Disclaimer: Not mine, but they keep coming around. I don't know why...
Warning: A bit of angst, but...if you tend to react badly to sugar, you really, *really* should go elsewhere. Believe me...
Author's notes: My friend Mace asked me about a story I'm working on, wanting to know if there were any seas or rivers involved, since she had an idea for a picture. There's definitely none of that in that particular story, so I wrote this one instead. It might help to know that the story is set about five years from now, and I've followed canon only to the extent that it would fit my story.
Feedback: I seem to practically live for it these days...
Some distant memory
Alex looked at his life partner of five years, who was sitting across from him by the dinner table. They had just finished eating, and Alex got up to clear the table. At home they usually took turns with things like cooking and cleaning, but when they were on vacation, like now, Alex wanted to do everything. Mulder worked far too much, and sometimes had a hard time relaxing when he didn't. It had gotten better though, the longer they had been together, which Alex had noticed with satisfaction.
He himself didn't work much. He had a rather decent bank account since his earlier days, and wouldn't have to work at all if he didn't want to. But being home all day wasn't really his thing, so a few days a week he taught Russian to children born in America, but with Russian background. He loved doing it, especially since it was almost the only contact he had with his old country these days. Mulder had asked him several times if he didn't want to go to Russia, but so far he had never felt like it. Maybe some day in the future. If for nothing else, than to make Mulder happy.
But now they were in St. Louis. They usually came here at least once a year, more often if they could. It was quite far away from home, and it took a while to get there, but they both loved this place. It was a small cottage, made of red brick. Nothing special, but for the two of them it held some treasured memories. It was situated several miles into a forest, with no neighbors for miles. No other people either, since the road leading up to it was private. A friend of Mulder owned it, but was seldom there, so they could pretty much borrow it whenever they wanted.
This time they had chosen to stay for two weeks, longer than they had ever done before. They never did anything special, just relaxed. Slept half of the day if they felt like it, sat on the porch listening to the various sounds coming from the nature surrounding them, took long walks in the forest. Alex loved those walks. The two of them always started out just walking beside each other, then, after only a few minutes, Alex would feel Mulder's hand taking hold of his own, and there it stayed till they got back. And they would talk, about everything and nothing. They always had things to talk about.
There was just one thing they didn't discuss anylonger. Alex wasn't sure if Mulder still thought about it, and if he did, how it made him feel. When they had had arguments, Mulder never used it against him, but Alex couldn't help but wonder sometimes if he didn't think about it at all these days, or if he just pretended not to. *He* thought about it. Not often at all, but sometimes. And it usually happened when it was just the two of them. He wasn't sure why. Mulder, being a psychologist, could probably tell him. If he asked. But he wouldn't. Mulder didn't know he felt this way, and he didn't want to tell him. Everything was fine between them, and Alex wanted it to stay that way.
" What are you thinking of, love?"
Alex's thoughts were cut off by the soft voice of his lover, who was sitting by the table, looking at him.
" Nothing special..."
" So you weren't thinking of me then?"
" And since when am I not special to you?"
" Fox, you know that's not what I meant..."
Laughing softly, Mulder got up from his chair, and walked over to where Alex was standing. He put his arms around the younger man's slim waist, and captured his lips in a tender kiss.
" I know..."
Mulder let his hands cup Alex's cheeks, stroking his thumbs slowly up and down, while looking deeply into his eyes.
" I never get tired of looking at you, Alex..."
" No...you're so beautiful. So, so beautiful..."
A bit shyly, Alex lowered his eyes. He wondered if Mulder knew how much he loved it when he talked to him like that. Or if he knew that it sometimes made him think about the past, in the one way that he didn't want to. Whenever Alex was close to sinking into one of his moods, it always got worse the more loving Mulder was. It was almost like a curse. The things he wanted and needed to hear the most, were also the things that made his darker side come out from where it hid most of the time. The side that so mercilessly told him that as soon as Mulder came out of whatever haze he was in, he would see things for what they were, and then that would be it.
" Alex...are we on the same planet here?"
Mulder looked at Alex, tenderness mixed with concern showing in his eyes.
" Sorry, I just..."
" You just were a few million miles away there for a while, weren't you?"
" I guess...look, Fox, why don't you go and sit on the couch, and I'll get coffee and dessert ready, okay?"
Alex kissed the tip of Mulder's nose, then gently pushed him in the direction of the other room. When Mulder had sat down on the couch, it took only a few minutes till Alex joined him, bringing with him coffee and apple pie with vanilla sauce. They sat in silence for a while, just enjoying each other's company. But Mulder knew that Alex would soon want to go for a walk, alone. He had been with him long enough to be able to sense when he was about to enter one of his moods. Mulder didn't know what exactly it was the younger man was thinking of when he had these moments, although he had his suspicions. And tonight he would find out for sure. It never lasted long, but Mulder had a feeling that it was something that hurt Alex a lot, and if there was one thing in this world that Mulder didn't want, it was for Alex to hurt. Just like he had suspected, it didn't take long before Alex became restless.
" I...I think I'll go outside for a while. Is that all right?"
" Sure. Don't go too far, though."
" I won't."
Alex got up from the couch. Clearing the table, he took everything into the kitchen. That done, he walked back to the couch, kissed Mulder softly, then walked away. Mulder waited for twenty minutes, then walked outside too. He wasn't sure where Alex had gone, but guessed it was probably somewhere near the river close to the house. Alex loved water, and Mulder knew that was part of the reason he liked being here so much. Having walked for only ten minutes, Mulder spotted Alex sitting on a flat rock by the river.
" I thought I'd find you here..."
Alex turned around in the direction of Mulder's voice, a bit surprised to see him there.
" Can I stay here with you for a while, or do you want to be alone?"
" You can stay..."
" I know you need to be alone sometimes, but...I missed you. And I wanna talk to you."
Mulder slid down onto the ground, leaning his back against the rock that Alex was sitting on. It was fall, but it hadn't rained for weeks, so the ground was dry. With just a nod of his head, he invited Alex to come and sit between his legs. Alex didn't need any persuasion. He got up, then sat down, leaning his back against Mulder's chest. They sat in silence for a long while, before Mulder spoke.
" You do this sometimes..."
Alex lifted his head up, to look into Mulder's eyes, a bit questioningly.
" Go away, I mean..."
" Does it bother you?"
" No. And yes."
" What do you mean?"
" It doesn't bother me that you want to be alone sometimes. But...whenever you go away like this, you've been so deep in your own thoughts and...I'm just concerned, that's all."
" I'm all right, you don't have to worry about me."
" But I do. I love you Alex. If something is bothering you, then I would like to know. You don't have to tell me, but...I want you to know that you can talk about anything with me."
" Anything, huh?"
" That's right. You and I have been through so much, and we're still here. Together. There's nothing we can't work out."
Alex looked at the water which was flowing not far away in front of them. The sound of it was almost soothing. And normally very relaxing. But at hearing that Mulder wanted him to tell him what was on his mind, he got tense, and a bit nervous. He hadn't wanted this moment to come, and now that it was here, he didn't know what to say. He couldn't help that *he* sometimes thought about it. But in case Mulder didn't, he had no desire to remind him of it.
" It's nothing, Mulder. I just have these moods sometimes..."
" I know you do. It's just that...I've noticed a certain pattern for them."
" Are you using your psychology knowledge on me, Fox?"
It would have sounded like an accusation, had it not been for the soft voice Alex spoke in. The two of them rarely raised their voices at all, at least not with each other.
" I guess I am..."
" What pattern is that then?"
Alex knew very well that Mulder usually could read him like an open book. Thinking of it, he realized he should have known that times like these were no different.
" It mostly happens when we've been together just you and me for a while. Like now. And it seems that, the better our relationship is, the more it is likely to happen. I remember one time...the last time we were here actually. We'd made love all day. Then in the evening, I kissed you, and said I loved you. Half an hour later, you had gone out."
Alex listened to what Mulder said, his heart beating frantically for every word. But he didn't say anything. He couldn't help thinking that, if this was the last time he and Mulder would sit like this, he would prolong it as much as possible.
" You're not saying anything, love."
Mulder kissed the top of Alex's head, while holding him closely.
" I...I don't..."
" I think I know what you're thinking of. It has to do with my father, doesn't it?"
Mulder felt Alex tense, and took hold of his hands, squeezing them softly. He had been right in his suspicions after all.
" So it is him you're thinking of when you go away like this?"
With all the sounds around them, the birds, the river, the wind blowing in the trees, Alex's suddenly weak voice was barely audible.
" I don't know. I just...I can't seem to stop thinking about it..."
" Have you?"
" I think about *him* sometimes, but I don't think about what killed him."
" Can you honestly say that you don't look at me sometimes, and all you see is your father's killer?"
"I don't see you that way, Alex. I know that there are people who still look at you after all these years, and all they see is a murderer. But I'm not one of them."
" What about all the other things I did. Don't you ever think about that?"
" I know you probably won't believe it, but no, I don't. At least not in the way you probably think I do."
After realizing that Mulder knew about the reasons for his moods, but was still there, Alex had relaxed a bit. He turned to his side, and put his arms around Mulder's waist.
" You know, Alex...we talked about all of this so much when we first got together, that I thought we had worked it out. You made a few bad choices in life, and it got you into trouble. It could have happened to anyone."
" I know. And I don't think so much of that anymore. The people I killed weren't innocent citizens, and whatever happened to them, they pretty much had it coming. It's just...your father...I..."
" If you hadn't, someone else would have."
" I guess, but..."
"Alex...it's been so long. Just let go of it. Please."
Mulder started nuzzling Alex's hair with his lips. He loved doing it, and knew that Alex needed every assurance now that everything was still alright between them. He knew very well that his father had had it coming to him too, just like Alex had said about the other people.
" We've been together five years, Alex. I can't believe that you've been thinking about it all this time. When we talked about it in the beginning of our relationship, I thought we straightened everything out."
" I don't think about it a lot, just...like you said, some of the times when things are even better between us than they normally are, I can't help thinking that reality is gonna hit me. Or rather you. I know you've said that you've forgiven me, but..."
" And I have."
Said without any hesitation, and to emphasize his words, Mulder cupped Alex's chin in his hand, making the younger man look up. When he did, Mulder kissed him tenderly. A long kiss that made Alex understand that, if he chose so, this had been discussed for the last time. How he would forget the look in Mulder's father's eyes the second before he had shot him, he did not know. But he knew that he never again had to fear that Mulder would leave him. This was the one thing Alex had thought would eventually come between them, and now Mulder had proved to him that it wasn't gonna happen. As Mulder kept kissing him, Alex felt his stomach clench, the way it only did when Mulder was near. When they parted, Alex could hardly keep his voice from breaking.
" I'm so in love with you, Fox..."
He said it, while looking into Mulder's eyes, letting the other man see the truth behind the words.
" After all these years, huh...?"
At seeing all the emotions in Alex's eyes, Mulder could hardly keep his own voice steady. He knew that Alex loved him, but hearing him say that he was still *in* love with him made his heart start beating faster. Because God knew, *he* was still so in love with Alex it almost hurt sometimes.
" I love you, Alex. So much."
" I know, Fox. I'm sorry I doubted you."
" I understand... And I think you know now that we can put all of this behind us, for good this time. But if you ever want to talk about it, let me know. You don't have to be alone with your thoughts anymore, unless you want to. Okay?"
" Let's go home."
They both got up, and started walking slowly along the river, towards their temporary home, holding each other's hands all the way. When they got to the porch, Mulder stopped. Standing by the door, ready to go inside, Alex looked at him questioningly.
" What is it, Fox?"
Mulder's heart fluttered when he looked at Alex, the man he just minutes ago had decided he wanted to make his for real. Not that the thought hadn't crossed his mind before, but tonight he had gotten the last encouragement he needed to dare take the step.
" Alex, I..."
" Come here."
Mulder motioned with his hands for Alex to come and stand in front of him, then put his arms around his shoulders. Almost out of reflex, Alex put his arms around Mulder's waist.
" Alex. You know that I love you, and... each day we spend together everything just keeps getting stronger..."
In the back of his mind, Mulder briefly thought that he should have had a speech prepared, but it was too late now.
" My feelings for you, our relationship... I told you earlier tonight that there was nothing we couldn't get through, and we just proved that, didn't we?"
Alex could only nod in response. He had just realized what Mulder was about to do, and wasn't sure his voice would work properly if he tried to speak.
" I know you're already mine, Alex, but I want other people to see that too. I want everyone to see that you're taken."
" Uh huh...?"
Alex was used to Mulder talking slowly sometimes, but now he felt that if he didn't ask him soon, he might just do it himself.
" And how do you intend to do that...?"
Said softly, with an encouraging look in his eyes.
" I...I want us to get engaged..."
Mulder couldn't take his eyes away from Alex's face. He loved looking into those beautiful green eyes. And the way Alex's face lit up now, Mulder knew what the answer would be before Alex even said it.
" With...rings, and all?"
" Would you want to wear my ring, Alex?"
Said with a voice that wouldn't quite keep steady. The last five years had been better than anything Alex had ever thought he would experience. Over thirty years of hell had been almost erased by those years. And now this. Looking at Mulder, he didn't have to have any doubts. Everything about the other man told him that this was the real deal. Forever. No way out. The only way he had ever wanted it to be. Someone was watching over him these days, that was for sure.