Author: Janet F. Caires-Lesgold
e-mail: jfc@freeshell.org
Feedback: Please, to the above address!
Archive: By permission only!
Rating: NC-17 for language and scenes of m/m interaction
Category: SAR/Caution: Intermittent heavy schmoop warnings!
Spoilers: Everything through the middle of season seven
Timeframe: Takes place about a month after "Singing in the Dead of Night"--I'm in AU territory here, so what does canon matter, really?
Keywords: M/K slash!
Summary: The boys get away for a weekend together. Sequel to "Arrows of Desire" and "Singing in the Dead of Night"--you probably need to read those first.

DISCLAIMER: These characters belong to Chris Carter, 1013 Productions, and the whole X-Files gang, not to me. This story is just for the entertainment of my online friends and myself, not for any profit.

DEDICATION: This story and my red ribbon are for James, Ricky, and Jayson.

COPYRIGHT: (C) February 16, 2000, Janet F. Caires-Lesgold, jfc@freeshell.org

Please don't redistribute or alter this story in any way without the express permission of the author. Thank you very much.


It was the summer of cows in Chicago. In front of buildings, inside buildings--hell, in the case of the ladybug cow, on the *sides* of buildings--life-size fiberglass sculptures of cows, decorated in more ways than I could have imagined, were everywhere. Tourists came from out of town just to prowl around the city and look at, take snapshots of, and have snapshots of themselves taken with the damned cows. Now, don't get me wrong. I liked the things. I even spent some of the time I was waiting at O'Hare to look for the cow that supposedly hung from the ceiling somewhere.

However, counting cows was not what had brought me there that Thursday afternoon in late June. I had recently dispatched an overnight package to our nation's capital, containing valuable merchandise for a federal employee, so I remained as invisible as possible near the baggage claim area while I waited for my precious cargo to be delivered. Trust me: ninjas are about as obvious as clowns when their disappearing skills are compared with mine.

At last, the flight from D.C. arrived, and with it, a phalanx of business people and vacationing families that descended upon the carousels like a swarm of bees. Oh, and don't ask me anything about bees. That was never my department, even before I became a, uh, freelancer.

So, it was par for the course that I missed my contact at first. I strolled back to the far edge of our rendezvous point, and there he was, the FBI's master profiler, wearing his own heart-stopping profile, with his eyes closed and his head leaned back against the corner of the wall. Oh, my--his Adam's apple was exposed, looking almost as sumptuous as a piece of real fruit, and I had to restrain myself from walking up and taking a bite out of it. I settled for moving silently to stand in front of him and giving it a good, wet lick.

Of course, he flustered and startled back, barking his head on the corner. His eyes flared angrily, then caught sight of me and softened to a mere testiness. "Geez, Alex, are you trying to kill me? Ow," he whined, rubbing the back of his head.

"Oh, God, I'm sorry, Mulder! I couldn't help myself! Are you okay?" I apologized feebly. Grabbing him by the shoulder, I spun him around and checked for blood. I let my fingers thread through his hair and, spotting no broken skin or even incipient goose eggs, kissed the red mark on his scalp gently. "All better?" I asked, turning him back to face me.

Giving one last perfunctory rub to his skull, he begrudgingly replied, "Well, better now that I'm here, and you're here, too." His arms wrapped around my shoulders in a big bear hug. "Damn, I missed you, you prick!"

I surreptitiously pressed a kiss in front of his ear. "I missed you, too, doll. Why do you think I sent you the tickets?"

"Oh, I'm sure you have something devious up your sleeve that will come trickling out before I leave on Sunday!"

"All in good time, my dear; all in good time... So, what can I carry?"

He started to hand me the suit bag draped over his suitcase, then thought better of it and picked up the case itself. He hefted it and swung the shoulder strap across my body so the bag rode on my left hip while being supported by my right shoulder. "How's that?"

"Great," I choked out as if I was being crushed under a five-ton load. Before he reached to adjust the strap further, I assumed my normal voice to answer, "No, it's fine. C'mon. We've got a train to catch."

I knew better than to try to get a cab into or out of O'Hare at rush hour, so I led the way to the CTA stop, buying him a transit farecard and double-checking that I'd put enough cash on mine. Within minutes we were zipping out of the airport and past the traffic backed up in both directions. Heat shimmered off of taxis, SUVs, and limos alike beyond our tightly-sealed windows. Thank heavens for air conditioning.

After a couple of above-ground stops, we plunged into the tunnel downtown, and our attention was once again drawn to each other. Mulder clapped one hand to my knee like any guy would, but held on firmly once he'd made contact. "How the hell are you?" he asked, grinning.

"I'm the hell fine," I replied, enjoying seeing myself in his eyes for the first time in a month.

"How's the wrist?" he added, lifting his hand and reaching for it, then holding back. "Should I not grab it?"

"No, man. Go ahead. It only bothers me when it's going to rain."

He picked up my arm and examined it, turning it over carefully in his hands. "Dammit, Alex," he joked for the benefit of the old woman who was apparently eavesdropping in the seat directly behind us, "what were you thinking, slashing your wrist like that? I mean, that's a pretty straight cut for holding the razor blade in your teeth..."

I snorgled at his misdirection and at the horrified face of our audience, who huffily turned back to her Barbara Cartland novel. Indeed, my surgery scars did look like I could have attempted suicide, though pulling it off without a free hand would have been tricky in the extreme. I had gotten the stitches out about a week earlier, but the gashes where they'd inserted the metal brackets to hold my wrist bones together were still a fairly angry shade of red.

Raising my hand to his mouth, he pressed each of my fingers in turn against his lips. "And how are these guys doin'?"

"Better every minute," I answered, only slightly breathless with mounting arousal. Damned discretion, which kept me from pressing his body up against the window and plundering his mouth with kisses. Unless I missed my guess, the darkness that drifted over his eyes was a cloud of similar disappointment.

Mulder lowered my hand, but held it comfortably across my lap, stroking my palm almost thoughtlessly with his thumb. His eyes would not let mine go, either. "Goddammit," he said with a frustrated sigh, "we should have stopped in the men's room before we left the airport."

"Shit, man. You should have said something. It'll be awhile before we get to the apartment. You think you can hold it till then?"

"Your hand? Sure. Oh," he interrupted himself, "you thought I meant something else..." His voice trailed off into a wicked grin.

Suddenly I was treated to the mental image of him going down on me inside one of those deliciously huge airport restroom stalls, sucking my cock greedily while a disembodied voice announced, "Paging Mr. Alex Krycek. Mr. Alex Krycek, please pick up a white courtesy phone for a message..." It was nice to know that we were on the same page.

His cheery voice broke into my daydream. "So, my man, what's on our agenda for this evening, or is that classified, too?"

"Nope, nope. I got us tickets to a show. Ever heard of the Blue Man Group?"

An amusingly quizzical look suffused Mulder's features. "Maybe... What do they play?"

"Big drums and PVC tubing."


"It's sort of performance art. There's humor and juggling and general weirdness, and they never speak."

"So it's mime."

"Not really."

"But it's silent."

"No, it gets pretty noisy with all the drumming and stuff."

"But no words."

"Nope, there's LED signs to read and stuff. It's pretty funny."

"But they're blue, right?"

"Completely blue."

"Good. I was starting to wonder." He pondered this idea for a moment. "Sounds like an X-file..."

I couldn't help laughing at that, and he easily joined in. By this time, we were at the Belmont station, so got off the train and went above ground to catch a cab to a building just off Halsted.

We trundled his luggage up the two flights of stairs and into the apartment. Late afternoon sunlight reflected off of the buildings facing the balcony, making it unnecessary for me to turn on the lights. "Nice place. Is it yours?" he asked, as I had assumed he would.

"I use it when I'm in town. It belongs to a friend I trust," I explained, leading the way into the bedroom to put down his case and indicating a hook where he could hang his suit bag.

He didn't respond for a moment as I watched him arrange his belongings quietly. His sudden silence at this revelation didn't really surprise me either. Finally he stood and looked at me directly, his eyes a cold knife. "Never on your own turf, huh?"

"What do you mean?" I asked, though I suspected that I already knew.

"Hotel rooms, borrowed apartments... You don't even give me a post office box where I can reach you. I open my home to you for a month, but I can only come to you on your terms, on entirely neutral territory..." I thought he'd escape out into the living room, but he stood his ground for a confrontation.

"Baby, that's not it..." I started to explain.

Mulder stepped forward to cut me off. "Sure, call me your baby, but don't let me in. I thought it was strange that you wanted me to come to Chicago, but figured you wanted to show me your own haunts, the place where *you* live for a change. But here we are, holed up in a stranger's house, where I don't know anything more about you than I ever did. How many secrets do you think can you keep from me, Alex? How long do you intend to keep stringing me along and keeping me ignorant? Why am I even here?" Well, that certainly hadn't taken long. I had to do something to regain control of the situation.

Grabbing his arm, and holding on tight when he tried to shrug me off, I focused on his eyes and spoke slowly and calmly. "You're here because I love you, and want to be with you. No matter what you think, I really mean that. I have never made you any promises, Mulder, except that I would see you when I could. I really wish I could take you home, show you my little bedroom and fuck you silly there, but I can't. A guy like me, who works on the edges of society, can't keep one place to call his own. I don't have a home, Mulder, at least not anything that you'd recognize as a home. You've seen how safe I am, even in the places I work." Without letting go, I turned my wrist and gestured with my chin toward my recently-fractured hand. "For the most part, I can protect myself in the world I call mine, but I wouldn't be able to protect *you* there, and if anything happened to you because of me, I'd kill myself." We'd started this discussion before, when had he wanted to go after my belongings the first day I had spent recuperating at his house, and my white lie had been enough for him then. Somehow, here and now, it was no longer sufficient.

At last the line of his mouth softened as my words sank in. With a suspicious glint still lurking in his eye, he asked, "Really? You'd do that?"

I released his arm and bent my fingers in an unfamiliar pose. "Scout's honor, Mulder. I bullshit you not."

A slow smile spread across his face. "You can't fool me, Krycek. You were never a Boy Scout." His grin burst forth, suffused with a gentle chuckle, as he dragged me into a rough but warm embrace. I relished the heat of his body against mine, our brief dustup nearly forgotten. "I'm sorry I got defensive. I love you, and I hate it when you hide things from me. But you're right--there's stuff I'll never be able to know about you, and I'll just have to live with that. I guess I'll consider it an occupational hazard." His lips fell on mine, preventing me from making a stupider remark.

Crisis averted, I thought as Mulder kissed me the way I'd wanted to kiss him on the el. His tongue found its way into my mouth, where mine tried to make it feel right at home. My heart felt like it would push my lungs out of the way as it sped up in arousal and swelled with passion. I knew that I had missed being held in his arms and kissing him like I needed nothing else in the world, but I guess I had forgotten how much. We took the next several minutes to remind me thoroughly.

Before we both passed out from lack of oxygen, he pulled away and just looked at me for a few moments, smiling reassuringly. "Damn, Alex, you are one beautiful man. What did I do in my life to deserve your love?"

"I dunno," I sighed, hugging him close again and wondering how two men originally from opposite sides of the war could grow to be tenuous allies as well as passionate lovers. "Maybe you pissed off the wrong God."

His laughter wound around me like intoxicating incense, comforting and enticing. Tell me again why we didn't live in the same house and spend every waking moment together? Oh, yeah. I forgot there for a moment.

Finally I looked at the clock, bringing myself back to reality. "Hey, we've got theatre tickets, so can't hang out here all night. You hungry?"

Mulder's smile turned sly and sexy. "You *could* say that..."

Rolling my eyes, I sighed resignedly. "No, gorgeous. I meant for *food*."

"Oh," he replied, his face entirely changing trains of thought, but his eyes stuck somewhere deep in the gutter. "*Food*... Sure, if you let me buy."

He talked me out of the little Ethiopian place I'd considered, and we ended up at my favorite chili joint, mostly because of its proximity to the theatre. It was actually fun watching him wrap his mouth around huge forkfuls of the cinnamon-laced Cincinnati-style brown goop over spaghetti noodles, as chunks of raw onion and finely-shredded cheese fell onto the table with every bite. Of course, it was fun watching his mouth do just about anything...

From there, we walked to the Briar Street. The theatre didn't look like much from the outside, but the lobby had been entirely transformed to look like some alien ship with tubes and weird colors everywhere. I'm only assuming, mind you--they haven't gotten me aboard one of those things yet, and I'm hoping to keep it that way.

The crowd was in a good humor as we found our seats down front and donned the cellophane ponchos that had been draped over the chairs. "What is this," Mulder quizzed me, "a Gallagher show?"

"Close. You don't want to get any partly-chewed Cap'n Crunch on that nice suit, do you?"

"Ugh, no. Thanks for the warning."

He got into the pre-show announcements, following the LED instructions to speak the lyrics of "Happy Birthday" to a celebrant in the audience, and laughing like a fool at the way it sounded. The Blue Men themselves were in fine form, drumming for all they were worth, catching marshmallows and paintballs in their mouths, and in general behaving like large blue children at play. When prompted to do so, my date and I sang along to their PVC-pipe rendition of Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit", chortling to each other at the wicked lines that appeared on the signs at the same time.

At the end of the show, our ponchos somewhat sticky, we sat swamped in a sea of wadded white crepe paper, a little breathless from laughter. "So, how'dja like that?" I asked, standing up and unwinding myself from the detritus of the show.

"Great! Weird as anything I've ever seen on the job, but that was fun! Thanks for bringing me here!" I loved witnessing the enthusiasm and sheer joy that he couldn't seem to contain.

We made it back out to the lobby to find the cast members wordlessly greeting their fans. "Do you wanna say hello?"

"I want to give something back..." he began, looking around and settling on tearing the end off of the crepe-paper necktie he'd fashioned at some point and handing it to one of the performers. "For you," he said, gesturing grandly. "Thank you for a lovely evening."

We were both startled to watch the blue fellow take the piece of paper, press it to his stickily made-up lips, then hand it back to us as a souvenir.

"Wow, thanks!" Mulder gaped, still a little starstruck. He turned to me, showing me the preserved blue kiss. "What do you think I should do with this?"

"Press it between the pages of your program, so you can keep it forever."

"That's a great idea!" he enthused, doing so as we stepped out onto the street, which seemed sort of mundane and dull in contrast with the silliness we'd just observed.

The traffic was noisy and boisterous, with at least three different radio stations identifiable in one block's walk, and the evening was pleasantly warm. I wasn't sure if I wanted to drag my guest all the way to the lakeside park, so asked after his wishes. "So, whaddya wanna do now?"

He came to a dead stop, facing me fully on the sidewalk and looking straight into my eyes, his seemingly no more than black disks with narrow bands of grey-green around them. "You."

"Oh," I replied, wondering why I'd been surprised by his answer. "Maybe we'd better get home first."

"If you insist," he shrugged, falsely nonchalant, allowing me to tug him behind me by his hand the few blocks back.

I had barely locked the door when Mulder was on me, prying into my mouth with his tongue, his hands gripping my shoulders tightly. He had dropped his suit jacket on the floor, and loosened but not removed the tie around his opened shirt collar. I grabbed the tie by its knot and gave it a slight tug, remembering that he preferred a full Windsor. The narrow end slid effortlessly through the bulky knot, which collapsed in my hand as soon as it was free. Breaking from his kiss, I found myself intrigued by the length of silk in my hand. "Y'know," I addressed the brunette head that kept kissing my neck, "the last time we were together, you got to do whatever you liked to me, while my hands were tied, so to speak."

"Yeah?" he murmured as he nipped at my jawline.

"So I think it's time that the tables were turned." While he had been busy licking the last vestiges of chili and onion from the crevasses in my teeth, I had slowly but successfully steered him backward towards the sofa in the middle of the living room. Quickly, I crammed part of the tie between my teeth and bit down hard, then reached between us to grab his right hand from my shoulder. Before he could let go with his other hand, I had jerked him around by his arm and yanked it behind his back. Instinctively, his left hand reached for my hand, and I took that opportunity to throw him off-balance and push him face-first onto the sofa cushions with a knee to his butt, landing lightly on top of him. I got his left hand under my knee and held it down while I looped the necktie around his wrists and tied it with my good hand and my teeth.

Aside from assorted grunts and exhalations, Mulder hadn't said one word during all of this. Finally, he sputtered out, "Alex! What the fuck...?"

With my knee still firmly in the middle of his back under his tied wrists, I bent down to his ear and purred, "Fuck? Why, I don't mind if I do..."

He closed his eyes and swallowed prettily. "Oh..." he answered, my motives becoming clear.

I ran my tongue around inside his ear and bit down gently on its curved edge, making him squirm under me, which jostled my thigh against my cock enticingly. When I was content that he was just reacting to my tease and not struggling to get away, I lifted my knee from his back and stretched out along the length of him. My fingers crept around to his chest and unfastened the rest of his shirt buttons slowly, tracing the ripples of his abdominal muscles through his undershirt before yanking it over his head, then easing both shirts back down his arms and leaving them wound around his bound hands. "Comfy?" I asked.

"Couldn't be (*oof*) better," he reassured me, settling his head against the cushions.

Once again I reached under him, finding his hot bulge caught between his body and the sofa. I ran my hand along the length of his cock through his clothes with extreme slowness, savoring the feeling of the trapped power and the sound of his frustrated hiss. Eventually I was able to unbuckle his belt and unzip his fly, prompting a sharp intake of breath from my lover. I eased up off of him and tugged his pants down around his ankles, leaving him effectively immobile. "Stay there for a minute," I cautioned.

"I wasn't going anywhere," he confirmed.

I ducked into the bathroom and emerged with a towel, a condom, and some lube. Nudging Mulder to roll to one side, I tucked the towel under him and rolled him back onto it. "It wouldn't do to leave a stain on the sofa."

"No," he croaked with some effort, "it wouldn't. How thoughtful of you."

After shimmying out of my own clothes, I once again sat on his feet and pulled off his boxers, leaving them just below his knees. Warming some lube on my fingers, I plunged one into his ass, followed quickly by a second and a third. The sound of his aroused groan made me move them in and out a little faster, then pull them out to get myself ready. Slicked rubber in place, I pushed apart his cheeks and slid inside gradually, making both of us release the breath we'd been holding when I had finally impaled him to the hilt. I rocked back and forth, in and out, enjoying the hot friction all along my cock and his encouraging moans of pleasure. Holding onto his hip for balance, I started to let my hand creep around to his hardness, but he stopped me.

"Not yet, baby. Later, when I can watch you."

"'Kay," I grunted in assent, then went back to fucking him with abandon. A shudder ran down his spine and shook my balls, making me come almost in spite of myself. My heart was still fluttering when I pulled out and stood up, shaky knees and all. "Be right back," I whispered before I staggered off to the bathroom to remove my sheath and clean up briefly.

"Hurry back," he called from the sofa, his voice husky with arousal. "I need your talented mouth to suck me off," he added, hitting the "s" with a ferocity that brought my own erection back quickly.

When I returned, I noted that he had managed to flip over and sit on the towel, his shoulder leaning against the back of the sofa, with his shirts still tangled on his tied hands. His underwear had slid down to rest on the trousers around his ankles, and his penis looked almost painfully hard. "You weren't kidding about needing me," I joked as I untied his shoes, yanked off his socks, and removed his pants the rest of the way.

"I rarely kid about things like that," he asserted in a remarkably even tone. Catching his gaze, I noted the desire mingled with humor that hid in its dark depths.

I knelt between his naked, parted legs and reached for his engorged cock, which seemed to strain at its own skin. A droplet of pre-ejaculate hovered at its tip, beckoning me silently. As I grasped him firmly, I smiled to see him slam his eyes shut and throw back his head with the most exquisite grimace across his face.

"You know, I'd love to have this gorgeous pole rammed right up my ass."

"Is that so?" he answered, the strain of holding back evident in his voice.

"Yeah," I sighed, "but for now I think you'd rather I do this." At that, I bent down and clamped my mouth on his organ, my tongue massaging his glans and my lips running up and down his length.

"Oh, God!" he moaned, at which I regretted not being able to crack wise. I sucked him hard with a practiced skill, making the rest of his utterances entirely nonverbal. His voice slowly rose in pitch, caught on the top of his register, and emerged as a throaty sob as he filled my mouth with hot, sticky juice. Swallowing as fast as I could, I licked the remnants of his semen off my mouth, then looked up to find him watching me through heavy-lidded eyes. "Good job, love. Thank you," he groaned, a satiated smile gracing his tempting lips.

I reached for his chin and drew it towards me, crushing his mouth in a deep kiss. When my lungs were screaming for air, I pulled away slightly and raised up to rest my cheek on his. "You're welcome. I love you."

He nuzzled my hair like a little boy and muttered, "I love you, too. You ready to go again?"

"Huh?" I asked stupidly, turning to look at him. He gestured with his head at my cock, which poked eagerly against his stomach. "I guess so. Is that cutting off your circulation?" I checked, indicating his hands still tied behind his back.

"No, man. The blood's been getting just where it needed to go." Giving my body a gentle shove with his shoulders, Mulder tipped his head to tell me to stand. When I was on my feet next to the sofa, he pushed off and scrambled onto the floor, where he crouched in front of me with his captured hands grazing his butt. "Come here," he ordered, completely in command from his subservient position on his knees.

Before I knew it, his head was bobbing before me, sucking me fiercely, while my fingers laced tenderly through his hair and stars swam behind my closed eyelids. I'm not sure what I said when I came, but I'm pretty sure it was in untranslatable Russian.

When we went to bed at last, Mulder's necktie, shirt, and undershirt were wrinkled beyond recognition, and his arms wound around my naked body, clutching me to him as they hadn't done since I'd left his apartment back in Alexandria over a month before.

"You sure you don't need a massage after having your hands tied behind you that long? It would just take a couple of minutes to work the kinks out..." I offered.

"Ha!" he laughed explosively, though drowsily. "If I didn't have kinks, you wouldn't love me like you do."

I placed a firm good night kiss on his lips. "I loved you like I do *before* I found out about your kinks. Shut up and go to sleep."

"Okay," he murmured, snuggling against me and smiling broadly. "Good night, Alex. I love you, too."

I think my smile echoed his as we drifted off to sleep together.

The next morning I sneaked out early to pick up a Tribune and a Reader, as well as some fresh muffins and some good coffee from up the street. I was chuckling at the News of the Weird when Mulder, clad again in an undershirt and boxers, emerged from the bedroom, blinking and scratching. I pushed his cup of coffee to stand in front of the empty chair at the table, then set a muffin down next to it. Wordlessly, he sat down and peeled the paper wrapper from the muffin and took a huge bite out of it, then chugged a large gulp of the coffee. He chewed for a moment and swallowed, scanning the papers on the table and dragging the front page of the Tribune towards him.

Watching this display, I shook my head dramatically. "Gee, Mulder. Don't tell me that the romance has gone out of our marriage."

"Hmmmmm?" he hummed in reply, his eyes never rising from the newspaper.

I couldn't help laughing at him then and swatting playfully at his arm.

That got his attention. He kneaded his arm and looked at me angrily. "Hey!" he griped. "What was that for?"

Pointedly, I began again. "G'morning, gorgeous. Sleep okay?"

"Not really, Alex. I kept dreaming about being chased by men who changed into wolves." His attention returned to his news story.

"Whoa, that's some nightmare!"

"What nightmare? That was a case we had a couple of months ago." He didn't offer up any more explanation, so I didn't question him further.

I was surprised to note how comfortable I felt sitting quietly and reading with Mulder on the other side of the breakfast table. In the month since my arm had healed, I'd almost forgotten what it was like just to sit and inhabit his space. He didn't have to spoon-feed me anymore, but it felt like I was receiving some kind of energy just having him in the same room with me. When one is in the habit of living alone and doing everything for oneself, it's amazing how quickly having another human being in the house all the time can become habit, and how much more quickly one can become accustomed to being alone once that human being isn't there anymore.

Something further back in the Tribune had caught Mulder's eye. "Say, Alex... This reminds me. You asked me to pack a costume. Why?"

Oh, brother. Here was the moment of truth. Time for a patented Krycek stalling maneuver. "What makes you ask, Mulder? What's in the paper?"

He laid it flat on the table and turned it to face me. There it was in black and white: a quarter-page advertisement for the annual Chicago Gay Pride Parade.

"Is *this* why you asked me here, Alex? Do you expect me to go to this thing with you tomorrow?" His voice held an edge like a piece of broken glass.

"Um, not quite."

"Whaddya mean, not quite? Isn't *this* the whole reason why I had to be here this particular weekend?"

I looked at him with absolute seriousness, knowing that any humor would defeat my purpose. "I didn't want merely to *go* to the parade with you, Mulder. When I can get to town, I like to march in it. I'd be honored and touched for my lover to march alongside me."

Gritting my teeth against his possible defensive humor or angry refusal, I was unprepared for his actual response. All he said was, "I see...," then fell silent. The rest of breakfast was just as quiet.

We took turns in the shower, exchanging only small, necessary commentary to facilitate our getting dressed and getting out of the house. I had been afraid of telling Mulder exactly what I wanted from him this weekend, and it seemed as though my fears had been well-founded. Instead of having my beloved sharing my space, I found myself trying to stay out of the way of a brooding stranger.

The tension broke a little when we headed out to the street to get on the train. On Halsted, we passed a black enameled cow painted with grass and pastel flowers and lying down in a square of blindingly pink picket fencing. "What's with the cow?" Mulder finally asked.

"It's an art thing. Mayor Daley's got 'em all over town."

He stood and perused the sculpture without speaking for a few moments. "Why?"

I scrambled to toe the company line in my explanation. "It's a community project, bringing everybody together with accessible art. It's creative and touches people."

"Why?" he asked again.

I felt like I was grasping at straws. "Because people like cows?"

The sound of the gears in his head turning nearly drowned out the passing morning traffic. "But cows are stupid." He looked at me, waiting for further defense.

"Yeah, but so's half the population of the world."

His mouth formed a tight line as he considered this argument, then burst open as he laughed in surrender and befuddlement. "Whatever, Alex. Hell, it's a *cow*..." he marveled, still chuckling, as I dragged him down the sidewalk to go get on the el. Our ride south of the Loop was pleasantly relaxed, though the silences still held a sense of foreboding.

The morning sun was glinting sharply off of Lake Michigan when we came over the rise to the park in front of the museum campus. A small plane took off from Meigs Field and climbed rapidly to miss the dome of the Adler Planetarium, then banked high over our heads to disappear inland. The hum of the cars speeding along Lake Shore Drive made it necessary for us to yell a little to be heard.

"Hey, look!" called Mulder, veering off to the left. "Cows!" Sure enough, eight more cows lined the crest of the grassy hill separating the cars from the walking path. He ran up to each one and circled it, viewing it from all angles. He passed up the one upholstered in Astroturf sporting huge pinwheels, and the "Mootisse" with large swirls of primary colors, spending the most time in front of one whose every inch was covered in all shapes and sizes of metal springs that stuck out every which way. "I like this one," he voted pointlessly as I strode up to join him.

"Why?" I asked, trying not to show how eagerly I awaited his answer.

"I dunno. It's weird and unexplainable."

"Just like you, eh?" I grinned at his dumbfounded look.

"Thanks so much," he replied, begrudgingly. "So which one do *you* like?" he asked, including the whole display with a wave of his hand.

I walked along the row and came to stop in front of a cow that had been painted horns to tail with huge renditions of retro cabbage roses. "This one's nice. It's pretty."

He cast a critical eye at my cow of choice. "Pretty, huh?" Back and forth his eyes flew from the cow to me and back again. As he stalked off down the row, he dismissed me, saying, "Krycek, I *swear*: sometimes you are *so* gay..."

I thought about this a moment, then sprinted after him, whining, "Hey! I'm not the *only* one..."

We walked around the retaining wall behind the oceanarium, then out a hundred yards on the causeway to look back at the city, which shone with reflected sunlight. For me, the beauty of the skyline paled next to Mulder's awestruck expression, which I could have watched all day. He didn't say much, but gave me a warm smile before taking my hand and leading me back towards the museums.

Eventually we made it up the long staircase to go into the Shedd Aquarium, and strolled idly through the dark galleries, fascinated by the languorous movements of the sea creatures displayed in huge tanks like living paintings. We spent several minutes watching a pair of spotted stingrays glide past one another in their underwater pen, one coasting straight up the front glass, showing us its mouth and underside, and then coming to rest precisely over the eyes of the other, who had half-buried itself in the sandy bottom.

"Hey, I can't see," griped Mulder, giving the creature a cartoon voice. "Get offa my eyes!" Laughing at his performance, I rested my chin on his shoulder and slipped my hand into the back pocket of his jeans in a companionable closeness.

I must have been enjoying the show too much, because I didn't even notice the heavy-set fellow pointing out the marine life to his sons at the next tank until he grumbled under his breath, but loud enough for me to hear, "Goddamned queers! Not safe from 'em anywhere anymore!"

Mulder's spine stiffened against me, but he did not move or answer.

I, however, could not leave this affront unchallenged. "Excuse me," I began levelly, pulling away from Mulder. "Do you have something to say to us?"

The man shooed his kids down to the next tank, then turned to stand his ground against me. "Yeah: is that any way to behave in public?"

Mulder turned to me, taking my shoulder as if to guide me away and warning, "Alex..."

Shrugging off his hand, I continued, "I beg your pardon: were we doing anything to hurt you just by standing here?" A woman, apparently the buffoon's wife, did her best to block her children's view of the proceedings, but small heads with huge eyes peeked around her ample girth to see what their daddy was doing.

My hand, now free of Mulder's pocket, formed a fist at my side while I tried to remain calm and turned to face our attacker. He poked a pudgy finger square into my chest and sneered, "Look: it's none of my business what you pansies do in the privacy of your own homes, but can't you control yourselves in front of *little children*, for Christ's sake?"

As tempted as I was to haul off and slug the guy, I decided that such a display would be unwise, especially in front of his precious children. Through clenched teeth, I answered, "I can control myself *just fine*, thank you. Can you?" I telegraphed the threat of physical violence with my steady gaze into his eyes.

My message was received at last, for the man harrumphed his offense as he withdrew his hand and spun on his toe to catch up with his family. I closed my eyes as if to wash his image from my sight and scrubbed my hand down my face. When my fingers brushed my neck, I could feel my own pulse racing under the skin, and I finally acknowledged just how much this exchange had not only angered me, but had left me stung and offended. Of course, I could have handled myself in a fight with the lummox, and I'm sure Mulder could have flattened him handily, but it upset me to think of him getting involved in my battle.

Speaking of whom... where had he gone? Distracted as I had been by narrow-minded tourists, I had completely missed his departure from the scene. Taking a deep breath, I scanned the people in the gallery to see if he was hiding in plain sight, but could not spot him.

Before I started to worry in earnest, I considered his options logically. He had most likely found some out-of-the-way spot still in the aquarium to stand down and cool off instead of storming out into the rest of the city. I made a quick circuit of the rest of the galleries, glancing into the larger groups of visitors for an obvious interloper. Finding no undercover FBI agents upstairs, I headed down to the oceanarium, checking the men's room on the way.

The dolphin show was just getting underway, so much of the surrounding area was sparsely populated. I stood in back of the concrete bleachers and looked over the crowd below me, but still no Mulder. He was not to be found in front of the penguin tank, the otter pool, or the Belugas' underwater viewing area.

At last I had a brainstorm, and sauntered into the seahorse gallery. Sure enough, there he was, sitting on the carpeted floor in front of the leafy seadragon tank, his long legs effectively blocking anyone else from coming up close to watch the peculiar pale creatures.

"I should have known I'd find you here," I said quietly, dropping easily to my knees behind him.

He didn't turn away from the fascinating animals that floated along gracefully, looking more like branches of seaweed broken from their stems than mobile animals. "Why? Because they're freaks of nature, too?"

The brush of my fingers against his hair made him flinch visibly, but I stroked his head softly in spite of this. "They're beautiful, Mulder. So are you."

His eyes never strayed from the watery interior of the tank as he spoke intimately to me, his voice barely rising above the noise of the piped-in music. "*Now* do you see why I have trouble with this being out in the open? What if that guy had seen us in a dark alley, and he'd brought a couple of his bigger cronies with him?"

That made me grab his head and force it to turn towards me. "So what if he had? I think we could have taken care of them, don't you? I mean, you always go armed..."

Dropping his gaze into his lap, he assented hesitantly. "Yeah, but I wouldn't want it to come to that." He raised his head and searched my face at last. "Why do other people have to know who I am, what I am? I'm fine when it's just you and me, and I don't mind that a couple of my friends know, but what if I don't want to come out just yet? It only seems like it will cause trouble--for *both* of us."

For his sake, I glanced around the gallery, and finding that we were alone, I drew him to me and held him close. "I sure don't expect you to come out to everybody at the Bureau, or anybody that you think couldn't handle it." I released him from my grasp, but I held his hand even as I pulled back slightly. "I just think the parade would be a good opportunity to come out to yourself."

His thumb ran along my knuckles, sending a warm shudder all the way to my tailbone. With a troubled dent between his eyebrows, he argued, "I already know I'm a homosexual. What else do you want from me?"

Holding onto his hand, I chucked him under the chin to force him to look me in the eye. "This isn't about me, Mulder. Marching in that parade with a few thousand other gay men made me feel at home, practically like I was with my own kind for the first time in my life. I want you to be able to feel that, too."

"I don't know," he started to argue. "I mean, I don't think I'm ready to be on display like that. I'll be surrounded by all of these total strangers who know what I do to get off..."

"Big deal," I replied. "You'll be just one of hundreds of guys who do the very same thing, just a pretty face in the crowd. Who's going to care if that face is even prettier when you're giving me a blow job?"

He thought about this for a minute. "I am? I mean, it is?"

I bent down to kiss away the last of the dark clouds that were crossing his face. "Yes, darlin'--I would never lie about that."

A grin worked its way down from his eyes to his luscious lips, making a prolonged stop to color his cheeks slightly. "Thank you, Alex. I can't promise you yet that I can go through with this, but I'll really give it some serious thought, just because I love you." He folded his legs back under him and sat up on his knees, reaching to crush me in his arms and plant a firm, eager kiss on my mouth. "So now, maybe we'd better get out of here, or the seahorses will talk."

I agreed with him about moving along, mostly because I could hear the dolphin show crowd breaking up outside and suspected that our hideaway would soon become a lot less private, but had to add, "Oh, I don't know. These leafy guys look like they can keep a secret."

"That's good," he replied, standing, then turned to the thick acrylic-fronted tank, twisting an imaginary key at his mouth. "Tick a lock, fellas," he warned, pressing his fingertips briefly against the surface of the tank.

Unfortunately, this gesture startled the biggest of the seadragons, who jostled to one side in the water, bashing into each of his tankmates like a silent, balletically elegant four-car pileup filmed in slow motion.

"Aaaaggggh!" gasped Mulder, who watched the leisurely chaos in horror. "I'm sorry! Maybe we'd better leave before I cause any further damage!"

I scanned the tank, where the dragons were returning to their docile swimming as if they had not been disturbed. "They're fine, babe. Don't panic. Lunch?"

"Sounds like a plan." We made our way out of the Shedd, pausing briefly in the gift shop, where I bought him a skinny plastic tube filled with pretend gravel and tiny plastic seahorses suspended in glycerin that flowed hypnotically as the tube was moved back and forth. Back outside, we squinted in the noonday sun after becoming accustomed to the dim lighting of the display areas. "Where to?" he asked. "Back to the train?"

"Nope. Follow me." I led the way up the walking path north along the lake, where the vista of tall office buildings on our left balanced the water with no apparent opposite shore to our right. Several people had taken advantage of the glorious Friday afternoon to go out in their sailboats, which bobbed gently in the wake of a passing tour boat. It was brought home to me once again just how susceptible Mulder was to seasickness, as he obviously focused all of his attention on me and the view of dry land.

Crossing the Drive at a stoplight, we were immediately assailed by amplified music and a general buzz of humanity. "Good lord!" exclaimed Mulder, regarding the hordes of strolling people, equally distributed between those in hot-weather gear and those in business-lunch attire, who filled the block ahead of us. "What's going on?"

"Welcome to Taste of Chicago, pal. What do you want for lunch?"

"I don't know. Maybe pizza, barbecue, Chinese... I haven't decided."

"Good. We've come to the right place. Here, you don't have to decide." I stopped at the first booth we passed and bought a fistful of coupons, handing him half of them and his own copy of the map.

"Sauteed goat?" he ventured, studying the restaurant list next to the map's diagram of the 56 booths laid out along the boulevard before us.

"Sure. It's not bad."

"You've eaten goat?" I think he was trying not to look disgusted, but it wasn't working.

Pulling his head close, I whispered in his ear, "I've eaten *you*. Now shut up and pick something you want to try for lunch."

I would have liked to let my fingers remain against his throat to feel the sensation of his intrigued gulp, but my map nearly fell out of the fingers of my prosthesis and I had to shove my tickets in my pants pocket and grab it before it slipped away. Taste is always one of those places you should only attend with a minimum of two hands, as well as an extra stomach and possibly a spare liver, but I was happy to settle for bringing an additional set of taste buds with which to share all the goodies. Besides, it didn't hurt having someone else along to help negotiate all of the paper plates and plastic utensils.

As we perused the vast selection of menu items arrayed beneath the red and white canopies, the sea of nibblers ebbed and flowed around us. At the very center of the festival, Buckingham Fountain shot glittering streams of water a hundred feet into the air. When the breeze circled just wrong, spray from its jets sometimes scattered the gathered crowd, though as the sun beat down, more people stayed put and enjoyed the cooling mist. I dragged Mulder over to stand directly beside the fence surrounding the circumference of the mechanism.

He peered straight up, watching the tower of water degrade and crash back down to the pool beneath, until he noticed me watching him intently. "What's wrong?" he asked, looking only marginally worried.

I smiled mysteriously. "I was just thinking about something I've always wanted to do."


"Well, for the past year or so. May I?"

Shrugging, he shook his head as if it didn't matter to him. "Sure. Go ahead."

With that, I grasped his shoulder in my hand and swept my other arm around his back, drawing his mouth to mine for a long, probing kiss. The roar of the water behind me failed to distract me, and he responded emphatically, disregarding the eyes of passersby.

Eventually a burst of spray startled us from our reverie, and we laughed as we shook the fine droplets from the ends of our hair. "Happy now?" asked Mulder, looking kiss-drunk but otherwise unfazed.

"Very," I replied breathily. "Ready for lunch?"

"Among other things," he grinned, leading me back to the delicious smells that teased us from the road.

We each got a grilled lobster tail and a slice of inch-thick stuffed spinach pizza, and split an order of potato pierogies, then took a break with some fresh fruit and canned pop while we listened to a jazz combo on one of the open stages. I didn't make Mulder try any of the goat, but he did brave some spicy jerk chicken and a bite of my barbecued buffalo burger. He insisted we get some roasted sweet corn in spite of my protests that the bar sponsoring the booth didn't even normally serve food, and I must admit that I enjoyed chomping the tender, buttery kernels almost as much as I enjoyed "fencing" with him using our naked corncobs before we tossed them in the trash barrel. We finished the last of our frozen, chocolate-dipped cheesecake on sticks on the way back to the el.

"Whew! I don't need to eat again for a week!" he sighed when we trundled down from the platform at Addison.

"Okay. No cinnamon rolls at Ann Sather's tomorrow," I threatened.

His expression changed immediately to one of divine anticipation. "Cinnamon rolls?"

All I could do was laugh and tug him along to our destination. I stopped at a row house and began to climb the fire escape.

"Hey, Alex... Weren't we going to see the Cubs game?"


"But isn't that Wrigley Field over there?" He pointed at the rounded grey structure that filled the block across the street.

"Patience is a virtue, Mulder. Shut up."

At last we reached the roof of the house, where bleachers had been built affording us the perfect view of the field. Several people, including the owners of the building, were already there and waved their greetings to us. Someone had cranked up a charcoal grill, and brats and burgers were already wafting their tempting aromas at us.

"You know these people?" asked Mulder, looking completely stunned and happy.

"Not really. Once when I was at dinner in the neighborhood, I overheard the owner talking about his viewing stand on the roof, and I got in touch with him about the game today when I knew you were coming to town."

"But why didn't you just get tickets to the game? It's not a sellout," he added, scanning the empty seats in the stadium before us.

Catching his eye, I bent in to whisper conspiratorially. "Come on, Mulder. Do *I* look like the kind of guy who necessarily wants to be spotted by a television camera? I can hide in a milling throng of people, like at lunch, or in a smaller venue, like the show last night, but I tend to feel like a sitting duck in a crowd of that size. Understood?"

"Gotcha," agreed Mulder, nodding and turning his attention back to the game.

I still don't understand all the rules of baseball, but I immensely enjoyed watching my lover having fun like a boy playing hooky from school. If I got bored by the game, I watched the people waiting for the train on the nearby platform, which was nearly on the same level as we were, or just soaked up a little sun.

By the time the Phillies had beaten the Cubs three to two (according to Mulder--I was entirely unable to keep score), our appetites had returned, whetted by the smell of the goodies on the grill. We carried our bratwursts wrapped in napkins as we stomped back down the fire escape, then munched on them while we walked back south the handful of blocks to Belmont.

A street-level privately-run bookstore caught Mulder's eye on our walk home, and he stood for awhile ogling the titles on display in the window.

"Looking for anything in particular?" I asked.

"I don't know yet. There's places like this up in Georgetown, but I never get the time to go wander around in them. Most of the time, when I have a few minutes to do some serious book shopping, all I can find is the Waldenbooks at a small-town mall. I guess it serves me right for spending so much of my life off the beaten track, hunting for who knows what."

Smiling at his wistful expression, I suggested, "So--wanna go in and wander around?"

His grin topped mine in enthusiasm alone. "You really mean it? You don't have something else planned?"

I gestured like a maitre'd at the open door. "Take as much time as you need." He scurried inside with a delighted chuckle, and without a second glance in my direction, so I followed him in and hunted for something to distract me while he shopped to his heart's content.

Living on the lam did not lend itself to collecting things, and especially not books, since books are heavy. I tried to remember the last time I'd read a whole book, but the title and plot were long gone from memory, so I stopped attempting to guess what year it had been. The hand-scribbled labels scotch-taped to the edges of the shelves were useless to me in finding something to pass the time, as I couldn't even remember what genre of book I used to like. Spotting a section called "self-help", I skimmed the spines for titles on how to survive the coming attempt at planetary colonization, but found only advice for women trying to understand men, get rid of unacceptable men, attract perfect men, learn to live without men, and the like. If they only knew...

I was sprawled in a beat-up leather armchair with a huge book of vulgar photographs open in my lap, hiding the effects that the pictures were having on that very lap, when Mulder stuck his head around the dark wood bookcases and tiptoed over to me, narrowly missing a precarious stack of trashy paperbacks.

"There you are," he announced, looking very pleased with his discovery.

"Did you find any treasures?" I whispered, noting his empty hands.

He shrugged nonchalantly. "Nope. Nothing today." Spotting the photo gracing the page to which I'd turned--a tight close-up of a man's midsection with the tail of his shirt and jacket askew and his fly open to reveal a prodigious sexual member--his eyes lit up brighter than they had when he'd first seen the ball diamond from our penthouse box. "Wow! Mapplethorpe?"

"What?" I asked, distracted and half wondering how I'd make it out of the store with the silhouette I was sporting.

"This is a Robert Mapplethorpe monograph--a hard-to-find one, at that. Didn't he have just the strangest taste in subjects? Here, may I?" he interjected, reaching under the spine of the book before I could shift my hard-on out of the path of his descending hand. I tried to lift the cover in an attempt to hand him the heavy volume, but I was too late.

His knuckles grazed my cock straining against my jeans, and I know I let out an aroused groan. Narrowing his eyes did not prevent the glint in them from sneaking out at me. "An art-lover, eh?" he teased, turning his hand under the back of the book to stroke me in earnest.

Closing my eyes and relishing his touch for a moment, I swallowed hard then hissed, "Cut it out, Mulder! I still have to walk home. Can't this wait?" I didn't like the pleading tone my voice had assumed.

He shut the cover of the book, then leaned in close to kiss my forehead. "Okay, baby, if you insist..." Luckily, he left the book in place for a moment to allow me to compose myself, which I proceeded to do as quickly as I could. All I needed to do was get out the door and home, whereupon Mulder could make me feel like that for as long as he wanted.

Eventually I exhaled a relieved breath. "Okay, doll. Let's scoot."

Taking the book from my hand and laying it on top of a stack, he asked, "Are you sure you don't want this? I'll bet you would enjoy it when I'm not around to play with..."

I'm sure my sigh sounded disappointed as well as frustrated. "Oh, that goes without saying. Maybe another time..." Sliding my arm around his shoulder, I walked him out of the bookstore with nary a backward glance.

Dusk was starting to fall as we emerged onto the street, bringing with it car headlights and louder radios. "I never knew you were into art, Alex..." my paramour continued.

"*Art*?" I countered. "You call that pornography *art*?"

"You object to the content?"

"No, I never said that. Since when are dirty pictures considered *art*?"

Mulder shook his head like he was trying to educate a fool, which I'm not sure I wasn't. "Oh, he's an artist, all right. You should see his flowers."

"He grows flowers?"

"No, no... Robert Mapplethorpe took some outstanding photographs of flowers--tight close-ups in black and white and in color, extremely sharp focus..."

"Pretty, huh? Who's gay *now*?" I retorted, hearkening back to our discussion of the cows.

"Actually, a lot of them aren't pretty at all. There's a distinct sensual, even sexual component to them. In fact, I guess you'd call them phallic..."

He fell silent for a moment, letting me conjure up the image of a well-hung flower, and I was a little embarrassed to note that the idea was making me hard all over again.

"...Of course, considering some of his subject matter, such as the self-portrait with the whip-handle up his ass, I can't say that it's particularly surprising..."

I stopped moving so fast I'm surprised my brakes didn't squeak. "Dammit, Mulder! If you don't shut up about this Maple Tree's pictures, I swear I'm going to have to pull your pants down and rape you right here on the sidewalk!"

Mulder, who hadn't stopped precisely when I did, came running back, visibly bothered by the stares of the passersby. "Shhhhhh, baby," he purred, rubbing my upper arm in a gesture that I know he meant as soothing, but I just found more arousing. "Let's get home and take care of a few things there, okay?"

We stood there panting at each other for several heartbeats until I shook off his hand and walked past him. Almost under my breath, I complained, "I didn't think that art was supposed to make you horny..."

"Hey," he replied, running a little to catch up, "art sometimes makes us react on a gut level, and you can't get more gut level than *that*, now, can you?"

I had to match his chuckle at that. Tension broken, I decided to ask a few questions and learn before we got home and ripped each other's clothes off. "So, this Maple guy..."

"Mapplethorpe," corrected Mulder.

"Mapplethorpe," I repeated. "Where does he show this stuff? Big museums, galleries, adult bookstores?"

"Well, when he was alive, he caused quite a stir at some of the stodgier art museums in America. People staged protests and got shows canceled, things like that..."

"You say, "when he was alive". He's dead, then?"

"Yeah," he answered. "AIDS..." His gaze fell to the pavement before his feet as he walked.

It was my turn to feel embarrassed. "The gay plague, huh? Damn, that's rough," I consoled, rubbing Mulder's back comfortingly.

By this time we were on the corner of the street near the apartment. We stood and waited for a car to turn in front of us, in which pause his attention fell on the rainbow-painted column across Halsted.

"I've been meaning to ask: what the hell *are* those things?"

"It's a unity pillar, or some crap the city put up to honor the local gay community. Welcome to the faggy part of town," I barely teased, suddenly not feeling like joking very much.

Even though we were almost home, we lingered on the corner in thought for a moment. At last he squared his shoulders and looked me in the eye. "This may not be the best time, but I wanted to tell you I've made a decision about tomorrow..."

Tomorrow? Oh, man--I'd almost forgotten about the parade. My heart fell as I imagined what he was going to say, so I decided to deflect the blow with sarcasm. "So, you're leaving a day early then?"

His face didn't change as he answered, "No. I'll be there."

"What?" I asked, not quite sure I understood what he meant.

His warm smile lit up the shadows left by the setting sun. "I'm marching in the parade with you."

I found myself grinning stupidly. "You'd do that for me?"

"Yeah, for you, and for me, too. Would you like that?"

"More than you know, beautiful..." Before I could say anything further, he grabbed my head and kissed me forcefully, then led the way back up to the apartment eagerly.

The last vestige of daylight remained in the sky out the balcony window, and lights from other balconies shone here and there. Without turning on the inside lamps, I opened the glass to let in an evening breeze as I shucked my shirt and my prosthesis, then stood leaning on the doorframe, drinking in the summer air. Mulder came up beside me, also shirtless, and reached out one hand to stroke softly down my abdominals. As if my neck couldn't hold its weight any longer, my head nestled on his nearest shoulder affectionately, and I swept my hair idly against his throat.

A dark echo throbbed in his voice as he asked, "Do you want to go out on the porch for awhile, or do you want to make love?"

My heart always skipped a beat when he used that term for fucking, maybe because I wasn't very used to hearing it. I contemplated my options for a second or two, then suggested, "There's really no reason we can't do both..." Raising my eyes, I found a slyly aroused grin on his face and more stars in his eyes than had appeared in the sky just yet. "Leave the lights off and come with me," I requested, opening the screen door, then lifting his hand from my stomach and pulling him behind me as I stepped out into the twilight.

"Why can't we put a light on?" he asked, looking back into the living room, then came up with the answer himself. "Ah, that's it. No Indonesian shadow puppets for the neighbors, eh?"

"Too bad, isn't it?" I sighed, drawing him against me and kissing him warmly. "It's a fascinating story: boy meets boy," here I kissed him again, "boy hurts boy," another kiss, "boy leaves boy, but regrets what he's done", kiss, "boy encounters boy again and blows his mind," kiss, "and boy gets boy for as long as he'll have him."

He threw off my rhythm by stealing a kiss from me, then interjecting, "Like forever?"

Suddenly I couldn't breathe. I had long before determined that my lifestyle prevented me from planning any future with anyone--I didn't even put appointments in my *own* datebook very far in advance. No matter how much I loved Mulder, I had never thought of him in terms of "next time", much less forever. An impossible fantasy of walking into the same home with Fox Mulder eagerly waiting there for me every night for the rest of my life popped into my head, and was only dislodged by a stiff shake of my head. "That would be heaven, but..."

"I knew there'd be a "but". There's always a "but"..."

Overcome by the inaccessibility of my unbidden daydreams, I tried to lose myself in our next kiss, because I was afraid that had I been present and accounted for, I'd have burst into tears. "You know I'd change the world to be with you if I could... It just doesn't work like that."

"No happily ever after, then, huh?" he whispered around the catch in his voice, betraying his own emotions despite his best efforts.

I swallowed the lump in my throat and growled, "Shut up," silencing us both again with my tongue wetly against his.

Mulder pushed me gently until I felt the edge of the chaise longue against the backs of my calves, so I sat down on it, dragging him to lie on top of me. Over and over he kissed me, running his amazing fingers down my chest and around my nipples. When his hands reached my belly, my hips thrust involuntarily upwards, pushing the fly of my jeans against his firmly, and we gasped simultaneously.

"I need you so much," he panted, reaching for my belt. Suddenly he stopped. "Wait! Do you have any supplies out here?"

"Shit, no!" I hissed. Recognizing for a frightening moment that he intended to go in and fetch something, I grabbed his wrist and begged, "Don't leave! Don't let go! Please?" My voice was uncomfortably high and tight, but I didn't care how desperate I sounded right then.

"All right, love. Don't panic." He tucked his chin over my shoulder and squeezed his chest against mine reassuringly, his right hand remaining on my hip and his left threading into my hair. "Are you okay?" he verified, accepting the pokes of my chin against his shoulder as I nodded as an affirmative response.

To focus my attention, my eyes remained shut tightly as he sat back and unfastened my jeans. Of course, opening them wouldn't have helped much, as it was starting to get rather dark on the balcony, but I liked it that way. As it was, I felt rather than saw his hands free my cock from its binding wraps, then stroke it purposefully for a moment. His touch was like the kind one would bestow on a beloved pet, firm yet tender, showing his love through his very fingertips.

Thus fortified, it didn't rip my heart out to feel him let me go, for I knew that he was only getting himself naked for me. Soon his cock brushed against mine, whereupon he settled into sliding up and down my body with our erections pressed hotly in between. He murmured small words of encouragement to me, making me want to come as soon as possible, but somehow I knew that I would cry when I came, which made me want to put off my climax as long as I could. I was ashamed of the tears that choked me, knowing I was too old and jaded for that kind of thing, but they were there anyway, and I struggled to understand why.

Was I *that* besotted by love? Was it just the combined stresses of the various battles we'd fought all day long? Then it hit me: in the depths of my long-hardened heart, I *did* want that happily-ever-after, and it hurt like hell that I knew I couldn't have it. But while I was filled with resignation at soon having to let my lover go, I relished his presence in the here and now. With an overwhelming sense of taking every bit of pleasure I could while it was in my grasp, and tomorrow be damned, I came against Mulder's stomach, shouting to the gods and letting sobs overtake me at last.

I rode my orgasm like a big, slow yet powerful horse, almost not noticing the foreign stickiness on my own gut. Instead, I clung to Mulder, and him to me, as the last waves broke over my head and left me cleansed yet wrung out. We lay tangled together for the longest time, both of us trembling a little, though the air temperature had remained comfortably warm. The only conscious move I made was to open my eyes and attempt to become accustomed to the dim light.

At last he reared back on the chaise longue, regarding me with a smoky gaze, then claimed my mouth with his own. *Mine*, he seemed to say without words, and I signaled back, *mine*, with every stroke of my tongue against his. The moment we felt we could do so, we released the kiss, both of us repeating "I love you" to each other as we came back down to earth.

Eventually, we shifted a little so that his weight fell more on the chaise than on me. I began to put one foot down on the ground, but he grabbed my shoulder groggily. "Don' wanna get up. Wanna sleep out here."

"Fine. Sleep out here," I grumbled, struggling to my feet. "If you wake up covered in dried come and mosquito bites, don't come crying to me."

He was immediately alert and sitting up. "Okay, if you insist, I'll come to bed." Whispering, he hastened to add, "Besides, you just came crying to *me*. I need a chance to return the favor..."

I was thankful that the gloom hid my reddening cheeks, but heard the gently teasing smile in his voice. His hand smoothed the muscles of my back, and I stepped back into his embrace again. "Thank you, darlin'. I think I needed to get that out."

Taking my hand in his, he raised it to his cheek, which I was startled to find damp with his drying tears. "You and me both, babe. You and me both." I kissed him once more, then led him off to get cleaned up and to fall into bed.

It was still mostly dark when I found myself awake, whether roused by dreams or a noise, but falling right back to sleep didn't appeal to me. I rolled over to look at my softly snoring bed partner, his face somehow younger and sexier than when he was awake. He had tossed aside the sheet and lay naked half-curled beside me, his penis nearly hard even while he slept. Perhaps he was dreaming of me, I thought, and decided to make his dreams come true.

Reaching out, I touched the velvet cap of his organ, then grazed its skirted edge with one finger. Mulder groaned quietly in his sleep, so I felt encouraged to continue my fondling. My thumb and forefinger formed a circle around his circumference, but I couldn't keep the rest of my fingers from following suit quickly. I smiled at the radiating warmth coming from his sex, and moved to slide my hand along it.

"Please," he sighed, not really awake yet, so I pumped him again, still slow and gentle, but a little more intently. "Please, Daddy, no."

I froze in place at his words. Afraid he was still asleep and terrified of his reaction, I panicked and called him by his first name as a distraction. "Fox?"

In the voice of the younger boy he once was, he protested weakly, "Daddy, please leave me alone tonight. Tomorrow, I promise, okay?"

Releasing my grip in shock, I murmured, "Okay," then sat up to watch as he fell deeper into slumber.

My thoughts were racing too quickly for me to rest easily on my pillow again, so I climbed out of bed and stalked into the living room. I sat on the sofa and stared out the balcony window, my gaze not focusing on anything in particular.

What had just happened? Had Mulder been dreaming? Or was he recalling something that had really occurred? The impression that the latter was the case was difficult to disregard. I think I had heard that Bill Mulder was a sick fuck, but I really had had no prior evidence that he'd actually sexually abused his own son.

At that moment, had Fox's old man walked into the room, I was so angry I could have killed him on the spot. Well, been there, done that, so to speak... It still didn't make the anger go away, and I wished I had some outlet for release. I had been impressed by Mulder's regimen of running in the past, but it now made me wonder if he were running *from* his past.

The mental image of Fox Mulder as a frightened young boy, living in terror of the father who would use him as a sex toy, sickened me and broke my heart. I wanted to crawl back into that bed with him and hold him tight, to pet his hair and make all the ugly memories go away, but I was horrified at the idea of taking his daddy's place as his primary tormentor.

Then again, maybe he had repressed it out of conscious memory, making it possible for him to get through an ordinary day. I didn't know what to do... I was pretty sure that Mulder was happy with me, was happy with the way things were between us, but was it all just pretense? Was he only with another man because he'd been warped by his early experiences? For that matter, should he have chosen me as a lover? Had he only been looking for another cruel father figure, somebody whose love was conditional, and always paired with pain and fear? What could I give this one good man, damaged and haunted by his past, in constant danger from his enemies, and used and manipulated by his friends?

But then it hit me--why would I even care if I didn't love him? And even if he hadn't nursed me back to health, hadn't given me his home and life for a whole month, it was still true. I loved him completely, holding his wellbeing high in importance above my own. God, what kind of unlucky son of a bitch could only be saved by the love of an immoral, depraved louse like me? Before I could wallow any further in self-loathing, however, I stopped to consider: if a man that good could love *me* so much, maybe there was something still worthwhile and redeemable hidden somewhere deep inside me. Maybe that *was* all that was important... Maybe the fact that there was some small fragment of honor left in my heart, that this revelation did in fact bother me--maybe that just confirmed that I was supposed to be with Mulder, that he could be healed by loving me, and that I could demonstrate what the devotion of a caring man could do for him.

I would probably never feel comfortable asking him about the things his father had done to him, but maybe I could help him grow beyond his past injuries just by showing him how much I loved him and accepting his love without reservation.

"Alex?" A sleepy voice from a shadowy figure at the bedroom door startled me from my contemplations. "Baby, are you okay?"

"Yeah," I answered, smiling to myself. "Just thinking."

"Penny for your thoughts," he offered, venturing out to sit in the chair near the sofa.

"Sure, like you've got any pockets in that outfit," I retorted, indicating his unclothed flesh.

His eyes searched my face for information in the dull light. "Okay, I'll owe it to you. What's wrong?"

I chuckled, then replied in all truthfulness, "Nothing that you can do anything about. Do you love me anyway?" As a defense, I hid my emotions behind a joking tone of voice.

Moving to sit beside me on the sofa, he threw his arms around me and squeezed hard. "I love you always," he grunted with the effort of his hug, then kissed me deliciously. "You love me, don't you?"

Reassured at last, I grinned at him and responded, "Of course I love you. It's the best thing I'll ever do in my life."

He matched my grin, then tugged me to my feet. "Good," he chirruped. "Come back to bed."

"Okay, okay... I'm coming!" I whined playfully, dragging my feet for effect, but extremely happy to feel welcome lying beside him as we dreamed our way to morning.

Saturday dawned sunny and hot. After all of the emotional upheavals of the past fourteen hours, I decided to forego carnal pleasure for the time being. Showered and casually dressed, we strolled over to Ann Sather's for a hearty breakfast. We were seated in the upstairs room, whose painted walls and curved ceiling made me feel like I was eating inside of a Swedish jewelry box.

After feasting on huge eggs, chunky hash brown potatoes with lots of onions, and fresh cinnamon rolls the size of my fist, we found ourselves with a free hour. Crossing Belmont, I led Mulder down the alley I had walked many times before.

"Where are we going?" he asked.

"The Alley."

He made an exasperated sigh. "I can *see* that. Why are we going down this alley, anyway?"

"No," I announced, opening the door next to the driveway, "the Alley." Sure enough, there we were, in the wildest store in the neighborhood, offering one-stop shopping for all of your jewelry, leather, concrete statuary, trendy fashion, and gothic gift needs. Mulder's eyes fairly popped at the array of cast-off Chicago Police leather jackets, but he wouldn't let me buy him one.

"I'm sorry, Alex, but that's just too weird..."

"Okay, then. Let me buy you *something*."

"Like what?"

"Something special. Something that's from me to you, like a symbol or something." I started to peruse the vast array of sterling silver rings in the glass case before me pointedly.

Taking a good look at what I was doing, he quickly stepped between me and the display. "Oh, no! *Not* a ring!"

Before I asked something stupid like, "why not?", I realized the dangers of the symbolism involved in buying him a ring. True, I did not perceive them as dangers--the message involved was *exactly* the one I wanted to send, both to my lover and to anyone seeing us together: let no man tear asunder, indeed. However, I knew that this might have been more than he wanted to present to the world, even if he would have been proud to know it in his own heart. Instead, I caught his eye and affirmed, with an unmistakable tinge of regret, "Okay. No rings."

"Good," he asserted, but I could see the same shadows of regret in his eyes. "You'll think of something."

"Yeah..." I trailed off, mentally running through the stores in the neighborhood. "There's a tattoo place around the corner..."

"*NO*," Mulder ordered, all teasing gone. "I've got bad associations with tattoos..."

I had no idea what he was talking about, so I shrugged and continued. "An earring?"

He shook his head resolutely. "Against bureau dress codes. No visible piercings."

"Oh, yeah. I hadn't thought of that. Perhaps a less visible piercing?" I suggested, waggling my eyebrows rudely.

"Like what?" he asked, puzzled. "My belly button?"

"Or someplace more, um, sensitive, maybe?" In my travels, I had met some men with jewelry piercing some *extremely* delicate areas, and the thought of Mulder dropping his pants to show me similar adornments was undeniably erotic.

Realization struck him like a speeding el train. "*NOOOO!*" he wailed, a look of horror and imagined pain contorting his features amusingly.

"Well, if you're sure... No new, permanent holes in Mr. Winky, then," I chuckled.

"Geez, no!" he reiterated, shuddering visibly. "I don't even want to *think* about that!"

Looking down at his feet, I agreed, "You're right. Maybe that's not your speed. Now uncross your legs, or it will be *real* difficult to walk home..."

His gaze followed mine down to his right foot, which rested on the floor immediately to the left of his left foot, pressing his legs together protectively. We both laughed at his instinctive pose, then turned and headed out the streetside door of the store and back to the apartment. "Besides," he added, "in my line of work, I have to go through too many metal detectors."

"You've got a point there," I allowed, still chuckling warmly as I tried to come up with an acceptable substitute gift.

Once we were home, I went to the bedroom to change, while Mulder grabbed his suitcase and shut himself inside the bathroom. Several minutes passed, and the only sound in the apartment was the bustling of clothes and accessories. Finally I knocked on the bathroom door.

"Go away. It's bad luck to see the bride before the wedding."

"*Don't* tell me you're wearing a bridal gown. That's *so* overdone!"

"As if! Just a minute. It's hell getting this thing folded right..."

"Why? What are you wearing? A kimono?"

"No. You'll see soon enough. What do you need?"

"To be perfectly honest, I need you to tie my shoes."

*That* got him to stick his head around the edge of the door. "What are you doing with shoes that tie?..." His voice faded out as he got a gander of my costume from my feet up. "Where did you get those?"

He gaped as he took in my regulation army boots, baggy olive drab pants covered in cargo pockets, tight olive t-shirt, and ammo belt. "I borrowed 'em. So, do you like it?" I asked, doing the best model's turn I could in untied boots.

"Yeah. I love a man in uniform," he grinned. "So, what are you supposed to be?"

"If you must know, I'm going "commando"," I trilled, with an effeminate toss of my head.

Rolling his eyes, he retorted, "Big deal. You *never* wear underwear."

I laughed, then started trying to peek around the door at him. "So show me, already. This I've gotta see..."

"Oh, all right. Impatient, aren't we?" His head disappeared from view, and the door was swung back theatrically to reveal his costume.

My mouth fell open in shock and admiration. "A kilt?"

"So I've got some Scottish blood in me..."

"What'd you do? Have a vampire's orgy in Edinburgh?"

"No--it's a family thing. This is my clan tartan."

"You're serious..." I boggled.

He daintily grabbed the edges like a schoolgirl and did a perfect pirouette in his knee-high socks and flat shoes. "You like it?"

I couldn't be certain, but I thought I'd seen something... "Uh, yeah. Do that again."

"What? Spin around like that? Naaah, I'll get dizzy."

"Mulder, did I see what I thought I saw?"

Grinning sheepishly, he reached for the hem of his plaid and lifted it quickly, just as quickly letting it drop.

"Hey! You're going "commando", too!"

"Well, they call it dressing regimental, but, yeah. Thought it would be appropriate..."

I was still a little surprised at his audacity. "Aren't you going to wear a shirt?"

"What? Don't you like this?" He flexed his tanned pecs to show off for me as he crouched to tie my boots.

"I like it fine, but you might get chilly later in the day."

Indicating the fur-trimmed pouch that hung from his belt, he answered, "I thought of that. There's a t-shirt in here, along with my wallet and stuff."

"I see... Ingenious as well as irresistibly sexy! My favorite combination!"

"I knew you'd like it!" he chortled, rising to his feet once again. "Wanna go take a walk with a few thousand of our closest friends?"

"Sounds like fun! Let's go!"

The street was practically humming when we arrived. The first few units had already passed, and the throngs lining the sidewalk were standing and watching instead of milling back and forth.

"Aren't we going to meet somewhere to get in line?" Mulder asked.

"Naaahh... This is the kind of parade where people jump in when the spirit moves them. Wait, here we go..."

"Is the spirit moving you?"

"You could say that: I always like to march behind the XRT float."

"The who?"

"Well, they *might* play the Who. WXRT is the best damned radio station in Chicago, and they always host a float in the parade. The music makes the marching more like dancing, but I didn't think you'd mind..."

"You know me so well..." he nearly sang as I dragged him off the curb and into the small crowd of men who were following the float in question.

I was glad that Mulder and I had dressed up a little. There were a lot of people in civilian clothes, but just as many in costumes both subtle and elaborate. I saw (all on men, mind you) a couple of pink tutus, several nun's habits, and the biggest feather headdresses this side of Las Vegas. There were sedate displays, such as a placard memorializing Matthew Shepard, and more profane ones, including one mustachioed muscleman dressed as Sailor Moon.

The party atmosphere of the gathered celebrants was distinctly infectious, and the blocks passed almost in a blur of cheering, clapping, singing, and walking with the music. The people who marched near us included some pale goth boys all in black who screamed when the speakers blared out a tune by the Cure or Peter Murphy, a few comfortable-looking couples with paunches and grey hair or balding heads who danced to the Grateful Dead or the Rolling Stones with equal fervor, and even some denim-clad women who showed their vocal allegiance to the Indigo Girls and Melissa Etheridge.

A couple of tall, reedy blondes in stiletto heels and miniskirts went nuts when "Lola" by the Kinks was played, whereupon I looked closer and realized that they were men, or at least had been at one time. In fact, we all sang along to the anthem to a transvestite, and I took a moment to try to picture Mulder in drag. The skirt, okay, *kilt*, that he wore may have helped my fantasy picture along, and I may have just been deluded by love, but the vision pleased me enough to make me put the idea aside for a game to play sometime in the future.

There was that word "future" again, and for once in my life it didn't frighten me or make me start looking for the exits. In fact, as I watched my shirtless lover chanting "Lo-lo-lo-lo-lola" ecstatically along with the assembled crowd, hair flipping in the breeze and mouth open in a huge smile, I knew I wanted a future with him more than anything else in the world. I think I made a little vow to myself right then that when the unseen enemies of the human race had been vanquished for once and for all, when Mulder had all of his answers and had found his elusive truth, and when my work was finished at last, I would find him, no matter where he was, and take him away to make a home just for the two of us where we could love each other and grow old together. However, right then was not the time to brood and long for something that might never come to pass, nor was it the time to waste in regrets and "could be" scenarios, so I reached out and grabbed his hand tight, swinging his arm in time to the music, and singing happily with him by my side.

As we neared the end of the parade route, we looked a little worse for wear, but completely festive, as we had each acquired some strings of Mardi Gras beads around our necks, triangle-shaped rainbow stickers on our chests (literally, in Mulder's case), and a couple of brightly-dyed feathers in our hair. The initial zingy guitar chords of Stevie Ray Vaughan's "Pride and Joy" started piping from our guide float's huge speakers, making me jump straight up in the air for a moment in joy.

"You like Stevie Ray?" hollered Mulder.

"Love him!" I yelled back, in a gap between words.

"I always figured you for more of a David Byrne or Bryan Ferry kind of guy..."

"Love them, too!" I replied, eagerly reaching the chorus, which I'd been butchering to suit myself for some time. Fixing my eyes on his face, I sang:

"He's my sweet li'l thing,
"He's my pride and joy,
"He's my sweet little baby,
"I'm his little loverboy!"

He regarded me with a totally puzzled look, his mouth hanging open as if he couldn't think of what to say. Eventually he complained, "That's not how the song goes..."

"Who cares? That's the way *I* sing it!" I crowed, dancing around him in a little circle during the guitar solo and singing my head off during the next chorus. The men within earshot picked up on my parody lyrics, and I thrilled to hear them as they sang my creation to their own partners, while the women nearby just rolled their eyes, shook their heads, and grinned, just like Mulder did, even though he was a whole heckuva lot prettier when he did it.

Empty floats choked the street before us at the end of the route, so the official parade units and all of the hangers-on picked paths between them and spilled out onto the beach next to Lake Michigan on the other side. The place was one big sandy picnic, full of noise and smells and energy.

We found an out-of-the-way corner in which to chill out, which was difficult, since I believe that the mercury had topped out somewhere in the 90s. Perching on a railing, my kilted companion glowed with perspiration and exhilaration. "Okay, Alex: you were right!"

"About what?"

"I did need to come to this today. I do belong here, with all of these other crazies." His smile turned wistful, and his voice softened noticeably. "In fact, I belong here, by your side. Thank you for asking me to be here. Thank you for wanting me here with you." With that he slung an arm around me and gave me a long, warm kiss, during which we looked not the least out of place in the throng gathered nearby.

When his lips broke with mine, we sat looking into each other's eyes for a moment. "Thank you for agreeing to be part of this with me, Mulder. It meant a lot to me. I can't think of anything else in the world I need right now."

"I can."

"You can? What?"

"Lunch!" he barked, tugging me by the hand from our seat in the direction of the food wagons.

"You have a point," I laughingly agreed, scuffing along behind him.

Exactly two polish sausages and two beers each later, we looked at each other and at the Mongol horde around us.

"I wouldn't be surprised if the orgy started soon," Mulder shouted jokingly over the general roar of the people, the cars, the music, and the waves, "and I don't think I'm quite ready for that. Wanna start heading back?"

"Yeah. Let's grab a cab. It'll take for-bloody-ever with the traffic, but at least we won't have to walk..."

"You've got *that* right, and there's no way you're getting me on the train in this outfit!"

"But why no-ot?" I singsonged like a little kid, but gladly following him out to the street to try to hail a taxi.

An empty conveyance pulled up within moments, so we hopped in and made our request for the address just off Halsted. Our journey went smoothly for the better part of a block, whereupon we became solidly mired in the gridlock that had resulted from having city streets blocked off for several hours. The air conditioning struggled against the humidity and the exhaust fumes, but even though it was roaring so loud that we had difficulty hearing the driver's questions, the ambient temperature was about the same inside the car as out.

"God, I'm hot!" exclaimed my lover, who blotted the sweat running down his face with the t-shirt he'd stashed in his fancy Scottish belt pouch.

Turning to give him a once-over, I had to agree. "So what else is new?" I asked, kissing him quickly.

"Knock it off, Alex!" he protested, swatting me away gently. "The driver will see us in the mirror."

"Oh, come on! He knows what neighborhood he's in! He knows what day it is! Who gives a rat's ass?"

"Hey, it's not *your* ass I'm worried about! I don't want to get us arrested."

I gave him a disappointed look even while alternate forms of entertainment sprang to mind, helped along in great part by the small tent his kilt was distinctly beginning to resemble. Leaning in close, I whispered in his ear, "They can't arrest us for that, but I could go for a nice public display of lewdness."

"Alex..." warned Mulder. "I don't want the driver to suspect a thing."

A wicked grin suffused my face. "Then you'll just have to control yourself, won't you?" My hand flew under the edge of his skirts and clamped firmly on his stiffening cock before he could stop me.

"Alex, please!" he hissed through tightly-clenched teeth.

"Sure! Glad to be of service," I purred, pumping him steadily. "I've been wanting to do this all day, and I would hate to waste the opportunity..."

He closed his eyes tightly and groaned less from irritation than from arousal, if the height of its timbre was any indication, so I proceeded to jerk him off completely out of view of the traffic jam around us.

"You like that, baby?" I cooed, speaking as surreptitiously as a ventriloquist.

Muffling his words in kind, he said, "Yeah, but I just got this outfit back from the dry cleaners. What are you gonna do when I come?"

I stroked him a little harder as I muttered, "Is that gonna be soon?"

"Uh-huh," he answered, ripples of tension apparent in the sinews of his jaw.

"I'll think of something," I whispered. "Damn!" I barked out loud and clear, "my shoe's untied!" Immediately I bent down and out of sight of the rear-view mirror, then positioned my head in his lap to take his erection in my mouth. I applied my tongue and teeth quickly to bringing him off, which I accomplished before long, rewarding me with his hot liquid offering.

His last spasm prompted a shriek of "Oh, fuck!" from my companion, and produced a final jet of come on my tongue, where I dispatched it quickly.

Licking him clean, I then rearranged his pleats and sat back up as if nothing was amiss. "What's the matter? Did you forget something?"

"Yeah," he mumbled into my ear, sounding as debauched as he looked. "I forgot how damned good you were at that. Thank you, doll."

Soon I was pleased to note that we were finally stopped in front of my building, so I paid the driver, dragged a still-shaky Mulder bodily out of the back seat, and let us back inside the house. The balcony was starting to get some shade, so I opened the glass and screen and pushed my ragdoll of a lover out onto the chaise, where he collapsed quite attractively.

I turned the deck chair to face him and watched as he stretched and made himself comfortable. "I'm sorry. I didn't get a chance to say "you're welcome." Did that feel good?"

"Oh, God, yes," he exclaimed, suppressing a yawn. "I guess it hadn't occurred to me that if you've only got the one hand..."

"...that the muscles get developed to a greater degree?" I finished his thought. "Nice that they're useful for many different things..."

"Yeah," he agreed, sitting up a little straighter. "I wouldn't mind having that hand around all the time for when I felt like masturbating."

"It *does* serve its purpose well," I replied, leaving his "all the time" comment untouched for the time being.

"So," he began, turning to look right into my eyes, "do you get a lot of opportunity to put it to use?"

Somehow I saw beneath his question about frequency and comprehended his underlying inquiry about my being faithful to him. I decided to take the high road. "Only when I think of your voice, or your ass, or your lips, or..."

"Am I your *only* lover, Alex?"

Possible lies flooded my mind, until I realized that I would probably just catch myself in them, and moreover, that the honest answer wouldn't hurt me at all. "As a matter of fact, yes. I won't deny that there have been men before you, and maybe a few women, but since my injury, I haven't felt it necessary to look anywhere for sex but to you."

"Same here," he rebutted, unnecessarily, but he went on. "That isn't a very long time, though. What if you can't see me for several months? Would you go looking then?"

My next words surprised even me. "Not if I promised you I wouldn't. Do you want me to promise you that?"

He looked as startled as I felt. "I don't know. Could I trust you if you did?"

I thought I'd have to consider his question for awhile, but my "yes" sprang from my mouth almost without my permission. My Gemini nature took over as I spoke words as they formed in my head, apparently free of my brain's intervention. "I owe you my life, partner. I know we can't be together for real yet, not for a very long time, but if you asked me to save myself just for you, I'd do it proudly. I want to be your lover for the rest of my life, and if that means forsaking all others, I don't mind."

We both sat there a little stunned by my words for a moment. "Wow," he sighed at last. "I guess I never knew how much I meant to you."

Chuckling a little at myself, I had to admit, "Funny--I don't think *I* knew until just now..."

Hesitantly, he added, "But you meant what you said just now, didn't you?"

I examined my own heart quickly, and discovered that in fact I did. "Yeah, you toad. I'm yours, whether you want me or not."

"Shit," he exclaimed, genuinely nonplused. "Then I'll save myself for you, too, if you want, not that I get too much opportunity to stray..."

"What? You don't think Scully's suddenly going to jump your bones on a stakeout some night?"

That made him laugh out loud for a few minutes, and I happily joined in. "No," he replied, wiping his eyes a little, "I'd have to tell her that I was promised to another!" I almost thought he'd dissolve into laughter again, but he caught himself and visibly pondered the import of this idea.

After a restless hush had descended upon us, I swallowed and said softly, "God, Mulder... It feels like I should get down on one knee or something..."

He smiled warmly. "That's okay. You don't have to do that. Maybe I should have let you buy me a ring after all..."

There was a beat or two of silence, then, as one, we let out a "naaaah," and chuckled a little at the idea. "It would prompt too many questions, right?"

"Right. You'll think of something, I'm sure. However, at the moment," he announced, standing up quickly, "I've gotta pee. I'll be back."

"Better hurry," I teasingly called after him. "You don't want me running off with that cute guy I can see three balconies over..." When he was out of sight, I sat back and replayed what had just happened. Where was the duplicitous, untrustworthy son-of-a-bitch Alex Krycek now? Why was I suddenly content to turn my back on my dissolute life and swear my fidelity to one man? Could my affection for Fox Mulder have changed me that much? Could I keep my promise now that I'd made it? And for that matter, why was the part that bothered me the most just how little I was worried that I could?

My swirling thoughts had built a little house with a white picket fence in my head by the time he stuck his head back out onto the balcony. I could see that he'd changed into civvies at last, which made me miss the constant display of that luscious chest. "You're changing for dinner aren't you?" he asked, opening the screen door to let me in.

"Yep, I'm changing. Gimme a minute..." Oh, boy, am I changing, I thought as I bustled to where I was keeping my clothes. While you're at it, babe, gimme the rest of your life...

The bus made it very easy to get to Navy Pier, which was full of the typical families and couples on dates, though an unusually high number of those couples that night were members of the same gender. We strolled out to the very end of the structure, which sticks out into Lake Michigan perpendicular to the shore. The eating establishments were busy, and live and recorded music came out at us from every imaginable angle. We had trouble looking back at the skyline due to the glare of the setting sun, but its glow cast some wonderful shades of pink and orange on the buildings of the pier itself. I made it a point to steer Mulder away from looking at the tall ships and other floating vessels around the pier, eventually propelling us to the ballroom at the very end. There on the patio, a dance band was playing, and several dozen couples were trying out the steps they'd learned earlier in the afternoon.

"Do you want to dance, my dear?" I asked, not sure if I remembered how to do the box step, much less anything more complicated.

"I don't know..." His gaze flitted about the pairs moving before us, and I could feel his reluctance to put ourselves on display in this mixed crowd. It was hard to be "out" all the time when you hadn't had any practice in doing it at all, so I decided not to push him at it.

"Maybe back inside for something to eat?"

"How long ago did we get the Polish?, he asked, looking at his watch. "Three hours? Sure, I could be hungry again." I knew I had made the right alternate suggestion when I saw the tension slide out of his shoulders that my invitation to dance had put there in the first place. "Say, Alex, how long has it been since somebody bought you a steak?"

My feet stopped in place, and I knew I didn't want to answer his question, for reasons that I thought would have been obvious. "A couple of years," I replied as pointedly as I could. "Why?"

"I want to celebrate tonight. I feel like I took a big step today, being out in the open with you at that parade." His voice grew soft, and I had to lean in to hear him. "We also said a few things this afternoon that mean the world to me. I want to show you how much I appreciate all of it. Let me buy you a steak."

"Mulder," I warned, indicating my prosthesis without attracting anyone else's attention to it.

He caught my chin in his hand and kissed me softly. "I'll take care of it--it'll be okay. Let me do this." The passion and caring in his eyes made my breath catch a little, so I nodded, and he led me back into the main building.

Soon we found ourselves seated at a small table in a dark corner of one of the Pier's classier restaurants, nearly out of sight of the rest of the room. When our food arrived, Mulder commandeered my plate, quickly cut my steak into bite-sized pieces for me, then set it in front of me again before anyone could see. All the while, he kept up an animated monologue of life at the bureau, designed specifically to distract me and keep my embarrassment to a minimum. I finally speared my first bite and put it in my mouth, letting the long-forgotten flavors of a chunk of expertly-cooked beef suffuse my senses.

Before I could finish chewing and say another word, he asked and answered my question one last time, as if to close the case. "Why did I do this? Because I wanted to. Because I could. Because I love you, and I knew if I insisted, you'd let me do it. And because I wanted to see that look on your face when you tasted it." He smiled his most evil smile, but I thought his eyes looked a little misty, not that I could tell at the moment, being similarly afflicted.

When we finished dinner, it was dark outside, so we got in line to ride the Ferris wheel. The lights of Chicago spilled far north and south of our location, but aside from the pier itself, the lack of lights on the lake made it look like we were sitting on the edge of the world, with absolutely nothing stretching out east of us for miles. We paid no attention to the recorded spiel that accompanied the ride, and instead cuddled together on the same side of the car, ignoring the teenaged attendant's suggestions to stay on opposite sides for balance.

As our car rounded the top, I leaned in to Mulder and kissed him hard.

"What was that for?" he asked.

"For today. I guess for that "someday" in the future, too," I replied, grinning at him in the dark.

"That's a good reason," he answered, kissing me back.

Just then, a loud boom made my ears ring. "What was that?"

"Watch out, Tex!" Mulder teased, squeezing my shoulders tighter to his. "They're shootin' at us!" He pointed down to the far end of the pier. "Look: fireworks!" Sure enough, the explosion produced a beautiful display of colorful sparks that faded slowly over the water. "But the fourth of July's not till next week..."

"There's fireworks all the time in this town, especially in the summertime."

"Especially when *you're* here," he chided, kissing me again. We sat oohing and aahing appreciatively and watched the bombs brighten the sky, until he said, "Almost Independence Day, huh? What if I don't *want* to be independent?" He smiled at me again, and I knew just what he meant.

"The date *does* commemorate the birth of a brand-new union. How does that sound?"

"I like it. How about you?"

"You and me, Mulder? I think I can live with that." I snuggled closer to him as the car crept back to earth, and we enjoyed the rest of our celebration in silent communion.

The next morning the shower was crowded--I have vivid memories of Mulder's hot, soapy hands all over me; steam condensing into perspiration down my stomach; my legs draped over his shoulders as I sat leaning against the back wall of the bathtub, his engorged cock filling my ass; my come spurting up and splattering on the shower curtain; the heartbreaking sweetness of his kisses and our laughter as we ran the shower in a second attempt to get clean...

After a breakfast of doughnuts over the Sunday Tribune, both purchased the night before on the way home from the Pier, we wandered up Halsted searching once again for the perfect memento. Mulder's eyes nearly glazed over inside the sex-toys shop, his refrain of "No!" becoming harshly familiar as I offered to buy him garments of rubber, harnesses of leather, even a simple chrome cock ring.

I eventually followed him into a pretty gift shop filled with art glass vases and primitive musical instruments and the pervasive gurgle of half a dozen table fountains. As his attention solidly focused on a spinning rack of lapel buttons bearing funny sayings, I idly glanced over the jewelry case in the middle of the store, where my eye settled on the perfect trinket. Before he noticed, I purchased the item in question and tucked the small box into my pants pocket.

When I got bored watching him chuckling to himself at the button display, I came up close behind him and nudged him with my shoulder, meeting his gaze and cocking my head toward the door. He followed me wordlessly onto the street.

We stopped a few doors down near an empty storefront while I thought of what I wanted to say. Mulder's face glowed in the midday sun. "I found you something--I thought that with all of the stuff we've been through this weekend, it was the perfect symbol to make you think of me." Digging the box out of my pocket and placing it in his hand, I added, "Open it."

He lifted the lid, tucking it underneath, and regarded the shaped tie tack with a puzzled expression. "A house?"

"Yeah--look at it." I lifted it from its cotton cushion and turned it so he could see the heart etched on its front. "It's got heart inside."

"Very nice," he commented, unimpressed. "This will make me think of you?"

"I hope so... I mean, it made me think of *you*. You asked me why you never get to see my home, and I said I didn't have one. This weekend showed me that I was wrong: I do have a home--it's anyplace you are." He seemed open to my explanation, so I continued pouring out my heart to him. "Look--when I got hurt two months ago, I was desperate, alone, and defenseless. I was in pain and in such a panic that I wasn't sure I'd live through the night. I took a chance that you'd take me in and take care of me, just because we had some history together. I had no idea how you'd react--you could have called the police to haul me away. Hell, you could have thrown me down the back stairs and left me to die. But you didn't. You got me help, you fed me, you gave me so much... you *loved* me, for God's sake. Of all the things that could have happened between us, that's the last thing I could have imagined, and the best thing I can think of. I've almost always harbored some affection for you, no matter what stupid things my job or my pride has made me do to you, but I never expected that I could love you this much, or that you could to grow to love me. This little house is for you. It symbolizes everything you've done for me, everything you mean to me. I don't have a home other than you. No matter where I go in the world, I will always consider my home to be in your heart. So, whaddya say, Mulder? Will you accept this little gift from me? Are you okay about being my home?" My heart pounded while I waited for his answer.

He didn't speak for a moment, just studying the small pin in its box. Suddenly, he held the box out to me, and my heart plummeted to the ground as I felt the shiny white cardboard placed back in my hand. However, before I could crumple the box, fling it and its contents into the nearest trash bin, and stalk off, Mulder reached inside and took the pin out, removing the fastener on its back, and poked it through the fabric of his shirt collar, fixing the clasp in place.

Glancing down at his gift, then giving me a shy smile, he asked, "How's that?"

I couldn't keep my lip from quivering when I answered, "Gorgeous...", whereupon I was swept up in one of his famous bear hugs.

"Goddammit, I love you, Alex," he whispered, clinging tightly to me there on the street. "Thank you for everything."

"No, thank *you*, Mulder," I sighed, certain that my voice would crack if I tried to speak any louder. "I love you, too. Someday, man..."

He released his grip to grab my shoulders, bringing his face close to mine. "Yeah, someday..." he repeated, his eyes starting to brim, then sealed our bond with a deep, heart-wrenching kiss.

We made it back to the apartment in just enough time for him to pack up his things for his flight back. I left him to his fussing and got a backpack of my own together, "for a meeting," I explained when pressed. When the cab was waiting outside, we kissed goodbye just inside the door, then stepped out into the hall, running right into the cleaning lady. "You're early," I scolded her lightly.

Her dark eyes flashed Hispanic terror at me. "I am *so* sorry, sir! I will come back later!" She hoisted her supplies and practically ran back down the hall to the exit stairs.

"Don't mind Conchita," I reassured Mulder as I locked the door, then hefted my backpack for the walk to the taxi.

"You know her?" he asked as we followed in her wake.

"She works for my friends who own this place. I've met her. No big deal," I confirmed, changing the subject as we loaded our luggage into the car's trunk.

The traffic to O'Hare was much lighter Sunday afternoon than it had been Thursday night. We spoke of nothing and everything as we drove, then made our way from the taxi stand to Mulder's gate. I stole long glances at him as he stood on the moving walkway to the United terminal, captivated by the bright blinking colors of the neon sculpture that lined the ceiling.

There was little activity at the check-in counter of the gate where his flight was boarding, so we ducked into the men's room for a last romantic embrace out of sight of other travelers. Placing our bags on the floor of the large stall, we held each other close and kissed for all we were worth.

"I'll miss you, babe," stated Mulder, his eyes soft and nearly green.

"I'll come see you when I can. I hope that's good enough."

"You'll write--you'll e-mail, won't you?" He looked as hopeful as a kid on Christmas Eve.

"As often as possible, I promise. When the war is over, I'll come for you."

He grinned at my choice of words, assuming that I was speaking in metaphor, I'm sure. "Until then, you know where you can always come home to, right?"

"You bet," I swore, kissing him one last time, then picking up my satchel. "No matter what, I love you."

"I love you, too," he replied, opening the door and carrying his luggage out to the check-in line. "Thank you for the trip. I had a great time."

I moved to stand with him as he waited. "I did too. You're welcome. Wear that pin in good health."

"I will. Say goodbye to the cows for me."

"Consider it done."

Just then they called boarding, so he readjusted his bags and reached out to shake my hand warmly. "I'll see you, babe. Take care of yourself."

"You, too, kiddo. I'll be in touch..." I stood there and waved until he was out of sight up the boarding tunnel.

Balancing my pack on my left shoulder, I walked to the bank of pay phones and dialed a number. "I'm clear," I reported to the voice on the other end.

"Was everything to your satisfaction, sir?"

"Yes, thank you. You can send in the cleaning crew now, then return the residents. Standard memory wipe."

"Yes, sir. Sorry about Conchita, sir. She has been dealt with."

"Too bad. She was a good woman, if a little over-eager."

"Will you require accommodations in Washington, sir?"

"Yes. I'll check in upon arrival."

"Very good, sir. "Apartment, single", as usual... Any guests?"

"No," I answered, a wistful smile masking a twinge of regret, "no guests. Thank you." I hung up the phone, then went to look for my boarding gate.


AUTHOR'S NOTE: I have personally been everyplace mentioned in this story, except for the parade and the ballgame, which I figured I could extrapolate. All of the businesses, etc. named herein are real, but I am not affiliated with any of them--they can consider this free advertising. The cows are gone from our streets now, but their memory lingers on. Oh, and I actually own a plastic seahorse tube and a scrap of paper kissed by a Blue Man. Feedback, anyone?

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