Alex Krycek sat at a table at the job training center, taking a break after a long day. Since Bruce, his boss, was busy on this particular Saturday, his soon-to-be (at least in Alex's opinion) fiancÚ, Zoe Harris, was filling in for him and had spent the day answering questions about employment law. Not that she looked very lawyerly at the moment, in jeans and a sweatshirt, her long brunette hair in a ponytail. She sat beside Alex, drinking coffee and fighting the urge to go out for a cigarette. She saw Alex watching her.
"Nothing worse than a junkie needing a fix, huh?" Zoe asked with a grimace.
Alex laughed. "It'll get easier. You seem to be handling it well."
"Ha! Bruce wouldn't say that. He probably thinks I have terminal PMS. But we made a deal. He's giving up those nasty cigars of his and I'm giving up my cigarettes. Neither you nor Walter smoke, do you?"
Thinking of Spender, Alex shuddered. "No," he answered emphatically.
Jack Rivers, a permanent Saturday fixture at the center, walked up then. Alex sat up straighter when he saw the look on Jack's face.
"Jack, what's wrong?" Alex asked, concerned.
"Alex, do you know Chris Chandler from the shelter?"
"Sure. Late forties, long hair and beard, always wearing a green army field jacket."
"That's the guy." Jack paused for a moment, obviously trying to control his emotions. "He was killed, hit by a car this morning. Chris was in a bad way when I met him. One of those guys who fell through the cracks after he came back from Vietnam — couldn't stop drinking and couldn't keep a job. He was drunk this morning and walked out in front of a car."
"Damn, I'm sorry, Jack. Is there something I can do?" Alex asked.
"Yes," Zoe added. "What can we do?"
"I don't know yet. He had family, a son and daughter, ex-wife. Let's see what happens with them. You know, that could've been me, I'd given up, too."
"Jack!" Zoe exclaimed. "Don't say that. Sit down."
Zoe got up and got Jack some coffee. "You guys, has Bruce mentioned our Memorial Day plans?" They shook their heads. "We're going to the Vietnam Memorial. Bruce is planning to ask everyone to go."
"See, that's the thing about Chris," Jack said. "His name will never be on the Wall, but if it weren't for what he went through in 'Nam, we wouldn't be sitting here talking about his funeral."
Bruce walked in then, going straight to Zoe and kissing her, then saying hi to the guys. He looked around the table.
They filled him in.
"Dammit. I wish we could've gotten to him in time." Bruce had quite a few former shelter residents working for him, several of them vets.
"I know, Bruce, but he wasn't to the point where we could do much for him."
"Bruce," Zoe said. "I told Alex and Jack we're going to the Wall on Memorial Day."
"Yeah, I was planning tell you. Everyone's invited."
"I'll be there," Jack said.
"Me, too," Alex added. "Let me talk to Walter, but I'm sure he'll want to go."
Bruce gave Zoe an appraising look. "You ready to take off?"
"Yes, it's been a long day. Productive, though," she added with a quick smile. Turning back to face Alex, she asked, "Do you need a ride?"
"Please. There's no telling when Walter will be home. He's been working late for weeks. Personally, I think he should stop putting in twelve hours days, but he thinks the solution is for us to get a second car."
"Well, if you're not expecting Walter any time soon, come to dinner with us," Bruce offered.
"Thanks, but I thought I'd go home and make dinner for Walter. He hasn't had a home-cooked meal since he started working on that case."
"Okay. Jack? You want to join us?"
"No, I have some more to do here."
"You take it easy. And if we can do anything about Chris, let us know."
When Walter got home, Alex was in the kitchen.
"What smells so good?" he asked as he walked over to give Alex a kiss.
"Just baked chicken and vegetables. We'll be eating soon."
"I'm glad you did this, Alex. I'm so sick of deli sandwiches and fast food."
"I figured as much. Why don't you go get comfortable while I get this on the table?"
Walter gave Alex another kiss and headed upstairs.
Alex had it ready when Walter, now dressed in comfortable sweats and a t-shirt, came back down. They ate quietly, each absorbed in his own thoughts. Alex sent Walter to the living room to relax as he cleaned up. Walter was lying on the couch when Alex came in. He lifted Walter's feet to sit, then started to rub them. Walter grunted his pleasure.
"Walter, you're working too hard again. You need time off."
Walter smiled at the concern in his lover's voice. "I'll be fine. The case from hell is nearly wrapped up. And Memorial Day will be here soon, we both get that off."
"Oh, that reminds me. A guy Jack and I knew from the shelter, a vet, was killed in a car accident."
"How's Jack doing?"
"You know Jack. He feels responsible for all the lost ones. He's pretty down. Also, Walter, Bruce and Zoe are going to the Wall on Memorial Day and they asked everyone to come. What do you think?"
Alex felt Walter's muscles tense and slowly relax as he continued to work his thumb in firm circles on the arch of Walter's left foot.
After a moment, Walter replied, "I was hoping we'd go away over the long weekend."
With a look of surprise on his face, Alex said, "I didn't know we had plans. I told Bruce I'd go." Alex paused, expecting Walter to agree to the change in itinerary.
Walter remained silent.
Alex continued his massage, switching to Walter's right foot. When the silence continued, Alex asked, "You won't go to the Wall with me?"
"I'm sorry, Alex. But we are not going."
"Walter?" Alex asked, perplexed. "Do we have nonrefundable plane tickets or something?"
"No, that isn't it. But we aren't going."
"But Walter," Alex said, his confusion growing, "I told Bruce I I>would. What's wrong?"
"Nothing's wrong," Walter said, swinging his feet out of Alex's lap, "I'm just tired." He stood up. "Turn off the lights before you come up, okay?"
Alex sat there, stunned. It was hours before Walter normally went to bed and he never went to bed without giving him a kiss first. Was Walter mad at him for wanting to go to the Wall rather than go on a weekend jaunt? Did Walter feel he was playing second fiddle to Bruce and Jack? When he was embroiled in the Consortium, friendships were a liability; didn't Walter know how much it meant to him to have friends now that he was free of that mess? Then again, maybe Walter was simply coming down with something. He'd been pushing himself at work and whatever reserve of energy he went into that damn case with had been consumed weeks ago. Obsessively, these thoughts churned repeatedly through Alex's mind.
He considered following Walter up to bed, but Alex knew that if he did, his tossing and turning would prevent Walter from getting much needed rest. Attempting to set his thoughts aside, Alex reached for the television remote control. He found True Lies on one of the movie stations, but when even that couldn't hold his interest, he went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. Looking around for something to munch he noticed a loaf of French bread and decided to put his excess energy to good use. A little while later, having placed a pan of the makings for baked French toast in the refrigerator, Alex felt a little calmer. Taking a second cup of tea and a chocolate biscotti with him, he returned to watch the end of the movie.
Light was streaming into the bedroom when Walter opened his eyes. He rolled over, intending to give his lover a good morning kiss, however Alex's side of the bed was not only empty, but cool to the touch. Apparently Alex had been up for some time.
Walter rolled out bed, glancing at the alarm clock on his way to the bathroom. He kept his alarm set for 5:30, but most mornings he woke up before it went off. To his surprise, the clock read 10:13. He smiled, silently thanking the universe for sending him a lover wonderful enough to allow him to sleep in.
Twenty minutes later, freshly showered and shaved, Walter appeared in the kitchen. Alex sat at the kitchen table, drinking coffee and reading the Sunday paper. Walter leaned over and kissed the top of his head. "Thanks for letting me sleep in. I guess you were right about me working too hard."
Alex reached up to pull Walter down for a kiss. "Want to laze the rest of the day away with me?"
"All ways?" Alex replied with a grin.
Walter grinned back. "Yes — but only after I've read the sports section!"
While pouring himself a cup of coffee, Walter noticed the scent of vanilla and cinnamon in the air. "Mmm, something smells good. What do you have in there?" he asked, indicating the oven with a wave of his coffee mug.
"Baked French Toast. It should be ready in about fifteen minutes."
"You're going to spoil me, Alex."
Handing Walter the sports section, Alex replied, "I can't think of anyone who deserves it more."
After their carbohydrate-laden breakfast, Walter said he'd handle cleanup and made shooing motions at Alex. Alex laughed, gave Walter a quick kiss and went out to the living room where he turned on the television. He sunk into his favorite corner of the couch and scrolled through the on-line guide, stopping when he came across a show on cliff diving.
When Walter saw what Alex was watching he couldn't resist teasing Alex. "Indulging in a little eye candy, Alex?"
"Hey!," Alex replied, feigning insult. "This is a serious sport! Did you know the divers risk death every time they dive?"
"By hitting the rocks?"
"No, by entering the water at the wrong angle. They're moving at 60 miles per hour by the time they hit the water; at that speed it doesn't take much for something to go wrong."
They watched as another diver approached the cliff edge, made his final preparations, and then launched himself into the abyss. After a lightning fast series of somersaults and twists, the diver disappeared into the turquoise water. Time seemed to stand still as they waited for the diver to reappear; when he did, with a triumphant yell to the crowds watching from sailboats near the dive site, they grinned at each other.
"Okay, it's a real sport," said Walter.
"And the contestants are bad to look at either," Alex added. "Look at the muscles on that guy." The contestant under discussion was preparing for his dive, loosening his shoulder muscles as he stood at the edge of the cliff.
Walter admired the well defined musculature, then tipped his head back, looking up at Alex. "Reminds me of someone I know," he said.
"You think?" Alex asked. "I'm always afraid my muscles will become lopsided."
"So far whatever you're doing seems to be working. I'll let you know if that changes."
"Thanks," Alex said sincerely.
Walter snuggled up close to Alex. Lethargy, aided by their large breakfast, soon overtook them and they lay cuddled together, half watching the remainder of the competition and half dozing.
It was 3:00 before either felt compelled to move and if it hadn't been for the insistent ringing of the telephone they mightn't have moved even then.
Walter answered with his typical "Skinner."
"Oh, hi Walter. This is Jack. Is Alex around somewhere?"
"Sure, let me put him on." Walter passed the telephone receiver to Alex. "It's Jack."
"Hi Jack. What's up?"
"I just got off the phone with Chris Chandler's ex-wife."
"You didn't have to break the news to her, did you?"
"Thank God, no. The police took care of that yesterday. I called to ask about the funeral arrangements and to offer help with the wake."
"There isn't going to be a funeral."
"What do you mean there isn't going to be one? They have to do I>something with Chris' body."
Taking consolation from the the outrage in Alex's voice, Jack continued, "He's being cremated tomorrow morning at 11:30. I asked if there would be a wake and she said she saw no reason why she should throw good money after bad hosting a party for Chris' low-life friends."
"What a bitch!," Alex replied, causing Walter to raise an expressive eyebrow. "Tell you later," Alex mouthed to Walter.
"She's one bitter lady, that's for sure," Jack commented. He paused, gathering his thoughts. "The coroner is releasing Jack's body tomorrow morning and it's being transported directly to the crematorium. The funeral package Mrs. Chandler purchased permits a half hour for viewing and sets a limit on the number of witnesses. In addition to her and her two children, she's invited her boss and his secretary. Five seats remain and she offered them to me. Bruce and Zoe are taking two of them and I wanted to know if you and Walter would like the remaining two."
"I'll come, but I don't know if Walter will. Let me check with him and get back with you."
"Okay, I'll talk to you later then."
"Later," Alex said, and disconnected the call. He returned the phone to Walter and watched him set in on the cradle. "That was Jack," he said unnecessarily. "He wants to know if we'll go with him to Chris' funeral tomorrow morning."
"11:00 or 11:30, I'm not sure which."
"Alex, I can't do it. I've got a conference call with the Ohio attorney general's office from 9:00 to 11:00, then a meeting from 11:00 to noon. Plus a luncheon with Doggett. He asked to meet with me off premises."
Alex tilted his head, looking at Walter quizzically.
"Maybe he's worried my office has been bugged," he concluded dryly.
"You don't think it is, do you?" Alex asked.
"No, I don't think it's likely."
Walter didn't sound worried, but Alex had no intention of taking any risks where Walter was concerned. "Maybe I should borrow some gear from work so you can check."
Walter nodded thoughtfully. "That might not be a bad idea. But Alex, we don't know what Doggett wants to discuss. It might not have anything to do with the Consortium. For all I know, he discovered albino alligators really do live in the sewers of New York."
Alex thought about this and wondered out loud, "What would they eat? Rats?"
"I don't know. And I must admit I'm more concerned about we're going to eat. Have you looked in our refrigerator lately? It's nearly bare."
"We are running low on supplies," Alex agreed. "Do you feel like driving to the grocery store?"
"Not really, but we should go."
Trying not to sound reproachful, Alex said, "We won't need much if you keep working late and missing dinner. If the only meal you're going to eat at home is breakfast, all we need is a carton of eggs and a gallon of milk."
"I don't want to believe it, but you're right. I probably won't make it home for dinner."
"You aren't a machine, Walter. You need to stop working as if you were one."
"You're right. And after this case ends, I will."
Walter grinned at his lover. "Speaking of promises, didn't I promise to take you out to that Thai restaurant you like?" Walter glanced out the window. "It's only a few blocks — we could walk. And stop at the corner grocery on the way back."
"Okay, but you get to carry the milk. I can't just switch it to my other hand when it starts to feel heavy."
When the men returned to their apartment, the phone was ringing. Inserting his key into the lock, Walter asked, "You called Jack, didn't you?"
"Right before we left for dinner."
Walter pushed the door open and they listened for the answering machine. It whirled and clicked as it played the outgoing message and in the few moments of silence that followed Walter put the milk and eggs into the refrigerator. Having shucked himself of his leather jacket, Alex held his hand out for the one Walter was wearing as Bruce's voice came through the answering machine.
"Walter," the voice said, "I hear you aren't coming to the funeral tomorrow. I know you didn't know Chris, but I was hoping to see you there. I want to talk to you about our plans for Memorial Day. Give me a call when you have a minute."
Walter spun about, facing Alex. Sounding enraged, he demanded, "Didn't you tell him I'm not going?"
"Of course I did. I'm sure he's hoping to change your mind."
"Well, it isn't going to be changed!"
"So I see," Alex replied with some asperity. "I don't see what the big deal is, but if you don't want to go, you don't have to."
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Fine," Alex snapped back. He left the kitchen and walked toward the hall door. Alex went as far as the hall closet and hung up Walter's jacket. He then stood there for a moment as if he were deciding something and the thought flashed through Walter's mind that Alex was going to walk out.
Before Walter could think of something to say to convince Alex to stay, Alex had returned to his side. "Are you sure you aren't coming down with something? You've gone completely pale. Was the walk too much?"
"I'm just tired," Walter said. And he did sound tired, like a man who has borne the weight of the world on his shoulders for far too long.
"Go on up to bed. I'll be right behind you."
Walter nodded and headed up the stairs.
Alex locked up the apartment and turned on the alarm. Before following Walter to bed, he stopped at the foot of the stairs and glanced around the first floor of the apartment. Everything he saw — the furniture, the art on the wall, the CD collection, every single thing his eyes fell upon — belonged to Walter. And yet whenever he thought of home, this was exactly what he pictured. "I'm damn lucky," Alex thought, "and it's time I showed Walter how much I appreciate him. Especially after falling asleep on the couch last night."
Alex returned to the kitchen and put a cup of water into the microwave. When it reached a boil, he removed the cup and poured the water into the stoneware massage oil warmer Walter had found on one of his on-line shopping forays. Carrying the warmer, Alex climbed the stairs to the master bedroom. Walter was brushing his teeth when Alex reached around him to remove the bottle of massage oil from the cabinet.
"Who's that for," Walter mumbled around his toothbrush, "you or me?"
Alex poured a portion of the oil into depression on the warmer. "You."
The single word growled in Alex's whiskey rough voice was enough to harden Walter's cock. He nodded and then rinsed his mouth. "Lucky me," he said and pulled Alex in for a kiss.
After a long and delightful minute, Alex pushed Walter away. "I want to brush my teeth while the oil warms up. When I'm done, I'll give you a full body massage."
Helpfully, Walter volunteered, "I'll go turn down the covers."
When Alex walked into the bedroom, the sight of Walter laying on his stomach spread out the large bed literally made Alex's hand itch. Eager to touch the muscular body stretched out before him, he set the massage oil warmer on the night stand and then quickly pulled off his clothing and removed his prosthesis. Joining Walter on the bed, Alex knelt over the prone body and used the ladle to drizzle warm oil over Walter's broad back. Using the the palm of his hand, he rubbed the scented oil into the golden flesh. Walter sighed in appreciation as Alex worked. The warm oil felt wonderful and Alex's hand smoothly gliding over his skin felt even better.
Alex spent time loosening Walter's shoulders. It was inevitable that he would mourn the loss of his arm and he did, but an encounter with a Buddhist monk during his exile in Hong Kong had exposed Alex to the zen concept of mindfulness. With the monk's help, Alex had learned to direct his attention to the present moment. Completely engaged, Alex paid no attention to the passage of time, nor did thoughts of the past or future intrude. Alex's focus became the texture of Walter's skin, the warm slipperiness of the oil, the interplay between Walter's muscles and his own, the pleasure that touching this strong male body brought.
Utterly relaxed by the thorough massage, thoughts slowly drifted through Walter's mind until he fell into a deep slumber and they stopped completely. When Alex quietly requested he turn over, Walter's only response was a sleepy grumble. Alex gently nudged him, again trying to get him to turn, but Walter's refusal to move was not negotiable.
Admitting his plan to bring Walter to a slow sexual boil had met with resounding defeat, Alex looked down at his half hard cock and shook his head ruefully. "Tomorrow," he promised, then snuggled in close to his sleeping lover and pulled up the covers.
Seemingly moments later, the alarm clocked blared its wake up call. Walter silenced the offending device and rose to his feet.
Following his usual morning routine, Alex stayed in bed for an extra few minutes, stretching his long limbs while mentally reviewing the day's agenda. Although not the critical step it had once been, the habit was deeply ingrained and had not changed during the time he'd been living with Walter. When he finished his review, Alex rolled out of bed and walked to the bathroom to empty his bladder.
"Hey there, Lazybones," Walter said with a lecherous grin, "you going to shower with me now that you're out of bed?"
Although not a morning person, Alex couldn't help but smile as he moved in for his morning kiss.
When they broke for air, Walter glanced at the clock and mumbled something about needing to get up earlier.
"Earlier?" Alex protested. "What do you think you are? A rooster?"
Walter grinned. "Can you think of anything sexier?"
Alex stared at him incredulously. "Sexier than a chicken?"
"Than a nice big cock," Walter corrected, reaching for Alex's.
"It's too damn early for word games," Alex grumbled. But he thrust his hips, enjoying the friction of Walter's hand on his growing erection.
"How about too early to jack off?"
In response, Alex thrust again.
"Guess not," Walter said with a laugh and using Alex's cock as a leash, pulled him toward the shower. A split second before Walter's hand touched the shower door he heard the telephone. It was highly unusual to hear it ring this early in the morning and, when it did, it inevitably served as a portend of bad news.
Walter looked into Alex's eyes and saw resignation. But all he said was "You better answer that."
Walter dutifully trotted to the telephone in the bedroom and picked it up. Meanwhile, Alex turned on the shower and stepped inside. He would know soon enough what had gone wrong.
Alex was rinsing the soap out of his hair when Walter returned to the bathroom and announced "That was the Director's secretary. The Stuyvesant case has blown up in our faces."
"Yesterday afternoon the Attorney General told the Director that in his legal opinion the drug evidence will be ruled inadmissible. And last night the two most important witnesses disappeared from protective custody. The Director wants to know what I'm doing about it and demands a full report be on his desk by 9:00 this morning."
"Exactly," Walter said and Alex thought he could hear the muscles in Walter's jaw clenching with pent up fury and disbelief.
"Want me to catch a cab to Jack's place?"
"You don't mind?"
"Nah, I can manage," Alex said and he turned off the water. "Is it okay with you if I borrow your garment bag?" He stepped out of the shower and reached for his towel, adding "My first class this morning is rape-prevention. I won't want to put on my suit until afterwards."
"Sure, that's fine.
Alex gave Walter a quick buss on the lips. "Thanks," he said, and exited the room.
Jack was waiting on the sidewalk when the cab driver pulled up to the curbside. Alex told the driver to wait a moment, and rolled down the window. He greeted his friend with "I didn't expect to find you out here. I'm not late, am I?"
Jack gave him a forlorn smile and shook his head. "I was thinking about Chris. Needed to get out of my apartment and into the fresh air."
Alex nodded, understanding where Jack was coming from. Noticing the carry-on bag near Jack's feet, Alex asked "Want to walk or to take the cab to Mosely?" They typically walked the two short miles to work, but then they didn't normally have luggage to contend with.
"It's here, we might as well use it."
Respecting Jack's somber mood, Alex was quiet during the drive to Mosely Security. When they arrived, Jack used his keys to unlock the building and punched his code into the security system. "You still up for a run?" Alex asked.
Jack turned the latch on the door, locking them inside the building. "Not really, but I know me. If I start excusing myself because I'm not in the mood, I may never run again."
There was wisdom in that, Alex thought. He too was familiar with slippery slopes and had lost his own footing more times than he cared to remember.
Together, they walked to the employee's locker room. Alex hung Walter's garment bag from one of the empty lockers and then changed into his running clothes. Jack unpacked the slacks and dark grey tweed jacket — what Alex suspected was Jack's best clothing — and carefully hung them inside another locker.
Jack and Alex were in agreement that they should vary where they ran, although for completely different reasons. Jack simply liked variety and didn't want to become bored. Alex, aware that he made enemies both in and out of the Consortium, refused to put himself at risk of assault, kidnapping, and murder by allowing himself to fall into a predictable pattern when he could easily avoid doing so.
After a friendly debate, the men decided that they would run the Mall. Jack had good memories of visiting the Lincoln Memorial with his children and, although not much interested in architecture, Alex always found himself drawn to clean lines of the Washington Monument. Running from the Lincoln Memorial to the Capitol Building would give them a run of about three miles, a distance that would push Jack's limits but not exceed his ability.
Alex pulled off his aptly named sweatshirt. "It's a good thing we have a showers here. I don't think any of my students would appreciate having to work closely with me today if we didn't."
Jack sat on the bench, peeling off his socks. "You can say that again."
"Are you saying I stink?" Alex asked with a wicked grin.
"Hey, if the shoe fits...," Jack replied, laughing.
Alex laughed with him, enjoying the lighter mood. Jack's speed and endurance increased weekly and they had made excellent time during their run. Jack was looking forward to his first 5K race, Damien's Race for Recovery. During today's run, Jack asked Alex if we would consider racing with him, and Alex agreed to think about it. Truthfully, Alex found the idea of participating in an organized race off-putting, but he knew the race raised money for charities involved with fighting addictions and that as such it held a special appeal for Jack.
The morning classes passed without incident and before long Alex found himself back in the locker room, taking another quick shower and getting dressed for the funeral. It felt odd to be wearing a suit, but looking at himself in the full length mirror, he had to admit that Walter had been right when he picked it out. He did look good.
Bruce stuck his head around the corner and caught Alex admiring himself in the mirror. "Alex," he teased, "stop preening and get your buns out here. We're about to leave."
"Aye aye, boss," Alex replied. It had taken him a long time to get to this point, to be comfortable bantering with Bruce. Alex found the whole civilian world took some adjustment, but having an employer one respected rather than feared was in a class by itself. He liked Bruce a great deal, enjoyed the man's company and his friendship, and held great respect for his business acumen and forthright manner. But the mixture of admiration, respect, and friendship he felt sometimes made it difficult to know how to respond. Blind obedience, no matter how hated the master, was so much simpler.
Jack was still at his desk when Alex left the locker room but Bruce was nowhere to be seen. Alex walked toward Jack's desk in time to hear him comment on the string of pearls around Zoe's long, elegant neck.
"These old things?" Zoe asked, disrespectfully flipping the long strand of pearls. Jack looked at her with surprise but Alex noticed that she was struggling to hold off a grin. The twinkle in her eyes grew as she continued, "Confidentially, I bought them with my first paycheck. I spent the rest of the month praying I wouldn't run out of gas or groceries before the next payday, but I've never regretted the purchase."
Bruce's Hummer pulled up by the front door. "Time to go," Alex commented, indicating the large pewter-colored vehicle.
Jack sighed. "Let's get this over with."
Alex slouched in his favorite corner of the couch, bracing a saucer against his chest with his prosthetic hand. With his good hand, he lifted a cup of tea to his lips and took a sip. He'd tried to call Walter when he'd returned from the funeral, but Walter wasn't answering his cell. He tried calling Walter's secretary, but all she would say was that AD Skinner was in a meeting and could not be disturbed. When she asked if she could take a message, Alex politely declined. Although he had a feeling Walter's secretary knew Walter had someone in his life now, and probably suspected that person was another man, he felt no need to confirm the suspicion. Homophobia was alive and well in the FBI and there was no reason to give Walter's political rivals ammunition to use against him.
He'd tried the cell phone again, after teaching his two afternoon classes. Walter still wasn't answering but this time he'd left a message, simply stating that Bruce would be giving him a ride home.
He'd half expected to find a message from Walter on the answering machine when he reached the apartment, but the only recording was someone claiming he'd won a free three-day trip to Florida. Alex erased the message before it had time to finish playing.
As he relaxed on the couch, Alex thought about the events of the day. His day had turned out to have been much better than he expected, and he wondered if Walter would be able to say the same.
The funeral had been interesting for a variety of reasons. First, the former Mrs. Chandler was nothing like he pictured. She looked tired, almost subdued, but showed very few signs of grief. She was carefully dressed, as were her children, whom were younger than Alex expected. The girl was in her early teens and the boy a few years younger. They, unlike their mother, showed signs of recent tears.
For someone who had once been in the business of taking lives, Alex had been to remarkably few funerals and he found the cremation fascinating. It was like something out of a movie, the coffin moving on a conveyor to a furnace hidden behind velvet drapes. Alex recalled seeing flames wicking as the coffin entered the chamber and watching the curtain fall closed when the passed beyond it. The witnesses had then been ushered out of the building and Mrs. Chandler informed that the cremains would be ready for pickup in another four or five hours.
Perhaps the biggest surprise had been that Zoe was well acquainted with Mrs. Chandler's boss. He could still hear Zoe's voice ringing with delight when she squealed "Reggie! What are you doing here?!" Alex laughed, remembering the variety of reactions her greeting provoked. Bruce stiffened and looked like he wanted to tear the guy's throat out. Reggie either didn't notice the threat emanating from Bruce or dismissed it as inconsequential; he merely extended his hand and said in a deep and droll voice, "The same as you, I imagine." Zoe laughed, Bruce relaxed, and Mrs. Chandler looked from one face to the next in confusion as her children, in turn, looked to her for clues as to how they should behave.
At that point, Jack had stepped forward, and with his usual easy grace, announced that introductions were in order. He introduced himself to Mrs. Chandler and extended his condolences to her and the children. Zoe followed his lead, introducing herself and Bruce, and then introducing Bruce to Reginald Davenport and his mousy secretary, Miss Brown. Davenport, she explained, had been her mentor when she joined her first law firm. He'd left to form his own practice and tried to convince her to join him as a partner in the new firm. She had declined the offer and now they were friendly rivals, meeting occasionally to do battle in court.
Mrs. Chandler, as it developed, worked for Davenport as a paralegal, a career she'd fallen into by accident. When Chris' drinking had lead to a drunk driving arrest, she knew they couldn't afford the legal bills, so she'd volunteered to work for his lawyer free of charge for six months if he'd take the case. One day a client needing a form filled out had come in while Davenport was out of the office. By that time, she'd done the form enough times to feel comfortable with the task and gone ahead and filled everything out. When Davenport returned from court, she showed him the completed form, ready for him to file. Impressed, he began letting her work independently, coming to him when she had questions or ran into a situations she didn't know how to handle. Before long she was conducting legal research and eventually they struck a deal, in exchange for working for him after graduation, he'd provide a no-interest loan for tuition in the paralegal program at George Washington University.
So oddly, even though they were at the funeral of a Vietnam-era vet, what drew the two sets of mourners together was the legal profession. Bruce, wanting to make his claim on Zoe clear to Davenport, invited the group to lunch after the funeral.
Conversation during lunch was surprisingly easy. Zoe asked how Mrs. Chandler — Anita — had met Chris. After his release from the army, Chris had come to Washington to join the protests against the war. He felt that as someone who had been there, who had not fled to Canada but who had answered his country's call, his opinion would be heard and respected by those in congress. It wasn't, of course. But he'd met Anita during one of the vigils and they'd begun living together.
Zoe and Bruce spoke of their friendship with Chris, as did Jack and Alex. Mrs. Chandler's boy, Jeff, wanted to know how Bruce lost his leg, so Bruce told him a somewhat sanitized version of the story. That lead to Davenport and Bruce trading war stories. Mrs. Chandler relayed the few stories Chris had told her about Vietnam and went on to describe how his life had been changed by his experiences there.
After the troops were called home, Chris had settled down and gotten a job working for a bottling plant. Things were good between them, so after a few years went by they decided it was time to get married and to have kids of their own. Although Chris had not stopped drinking completely, he was a good father, sitting up with the babies, holding them all night when the were sick or teething. Things were going reasonably well until the economy went south. The bottling plant began laying people off and Chris, who had issues with authority figures, was one of the first to go. He had no trouble getting a new job at a rival plant though, as he was known as a hard worker when he wasn't bickering with management. But before long, management problems and a poor economy lead to another bout of unemployment. Chris' drinking increased as the longevity of his jobs decreased. Anita asked him to get help, and suggested he seek alcohol treatment at the VA. Under protest, he'd gone, only to discover that the VA was run just like the army — by pencil-pushers who delighted in enforcing rigid and archaic rules. They demanded proof that Chris' alcoholism was a service-related problem and questioned his veracity when they learned his drinking had not grown out of control until nearly twenty years after he'd left the service. Angered, Chris stomped out of the VA vowing never to return. When Chris' drinking and chronic unemployment began to affect the children, Anita felt she had no choice but to ask for a divorce. Unable to stop drinking or to find an alternative, Chris agreed.
When Alex's thoughts turned to his own alcoholic father, he decided it was time to think about something else. He took his now empty cup of tea to the kitchen and put it in the dishwasher, then returned to the living room and pulled a book called _Dangerous Men_ off the shelf. He started reading.
He was still at it when a very tired Walter Skinner opened the apartment door. Placing his book on the end table, Alex stood to greet his lover. "I missed you," he said, helping Walter remove his overcoat and placing it on a coat-hanger.
Clearly exhausted, Walter smiled back at him. "Me too," he said. When Alex turned back from hanging the coat in the hall closet, Walter put a hand on Alex's shoulder and just looked at him.
Alex tilted his head. "What?" he asked quizzically.
"You," was all Walter said, and reeled him in for a kiss. After a short sweet kiss, Walter pulled his head back. "Did you eat?"
"I wasn't hungry. How about you?"
"I hit McDonald's on the way home. I worked through lunch and I was starving."
"You look like you had a rough day," Alex observed. "Want to tell me about it?"
"It was about what you'd expect. The Director read me the riot act about the Stuyvesant case. I spent all morning listening to excuses from the agents then had to write a report outlining the history of the case, actions the bureau has taken, and possible avenues of future investigation.
"No sooner was the report on the director's desk when another agent came in with critical information. It seems inter-agency rivalries are getting in the way again. A local law enforcement group has been butting heads with our people regarding jurisdiction. And if that weren't enough, one of our agents has a family connection to one of the suspects, and we surmise he's been leaking information."
"Lovely," Alex said sarcastically.
"You've got it," Walter responded. "That was my whole day, interviewing agents and writing reports for the director."
"You ever think of leaving the bureau?"
"All the time," Walter chuckled. "I'm not ready to quit yet. But give me a few more days like this one and I may change my mind!"
"So," Alex asked, "what do you want to do right now?"
Walter pulled Alex to him. "More of this," and gave him a kiss.
Together, they moved up the stairs to the master bedroom, loosening their clothing as they went. Walter said "Let me brush my teeth. Once I lay down nothing's going to get me out of bed until morning."
Green fire burned in Alex's eyes as he moved to the bedroom and began pulling off his clothing.
Walter walked into the bedroom, holding his toothbrush in one hand and squeezing toothpaste on to it with the other. "I nearly forgot to ask, how was the funeral?"
"It was fine."
"Did Chris receive Military Funeral Honors?"
"Yes, but if looks could kill, the nation would have lost two soldiers today.
"It seems that Mrs. Chandler objected to the recording of taps — said it just figured that an country that refused to help her husband while he was alive would send two soldiers and a recording to his funeral."
"No wonder you called her a bitch the other day."
"She isn't though, not really. She had a hard life, coping with her alcoholic husband. And other than the initial glare, she was polite to the officers who gave her the flag. I think she was just caught unaware. Besides, who can blame her for being angry? Chris had a tough life but he's beyond suffering now. She still has to cope with everything that happened directly to Chris and to her by proxy."
"How's Jack handling it?"
"Better, now that he knows Mrs. Chandler will be okay. Jack told me that he took her aside at lunch and asked if she'd need financial assistance. Jack said she seemed somewhat surprised by the question. She thanked him for his consideration but pointed out that she' s been functioning as a single mother for nearly a decade and that financially speaking the family is better off with Chris dead. He was paying only $50/month in child support, but now that he's dead the government will pay death benefits that add up to more than $900/month."
Walter walked back into the bathroom and resumed brushing his teeth. When he came back to the bedroom, Alex was sitting up against the pillows, still thinking about Vietnam.
"Bruce told the story of how he lost his leg at lunch today. I don't think I'd ever heard his version of the story before."
"Is it that much different than mine?" Walter tried to joke.
Alex shook his head. "Just from a different perspective. You really went through some hard times over there, didn't you?"
Silently, Walter agreed he had. Aloud, he said, "You look good enough to eat." And put action to words.
The first rasp of Walter's tongue up Alex's thick cock brought forth a long sexy moan followed by an incomprehensible stream of Russian. Although Walter was unable to understand the words, the language of Alex's body told him everything he need to know and Alex was soon on the brink of orgasm.
Wildly, Alex thrust backwards, pulling his cock from Walter's hot mouth. "No," he cried, "not yet. Not until you're in me."
Walter moved to his hands and knees and moved down the bed. Grabbing Alex's knees, he pulled Alex until his ass was in the middle of the bed. Then, nearly pouncing on the strong sexy body laying beneath him panting, Walter worked his way from Alex's belly-button to his tight little nipples. Alex writhed beneath him, demanding that Walter fuck him, hard and fast and right now.
Walter lifted his head and looked at the debauched sight before him. "You're so damn sexy, Alex," he growled.
Alex stretched his hand toward the night-stand, frantically reaching for the condoms and lube stored there as his mouth was relentlessly plundered and his cock throbbed in time with his heartbeat. After minutes of blind groping, Alex made contact with the condoms and pulled one into bed with him pushed it into Walter's hand. "On you," he pleaded. "Now."
Walter tore open the package and began to roll it over the head of his cock. To his dismay, his erection began to flag as did. He'd barely gotten the thin membrane over his cockhead when he went completely soft. "Oh shit," he murmured.
"What?" Alex asked, abandoning the kiss he had been about to place and opening his eyes. He saw Walter's flaccid cock. "Shit no," he softly echoed, and moved to suck Walter back to hardness.
But Walter's sex organs were not in a playful mood and no matter what Alex did, Walter remained limp. After a while, Walter sadly stated the truth. "This isn't working. I'm sorry Alex, but I don't think I'll be able to get hard again tonight." He wondered if his inability to perform would change Alex's feelings about him. He'd never had a sexual problem before. And what if this became a regular occurrence? Would Alex still love him if he became impotent? Would Alex leave him or start looking to other men for sexual satisfaction? "I'm sorry," he repeated.
Feeling helpless, Alex lost his own hard-on. It was obvious that Walter was distraught over the loss of his erection, and maybe a little embarrassed. Alex thought about how he'd feel if it were him and concluded that the worst thing would be having his partner make a big deal out of it. "You know what they say about stress, and erectile dysfunction, let's get you rested and we'll be back to fucking like weasels in no time."
"Weasels, Alex?" Walter asked, reassured by Alex's willingness to overlook his failure.
"Beats gerbils, doesn't it?," he asked.
Walter laughed. "That it does, that it does," and pulled Alex up against his chest. "Love you," he said, and before he knew it, he was asleep.
When the alarm went off at the usual time the next morning, Walter seemed his normal self. Alex, on the other hand, was groggy. He hadn't been able to fall asleep and had laid on Walter's chest, listening to his heartbeat and thinking about life and death. He had fallen back into sleep as soon as Walter shut off the alarm and didn't hear Walter's calling him to come take a shower with him.
When Walter returned to the bedroom to dress, he discovered Alex still unconscious on the bed. He gently shook Alex's shoulder, "Come on, sleepy-head, it's time to get up."
Alex raised his head and tried to clear this thoughts by giving his head a good shake. "Huh? What?" He tried to focus his bleary eyes on Walter and saw the wet hair on his chest. Deducing that Walter had already taken his shower, he asked, "What time is it? Why didn't you wake me?"
"Ten to six. Because I thought you'd heard the alarm."
"Oh," Alex said and shook his head again. He yawned hugely, blinked his eyes a few times, and tried to sit up. "I'm really out of it this morning." He yawned once more.
Walter held out his hand, "Come on, a shower will help wake you up." Alex put his hand in Walter's, accepting the upward pull that helped propel him out of bed and towards the bathroom. "I'll have tea ready for you when you're done," Walter called after him, admiring Alex's shapely behind as it moved away.
Alex accepted the large mug of tea gratefully. With his still wet hair falling over his forehead, he looked extremely kissable but only marginally more awake. Walter told him as much and got a cute little pout in response. Which Walter then felt obliged to kiss away.
Walter held out a plate containing two pieces of strawberry jam covered toast. "I know you aren't hungry in the morning, but eat this anyway."
Alex nodded and lifted one of the two pieces. He nibbled a corner. "Sugar and caffeine," he said, "nature's two finest foods."
"Those aren't food, they're ingredients," contradicted Walter. "Nature's finest food, he continued, is Scotch."
"That's not food either, that's a drink." He thought for a "moment. Chocolate. That's nature's finest food."
Walter objected, "That can be a drink too."
"More proof it's nature's finest food. Perfect in solid and liquid form!"
"Okay, Mister Chocolate Fiend, eat your breakfast and let's get a move-on."
Alex swallowed another bite of toast. "Anything I should know about today?"
"I don't think so. I had to skip having lunch with Doggett yesterday so I'll probably have lunch with him today if he's not out on assignment somewhere. It may be another late night though. If it looks like it will, I'll try to give you a call."
"Okay," Alex said and popped the remaining piece of toast into his mouth. He got up and placed the dish in the dishwasher, then rinsed his fingers. "As soon as I grab my jacket, I'll be ready to roll."
Walter met him at the door, punched in the alarm code and locked the door behind them. As they walked to the elevator Walter asked, "Have you given any more consideration to getting your own car?"
"You getting tired of giving me rides?"
"No, it isn't that. But don't you get tired of waiting for me when you don't know when I'll be free to come get you? Or of having to ask your friends for a ride when you get tired of waiting?"
"I don't mind waiting, at least not most of the time. And I try not to ask for rides too often. I don't want to become a burden to you or to anyone else."
"You aren't a burden, I just wanted to know if you'd thought about it."
When Alex remained silent, Walter concluded he hadn't, but Alex had given the idea of getting a second car some thought. On the one hand, having one would give him more freedom, but on the other, he wasn't sure he wanted to be that free. He enjoyed the time he spent with Walter, even when it was just a few minutes in the car going from point A to point B. And he was a wondered whether Walter would be even less inclined to leave work at a reasonable hour if Alex weren't waiting for him. Would buying a car enable Walter's work-a-holic tendencies?
Before he could reach a conclusion, Walter pulled into the parking lot at Mosely. Alex glanced around and not seeing anyone, gave Walter a quick kiss. "See you later," he said, climbing out of the car.
Walter watched him gain entrance to the building before pulling away.
Walter worked late again that night, and the next. Both nights he came home just a few minutes shy of midnight. The first night he found Alex reading downstairs on the couch. The second night Alex was upstairs, propped up on the pillows. He put _Dangerous Men_ on the table and smiled at Walter. "Welcome home."
Walter muttered "Glad to be here," and looked like he was ready to fall over. He yawned and reached down to ruffle Alex's soft brown hair. "I wanted to have dinner with you tonight."
"Did you have some?" Alex asked, concerned.
"Yeah, Kim ordered something for me before she left the office. She's going to make someone a good wife and mother one of these days."
"As long as it isn't you," Alex said, suddenly jealous. "You're mine."
"Yours," Walter agreed happily. He straightened up and wandered to the bathroom, tossing his clothes into the laundry hamper as he went. Alex heard the sound of running water and teeth being brushed.
When Walter joined him in bed, Alex rolled on his side to reach the bedside lamp and turn it off. Walter moved closer so that when Alex relaxed his body, he was spooned closely behind. Walter wrapped his arms around Alex, murmured, "Love you," kissed his neck, and fell asleep.
Once again, Alex stayed awake, wondering when and if he'd ever get his lover back. He threw in a few curses at inept FBI agents, congressional funding, and the director for good measure.
Friday morning found both men tired and grumpy. Alex had dark circles under his eyes and moved with much less grace than typical. Walter was too tired to engage in verbal banter and kept conversation to simple requests and statements of fact. When he dropped Alex off at Jack's for his morning run, Walter would have felt relief if he had the energy to feel anything at all.
Jack and Alex ran a course new to them. The change suited both men, Alex because Jack was too engrosed in the scenery to make conversation and Jack because it meant he was a step closer to running the race. As the exercise began to release the endorphins, Alex's mood improved and he began to enjoy the Inauguration Run. They began near the White House, running down Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol Building. Entering the road through the grounds at the point where Pennsylvania Avenue dead-ends, they followed a gentle arc up Capitol Hill to the back side. When they reached the intersection with Second Street, they took it past the the Supreme Court and the Library of Congress. Circling the Capitol Building, the came back down the road through the grounds on the other side of the building, returned to Pennsylvania Avenue and ran back towards the White House.
From the White House, the men walked back to Mosely Security, using the time to cool down and people watch. Summer was on its way and the people working in, or visiting, the nation's capitol were beginning to wear their more revealing summer clothes.
After cooling down with the walk back and a hot shower, Alex was starting to feel like himself. He taught his first class without incident and was getting prepared for his second class of the day when Jack called him out of the classroom. "Walter's on the phone and wants to know if you have a minute."
"For Walter," Alex grinned, "I'd make time."
It didn't take long for Alex to lose the smile from his face. Seconds after Alex spoke his greeting into the handset, Walter said "Alex, I'm taking a flight to Dallas this evening. I'm taking charge of the Stuyvesant case and will be staying there until it's been resolved."
Alex choked back his emotions. In a very good imitation of his normal speaking voice he asked, "Any idea of how long you'll be gone?"
"A week, maybe two."
"Anything you want me to do?"
"Yes, have dinner with me tonight and then drive me to the airport."
Using old skills, Alex concentrated on his work. He taught his classes as calmly and efficiently as he always did and his students were none the wiser that their instructor was feeling unaccustomed emotions that he had no real idea of how to handle.
The day progressed and to all appearances, Alex was his normal self. He chatted with Zoe when she came in to visit with Bruce and to talk him into going to a movie with her that night, he helped Jack clean out the office refrigerator and dispose of the moldy leftovers that were threatening to take over. Walter met Alex in the parking lot shortly after he'd made a trip to dumpster with a highly odoriferous trash bag. Rolling down the window he tried to smile and asked if Alex was ready.
"Let me go wash my hands and say good night to Jack."
Alex walked back inside the building, wondering why he felt nervous, almost as if he were a virgin going on his first date. He hadn't yet formulated an answer when he joined Walter in his car.
"Any place in particular you'd like to go?" Walter asked.
"Anywhere you like. You're the one who's leaving town."
'And you're the one I'm leaving behind,' Walter thought, but he didn't say it. Nor did he say, 'I wish I didn't have to go,' but he thought it all the same.
"Ruth Chris Steakhouse?" Walter asked.
"Pulling out the big guns, huh?" Alex replied.
Walter glanced at his lover, the street lights shining on his glasses preventing Alex from seeing the longing in his eyes. "You deserve a good meal before I have to leave. Since the FBI is making me go, the least it can do is buy us a good dinner first."
"They do have excellent steak," is all he said.
Skinner trusted Alex with the details of the case, but he knew that being overheard discussing it would lead to immediate dismissal from the FBI and the loss of his pension. And Alex, too, knew the rules regarding such disclosure. He didn't ask. Looking for something to discuss, Walter thought of his lunch with Doggett, which had finally occurred earlier that day.
"I had lunch with Doggett," he began.
Alex cocked an eyebrow. "Oh?" he asked.
"You were right, Mulder put him up to it."
Alex began to lose his appetite. "What did he say?" he asked, needing to know the worst.
"That Mulder had asked him to talk to me. He said in that direct way of his that Mulder told him I was living with a dangerous, evil man, and that he was concerned about it."
"Yes. Doggett also said that he respects me, and while he doesn't know you, he trusts my judgment. He doesn't care that I'm gay, just wants me to be happy. And he'll be glad to help, whether it's to fight you, if you're blackmailing me, or if it's Mulder causing trouble."
Alex sat there, food forgotten. The stress of the last few weeks, combined with the idea of Walter going away caused him to totally misinterpret what Walter was trying to tell him. All he could hear was Doggett didn't know him, was on Mulder's side, and wanted to protect Walter. Alex felt anger and hopelessness. How long before they succeeded?
Walter noticed Alex had grown quiet, and was ignoring his food. But, hell, he was, too. He was so tired, and now he had to go to Dallas. The food was excellent, but his heart just wasn't in it. He ate a little, then pushed the plate aside.
The ride home was equally silent, each man deep in his own thoughts. As Walter packed, Alex helped him, but was unable to tell him what he desperately wanted to. That he would miss Walter, and that he was scared, and please, don't let them convince you.
Walter also had things he needed to say, but wouldn't. That he would miss Alex, that their lives would be normal again, and please, don't give up on me.
In the end, they said very little, And when they got to the airport, Walter insisted that Alex not come in with him.
"You need to get some rest. Go home and relax. I'll be home as soon as I can. And I'll keep in touch."
"Take care of yourself, Walter."
Walter gave Alex a quick kiss and was gone.
Go to Part 2
Title: Memorial Day: Soldiers Once and Forever - Part 1
Author: Maddie and Haven.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Websites: Maddie's Fanfiction and Haven's Slash Archive
Feedback: Yes, please!
Warnings: This story contains m/m sexual relationship.
Spoilers: Assume everything through S.R. 819.
Archive: Permission granted to Full House, RatB, DitB, WWOMB. Other archives on request.
Disclaimer: All X-Files characters belong to Chris Carter and 1013 Productions. No copyright infringement is intended and no money is being made. Jack Rivers, Bruce Mosely, etc., belong to Maddie.
Summary: An unexpected death leads Walter to share painful secrets with Alex.
First Published: May 26, 2003
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If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Maddie and Haven.