A Hard Rain's Going To Fall
by Ursula

Notes: Mostly for Arsenic's birthday. She asked for stories from the April Rent Boy Challenge. (And I owe her the effort for, 'From This Nettle, We Pluck This Flower', probably my favorite Skinner/Krycek Tunguska story.)

Time Frame: After Scully's return and before Anasazi.

Thank you to the perfect beta, Karen S.

 

Skinner sighed as he watched Mulder pretend to look out the window. It was a long flight and Mulder's silence was hard to endure. He had worked through the first part of the trip, but he was tired and disgusted, not wanting to read another report from a moronic agent or draft another piece of diplomatic bullshit to the director.

Skinner had really regarded the conference as a bit of a vacation, an opportunity to do more with Mulder than fall into bed with him when they weren't working or argue when they were. Maybe neither of them was the other's first choice, but he thought they were good together anyway. Mulder, however, had been unremittingly gloomy from the moment they had boarded the plane. He had spent every moment while they waited for their flight, chatting with Scully on his mobile phone. Now he had gone silent, shadows across those hazel eyes. Mulder sighed and shook his head, some silent commentary on his thoughts.

Skinner didn't need to guess about whom Mulder was thinking. Many nights Skinner lay awake, thinking about every thing he could have done differently. He could have refused to assign Krycek to the case or dissuaded Mulder from his role in the investigation. He certainly could have prevented Krycek from working on any other cases with Mulder.

Right, Walter, he told his deluded mind. And what about inviting young Agent Krycek to his apartment? What about drinking a little too much and reaching over to loosen Alex Krycek's red striped tie? And then kissing those heart-shaped lips, his heart pounding like a teenage Romeo as he set about seducing his first male lover since he had married Sharon.

Walter shifted in the airline seat; glanced at Mulder who seemed lost in some grim world of his own. Walter let his thoughts drift. He remembered how good Krycek tasted...the sweet honey of his mouth, the salty riches of his flesh...Those few days they had spent as lovers he had never lived so sensually; had never felt so alive.

Walter had managed to persuade himself that Krycek wanted him too. He remembered standing, holding out his hand for Krycek to take. And Alex hadn't hesitated. Walter had kissed those lips again, finished peeling the ill-fitting suit away from the long, lean body. He had been aglow with lust and with pride. Yeah, pride...Sharon didn't want him, but this beautiful young man did.

They had paused in the doorway of Walter's bedroom; Alex had leaned back, smiling. His body was a bow; a white elegant arch and his heavy cock had been the arrow, strung tight for Walter's pleasure.

Walter clenched his fists. It couldn't all have been lies. Damn it, the man would have to be the greatest actor in the world to fake every emotion, to mimic the passion that he had shown. Walter shifted restlessly. Maybe if he hadn't panicked a week later...telling Krycek it was over, that he couldn't take the risk of an affair with a subordinate, a male subordinate at that. He remembered the look in Krycek's eyes as if something was dying inside him.

Still, it hadn't stopped Krycek from seducing Mulder, or was it the other way around?

You could say this for them, a pair of fools who had fallen for the oldest trick in the book...they didn't think to be terrified for their careers until Scully left the hospital.

Walter remembered clearly that he had meant nothing by his offer to drive Mulder home. The man was exhausted. Mulder had hardly slept since the night that Duane Barry took his partner.

Walter had walked Mulder to his door then decided to make sure the agent slept. He had been nagging, acting a tough, tender role that fit so comfortably that he was hardly aware it was an act. He had bullied Mulder into the shower and walked into the bedroom to turn down the sheets. And stopped. The bed had accumulated a layer of materials that hadn't grown in a week or even in a month.

Mulder had walked in behind him and said, "I haven't slept there since he left. I don't think I could ever sleep there again. How could I have been so stupid? I thought he loved me...damn it, Walter...I thought you were crazy for breaking it off with him, but I was happy. I felt like I had taken something, but I was a fool."

Walter recalled feeling a sinking sensation, the first terrified realization of the damage he had invited by his weakness. Mulder shook his head and said, "He didn't tell me. I followed him after work one day."

Pissed, Walter had asked, "You did what?"

Mulder had offered a sheepish flicker of a smile, "Well, yeah, you heard me. One day, Alex couldn't keep his eyes off of me, and the next, it was as if I wasn't on the same planet. And I was just about to make my move. I just wanted to know who the competition was...so I followed him."

Walter had remarked, "Mulder, you're a stalker!" The conversation went from there and ended back at Walter's apartment and they had comforted each other. Comforted each other two or three times a week when Mulder wasn't in the field or when their office spats didn't sour the thing until one or the other was too hungry to be pissed any more. They were waiting for the blackmail to start. It never had...

Walter startled at the sudden touch. He looked at Mulder who muttered, "Hey, Walter, sorry I've been such a shit. I had one of those dreams last night. Didn't sleep after I woke up. I called Scully to make sure she was all right. She chewed me up one side and down the other."

Walter said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry I ordered you to attend this. I just thought you needed a break. I shouldn't make decisions for you."

Mulder grinned and said, "Nah, it was a good call. But I'm still going to make you pay, Walter."

The devil of humor reborn in those hazel eyes thrilled Walter. Maybe this was going to be one of his better impulses after all.

Walter and Mulder both were on a cult panel the first day of the conference. Mulder and he drifted through the rest of that day, bored and not especially interested in the other presentations. As for the social event planned for the evening, Mulder folded the brochure into a paper airplane and sailed it into the trashcan. He slouched back on the bed and said, drooping heavy lidded eyes, "Walter, I want to play."

Walter felt a twitch in his trousers. Not quite as sexy as Alex had said it, but it was good. It worked. He reached to rip off his tie and Mulder said, "No, Walter, I want to play a special game."

Disappointed, Walter said, "What do you want?"

Mulder said throatily, "You ever wonder what it would have been like if we had both moved on him?"

There was no need for Mulder to explain. It was sick and twisted, given the way they were supposed to feel about Krycek. That didn't stop Walter's nervous system from sending an electric charge down his spine and straight to his cock.

Mulder asked, "Hey, Walter, is there one of your clubs around here?"

Walter thought about it and said, "Next town over. What did you have in mind?"

Mulder smiled, a totally depraved, lust driven expression. He said, "Call them. You'll figure it out."

Walter leaned against the wall. As Mulder cupped the phone to his ear he did a slow strip tease. "Yeah, that's right. It's for a three way. Now this is what I need, exactly, it has to be exact. He has to be tall six feet or over. He should be lean, but not scrawny. He should be conditioned, broad shoulders, good ass, a really fine ass. His eyes have to be green and I like long lashes, not fake ones though. I need dark hair and the face should be something special. Little snub nose, prominent cheekbones, sweet mouth, lower lip full and nice heart shape on the upper. No, I'm not kidding. My friend says you pride yourself on supplying any fantasy. So prove it." Mulder grinned and said, "Yeah, tomorrow will be fine."

Mulder finished stripping and said, "Get over here, Walter. I'm hot..."

Walter thought it was insane, but...Mulder said, "Yeah, holding him between us. My cock down his throat. Your cock in his ass. Make him scream. You know the way he would breath after he came; deep breaths almost as if he was going to cry and his eyes would be so big. I used to kiss him and look into his face. I never wanted to stop. Never had enough."

Walter said, "Shut up, Mulder. Just shut up."

When they called Teddy back the next day, the Madame said, "I am the best.

You're set for tonight. Oh, but you are so going to owe me, Mr. W."

Walter said, "Don't worry about that. I have a rich friend."

Mulder hurriedly stuffed his suits in the bags and jammed his other clothing in the small suitcase he had packed. He watched Walter carefully folding his tee shirts into his suitcase for all of two minutes. He then grabbed two handfuls of clothing stuffed in Walter's bags and said, "There! All packed."

Walter took a deep breath and said, "Mulder, if I wasn't still in a post coital glow from last night..."

Wisely changing the subject, Mulder muttered, "Tacoma? Isn't that an Indian word for place of industrial waste?"

Walter said, "Mulder, do you want to do this or complain about where the house is located?"

Mulder snickered and commented, "I'm not sure now. What if the Madame supplies a paragon in plaid, singing, "I'm a lumberjack and I'm all right?"

Walter said, "Then we sing the chorus with him before we go to bed."

Mulder laughed. He was in good humor, aglow, thrilled by the chance of fulfilling his fantasy. Walter reached over patting the lean muscles of his lover. Second choice for both of them or not, he and Mulder were good together when they weren't arguing...when they didn't end up half fighting because neither was entirely comfortable taking a passive role in fucking. Well, hell, the semi combat of their love life added spice.

Mulder snickered as they drove through the waterfront town. The blue semicircle of the Tacoma dome looked like a painted breast, missing its double. "Gawd, this is Hicksville," he remarked.

Walter couldn't disagree, but one of his favorite books was Murray Morgan's "Skid Row" and he couldn't help trying to imagine the town in its rowdy, turn of the century days. Seattle was a prima donna. Tacoma was an old whore, now dowdy and married, dwelling in regrets of wilder days.

Walter said, "True, but this is where the local club is located and we need discretion."

Mulder's desire for a closer look at the atrocities of architecture had taken them off route. Walter drove up hill and down hill, ending on a long flat section of road. It was a tough part of town. He gritted his teeth as a cataclysmic series of explosions rattled the windows. Mulder had drawn his gun and was looking wildly around for assailants.

Walter said, "Shit, Mulder, put that away! Teddy warned me about this. We are right in the middle of the Puyallup Indian reservation during fire works season. She said it was going to sound like a heavy fire fight."

Mulder wide-eyed put his gun away and peered out the window. Just then a hillside above the blighted road exploded with dancing lights. Mulder's face lit like a child's and he said, "Hey, look at that! Stop the car, Walter. I want to see."

They stopped, although Walter put a cautious hand on his gun. They weren't the only ones to stop and look. Whole families emerged and sat on porches. A woman walking a pack of dogs stopped to take a gander at the display. Tough looking teenagers in gang gear shrieked and pointed, forgetting for a moment that everything bored them. The display ended in a few moments; the two of them reclaimed their car quickly before the various posses, could do more then start to circle their prey.

Walter headed back till he saw a freeway sign and took I-5 toward the city. This time he took the correct exit and found the main street, which led to the huge Victorian house that housed the night's entertainment. The tarmac of the street was partially worn away, revealing a hint of cobblestones beneath. They rumbled down the rough surface until they found the white painted imitation of an antebellum mansion. Walter would have said that it was indiscreet except for the whole row of houses seemed to have been designed by someone who learned architecture from 'Gone With The Wind'.

Mulder grinned, happier then he had been since the green-eyed rat betrayed them all. Mulder said, "Oh, Rhett, Tara's not burnt after all..."

Walter parked and pointed at the bed and breakfast sign. He said, "Perfect cover and they're always booked up when someone who's not on the list calls for a reservation."

Teddy, the local Madame, had a sense of humor. Her staff wore crinolines, both male and female and the rustle of taffeta was almost deafening. The room, of course, was decorated in the finest Scarlet O'Hara style. Mulder bounced on the four-poster bed and then checked on the posts, which were already outfitted with leather rigging for bondage play. He said, "Damn Walter, you sure know how to treat a guy. Now if they just found what I ordered, I could die a happy man."

Walter grimaced. If he hadn't promised Mulder that this was his fantasy, he would have balked when he heard Mulder describe what he wanted, green eyes, and dark hair, tall, slim, and pretty. It took Teddy all of yesterday to find a player who matched. She said that the man was not a regular, but was being auditioned for a place in another stable. They had shipped him down with a bonus and told Teddy to have her customers critique the performance. Walter expected that the man would be trying hard to please. A place in the ring-clubs would guarantee a good income, safe customers, and even possible rise to management. Hell, Walter had once had the privilege of a performance by Teddy herself just before she retired to administration.

Mulder undressed rapidly. His imagination must have started at the show because he was already starting to fill and rise. Walter poured a drink and stood sipping it as he waited for the knock that would signal the arrival of the night's entertainment. Mulder asked, "Do I have time to shower?"

Walter checked his watch and said, "Sure, if you hurry."

Walter admitted that he was looking forward to this too, even if he was trying hard not to imagine a face that would match the details that Mulder supplied. He answered the knock promptly and saw a black leather clad figure. Just then one of the attendants dropped a tray with a loud clang. The man jumped and looked in the direction of the sound, which gave Walter just the time needed to pull the man inside.

"Hey, take it ea..." The husky voice broke in mid word and a moment later was replaced by a half audible exclamation of "Shhhitt!"

Mulder who had stepped out of the bathroom, exclaimed, "Krycek!" as he realized what had happened. Walter managed to get in one punch before Mulder joined him, clouting the man's head and kneeing him in the groin. Walter had kicked the door shut behind him so the soundproofing surely kept the man's guttural cries from escaping the room.

Without a word, both men had the same thought and put it into practice. They stripped away the tight leather clothing. Mulder sat on the writhing naked body until Walter managed to fasten the padded cuffs to the flailing wrists and ankles. Walter grabbed a handful of hair, momentarily thrilling at the softness and forced the man's face up. He spat into the green eyes, watching as the long lashes fluttered and then the eyes tightly closed. Tears of pain and fright escaped beneath and that soft pink mouth was trembling.

Mulder showed no inclination to dismount. He looked sexy as hell, naked and ruddy from both arousal and the struggle. Walter licked his lips, aware that he was hard, stone hard, painfully erect and that he had no interest in bringing Krycek any place for questioning until he and Mulder got what they had paid for.

Walter's professional side did surface long enough to make him search through the clothing. No gun...that surprised him although he did find that the biker's boots concealed a thin, sharp hide away knife and that a garrote cord masqueraded as a one of the jacket's decorations. Krycek's wallet was a cheap, worn leather thing. He had driver's license endorsed for motorcycles and about a hundred dollars in small bills. Walter snickered as he found a current blood donor's card made out to Desmond Connor.

"Well, Desmond, you want to explain what you were doing here before I gut you with your own knife." Walter asked, playing with the thin blade.

"Fuck..." The 'you', that followed, turned into a grunt of pain as Mulder dragged Krycek's head further back than it should have gone without tearing a few muscles.

Mulder dreamily said, "Nice long hair, Krycek. Feels good and sooo convenient."

Walter took the blade and delicately traced a line up and down the soft flesh of Krycek's helplessly spread thighs. "Your boss is looking for you." Walter remarked. "It seems that the FBI wasn't the only employer you left without notice. I don't think that the old man is looking for you to give you severance pay, my darling. So what happened, Krycek? After you helped him kidnap Scully, why aren't you the golden boy?"

Krycek rolled his face into the mattress. Walter clenched his jaw. He felt that incipient burn in his gut. God damn it, he would not feel anything. He couldn't.

Krycek gasped as Mulder moved to press down on his spine with a knee. He struggled for breath and said in a thin voice, "You got her back. You got her back alive...you got what you wanted. Who do you think made that happen? You really think the smoking man relented? You asshole..." Then a feeble bare whisper, "You only ever loved her. You fucked me and you loved her."

Mulder's face drained and he scrambled away, the sadistic grin fading from his face. He said, "You're a lying scumbag, Krycek. You had nothing to do with Scully's return."

Walter's hand trembled on the knife. Something he remembered made him believe it. A few days after Scully was returned, the smoking man had paid him a visit. He asked if Walter had seen Krycek. When he asked Spender what made him think that he had heard from the rogue agent, the smoke-harsh voice had said, "Krycek's a piece of work. I sent him in to get a collar on you, but he told me that you didn't buy it. I can still hear that catamite's voice saying, 'Skinner's a man of honor. He wouldn't screw a subordinate'." Spender had crumpled a cigarette in Walter's half eaten breakfast. He said, "so when the disobedient boy wonder ran, I thought he might have come to you for help."

Walter had just barely contained his shock. He had assumed that Krycek had turned in color pictures, home videos, and a narration sung in four-part harmony to the man who had made Walter's life hell. Walter had covered his surprise with a laugh and said, "One thing that reassures me...you people can't seem to keep your information accurate. What made you think that I would fall for Krycek?"

Spender said, "Alan White...your very dear companion right after you returned state side. Remember him? Tall, green eyed, pretty, and so very, very sweet? And you were so broken up by his suicide that you promptly married the first woman that would have you."

Which was all true and Walter realized at the same time that for some reason Krycek had not betrayed him in that particular detail. It made him almost ill to understand that their affair had meant something to the boy.

Walter ran his hand gently over Krycek's trembling back. "So what did you do, Krycek? How did you set it up?"

Krycek's voice sounded faded and distant, a dying resonance in the room. He said, "No one watches them closely when they are terminal. There's a camera in the ward, but it's only for the scientists. They always want to see how long it takes...if anything's different once they're exposed. Looking for a way to protect us from the cancer. No one was watching me either by then. They thought I had learned my lesson. It was easy. Just pick her up. She didn't weigh anything at all. Funny, I never realized how little she was until then. Anyway, I just wrote in the chart that subject FAC100_DS expired and the time. Put her in the trunk of the Smoker's car." Krycek laughed harshly and said, "He sent me out to get his cigarettes, you see, so I got to drive his car. I left her at the hospital. Ditched his car and just kept right on going. I was afraid that he would figure it out eventually. And I wanted to get away. I just wanted some other life."

Mulder had come back. He turned Krycek's face to him and said, "You'd say anything to save your miserable life."

Krycek jerked his head away and buried it in the sheets. His fists balled until the knuckles were white. He finally said, "Yeah, you're right. I made it up."

Krycek said, "Just get it over with."

Mulder said, his voice thick with self loathing, "Not that quickly, Krycek.

Walter and I paid for the night's entertainment and we are going to have it."

His voice dropped to a low, intimate whisper. "You make a pretty whore,

Krycek. Must come naturally to you, huh?"

Krycek refused to answer, keeping his face hidden. Mulder dragged it up, using another handful of soft hair. "I went through all the trouble of pretending I gave a damn about you. If I knew I just had to take out my wallet..."

Krycek tried to jerk away. His body tensed as he arched, fighting the restraints. He said, "Shut the fuck up, Mulder. You don't know...you don't know what it's like to be on the run. You always have protection. You're the golden boy with the silver spoon. Well, I ran with nothing other than my body to live on. I'm not proud of it, but fuck if I'll let you look down on me because of it."

Krycek flailed, fighting the leather thongs that bound him to the bed. Despite the sturdy frame, the bed shook with Krycek's crazed effort to free his arms and legs. Walter laid his large hand on Krycek's back. He said, "Calm down, boy. Mulder, get off of him. Krycek, we did pay for an evening's entertainment. You provide it and we'll let you walk."

"What?" Mulder squawked.

Walter said, "Think about it. Would you like to explain where or how we found him? Besides, there are no charges against him, Mulder."

Mulder looked stunned. Walter knew that as paranoid as Mulder could be, he still didn't understand how bad this was. Mulder said, "There's my report..."

Walter's laugh was a bitter humorless sound. He said, "It appears that it was misfiled."

"Shit," Mulder said. He looked back at Krycek's naked body and said, "Then all there is left is to collect our pound of flesh."

Krycek's voice was furious. He said, "I'll get your money refunded."

Mulder growled, "No, I think this will be fun. Don't you think this will be fun, Walter?"

As a matter of fact, he didn't. Not rape. Not force. His hand still spread across Alex's naked back. He could feel the tiny quivers of fear and anger that Krycek couldn't disguise. Without thinking, he stroked softly over the smooth flesh. Krycek shuddered and shuddered again. "Don't." Krycek begged.

Walter asked, "Don't what?"

"Make me feel." Alex replied.

Mulder cocked his head, stared at Krycek for a moment uncertainly before saying, "Cut the bull shit, Krycek."

Walter smoothed his hand down the toned back again and again. He watched Alex's hand slowly uncurl from its fist. He whispered, "That's it. Let it go. Let it go, Alex." Alex's face lifted, moved to the side. Those lashes, too heavy to lift now, sodden with tears, quivered against the blade of his cheek. "You're thin. You haven't been eating, Alex."

Alex moved toward him as far as the tethers would reach. Mulder's hand reached out, an aborted gesture. Walter saw Mulder swallow hard, the bob of his Adam's apple as he turned away. Walter said, "Alex, I'm going to untie you now. When you're free, you can leave if you want to go." Walter let that rest a moment in the hush of the room. He let his hand rest on Alex's hip. "I would prefer that you stayed."

Alex's lip quivered and he said, "Aren't so worried about your wife any more?

What's up with you and Mulder? Or was I just too dumb to notice? What was I?

Part of some sick game? A bet? See who could seduce the pretty boy first?"

Walter said, "Alex, Sharon left me again anyway. Somehow I thought you knew that."

Alex quickly rubbed his cheek against the linens, brushing more tears away. His voice, rough with emotion, sounded like it had the second night they had made love, strained to breaking, a sexy rasp of a sound. "Mulder didn't tell me."

Walter understood why. Mulder must have been afraid that Walter would want Alex back. Of course, he had, but he wasn't that selfish. He had rejected Alex once and he didn't want to hurt him again. And, less unselfishly, he didn't have the confidence to believe Alex would have come back.

Walter untied one wrist, looked at Mulder who looked away again and then shrugged, untying the hand nearest him. Walter moved to take the tether off at the ankle on his side of the bed. Mulder was mirroring him, but as he freed the leather cuff, a sharp exhalation of air escaped him.

Mulder said, "What the hell did they do to you, Alex? Walter, look at this..."

There was a circular scar, no, a pattern of scars that curved in about the flesh in jagged intervals. Mulder still held the mutilated ankle. His long fingers traced the scars as if not believing what he saw or as if trying to heal them with his touch.

Freed, Alex jerked his ankle from Mulder's grip and huddled away from them both. Walter saw the sole of Alex's foot and acid flooded his mouth. He knew that hadn't been there before. He had played with that foot; he had kissed the arch teasingly. Mulder caught Walter's reaction and he asked, "What?"

Walter reached. Alex shook his head and drew tighter into his knot of flesh.

Walter said, "Alex, let Mulder see. He needs to see it too. It was the Smoker; wasn't it?"

Alex nodded, color staining his face. He was ashamed of the marks. Walter held the foot in his lap. He knew burn scars. This was as if someone had tested a palette of methods all on this one piece of flesh. The small round ones were cigarette burns. The larger ones were perhaps from a fireplace poker. The spatula shaped one was probably a cigarette lighter.

Alex said, "People don't usually look at your feet. That's why he put them there. He didn't want to limit my usefulness."

Mulder remarked, "Unless he wanted to pander you to someone with a foot fetish."

Alex reacted with a quick hiss of anger. Mulder held up his hands in a placating gesture "Hey, just trying to lighten the mood."

Krycek said in a weary voice, "Mulder, you were always such an ass. I don't know why I lo...put up with you."

Mulder noticed the word substitution just as Walter did. He said, "Yeah, I heard what you didn't say, Alex."

Walter watched Mulder's face. He knew Mulder was working through the anger and regrets. Mulder reached for Alex's foot again, tracing the scars. Walter was inclined to believe Alex. Alex would have known better then to run again after that punishment.

Walter said, "Mulder, I think he's telling the truth. Cancerman came to see me, asking about him. He thought Alex might have come to me for help. I really think Alex is on the run from them."

Alex nodded and said, "I am."

Mulder looked away and then he let out a shuddering breath, the brittle barrier shattering. He gazed silently at Alex, still holding the scarred foot. Finally, he said, "Yes, I believe."

Alex almost smiled. His eyes met Mulder's for a long moment and then as if there could be no resistance, the one leaned toward the other and their lips met. Mulder's hands came up, claiming territory. His long fingers stroked through Alex's hair. They knelt on the bed, the soft romantic light kissing their bodies. God, they were beautiful. Walter watched them and he really thought about leaving. Should really leave them alone, he thought. He went as far as the edge of the bed. Two hands, not a matched pair, reached for him.

Mulder's mood had segued back. Now, he smiled, one of his goofy what the hell grins. Mulder said, "All for one and one for all." He tugged off Walter's tie and threw it coiling to the floor. Alex hesitated then he reached past Mulder, unbuttoning Walter's shirt. Walter shivered as kisses flew over his body, marked territory as they unveiled it. Two mouths vied for dominance over his flesh until they stopped mid struggle to kiss each other. Walter shrugged away his remaining clothing.

It was all hands and lips; no harmony at first as they touched greedily, devoured each other until they fell in a tangled heap of momentary satiation. Alex lay between the two of them; his eyes open, gazing at something no one else could see. Walter moved that lock of hair aside. For weeks after he had sent Alex away, he still wanted to reach over and push that stubborn thing aside for him. Alex's eyes flickered. A smile, just a small ghost of one, flitted across his lips. He caught Walter's hand, bringing it to his mouth.

Mulder propped himself on one elbow, gazing down at Alex. Tenderly, he traced Alex's face as if he needed to paint it in Braille upon his own heart. "I lied," Mulder said, "I lied about not loving you."

Alex said, "Yeah, I know. You don't lie too well, Mulder. You always look to one side when you do. Ask Walter."

Mulder said, "What did he hurt you for? Why did he do that to you?"

Alex said, "When he told me what he had done...left his cigarettes in that car, I wanted to kill him. He just smirked at me and said that he sent me to seduce Skinner not his...not you. I acted as if I didn't care and asked if I had time to clean my apartment. He said yes. I just grabbed a few things and ran. I had this crazy hope that since I screwed up; I wouldn't be any use to him. I thought he'd let me go." Alex swallowed hard.

Walter said, "How come you didn't tell him, Alex? You did exactly what he said. You succeeded."

Alex replied, "Because I'm an idiot, that's why..."

Walter grinned at that and said, "I don't think so. I think you were in love with me, at least a little."

Alex said, "Maybe. Kind of against the rules, loving both of you."

Mulder snorted and said, "Walter's the only one that plays by the rules and even he plays fast and loose with them."

Walter tried an AD glare, but he was seriously out of uniform for it. He moved closer to Alex, needing to hold him. Needing the warm living glory of him close enough to feel his heart beat. He buried his face in Alex's hair, breathing him in. Alex turned and offered his mouth; lips open slightly. Walter wanted that kiss to never end. He wanted them to share one breath, one pulse. Alex's leg came up to rest on his side. He said urgently, "I need some one inside me. I need it now."

Walter inhaled sharply again and said, "Mulder..."

Mulder's eyes held guilt and pain. He said, "Walter...he might not want me."

Alex said, "There's nothing you could ever do, Mulder, to stop me from wanting you or Walter. It's the one thing that he can't take from me. I won't let him know that I still can love anyone. That's mine. It's mine."

Walter heard more than the words. He shuddered, remembering how the collar had slipped over him, turned into a noose that had him twisting in Spender's hands. And Spender had needed him reasonably intact. Walter wondered where Spender had found Alex Krycek? What would Spender do with someone who wasn't important to his schemes? What had he done to this beautiful, fascinating creature?

Walter wanted Alex's lips. He wanted to kiss him, to move his hand and feel the blood surging, the flesh hot and quivering. Later, he might want more. Right now, he wanted to give pleasure more then he wanted to receive. Or maybe he just wanted to make love to Alex Krycek once more. To taste the sweetness, to feel that strong body enraptured by his touch.

Alex accepted his kiss, grabbed the back of his head to keep it. He opened his mouth, a wordless keen of desire quavering from the lovely mouth. Walter stroked down the hard muscled sides, petted the belly, soft and tender skin shivering over solid strength.

Walter could see the focus on Mulder's face as he prepared Alex. It was pure Mulder; intense, so single minded that his world narrowed to the single idea, sensation, being that held his attention. Alex had closed his eyes; now they fluttered back open, the pupils dilating with reaction. Walter let his hand encase Alex's cock. Alex's hand found Walter's in return, smiling slightly at the involuntary shudder that resulted.

Walter savored the familiar weight, the pulsing heat in his hand. Alex's hips jerked, and pushed forward. Mulder emitted a moan, strange wordless cry as he plundered Alex to the depths. Alex shuddered as his body shook with the force of Mulder's thrusts. It was incredible, overwhelming, seeming as if each man was immersed in the others, one yearning, pleasure dazed entity.

Falling away from each other was pure grief. Walter felt a weight settle on him as if he had been shorn of wings, an eagle plummeted forever to earth. And Alex wept. Sobs shook him silently. Can devils cry? Does Satan weep?

Mulder wrenched from the bed, ran to the bathroom, and slammed the door. Alex's hand had reached for him. Now his left hand outstretched, empty, bereft. Walter hid his face in the pillows, unwilling to deal with this. He thought he could have just another taste. He had sworn to himself that it could not have been that good, not as his imagination whispered to him in regret-filled nights.

Walter felt the bed sag as Alex rolled to his feet. He turned his face and saw Alex reaching for his clothing. Mulder opened the bathroom door, still naked, a lean, golden figure in the soft light of the room. He was tousled, lips still swollen and shining from kisses. Alex grabbed his clothes. He started to dress with shaking hands.

Mulder took a deep breath and asked, "Alex, wait, do you need any money?"

Alex's mouth drew into a slash of white. Red spots caught fire over his cheeks. His voice held an inferno of emotion. "Don't." he said. "Just kill me if you want revenge. Don't take this from me. I know it made you sick to touch me again. To fuck the traitor. Just let me go. This was a mistake."

Mulder seemed to move across the room in an instant. He took the bundle of clothing from Alex's hand. He said, "Don't go. This was never supposed to happen. Couldn't happen in the real word. So let's play, Alex. Let's have this fantasy. Walter and I have two more days. Stay with us. For two days, let's be lovers. Let's have it all, Alex."

Slowly, Alex turned to Walter. His huge glowing eyes asked a question.

Walter nodded and said, "Yes, Alex. We should declare a truce. A time out from all the bullshit life throws at us. I can't promise you forever, Alex. Although there was a time..."

Alex nodded and let Mulder take his clothes. Mulder said, "Alex, Walter, there's a huge whirlpool bath in there. Plenty of room for all of us, just a fun kind of crowded."

Mulder reached forward, tilting Alex's delicate chin upward. His fingertips traced the mouth, invited the corners to curve into a smile. He leaned forward, kissing each eyelid and finally suckling on Alex's mouth. Alex was like a serpent, caught by a charmer's flute. He swayed and followed Mulder as if he always belonged there, one step behind.

Walter shook his head. They were all going to be burnt by it, but it was fire from heaven, an immolation of ecstasy. He was older and wiser, but damned if he would forego this, not even for the ashes of tomorrow.

In the morning, the sky seemed to have fallen right down to earth. The air was heavy with rain, a wind blowing gusts like sea spray with a force to penetrate to their skin. Alex paused for a minute in the rain, looking as if he was part of it with those changing eyes. His face was soft and open as he gazed skyward.

Walter waited outside, water running in rivulets from his nearly hairless head. He shivered as it ran down his collar. Mulder sat in the car, brooding upon the vision until with a deliberate grin he honked the horn loudly. Alex startled and said, "Sorry, I was thinking about something someone used to say. Just that cliché about a rain like this. That everything seems new again. I wish it was true."

Mulder said, "We have a pact, Alex. No brooding. No regrets."

Alex smiled and slid into the middle of the front seat. He said, "Sorry. I'll remember."

As swiftly as the rain started, it stage exited. Sun danced in sky for a moment, twin rainbows a breath taking vision in the sky. It was just as they were leaving the small restaurant after breakfast. All three of them stopped to stare. As if in some secret harmony, first Alex and then Mulder leaned back against him. Walter didn't care if people stared and then looked away. Right now he had that transitory beauty above; Earth smelling raw and sweet from the rain; the weight of two loves warming him. If it could just stop...right here and now.

The sun asserted itself and in it's harsher power, the colors faded and the celestial vision was gone. Alex drew a deep breath and turned. Mulder's eyes sought his and then Walter's. The rainbow wasn't gone. It was in those eyes, those oddly similar eyes. Alex's sea change green and Mulder's moonstone eyes that changed with every light. Walter shook his head and said, "Next I'm going to be writing romantic poetry." He glanced around and asked, "What shall we do next before we go back to bed?"

Alex shrugged and looked to Mulder who grinned maniacally and said, "I want to go to that place that we passed when we drove in from Seattle."

"The fireworks?" Walter asked incredulously.

"Yeah." Mulder declared, lower lip readying for sulk-missile mode.

Alex said, "Great. One Vietnam veteran with PTSD. One somewhat used spy with shoot now, ask later reflexes, and a bunch of explosives. It's a good idea, Mulder. A very good idea."

It took a while to get used to it. The Indian Mardi Gras was sprawled in the shade of a huge old government building. Mulder gazed up at the almost crumbling structure and asked, "What the hell is that?"

Alex answered, "Used to be a Indian TB hospital. Then the state took it over for a jail for kids. A decade or so back, the Puyallup's took it back in an armed insurrection. It's supposed to be haunted, Mulder. Maybe you can open an X-File on it."

Mulder jumped as a resounding boom sounded from a near-by field. He asked, "How the hell do you know that? Is this like DOT statistics?"

Alex smiled and said, "No, a friend told me. She went in with them. Built Molotov's in the basement and, other than a nasty remark on an obscure FBI file; got clean away with it."

Mulder said, "Sounds like someone you'd have for a friend. Come on. I want to look at this stuff."

Walter had never seen anything exactly like this. Sixty-six plywood stands, painted garishly, sporting outrageously flashy names, housed Indians in every shade of mixture, all loudly hawking their patriotic wares. Cars, vans, and pick up trucks parked in jagged rows on a suffering lawn. Apparently, some of the participants were living on the grounds judging from the welter of small children, dogs, and camping gear scattered about. The hilly grounds swarmed with families, kids, and hordes of raucous teenagers. At intervals, explosions that did cause Walter to be tempted to hit the ground went off. Apparently these were not even legal in this fool's circus. Tribal cops, clad in brown uniforms ran in the direction of the sounds, most often returning empty-handed.

A few other things intruded among the munitions. Indians wandered around selling odd bits of jewelry, mostly things that even Walter knew weren't local. Alex led them to a stand from which emitted hot dog and relish smells. He scorned those however, and instead he purchased delicious smelling slabs of bread, golden brown, steaming from the deep fat fryer, which constantly churned out the treats.

Alex slathered his with butter and strawberry jam, closing his eyes in an expression uncomfortably close to the one he wore when he was about to come. "Oh, this is so good." He purred.

Mulder shrugged and took a bite of his. He said, "Hey, it is good! Beats a tortilla anyway."

Walter added up possible calories and decided what the hell. He bit. It was bread, slightly sweet, but so good in its' airy fat-laden molecules. The jam was homemade too and the butter real. Maybe it was a secret Indian weapon meant to wipe out the white population from excess cholesterol.

Mulder wanted to return after dark. He'd asked about the show they'd seen when they arrived. There was another one tonight. Walter gave in gracefully. A happy Mulder was a sexy Mulder. Alex didn't seem to care. Walter had the impression that Alex would have been content on an iceberg in Antarctica if all three of them were there.

Teddy had arranged a cottage for them...it was her own or partially her own on a time- share agreement. Teddy was all for romance if she could get more than the going rate to be the landlord for it. Walter let Mulder pay for it. Mulder had an allowance to supplement his salary. Walter had only his paycheck and a substantial amount of that went for alimony that he was still too guilt ridden about his failed marriage to fight.

 

Teddy's theatrical tendencies didn't extend to her private life. The cottage had been restored to its later Victorian roots. She had updated the plumbing and the furniture that was not genuinely antique fit in well and was comfortable. No Victorian could have done more than have a guilty dream about the hot tub, which was discreetly screened behind cedar lattice, but Teddy was a hedonist by nature as well as by profession.

They undressed their way to the bedroom. Walter kicked open the door and pulled both of the younger men into the sturdy four- poster bed. Alex fluttered his fan of dark lashes and said, "Oh, sir, I think you mean to have your will with me."

"Damn right," Walter replied. "Lubricant, condom!" he growled like the marine he used to be at Mulder who sprawled with the air of a voyeur about to have the thrill of his life.

"Just lie there." Walter said, arranging Alex like a doll upon the green plush of the spread. Alex's face glistened with a faint sheen of sweat. His mouth opened slightly, white teeth showing slightly. His eyes devoured Walter.

Walter dragged Mulder down and said, "Get to work. Get him ready for me. But don't make him come, Mulder, or there will be hell to pay."

Walter knelt upon the bed, hands firmly on his knees, restraining him from temptation. Mulder leaned down, a Prince Charming about to wake the enchanted beauty. Alex drew Mulder's head closer, eyes glistening as his lips parted for a kiss. Mulder began at Alex's lips, plundered them until both of them were gasping for breath. He paused to look at Walter, hazel eyes teasing. His expression was erotically charged and amused like a naughty satyr about pounce and ravish, but Alex looked very willing to be ravished.

Alex arched his neck as Mulder nibbled and nuzzled his way along the helplessly offered expanse. Walter gripped his knees in an even firmer hold. There was just something about that; the way Alex had of submissively offering his throat like that...it had always given Walter something more. A feeling of power that made it all the more wild and delicious.

Watching Mulder with Alex was a delight. Still Walter came to the end of forbearance. He chose a side to explore the sweet, salty taste of him. Alex arched, gasping as something felt especially good, eyes sometimes fluttered closed then opened to devour the sight of them. Frantically, Alex pulled at Walter's head with the back of his hand. "Kiss me. Kiss me, damn it," he demanded.

Alex's hungry murmur reached Walter's ears like a small orgasm. "I want you. I want to be yours. I want to belong to you."

Mulder's hand slid smoothly along Walter's cock. He had the condom in his mouth and bent low to slide it on. Incredible mouth the man had. Walter had never quite mastered this maneuver although he had once hired a whore to demonstrate it five times in a row. Mulder could have been an X-rated icon for safer sex. Walter felt Mulder's mouth quiver. Mulder was laughing at him. Walter said, "I'll get you later. DON"T MAKE ME COME!"

Mulder sprawled next to Alex, fingertips playing over Alex's quivering flesh. Walter didn't ask if his lover was ready. He was obviously almost too prepared. Walter noticed that Alex was easier to breech. He didn't want to think about why. It didn't matter for now. Later, later, after this idyll, then they would have to sort things out.

Alex's strong legs pressed their eager weight along Walter's back. He felt almost dizzy as he took his lover this way. In the past they had done other things more often. But now, this seemed like some solemn ritual, reclaiming a long lost and precious territory. Nothing like this. Nothing like their bodies united into one flesh. There was a wonder here; that he could crave this so. There was something that drew him back, something that called him to the scent of male flesh, the penetration of bodies as hard muscled and powerful as his own. And there was no mystery to craving Alex...Eros had created him. Spun him from some Attic fragment to evoke ancient delights.

Faster now, losing control, lost in his own pleasure and going to the edge...and over. Wishing he could have just stayed there. Three heartbeats from paradise.

Walter opened his eyes. Mulder's face hovered for a moment and then a kiss...deeper, more heart felt. Not substituting any more for a missing part. But this was hell. It wouldn't last. Alex was the catalyst. They were three lost fragments of one perfect soul. Yet the realist in Walter knew that Alex couldn't stay. Not until all the old men were dead. Not until every dark conspiracy withered in the light of justice.

But for now, he had him. Alex was right here. Walter watched Mulder and Alex make love. Slow and tender in no hurry for completion. No regrets this time.

They spent the rest of the afternoon sleeping in a tangled heap of satiated flesh. Walter woke at Mulder's movement and followed him into the bathroom. Mulder sat on the toilet seat and said, "Walter, I know we're not supposed to talk about this ending, but we have to do something. He can't go on like this...selling himself. It's killing him. And besides, what if he runs into one of the Smoker's people. I have money. I could support him if we could think of some place safe."

Walter turned on the shower; he and Mulder needed one and the sound would cover their conversation. Walter washed Mulder's back, admiring it for the thousandth time. It was long and narrow, graceful like an ionic column in human form. Both Alex and Mulder sometimes made him feel ursine, brutish, but they seemed to like his broader build just fine.

Walter sighed as Mulder returned the favor, kissing his back and lapping a fiery line down his spine as a finale. The solution struck him a moment later. "Thailand..." he said.

"One of my buddies got his discharge papers, but he never went state side. He found himself a beautiful Thai wife and is richer than sin. Runs a curio factory with his hand in every other pot except the one that gave him his start up capital. He was asking me the last time we spoke if I might know a retired agent who would be interested in working as his head of security. Alex could do that and it wouldn't be a place where he was expected. Tony lives so far back in the jungle that the natives still think they have a king."

Mulder nodded and said, "We just have to sell Alex on the idea."

They explained the idea to Alex in the hot tub. He frowned at them, the v-shaped wrinkle that punctuated the ridiculous cuteness of his nose, forming a deeper line. He said, "I don't need to be paid off, Mulder."

Walter rolled his eyes. Proud and stubborn was a description well suited to each of them. However stupid wasn't. He said, "Alex, how long before Spender catches up with you? What would it take to break you? Don't tell me that nothing would. I know about him. I know that's his game and he will do it, Alex. Do this for us. It won't be forever. That man is going to take a fall at some point and then we'll all be free."

Alex sighed and said, "This is a real job? Won't he check my credentials?"

Walter grinned, leaning back against the padded sides of the hot tub. He said, "I'm your last supervisor of record. Who better to vouch for you? And to be honest, Tony has a shady past. His fortune was built on Thai-stick, not on tea plantations as his shiny brochures say."

Alex's eyes crinkled in amusement. "So Walter wasn't always on the straight and narrow?"

Walter moved Alex's hand to his cock, which was defeating the heat with mercurial rising of its own. "That feel straight to you?"

Alex patted it and said, "Hmmm, no, not narrow either." He laughed, a rich rippling sound. Walter had only heard Alex laugh once or twice before. It was well worth hearing over and over.

Mulder said, "Hey, stop playing. It's late. Alex's stomach has been rumbling for an hour and I still want to see the fireworks display."

"Fireworks!" Alex commented. "Huh, some people prefer making their own. But I am hungry."

Walter sighed at that. No doubt. Alex hadn't been eating steadily on the run. Despite what he said to Mulder about not being ashamed, it was obvious that he hadn't "worked" more then it took to keep him in travel money and with the bare necessities. They decided to visit the waterfront, chose a seafood restaurant with a decent menu and a beautiful view. Alex finished his seafood platter long before Walter and Mulder had managed a third of their servings. He occupied himself cadging bites from Mulder and pondering the dessert menu, choosing chocolate covered strawberries and freshly made Loganberry ice cream on the side.

Watching Alex eat a chocolate covered strawberry was an X-rated activity. That sweet innocent appearing mouth suckled on the chocolate, nibbling it away from the red lush fruit. His tongue flickered to catch every crumb of the chocolate. His lips grew slick with the juice of the ripe berries. His eyes closed to concentrate on the taste.

Mulder leaned sharp elbows on the table, unabashedly watching Alex eat. Walter pretended to drink the dry white wine that he had been assured was excellent. Either dry had acquired a new meaning or he was thirsting for something of a wilder vintage then he drank. Alex awoke to their scrutiny...the waitress was also staring raptly. He asked, "What?"

Walter growled, "In some eastern countries, chocolate covered strawberries must be eaten only in the privacy of the harem."

Alex laughed again and said, "I'll keep that in mind the day I acquire a harem."

Mulder replied, "I don't think Walter had you owning a harem in mind, Alex. Do you know any belly dance moves?"

Alex smirked and said, "None that can be danced in public."

Walter dumped money on the table. The waitress was still licking her lips as she watched Alex stretch six foot two of green-eyed male beauty. Walter grabbed two elbows and marched HIS harem out the door.

It wasn't dark yet so they took a walk along the beach. It was a low tide and a thousand tidal pools held microcosms of life. Alex bent over one puddle-sized universe and said, "Alien life...we really don't have to look far to find it." He pointed out one almost transparently shelled fingernail sized crab and said, "Look at this little guy... he's as different from us as any science fiction writer could imagine."

Walter watched Alex gently nudge the tiny creature back to the relative safety of a clump of bulbous-rooted red seaweed. Walter said, "Not you too, Alex. You don't really believe that they're out there?"

Alex stood up and said, "Mulder may have some bizarre ideas, but he's right. Only they're not out there. They're here. If you're going to really take the conspiracy down, you have to understand that."

Walter shook his head. He understood a lot about life and death. He understood betrayal, heroism, and all the shades in between. But he wouldn't believe in aliens until he saw incontrovertible truth with his own eyes.

Alex stood back up, dusting sand off his hands and said, "Okay, Walter, I guess I wouldn't love you if you didn't need to be shown before you believe. And I wouldn't love Mulder if he didn't want to drive to the end of the rainbow to find the pot of gold."

Mulder said, "And you, Alex, you're our middle ground which is why you are going to sit on the sidelines for the rest of this war. I want to think of you in tropical whites, wearing a straw skimmer, and drinking ice tea on some verandah."

"Waiting for my men to come home from the front?" Alex asked, "Don't know that I can do that." He smiled, offered a hand to each man and said, "I'll try though. We'll see what happens."

They strolled along the beach, no one seeming to overtly mind their entwined hands. Above their heads, the eroding clay like heights bore jumbled graffiti, some of it going back to the fifties. Mulder climbed a short way up and added their names to an unscathed place. He added "erastes" after the three names.

Looking up at his work, Mulder said, "I come from a long line of graffiti artists. Why my ancient Trojan ancestor was the first one to write, "Greeks go home:" on the Trojan horse."

Walter snorted and Alex just shook his head. "So that's what they teach at Oxford?"

Mulder said, "Don't complain. You liked the results of some of the other extracurricular classes."

Alex said, "Could have learned the same thing in reform school."

Mulder, amused, asked, "and did you?"

Alex replied, "not telling."

Mulder said, "Hey, the fireworks should start soon. We should get back to the reservation."

Alex shrugged and rolled his eyes at Walter. Oh, well, it could have been a UFO landing place instead.

Mulder wanted to be close and Walter wanted to be far. Alex was the tie- breaker and he said, "Not too close. I want to see fireworks not interact with them."

Mulder watched the fireworks. Alex watched the people and Walter watched the two of them. It was dark enough in between flashes to hold hands. They sat on their borrowed blanket and watched the phoenixes, the dragons, the butterflies and even more exotically named things. In the end, Walter enjoyed it. It wasn't so much the fireworks as it was just doing something for no reason, something ordinary and human as this. In the end, wasn't this what it was all about?

Not only saving the beautiful ones like Alex and the brilliant ones like Mulder... no, it was about the guy in the grimy white tee shirt with a runny-nosed toddler, collapsed in sleep on his shoulders. It was for the overweight lady walking her dog through the chaos and grinning like an idiot at the spectacles of light. Walter took it all in, not humanity at its finest, but still worth experiencing, still fascinating. If Mulder and Krycek were right, they had a war to fight a hell of a lot more important than the 'police action" in Vietnam. A war that would put all of these people at risk.

Finally, the announcer said that it was the grand finale. They watched it and then joined the rest of the cars that bottlenecked the strip of road feeding to I-5. Alex fell asleep on Walter's shoulder, looking as sweetly grimy as that toddler (he'd indulged in another strawberry jam slathered piece of the fried bread and wore traces on his cheek.) Walter adjusted the weight of his lover's head and stared down at the elfin tip of one petite ear, the perfect wing of his brow.

Alex woke up as they threaded down the gravel road to the steep driveway. He stirred, raised his head and smiled at Walter. He and Mulder went to play in the bathroom as soon as they entered the house. Walter called Tony. The man saw through his explanation. He said, "Walt-Boy, is this somebody special?"

Walter hesitated and then said, "I think so, Tony. We have some history and I would like to turn that into having a future. But he can do the work for you. He was an FBI agent."

Tony said, "Okay, I still owe you. Besides, you were always a good judge of character. I need someone soon though."

Walter said, "Yes, he needs to be out of the line of fire right away anyway."

Tony laughed and said, "So, does this mean that you are finally going to visit?"

Walter said, "Yes, I'll want to visit. And I'll bringing another friend."

Tony said, "Two of them? Hmm, you must still have it, Walter."

Walter prolonged the call a moment to be social, but he could see Alex waiting in the doorway, wearing nothing but a smile... and Mulder trying to pull him into the bedroom.

The next morning brought phone calls, arrangements and some transactions on the gray side. Alex disappeared and came back with a passport, bearing his picture, but not his name.

Tony would get the work permit for him and probably yet another name. Walter trusted that his war-buddy understood that he was agreeing to something dangerous, but Tony was always the one to volunteer for the LRP's in the most dangerous territory. He liked a shade of danger in his life. He said that it reminded him that he could lose it any day.

Mulder had managed to wire himself enough cash to cover Alex's counterfeit identification, the trip, and some clothing. They went shopping. Went back to the cottage to pack and to make love one last time.

The weather had turned again. You couldn't see anything but the buckets of water falling down and the streams beneath the wheels. The rain isolated them giving an eerie feeling to their drive. Alex was silent. He clung to Mulder who for once had not insisted upon driving, but one of his hands rested on Walter's thigh, holding on to him with a near bruising force.

Alex took a deep breath as they reached the airport. He shook his head and said, "I don't want to go."

Walter pulled into the airport-parking garage and followed the winding curves until they arrived at a dimly lit area away from the preferred parking. He and Mulder turned to Alex nearly at the same time, laughing as Alex tried to turn both ways at once to receive their kisses. Walter managed to capture their lover's lips first. His fingers tenderly brushed the wayward lock of hair from Alex's forehead. "This isn't the end, love."

Mulder had waited, but his kiss was longer, so long that both men fell apart winded. Mulder's long sensitive fingers stroked a tear from Alex's cheek. He set his jaw and looked the other way before saying, "You had better go, Alex. You had better go now while I still have the courage to let you."

Alex nodded. He grabbed his duffel bag and started walking, nearly running away from the car. Walter started the car. Their own flight was hours away. They'd go some place and try to forget. But Walter knew they never would. He looked at Mulder and said, "This isn't the end. We did the right thing. With the money you gave him and Tony's protection, Alex can stay away from the Smoker. And it won't always be like this... it has to get better."

As Walter drove away, a man stepped out of the shadow. Tendrils of smoke followed him as if he had risen from the depths of hell. He smiled and walked back toward the airport, followed by his hounds. He had followed the FBI agents out of curiosity, but he had reaped an unexpected benefit. He smirked. Perhaps Alex Krycek would be more valuable alive than dead. If nothing else, Spender had some very amusing ideas for when he had his puppet back on his strings...

END

On to Hard Rain 2