BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS
I know I told Alex that he could pick the movie, but I never expected him to choose an action film that went nowhere. I would have preferred a film with substance, or even something with actors that I knew. My last choice during this freak late March snowstorm was "The Hunt for Red October". I thought he'd choose something of the same caliber. Silly me.
As the credits roll, I see Robin Tunney and think to myself, 'Who? Am I that old?' Chris O'Donnell, now, there's a boy I can watch. Too bad this movie is all done on a snowy mountain. Wouldn't have minded seeing him in shorts and a tank top the entire time. Then up on the screen comes this actor whom I'd never seen before, which isn't hard since I don't watch much TV other than sports and the news, and he looks a LOT like Alex! I'm shocked! Their faces are very much alike. Except my Alex is a little older, he's got more laugh lines around his eyes and his temples are starting to gray. To me, he's still as beautiful as he ever was.
We watch the movie a while, and it gets very tense. I'm shocked at how easily I'm sucked into this disc full of pap. It ends being a very satisfying story of how important family is to one. It makes me think about my parents, long dead both from cancer. Dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer a little before Sharon died, and then they all three went one after the other. Sharon died in her sleep on the ventilator, Dad died in his sleep in his bed, and then mom was struck with pancreatic cancer four months after dad went. I took a leave of absence to be with her for the last two weeks. I was in my old home, the Skinner farm in Indiana, Pennsylvania, actually sleeping in my old bed. Well, my father had made me a huge four-poster bed and we put it to together years ago when Sharon and I visited. Mom forced him to, telling him it may get us to give her grandchildren. I laughed at her. I felt a cool breeze blow through the window that June, and it woke me from my sleep. That was the moment she died, for five minutes later, my cell phone chirped. It was the hospital, telling me that my mother had passed painlessly in her sleep. I'd never felt so alone in all my life.
I look over at Alex, who's taking the disc out of the DVD player. I smile at him. He looks away from me. Neither of us will ever be alone again.
"Hey, Walt, I'm gonna surf the net a while, OK?" he asks, as if I'll say no.
"Of course. I'm gonna read out here, OK?" He nods. Even in the same house, we need time apart. This storm has us both a little anxious to get back outside. I'd gotten my pride together and bought a huge snow blower to clear out our long driveway. Alex fitted his Hummer with a plow so we could get down the road. And wouldn't you know it, we became the driveway cleaners for all our friends. I laugh about that, but it's true.
After an hour or so, I go into the den to see what Alex is doing and to check on the pups. We have most of the room decked out as a huge whelping box, so they can be safe and have room as well. I have to remember to change the litter paper, it's starting to smell in here. He's intently reading something on the screen, so I doubt he notices it. I decide to leave him and start dinner. The sun has probably gone down, but under the cloud cover, who could tell. As I stand in the kitchen, I think about our predicament, being stuck up here. I can't do another winter like this. I love this cabin, truly I do. It's been such a joy to me, but it's not convenient anymore. Oh, God, I must be getting old. Well, we could have a winter home down in town, and live up here in the spring, summer and fall. That could work for us. I'll ask Alex later at dinner.
When I have the steaks cooked, potatoes and broccoli served as well, I go to the den to get him out. I'm shocked by his answer. "Can I have it in here? I'm really into this."
"OK, yeah, sure." I get his plate and bring it to him. He nods a thank you to me and is back to the laptop screen where he's engaged in a chat. I shrug and go back to the living room where I resume reading. Bosco wanders in and joins me on the couch. I abandon my book. He settles in my lap and I stroke his belly and back, watching the flames in the fireplace lick the logs. Late March in Virginia. It shouldn't be this bad.
"How's the weather treating you, boy? Your old lady kick you out of the den?" He looks up at me with the saddest expression, which is normal for a dog and I laugh a bit. "Women are like that, son. They do it all the time. Some of them are real peaches, like Dana, and Monica. And Sharon. And some of them are Anabelle. Although, she was awful nice to Alex the last time she was here, when she brought Shannon to see the pups. Maybe the thing with the fairies was a turning point for her."
Bosco gives a resounding bark at the mention of our heavenly visitors. He didn't know what to make of them, but they pretty much left him alone. We had the clover in the front yard a few days before another freak frost turned them brown. I hope this snow will be one of those spring snows that will melt in a matter of days. I'm tired of all the weather like this.
When I'm finally tired enough, I start the night fire in the bedroom and turn down the blankets. Alex is still in the den on the computer. I haven't seen him for a drink or a bathroom break all night. He's intent on something. He'll come to me when he's done with what has his attention.
In the morning, I wake up alone in bed. The other side isn't even touched. He never came to bed. I get up, disturbing Bosco, who immediately wants to be outside. Donning my robe and slippers, I lead him to the back yard which is a mix of snow and puddles and mud. It must have gotten warm overnight to turn the snow to rain.
I let Bosco back in and rub him down with a towel before letting him back into the rest of the house. I fix the coffee pot to brew and go see where my lover spent the night. I'm shocked to see him sacked out on the futon in the den. He didn't even pull it out, just laying across it as he would the couch. I shake his shoulder. "Hey, sleepy boy. The snow has stopped. Wakey wakey."
He stretches and his eyes flutter open. I notice that he doesn't smile when he sees me. So I straighten up and say, "I have coffee started. Take a leak so I can go shower."
I walk out of the room. Jesus, I'm a touchy bastard, aren't I? Maybe I'm beginning to flame like Alex was afraid of. If so, I'll deal with it. I see him go to the bathroom while I pour myself a cup of coffee. He's been known to brood, but this is getting out of hand. It was the first night since he came to live here that he had slept in a different room.
After our separate showers, Alex looks at me and announces, "I got some things to do today and I'll be out most of the afternoon. I'll have my phone, but I should be back around dinner. I'll talk to you later."
I don't answer him as he turns and leaves. I hear the Hummer slosh through the matted down snow and he's gone. Then I shake my muddled head like one of the pups. 'What's wrong with you, Walter?' I ask myself. 'You're acting like a foolish young wife.' And I am. So I began cleaning the house. I let the dogs out and began changing the linens in the bedroom, vacuumed and scrubbed the wood floors, which was easier with the extra coats of polyurethane we'd hand applied. I even hauled some of the clothes I knew Alex had stopped wearing out of the wardrobe and bagged them for the family center.
After tackling the room, I notice that my scars no longer twitch when I exert myself. That makes me feel better. So I make my way to the den to change the litter, refill water and food bowls. The pups just look up at me, sort of, since I don't think they really see me. They're only 4 weeks old. Anabelle has brought Shannon by twice to see them, wanting the little golden girl for her own. I told her that it was fine with me, so long as Alex said it was OK, since they were his puppies. Anabelle wasn't even fazed and said, "Well, baby, you'll just have to be extra nice to Alex to make sure he'll give you little Taffy there."
I noticed Anabelle holding her neck as she watched Shannon play with Bosco, since Honey was still not too keen about the pups leaving the boxed area. I've not been nipped yet, but Alex sported a bruise or two on his hand. I gave Anabelle some medicine for her head, but she looked at me kinda funny, like she was tired. I just noted it and went back to watching Shannon in the snow of the front yard.
Alex had been with her, playing with Bosco, and I observed that every time he played with the little girl, for a moment, he had a wistful look in his eye, as if wishing or remembering. It bothers me now as I dust the bookshelves in the den. What was he doing all night? OK, this is going against my nature of late to distrust Alex, but my training as an agent, and a cop before that kicks in and I boot up the laptop. I continue to dust as the screen comes to life and opens the virus defense and security firewall.
I sit and begin to sift through the history of the web browser and the temporary files, seeing mostly Cyrillic pages there. I curse myself for not taking the time to learn when Alex offered to teach me. As much as I want to, I fear I'm too old to begin learning another language. I close the machine down and go back to cleaning. It's the only thing that soothes me when I worry. And it leads me into starting dinner for us. I call his cell and it goes right to voicemail. It's off.
The sun goes down and dinner is ruining. I call and leave another message. I made Fettuccini Alfredo and it's congealed and cold. The salad has wilted and so have I. I begin cleaning the kitchen, throwing away a perfectly good dinner. I call and leave my fourth message. I know he's not coming home any time soon so I settle on the couch and flip around for movies. I call and leave my fifth message asking him to call or come home. I end up watching "Law and Order" reruns, which aren't as bad as say...any of the reality shows. I even stop in to check on the puppies again. That doesn't help. It's well past midnight when Bosco and I turn in. I call and leave my last message that I've locked up the house and he should call before coming home for me to turn off the alarms for him. Another night alone in my bed.
Fuck. Yeah, my first thought is fuck. Fucking shit! What the hell am I doing here? I sit up and look around. I'm in the back of my Hummer in the parking lot of the Closet, hung over. Shit, Walter made dinner. He's gonna fucking kill me. He probably waited for me all night. He... asshole didn't even call my fucking cell phone! What the fuck, man?
This is bullshit! I get into the drivers seat and start off for home, fuming the whole way. How can he do this to me? He doesn't even give a shit enough to call me, to see if I'm dead or what? Fucking bastard!
As I pull into the driveway, he's out on the porch, Bosco leading the way to me, and he's not happy-looking. Oh...maybe I should have thought further ahead...I look down at my cell phone and it's not turned on. Oh, shit. He's going to kill me.
I get out of the Hummer and walk toward him. We meet in the muddy yard. "Your feet are dirty," I say to him, hoping to distract him. He's wearing his blue flannel bathrobe, and I'm sure he's naked underneath. I reach out to touch his face, to pull him to me and kiss him and he leans away. Fuck, I don't think he's gonna forgive me for this. At least it's not snowing anymore.
"Where have you been all night? I was worried! Your phone has about six messages from me, but I know it was off. Alex, what's going on? This is beyond brooding. Something's wrong."
I nod at him. He looks as if he didn't have a great night of sleep, either. And I hate that it's my fault. Fuck, he doesn't understand, he *won't* understand. He had a normal life and a normal family. He doesn't get it. Oh, God, what's he gonna say? I can't tell him. I can't *not* tell him. He'll get it out of me. I know he will, he has his methods.
"What do you say, we get in the bath and we talk? You tell me why you spent a night on the futon and another in your truck. OK?"
Oh God, he's not even mad at me. He's just looking at me and smiling kindly. Heaven and hell and the silo and between Marita's legs, the worst places on the planet, and in Spender's arms, I've been there. All those places. Hell on Earth. And this man welcomes me into his arms, his bed and his body every night. No, correction, it's our bed. I helped him make it and put it together. I have as much right to it as he does.
I take his hand and we go into the house. I hear the pups yipping in the den. I go in there to check on them and the stench of piss hits me. "Fuck me! We gotta get these dogs out of here. I can't sleep with them making all that noise. Then, they gotta get weaned, OK?"
He's getting attached to the pups. Honey barely lets me pick them up, but not Shannon or Walter yet. That's OK, when they're weaned, Taffy goes with the girl. That's what Shannon wants. The little girl has enough woes in her life with her mother's...instruction? Education? What the hell do you call it that she teaches that child? I swear, if I didn't have a soft spot for the kid, see something in her, something I lost, too, like Mulder, I'd give her mother a world of shit. Fuck it, it doesn't matter, does it?
You know, some lady on TV used to say, "You gotta love your kid more than you hate each other." I think she was talking about divorced couples. She could have meant us. Walter and I do adore that kid. Anabelle has been...nice to me, lately. Usually, she ignores me. Since the fairies saved Shannon, Anabelle's had this revelation about Walter and I. I don't know what it is, but she's been fucking polite to me. The peach pie she brought to dinner when we showed Shannon the puppies was great. I love to watch Walter eat peaches, it's almost heterosexual.
"We can't give them away until they're older. It's not that bad, we'll be OK. I'll tire you out so that you sleep so heavy, you won't notice." I nod. He slips his robe off and shows me his naked form. He is still so fucking beautiful. What the fuck is wrong with me? Why would I stay away from that? His shoulders have their shape again, and his waist and abs are as tight as ever. He's gotten all of his bulk and muscle back since his hernia. He was bad for a while. When his cock wouldn't work, he thought I'd leave him. Why would I do that? He's the only person who ever loved me. I'd prop his corpse up in the corner to keep him with me if he died.
I undress and follow him into the bathroom. He fills the tub and we get in. Him and his faggot bath bubbles. I sit back between his legs, my back on his belly and we settle. This is the first real comfort I've had in two days. I can smell the Jack Daniels seeping out of my pores. I hate that about Jack. It gets into everything. Along with the alcohol stink, the tension flows out of me as well.
"So, talk to me. What's going on?"
"I just...the movie kinda got to me. I don't know if you'd understand."
His arms tighten around me. "Try me, Sasha."
Here goes everything. OUR everything. "My parents gave me up when I was about three or four. I don't remember clearly. My mother was pregnant at the time. There were eight of us, well, nine after my last sister was born."
"Gave you up for adoption?"
"No, Vlad, they gave me to the Russian syndicate. My father believed the bullshit about becoming a powerful man by giving up his children. He had eight other children. Anatoli was the oldest, then Grigory, Stepan, Irina, Luka, Viveka, Pavel, me and then the new baby, but that was after I was given up. Everyone was killed, they're all dead. But I'd heard a rumor once, though, that Ekaterina was still alive somewhere. That my mother had given her to neighbors before they all went off to the slaughter."
I stopped talking. I know he could hear the hitch in my voice. I turned around and wrapped my arms and legs around him. We kissed a while until I felt him grow hard. Writhing against him, I tried for friction to make him come, but to no avail. I resort to pulling him up to sit on the edge of the tub to take his cock down my throat. My hands roamed his body, gripping his hips, rubbing his thighs, reaching up to roll his nipples in my fingers. He moans, arches into my mouth, my touch, and fondles my head.
I caress his entire cock with my tongue, suck the head and twist around on it, tasting his pre-come. God I missed him, I should never have pushed him away. His breathing quickens and his balls tighten before I pull back to taste his come as he pumps into my mouth, calling out my name. I drink it all and smile up at him as he calms his breathing. The smile grows across his face as his gentle fingers stroke my lips.
"I love the way you look after you suck me. Like a debauched boy, angel and demon together in one. Stand up straight for me." I do as he says and watch as he lathers his hands with soap. He motions me forward and I step toward him. He takes hold of my erection and starts pumping me gently. "Arms up, boy, folded behind your head."
I do as he instructs and stand there, long, lean lines for him to admire. He's pumping me harder and faster, and I feel my desire rising. "Fuck my hand, boy. Like you fuck me." I tilt my head forward, eyes closed, thrusting into his soapy fist. He doesn't ask me to perform often, thinking I'll feel like a whore, like I once was, a toy, but I'm performing for him. The man I love is the one who's looking at me, touching me, enjoying looking at my body moving for him. This thought excites me the most. It makes me pull up and come, throwing my head back, arms still folded behind my head.
When I open my eyes, I see him, hands rinsed and cleaning my come from his body to lick from his fingers. I settle back down and beckon him to kiss me and taste myself on his tongue. We kiss more, affirming to him that still love him and want him as much today as I did when I first laid eyes on him twenty years ago. We hold each other tight, chests pressed together and I wrap my legs around his waist to sit in his lap. My forehead on his is so grounding to me. He kisses me once more before pulling my head onto his shoulder. More talk time. He knows I can't look him in the face when I share.
"I don't know how to handle this, Vlad," I admit to him. It hurt. Seeing that boy and girl so attached, so committed to each other, no matter what the fight was before, it just made me hurt more for all that I had lost.
"Do you want to look for her, Sasha? Your sister?" He was serious. I could tell. That's when the tears started and I was helpless to stop them. He turned the Jacuzzi jets on to drown out my sobs. God, I mean, he knows what I need, to be shielded from hearing myself cry and it's amazing that he knows how to do it. I am insane to brood. I'm getting soft and mushy and I don't give a fuck. What was that word that Shannon used? Schmoopy? Yeah, that's me, schmoopy Alex Krycek. And if it's what makes me feel comfortable and loved and happy, fuck it, that's who I am.
I pull back and look him in the eyes. "How are we supposed to find her? It's been more than forty years, Vlad."
I'm not prepared for his laughter. It starts out as a chuckle that shakes him, and me, but soon it's an all-out guffaw, head thrown back and mouth wide open. Fuck him! "Fuck you!" I shout and get out of the water. I've got the towel around me and I'm stalking into the bedroom when my wet and towel-covered lover comes barreling after me. He tackles me on the bed, setting the Bosco to barking. I hope he doesn't try to defend one of us. I'm not in the mood to get bitten.
"Alex, relax, I'm not laughing at you," he said, laying kisses on my neck as I try to twist away.
"Could've fucking fooled me, asshole!" I shout in his face.
He takes hold of my shoulders and shakes me. Shit, what the fuck! He shakes me again, making my teeth rattle and my eyes roll. "That's enough of yelling in my face, Alex," he says firmly. "I was laughing because you seem to forget that Mulder gave all of the records kept by the world Consortium bases to the Gunmen to catalogue. You said it yourself that they kept meticulous records to monitor the experiments they were conducting. You know how detailed and accurate those records are. If anything was done to or with your sister, they'll know."
He stands up and walks out of the room, leaving me lying on the bed alone. He's right. I'm a fucking asshole. Why is this hurting me so much! I'm stronger than this. I can hear him messing around in the bathroom, emptying the tub and washing it out. I can't take this. I curl up on my side and let go, something I haven't done in a long time. I start crying, hard. I haven't cried like this since...since his hernia. When he was recuperating and forced me to come home, I cried myself to sleep.
I feel a tongue on my cheek. Honey has come to the bedroom and jumped up on the bed to comfort me. She's left the pups a moment, which is uncharacteristic for her. I pull her down to me and we curl up together. I don't hear Walter come in, but I feel him hugging me from behind. He whispers that it's OK, and I know it isn't. He kisses my neck. I let Honey go and she bounds off the bed back to the den. I roll toward Walter and his arms envelop me in his warmth. I quiet down and he kisses me.
"I'll call Mel and the guys and we'll visit New York for a few days. Sharon's sister owns a restaurant there and I've never seen it. She wants to meet you anyway."
I perk up at his mention of Sharon's sister. "Who's that?"
"Maria McLaren. Well, formerly Capone, and no, not the mobster's family. She and her husband Michael own a sports-themed restaurant in New York. Don't make that face, Alex, the food far out-weighs the kitschy decor. Maria is a master chef. You'll love the place. And she'll love you."
I bury my face again in his neck and just breathe. OK, the Gunmen I could trust. They know what they're doing. They're smart and they're on our side, no matter what. They'd better appreciate the two times I got shot for them. Nah, I know Frohike. Family is everything to him. He'll do this for me.
We rise from the bed and go back to the bathroom to actually wash ourselves. My hair is going on two days with no shampoo and I inherited my mother's oily scalp. Funny the things you remember at odd moments. I clearly remember my mother washing shampoo from my hair in the bath and saying to me that I had her oily scalp. Why it's starting me crying in the shower I don't know. I can't do all this emotion. I can't do this crying and sad and fuck it, I need to get out.
A hand on my arm stops me as I'm moving toward the shower door. "You're not running away, Alex."
I turn back to look at him. His features are unreadable. I want to see anger, but it's not there. Maybe determination. I shake my head and say, "Just drying off and getting dressed. You gonna call, or should I?" I run the fluffy hunter green towel over my chest. He gets out and grabs his navy blue towel.
"Your choice. She's your sister. I'm just here for moral support. You make all the decisions."
He's right. This is my family, so it's my call. I wrap the towel around my waist and walk to the phone. The Gunmen are speed dial eight. Byers picks up. "Lone Gunmen, how can I help you?"
"Hey, John, it's Alex. I need a favor."
I can hear the genuine smile in his voice. John Byers is a truly nice guy. He would go out on a limb for you, if it were a just cause. I can see why Langly is so deeply in love with him. He's a secret hottie. I caught him coming out of the shower once when we were on the road and had to share a motel room. I was blear-eyed, exhausted and not paying attention, but I was paying enough attention to see a sexy man standing there naked. I just left quickly. In another time and place, if John wasn't so married...anyway, he reassured me why Mulder trusted them so.
"Alex, it's nice to hear from you! What can we do for you?" Here goes everything.
"I need you guys to find my sister. The one who I think was spared by the Consortium. Or she escaped. Can you do that?"
There was a long pause and I thought my head would explode waiting. Then he spoke. "Well, it will take some time. Jimmy's been here as much as he could, cataloging and organizing the database of information. The kids keep him busy, but I'm sure he could find it. I'll ask him when he comes in later and call you both back. How's that?"
I sighed, but said, "Yeah, I can't ask for more than that. I think Walter wants to visit New York, so we'll probably stop by anyway tomorrow. We need to get someone to feed the dogs while we're gone. So, don't expect us too early. We'll call before we get there."
"OK, Alex, see you tomorrow."
I hang up the phone and turn to the bedroom. He's standing in the doorway, dressed and looking at me the way he knows gets me wet. Well, if I were a woman, I'd be wet. As it is, I'm getting hard again. His light blue denim shirt is unbuttoned, with no t-shirt underneath it. His pants are unbuttoned, showing me his lovely furry loins. He leans against the doorjamb, head to the side with bedroom eyes sliding up and down me. I unwrap the towel from my waist and walk past him into the bedroom toward my wardrobe.
Hands wrap around my waist. I feel his pubic hair on my ass, the zipper scratch my skin. I lean back on him. Why does he want me? What the hell was he thinking taking me in, taking my problems on?
"Sasha, thinking such destructive thoughts is bad for us," he whispered. I turned to stare at him, letting his arms come back around my shoulders. "You said that out loud. I was thinking that I was in love with you. That I had seen the desire and the need for me in your eyes on that day that you forced me to look at what I had been denying for years."
"I forced you to fuck me, Walter. Not anything else. Don't make it romantic or even legal. I raped you, OK? Just fucking say it! Like you said it that day!"
I don't know why I'm crying or bringing this up. I have this rage building inside me. I need to yell and scream and fight. He steps back from me and I turn to face him. I must look like a fiend. I can feel the heat in my face matching the heat crawling up my back. His hands come up in a motion of defense and surrender. "Sasha, malysh, moya lyubov, I don't want to fight with you."
God! Why did he have to do that?! Russian, he spoke to me in Russian, fuck me! I move toward him and take him in my arms. We move to the bed and lay together, and he just lets me rub my head on his chest like a cat. We lay like that a long time before we realize that it's getting late in the day and we haven't even eaten a meal.
I leave the bed first and dress while Walter goes to the kitchen to start a late lunch. When we sit to eat our overflowing sandwiches, I bring up an important subject. "Walter, we have to think about who will take care of the dogs while we're in New York."
"Oh, God, yeah, I didn't even think of that. Shit, who should we call?"
He takes a bite and thinks about my suggestion. "No, he's got work and can't get here to let the dogs out. Patty?"
"No, she's got Shaine to take care of. Shaine is..." And I trail off. He stops chewing.
"Is she pregnant again? How? Who?"
"Get this, Mikey Jr. and Gerry mixed their semen and Shaine and Patty are sharing the kid with them. They're getting one of the new detached town houses on the far side of town and they're gonna all raise the kid together along with Jason." Patty had prattled that on to me as I sat getting hammered in the Closet last night. She wasn't even aware of how many vodkas she poured me as she yakked on.
"You're kidding? I think that's a great idea." He smiled widely.
"Yeah, Shaine was concerned that Jason didn't have a positive male figure in his life. He's home-schooled anyway, since the kids were relentless. More of Anabelle's work, I'll bet. Anyway, Shaine was touched when Big Mike invited them to a barbecue, then disappeared with Jason and taught the boy to tie fishing flies. Jeez, I can barely remember everything she told me. I was pretty fucked up."
He looked away guiltily for a moment, then back at me. "You're not gonna like what I have to suggest," he muttered.
"What?" What's going through his head?
I swear, I thought he'd take my head off. I don't know what made me think of it, but I know Anabelle has a really flexible schedule. I think she's still waiting tables at the Go-Go Diner, a throwback to the 60s, 70s and 80s dance crazes. She's an 80s girl. He looks at his sandwich a moment then looks back at me. "I think you're right. Anabelle grew up with dogs, she said. She'll know what to do about the puppies and Honey. They know her. Yeah, OK, you set it up. I'll start packing for us. I'll make a reservation in the Drake in midtown."
"The Drake? You paying?" I smile at him. He does love his luxury when he can manage it. After living a runaround life, he wants to take it easy.
"Yeah, we're less likely to get fag-bashed in the up-class places. They'll just talk about us behind our backs. That I don't care about much. But I won't have jokes to my face. I'm too fucking old for it."
"Too old? How the hell old are you?" Oh, that wasn't smart. We never talk about his age or birthday, since Alex truly doesn't know. He doesn't remember and we never found his information. He looks at me and smiles.
"I guess the Gunmen will tell us tomorrow, won't they?"
He's calmed himself. This is going to be easier tonight. We clean up and sit for an innocuous round of news and sports updates. He's curled up on the couch beside me, head resting on my chest. I have my arm around him and we're just quiet.
Suddenly, there's a lot of barking in the den and I see Bosco make like a shot out of the room. We jump up to find that Honey has one of the pups by the scruff of the neck and is walking him back to the nest area. Uh oh, they're getting out of the box. Anabelle is going to have fun with this. Alex sits with the family while I go and make the magic phone call to Anabelle asking if she'll watch the dogs. She's quite upbeat when she answers the phone.
"Walter, how are you? And Alex, how is he doing?" I'm a little surprised by how easily his name comes off her tongue, dripping of honey and not venom.
"Alex is well, thank you, as am I. I have to ask a favor of you. Please, don't think you have to agree, but there are very few people Alex and I trust. Would you be able to come to the cabin twice a day for the next week to check on the dogs. Let them out, have Shannon play with them."
"Oh, Walter! Why thank you! I'm touched that you trust me so. Why yes, four-week-old puppies need lots of care. I'll be happy to help. It's nothing new to me. Hopefully, Honey will allow Shannon to play with them. I'll send her outside to eat and let Shannon get her scent on Taffy. Where are you going?"
I sigh quietly. Here's where I have to tell her our business. I was never good at this, really. I only tell Alex a lot of things. Not much of anyone else. Well, here goes everything. "We're visiting some family in New York for a few days. Sharon's sister has a restaurant there."
Yes, I told Anabelle about Sharon. We'd had dinner a few times together, before Alex came to be with me. I told her about my wife, but nothing specific about the accident. And I didn't tell her about the separation or divorce.
"Well, I'm sure that Sharon's family miss you terribly. And they'll surely want to meet Alex, won't they? You'll have to tell me all about it when you get home. And please, don't worry about the babies. I'll take excellent care of them." Holy shit. She's...delightful. Oh, this isn't good at all. Or maybe it is. Maybe for once, Anabelle wants to act right and be nice.
I wind up the call saying I'll leave an envelope with the keys and instructions in her mailbox before Alex and I leave town. She hangs up happy, and so am I. Well, that's done, isn't it?
I find Alex in the den, again. He's at the laptop, again. "Whacha doin'?" I ask casually.
"Confirming our hotel reservations. We can check in any time tomorrow. I say we leave early, just after rush hour slows down on the Beltway and then we can shoot right up. We should take the Hummer."
I laugh. "You just want to drive, you sneak."
He nods. "Well, yeah. But admit it, the Jeep isn't going to make it. I think it's time you gave that thing a proper burial. It's over thirty years old. It's not a Land or Range Rover, you know."
I nod back and smile. "Maybe I'll get one of those." He laughs a bit.
"You? With a new car? No way! I'll believe it when I see it."
Later in the night, we snuggle in bed. I make no attempt to seduce him, but I know he'll start. He does, rolling on top of me and kissing me. He's nudging my cock with his. We begin moving in rhythm, kissing and touching. He reaches down and takes our cocks together in his hand and jerks us together. First I come, then he comes. We don't clean up but curl together and fall asleep.
The morning is a flurry of activity. I pack our bags as Alex gets the dogs in order. He feeds them, changes litter, and strokes Bosco a long time. I hear him talking. He's telling Bosco that he needs to be on his best behavior, and mind Anabelle. He gets kisses for his words and sends the dog to watch his children. Bosco does as told.
We take the road down, after setting the alarms and locking everything up. Both Honey and Bosco have electronic collars to open the dog door, but the pups don't. Then again, they can't make it over the screen barrier that keeps them in the pen.
At Anabelle's, I drop the envelope through her mail slot and walk back to the car. I turn and see Mrs. Ramsey looking out her kitchen window at me. She's one of the iffy people. She isn't social with us, but she isn't chatty and polite anymore, either. I decide to be the bigger adult and raise my hand in a polite hello. Shock of all shocks, she waves back. Shit...we're in the fucking twilight zone.
I get back in the Hummer and we start off for New York. "Mrs. Ramsey waved to me."
"I saw. I'm scared, Walter. Maybe when we get back from New York, everything will be back to normal."
"We can only hope."
"I'll pray just in case." And he's serious.
This is the most boring drive in the world. I hate the New Jersey Turnpike. It sucks. But the traffic is light on a Thursday morning and we make excellent time into Manhattan. He takes the Lincoln Tunnel into the city and shoots straight across 34th Street to catch Park Avenue uptown. I'm surprised at how easily he makes it around and look at him.
"Walt, remember, I drove the Brit around town. I'm used to this." He smiles widely. From what I know, Mannerly treated Alex well when he was able to protect him. He made up for allowing Alex to be whored out by Spender. Hopefully, I'll find out why Mannerly helped Mulder and Alex in the end.
"I could never get the hang of driving out here. I just stopped trying after the third rental I dinged up." I shake my head, remembering Sharon screaming about the cab on my right. I ran into a truck on my left trying to keep her from getting hurt by getting hit on that side.
"It's easy. You just drive like you know you have insurance and you're not afraid to use it." The look on his face is priceless. I can almost see the man who used nanotechnology to kill me peeking through. He pulls up before the hotel and we get out. The valet takes the keys and he tells the young man to bring the bags to our rooms.
We ride up in the elevator to our suite and I am truly impressed. The rooms are huge! We have a huge living room to sit in with a desk and couches. The honor bar is stocked full, so of course, he pulls out the champagne and pours us two glasses. We're in the middle of a delicious kiss when the bellman knocks and brings in our bags. Alex tips him after he settles them in the bedroom.
I check out the bathroom. "Alex, get in here!" He comes quickly. He laughs when he sees the bidet and the huge bathtub for two, complete with roses and lilacs bubble bath. I laugh at his sad shake of his head.
"Hey, Walt, call the Gunmen. Tell them we'll come by later." I take his advice and dial them up. Langly answers.
"Gunmen, whadaya want?" He's so...subtle with his irritation.
"Langly, it's Walter Skinner. Alex and I are in New York and would like to visit you. Is the information we asked for ready?" I feel like shit. We only call them when we need something, never to just socialize. But I hear him shouting on his end. He comes back and states, "Jimmy needs another day. Call tomorrow in the morning, OK?"
I barely have time to say "Yes" before he slams the phone down. I'll get him for that tomorrow. I take a moment while Alex is in the bathroom to call Maria's restaurant. She picks up and is just like I remember her.
"Walter!! Oh my fucking God! Are you in the city?" She's so damn loud, but she's a great lady.
"Yes, I'm here with Alex. We wanted to come by the place. We've never seen it."
"Fucking hell! I'll kill you if you don't! I'll have Mike bring the boys in tonight and we can have a family dinner in the back. Wait...this is Alex...the..."
I sigh. "Yes, my male lover. We'll talk when we get there."
"No, just making sure. I thought that there was an Alex once that Sharon said you hated a long time ago..."
"Maria, we'll talk when we get there. I'll see you at seven, OK?" She needs to learn not to be so pushy. It's a loving pushy, though, so I can forgive her.
"Yeah, ok, see you at seven." She hangs up and I turn off my phone. Alex walks out and says, "I think we should unpack, fuck, sleep, then shower and go to this restaurant. What do you think?"
I take him in my arms and kiss his pliant lips. "I think that's a spectacular idea."
COOPERSTOWN NEW YORK RESTAURANT
Walter leads me into the restaurant and immediately, I know I'll love it here. I thought it would be one of those shitty theme places for tourists, but this is a place for true baseball lovers. And true sports fans as there's a section of a wall dedicated to the New York Rangers' history and the Knicks' history as well. Mulder would be in heaven. A smallish woman with long curly dark red hair, shining light brown eyes and two open arms heads towards us.
"Walter!" she shouts, causing the other customers to turn towards us. She's enveloped him in a hug that looks tighter than anything I've given him. She pulls away and walks to me. "You're Alex, aren't you? Goddam you're gorgeous! Give me a hug!" And I am in a vice of arms and boobs. Oh. Yeah, she's stacked. One thing about homosexuality, no tits. I kinda miss tits.
She pulls back and looks up at me with a huge smile. I'm in. It feels fucking great.
We're led to the back where there's a table with a tall man, about my height and twin boys who dwarf Walter in height. They're Maria and Michael McLaren's sons Anthony and Joseph. Walter has filled me in before we arrived. The man hugs Walter first then the boys, and my lover for the first time feels small. I know he does. He looks at the boys and says, "My God, you two are monsters. You can't be more than..."
"We're seventeen, Uncle Walter," one of the monsters says. Walter shakes his head. Then he steps back and puts his arm around my back.
"This is Alex. That's Michael, Joseph, named for Michael's father, and Anthony, named for Sharon and Maria's father. " I just stand there, waiting. Michael moves first, shaking my hand and smiling. The boys don't move as fast. They just stare at me. It's OK, though, I'm used to it. Then Joseph steps forward and shakes my hand. He smiles a little. His brother follows. OK, that's better.
We sit and Maria has wine poured for us, a rich delicious merlot to start our dinner. Before we can start eating, she raises her glass to toast us. "To Walter and Alex, two boyfriends who were never prettier!" I laugh. Boyfriends. Well, if she says so. Walter holds up his hand to continue the toast.
"One more thing. To my wife, Sharon, without whom we wouldn't be a family. It's going to be thirteen years she's gone, and I want to thank you for remaining my family. It's been more comfort than I can ever express."
I can see Maria getting choked up as she sips from her glass. She reaches over and pats my leg, as she's sitting next to me. On her left is her husband, then Anthony, then Joseph then Walter, who's on my right. Gotta love round tables. We start with tomatoes and fresh mozzarella cheese, smothered in extra virgin olive oil and fresh basil. Maria boasts that she makes the cheese and grows the basil herself. We're served green Italian salad next, then the pasta course. Oh, it's a huge bowl of penne al vodka and I laugh. The four at the table look at me.
"What's wrong?" Maria asks.
"Penne al vodka, how appropriate!" I continue to laugh and I get three stares, but Walter catches the joke. Maria doesn't seem like she enjoys not being in on the fun, so Walter intercedes on my behalf.
"Alex is Russian. You know my mother was, don't you?" The smile on his face is inviting to her to join the joke. She laughs as well.
"You know, Sharon never told me that!" She laughs again and we start eating again.
When we've finished the meat course, thick stuffed chicken cutlets drowned in a cream-lemon-dill sauce, Maria announces we should rest before coffee and dessert. "How about I show you around the place? I got some cool stuff here."
She walks me around the place, showing me all the autographed photos of baseball players collected throughout the years. There is a glass case full of signed baseballs from a plethora of players, even one from Ty Cobb. And every single one Maria boasted had been handed down in her family as heirlooms, all gotten in person. None of them were "purchased", unless they had to pay for the signature at a convention. There were signed pucks as well, even a signed basketball from Patrick Ewing.
"This is the coolest stuff, Maria. Took long to collect?" I felt silly almost immediately.
She shamed me even more when she got a wistful look on her face and said, "All my life. And my father's. Sharon never got it."
She moves me to an area near the bar that has several photos on a shelf, flanked on both sides by lit Catholic glass-pillar candles. There is a photo of Sharon and Maria at ages 10 and 6, Maria being younger, as read the engraving on the silver frame. There is a picture of Walter's wedding party, and he looked so handsome in his tux. Shit! He had hair! Thick, black wavy hair! I turn to him and run my hand over his scalp. "I like you better bald, Walt."
He laughs, but I can see the tear in his eye as he looks at the wedding picture. There is a Christmas picture where Maria and Sharon are hugging each other, lots of family around, and Walter is across the room, drink in hand, blank look on his face as he looks at the fire place. I can see that this was a time close to the end of their relationship. He looks at the same picture and turns away to walk back to the table. I follow and see him wiping his eyes with his napkin.
I put my arm around his waist and he turns to me. The boys stare at us with uncertain looks on their faces. Michael has gone to the men's room and Maria is still looking at the pictures. Joey, as the younger one asked to be called, and his brother kind of look away, then look at Walter. He ducks his head from the boys. Ok, it's up to me.
"Guys, we're not gonna make out in front of you. We have *some* restraint."
Anthony laughs at me. "You think we've never seen gay men kiss before? Where do you think you are? Man, we're just respecting our uncle's privacy. It's got nothing to do with his boyfriend, you know."
Ouch. Point taken. "Sorry, I didn't mean to offend you. I'm a little defensive. The town where we live...well, lets just say the outing was rather venomous."
Maria comes up behind us and says, "Yeah, Walter told me about the bitch. Don't let me get my hands on her."
The waiter brings espresso and Tiramisu over for us. "Well, to be honest, Anabelle's been really nice to us lately. Especially me. Which is...shocking to say the least."
We finish up dinner and Maria, Michael and the boys are sorry to see us go. We get hugs all around, even the boys hug me. I'm sorry to leave. Maria promises us she'll visit us in Virginia, and we smile. And we start walking to the subway on Canal Street to go back uptown to the hotel. Walter suddenly takes my hand and pulls me the other way. "Come on, let's go get some bubble tea."
I allow him to drag me to a tea shop where they shake us up two large cups of fruit-flavored green iced tea and we take it with us as we walk down Canal Street to Broadway. Walter switches his drink to his other hand and takes mine with the newly freed one, holding it tightly as we walk uptown. I smile at him. The chilly New York night is clear and the streets are littered with people looking for something to do, even on a Thursday night. There are your average punks, and rockers, even the stray yuppie here and there. And at least half of the couples are same sex, if not more here and there.
I lean into Walter's side and feel his arm come about me. I lean over and kiss him, hugging him back. We have a grand old time walking to the subway at Astor Place, opting to get on the thing since it's starting to get annoyingly cold, compounded by the iced tea we'd drank. We sit together on the subway, like some teenage couple. He sits on the seat with his feet down on the floor and I sit with my legs draped across him, both of us embracing each other tightly. The car is half full and no one is even giving us a second look. Another thing I love about New York.
We exit the train at 59th Street and stroll back to 55th and Park to the hotel. Holding hands with him, not talking, just walking like a real couple, is invigorating. When we get into the room, I attack his mouth and shove him over to the bed. We fall into our lovemaking pattern, but end up giving mutual blowjobs, playing 'who can come first'. We're both on our sides, heads pillowed on the other's thigh, each of us letting a cock slide into his throat. Of course, I come first. He does so love making me admit that my youth causes me to come too fast. I'm not much younger than him, I think. I'll find out soon enough.
I finally make him come, swallowing him all down. We crawl under the comforter and curl around each other, his head pillowed on my chest this time. I stroke his scalp and kiss the crown. "Hey, can I ask you something, Vlad?"
"Sure, Sasha, ask anything."
We've established a rule about sharing. If one of us asks, we answer. We may not like it, but we answer. Then, if comfort is needed, we accept. I'm usually real good at avoiding Walter so he doesn't have a chance to ask anything.
"You miss Sharon, don't you?" He hugs me tightly at that point.
"Sasha, I miss the feeling I had when I was in love with her. But I shouldn't because what I have with you is stronger. I know you love me. And I know if you have issues about it, you'll tell me."
I hug him back, but I don't answer. I don't exactly know what to say. We settle down and fall asleep.
I wake to a ringing cell phone, and it's mine. I pick it up and open it. "Skinner."
"Walter! Wake the hell up!" Frohike first thing I the morning, that's not good. I sit up, dislodging Alex from my chest. He grumbles, then curls up with the pillow. Slut.
"Mel, what's wrong?" I ask, getting out of the bed and taking the phone with me to the bathroom. I start my stream while Mel explains.
"Jimmy ran a search for what you wanted last night. He's got lots of records. You need to see...are you pissing?"
"You woke me up. What did you expect?" I snicker as he swears and hangs up on me. I go back to the bedroom to see Alex rubbing his eyes. He looks up at me and pulls the sheet away from his morning hard on. He smiles and waves at me with it.
"No way, Alex, we have to get going. That was Frohike. Jimmy has news. He worked hard for us." He's stroking himself, head back on the pillow, enjoying himself. "OK, just this once." And I jump on the king-sized bed beside him and bury my face in his neck. Taking his erection in my hand, I stroke him firmly, causing him to buck up into my hand. He comes quickly and lays back, boneless and smiling sweetly. He sits up, takes me in hand and pushes me down onto the bed to give me back what I had given him, all the while kissing me deeply. We end up tightly embraced, each with a hand covered in come.
We shower quickly and dress, calling ahead for room service breakfast. The pastries and fresh fruit are delicious with hot coffee and juice. Ready for the world, Alex and I walk out of the hotel room and down to where the doorman has the Hummer waiting. I'm amazed at how easily Alex navigates midday midtown traffic, up, across the island and over the Queensboro Bridge, and into Long Island City.
I find it hysterical that the Lone Gunmen relocated to New York City for its anonymity and of course, they found the closest neighborhood full of warehouses and factories. They had settled on an old perfume factory which was still...reeking. Hopefully, I wouldn't end up with a headache.
We wait outside the old loading dock for the video camera to swing toward us and register our presence. It must have seen us because the large garage door goes up and we pull into the empty space. In the huge loading dock are parked the old defunct VW microbus, a 1985 Vanagon, tripped out the way the bus was, Jimmy's yellow Viper and Byers' mountain bike. The last one I laugh at. It figures he'd have one.
We get out and see Byers as he meets us to show us in. We shake hands heartily and I see a look pass between Alex and Byers. I note it to ask him about later. We follow into the main room, as Byers' tells us, and the place is massive! Much better than anything they had in Maryland. I excuse myself to the men's room which is still in it's original form. The room itself is huge, full of white tile, and a line of six urinals on the wall. Around a bend, there's a full shower area that leads to a locker room. I quickly relieve myself and wash my hands in one of the six sinks on the opposite wall. I snicker at the row of six stalls with no doors. Thankfully, at the Hoover building, I had a private toilet.
I return to the main room and Langly and Byers are talking to Alex while Frohike walks over with beers for everyone. Langly and Byers take theirs and their free arms come about each other. We toast to tolerance. "You two should take the plunge and get hitched," Langly says.
"Oh, Ringo, stop that," Byers admonishes with a playful hit on his arm.
"What? All I said was..." And the face Langly turns on us suddenly falls. I turn to Alex who is grimacing as if in pain. Jimmy walks into the room, breaking the pall that has settled on the room. He looks exactly the same, well, almost, there are some new laugh lines around his eyes. I hear that Yves and the girls are his entire life. After Yves and Jimmy put her father out of business, gaining all of his assets, while the Gunmen were in hiding from him, they decided to start a family together. Yves, who had legally changed her name from Lois Runtz to Yves Adele Harlow, then to Yves Bond, graced him first with Bethany, then Amy. They both have his silky blonde hair, but both girls have their mother's beautiful eyes and lips and her quick wit, but his steadfast loyalty. They kept up the paper for the guys while they were traveling around with Mulder, Scully and Alex in the war.
"Hey, I think I have what you need." He was holding a diskette in his hand, one if the new high density chips. The thing was as big as my thumbnail and held as much information as my entire library of books and more. It was contained in a plastic protector and he put it into Alex's hand. Jimmy's face was as sad as the day we buried the empty coffins in Arlington.
"You can use the laptop over there," Frohike said, pointing to a desk with two chairs before it. They went about their various tasks, giving us the time we need to sit and start scrolling through the information. Alex sits directly in front of the laptop and puts the small chip into the slot. He amazes me with how much he knows about the systems the Gunmen use. It seems Jimmy knew what he was doing and his database has a webpage with various hyperlinks leading to the massive amounts of data. Alex zeros in on the link that leads to his birth information. He looks at me before clicking on it.
"What do you think, Vlad? Should I..." His face is full of fear and dread. I reach over and click on the link. A scanned copy of his original birth certificate, with English translations added by the software, with his birth name Valery Alexei Arntzen and his birth date of October 22, 1963 is his first view. He just stares at it. I reach over and click through several pages of his growth charts. He was a good eater, it says. And he was a mischief maker. They indoctrinated him early into wreaking havoc.
There were notes of him being promiscuous, but the date couldn't be right. It would have made him nine years old. Boys that young aren't promiscuous, they're molested. I dip my head a moment, saying a silent prayer, thankful that Spender had died painfully and move on to a new set of files. These are the notes on what happened to the youngest Arntzen child. Primislaus and Elislava Arntzen were blessed with a baby girl named Ekaterina, as Alex said, and that little girl had been given to neighbors. She was going to be taken later, then the neighbors disappeared.
Through excellent research skills, Jimmy found the trail of the neighbors as they traveled across Russia into Romania, the former Yugoslavia, across the Adriatic sea to Italy where they flew to the England, then to America. I'm shaking as I click on the next link which shows Katherine Korovkev, child of Mikhail and Janina, settled in Brighton Beach Brooklyn, and there are no records after that. Then I click on the last link, where it shows the registration form for a Sister Mary Agnes, nee Katherine Korovkev, having taken her final vows in the convent of the church of Our Lady of Sorrows in Poughkeepsie, New York. She had been there since her eighteenth birthday. She was four and a half years younger than him, but she has no recorded birth date. She had to have been born in early 1968.
He isn't moving or speaking. I put my arm around him and he quickly presses his face into my neck. I hold him tightly. I can barely hear him when he says, "Vlad, I'm forty six years old. I can't believe it. I...I..."
I pull back and look into his eyes. They're red, but no tears are falling. "What, Sasha? Tell me."
He swallows and clears his throat, giving the smile time to take hold on his mouth. "I didn't think I was so old." He laughs and I laugh with him, holding him tighter. I look up at the Gunmen, to see Frohike holding up his beer bottle in a silent toast. Jimmy is surreptitiously wiping his eye. Langly and Byers are in a tight clinch, hugging each other as if they found family of their own.
I sit back in the chair and say, "So, what do you want to do? We can call the convent and drive up there today. It's barely lunchtime. What do you say?"
He looks at his watch then back at me. "Yeah, I'll call them and see if I can see her today."
"You can use our phone, Alex," Byers offers. He smiled placidly at Alex, and I'm starting to get suspicious. But Alex picks up the desk phone and dials the number of the convent. I opt to give him privacy and walk over to Jimmy, who is just finishing a call to his wife.
"Thank you, Jimmy," I say, holding out my hand to shake his. He takes it and holds my hand a moment. "Alex needed this. I can't begin to imagine how to repay you."
"Hey, cue ball, don't think you'll start insulting us by offering us money now!" Frohike shouts to me. I turn to him and scowl. The man is my contemporary, but he always had a sense of old wisdom about him that made me defer to him in many cases.
"Melvin, would you like to see your sixty-fifth birthday?" I ask casually. He looks at me as if I've actually pulled the gun out.
"That's how old you are, Frohike?" Jimmy asks. I smile at him. He's so sweetly innocent still in some ways. He can find tiny details in a massive database of information for Alex, yet never thought to look up Frohike's birthday.
"He's older," Langly shouts, then goes back to nuzzling Byers' neck.
I feel an arm around my waist and Alex is nuzzling my own neck. "Come on, Walt, they're expecting us in about two hours. It's a straight shot up through the Bronx, the Sprain then the Taconic and then I get off on 55. Piece of cake. Let's go."
We again thank the Gunmen and head to the Hummer. Alex pulls out as soon as he has clearance and lays rubber heading for Queens Boulevard to get to Manhattan for the FDR north. "Shit, Alex! Calm down! New York's Finest don't need to know us as well as Stuart and Artie do!"
He laughs and slows down, knowing a huge black Hum Vee is bound to be a ticket magnet. We're quiet most of the way to the convent until something I was contemplating nagged to get out. "Alex, what was with those looks between you and John? Something happen...out on the road?"
He laughs at me. "No, John and I have had a lot of late night talks. I once saw him coming out of the shower. He's a sexy man, let me tell you. But he only belongs to that big, blond oaf. I talked to him a lot about you. He gave me the idea to give Bosco to you. And he convinced me to go see you when I came home that time. I owe that man all I have. I'll always be proud to call those men brothers."
I can see that the emotions of the day are getting to Alex. We continue on silently until we make the turn into Poughkeepsie proper. Alex, being smart, stops to fill up and we ask directions to the convent. The attendant is sharp and accurate and we head straight there with no problems.
OUR LADY OF SORROWS CONVENT
The place where my sister has lived for the last twenty three years of her life looks like something as close to Mannerly's estate as I can remember. There are lots of lawns, a section with a garden and the main building is just magnificent, made from old brick and stone. The large windows on the first floor all have a stained glass pictures in them, but the second floor does not. Those are all very plain windows. They must be the nuns' bedrooms.
Walter takes my hand as we walk toward the front gate. A short nun in full habit meets us, then looks disdainfully down at our hands clasped together. I pull away quickly. She doesn't say a word to me, but opens the gate and beckons us to follow her to the Mother Superior, whom I spoke to on the phone. She told me I would speak with her, then to my sister.
My sister is a nun. My sister is a nun! My sister is a fucking NUN! Ok, I can't talk like that when I go in there. I actually have to be polite. Shit, I can do that. Mulder was fooled at first, wasn't he?
We're led into a room with a desk and a *huge* statue of the Virgin Mary in glory. I suppress the urge to bless myself like I did when I was a little boy. I don't. I sit in one of the chairs and Walter sits beside me. The Mother Superior glides into the room and bows to us. She doesn't shake our hands. I'm always amazed by how graceful older nuns are. It's as if they learn how to float under those habits.
"Good day, gentlemen, I thank you for coming here in person. Unfortunately, Sister Mary Agnes is not going to meet with you." Her tone is gentle, as if talking to a child. She was one of the nice nun teachers, I imagine.
"Well, why not? Does she know it's me? Can't I just see her a moment?" I want to jump up and plead my case. I want to scream and pound my hands on the desk. "Please, Mother Superior, you *have* to let me see my sister. I'm begging you!"
I realize I am shouting and let Walter guide me to sit down. The knowing massaging hand on my neck doesn't go unnoticed.
"Gentlemen, you must understand, until this morning, Sister Mary Agnes did not know you existed, no matter what you knew. She is very apprehensive. I will speak and pray with her tonight. I will call you in the morning and let you know if she wishes to see you then."
I'm shut down. I don't even want to look at her. There's no arguing with her, she's a nun. I just nod dumbly and allow Walter to lead me out of the room and out to the truck. He straps me into the passenger side and stands there a moment, stroking my face. He kisses my mouth and closes the door to get in on the drivers side. I look back at the convent and see a flash of black whoosh by. Someone had watched us. Oh, God! If she saw...she's Catholic! This is worse than Anabelle walking in on us fucking! I'd rather have Anabelle dubbing tapes of us in bed together.
The silence is deafening as we drive back to the city. I can see Walter looking over at me, worry and grief on his face. He respects my silence and turns on the radio. I can't shut him out. I reach over and turn it off. He shrugs a bit, in acquiescence.
"It was too easy. Way to fuckin' easy. We found her too fast. She was right there, underneath my nose. Two hours away. I'll bet that smoking motherfucker knew it the whole fucking time. That's why those records were there. That sick bastard had all the notes right there. I'm sorry you saw about me..."
"Alex," he stops me. His hand comes off the wheel to rest on my thigh. "What happened to you forty years ago is ancient history. All it does is clue me in to why you act the way you do sometimes. And that's not a bad thing."
"No?" I turn to him, determined not to let the tears fall. Fuck me, this is the final hint. I'm not that man anymore. I'm no longer that assassin, that man who could take a life and feel nothing. I *had* nothing to feel. I didn't even have hate. It wasn't until that glimmer of love and hope that I came out of the cold.
"I gave you hope, Sasha?" he asks an I look up, tears making their way down my cheeks.
"I gotta stop speaking my thoughts out loud, huh?" I say with a laugh.
"Sasha, you've been doing it a lot longer than you think. I just recently started answering you."
There's a sad smile on his face. I reach over and stroke his cheek. "Guess I trust you a lot, huh, Vlad?"
I'm rewarded with another smile and we drive silently back into the city. At the hotel, he orders us dinner to be delivered to the room before we go up. God love the housekeeper, she's cleaned the place *so* well. I'll have to leave her a nice tip. Our dinner arrives quickly and I barely taste the linguini putanesca and garlic bread. We end up in the bubble bath again, snuggling and making out. I'm just not into it and I pull away. He strokes my face and says, "Come on, let's rinse off and get into bed. We'll watch TV until we're sleepy."
I agree and drift off before the movie is over. It's some stupid Liam Neeson thing. I do not care if the DEA agent shits himself to death. Although that guy that helps him out is eerily familiar looking. And very sexy.
In the morning, we go out for breakfast at a good old fashioned New York City Greek diner. We both eat more than we should and I know it's just to waste time. I'm scared, and when I'm scared, I'm the opposite of most people, I eat a lot. I was even a chubby child. I was afraid all the time.
We start walking around the city looking at the businesses getting spring out to the consumers. Manhattan is a true walking town, everything accessible for public transportation. I don't want to stray too far from the hotel, though, incase the Mother Superior calls and says that Ekaterina wants to see me.
After having lunch in a very cool rib and jazz place on the west side, my phone rings. I look and it's the convent's number. "Katya?" I say when I open the phone.
"No, Mr. Krycek, this is Mother Superior. Sister Mary Agnes will speak with you after Vespers today. You will only have a few moments to speak with her. She is very wary and is quite upset by everything. But she does wish to see you, to let you know she is happy and safe."
"Thank you, Mother, thank you. We'll be there as soon as we can. I'll wait as long as I have to."
I hang up and Walter and I race back to the hotel to get the truck. I peel out the way I did yesterday and Walter just grimaces. "I know we' re gonna get a ticket. At least we're not gonna get busted for being fags, huh?"
I clear my throat and sit up straighter. Fags. Homos. Queers. *We* are why my sister wouldn't see me. And *we* are why this is doomed. Fuck, I should have done this alone. Wait, am I saying this out loud? I look over at Walter and he's happily in his own world. Good, I'm quiet. I know I'm driving fast, but I need to get there as soon as possible. I need to see her face. I want to look at her. I need to see my mother again.
We pull up to the gate again and I don't wait for Walter to get out. I quickly stride to the gate and ring the large bell that's hanging there. I noticed it the last time, but I didn't have to use it with the nun standing there waiting for me. This time a different nun comes to the gate to let us in. We follow her and she leads us to a different area.
Walter waits outside as I'm led into a sort of chapel. It's very small. Another nun is standing at the far side of the room praying before another statue of the Virgin. I just wait. What the hell am I going to do? She blesses herself and turns to me. She walks over.
She's amazing. Her eyes could be mine. Our noses are the same, too. She brings me the memory of my mother and that brings the tears. "Ekaterina, I can't believe you're still alive."
"You are Valery. Mother Superior told me you look like me."
"No, I'm Alex. I don't go by Valery, not since I was a boy. I can't believe you're here. Thank you for seeing me."
I reach out to touch her, but she pulls back and steps back. "I'm sorry, but I shouldn't give you the impression that we are going to be family. My family is here."
Huh? She doesn't want to know me? I'm the only family she has in the world and she doesn't want to see me. I go to sit on one of the low benches on the side of the room. I look at all the statues around and the candles lit. The room is hot and my vision is starting to swirl.
"I'm your family, Ekaterina. I'm your brother. You were born after me. Please, I need to talk to you..."
"No, I'm sorry." She steps all the way back and toward the door. You should go back to your...to your..."
"My what? My boyfriend? Huh? Is that it? You won't have anything to me because I'm gay? Is that right?" I know I'm standing again. I can feel the heat in my face. I need to calm down, I'm yelling at a nun.
"You must understand. I'm happy here. This is where I belong. I do have family. My family is here. Thank you for visiting."
She turns to leave and I rush to grab her arm. "No, please, Katya, you can't go. I need to talk to you. I need to tell you about me, I need to talk to you about my life." Oh, God, I'm pulling on a nun. I let go and step back. If you could see her face, you'd understand why I take three steps back from her. She looks horrified. "I'm sorry, Sister Mary Agnes. You're right, I should let you go."
"Alex, I must be honest with you. When Mother Superior told me that you were here with a man that seemed close to you, I made my decision. I married God many years ago. His truths are my truths. And His truth says that your life is a sin against Him. No, I cannot be a part of your life so long as you flagrantly sin against Him. I'm very sorry. I must go now and see to my chores."
She left the room and me alone. I don't remember stumbling out of the room, but I do remember Walter holding me bent over near the truck as I throw up my guts. Thankfully, he holds a bottle of water up to my mouth and pours some in when I'm upright for me to rinse my mouth out. I'm shoved into the truck and he takes me back to the hotel. I know I'm crying and babbling, but I couldn't tell you what I'm saying. It's all wrong, it's shit. She fucking hates me because I get my ass fucked. She refuses to know me because I like dick. FUCK! Why am I cursed like this!
"You know, man, just get me back to the fucking cabin, OK? Walt? Tonight, we'll take turns driving when I'm better, OK?" I beg him, but he shakes his head.
"No, Sasha, we'll go back to the hotel, sleep the night and we'll go home in the morning. I don't want to drive for hours and hours. Tomorrow we can take our time going home."
I nod and lie back to let him take me back to the hotel. This time, I don't want to eat. I just get into the bed, clothed and drop off. I don't even notice when Walter strips me.
I wish I had been in the room when Alex spoke to his sister. She must have told him he was unwelcome without even giving him a chance. Oh, my poor baby. I hold him and stroke his body a long time after he's asleep. He didn't used to let me touch him when he was asleep. He would wake up immediately. Now, he can sleep through me preparing him to fuck. I like waking him like that. I won't do that this time. No, I'll let him sleep.
He's not a baby, not at all. He's a man, a good and fine man. Alex Krycek is more than the piece of garbage they taught him to be. Mike Elliot told him once that he thought both Alex and I were two of the finest men he'd ever met, thus prompting him to reunite with his son. Alex rode the high of that compliment through the holidays. He was ecstatic to think a stranger cared about how he'd acted.
In the morning, after a night of sleeping like a rock, Alex is easy to rouse awake, although he's not up for morning gymnastics. That's fine by me, and I let him shower first. I shower after him, knowing he needs space. I want him to feel like he can be alone in his thoughts, share with me when he wants, but not crowd him into thinking he needs to take off again. If seeing the movie kept him away all day and all night, I'm in for one hell of a brood.
I don't mind if he broods, that's fine. I just don't want him disappearing. He'll get himself into trouble, I know it.
We check out and get on our way back to Virginia and I think it's good for Alex to drive it. He seems quite focused. He doesn't talk to me, though, like we always do. And for some reason, he's got the wrinkle between his brows back. That isn't very good. I don't like that. I want to massage it away with my tongue, but I will never forgive myself for buying it on the New Jersey Turnpike.
It's so nice to be home, I tell you. We pull into our drive and both dogs welcome us home. I'm wary about why Honey has left the pups alone, but I walk around and see Anabelle's car behind the house, for some weird reason. Shannon runs toward me and I catch her up in my arms and say, "Hey, little girl, what are you doing here?"
She looks adorable in her Pooh Bear blue jean overalls and pink t-shirt with matching pink sneakers. Anabelle may be a flake, but she dresses the kid well. "Mama's laying on your couch. She says that her head feels better up here cuz o' the air."
I think on that a moment. The air? Why would...well, there is less humidity up here, less pressure I imagine. And we're well below the pollen level, very few flowers up this high. OK, well, I'll see what she's doing. Alex is getting the bags from the car. He waves me away into the house. I carry Shannon in to see that Anabelle is lying back on the couch with a washcloth over her eyes. "Baby, is that you? Did I hear a car?"
I put Shannon down and walk toward Anabelle. Her voice sounds odd, like it's off key from her usually melodic lilt. Yes, the woman has an ugly heart, but her voice and vision are the stuff of romance novels. Always in great shape, wearing the nicest clothes, nails, hair and makeup perfect, Anabelle is a true Southern Belle. "Anabelle, Alex and I are home," I say as softly as I can.
She jumps when she hears me and pulls the cloth off her face. I'm in shock. Her nails are chipped, her hair is pulled back in a ragged ponytail and she has no makeup on at all. "Why, Walter, I'm so sorry. Please, you must forgive my familiarity..."
"Relax, Anabelle, it's ok. Are you having migraines?" I kneel beside the couch and lay the cloth back on her eyes. "I used to have the same problem, dear. Just you rest, no one's gonna make you move until you feel better, right Alex?" I turn to Alex who has just walked in and walks straight through with our bags.
He walks back out and says, "Yeah, do what you want, sweetie." Then he goes straight into the den and slams the door behind him. The force causes Anabelle to jump. I push her back, patting her shoulder and she goes easily. Getting up, I shush Shannon and follow Alex into the den, closing the door quietly. He's kneeling by the puppies, checking them out and looking over their area. He picks up Taffy and looks her over. "Don't get used to this, girl. In a couple of weeks, you're on your way to your new home. So you'd better shine up to that little girl real nice, otherwise, she'll forget about you and you'll be up the creek, won't you?"
Huh?? "Alex, that's not very nice. Don't talk to her like that." He looks up at me and gives me a sad smile, then puts Taffy down.
"It's true, isn't it? Unless you do exactly what people want, they don't give a shit about you."
I take a step back and say, "Alex, I love you no matter what you've done, or will do. You are the one with the issues about yourself. I'm sorry that your sister rejected you, but that isn't any reason to take it out on me, Anabelle or the pups. I'm starting unpacking."
I turn and leave him in there, closing the door quietly behind me. Anabelle is trying to stand up. I quickly go to her and help her to lay back down. "Anabelle, really, you should just rest. I'll make you some coffee. Caffeine is very good for migraines. Then I'll unpack our bags and start dinner. Later, if need be, I'll take you home."
Her tiny hand comes up to my face to cover my cheek. "You shouldn't be this kind to me. I've been a terrible person to you. And Alex. Especially to Alex. He should be upset that I'm here in your home."
"You let me worry about Alex. You take care of yourself and Shannon. And Taffy can stay here as long as you need her to." The look of pure gratitude she gives me is all the thanks I need.
As the day ends, with Anabelle feeling better and staying for dinner with Shannon, Alex, who had stayed in the closed den all day, emerges from his hole and shouts through the house to me that he is "going the hell out!" The three of us wince as he slams the front door. I will not see him for the rest of the night. Hopefully, he will come home tomorrow.
Shannon goes into the living room to watch some of Alex's cartoon DVDs while Anabelle and I clean up. "Would you like to talk about it, Walter? I know something is bothering you. We were good friends quiet a long time before I went and lost my mind, weren't we?"
The look of apology on her face is surprising. "Yes, we were friends. Well, Alex has found his sister, sort of." She hands me the dishes from the table as I load the dishwasher. "They were separated when they were children, and I'm not going into his history, but his family are all gone, but those two. Well, she saw Alex and I arrive together, and she's a Catholic nun. She...rejected Alex because of us. It's a trend in our lives."
She just stands there and stares at me. "Oh, Walter, and I only remind you of being rejected, don't I?"
"No, Anabelle, look...it's not you at all. I knew that loving Alex came with a price. Nothing in life comes easy or cheap. Nothing worth having, that is."
"And obviously Alex is worth all the trials I've put you through. I guess you're wondering why I'm so nice to you lately, aren't you?" The look on her face is precious. She's blushing.
"Well, yes, now that you mention it, I was kinda wondering."
"I...I began watching that television show 'Queer as Folk'. Now, I have all ten seasons on disc, I've immersed myself in it. And I've come to realize that as much as those men love each other, because art imitates life, that's how much you love Alex. And I'm so sorry for how I've acted. I'd actually like to be your friend again."
To say I'm thrown for a loop is putting it mildly. I can't say 'no' to her. I need a friend right now. I need someone who will understand what I'm going through. She seems to get it. "I think that would be really nice, Anabelle."
Two days go by with no Alex. He does eventually come home while I'm working in the shed, rebuilding an old breakfront for Tim O'Malley. It's his mother's legacy to him and it's rotted out in certain parts. I am fitting parts to replace the rotten ones. I go back to the house to get some water and see the Hummer in the driveway. I enter the house to find him passed out across the bed, fully dressed. I sigh.
"Well, nice to see you home," I say as I start pulling his boots off. I remove his clothes and they go straight to the laundry. They smell of smoke and sweat, as if he spent time in a club. I also notice a streak of red lipstick on the lapel of the green silk shirt that he had worn. It's the shirt that I like best with his eyes. Well, either he was with a woman, or a drag queen. I'll ask him when he's awake.
When he does wake, long after dark, he quickly showers, without a word to answer my "Good evening, Alex" and walks purposefully back to our bedroom. I watch as he dresses again, leaving his towel on the floor, and is startled when he turns to see me in the doorway. "Where are you going, Alex?" I ask.
"Out. You're content to sit around this fuckin' place, but I'm not. I wanna go out." He stays blank, no anger, no hurt, just a blank face.
"I'd go out if you asked me to go with you, you know," I say quietly.
"I want to go out alone. Is that alright by you? Or must we be in each other's pockets constantly?" he sneers as he brushes me out of his way.
"Not if you're fucking other people, it's not." That stops him cold. He turns back to me.
"What did you say to me?" he asks, astonishment across his face. "Did you just fucking say what I think you said, you son of a bitch? Are you accusing me..."
"I found lipstick on your shirt. Either it's a woman or a drag queen. I know you're not fussy about who sucks your cock, Alex."
He stands up straight as if struck. "Is that right? Well, you can send my shorts out for DNA testing, no saliva, no semen on them. The lipstick is from a chick at the closet who fell into me on the dance floor. Patty said to say 'hi'. Goodnight, Walter." He slams the front door after himself, setting all 6 dogs barking.
I follow him out and call after him, "Alex, there's a new rule around here. I thought you should know." He stops halfway to the Hummer with the keys dangling from his hand. He turns to me, waiting.
"The new rule is that if you plan on living here, you have to spend at least thirty minutes per twenty-four hours here. If you're in the state, that is. And Maryland doesn't count, it's too close. Otherwise, you've officially moved out. And I'll send your things along to wherever you want them."
"Is that the way you want it?" he asks, having turned back around. I can hear the crack in his voice.
"That's the way it's going to be whether we want it or not. I won't have this. If you want to brood, do it somewhere else. I'm too fucking old for this."
Without saying a word, he stalks off toward the truck and peels out, throwing gravel at me. Fuck, that went well. Where the hell did that come from? Thirty minutes per twenty-four hours? Sharon...when I worked too much. It didn't work so well on me. Fuck, I'll never see him. I decide that it's better to wallow with friends than to wallow alone, and get myself in gear to go down to the Closet for a beer. Just one, I'm driving.
At the closet, it's really jumping, lots of people there. I'd forgotten it was Thursday night. How does one forget it's Thursday? A big night for the college scene because the kids don't have classes the next day. I sit at the bar with my beer mug, watching the kids dance and party. I sit with my back to the wall in the corner, and soon I have Patty beside me, on the opposite side of the bar.
"He's not here, you know," she says, quietly.
"I know. Why would you think I was looking for him?" I have my AD hat back on. My undercover investigator has taken me over.
"Because I saw that smudge of lipstick on him the other day when that chick fell into him. This isn't a gay bar anymore. It's a 'dance club' for fag hags. I fucking hate it. Alex was dancing with Mike Elliot's son, as a goof and this girl slams into him. Some of the chicks here want to 'turn' the gay guys back to liking chicks. Or they wanna be invited to watch. And play, I guess."
I laugh. Alex wasn't lying. Fuck, I owe him for that. "That's what he told me."
"Then what are you doing here?" She looks directly at me. I nod at her, accepting her judgment. "You may have been an FBI agent, but I'm a bartender. Human nature isn't a hobby, it's thrust upon me. He'll be here in a little while. You can make your peace then."
She returns to her customers and I sip at my beer until I hear a sweet young voice say, "Can I get you another one of those?" I look down and the boy can't be more than eighteen years old. Justin Taylor from 'Queer as Folk' season one, I'm positive. Well, the actor Randy Harrison is ten years older than this kid, at least.
"Thanks, son, but no. I have to drive. No one wants to scrape my ass off the road if I buy it on the way home." I smile out of half of my mouth and finish up my beer.
"Then a club soda, how about that? I mean, you're cruising, right? I see the way you're watching the crowd. And I really need a daddy who can make me behave again. I've been a really bad boy." He gets right up into my face, standing on the bar rail. I can't move back any further, I'm at the wall. The hand on the kid's shoulder is unexpected.
"Fuck off, little man, that's my boyfriend you got there." 'Little Justin' turns to Alex who stares him down, the way he did to me all those years ago. Little Justin turns back to me and my eyebrow goes up and I nod slightly. He slinks away before he can make any more trouble. Alex mirrors his move on the bar rail and kisses me full on the mouth, nipping at my lips. "Replacing me so quickly? Hasn't even been twenty- four hours."
"I came here to get a beer. I wanted out as much as you, but you never asked. I can go if you want, I'm done with my beer." I get up to leave and his hand pushes me back. He's all over me, kissing my mouth, grabbing at my crotch and ass.
"Take me home and fuck me," he growls at me. "Take me home and make me yours again." I need no further request and am up off the barstool. I can feel Patty's smirk on my back, but I stop at the door.
"Where's your Hummer?" I ask, since I know he didn't walk the fifteen miles here.
"At the house. Gracie and Chuckie followed me home to make sure I talked to you. When I saw you weren't there, they made me leave the Hummer so that I would have to look for you to take me home. I'm sorry, Vlad, I didn't mean it."
I can't resist the look in his eyes. I kiss him again and the regulars, and some of the newbies, laugh and cheer as we leave. Make no mistake. The gay community is as close knit as any other community. We love and support each other, and we gossip like there's no tomorrow. Gracie is a pre-op transsexual, with breasts, a penis and testicles. Chuckie is in denial. He refuses to say he's gay, since Gracie wears full female gear, but he also refuses to allow Gracie to have the sex reassignment surgery, claiming he loves his wife as she is. Tits or not, in my narrow view, if you suck a cock regularly by choice and crave it, you're gay. Maybe I'm wrong, but that's my opinion.
At home, Alex isn't kidding when he said he wanted me to fuck him. He runs into the house first, and I hear all six barks to welcome him. He's waiting for me when I get in, after locking up the house, lubed and on his knees. My cock is throbbing hard by the time I'm undressed and I just plunge right into him. Oh, he's so sweet squeezing around my cock, giving me all of him, talking like he does when he's feeling sleazy.
"Fuck me, Vlad, fuck me hard. Pound me, yeah. God, all I have to do is see you to bone up. More, more!" He presses back on me and I can't help but slam into him. My balls are getting punished in all this, slapping him. It's over quickly for me, and I fall back onto the bed. He turns to me and says, "Wait, I'm not done!"
I smile at him, still heaving and tingling, and push him back to lay on the bed. I take him all the way down my throat and suck him off, fingering his ass to get his sweet spot. I drink him down and hold him tightly after he comes. He strokes my face and says, "I'm sorry, Vlad. I belong here. I promise I won't brood anymore."
That promise is short-lived. For the next month, Alex becomes like a troubled teenager. He stays home for a few days, then disappears, returning within twenty hours or so, cell phone turned off, smelling of smoke and Jack Daniels, as though he wants me to know he was drinking. Like a fool, I let him back in, even washing him when he was too drunk or tired to wash himself. It's getting hurtful.
In early May, when I finally decide what to do, I get a frantic phone call from Patty. Anabelle had come by with Shannon to play with the puppies, and to let the little girl tend to them. At five, I think it isn't so bad to let Shannon help feed and water the dogs. We keep her away from the litter since that's too much mess for a little girl. At least the puppies can be trusted to go in the same place all the time. I have to admit, tending dogs in the house has been a lot easier than I thought. The one dog we had on the farm, King Kong, he never gave us heirs, unless he left them somewhere else in the county.
The phone rings and I grab it, while Anabelle chops vegetables for dinner. "Walter, you better get your ass down here and fast before Alex hurts someone. Or gets hurt."
"Patty? What the hell is going on?" I walk through the house with the cordless grabbing my keys and wallet, ready to run to the new Range Rover. Alex made quick mention that it was "about fuckin' time you got a new car".
"He's been rowdy all night, and now he's hopped up since I stopped serving him." I hear a glass break in the background. "Look, the last thing I need here are the state troopers. I love Alex, you guys were my first supporters around here, but I can't let him tear the place up."
"Relax, I'll be right there. Just don't serve him anymore. I'll be there as soon as I can." I turn off the phone and turn to Anabelle who is waiting in the doorway. "Anabelle, I want you to scrap dinner, feed the dogs and hit the road. Alex is not well. I need to get him from the Closet. I don't think you should be here when I get him home. It won't be pleasant. Shannon shouldn't see that."
She just nods and waves me away. In the last month, I have given Anabelle keys and access to the cabin, knowing that Shannon is happier with the dogs, and the pollen-free air is good for Anabelle's sinuses and migraines. I run out to my new truck and take it down the mountain. I learned a tip from Alex and didn't buy a red one like the old jeep was. This is a black 2010 Range Rover, fresh off the line, all amenities available, and costing me well over $50,000. It was a small price to pay to be able to get to the Closet faster than I had been with that damned old jeep. When I do get there, it seems the tables have turned. Turned violent, that is.
When I get into the bar, Alex is being restrained by Mikey and Gerry from another man who Chuckie and another regular are holding back. Gracie is comforting Little Justin, holding a towel to a cut on his face. Patty meets me and says, "Glad you took your time. The animal tried to rape Sammy there. Remember him? Tried to pick you up? Kid wants his 'daddy' any way he can get it. Alex stopped it. Troopers are on their way. Plenty of witnesses that Alex was defending the kid."
I walk to Alex and Mikey and Gerry let him go. He turns to me and quickly drops his head. His lip is split and he's got a bruise forming on his left cheekbone. I reach out to smooth his hair back. He flinches. "Alex, relax, it's me. I'm not going to hit you."
He looks up at me and throws his arms around my neck. I hug him back, stroking his hair and back, crooning soothing words to him. He pulls back and kisses me deeply. "I'm sorry, Vlad, I've been so terrible." He pauses and brings his hand up to his mouth. I hear him mumble, "I'm gonna be sick."
I drag him outside to the far bushes to hold him up while he vomits. He whimpers as I haul him up and drag him back to the bar. Rounding the corner, I see two prowlers with "Virginia State Police" on the doors. I don't even give it a second thought as I drag Alex into the bathroom to wash his face and wash out his mouth.
By the time I get him back to the cabin, after giving his statement to the troopers and promising we won't leave the state so we can be witnesses for the kid, we're exhausted. Sammy had hugged me and kissed Alex, and told me to be good to him, then went off to the hospital to get his cheek x-rayed.
Alex showers and invites me to join him, which I do. We make love and lay together, sweaty and sated, just holding each other. His head is pillowed on my chest and a lazy hand is tangling through my stomach hair. It's currently more gray than black. This doesn't seem to bother him. "Vlad, I have to tell you something. I know this may not mean anything to you, but it means something to me. I sort of lied to you."
"No! Surely you jest!" I giggle as he slaps at me playfully.
"I'm serious. And don't call me Shirley. Really, it's not a true lie, but sort of. I did kill Bill Mulder. But he wasn't Mulder's dad. And Spender lived after I threw him down the stairs. So I never lied to him when I said that I didn't kill his dad. That was true. But you asked me if I killed Bill Mulder. And I said no. I did. And I was happy to."
"He ordered the murder of your family. He said they were useless to the project. I can understand your animosity. I'd have killed him myself." He nuzzled harder into my chest.
"Well, ever since then, things went totally out of hand. I didn't mean to allow Cardinale to kill Melissa Scully. I wasn't even going to kill Dana. I told her all this. After I found out that Cardinale shot you, I killed him myself, slowly. I didn't mean for Scully to get abducted in the first place, you know? But I couldn't stop it. When they were going to leave her in a forest, to either be found or die, I took her to that hospital myself. Mulder loved her too much for me to hurt him like that."
"Mulder? Did you and he..."
Alex sits up and looks directly at me. "No, Vlad, never. I was told to, but he never took the bait. He's completely straight. I would have tried with you if they'd told me." He smirks at me. "But I know you'd never have broken your wedding vows."
I nod to him. "I take promises like that seriously."
"You know, when I went to Hong Kong with the tape, after the car bomb..."
"After you and your friends beat the shit out of me..."
"I'm sorry. I know it's too late for it, but I *am* sorry, Vlad. If I could..."
"Go back, you'd take it all back. I would as well. We can't. And I'm too old to hold a grudge. Now, you were sharing, go on."
He laughs a bit and kisses my tit. "You know, Mannerly told me to always be wary of being left the only one in a car. He told me even if I was absolutely positive of my partners, I shouldn't just wait around for them. The he told me the three people I could be absolutely sure of."
"Who was that?"
"You, Mulder and Scully. He didn't know about John and Monica, or the Gunmen. I found it ironic that he chose to die by a car bomb. Not before warning Mulder. Mulder never appreciated all I did for him in the beginning, you know? The nicest thing he did was let me stay that night on your balcony. I thought I'd throw up my guts after you hit me. If I'd had any food. I was living lean those months. Since Hong Kong and back. And in Hong Kong, I picked up a bad habit."
"I remember the track marks, Alex. Go on."
"Well, after the stupid Neo Nazis let me out of the silo and I delivered them to Mulder, in Russia...while I was healing, I kept thinking of you. Like Mulder would get you to bring me back to America. Even if it was to stand trial. It would be you getting me. But you didn't come. And that's OK. I understood. When Cassandra Spender was found and taken, and I warned Mulder, I kissed him goodbye. Did he tell you that? I didn't think he'd make it. I was surprised. Fucking Marita." He shuddered.
"You fucked her?" I asked, surprised.
"Yeah, I did. And then she fucked me back. Mannerly saved my ass. That's how I ended up 'driving' him. You know who was cool? Gibson Praise. That kid was amazing. He told me I loved you. Long before I admitted it. He told me you thought I'd be the death of you."
"You were, if I recall correctly."
"Fuck, I'm sorry..."
"Stop it. Enough, Sasha. I don't want to hear anymore. I know you're sorry. You tell me every day without words. When you allow me to enter your body, when you tell me you love me, when you accept the quiet scorn of the ignorant assholes in town..."
"Speaking of which, why was Anabelle here?"
I laugh at him. "She's been having bad headaches and the air here helps her. And I take care of Shannon while she's resting. She stays on the couch. She's still not comfortable laying on the bed and the puppies bother her. She apologized to me for outing us."
Alex sat up straight. "She what?"
"She apologized to me. And she wants to apologize to you."
"You *have* to tell me this. What...why?"
"She's been watching 'Queer as Folk' and made the connection. I don't argue anymore. I just let people live. I'm not gonna question it. But when she apologizes, accept it. She's going through a rough time. She lost her job. I guess she's having a reevaluation of her life. I wanted to make it easy for her and the kid, you know? Especially with the unemployment and all."
Alex's face genuinely falls. He does care about people. He kisses me again, deeply, sealing something between us. "I want to marry you."
I don't remember what happens next.
Reviving Walter isn't an easy job. He passes right out on me and I don't even have to fuck him. I slap his face a few times and he comes to. "Are you fucking with me, Vlad?" I smile down at him.
"Sasha, are you fucking with me? I mean...really?"
"Yes, this is what I want. My sister gave me up, just like our parents. But from the moment I reached out to you, when I showed up here in the snow, you've never turned me away. You even gave me a way to brood in solidarity yet still have a home to come to. Thirty minutes out of every twenty-four hours. That was genius. Where did that come from?"
He laughs. "Sharon used to tell me that when I worked round the clock on cases. She said thirty minutes was enough to fuck her, shower and change my clothes. I never missed a check in. Until I did. That's when we separated. I never thought I'd find anyone to love as much as I loved her. And here you are. And I love you more."
"Why? Why do you love me more than you love her?" Here's the pay off. Here's the question I want answered.
"You love me more than she did. And I need that. I need to be loved as much as I love. I can trust you to love me. And I knew I could trust you to come back for those thirty minutes every day."
I kiss him again. "I'm not kidding. I want to get married. I want everyone to know you are more important than anyone in the world to me. Even my sister. If I've gone this long without her, I can go on forever. She's alive, she's happy, I know that. And I finally figured that out. It took a long time. Please Vlad?"
He hesitates a moment and I start to get that sinking feeling in my stomach. He's throwing me back out in the fucking snow. "What name will you use legally? Will you stay Alex? Or will you go back to Valery?"
"What do you want? If I went back to Valery Alexei Arntzen, you can still call me Alex. It's my middle name. Or I can stay Krycek if you want. What do you want?"
"I want to curl up around you, hold you as we sleep, then in the morning call Anabelle to organize an engagement party for us at the Closet. And you can make your decision when you want."
I look at him and know exactly what I want. "I want to add a middle name. I'm just Alexander Krycek. But I want to be Alexander Valery Krycek. I'm not that little boy any more. And the man you love is Alex."
"The man I love is you, name or not. I'll never stop calling you Sasha. Malysh, I love you too much to change how I love you now."
We curl together and sleep well into late morning the next day. Anabelle is excited for us, but not before insisting she talk to me. I take the phone from Walter. "Hi, Anabelle. What's up?"
"Alex, I'm a perfectly hateful person and you can call me any name you like. But I hope you accept my apology for treating you and Walter so horribly. I was so wrong. And there's no other way to put it. I know I can never give back the months I took from you two in terms of status in the community, but please, let me at least tell you how sorry I am for what I've done. I'm thoroughly ashamed of myself. Will you at least let me try and make amends?"
"Forget it. It's all in the past. Now, go talk to Walter about this fuckin' party. I got dog shit to clean up."
I hand the phone back to Walter and make my way to my puppies. I'm sure I've shocked her. The babies are excited to see me. I climb right into the pen with them leaving my shoes by the desk. They climb all over me, Truffle even pees on me she's so excited. And I missed them. There's nothing that brings you back down to Earth like picking up dog shit.
By the end of the month, well, the first week of June, Walter and I walk arm and arm into the Empty Closet where Anabelle has catered our party. It's decorated in the colors of summer, just touches of color and crepe paper here and there. She knows we didn't want a lot in terms of decorations, just amazing food. She's pretty damn good as a party organizer. Walter took a chance with her. I think he's going to help her start up a business of it. Waitressing wasn't enough for her and the kid anyway, since Shannon's father went and got himself jailed for some stupid drug thing and cut off the child support.
We wear our best-looking summer suits, me in beige and Walter in light brown. We forwent ties for open collars in the June heat. All of our friends are there, including the Gunmen, the Mulders, even John and Monica Doggett came out for this. The McLaren's in attendance are not a surprise, either. Gracie is decked out in summer chic for drag queens. Chuckie is looking great with her. Mikey and Gerry match, as usual, with Shaine and Patty there. Shaine is just starting to show.
I am excited through out the party, even stopping for a moment to sit for a portrait with Walter from the professional photographer that Anabelle has walking around. It will be nice to frame some of these pictures to hang in the living room. And to expand the mantle shots. Even Shannon is at the party for a little while, wearing a "pixie-pink dress" as she calls it. Walter and I both take individual sitting shots with her, and one of the three of us. We tell the photographer to make sure there are plenty of copies of those shots. That little girl has crawled inside my heart like no other child. Not even William, my little man, who is looking very dapper in his short-pants suit.
I'm not really paying close attention when someone taps me on the shoulder and I turn to see my sister standing before me, wearing a plain pink silk slip dress. The spaghetti straps are hidden by one of those llong silk scarves that women drape across the bodice to hang over their shoulders. It matches the color of her dress, as do her shoes and purse. Her long dark hair is down and she is wearing the faintest hint of make up. "Valery? It is Ekaterina..."
"I know...you're...how did you know? I..." Speechless barely covers it.
"Ms. Mitchell called me. She told me how much my rejection hurt you. I...speaking with Mother Superior, I began questioning why we discriminate based on who loves whom. I have begun my dismissal from the convent. Ms. Mitchell arranged for me to dress and come here tonight. I want to say I'm sorry, Valery."
I take her in my arms and hold her tight. The silent bar has erupted with applause and well wishes. I pull back. "Katya, can I call you that?"
"Yes, please do. It has been ages since anyone has called me that."
I look at her carefully. Her green eyes are exactly like mine. Her silky dark hair, like mine, hangs straight down her back, parted in the middle and combed straight and pretty. I wouldn't care if she were bald. She's my sister. And she's here. I turn her to the group and say, "Everyone, please, may I have your attention? I would like you all to meet my sister, Ekaterina Arntzen. Katya, this is my other family."
Everyone shouts 'welcome' to her and applaud again. She looks small, standing next to me with the top of her head just able to fit under my chin. Just like my mother next to my father. Walter walks over and hugs her, greeting her properly. I let him lead her around to everyone meeting them. Mulder, after shaking her hand, comes to me and hands me a fresh beer. "So, Krycek, you done good. Walt says you proposed."
"I did. What of it, Mulder?" We're mock-fighting. Some habits are hard to break.
"I just wanted to say it was about fucking time you got off your ass and snagged his legal." His smirk makes me wanna pinch it off his skull.
"Yeah, well, I guess I should have snagged it, since I'm constantly tagging it."
He looks dead on at me. "I could have gone my whole life without knowing that, you know."
"Yeah, I know."
He melts back into the crowd and I see Walter leading Katya around the floor in a gentle slow dance. I love the band, Round This Way. Yeah, the house band, but they rock. Walter looks at home with a woman in his arms. I know he'll be in my arms that night.
Anabelle comes over to me and says, "I shouldn't have gone through Walter to get your sister here, but we thought you needed this. Thank you for trusting me."
"Where is my sister staying?" I ask. I need to make sure she's taken care of.
"With me, until we can work things out. And we will, won't we?"
The smile on her face is sweet as I hug her. She grimaces a moment, holding her temple. Another headache. She's said she'd been to the clinic in town to see the "new, sexy young" doctor and he gave her something to help. She excuses herself to take her pills. I suspect she's making a show to keep going to the clinic for a "reason" but so long as she's finding her own man, why should I argue?
Walter joins me again and we stroll out to dance. I lay my head on his shoulder. "I love you, Vlad. Thank you for this. For everything."
"You're welcome. Oh, one more thing."
I raise my head. Oh, what now?
"Do you want an diamond engagement ring, Sasha?"
"I love you, Sasha."
Happy Birthday Nicholas Lea!!