, and his voice held that gravel and molasses timbre that said to Fox in no uncertain terms that *he* was in charge. He released Fox's wrists, and the other man let his hands drop to his sides.

For long minutes, all that could be heard was the crackle of the fire and the soft sound of a man trying desperately to control his breathing.

Alex raised a hand to Fox's face, tracing his hairline, then the curve of his cheek. He let his fingertips skim over the roughened surface again and again, loving the texture and imagining it rubbing against the inside of his thigh. He shuddered ever so slightly and moved on, following the generous swell of his lover's lower lip.

"You said..." Fox paused, his throat convulsing as he tried to swallow. "...you said no more teasing."

"I'm not teasing you, baby," Alex murmured. "I just wanted to look at you." His hand drifted down Fox's throat. "Just wanted to touch you. I love to touch you..."

Fox's eyelids lowered and his head rolled to the side as Alex's fingers closed around his throat, and the younger man leaned in, licking a path along his jaw.

"And I love to taste you..." A tiny smirk twitched at the corner of Alex's mouth as Fox sobbed his name. He found his lover's mouth, engaging him in a slow, deep kiss while he reached behind himself, grasping his cock. He felt Fox quiver as he raised himself a bit, positioning the older man's cock and helping the head push inside.

Fox pushed upward, unable to keep from trying to bury himself in Alex's heat, but the younger man backed off too quickly.

"Not so fast," he warned his lover, who was now snarling his frustration.

"I *want* it fast," Fox complained, bucking again, uselessly.

Alex shook his head slowly. "Look at this, baby."

Fox followed Alex's gaze to his half-erect cock.

"Give me a little more time," Alex purred, running his fingertips over the awakening shaft, "and I'll come with you."

Fox rolled his eyes up into his head and closed his lids over them. "God, what's this? Three?"

Alex reached for his lover's hands and brought them up to his chest. "Can't help it if I can't get enough of you."

Fox gave the younger man a pained grin and began moving his hands over the warm chest, lightly brushing then pinching the erect nipples. He watched Alex's eyes close, and he pinched harder, tugging insistently.

Alex's head fell back, and a hard gasp escaped his lips. His cock jumped in added response and began to thicken and pulse to life. He pushed down a bit more, feeling the added stimulation of his lover's considerable length filling him.

Fox gritted his teeth, doing everything he could think of to keep his full focus off of what was happening to his body, but with his cock wedged partway in Alex's ass, and the younger man moaning above him, chances were slim that he'd succeed. When Alex slid down the rest of the way and his muscles started contracting around the presence inside him, those chances suddenly went from slim to none.

Fox's mouth fell open, and a broken sob rang out as Alex began to move, still milking his cock with his muscles. "I'm ready, baby," Alex gasped, moving one of Fox's hands down from his chest to his rigid cock. "Let's do it."

Fox emitted a hoarse cry as Alex rose up a few inches. He jerked upward as his lover descended, quickly finding a driving rhythm that suited them both. His fingers tightened around Alex's cock, squeezing and pumping as Alex did essentially the same to him. He forced his eyes to remain open as he watched the younger man's face contort into a mask of fierce pleasure. Alex was about to come for the third, and somehow Fox thought, not the last time today, and he didn't want to miss it. Looking into Alex's face as he came was the closest he thought he would ever come to having a religious experience.

His beautiful, tarnished angel. A religion unto himself. And Fox his loyal disciple...

Fox watched, entranced as his lover's eyes turned to glittering slits and his teeth clenched as his body rose and fell repeatedly, harder and faster until loud, choking sobs tumbled from his lips, and he drenched the hand wrapped around him in slick warmth...

So amazing.

The idea that he could make this man whimper and beg for his touch never ceased to amaze Fox. The fact that Alex wouldn't...that he could *never* lose control for anyone else shook Fox to his roots. That *he* wielded so much power over a man who would never submit to another living soul...it was overwhelming.

And arousing beyond description.

Fox let go, his love's frantic cries of completion ringing in his ears. He gripped Alex's hips and slammed into him twice more, then exploded, his harsh groans drowning out Alex's softer, fading sounds. The younger man collapsed onto his chest, and his arms automatically encircled the heated, perspiration-speckled back. One hand glided over the slick skin as he kissed the damp, sable head, whispering soft, breathless words of love.

Alex snuggled into his lover's embrace, deep, satisfied moans rumbling in his chest. Neither man spoke a word, preferring to bask in the loving silence, and soon enough, both were soundly asleep.

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

"Hello?"

There was a brief silence, then a hesitant female voice sounded. "Sir? It's Scully."

Skinner pushed away from his kitchen counter, carrying his half-eaten bowl of soup with him. "Good evening, Agent Scully. Is everything all right?"

"Yes, sir. You'd asked me to keep in touch and let you know how Mulder was doing up in Oregon."

"Yes."

"I would have called you earlier, but I was out for most of the day. He's doing fine, sir. After a bit of a rough time, his memory has returned completely."

Skinner bowed his head, closing his eyes. "That's the best news I've heard since he was found. When did you speak with him?"

"Yesterday. He said he's feeling normal again."

"That's wonderful. Krycek must be relieved, too."

"Yes, he is. So much so that he was sick as a dog yesterday."

"Sick?"

"Yes. Well, he's been under a lot of stress, and now that it's all over, his body has more or less collapsed. I assume he's feeling better today, because I haven't heard from Mulder."

"I see. Any indication when they'll be back?"

"Nothing definite. Mulder wants at least a few days of real relaxation before they think about coming back. I think they're both very much entitled to that."

"Of course. The next time you speak to Mulder, give him my best."

"I will." Scully paused for a moment, debating whether she should ask how he was, then decided against it. Water Skinner was not a man who readily shared his feelings, and the no nonsense tone in his voice told her that such a question might not be very welcome. "Goodnight, sir."

"Goodnight."

Skinner hung up and stared down into his soup.

So, Mulder was all right.

//No thanks to you.//

//Don't. Don't do it. It's done. Over. Water under the proverbial bridge. He's alive, he's got his memory back, and that's what's important. Just let it go.//

He thought to himself, sitting alone in the quiet of his living room, that he should have asked Scully to give Mulder *and* Krycek his best. It wasn't that it hadn't crossed his mind; it had. But he and Krycek had been enemies for so long, it was difficult to treat him as a friend, even now after all they'd been through. Even after he'd seen how devastated Krycek was when he thought Mulder had been killed. Even after he'd saved the younger man's life and had been so supportive while Mulder was in the hospital...

He lowered his head into his hands.

Then there was that little matter of Mulder.

Fox.

Just because he'd resigned himself to the fact that Fox would always belong to Krycek didn't mean that he'd automatically stopped wanting the man.

He'd not spent much time in Fox's company these past months...a ban he'd imposed on himself. The more often he'd looked into those confused, unsure eyes, the deeper he'd felt himself sink.

And the more he'd watched Fox basking in the loving attention of a man he couldn't even remember, the more sure Skinner was that he needed to stay as far away as he could. He wasn't sure that time and distance would help him get over Fox, but one thing was damn sure. Being anywhere within visual distance of him was not good. Hell, just *feeling* the man's presence was enough to ruin his concentration and his day.

And now, Fox would be coming back to work. How soon, Skinner had no idea, but his return did seem inevitable...as did the prospect of more frequent cold showers and sleepless nights...and the terrible attacks of guilt he'd suffered whenever Fox looked at him. It resided there alongside the lust and other emotions he dared not admit to himself.

He had to find a way to deal with it. Soon he'd be back to seeing Fox every day, and he *couldn't* go through this every time they had to be in each other's company.

He tilted his head back against the sofa cushion, staring up at the ceiling.

//You could quit the Bureau.//

//Who said that?//

//Well, what the hell else are you going to do? There's no other way out of this. So. You either suffer a perpetual hard-on and eternal guilt, or you leave and put as much distance between you as possible.//

Skinner raised a hand to his forehead, massaging gently for a few seconds before taking his glasses off and swinging his square frame into a vertical position. His eyes closed, and almost immediately, thoughts of the object of his most ardent desires filled his head.

"Jesus..."

One hand involuntarily slipped down to the growing bulge in his pants as he imagined Fox naked and tangled in the sheets of his bed, smiling a sleepy smile as Skinner leaned over him, peppering his face and back with soft kisses...

He undid the button and zipper of his pants and let his hand slide down past the elastic band of his cotton briefs, seeing his fantasy Fox turn onto his back and hold his arms out.

Those eyes. Sparkling green with splashes of gold, alight with love and desire...that absurdly beautiful mouth curved into a welcoming smile...

//Fuck!//

Not even in his own fantasies could he have what he so desired.

Instead of himself, it was Krycek who sank into the other man's arms, covering those exquisite lips in a kiss that was meant to be his...playing his body with masterful precision, each touch drawing an ecstatic cry from the subject of his attention...

Skinner snatched his hand away from his flagging erection and turned onto his side.

//Not even in your dreams, Walt.//

He lay quietly for well over an hour, contemplating his life and the kind of impact having or not having Fox in his life would make on it.

//Torture either way you look at it. Question is, which is the lesser of the two evils?//

"I don't know," he sighed softly, flipping onto his back and covering his face with his hands. "God, I don't know."

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

"I haven't told you what they did to me."

Alex lifted his head from Fox's chest and looked into somber, dark eyes. "I knew you were thinking about *something*."

Fox kissed the tip of his lover's nose and allowed him to wriggle out of his embrace. The younger man propped himself up against the pillows, head resting beside Fox's as their arms and hips touched. "You've been through so much," he said, stroking the older man's thigh. "I figured you'd tell me when you were ready."

Fox gave Alex a grateful smile. "It's scary sometimes, the way you can read me." Alex planted a light kiss on his mouth in response.

"I got up to Vermont," Fox began, "and the place seemed deserted. I thought they'd already gone. I decided to have a look around anyway, just for my own satisfaction." Fox shifted so that his head was now resting on top of Alex's shoulder. "The house was dark. Furniture covered...I don't know how, but someone obviously snuck up on me, because the next thing I knew, there was a rag over my mouth and this sickening, sweet smell...that's all I remember until I woke up strapped to a bed. Two men were standing over me. One of them was Cancerman. I can only assume that the other one was Dr. Lieber. Everything was kind of hazy...felt like I was drunk. I couldn't move. I couldn't talk. They were talking about a phase one. Most of their words were garbled; I couldn't understand what they were saying. I remember the doctor sticking me with a needle, and the next time I woke up, I was in an almost bare room. It was cold. I was so damn cold...chained to the headboard of a bed. They only unchained me to let me use the bathroom or to take me to that other room."

Alex squeezed his eyes shut, a cold fury washing over him at the thought of Lieber and that fucking wrinkled bastard hurting his Fox. He slipped one arm behind the older man and brought the other arm around the front, pulling Fox against him. "There's no death violent enough for that fucker," he whispered into the crop of golden-brown silk at the top of his lover's head.

Fox turned his face into Alex's chest, inhaling the warm, comforting scent. "When I was in the other room, they'd keep shooting me up with stuff...I don't know what. Then they'd attach all these wires to me...my head, my arms and chest...I was always sick afterward. And so damn cold. I lost track of how many times they put me in that room, but I remember the fear. I remember fighting against it, but they always won." Fox wound his arms around Alex, hugging him tightly. "Then I remember you. I was scared and disoriented, but I remember the look on your face when you found me. And even though I didn't know who you were, I remember feeling so safe when you covered me with your jacket and talked to me."

Alex kissed the top of Fox's head. "I can't tell you, baby...it wouldn't be an exaggeration to tell you that I was dead from the minute I got to Vermont, and Scully convinced me that you were gone. Finding you in Leesburg started my heart beating again. I thought I was dreaming when I walked into that room. I thought maybe I'd finally lost what was left of my mind, but then I touched you. I looked into your eyes, and I knew I wasn't hallucinating. Even though there was more fear and confusion in them than I'd ever seen before, I knew it was you in there..."

Wrapped in the security of his lover's arms, Fox scattered several small kisses over his chest and throat. "I don't ...I can't imagine what it would feel like to live with you day after day, loving you as much as I do, knowing that we had a complete and wonderful life together, and all of sudden, you were looking at me and seeing a total stranger. You and everybody else were so worried about me, but I think you deserved as much attention and concern as I got. Your hell may have been a little different, but it wasn't any less important."

"Scully was good to me," Alex responded. "She was concerned, she really was. Did she tell you about the fight we had?"

"Oh, yeah, she told me everything."

"I didn't mean to give her such a hard time, but I was beside myself..."

"And she understood that...babe?"

"Yeah?"

"She told me how much my will upset you."

"Yeah. It really did me in. It was like...you were gone, and everybody was just accepting it...and the things you were leaving them were the consolation prizes that they got to take home. I didn't *want* any consolation prize. I didn't *want* to hear you telling me goodbye. I wanted you *back*. I didn't care how unreasonable I was being, and I didn't care what anybody thought." He took a deep breath and rested his cheek on Fox's head. "Scully tried so hard to hold me together. She kept telling me we had to respect your wishes...she threatened to sedate me...she didn't know *what* the hell to do with me."

"I'm so grateful to her for wanting to try," Fox murmured. "She really came through. And from what Scully told me, my mother did, too. That was the biggest surprise. I never would have thought she'd react the way she did."

"She was feeling a hell of a lot of guilt, apparently about your relationship or lack thereof. She said she was just glad that you'd had someone to love you. *She* loves you, baby. And she's really sorry that she let you slip away from her. She wants another chance to be the mother you *should've* had all these years."

"I'd like that. And since she's accepted you so well, I'm sure we can work on it."

"What has you mother accepting me got to do with it?"

"Everything," Fox answered. "If she wants to be in my life, that's great. As long as she and everybody else knows that you and I are a package deal."

Alex grinned into Fox's hair. "Yeah, I think everybody knows that. It's kinda hard *not* to know. But I wouldn't want your relationships with your family and friends to be contingent on whether or not they accept *me*. They don't *have* to, you know. They can't hurt me. There's only one person in the world with that kind of power."

Gold-tinged eyes sparkled up at him. "And you know I never would."

A tiny hint of a grin raised one corner of Alex's mouth. "Who said I was talking about *you*?"

Fox's head dropped forward, and a low chuckle shook his shoulders. "You're lookin' for trouble, Krycek."

"Yeah?" Alex asked, challenge oozing from his words. "And who's gonna give it to me?"

Fox sat up, jerking Alex's hips forward, and the younger man's head hit the mattress with a soft thud. In an instant, he was lying on top of the younger man, pinning him to the bed. "The only guy in the world who can..."

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

"Scully."

"It's me."

"I was beginning to think you two got buried in the snow or something."

"Why?"

"I haven't heard from you in four days, Mulder. I was about to call *you*."

"Sorry. We've been a little...distracted."

"I'm sure. I take it Alex is feeling better."

"Yeah, it only lasted for that one day, then he was fine."

"Good. So, are you calling just to say hi, or are you guys coming home?"

"Both. We'll be in at six tomorrow night."

"Do you need me to pick you up?"

"No, thanks. Alex's car is in the airport garage. I just wanted to let you know we were heading back."

Brief silence. Then, "I hope you two got *some* rest up there?"

"Oh, yeah. We got plenty of rest," Fox assured her. "There were days where we never made it out of bed."

Scully blushed at the thought. She knew that they were bad enough with people around, let alone left to themselves. It'd be a miracle if they were both still walking straight when they got back.

"Okay, Mulder, thanks for the image."

"What? All I said was..."

"I *know* what you said. And I know what you *meant*."

Fox smirked down at Alex, who just happened to have his face buried in the older man's crotch at the time. "You've got a dirty mind, Scully."

"*Tell* me I don't have good reason...where are you now?"

"I'm sitting on the couch."

"Uh huh. And where's Alex?"

"He's here. You wanna say hi to him?" Before Scully could answer, Fox put the phone down to Alex's ear. "Say hi to Scully, baby."

Scully closed her eyes and blushed a deeper crimson at the muffled 'hi Scully'.

"You two are unbelievable. Do you ever take a break?"

"Yeah," Fox answered softly, petting his lover's hair. "We had a long break. Can't say we much enjoyed it."

Not knowing quite how to respond to that, Scully emitted a long sigh. "Well, you get back to doing...whatever it is you were doing, and I'll talk to you tomorrow, okay?"

"Okay. Bye, Scully...Alex says bye, too," Fox added, watching the younger man's hand rise into the air and give an abrupt wave.

Once he dropped the phone onto the sofa beside him, Fox let his head fall back against the cushion. The hand in Alex's hair continued to stroke and ruffle the sable stands. "She thinks all we've been doing up here is having sex. You believe that?"

Alex lifted his head from Fox's lap, licking his cock from base to tip before smiling up at him. "Where would she get an idea like that?"

"I don't know," Fox mumbled, grasping his cock at the base and rubbing the head back and forth against the younger man's lips. "*I* never told her that."

Alex's tongue swiped at the flushed head with each pass. "Some people just live in the gutter. I'm surprised at Scully, though. I thought she was a nice, respectable Catholic girl."

Fox shook his head and sighed as Alex again swallowed his entire length. "You think you know a person..."

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

"Good morning, sir."

Skinner nodded his acknowledgment as Scully walked into his office and sat down.

"I've read the forensics report on the Kensington case. Seems pretty cut and dried."

"And boring."

Sharp brown eyes looked up over the tops of Skinner's glasses. "How so?"

"I've investigated a number of cases by myself since Mulder's been away, and they *all* seem to have logical, rational conclusions. I just don't seem to have his capacity for finding the paranormal elements in every odd occurrence."

Skinner looked down at his folded hands. "It *has* been different not having to brace myself for every meeting."

"I miss him too," Scully answered, reading the A.D.'s unspoken sentiment. "But he'll be home today, and since he's back to normal, I assume he'll be wanting to come back to work...sir?"

Skinner looked up into curious eyes. "Yes?"

"You looked a million miles away for a minute."

The A.D. shuffled a few papers from one corner of his desk to another, and back again. "I'm here."

Scully nodded, getting the distinct impression that he was lying but not wishing to push it any further. "Will that be all, sir?"

"Yes, I believe that's it."

Scully rose from her seat and walked to the door, pausing as she reached it. She turned and looked back at the man who sat so rigidly at his desk. As cool as ever on the outside, but chaos, she suspected, was bubbling on the inside. The guilt of all that had happened to Mulder weighed heavily on him; she could see it clearly. And to compound it, there was the matter of his feelings for Mulder. Though he'd never let on just how deep they went, Scully could tell that it was more than simple sexual attraction.

There was nothing she could do for him; she knew he'd never let her close enough to even try. He'd have to work through it on his own. But with Mulder inevitably returning to work, she thought as she headed back down to the basement, he'd have to do it quickly.

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

Respectfully submitted,
Walter S. Skinner
Assistant Director

Skinner stared at the monitor, reading and re-reading. Deciding it was finished, he hit the print key and sat back, listening to the hum of the printer. When it was finished, he removed the sheet of paper, studied it for long seconds, then signed his name to the bottom, and left the office.

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

The door to apartment forty-two swung open, and the two men tumbled in, falling over each other and their bags, trying to make it to the ringing phone. Alex made it there first.

"Hello?"

"Where have you two been?"

"Hi, Alex, welcome home. How was your flight? It was fine, Scully, thanks for asking..."

Scully heaved an impatient sigh. "Hi, Alex. I'm sorry, I don't have time to discuss your flight right now. Where's Mulder?"

"Standing right behind me."

"I need to talk to him."

"Sheesh." Alex reached over his shoulder, handing the phone to Fox. "Your partner would like to speak to you. She sounds agitated."

Frowning, Fox drew the phone to his ear. "Scully? Something wrong?"

"I've been trying to reach you for a couple of hours. Where the hell have you been?"

"The food on the plane was disgusting, we were hungry, so we decided to stop and get something to eat before we came home. Now, what's up?"

"Skinner quit."

Fox stood quietly for a few seconds, trying to process the two simple words. "What'd you say?"

"I said, he quit. Handed in his resignation."

"Why the hell would he...he can't do that!"

"That's what the director said. Apparently, 'personal reasons' isn't a good enough excuse for him to let his best A.D. just walk away. He's refusing to process the request. He told Skinner he wants him to think on his decision for a few more days."

"I don't..." Fox paced back and forth in front of his desk, a mixture of confusion and irritation evident on his face. "I don't get it, Scully. What the hell reason could Skinner have for resigning?"

A look of shock crossed Alex's face, then something that resembled comprehension.

"He said personal reasons, Mulder. I have a pretty good idea what they are, but I can't be sure. He did a damn good job of avoiding me all day, so I didn't get to talk to him."

"So, what do you *think*?"

"I think it's you."

"*Me*?"

Alex nodded, unseen by his pacing lover. He and Scully were obviously on the same page.

"Yes, Mulder, you. I told you how guilty he feels about what happened. And now with you better and most likely coming back to work soon, he'll have to face you every day. I guess he's decided that he either can't or doesn't want to do that."

"That's crazy, Scully."

"I *know*. That's why I've been trying to reach you. Only you can talk to him about this. You need to try and talk him out of it."

"I'll call him right now."

"Okay. Let me know how it goes."

"I will. Talk to you later."

Fox hung up and looked over at Alex, who had taken a seat on the edge of the coffee table.

"Skinner actually quit?"

"That's what Scully's telling me. She thinks it's because of..."

"You. I believe her."

"I gotta talk to him."

"Think it'll do any good?"

"I don't know, but I have to try. He can't keep carrying this guilt around."

"It isn't just the guilt, Fox. If it was, he'd probably be able to find a way to work through it. But he didn't just endanger the life of one of his agents. He endangered the life of the man he loves."

"*Loves*. Alex..."

"I know the signs, Fox," Alex interrupted softly. "I know what it looks like; I know what it feels like."

Fox lowered his head, knowing when he was on the losing side of a discussion with Alex.

"You don't just turn those feelings off," the younger man continued. "Ask me. I know. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I actually feel sorry for the poor bastard."

Fox took a deep breath then looked up at Alex. "I still have to talk to him. He can't *quit*, for Christ's sake."

"If he's got it as bad as I think he does, it might be the best thing for him."

Fox cocked his head, giving the other man a puzzled look.

"I'm just trying to look at it from his side," Alex explained. "If our situations were reversed and you were with him, and I knew that there wasn't a hope in the world for us, I wouldn't be able stay here day after day, looking at you...occasionally seeing you with him...I couldn't do it. I wouldn't be able to take it."

Still, Fox stood silently.

"Talk to him if you feel you need to, baby. Ask him if there's any way at all to work this out...I know how important it is to have an ally on the inside of the Bureau. But I know you also care about him as a friend, and in the end, you gotta let him do what he thinks is best."

Alex fidgeted a bit under the intense hazel stare, afraid that Fox might misinterpret what he'd just said and think that he simply wanted to be rid of Skinner. But when Fox moved forward and planted a long, tender kiss on his mouth, his fears were dispelled.

"I love you," Fox whispered against Alex's lips before punching in Skinner's number and bringing the phone to his ear.

Four rings later, the machine picked up, and Fox disconnected.

"No answer?"

"No. But I get the feeling that he's there." Fox gave his lover an apologetic look. "Babe, I'm sorry, I..."

"You want to go over there."

"Yeah."

Alex gave his head a little toss in the direction of the door. "Go ahead, you'll probably keep me up half the night if you don't."

Fox kissed Alex once more and, locating his car keys, headed toward the door. "I'll try not to be too late."

Alex smiled as the door closed behind Fox. "Yeah, don't worry about me," he called softly as he picked the bags up and headed into the bedroom. "I'll just be putting all these clothes away..."

 

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

Buzz.

Buzz.

Fox drummed his fingers on Skinner's apartment door before ringing the buzzer a third time. Finally, when he still received no answer, he called out.

"Sir...Walt, it's me, Mulder. I know you're here; I saw your car. Come on, let me in."

Fox waited a full three minutes before preparing to ring again. Just before he touched his finger to the button, the door opened. He stared across the threshold into weary brown eyes.

Skinner looked so different without his glasses, Fox thought to himself. Much more receptive. More vulnerable...

"When did you get back?"

"Few hours ago."

"And you're out visiting already?"

"Tried calling you, but I got no answer."

"I wasn't here."

"Bullshit."

Skinner heaved a hard sigh. "Well, on that note...what can I do for you, Mulder?"

"You can let me in for starters."

"It's getting late. I was going to bed soon."

"It's not late, and why are you in such a rush to get to bed? It's not like you've got someplace to be tomorrow, right?"

//*Scully*.//

"Mulder, please. I really don't care to discuss it."

"Well, that's too bad." Fox pushed past the older man and didn't stop walking until he'd reached the middle of the floor. "Because I think we really need to."

One hand still on the doorknob, Skinner bowed his head, closing his eyes. "Isn't Krycek going to start wondering where you are?"

"Alex knows where I am."

Skinner finally closed the door and turned to face the younger man. "How are you?" he asked in a defeated voice. "Scully told me you have your memory back."

"I do. And I feel fine."

The other man nodded. "...And Krycek? Scully also said that he wasn't feeling well."

"He's fine, too....I heard that you saved his life."

For just a moment, Skinner looked confused. Then understanding dawned. "You mean Lieber."

"Yeah. Thanks to you, I still have him."

Skinner couldn't help the soft, snorting laugh that rose from his throat.

"What?"

"Nothing. I did what I had to do. Lieber would have killed him."

"I know. And I also know that you found something out about Alex during those few days you thought I was dead. Something that, until then, you'd refused to see."

Skinner nodded. "I freely admit it, now. Krycek loves you. The proof was undeniable. I'd never seen anyone grieve so deeply."

Fox looked down at the floor for a moment, trying to decide how to start. Then, coming to the conclusion that the direct approach was best, he jumped in.

"I know everything that went on. Between Scully and Alex, I've got the whole story..."

Skinner turned away, unable to face what Mulder had to say.

"You have to stop blaming yourself for what happened. Even if you *had* gone up to Vermont right away, there's no way of knowing that you would have made it there in time to prevent what happened."

"And there's no way of knowing that I might *not* have made it there in time. I should have listened to Krycek. I should have believed him."

"You did what you felt was right. You felt it was right not to trust him."

"After you'd been telling me for months that I could. Even if I didn't trust him, I should have trusted you. I...I don't know that it wasn't so much distrust as it might have been..." Skinner bit off his words and walked toward the glass doors, staring down into the street.

Fox followed, stopping a few feet behind the other man. "As it might have been what?"

Skinner shook his head slowly. "...Hatred....jealousy. I wanted so much to believe....I couldn't let go of the possibility that he was out to do you harm...it was all I had. I didn't want you to be hurt, but I wanted him to try, so I...so I could step in and save you..." Skinner rambled on, shocked at himself for saying so much with so little prodding. "I wanted so much for him to be the backstabbing, conniving son of a bitch that we'd always known him as. I hoped for it every day...so you could turn to me."

"I'm sorry," Fox whispered, unintentionally doubling the other man's agony. "But you knew...I told you..."

"I know what you said," Skinner answered roughly. "I heard your words every day in my head. I *made* myself hear them. And I knew that they were true. I knew it every time I saw you together. I knew it every morning when you walked into the building with that satisfied gleam in your eye...and that look of anticipation as you left every night. And still, I couldn't stop hoping. I suppose that makes me somewhat pathetic. I can't bring myself to care about what I look like. All I can think about anymore is what I let happen to you. There's nothing in the world I can do to even begin to make it up to you."

"You don't need to make anything up to me, Walt," Fox insisted. "But, please. If you feel you really have to, there is one thing."

Skinner turned to face the younger man.

"Stay in the Bureau. Scully and I need you there."

The other man shook his head, his mouth opening and closing but never uttering a sound.

"I guess I'm being selfish," Fox offered. "Alex and I talked about this before I came over here, and he told me that I needed to say what I had to say and then step back and let you make your own decision. He thinks he understands better than I do where you're coming from."

Deep brown eyes dropped to the patch of carpet between them. "I think he might."

"Be that as it may, I can't let you go without a fight. You're too important to too many people. The Bureau needs as many men like you as it can get. God knows there are few enough. Scully and I need you for reasons that must be obvious to you...the director needs you." Fox gave Skinner a bit of a smile. "If you leave, he's going to have to start a whole new search for his heir apparent, and you know how much that'll piss him off..."

Skinner kept his eyes to the floor, shaking his head. "I can't, Mulder, I...too much has happened. I don't think I can ever look at you or talk to you again without thinking of what almost happened and the hell my ignorance put you through...Scully...your mother...Krycek..."

"Yourself."

The older man turned his back to Fox.

"It's all fine. Stop kicking yourself in ass about this. I'm *fine*. My mother and Scully are fine. Alex is fine. You're the only one who's still out of whack."

"Do you just not *want* to get it, Mulder?" Skinner turned to face him. "You go home," he said in a low, tired voice. "Ask Krycek how he would feel if he was in my position. Ask him how easily he'd be able to let it go."

"I told you, we already talked about it."

"Well, maybe you should talk to him again. I don't think you were really listening."

"I heard and understood every word," Fox shot back. "I just believe that there are things...far more important things that you should be considering."

"In your will, you told me not to be afraid of my human needs and emotions. Well, I'm doing what you suggested. I'm thinking about what Walter Skinner needs. I'm thinking about how he feels. There's not a chance in hell that I'll ever have what I need, and I feel like shit about it. Now, should I stay in the Bureau and endure that torment every day?" He went silent for a moment then shrugged. "Maybe I should. It would be my penance."

Fox shook his head in disbelief. "I don't...I don't know what the hell else to say to you."

"Don't say anything else," the hoarse baritone instructed. "Just go home to Krycek and be happy in the knowledge that you've got your heart's desire. So few people are that fortunate."

Fox took two steps forward and stopped when the older man backed away. "Walt..."

"I really appreciate that you care enough to ask me to stay...and that you don't blame me for what happened."

"But you can't accept it."

"I don't...go home, all right? I'm very tired...please, Fox."

Assuming a defeated posture, Fox moved toward the door. Skinner followed, opening the door and silently cursing when the younger man turned and fixed a desolate stare on him.

"When's your last day?"

Unable to look at Fox any longer, Skinner averted his eyes. "The director refuses to process my resignation until Thursday."

"So...two more days."

Silence.

"I'll be in tomorrow, but...in case I don't see you in the next two days, I guess I'll say goodbye and good luck now."

Hazel eyes slid away just as Skinner gathered the courage to look up. He watched mutely as the younger man turned and left without another word, his heart thudding in time to Fox's every step. From his doorway he watched as the other man stopped in front of the elevator and waited, hands in the pockets of his jacket, head down. Even at this distance, that beautiful, brooding mouth drew his attention, swelling his heart and other parts of his anatomy.

The elevator doors opened and Fox walked through them, disappearing from Skinner's sight but not his thoughts as the long, sleepless night ahead would prove.

Clear on what he needed to do only an hour ago, doubt now seeped in. Skinner closed the door and moved toward the sofa, falling onto the cushions.

// I shouldn't have let you in. I shouldn't have...you would have given up and gone away sooner or later. I should have known that you would do this to me. Now, I'm not sure what the hell to do.//

//Not sure? He wants you to stay. How the hell can you not be sure?//

//Because he's made his reasons clear. And none of them include wanting anything more than friendship. Because looking at him every day will be a painful reminder of what you did...because every time you see him with Krycek, it'll twist your guts.//

//And what'll never seeing him again do?//

//It'll hurt like hell for a while, then I'll get over it.//

//Oh. Right. Sure.//

//I *will*. I have to.//

//It's an impossible situation any way you look at it. Now, which torment would you rather suffer?//

He thought of Fox looking as he did just moments ago. Dispirited and utterly gorgeous...eyes that had sparkled with determination when he had entered the apartment gone dim with dejection when he'd left. Parting words uttered in soft monotone, falling from that perfect, pouting mouth, completed the exquisitely somber picture.

Skinner flipped onto his stomach, burying his face into the cushion, moaning.

''God, the man was put on this earth to drive me insane."

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

Sable lashes drifted upward, and slits of emerald focused on the door as the key slipped into the lock. The green disappeared as the door opened and Fox stole quietly into the apartment. He crept over to the sofa, looking down at the still form of his lover. Alex's hand rose from the cushion, brushing his leg, momentarily startling him.

"How'd it go?"

Fox sank down to the sofa, stretching himself out over Alex's body. He rested an elbow on the cushion beside Alex's head and dropped his head into his hand. "Not good."

Alex's eyes opened at the sound of the disappointed voice. He lifted his hand to Fox's cheek, letting his thumb sweep back and forth across the roughened skin. "By that, I guess you weren't able to convince him to stay?"

Fox released a hard sigh and dropped his head to Alex's shoulder. "I don't...I don't understand. How can he feel this way? I mean, I understand the guilt, I guess. God knows I've got *my* share, but...Alex, I swear, I've never knowingly given him any encouragement. How can he feel so strongly?"

Alex laughed softly and wrapped his arms around the other man. "That's one of the things I love about you, babe."

"What, my cluelessness?"

"Sort of. You have no idea what people see in you. You're so low key. So damned unassuming. You don't see the way people look at you...how many want you...I could run down a list that would curl your hair...Scully and Skinner being at the top of it, of course." He kissed Fox's forehead. "Scully's done very well getting past it, though. More than anything she wants you happy, and she's willing to sacrifice everything, including her own feelings, to that end. I respect the hell out of that. I don't know that *I* could be that generous if I were in her position. I can identify more with Skinner, though he's still a lot more restrained than I think I could be."

Fox shook his head. "It's not worth him giving up an entire career."

"It is, baby, if he feels it's the only way for him to get over you. He's in for a rough time. Fox-withdrawal is damned painful."

"Alex, it's different. You and I were together. We were lovers. I know that kind of pain as well as you do. But Skinner...we've never even kissed..."

"Doesn't mean he can't love you."

"I don't want him to," Fox murmured into his lover's shoulder. "I don't want him to hurt. And I don't want him to leave."

"Unfortunately, Fox, it isn't your choice."

"But this is his career we're talking about. His life. He's going to give it all up because of a man he's never even kissed? It's not right. It's..." Fox lifted his head. "I wonder if he'd stay if I didn't come back."

Alex stared in shock. "What?"

"It's been months since I've worked. The place hasn't fallen apart without me. Maybe I just shouldn't go back."

"No. Ohhh, no. You're going back. A.D.s come a dime a dozen. Maybe they're not all Skinners, but there's *no* one who can replace you. Besides, baby, he'd only feel twice as much guilt, and he'd leave anyway."

Fox's brows drew down into a contemplative frown. "It's still not right," he whispered, snuggling closer as Alex stroked his back.

"No," Alex whispered back, staring into space. "I guess it's not."

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

Scully approached the basement office, keys in hand, and stopped abruptly at the threshold. The door was slightly ajar, and a soft shuffling could be heard within. Cautiously, she eased the door open and peered inside. A grin spread across her face as the figure of her partner at his desk, surrounded by mountains of files, came into view.

"Why didn't you tell me you were coming back today?"

"Sorry." Fox looked up over his glasses. "I was going to call you last night, but I got home late, and Alex and I started talking, and we fell asleep..."

Scully nodded and took off her coat. "So, did you see him?"

"Yeah."

"I don't like the sound of that yeah."

"I don't think I got anywhere with him, Scully." Fox dropped the folder in his hand and looked up at the redhead. "Not for lack of trying."

Scully sank into the chair in front of Fox's desk. "You mean he's actually going to quit?"

"Seems so." Fox leaned back in his chair. "I still can't believe it."

"God, Mulder, there's gotta be something we can do. There's gotta be some way to get through to him."

"Well, Scully, if you come up with some miracle plan in the next two days, let me know."

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

Beads of sweat followed one after another down Skinner's chest as he prepared to begin the last repetition of his bench press. He shifted ever-so-slightly, readjusting his position, and took a long, deep breath in through his nose. A loud exhalation whistled from between his lips as he raised the weights. At the count of three, he slowly lowered his burden and began the process again. Before he could raise the iron-laden bar again, a leather-gloved hand came down over his head, grasping the bar and holding it to his chest. Startled, he looked up into familiar green eyes.

"What the hell are you..."

"Morning, Walt."

"Krycek, what are you doing here?"

"I sure as hell didn't come to work out at this ungodly hour of the morning." He smirked down at the older man. "But I'll spot you if you want."

"No, that's okay."

Alex shrugged and removed his hand, allowing Skinner to lift the weights and place them back in the metal brackets on either side of his head. When the older man had swung himself into a sitting position, Alex turned and looked at the man who had just taken a seat at the bench next to Skinner's and was preparing to begin his workout. "Hey," Alex called softly to the man. "This bench is being used."

The man looked around. "By who?"

"Me."

The other man looked him up and down, taking in the tight jeans, boots, and leather jacket, and snorted. "Dressed like that?"

Alex turned to fully face the man and gave him an icy glare. "Yeah. Now, find another bench like a good boy."

Skinner jerked his head to the side, not willing to watch as the other man practically fell over himself to clear out. When Alex seated himself on the vacated bench, he turned back.

"You enjoy doing that to people?"

"What'd I do?" Alex asked, innocently. "I just told him that the bench was occupied."

"Never mind," the older man answered wearily. "What do you want?"

"To talk."

"About what?"

"This business about you resigning."

Skinner looked down at the floor. "Want to throw me a going away party?"

"Why would you think that?"

"I don't know. We may have come to an *understanding*, but I think you'll agree that you and I will never really be friends. There's too much between us."

"Maybe so, but the only insurmountable thing that I can see is Fox, and the guilt you feel for what happened." Alex blew out a long sigh. "We gotta talk about that."

"Why?"

"Because he's unhappy. I hate it when he's unhappy. He didn't sleep worth a damn last night, and consequently, neither did I. I get real cranky, Walt, when I don't get my beauty sleep."

"Once I'm gone, it'll be easier."

"No, because then *he'll* be eaten up with guilt. He already is. He can't see where he's worth you resigning, and it's bugging the shit out of him. It's not just all going to end when you're gone."

"Maybe not right away, but..."

"Yeah, I agree that in time he'll be able to live with it, but how long? Two days, as far as I'm concerned, is too long for my Fox to be upset."

"I'm sorry he's upset. It's the last thing I want, but...I thought you'd understand."

"I do. I really do. And whether you believe me or not, I sympathize. If our situations were reversed, I'd be having a real tough time with it too. But it comes down to this, Walt. Whether you leave or stay, you're not going to stop thinking about him. You're not going to stop wanting him. Once Fox gets under your skin, it's all over. You're finished. All you're going to succeed in doing if you leave is drive yourself insane."

Skinner shook his head. "I don't get it. You'd rather have me here, knowing how I feel about him?"

"You know, if you'd asked me that question a few months ago, I would have helped you pack your bags and given you a ride to the airport."

"And now?"

Alex sighed softly. "He loves me. I knew that then, but I was still insecure about it."

"Really? Could have fooled me."

"I did fool you. And Scully."

"And you're not insecure any more."

"No, I'm not. I know that he's as devoted to me as I am to him, and I have no fear. You can want him from now till you die, and you'll never get him."

The other man's gaze fell from Alex's face. "I can't decide if you're trying to help me or stick a knife in my gut."

Alex paused, rubbing the back of his neck. "All I'm...I'm just *saying*...I understand that you think you gotta get away from him. I even thought last night that you were right. I thought about it some more, though, last night while Fox was tossing and turning, and I think you're going to regret it."

"Actually, I'd already begun to reconsider it after I talked to him last night."

"Really? He came home thinking that he hadn't swayed you at all."

"Well, I tried to stay strong till he left, but it's tough, you know?"

Alex smiled. "Oh yeah, I know. It's hard to look into those eyes and not want to lay yourself down at his feet."

Skinner bowed his head, rubbing his hand over the perspiration-slick surface of his scalp. "God, I can't believe I'm going to torture myself like this."

"Yeah, well, you can alleviate some that torment if you'll just forgive yourself for fucking up."

"God." Skinner lifted his gaze to the younger man. "You're smooth, Krycek, you know that?"

Alex gave him an amused grin. "Fox says the same thing, only in a different context, I think."

The other man groaned and closed his eyes. "What about you, Krycek? You tried to kill me. Twice."

"I was crazy with grief, Skinner. I'm okay, now. I'm not saying I don't still harbor a little resentment. If you'd just managed to get past your hatred of me and listen to what I was saying, we probably wouldn't be where we are right now. But what's done is done. It all turned out all right, and I'm cool. I won't give you any shit. You know...no more than usual..."

"Wonderful. Thanks." Skinner cocked his head. "So, where's Mulder that you're out this early in the morning harassing me?"

"Work. He wanted to get an early start."

"He tossed and turned all night, and he's up this early and at work?"

"Yeah, well...I made him get a few hours sleep."

"How'd you manage that?"

The younger man gave him an arrogant smirk. "I fucked him into unconsciousness. See ya, Wally."

Skinner watched Alex rise from the bench and slip out of the gym as quietly as he'd entered. Grunting softly, he picked up his towel and headed for the showers.

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

"They were just glad to see you, Mulder."

Fox removed his jacket and tossed it over the back of his chair.

"They never *used* to be happy to see me. In fact, a lot of those people actually dislike me."

"That's not true," Scully countered. "Well, okay. A couple of them maybe. But they all showed up for the funeral."

"Did any of them stay to dance on my grave?" Fox paused a moment then started to laugh.

"Something funny?"

"Yeah, I was just thinking that Alex should meet Farrel and Watson. He thinks everybody loves me. *They'd* change his mind."

"Oh yeah, Mulder, by all means go ahead and tell your psycho lover that there are people out there who dislike you so they can be found dead in their homes the next morning."

"He's not that bad, Scully."

"Oh, *nooo*, of course he isn't."

Just as Fox was drawing breath for another comeback, the phone rang.

"Mulder."

"Agent Mulder, this A.D. Skinner's secretary."

Fox shot Scully a curious glance. "Yes, Kimberly?"

"Mr. Skinner would like to see you and Agent Scully in his office as soon as possible."

"All right, we'll be there in a few minutes." Fox dropped the phone back into the cradle and picked up his jacket. "He wants to see us."

"Really?"

"Yeah. I was positive that after last night I'd never see him again." Fox waved in the direction of the door. "I guess we shouldn't keep him waiting."

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

The soft knock at the door closed Skinner's eyes. When he reopened them seconds later, he cleared his throat and called for his agents to enter.

The door opened, and Scully entered, followed by the only person in the world who, just by walking into a room, could cause Walter Skinner to lose his train of thought.

"You wanted to see us, sir?" Scully waited for a response. "Sir?"

"Yes," Skinner snapped quickly before Scully could ask a third time. His eyes went back to the man standing behind her. "Yes, I did. Welcome back, Agent Mulder."

Fox studied the seated man for a moment, uncertain how to read him. "Thank you, sir."

Skinner motioned to the two chairs in front of his desk, and the agents assumed their usual seats. He adjusted his glasses and sat back, folding his hands at the edge of his desk. A full thirty seconds passed before he spoke.

"You both know that a couple of days ago, I turned in my letter of resignation to the director. He insisted that I take a few days to carefully consider my reasons for leaving the Bureau, and to make sure that it was indeed what I wanted..."

Fox lowered his head, not really wanting to hear the rest.

"I'll tell you both that I'm now grateful for his insistence."

Fox lifted his head and looked into hopeful blue eyes. Both agents simultaneously turned to the man behind the desk and waited.

"I've reconsidered my request. I won't be leaving after all."

A relieved smile lit Scully's face. A slighter, more reserved smile curled Fox's mouth as well.

"We're so glad to hear that, sir," Scully breathed.

Skinner looked from the woman's face to the man's. "I uh...realized that it might not be the best thing."

Fox nodded once, eyes never leaving the other man's.

"Well..." Skinner forced himself to look away. "I didn't want to keep you, I just thought you'd both like to know."

Fox nodded again. "Thank you for telling us. We couldn't be happier."

"Thank you." Skinner's gaze went again to Fox. He paused for a number of seconds then looked away. "That's all, agents."

The two rose from their seats and vacated the office, grinning broadly when they made it out into the hall.

"What do you think changed his mind?" Scully asked. "I mean, you did say that you don't think you'd made any headway at all, right?"

"Right. I don't know what turned him around, but I'm glad for it. I can't imagine what..."

The ringing of Fox's cell phone interrupted his comment. He pulled the phone out of the breast pocket of his suit jacket and raised it to his ear. "Mulder."

"What are you wearing?"

The grin on her partner's face told Scully exactly who had called.

"What was I wearing when I left this morning?"

"Besides that worn out, satisfied grin?"

"Yeah."

"Didn't really notice. I was too busy watching your ass as you walked down the hall. It's a pretty ass..."

Fox laughed softly. "So, is there some reason you called...other than you wanting to tell me that you like my ass?"

Scully looked nervously around as they walked, praying that no one was catching any bit of this conversation.

"No. Just wanted to know how your first day back was going."

"Actually, it just got a whole lot better."

"Yeah? How so?"

"Skinner's staying."

"Oh, really? That's...that's *great*."

Fox's brows drew down into a slight frown. "Yeah. Alex, are you up to something?"

"Up to...what are you talking about?"

"I know that tone. It usually means you've done something or are about to."

"Fox, what could I possibly be up to? We only got back yesterday."

"And your point would be? Alex, only you could get something cooking that fast."

"Aww, you're sweet. But while I appreciate your confidence in me, I really haven't *done* anything."

"...But you tried to."

"What?"

"Spill it, Alex."

A soft sigh could be heard on the line, then Alex began to speak.

"We just talked."

"We...you and Skinner."

"Yeah..."

"*When*?"

"This morning. I tracked him down after you left."

"And *you* talked him into staying?"

"No, he'd already pretty much made up his mind about that. I just sorta reinforced the decision...you know, let him know he was doing the right thing."

"But you didn't know that when you went looking for him. You went to find him with the intention of trying to convince him to stay. Why? I thought you told me it was his decision and that you thought it might be best for him if he left?"

"Can't a guy change his mind?"

"Yeah. But *why*?"

"Because of that look on your face last night. Because I had to wear you out to get you to sleep...not that I didn't enjoy the hell out that..."

Fox couldn't help the smile that crossed his face. "You're too much."

"I love you," came the soft response. "I want you to be happy."

As he and Scully stepped onto the half-full elevator, Fox whispered into the phone, "When I get home, I'm going to make *you* happy." He smiled at the soft moan.

"How're you gonna do that?"

"Think I'll just let you wait and wonder until I get there."

"Not nice to give me a hard-on so early in the day."

Fox chuckled into the phone, drawing some mildly curious stares. "Don't you touch that. It's mine."

"You expect me to suffer until you get home?"

"If it's any consolation to you, I'm in the same boat."

"Yeah? Well, how about I meet you in the parking garage at lunch time? You can fuck me in the back seat of your car..."

"Uh, I don't think that's a good idea."

"Top of your desk? We can kick Scully out for half an hour or so. Unless she *wants* to watch..."

The elevator doors opened, much to Scully's relief, and the remaining few passengers debarked. Fox moved into the hall and headed toward the office, phone still to his ear. She followed a few steps behind, shaking her head. These two were unbelievable. Separated for mere hours, and here Mulder was, murmuring and laughing into the phone like a teenager.

"You're a twisted bastard."

"And?"

Fox walked into the office and dropped down into his chair. "And I love you. Now, you be good, remember what I said about keeping your hands off, and I'll see you in a few hours." He disconnected and turned sparkling eyes up to Scully. "Sorry 'bout that."

"Oh, yeah, you look sorry." Scully tried to sound stern, but her smile gave her away. Happiness oozed from every pore of her partner, and she couldn't be more thrilled.

"He just wanted to know how my first day back was going," Fox smirked, playing with the antenna on his cell phone. "He's thoughtful like that."

Scully gave him a sarcastic grunt. "Well. Now that Skinner is staying put, you've had your mid-morning Alex fix, and all is once again right with the world, might we get some work done? *Please*?"

Fox shrugged, his smirk turning to an innocent smile. "Sure, Scully." He plucked a folder off the top of the pile he'd been organizing and tossed it onto his desk. "Why don't you tell me what you know about this one?"

Scully picked up the folder and glanced at the contents. "Classroom full of preschoolers who swear they've all seen the ghost of a child sitting in their class. Wonderful. I had this one at the bottom of the list, Mulder, how'd it manage to work its way to the top?"

Taking the file back from his partner, Fox grinned and tilted himself back in his chair. "Didn't you miss me, Scully?"

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

Alex hung up the last pair of jeans in his closet and closed the door just in time to be spun around and slammed back into the wall.

"You jerk off today?"

The younger man smirked at the question rasped against his ear. "You told me not to."

"Since when do you do what I tell you to?"

Alex gave him a slightly wounded pout. "You don't believe me?"

Fox ground his hips against his lover's, groaning at the hardness he found there. "Mmmmm. That's nice. And you're telling me you've been holding onto that all day for me?"

Alex nodded, still pouting.

"Such a good boy," Fox whispered just before his mouth came down on Alex's. The younger man wound his arms around Fox's shoulders, whimpering as his mouth was assaulted mercilessly. Fox pulled away only for as long as it took to get a better lock on Alex's mouth, and he was back, feeding voraciously as he wrenched his lover's arms away from his back, pinning them to the wall beside the sable head.

Alex writhed against his captor, begging silently for the full heat of his passion, and Fox did not disappoint. He delivered a stinging bite to Alex's lower lip before drawing back and grasping the neck of the younger man's t-shirt in one hand and jerking the material away. Alex's cock pushed insistently against his jeans as the thin, white material was ripped away from his chest, and Fox dove for a nipple, sucking the pebbled flesh into his mouth.

"Fox...oh, God...oww! Ah, *shit*. Baby...baby, please..."

Fox inflicted another bite before he looked up into sparkling emerald pools. "Please what?"

Alex drew two hard, shallow breaths before answering. "I need you now. Please fuck me."

Fox backed off and began to pull at his tie. "Take your pants off."

Alex obeyed quickly, removing his pants. Having had no shoes on, he slipped his socks off and straightened up to find that Fox had removed his holster and shirt and was now unbuckling his belt.

Fox returned his lover's heavy-lidded stare as he did away with the remainder of his clothing, then doubled up the belt in his hand and stepped forward.

Alex's eyes dropped from Fox's face to the strip of black leather. "What..." he asked softly, licking at his lips, "what are you going to do with that?"

The older man grinned, tapping the belt against his own thigh. "You're not nervous, are you?"

"Nervous?"

That wasn't what he'd call it. Curious, maybe. Anxious, certainly. So turned on he was afraid his knees would give out on him, definitely, but it had never occurred to him to be nervous.

Fox drew the belt up the outside of Alex's thigh, traveling to his waist, up over his chest and throat, stopping at his mouth, and letting the leather whisper over the swollen flesh.

"*Are* you nervous?"

Alex's eyes closed and he shook his head as his tongue inched out to lick delicately at the belt.

Fox laughed softly. "Silly of me, I suppose to think that you would be." He let the belt slide south, hitting Alex's ticklish spots and avoiding that one area where the younger man most needed stimulation.

"Fox..."

"Hmm?" Fox asked absently, currently taken with the way Alex's muscles rippled and twitched under the caress of the leather.

"I'm gonna die..."

Hazel eyes flicked up to the younger man's face. "Can't let that happen, can we?"

"It wouldn't be a good thing, no," Alex gasped as the belt slid up his inner thigh.

"Where's the lube?" Fox asked. "I know it's gotta be around here somewhere."

"You don't need it," Alex groaned as his lover rubbed the cool leather over his cock and balls.

"No?"

Alex gave Fox a lazy grin and shook his head. "I'm ready." He watched the older man's cock twitch at his announcement, and seconds later, Fox was there, dropping the belt and pressing him to the wall as he slipped his hands under Alex's thighs, lifting the younger man with a soft grunt. Alex wasted no time in wrapping his legs around Fox's waist, whining softly as the older man made a few adjustments. The whine turned to a groan as he felt the head of his lover's cock stretch and enter him.

Having little patience for gentleness, Fox surged forward, his fingers clenching in the younger man's ass. As Alex's muscles tightened around him, that small thread of composure unraveled, and he began to thrust quickly, pressing his face against the other's shoulder. He inhaled the warm scent of Alex's skin, then allowed himself to taste, sliding his tongue over the younger man's collarbone. Reaching the base of Alex's throat, Fox sucked the flesh into his mouth, feeding hungrily as he continued to execute short, hard thrusts, driving the breath from Alex's lungs in harsh bursts.

Uttering breathless sounds of encouragement, Alex worked a hand between them, wrapping it around his own erection. As he tightened his free arm around his lover's neck, he began to pump his cock, easily catching up to Fox and joining him on the narrow ledge of madness.

Fox tore his mouth from his lover's throat, leaving a dark patch, evidence of his ownership, and thrust as hard as he could as he bore Alex's weight. A deep, sobbing groan filtered through his gritted teeth, and his body trembled as he felt the steady approach of orgasm. It hit hard, taking him over like a sea squall, enveloping first himself then Alex in beautiful, blinding violence.

The room vibrated with combined cries of satisfaction as Alex joined his lover, his body spasming several times, then sagging in exhaustion. His erratic hand movements slowed, lazily sliding over his drenched cock, and he vaguely heard Fox's soft whimpers as the older man began to weaken. He shifted, unwinding his legs from Fox's waist and removing the burden of his weight. Fox leaned into him, still panting heavily, seeking the warmth of the circle of his arms.

"I gotta lie down before I fall down," Alex whispered into his lover's hair and moved them both to the bed. He fell back, gathering Fox into his arms, kissing the top of the golden-brown head. "Hey," he called, rubbing the older man's back. "You alive?"

"No," Fox mumbled into his chest, just barely heard.

"So, I guess you're not hungry. Too bad, I was gonna take you out to Knotty Pine for Black Angus and that strawberry chocolate thing you like so much."

Fox's head lifted and he gave the other man a weary but mischievous smile. "Can we have 'em put the dessert in a doggy bag and bring it home for later?"

Alex returned the smile. "You got evil on your mind, babe."

"I'm wasted, Alex. What makes you think I've got the *strength* to think bad thoughts?"

"That brain of yours never gets tired. And I'll be willing to bet that if we go out to eat, by the time we're ready to come back home, your dick will have caught up to your head."

Fox shook with silent laughter. "You really have a way with words, you know?"

Alex grabbed a handful of his lover's hair, pulling him up for a thorough kiss. "And when we get home, I'm gonna have my way with *you*. Now let's go take a shower. I'm starving all of a sudden."

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

As the next few weeks progressed, life more or less settled back into that which Fox and Alex had known before the turmoil. Word that Agent Mulder had returned and was again himself had finally completed the circuit around the Hoover Building. The handshakes, smiles, and words of welcome had faded to Fox's relief, and he was able to fully settle back into work. Meetings with Skinner were as brief and businesslike as possible, much like any other meeting they'd ever had. The A.D. made no more mention of his request for resignation or his repeal, and in deference to his obvious feelings on the matter, neither agent spoke of it in his presence.

The only discernible difference was Alex's apparent refusal to make any out of town trips. Fox had heard, on more than one occasion, Alex telling callers that he would not be available for a specific job or meeting and giving instructions to be carried out by others in his stead.

One day, after a particularly heated exchange, Alex disconnected and hurled his cell phone at the sofa. Fox watched quietly from the doorway as his lover brooded by the window, then approached him.

"Alex?" he called softly, laying a gentle hand on the other man's back. "Babe?"

Alex turned, immediately draping his arms over the older man's shoulders. "Yeah?"

"What are you doing?"

"What do you mean?"

"Hanging around when you've obviously got things you should be doing."

"There's nothing I *should* be doing. I've got people who are perfectly capable of..."

"You don't believe that," Fox interrupted. "You're that do-it-yourself type of person. That's why you've made so many trips in the past. How is it that all of a sudden you consider these people of yours to be so capable?"

Alex's gaze lowered to Fox's tie.

"What are you afraid of, baby?"

"He's still out there, Fox," Alex whispered flatly. "I...failed to eliminate him, and he's still out there. Planning his next move. I can't..." He looked up into almost gray eyes. "I won't leave you unprotected again. Look what happened the last time I did that. I almost lost you."

"Alex, you shouldn't..."

"You can talk yourself blue, Fox, and it won't do you any good. Until *I'm* satisfied that there's no more danger to you, I'm not going anywhere."

"But, Alex...we're not together during the day. I'm at work..."

"And have you noticed that Scully's with you every second that you're not with me?"

Fox tilted his head to one side. "Have you spoken to her?"

Alex nodded. "She's concerned for your safety too. Fox, I know that bastard. This is a game to him, and he won't give up until there's a clear winner." He wove a hand through Fox's hair, looking straight into the older man's eyes. "He almost took you from me once. He won't do it again. He will *not* win."

Fox let his head drop. "Yeah, but...I haven't been on any out-of-town cases yet. You know it'll happen sooner or later. What are you going to do, go with me?"

Sable eyebrows arched upward as the younger man smiled and nodded.

"God..."

"What? You getting tired of looking at my face already?"

"Of course not. If anything, I'm getting spoiled having you home all the time. I just don't want you to jeopardize any mission for me. There's a lot more at stake than just my safety."

"Baby, your safety is my *only* concern. Everything else comes a distant second."

"I'm one person, Alex. We're talking billions."

"Yeah. I know. Look at it this way, okay? *You* are key in the preservation of those billions of people. Without you, their chances for survival decrease significantly. I know that's a lot to carry on your shoulders, baby, but that's how it is. So, think of my constant presence as me doing my part for world salvation."

Fox shook his head, stroking the younger man's cheek. "I love the way you rationalize things."

Alex grinned and planted a soft kiss on his lover's mouth. "Whatever works. Now. Can we forget about this and talk about something else?"

Fox slipped his arms around Alex's waist, drawing him into a slow, rocking movement. "What do you want to talk about?"

"Tomorrow."

"It's Friday."

"Yep. Let's go out."

"Okay. Where?"

"Someplace we haven't been in months."

A slow smile curved Fox's lips. "The club?"

Alex nodded, spinning Fox in a forty-five degree turn, and resumed the swaying motion. "I'd like to go....dancing."

"Okay, so we'll go..." Fox smirked as he said the next word. "...dancing."

"Good. Now that that's settled..." Alex grabbed Fox's tie and wound it around his hand. He sashayed in the direction of the bedroom, pulling the older man along behind him. "Let's get you out of your work clothes..."

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

Friday.

Alex had spent the better part of the day cleaning the apartment, and now he was ready to let go and have a good time.

Fox had called earlier, telling Alex that he would be late getting home but to go ahead and get ready, and he'd be there no later than eight. At seven-thirty, Alex took a long, warm shower, brushed his teeth until they sparkled, then splashed on Fox's favorite cologne. Deciding not to shave, he padded naked out to the bedroom and opened up his closet, perusing his wardrobe. Thinking that tonight called for a little more than jeans, he pulled a pair of black leather pants out and laid them on the bed. He returned, smirking to the closet, and withdrew a celadon-green, silk shirt and placed it down above the pants.

"Works for me."

After changing, he stood in front of the full length mirror, inserting a silver hoop into his ear when the phone began to ring. He snatched the phone off the nightstand and answered.

"Hello?"

"Hey, babe."

"Hey."

"What're you doing?"

"Getting dressed....why doesn't it sound like you're in the car?"

"I'm...not."

Alex sat down on the bed, disappointment seeping into his tone. "Where are you?"

"The office."

"Oh."

"No, no, don't worry, we're still going out. I just got a little delayed. I'll be leaving here in about half an hour."

"You sure?"

"Positive. Listen, I've got an idea."

"Yeah?"

"Why don't you go on ahead and I'll meet you there."

"No," Alex protested, "I'll wait for you..."

"Uh uh. You go on ahead."

Alex's eyes narrowed suspiciously at his lover's tone. "Why are you so insistent that I get there before you?"

"No reason."

He could hear the fiendish amusement in Fox's voice and decided to let the other man have his fun.

"Okay, okay, I'll meet you there."

"Good. See you in about an hour and a half, then."

Alex hung up and sat, drumming his fingers on the phone.

//What the hell is he up to?//

He rose from the bed, checking his appearance once more.

"God*damn*, you're gorgeous."

Picking up his jacket and keys, he headed out the door.

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

It was early, but there was already a good crowd when Alex arrived at the club. He paid the cover charge and walked inside, immediately drawing the attention of many men.

Arrogance securely in place, he slithered through the crowd and took a seat at the bar.

"How's it goin'?" The bartender asked, handing a drink to a patron then turned his full attention on the new arrival.

"Good," Alex answered. "Uhhh, gimme a rum and coke."

The other man nodded, turning away just long enough to mix Alex's drink, then returned, placing the glass in front of him. "You look familiar."

"Do I?"

"Yeah." The man fixed a narrowed blue gaze on him. "You've been here before, haven't you?"

"Couple of times."

"I knew it. Hard to forget a handsome face."

"I'll go along with that."

Alex turned in the direction of the unfamiliar voice and quickly sized up the blonde behind him.

"And now that I've seen you," The man smiled, his eyes raking over the seated figure in front of him, "I know that I sure as hell ain't ever gonna forget you. Hi. I'm Max. Can I buy you a drink?"

Alex snorted softly and turned toward the bar. "Got one. Thanks."

"I'm patient." The other man sat down beside him. "I can wait till you finish that one."

No response.

"Is that a yes?"

"Did you hear a yes?"

"No. But I didn't hear a no. Come on, sexy, what do you say? A little drink...a little dance..."

Alex was vaguely amused by the man's clumsy attempt at a pickup, and he was content to string him along until Max made the mistake of touching him.

The sable head snapped around, and laser-green eyes burned into the blonde, causing him to withdraw his hand from Alex's arm. "Did I give you permission to touch me?"

"Jeez, it's not like I grabbed your crotch or anything," Max explained. "It was just your arm."

"*My* arm. Not yours. Keep your fucking hands to yourself and step off."

The commanding tone left no room for argument. The man slunk away, leaving the bartender laughing heartily.

"Gorgeous *and* tough. My kinda guy...hey." The other man pointed at Alex, nodding. "Hey, I know. The last time you were in here, you were with another guy. Tall as you. Fucking beautiful. Longer hair than yours...lighter. A mouth that wet dreams are made of..."

A smile twitched at Alex's lips, and he looked down into his drink.

"Right?"

"Right."

"Oh, God, don't tell me you two broke up. That'd be a fucking crime. You guys lit this place *up*."

Alex chuckled softly as he turned his back to the bar, having no intention of answering the question.

The bartender sighed and moved away to serve a customer at the end of bar, leaving Alex in peace. He nursed his drink, taking in his surroundings while he fended off at least three more advances. Checking his watch, he turned his attention to the dance floors and smiled. There were at least two dozen people on each level, thrashing in time to the music, but none of them possessed that feral quality that he and Fox did. No one drew the kind of attention that they had up there, writhing together on the third tier...

He checked his watch again.

//Come on, baby, get here already.//

Nearly twenty minutes later, a small crowd approached the bar. Four men hovered around one, smiling brilliantly, offering drinks, begging for dances, and Alex laughed to himself.

//Stupid, horny shits.//

Well, he was glad that they'd found someone else to latch onto.

One of the men stepped to his right, and Alex's jaw went slack.

There, with a beautifully serene and somewhat bored look on his face, stood Fox.

Alex sat frozen in his seat, eyes raking over skin-tight faded jeans, black silk shirt and leather jacket, and he felt his cock stiffen in appreciation. His first thought, of course, was to go over to the group and claim his man, but the mischief in Fox's tone when they spoke earlier had come back to him, and he sat clenching his jaw while the other men went about competing for Fox's attention.

He could only catch a few words here and there over the blaring music, but he watched closely as the others did everything from offering rides in Mercedes to flat out offering cash for one dance.

Vaguely amused, hazel eyes drifted from one man to another as they spoke, and finally Fox said something which Alex could neither hear nor read. He pushed away from the bar and glided by Alex within two feet at the most, followed closely by the other men.

Okay, this was definitely part of some game Fox had decided to play. Alex knew it for sure, now. There was no way in hell Fox had gotten that close to him and not realized he was there. They could zero in on each other in a room far more crowded than this one. Hell, they could smell each other at a distance greater than the one Fox had just previously stood at.

Alex kept a watchful eye from his place at the bar as Fox moved to the dance floor, picking the most visible spot on the third tier. As he began to move, the four men closed in around him, each trying for the best position. Finally, one man, a tall brunette, won the coveted spot behind Fox, and he moved in as close as he could, but everytime he got too close, Fox would inch forward, putting some distance between them.

If it weren't for the loud music, the sound of Alex's grinding teeth would be able to be heard as he watched the four men and most especially the fucker behind Fox do everything short of molest his lover. Even as his jaw clenched to the point of discomfort, his cock throbbed, watching his beautiful Fox work those men into a frenzy. He pushed away from the bar and moved closer in case things got out of hand. Not that Fox was incapable of handling himself, he certainly was, but Alex just felt better being closer...sort of.

Now within better range, he could see just how close these vultures were to Fox, and he felt his blood pressure rise another few notches. When the man in front of Fox inched forward, backing him up until he was tightly sandwiched between the two, Alex's reserve snapped.

The two men dancing on either side of Fox were the first to see the dark man with murder in his eyes approaching, and they backed off as soon as they realized it was them he was heading for. The other two were so wrapped up in the man between them, they didn't notice until the soft voice, gravel-rough and deadly serious, sounded just inches from them

"You gentlemen don't mind if I cut in, do you?"

Fox closed his eyes and inhaled deeply, letting the vibrations of his lover's voice course through him.

The man in front of Fox saw the look in Alex's eyes and reluctantly backed away, smart enough to know that this was more than just some guy wanting a dance. The man behind Fox on the other hand, was not so smart. He made the unfortunate mistake of grasping Fox's hips and holding him in place while he snorted at Alex.

"Sorry, handsome. He's mine. Now if you wanna get behind *me*..."

At the exact moment Fox had broken from the man's grasp, Alex had him by the throat, cutting off most of his air. "Wrong, asshole," he growled close to the man's flushed face. "He's *mine*. If you so much as *look* at him again, I'll snap you in two. Are we clear on that?"

The other man nodded then gasped for air as Alex shoved him away. He joined the others at a safe distance, watching as was most of the third level as Alex and Fox stood staring at each other. Turbulent green eyes clashed with amused hazel, and Alex took a long breath before speaking.

"Come here."

Fox held back, still staring into the other man's eyes.

Alex did not ask again but merely pointed to the spot on the floor in front of him.

Slowly, Fox stepped forward, looking at his lover through a curtain of lashes. When he stopped in the spot indicated, Alex wound an arm around his waist and jerked him forward. "Are you insane?" he rumbled against Fox's temple. "Are you *trying* to get someone killed?"

Fox wound his arms around Alex's shoulders and nuzzled the side of his neck. "I was just having a little fun. You know I knew you were there at the bar the whole time."

"Fun, huh? You call nearly giving me a stroke fun?"

Fox laughed softly, grinding his hips against the younger man's. "Tell me you weren't turned on. You're hard as a rock."

"That's beside the point. What if I hadn't stepped in? How far would you have let it go?"

"Come on, Alex, I knew where you were every second. And I knew exactly when you'd had enough. I let them get that close to me because I knew it'd only be a matter of seconds before you broke it up. By the way," he licked a path along the stubbled jaw. "You look damn fine." Letting one hand wander down over Alex's leather-clad ass, he bit lightly at the younger man's chin. "How come I've never seen these pants before?"

Alex's hand clamped around Fox's wrist, pulling his hand away. His fingers bit into the sensitive skin on the inside of the wrist, and he hissed softly to his aroused lover.

"You wanted to get me worked up? You wanted to turn me on...maybe get me a little angry?"

Fox heaved shallow, gasping breaths as his lover spoke. Never moving his eyes from Alex's, he gave no answer.

"Huh?" Alex emphasized the single word by releasing Fox's wrist and plunging his hand into the older man's hair, yanking his head back a bit.

Fox's tongue moved slowly over his dry lips...an action that served to further agitate the other man.

With a hard grunt, Alex pulled Fox's head forward, and their mouths met with violent force. Unable to remain still, Alex broke the kiss again and again, each time losing a bit more control as he reclaimed his lover's lips.

Fox clung to the younger man, the discomfort of Alex's brutal kisses hardening his cock to near intolerable levels. He whimpered frantically when Alex finally pulled his head away, holding them a few inches apart.

"What's the matter, baby?" he purred, brushing his lips against Fox's. "Need some more action? You want me to call your playmates back?"

Fox shook his head, running his hands over Alex's chest. "Want *you*. Just you." He leaned forward, licking at Alex's mouth. "Please..."

"Baby, I think if I fucked you right now, I'd seriously hurt you." Alex backed away, holding out his hand. "Let's go get a drink. I need to cool down a little."

Fox took the outstretched hand and followed Alex to the bar. When they reached their destination, Alex waved to the bartender, and while they waited, he pulled Fox against him, allowing the older man to lick and nibble his throat and jaw.

"Did it turn you on, Fox?" Alex asked, running his hand gently up and down his lover's back. "Hmm? Did you enjoy being pressed between those two men? Could you feel that guy's cock against your ass?"

"Yeah, I could feel it," Fox whispered against Alex's throat. "But what turned me on was knowing that *you* were turned on...and pissed."

"You enjoy driving me insane with jealousy?"

"I love it when you get possessive."

Alex's eyes darkened to a deeper shade of green. "Is that so?"

"Yeah."

The younger man nodded then leaned foward, pressing his lips to Fox's ear. "You let some guys crawl all over you again, and you'll see *possessive*."

Fox shuddered at his lover's words. Before he could respond, the bartender approached, smiling.

"Now *that's* more like it. I recognized your man here when he walked in, and then I remembered the two of you here together," he said to Fox. "I didn't want to believe that you weren't a couple anymore; you were so gorgeous together..."

Fox gave the bartender a tiny trace of a smile and wrapped himself around the man beside him, tucking his head under Alex's chin.

The bartender indulged himself for a few seconds, watching as the green-eyed man tipped his lover's head up and laid a long, possessive kiss on his mouth. When the kiss was broken, he discreetly cleared his throat, gaining the attention of both men.

"Uh...drinks, fellas?"

Alex ordered for them both, then turned his full attention back to Fox.

"Have I told you how magnificent you look tonight?"

"No," Fox murmured into Alex's throat. "You were too busy fuming."

"I'm *still* fuming, but I'm not blind. And as stupid as they are, neither are those assholes you were dancing with. You might have walked in here looking like that for *me*, but when somebody like you walks into a place like this alone, half the place is bound to be all over him...like you didn't know."

Fox grinned and writhed against the younger man. "Yeah, I knew. But who am I with? Hmm?" He nipped at Alex's lower lip, tugging gently. "Who do I want to fuck me right here up against the bar?"

Alex studied the older man for all of five seconds before he spun him around, pressing against his back as he unzipped his own pants. He undid Fox's jeans, pulling them down just far enough to gain access to his ass, then withdrew his cock. Quickly, he pulled the lube out of his jacket pocket, slathered some on himself, then unceremoniously drove into the other man.

Fox's eyes snapped shut and his head fell back against Alex's shoulder as the younger man wrapped him in a tight embrace.

"How's that?" Alex whispered in Fox's ear, pressing deeper. "That what you want?"

Fox nodded, turning his head to whimper into Alex's neck.

"Yeah. Feels good, doesn't it?"

Another nod.

"Answer me."

"Yes."

"You think your dance partner's dick'd feel this good?"

"No."

"Damn right." Alex kissed the corner of the other man's mouth. "I'm not going to move, Fox. You're not going to move either, but I want you to make me come." He entwined the fingers of both hands with Fox's and crossed their arms over the older man's chest, holding him firmly. "Go ahead, baby," he breathed. "Make me happy."

Fox moaned softly at the dull ache in his own cock but put it aside for the moment and concentrated on obeying Alex. He repeatedly tightened and relaxed his muscles, gently milking his lover's cock while he kissed and licked the side of his neck. As Alex's respiration shallowed, Fox's teeth came into play, nipping at the moistened flesh just hard enough for him to notice.

Alex groaned softly, tightening his hold on Fox just a bit more. He was a mere eyeblink from orgasm...Fox's little performance with those men had driven him to it, and every minute after that had just brought him closer to this irreversible state he was now in. He nudged Fox away from his neck, burying his own face in the curve of his lover's shoulder as his body began an uncontrollable trembling.

Fox continued to work his muscles, increasing the strength and speed of his contractions as Alex moaned and bit into the padding of his shoulder to keep from crying out. On the last contraction, he held the tension and jerked his hips back and forth, the movements so minute, none but the most interested observer would notice, but for Alex, it was enough to send him over the edge. Fox's mouth dropped open and a long hiss escaped as Alex bit down harder, spasming several times as he emptied himself into his lover.

Alex slumped against Fox, breathing deeply for several seconds before withdrawing and reaching toward the bar. "Give me some napkins," he panted. Fox obeyed, plucking a handful of white napkins from the bar and handing them back. Alex wiped the stickiness from his cock then cleaned away the semen that was now running down Fox's thighs. He tucked himself back into his pants, then pulled up Fox's jeans and refastened them.

Fox emitted a tortured groan as the material dragged against his neglected cock, and turned in Alex arms as soon as the younger man had finished zipping him up. "Alex," he whined, butting the other man's shoulder with his head.

Alex kissed the top of his lover's head and wrapped his arms securely around him. "What?"

"C'mon, baby, you can't leave me like this."

"Why not?"

"'Cause you love me and you don't want me to suffer."

Alex laughed softly. "Yes, I do love you, but you're wrong about me not wanting you to suffer. You made me suffer, watching four men paw you..."

"They didn't *paw* me..."

"...and now you gotta pay."

"Jesus. Can't I pay later?"

"Nope. Punishment must be swift and deliberate."

Fox groaned, knowing that there was no talking Alex out of whatever he had in mind. And, if he was being honest with himself, he'd admit that he really didn't want to. Alex's special brand of punishment was something to look forward to...something to aim for, and his whole body vibrated with joyful anticipation of the night to come.

Alex paid the grinning bartender and handed Fox his drink. He took his own glass in one hand and Fox's hand in the other and walked away from the bar in search of someplace to sit. Finding a vacant loveseat, the two men sat, Alex in a careless sprawl, arm thrown over the back of the sofa, with Fox pressed to his side. As he sipped his drink and looked around, Fox contented himself with licking his jaw and ear.

"You haven't touched your drink, baby. Aren't you thirsty?"

"No," Fox whined, pulling at Alex's earlobe, "Just horny."

"Have your drink. It'll relax you."

"There's only one thing that's going to relax me."

"And that is?"

Fox crawled into his lover's lap, straddling his hips and rocking against him. "I need to come."

Alex smirked up at Fox and slouched against the cushions as his hands lightly rubbed up and down the older man's thighs. "You think?"

Fox nodded, running his fingers through Alex's hair. "Please," he whispered. "Any way you want. Just please let me come."

A bit of a smile twitched at the corner of Alex's mouth. "Any way I want, huh? Hmm. I gotta think about that for a little bit. In the meantime..." He pushed Fox off of his lap and got to his feet, pulling the other man after him. "...let's dance."

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

"He's not going to be here, Morris."

"How do you know?"

"Okay, I don't know. But, so what? So what if he is?"

"I don't want to see him."

"So, don't look at him. You really wanna give him the satisfaction of knowing that he upset you? You dated the guy for all of two weeks, for God's sake."

"Yeah," Morris brooded, "but I thought he really liked me."

"I'm sure he liked you. Problem was, he liked about five other guys at the same time."

Morris heaved a long sigh and looked around.

It wasn't quite ten o'clock yet, but the place was fairly full. Even if Warren *was* here, maybe they wouldn't see each other.

"Come on," Steve tugged at the other man's arm. "What're you gonna do, never go out again? Fuck 'im." He glanced around, seeking out prospects. "There's plenty other fish in the sea, my friend. Come on, let's get a drink."

The two men moved to the bar and ordered a couple of beers. They stood nursing their drinks, more interested in searching the crowd...Morris for the man who had dumped him, and Steve for someone to replace him. Steve pointed to a large blonde several feet to their left.

"Hey. Look at him."

Morris wrinkled his nose. "Looks like a cross between Conan and Fabio."

"And you think there's something wrong with that? I'd love a man big and strong enough to toss me over his shoulder, carry me off and ravage me..."

"Oh, please...look at him, Steve. I bet he hasn't got an ounce of brains under all that hair. And he hasn't taken his eyes off of his reflection in that mirror over there. Besides I bet he's got a two inch dick," he added under his breath.

"Bitch-*ee*."

Morris shot his friend a dirty look.

"Fine." Steve looked around, pointing out man after man, but Morris took no more than a passing interest in any of them. Finally, as he'd just about decided that he was wasting his time, a good-looking young man with dark hair and eyes approached and asked Morris to dance.

"No, I don't think so. Thank you, though."

"*What*? Nooo, no." Steve smiled at the man who was about to leave. "C-could you wait here for just one second?"

A bit confused, the young man nodded and waited while Steve dragged Morris out of earshot.

"Are you out of you fucking *mind*? He's adorable! And he's *young*. And...and he wants to dance with you!"

Morris shrugged. "I'm just not in the mood."

"Well, *get* in the mood." Steve smiled and waved at the young man and turned quickly back to his friend. "Hurry up before he loses patience."

Morris heaved a long sigh and glanced at the man standing rather awkwardly a few feet away. "He *is* cute."

"Damn right, he's cute. Now, *go*."

Morris rolled his eyes and preceded his smiling friend back to the young man. "I'd like to dance if you still want to," he said, giving the man his warmest smile.

Steve waved frantically as his friend disappeared into the crowd with his dance partner. Sighing contentedly, he brought his beer bottle to his lips and took a long swallow as he scanned the dance floors. A split second later, he practically spit the liquid out as he caught sight of a man dancing on the third tier, dressed in leather and silk. His eyes narrowed on the figure, and with each passing second he became more and more sure that the man was the same shattered wreck that he and Morris had visited several months before.

Squinting, he took a few steps forward, trying to get a better look at the man dancing with Alex, but the unidentified man was behind him, moulded to his back, face pressed into his neck.

Steve watched disbelieving as the man's hands wandered over Alex's body, caressing his chest, massaging his crotch, and as shocking as that was, the look of sheer pleasure on Alex's face made it ten times worse.

Steve sighed, disappointment weighing heavily on his heart. He'd met Fox and Alex only briefly, but their apparent devotion to each other had made a lasting impression on him. He couldn't believe that only months after Fox's death Alex would be here dancing with another man...letting himself be touched like that...

The music changed to something slower, and Alex turned around, he and the other man instantly wrapping themselves around each other.

Still unable to see the other man's face, Steve cursed to himself and went off in search of Morris. He found his companion on the first level, in a rather cozy clinch with the man who had asked him to dance. Silently hoping his friend would forgive him, he burst forth and tapped Morris on the shoulder.

"Hey." He looked into the young man's curious gaze. "Sorry, man. I gotta talk to Morris."

"Steve," Morris sang softly. "What the hell are you doing?"

"I'm sorry, buddy, I really am, but you gotta come with me."

Morris lifted his head from the other man's shoulder and glared at his friend. "Why?"

"You gotta see something."

"And I can't see it *after* this dance?"

"No. I'm really, really sorry, but...guess who's here?"

Morris' eyes grew wide. "Not..."

"No, not him....Alex."

"Alex? What Alex?"

"How many damn Alexes do you know?"

"Well...there's Alex Morgan, Alex Young..."

"For Christ's sake...snap out of it for second, would you? I mean *Alex*. You know, Alex and dead Fox, Alex."

"Oh! Really? He's here? Alone?"

"*No*. He's with somebody...probably the guy who answered the phone that day. C'mon, I want you to see them before they stop dancing."

Morris apologized to his new friend and promised him another dance before the evening was out, then followed Steve. When they reached a spot where they could see the third tier, Steve stopped and looked around.

"Damn! I don't see them now."

Morris scanned the area. "Nope. I don't see him anywhere. So what'd this other guy look like?"

"Don't know. I couldn't tell from the way he was coiled around Alex."

Morris studied his friend, noting the distaste in his tone. "You know, Steve, I'm as surprised as you, but there are some people who *cannot* be alone. They need to have *someone*. Maybe Alex is like that."

Steve shook his head, still looking around. "I just...it's so hard to believe. You were there. You saw him. He was completely unhinged. Judging from the condition we found him in, I'd have figured it'd be weeks before he was together enough to spell his own *name*."

"Maybe he *isn't* together," Morris reasoned. "You're *right*. He was really bad shape. Maybe...maybe he's worked himself into some state of denial."

"Maybe. That sure as hell sounds more logical than him being over what happened. But if that's true, then he needs help."

Morris could hear the wheels turning. "Don't you think that friend of theirs, what was her name...Dana...don't you think she'd try?"

"Yeah," Steve agreed, "but if she was having any success, do you think he'd be here?"

"I don't know. But, Steve...if Dana tried and failed, what makes you think *we'd* fare any better? 'Cause I just *know* that's where you're headed with this."

"I don't know that we will, but we gotta try. C'mon."

Morris grabbed Steve's arm and spun him around as he walked past. "Whoa. Just hang on there a minute, Doctor Steve. What the hell are we supposed to? Are we supposed to walk up to him, say, 'Hi, Alex, how the heck are ya. You remember us, Steve and Morris. We're the guys you've seen and talked to all of twice. Yeah, we're here now to tell you that we think you're fucked in the head. That's right, Alex, you're in denial about your lover's death, which is the only reason you're standing against a wall, with your boy-toy on his knees in front of you, sucking your dick. You're making the biggest mistake of your life, buddy. By the way, hello boy-toy. No offense, kid, but Alex is only letting you share his bed because he doesn't want to be alone...at least that's what *we* think..."

Steve stood with his arms folded over his chest, listening to Morris' diatribe. When the other man's voice faded away, he snorted and looked up. "Are you finished?"

"Maybe..."

"Look. I don't plan on saying anything of the sort. I just want to see him up close. I want to talk to him and see for myself what his state of mind is." Again, he began to walk away, and this time Morris followed, keeping his questions and comments to himself.

A fifteen minute search finally netted success. The men found Alex sitting in the shadows, sprawled over a sofa, and very much alone.

Steve stepped forward, giving Alex a kindly smile. "Hey, Alex."

The seated man smiled back. "Hey, Steve." He looked past Steve to the other man. "Morris. How've you been?"

"O-okay," Morris answered, looking around then bringing his gaze back to Alex. "How've *you* been?"

Another bright smile. "Great!" Alex motioned to the scattering of empty chairs. "You guys want to sit down for a while?"

"Sure." Steve pulled a chair up, and Morris followed suit. The two men sat stiffly, not knowing exactly what to say, but Alex spoke first.

"How long have you been here?"

"I don't know," Steve answered, "less than an hour, I'd say. You?"

Alex shrugged. "A little longer than that. An hour and a half. Maybe two."

Steve nodded then went silent for a moment before speaking. "S-so, I uh...I saw you a little earlier. You were uh...you were dancing."

Alex nodded, just realizing that these poor saps had no clue. His Fox voice told him to speak up. For whatever reason, they obviously didn't see who he was dancing with, and he *should* clear things up, but his Alex voice spoke louder, telling him to have a little fun with them. Fox would be back shortly, and then they'd know the truth...

"Oh, yeah. Yeah, I *was* dancing a little while ago."

The other two men waited, hoping Alex would elaborate, but he simply fell silent, fixing an easy stare on them. Steve cursed under his breath and bit the bullet.

"The uh...the guy you were dancing with. Was that someone you met here tonight?"

"No."

Shit, he was *not* making this easy.

"Oh. S-so you know each other."

"Yeah." Alex continued in his most nonchalant tone. "We live together."

As if on cue, both men lowered their eyes.

"I guess you guys think that's a little strange. But you'll understand when you see him..."

Steve and Morris looked up, not knowing what to say.

Alex suppressed a grin and went on. "He just went down to get us a couple of beers. He should be back, soon." He leaned forward, grinning. "He's *gorgeous*. Tall...thick, brown hair with these red and gold highlights when he's standing in certain light...beautiful, expressive eyes that change color with his mood...and a mouth like..." Alex closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. "God, what a mouth."

The other two stared at each other, dumbfounded. Finally it was Morris who spoke up.

"Alex...do you realize who you just described?"

Alex gave them an innocently curious stare.

"Fox, Alex," Steve said softly. "That's his description. Does this man look like him?"

Alex shrugged. "Well..." He looked past the men, grinning as a fourth approached.

Morris followed his gaze and almost jumped into Steve's lap. "Shit. Oh, *shit*!"

Steve gaped, unable to speak a word as the other man placed the bottles on the table in front of the sofa and dropped down beside Alex.

"Hi, guys. It's been a long time."

Alex drew Fox back against his chest and dropped a kiss into his hair. He grinned at the other two men, who were nearly white with shock. "Breathe, guys," he murmured, enjoying the hell out of the moment.

"You're...y-you're..." Steve gasped, trying to put his thoughts into actual words.

"You're *dead*," Morris blurted out, saving his friend the trouble. "We went to your funeral!"

"Yyyeah, uh...that was kind of a mistake."

"A *mistake*?" Steve nearly screamed, finding his voice. "That's one motherfuckin' big ass mistake!" He pointed to Alex. "*He* was beside himself!"

"It's a really long story," Alex explained, kissing Fox again as his lover nuzzled his throat.

"I got all night," Steve said, leaning back in his chair. "How 'bout you, Morris?"

Finally steady enough to walk, the other man returned to his seat. "I got no place to be."

Over half and hour and two drinks later, Fox and Alex finished their story, and the others sat awestruck.

"You gotta be shitting me," Steve finally said after a long silence. "I mean, that's the shit *movies* are made out of."

"Yeah," Alex sighed, petting his lover's head, "our life is pretty much one big, long movie."

"*Damn*. You know..." Morris shook his head, unable to rid his mind of the images now implanted in them, "I'm sorry, I...I've...*we've* been in a state of shock since you showed up. Fox, we're so damn glad you're not dead."

"Oh, *yeah*," Steve added. "You'll never know how glad."

Alex broke into laughter. "You guys thought I'd gone off the deep end, didn't you?"

Morris grinned sheepishly. "Well, the thought *had* crossed our minds. Can you blame us?"

Fox looked curiously from Alex to the other men. "What're you talking about?"

"Our friends here thought that I was out with someone else. Steve saw us dancing...well, he saw *me*. He couldn't see who I was with. As far as they knew, you were dead, so naturally, he assumed that it was just some guy."

Fox tipped his head back, looking up at the other man. "And you let them believe it."

Alex shrugged. "I was just having a little fun." He stretched over to plant an upsidedown kiss on Fox's lips. "You were coming right back. It wasn't like they were going to go home thinking I'd lost my mind."

"God, I'm so relieved," Steve breathed. "I just couldn't imagine...I didn't want to believe..."

"That I could get over him that quickly," Alex finished, gaining a nod from the other man. He tightened his arms around Fox, laying his cheek on the older man's head and closing his eyes. "I'd never have gotten over him. Ever."

Fox raised one arm, winding it around Alex's neck, and turned his face up for a long, tender kiss.

Steve and Morris looked on, smiling uncontrollably until a thought occured to Morris. He hit his friend in the arm and pointed to Fox.

"It *was* him."

"Huh? Oh! Oh, yeah!"

Alex broke the kiss and looked over at the other two. "What was who?"

"*Him*," Steve answered. "I called your apartment one day to see how you were doing, and someone answered the phone. I told Morris that it sounded like Fox, but since we knew he was *dead*..."

"*You*?" Alex grinned. "Do you know the trouble you got me into?"

Morris smacked his friend again. "*See*? I told you! You should have identified yourself."

"What good would it have done, though?" Steve argued. "He wouldn't have known me..."

"It's okay, it's okay," Alex laughed. "You did us a favor. It pissed him off so much, while he was screaming at me, he admitted that he'd fallen in love with me."

"You mean, like...all over again?" Steve whimpered, his faith in magic fully restored.

"Yeah," Alex looked down at Fox, speaking so softly, Steve and Morris could only read the word as it left his lips. He moved in for another kiss, letting his mouth whisper over Fox's before taking it completely.

The other two watched, entranced as Fox turned in his lover's arms, deepening the kiss and writhing against him.

Alex pulled Fox closer, letting his hand sweep up and down over his back, then cupped his ass and squeezed gently. Fox moaned into his mouth, as easily as that, forgetting about the two who sat a few feet away.

After thoroughly arousing the older man, Alex pulled away and smiled down into half-closed eyes. "I got it."

"Got what?" Fox asked, stretching up for another kiss.

Alex avoided the tempting mouth. "Any way I want."

Fox's brow wrinkled. "Any.."

"Remember? Or has the moment passed?" Alex's hand slid over his lover's hip and down to his denim-covered cock, sighing at the solid bulge he found. "I guess it hasn't."

Fox's eyelashes fluttered and closed as Alex stroked him gently. "Tell me," he whispered, arching into the younger man's touch.

Alex grasped Fox's wrist and planted a soft kiss in the palm of his hand before guiding it down to his crotch.

Fox forced his eyes to open and looked up into a smoky, green gaze. Still staring up at Alex, his hand began to move in circles over his own erection. It hardened further under his touch, now pressing insistently against his zipper. His eyes began to close again, but a gentle hand on his cheek stopped them.

"Look at me."

Satisfied that Fox would obey him, Alex moved his hand away and glanced over at the two men who sat hypnotized. "Fox was very bad ealier this evening," he explained softly, letting his eyes fall back to his lover's face. "Weren't you, baby?"

Fox nodded, never taking his eyes from Alex's face.

"He decided it might be fun to tease me. Now, I enjoy being teased as much as the next guy, but when your lover..." He inclined his head, briefly rubbing his nose against Fox's. "...your sweet baby knows that you've got a jealous streak a mile long, and he decides to dance with four guys while ignoring you completely, well..."

Morris tore his eyes from Fox, momentarily meeting Steve's gaze. "Four guys?"

"Oh, yeah, you guys missed it," Alex purred. "Four mongrels in heat, sniffing around *my* Fox. They would've torn each other apart to get to him. I let him have his fun for a while, then I finally had to break it up." He turned his attention back to the man in his arms. "So, baby...what d'you say? You enjoyed putting on that little show for me earlier, how about another one?"

Fox stared up at him, waiting.

"Unzip your pants."

Fox undid the button at the waistband of his jeans, then drew the zipper down. His cock rose as high as it could, still partially restrained by the tight material near the base. Alex helped him pull his jeans down a few inches then withdrew his hand.

"Entertain us, baby."

An audible whimper floated from across the way as Fox brushed his fingertips over the length of his cock. "Goddamn," Steve groaned. "All the shit they've been through and they're still the fucking hottest couple I've ever met."

Fox blinked slowly, his gaze still on Alex. His lips parted on soft, stuttering breaths as he tenderly caressed himself. A bead of fluid appeared, shimmering at the tip of his cock, and Alex touched his finger to it, lifting the moisture away. He brought his finger up to his own mouth, taking the opaque liquid with his tongue and immediately lowering his head to share it with Fox.

"Jesus, why couldn't I have one like them?" Morris whined, clasping his hand to his forehead.

"Are you kidding?" Steve murmured, never taking his eyes off the two men. "You wouldn't survive past the first two days. Now, shut up, I can't hear."

Alex shushed Fox's whimpers of protest as he broke the kiss and sat back. He shifted the older man so that he was lying across his lap, then, cradling Fox in his arms, he motioned for him to resume. He caressed the stubbled cheek while still holding the smoky, amber gaze. "Feel good, baby?"

Fox nodded as he closed his fingers around his cock and began to pump it slowly.

"You're ready to come right now, aren't you?"

"Yes," Fox sobbed softly, his back involuntarily arching at the thought of letting go.

"I know you are," the younger man cooed, petting the golden-brown head. "Maybe if you asked me nicely, I'd consider it."

Fox gasped, rubbing his head against Alex's shoulder. "Please, Alex. I need to come. Please, let me."

"That was nice," Alex said, smiling. "But I didn't quite *feel* it."

Steve and Morris groaned along with Fox, feeling the other man's agony.

"God, Alex, I'm begging you. *Please*. I'll do anything." Fox slipped his free hand between them, rubbing it over the bulge in Alex's pants.

"You'll do anything for me, *anyway*." He removed Fox's hand from his crotch. "Hold onto that thought, okay? Right now, just concentrate on you. But remember, I want your eyes on me." Alex kissed the tip of Fox's nose. "Okay, baby...a little faster..."

Fox shuddered, increasing the speed of his hand. His tongue crept out, sliding over dry lips as he fought to keep his eyes open.

"That's good, baby...God, isn't he beautiful?" Alex asked the other men, his eyes still locked on his lover's. "Slow it down a little, Fox."

The older man whimpered his refusal as he tightened his hand around his cock and jerked it harder. Alex's hand immediately clamped around his wrist, stopping him.

"Slow down," he said softly, "or I promise, you won't come at all tonight."

Morris gasped at the threat. "You wouldn't do that to him..."

Alex sent the man a trace of a smirk. "Would I do that to you, baby?"

Quivering at the thought, Fox nodded.

"Is that what you want?"

"No."

"Are you going to do what I tell you?"

"Yes."

"Good. Now. Nice and easy."

"Jesus Christ, Alex," Steve panted, watching Fox's jaw clench as he did as he was told. "I'm dyin' *for* him."

"He loves it," Alex reassured the other man. "As much as I love it when he does it to me. Trust me, he'll pay me back in spades tomorrow. Won't you, sweetheart?"

"Till you cry," Fox growled softly through gritted teeth.

"Mmmm." Alex brushed his open mouth over Fox's. "Promise me."

"Bet on it."

Alex reached into his jacket pocket, withdrawing the extra napkins he took from the bar, and held them under the head of his lover's cock. "Okay, baby. Do it."

Fox's head fell to the side as he began to frantically pump his cock, but Alex's hand in his hair jerked it back.

"I want to see your eyes when you come," Alex hissed, prompting a desperate whimper from Fox as he struggled to oblige his lover. "That's right, baby...harder...oh, that's good, isn't it? Come on, Fox," he whispered against the sobbing man's cheek. "Don't forget your audience. Make it good..."

Fox's mouth fell open and a gurgling moan slipped out as his hand flew over his cock, jerking it harder and faster until he came, bucking and crying out his lover's name.

Alex caught each burst of semen in the napkins, folding them up and stuffing them into his glass when Fox was done. He kissed the older man tenderly as he tucked him back into his jeans and drew the zipper up.

Fox moaned softly and curled up in Alex's arms, luxuriating in the warmth of his caresses.

"God, I'm totally wrecked," Steve groaned, looking over to his friend who sat with his head in his hands. "Morris, you okay?"

The other man lifted his head. "I...I gotta do one of two things. I gotta find a snow bank to dive into, or I gotta find that guy I was dancing with and fuck him senseless."

Alex's laugh reached their ears. "I suggest your second choice."

"Yeah." Morris rose to his feet, wincing at the stiffness at the front of his pants. "God, I hope he's still here."

Steve heaved himself out of his own chair. "Does he have any friends?"

"I'll ask him."

Both men turned back to the two wound around each other on the sofa. Steve gave them a pained smile.

"I've never known torture like this," he mumbled, shaking his head, "but, God, I love it. I'm so glad you're all right, Fox."

"Yeah," Morris added. "Me too."

Fox lifted his head from Alex's shoulder and gave their friends a weary smile. "Thanks."

"We'll see you again soon," Alex added, noisily kissing Fox's forehead. "I think we'll be frequenting this place."

"Oh, yeah?" Fox murmured into the younger man's chest. "What if I don't want to?" He flinched and grunted as Alex delivered a hard slap to his ass. A smile immediately followed, and a long moan.

"Damn slut," Alex whispered in his lover's ear then smirked up at the other two men. "We'll see you soon."

"God, I don't know if I can survive it, but I'll have a hell of a time trying." Steve motioned to his companion. "C'mon, let's see if we can find your friend before he leaves or gets snapped up."

"See ya, guys. Thanks for another uh...interesting evening, and for scaring the shit out of us," Morris called as he and Steve began to walk away. Alex's laughter followed them as they disappeared into the crowd.

"That was rotten, letting them think I was dead," Fox said, stringing a line of kisses up Alex's neck. "Did you see the looks on their faces when they saw me?"

"Yeah," Alex snickered softly. "Wish I had a camera."

"Sadistic bastard," Fox purred into his lover's ear with all the admiration he possessed. "Let's go home."

"Tired?"

"No."

Alex moaned at the scrape of teeth along the underside of his jaw. "Then, why do you want to go home?"

"Because," Fox responded, moving to Alex's mouth and brushing their lips together, "this place is great for satisfying our kinks, but we can't make love here. I need to be home in our bed." He kissed the younger man, letting his tongue push too briefly into Alex's mouth. "I need to feel your skin all hot and slick, sliding against mine..."

A long, low hiss trembled over Fox's mouth just before Alex took it in a hard kiss. Breaking away, Alex pulled them both to their feet. "Since you put it that way, I guess we should go home."

Hand in hand, the two men made their way through the crowd, Fox almost slamming into Alex when the younger man came to an abrupt halt. He followed Alex's gaze and found, sitting at a table in front of them, the man who had earlier tried to claim Fox. Alex gave the man an icy smile. Fingers still intertwined with Fox's, he brought the older man's arm up over his shoulder, letting Fox wrap the arm around his neck. Fox's other arm wound around his waist, and he laid his cheek on Alex's shoulder, giving the seated man a sweet smile.

"Look, baby, your friend is still here."

The other man looked up at the two then averted his gaze.

"What's wrong?" Alex purred, acid filling his soft tone. "You couldn't keep your eyes...or your hands off of him earlier."

No answer.

We're leaving, now." Alex reached back, petting his lover's head, smiling as Fox nuzzled the side of his neck. "Fox wants to go home and make love. Don't you, baby?"

Fox licked a path from the base of Alex's neck up to the line of his jaw. "Yes, I do." He ground his cock against Alex's ass. "I need you, baby. Please, let's go home now."

"Damn, sweetheart, hard again already?" Alex grinned down at the man who was blushing furiously in the presence of his curious companions. "God, he's insatiable," he hissed in a conspiratorial tone. "Well, let me get him home before he gets too worked up. I'd hate to have to fuck him right here on your table." Alex moved Fox to his side, winding an arm around his waist. "Say goodbye, love."

Fox wriggled out of his lover's grasp and leaned on the table, stopping only inches from the other man's face. "Bye. Thanks for the dance." As he straighted up, the man's gaze flicked from him to Alex, then quickly skittered away.

"Don't worry, I'm not mad at you anymore," Alex explained. "After I fucked him against the bar, I was able to think a little more clearly. I know you couldn't help yourself. He's got that effect on people."

"Well, maybe you oughta keep a leash on him," the man snapped, trying to regain a little a dignity in the presence of his companions.

Instead of becoming angry, Alex raised his eyebrows and flashed Fox an interested grin. "Hmm. You know, he may have a point. How 'bout it, baby?" Alex stroked Fox's hair, drawing a soft purr from him. "Would you wear a collar and leash for me? I'll buy you a real pretty one." His hand wandered down to the older man's ass, rubbing gently. "There's an S&M club just down the street that sells all kinds of toys. We could stop and see what they've got."

Fox let out a deep, sighing breath and dragged his tongue over Alex's mouth. "I'll wear anything for you, baby."

Alex growled into his lover's open mouth as their tongues slid around each other. "God, it's going to be a long night." He winked at the man and his fascinated friends. "Night, boys." Arm draped low on Fox's hip, Alex steered him away from the table and out the door.

"Goddamn, they're hot," one of the men at the table finally breathed. He turned to his flustered companion. "So, what was that all about?"

"Nothing," the other man muttered, looking sullenly into his drink.

"C'mon, Larry," another spoke up. "We heard him thank you for the dance. You *danced* with him?"

The fourth at the table began to snicker and then broke into a full laugh. "Yeah, he did. I had just come in and saw them. Larry here thought he was gonna get lucky; I could see hope all over his face. By the time I reached them, the dark one was there too, claiming his property. Larry gave him some shit and was promptly put in his place."

Larry glared at his friend. "Thanks for telling the world, asshole."

"Aww, lighten up, Lar. It was funny!"

"Oh, yeah, *sure* it was funny. Because it didn't happen to *you*." He slumped in his seat. "I'm never gonna try to pick anybody up again. Every time I do, it gets fucked up somehow."

One of the other men patted him on the back. "Poor bastard. You must be horny as hell, too, having danced with *that*."

"I'll live."

"You sure?" The man winked at the others. "'Cause I just happen to know where you can find a horny, unattached, easy guy right here in the club."

Larry's mouth twitched. "You're full of shit. If he's so easy, why haven't you picked him up yourself? He's a dog, right?"

"Nope. Good looking. Not gorgeous like the two who were just here, but nice. He just came in about half an hour ago."

"So, answer the question. Why don't *you* want him?"

"I'm being a friend! You're in rough shape. You need some action, and I'm helping you out, that's all."

"Where is he?"

"He usually hangs out on the second level. He's wearing chocolate brown pants and a taupe shirt. About five-ten...light brown hair and dark brown eyes. Name's Warren."

"You're not shitting me?"

"Nope."

Larry sat drumming his fingers on the table for a while, then got up. "If you're fucking with me, I'm gonna kill you." He got up and stalked off, leaving the other man snickering softly.

"What'd you do to him, Andy? There is no Warren, is there?"

The man looked to the one seated to his left. "Oh, there's a Warren. And he *is* easy. He's also a cheating dog. Dumped this guy named Morris a couple of weeks ago, who also happens to be here..."

"Larry!"

"Don't worry, Morris won't kill him like that other guy would have done, but it won't be pretty."

"You troublemaking prick. Poor Larry." The other man broke into a wide grin. "Let's go see if we can get a ringside seat for the fireworks..."

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

Fox opened his bag of gifts, peeking inside and grinning. "I can't believe you bought this stuff."

Alex hung his jacket up, grinning at Fox. "I didn't exactly hear any words of protest."

Fox sat down on the sofa, pulling out the ball gag and inspecting it curiously. "Would it have done me any good?" He dropped the item into the bag and removed the leather thong. "What the hell do you think is going fit into this tiny pouch?"

Alex sat down beside the older man, his hand sliding across the seat to the impressive bulge in Fox's jeans. "Not a whole hell of a lot," he rumbled, petting his lover's cock through the denim. "Can't wait to see you in it."

Fox shook his head, pulling out a black leather, spiked collar. "You know, these things are actually sharp, Alex."

"Mmm hmm. They'll keep the other dogs away."

"God..."

"We can reserve that one for the S&M club."

"You really think you're going to get me there, huh?"

"Oh, hell yeah."

Fox cocked one eyebrow and withdrew the other two collars. "I hope you know that at least one of these is for you. The silver one, I think. I like you in silver."

"That's fine, 'cause I like you in gold. It goes nice with your hair and eyes." He sent the other man a wicked smirk. "Will you wear it for me tomorrow?"

"You want to go out again?"

"No. I'd just like to test it out at home first."

"Oh, yeah?"

"Yeah. I got plans for you, mister." Alex smiled, feeling his lover's cock jump beneath his hand. "Anxious?"

"No."

"Liar." He squeezed the bulge. "I can always depend on your cock, though, to tell me the truth. *It* loves me."

"I love you," Fox complained. "I let you buy me all this stuff, didn't I?" He asked, holding up the complicated network of leather and chains. "What is this thing for again?"

Alex laughed softly and kissed his lover's cheek. "Tomorrow." He took the restraints from Fox and dropped them back into the bag. "Right now, I want to go to bed."

The corner of Fox's mouth twitched as Alex drew him to his feet. "Tired?"

"No," the younger man answered, undoing the buttons of Fox's shirt. "But I expect I will be when we're finished." He pushed the shirt away from Fox's shoulders, running his palms slowly over the smooth muscles. Their eyes met and held as Alex stepped closer, letting his hands slide around to his lover's back. "I could touch you forever," he whispered, letting his warm breath flow over Fox's lips.

Fox closed his eyes, gently brushing his lips back and forth across Alex's. "You won't get any argument from me."

Alex smiled as he moved in for a long, deep kiss, stealing his lover's breath and turning his bones to hot liquid. Fox clutched at his shirt, loving the feel of silk beneath his fingers but wanting skin even more. Alex pulled away from the other man's mouth, coming in for another brief kiss before removing the shirt completely.

Fox reciprocated, first unbuttoning then pulling Alex's shirt away, leaving them both naked from the waist up. His hands traveled down to the softness of the leather pants, skimming over Alex's hips then around to his ass.

"Were you really upset with me tonight?"

"Upset? No. I knew what you were up to. Can't say I wasn't seething with jealousy, though. I also can't tell you that seeing you in the middle of four men wasn't an incredible turn-on. Not that another man will ever fuck you, but knowing that you've got the power to drive them crazy like that, and that power is all mine...what can I say? It makes me hotter than hell. Turned *you* on, didn't it?"

"It wasn't them touching me that did it for me," Fox whispered, stroking Alex's ass. "It was that you were watching. I could feel the heat in you. Turning you on turns *me* on."

Alex moaned, slipping his hands between them and undoing Fox's jeans. "So, you'll trust me to take you to the leather club one day?"

"Yes."

The younger man drew the zipper down slowly. "You'll wear the things I bought for you?"

"Yes."

One hand slid inside, caressing the older man's cock, winning a soft gasp. "You'll let me have complete control?"

"*Yes*." Fox thrust against Alex's hand as he spoke the word.

Alex groaned and covered Fox's mouth with his own. He broke the kiss long seconds later but maintained contact. "Fox," he breathed into his lover's mouth.

"Hmm."

"Let me make love to you."

Fox nodded and let Alex lead him into the bedroom where the younger man finished undressing him and laid him down on their bed.

Fox stared up at Alex, unable to stop writhing as the other man slowly stripped off the rest of his own clothing, then straddled Fox on his hands and knees. His eyes fluttered closed as Alex moved in, planting a tender kiss on each fringe of eyelashes, the tip of his nose, then finally settled again on his mouth, depositing several short, gentle kisses on the pouting flesh. His hips rose and fell seductively, unconsciously seeking the hardness that remained poised just inches above him.

Alex felt the movement and shook his head. "No," he whispered. "Not yet, baby. Not even close."

Fox whimpered softly as his lover moved a bit lower, licking the underside of his jaw, then his throat. The younger man moved to his shoulder, thoroughly bathing every inch of skin there, then methodically worked his way down the length of Fox's arm. Fox lay docilely, weakened by the strength of his desire. His eyes rolled up into his head, and his lids dropped over them as a long gasp sounded. His lips moved in a feeble attempt to form a word, but no intelligible sound would come out.

Intoxicated by Fox's taste, Alex continued to draw his tongue over his lover's skin, slowly working his way down to the very tips of his fingers. Fox's hand twitched as Alex tickled the sensitive skin of his palm, but aside from his fluttering eyelashes and the shallow rise and fall of his chest, it was the only sign of life he displayed.

Alex licked his way back up Fox's arm, over his shoulder, across the base of his throat, and repeated the process on the other side. When he made it back to Fox's throat for the second time, he slid a little lower, bathing every inch of his chest, paying special attention to the erect nipples. Tenderly, his tongue whispered across each one, prompting a long gasp from the older man. Insuring that each nipple was sufficiently moistened, Alex blew on them, smiling as Fox shuddered. He moved on, dragging his tongue over his lover's quivering abdomen, pausing to tease his navel.

Fox's head rolled to one side, and a deep frown creased his brow. As hard as he tried, he could not get his brain to work. Couldn't pull himself far enough out of the fog he was immersed in to speak. He wanted to say something...to tell Alex how much he loved him...how incredibly good this felt, but he couldn't. Dammit, he couldn't make anything work.

Alex had made it down to one of Fox's legs, somehow managing to completely avoid his aching cock and balls. He bathed Fox's right thigh, stopping to put his brand high on the inside, then moved along, covering the rest of the leg, and pausing once more to tease the ticklish sole of Fox's foot. He treated the left leg similarly, only he did not mark the inside of that thigh. When he finished, he sat up beside the older man and dropped a soft kiss on his mouth.

"Turn over, baby."

Fox moaned softly, trying to respond, but Alex's attentions truly had sapped his strength. The younger man smiled and helped him roll onto his belly, making sure he was comfortable before touching his tongue to the back of his neck. A muffled moan drifted up from the pillow as he delicately licked the sensitive patch of skin which contracted and errupted into dozens of goosebumps.

Alex licked each tiny bump before beginning a lazy exploration of Fox's back. His tongue flowed over the broad expanse of constricting muscles, dipping into the shallow valleys in between, then traveled south to the tapered waist.

Fox twitched almost unnoticeably as Alex nipped at the light scattering of golden hairs at the small of his back then soothed the tiny stings with his tongue. Slowly, he felt the moist warmth move on, climbing the taut muscles of his ass then descend, working its way to his thigh.

Taking all his sweet time, Alex paid homage to the back of each leg, licking and occasionally nipping at a particularly sensitive area, then recommitted himself to proper worship of his lover's ass.

Letting his fingers dance over the rounded surface, he followed their path with his tongue, the velvety texture of Fox's skin sending tingles of extreme pleasure through him. Unable to help himself, he fastened his lips over a small area of flesh and sucked it into his mouth, leaving a second mark as Fox's hips bucked weakly beneath him. He listened to the soft, frustrated whimpers and gently shushed the older man.

"Let me love you, baby," he whispered against the smooth skin as his fingers gently slipped into the crevice then parted the clenching cheeks. "Just wanna love you..."

Fox pressed his face into the pillow, letting the thick padding absorb his sobs as his lover's tongue flickered across the small, tight perforation. He clawed ineffectually at the sheets as Alex circled the opening, then slowly and gently worked his way inside. Sight and sound disappeared, turning Fox's world into a silent, reddish-black haze where he could neither speak nor move. All he could do was lie there in his paralyzed state and feel.

Liquid heat spiraled through his body, stretching out to the very tips of each nerve and beyond, lending an incandescent glow to the haze which he had become part of. The gentle presence inside him quivered and probed, each tiny movement sending another shower of sensation whirling through him. Trapped between his body and the mattress, his cock screamed for release, and he unconsciously obeyed the demand, thrusting erratically into the sheets.

Lost in his own world of sensual bliss, the sudden flurry of movement jarred Alex and alerted him to Fox's precarious condition. Reluctantly, he withdrew and turned his protesting lover onto his side.

"Shhhh." Alex slid up behind Fox, wrapping an arm around his chest. He laid a trail of tender kisses up the side of the older man's neck to his ear, then whispered into it, "Let Alex take care of you." He rolled Fox onto his back then reached into the nightstand drawer for the lube. Quickly unscrewing the cap, he squeezed a generous amount onto Fox's thigh. The sudden chill made Fox twitch, and Alex smiled, replacing the tube in the drawer. He scooped most of the lube from his lover's thigh and applied it to his cock, gritting his teeth to prevent a moan of pleasure from escaping.

"Alex," Fox breathed in a barely audible voice. "Can't..."

Alex spread Fox's legs, kneeling between them, and leaned in on his hands. He let his lips brush back and forth across the older man's before speaking.

"Yes, you can."

"No...n-no. Please..."

"Just a few more minutes, baby, I promise. Promise..." Alex delivered a long, deep kiss then stretched out over his lover's body. He lifted Fox's legs, coaxing him to wrap them around his waist, and he pushed home in one long, gentle glide.

Fox took one deep, gasping breath and forgot to release it as Alex paused, quivering with the intensity of sensation. Finally, Alex began to move, withdrawing as slowly as he had entered, pulling out almost to the tip, then sliding forward again, the motion reminding Fox to exhale. He wrapped his arms around Alex's neck and found his lover's mouth, open and willing. His tongue slithered into the inviting warmth, joining with its mate and drawing a soft moan from each man.

Alex completed three more lazy thrusts then tucked his hands under Fox's hips, carrying the other man with him as he reared back. Fox's legs fell to the bed, and he was now in a sitting position, resing on top of Alex's thighs as the younger man sat back on his calves. Alex tilted his hips, moving in a slow, rhythmic manner, and Fox followed suit, moving in counterpoint as they kissed and caressed each other gently.

Fox looked down into the bottomless depths of his lover's eyes, seeing everything he was, everything he felt, right there...laid bare for no one but him. He threaded the fingers of one hand through Alex's hair, still holding the exquisite, green gaze with his own. "Love you," he croaked while struggling to maintain his composure. "S-so much..."

Alex's eyes dropped shut and his head tipped back for a few seconds, then he again looked up at Fox, his eyes sparkling in the warmth of his lover's stare. He swiped the rest of the lube from Fox's thigh and wrapped his hand around the older man's cock, applying a thin, slick coating as he tenderly stroked the rigid shaft. "I love *you*, baby," he whispered shakily, taking Fox's mouth in a bone-melting kiss.

They continued to move together, refusing to break the kiss until lack of oxygen and the undeniable approach of orgasm forced them apart. Fox hugged Alex to him, resting his cheek on the younger man's head as Alex leaned into his chest, his movements becoming more and more insistent.

A warm tingle began at the base of Fox's spine and spread quickly, enveloping him in a trembling heat. A loud, guttural cry broke past his lips as he exploded, pumping streams of semen over his lover's hand. His convulsing muscles milked Alex's cock, shredding what remained of the younger man's control. Clinging desperately to Fox, he erupted, feeling his body shatter into thousands of pieces. His wails vibrated against his lover's chest, eventually fading to soft, contented moans, and the two slumped against each other, exhausted.

Eventually, they shifted, Alex moving forward and settling Fox back against the pillows. He draped himself over the older man, finding himself immediately wrapped in a loving embrace.

Several minutes went by before a finger began poking lightly at Alex's back. When he issued no response, the poking became more insistent and a soft voice sounded, pulling him back from the edges of sleep.

"Alex...hey..."

"Hmm."

"I'm hungry."

Alex lifted his head and cast a bleary-eyed stare on his lover. "You know what time it is?"

"Yeah."

"And you're thinking about food?"

"I didn't eat supper. When I got home, I changed and went right out to the club. Now I'm hungry."

Alex lowered his head to Fox's shoulder and yawned. "Go to sleep and you'll forget all about it."

Fox went silent, staring up into the darkness. Less than five minutes passed before pushed Alex off of his chest. "I gotta get something to eat."

Alex dropped to the mattress beside Fox, gathering a pillow to his head and groaning. The older man slid out of bed and turned to face him.

"You want something?"

"No."

He smirked at the muffled answer. "You sure?"

"Yes."

Fox shrugged and padded naked out to the kitchen. Fixing himself a ham and cheese sandwich, he poured a glass of milk and came back to the bedroom.

Alex was now lying on his side, eyes closed. As Fox dropped onto the mattress, they opened. His eyes followed the sandwich as it rose to his lover's mouth then came to rest on the paper towel draped over his thigh. Suddenly, he was hungry.

Fox jumped, not realizing that Alex was awake until his hand reached out and snatched the sandwich from its resting place.

"I thought you said you weren't hungry?" he asked, watching the younger man bite into his sandwich.

"I wasn't. But it looked good." Alex smiled up at Fox, who responded with only a glare. His gaze fell away, and he held the sandwich up, offering it back to its original owner.

Fox heaved a loud sigh and got out of bed. Moving to the door, he stopped and looked back, finding Alex now propped up against the pillows, happily munching on his stolen snack. Muttering to himself, he trudged off to the kitchen and made himself another sandwich. Returning minutes later, he stopped two feet before the bed, staring. A pair of sparkling green eyes blinked at him from over the rim of what had been his glass of milk. Alex lowered the glass a few inches and gave Fox an irresistible grin.

"That ham was salty...I got thirsty."

"Of course." Fox placed his sandwich down on the nightstand and once again turned to the door. Halfway to his destination he stopped, backed up, gave Alex another scowl, and snatched the sandwich up, taking it with him.

Alex drained the glass, chuckling softly, then another craving hit him.

"Hey!"

"*What*?"

"We got any ice cream?" he called, loud enough to be heard two rooms away.

"*No*!"

"You didn't even look," he complained.

"Yes, I did; there isn't any."

"I think you're lying."

"I am not; there's *none*!"

Alex folded his arms across his chest and sank down into the pillows, too lazy to get up and look for himself. Minutes later, a smile curved his lips as Fox came back into the room, balancing his sandwich, a new glass of milk, and a bowl of chocolate ice cream. He set the glass down on the nightstand and slid onto the bed, dropping the bowl into Alex's lap.

"Here's your damn ice cream."

"Thought you said there wasn't any?"

"There wasn't. I drove naked to the store and bought you some. You owe me."

Alex giggled and held the spoon to Fox's mouth. "Here, you can have some."

Fox turned his head away from the offering. "Oh, no," he said around a mouthful of ham and cheese. "Don't think *that's* gonna get it. You owe me a lot bigger than that."

"Okay," Alex rumbled, resting his head against Fox's shoulder as he ate his ice cream. "You tell me what I owe you, and I'll pay up."

"I'll think of something tomorrow," Fox sighed, lifting his glass to his lips.

"Sleepy, now?"

"Mmm hmm." Fox turned his head, smiling into his lover's contented face. "That was amazing, by the way," he said, referring to the hour they'd just spent making love. "You're such a hedonist."

"I'll take that as a compliment."

"Please do." Fox leaned in, searching for his lover's mouth. He gently kissed the cold lips, licking the taste of chocolate from his own when they parted. "I thought that after a year, you'd be through surprising me..."

The younger man smirked. "Never been rimmed?"

"No."

"Well, it was a first for both of us, then."

"Really?" Fox chuckled. "And here I thought you knew what you were doing."

Alex grinned, giving Fox a playful tap on the side of his face. "I'd *never* have done that to anyone else, so, no. I've had no practice."

"Well," Fox purred, rubbing his face into Alex's hair, "it worked for me."

The two finished eating then snuggled down together under the sheets. Pressing his cheek to Fox's chest, Alex released a soft sigh.

"God, I'm glad tomorrow's Saturday."

"Today."

"What?"

"Today," the sleepy montone said. "Today is Saturday."

"Whatever. I'm just glad we can get up whenever we want to."

"Mmm."

Alex grinned, nuzzling his lover's chest. "Then we can play with all your new toys."

"Oooh, can we?"

"You know you want to."

"I can't believe how much you've corrupted me."

"Took very little effort. Now, go to sleep, would you? I don't want to hear any whining later about how tired you are."

Fox let one hand slide up and down Alex's back, relaxing the younger man into an almost catatonic state. "I don't whine," he whispered.

All Alex could manage was a semi-sarcastic grunt before he passed into sleep.

Fox hugged the younger man to him, kissing the top of the sable head and offering deep thanks, as he had every night since regaining his memory, for the return of his life, and the joy of knowing his only love.

END