Hardened Criminal V:
Adjustments

Nicole S. & Orithain

October 1999

DISCLAIMER: Mulder and Krycek belong to CC, 1013 and Fox, and we'll return them a little tired but a lot happier when we're done.

Alex woke up in Mulder's arms, and for a moment, he was afraid to open his eyes, afraid that it was all a dream. But he did open them, and Mulder was there, wrapped around him, his heartbeat a comforting thud beneath Alex's cheek. For the first time in a very long time, Alex Krycek smiled when he woke up.

"Good morning," came the sleep-roughened voice from above his head.

Alex smiled and snuggled closer, unwilling to move just yet. He'd dreamt of this for so long. "Is it still morning?" he murmured, remembering how they'd made love again and again the night before, then talked for hours. He didn't think there was a single instant in either of their lives that the other didn't know about now.

"Probably not," Mulder replied. "Which means we really should get up. Sam could get here at any minute."

"Too late, big brother," a laughing feminine voice put in, making both of them squeeze their eyes shut in dismay. They felt the mattress shift as she sat down, and Fox fumbled blindly for the sheet, yanking it up to their waists. "You must be Alex," she continued. "Hi. I'm Sam."

Alex opened his eyes again to find a hand extended practically under his nose. He sighed, cheeks flushed with embarrassment, and shook it. This was not how he'd pictured their first meeting.

Sam grinned at the two obviously embarrassed men. She hadn't planned this, but she was rather glad that it had happened. Seeing them like this, all their defenses down, bodies entwined together like some Chinese puzzle, it was clear that they really did love each other. When Alex glanced up at Fox and their eyes met, she could see the love in the look. The last of her doubts were put to rest.

"Hi Fox," she chirped, leaning over, one hand on Alex's shoulder for balance, to kiss her brother's cheek.

Mulder glared at her. "Would you please get out of here so we can get up?"

"I'm a doctor, big brother. I've seen it all before."

Fox growled, but she only grinned at him unrepentantly. Alex couldn't help it; he burst into laughter. Sam smiled with satisfaction and headed for the kitchen, telling them that she'd put the coffee on.

As soon as she left, Mulder let out a heartfelt groan. "I shoulda sold her when she was a kid."

Alex snickered, though the flush of embarrassment hadn't yet faded from his cheeks. "Well, you have to admit it was a memorable introduction."

Fox snorted. "I'd really rather my kid sister didn't remember quite so much of you."

Alex eyed him, unsure if that was protectiveness for his sister or jealousy of him speaking.

Fox sighed. "Look, I know I can trust you both - And I do! - but I also know that you never even considered a man as a lover. And you're beautiful. There's no way I'm going to be comfortable with you being naked around a woman." He looked sheepish when he finished, but he meant every word.

Alex shook his head in disbelief. "I love you, you idiot. I don't want anyone else."

Mulder chuckled at that oh-so-romantic declaration, and so did Alex when he realized what he'd said.

"Come on," Alex urged, getting to his feet and pulling on a pair of sweats and a T-shirt from the clothes Fox had bought for him. "If we don't get out there soon, your sister is going to come in here after us again."

With that to inspire him, Fox was up and dressed similarly in moments. Remembering the night before, he knew they really ought to shower, but it wasn't as if Sam didn't know that they were lovers. Coffee first, then shower. Preferably with her out of the house.

They made it into the kitchen with only one stop to kiss along the way, a miracle of self-restraint in Mulder's opinion and one he didn't really appreciate. He glared at his much-beloved younger sister, whom he wished on another planet at that moment. Sam and Alex both snickered, and he bestowed a wounded look on his lover.

Great, just great. They have the same damned sense of humor. I'm gonna be outnumbered for the rest of my life. He grumbled mentally for a moment, then watched his sister and lover joking together as if they'd known each other all their lives. I'm damned lucky to have them. He suddenly stood up and swept them into his arms, startling them. "I love you," he stated, getting happy smiles from both in response.

Sam had gone out after breakfast, saying she knew they needed some time alone. "I'll get together with some of my friends, then I'll meet you for dinner. Did you want to go out somewhere to celebrate or stay in tonight?"

Before Fox could say a word, Alex had replied, "Stay in. I want to celebrate in our home. Nothing could be better."

Samantha had given him a look of gratitude Fox couldn't see. She had known perfectly well that Alex was trying to minimize his public appearances in Fox's hometown to give her brother a chance to decide how he wanted to handle it.

After she left, Alex and Fox took a long shower together, only dragging themselves out when the hot water began to run out. Wrapped in a towel, Fox headed down to the living room to find the family photo albums that Alex wanted to see, planning to bring them back up to the bedroom so they could curl up in bed together while they looked through them.

Albums in hand, he turned to go back upstairs to the bedroom only to stop in shock.

"Hey, Fox, what's up? My mom wasn't feeling well and called me to come up and help her with some stuff. Once I get everything done, I thought we could get together for a pizza and some beers tonight."

"Mike." Fox felt like he was moving in slow motion, everything seeming to be at a distance, almost like there was a sheet of glass between him and the world.

"Hey, what's up, Fox? You're not mad that I let myself in, are you?" Mike was puzzled. He and Fox had been letting themselves into each other's homes since they were kids. Granted he hadn't done it often since they stopped being lovers, but it didn't seem to warrant the shock Fox was displaying.

"What's taking so long, Fox? Did you get lost?" A laughing voice came from the hallway, getting louder as the person came downstairs, and Mike suddenly realized that he might have interrupted something. Before he could say anything, the man stepped into the room, wet hair slicked back and a towel wrapped around his waist. The newcomer froze, his eyes widening as he stared at Michael.

Michael stared back, unable to believe what he was seeing.

"Krycek?" he whispered almost soundlessly, making Mulder flinch. "Krycek!" he snarled, taking only a single step toward the man he hated before Mulder yelled "no!" and jumped in front of him.

"Fox?" Mike couldn't believe this. There had to be some kind of explanation.

"I'm sorry, Mike. I never meant to hurt you," Mulder offered sadly, never moving from between Mike and Alex.

"That's Krycek," Michael practically spat the name. "That's the man who killed my Jamie."

Listening to them, Alex closed his eyes, his belly clenching as if against a blow. He was desperately afraid that he was about to lose Fox, that their time together was about to end. No! he thought desperately. It's not enough! Damnit, you can't take him away from me after less than a day.

Michael looked over Fox's shoulder at the man who had the same stony expression now as he'd had in the courtroom. He clearly didn't feel a thing, didn't give a damn about anyone except himself. Michael's lip curled up, and he pushed Fox aside, determined to kill the little bastard who'd taken Jamie away from him. He was shocked when Fox grabbed him by the shoulder, swinging him around, and punched him. He reeled back a step and simply stared.

"Please, Mike, don't make me do this," Fox begged, firmly planted between Michael and Krycek.

"What are you doing, Fox?" Mike demanded in bewilderment. "That's Krycek!" He sounded like a hurt child who'd been betrayed by a trusted adult, and Mulder flinched.

"I know, Mike. But I can't let you hurt him." Mulder's voice was raw with his pain.

"Is this some kind of work program and you got stuck with him?" Michael begged Fox to provide some kind of reasonable explanation.

"No, Mike." Fox had to look away and take a deep breath before continuing. "Alex lives here. With me."

"Fox?" Mike pleaded.

Fox couldn't meet his eyes. He stepped back until his back was pressed against Krycek, and he reached back to take one of Krycek's hands in his, lacing their fingers together tightly. Hanging on tightly for courage, he forced himself to raise his gaze and meet Mike's bewildered, betrayed pain head on.

"I love him, Mike."

Michael actually flinched as if a body blow had been landed. His eyes met Fox's again, and there was nothing except anger, hatred and disgust in their depths. "I don't know you." And he turned and walked out.

Mulder stood staring after his best friend, shivering with reaction, and Alex wrapped his arms around him, trying to comfort him. Mulder raised desolate, muddy brown eyes to him.

"He hates me. I've lost him."

Alex hugged him even more tightly for an instant, then carefully released him and stepped back. "That's not necessarily true. All you have to do is go after him and explain that it was some kind of temporary insanity. He'll forgive you. He's praying for you to do exactly that right now."

"No!" Mulder exclaimed sharply. "He's been my best friend all my life, and I'll miss him, but I wouldn't give you up for anyone, not even Sam. I love you."

"God, what a pair of fools we are," Alex groaned. "Okay, babe, you're stuck with me now."

"Good." Mulder gazed longingly toward the door one more time, then lay his head on Alex's shoulder and wept. He wept for himself, for losing his friend; he wept for Michael, who had lost his lover and his friend; he wept for Jamie, whose death was the catalyst that had started all of this; and he wept for Alex, whose life had been turned topsy turvy partially through his own actions and partially through Mulder's.

Alex urged him back toward the bedroom, where they curled up together, Mulder just needing the comfort of human contact. Mulder eventually dozed off, exhausted by his emotional outburst, but Alex lay wide awake, watching him. God, Fox, I have completely fucked up your entire life. I swear to you I will make you happy from now. Just give me the chance. Please. Eventually he too dozed off, wrapped protectively around his lover like a mother bear protecting her cub.

By the time Sam came home for dinner, both men were downstairs arguing over which kind of Chinese food they wanted to order. The incidents of the day were hidden from her as they ribbed each other.

"Fox, chop suey is just way too plain." Alex grabbed the menu from Wong's out of Mulder's hand and looked at it. "Hang on a second, let's see what else is on this menu. What about chicken with black bean sauce? Or lo mein?"

"Black beans? Why are they black? Are they bad? What's lo mein?"

Both Alex and Sam laughed. "Black beans are black because they're black! It's good stuff. I'll have to make some Cajun for you one day. Lo mein are thick noodles that are incredibly good." Alex thought for a minute, his mouth salivating. "Better yet, where's your phone book, let's get Szechwan instead."

"We don't have a Szechwan restaurant."

"What do you mean, you don't have a Szechwan restaurant?"

"Fox is lucky to have Chinese food as it is," Sam said. "Spicy pork with peanut sauce, lemongrass soup with little dumplings and shrimp with chili peppers and noodles are a tad weird for this neck of the woods."

"Oh God, that just makes me want it more."

"I'm telling you, Wong's has great food. I'm going to order it whether you like it or not because if I wait any longer, we're going to starve."

Alex and Sam gave each other a defeated look but then started laughing. Mulder rolled his eyes as he started to dial.

They waited an hour before the food came, and all three of them dug into it ravenously. Alex was apologetic to Mulder after tasting it; it was quite good. Then the three of them settled down to watch a movie on TV. Sam curled up in Mulder's chair, the two men wrapped around each other on the couch. About midnight they all went to bed, Mulder and Alex making slow, quiet love before falling asleep.

Early the next morning, Mulder found himself wide-awake. He looked at the clock, 3:29 am. He groaned to himself; he hated it when he woke after only a few hours sleep. He lay there for a few minutes with his eyes closed and tried to will himself back to sleep. Nope, not going to work. And now I have to pee.

He tried to move but found Alex wrapped around him like a python, his weight pressing comfortably down upon him. Slowly, he disentangled himself, leaving Alex to hug his pillow, sighing softly in his sleep.

Mulder padded to the bathroom and flicked on the light, his eyes squinting in the harsh contrast from the previous darkness. He shut the door behind him, stumbled to the toilet and relieved himself. He flushed then washed his hands. Catching his reflection in the mirror, he noticed a large bruise around his left nipple. He also had a hickey just above his navel.

He smiled as he thought of what he and Alex had done in the past 24 hours. He hadn't come that often in years, since... Mike. Mulder shut his eyes as the events of yesterday suddenly replayed in his mind. He saw the hurt in Michael's eyes; he saw himself fucking punching his best friend to defend Alex.

He shook his head, telling himself he wouldn't do this. He told himself he wouldn't dwell on what had happened yesterday. He had meant what he said when he told Alex he wouldn't give him up for anyone. He loved him that much.

Mulder opened his eyes and looked at himself. If Mike couldn't accept him and Alex together then tough! Mike had to deal with the fact that he had left Fox and gone on with his life and found other people, and now it was Mulder's turn to find someone to love.

But my lover killed his lover. And the look on his face when I told him I loved Alex...

Mulder groaned in frustration, willing the voice inside his head to be silent. It was done. He loved Alex and Alex loved him. It wasn't just sex; they had some sort of bond. Something he had felt from the first time they were together.

Deep in his heart, Mulder knew that they were meant to be together, and no one, nothing was going to come between them. "No one said it was going to be easy," he said to his reflection.

He flicked off the light and padded back to bed where Alex was still hugging the pillow. Mulder crawled in beside him and settled down, putting his arm around his lover in a protective embrace.

"Nothing's coming between us," he whispered to Alex before dropping a kiss onto the sleeping man's forehead. Mulder lay there thinking for a few hours, until sleep finally claimed him.

Mulder woke to tender kisses whispering across his jaw. He smiled but didn't open his eyes as the kisses moved down his neck to his chest. He could feel hands caressing his hips and thighs with smooth, fluid strokes.

"Good morning," a voice whispered.

"Good morning," he said, his eyes still closed.

"Sleep well?" The mouth moved down further, kissing his chest all over.

"Yes," he lied. "You?"

"Mmmmm, yes. I dreamt of what I was going to do to you when I woke up."

Mulder licked his lips, "Yeah, and what's that?" His eyes suddenly flew open and he gasped when Alex bit his already bruised nipple.

"Make you make noises like that."

Mulder moaned as Alex continued the assault on the nipple. They made love slowly, Alex paying special attention to every inch of Mulder's body. Mulder was brought to the brink time and time again before Alex allowed them both their release. They lay there afterward, limbs twined together until Mulder insisted they clean themselves up, lest they stick together.

"But I don't mind if we stick together. Then I could kiss you all day," Alex said, his tongue tracing around Mulder's lips.

"If you're trying to get me excited, forget it." He sighed, "It's exhausted."

"It is?" Alex's eyes glittered. "We'll just see about that."

Alex was kissing him again, his tongue tracing every inch of the interior of Mulder's mouth. Alex's hands were also all over his body, moving down to cup his ass and tease his entrance then back up to massage his shoulders and arms. While this was going on, Alex's hips were moving back and forth, rubbing their cocks together. Mulder could feel Alex's cock stiffen and start to poke into his hip. He was surprised when he felt his own cock come alive again; he had been sure it was down for the count.

When the teasing, kissing and rubbing had reached its peak, Mulder dragged Alex to the shower and took him, hard and rough, against the tiles, biting into his shoulder as he came, the hot water steaming up around their naked bodies. Now he was surely spent; he slumped against Alex's back, breathing hard. Suddenly, there was a pounding on the door.

"You two had better not use up all the hot water, or I'm going to be really pissed off!"

Mulder's face dropped. "Oh no, I forgot she was here," he whispered.

Alex snickered, "Me too."

"C'mon, you two, get out of there."

"Okay, okay. Give us a minute or two," Mulder yelled.

"I'm giving you two minutes exactly. After that, I'm coming in, and I don't care what you are doing!"

"Oh shit, she sounds mad," Mulder said. He removed himself from Alex and began to wash him quickly, then himself. Finally, they scurried out of the shower and back to the bedroom to get dressed. "I'm never going to get tired of waking up like this," Mulder said as he kissed Alex again.

"You mean your sister hearing everything we've done in the past hour?"

Mulder groaned, "I'm thankful she has an open mind."

"Let's hope she's hard of hearing."

"She's not, believe me. As a kid she could hear me open a bag of chips two flights down in the basement." Mulder grabbed Alex one more time and caressed his ass. "I meant waking up with you in my arms and making love over and over again. I'll never tire of that, babe. Although I could use a nap in between sessions."

Alex laughed and pulled away. "We'd better stop or we're going to be here all day, and I don't think Sam will appreciate that."

"She'll get over it. Is staying here with me such a bad thing?" Mulder grabbed for his lover one more time.

"Only when I'm this hungry. C'mon, I'll make you breakfast."

They went downstairs, and Mulder took a seat at the table while Alex rooted through the fridge and the cupboards.

"I can see why you took out that pantry, you don't have any food to put in it!"

"There's food."

Alex turned around. "Fox, a hardened block of brown sugar, ten boxes of Kraft Dinner and an old jar of pickles does not constitute food. You don't even have staples such as eggs."

"I had eggs," Mulder retorted. "But I broke them all when I tried to make you Chicken Florentine."

Alex laughed, "Fox, there aren't any eggs in Chicken Florentine."

"I know, but the carton fell out of the fridge, and then I stepped on it."

Alex threw back his head and started laughing louder.

"It's not funny," Mulder giggled.

"Yes, it is," Alex said as he wiped the tears that had formed in his eyes from laughing. "Give me the keys to your car, and I'll go grocery shopping. I'll make sure I buy enough to stock this kitchen appropriately."

"I'm not giving you the keys to my car."

"Why not?"

"When's the last time you drove? Is your license even valid anymore? Besides, do you have any money to buy these groceries with?"

Alex opened his mouth to argue, but then he stopped and crossed his arms over his chest. "I don't know."

Mulder smirked, "I guess that's something we'll have to do this week. We'll see about your license and accessing your bank accounts. Meanwhile, get your shoes on, and I'll take you two for breakfast when Sam is ready, and then we can go grocery shopping."

Alex licked his lips and thought fast; he didn't like the idea of them going out in public together this soon. His stomach grumbled as he said, "I'm not that hungry. Why don't I give you a list, and you can go shopping for me?"

"Bullshit, I can hear your stomach rumbling from over here. And I don't want to be responsible if I buy you the wrong things."

"I trust you..." Alex knew he wasn't putting on a very good show, and Mulder could sense it because he walked right over and stood in front of him.

"What's wrong?"

"I...do you think we should be seen together? I mean it's very new for a lot of people who live in small towns. Two men...together..." An ex-con and an ex-CO.

"Fuck 'em."

Alex raised his eyebrows but said nothing. They were going to have to come out sooner or later. This was Mulder's hometown... He smiled weakly but kissed Mulder on the cheek just the same. "Okay, I'll get ready."

Breakfast passed without incident at the diner that was located across from the hospital. Mulder was right; they did have very good waffles. Alex savored every bite; he hadn't had waffles in so long. They ate leisurely, Mulder and Sam filling him in about the details of the town. Alex noticed how they would argue with each other one minute, yet agree with each other the next. They also jabbed each other a lot with their elbows and gave each other looks only siblings could. He felt a twinge of jealousy; being an only child he didn't have that kind of relationship with anyone.

Sam had driven her own car to the diner; she had a baby shower to attend that afternoon. She gave both men a kiss and left them to finish by themselves.

When Alex had had his fill of local gossip and coffee, he and Mulder drove to the supermarket. It was in a complex on the outskirts of town with a large hardware store and various other "big box" stores surrounding it.

"This all opened last summer," Mulder said. "It's killing downtown, but we all shop here anyway." He shrugged and selected a shopping cart.

Alex and Mulder went down the aisles, Alex placing many items in the cart that made Mulder's eyebrows rise. At the outset, Alex was nervous, looking around, waiting for someone to look at them strangely. Fortunately, it wasn't that crowded, being a weekday, and he soon relaxed. They had finally gotten to the bakery section, the last section in the store, with a full cart when Alex remembered he had forgotten lemons.

"What do you need lemons for?"

"I can't very well make you eggs benedict without lemons. I need it for the hollandaise sauce."

"Oh, wait, I've got one of those little plastic lemons that has juice inside of it."

Alex turned toward him, horror on his face. "Mulder, that is not real lemon juice."

"Yes, it is; it says it's real on the sticker."

Alex rolled his eyes. "I'll go get a couple of lemons. I'll be right back." He hesitated for a minute, wanting to kiss Mulder but instead shot him a grin before he turned and walked back to the produce department.

Mulder stood there, waiting for Alex to come back, looking at the freshly baked pies that were on display. He couldn't decide if he wanted apple or pecan but didn't want to take both. When he was... single? he smirked at that thought, Living alone? he would have just bought both, taken them home and devoured one for dinner. Now he had Alex the gourmet to cook for him and couldn't wait to try whatever he made for him.

"They have everything here, don't they?" a voice said to Mulder's left.

Mulder turned around to find Bill Slack, one of the guards he had worked with at the prison, talking to him. "Hey, Bill, what's up?"

"Not much, Fox." He surveyed Mulder's full shopping cart. "You've got quite a load there."

Mulder nodded, but an uneasy feeling started to settle in his stomach. The way Bill was looking at him was the same kind of look the COs gave the cons when they were about to question them. "Stocking up."

"I see," Bill said as he leaned in close. "I heard a rumor about you, Mulder."

Mulder licked his lips. The unwritten rule was last names inside, first names outside. He knew this wasn't going to be good.

"I heard that you let some murdering con move in with you, Mulder. I heard that you're some kind of fag, that you've been a fag all along. That true?"

Mulder didn't say anything.

"I worked beside you up in D block for two years. And all that time you were a fag?" Bill's voice lowered, and his mouth turned into a sneer. "Were you thinking of fucking me, Mulder? Huh? What about the other guys? Were you looking at the other COs when we were in the showers after all those baseball games?"

Just then Alex came around the corner and saw the confrontation. Bill looked up and glared at Alex. "Here's your little murdering son-of-a-bitch prag now."

Alex started toward them and was about to say something, but Mulder shook his head slightly. "Bill, I'm sorry you feel that way, but..."

"But what? You're in love?" He snorted, "Did you have romantic little interludes during working hours? Moon over each from a distance? Or did you find a way to let this...this...scum fuck you up the ass?" Bill spat, "You make me sick." With that he stormed away.

Mulder's heart sank. He knew people wouldn't welcome their relationship with open arms, but he hadn't expected conflict so soon. How the hell did he did he figure out anything had happened at work? I thought we were careful? Fuck, who the hell am I kidding? Everyone knows we didn't know each other before he went to prison, so where else could it have started? Oh God, it must be all over town by now. He felt Alex touch his arm, and he pulled it away sharply before he realized what he was doing. He turned to Alex, "I'm...I..."

"It's okay. Let's just go home."

The ride home was solemnly silent, Alex not knowing what to say. 'Sorry I fucked up your life? Sorry your friends hate you? Sorry the whole town probably knows what we did?' It would sound stupid. They got home and lugged the groceries inside. Alex started to put them away but didn't know where anything went.

"You're going to have to tell me where you want everything. I'm not sure where it should all go."

Mulder was sitting at the kitchen table staring off into space.

"Fox?"

"What?" Mulder snapped back to reality.

Alex put the bottle of sesame oil down and went over to sit beside Mulder. He took his hands in his and kissed them. "Baby, I'm sorry..."

"You don't need to be sorry for anything. It's their problem if they can't accept it." The last words came out as a whisper.

Alex knew Mulder was putting on a brave front; he could see the tears brimming in his eyes. Mulder drew in a great shuddering breath, and a large tear fell from one eye. Alex wiped it away with a finger.

"Bill. That was that guy's name. Bill was a good guy. We worked together, played softball together, drank a lot of beers together. He was my friend." Mulder started to cry.

Alex reached over and took him into his arms. He had a feeling Mulder would be doing this a lot. It was quite an adjustment from having a good career and friends to just having some ex-con as a lover. Mulder cried for a good while before he stopped and wiped his cheeks with the back of his hand. He then excused himself and went upstairs to lie down.

Alex felt bad. Again, he didn't know what to say to Mulder. He tended to clam up when he was faced with any sort of stress. Slowly he stood and went back to the groceries that he had abandoned on the floor. After he had put everything away and mostly rearranged Mulder's kitchen, he went upstairs.

Mulder was asleep on the bed, his eyes still swollen from crying. Carefully, Alex lay down beside him and snuggled up to his back. "I'm sorry," he barely whispered. "I'm so fucking sorry." He kissed Mulder's shoulder and held his lover close, tears stinging his eyes.

Late that afternoon, Alex was julienning carrots when Sam came home.

"Hello, anyone home?"

Alex stepped into the hallway from the kitchen and smiled at her. "Hey, Sam."

"Hey, other big brother." She walked up to him and gave him a hug.

Alex nearly blushed; he wasn't used to people hugging him and kissing him at will like Sam did. It felt good though; it felt like he was actually part of a family.

Sam pulled back and held up a paper bag. "I come bearing gifts."

Alex took it from her and opened it up. "Wine, good. Now I don't need to send Fox for another bottle."

"Another bottle? You two drinking already?"

"No. I bought a bottle of burgundy today, but I'm using it to cook with."

"I'm so happy you can cook. Usually we eat take out when I come home. If he had to cook for you, you'd probably starve to death."

"So I've noticed." Alex began to remove the foil from the neck of the bottle. "I just assumed Fox would have a few bottles of wine around. Where I come from, it's just normal."

"Fox is more of a beer and pizza kind of guy. He's not as 'sophisticated' as us big city folks," she said jokingly. "He's a simple guy, always has been." She looked out into the back yard. "Where is he, anyway?"

Alex pulled the cork out of the neck of the bottle with a pop then reached for the freshly washed wineglasses he had bought today. "He's resting."

"Resting? At five in the afternoon? Is he sick? Why is he..." She stopped and nearly blushed then said, "Never mind."

Alex handed her a glass of the wine. He went back and picked up his glass then leaned back against the counter. "Your brother has had quite a trying day today." He took a sip of the deep purplish red liquid, savoring the flavor. Wow, she knows how to pick a good wine.

Sam remained silent, but her expression begged him to continue.

"After you left us at the diner, we went grocery shopping and ran into someone Fox used to work with."

"Oh no," Sam said, guessing what had happened. She raked her fingers through her hair.

At any other time, Alex would have laughed and remarked how she and Fox had similar mannerisms. Alex took a sip of wine instead; too bad it wasn't another time. "I wasn't there for the initial confrontation, but the man snarled, 'You make me sick' as he left."

"Poor Fox." Sam shook her head. "Do you know who it was?"

Alex shrugged, "Some guy named Bill." Alex went over to the table and sat down opposite Sam. He put his hands over his face and sighed loudly. He hated this; he hated Fox having to go through this. They should leave this place and start somewhere fresh where the whole goddamn town didn't work together. Trouble was, this was Fox's home. He grew up here and put so much loving work into this place. How could Alex ask him to leave?

"Hey," Sam said and touched Alex's hand briefly. "This is a small town; the people here aren't used to 'alternative lifestyle' couples. Especially considering the circumstances surrounding your particular relationship. Unfortunately, they aren't going to get used to it anytime soon. It's going to take a long time for them to come around. If ever. Alternatively, you two could move."

Alex took his hands away from his face and looked at her. "I was just thinking that."

"Do you know how long I've been trying to get my brother to move to Boston?"

"But he won't leave the house, right?"

"Exactly. He's attached to this place, that's for sure. I think he thinks that if he leaves, he'll forget Mom and Dad."

Alex nodded and took a sip of his wine then looked at his watch. "I should get him up, or we're not going to eat for hours."

Alex went upstairs and opened the bedroom door to reveal Mulder sleeping on his side. Alex crept into bed beside him and wrapped his arms around his lover. He kissed his ear gently. "Wake up, sweetheart."

Mulder stirred.

Alex continued with the kisses and caressed Mulder's arm and down to his thigh. "Wake up, lover."

Mulder moaned, "What time is it?"

"Time for you to come downstairs and have some very good wine with me and your sister."

"Sam's here?"

"Yeah, it's almost 5:30."

Mulder moaned again, "I'm sorry, I don't know why I slept so long."

"It's okay. You must have needed it." Alex kissed up Mulder's neck to his mouth where he captured his still sleepy lips.

Mulder pulled away and caressed Alex's cheek for a brief second before he got out of bed. "Let me have a shower and get presentable, and I'll be down in a minute." He turned and left without waiting for an answer.

Alex lay there for a second, confused as to why Mulder had left so suddenly, but put it off to him still being half-asleep. He still had a lot to learn about his new lover and his habits. He got up and made his way downstairs to rejoin Sam.

"Alex, the Beef Bourgignon was incredible. I can't believe how good you can cook," Sam gushed. "You're lucky to have a man like this, big brother. I'll trade you him for Jason."

Mulder laughed but only half-heartedly, "Forget it." The plate of food before him was mostly untouched. The glass of wine remained only slightly drunk.

"Are you okay, Fox? You hardly ate a thing." She looked at him with her doctor look. "Are you sick? Should I go get my bag?"

"I'm fine, I'm just not hungry. And you can keep all those little thermometers and tongue depressors to yourself, thank you very much."

"If you get sick, don't blame me." She stretched and yawned. "I have to get on the road very early tomorrow. I'm going to bed." She stood and kissed Alex then Fox on the forehead and hugged them. "Thank you for a wonderful dinner, Alex. And Fox, I'll expect my daily e-mail tomorrow."

"Yes, your pestiness," Mulder grumbled.

"See what he still calls me even now that we're adults?" She waved at them. "Good night."

"Good night," they both called after her.

Alex looked nervously at Mulder. He knew the incident this afternoon was still bugging him, and that was probably why he wasn't hungry. He didn't know what to say to him, how to bring it up. Hell, he didn't know if he should bring it up. In his family if something was bugging you, you just kept it inside and didn't mention it to anyone. He placed his hand over Mulder's and stroked it gently.

Mulder looked up at him and met his eyes. "It was very good, Alex. I'm sorry, I'm just not that hungry."

"That's okay, babe. I've got a hundred recipes just waiting for when you're hungry again."

Mulder gave him a weak smile. "I should help you clean up."

"No, you go relax. Turn on the TV or something; I'll clean up."

Mulder didn't argue and left the dining room. Alex joined him a short time later on the couch, and they watched TV for a few hours then went to bed.

Alex climbed into bed beside his lover, sidling up to his back. It felt so good when they were naked together, their smooth flesh pressed up against each other. Alex kissed Mulder's shoulder and wrapped his arms around his lover. He could feel himself harden as he pressed up against the other man.

He kissed up Mulder's neck and traced the whorls of his ear with his tongue. His hands roamed over Mulder's body, down his chest and abs to the patch of curls at his groin. Alex was fully hard now and dug his cock into Mulder's ass cheek. Alex moved his hands down to Mulder's thighs, caressing and stroking them.

One hand caressed the crease where leg met torso while the other went to cup Mulder's balls. Alex felt that Mulder was still limp and increased his caresses. He licked down to the small of Mulder's back and nipped at the fine hairs that were there as his fingers delicately touched Mulder's cock. Nothing was happening.

Suddenly, Alex's hands were being pushed away, and Mulder drew away from him slightly. "I'm sorry, Alex," he whispered. "I'm just...I'm tired. I'm sorry."

Alex moved up and hugged his lover tightly. "It's okay, babe." His cock was throbbing, and he wanted to make love to this man so bad he could hardly stand it. He wondered if he should go take care of himself in the bathroom? No, if Mulder was going to suffer, so was he. They were in this together.

"I love you, Fox."

"I love you, too Alex." Mulder answered.

Alex could hear the shakiness in Mulder's voice. He kissed Mulder's shoulder; again he was at a loss for words. He lay there, his arms around his lover until he felt Mulder fall asleep, then he rolled away to the edge of the bed, huddling there in a ball of misery with his back to Fox. He'd known that it was too good to be true. Fox couldn't really want him, the person who'd killed his best friend's lover. Now Mulder had realized what he'd done, and he was horrified. Alex had known it was all over when he'd realized that he couldn't even arouse Fox anymore. Even in the beginning when Fox had hated him and Alex himself had only wanted to be left alone, Fox had wanted him. But even that was gone now.

Alex lay in silence, hugging the edge of the bed, near to falling off, and tears slowly tracked down his cheeks. He remembered how good it felt to be held by Fox, how warmed he had felt by Fox's love. He knew that he didn't want to live without it, but he didn't seem to have a choice. Fox didn't want him anymore. Eventually, he couldn't stand to be so near Fox when he knew the older man didn't want him there, and he stood up, moving slowly and painfully like a rickety old man. He took the robe Fox had bought him, the robe he'd never needed to wear, out of the closet and went downstairs to the living room to huddle on the couch, staring blindly into the darkness.

He relived every moment he'd had with Fox, trying to imprint each one on his memory for when he would be alone again. Shudders wracked his body and slow tears continued to track down his cheeks, but Alex was unaware of any of it. All he could feel was the moment he'd reached for Fox's cock and found him soft, uninterested, the moment he'd realized Fox didn't love him.

Maybe if I pay for him to go to school like he wanted... he mused, not even realizing that he was falling into his own parents' trap of trying to buy affection. He sighed heavily. Who am I trying to kid? He. Doesn't. Want. Me. A faint sob escaped him.

Mulder half woke up in the middle of the night and reached for Alex. His eyes flew open and he came fully awake when he realized that Alex wasn't there and, judging by the coldness of the sheets, had been gone for a long time. He sat up abruptly, looking around the room, but he didn't see Alex anywhere. He noticed that the closet door was open, and he could see the empty hanger beside his robe. His face fell when he realized that Alex hadn't felt comfortable nude. He tried to convince himself that it was because Sam was in the house, but he didn't believe it. He got up, pulled on his own robe and went looking for his errant lover.

Coming downstairs, Fox was baffled by the total lack of light, not noticing Alex in the pitch black living room at first. As he was about to go to the kitchen to continue his search though, he heard a faint sound and turned back, finally spotting the younger man huddled in one corner of the couch. Fox let out a faint exclamation and switched on a lamp as he moved toward Alex, only to stop in his tracks when the illumination revealed the reddened eyes, tear-stained cheeks, and quivering lips set in an expression of total misery.

"Alex!" he exclaimed, rushing toward the other man and reaching for him only to freeze in dismay when Alex flinched away with a look of pain on his face. "Baby?" he asked faintly, in disbelief.

Alex couldn't look at him, couldn't look at the lush lips he'd kissed, the warm hazel eyes he could have sworn had been filled with love. Instead he spoke to a point somewhere above Fox's left shoulder. "I'll be out of here first thing in the morning. I won't bother you anymore."

Fox couldn't speak for a moment, he was so shocked. "Wha-what do you mean?" he stuttered. "You want to leave me?" He couldn't believe it. What had happened?

Hurt green eyes flashed toward him for an instant. "Please don't lie to me, Mulder. You made it clear you don't want me here. I'll make it easy on you and go without any embarrassing scenes." He swallowed hard. "I've got to hand it to you, you're a great actor. I really believed you, you know. I honestly thought you meant what you said and that you weren't just trying to make me pay for Jamie's death." He laughed bitterly. "More fool me."

Fox had flinched again when Alex called him 'Mulder'. He could feel his lover distancing himself, see the pain in Alex's face and posture, but he didn't know why. He loved Alex; how could he believe otherwise?

Mulder reached toward Alex again, again letting his hand drop without touching him when Alex whimpered and pressed deep into the sofa to avoid his touch. "Why?" he begged. "What did I do to make you turn away from me?" He sank to his knees on the floor in front of Alex, desperately wanting to touch the man only inches away from him.

Another anguish-filled laugh escaped Alex, making Mulder hurt just to hear it. "God, Mulder, you're a real piece of work! You turned away from me, remember? I'm not stupid, I got the message."

Mulder just stared blankly until he suddenly remembered earlier that night. Before he'd fallen asleep, he vaguely recalled Alex climbing into bed with him and... Oh fuck! Alex had tried to initiate lovemaking, and he hadn't responded at all. He'd been in such a funk after the events of the day that he didn't even clearly remember anything from the time they'd gotten back from the grocery store. It sounded like Alex had taken his lack of interest as a complete rejection.

Mulder opened his mouth to ask him why the hell he was overreacting when something made him stop. He thought carefully about their relationship, remembering that it had started very strangely, that Alex had never had a successful relationship, and that Alex had made comments in the past that made it clear that he didn't have a lot of experience with being loved. He probably thought that sex was the only thing holding Mulder with him, and that without it, Mulder wouldn't be interested. He groaned as he realized just how badly he had unintentionally hurt Alex.

"Alex, listen to me." He grasped the younger man's chin and forced him to look at him. "I love you. Do you hear me? I, Fox Mulder, love you, Alex Krycek. I. Love. You. Please get that through your head. I love you," he repeated one more time for good measure.

Alex only stared back with that blank expression and pain in his eyes, clearly unconvinced.

Mulder sighed, tamping down the panic he felt. If Alex wouldn't believe him, if he left him, he'd have nothing left. It wasn't just that the entire town would reject him now that they knew he was gay or that his former friends and co-workers would probably spit on him for getting involved with an ex-con or even that Mike hated him now, although all of that was bad enough. No, what would destroy him if he lost Alex was how much he loved him. He wasn't sure he could go back to living without him.

"Alex, please," he begged, "listen to me. I love you and I need you. Don't leave me."

Alex could hear the fear and desperation in Mulder's voice, and he started to believe him. He wanted to believe him. But..."You didn't want me."

Mulder groaned. "I didn't want sex," he emphasized. "I always want you; I'm just not real good at showing it sometimes." He sighed again, then met Alex's eyes frankly. "What happened today with Bill hurt, and I didn't know how to handle it. I know I shouldn't've shut you out, but I'm not used to having anyone there for me. So I withdrew. But I never meant to hurt you."

Alex stared at him for long moments, at least not flinching away this time when Fox placed a tentative hand on his knee. He thought about his own reaction to being hurt, which was to shut down or run away, and he realized that in his own way, Mulder did the same. He sighed. "God, aren't we the pair."

Fox met his eyes with dawning hope, his hand tightening on Alex's knee.

"Just, please, don't pull away from me," Alex pleaded. "Let me be there for you."

Mulder dropped his head into Alex's lap, nearly faint with relief. "I will, baby," he vowed. "I'm so sorry I hurt you."

Alex slid a finger under his chin to tilt his head up, then kissed him gently. When Fox started to deepen the kiss though, he flinched away. Mulder looked away, and his shoulders slumped. He knew Alex had no prior experience with men, yet he kept undermining his confidence. Mulder knew his lack of reaction earlier had made Alex doubt his own worth, his attractiveness, and he wondered how long it would take or even if it was going to be possible to repair the damage he'd done. He gently stroked along Alex's thigh, finally reaching his groin, and he winced when he found Alex soft.

It upset him to be unable to arouse his lover, and he knew why. He could only imagine how confused and unhappy Alex must have been earlier. He raised his eyes to meet Alex's, and instead of the love and passion he'd grown accustomed to seeing there, he found wary distrust. He shut his eyes against the sight, swearing that he would find a way to fix this.

He pushed himself to his feet and held out a hand to Alex. "Come back to bed?"

Alex nodded slowly and took his hand, allowing himself to be pulled up. When Mulder wrapped an arm around him, he leaned into the embrace, putting his own arm around Mulder's waist as they climbed back up the stairs. Once back in their bedroom, however, Alex stopped at the edge of the bed, staring down at it unhappily. Without looking at Mulder, he walked over to the dresser and pulled out a pair of boxers and a T-shirt, stepping out of sight behind the closet door to pull them on before he got into bed.

Mulder watched in dismay, feeling as if he'd been sucker punched. His rejection had obviously cut Alex even more deeply than he'd thought if he was no longer comfortable being naked with him, or even letting Mulder see him for the few seconds it took to shrug off his robe and pull on the underwear.

Alex turned to Fox, wondering why he hadn't gotten into bed yet, and he saw the expression of naked pain on his lover's face. He wanted to jump up and go to him, take him in his arms and tell him it would be all right, but he didn't know if Mulder would let him.

"Do you want me to put something on before I come to bed?" Mulder asked woodenly, and Alex suddenly got an inkling of what had caused that look of hurt.

In answer he held out his arms to his lover, and Mulder practically dove into the offered embrace, dropping his own robe on the floor. Fox buried his face in Alex's throat, and he felt Alex's cheek lean against the top of his head, rubbing briefly as they settled. They lay like that for the rest of the night, holding tightly to one another, but neither of them slept.

The next morning Samantha could tell that something was wrong, but at first she put it down to the aftermath of Fox's encounter with Bill the day before. Then she took a closer look, seeing the dark circles under their eyes that testified to a sleepless night and noticing how brittle Alex looked. Last night Fox had been withdrawn and Alex worried about him, but now it looked like Alex was the one about to fall apart. She decided the best thing she could do for them would be to leave them alone to work it out, so she left right after breakfast.

Once alone, the two men wandered around the living room nervously. They didn't want to be apart, but they were uncomfortable together. Finally, Fox couldn't stand it any more. He caught Alex's arm the next time he paced by and yanked him down onto the couch.

"Alex, this is nuts! We are not going to let them do this to us!"

Alex looked at him in bafflement.

"A day ago we were blissfully happy, but one ignorant, prejudiced guy has made us miserable. I won't let that happen!"

"Fox?" Alex had no idea what to expect next and just looked at him through his lashes.

"You're mine!" Mulder snarled, suddenly twisting Alex under him and tearing at his clothes. Alex only blinked up at him, too surprised to move. And when he felt Mulder's erection grinding into him, he didn't want to pull away; he wanted to be convinced that Fox still wanted him.

Mulder shoved down his sweats and pushed Alex's legs apart. He held Alex's wrists above his head, then grabbed the T-shirt he'd ripped off him and tied his hands, fastening the end of the fabric to the scrollwork on the back of the couch. Mulder looked at him, sprawled naked on the sofa, and a slow smile stretched his lips. Watching him, Alex suddenly felt nervous, but he liked the shivers racing up his spine. His cock began to fill under Mulder's heated gaze, and he squirmed lewdly, spreading his legs to display himself to his lover. Mulder leaned down and licked the length of his now twitching cock, then hitched up his sweats to go into the kitchen and grab some oil, making the round trip faster than he'd ever thought possible.

Suddenly desperate after the tension of the last day, Mulder poured out some of the oil into his hand and stroked it into Alex, stretching him quickly, then shoved his sweats down again, just enough to free his cock and balls. He quickly applied some of the oil to himself and pushed inside of Alex. Both men groaned as Fox slid in, Alex bucking up, trying to force Fox deeper. That seemed to snap something in Fox, and he started slamming in and out, pumping Alex's cock in time with his strokes. Alex gasped his name, squirming, pushing up, and Fox stared at him, surprised again by this man's beauty. He let go of Alex's cock and braced himself on his elbows, sliding his hands under his ass and raising him so he could go deeper. Alex moaned as his cock was rubbed between their bellies, and Fox smiled and lowered himself a fraction more. He watched Alex pant desperately, pleasure contorting his face, and he pushed in as deeply as he could as he came, crying Alex's name.

"No!" Alex wailed, bucking up, trying to get Fox to keep moving.

As soon as Fox caught his breath, he pulled out of Alex, ignoring his whimpers of distress. He immediately shifted down and took Alex's cock into his mouth, sucking hard to bring him off quickly. Alex groaned, his hips rising off the couch to push himself deeper into Mulder. It didn't take long for Alex to come, and Fox swallowed every drop before he sat up. He hitched his sweats back up, leaving himself once again fully dressed, and he surveyed the naked, sweaty body of his lover stretched out on and tied to the couch like some pagan offering.

Fox smiled and petted him from the throat to his still over-sensitive cock, prompting a whine of protest and an attempt to move away.

"You know," Fox mused, still gently stroking Alex's groin, "I'd forgotten how fucking gorgeous you are when you're tied up." His hand crept lower, one finger trailing lightly from sac to anus and back. Alex moaned.

"You're wasting your time, Fox; you wrung me out. There's nothing left."

Fox smirked at him. "Wanna bet?"

Alex didn't bother to reply, but that didn't upset Mulder. He was concentrating on his lover's body now, determined to make him beg. He slid two fingers back inside Alex's ass, at first just stroking in and out, then hooking and twisting. Alex yelped at the first brush over his prostate, overwhelmed by a pleasure so intense it bordered on pain. Or maybe it was pain. He couldn't tell anymore. Aftershocks of his orgasm were still pulsing through his body, and Fox was arousing him again. Even as a teenager he'd never been as sex-crazed as he'd been since becoming Fox's lover. Fox's fingers pressed against the gland again, and Alex focused a wild gaze on him as he screamed.

Fox laughed.

Keeping his fingers busy inside his desperately twisting lover, he reached with his free hand for the drawer of the end table. He hoped what he wanted was still in there; he hadn't checked in ages, not since the last time he'd been with Mike. He let out a sigh of satisfaction when his fingers closed over his targets, and he pulled out a set of nipple clamps.

Alex's eyes widened when he saw what Fox was holding, and he started to shake his head emphatically until Fox distracted him with his fingers in his ass again. He subsided with a moan, watching out of scared green eyes as Fox dropped the linked clamps on his belly and reached for a nipple, pinching it to make it rise even more. He whimpered in anticipation when Fox picked up one clamp and fastened it onto the nipple, then stared down in surprise. It was uncomfortable, but in an exciting kind of way. He liked it, and the way his cock was twitching made that clear to Fox.

Fox chuckled and dropped a kiss on his parted lips. "See, baby, you just have to trust me. I knew you'd like this." And he clamped the other nipple. He checked that they were secure, then started to tug on the chain joining them, drawing the nipples out from Alex's chest until he moaned, then releasing them and watching him squirm.

A continuous stream of curses and pleas fell from Alex's lips, his purple cock begging for attention, but Fox was in no hurry to end this. He reached back into that drawer and brought out a dildo, holding it up before Alex's eyes. He nudged it against the younger man's lips, urging him to take it inside.

"Come on, baby," he whispered. "The only lubrication you're getting is what you put there."

Alex whimpered, but he parted his lips and started to suck on the dildo, coating it with saliva. He stared into Fox's eyes as he did, and he found he could pretend it was his lover's cock in his mouth. It was turning him on, and he opened his mouth farther, letting it slide deeper into his mouth, deep throating it. Mulder let him for a minute because he looked so damn sexy like that, but then he pulled it away. As much as Alex was squirming, he was afraid of hurting him with the rigid object. He whispered that in Alex's ear, the hot breath making Alex shudder, when Alex tried to follow the dildo like a baby bird reaching for food. "After all," Mulder rasped, "it would be criminal to damage that talented throat of yours."

He pulled his fingers out of Alex's ass with a final flick that forced a sob from the younger man, then replaced them with the dildo. Alex went rigid as the long, thick, inflexible object slid deep inside him. It was different than when it was Fox, and he wasn't sure he liked it. He whimpered his distress, and Fox soothed him with a long kiss and his clever fingers stroking Alex's balls. That made Alex try to push into his grasp, and that shifted the dildo inside him, and he froze again. Then, slowly, tentatively, he moved his hips a little, feeling the thing, and his breath began to come faster. He writhed wantonly, tiny sobs escaping him with every breath, and then Mulder began to pull on the nipple clamps again and hump his thigh. He felt the wet heat of the tip of Fox's cock painting patterns on him, and he screamed as another orgasm was torn from him.

Fox watched every second of it, and only when Alex was done did he let himself go, coming again only moments later. Alex's uncomfortable squirming under him brought him back to full awareness of his surroundings, and he reached down, pulling the dildo out of him, then unfastened the nipple clamps and lightly kissed the abused flesh. He dropped the toys on the floor beside the couch and settled back on top of Alex, wanting nothing more than to sleep for a little while.

"Fox, please." The honest discomfort in Alex's voice got his instant attention.

"What's wrong, Alex?"

"My arms, please. I can't even feel them anymore."

"Shit!" Fox had forgotten about that, and he hastily unwound the shredded T-shirt from the back of the couch, then freed Alex's wrists. Once he had lowered his arms, Fox massaged them, bringing the circulation back. Only after Alex indicated that they were back to normal did Fox wobble to his feet and draw his lover back toward the stairs and up to their bedroom.

"Fox?"

"Mmm?"

"If I hadn't sucked the dildo," Alex asked in a small voice, "would you really have used it on me dry?"

"Fuck no!"

Alex smiled and leaned his head against Fox's shoulder as they walked.

The next few weeks were more of the same. A time that should have full of laughter and happiness for them as they got to know each other better and started their life together was instead tense and unhappy. They both withdrew from each other, not knowing how to reach out. The only thing that wasn't affected was the sex, which just kept getting hotter. It was at the point that they tried to spend all their time in bed or rather having sex on or against every surface in the house. The only problem was that they never talked to each other any more.

It didn't help that every time either one of them set foot outside the house, they faced snide remarks, taunts, the occasional shove. Alex, who'd been one of the popular kids in high school, the golden boy at the Academy, the indulged only son of wealthy parents, had never faced this kind of public abuse, and he had no idea how to handle it. So, as he'd done all his life, he didn't. He shut down instead. He walked around the house with a perpetual blank mask in place of an expression.

Fox watched him sadly, seeing the sullen con he'd first encountered in the prison take the place of his laughing lover. He'd been so happy to have brought laughter and caring into Alex's life, and now he was responsible for taking it away. Between his guilt at that and misery over being treated as if he were invisible by just about everyone in the town, he grew more withdrawn with each passing day as well.

Both men were aware that they were making the problem worse, but neither one knew how to put an end to it. They kept reaching out to one another, but not knowing what to say, they ended up fucking instead. They could feel the desperation when they were together, and each of them was beginning to fear that they wouldn't be able to get past this.

Things finally came to a head one fall day in late September. Alex was inside staring at the latest letter from his parents, trying to figure out how to tell them not to come visit him. At first he'd held them off by saying that he needed time to adjust to being free again, but he'd finally had to tell them that he was living with another man, that Fox was his lover. Judging by the tone of the letter, his mother had probably had hysterics, and now she was demanding that he and Fox come visit them. He laughed bitterly.

When he'd been in prison, he'd looked forward to going places with Fox, and he'd even thought that visiting his parents might be okay if he had Fox with him. Funny that things had looked better from inside a prison than they did when he was free. He dropped his head into his hands, sighing heavily, and he wondered what the hell to do now.

While Alex wrestled with his dilemma, Fox was out back raking leaves. He was as miserable as his lover, eyeing the piles of leaves and remembering how he'd thought about Alex being here for this season. He'd imagined them doing this together, then tumbling into one of the piles and making love right there. He glanced over his shoulder at the house where Alex was. He wondered if they'd ever make love again rather than the frantic fucking that was all they seemed to do now.

He kicked moodily at some leaves, finally leaning the rake against the fence when he accepted that he wasn't going to get anything done. He wandered over to the old oak tree toward the back of the yard and climbed up to the treehouse he and Michael had built together when they were eight years old. They'd played here, grown up here, explored their sexuality together here. He thought about how many key events in their lives had happened right here. He'd wanted to bring Alex up here and tell him all the stories, show him the rock collection from when he was a kid and the pictures of his highschool girlfriends.

Fox groaned. He sat on the edge of the platform, what they'd call their ramparts when they built it, his legs hanging over the edge and his head leaning back against the outside wall of the house itself. He stared up at the sky as if hoping to see a solution to his problems written in the clouds. He shivered when the wind picked up, but he made no move to go inside. He sighed unhappily when he realized that he was avoiding Alex.

"So you're still fucking him."

Perfect. Just fucking perfect. That's all this day needed to make it complete. "Hi, Mike."

"Tell me how you do it, Fox. Tell me how you can fuck the man who killed my Jamie. How can you stand to touch that murdering sonofabitch?" He glared up angrily, tears in his eyes.

Fox stared at him helplessly. Before he could say anything, a cold voice interrupted.

"Excuse me, I'm looking for Alexander Krycek."

Both men turned, seeing an older couple, probably in their late sixties. The man wore an Armani suit with an Egyptian cotton shirt, raw silk tie, and discreet gold cufflinks. The woman wore a silk dress, tasteful diamonds, and a fur coat. Mulder's heart sank.

"Mr. and Mrs. Krycek?" he asked, knowing they could be no one else.

"My son?" Emily Krycek prompted coolly.

Michael opened his mouth, and Fox jumped down, desperate to separate them. He motioned toward the house and started to lead the Kryceks in when Mike spoke up.

"You never answered my question, Fox," he sneered.

Fox finally snapped. Totally ignoring Alex's parents, actually forgetting their presence, he turned on Michael. "You want to know how, Mike?" he snarled. "It's easy. I love him, and he loves me. He makes me happier than I've ever been in my entire life, and I'll be damned if I'll let you or anyone else in this fucking narrow-minded town hurt him anymore.

"I'm sorry Jamie died. You know that, Mike. But you also know that the autopsy proved he had a weak heart. He could have died at any moment. I know that doesn't excuse what happened or make it up to you for losing even a single instant with Jamie. But Mike, if you ever call Alex a murderer again, I'll punch you into the middle of next week!" By the time he finished, Fox was yelling into his friend's face, protective fury clear in every line of him. He turned on his heel and stalked toward the house, not bothering to check whether the Kryceks or Michael followed him.

Once inside, Jonathan and Emily hesitated in the entry while Mike hovered in the background. "Mr. Mulder?" Jonathan asked tentatively.

Mulder blinked in surprise, having forgotten they were there. "Yes?"

Jonathan regarded him uneasily. "You said... you said that you love Alex."

Mulder looked at them like they were nuts. "Well, of course I do. What on earth did you think this was all about?"

"You taking advantage of a vulnerable, young man who was trapped in an impossible situation," Emily Krycek snapped. "My son is not gay." She could barely bring herself to say the word.

Mulder just looked at her. "It's not a dirty word, you know."

She looked down her nose at him. "We're here to bring Alexander home."

Mulder winced slightly. As miserable as they'd been lately, he was desperately afraid that Alex would go with them. He heard a sound behind him, and he turned to see Alex standing in the hallway watching them. No, watching him, totally ignoring his parents, whom he hadn't seen since he was sent to prison.

"I heard you," Alex said softly. Fox looked confused, so he added, "Outside. I heard what you said to Michael." He looked down, then back at Fox. "Did you mean it? Do you still love me?"

Fox gasped. "God, Alex, has it been so bad that you have to ask me that? Of course I love you; nothing could change that!"

"Excuse me," Emily interrupted icily. "Aren't you going to greet us, Alexander?"

Tearing his eyes away from Fox, Alex turned reluctantly to face his parents. "Hello, Mother," Alex responded equally coolly, approaching her to kiss the air beside her cheek. He was careful not to actually touch her and possibly muss her clothes or makeup. He'd learned that lesson at a very young age. "Father." He nodded to Jonathan.

Fox watched the stilted greetings, and his heart ached for Alex. He thought he'd had warmer meetings with his parents when he visited their graves. If that was how Alex had been treated as a child, it was no wonder that he didn't know how to express his emotions. Even Michael felt a momentary pang of sympathy for Krycek, but all he had to do to quell it was remember Jamie lying still and cold in his casket.

"We've come to bring you home, Alexander," Emily stated, clearly expecting immediate obedience to her wishes.

Alex stepped closer to Fox, who reached out and took his hand. "I am home, Mother."

Mrs. Krycek looked at their joined hands with an expression of well bred disgust. "You will return to Boston with us, Alexander. This... temporary aberration will be forgotten. No one need ever know."

Alex stared at her, shaking his head. "Not this time, Mother. This time I won't let you make my decisions for me. I'm not ashamed of Fox or of being with him, and I'll be damned if I'll let you treat him like some dirty little secret."

"So you're going to live here," her lip curled in disdain. "And do what exactly, Alexander? What do you plan to live on?"

"What planet do you live on, Mother? You know perfectly well that I have my inheritance from Grandfather. I don't need to work. And I happen to like it here," he finished defiantly and untruthfully.

With everyone concentrating on the confrontation between mother and son, no one noticed Michael sidling closer, coming up behind Alex. No one noticed him until he let out an almost bestial snarl and lunged at Alex.

Fox saw the motion out the corner of his eye, and seeing something hurtling at his lover's defenseless back, he reacted automatically, fending Michael off with one arm before he even realized what was happening. Mike stumbled back, regained his footing and reached for Alex again.

"I'm going to kill you, you motherfucker! Just like you killed Jamie!" he screamed.

"Get out." Fox spoke coldly, pain clear in his voice but overshadowed by his determination to protect Alex.

Mike turned to Fox. "Come on, Fox, you can't love this fucking murderer. I'll admit he's a pretty boy, and I can see why you'd want to fuck him, but he's filth, Fox-"

"Enough!" Mulder yelled. "Get out of my home, Michael, and don't come back." His voice cracked on the last word, but he refused to back down. He was not going to fail Alex this time.

Michael gaped at him in disbelief, paling dramatically, and Mulder repeated it. He stared after his best friend as he walked away, and he wondered again how this had all happened. Then he looked to his side and met a pair of worried green eyes, and he remembered the answer. Still staring into Alex's eyes, he spoke softly. "If I had to do it all over again, I'd still choose you."

Ignoring their audience, Alex kissed him softly, licking at his lips, and wrapped his arms around Fox.

"Alexander!"

Alex sighed heavily and looked over his shoulder at his mother. "Don't start, Mother. Just don't."

Fox looked at the two people standing stiffly in his hallway and briefly considered running away from home. "Will you stay with us?" he invited, ignoring Alex's frantic head shake.

Emily raised a supercilious eyebrow. "I'm sure we can find accommodations in a hotel."

Alex pictured his parents staying in one of the cheap motels that catered mainly to the inmates' family and friends or one of the homey B&Bs in town, and he groaned. He leaned his forehead against Mulder's shoulder for a brief moment, then straightened up and turned back to his mother. "I'm afraid not, Mother. The motels in town are... not quite what you're accustomed to."

"I'm sure-" Emily started before her husband cut her off.

"Thank you, Mr. Mulder, we'd be delighted to accept your kind invitation." He saw Emily take a breath to say something else, and he cut her off. "I'm sure you're right when you say that we wouldn't be comfortable in the motels."

Emily sniffed disdainfully, turned on her heel and went into the living room, preparing herself for the squalor she was certain her son was living in.

"Please, come in, make yourself at home," Mulder mumbled sarcastically, and Alex snickered.

"See why I wasn't anxious to write?"

Mulder grunted. After another quick kiss, which Jonathan watched interestedly, he motioned the elder Krycek to precede them into the room.

They entered to find Emily surveying the room in open-mouthed astonishment. Not only was it clean and tidy, many of the furnishings were antiques, and the rest were of good quality and well cared for. She turned to face the men fully, amazement visible in her eyes.

Alex sighed at her prejudices and wished his parents would go away or, better still, had never come. Fox placed a calming hand on his arm, and he glanced over to meet an understanding gaze. They needed to talk, to clear up the misunderstandings and pain of the last few weeks, but they weren't going to be able to do that while his parents were present. He mouthed 'I love you' and got a heartwarming smile in response.

"Do you have any luggage you'd like to bring in?" Mulder asked, turning to Jonathan. When he nodded, Fox offered to help, and the two of them went out to get it, leaving Alex and Emily alone together.

They stood in uncomfortable silence until Emily broke it.

"Alexander-"

"Alex. My name is Alex, Mother. Can't you even grant me the courtesy of using my name as I wish?"

Emily's eyes flashed, but she quelled her anger. "I'm the one who named you, Alexander, and I remember quite clearly giving you my father's name. But that is irrelevant to the matter at hand."

She sighed and paced around the room, too tense to remain still. "He's not what I expected," she admitted.

"I don't see why not," Alex snapped. "I told you about him."

"He's not as ignorant and uncultured as I anticipated from his choice of employment, and his home is quite lovely. I suppose it's true what they say about gay men," she mused.

Alex actually growled. "You're a snob, Mother. And prejudiced to boot. It's so appalling it's almost funny." He fixed her with a steely glare. "Don't you dare insult Fox!"

She drew herself up with offended dignity, but before she could say anything, they were distracted by laughter from the doorway.

"You're cute when you're being protective, Alex, but it's not necessary. I can take care of myself."

Alex shrugged. "I know you can. So can I. But it's more fun to take care of each other."

Fox smiled and moved to stand behind him, wrapping his arms around Alex's waist and resting his chin on his shoulder, smirking at Emily's expression of distaste.

"Come on, I'll show you which room you can use," Fox said, and he headed upstairs.

A little while later Alex's parents were settled in Sam's room, his mother wearing an expression of resigned suffering upon discovering that there was no en-suite bathroom, rather she would have to go down the hall to get to one. Fox and Alex left them to unpack and rest and retreated to their own bedroom.

Once inside they wandered around restlessly, Alex eventually settling on the bed and Mulder perching on the edge of the window seat. They stared at each across the room, and they wondered how they could get past everything. Each was afraid to start, worried that he'd only make matters worse by saying the wrong thing. Finally Fox groaned and stared down at his feet.

"Do you want to leave?" he asked quietly.

Alex gasped. "Do you want me to leave?"

"No!" Fox paused for a deep breath. "But I don't want you to stay because you think you should or because you think it's what I want. I need you to be with me because it's what you want." He laughed bitterly. "And I know that's incredibly unfair of me. You deserve better than this, better than being treated like a leper. You're so beautiful you could have anyone you wanted. You should be living in the lap of luxury somewhere, enjoying your freedom, not getting the fallout from what my neighbors think of me."

"Bullshit!" Alex replied succinctly. When Fox looked up in surprise, he continued, "If it wasn't for you, I'd still be in prison. I was far from a model prisoner, blaming the entire universe for me being there rather than accepting responsibility for my own actions. I was well on the way to becoming someone I don't like very much. I'd never have been paroled, let alone gotten early parole, if not for you."

"Sure you would. Your lawyer got the extra time knocked off your sentence because that judge had no business adding it on just because you were an FBI trainee. Hell, he doubled the maximum sentence for the crime! If anyone had known that his son, his gay son, had been beaten to death, he'd have been recused. As it was, you probably could have gotten the conviction overturned on the grounds of a mistrial."

Alex shook his head. "You and I both know that what I did was wrong, Fox. Sure, I never intended to kill him, but we weren't there to sell Amway." He smiled slightly. "You made me take a good, long look at my life, Fox, and I was nothing more than a spoiled, rich kid who thought he could do or say anything. I wish it hadn't taken someone's death to change that, but I like myself a hell of a lot better now. And I love you. I want to be with you, and if that means putting up with this town's petty vindictiveness, fine. Just so long as you don't shut me out. I need to know that you love me too."

Fox was across the room in an instant. "I do love you, Alex. I'm sorry I've been so self-absorbed lately that you doubted it." He pulled Alex into his arms and stretched out on the bed with his lover draped half over him. They dozed off like that, holding tightly to one another, more content than they'd been in a while.

A few days later Alex woke up to the sounds of battle drifting up the stairs again. He groaned and pulled the pillows over his head, seriously considering staying right where he was until his mother magically disappeared. After a moment, the lack of air and certainty that more than wishes would be required to rid himself of his interfering parent made him sit up. He was reaching for his robe to go downstairs when a sudden thought made him stop and brought a slow smile to his face.

"Fight fire with fire," he mumbled with a satisfied smirk.

Later that afternoon, Alex wondered if his plan was going to be enough. Today was even worse than usual; his mother was in fine form, sniping at Fox at every turn. Of course, he had to admit that it was at least partially his own fault. He'd been irritated that morning, so he'd gone downstairs without showering, knowing that he'd smelled of sex. His mother had noticed, of course, and been horrified. That had been satisfying enough, but the expression of sheer lust on Fox's face when he got close to him had been a thing of beauty. For a moment he'd thought Fox was just going to throw him down on the table and take him. The fact that he hadn't was another black mark against his mother.

Goddamnit, this is our home, and we can't even do what we want when we want because of my damned mother. We have got to get rid of her. He glanced over at his parents, his mother holding forth on god only knew what topic this time while his father listened silently. I wouldn't mind my dad staying for a while though. I've gotten to know him a little these last few days, and I think we could actually get to be friends. I wish I'd realized that years ago; things might have turned out differently. He glanced over at Fox. God, I'm such a shit. I wouldn't change what happened with Jamie if I could. A man is dead because of me, and I wouldn't change it because I wouldn't have met Fox otherwise. Jamie, if you're out there, I'm so sorry for what I did to you, but I love him so much. I won't ask for forgiveness, but knowing how much you and Michael loved each other, I hope you understand how I feel now.

"Deep thoughts, babe?" Fox sat beside him, one hand settling naturally on his thigh.

Alex smiled. "Just... making peace with myself."

Fox smiled inquisitively, but that was all Alex would say. He changed the subject. "I'm sorry about my mother, Fox."

Mulder shrugged. "In her own way, she cares about you, Alex, and is trying to protect you."

"No, she doesn't. She just doesn't want her image tarnished by having a gay son. Hell, I'll bet she's even managed to cover up me being in prison somehow." Alex sounded resigned rather than bitter.

"What an ill-bred display," Emily stated coldly, eyeing Fox's hand on Alex's thigh.

"Odd, I thought it was rather sweet," an equally icy voice cut in.

Everyone turned toward the doorway in surprise, Fox and Alex smiling at Sam when they saw her.

My secret weapon arrives! Alex exulted.

"And just who might you be?" Emily demanded.

"Samantha Mulder. Fox's sister." Sam glared at the bitch hag who was making her brother and his lover miserable according to what Alex had told her that morning.

"Miss Mulder," Emily started, only to be interrupted by Sam.

"Doctor."

"I beg your pardon?"

"That's Dr. Mulder, Mrs. Krycek."

"You are a doctor?" Disbelief dripped from her tone.

"Yes, I am. Fourth in my class at Columbia. You really don't have to be born wealthy to be intelligent or to make something of yourself. In fact," with a disdainful glance at Emily, "sometimes wealth has the opposite effect."

"Why, you little trollop!"

"My, what a shining example of the superiority of the rich," Sam sneered.

By this time the men in the room were looking for a fallout shelter.

Emily took a deep breath, restoring her air of icy superiority. "Unlike you apparently, Dr. Mulder, I do not consider namecalling a worthwhile use of my time. Perhaps you would care to explain your unexpected and rather rude arrival?"

Sam looked her up and down. "I don't have to explain anything to you, let alone my presence in my family's home."

"Sam, it's so good to see you," Fox jumped up to hug her, hoping to prevent a murder in his living room. "But I thought you and Jason were going away this weekend?"

Alex looked up guiltily at that, and Sam smiled reassuringly. "Jason wanted to meet Alex before the wedding. He's just getting our bags, wouldn't let me carry anything. And coming to visit you two is getting away, Fox."

"Actually," yet another new voice put in, "Alex and I have met. At numerous boring summer parties that were command performances."

Alex stared at him blankly for a moment before he recognized him. "Oh, of course, Jason Prestwick. I should have recognized your name right away."

"No reason why you should, the name's not that uncommon. And it's not like we knew each other all that well." He grinned over at Fox and Sam. "Although I think that's going to change."

Alex grinned back, impressed with Sam's strategy. While she could have routed his mother eventually all on her own, waving her wealthy and influential fiance under his snobbish mother's nose was a stroke of genius. Emily Krycek would never knowingly do anything to offend the Prestwicks. He had a hard time restraining his laughter and didn't dare look at Sam.

"I'll go put some coffee on for everyone," Alex said abruptly, needing to get out of the room before he started howling, and bolted.

"I think I'll help." Sam followed quickly.

Choosing the path of rank cowardice, Fox fled after his lover and sister, leaving Jason with the Kryceks, something he was sure he would pay for eventually. In the kitchen he turned a suspicious glare on the two who'd collapsed into fits of giggles at the table.

"Okay, give, Sam. What are you doing here?"

Alex looked up, wiping tears of laughter from his eyes. "That's my doing, Fox. I decided this morning that we weren't getting anywhere with my mother, but I'd put my money on Sam any day. So I called and asked her to come save us."

"What?!"

"That's what family's for, bro. I'm glad Alex called me; after five minutes with that woman, I can't imagine how you've put up with her for almost a week."

Fox sighed and shook his head. "Come on, let's get that coffee made. It's not fair to leave Jason alone with them for too long."

"Oh don't worry about him," Alex scoffed. "There's no way my darling mama will insult a Prestwick."

"Even so, the look he gave me when I followed the two of you promised retribution," Fox said.

The others chuckled and got the coffee going.

They managed to make it through the rest of the afternoon without bloodshed and mutually agreed to go out for dinner. Alex knew his mother wouldn't like the restaurant, but despite the lack of trendy decor, the food was excellent.

Dinner was half over when a drunken, belligerent man stumbled up to the table, startling all of them.

"Darryl?" Fox said in surprise, recognizing Michael's older brother.

"Are you happy now, you fucking fairy?" he slurred. "Are you happy now that you have your murdering whore and my brother is dead?"

Fox dropped his glass, the wine spilling across the table and dripping down to the floor. "What are you talking about?" he whispered, his voice nearly failing him. Alex and Sam both reached out to him, each taking one of his hands.

"Mikey's dead!" Darryl screamed. "He killed himself because of you, you sonofabitch!"

Fox just stared up at him, his mouth working silently, tears rolling down his face. "Mike," he mouthed.

Jason jumped up and distracted Darryl while Alex and Sam drew Fox up and out of the restaurant, Alex's parents following, even his mother silenced for the moment. As soon as they were out, Jason got away from Darryl by buying him a drink and hurried after the others.

Fox sat in total silence, staring straight ahead, on the drive back to the house. When they got there, Jonathan and Emily went into the house quietly and retired, even Emily realizing that the men needed to be left alone. Jason also went straight up to their room when he and Sam arrived only moments later, knowing her brother needed her just then. Sam and Alex coaxed Fox out of the car and inside, both of them worried by the blank expression he'd worn since the initial shock dissipated.

Alex stroked his lover's hair, trying to comfort him, but Fox didn't even seem to really notice that he was there. He just sat woodenly, not speaking, not moving, and Samantha began to get worried. He was clearly in shock, shivering with reaction, but he brushed her away when she tried to wrap a blanket around him. Sam was actually considering having him hospitalized overnight for observation, loath though she was to do that in this town, when he finally spoke.

"This is my fault, you know." Haunted hazel eyes looked up finally, and both the others flinched from the pain and self-recrimination in them.

"Fox, no," Alex started only to be interrupted by Fox.

"It's the truth. Michael, my best friend in my entire life, is dead, and it's all because of me."

"How can you say that, Fox?" Sam tried.

"Because it's true!" Fox half yelled. "I betrayed him, and now he's dead."

A tiny moan was torn from Alex as he saw his life dissolving around him. They'd only just begun to work through their problems, and now Mike had won. Fox would never forgive either of them. He closed his eyes tightly, fighting to hold back the tears, and when he opened them, he was completely expressionless. Once again, he'd retreated behind the mask that had served as his defense all his life.

"My parents and I will leave first thing in the morning," he said quietly, not meeting Fox or Sam's eyes.

Fox stared down at the floor between his feet. "See, even Alex knows I'm right, and he's leaving before I destroy him too."

Alex's head shot up, and he stared at Fox in bewilderment. "What are you talking about? I'm leaving because you don't want me here because Michael would still be alive if I had never come here."

It was Fox's turn to look baffled. "What are you talking about? Michael's dead because I couldn't give you up. I raped you, repeatedly, and then I couldn't give you up. What kind of sick fuck rapes a man, then claims to be in love with him? And then tells his best friend that he's in love with someone who contributed to his lover's death."

Alex flinched. "So what you're saying is that you should have raped me and then left me, and then everything would have been fine."

"No! That's not what I meant. Oh fuck, I make a mess of everything." He buried his face in his hands. "I should never have touched you, never fucked up your life, never made Mike so fucking miserable that he felt he had to kill himself."

Alex stood up painfully. "Well, I'll solve part of your problem and leave. I'm sorry to have been such a burden." He turned to leave, only to be stopped by a desperate wail.

"Don't leave me!" Fox stretched a hand out toward him, tears running down his face, but he made no move to go after Alex. If he stayed, it had to be because he wanted to, not because Fox made him.

Alex looked at him, torment plain on his face. "I don't know how much more of this I can take, Fox. You keep pushing me away and telling me that I'm some kind of mistake, then changing your mind. You're cutting me up a little piece at a time. What the hell do you want from me?" he suddenly yelled, pushed beyond what he could endure.

"Alex, please," Fox begged. "Just... just give me some time. Don't leave me."

Alex knew that he should go for his own sake, but he couldn't turn away from Fox when he was in so much pain. He nodded curtly and headed upstairs, where he went to bed. When Fox finally came up, Alex lay stiffly at the edge of the bed, pretending to be asleep even though both of them knew perfectly well that he wasn't.

Fox buried his face in his pillow, letting it absorb his silent tears.

They lay like that for an hour or two, each listening to the other breathe, wondering if either of them was going to fall asleep. A soft knock came at the door, and Alex got up to answer it.

"Mother," Alex said as he saw who was on the other side.

"Alexander, your father and I are leaving. This situation has become....awkward. Come home to Boston with us. We will wait until you collect your things."

Like it hasn't been awkward already? Alex looked at his mother standing tall in the hallway, his father behind her, their bags in his hands. His father never said much when his mother was around. He wished just for once his father would speak up and tell his mother she was wrong.

"I've told you, Mother, I'm not going anywhere. This is my home now. Fox and I are together!" His words started out softly but ended up as a harsh whisper.

She looked at her son, and her right eyebrow twitched. "Is that your final decision, Alexander?"

Alex could see the anger of not getting her own way pulse in the vein at the side of her neck. "Yes, it is, Mother." He stood up and looked down at her.

Her green eyes narrowed to meet his. "Very well," she spat. She turned on her heel and stomped down the stairs as gracefully as she could.

Alex's father looked at him and nodded then followed his wife.

Alex stood there outside the door to the room he shared with Fox. He felt elated that his parents were leaving, but at the same time sad that they wouldn't accept him doing what he wanted to. I'm an adult for Christ sakes, you'd think they'd realize that. He shook his head; his mother wasn't going to let anyone do what they wanted to. It was her way or the highway, and she had just proved that point.

Alex turned the doorknob and went inside the bedroom. He was actually feeling tired. He removed his clothing and then proceeded to undress Fox.

"What are you doing?" Fox asked.

"I'm trying to make you feel comfortable."

"I'm not in the mood." Fox tried to roll over away from his grasp.

Although that statement made Alex cringe, he didn't back down. "Hey, sleeping in your clothes is not comfortable. Come on." He grabbed Fox's arm and helped him into a sitting position. He then took his shirt off and started to unbutton his jeans. Fox let him and lifted his hips to let them be removed from his body. Once Fox was clad only in his underwear, he rolled over to the edge of the bed, his back to Alex's side. Alex climbed in behind him and spooned his body around the back of his lover. He could feel the sobs before he could hear them. It seemed like all they did was cry lately. So much bullshit, so much pain was in their life lately. Alex wondered if they'd ever get through all of this.

We have to. We just have to.

He kissed Mulder's ear as the tears flowed, not doing anything but holding his lover until they stopped many minutes later. Alex continued to kiss Mulder's ear and neck until his lover was asleep, himself following soon after.

Fox was up before Alex, although neither of them had slept very much the night before. The day was spent mostly in silence, Fox brooding in the back yard, raking leaves that weren't there. Sam and Alex watched him worriedly from the kitchen, while drinking endless cups of coffee. Jason headed back to Boston; there was some problem at his software company that only he could take care of. He was going to come back and collect Sam the day after the funeral as she had to get back to her practice as well.

Alex waited until Fox was in the shower before he got up and went to the closet. He took out his suit, the only suit he had here. He remembered when all he had was formal clothing from tuxedos to designer sweaters. He supposed they were all packed away somewhere after his parents had cleared out his apartment in Arlington after he was convicted. Out here with Fox, however, there was no need for that; in this town jeans were as formal as people got. Alex liked that; he had always been around people who had money and wealth in possessions. In this town, a wealthy man was a guy with a good job and a healthy family. He liked this simple life. Simple! Yeah, right!

He heard the shower turn off, and Fox padded into the bedroom soon after. He came over to the closet and stood beside Alex. Fox rummaged through the closet until he came to a garment bag, which he pulled out and laid on the bed.

Alex watched Fox carefully arrange the bag on the bed, noticing that he was wearing only a towel. Had this been another morning, he would have come up behind his lover, wrapped his arms around him and nuzzled his still wet hair. Then he'd take off the towel and drop to his knees and... It was unfortunate this was not another morning. It was unfortunate that today they were burying Michael.

Fox opened the garment bag and pulled out a dark blue suit, which he hung on the back of the closet door. He brushed a few specs of lint off of it then got out the white shirt and tie that went with it.

Alex surveyed his own side of the closet; he had everything he needed. He made a mental note to buff his shoes...

"I've never owned a suit before," Fox said softly. "Sam bought me this suit early this year when I met Jason's parents. We went to the opera..." He caressed the dark wool between his fingers.

"Yes," Alex said. "You wrote me that night to tell me how much you had enjoyed yourself."

"It was the Magic Flute."

Alex nodded.

"I remember intently watching the opera, gathering as much information as I could so I could tell you about it. I wrote notes in my program about the costumes and the sets. How the lady who played the 'Queen of the Night's' voice went so high yet was so clear." Fox's eyes were glittering with tears. "I wanted to remember everything so I could tell you and not skip a detail. You had said you'd missed this opera when it was performed in Vienna during a Mozart festival one year. You were so disappointed that you had missed it. I wanted to be your eyes and ears that night. All through the performance though, I felt as if something was missing. I kept turning to my right, as if you were there beside me." Mulder gave a short laugh, "I'm sure Mrs. Prestwick thought I wasn't all there. She'd look back and smile..." Mulder laughed again. "And when Papagano found his true love after looking and looking for love, any love, it felt good. I felt such joy because I knew that I had found my true love." A tear fell from Mulder's eye. "I had rushed Sam home so I could write it all down and send it priority mail to you."

"I remember," Alex whispered."

"I felt so good, I felt so happy. But now... the way I feel today, I don't know if I'll be able to feel that joy again."

Alex crossed the short space separating him and his lover and took him in his arms. Fox stayed there, holding him for a few moments before he pulled away.

"We have to get ready for the funeral," he said softly.

Alex reluctantly pulled away and went to have a shower.

The three of them rode to the funeral in silence, Sam driving. When they got to the cemetery, a twinge of regret and anxiousness started in Alex's stomach. He was afraid. He didn't know how these people would accept the two of them together at the funeral. What was he thinking? What the hell was he doing here at all? He should have stayed home. He stood tall and squared his shoulders; he was here to support Fox, and if they couldn't handle that, then too bad.

His bravado lasted only a few minutes until they got to the gravesite where the short ceremony was to take place. There were chairs on either side of the flower-laden coffin. By the amount of chairs, Alex suspected that there weren't going to be too many people attending. Michael's mom was sitting there along with her son Darryl and what looked like his wife and children. A few other people were also sitting down. Alex looked around nervously at everyone. It was a beautiful day; fall had come early this year. The leaves were tinged with crimson and gold against a brilliant blue sky. Alex wished he were somewhere else, somewhere with Fox under one of the trees in the back yard looking up at the sky, laughing.

Everyone's head turned and watched as he, Sam and Fox approached. Darryl sneered at them as they took their seats. He nodded at Brian Pendrell, who just raised his eyebrows. Alex sat back in his chair and fiddled with the buttons on the sleeve of his overcoat. He did not want to be here. Suddenly, Sam grabbed his hand and squeezed it for a moment. She had sat between Fox and him so she could comfort them both.

More people came to sit in the chairs. Alex kept his head down, but he could feel them looking in their direction. Most people avoided sitting next to them until there were no chairs left and they were forced to. Alex finally looked up and right into the eyes of Jamie Ryder's mother. Oh fuck, can this get any worse? A small gasp left her mouth as she recognized Alex. Alex remained expressionless as he watched her grab onto a young man's arm. Alex suspected it was probably her youngest son. She took a seat and was hidden from view by the casket. Alex was grateful she couldn't see him anymore.

Alex looked back down to his sleeve and fiddled with his buttons again. He didn't want to face the accusing eyes of the people of this town.

Finally the pastor started his sermon. Alex seriously thought the pastor was going to point at him and Fox and yell, 'THEY KILLED MICHAEL! IT'S ALL THEIR FAULT!' That didn't happen. The words that were said were very nice. One of Michael's nieces got up to sing a song. During that time, Alex looked over at Fox, who had tears streaming down his face. Sam had her arm around him and was rubbing his shoulder. Alex wanted to reach over and take Fox's hand, but under the circumstances, he didn't think it was such a good idea. How sad was this? How fucked up was this situation? He couldn't even comfort his lover, the man he hoped to be with for the rest of his life.

The young woman finished singing and they all stood. A prayer was said as the coffin was lowered into the ground. It was only then that Alex actually saw the people glaring at them. He shifted his stance and looked down at his hands again. He could see Fox still sobbing out of the corner of his eye.

Michael's mother placed a rose on the coffin as it descended to its final resting place and then the service was over. Fox walked up to the edge of the green carpeted hole and looked down into the grave. He brought something out of his pocket. It looked like a Boy Scout patch. Fox drew in a deep breath then let it out in a sigh. Tears were still running down his face.

"Goodbye, my friend," Alex heard Fox whisper. "I always loved you, Mike." Fox kissed the small patch of fabric and tossed it in the grave.

Alex felt as if he had been stabbed in the heart. It wasn't supposed to be like this! They were all supposed to live happily ever after! How was he supposed to now compete with Mike's ghost?

Fox looked up at Alex and gave him a weak smile, but he could see in Fox's eyes that he wasn't looking at him; it was more like he was looking through him. Alex reached out and squeezed Fox's arm anyway. Fox turned and Sam linked her arm through his, and then they started to walk toward the car.

On the way, they encountered Mrs. Lindsey. Alex hoped they would go around her and be on their way, but Fox decided to speak to her.

Mrs. Lindsey, I'm...I'm sorry," Fox said.

She glared at Fox but reached out to give him a brief hug just the same. "Thank you, Fox," she replied curtly then turned away.

Alex felt another pang of guilt run through him. Suddenly, Darryl came up to them.

"You've got a lot of nerve coming here, Fox," he seethed. "Coming here with your little boy toy. Jamie's parents are here, for Christ sakes. Don't you have any respect, any common decency?"

Mrs. Lindsey grabbed Darryl's arm. "Darryl, that's enough."

"No, it's not, Mom If it wasn't for him, Mike would still be alive. I'd still have a little brother. He killed Michael, he and this...this murdering son of a bitch. They have no respect for human life. They have no respect for Michael. And this little...jerk has no respect for Jamie."

"Oh, and I suppose you do, Darryl?" Fox surprised everyone with this statement.

"Excuse me?" Darryl sneered.

"You know, you talk about Mike like you loved him or something, when you hated him. What was that you said to him when he came out? 'I have no brother.' I was there, remember?"

"Yeah, when he came to tell me that you turned him gay."

Fox snorted, "That is the stupidest thing I've ever heard, even from you." He ran his hand through his hair. "You know, he went to you because he was confused. He needed guidance; he needed his big brother to tell him what he was feeling was okay. The day he came out was supposed to be an enlightening experience. He wanted to get everything out in the open and lift the weight from his shoulders. He didn't want to live a lie. But you just pushed him away. You wouldn't let your kids see him, even though he loved those kids. He always wanted a family, and you took his one chance away from him."

"It's my fault? I see. I'm the bad guy here. I'm the bad guy, yet you're the best friend who ended up fucking his lover's murderer. You killed him, Fox. You broke his heart with your sick and twisted little fuck toy here. And you know what, you have to live with it!" Darryl turned and stomped off in the direction of his car with his wife and daughter in tow.

Fox stood there, his face red, tears still streaming down his face, but these tears were from anger. Alex came up beside him and took his hand in his own. He didn't know what to say. They just stood there for a long time until Fox was able to walk to the car. The ride home was tense to say the least.

Jason was waiting for them when they got back to the house. He had cleared up the problem sooner than expected, and he knew Sam needed him right now. When he saw their faces, however, he made a motion to Sam and went upstairs to their room, speculating they would want to talk.

"Fox," Sam said quietly. "There's just one thing I want to say to you. It was not your fault that Mike killed himself. I loved him too, but he was a weak man. He always has been. He ran away from here because he was scared of loving you all those years ago, and eventually he found Jamie, who took care of him. When Jamie died, he didn't know how to function on his own, and it was easier for him to blame everyone, rightly or wrongly. He took the easy out by killing himself rather than dealing with it, and much as I hate to say it, I think he intended to hurt you by doing it. He knew how you'd feel, and he meant to hurt both of you by driving you apart. Don't let that happen." She kissed both of them on the forehead and went upstairs to Jason, letting him hold her as she cried out her own sorrow and pain.

Her statement fell on Fox with great importance. She was right, he knew she was right. He shouldn't blame himself for Mike's death. Mike always took everything to heart and got stressed out over the smallest problems. Like the archery patch. Mike hadn't been able to do it. He'd started shaking when it came time to do the test, which had thrown his aim off. He'd wanted that patch so bad... and now he has it.

Fox started to cry again; he was so sick of crying, so sick of this grief and pain. He didn't know how to make it stop. He didn't know how to live his life as his own without having everyone hate him. There was only one thing to do. He would have to leave. He felt Alex's arms come around him, and he fell into his embrace as the thought of leaving his home weighed upon his shoulders.

How could he leave his home? His parents had bought this home forty years ago; he'd grown up in this house. He'd never lived anywhere else. His emotions overcoming him, Fox sank to the floor and clung to Alex's legs for dear life. He let out a large, shuddering sigh. "I...I have to leave my home." A sob left Fox's mouth. "I can't live here anymore."

Alex could only caress Fox's hair as he had a death-grip on his legs. He waited until Fox had calmed down somewhat before he spoke. "I have a condo in Boston that my grandfather left me. We could live there."

"I don't want to leave."

"I know, baby, but maybe it's for the best?"

Fox dried his eyes on the leg of Alex's pants, his arms still wrapped around him. His face was digging into Alex's hip. Suddenly, his fingers were kneading Alex's ass, and his chin was nuzzling his groin. Soon, he was starting to undo Alex's pants.

"What are you doing?"

"I need you, Alex. I need you to show me you aren't going to make me go through this all alone."

"I'm not going to make you go through this all alone. We're in this together."

"I want you, Alex."

"No, Fox...no." He reached down and removed his now open pants from Fox's grasp.

"Don't you love me?"

"Of course I love you."

"Then fuck me, Alex!"

Alex got down so he was on the same level as Fox. "No. I'm not going to fuck for fuck's sake again. That wasn't lovemaking, that wasn't tender, that wasn't the way it was supposed to be." He paused. "I'm not fucking you anymore. I'm making love to you."

Fox felt hurt. How could Alex reject him like this?

"Please, Fox. Can't you see that we're just hurting each other this way? Can't you see that this mindless fucking doesn't mean anything? I want every time to mean something. You're just doing this to cover up bad feelings. You're using sex as a way of escape."

Alex took Fox's hands in his own; he hadn't said how he felt very many times before, but letting it out felt good. "Please, Fox, tell me what you're feeling. We have to talk to each other."

Fox winced, but he knew Alex was right. He had to stop this, had to be honest with Alex. "I want you to love me, but I'm afraid I'll lose you. Everyone I love leaves me," he said painfully. "My parents died and left me alone. Mike was my best friend and lover, and I thought we'd be together forever, and then one day he told me he was moving away. He never even asked if I'd go with him. Even Sam moved on, not that I blame her," he added hastily. "She grew up and had to go live her life, and I never begrudged her that, but I was alone again." He shrugged sadly. "And now Mike's really gone forever. I guess I kept pushing you away so I wouldn't have to wait every day expecting you to realize what I was and go."

Alex wrapped his arms around Fox. "What is it going to take to make you believe that I love you?" he demanded in frustration. "I don't ever want to lose you, but I never know what you want."

"You."

"What?"

"I want you. Just you. Nothing more. I want to love you and you to love me."

Alex groaned. "Why do we keep going around in circles and ending up right back where we started from? If one of us isn't freaking out, the other is. Okay, let's try this one more time. To paraphrase a very wise and beautiful man, I, Alex Krycek, love you, Fox Mulder."

Mulder managed a faint grin at the repetition of his own words to Alex not that long ago. "Okay, I think it's sinking through my thick skull. I promise not to push you away anymore." Then he sighed. "Or at least I'll try my best."

"That's all I can ask of you," Alex replied, pressing a tender kiss on his lips.

Alex and Fox held each other silently for long minutes before Alex spoke. "Are we okay?"

"We're going to be," Fox said. He sighed sadly. "Sam was right, although I always refused to see it. I won't lose you to Mike's manipulations. God, I wish I could have helped him though."

"So do I, babe, so do I. I'm sorry you had to lose a friend over me."

Fox shook his head. "It wasn't your fault, and it wasn't mine. Mike made his choice, and now we have to get on with our lives." He nuzzled into Alex's throat. "I do love you, you know."

"I know. I love you too." Both men smiled, albeit shakily, and Fox built up a fire, and they fell asleep in front of it.

Alex woke to the morning light streaming in the living room window. He tried to roll over but realized that he was half sitting, half lying on the couch. Fox's head was in his lap. He smiled as he looked down at his still sleeping lover. Last night was a breakthrough. They had confronted their feelings together, and the world had not ended. Somehow he knew they were going to be okay. He stroked Fox's soft hair and watched as he started to stir. Soon, Fox's hazel eyes blinked open and looked up at him.

"Hey," Alex said then bent down and kissed him on the forehead.

"Hey."

"You okay?"

"Yeah."

Just then Sam came downstairs. When she saw the two men together on the couch, a big smile appeared on her face, and she swooped down and hugged them. "I love both of you."

Fox groaned, "I can hear the violins now. Do you mind not squishing me?"

"Awww, big brother, you take the fun out of everything." She released them then stood up. "Jason and I have to go. I'm due back at work soon."

"I think that's my cue to make breakfast," Alex said. He kissed Fox on the mouth and went into the kitchen to make them all pancakes.

After Sam and Jason left, Alex and Fox snuggled down in the living room again. They spent the day on the couch watching television, grateful for the silence that enveloped the house. For a week there had been way too many people living in this home together. Dinnertime came and Alex made some pasta, but then they went back to watching TV again, curled around each other on the couch. It was as if they had suffered from sensory overload, and now they needed something mindless to do.

After about an hour, Alex excused himself and went upstairs, Fox remained on the couch watching TV. Soon, Alex was back. "Everything okay, babe?" he asked, not turning his head from the flickering in the corner.

"Everything's great, lover."

Fox smirked, Alex never called him lover unless... His thoughts were cut off as a piece of smooth material covered his eyes. "Alex, what are you doing?"

Fox heard a chuckle and then, "That's for me to know and you to find out."

Fox was pulled up to his feet, and he tried to reach out to the man in front of him.

"Uh-uh! You can't touch until I say so. Come with me."

"That's not fair."

"Trust me, Fox."

Fox sniggered; whatever Alex had in store for him was sure to be good. He was led up the stairs and to their bedroom. He couldn't see any light at all from the edges of the blindfold.

Suddenly, hands were on him, caressing him, removing his clothing. His shirt was pulled over his head and Alex's tongue was lapping at his nipples in an instant. He then began to suck on one, making it harder and harder. Fox let out a gasp as Alex bit down and sucked, marking him, making his cock twitch. Then Alex's mouth moved down his chest and slowly licked a trail to his navel. Alex lingered there for a few moments nuzzling the hairs on his belly.

Fox was sweating with anticipation. It had been so long since they had actually made love without having to keep quiet due to other people in the house or fucking for no other purpose than to fuck. Thumbs hooked into the waistband of his sweats. They and his underwear were brought off in one motion. Now he was naked. Alex's mouth was kissing down his leg, but then it was gone.

"Turn around," came the soft command. Fox obliged and turned. "Get on the bed and lie on your back."

Fox lay down on the bed, feeling that the sheets had been turned back and a single pillow was on it. He placed his head on the pillow and folded his hands on his chest, but Alex moved his arms down to his sides instead. He could feel the mattress dip as Alex sat beside him.

The smell of almonds and vanilla came to him just as the warm oil hit his chest. Alex straddled him and Fox could feel that his partner was hard. This set his own cock in motion again and he let out a moan. Talented fingers started massaging him, moving the oil around, caressing every inch of the front of his body. Alex's mouth preceded the oil, kissing, nipping at the skin then soothing with his touch.

Fox moaned, he could feel the love radiating from Alex with every movement of his fingers. Alex's hands wandered down to his legs, massaging the strong muscles down to his feet. Fox noticed that his cock was being avoided and ached for Alex to touch it.

"Don't worry, baby, I'm going to make you feel so good," Alex said as if reading his mind.

Fox only offered a moan of contentment that sounded more like a purr as he was rolled over onto his stomach. He positioned himself so the weight of his body pleasantly pressed down upon his cock and balls.

Not being able to see made Alex's motions even more erotic. Fox may not have been able to see him, but he could smell the oil and smell his lover and hear him breathe. He could also feel Alex's hard cock rest against his body. His fingers worked like magic, the strokes providing just enough pressure to soothe as well as arouse.

Fox's back was being massaged now, Alex's strong hands digging into the muscles. His hands went lower, down to Fox's waist where they spent a long time caressing and teasing the small of his back. Alex knew this was an erogenous zone for Fox and made sure he was plenty frustrated before he moved on.

Fox was so hard. Every stroke of Alex's hands brushed his cock against the rough sheets and his smooth belly, leaving him aching and wanting more. He was fighting the urge to just fuck the sheets and be done with it, but the rational side of him told him that he would be rewarded soon enough.

"I need you, Alex."

"I need you too, baby," came the husky reply to his ear. "Just a little bit more."

Fox let out a whimper but lay still just the same. Alex's slick fingers were now kneading his ass, his thumbs moving down on either side of his crack. Lower and lower his thumbs went until they were at his opening. Fox spread his legs and readjusted himself so that his cock poked down, hoping for some contact.

Alex's thumb dug in and around his anus, spreading the oil around before it went inside, making the hole wider. His other thumb soon joined the first, stretching it wider, searching for and finding that special spot in Fox's ass.

Fox jumped at the first caress of his prostate, and Alex did it again and again. Fox was biting his lip to keep from coming and was making a whimpering sound signaling he was close.

"I've got what you want, Fox."

"Give it to me, Alex...I want you...I need you."

Fox felt Alex's cock press up against him. "I need you too, baby."

Slowly, Fox was filled, and his hands grabbed the sheets before him. He still had the blindfold on and couldn't see his lover. He brought his knees under him and pushed his ass back into Alex's groin. After a few tentative strokes, Alex was thrusting into him with power, making the bed shake and bump against the wall.

"God, I love you, Fox. I love you so much," Alex panted.

"I love you too, Alex," Fox whimpered. Suddenly, he was flipped over onto his back, and his legs were raised, and Alex was leaning over and kissing him. The blindfold came off, and he stared into dilated pupils lit by candlelight.

"Tell me again...tell me..." Alex reared up and moaned; his climax was coming soon. He wrapped his hand around Fox's cock and started pumping counter to his thrusts.

"I love you, Alex...oh God...." Fox groaned and gasped as he came, spattering both men with his semen.

Alex let out another moan and then stiffened. He thrust a few more times then collapsed forward onto Fox's chest. Both men lay there, breathing heavily, unable to do much more.

A few minutes later, Alex looked up into Fox's eyes and caressed the side of his face. "I love you, too," he whispered and kissed his partner for a long time. He then disengaged himself from Fox and cleaned them up before he returned to the bed, candlelight bathing his body in a warm glow of soft yellow light.

The men snuggled together, endorphins running through their veins. Alex was right, making love is different. It's special. He kissed Alex on the mouth and snuggled down into his chest. They stayed like that for a long time.

"I guess we have to start packing," Fox said as he propped his head on his hands and looked up at his lover.

"Are you sure you want to go?" Alex caressed his hair.

Fox shook his head. "We can't stay here. We can't be prisoners in our own home." He sighed. "At first I was reluctant to go even though I knew that we'd never be accepted. I thought of it as running away from our problems. But now, we've tried to face our problems head on, and we're not getting anywhere. It's... counterproductive to stay here."

"I agree. As much as I want to stay here in this lovely house, I can't watch you go through any more pain."

Fox caressed the side of Alex's face and kissed him. "Thank you. Thank you for being there."

"Where else would I be?" Alex grabbed him in a tight embrace.

Fox didn't answer him; instead he shut his eyes and hugged Alex back. Leaving his boyhood home would be hard, but moving to a new city would give them the chance to start over. He kissed the chest beneath him. Not many people got a second chance at life, but he did and for that he was grateful.

END 

I've become impossible 
holding on to when 
when everything seemed to matter more 
the two of us 
all used and beaten up 
watching fate as it flows down the path we have chose

you and me 
we're in this together now 
none of them can stop us now 
we will make it through somehow 
you and me 
if the world should break in two 
until the very end of me 
until the very end of you

- "We're in this Together" - Nine Inch Nails

Back to Orithain's page    Back to The X-Files fiction page

  Back to the Fiction page

Tell me about any broken links

 & Nicole S.

Home