I sit across the table from my sister as we have our salads and I'm still riding the high of my reunion. My sister came back to me, after I had given up all hope. I sip at my wine while we eat our salads, waiting for the appetizers to come. She drinks from her glass of sparkling water. She looks up at me and I must still be smiling like a jackal because she smiles back at me, and it's like looking at my face translated into a girl's.
"Alex, are you all right?" she asks. She tried calling me Valery, then she tried Sasha, in deference to my current legal name, but Valery is alien to me. Sasha is only for Walter to call me. I won't have it from anyone else. I can't. He deserves that respect. She understood completely.
"I'm fine, Katya. This is all just still so wonderful to me. I'm sorry about being gone so long, but we had no idea..."
"I know, Alex, I know. You, Walter and Anabelle have convinced me that it wasn't intentional. I should have called ahead before making my grand entrance."
"No, Katya, please." I reach across the table to touch the hand she has resting on the clean, white linen tablecloth. She pulls back a bit, but I've come not to take it personally. When I picked her up at Anabelle's house to go to lunch, she didn't hug me. She's not used to touching people. God knows I know what that's like.
"I'm sorry, Alex," she says quietly and puts her hand back on the table. I don't reach for it. Like I said, I'm not taking this as an insult. I can't. She gave her world up for me. Just because she needs acclimation time, I'm not getting bent out of shape. "I need to tell you what happened and why things were as...confused as they were. I should have spoken with you at the party. But all the people and the music..."
"Katya, it's OK. Relax. Tell me what you want when you're comfortable. We're here, I'm not leaving, and we have all day to talk. All year. Forever, even. When you find the words, you tell me."
She shakes her head, splaying her long hair about. "I'll try my best. I was always so scared all my life of that the people my parents were running away from would find me. They put a healthy fear of strangers in me. And here you come, claiming to be my brother. I refused to see you at first. It was Mother Superior who allayed my fears by telling me that she believed that we were related, since we look so much alike. But I had seen you with Walter, and being Catholic, I couldn't reconcile what you are with what I believe. There is no reconciling it, really. The two are diametrically opposed. Mother Superior was no help. Once I admitted to what I saw, she all but told me I should turn you away. I knew it wasn't right, I wanted to know you. But...I began to argue with Mother Superior that it was our job to counsel those ignorant of the Lord's word into the ways of God and Jesus. We argued. I was adamant about meeting you again."
She stops and waits as the server removes our salads and puts our appetizers down. Maria had taught me well. I ordered fresh mozzarella cheese with tomato, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil leaves on top. We eat a few moments, Katya ummm-ing in delight. She takes a deep breath and a long sip of water before starting again. Which is good since I'm sick of cataloging the kitschy faux-Italian décor of the restaurant.
"After she let me yell for a while, she sent me to pray alone. I prayed for four days without speaking to anyone. I was served alone after all the other sisters and was not allowed to sit with them at mass each day. Mother Superior made it easy when Anabelle called the convent to speak with me. I hadn't used a telephone in almost 20 years, either. Anabelle made arrangements for me to come to Virginia. I was actually here for three days before the party just getting used to things. To be honest, I've spoken more in the time I've been here in Virginia than I have in my whole life, that I could remember."
I stop her when our entrees arrive. We're both eating vegetarian today with manicotti. She trusts me. It's nice to be trusted by a virtual stranger.
I let the rest of lunch pass with stories about what Walter and I did in Aruba for our vacation. She listens with half an ear. I can tell she's trying not to imagine Walter and I there as a couple but as friends. I try to make it as platonic-sounding as possible, but I can see her discomfort. We dispense with coffee and dessert and I quickly leave cash on the table to get her out of there. I know it's not me, but everything around her. She's been in a certain type of secluded environment for so long, only venturing out to teach mathematics to elementary school children. It's tough. I'll get through to her. I'll wait. I waited forty-six years. I can wait another day. Or month. Or year, if need be.
She surprises me by giving me a hug when I leave her at Anabelle's house. I hold her a little tighter than I wanted, but I can't help it. She hurries into the house and closes the door. I get back in my Hummer and drive home. The dress slacks and button-down shirt I'm wearing are really becoming restricting. I don't normally wear dress clothes and it's starting to bother me. So I hotfoot it up the mountain and all but jump from the truck to run into the house.
I have to get out of these clothes and be comfortable. Getting them off will help me shed this feeling of rejection and depression I have. I'm not going to brood, I'm not going to go off on a bender. I can't do that to Walter. He put up with a lot of shit from me. I can't do that again. If I get into my jeans and t-shirt, I can be me again and I can think this out rationally. Shoes are kicked off, pants ripped down, shirt is thrown across the room. Oh, it feels so much better to be out of those things! I'm gonna take Bosco and Honey out for a run I think when I'm dressed again. When I'm down to my boxer briefs, I turn to see Walter standing in the doorway watching me, a gentle smile on his face.
"How long have you been standing there?"
When I hear the Hummer pull in, I walk out of the work shed to greet Alex. I don't expect to see him sprint into the house. I follow him in and watch as he removes the dress clothes he wore for lunch with his sister. Granted, he chooses more comfortable clothing to wear regularly, and I prefer him naked, but he's always seemed comfortable in anything he wore. It's amusing and disconcerting at the same time to watch him scramble out of his clothes like a child throwing off his Sunday best to go out and play. He turns toward me, odd look on his face, like he's startled, and asks, "How long have you been standing there?"
"Just a minute or two. I wanted to know how things went. You OK?"
I step forward and we meet in an embrace. His hold on me is very tight, but not more than I can handle. I kiss his hair and stroke his back. His face is nuzzling into my neck. I press a kiss to his forehead and he smiles at me. The minutes tick by as he looks at my face. His hands come up to trace my jaw, my cheeks. I let him follow the path of my brows, closing my eyes as he gently glides his thumbs over my lids. He does this in afterglow usually. But he pulls me to him and kisses me deeply. He takes a step back and smirks at me.
Oh, this is where he's going to initiate sex to ease his way into talking. Far be it from me to stop him.
I brace myself as he launches his solid frame at me. I catch him, arms around my neck, legs about my waist. He's clad only in white cotton, but it's as if they aren't even there. His heat is ever-present, more than any I could radiate. His mouth comes down hard on mine, clicking teeth together. His tongue presses insistently into my mouth. I have the sneaking suspicion that something's wrong. He hasn't done this in a while, but one of his modes of easing into sharing his feelings is to make love furiously, then talk in the afterglow.
We tumble in a heap on the bed and I struggle to let Alex tear off my clothing. He leaves them in a pile on the floor, another white t-shirt ruined. How he gets me so easily down his throat is a mystery, and one he won't discuss, but it's incredible to feel his complete acceptance of me. I don't let him for long. A hand on his cheek and I bring him back to my face. "Kiss me, Sasha."
The smile comes back to his eyes and we lay beside each other, kissing and touching. I run my hand down his ribs and he giggles. He's become more ticklish since he's let his body thicken with much-needed fat. He was too thin for far too long and his body is heavenly now with his solid chest and little poochy belly. I lean down and bury my nose in his navel, trying to inhale nothing but eau de Alex. He pulls me back up, embarrassed and thinking himself fat. "So beautiful," I whisper before kissing him again.
His body arches up into mine. He wants me inside him and doesn't have to tell me. We've danced to this number many times over the last year and a half. I move us to where he can reach the bedside table to open the drawer for the lube. We've taken to putting it away, with Anabelle bringing Shannon over so much to see the puppies.
Quickly prepared, I slide into him. His eyes are open and focused on me. I move slowly in him, enjoying the closeness of our bodies. It's been difficult lately, with traveling and the family and Anabelle. Alex got sick in Aruba, ate or drank something that didn't agree with him and while he didn't let it stop him from lying on the beach for a few hours at a time, he had the worst case of the trots I'd ever seen. It severely curtailed our lovemaking, obviously.
It's so nice to be back home with him. I lay on him, thrusting gently into his body. His hands are roaming my chest and the look in his eyes is pure worship. I should give him something to worship. I rise up on my arms and straighten my back out to thrust down into him roughly. The twinkle of desire becomes a full-fledged gleam of need and his breath hitches. Alex loves my muscular body, loves how I keep it fit and firm. His hands move slower, feeling each cord and ripple on my skin. I stare in his eyes, performing for him, the way I ask him to do for me sometimes.
Alex hooks his legs around my hips and lays his arms back. That means he's moving with my body. All I want to do is taste his neck and throat, but not until I've played my part. The build-up in my balls is maddening. I want to come so bad, but not before him.
"Touch yourself, Sasha. Come for me," I encourage. He immediately reaches down and strokes himself into orgasm, spraying my chest and his with come. The feel of his ass squeezing around me is all I need to send me over and I exaggerate my movements, thrusting shallowly into him and jerking my entire body, playing the part to the hilt for him. His eyes are wide open, like saucers, studying my every move.
My old bones give me away and I collapse on him, not able to hold myself up in post-coital bliss any longer. He laughs under me, wrapping his arm around me. His legs hook tightly around my waist again. I rise up on my elbows to look down at him. "You wanna go to the bath to talk?"
"Talk? Oh! You think I'm beating around the bush. No, I just wanted to fuck. Making up for Aruba." He smiles and kisses my nose. "I guess I'm just a little depressed about Katya. She still won't let me touch her comfortably. The hug she gave me was so stiff."
"What was all that with the clothes?" I ask, nodding at the pile on the floor.
"Felt stifled. Like I was being choked. So I needed to undress. Thanks for being there," he says, smiling.
I nuzzle in his neck, then stand. Holding out a hand to help him up, I appraise his body as it's laid out before me. I run my hand down his chest, noting how he tans so well.
"What are you looking at, Vlad?" he asks.
"You don't have any tan lines." I kiss his shoulder.
"Neither do you. Leave it to you to find a gay-friendly nude resort."
"I'm glad you're feeling better. You worried me for a while." Admitting that he was sick was hard for Alex. I'm pretty sure he thought I would go mother hen on him, as I had done early on in our relationship. But he was taking much better care of himself. All I did was order plenty of Gatorade and Ensure to make be certain he wasn't getting dehydrated or losing nutrients. Other than that, if he wanted to lie on the beach, or on our veranda, I said nothing. He surprised me by sticking very close to the cottage.
"You were the smart one renting us a place right on the beach, but with hotel connections. I was never far from the bathroom or room service. Thanks for taking care of me." He kisses my cheek. "Come on, let's get dressed again. I'll let you take me out to dinner."
I look down guiltily. He sighs. "When do they get here?" The look on his face is of quiet discontent.
"Oh, I just got off the phone with her as you pulled in. That's what I had come in to tell you. Shannon wants to start housebreaking Taffy herself. I'm sorry, I'll call her..."
"You can't," he interrupts me. "Her cell was cancelled."
"What? I thought she just reconnected it. How is it that she's acquired a lot of business so that she's running around, but her cell phone is disconnected? She's amazing." I'm at a loss.
"I don't know if I want to give her the dog, Walter. She can't even maintain a cell phone account. How's she gonna raise that dog? Maybe I' m too cautious, but I do not want Taffy neglected or abused. She doesn't deserve that." He's shaking his head and folding his arms across his chest.
"Oh, come on, now. We trusted Anabelle enough to take care of them while we were away, didn't we?" I mention. And we did. But when we got home...
"Right, we did. And found that she'd been through every drawer and closet and thing in our home. She had no respect for our property or privacy. There's like four hundred dollars in long distance calls on our phone and the fridge and pantry were bare. Some dog sitter. I wonder what the electricity bill will be from all the laundry she did."
He's getting way too upset about this, again. We've had this fight already. "It wasn't that bad, Alex..."
"Oh, I'm Alex now? Not Sasha anymore? OK, good, I like that."
He walks to the wardrobe and yanks fresh clothes out, pulling them on roughly. He's got me. I shouldn't have said that. Mea culpa, and I know what she did was wrong. He just gets so angry, I get worried that he'll do something drastic in his anger. My attempts to calm him are not working. I walk away from him and sit on the bed, waiting for him to walk out on me again and brood somewhere.
I look up and he's standing there, fully dressed, his feet bare. He has beautiful feet. All his toes are straight and strong. He doesn't have any hair on his feet, either, which I love. I let my gaze travel up his strong, straight legs, thick with muscle and bone, encased in faded, comfy jeans. His arms are crossed against his t-shirt covered chest and his face wears a Scully; one eyebrow up and lips pursed. "Talk. Now." His demand is quiet. His voice takes on a gravelly quality, like when I was crossed against him.
I sigh. How much more vulnerable can I get? Sitting on my bed naked, smelling of a fresh fuck, he wants me to spill my guts. "I just think you're taking this too seriously. She's pretty much harmless at this point. Annoying, yes, but I'm tired of all the fighting."
"I do not fight with her, Walter!"
"No, you fight with me, all the time. And I'm sick of it. Enough. Let it go. She's going to act how she's going to act, whether we like it or not. Just accept it, would you?" I know I'm not being very understanding of his feelings. I can't help but remember my mother's upbringing. She was a true Southern Belle from Georgia. My father settled her in Pennsylvania. I work hard to hide the little twang accent in my voice that slides out every once in a while. She was something like Anabelle is, very familiar and take charge over the people she cared for. But she never, in her life, said an evil thing about anyone in all her life. Not that I remember. Not like Anabelle.
"That makes no difference to me. I am not gonna get entangled in this woman's twisted life, Walter. I want to be crystal clear about that." Hands on his hips, he looks down at me. "We are not going to become her homo buddies so she can live out some twisted TV dream of being a fabu faghag. Not happening, no way, no how."
"You're right, Alex..."
"Fucking Sasha, OK? You call me Alex one more goddam time and I'm beating the shit out of you. Now, get dressed."
He strides out of the room in anger and I can barely believe it. Alex is jealous.
Is he insane? Just accept it? Christ! That's how it all fucking starts! She visits, she watches the dogs, goes through our things, eats our food, uses our appliances, runs up our phone bill, then wants to take it out in trade. I've seen it happen before. And Walter was straight for a long time. Shit, even I sometimes still think about women. And I've been gay forever. I've always known I was gay. Jeez, I used to get one playmate at the lab into the air duct when the system was off and we used to play doctor for hours. We must have been only eight or nine years old at the time. He seemed to like it. One of the few clear memories I have of being raised within the Syndicate structure.
I make my way to the den to check the puppies. One is getting ready to go. Patty and Shaine are adopting Butch, the chocolate boy, for Jason. Scooter, the golden boy, is still up for grabs. Truffle is also homeless, but I think they'll go pretty fast, I think. And Taffy, the little golden girl, she's waiting for Shannon. I change the papers and take food and water bowls to the kitchen to wash and refill them. Walter comes out and stands in the doorway watching. His jeans are almost buttoned and his shirt is open.
"Sasha, are you jealous of Anabelle?" he asks quietly. I hear that undertone of mirth and condescension.
"Jealous? You think it's that simple? Whatever, Walt." I just turn back to my work. Jealous doesn't begin to cover it.
Maybe it *is* that simple. I'm worried about losing my bisexual lover to a woman. It's July, but I feel the cold winds of January blowing about me, and the feel of snow under my feet. I refuse to let him throw me out. I will fight until my last breath for the only home I've ever known in my life. I will not let the only person I've ever truly loved leave me. Just like that show that she likes, that Brian guy always told everyone, "Don't be a pussy. Have some balls." Well, I have balls the size of boulders. If she wants a fight, she's got one.
Hands circle my waist and pull me back against a wide, strong chest. I pull away a bit, but there's no chance to get away. He's holding me too tightly. It feels very nice to be held again. Even though we were just making love a bit ago, I feel bereft of his love, denied access to his thoughts and emotions. For a man who is so insistent I share each thought with him, he is suspiciously silent.
"Sasha, I am not interested in Anabelle romantically. At all. Not in any way, shape or form. I feel sorry for her, sorrier for her daughter. Shannon still calls me Grandpa when Anabelle isn't around. The way I used to father Dana is the way I treat Anabelle. But you are my lover, my fiance, and we are getting ready to plan our wedding. If you think I'm going to ruin all that I have with you for a little pussy, you don't know me very well, after all."
His speech isn't as comforting as I know he wanted it to be. He's already showing the same signs of apology and covering as he did for Mulder and Scully way back when. Spender had thought he had the perfect chess piece in Walter. The black knight, strong and true. He'd lost faith in his country at an early age, he was ambitious and he wasn't afraid to die, since he'd already done so once. What Spender didn't count on was Walter's paternal instincts kicking in towards his two favorite agents, especially Scully. That's why they sent me in. I know he felt particularly guilty when she was abducted, even though that was my fault. I tried to get her out of there before they had taken her ova, but I couldn't get to her in time. All I could do in the end was get her to the hospital so that Spender wouldn't infect her with the Super Soldier gene. That was the least I could do for her. And Walter knows all of this, after a sharing session spent by our creek.
I turn off the water and start drying the dog bowls. I can't face him. Not for this. "I have enough with my sister and getting to know her. She's got so much to deal with, readjusting from the convent. I think she's regretting leaving. I think she should have tried harder to reason with the Mother Superior. She's so overwhelmed and I can see it. She probably doesn't think so, we haven't really known each other that long."
"You read people well, Sasha," he says softly. "You always have. I'm sure it was necessary for your work."
"Yeah, well, you really should understand people well when you plan on killing them." Nice one, Walter, remind me of my criminal past.
He turns away and leaves me in the kitchen. So I start bringing the dog bowls back to the den and make sure the papers are clean. I can't wait until the puppies are all trained. Then I can just let them run around. But they've had enough accidents here in the den, so they stay penned up. Maybe another few days.
I hear him walk into the den. He stands near the door as I sit with the puppies and play. He's just standing there, not moving. "What do you want me to say, Sasha? What did I say wrong? Why are you so damn sensitive all of a sudden?"
"Walt, she isn't part of *us*, you know? She's getting between us. That 's not good. And you know it."
I hear him walk toward me, even in bare feet, and he gets into the puppy pen with me. Scooter quickly jumps into his lap, tail wagging and tongue hanging out the side of his mouth. Scooter's a sweetie, but he's the dummy of the lot. He gets tumbled around, left behind, last to nurse, and he's the one always sleeping furthest from Honey at night. Truffle is definitely the alpha puppy. She runs the show around the litter. Wouldn't it be a kick if they were adopted together?
Walter hugs the puppy to his bare chest and Scooter immediately calms. Oh, we may be keeping him. Damn, Bosco is not going to like that. I sigh. Dog worries are the least of my problems. The car pulls into the driveway and I hear a delighted squeal. Shannon has found Honey and Bosco playing in the front. Walter puts Scooter down and quickly stands to button his jeans and shirt, then walks out of the den before me. I grab Taffy and take her out to Shannon. Walter is already there, holding a pie plate and talking to Anabelle. There's that smile, the one I wanna whack right off her skull.
"Hello, Alex! We've brought desserts!" She's holding a plate covered in tin foil. I'm afraid.
When I get to her, I lean down to accept her kiss and instead she takes in a breath. "My my, aren't you insatiable?" I don't know what to say to her, so I just give her a wiseass smile. She can smell fuck on us, how nice.
"Well, I baked a peach pie, knowing its Walter's favorite and I just assumed it was yours as well. And of course, Shannon reminds me of my terrible manners, that I'd never asked. She tells me you like chocolate, so she baked you some brownies. I supervised, but all in all, this is all her own doing. She wanted her first solo baking project to be for 'her' Alex."
She hands me the plate and the smile has none of the venom nor sarcasm of her past speeches to me. Shannon has joined us and says, "Would you try one? See if you like them? I followed the rec'pe, but I think I messed it up."
She's six. She'll be seven in October, like me. October 8th is her birthday. She's a Libra. Apparently, that means something to Anabelle, as well as me being a Scorpio and Walter being a Gemini. Anabelle's an Aries. I have no clue what all this means, but she keeps track of it.
Handing Shannon the puppy squirming in my hands, I take the plate from Anabelle and pull one of the large chocolate squares out. There are walnuts carefully dispersed throughout the rich-looking chocolate frosting. My first bite is done with well-hidden trepidation, and unnecessary as the said confection is as perfect as a brownie could get. My face must look like this when I come, eyes closed, mouth pressed tight, swaying on my feet, because I swear I'm eating the best brownie I 've ever had. "Walt, you have to try this," I say while directing the brownie at his mouth.
He bites and he's got a similar look. He looks down at Shannon and says, "Hey, kiddo, that's great. You did real well."
Her smile is a foot wide, "Thank you Grandpa," she says quietly.
"Hey! I like them, too," I whine. She giggles as we start toward the house.
"I knew you'd like them, Alex." Like a shot, she's up the steps and into the den where I'm sure she'll have all the puppies crawling on her. Anabelle follows Walter and I into the kitchen where the desserts are stashed into the pie pantry we keep on one of the counters.
"I wasn't joking, Alex, she really made those herself. I just ran the equipment and handled the hot pans. She measured all the ingredients and told me when to start and stop the mixer. She scooped the batter into the pan and told me when to get it out of the oven. Oh, she's crushin' on you hard, dear."
I know I'm blushing but damn it! I'm not supposed to feel this way in front of her. I don't like her, no matter how nice and polite she's acting. There's a scream from the den. We all head there, but hear the giggles that accompany the sight of a little girl covered in puppies. I have a feeling I'm in for a long evening.
I can see Alex getting more and more agitated as Anabelle habitually visits us. She's been having more and more frequent headaches, and in early August, she decided that Excedrin Migraine wasn't doing what the doctor said it should. She related to me how she tried to get him to give her a prescription for something stronger by using her "Southern Charm". I could barely help but laugh at her insinuation that she wasn' t trying to date him.
"Walter, I swear, a man thinks that when you ask for something serious, all you want is to marry him! Well, I suppose that would be nice. He's so handsome, kind, and he's a doctor after all."
She means Dr. Richard Watson, the head of the town medical pavilion. It' s an extension of Prince William hospital, but without the ridiculous wait in the ER. There are services there, like scaled payment plans, clinic "open hours" and free care for those in need. I know Anabelle has been volunteering there to get close to the doctor, which is why she hasn't paid her rent, her electric bill and her cable bill yet this month. She keeps saying she's been planning parties, and I believe her. I'm just wondering where all her money goes. And hopefully, she will not ask me for a loan. The minute she does, how do I say no?
Alex pulls into the driveway with Shannon in the Hummer. They were at the zoo all day so that Anabelle could rest with no distractions. Actually, I think he likes Shannon fawning all over him. He carries her around and she hugs his neck. People have made comments on his " beautiful daughter" and he just smiles. They do have the same green eyes. I've asked him if he didn't really father the girl and not tell me, but he just rolled me on my belly and spanked my ass until I begged to be fucked.
Shannon runs in with Taffy on a new bright pink leash and matching bright pink harness. Taffy is loping along behind her, trying to keep up. Alex walks in, bringing up the rear and Honey leaps up to greet him. "We're in the kitchen, Alex," call out to him. I will not call him Sasha in front of anyone, and he knows it. And he reserves Vlad for when we're alone as well.
He walks in and drops a kiss on my head. Shannon brings up the rear and picks Taffy up to hold out to me. This girl is too cute. "Alex bought me a new leash and harness, Grandpa, see?"
I look up at him and say, "How are you 'Alex' but I'm 'Grandpa'? That's not right." Anabelle reaches for her neck again. Oh, God, another night of waiting on her. I can't do this. "Anabelle, do you want me to drive you and Shannon home in your car and have Alex follow? It seems like you're not going to have a good night. I wouldn't want you two to get stuck up here too late."
She looks at me a moment, puzzled, and then stands up quickly and says, "Walter's right, baby. We should go. We're here entirely too often as it is. Let's go."
Christ! Now she's insulted. As many times as Alex gets sensitive, he'd ask me what it was all about or something. This woman just takes the insult and runs with it. She was sugar and spice a minute ago and with a single question, she's like another person. This is unreal.
"What? No, I wanna stay here, Mama. Alex is gonna watch Justice League with me! Please, can't we stay?" Shannon has the leash held between her steepled hands, like she's praying for her mother to acquiesce. I look up at Alex who just drops his head in defeat. As much as he cannot stand Anabelle, there's something about spending time with Shannon that fills a need in him, a nurturing aspect of his personality that he's only shown to me when I was suffering from my hernia. He babied me like no one has since I was first married. He even went a step further ensuring I put no stress on my intestines by giving me regular enemas. Embarrassing, yes, but to be honest, it made me feel a hell of a lot better than straining against my stitches.
"No, Shannon. Get in the car or you can walk home," Anabelle states with her old attitude back and well in hand. She walks out of the front door with Shannon, Alex and me trailing behind her.
"Anabelle, I didn't mean you *had* to leave. I just wanted to make sure you didn't let your head get so bad without your medication." I don't think she's listening.
She's down the driveway and off toward home before I can think of something to say to her. Fuck. Nice job, Walter.
What a fucking bitch! I swear to God, the way she tugs that kid around, it makes me want to punch her dead in the face. No, I really didn't want to spend my night with the kid, but yeah, I like cartoons a lot. Plus, she knows how to stay quiet until the commercial, unlike my lover.
Then again, it's been days since we've made love and I'm hungry for him. We got a strange influx of furniture orders on our website, so we've both been too tired at the end of the night, even for a dirty thought. But tonight, I want him. I woke up hard, really hard this morning. He was already up when I looked over to his side of the bed. I wilted when I heard him curse at Honey for getting under his feet in the kitchen. I laughed, too. She doesn't like him very much.
I turn and walk back to the house with him following not too far behind. I hear the dogs in the den playing, so I start setting the alarms and Walter looks at me. "Sasha, isn't it too early to turn in?"
"Vlad, when was the last time we made love?" I look at him seriously and he looks out into space to think about it.
"I guess...well, it's Thursday, right? Um..."
"Exactly. Can't we snuggle tonight, watch TV, play a little? We've been working so hard lately."
We walk into each other's arms and I can see he understands exactly what I want. His mouth descends on mine and it is just like I wanted. The sun hasn't even begun to set and it's just like when we first got together, fucking at all times of the day.
He maneuvers me into our bedroom and we fall back on the bed, kissing deeply. His tongue is reaching so far into me, he must be tasting my soul. I kiss back, trying to keep up with him. My legs are opening to him of their own accord, accepting his body to lie across me, heat radiating from his loins. I feel his cock through both his jeans and mine, and I match him in erection. With my feet planted firmly on the bed, I try to slide against him, rubbing my crotch on his, trying to get some friction, but his big hands grab my hips and he stops me.
"Slow down, lil Sasha, we have all night to be lovers again, not just have a hot fuck, you know," he croons in my ear as he kisses the sensitive flesh just behind my earlobe. I used to wear an earring in my left ear, and that became so cliché so I pulled it out. He likes to bite the lobe, anyway, and I like it, too. And he does bite me, gently, and whispers, "Would you be upset with me if I gave you a two-hour tongue bath? Just licked every inch of your skin?"
Before I can answer, the phone rings. We look at each other, debating whether or not to get it. I opt for the answering machine and begin kissing Walter so he can't get up. But that whiney voice rings through on the tiny speaker, "Walter? Alex? Are you there? Please, if you're there, we need help."
Anabelle. Please, God, just take me now, so I won't be responsible for murdering her.
"We blew a tire and I just don't have the energy to fix it. I don't even think I can get the car back on the road..." And Walter's off the bed like a shot. He runs out to the living room and snatches up the phone.
"Anabelle? Are you OK? Is Shannon hurt?" His erection is gone, and so is mine. He stands there, zipping his pants and tucking in his shirt. "OK, we'll get the Hummer and tow you out. I'll drive you back and Alex will follow. We'll make sure you get home safe."
He hangs up the phone and looks at me. I lie here, waiting for him to ask me. Not tell me, but ask me. I'll be waiting until Jesus comes back. He walks into the room and said, "She got a stabbing pain and drove off the road, blew a tire."
Fuck. "I suppose it's Fag Man and Queer Boy to the rescue, then, is it?"
He takes a deep breath, looking at his feet, then back at me. "Would you like her and Shannon to sit there on the side of the road like that? We can get there in what...ten minutes, tow out the car and then get them home safe. Don't you even have an ounce of compassion..."
"For that bitch? No, not ounce, not a iota, nothing. As far as I'm concerned, she deserves all these headaches. Karma is a bitch, isn't it, Walter?"
He rubs his face and head. My lover is trying to get his head around something. Or trying to get my head around it. I just don't see what he sees. I don't understand what he's feeling. This may be the part of me that was lost when I was raised by the Syndicate system. He has the ability to feel kindness for her, in a way I don't think she deserves. I think he's wasting his emotions.
"If you don't care for her, and I'm not asking you to, because God knows I don't like her most of the time either, but don't you think Shannon deserves better? Isn't she worth us giving a shit? I mean, what if something happens to Anabelle? You want that kid lost in the Virginia child services system? You want her lost the way you were lost?"
I shake my head and snort a laugh. "You would do a Jewish mother proud with all this guilt, you know? How fucking dare you throw my life in my face? As if I had a fucking choice, you motherfucker!"
"I'm not throwing it in your face. I just want you to think about someone other than yourself for a change."
He turns and leaves the room. Oh, this isn't over, Walter, not by a long shot. I follow him into the living where I find him pulling some socks on and tying his boots. "You know, Vlad, I thought that I was thinking about you, lately. Why are you so...quick to jump to her rescue? Missin' the pussy? Wanna get a little easy lovin' from your little Southern Belle? Have the decency to court her without your lover there, huh?"
I'm shocked as he jumps off the couch and barrels towards me. I try backing away, since I do not want to fight, but he grabs my shoulders and pins me to the wall. Our collage of photos goes crashing to the floor, glass and pieces of frame flying everywhere. It makes my heart jump. I look up at him, trying to school my face into a blank expression but I know my eyes are wider than they should be. I look down at the two hands full of my t-shirt and then back up at him.
One thing I never thought we'd do is degrade back to the violence we'd once used as the way we related to each other. I thought we had gotten past the pain and hurt. But here were are, him grabbing my shirt because he didn't like what I said. Fuck this bullshit.
"Let me go, Skinner."
It was like he'd hit me back. Skinner. He called me Skinner. I stepped over a line that we hadn't even crossed when he was escaping after Katya first rejected him. I let him go and take a step back, relaxing my face into a look of pure fear. This is the test. This is where I see what our relationship is made of. He straightens his shirt and looks down at the glass on the floor.
"I'm sorry, Alex. I didn't mean to grab you like that. We should get going if we're going to get the girls unstuck before the sun is down and there's no light."
He turns from me abruptly and walks out the front door. I let out a deep breath, knowing I've made one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I can never take this back. This may be a rift between us that can never be repaired, no matter what I say. Alex takes things so personally. Well, then again, how else can he take them?
I follow him out to the Hummer and we take off to where Anabelle and Shannon are waiting by the road down the mountain. I have to admit, they look pathetic. They're both sitting there, disheveled and shaking. Alex is out of the truck first and Shannon jumps up and runs to him screaming his name. He snatches her up and hugs her tight. Anabelle doesn't stand up right away so I walk to her and crouch beside her.
"Hey, Anabelle, how are you? You gonna be OK?" I try for the softest voice I can manage.
She looks up at me and her eyes are red and moist. He eye makeup's run down her cheeks and she's sniffs back the tears. Oh, this poor thing, she looks like a beat up dog. "I didn't take the Zomig, like he told me. I did a little while ago. I thought I could make it home. I'm sorry about leaving like that. Please, it's just my head..."
"OK, sweetie, just come with me, let me help Alex with the car." I help her to her feet and we walk the girls to the safety of a huge tree that's well away from where we're going to work. I see Alex kiss Shannon's forehead as he crouches beside her and tells her to be a big girl and take care of her mother. She nods and smiles, wiping tears from her face.
We make fast work of Anabelle's Corolla, getting the chains around the axle and pulling it back up on the road. The turn where she bought it had a steep downgrade on outside of the turn. She didn't hit anything, but there was no way she could get the car back on the road by herself. We work quickly to change her tire and set the car right. Alex settles Shannon in her seat in the back and I strap Anabelle into the passenger seat of her car. Alex and I meet by the back of the car.
"I'll follow you to the house and we'll get them in," I say quietly. He turns abruptly and leaves me standing there. I get into the Toyota and follow Alex's huge truck down the mountain, seeing Anabelle's problem. One of her headlights is out. I sigh. This woman is falling apart slowly but surely. I look back in the rearview mirror at Shannon who is looking out the window. Anabelle is a mirror of her daughter. Both wear the most despondent expressions I have every seen.
I tune them out and face forward, driving as carefully as I can. I do not want to have any trouble with these two in the car. The last thing I need is to calm them down. Yet, without incident, I pull into Anabelle's driveway and park her car. The house she rents is small and quaint, and I remember the inside well, after having been invited to dinner each month for four years of her trying to court me. I shake my head at how angry and hurt she must have felt when she found out about Alex and me.
I never gave her any reason to believe she wouldn't one day wear me down. Finding me with Alex, while her own fault for being so traumatic, was a shock to her. I can understand her anger. I can't understand her rage and hurtfulness by slandering us all over town. That is something that will hurt for a long time. Alex will most likely never forgive her. And I don't blame him.
Alex is already helping Shannon out of the back and carrying her into the house. I go around to Anabelle and help her to the door, and into her bedroom to lie down. My arm is around her slight shoulders and she's leaning heavily on me. I walk her straight to her bedroom, ignoring the mess of her living room. I do take notice of the conspicuous space where her large television used to sit.
Looking up at me Anabelle smiles. "Thank you very much for coming to get us. You and Alex are just angels, my guardian angels. I can't imagine what I would do without you both."
As touched as I am by her words, I have to be honest with her. "Anabelle, I don't think you should depend on us so much. I know you've not been well, but I've battled migraines in my time as well. It's not all that bad if you follow the doctor's advice. Take the medicine he tells you to take and when. Sometimes people under-medicate themselves in fear that they're going to overmedicate. Just do what he tells you and you should see a nice reduction in your symptoms."
She nods and says, "I'll do it, Walter. Thank you for the help. You can just lock the handle of the door, I'll get up in a little while and lock everything tight."
She closes her eyes and I leave her there. Normally, Anabelle's mauve and cream-colored bedroom is immaculate. I notice the pile of laundry needing to be done in the corner, the way the bed was unmade when I came, with a dark stain or two in the middle. There are bits of garbage over-flowing from the basket in the corner, like cotton balls and tissues. This is definitely not like her a bit.
I walk to the kitchen as I wait for Alex to help Shannon into her pajamas, wash her face, brush her teeth and settle her into bed. He'd done it so many times before, when we'd agreed to baby sit while Anabelle worked an extra shift, so I knew he'd be done shortly. I wander into the kitchen, and wish I hadn't. Dishes were piled up, garbage overflowed from the bin and pots and pans sat on the stove, as if the last meal they'd had was unfinished.
I turn off the light and find Alex waiting for me in the living room. He turns without a word and leaves the house. I follow him out, setting the button lock on the door handle. He's already in the truck when I get there and I climb in and settle beside him. He takes off for home without a word.
The ride is excruciating for the first half hour of silence. I can't say anything, though, since I have no clue what he wants to hear. I wait for him to speak. Thankfully, I don't have to wait much longer.
"She let the house go," he says quietly. I grunt quietly in agreement. "I'm surprised you didn't stay to wash the dishes and laundry," he accused quietly.
"I knew you wanted to get home, and I don't have transportation back to the house."
"Oh, knowing Anabelle, you'd have a place there, wouldn't you?"
I let out a laugh. "Not on her blood-stained sheets, I don't." He makes a face.
He risks a glance at me. "Tell me you don't like the attention."
I shake my head. "Can't do that. I do like it. I like being needed, being depended upon. You're...less needy. You've gotten used to life after the war, outside of the Syndicate and its regimented life, the way you grew up and lived. You don't need me that way anymore. Anabelle does. Shannon does. Is that what's bothering you? That I'm helping them?"
He laughs at me, shaking his head. "Talk to me, Sasha."
"Oh, *now* it's Sasha, is it? Christ, Walter, make up your fucking mind!"
"At least I'm Walter again," I say quietly. He drives a little longer before laughing bitterly again.
"You know something, Walter, it's not that you need to be needed. I know that. I always knew that. I love that about you, considering how fucked up I am and need you to keep me normal. I need you, a lot, even still. I don't need you any less because my life is settling into the place I want it to be. So, forget that bullshit that I don't need you anymore. Even if I don't need you to put my life back together, I want you, Vlad. I want you every day and every night. What I don't want is that woman in our lives."
And there it is, plain and simple. He doesn't like Anabelle. Still.
"Is it the woman, or that it *is* a woman?" I ask, throwing caution to the wind. If he's talking, I want to keep him talking.
"Vlad, the fact that you're helping a woman doesn't bother me a bit. I like Shannon, and you know that. She's a smart kid. Anabelle doesn't give her enough credit, the kid is sharp. But after what she did to me, to *us*, after all the things she told people. I mean, Mike Elliot told me she was going around saying I touched her daughter. Not like a hug, or to wipe her nose in the winter, but that I touched the kid. Like...FUCK!"
Alex screeches to a halt and pulls the truck over. I barely get my arms up before my chest slams into the dashboard, even with the seatbelt on. He gets out of the truck and stomps out onto the road, shouting "FUCK!"
I get out as well, to stop him from losing his mind. I grab his shoulders and turn him towards me. "Sasha, why didn't you tell me this? Why didn't you say anything to me? I didn't know you were this upset, moya lyubov. What she said, it was wrong. And everyone knows that. No one ever came by to ask any questions, right?"
My head spins. Alex is not a child molester. He *was* molested. He wouldn't perpetuate the cycle of abuse. I know my lover. And, thankfully, so does the law enforcement of this town.
"Artie stopped me getting coffee one day and told me what she said. But he remembers the freak I pointed out to him that time, and figured Anabelle was just mouthing off. You know what he said to me? He said, 'The way I hear tell, you like getting the plowing, not doing the plowing. And I sure don't think it'd be a little girl. A little boy maybe...'"
"He said what!" I shouted. Alex turned to me, tears running down his face, and gave me a sad smile.
"Vlad, I almost took his head off. He knew it wasn't true. But he just wanted to say it to get me mad. If I didn't get mad, that would mean I had something to hide and didn't want to 'look' guilty by getting pissed. Artie isn't stupid. He isn't new to this. He got it. Just the implication, though..."
I held him tightly as he shuddered and fought to compose himself. I finally got it. I truly understood how he felt. And he was right. Throughout our exile from our home, she never really said anything bad about me, except that I had been "charmed by the devil with green eyes" as I'd heard it put. She blamed everything on Alex. He had every right to be angry about things.
"Come on, lover, I'll take you home and remind you that no one comes between us. Not Anabelle, not anyone." I led him to the passenger side and strapped him in as I had done many a time. We were not far from home at all.
We drove the ten minutes until I turned into the driveway in silence. Barking noises welcomed us, only 4 dogs left. Butch is living with Jason and the foursome down in town. Mike Elliot took pity on Scooter and told me that the pup sleeps curled in his left armpit. I suppose the dog wants to be close to his heartbeat, and Mike thinks it's a sweet trait. Truffle doesn't miss her siblings a bit since Bosco lets her tear him up, biting his ears and tail. Honey wants nothing to do with them, doesn't play at all. She sits on the porch until some unsuspecting small animal ventures too close to the house and she's off after them.
We haven't given Taffy to Anabelle yet, at her insistence, since she doesn't feel up to caring for a pup until her headaches are under control. I know Alex agrees with her assessment. I help him into the house and we just make it into the bedroom before his mouth covers mine in a deep, searing kiss. The tingle in my stomach starts spreading over my body, through my loins, into my face. My hands seek out his chest, his belly, cupping his ass. Oh, softness and thick muscle, my lover's body is the temple where I worship and give thanks for my life. Problems and people aside, I am thankful each day to be loved by a man who held my life in his hands so long ago and spared me for the moments where he could be like this, pleasing me and praising me by taking my face between his hands and saying, "If I lose you, that will be the last day of my life. I cannot live without you. I will not live without you."
As I say the words, I know they are the truth. He is all I've ever wanted and all I will ever need. I turn away the thoughts of the past where we hurt each other and were enemies. Calling him Skinner was bringing back the past in a way I cannot justify, nor apologize for. With the hurt I felt, I know he and I have gotten to a place where nothing will be the same for us.
We move to the bed, breaking apart to sit and just look at each other. "Sasha, my dearest heart, I can't imagine life without you." My hand is on his cheek and I smile at him.
Our lovemaking this night is tender and careful, not the hurried fuck we had started out before leaving the house. We're touching a lot. Smiles and giggles punctuate each kiss. Yes, Alex Krycek and Walter Skinner giggle when we make love. We make kissie noises, and we tickle and we rub noses. I'm making myself sick.
We do end up taking our time, preparing each other for the festivities. He takes me swiftly, holding one leg up over his arm. He kisses me continually as he thrusts into me, and slaps my hand away when I try and jerk myself off. His fucking is very good, thrusting on my prostate and making my brain scream. His thrusting gets erratic, shallow and I know he's going to come. And the bastard grabs my nuts and pulls as he comes in me, screaming and yelling like a bitch. Well, great, Walter, thanks a lot, you selfish prick.
He collapses on me and breathes in my ear. I try to move him, to no avail. After a few minutes, he sits up and said, "Ready to give it to me?"
"Huh?" I say. He wants me now? This is new, taking turns in the same night. I love to bottom, love having Walter come in me. But when he lets me top him, trusting me like that, it's heaven to me. He gets up to his hands and knees and I understand why he let me finger him with lube. I slide right into him, my balls against his. This is truly heaven, this moment, being here with him, making love to him, him making love to me.
I'm not long inside him before letting loose my load, happily watching it drip down his thighs as I stroke his skin. We ease down together, not bothering to clean up this night. I want to lay in our sweat and cum. I've slept in worse puddles.
We wake frequently in the night to touch and kiss and taste. Lying on my back, he reduces me to singing soprano at one point with his tongue and one finger. I reciprocated, getting tenor, since Walter can't sing that high. I end up sprawled across his wide chest, rubbing my stubbly chin in the hair. "This was a nice night," I say quietly.
"No thanks to me," he answers.
"Don't, Vlad. Look, we talked, and we'll talk more. We'll get through it." I crawl up to rub my nose on his (I told you we did that). "Just...I love you, OK? Fucker."
He chuckles at me and moves the blanket to let me crawl in beside him. I curl around him and we drift off.
Mama's asleep. Man, she cried and cursed and yelled for a long time, I didn't think she was ever gonna stop. She screamed to call Grandma. I'm always calling Grandma for her, asking for money. And Grandma makes me promise not to let Mama spend it on silly things. Like I can stop her! But she doesn't really spend it on stupid stuff. She pays the bills. She sold the big TV to pay the electric bill. We have the little one in my room, but...it don't have no cable. Regular TV sucks.
I dial the number and it rings. The answering machine picks up. I hate that stupid thing. "Hi, Grandma, it's me, Shannon. Please pick up the phone."
She does and says to me, "What does she want this time, dear? I was just on my way to bed, it's very late."
I look at the clock and it says 8:13. I just learned how to tell time on a face clock, but I like this clock with the light-up numbers more. "Grandma, Mama wanted me to call and..." Man I wish Momma would do this herself.
"Ask me for money, I know, Button, I know. What's she bought now?" I don't like it when Grandma sounds like that. All huffy and stuff! Mama didn't buy anything, really. She used to buy silly things, like really nice clothes. But since her headaches, she doesn't work so much any more. I can't tell Grandma that. She gets mad at Mama, tells Mama that the pain is all in her head. No duh, Grandma. But I don't think that's what she means.
"You tell your mother I'll deposit something into her account. And you make sure you tell me what she uses it for, won't you, Button? For Grandma?"
I hate this. I don't wanna tattle on Mama, about not working, but I don't wanna lie to Grandma. I'll ask Alex what I should do. He'll know. "OK, Grandma, sure. Thanks. I'll tell Mama."
"Goodnight, Button." I hate that name 'Button' and I will never call anyone that, ever and no one else better call me that. Button. Dumb old name. Alex calls me 'Petal'. Only when no one else around, though. I don't think he wants people to know how nice he is to me. When he's with Grandpa, he's stiff, like a board. Doesn't hug or nothing. But when he thinks no one is watching, he kisses Grandpa's head, or his neck. I like him like that. His eyes wrinkle up when he smiles. When he doesn't smile, he looks kinda mean. But I know he's a big ole puppy dog. And Grandpa, as much as he likes to yell, he's a teddy bear. Hugs like one.
When I put the phone back, Mama calls me into her room. "Baby, what did Grandma say?"
I take a deep breath. Here we go again! "She said she'd put the money in the bank, but she wants me to tell her what you do with it. I don't wanna. Do I have to?"
"No, you don't, Baby, it's up to you. Would you lock the door before you go to bed? Momma can't seem to make it out of bed. Thank you, Baby".
I nod. I know she can't see me in the dark, but she can hear me walk to the door, move the chair so I can reach the locks and then move it back. All the lights out and everything locked up tight, I get in bed and turn the light down. Can't turn it out, then I can't see what's comin' at me. I got Grandpa's bunny in my hand and the hankie I took from Alex under my pillow. I'm safe. For tonight, anyway.
Shannon is begging me to take her to the Halloween Party at the Empty Closet. Jason had mentioned that he's going with all four of his parents and now she wants us to take her. Anabelle has already told me I was welcomed to do it. Patty is throwing this afternoon thing for gay families. Shannon wants to be Cinderella. So I'm going to be her Fairy Godfather. Actually, I want to be her Fairy Godmother and go in drag, but I think Walter will throw a hissy fit if I do. It's almost worth it to see him in a snit about it.
Walter and I sit on the porch as we watch the sun setting. The leaves are starting to turn colors and it's getting cooler in the evenings. We sip coffee, watching the blue go gold, orange, red and eventually purple and black. Stars twinkle down on us, and I smile up, knowing one is Samantha. That was the hardest thing to tell Mulder. That I knew his sister had died. I was there. She was a couple years younger than me. But I helped calm her and soothe her when she was first brought to the dorms. She was the little girl I would sing to.
I would hold her while she cried for her mother, for her brother Fox, and she wouldn't stop until I'd sung "I Will" by the Beatles at least three times. I'd listen to the guards' radio sometimes, hide in the vent duct to the office and listen to the music. One guy, late at night, had a Beatles thing. He'd play his records on the small record player they'd hide. He played everything, Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery Tour.
"Sasha? You lost in your head?" he asks quietly.
"Thinking about the lab. Samantha."
"You never told me about that place, you know. Did you ever tell Mulder about her?"
I reach out and take his hand, squeezing to reassure him I was OK talking to him. "I told him everything I remembered. From the moment I first saw her, until they took her unconscious body from my arms for more testing. They tore her to shreds. I barely recognized her when they were done. Her little body couldn't handle the hybridization process."
I stop there. I let go of his hand to wipe the tears off my cheeks. He stands to walk behind my chair, rub my shoulders and press kisses to my temples and cheeks. "Oh, Sasha, what you've been put through. If I could take it all away, have given you a good life."
"No one could have done that. My parents were simpletons, farm people enticed by the glamour of the Project. I'm OK with it, now. You'd be surprised how well time and good sex work to dim the pain of a hateful childhood."
He helps me rise and we go in to watch the news before bed. It's too cool to sit out late anymore. Maybe we're just getting older. By the time we're settled on the couch, dogs on the floor, but sleeping puppies in our laps, I'm beginning to yawn. We see the fluff report about the popular costumes, one of them being the Men In Black suit and shades. If they only knew the real deal.
"Sasha, are you taking Shannon to the Closet family bash?" he asks.
I nuzzle his neck a bit before answering. "Yeah, I am. The costume is hiding at her house."
"Hiding?" He turns to me and looks down. "Why would you hide your costume from me?"
I smile. "She's Cinderella and I'm her Fairy Godmother. I have a blonde wig, complete with long banana curls, a pink fluffy dress with wings, and a padded bra to go underneath, pink tights and ballet slippers. Anabelle is going to apply my makeup before I go." I shake my head. "Please don't be mad, I know how you hate the gay jokes. But I couldn't pass up the opportunity to be a fairy."
He smiles down at me. He has a few new wrinkles beside his eyes. "I want pictures." He kisses me and all is well that evening.
The day of the family party is the Saturday before Halloween. This year it's fallen on a Tuesday, so Patty scheduled the party for the weekend before. I heard she'd spent the entire morning decorating, from the call from Mikey and Gerry, making sure Alex would show up. I didn't tell anyone I would be by the party later.
Shannon had shown me her costume earlier in the month, and I was just floored by how adorable she looked. The dress looked professionally made for her, not just something grabbed from the Walmart. Anabelle had pulled out Alex's costume, and I couldn't stop laughing. That little girl talked him into wearing a dress. I just shake my head when I think of it.
I had a brilliant idea and went searching on the web until I found what I needed. A call to Anabelle also helped my plans. I ordered my costume in secret, had Mike Elliot hold it for me until I could pick it up personally, when Alex was off on a rewire job out of town.
That Saturday, I watched Alex drive down the mountain and I waved to him. Then I ran to shower, shave extra close and get myself into costume and ready. If I was correct, when the party started at two, Anabelle would have Alex and Shannon be a little late, and "lose" one of her glass slippers. They weren't real glass, but Plexiglas so she could walk and not chip them. At two thirty, I promptly show up at Anabelle's, grab the other slipper and drive off for the party.
She looks like hell, but I can see that she has her hair wrapped up. She must be cleaning. I take my time driving over to the club. At three, I wait outside, looking in one of the windows to see Alex and Shannon. She is in his arms, shoeless foot thrust out for everyone to see. I have to bite my lips to keep from laughing. Those two are going to piss themselves when I walk in.
I can't stand it anymore. I go to the door and magnificently sweep into the room. All conversations stop, as well as the dancing and eyes are glued to me. Once upon a time, this would have embarrassed me to the point of me blushing so red, I'd look like the three-ball with ears. But dressed in my costume of Prince Charming, with the embroidered tunic, tights and long cape behind me, I feel right at home.
"I hope you all can help me," I say loudly, and watch as Patty turns down the jukebox from behind the bar. She's dressed as Strawberry Shortcake. Shaine is dressed as Blueberry Pie. Please don't ask how I know these things. Then again, having a seven-year-old around the house has been educational to me. And the lesson? I'm eternally grateful Sharon did not get pregnant.
Shannon's eyes widen when she sees me pull the missing slipper from my waistband and hold it up. "My future princess will fit this shoe. Can anyone help me find her?"
"I'm here!" she screeches and Alex grimaces. His poor ears. I sweep over and slip the shoe onto her foot. She squeals again in delight as I take her into my arms and say, "My sweet, will you marry me?"
She hugs me around the neck and kisses my cheek. "Yes!!" I squeeze her tight. She is so happy to see me. In my ear, a hot, wet little mouth whispers, "Thank you, Grandpa. I love you."
I kiss her little cheek and say, "I love you, too, Shannon."
Alex dramatically waves his silver, star-tipped wand and announces, "My work here is done!" He's treated to laughs and applause. He rises up and tip-toes to the bar where he gratefully accepts a beer.
For the rest of the afternoon, I am pulled around by my middle finger, all that she can get hold of, and shows me off as her Prince. I meet all the other kids that I didn't even know my friends had, and help Shannon win Pin the Tail on the Donkey. She's blindfolded and has the tail, but I hold her up and direct her where to stick it. She takes direction well.
After the party breaks up at six, I suggest we all go out for dinner. All that was served at the party was snack foods and LOTS of fruit salad and crudite for the kids. We decide that real food is necessary. I opt to drive in the Range Rover, leaving Alex to sit in the back with Shannon. She doesn't mind being strapped in as long as Alex is with her.
We get a few sidelong stares at the Go Go Diner, but they're all for Alex. He doesn't even acknowledge them, helping Shannon to sit in the booth and then getting in next to her. I sit opposite them. A 60s waitress, wearing a paisley psychedelic tank top, mini skirt and white boots, hair in a high flip, doe eyes and white lipstick, walks over and hands us menus. Hey, I grew up in the 60s. I was straight back then. I knew the styles.
I look through mine, but Alex pushes his away. "The lady will have a hotdog, fries and a vanilla shake, her size. I'll have the same, my size, chocolate shake. Dear?"
He looks over at me, and I'm in a daze. "Uh, yeah, what they're having is fine. I'll have a Coke to drink, though."
She smiles, takes the menus and looks at us a minute before she leaves. She smiles at Shannon and says, "I hope your Fairy Godmother likes your prince so you can live happily ever after, sweetie."
Shannon giggles and covers her mouth. Dinner progresses quietly, until Alex looks up at the door, eyes wide, mouth full of food, but not chewing. I turn to see what's gotten him to freeze the way he is and it's his sister, Katya, coming in with another woman, presumably to eat. I can actually hear Alex swallow his mouthful. She walks to our table and looks at her brother, a huge smile on her face. "Alex, my, how you've changed!"
I can't help but giggle. He still seems beyond speech so I take up the mantle of manners. After all, I *am* Prince Charming. I stand and say, "I'm sorry, I seem to have left my manners home."
Katya interrupts me, "Well, the tights you have on don't seem to have pockets."
This is a new woman. I don't know where she came from, but this is not the woman who came to our house for Labor Day weekend for barbeque. She looks at Shannon and says, "Cinderella, you are a lucky girl. Your prince and your fairy God...mother?"
The blush creeps up Alex's face as he stands and hugs his sister. "Walter, Alex, this is my friend and coworker, Maureen Sanford. She teaches French and Spanish at Trinity Church School with me. This is my brother Alex Krycek and his fiance, Walter Skinner."
Maureen nods politely and says hello. Shit, Alex isn't doing well, he's white as a sheet. "And that young princess is Shannon Mitchell."
"The Mitchell woman's daughter?" Maureen asks. Shannon looks up at her and I can see the questions in her eyes, as she kneels on the booth seat next to where Alex stands.
"Yes," I say, quickly. "Anabelle Mitchell is Shannon's mom. She's home today, and we decided it would be nice to take Shannon home fed and pooped from a great day out and about."
Shannon smiles and buried her face under Alex's arm. Katya laughs and shakes her head. "So, Maureen, what do you think of my brother, the fairy?"
We all break into laughter at that. The ladies decide to join us for dinner and I stand to allow Maureen to slide in near the window. Katya slides in and Shannon is sandwiched between them. Katya is especially attentive to the little girl, as a good teacher would be. Alex stops worrying about how he's dressed and begins to enjoy joking with his sister and Shannon.
I quietly inform the waitress that I would be paying for our guests. It's the least I can do, especially when Shannon announces, with the perfect manners and grace of a lady, that she needs to visit the powder room. Anabelle raised this girl well. Katya offers to go with her, just to "make sure she can reach the soap to wash her hands" and we're all thankful.
One forgets that even though Shannon is an intelligent and sophisticated little girl, she's still a little girl. She needs to be supervised in the bathroom. How would Alex and I have handled that had we not had the ladies there? Something I'm glad we'll never have to deal with.
Maureen clears her throat and puts her napkin down. "I want to say I'm very sorry for making that comment about Mrs. Mitchell earlier." Maureen reminds me of my mother, except her dark coffee complexion is far removed from Mother's pale peaches and cream skin. "I didn't mean to cast aspersions about her, but she is known to our parish and we pray for her."
"You pray for the faggots too?" Alex asks sarcastically and I can see Maureen physically wince.
"No, Mr. Krycek, we pray for the closed-minded people who persecute you. We are all God's children, no matter who we love or make love to. He does not judge us for our actions, be they moral and just. When we sin against Him, then we must be dealt with by Him, and Him alone. It is not Man's place to take up the mantle of interpreter of His word. The bible is clear enough, but it does not follow logic that we must love our neighbors as we wish to be loved, unless he's gay."
Alex blushes and looks down at his empty plate. "I'm sorry. I get very defensive."
"It's alright. I can understand. I met Kate in a bookstore. She was trying to find information about your lives. And I brought her to church with me, and things have been better for her. I know you must feel like..."
"You don't know how I feel," he states stiffly.
"Alex, let her finish," I say quietly. I can see the hurt in his eyes. We never discuss his sister. This dinner has been illuminating for us both. She seems much more open and worldly with us. She is getting used to life outside her convent.
"I'm sorry," he says.
"Quite alright. Mr. Krycek..."
"Please, call me Alex."
"Of course, Alex. Please understand, Kate is still very religious, very close to God and his works. She needed to understand that He loves her, and He loves you and Walter as well. That's the scripture we teach. And it has brought her much comfort."
"Thank you, Maureen. I'm glad she has a friend like you to help her. I think I kept my distance from her too long." Alex gives her the sad smile of regret. I've seen it quite a bit in my time with him.
Maureen just nods. Alex stands when his sister and Shannon return, then excuses himself to the bathroom as well.
If I didn't get away when I did, I'd probably have started crying. I'm so happy my sister is adjusting. She's opening up and she's becoming...normal. Well, how the hell else can I describe it? And of course, whom do I encounter on my way to the men's room, but Sister Cleophus Shivers. She is the matriarch of Hopewell Baptist Church. And the busiest of the busy-bodies. I shouldn't be mean to her, since I hope to God I'm as active as she as when I get to be her age. Bless her, she's eighty-seven years old. And damn it if she doesn't look like she's less than sixty. She looks up at me as she's coming from the ladies' room, cane proceeding her, clearing the way.
Two dark eyes look me over from behind thick glasses and she smiles. "Why, Alex, how you've changed," she drawls. I shouldn't roll my eyes, but I can't help it. Then she goes on to say, "How you two indulge that Mitchell girl. I swear, the woman don't even have the decency to show her face in church no more to thank God for you two boys."
This is the only woman I will allow to call me a boy. She's earned it. She holds out her hand to shake mine, but instead I take hers, kissing the light brown, wrinkled skin. "Ma'am, from you, that's one of the highest compliments I've ever gotten. Thank you."
She smiles. "God bless you, boy, and your man. Have a nice day."
She slides herself away to where her granddaughter is waiting to take her home. I walk into the men's room and think about how hard this is going to be, pissing in this dress. What the fuck was I thinking? So I go in a stall to get myself together. As I'm washing my hands to leave, some asshole walks in, someone I don't know. He looks at me, gives me a strange look, then asks, "Halloween party?"
"Indulging the kid," I say back. Whew, not what I was thinking.
"My little girl got me to dress as Blue while she was Magenta. My wife was Steve. It wasn't...fun."
"I hear ya," I say as I walk out. This is one of the strangest days of my life.
Back at the table, everyone is standing to leave, Shannon chattering happily about ice cream. I look at Walter. He shrugs. "She talked me into it." I hug my sister, shake Maureen's hand and watch as they drive away.
I sigh as I look at Walter's Range Rover. Then again, I don't have my Hummer, so I'm dependent on him for a ride back to the Closet to get it. We drive to the Baskin-Robbins and we all indulge. I get Double Chocolate Overload, Walter gets his Peaches and Cream, and Shannon has two big scoops of Bubble Gum Princess. She smiles with her mouth covered in ice cream, trying to chew the gum hidden in each scoop of the hot pink frozen confection.
"Mama won't let me get messy like this, Alex. I like it sometimes."
"I know what you look like under the ice cream, Petal." She smiled widely at me.
We sit on a bench, Shannon between Walter and I. She puts her spoon into her ice cream and looks up at me. "Mama's sick, isn't she? I mean, real sick."
I'm taken aback. She and I have talked about a lot of things, mostly school stuff or her friends, even a boy she liked. We'd never spoken of her mother's headaches. And for her to bring it up like this is very odd. She was raised by a Southern Belle and she knows how to make "polite lady-like conversation" as she told me. This is deep and it's serious. I almost want to say it's too serious for a seven-year-old. I have the feeling she's much smarter than I give her credit for.
"Why do you say that? What's she been like?" I'm going to try and draw her out. Maybe she needs to unload.
"She sold the big TV and the stereo. The house is too messy for me to clean cuz she can't always get out of bed. She forgets to take me to school. And she lied when she said she was working. She ain't. Sorry that I gotta lie to you."
Shannon hangs her head and takes a deep breath. I hug her and say, "It's OK. I don't mind. I know you want to protect her."
She looks up at me and has tears on her cheeks. I wipe them away with my napkin. "You say what you need to when she's there, and you tell me and Walter anything you want in private. And it'll stay with us. Don't worry about that, Petal."
I kiss the top of her head. She nods and goes back to her ice cream and the latest boy band that she and her friends are crazy over. And I listen, since one of the kids is exceptionally cute, and used to hang at the Closet back a year ago before he went out for the tryouts. I won't tell her that, she needs her illusions.
We take her back home, fast asleep, and Anabelle is very tired looking. I take Shannon to her room and notice things are a lot cleaner. She's done laundry because I can smell Downy. We don't stay long, just putting Shannon to bed, still in her costume, and we decline an offer of coffee.
"Thank you, Anabelle," Walter says, "but after a day of chasing after Shannon, a man my age needs sleep more than anything."
I just smile and we leave her at the door. In the truck, I ask, "Are you really tired, Vlad? Or can we go get the Hummer?"
He smiles at me and says, "Leave it until tomorrow. That dress is driving me insane. When we get home, get in the bedroom, make a hole in them tights and bend over the footboard for me. Lubed."
As he's speeding up the mountain, I reach into his lap and find him half hard, which is good for him. We only make love once or twice a week now. Walter just can't keep up sometimes. It's fine with me, since he still holds me at night. This night, we'll make love like we were kids, as if we have known each other since back then.
Pulling in, I unbuckle and make tracks into the house. The dogs and puppies try to welcome me back, but I shoo them all off. Everything is the way we left it, except Walter's clothes are draped over the plush chair in the corner. He must have hurried to dress for the party. That kid loved it. And yeah, so did I. I thought it was a really sweet thing for him to do.
I hear him sweep into the house and start checking and locking the doors. As I'm tearing the hole in my tights to get the lube to my ass, I can hear him punch in the security code. Heavy footsteps bring him into the bedroom where I wait, dress hiked up, legs spread and ready for him. I glance over my shoulder to see him fumbling with his tights to pull them aside and the fast burn of him in me. Ah, sweet pain of being filled.
Two huge hands on my hips guide us back and forth, meeting and parting, only his cock to connect us. Overwhelming pleasure brims tears in my eyes as he hits all my special places and I come quickly, without taking my hands from where they keep me upright on the footboard. He is not far behind me, grunting, saying my name and other Russian expletives I've taught him while he pumps his come into me. Those hands go from holding me to sliding around me to hug me to his chest. Two warm lips meet my neck.
"Let's go shower, Sasha. We can rest and play again, ok?"
"Yeah, I like that idea," I say as I turn to kiss his mouth. He leads the way and the night is one I will put into my treasury of nights that only add to the pleasure of this man that I love.
Not a week goes by after Halloween before Mulder and Scully call us frantically asking our help. It seems they booked a cruise vacation and Maggie Scully backed out of caring for William. She's come down with a bad cold and cannot properly care for the boy. I answer the phone and can hear Scully getting almost hysterical.
"Wait, Dana, calm down. Do you need us to go and check on her? How sick is she? We can help, relax." I know it's useless to try and interrupt Dr. Scully as she's going on about her mother's symptoms, but I really don't care if the post nasal drip gave her tonsillitis.
"No, Alex, I'm here. She's got plenty of medications and food to last her for the time while she's sick. My problem is someone to watch William. I was hoping you and Walter could help us. Fox and I haven't had a vacation..."
"Fox? When did he get over his first name?" I giggle thinking of calling him by his first name.
"When his son started to insist on being called 'Little Mulder'. Then he realized he could have had worse names."
"Like Valery. Try living that one down." I pronounce my name in English, but Scully doesn't get it. I don't think Walter told her or Mulder about my name. It doesn't matter. "Why don't you throw some clothes in a bag and we'll come get him? Is he with you?"
"No, he's with Fox at the house. Thank you."
"Anytime, Dana. You could have asked us first you know. Your mom may not be able to keep up with an eight year old boy."
I hear her laugh on the other end. "And you can?"
"We've been doing a lot of babysitting for Anabelle. I thought Walter would have told you. Her migraines are getting worse." I know I should try harder to be nice to Anabelle. She's always so sad and tired looking lately. It's killing her, I imagine.
"Do you know what she takes for them?" Ever the doctor, Dana Scully- Mulder with her pediatric practice in a medical complex not unlike the one where Anabelle is treated.
"They had her on Zomig a while, then Migrin, now she's on this Imitrex stuff. She injects herself like it's heroin. And she has Tylenol with codeine for when nothing works. I tell her to just take that."
There's a moment of silence. "Does this woman spend a lot of time at your home?"
I laugh. "No, Dana, she's usually bed-ridden. We take care of the kid sometimes. I've been taking her to and from school this past week."
I think about my words. Anabelle is not doing well at all and it's scaring the hell out of Shannon. That bothers me. "I'll have Fox bring him by later today, is that OK?"
"Of course! We got rid of the puppy crap from the den, he can sleep in there. Well, we still have Taffy and Truffle. Hey, after this is over, you may have yourself a dog."
"Oh no, don't you foist your dogs on me!" I laugh with her and we make plans to be here when Mulder bring William over later today. Walter is sitting in the den, Truffle in his lap as he surfs through endless webpages. I walk in, greeted enthusiastically by Taffy, who is big enough to jump into my arms, and too big to be a lap dog. I can hold her.
"Hey, Vlad, we're going to have a guest until Thanksgiving." And I wait for the reaction.
Two big hands bring Truffle to his face and he kisses her head. "Does my girl want guests? Does she? Or does she want her daddy all to herself?" Tail wagging, tongue lolling, I'm jealous of a dog. And he's making me nauseous. "Who are we hosting, Sasha?" That sickening girlie tone is still in his voice.
"William. Mulder and Dana wanna go on vacation and Maggie is sick. I said we'd take care of the kid for a couple of weeks. Is that OK?" I don't expect him to say no, which is why I made the decision for us.
He looks thoughtful for a moment, then raises Truffle until they're eye level. "Do you wanna meet little William? You'll just love him, yes you will." He gives her some more kisses then lets her go on the floor as she yips and chases her tail. I shake my head and walk away.
"He'll be here later on, so you better get the place in gear." We proceed to vacuum up, run some wet cloths over the floors, and get out fresh sheets for the futon in the den. Walter normally keeps the place ridiculously clean, so we don't have much to do.
Honey doesn't seem to like what's going on, apparently. She walks into the kitchen, dumps over her empty food bowl and trots out the door. I follow her out and call her. She's still learning her name, not really used to being domestic. I figured that she had been a pet and then discarded when she became pregnant. No one has listed her as missing, and her fur was too well cared for when she showed up. She was just dirty, not matted.
She eventually walks over to me and sits beside me. Walter and I have made chairs for the back yard and I've gotten down into one. She looks at me. "Girlie, you are going to have to be good. We can't have all this nonsense."
Honey walks in front of me and puts her head in my lap. I rub her ears and head and neck. I even lean down to give her a few kisses. "You are my sweet girl. I love your big brown eyes. I love your fluffy fur. And I love that you don't take any bullshit around here. Be nice to William when he gets here, OK?"
I pat her again and off she goes. She'll catch a squirrel or something. Hopefully she'll get the ones that keep teasing Bosco. Those are three squirrel carcasses I'll be happy to see on the doorstep.
Later that night, William stands in the living room, playing with Taffy and Truffle while Mulder and Scully look on in amazement. "I've never seen him like this," Mulder says. "Some mornings, he won't let Dana go to work. We figured it was residual trauma from all the running we did back in the war. I don't think he even knows we're here right now."
"Maybe he needs a pet," I say quietly. Walter shoots me a burning look, and I know he can tell what I'm thinking. Truffle has to go, and I'm going to bond her with William. That dog is going home with that boy if it kills me. All I have to do is get Walter to go along with it.
William does break away long enough to hug and kiss his parents goodbye, then goes back to playing. Mulder and Scully both look a little crest- fallen when they realize William isn't going to throw a fit that they're leaving as we see them off. I put my hand on Scully's shoulder. "Red, relax. The kid is safer with us than anywhere else. And you know that. You enjoy yourself and get some rest. Give the kid a sister, OK?"
She knows what I mean. We all know that the chip in her neck created William, but it's the pink elephant that just shit on the coffee table. No one wants to talk about it.
"You're right, Alex. We'll call when we get a chance to let you know we're safe."
I nod, kiss her cheek and we wave as they drive away. I walk back in and William looks up at me. "Did they go? I missed them? Wait, I didn't tell them something!" His eyes go wide with fear and panic. I get down on the floor with him and take one of his shaking hands.
"It's OK, William, they're fine. They're going to call later. You can tell them then. They know you love them. They're happy you're getting along with the puppies. Do you like puppies?"
"Kinda, but mom doesn't think it's a good idea to have one."
This is interesting, considering she used to have a dog. "You know she had one, right?"
"Yeah, she had a dog for a little while. It was killed by an alligator, but she still has his tag. His name was Quequeg."
Having William smiling at me is a joy. "Did Dad have any pets? He never talks much about anything but the cool X files he had. And how much he loves Mom."
This is going to be an interesting two weeks.
Something's wrong with Momma. Again. She's been sleeping a lot again and she is taking the big white pills. I thought they were supposed to be for the pain, but she is taking them for any old reason now. If she has a headaches, cramps, whatever. Grandpa and Alex came and got me, packed some clothes. Alex's sister Kate came to stay with Momma for the weekend. She used to live with us but now she's got her own house. I wish she was still here, she could help Mommy feel better. She's a teacher. Momma wants to send me to her school next year, but it's a pay-school not free like the one I go to now. I hate my school, it's boring. The teacher gives us easy stuff and most of the stupid jerks in class can't even get it right! Dummies.
I like William though, he may be a dumb old boy, but he's cute. He's tall for eight and a half. He's got blue eyes like his momma. Mine are green, like Alex's. I wish Alex was my daddy. But nooo, I get stuck with a daddy that's a crack dealer. I ain't gonna go see him, neither. I hate jails. Momma took me once, and I cried the whole time. I figure if I scream and cry, she won't make me go. He done stopped callin' us too. So maybe he has forgotten about us too.
"William, let's go look for smooth rocks," I tell him. He's been here all week. His momma and daddy are cruisin'.
"Yeah, come on," he says. I follow him through the trees, with Bosco and Honey right on our heels. Taffy and Truffle stayed at the house, they aren't allowed out this far. Grandpa is turnin' something in the shed, but the machines are real loud, so we didn't wanna hang out there.
At the stream, me and William stop and sit. He's throwin' rocks in the water. It's cold here. I'm not gonna stay long. My Momma would like this. To lay here, with her head in the water. She did that a buncha times. She said the cold made the headaches go away. She told me not to tell Grandpa or Alex that we were there. They'd get mad. I told her I didn't think so, but I don't argue no more. If I do, she tells me I'm just jealous of attention she's getting. Nope, I don't think so! I hate people always looking at me and stuff. I just wanna be a kid just like my friends.
William comes and sits with me on the log. I just look at the water. "Grandpa and Uncle Alex will take care of you. I know your mom's sick."
"Huh?" How's he know?
"They talk. They think I don't listen. Mom's like that. But my dad knows."
I nod at him. He's real cute. I hope he likes me. There's a loud whistle that echoes through the trees. That's Alex. You can't hear him calling, but I can hear that whistle. The dogs are up and lead us back uphill to the house. I guess we are moving too slow cuz Alex whistles again. William holds my hand as we walk. "You're gonna be OK, Shannon. I promise."
He kisses my cheek, then runs ahead to catch the dogs
William and Shannon are sitting on the couch, watching a movie. As Alex and I dry the dishes, I look in and check on them a few times. As I turn back, I see them sitting almost on top of each other, Shannon resting her head on William's shoulder and they're holding hands. "Oh, shit."
Alex turns to me. "What, Vlad?"
"The kids. They're...close." He walks to the door and looks out.
"You think we have a problem?" Now what? I shrug. "We'll go sit with them a while. When bedtime comes, we'll see what's what."
I get us beers and join the kids in the living room. Alex is sitting on the couch with the kids, leaving the easy chair for me. I hand an open one to Alex and notice that Shannon is now cuddled under his arm along his side. All should be well.
At bedtime, Shannon agrees to sleep alone in the den with the door closed. William doesn't mind sleeping on the couch. And we plan on leaving the door open. It was a little easier to make love when William was in the den. His door was closed and so was ours. With both kids here, not only are we going to be celibate, but we're wearing pajamas. I love the way Alex looks in the t-shirt and sweats as he slips under the comforter. I'm very stuffily dressed in navy blue pajamas. All lights are out, but neither Alex nor I can sleep.
"What's going on here? We have kids in the house. My sister is planning Thanksgiving dinner at her house. We're planning on giving Truffle to the Sculders. Are we...like..."
"We're domestic. We're a family. We're...normal. Is that bad?" I think on this a moment and wait on his answer. It's true. We are a domesticated couple of humans. I wonder if this will send him running.
"Was this what it was like to be married to Sharon?" That's interesting.
"Kind of. I was younger, obviously, more idealistic, more...unwilling to give of myself. I thought that there would be a magical moment when I'd just trust her implicitly with all my feelings, my heart and emotions. Sharon wanted to mother me, trivialize my fears about the bureau. You know where I've been, what I've been through, and you don't make light of it. This is better than when I was married to Sharon."
He leans over and kisses my cheek. "It feels good here, too."
He settles and soon he's asleep. He always could immediately fall out. It's unnerving. I soon follow him into sleep.
At the end of the weekend, I'm almost shocked at what I'm seeing after dinner. Alex has let the kids take him to a toy store to buy a home video game system, Sony Play Station 4. These games have gotten so high tech. I'm not stupid with computers, but I never got past pinball when it came to arcade games. Alex seems to fit right in with the kids, playing a driving game that he bought a steering wheel and pedal for, as well as some sharp shooting game that required a special gun. It was funny watching Alex point with a lime green toy gun, after having seen him use a real one. It was just ridiculous enough to make me laugh, and not think of the times he'd pointed a gun at me. They were all crowded around the couch with one of the folding tables I'd made covered in electronics and small game disks. They looked like the old CD singles that never quite caught on when CDs first came out. I remember looking at them, and the adapter you needed to use to run it in a CD player, thinking of 7-inch records and the yellow disk for the center. These had huge entire games on them and I was impressed that Alex had gotten so many. There were even a few games just for Shannon.
At one point, Alex finishes a target board and the children were commending him on the good job he's done when he looks over at me. He looks at the toy weapon in his hand and his face falls. He pulls the game out, to the chagrin of the children and says, "Why don't you kids go out and play with the dogs for a while? Walter and I want to talk."
The kids nod dutifully and grab their jackets and the dogs follow them out. I call after them, "Stay in the yard! And stay out of the shed!"
Alex laughs at my instructions. We've come to understand that with children, you need to be specific. If we stay "stay near the house" they interpret that as meaning the house is on the mountain, so if they're somewhere on the mountain, they're near the house. Thankfully, Alex's whistle is as loud as a steam whistle for a train.
"Vlad, if you want, I'll get rid of the shooting games. I didn't think about..."
"Sasha, relax. There's a difference between you holding a bright green toy, and what happened between us more than a decade ago. Now, come here and kiss me." He crawls to me, dropping to all fours, slinking seductively across the floor, wiggling his ass. He kneels before me, hands on my thighs, reaching toward my face to kiss me. He's slow and gentle, but I pull away. "Sasha, the kids." He nods, but both children have seen us kissing. I just don't want to give them ideas.
Maybe I'm being old fashioned, but when Alex takes the kids to school early Monday morning, I feel better knowing that William will be up in Maryland and Shannon will stay here in Virginia. It's silly, I know. William is a good boy, a well behaved child. I love letting him stay here. I've been in love with that kid since he was born, regardless of the way I acted at first. I can't understand why I'm so protective of Shannon. It must be that little father part of me sneaking out.
By the end of the next week, I'm truly sad to see William leave. He's a great kid, and he taught me how to play those damn games, which I'm hooked on. We've decided to put it in a box and put it away so he and I can catch up on our reading. There are several Washington Posts waiting for me. Alex is loathe to do it, but he boxes the game and disks and puts the box in the den. For now, I'm back to being an adult again.
Alex and I stand on the porch commenting on how rested and tanned Mulder and Dana look, William walks out of the house dragging his duffle bag, pulling Truffle on a leash. Her tail is wagging and she's jumping around happily. Dana's eyes go wide. "William, you are not taking that dog home. Now, lead her back into the house and say goodbye."
We all turn to Dana with wide eyes at the sternness of her tone. This is not the woman who was unearthly grateful for her son. This is a tired mother. Alex to the rescue. "I got one word for you, Red. Quequeg."
"How did you know about him?" she asks, shocked.
"You told me about him after I rescued Bosco. You loved that little dog, if I recall correctly. Now, Truffle knows her name, is fully house-trained and responds well to William. We've been working hard for the last two weeks. If you make him leave without his dog, I'll never forgive you."
The look in Alex's eyes was that of sheer admonishment. Dana blushes deeply. She clears her throat to say something, but Mulder jumps in and saves us all. "You know, Dana, far be it from me to make a decision, but I'd like a dog myself. So, since it's two against one, you lose. We have a dog."
William screams in happiness and hugs his father around the waist. I'm sure Mulder will be paying for that later today, but it was rather necessary. The boy needs a pet. All children should have pets. Alex gets a bag of the puppy food we've been using, a bowl for food, one for water and a few chew toys. She's already wearing her red harness and leash. As Scully belts William into the back of the car, Mulder stands by his door with Alex and I. He smiles and says, "I'm going to get my ass kicked tonight for that, Alex. I hope you can appreciate the trouble I put myself in for you."
Alex laughs. "Isn't it nice to have your nuts back, though?" Mulder laughs with us. "That's the beauty of fucking a guy. We both keep our own nuts."
"I guess," Mulder says. "Just do me a favor, stop calling her 'Red', OK? She hates that. Do it again and she'll snatch your nuts off before we leave."
"I call her Red just to piss her off, my man. Don't you know that? It irks me when she likes me. I deal better with her ire than her adoration." I look at Alex and smack his ass.
"That's enough out of you," I say, scolding him. Mulder shakes our hands, we get hugs from Dana and the family is off for their home. We walk back in, and notice the quiet. Truffle was the alpha pup, and her loss is noticed. Especially by Honey, who has Taffy seated in front of her and is bathing her like a kitten. Taffy will have enough of it soon and run off. Alex has begun to put a fire together for us, so I decide to get us some brandy to enjoy while we relax.
Later, sitting on the couch, Alex lays his head on my shoulder. "I miss the kids."
I laugh. I knew he would. He loves those children. "They'll be back. You know they will. We get Shannon almost every weekend now. Which reminds me, have we set a wedding date?"
"Not that I know of. When did you want to do it?" He looks up at me totally blank. Shit.
"I guess we can do it in April. When the trees are starting to blossom but it's not too warm for suits yet. Just one thing." He sits up further, attentive. "We're not doing it at the Closet. I love the place, but it's not where I want to be married. We should do it at Prince William Manor." The Manor, as everyone simply calls it, is the place where most of the upper middle class hold their functions. I've already called to tentatively reserve a weekend in April, knowing that Anabelle has not done thing one about it.
"Yeah, that's a nice place. They done fag marriages there?" he asks, leaning back down. I really dislike him using the derogatory terms around me as if it were just normal talk.
"Sasha, why do you keep insulting us?" I ask. I'm going to find out once and for all why he does this.
"Huh?" He turns to look at me. "What the fuck are you talking about?"
"I'm talking about every time you call us 'queers' or 'fags' or 'homos' or whatever. Do you hate yourself that much? Do you hate me that much?"
Alex winces as if physically hit. He scrunches his face up in serious thought, making the wrinkle above his nose that melts me. I half think he's manipulating me, and the other half of me thinks it's just unconscious of him when he concentrates. "I just really mean it as a joke. You know?"
"Yes, it's a self-deprecating joke. It's also a sign of low self-esteem and hate for oneself. I was under the impression that you thought rather highly of yourself. I do. I think you're an amazing man. I always have. You managed to do things in your life, good things, whether you think they're good or not, that I don't know other men would have had the strength to do. You've lived where others would have died. You succeeded where others have surely failed. At this point in our lives, we should be proud of who we are. I know I am."
He drops his eyes and considers my words a moment. My hands are rubbing his shoulders. A shudder goes through him. My Alex lives in a place I don't quite understand. I try to imagine what he's feeling, but I'm not that empathetic a person. He tells me quite a bit more than he used to, willingly so. I used to have to draw him out. Some things just get lost in the telling, though.
"I'm sorry, Vlad. I didn't realize that you felt that way. I won't do that anymore. I do love you, you know." The look on his face is proof that he's telling the truth. The wrinkle is still there. I kiss it, then his lips and hold him tightly.
"I love you back, Sasha." He surprises me tonight by taking me by the hand to lay on the new faux-fur rug we've put before the fireplace and we tenderly make love for hours, gently reacquainting ourselves with each other, after spending two weeks fumbling in the dark to quickly appease each other. Repeatedly I praise his beauty and he reassures me of my prowess. It is a good night for us.
I'm surprised at how good a time Walter and I have at my sister's for Thanksgiving. She's also invited Anabelle and Shannon, which is fine by me. The day is spent mostly with me reading to Shannon. She isn't feeling well, a bit of an earache, so TV bothers her, so she says. Thankfully, my sister had acquired a large children's library and I start off reading "Where the Wild Things Are" which is a lot of fun for me, too. We didn't read these kinds of books in the institute. That's how I've been referring to it when I tell Shannon about my childhood. She thinks I grew up in a boarding school. I won't burst her illusions.
At dinner, Shannon only eats a little then nods off in her chair. I feel just terrible for her, and tuck her in on the couch. Anabelle is happy enough to continue blabbing to Walter and Katya about everything and nothing. I think she's had a little too much wine, since she doesn't see my sister getting uncomfortable as she tells some pretty dirty jokes to a former nun. I finally look at Anabelle pointedly and say, "I think that's enough with Penthouse's top-ten filthy jokes of all time, OK?"
"Why Alex, I didn't think I'd be upsetting you with these jokes. My, I would have thought that some of them would appeal to you." Her tone is honey and poison mixed. If I could only learn to gauge her moods better, I could head off half of this nonsense.
"Come on, we just ate. Can't we just talk about normal stuff, please?" The look I get from my sister is hard to read, somewhere between gratitude and reprimand. Whatever it is, she turns the conversation to her classes and things go more smoothly after that. Until I volunteer to drive Anabelle and Shannon home. Walter chooses to stay behind and help with the clean up while I get to haul the two sleepyheads home. At least Anabelle walks into the house.
After laying Shannon on her bed and bending over to take her shoes off, I feel something pressing against my ass. And it's Anabelle of all things. Startled, I jump to the side, confused. "Hey, I didn't hear you," I say, nervously, walking toward the door. She follows me out and closes the kid's door behind her. I try to get to the door, but she follows me, putting her hand on it to keep me from opening it.
"Why are you leaving so quickly, Alexander?" she drawls. Oh shit...she's hitting on me. If there's a bigger waste of her time...
"Walter's waiting for me at Katya's. I should get there. He wants to go home, I'm sure." Hopefully mentioning my future husband's name will snap her out of this twisted mood.
"He knows where you are. Why don't you stay and have a drink with me? It's a long walk back to Kat's place, and I know a little drink will keep you warm the way back." Dear God, she's leaning into me, pressing her breasts against me. They're fake, I can feel it from here. I never noticed she had implants, but they just never feel right, even through my sweater. With them pressed against my chest like this, I'm more disgusted than anything else. My dick is trying to crawl up into my stomach with my balls.
"Anabelle, stop it. I'm gay, remember?" I try to move her away from me, but it's not working. She leans up, seemingly to try and kiss me so I give her a push. "Anabelle, cut it out right now! What the hell's wrong with you? Run through all the straight men in Prince William County so now you go after the cock suckers?"
I know I'm being really harsh, but what she's doing in not cool at all. She looks hurt for a moment, then the familiar look of hate crawls across her face. "You fucking faggot! How dare you shove me! Get the fuck out of my house, you freak! Get out!"
I pull open the door and stride away from the house with her screaming obscenities at me. She must be shocking the entire neighborhood. I walk past the Ramsey's and the Mrs. is looking out at me. She waves, I wave back. She waves me over to her. What the hell...
"Alex, are you all right? I heard the screaming," she says quietly through the screen door as I reach her front steps.
"Yes, ma'am, I'm fine, thank you." May as well cultivate the manners Walter's teaching me. And damn it if Mike Elliot's damn accent isn't rubbing off on me. This is from all the "blending" training I got.
"It's a wonder you still help her out. She's off her nut, I tell you. The lights go on at all hours of the night. She screams and cries about the silliest things. I swear, I can hear her clear across the yard. If she hadn't cleaned that place up, I'd have called the authorities. It's good she treats that girl good. One mark on that kid, I'm calling Child Protective Services on her."
"Don't you worry about that. Shannon would tell me if her mom was hitting her." I hope.
She opens the door and reaches out to pat my shoulder. "If I get worried, can I call you and Walter? I just don't know what to do any more. If Mr. Ramsey were still here..." Her husband died early in the summer. I went to the wake. Walter and I did some gardening until she settled her finances and got a gardener.
"I hope you will." I mean that.
"Someone needs to really love that little girl."
"I do." Can't lie to Mrs. Ramsey.
"Night, Mrs. Ramsey."
I walk away from the house, take a look back at Anabelle's darkened house, and start formulating a plan. At Katya's house, they're sitting with coffee when I walk in. "Where have you been, Alex?" she asks.
Walter stands and walks over to me. "Are you all right? You're white as a ghost."
Here goes everything. "She hit on me."
Katya blushes and turns away. "Are you serious, Sasha? She...what did she do?"
"Pressed her fake ti...breasts on me and asked me to stay for a drink. I told her off and split. I'm sorry, Vlad..."
He waves his hand at me. "No, Sasha, you have no reason to apologize to me. I know you didn't encourage her. This finalizes it for me. She is...not worth my sympathy."
Shit shit shit! This is not what I wanted. I just wanted to confess. Granted, I felt guilty about it. Rolled it over in my head too many times what I may have done to encourage her, as I walked home. I noticed a wind blowing tonight, cooling my anger and embarrassment as I trod back to Katya's house. Her small home, rented from the Teasdales who moved up in the world but know the value of equity, was a welcome sight, knowing I could get more opinions than my simple thoughts.
"Vlad, we can't just...we need to talk about this more. There are things you don't know." I look over at my sister whose head is down. "What am I saying, like you'd gossip about her to anyone." Katya looks up at me and gives me a tight smile. I relate the information that Mrs. Ramsey gave me to them and Walter starts rubbing the bridge of his nose. Since he's gotten his eyes lasered, he hasn't worn glasses, but he still rubs his face in the familiar pattern.
"We need to step in, Sasha," he says, softly. I don't even think he's noticed using my pet name in front of Katya. Then again, no one but he and I call her that. Everyone else calls her Kate.
"Step in and do what? Take Shannon? Run her life? No, we can't do that. You're not her father. I'm not her husband. No way, no how. She's gotta fall apart on her own." I'm firm with that statement. And I won't budge.
I can't believe Alex is being this obtuse. How can he just let her destroy her life? And Shannon's? "You can't mean that, Sasha. Do care so little for Shannon that you'll allow Anabelle to hurt her?"
"Wait a minute. I never said that. I'm pretty sure that if she hurts the kid, Shannon'll call me. I have no doubt on that. Mrs. Ramsey knows to call us if she hears anything. Until then, we can't do anything. We have to let her live her life. Period."
He drops his head because he knows I'm right. My sister to the rescue. "On a lighter note, I have the sample invitation for your wedding if you'd like to see it."
She hands me a card set made from heavy paper, gray and white marbleized paper with a black border that highlights the marble under it. The printing is steel gray and raised. The envelopes are just the gray and white marble. The response cards and envelopes are smaller but mirror the invitations. I read it out loud.
"Mr. Alexander Valery Krycek and Mr. Walter Sergei Skinner request the honor of your presence to celebrate their nuptials on April 3rd, 2010. Please join them on this auspicious occasion to help unite them in matrimony." After that is listed the manor and the times and I can't read anymore with tears in my eyes. Alex sits beside me on the couch and kisses my cheek. "It's for real, Vlad. April 3rd, you gonna be my old man."
He smiles at me and we laugh. His old man. I'm old. Oh God, this is real. I'm fifty-seven years old. He's forty-six. Why is he with me? He can have any young man in the Closet, or anywhere for that matter. Why he wastes his time with me, I'll never know.
"Come on, Vlad, take me home. We have to go shopping tomorrow."
"God, that's right, it's almost Christmas."
I feel a slap on my arm and turn to Katya. She's rather petite, next to Alex and I, but taller than Dana. She reminds me of Monica Reyes, only her face is more feminine, her lips fuller, like Alex's. Her green eyes are narrowed and her brow furrowed. She and Alex could have been twins. "Don't take the Lord's name in vain, Walter."
I smile and nod to her. "My apologies to you and the Lord, Ekaterina." I kiss her proffered cheek and Alex and I make our way home.
I spend the next two weeks blissfully with Alex, quietly shopping for Christmas. We spend an obscene amount of money on our family and friends. It's nice, though. Alex and I love shopping for toys especially for the baby. Shaine, Patty, Gerry and Mikey all had a baby girl a month ago. Her name is Heather. She has dark hair and dark eyes, but that she could have easily inherited from Shaine. They're keeping the father a secret. Neither man wants to know.
Alex is getting gifts for Shannon and plans on making some overture to give them to her. I don't know how this will work, but I make my amends, as Katya suggests, and purchase a string of pearls for Anabelle. We must give her something. I'm afraid that she'll sell the pearls, though. I can't think of that. I'll give them to her, from us both, and that will be that. She can do with them as she pleases.
We arrive home, exhausted, counting down on the advent calendar Katya gave us, twenty more days until Christmas. We put away the gifts in the den and settle in the living room with affectionate dogs. Taffy is just a bundle of joy these days, getting big. We had her spayed at five months, as was suggested by Diane, and I agreed. Taffy shouldn't reproduce. If we want more puppies, we'll adopt them. Honey was spayed as well. Bosco, that poor boy, he growled at me for a month. I told Alex it was essential that I took Bosco. He's my boy.
Eventually, the dogs move away, realizing that both daddies want to neck on the couch and grind on each other. Alex, to me, is the only link to poetry and art I still maintain. His love is magic, transforming me into another being. I am a young man again, all hormones and limbs. He, in turn, becomes a bundle of passion and fire. We take our passion to our room and move together slowly, languidly, making love like old friends.
The look on his face as I move inside him, dragging my cock past his prostate with each stroke, proves to me that I know him now, truly know him, giving him pleasure and he trusts me enough to show me how he feels. With each stroke, he grinds against my body, thrusting his cock into my groin to get contact. I try to reach for him, to pull in the counter movements he loves so, but he slaps me away, so I leave him. Instead, I stroke his back and hips, squeeze his firm ass while I nibble and lick his neck. He grabs at my shoulders, pulling on me as if I were slipping away. "Oh, Vlad, more, faster, I'm almost there..." he whispers and I obey him.
We move together, familiar in our coupling enough to know when each other will come to heighten it. I can feel him tightening around me so I angle to his prostate more, watching his head fall back as his eyes roll up. He comes, tightening on me to bring me along with him and we both contract in the familiar dance of orgasm together. I hold him tight, seared with his heat, sealing our flesh together.
My Alex is feral, rubs against me like a tomcat, as if one fuck isn't enough for him. "Can you get it up again? I want you again tonight. I want to come in your ass. Can we?"
Hot lips play with my ear lobe as he tries to use his hands to tease me back to life. "No, Sasha...not yet. Lay with me a while." I tighten my arms a bit and nuzzle against his neck. He giggles.
"Vlad, you used to get it up faster than this. Are you tired of me?" The pouty quality of his voice tells me he's teasing. I tease back.
"On the contrary, my love. You satisfy me so thoroughly, there is nothing left of me for a second round. But I think I can manage something in a while." I can feel his smile against my cheek and we settle a moment. Then the phone rings, setting the dogs off to barking.
Pulling away, he looks at me. "She'd better be dead. Otherwise, I'm not going."
I pull myself out of bed and answer. I'm not prepared for the other party to be from the Virginia Division of Social Services. A social worker named Kathy Tsirkas is on the line, asking me if Alex was able to take custody of Shannon. "Excuse me? What happened to Anabelle?"
She goes on to tell me that Anabelle was found by paramedics passed out in her bed, several bottles of medication around and Shannon was hysterical. She kept insisting we come to Manassas General to get the girl. Alex was already out of bed and in the bathroom washing himself. I could barely hear the woman with Shannon screaming in the background and the dogs barking at the door. I looked up and noticed the flashing red and blue lights in our driveway through the window and knew it was serious.
I walked with the cordless phone into the bedroom to grab my robe and strode back to the front door to open it, shushing the dogs. Two local officers I don't know are standing in my entranceway. I hold my hand up and say into the phone, "Ma'am, I have the police here. I'll be at the hospital as soon as I can. Tell Shannon that we're coming for her. Make sure she knows we will be there as soon as we can. We live a distance so it may be more than an hour. But make sure she knows we're coming."
I click off before she can say any more and look at the two young men. Both are taller and wider than me, one white, one black. Both were dark-haired, but the green eyes against the light skin of the officer named Richards makes me think of Alex. He comes striding out of the bathroom with a towel wrapped around his waist as continues on into the bedroom, slamming the door behind him. I'm sure he's dressing.
"Can I help you gentlemen?" I ask, looking up at someone for the first time in a long time.
The other cop, O'Leary, speaks up. "Are you Mr. Skinner?" I nod. The green-eyed cop is silent, but looks at the three dogs lined up behind me, wary. "We were asked to escort you to Manassas General to take custody of the little girl."
"Asked? By whom? I just got off the phone with the social worker. I don't..."
O'Leary holds a large, dark hand up. "Stuart Flannigan asked us to help out. He's got the police band at home and radioed us. We're new around here, anyway, and he thought we should learn the mountain. Nothing's wrong, just taking care of the child, sir. Is Mr. Krycek here?"
I smile. Stuart isn't so bad after all. "He was the gentleman you saw go into our bedroom. Allow me to dress and we'll follow you to the hospital." I turn and see the dogs rear up, Bosco starts to crouch in defense. "Relax, kids, all is well." I walk over and give each of them pets and hug my boy.
Alex opens the door and stands there, waiting for me. I follow him into the bedroom and we close the door. "What the fuck did she do?"
"She took a toxic dosage of several migraine medications that reacted badly. She's stable, and they don't think it was a suicide attempt, based on the blood work. But she obviously will be there a few days. So when they began talking to Shannon, she started screaming for us. Are you OK with this?" I can see him getting more and more angry with each sentence, but he takes a deep breath and looks up at me.
"I would rather suck up to that cow than let Shannon go to a foster home." He's already dressed so he goes to the door. "I'll wait in the Rover. I'd rather you drove. Shannon will probably fall asleep on the ride back here."
I nod at him and take him in my arms to kiss him. God, how lucky I am to have a man who is so clear on what he wants. Meaning me. I dress quickly and we head out, following the troopers. Alex does something I've never seen him do as we quickly make our way to the hospital. He bites his nails. This is a new one on me. Domesticity is wearing away his ingrained responses of no response. He's lost his poker face and he can't sit still while being nervous.
I don't even bother to say anything, knowing he's lost in his thoughts. I don't want to risk him snapping at me. I don't need to worry about that. "Vlad, I know this isn't the best time to bring this up, but I'm going to talk to your old lawyer, Bruce. He's still practicing part time. I want him to draft up paperwork for us to take custody of Shannon."
I can't say I'm very shocked. I'm not. I am, however, in the same frame of mind as I was before when I had considered this possibility. "Sasha, I do not think the state of Virginia will give custody of a young girl to two gay men, married or not. If we take her to court, the decision will most likely be in her favor. We don't stand a chance."
"How do you figure?" he asks, getting angry.
"Sasha, calm down," I say, trying to soothe him, but he's not having it, shaking his head. He looks at me and I know that this can either make or break the rest of our lives. "There's no easy way to say this, but to just say it. When the social worker looks into your background, and you don't have any history before 1994, and it gets sketchy in some places, what are you going to tell her?"
He's silent a moment, sits back, folds his arms and sniffs at the air deeply, the way he does when he's stung, then looks over at me. "Mel and Ringo have filled in my life for me. They've made me real documents, you've seen them. You think if the IRS hasn't questioned me, the Virginia Division of Social Services will be that much smarter? I don't think so. Admit it. You don't want Shannon, do you?"
He had me there. "No, Sasha, I don't."
I'm not surprised that he said it. I knew he doesn't want kids. This isn't news to me. Shannon is different. She's not just any kid. "Vlad, I'll adopt her without you, you know. She'll be my responsibility. You'll have nothing to worry about."
I breathe deeply, trying to keep the shudder out of my voice. I'm trying to hold it in. I don't want to cry, I'm not a girl, but the truth is, Shannon needs me more than Walter does. I am willing to make that choice for everyone.
"Where does this leave us, Sasha? Are we getting married, but I'm to have no contact with you as you live with this child?"
This is going to be the hardest statement I've ever made. "If you can't accept Shannon, I can't marry you, Walter. That's my decision." I hold onto the door handle, expecting the truck to swerve and stop short, but he doesn't. He continues following the car in front of us. They have the lights on, but no siren until we get to intersections. I can see Walter's jaw grinding, but I can't think about that. If I do, I'll start to cry. All I want is to get to the hospital and talk to the social worker and take Shannon home.
We pull up at the Emergency Room entrance and I jump out. Walter pulls away, I'm assuming to park. I rush in and stride right to the desk. "Is Shannon Mitchell here with a social worker?" Thank God Sammy, the young man I defended in the Closet one night, is at the desk.
"She's in the waiting area with Mrs. T. She's been pretty quiet since I went in and told her I knew you and you were on your way. That lady has been trying, but Shannon is so scared of strangers, you know that. Go on in there, I'll direct Walter when he gets here."
I walk away and see a well-dressed woman, early forties with coiffed salt-and-pepper hair talking to a red-eyed Shannon. The little girl looks up at me and starts at a run toward me. I scoop her up, which is getting harder to do as she's sprouting up like a weed. Arms are around my neck and legs around my waist, she starts crying again, babbling about what she saw and found. I shush her, wiping her face with a handkerchief and smoothing down her hair.
"Mr. Krycek, I'm Kathy T. My last name is a pain in the neck to say, you know the Greeks. Obviously, Shannon would like to go with you. I have your information stored in my PDA, I just need you to sign the contract of foster care." I'm almost shocked by everything she rattles off to me.
"How do you have my information? And what do you have?" I'm a little concerned. Then again, if there were anything in my records that they objected to, I wouldn't be taking this kid home with me.
"Oh, you're listed at Shannon's school as an emergency contact. The Child Protective Services division has access to those records. We have your address and phone numbers. Mrs. Mitchell signed off for you to be contacted in an emergency should she not be reachable."
I smile. "I didn't know that. Thanks, I feel better knowing she trusts us."
The smile fades from her face into concern. "Us? She didn't mention a wife. Will that be a problem for her, taking care of Shannon?"
My face falls. "I'm not married. My fiance is a man, actually. Is that a problem for you?"
I can see the gears moving in her head, but she doesn't seem to get upset about it. Shannon, as if on cue, turns her face back to bury in my neck and tightens her arms and legs around me, causing me to gasp. "Petal, loosen up, you'll crack my ribs."
Kathy T. smiles at me and says, "I think that at ten-thirty on a Thursday night, I couldn't find a more suitable place for her to stay. I don't think at any time of any day I could. She doesn't look like she'd let go."
I hear Walter behind me talking to the doctor, that same asshole who's been shuffling Anabelle from medication to medication. He's not fit to treat her, personal feelings aside. I've ceased thinking of her as Anabelle, but as Shannon's mother. That makes all the difference.
"How is she?" I ask. The doctor looks pointedly at Shannon, then at me. "Oh, she should hear this. She found her mother. If Anabelle is going to be OK, she should hear it."
Walter nods his assent at my request. "Well, she's stable and resting. She took a toxic dose of what looks like Zomig, Migrin, Imitrex and Tylenol with codeine. From what I saw, she layered them and they all worked together to put her almost into a coma. When the blood work came back, the individual levels weren't high enough to indicate a suicide attempt."
"Mama just wanted to sleep. Said she ain't slept for days. I don't know, I slept fine." Shannon lays her head on my shoulder again and nuzzles against me. I pat her to settle her.
"Like I said, she's stable. She's on dialysis to cleanse her bloodstream, since the Imitrex was injected. We're going to admit her for observation and she should be better in a day or two. You'll probably be able to bring her by tomorrow. It's best for you to go home for now." The doctor walked away leaving the two men to stand with their charge alone in the noisy hospital corridor.
"Come on, Sasha, let's take our girl home," he said quietly, brushing a hand over her hair. I'm not sure if he's softening, or realizing that to keep me means to also welcome this girl into our lives. She's already a part of mine.
I follow him to where he's parked and get into the back with Shannon. She settles against my side as Walter heads toward her house. I look down at her and say, "We're gonna get you some pajamas and clean clothes. I'll take you to school in the morning. I hope you finished your homework." She nods and yawns.
I watch as she wobbles through the house. The place is a wreck, and I don't blame Walter when he cleans up the left behind medical supplies. For her birthday, I had purchased Shannon a full set of Cinderella luggage, knowing her affinity for the character. Her bags are already packed and waiting to take her to our house. I look down at her.
"Do you always have your bags packed like this?" I ask.
She looks down a moment, bits of her blonde hair falling around her face. She'd pulled the ever-present pony tail elastic out of her hair and twisted it up. She once said she thought "big girls ought to wear their hair up" and said she'd do that when she was a big girl. Finding your mother hanging off the bed, unmoving and a puddle of vomit on the floor constitutes growing up to me.
Walter is waiting in the living room for us. He gives a weak smile to Shannon who smiles brightly at him. Then he leads us out of the house, making sure the lights are out and locking the door. Shannon and I sit in the back again and she's asleep before we're halfway home. She's asleep across my chest, and I'm just humming to her. Walter keeps looking at us in the rearview mirror, but I can't read the look in his eyes. I'm too tired to try.
At the house, Walter opens the doors and quiets the dogs for me to take Shannon into the den. I don't even bother with sheets or pajamas, just settling her down. With tomorrow being Friday, I don't think I'll make her go to school. She won't be able to concentrate knowing her mother is in the hospital.
Walter sets our alarms, as usual, and meets me in the bedroom. I don't care if he's angry with me or not, I'm sleeping comfortably in my bed. After shedding my clothes, I get in on my side, the right side. He slips in, wearing his briefs, and we turn out the lights. Neither of us are ready to sleep, as we're both stiffly lying in our backs.
Just as I'm ready to roll over onto my side, I feel him reach for my hand. He squeezes it tightly. "Sasha, I love you. Very much. But we cannot just sue for custody of this little girl and try to raise her. You need to think about this. It seems like you just made this decision without thinking about it."
"Oh, I've thought about it. I thought you'd back me up, too. I thought you'd support my decision. I thought you needed to feel needed. Well, Shannon needs you, like I did."
"She needs a mother, not two grown men, Sasha..."
"Vlad! She needs at least one stable parent. I thought we could give her two. Why are you doing this? To punish me for all that brooding and running around when I was depressed about Katya? Is this pay back for thinking I slept around? I didn't, you know. I just crawled into a numb place in a bottle..."
"I know, Sasha. It's not that. I just..."
"What about Halloween? Was that bullshit? You dressed like a fucking cartoon character for her. You made a fool out of yourself all afternoon. And making me put up with that woman? Making me fall in love with that kid, *you* did that. I thought she was your main concern. I mean..."
"God damnit, I like the kid, but I like to take her home. Watching kids and raising kids are two completely different things. Jesus, Sasha, taking her to the bathroom, how do we handle that? Or bathing..."
"What the fuck are you talking about? How *do* we handle that? I've been taking care of that kid for close to two damn years. She's pretty much old enough to take care of herself in most respects. I just..."
And I finally feel like I can't hold it any more. The tears scare me at first, but I can't help giving in to them. I feels good to let out the hurt and fear I've held in all evening. I'm a bit surprised when two arms come about me and he holds me against that broad, strong chest. A place I know well. A place that gives me the comfort and support I needed adjusting to life after the war, outside the Consortium. This is what I long to be to someone else.
"Vlad, why don't you want to adopt her?" I ask simply, after I've calmed down. I must know.
"It's not that easy. I love the girl, she's wonderful. I just do not think we're the best parents for her. I'm an old man. I just want to fish and fuck and rest with my husband and my dogs. I've had enough stress and pain in my first fifty-five years of life. When you came back to me, my second life started. I love that you need me. But think about it. She's a child..."
"You love William. You jumped into being William's grandfather like it was second nature. Don't tell me you wouldn't raise him if something happened to Dana and Mulder." See you get out of that one.
"He's a boy, it's different. I have more in common with him."
"So, because she's a girl, you don't want her? That's fucking insane!"
"Sasha, think about it. I ruined a perfectly good marriage with a perfectly good woman, ignored a sexy secretary who'd sleep with me in a moment, then went a married a man who looks just like me. How the hell am I gonna do with a little girl? I'll make her hate me, just like all the other women in my life. Dana is a special case, so forget it. Just...trust me, would you?"
I bury my face in the silky hair of his chest, between his pecks and take a deep breath of his spicy scent. "I love when you hold me.
"I love holding you. And I love when you hold me, too."
"Being needed is a wonderful thing."
He pauses. "It is, Sasha." I think he's getting it.
"The way that I needed you, when I first got here, the way that I clung to you and watched you and listened to you, that's the way she needs me. And it feels fucking fabulous. I know why you put up with me for so long, dealing with all my bullshit. The feeling that someone wants your love and no one else's to settle their fears, it's better than any drug in the world. I get it now."
I place a kiss on his chest and wait. The ball is in his court, now.
How can I argue with him? How can I not give him everything he desires? Yes, I care for this girl, but I have no idea how to raise children. I'm so frightened of the harm we can do if we make mistakes with her. Tomorrow, we'll have to see what is going on with Anabelle tomorrow. Maybe we can share custody for Shannon. That's for tomorrow.
"Come on, moya lyubov, let's sleep. We can talk more when she's in school tomorrow."
"I think I'm going to let her stay home, tomorrow. I'll call the school and let them know what's going on. Thank you, Vlad."
I gently kiss his slack mouth and against his lips I whisper, "Anything for you, my love."
He settles against me and we drift off.
In the morning, Shannon is mildly aware of where she is. Alex and I wake early, showering and dressing quickly so that when she does wake, she isn't bombarded with naked men. She isn't happy to miss school, actually, and is somewhat trepidatious about seeing her mother.
Alex makes sure she bathes and dresses while I put breakfast together. Shannon likes waffles, so I mix a batter for her, with vanilla like she likes it, and make a big, fresh Belgian waffle. On the plate with banana and strawberry slices, I get a glass of orange juice out for her and a Flintstones vitamin.
Alex has helped her brush and braid her hair, which she likes. It makes her look like Heidi and I think she's adorable today. A blue sweater, blue jeans and her powder blue work boots, as if she worked, she looks like Alex's daughter all right. No matter what mistake I could make with this child, Alex will be the best person to raise her. I love him, but I can't deny him.
When we reach the hospital, Anabelle is still asleep, so we wait outside and down the hall. That doctor, whom I wouldn't even allow to treat the dogs, is standing at the nurses' station, signing a chart. I decide to go over and ask how she's doing.
"Dr. Watson, how is Mrs. Mitchell doing?" I ask, holding my hand out. He looks at it, like it's a foreign object, then dismissively gives it a brief tug.
"Oh, she'll be fine, I guess. I'll release her today. Her blood levels are close to normal. Barring another 'incident'" and he highlights the word making air-quotes with his fingers "she should be just fine. I *am* going to have to refer her to another doctor, though."
"Why? And is there some question about the accident?" Now, I'm irritated. He's trivializing this whole thing, and I'm starting to wonder what Anabelle was really up to.
"Well, really, Mr. Skinner, think about it. She only takes enough medication to render herself unconscious, but no where close to a toxic level. All the nights and weekends she spent in the clinic doing my scuttle work, it's clear what she's doing. She's trying to get my attention, to see her as someone I need to save. It won't work. I'm not at all interested in her, and I think it's about time someone told her that."
My ire has been piqued and it takes all I have in my not to bash this bastard's face in. He thinks she's still stuck on him.
"Just what are you insinuating?" I ask, letting the wrinkles back onto my forehead.
"Mr. Skinner, I know that you were brought up in the north, so you're not familiar with our fine southern women. I'm a Georgia boy originally, but I went to school up north, in Columbia, so I try to mask my accent..."
"You're doin' a poor job," I drawl, letting my Pennsylvania farm boy voice peek out.
"Be that as it may," he continued, "I know when I'm being Belled. You think I really buy all of this nonsense about headaches? Come on, Mr. Skinner. You were an investigator, you should know a scam when you see it."
"A scam? Have you ever had migraine headaches?" I ask, pulling myself to my full height and crossing my arms over my puffed out chest.
"Well, no, but I read a few articles..."
"Articles? Give me a goddam break! I suffered for years. And I know what to look for. She would lay on my couch with cold compresses on her head. Her daughter told me she would sneak to the snowcap runoff stream by my house and let her head soak for hours to relieve the pain. This is a woman whose entire life revolved around her child until her entire quest became to alleviate her pain. You know what, I want you to release her, and I'll take her to a real doctor. One who will listen to her and not ignore her because he thinks she's hitting on him, or simply because she's a woman!"
I stalk away from that bastard and enter Anabelle's room, where she's sitting up, having her breakfast. She looks up at me and says, "Oh, Walter, please, tell me Shannon didn't see me like that."
I try to smile at her but I can't. I sit on the bed and take her hand. "She was the one who called 911 to get the ambulance."
"Oh, Lord in Heaven, Walter...is she...was..." Anabelle drops her face into her free hand grips me tighter with the other. I hang onto her and say, "Look, I'm going to get you released. This asshole says he doesn't think you're really having headaches and thinks you're Belling him. I'm going to get you to a real doctor, all right?"
She looks up at me, and the little bit of mascara she had left has run down her face. I help her out of the bed, to the bathroom to wash up, and she shoos me out to dress. I meet Alex and Shannon in the hall and she looks up at me. "Is she OK?"
This time, I smile widely. "Yes, sweetie, she's just fine. We're all going home and Alex and I are going to take care of you guys for a while. Why don't you go and see how she's doing?"
I take Shannon from Alex and let her go into Anabelle's room. Alex looks at me and crosses his arms. "We're taking care of whom?"
"If you're going to get custody of that child, you're going to have to ease her away from Anabelle. That woman will not give up her only daughter to a man she used to hate. This is going to take time. And maybe Anabelle needs us to help out so she can figure out the cause of these headaches and cure them."
After dressing and signing all of her papers, I drive us all to the little house where all the excitement had been. The stench of vomit is thick in the house, forcing Anabelle to cover her mouth. "Dear Lord in heaven, what is wrong with me? Can you all help me clean that up? I have cleaning stuff..."
It's like she's her old self. I don't get it. She rushes into the kitchen and gets cleaning supplies and rags. I help her scrub her rug as well as we can, while Alex helps Shannon clean up her room. After Anabelle packs a bag, unloads the perishables in the refrigerator into a garbage bag, and we lock up tight, we all get back in the Range Rover to go spend some time at the cabin.
We settle in easy enough. Anabelle was given a prescription for Vicodin for her pain, and she's decided to abandon the migraine medications since they weren't helping her. She'd dropped it in on the way and Cletus, Miss Cleophus' son, filled it right away for her. And gave her the first refill for it, as well. I get her a glass of water and settle her on the couch in the den, turning the TV toward her. We keep a 27" television in there for when we're surfing and want to watch, but we've maybe turned it on twice.
She's got it set to some soap opera, but soon she's asleep. Dana once told me that cancer patients who experience great amounts of pain, when finally achieving a sufficient amount of pain relief, will sleep for a long time. I knew we could grab up Shannon and lay in the supplies.
Shannon is reluctant to leave Taffy for long, as they were snuggling on the floor, but with a hug and a very un-Terminator-like "I'll be back!" we head off to the Giant to get some fresh food. We start, as always, in the produce section and I notice a special display of off-season, greenhouse-grown cherries. Almost as much as I love peaches, I love cherries.
Walter makes a bee-line straight for the cherries. I knew he would. And he's so damn picky. Leave it to Shannon to pick up on it.
"Grandpa, Whacha doin'?" she asks, looking at him with a cocked head. The Giant has new carts with seats for older kids and she's sitting there, looking at him.
"Choosing cherries, sweetie, why?" He doesn't even look up, tossing away three cherries for each one he puts in the bag.
"Why aren't you keeping the light ones?"
"Because there is no fruit as sweet as a Dark Cherry." He gives her a wide smile and goes back to picking.
"Why are they so good?" This is why I love this little girl.
"Always remember this: the darker the berry, the sweeter the juice. OK?"
I give Walter a sideways glance. I wonder if my man ever had jungle fever.
We whip through the supermarket and whisk our way home. We first check on Anabelle, who is still asleep, then unpack the groceries. Shannon looks around the living room and asks, "Can we get a Christmas tree?"
I look at Walter, who starts to smile. "Oh, maybe Alex can take you to cut one down. That's what we did last year. And I've been carving some new ornaments. I think that we should decorate the tree. Sasha, you wanna take our girl to get a tree?"
I look at him, trying to figure him out. "Well, I don't think we can manage carrying the tree without you."
"Yeah, grandpa, we need you there, come with us!" She is bouncing on the balls of her feet, braids swinging.
"OK, I think we'll all go get a Christmas tree."
I'm kinda shocked at the way he's acting. He's chipper and he's supportive. I'm almost worried. Yet, we go to the same slope we had last year and we let Shannon pick out the tree. It's tall, and a beautiful bright green. She smiles up at me and says, "Like our eyes."
"Yeah, our eyes." She waits while I saw and Walter holds the tree up. She squeals and claps as it comes apart and we carry it back to the house. After setting it up in the stand with water, Walter checks on Anabelle. He walks out and says, "She's sleeping like a baby, breathing deeply. She may sleep through the night without waking."
"Is that right?" Shannon asks. The worry is starting to sow on her face. A seven year old kid should never show worry. I squat beside her and give her a nudge.
"Hey, relax. When people hurt a lot, like your mom, for a long time and loose sleep, once they get the right medicine that relieves the pain, they sleep as much as they can. Get all that rest back that they lost. She's just fine. If she wasn't, we would tell you."
Shannon nods and goes back to unwrapping our ornaments. She looks at the tree and says, "There won't be enough. It's big. We got stuff. Can we get 'em, Alex? Huh?"
I look at Walter. "Want me to take her for the ornaments?"
"Sure, sounds good. I'll wrap the lights and start dinner. Call me when you start back, OK? What do you want to eat?"
"Fried chicken!" she shouts. Walter nods and shoos us away. We go while he has his back turned. Shannon likes sitting in the front with me. She watches the scenery go by, then starts one of her all too familiar "adult" observations. "We look alike, Alex."
"A little, yeah."
"I wanna tell people that you're my daddy. I want people to stop thinking Mama is a hoochie."
I have to snicker at that. "Who says that?"
"Some kids at school say their mama's said it. She used to..."
I'm suspicious. "Tell me, Shannon. You know that if you tell me the truth, you'll feel better."
"You'll get mad at Mama." She looks down into her folded hands.
"No, I won't."
"There were a couple times she went out and then came home with a man." Her voice is so low I can barely hear her over the engine. Thankfully, we pull up to the house and I can shut the engine.
"Who was watching you?" I pull off my seat belt and turn to her.
"No one. She wasn't out late. They would yell a lot."
"Mama and her beaux. They'd start out quiet, but after a while, the bed would squeak and then they'd yell and stuff. Then they'd be quiet by the time I went to bed."
"How often did she do this?" She left the kid alone to get laid. And never told the kid about the birds and the bees. We let it go and Shannon leads me to the basement, through the kitchen, where they keep the ornaments. Anabelle is a surprising woman. Everything in the basement is on crates off the floor, and looking at the wall, there was a flood once. I know she rents the house, so she must have complained a lot about it. She had to sell her old house, the one that had roof damage, after she lost her secretarial job.
All the ornaments are in plastic bubble wrap in big Rubbermaid containers. Everything is labeled and organized. She's a conundrum, that woman. I grab the containers and haul them all up the stairs and we're back on our way to the cabin. Shannon takes great joy in using my phone to call Walter to tell him we're heading home. We need to move off this mountain. The drive that used to be peaceful is becoming a huge waste of time.
At the cabin, Walter calls me into the kitchen after we've settled Shannon to unwrapping and setting out the ornaments she wants to put on the tree. "What's up, Vlad?" I ask as I kiss him hello.
"I called Dana. I want her to give Anabelle a physical. I don't trust any local doctor. She's in San Diego with Mulder and William for the holidays to see Bill and Tara and the kids. They'll b3e back the first week of January. You think Anabelle will agree?"
The look on his face is pure concern. I reach out and stroke his cheek. All the while I was concerned for the kid and ignoring the woman, that's where his concern lay. At least both ladies will be cared for until we can figure out how to treat Anabelle's headaches.
"I think she'll do anything you ask of her. She's still smitten with you, you know. If you talk to her, she'll listen." I don't mean the smitten comment as rude, and he smiles.
"Yeah, you're right." He kisses me again and a quiet giggle comes from the doorway. We turn and see Shannon standing the doorway, covering her mouth with her hand.
"You're cute like that," she says. Walter smiles and tilts his head.
"You shouldn't sneak up on people, you know," he says. "You may see this." And he kisses me again. She laughs out loud.
"OK, enough kissing," I say, reluctantly. "Time for decorating."
"Wrong," Walter says. "Time for eating. Then we decorate."
After food and ornaments and tinsel, and of course Taffy grabs a string of garland and Shannon chases her around the place, almost making Walter plotz as they run past the fireplace. After a long play time and some chocolate milk, I get Shannon to wash up for the night and put on her pajamas. She lays across my chest as I read "Stuart Little" to her. She's asleep before I end the first chapter.
I lay her beside her mother, who has moved a few times, but still sleeps. Her breathing is deep and even. When I go back to see to the dogs, Walter has also fallen asleep in his chair. I close up the house and coax my lover to bed. He follows and falls back to sleep in my arms, head on my shoulder. He's right. It's very nice to hold him.
Anabelle and Shannon stay with us through the holidays, helping Walter cook while Shannon helps me with the dogs. It almost feels like family, almost. Anabelle blissfully sleeps most of the time, but when she's awake, she lets us know she's there. She does cut me a break once. As she's laying on the couch one day, just before Christmas, I was brushing Shannon's hair and braiding it for her. Anabelle looks over and says, "So you're the one who's been doing her hair like that. You know, I'm getting to like it." And she goes back to her television show. And we have her until after Christmas.
Christmas eve, we eat together quietly, with Walter's full seven fishes dinner. Anabelle asks us to bless the meal, and we let her, but Shannon rushes us through to get to the dessert. She and I baked pies, a peach pie and a chocolate cream pie. My first pies are well received, and I find that this little girl is really a good baker. She's going to make some man very happy.
Christmas morning is a delight. Walter and I had secretly gotten a huge pile of gifts for Shannon, wrapped and hid them in the shed. She never went in the shed, knowing there were dangerous tools in there. The joy on her face as she opened dolls, games, books and videos was almost as exciting as my first Christmas with Walter. We were sorry to turn down the Center's invitation to help out this year, but they knew we had our own issues.
Christmas dinner was another success. Walter had roasted a turkey, and we had pie left over from the night before. It was a good two days. Now to make it past the New Year. We rang it in quietly, sadly turning down an invitation to Patty's blowout at the Closet. She understands and blesses me for being so generous.
When the appointment with Dana finally rolls around, I keep Shannon busy for the day at the movies. We see the re-re-release of The Little Mermaid, and she's on a swimming kick. "I want to learn how to swim, Alex. Do you know how?"
"Yep, learned when I was a kid," I tell her at lunch afterward.
"At the school?" she asks. God, I wish I could tell her the truth. Maybe I should write it all down for her and let her read it when she's older.
"Yeah, at my school. They made sure we could swim and save lives when we were younger than you are. It's helped me. When the weather warms up, we'll join the YMCA in Dale City and I'll teach you to swim." She smiles and finishes her lunch. Back at the cabin, there's another story.
Walter greets me at the door and says to Shannon, "Your mother is laying down. Can you go out back and round the dogs up for me?" She looks up at him and nods, a little suspicious.
Walter takes me out front and closes the front door. We stand close on the porch and he keeps his voice very low. "Dana examined her and did a preliminary CAT scan. There is what looks like a mass in the cerebrum on the right. They performed an MRI next and it's going to be read by a neurologist. But Dana saw a definite mass in Anabelle's head. She said it's brain tissue that's been slowly mutating."
I'm shocked. A mass? "Mutating into what? She's..."
"It looks like Anabelle has cancer. A brain tumor that's probably been slowly growing over the last year. She's scheduled next week to see a neurologist and after that, we may need to take her to an oncologist who specializes in this. I may need to get her to Bethesda for a few of those visits."
Walter goes quiet then. I know what he's thinking so I'll vocalize it. "We're not telling the kid until we have a diagnosis. Then we'll let her mom tell her."
"That's what Anabelle said. She told me a lot during all the waiting. She'd slept around a bit, did some shady things, was taking street stuff for the pain. There are dealers that sell codeine, you know."
"Yeah, I know."
"Dana explained to us that a lot of the symptoms she's been experiencing were explained by brain masses. The pain, the dizziness, the fatigue, the tingling in her arms and legs, the changes in behavior. Her mood swings. She apologized to me for coming onto you. It just...she couldn't explain it."
"It's OK. I don't care anymore about that. We'll just...take it one day at a time, won't we?"
We hug, tightly, and stay that way as Shannon comes around the house with all three dogs trailing her. She looks up at us and says, "Bad news? How sick?" The smile is gone from her face. Too damn smart.
Walter takes the dogs in and Shannon sits with me on the porch. It's cold out, but we're both dressed for it. Shannon, as it turns out, likes blue more than she likes pink, so I've gotten her a baby blue hat, glove and scarf set. My set, in hunter green, is the adult version. Target is a fun store, huh?
She hugs me tight as I tell her as much as I can without scaring her. I try to ease the end of it with, "Bethesda has the best doctors in the country. We'll get her the best help we can. Until then, don't let her know you're worried. Gotta be strong for her."
"Yeah, I'm used to being a big girl for mama."
She hugs me tighter. This is not what I expected.
After we get back Dana's colleague's preliminary review, they ask her to come to Bethesda. I agree to take her and the neurologist brings his own oncologist. Dana has some prepared friends. They admit her to Bethesda and tell her she's prepping for a needle biopsy the next day. She forces me to go home, which I'm happy to do. I did not want to spend the night in a hospital.
At the cabin, I explained to Shannon what was going on, and she cried herself to sleep in Alex's arms. We fell asleep wrapped around each other as well.
In the morning, we took Shannon to Bethesda to see her mother when she was out of recovery. Anabelle had a big patch on her head where they'd made their incision. The oncologist's conclusion wasn't very good. He sat with Anabelle and I, while Alex took Shannon for a walk.
"The technology available to us today to cure illness is amazing, but we're still very antiquated when it comes to dealing with brain illness. Research is difficult to do, as well as experimentation. The brain is such an tricky organ. From my preliminary findings, and the pathology report given to me while you were still under, we are dealing with astrocytoma. It's a star-shaped cancer cell. From the placement, and size of the mass, I don't think surgery is an option. It covers a large portion of the cerebrum on the right side. I would remove a large portion of your brain along with it. Chemotherapy would poison you to death, at this point."
Anabelle made a sound between a whimper and a cry. I took her hands. She would stay in the hospital until the next day, then she would have more appointments with the oncologists. I didn't pay as much attention as I should. All I kept thinking about was Alex, and how I would react if I had lost him now, as opposed to before I fell in love with him.
Shannon spent the visiting time with her mother curled up in bed. They watched TV and Anabelle asked us to get food for the three of us, and she would drink the clear liquids, but it would be a meal together. "That's a great idea, Anabelle."
That night, Alex and I made love quietly for a very long time. We didn't speak at all, but our gazes remained locked. I came before he did, but stayed inside him until I made him come, too. We fell asleep still embraced. Shannon was smart to get her own breakfast and watch cartoons until we woke up.
The morning brought us a brand new Anabelle. "Tell that doctor to make sure I have enough pain medication. I was reading a book that the nurse brought me. Forget these damn doctors. I'm gonna rest until it's over. There's no way I'm survivin' and there's no way I'm sufferin'. Walter, you're gonna call that lawyer of yours for me, right? I need to see him. And then...well, hell, I have a wedding to plan!"
"Wait, what book?" I was so confused. She seemed so sure of herself. This was the Anabelle of old, the woman who took charge of everything. Just like my mother.
"Diary of a Condemned Mother. It came out last year. I thought it wasn't worth my time. But the nurse thought it was something I would like. Well, she also knew she was dyin' and she didn't waste any time. She got off her ass and got her shit together. Well, it helped to extend her life a month or so. And she died peacefully. That's what I want."
"No!" Shannon screamed. She'd listened very quietly and heard all she wanted to hear. She crawled into her mothers arms and cried. Alex and I decided to leave them alone. He slipped his arms around me and held me tightly as we both shed our own tears. We both went to the men's room to wash our faces and relieve ourselves. When we were done, Shannon was asleep and Anabelle was dressed in the fresh clothes we'd brought her.
"If ya'll could drive me to my house, I'd appreciate it. We got a lot to talk about."
We listen and we have no choice but to go along with it. She's going to give custody of Shannon to us, and Shannon doesn't care. She cries most of the time, sitting in Anabelle's lap. Alex thinks he'll take her for a walk with the dogs to calm her when he gets a chance. When Anabelle gets home, the first thing she does is call her mother. "Mama, it's me, pick up the damn phone. No? Fine, then. I'm dyin'. Yes, Mama, I'm talking like a hillbilly and I'm tellin' you that I have cancer. That's why I can't work, and I have no money. All my money went to pain drugs..."
I'm assuming that her mother picks up the phone at this point. "What? Oh, Mama, calm down. Lord have mercy, like it's a surprise. You always told me that I was trash, and that I wouldn't amount to anything. Well, I'll never get the chance to see if you were right."
Silence while she listens.
"No, sorry, she doesn't want to be with you....No, I don't have to ask her, I know. I'll have my doctor send you the paperwork...No, don't you dare come here. I'm speaking to a lawyer tomorrow. Don't come to my house. Mother!"
Anabelle sighs. "My mother is on her way here. I hate that. Anyway, boys, we have work to do."
It's like a whirlwind. Bruce listens to Anabelle and has one of his associates draw up the papers. Anabelle spends lots of time on the phone, ordering our wedding items. You'd be surprised how much you can do over the computer and telephone. Digital photos and telephones work wonders. Dana stops by several times to see how Anabelle was doing. In between the bouts of energy and her long naps after taking medicine, Dana notices that Anabelle's pupils are two different sizes. Her left pupil has stopped constricting completely. And her left hand shakes most of the time.
She had gotten me to take her to the Manor to show the decorators where to put what for the reception. The cake was butter crème with a chocolate ganache between the layers of butter-whipped cake. I taste it and think it's was fabulous. The way Anabelle and I are talking and spending time, you'd have thought I was a flaming bottom. We go with dark red American roses as the flower of choice. We even agree that plain tuxedos are the choice.
Alex and I lay in bed one night in early February, after making love in a rare empty house and we discuss what we'll do for Valentine's Day. "I think it would be cute if we took our girls out to dinner," Alex suggests.
I smile. "I think that's a great idea. We'll take them to Carmello's and then to the Closet. If we only stay there a little while, Patty won't mind."
"I think you're right. Oh, hey, have you told William he's your best man?" He nuzzles his nose into my armpit to tickle me.
"Yes, he was thrilled. His father took him to his fitting the other day. He's excited. How's Shannon doing?" I kiss his neck loudly.
"Apparently she hates everything Anabelle has picked for her. I may have to take her myself for something. She wants to wear baby blue. Her mother wants her to wear pink."
"You take her and get her whatever she wants. When she walks in with William, I want her to feel beautiful. Anabelle thinks she doesn't feel so beautiful since you've gotten her to carry all those books around."
We both laugh at that. "She loves to read. She loves the library. She can sit with me for hours in the park, on the grass, and we'll just read. She's happy. She wants to go to Katya's school next year. They have an advanced curriculum she wants to try. I want to send her there."
"Then she goes." I kiss him. "Now, we sleep."
He curls up against me with a kiss on my neck and we sleep.
Valentine's Day is a hit, apparently. Both our girls wear red for us, matching their heart-shaped boxes of chocolate. Dinner is a great success as well as dancing. Both Walter and I end up carrying our charges to their beds. And we make love ourselves at home.
During March, I start to really worry about Anabelle. She's slurring her words and drops things sometimes. Some days, she's right on the money. We work around the days where the pain is blinding. Dana has prescribed ten milligrams of Percocet for her bad days. She usually sleeps after one of those pills. The woman who was a beautiful, curvy vixen has wasted away in just two months into a Kate Moss impersonator. When she feels good enough to get out of bed, she pads around the house in pajamas.
She insists I sleep at her house the night before wedding, and Shannon will stay with Alex at the cabin. The rehearsal dinner is as sedateas I thought it would be. Katya makes a lovely toast to us both, and her pastor blesses us and the family. Mulder and Dana are just amazing looking together. Finally, Dana has actually conceived another baby. She is six months along and glowing like firefly. The Gunmen also show, as we'd hoped. Byers and Langly are very dapper looking. Byers actually gets him to wear a suit, and he looks very handsome. They're waiting to hear on an adoption of a boy who had been orphaned in the war in Pakistan. Hopefully, they will be parents soon.
John Doggett and Monica Reyes-Doggett are in attendance and both are happy. They left the children home. Jimmy and Yves are there without their girls. Patty, Shaine, Mikey and Gerry are there, with both Jason and Heather, but that's fine with us. Heather is a good baby and usually sleeps. There are so many people here, I stop counting after a while, and just sit with my fiance, kiss him when people bang their glasses, and danced when they played a song I liked.
Before the night is over, Mike Elliot stops me and we go outside to have a brandy together and talk.
"I known you a while, Walter. A good while longer than I known Alex. But I know this. You love that man. And he loves you. And ya'll will be very happy. You already are. Shame 'bout Anabelle. She tells me ya'll have a legal agreement to keep the child. That's good. Her mama used to live 'round here. She's hell on wheels. You just keep her out of your lives."
"We're going to do what Shannon wants. If she wants to see her grandmother, or live with her, that's her decision. Whatever Shannon wants."
"You're a good man, Walter Skinner." He shakes my hand and pulls me into a hug. It's almost like getting the blessing from my father. And he's only a year or so older than I am. He goes in, letting my lover out to see me. He's got Shannon in his arms with Anabelle following behind.
"I'm going home, Vlad, taking the baby with me. I'll see you tomorrow?" His smile is the most adorable I've ever seen.
"You betcha. Trinity Episcopalian Church on Center Street. I'll be the one in the tux on the right side of the church."
"Good, see ya there."
He gets into the Hummer and drives away. Anabelle puts her hand on my arm and I walk her to the Range Rover. Back at the house, I can see just how much stress the night has put on her. She looks tired and old. In her room, I bring her a cup of tea and a few cookies before she takes her last pill of the day. As she progresses, Dana prescribes more and more medicine for her, half of it I don't even know what it is. I sit on the side and take a deep breath.
"What's wrong, Walter? Are you nervous about tomorrow?" she asks, trying to keep her eyes open.
"A little. I guess every groom is."
"I'm sure both of you are. Just remember this: that man withstood all the hate I sent to you and stayed. He loves you more than anything. And yes, he told me about the ultimatum he gave you. I don't believe it for a moment that he'd choose my girl over you. I also knew, you'd never make him. You like her, enough to tolerate her to keep your man. My, Alex is one lucky man. I hate to tell you, I wished it was me. Still do."
I give her a little smile. I should feel terrible that I never even kissed her. "Anabelle, why didn't you ever ask me to kiss you?" I have to know.
"Walter! A lady never asks for such things. A gentleman must offer his kiss. Only ladies of questionable virtue ask to be kissed. Teach my daughter that. I know I did a good job of trotting men through here when I was lonely. I should have just sewn my knees together."
I have to laugh at her joke. She's still charming. I take her cup and plate and put them on the bedside table and help her slide down under the covers. Before turning off the light, I look down at her and smile. "May I kiss you goodnight?"
"Of course you may," she says sweetly and turns her head. I take her chin and tenderly turn her face back. She isn't prepared for my lips to come down on hers as I kiss her honestly. I remember that I'm kissing a woman and am gentle with her. She understands and opens her mouth to my probing tongue, kissing me back. Her small, soft hand alights on my cheek as we end the kiss and touch our foreheads together. The backs of her fingers ghost over my chin and she says, "Alexander Valery Krycek is the luckiest motherfucker in the world. You must leave me now. Or I may force you to finish what you've started. And I know you don't want to kill me the night before your wedding. For I would surely die tonight if you made love to me. Go!"
I take the cup and plate, turn out her lights and leave her to sleep. Settling on the couch, I'm glad to myself that I finally kissed her. Something good needs to finally happen for her.
When the alarm goes off at six, Shannon jumps up from the bed. I allowed her to sleep beside me, and the dogs have all joined us. It's a family thing. It's also a flurry of activity. We let dogs out and feed them. Then we eat breakfast and clean up. I shower first, shave and start to dress. Then Shannon has to have a perfumed bubble bath. Then takes her time washing her hair. And of course, I have to blow dry it for her then put curlers in it. Fuck, I'm not that kind of fag!
Her instructions are good though and we get her hair done just as she likes it, with some of it pulled up and curls draping all around. I put the blue ribbon around the top of the ponytail like she asks and she's done. She helps me with my tie and cufflinks and cummerbund and we finally get the dogs and put their clothes on. Yes, they will be at the wedding. Taffy and Honey wear ribbons around their necks matching her dress in baby blue and we found that dog tux collar for Bosco. Walter will just love that.
We drive down to the church, where we're snagged by the photographer. He takes pictures of us in an alcove area with the dogs and without. Then one of just Shannon. Then a few of just me. Anabelle comes out and leads me to the room by the left side of the church. Katya is there and hugs me and kisses my cheek. "You look so good, Valery. Mama would be proud." I think she means her adoptive mother, not ours.
The opening strings of Vivaldi's Concerto for Lute in D Major, second movement, begins. I can hear the giggles as the dogs walk down the aisle, leading William and Shannon who are holding hands. William has my ring in his pocket, and Shannon has Walter's in her little blue purse. As our cue comes, I open the door and see Walter walking towards me. He looks incredible in a tux that matches mine. We both have red rose buds in our lapels. I meet him at the center aisle and we hold hands to walk toward the altar.
I ignore most of the ceremony trying not to cry. At one point, I see Anabelle handing something to Shannon, then she was pressing it into my hand. A hankie. I use it to dab the tears from my eyes. I can't help it. This is the most important moment of my life so far.
"I, Alexander Valery Krycek, take thee, Walter Sergei Skinner, to be my husband in holy matrimony, to love, honor and cherish, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live."
"I, Walter Sergei Skinner, take thee, Alexander Valery Krycek, to be my husband in holy matrimony, to love, honor and cherish, for better or worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, as long as we both shall live."
Oh, that almost makes me weep like a bitch. I feel Shannon tapping me, handing me the ring to slip on Walter's hand. Anabelle picked out the most lovely platinum bands, plain but polished. Walter holds out his left hand but I take his right and whisper in Russian, "This is our way." He slips my ring onto my right hand as well. The pastor says, "By the powers vested in me by God, and the Commonwealth of Virginia, I now pronounce you married. You may kiss each other."
I look at Walter and let out a ragged breath. We move in and kiss, gentle and simple. I always thought it was bad taste to French in church. We turn toward each other and hold both our hands. The pastor finishes the ceremony and we walk out of the church together. Walter pulls me to him and kisses me again. "Now you're *my* old man!" We laugh heartily at that.
The limo waits as we hug and kiss the attendants, shake hands, then start posing for pictures. I hate pictures, really hate them. I can't argue, though, about recording this occasion. I never want to forget how happy I am to be in the arms of my husband. The limo takes us to the reception hall, and we let our guests enjoy cocktails while we pose for more pictures with family and friends. Shannon and William steal the show by posing once with the dogs on the rich blue carpet, smiling. Then William just reaches over and turns her head and kisses her. Thankfully, cameras start popping and I know there is digital video running.
"William! Stop that!" Scully shouts, scaring the kids. Mulder is laughing like a mental patient. It's kinda prophetic that they should like each other. Maybe it's just in the cards.
The reception begins as people get seated and we are introduced and proceed in. We sit and begin eating, both Walter and I at the center table, enjoying appetizers, salad, prime rib and baked potatoes. When it comes time to start the first dance, Walter and I walk out and they start playing "Everything I Do, I Do It For You" by Bryan Adams. They remembered our song from Halloween and the engagement party. We hold each other tight and glide about the floor, pausing to kiss from time to time and soon, all the couples are out with us. I lets go and grab our girls, me holding Shannon off her feet at his eye-level and Walter gently leads Anabelle. Walter eyes me, and we switch.
Dancing with Anabelle is nice. She's light on her feet, and quick with cues. She looks up and me and says, "He kissed me goodbye last night. The only time he ever kissed me. You're a very lucky man, Alex Krycek. He loves you so very much."
"Thank you. He cares for you, too. Thank you for trusting us."
"Thank you for forgiving me." I have no words for her. So I lean down, and kiss her. Probably not as spectacular as Walter, but a full mouth kiss. Walter stops us says, "Hey, lady, get your own husband, this one is mine!"
I'd like to say we partied for hours, were so drunk we had a pants- optional number and finally Walter and I fucked until the sun rose. I'd like to say that, but I can't. We dance a few more numbers and I see Anabelle getting tired. Shannon revolves around her like a moon. Walter and I cut the cake, smearing it on each other's faces. It means we can laugh at each other and still love each other, despite embarrassment. I'm never embarrassed in front of him any more. Especially not since I hosed his ass out for him. We don't have a bouquet or garter to throw, so we settle on tossing condoms and flavored lube packets to the crowd, which is a hit with Patty and Shaine. I must send them a vibrator.
About eleven that night, Katya assures me that she will stay with the girls while we're "honeymooning". That consists of Walter and I alone all weekend at the cabin, no visitors, no phone calls. The limo takes us there so we can't even have a vehicle to get away. We'll get them back at a later time, we're told.
And it is a lovely weekend. We take turns telling our fantasies, the secret ones, like I want him to do a real strip show and wiggle his dick for me. He wants me to cook breakfast naked so he can plow me across the table while smearing me with food and feeding me. These are things we won't be able to do once we have Shannon full time. So we play all weekend, scaring the hell out of the dogs, but having fun nonetheless.
When we return to reality, we find that Anabelle has taken to her bed. It seemed like she was hanging on for the wedding. She's doing a valiant job. She lays in bed and there's the faint odor of urine. She must be fighting for continence.
Before the month is over, she pulls me aside and says, "All I want is to make it to Mother's Day, Alex. If ya'll can help me do that, I will go quietly. I hurt all the time, now. I can barely see some days. Keep her busy, would you?"
I do just that. We plan day trips for Shannon, keeping her out of the house, but the kid isn't fooled. She cries in my arms when she can't handle it any more. I hold her as long as I can. Sometimes she falls asleep. Sometimes she tears off down the street and runs until she collapses on a lawn where she cries until she's exhausted. She allows me to carry her home and put her to bed after that.
Mother's Day comes bittersweet. We cook a fabulous meal for Anabelle, serve it in bed for her, but she's beyond eating. She would just rather spend the day listening to the television, as her eyesight is almost totally gone. Walter has taken to keeping her in adult diapers and changing her like a child. Scully comes once a week and sees her, but we all know it's just a matter of time.
I talk to Shannon's teacher and we agree to pull her out of classes early and I'll home school her for the remainder of the year. She only has a little to go. Anabelle indicates I should take her to the cabin to finish her work, so I do, leaving Walter to care for her.
Shannon likes to reading in the grass by the cabin well, learning all she needs to know. She finishes her work in a few days, amazing me since she had almost a month to go. We sit in the sun one late May afternoon and a butterfly floats over and lands on her bended knee.
"What is it, Alex?" she asks. We've seen plenty of Monarchs, but this is black with blue and red spots and splotches.
"It's called an Ursula. It's a very rare butterfly for this area, but they're common in North America. They almost never come this high."
"Ursula. I like that name. Can I have a cat named Ursula?" She smiles at me like her mom used to when she wanted something. Oh shit, what have we done?
That night, Shannon can't sleep. Well, she can't fall asleep. She gets up for water. Then the bathroom. Then she comes to my door and knocks. "Alex, can I sleep with you? I'm cold."
She's right. It's cold in here tonight. I briefly think of lighting a fire. She gets into bed with me and lays there for a while. I start drifting off when I hear her say, "No. No, don't! Noooooo!"
She jumps up and runs out, throwing the front door open, setting off the alarm. I follow, killing the alarm and watch her. She's standing in the front yard looking at the sky. All the strength I've maintained for her goes as soon as she shouts, "Don't go! Please, Mama, don't go! Don't leave me! Mama!"
I can't take it. I can't handle hearing her crying and screaming at the sky. I go to her and hold her. We both sit on the porch and cry. Anabelle has gone.
I sit and wait for the ambulance to come. The phone rings. It's Alex. "She's gone, isn't she?"
"Yeah, a little while ago. She wanted me to tell Shannon to mind us. And she loves her."
"Kid knew. Ran out into the yard and screamed at the sky. I just got her to calm down. What are we gonna do?" He sounds so sad, nose stuffed as if he was crying as well.
"She and I made plans this week, earlier. It's all taken care of. The funeral home knows she doesn't want a wake, just the funeral. She has a plot. It will be in two days, enough time for Shannon to be calm. Keep her up there, I'll call tomorrow. I love you, Sasha."
"I love you, Vlad. See you soon."
He hangs up and I wait. Traveling behind the ambulance, I just feel numb. I sign her over to the funeral home and leave, returning to her house. That's when I finally break down and cry, let it all out. I can only imagine what Alex is going through with Shannon.
True to his word, in two days, Alex brings Shannon to the house. I have the place cleaned, the soiled mattress gone by then. Alex brings me my black suit and tie, and he's dressed the same. Shannon has a black dress for funerals, her mother thought of everything. We both help her, as she's almost limp. She's exhausted from crying.
She surprises us as she starts up crying again when the funeral starts. Alex holds her, but an older woman, I assume Anabelle's mother since the voice is the same from when I called her, comes over and says, "Shannon, dear, be a lady. Stop this noisemaking."
"Fuck off, lady. Leave my kid alone."
The woman walks away, sniffing at the air. It's an omen for what's to come, I know it. Dr. Watson has the nerve to try and offer his condolences to us. Alex walks away completely. I can't help but say to him, "You have a lot of nerve showing your face here. You should leave before you upset that little girl more. And you're making me angry. You wouldn't like me when I'm angry." He is smart and leaves the building quickly.
Alex holds Shannon in the car to the burial and then to the Ramsey's place, who agreed to hold the reception afterwards. Shannon is exhausted and sleeps in Alex's arms in Mr. Ramsey's old easy chair. If he tries to put her down she wakes up and cries. He looks up at me and says, "Let's get her home."
We take our daughter home and lay her in her bed. It's still the futon in the den, but it's hers until we figure out what we'll do from here. She doesn't wake up while Alex undresses her to her underwear, then puts pajamas on her. Taffy and Honey get on the bed with her. She sleeps on.
We fall into bed after that, into each other's arms, not to make love but to feel each other's bodies. To just touch. He holds me as we both cry again. It's been a rough time for everyone. "Vlad? I need to say something terrible."
"I'm glad it's over. That's she's gone. Not that I hated her. Toward the end, I liked her. This was just..."
"Me too, Sasha. And she was happy to go. She was tired. We're all tired. Scully was telling me she's starting a foundation for women's health care. She's appalled that that...bastard ignored her symptoms, didn't refer her to another doctor when he thought things were less than professional. It's criminal what he did."
"Let it go, Vlad. He'll get his, eventually."
He nestles against me and we go to sleep.
I hope the sedative I slipped into Walter's water before we went to bed is still working. I drive stealthily down the mountain, dressed for work. My old work. I know that little weasel. I watched him when I could, all the while Anabelle deteriorated. He works late on Thursday nights. I find him in his office, the clinic is empty, and I have my chance.
The lock all but falls apart until my quick instruments. There's no sound as I slip down the hall and lock the outer office door behind me. His office door is partially open. He's looking out the window at the thick woods behind the clinic and sipping from a glass. The bottle of Jack Daniels on his desk is half empty. Time to give him his.
I spin his chair around, startling him and his glass goes flying. "Wha...thu...fu..."
I haul him out of the chair by his shirt and throw him across the desk. "Feel Belle'd yet?"
"Hey...look I..." My right fist across his face shuts him up. The blood trickles from his mouth. I drag him up off the floor and into his chair.
"Look nothing. You left a little girl without her mother to make you feel important. That is unacceptable. You will pack up your sad little self and you will never practice medicine again. If you do, I'll find you and I'll take care of you. If you tell anyone about me coming in here, I'll kill you and hide the body on my mountain. All I better hear about you doing is pushing a broom somewhere. You got me?"
Again, hit his face. I hit him a few times, the flesh pliant under my gloved knuckles. I feel a bone snap, maybe his cheek. This is catharsis of my old life. My daughter deserves this. "You will leave tomorrow. And never look back. Repeat, please."
"I'll...leave and...and...never come back."
I toss him onto the floor before I go, one last kick in his ribs and unlock my way back out. The bloody clothing I'm wearing go into a plastic bag in the back of the Hummer. I parked it behind the clinic so I'm not worried about someone watching me undress in the middle of the parking lot. Driving a black jeep is a good thing with the lights out and almost no streetlights. I stop by the landfill and toss the plastic bag over the fence. Just another bag of garbage in the immense piles.
Back at home, I check on Shannon, who's asleep, Taffy and Honey around her. Walter is still the same spot I left him, Bosco near his feet. I settle in and put my arm around his waist.
"How hard did you hit him?" he asks quietly. I'm not surprised he's awake. I guess I didn't use enough.
"Hard enough not to kill him, like he deserved. He's leaving, though. He had it coming, Vlad. I had to..." I'm interrupted by his mouth covering mine. He gently shushes me and says, "Go to sleep, Sasha. We have a big day ahead of us, tomorrow."
"I love you, Vlad."
"I love you, Sasha."