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Denou

by Ursula





Title: Denuo

Author/Pseudonym: Ursula

Fandom: X Files Crossover with Marabunta (A "B" horror movie with Mitch P.)

Pairing: Alex Krycek/Jeff Croy

Rating: NC 17

Status: Finished Stand Alone

Date Posted: 04-05-03

Archive: Full House, RatB, DIB, WWOMB, FONXL E-mail address for feedback: Fan4Richie or Ursula4X@aol.com

Classification: Crossover, Slash

Series/Sequel: Is this story part of a series: NO Web Site: http://fullhouseslash.slashcity.net/~ursula/ Disclaimers: X Files belongs to Fox TV, 1013, whomever Notes: Marabunta is a bad B movie, but Mitch is just sweet and sexy in it. He plays Chief of Police Jeff Croy, a widower with an impulsive young son, Chad. He, Chad, a schoolteacher who is the love interest of a visiting etymologist, and the outside hero are the only ones who are left in the town of Burly Pines to deal with a marauding horde of killer South American army ants, (Marabunta)

Denuo: anew, again, a second time, afresh Warnings: Slash, Unresolved situation with Skinner, mention of the scene that didn't happen, but no character death other than Spender SR.

Time Frame: After X Files was over

Thanks to Karen S., friend and patient beta, to my scattered brain.



Happy to be back in Alaska, Chad worked on what he envisioned as his best-ever raft. He had found the wood stored in the shed of the old Jensen place. Since everyone said only a fool would pay so much money to live way out in the bush, Chad didn't think it would hurt anything to take the boards.



The Jensen place also had a small, sturdy dock by the river. He had found a rusty hammer and had begged a box of nails from Bill Simpson, a Tsimshian Indian who had adopted every kid in town as his nephew or niece.



His father had warned him about bears, but Chad had never seen a trace of them here. They all seemed to hang out at the dump.



Chad pounded the final board in place. He'd found and repaired the oars with which he hoped to steer the raft. His new teacher, who was almost as pretty as his old one had been, had assigned them to read Huckleberry Finn, telling them that it was a banned book in a lot of places.



Most of the kids had moaned and groaned after they found out the book didn't have any dirty parts.



Not Chad. He wished he could find an adult friend of his own, who would raft down the river with him. Chad had been studying a map and he almost had it figured out how he could get back to Burly Pines. He really knew that his old life wasn't there magically intact beneath the floodwaters that covered the town. He still liked to pretend that, if only he could get back, his best friend was alive, his old school was in session, and perhaps his mother was even alive too.



Huffing and puffing, Chad pushed the raft into the water. It sank for a moment then bobbed back, floating just as he expected. He was a ship builder.



Too bad Chad hadn't asked his new friend Joe to come with him today. He liked Joe a lot, but this was something he wasn't ready to share. If he told Joe, the raft would just be a raft and no longer the way back to his old life.



Stepping out onto the raft, Chad frowned a bit. He knew his dad would not approve of this. His father, Jeff Croy, didn't approve of anything much that Chad did. For a brave man, Dad worried about everything, even more so since the events two years ago.



Well, Chad knew his raft was perfect. The river looked calm and he knew it wouldn't hurt anything to take it out a few feet.

OooOooO

Alex bought the SUV in Craig. He'd driven to town rather than take one of the bush pilot's flights into Klawok. He wasn't sure what attracted him to this remote community. Perhaps just that it was remote. He had found the listing for the Jensen place on the computer. He hadn't even bothered to negotiate. With a fortune under his control, Alex didn't care to bargain. He was a week early. The power probably wasn't on yet and he knew he would have to stay in town, but he couldn't resist having a look.



The house looked as if it could stand up to the biggest blast of Alaskan weather. He had two snowmobiles and a team of dogs on order. He once told Mulder, when he was pretending to be his partner, that White Fang was his favorite book. It had given Mulder a good laugh. Still, the dogs would give him company and something to do on the long cold nights to come.



Looking at the ancient trees, so dark green that they seemed almost black, Alex shivered. It wasn't the cold precisely. He was warmly dressed in silk thermals, lined jeans, and a thick wool sweater as well as a jacket. In fact, as the temperature was forty-nine Fahrenheit, he was sweating. He felt rather foolish. Somehow he always thought Alaska was colder than this in March. He supposed the chill that he felt was just melancholia.



It wasn't necessary to hide here. There were warmer places, places where a rich man could buy a safe and luxurious life. Alex had paid for a tropical hideaway in Brazil, but he hadn't even visited it.



Alex supposed he chose this place because it matched his soul. This was how he felt inside, cold, bleak, and dark. He had heard that Alaska was as friendly as you wanted. People would leave you alone if you wanted or embrace you if you wanted to be part of them. Alex didn't want to be part of anything. He was like a scarred old lone wolf, looking for a place to lick his wounds until he died.



After walking around his property and inspecting the house, Alex decided to check out the dock described in his deed. He hadn't looked at boats yet. The last time he had been on a boat, other than that ill-fated trip back from Russia...

OooOooO

Before Sleepless...



Large hands steadied Alex's hips as Walter Skinner braced him against the rise and fall of the fishing boat. His lover was the only one he knew that could sound sexy telling him how to cast a fishing line.



Walter nuzzled Alex's neck and licked some of the sweat from behind his ear. Alex felt the brief wet heat all through his body. Damn, he wanted to throw the fishing poles overboard and spend the long weekend fucking instead. However, Alex knew Walter wouldn't understand. His lover thought this trip was as perfect a romantic get away as a trip to Tahiti.



Alex cast the line as he was directed. There was nothing about the smooth easy cast that surprised him. He had always had excellent coordination. Walter's ready praise startled him. His father had been spare with praise; the men who had put him through college and trained him used punishment rather than reward for the most part.



This stolen time was something unusual. Having finished his training, Alex had been allowed two weeks off. He was supposed to be in Jamaica, having booked a vacation package there, but he had sent an impoverished college student in his place and gone to Mexico instead.



Alex's intentions were simple enough. Pick up a good lay. Not that it mattered if it was one or several. It might take a few to find one worth a second night.



Spender probably would find it amusing that Alex still had a sex drive after all the things that he had forced Alex to do. Yeah, he had kept that part of himself.



Sunning himself on a stretch of beach in Las Palmas, Alex relaxed, his rubber band of a swimsuit barely covering enough to be legal. Not that David cared that much. David owned the hotel where Alex was staying. He was an old friend, someone Spender didn't know about. David was a paragon of discretion. Men who could not afford to have their sexuality known booked into his private villas.



Drowsy and seriously thinking of spending his entire vacation sleeping and eating, Alex knew he was being looked at and enjoyed it without bothering to do anything to encourage any of his admirers. He enjoyed having that sense of control after having every part of his life dictated for five years.



A cold, wet finger traced his spine. Alex sat up in a hurry to confront David's Greek god physique and his Zeus like face. "What the hell was that for?"



"Cool, you down, hot stuff; hey kiddo, I have a guest in the green cabana whose special friend failed to show. I invited him to dinner. Why don't you join us and motivate him to happily spend the rest of his reservation here?" David said.



"You pimping me?" Alex asked. He braced on one elbow, waiting for his one remaining untainted friend to answer.



"Of course not, but since you seem to be getting a slow start, I thought I might play shadkhan to you, love. You will like this guy. He's my age, but a real stud. You have to see that ass, those legs....down to here, and pecs you would not believe," David said.



"You bullshitting me?" Alex asked. He was willing to consider David's request. He'd had in mind some pretty young thing about his own age and willing to bottom. He was tired of being fucked. Damned old Consortium farts thinking they were straight as long as they topped...



"This guy is grade A fantasy material," David swore, "and the one other time he was here, it was with a guy who was a dead ringer for you."



"Yeah?" Alex inquired, his mind traveling to uncomfortable visions of cloning experiments. "Enough like me to be a twin?"



"Not quite," David said. "What's wrong? You looked as if someone stepped on your grave."



"Nothing. Don't worry about it," Alex said. "All right, I'll meet your sexy stud. I'm not going to come on to him though."



"Wouldn't expect it," David said.



OooOooO



Walt...had to be a pseudonym. Alex was thinking he'd named himself after Walt Whitman. It was a good choice; Walt had the rugged masculinity that Whitman had celebrated. He was big. Alex was tall, six foot one. Walt was taller by at least an inch, a big solid guy with a tight ass, broad shoulders, and a narrow waist. There wasn't much hair on his head, but his shirt was open, showing a great swathe of fur. Alex could see himself with two fists full of that stuff. His eyes traveled down the V of revealed flesh and were thwarted by the loose white shirt.



Damn, Alex used to hate the way David always had his number. David smirked at him when Walt wasn't looking. Alex's tongue darted out in retaliation just as Walt looked back. Damn, again!



The smile that traveled across Walt's broad, brutal mouth teased warmth into his brown eyes. Alex's eyelashes fluttered and he ducked his head. He really wasn't flirting...much.



Knowing the rules, they didn't talk about work. Alex speculated that Walt did something that had kept him active until recently. He guessed that the man was in charge now, perhaps a police chief or a fire chief.



"I was thinking of going for a walk along the beach," Walt said.



Allowing his lashes to fall enticingly, Alex said, "That sounds pleasant."



"More pleasant with company," Walt said.



"Yes," Alex said, putting his heart into the word. He darted a glance at David, who smiled.



It would have made sense to change, but Walt held out his hand. Alex shrugged, tied his shoes together, and let them dangle from one hand. Walt's hand was huge. Alex's hand was encased in the warm, dry grip.



"I thought my vacation was ruined," Walt remarked.



The sand was still very hot beneath Alex's feet. He stooped to roll up his trousers. It wasn't as if he needed to let Walt contemplate the round invitation of his ass.



The grin was back when Alex straightened. He held out his hand again and Walt took it. That was when Alex became aware of the ring. He stared at it, mouth opening to make a comment before he snapped his lips shut.



Noticing what had Alex's attention, Walt said, "I'm not..." He frowned and twisted the wedding ring on his finger. "I haven't been into the dating scene. I just...I'm being divorced."



"I'm sorry," Alex said, twitching with discomfort. Men who thought they were straight could be difficult. They all too often blamed a gay boy for leading them astray.



"Listen, I know what you're thinking," Walt said. "I don't have any illusions about my sexuality. I know what I like."



Alex liked the way that Walt looked him over at that point. He felt as if he was glowing under the appreciative gaze.



"The guy I was meeting was someone I had met when my wife and I were separated. I dumped him when my wife took me back. I suppose I was an idiot to believe him when he said he would meet me here. I didn't handle the breakup well," Walt said.



"That's okay, I'm not looking for anything long term," Alex said.



The brown eyes looked a bit concerned. Alex smiled at Walt and offered his hand. They walked in silence for a few moments until Alex broke free to run a few paces into the water.



Eyes laughing, Alex turned around, running backwards. He beckoned for Walt to chase him. The man was more than willing.



There was a private little cove that David had equipped with a small open shelter. There would be a lounge sturdy enough for two and a discreet locked box with supplies. Alex wasn't crazy about getting sand in private places.



Racing in front of Walt, Alex turned back to laugh at the man. Walt might not be as fast, but he was smart. He used the slowing pace as Alex teased him to jet forward and catch him. Catching Alex, Walt lowered him so they tumbled breathlessly onto the soft white sand.



Boldly, Walt stared down, seeking Alex's consent before kissing him. Ah, god, the man could kiss. Powerful, sweet, single minded kiss.



When Walt finally stopped, Alex had to draw a deep breath, which shuddered in exhalation as if he had just come. Alex's hands explored the broad back and shoulders, stroked over the firm ass adoringly. The white shirt rode up easily, admitting his hand. Alex undid Walt's zipper and pushed at the loosened trousers.



Meanwhile, Walt had him almost out of his clothing. The man had no problem keeping up and taking charge.



Standing was difficult as Walt didn't want to let go of him, but Alex said, "We'll be more comfortable over there."



"What?" Walt said, looking as if he wanted to pull Alex immediately back down to the sand.



"On the lounge," Alex said.



"Oh, yes," Walt agreed, grabbing Alex's hand to tug him over.



Clothing was unceremoniously dumped on the small table and over the chairs. Alex crouched naked to open the locked box. Walt leaned over, eyeing him as if he was about to pounce.



"David thinks of everything," Walt said.



"Yeah, he does," Alex said. "Just to be clear, I didn't come with the room. I think David was afraid I was going to move too slowly to enjoy myself. I came down here to relax, find someone I liked, and let my hair down. I didn't see anyone I wanted right away so David played matchmaker."



"He does a good job then. Get over here," Walt said, greedily.



Alex allowed himself to be pulled over to the lounge. The two of them only fit together if they were totally intertwined. That worked for Alex.



Kissing could be a quick peck on the cheek, Judas kiss, or sweet, sloppy kisses like Alex used to give his babushka, before she died, taking all his safety with her. There were those nervous, thrilling first kisses and greedy devouring kisses or it could be like the way Walt kissed Alex. As if he drew his sustenance from their joined lips, his oxygen from their mingled breath, as if the thin barrier of flesh was penetrated soul deep. Alex was shaken by the time their mouths parted.



Walter looked at him from inches away, his brown eyes warm and intent. He touched Alex's face gently and drew a deep breath before kissing him again. His hands were rough skinned, callused. Alex recognized the marks of time spent in the gym and on the firing range. He now thought Walt was a cop. It could be something else, but Walt carried himself like a cop. The touch of those hands thrilled Alex. He was waking like a crocus, feeling the first warmth of spring. It had been so long since Alex had been allowed to feel anything. Now his body rushed with life, each sensation was magnified, making his skin hum with Walt's kisses and stroking hands.



Moaning, Walt traveled downward from Alex's offered neck to pause at his nipples. He delicately played with one strand of Alex's sparse chest hair as his tongue danced over Alex's nipple teasingly. A moment later, Walt sucked hard, making Alex's cock jump in response. Alex couldn't reach much of Walt given his and Walt's position, but his hands rested on the man's head, not gripping or pushing although the urge was there. Alex hadn't ever been with a bald man. It was odd to touch the bare expanse of skin. His fingers brushed the fringe of hair. Walt made no pretense of his lack of follicles. Alex bet the man never had tried to wear a wig or to grow his hair long to cover the increasing bald spot.



At last, Walt's mouth finished its route and played over Alex's cock. Alex's leg arched to let Walt have access. He felt the large finger caress along his crack before pressing with increasing zeal against his pucker. With a wiggle, Alex pressed against the finger, letting Walt know that their desires coincided. Although Alex had intended to top, right now being the bottom felt great.



Truthfully, Alex didn't need much preparation. Spender and his creeps had made sure of that, but he liked the way Walt was touching him, exploring him like a big toy. The man wasn't just doing what was necessary. Alex felt himself explored, cataloged, and then thoroughly enjoyed. He felt totally open to Walt's touch, as if every nerve had been laid bare. It was frightening and exhilarating as all hell.



With Walt lying behind him, Alex's body reclined, face turned inward, hand clutching the edge of the lounge, one leg drawn nearly to his chin. The rough fingers drew him apart for the insistent probe of a prize-winning cock.



There was the inevitable burn of penetration, a dull ache that subsided for the delightfully wonderful sensation of being filled. Walt gasped as if in surprised pleasure when Alex surrounded him.



The deep voice from behind Alex exclaimed, "Oh my God...it was never like this."



Telling himself that Walt admitted it had been a while; Alex still couldn't help his rush of happiness at the words. Walt made him feel special, cherished.



This was so dangerous.



Spender had said that Alex was incapable of feeling...



As if the man had any right to gloat over what Alex was. Alex knew what he was supposed to be. One of his instructors had said, "Bastard Spender is a fucking Frankenstein. He's trying to make these kids over in his own image."



Not too long ago, Spender had gloated that he had succeeded beyond his wildest dreams with Alex. Alex could still remember Spender grabbing him by the chin and commenting, "You don't feel anything, do you? I pity you, as you will never know what it feels like to love and I envy you. I know what it is to sacrifice the people you love for a cause. I've spared you that. You should be grateful."



Walt's hand soothed Alex and the slow thrusts deeper stopped. "Are you all right? Did I hurt you? You tensed."



"I'm fine," Alex said. "Take me. Take me harder."



His thoughts spinning away, Alex let his body's sensations thunder through his brain. His thoughts and worries vanished before the storm of feeling. He didn't really need the coaxing of Walt's hand. He knew he could have come just from the excitement of the cock shimmying inside him. He saw stars, felt his body seize in a paroxysm of rapture.



Coming down wasn't as bad as it usually was. Walt was hot against him, his arms cradling him. Alex turned, feeling his sticky cock adhere to Walt's hirsute body. Walt's hand splayed possessively over his ass, thumb rubbing the hollow over his buttocks.



"I want you to come back to my cabana with me," Walt said. "Alex please..."



Alex should have refused. He should have run, but he was trapped by his pleasure, trapped by his reawakening to humanity. How in the hell could Alex have known that in a few short weeks he would walk into his first real assignment and face the lover he had promised to meet again next year? How could he know that his job meant betraying Walt...Walter? That love would turn to thwarted passion and hatred?



OooOoOO



All those promises...Walt whispering that he would find a way to keep Alex in his life. His deep voice rumbling in anger as he tried to get Alex's address from him, a telephone number, anything.



They had not parted amicably, not even when Alex promised that they would stay in touch.



Then, as soon as Walt had a chance when Alex showed up as Agent Krycek, Walter had followed him out of the Hoover. He showed up at Alex's door. Alex had stood there nervously. Spender had told him to seduce Mulder, get him under control, and get him away from Scully. Spender wouldn't be happy if he found out that Alex was letting Skinner screw him as well.



Ah, still, Alex could make an excuse. Let Spender know that Walt came onto him.



"You little prick," Walter said. "Did you know who I was all along? Get inside. I can't talk to you out here."



The rage in Skinner's face was so palpable that Alex was reluctant to be alone with him. Not taking no for an answer, Walter pushed into the apartment, shoving Alex in front of him. Grabbing his shoulders, Walter growled, "You were a fool to take a chance like that when you must have been in the Academy. Didn't you know that you could have been blackmailed?"



"Look, Walt, you were more vulnerable than I was," Alex said. "David is discreet. He screens everyone he allows to stay at the villa. He makes sure that there are no whores and no one who has even as much as excessive traffic tickets on his record."



As this slowly processed, Walter said, "I should arrange your transfer. I can't have you in my office. I..."



The next moment they were kissing. Walter's capable hands stripped him naked, leaving Agent Krycek behind in the inexpensive suit and the ID left on the coffee table. Walter kicked open a door, cursed when it was the bathroom, and continued down the hall.



The bedding hit the floor. Walter jerked the drawer open next to the bed and found the supplies Alex had set up hopefully for Mulder's visit. He knew he could get Mulder; there were few men who wouldn't want a walk on the wild side with him. Right now, Alex didn't give a fuck about his mission. Mulder, whom he found attractive enough, might be part of the furnishings.



Rolling on the bed, Walter and Alex had clung to each other, hands flying to reclaim forgotten territory. Alex's leg had ridden over Walt's powerful thigh. Walt's thick fingers delved in him, opening him. Too eager for more than the minimum of foreplay, Walter upended him, pulled his legs over his shoulders and stared fiercely down at him.



"You're mine, Alex, you're mine. Don't ever forget that!" Walt had said.



There was an edge of pain to it. Walt had set a rapid rhythm from the moment his thick cock breached Alex. His chest heaved with ragged gasps, sweat ran down his face, beaded on his thickly haired chest. Their bodies were like hot coals. The bed should have ignited from their fever.

Walter didn't spend the night. He had kissed Alex goodbye and said, "I didn't mean to do that. It can't happen again."



Bullshit, Walt wasn't in Alex's bed every night but, like an addict needing a fix, he showed up several times a week, needy, shamed, wanting so badly that they seldom talked, seldom did anything but screw.



Alex sometimes wondered what Walter would have done if he'd told him the truth? Would he have killed him? Helped him? Somehow the moment never came and then it was too late.



Oh, Walt had him more than once even after he knew. Even that night that Mulder left Alex in his apartment, he hadn't made him spend the entire night in the cold.



That was possibly the worst memory in Alex's fucked up life. He was glad that Walt wanted him on his knees. If he had to watch Walt fuck him with that expression of loathing on his face, he might have chewed an artery open with his teeth.



OooOooO



It was over, Alex told himself. No more Walter. No more eyes looking at him as if he was an oil worm.



If the gods judge, Alex had done his best to make it right. He had helped Mulder. He had given the resistance what they needed.



In return, the aliens had handed Alex money, gave him his arm back even if it ached at times, as bitterly as if the knives cut it still, and they had made sure that everyone thought he was dead.



Sometimes, Alex thought the resistance aliens had been on Earth too long. Surely that had been twisted humor to make sure he watched as his demented clone had acted out its role. Were they sophisticated enough to know what he felt watching his former lover shoot him?



Mourning, Alex had walked through the rest of the war numb. It should have soothed his soul to have Mulder welcome the help of his ghost...a sophisticated hologram set up by the alien rebels.



How sweetly Mulder had treated him, even trying to kiss his vaporous face when Alex said his task on earth was done. Walter never believed Mulder about seeing and hearing Alex, but Alex could see it worried him. The man had gone chasing after Marita, who knew the truth but would not tell him. She had been pissed and loyal enough to tell him that if he didn't believe that Alex was dead, why didn't he dig him up and see for himself.



There was a day that Alex believed Walter would do it. The bastard had the nerve to claw at the soil and cry, saying he was sorry. Alex had a web cam trained on his grave. Even if the body in the grave was a clone, he had been worried about it rising as a super soldier or someone digging it up to have a little post mortem revenge on him.



Son of bitch hadn't so much as blinked an eye when he shot him. Damn good shot, Walter Skinner. He could have inflicted the killing bullet the first time. It didn't have to take three bullets. That had been hate. Pure hate.



OooOooO



Rubbing his aching arm, Alex walked down the path, thinking about what he wanted done to improve his retirement home. The path was number one. He stepped around as many mud holes as he could and still sank to his ankles in puddles. It could and would be resurfaced. He bet he would have to rebuild the dock as well.



A wind blew up out of nowhere. Late spring could bring anything from blustery storms to unseasonable rains. Alex shivered. He must be nuts to punish himself in this cold damp place when he could be warming himself on some beach with pretty boys to suck his cock.



However, the Alaskan coast was no colder than Alex's heart. There was nothing left of him but a world of pain. The only thing that kept him living was to revenge himself on Spender. The man had meant to break him. Alex had bent, but not broken.



The final turn brought Alex to a surprisingly intact dock. He smiled despite his bleak mood. Yeah, this would be a good place to sit in a rowboat during the brief Alaskan summer.



There was something bobbing on the lake. Alex frowned as he peered at the thing. Finally, he made out a small white face, a shock of hair. It was a kid clinging to what Alex now realized was a homemade raft. Shit.



"Kid, kid! You need help?" Alex shouted. He thought of his mobile phone out in his car. Damn, that might be too late and did they even have 911 out here?



"Kid?" Alex shouted.



A gust of wind made the already uneasy surface of the lake roil. The raft suddenly tipped further and the kid disappeared, just a hand flailing as the dark waters took him.



Not thinking, without hesitation, Alex shed his coat, kicked off his boots. He sank when the cold of the water sent his body into spasms of shock. Self-preservation kicked in and Alex's powerful legs propelled him to the surface to spit out the icy water and gasp for air. He saw the kid's head break free of the grip of the lake again and swam toward him.



Damn, the kid was in a panic, trying to claw his way on top of Alex. Not bothering to try to calm the child, Alex shook him into submission and tucked him under his left arm. He needed the stronger arm to swim and devoutly hoped that the boy didn't fight him. Alex knew he wouldn't be able to hold on if the boy struggled.



His mind was in survival mode. He set his eyes on shore and ignored all else. He would make it and, damn it; the kid was going to make it too. This boy's life for Dmitri's. A lousy deal for the Russian teenager, but a good one for this kid.



OooOooO



Seemingly hours later, Alex crawled onto shore, dragging the kid behind him. The boy wasn't a wimp. He revived when his body touched solid ground and moved with Alex as he dragged them both out of the reach of the pull of the cold water.



Dazed, Alex surrendered to the darkness. What a fucking joke...to survive everything he had, to die in what was supposed to be his retirement home.



Ow, Alex lashed out with a clumsy hand to push away Mulder's intrusive hand. Why did Mulder keep waking him up? It was bad enough to be trapped in a cold cell without a coat or even a long sleeved shirt to his name. Why did Mulder insist that he be awake to suffer?



"Mister, mister?" a childish voice shouted. Well, Mulder could be childish, but his voice wasn't quite this high pitched even when he whined.



Memory returned. The lake, the kid, and his foolish dive into the chill waters...



"Mister, you got to get up. We have to get to my Dad," the boy said. "My Dad will help you."



The way the kid said 'Dad' told Alex a lot. Not that he knew anything about parents that made you think of them as people you could trust. His father had been a beautiful drunken slut who made his living off men and women who liked to sleep with him. His parents had met in treatment. Both had been sober for long enough for Alex to survive infancy. They had fallen off a wagon straight into hell when he was six. Alex could still remember the day that Spender had shown up with a fat wallet and left with a seven-year-old boy. Thanks, Mom. Thanks, Dad. It was real.



The kid got Alex onto his feet. He supported Alex's weight and tugged him in the right direction. Alex must have fallen half a dozen times. Damn, when had he been this weak? The aliens hadn't warned him that getting his arm back would take so much out of him.



Slumping over the steering wheel, Alex stayed with it long enough to start the SUV. He couldn't understand why he couldn't feel the heat. He shivered and shook as waves of painful chills convulsed his body.



"Move over, move over, my Dad taught me how to drive," the kid said.



Tough kid, he had been immersed longer than Alex. Alex focused his eyes long enough to register some details. The boy was no older than twelve, not old enough to drive. He had brown hair, a bit shaggy and bangs plastered over a high forehead. He had nice brown eyes, which reminded him of another pair of warm orbs.



Grunting, Alex went with the flow, moving over and remembering to fasten his seatbelt. The damn SUV wouldn't start if you didn't use them.



The back and forth motion told Alex that the kid didn't know how to operate a SUV. They chugged along jerking like a toddler's pull toy. Finally, Alex recovered enough to say, "Kid, use my cell phone and call someone."



Pushing the cell at the boy, Alex was pleased to see how quickly the kid reacted. Good thing that Spender was truly dead. He'd like to get a kid like this.



"Dad, Dad, I'm at the intersection to 924, coming from the old Jensen place on the lake. I'm driving this guy's car only I can't drive a stick shift. He's real sick. Can you come get us?" the boy rushed out.

Alex could hear the deep voice of 'Dad' roaring. He wouldn't want to be the kid when his Dad showed up.



OooOooO



Sheriff Jeff Croy slammed his hat on his head and yelled at Eric Jensen, "Come on. Chad just called. He's driving some guy's car on the road from the old Jensen place. He needs help.'



Memories of two years ago flooded back. Jeff wanted to believe that it would never happen again, but his trust was thin. Sometimes he thought God had it in for him, taking his wife, taking his town, and nearly taking his life. He had hoped that his life, after the Marabunta destroyed Burly Pines, would be a calm as the little native town of Klawok promised it would be.



"The kids in town like to hang out at my grandparent's place," Eric confessed. "None of us figured it would do any harm. They're good kids."



"I don't like my son off at some remote lake, unsupervised," Jeff said. "I don't appreciate you not telling me that until Chad found trouble."



Eric, a Tlingit Indian and Norwegian mixed blood, snorted. He said, "Jeff, I heard you and the kid had a hard time a ways back, but Klawok isn't like that. It's safe for the most part and our kids aren't like city kids. They're independent."



"It's trespassing," Jeff said, pissed at Eric. He knew that the Indian was simply expressing the local view of life, but that didn't mean he accepted it. He wanted the safety of Klawok, but that didn't mean he wanted to relax his standards for Chad. Klawok had its share of danger, environmental and human. Polar bears hung out in the town dump, vying with eagles and stray dogs for the debris of human existence. Worse yet, in Jeff's opinion, there were several known child sex predators that the community warned about, but would not prosecute. He had educated Chad about the men and didn't worry that Chad would fall for their tricks, but he always thought that one of them might snap and just grab a kid. If it was the last thing he did, Jeff intended to prosecute one of the creeps.



By the time the argument had lapsed into the usual silence with which Eric handled any confrontation, the high powered jeep that Jeff had wheedled the village corporation to buy was at the intersection. The turn off to the old Jensen place was not far from here. Jeff slowed until he saw the shiny new, black SUV parked on the side of the road.



Chad had done a good job in making sure the SUV was far enough off the road to reduce the risk of being hit. As Jeff pulled up in front of the SUV, Chad jumped out of the vehicle. Jeff's worried irritation faded as he hugged his son. Chad was soaking wet and shivering.



"Chad, what happened?" Jeff asked.



"My raft sank," Chad said, wincing.



"You were out on the lake in a homemade raft alone?" Jeff asked. He felt as if he had been kicked in the gut. "Chad..."



"Dad, I know I was wrong, really, really wrong," Chad said, a sob breaking through the words. "But the guy in the car is sick. He's the one that pulled me out of the lake."



Jeff said, "Chad, get in the car with Eric."



As his son obeyed, Jeff opened the SUV's door to have a look at the man who had saved Chad. Damp dark locks were plastered to a very pale face. Big green eyes blinked at him from beneath impossibly heavy black eyelashes. A series of shudders told Jeff that the man wasn't as badly off as he looked. If he were hypothermic to a critical degree, he wouldn't be shivering.



"How are you?" Jeff asked.



The man stared at him hazily, said, "Walt? You saved me."



Cold lips pressed to his and a trembling hand cupped the back of his head to bring his face into the kiss.



Jeff didn't have the immediate urge to push away. Old suppressed desires awakened. There had been times when he had visited that side of life, but then Mary had eclipsed all else on his horizons. Jeff felt that true love could take many forms. His had been a petite, joyous red haired teacher, who had made every moment of her brief life count.



Sliding into the seat, Jeff said, "We'll get you to where you can warm up. You're going to be fine."



The green eyes slid over Jeff with a greedy expression and the man whispered, in a husky voice that ripped a response from Jeff against his will, "I know how you can warm me up, lover. Just fuck me, Walter."



Jeff was glad that Chad was in the jeep with Eric. Although he had tried to raise his son to respect difference, this was a much more raw taste of the reality of sexual diversity than he wanted him to have.



"Your Walter is a lucky man," Jeff said, "Can I call him for you?"



"Stop bullshitting," the man said. He subsided into unconsciousness, silencing his come-on.



OooOooO



Luckily, the doctor was in town. He flew to the outback on a regular schedule so there were times that the town was left with no medical resources except the nurse practioner.



Doctor Feldman had just finished examining the stranger when Jeff returned to the guest room to see how his guest was doing.



Leaning on the doorway, Jeff asked, "So should I plan on having him med-evaced out?"



"No, unless you don't feel up to having a guest. He's very healthy. He appears to be catching a cold...probably was before he took a detour into the lake and his temperature dropped a couple of points, but he should be fine with some rest and care," Doctor Feldman said.



"I'll be back in a couple days to check on him. Mr. Duncan, you stay put. You need a couple days of bed rest before you go off on your own."



"No problem, I owe him my son's life," Jeff said.



After Doctor Feldman left, Jeff looked at Duncan's identification and saw that the man's first name was Alex. It suited him.



Jeff said, "I have to thank you, Mister Duncan. I'm Sheriff Jeff Croy. That was my boy, Chad, you saved."



"The boy needed help," Duncan said. "Uh, I seem to have mistaken you for someone else when we first met. You look like someone I know."



"No problem," Jeff said. "Did you want me to call him?"



"No!" Duncan shot back. Then a moment later, he added, "We're not together anymore. As far as he's concerned, I'm dead."



Wincing at the bitter, hopeless tones, Jeff said, "I know it's none of my business, but if you really had something, he might want to know where you are."



"You're right. It's none of your business," Duncan said, turning his face away.



"All right," Jeff said, "I'll leave you to rest.



OooOooO



Yeah, right, Alex thought, as if he could close his eyes until he knew what the hell was going on. He felt like shit; weak, chilled to the bone, his head aching with the arrival of the cold he had been fighting off.



Waking up, Alex thought he had just dreamed seeing Walter. He could have kicked himself for that. If he had any idea how to do it, he would have his subconscious removed. Hell, take the conscious too. Ethical hang-ups had never done all that much for him anyhow...not that he listened to them often.



Someone had dressed him in long johns, gray ones with a waffled texture. Alex plucked at them and smiled derisively at himself. Really sexy, kiddo. Mulder would have laughed his fine ass off.



Reaching his phone, which lay in full view next to his wallet, Alex punched in the Gun geek's number. Langly answered. Alex grinned to himself. He liked the little nervous quiver in the blond hacker's voice when he realized who it was.



"Hey, Langly, I need to have you check something out for me. Get me whatever you can on a guy named Jeff Croy. He's a sheriff in Klawok, Alaska. He looks a lot like AD Skinner," Alex said.



"You going to kill this dude?" Langly asked.



"Jesus, no," Alex said with exasperation. "I don't kill everyone I meet. Look at you three. You're still alive, aren't you? I haven't killed you." Alex let the drum beat pass before saying, "Not yet anyway. Just keep me happy."



"Shit, Krycek, I can't tell when you're joking," Langly said.



"That's the way I like it," Alex said.



The hackers had been working for him for a couple of years now. He had helped them fake their deaths and supplied clones for the burial. Life had been getting uncomfortable with the higher profile the Gunmen had since aligning with Mulder. It was better that both enemies and friends thought they were dead.



Alex had supplied new identities, money, and a secure hiding place. In return, he expected service as well as amusement. It was fun to make the men squirm. He also enjoyed listening to their weird theories. It was like listening to Mulder, if Mulder indulged in recreational drugs.



"We'll check it out," Langly said. "You okay, Krycek? You sound strange."



"Damn near drowned," Alex replied.



"Yeah? You ought to watch yourself," Langly said. "We like having our bills paid."



"That's taken care of," Alex said.



"Yeah?" Langly said, "You trust us not to kill you if we know the money won't stop."



"Of course," Alex said, "Because you don't know what might happen if you try to come after me."



"Bullshit," Langly said. "You like us. Just admit it." Alex laughed, a series of coughs erupting as a result. "Just get me the information."



Lying back down, Alex grimaced as he coughed again. He hated being sick. He especially hated being sick when he couldn't hole up and hide his weakness.



OooOooO



Duncan was asleep when Jeff came back to check on him. He sat down on the bed, gently checking the man for a fever with his hand. He did feel a bit warm.



Green eyes opened and stared at him. Jeff felt as if the man was trying and perhaps succeeding in reading his mind. "I think you have a fever. I'll get the thermometer."



"You don't owe me anything," Duncan said.



"I don't agree," Jeff said, "and I'm not a man who takes no for an answer."



"You sound like someone I used to know," Duncan said.



"Hope it was someone you liked," Jeff said as he tried to remember where he'd put the thermometer.



It was in the bathroom that Chad used. Jeff hung up the wet towel that his son had left in a heap on the floor. The toothpaste lid was off. Jeff sighed. Mary always said that Chad was as much work as two kids. Jeff used to laugh, but now he believed she was right.



Cleaning the thermometer, Jeff put one of the plastic sheathes on it and then walked back into the guest room. Duncan's eyes watched him warily.



"Hope that's an oral," Duncan quipped.



"Don't worry. Chad would run away from home if I tried to use an anal on him," Jeff said. "Open wide."



That made Duncan smirk. Jeff shook his head and remarked, "You are a brat, aren't you, Mister Duncan."



"A bit of," Duncan said, "And call me Alex. I like my first name better."



"It suits you," Jeff said. As he inserted the thermometer, his knuckles grazed Alex's lips. They were very soft, very kissable



Crap. Hell of a time for his long vanished sexuality to rear its head. Jeff hadn't felt more than a spark or two since the disaster hit Burly Pines. He had just started to think about a future without Mary when the army ants had invaded his town, destroying all memories of the life he had with his wife. He had lost good friends, neighbors, and even the survivors were scattered to the four corners of the earth.



Looking at his watch, Jeff said, "That should do it. Let me see."



The temperature was up a couple degrees. Alex had gone from a chill to a fever in a short time.



Jeff said, "I think we need to get you some aspirin."



"Okay, how's your kid doing? He okay?" Alex asked.



"Yeah, he's fine. Chad is one disaster after another, but he always seems to come through without a scratch. I gave him his supper and sent him to bed. He knew better than to be on private property and I've told him a thousand times that he is never to go in or on the water without a responsible adult," Jeff said.



"What did his mother say?" Alex asked.



"She's gone," Jeff said, "Died of cancer a few years back."



"I'm sorry," Alex said.



"Me too," Jeff said.



After the aspirin, Alex said, "I need to use the bathroom."



The man was so shaky on his feet that Jeff walked him there with a hand supporting him. He left the bathroom door open a crack and waited outside. It reminded him of college when his roommate was sick. He had taken care of Cary. After Cary recovered, he had 'taken care' of Jeff too, seducing him.



There was a long time when Jeff had thought he was in love with Cary, but his lover had not taken the relationship as serious as Jeff did. Other than a handful of not quite satisfactory one-night stands of either gender, Jeff had only had three serious relationships. One had been his high school sweetheart, who had dumped him to join the army of all things. The second broken heart had been Cary who had shocked the hell out of him one night. Jeff arrived back at the apartment they shared and found him in bed with another man.



Although Jeff would have forgiven Cary, his lover had said, "Men like us don't fall in love, Jeff. You're a great lover and a good guy, but play the field. That's what we do."



It wasn't what Jeff did. He had tried to show Cary that he could give as could as he could get, but Cary hadn't even blinked when he brought other guys home.



Eventually, Jeff met Mary. She had arrived at a party with Tom, another gay man that he knew. There had been jokes about the 'beard' that Tom had brought to the party. Tom had gone off with a handsome sophomore. Jeff didn't have the energy to look around. He had ended up talking all night with Mary. They became best friends then best friends who slept together. Finally, he couldn't imagine life without her. He had loved her passionately.



If there was going to be someone else, Jeff had decided after Mary's death, it would be a serious relationship. Someone he could care about like Mary. Not just someone who got him hot like Cary had.



Jeff steered Alex back to bed, tucking him in.



"Going to kiss me goodnight too?" Alex teased.



"Don't mind if I do," Jeff said, kissing Alex's forehead.



The long eyelashes fluttered. Alex smiled wryly and said, "I guess you and Walt have more in common than just your looks."



"Not much, if he let you go," Jeff said, then startled as he realized what he had said. He let himself smile, the smile that Mary said could melt the panties off her.



Alex had no panties to melt, but he looked interested.



Just maybe, Jeff's luck was going to change.



There was Chad to think about, but Jeff would go slowly. See how it worked for his son. See if Chad liked Alex...if Alex liked Chad.



OooOooO

Much as Alex hated being sick, he liked having Jeff take care of him. Jeff reminded him of Walter with the rough edges smoothed. Yet he wasn't boring. Jeff was kinder, or perhaps it was that he and Walt had never had much of a chance for tenderness. It had been all fire and no hearth with Walter.



As Alex kicked off the blankets for the third time this morning, Jeff entered the room. "Fever up again?"



"Yeah," Alex said. He was miserable. He had never had such a bad cold.



"I'm going to give you a sponge bath," Jeff said.



"Oh, yeah, anything to see me naked," Alex said.



The big grin that greeted that told Alex that he wasn't wrong about the vibes coming from the sheriff. If you could even call it a vibration when the man had planted his lips right on Alex's forehead.



Jeff set the basin and sponge down. He quickly and competently stripped Alex before rolling him onto a big towel. Alex might have enjoyed this if he wasn't so hot and if his bones didn't ache so much. The arm that the rebels had replaced seemed to be on fire with pain. Stupid alien bastards couldn't get anything right.



The sponge felt good against his fevered skin. Jeff's hands were as big as Walter's. He was strong. Only a man as big as Walter or Jeff could make Alex feel vulnerable as this.



With Walter, Alex had come to hate the memory of being putty in his hands. The nanocytes were only partially about controlling Walter enough to stop Spender from offing him. The other reason, the sick reason, was that Alex had to wipe away the feelings he couldn't stop having for Walter. If Walter had once reminded him of what they had, Alex didn't think he could have resisted telling him everything. Walter never had. He never asked Alex if it was all faked.



Once he found out that Alex belonged to the Project, he just assumed that Spender arranged their meeting in Mexico.



"Am I hurting you?" Jeff asked.



"No, it feels good," Alex said. He said, "I mean, it feels better. Cooler."



"You were scowling," Jeff said.



"Bad memories," Alex said. "I came here to get away from them."



"And I'm reminding you," Jeff said.



"No," Alex said, "You remind me of the good ones."



Now Jeff smiled as he finished bathing Alex in silence. By the time that he had dressed Alex, the fever had given way to chills. Alex shook miserably.



When Jeff started to get up after covering him, Alex held onto his arm. "Stay awhile," Alex said.



"I'll be right back," Jeff said. "Just going to get rid of this basin."



The moments seemed long with the chills racking Alex. He started to think Jeff wouldn't be back. He was used to people breaking promises. He screwed most people over as readily as they betrayed him.



Jeff, though, wasn't that kind. He came back and sat down on the bed, stroking Alex's hair.



"Aren't you afraid of getting this cold?" Alex asked.



"No, I'm never ill," Jeff said. "Chad's like that too. The entire town can be down with the flu and we'll be the only ones that never catch it."



"Lucky," Alex said. "Is that why you were able to take the time off to take care of me?"



"Yeah," Jeff said, "Besides, I'm on call. If my deputy needs me, he'll page me. Rose, the next-door neighbor, will come over. I have her keep an eye on Chad."



Alex smirked at being included with Jeff's kid. If he didn't know better, he'd swear that Chad was a Mulder clone. Jeff had told him some of the boy's adventures and it was a wonder the kid still had all four limbs.



A couple aspirin later, Alex felt well enough to nap. He barely felt Jeff rearrange his pillows and covers. Jeff brushed back his hair again and Alex could feel him just standing there looking.



Alex always felt that if there was a God, that God was pissed with him. Maybe helping Mulder had been the right thing. Jeff seemed to have dropped into his life like manna from heaven. All he had to do was reach out and grab.



The only thing was...did Alex dare?



Alex had come to Klawok to forget the past, to have a place safe from his old life, safe from pain.



Jeff promised Alex things he had never had the illusion that he deserved, or could ever have. It didn't seem fair to Alex to get involved in Jeff's nice life. What would the people in this small town think about a gay Sheriff? For that matter, what would Chad think?



The first thing that Alex had to know was how did Jeff Croy come to be a dead ringer for Walter Skinner?



OooOooO



Frohike called Alex the day after he contacted Langly. "Croy is a straight shooter. Well, not exactly straight if you talk to his college roommate. If you get what I mean."



"A blind, deaf, and dumb man would get what you mean," Alex said. Frohike had the balls to come on to Alex once he found out from Mulder that Alex was gay. It wasn't that Frohike was gay. Frohike just didn't want to miss a chance to get laid. Either that, or he always had a thing for Mulder's sexual partners, real or imagined.



"So anyway, Croy and Walter are third cousins on one side and second on another. Family came from a small town with lots of intermarriage so I'd say the genetic roll of the dice was primed to reproduce the same looks. It's not alien crap. It's just small town inbreeding. Walter and Jeff have never met so that shouldn't be a problem," Frohike said. "Croy was involved in an interesting episode about a year back. His town was taken over by Marabunta, South American army ants. Mulder thinks that they weren't real army ants. He thinks they are cousins to the killer bees that the Project bred."



"How the hell did Mulder come into this?" Alex croaked out grouchily.



"He spent the night. Scully and he had another big fight. You know how he's always poking around; he found some printouts that Langly left under a pizza box. Mulder's still here. I think I'm going to have my chance at Scully soon," Frohike said.



"Not if you were the last man on Earth, Frohike," Alex said. "You would be better off going after Mulder. He sleeps with freaks."



"He any good?" Frohike said.



"Sure," Alex said. "Go for it."



"Threesome with Scully," Frohike said, dreamily.



"Well, keep my name out of it,' Alex said, "I mean, see if you can distract Mulder onto another project. I'll talk to you later."



"Sure," Frohike said. "You don't have to worry about a thing. We take care of you, guy."



Alex had to grin at that. Frohike probably thought he did take care of Alex.



Fretful, bones aching, and his nose sore from constant blowing, Alex settled back in what had been a comfortable bed and was now an instrument of torture. Alex feebly sat up and tried thumping his pillow into submission.



Jeff came in with a steaming bowl of soup.



Looking at the tray, Alex said, "I told you yesterday the salt made my throat hurt."



"Yeah, I know," Jeff said patiently. "So I made this from a recipe. Hardly enough salt to notice."



"You made homemade soup for me?" Alex said. "This could be love."



Jeff looked him in the eyes and said, "Could be, Alex, if you weren't so skittish."



"Jeff," Alex said, "you always move this fast?"



Come to think of it, Walt moved fast too. Must be in the gene pool.



"Now let's get you comfortable," Jeff said. "After we feed you lunch and you have a nice nap, Chad wants to play chess with you. If you're up to it."



"Yeah, sure," Alex said. "He'll probably beat me. My brain has turned to snot and run out my nose."



"You're cute when you whine," Jeff said.



"That's what Mulder used to say," Alex commented.



"I'm going to make you forget you ever had other lovers," Jeff said.



Alex met Jeff's eyes, big brown soft eyes. He wished Jeff could make him forget. Forget everything.



Jeff's homemade soup was okay. At least, it didn't burn Alex's raw throat with salt. Jeff had chopped the chicken and vegetables into minute bits. The noodles were soft. Alex couldn't taste much, but the bland soup soothed his aspirin irritated stomach and the heat made his head feel better. He finished most of the bowl and settled back, feeling as close as he could get to comfortable with this miserable cold.



"I had Eric meet the movers at your place," Jeff said.



"Good," Alex said. "I had them keep the dogs for a few more days."



"Dogs," Jeff said and grinned, shaking his head. "You one of those 'Call of the Wild' romantics?"



"Hey, it's a great book," Alex said. "I always wanted a dog and I never had time for hobbies until now. So I thought I would give dog sledding a try. It's not as if I think I need them. I bought two snowmobiles too."



Jeff continued to smile. He said, "Let's have you sit up for a bit so I can change the bed."



Fever and cold aside, Alex enjoyed watching Jeff as he tugged off sweat damp sheets and replaced them with freshly laundered ones. The tight, well-worn jeans that cupped Jeff's fine ass suited him very well. The man was wearing an old denim work shirt, with the sleeves rolled up to reveal his hairy, well-muscled arms. He was in good shape, not as developed as Walter in some areas, but in some ways, he had a better body, toned, not in the gym, but by constant physical activity on the job and off.



When Jeff helped him back into bed, Alex leaned close to him. He didn't smell like Walter either. He used a different shaving lotion and his body chemistry was different also. Walter always smelled a little like Scotch, good Scotch, of course. Jeff smelled like heather and like a warm spring day after the rain.



"I showered," Jeff said, in a slightly injured tone of voice.



Alex realized he had been caught and laughed. "No, you smell good."



Jeff grinned and said, "Well, thanks. Mary used to say that I was a two shower a day man. She was a wonderful woman, but she had a sensitive nose."



"Guys aren't usually that fussy," Alex said. "Some even like you on the high side. I was never into that myself."



Some of the dark memories came back. There were all too many times when Alex had not been able to choose with whom he slept or anything about the experience. Spender enjoyed making a whore of him.



"Here now, put those ghosts to bed," Jeff said. "You're safe here. Let me take care of you."



Those were wonderful words. Alex decided in that moment to go with it. At least for now... he had a feeling that Jeff wouldn't be so interested if he really knew him.



OooOooO



"I like the way you play chess, Mister Duncan," Chad said.



"Yeah? Why?" Alex asked. "Hey, unless your Dad has a problem with it, you can call me Alex."



"Okay, his rule is that it is up to the adult," Chad said.



"I didn't think you paid much attention to rules," Alex teased.



" I do," Chad said, voice rising higher. "It's just that when I get excited about something I just can't stop myself."



"I know someone like that," Alex replied.



"What I mean about the game is that you taught me the rules, showed me how to win, and then it's up to me to beat you. You give me a chance, but you don't treat me like a baby who can't handle losing," Chad said, changing the subject back to the original topic. "I'm going to practice on my computer and, by next week, I bet I can beat you."



"You might," Alex said. He must be feeling better. He had played several games with Chad, the last continuing long enough to be mildly interesting.



"I'll put this set away," Chad said. "Would you like me to read to you?"



Since Chad was on TV and Internet restriction, as well as being confined to the house, he was happy to go to school each day and all too willing to entertain Alex to the best of his twelve-year-old ability. The last time that Alex had spent this much time with a kid was the two months he had spent watching Gibson Praise. God, he had probably scarred the poor kid's mind for good. Gibson might be a fourteen-year-old alien/human hybrid, but he was a kid despite his mental powers and intelligence.



Still, Gibson Praise was far from a normal child. His telepathy and the role the Project played in his life assured that.



Chad was a different story. Although he had survived events that many an adult would have found so traumatic that they would have been in therapy for the rest of their life, Chad was very normal. He was bright, curious, old enough to be interested in sex, but protected enough not to have any real experience.



The kid seemed to have guessed that Alex was gay. He didn't think it was a big deal. He had 'uncles' by the name of Cary and Tom, who visited. The two men were a family with a son of their own. Cary didn't think it was a big deal at all, although he said that four-year-old Ethan was spoiled rotten by his Dads.



Alex wondered if Chad knew that his own father was bisexual. That was more complex in a way than being heterosexual or homosexual. Alex knew that Gibson had had a difficult time with the concept...he thought Marita was hot when she paid a visit. He hadn't understood why Alex could sleep with her yet find Walter Skinner more arousing. He kept asking if it was that Alex had to sleep with Marita until Alex told him shut up or he would turn off the TV and take away the Lucky Charms for breakfast.



"Alex, Chad said, "did you fall asleep?"



"No," Alex said. "But I think I just want to listen to the radio for a while. Switch it on for me, will you?"



"Yeah," Chad said. "Well, maybe we can play later."



"Sure," Alex agreed.



OooOooO



It was the longest Alex had been sick since his arm had been amputated. When his arm had been restored, he was only off his feet for a couple days. He should be ashamed for deciding that a common cold should keep him down for a week. Well, it had really been walking pneumonia, the doctor said, when the lab results came back.



Rose had turned out to be a marvelous old Tlingit and Haida woman, with an impervious face, the carriage of a queen, and sharp, well-defined features. She informed Alex that she had a little Russian in her, but then she divorced her first husband.



Alex couldn't even figure out how she knew he was Russian.



Rose was real. She had owned a small store for years, only recently turning it over to her oldest son. Alex bet she still checked over his shoulder come time to do the accounts.



"I raised fifteen children," Rose said, "five that I gave birth to, and the rest, foster. Ten of them were boys. I know boys." At that she had grinned in a way that made Alex feel like the child he'd never had a chance to be.



"That Jeff is a good man, a good catch," Rose said. "He isn't the kind you love and leave."



At this point, Alex wondered if she had one of her many offspring or extended family members in mind for the Sheriff.



"He's a man who can forgive the past, but not keeping secrets, Alex," Rose said. "You're a man with secrets."



"Maybe," Alex said.



"This town talks. Mr. Jessup said that you paid out right for the Jensen place. That's not petty cash," Rose pointed out. "That branch of the family always had more money than common sense. They put way too much money into that house and then all the kids moved away. Emily and George moved on to Florida. Fools, where are they going to get enough salmon to keep a body together in a place like that?"



"You can buy it," Alex pointed out.



"I've been to Seattle," Rose replied. "I saw the prices on that poor sickly fish. No thanks. Speaking of which, my fish head soup is ready. You need to get your strength up."



Alex thought that Rose was trying to test him. Yesterday, she had cooked some concoction of smoked herring eggs on potatoes. He had loved it. His father had been Russian born and raised. He loved fish of all descriptions. Alex remembered tasting caviar before he was five. He had eaten it all too. Caviar one day and catsup soup the next; that had been Alex's parents. Besides, he had eaten worse things during survival training.



Grinning, Alex said, "Bring it on, Rose, bring it on."



The woman smiled back. "I like you, Alex, two-spirited or not, you're going to fit in Klawok."



OooOooO



Eight days after Alex had dived in the lake to save Chad, it was time to go home. The thought of living there alone no longer appealed. Rose had persuaded him to hire one of her nephews to work on the grounds. One of her foster daughters was going to clean for him. Rose herself had ruled that he should pay her to cook for him three times a week despite the fact that Alex knew perfectly well how to cook. It was one of the many skills he had learned in the Project school.



Alex knew he had been in no hurry to leave Jeff's home. It felt good to be pampered, even after Jeff went back to work.



The man had gotten to him in the worst way. Alex kept reaching inside himself to see if Jeff was simply a substitute for Walter. He didn't think so. Jeff was a lot less complex and he lacked the ambition that had led Walter astray. He wasn't a player like Walter. Jeff reacted rather than trying to make things happen. Alex had loved Walter even when he had every reason to hate him. Jeff though, Jeff would be easy to love.



Sighing, Alex packed his clean clothing into his suitcase. Jeff had retrieved the clothing from the boxes Alex left in the hallway of his house.



The way Jeff snapped the lock behind him told Alex that he had more in mind than helping Alex with his luggage.



Turning around, Alex said, "Let's not argue about this. I'm fine now. I'm ready to go home."



No words. Jeff took Alex by the arms then his hands slid around to Alex's ass as he pulled him into one of the longest kisses that Alex had experienced.



Alex started out comparing it to Walter's spectacular kisses, but ended up thinking of nothing but Jeff Croy.



Jeff's mouth traveled softly over Alex's, exploring him as if he had all the time in the world. A sharp intake of breath and then as Alex opened his lips, Jeff's tongue slid inside. A dart of tongue to tongue contact, just enough to suggest a different, more intimate contact.



A soft moan punctuated the kiss. Jeff's fingers slid under Alex's waistband, moved under the black sweater that he had put on. Alex stopped Jeff when the man reached in front to slide down his zipper.



"No, I don't want to have sex with you," Alex said.



Jeff patted Alex's erection and said, "You're saying that, but something tells me it isn't true."



"That's not what I meant," Alex said, a little irritated. "I meant that we have to talk. After we finish that conversation, if you want me, you can have me. I don't think you will."



"Next Saturday Chad is going to see his grandmother during Spring break," Jeff said. "After I drop him off, we can talk. There's not much you can tell me that would change the way I feel. I know you, Alex. I can guess that you have done things you regret, but I understand that too. I was in Vietnam. There were things that still make me wake screaming."



OooOooO



Sitting out by the lake a week later, Alex dug his boot into the damp sand. "That's the story," he said. "As much as I can tell you."



"I read about what happened," Jeff said. "A lot of people still refuse to believe it, but after what happened to my town, nothing surprises me. It seems to me that you ended up being a hero, Alex."



"Don't make it pretty," Alex said. "I was a whore, a killer, and a thief. I did things that no decent man would have done. I betrayed. I lied. People died at my hands and more died because of me."



"Yet, even you can't make it seem as if you did it for a profit," Jeff said. "I'm not going to say that I forgive you for what you did. It seems to me that the person who has to do that is you. I'm not your judge, Alex. All I am is a man who wants to make love to you because I fell in love with you from that first kiss, even if it was for your Walter and not intended for me."



Alex figured the only way he was going to show Jeff that it was lust, not love that he was feeling, was to have sex with him. Let Jeff get his fill and soon enough he would move on to someone without Alex's baggage.



Taking Jeff's hand, Alex let himself be led to the house. As they entered the door, Jeff tugged him around to land against it on the inside.



Pressed back against the door, Alex just hung on as Jeff kissed him breathless. This time, he didn't thwart the exploring hands. Hell, no matter what happened, Alex knew that he wouldn't regret this.



Jeans sliding down his legs, underwear entangled. Alex pushed his hips out to help Jeff strip him. He lifted each foot to rest on Jeff's knee so his lover to be could pull off his boots.



A laugh tickled at his throat as Jeff kissed the top of his foot and went down on his toes. "Damn, you didn't tell me you have a foot fetish," Alex said.



"There's a lot you don't know about me," Jeff said, looking up at Alex. "I plan on you finding out over the rest of our lives."



"Jeff," Alex said.



"I'm not a kid, Alex," Jeff said. "I know what I want. I want you."



"Yeah, what's Chad going to think?" Alex asked.



"I talked to him about you. I told him I was going to...start dating you," Jeff said. "He's getting used to the idea, but can we talk about something else before I lose the mood?"



What can you do with a man who can make you laugh when your hard-on is pointed at his face? Alex dropped his shirt onto the pile of clothing collecting at his feet.



Alex was naked and Jeff was fully clothed. Walter liked that disparity too.



Moaning softly, Jeff pressed his face into Alex's groin. Suddenly, being naked before him didn't seem like a power play.



"I love your cock," Jeff muttered, voice muffled by intimate contact with Alex's erection.



Jeff played him like a flute and Alex couldn't help making music in response. Mulder had called his sounds, mouse squeaks when he was sweet and sexy Agent Krycek, rat squeals when he was merely a convenient body to fuck. Walter had merely said that Alex was noisy.



Looking up with pre-cum glittering on his face, Jeff grinned and said, "We'd better get to your bedroom while I can still walk."



Good idea.



Jeff started to undress, but Alex knocked his hand aside. He wanted to take his lover's clothing off as if opening a present. Hell, why not? Life seemed determined to give him a reward for finally doing a few right things.



Jeff's neck was strong, thick, the Adam's apple prominent. His shoulders were solid muscle. His back was long, tapering to an impossibly tight butt that Alex knew he had to fuck. He hadn't even asked Jeff if he bottomed. Some guys didn't.



"You are fucking beautiful," Alex said reverently. His hands stroked Jeff's erection as if handling a work of art, which it plainly was. When he let it go, it arced up to hit Jeff's belly. Alex started to kneel to go down on Jeff.



"No," Jeff said, "I want to come inside you. Please? Then later, we can taste each other." He smiled again and said, "And you can fuck me. It's been a long time, but I still remember how."



Oh, yes, Alex thought. He hoped that Jeff wouldn't grow moral scruples about him anytime soon.



Putting a pillow under Alex, Jeff knelt between his legs. He parted them, supporting Alex's thighs, which were always a bit thicker than he thought they should be. He ran his slightly rough cheeks over the tender, sensitive skin of Alex's ass. His thumbs opened Alex's ass and then his tongue traveled around the outside of Alex's hole. The muscles twitched expectantly.



As Alex hoped, Jeff's tongue pushed into him. It was a big tongue and long. It felt good. Alex started to tell Jeff that a lot of prep wasn't necessary, but it had been a while. He hadn't wanted a male lover after Walter shot his clone. It would hurt too much remembering.



Jeff was careful. He treated Alex like a virgin and, just for now, it was good to pretend that this was the first time and he had no ghosts from his past, no sordid painful violations to train him to accept anything in bed.



Slippery fingers worked inside him. Alex held onto his cock, knowing he would come if he stroked himself, but holding onto the promise.



There was the awkwardness of getting past tight muscles and the discomfort that all too many years of experience couldn't vanquish entirely.



Then, as Alex felt the slide of Jeff's cock inside, it all worked. He felt the sensation through him. He loved to feel himself yielding to Jeff's cock. Loved having a cock inside him. It wasn't just the legendary prostate. It was a hell of a lot more than that. It was the power of having a man's body over him, in him. It was feeling like Jeff's cock was connected to his own, pleasure traveling between them and driving him toward ecstasy.



Jeff's hand took over for Alex's on his cock. He seemed to learn quickly what Alex liked and increased his strokes at just the right pace.



Alex came first, shuddering; self surrendered to mindless pleasure. Feet flat on the bed, thrusting into Jeff's fist with powerful pushes of his entire body. It was a wonder Jeff's cock stayed inside him. Alex wasn't thinking of anything but of how good this felt at the time.



Finished except for minute after shocks of pleasure, Alex was ready for Jeff to finish. He didn't really like to have anyone in him for long after he came. Jeff obliged, free now to pump in and out at his own quick pace.



Alex watched Jeff's face, loving that he had the power to do this to the man, to make his eyes close tightly, his mouth wrench open with panting breaths, his face go deep purple before a deep groan announced the pump of cum into his ass.



Damn, Alex wished he lived before AIDS. Normally, he was glad of a condom, but he would have liked to feel the heat of Jeff's cum without the barrier of latex.



Kind enough to pull out gently and slowly, allowing Alex's stretched muscles to relax into a more normal dilation, Jeff managed to stop gasping long enough to kiss Alex.



Rolling to face each other after the condom was disposed of, Jeff kissed Alex again, deeper now.



"Thank you, that was incredible," Jeff said.



Funny, Alex hadn't been even thinking about artistry. He hadn't been trying to use any of the skills he had been taught. He had forgotten everything but what it felt like to have a man he could possibly love inside him.



Wordlessly, Jeff held Alex close. Alex had a passing thought about cleaning up, but he was sleepy and he felt wonderful. He felt safe and he felt beautiful, not the blighted creature he always saw in the mirror of his soul.



OooOooO



Waking up, Jeff grimaced. His cock was still sticky with his own cum. He had smeared Alex's on himself when they had kissed after making love. He should get up and wash, but oddly despite the discomfort, he wasn't in any hurry.



Instead, Jeff glanced over at Alex, who was sleeping soundly, lips open as his chest rose and fell in deep regular inhalations. He looked so cute, so harmless, and so innocent that it was difficult to believe that he had done everything he had confessed.



Yet Jeff had seen the ghosts in those beautiful eyes. He didn't think Alex had exaggerated or held anything back. He had offered his life to Jeff on a platter.



What did Jeff think about Alex?



Well, Alex's story shocked him, especially when he said that he hurt a kid and betrayed his comrades.



Jeff had never...



Take that back, Jeff remembered firing at a Viet Cong and kicking the man over to look into the face of a teenage girl. Her almond eyes were opened wide to look at her death. Tears ran down her dirty cheeks yet she spat at him with her last bloody breath.



There was a lot about this world that Jeff would never understand. He had become a police officer to help people. Even the people he arrested. He had always wanted to be a small town sheriff because you knew the people you encountered. A lot of times, Jeff could talk to people, calm them down, send them to treatment rather than arrest them. Get the Domestic Violence program from Craig to visit. Refer the kids and families to the youth service people when the kids were getting out of hand. Truth to tell, Jeff had never killed anyone since Vietnam and seldom fired a shot except on the practice range.



This beautiful, bitter man probably had seen more combat than Jeff's entire unit of Marines. His lovely hands were stained with blood.



If Jeff had any sense, he should get up now, grab his clothes, and run.



Jeff wasn't going to do that. He was hooked. Hell, he had begged for the bait.



Smiling, Jeff laid back down next to Alex. It was where he belonged.



OooOooO



"Hey, Chad?" Alex said, as Chad sped by him for the lake.



"I want to take my raft out. You're outside so I can," Chad said, ducking his face away.



Alex agreed with that. It was a sunlit day anyway so he was just as happy to be out. He had just cleaned the dog pens. Mick, Rose's son, did a good job, but Alex liked the pens cleaned twice a day. The dogs would appreciate a good run if Alex let them stay out.



However, catching Chad by the shoulder, Alex turned him. Yes, his shirt was torn and he had a bruise on his cheek.



"Fighting again?" Alex said.



"Paul Turner said that you were my new Mom," Chad said.



"Paul Turner is a bully," Alex said. "Your father said that his family needs a good talking to."



"Yeah, I know, his dad shoves him around when he's drinking and he takes it out on us," Chad said.



Surrounded by a swirl of Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, and a couple of crossbred sled dogs, Alex kept his hand on Chad's shoulder and walked him down to the lake.



"You know I could leave," Alex said. It would be hard. He loved it here. He loved Jeff. Hell, he had learned to love this kid, warts and all.



"You better not," Chad said. "My Dad smiles a lot now. He's not mad without a reason any more. Besides..."



"Besides?" Alex asked.



"Besides, I don't want you to leave," Chad said. "You aren't my Mom. Paul is stupid. Being with my Dad doesn't make you a girl. I like having you here. I think we should move out here with you like Dad suggested."



"But you're fighting," Alex said.



"Yeah, well, you didn't exactly turn the other cheek when the Gleason boys jumped you in town that day. You whopped their asses so hard they moved to Kake," Chad said, a grin showing how much he enjoyed the memory.



"They threatened your Dad," Alex said. "I knew they were the ones that took a shot at him even if your Dad couldn't prove it. I wasn't going to take a beating because Jeff is too good to deal with scum like them."



"Yeah, well, I'm not too good to take shit from kids like Paul either," Chad said. "I know my Dad is going to punish me for it, but I still did the right thing. I love you, Alex. I don't want you to leave, but I'm not going to let kids call you and my Dad names or be pushed around. Especially not in front of Charlene."



"Charlene as in Rose's granddaughter?" Alex asked amused.



"Yeah, she's my girl friend," Chad said.



"Good choice," Alex said, leaving it up to Chad to decide whether he meant the girl friend, how Chad handled the teasing, or both.



"I know," Chad said, with an echo of Jeff's sexy smile.



"Well, I guess you reasoned this out," Alex said. "We may as well as go out on the lake. Your father won't find out until he shows up for dinner. He'll ground you then and I'll have to respect that."



"Deal," Chad said.



Jeff would probably not see it the way Alex did, but Alex didn't expect that they would agree about everything. He didn't interfere with Jeff's parental decisions, but he didn't see any point in starting Jeff's restriction now.



It might have been that the decent thing to do was disappear. Get out of Jeff's life and remove the cause for Chad's being teased.



"The white kids tease me because I hang out with Indians too," Chad said, as if he had a bit of Gibson's talent. "And some of the Indians don't like me because I'm white or because my Dad arrested some relative of theirs. It's not as if I can just leave my Dad because of that. It's chicken to run."



"I wouldn't want to be accused of being a chicken," Alex said. "So I'll stay."



Chad nodded, looking serious. He said, "Can we take Kotz on the raft?"



Kotz was a puppy that Rose had given Alex. He was a leggy, excitable little monster, but Chad was crazy about him. Alex said, "Sure. I think he's learned to stay on the raft now after he had to swim to shore."



Picking up their poles from the shed, Alex and Chad walked down the path to the dock. Jeff, Chad, and Alex had built this new raft together. It was the first thing that Alex had ever built for fun. He was proud of it.



Poles in the water, Chad said, "This summer, we should all go rafting down a river."



"All of us including Jeff?" Alex said. "Last time you asked, it was just you and I. I was going to be your Jim, you said."



"Yeah, but I was young and stupid at the time. We're a family," Chad said. "Huckleberry Finn didn't have anyone. I got Dad and you."



Damned if Chad wasn't right. He had Alex by the heartstrings just like his Dad did.



OooOooO



There's a stranger in town looking for Jeff," Rose said when Alex picked up the phone. "He wants to talk with him about the ants."



"Is he a reporter?" Alex asked.



"I don't think so. He said he was an investigator. My fool girl, Sandy, got taken in by his pretty eyes and his cute butt. She told him Jeff was out to your place," Rose said. "I'm going to have that girl go out and scrub your place from floor to ceiling to make up for her blabbing mouth."



Jeff came up behind Alex and snuggled up to him, cock nudging familiarly into his jean clad butt. "Problem?"



"Yeah, paparazzi coming after you," Alex said.



Alex felt a sense of doom. Pretty eyes and nice butt described a lot of people, but it certainly described Fox Mulder, who was still living with the Lone Gunmen and who had continued to ask questions about what happened in Burly Pines.



"It might be someone I know," Alex said.



"Trouble for you?" Jeff asked. "You said that you had no problems with the law even in your old name."



"I don't. Mulder had me pardoned 'posthumorously'," Alex said with a grin.



"Good, although I like Alex Duncan...Krycek sounds like someone else," Jeff said.



Well, at least, Jeff didn't suggest that Alex Duncan-Croy had a ring to it. This time.



"I wonder if we have time for a quickie?" Jeff asked.



"No," Alex said, "The town may like your work, but I think their tolerance would be strained if some newspaper snaps a few pictures of us in bed. Let's get dinner together instead. Chad will be home soon too."



OooOooO



"If it isn't the ghost of the Christmas past," Mulder said.



Alex didn't drop his eyes, as he once would have done. He had paid his dues and if his conscience bothered him, he didn't let Mulder make him pay for his sins anymore.



"You don't seem surprised," Alex said.



"I'm not. I figured it out one time when you were playing your ghostly messenger. You see, Alex, I've heard of ghosts and I think I have met ghosts, but I never heard about nor have I met a ghost who cast a shadow," Mulder said. "You fucked up, Alex. Of course, you fooled me that last time. I thought it was you and it was a hologram."



"Guess so," Alex said.



"You look damn good," Mulder said.



At which point, Jeff put an arm around Alex, which surprised him. Jeff may have intended to be open about their relationship, but that didn't mean he planned to rub it in the face of the community. He hadn't as much as touched Alex's elbow in public up until now.



"Is this Walter?" Jeff asked.



Damn if the man wasn't jealous. Alex found that endearing. He said, "This is Mulder...he's..."



How in the hell to describe Fox Mulder?



Mulder said, "Alex and I worked together."



"In the FBI?" Jeff asked.



"Yeah," Mulder said. "We were partners when Alex was a rookie. Then we worked together later on. On a special project."



"You fought the aliens together," Jeff said. His hand pulled Alex a little closer.



Mulder looked amused.



"Alex must like you. He's usually not a fountain of information unless he wants something. Does he want something from you?" Mulder asked.



"Mulder, don't start your shit with Jeff," Alex warned.



Holding up his hands palms forward and pasting an innocent expression on his face, Mulder said, "I'm not here to cause trouble, Alex. I just wanted to talk to Sheriff Croy about the army ants. I was able to examine some specimens that Jim Conrad, the etymologist collected."



Alex bet that went over well. Mulder hated bugs.



"That was a time in my life that I would like to forget about," Jeff said.



"Alex, chances are that those ants were part of the Project," Mulder said.



"Been there, done that, bought an informer," Alex shot back. "Yes, Mulder, it was another little experiment. I suppose they were tired of the damn bees. So now, can you wrap it up and go home?"



"I just want to talk to Jeff and Chad about the ants, how they behaved and what worked to defeat them. Just because the Project leaders are dead, it doesn't meant that some of the shit they created isn't going to come back to get us. Use your head, Alex. They have left us a legacy of terror. We're going to be dealing with it for years to come," Mulder said.



"What do you mean 'us', Mulder," Alex said, leaning back into Jeff's support. "You're the one with the white hat; I'm the invertebrate scum sucker, remember?"



"Drop the bullshit, Alex," Mulder said. "I know who helped me and I know who saved the Gunmen."



"Mr. Mulder, I'll talk to you about the ants if you think it's important," Jeff said.



"Thank you," said Mulder, with a look of triumph at Alex.



Pissed off at Jeff, Alex stomped in the kitchen and took out the homemade pizza. Knowing Mulder's squeamish stomach, he was sorry that he wasn't serving Rose's fish head soup instead.



"Hey, that looks good," Mulder said as he spotted lunch hit the table.



"Yeah, you may as well join us," Alex said. "It's a long way back to town."



"I have a lot of questions," Mulder said.



OooOooO



Great. Jeff liked Mulder. Chad liked Mulder. Even Alex liked Mulder, but that didn't mean he welcomed the man in his life here. This was his chance to start over. He thought it was just a matter of time before Mulder started to accuse him of something or other.



Then there was the sex thing. Mulder always expected Alex to drop his pants at a wink from his hazel eyes. No way that was going to happen. Alex was going for the domestic crap. Jeff and he were together. There was no room for anyone else. Alex didn't doubt himself, but he didn't want to fight with Mulder about sex in front of Jeff and Chad.



And sure enough, Mulder followed Alex into the bathroom when he went to wash up after dinner. It was Jeff and Chad's turn on dishes tonight.



"Mulder, don't start," Alex warned.



"Take it easy. You've been acting like a Sabine virgin ever since I showed up. I can see you have a good thing going with Jeff. I don't want to ruin it. Hell, I screw up enough of my relationships to respect someone else when they are making a go of it. Look, Alex, no hands..." Mulder said.



Mulder looked sincere and he was always a lousy liar. Alex nodded and said, "Okay. I guess you had better spend the night in the guest room. It's a long ways back into town."



"Great, I could use a vacation anyway," Mulder said. "This is a great place. Not how I saw you living when I figured out where you were."



"You thought I was down a rat hole here? Maybe spread out in a whore house?" Alex asked.



"No, I imagined a fortress of solitude, made out of ice, with some high tech toys," Mulder said.



"What's that from?" Alex asked.



"Superman," Mulder replied, with an eyebrow going up, worthy of his hero, Spock. "Don't tell me you never heard of Superman."



"It wasn't covered in American Culture class," Alex said. "The Project didn't feel it was worthwhile to supply comic books."



"You poor kid," Mulder said, sounding as if he really meant it. "Listen, it's never too late to have a nerdy childhood. You should check Superman out. It's running on TV right now. You might like Lex Luther. He's bald, right up your alley."



"I'll ask Chad about it," Alex said. "He likes comic books."



"Yeah, time you lived a little, Alex," Mulder said.



OoOooO



Mulder asked some good questions. Jeff described some events that had happened in Burly Pines he had not told Alex.



Chad had heard about Mulder. He was up on the Project, although Alex had never told the boy that Mulder's famous Russian informer was himself. Mulder seemed to have known that Alex wouldn't want to be identified.



Ah, shit, Chad was going to want to be an FBI agent next. Alex shuddered. He could imagine the chaos when Chad started to 'profile' the town.



"Time for bed," Jeff announced at nine p.m. "You have school tomorrow, young man."



"Dad, I want to stay up longer," Chad protested.



"No, you have a test tomorrow. I want your brain to be alert," Jeff said.



"It will be," Chad said. "It's not fair."



"Life isn't fair," all three adults said at the same time, ending in a grin all around except for Chad's frowning face.



Jeff went to sleep around eleven.



Alex stayed up a little longer to talk to Mulder. Now that he saw that Mulder wasn't going to make shambles out of his life, he wasn't upset about seeing him here.



"I appreciate what you did for the Lone Gunmen," Mulder said. "Spender was whittling away at all my supports. He seemed to think that if he took everyone away from me that I would turn to him."



"Come over to the dark side, Luke," Alex intoned.



"Exactly," Mulder said.



"It didn't work. You're tough," Alex said. "I had help," Mulder said. "If you hadn't come to me when I was locked up, I might have given up. You always came to me when I needed you, Alex."



"Yeah, I did," Alex said. "I never said that I don't have a kind of love for you, Mulder."



"Jeff Croy isn't Walter Skinner," Mulder said.



"I know," Alex said, "I'm glad. I loved Walter, but Jeff and I have something better."



"Walter still hurts over you," Mulder said. "I'd like to let him know you're alive. The night after I had you pardoned, he spent the night on my couch. He kept asking me if he murdered you in cold blood."



"It wasn't cold," Alex said, "Walter and I could never have anything cold. How did you answer him?"



"I told him that he was a good man," Mulder said, "About an hundred times."



"He is a good man," Alex said, "But Jeff's better. Maybe because he never had to face what you, Walter, and I faced. Jeff's something in my life that your father never tainted."



Mulder didn't ask which father. He had come to accept that Bill Mulder had led a double life, as compromised as Alex's. Neither of them had a doubt about Spender. He might have thought he had the answers, but he was still as close to pure evil as either Alex or Mulder had ever met.



"Can I tell Walter that you're alive and that you are happy?" Mulder asked. "I won't tell him where you are."



Would Walter accept that?



Alex wasn't sure. If Walter thought he was alive, if he knew that Alex had landed on the side of good with both feet?



"You don't have to answer now," Mulder said. He patted Alex's shoulder then kissed his forehead. "Whatever you decide, I'll respect your decision."



OooOooO



Alex still hadn't decided by the time Mulder was ready to leave. Mulder surprised the hell out of him by accepting that.



After Alex drove Mulder to Craig to catch a plane, he drove to Jeff's office.



"Your old buddy catch his plane all right?" Eric asked.



"Oh, yeah, he should be okay if there isn't a gremlin on the wing or if they don't hit turbulence and land in the Bermuda triangle,' Alex answered.



"You know, you are a really strange guy sometimes," Eric said.



"I know," Alex said. He smiled at Jeff who looked back at him with hungry eyes.



"I'm going to take the afternoon off," Jeff said. "I worked a double shift last Saturday."



"Sure, boss, it's quiet anyway," Eric said.



Jeff's hand grasped Alex's for a long moment when he got in the SUV. "I was afraid you would get on that plane, back to your Walter."



"No, that's done," Alex said, although he still felt a jolt of pain at the words. "You're my future, Jeff, that's what counts."



"You make me happy," Jeff said.



It was true. Alex had never brought happiness to anyone he cared about before. He sped up, thinking about the house in the pines, the dark edge of the lake where he had his baptism into this new life, and mostly about the big bed that Jeff and he shared.



Not many men have a second chance at life. Alex would make the most of it.



OooOooO



About a week after Mulder left, a large package appeared for Alex. It contained an entire set of Superman comics. The first comic book had a message from Mulder.



"This is the fortress of solitude, but I think you chose the better place. Are you still thinking about telling Walter?"



Smiling, Alex started to read through the comics as he waited for Jeff's birthday cake to bake. No matter how bad it was, Jeff promised to love it. A lover like that is worth a little unfamiliar work.



After Alex took the slightly lopsided cake from the oven, he walked over to the computer.



"FoxyAgent@HotMale.com, go ahead and tell the man. Tell him the rat is alive and happy. Tell him to have a good life and no regrets," Alex wrote.



Hitting send, Alex sat for a moment, the image of Walter Skinner as he first saw him filling his mind's eye.



It didn't hurt anymore.



They were both free.



The End





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