Believe III: Doubt In My Mind

by Nikita

Title: Believe III: Doubt in My Mind
Author: Nikita

Series: 3/3
Pairing: M/O, M/K

Warning: Slash, M/M relationship. Angst, H/C, mention of non-consensual acts.

Author's Note: Part 3 of Believe series. Available at DitB and my site: http://www.koukla.net/nikita_slash

Feedback: Will find a good home and encourage further writing.

Thanks to all of those who have given such positive feedback! Without it, this fic wouldn't have been possible.

XXX

Mulder simply focused on returning to normal. Putting the entire incident behind him and moving on with his life...and with his relationship with Jack. There 'were' incidents...fights...tense moments that resulted in either a blow or a rough bout of love making...but that was normal. Normal for 'them.' Who was to say it wasn't right? Occasionally Jack would come home drunk from work and pick a fight. But...Mulder should know better than to let it happen by now. And afterwards, the next morning or evening, Jack would usually apologize or do something special to make up for it. After all, Jack had a stressful job and the type of work he did put certain pressures on him. Who better than Mulder to understand the kind of pressures that come with catching killers or trying to find missing children?

As far as Mulder was concerned, the only 'real' problem that wouldn't go away was the way people at work treated him. The 'incident' had involved Skinner and a few other agents and even though the charges were dropped, gossip had spread like wildfire. Everyone knew that Spooky Mulder was gay and had been viciously beaten. A few knew that it was by his own lover, but most thought it was a random gay bashing. Whatever the cause, they now knew that Spooky was a homo. A fag. Light in the loafers. Filthy jokes and vicious gossiping over who Mulder was fucking 'now' began to circulate. By the time he returned to work, it was commonly believed that he was sleeping with both Skinner and Krycek and just about any other man he had contact with. Scully was cast as his fag hag and she obviously had been covering for him for years.

Not only was the gossip mongering at work making life unbearable...so was the way Scully and Alex treated him: as if he was made of glass. They tried to keep the gossip mill from reaching him but also tried to keep an eye on him at 'all' times... Checking him over every morning for new bruises. Stopping by the apartment with lame excuses on weekends and evenings. They were both careful not to ask too many questions about Jack or his home life, but it was obvious with every glance or comment that they were burning with curiosity and concern.

XXX

The phone rang and as Scully passed by Mulder's desk she reached for it absently, eyes still on the paper she just picked up. Mulder reached over and snagged the phone from her. She glanced up at him with mild surprise before returning her eyes to her paper and sitting down at her desk once more. Scully listened to him answer the call with half an ear as she searched for a paperclip.

"Mulder." There was a short pause before he answered, "Yes, this is Agent Mulder, how may I help you?"

Scully looked up and noticed Mulder quickly glancing at her before averting his gaze.

"Yes, I understand. Just give me the address."

Interest peaked, Scully gave up her fruitless quest for a spare paperclip. She watched him listen for a moment before hanging up the phone. As he stood up and reached for his coat she stood as well.

"What was that?"

Mulder gave her a furtive look as he pulled his suit coat on hurriedly. "Oh, nothing. UFO sighting nearby. Probably a crank, I'm just going to go take a statement." He darted out the door before she could respond.

XXX

Mulder gritted his teeth as he pulled off the highway at an exit. Searching for the right street he pulled up in front of a run down building with the sign 'Tip Top Tavern' barely legible underneath a layer of grime. Parking in front he entered and headed for the bar stools.

Jack was slumped over the bar, head resting on the surface arms akimbo. A grubby glass sat next to him, empty, next to a nearly full ashtray and a bowl of peanuts.

The bartender barely acknowledged him with a nod before disappearing again. Mulder sat next to Jack and tapped him on the shoulder.

"...hunh?" Jack lifted his head a whole two inches before setting it back down again and squinted at him blearily. "Foxss...what're you doin' here?" He made another attempt to sit up and Mulder had to catch him before he fell off his stool.

"Time to go home. Come on." Jack shook his head but stood up with Mulder.

"I want another..."

Mulder steered him towards the door. "You've had enough. Let's go sleep it off."

Jack glared at him and pushed his hands away. He staggered out of the bar under his own power, heading towards his car down the street. Mulder headed him off.

"Let's take mine."

"Fuck off."

"Jack-"

"Fuck OFF." Jack fumbled with his pocket and pulled out his keys.

Mulder grabbed them and avoided a swing, pushing Jack back towards his car. Jack shook him off once more but got into the passenger's side on his own.

The drive home was silent but tense. Mulder followed Jack up the stairs to the apartment and wasn't wholly surprised when Jack grabbed him and shoved him against the wall as soon as he locked the door.

Expecting a tirade or a blow, Mulder grunted when his lover attacked his mouth instead. The revolting smell and taste made Mulder gag when Jack left his mouth and attacked his neck instead. Rough hands grabbed at his waist and groped at his belt.

Laying in bed a short while later, Mulder ignored the loud snoring and stared at his alarm clock. His eyes drifted down to the edge of the nightstand where he'd hit his head months earlier. His gaze traveled the distance to the area between his side of the bed and the closet doors. Staring hard at the patch of carpeting he didn't notice the sound of the telephone in the background...

XXX

Pulling out a file from the cabinets behind Mulder's desk, Scully turned and saw the back of Mulder's neck as he leaned over. A faint bruise peeked out from his collar. It seemed to get both easier and harder to see those bruises.

Easier because they were so common and were beginning to become expected. Harder for the same reason but particularly because she could say 'anything.' The slightest mention of a new bruise or shadows under his eyes bought her a quick excuse and the cold shoulder for the rest of the day.

So she shut the file drawer and walked to her desk without a word.

Yet another ordinary day at the X-Files division.

Mulder stared at his cold cup of coffee as if the depths would reveal some answer to all his problems. Scully sighed over at her desk and flipped a folder shut. He looked up at her but she was studiously avoiding his gaze. He couldn't take the tension anymore. Standing up he grabbed his cup.

"I'm going to go grab a fresh one. Want another?" Scully nodded without looking up so he grabbed her cup. His had Marvin the Martian on it while hers was a tasteful, but rather plain dark blue. Reminded him of Jack's favorite sheets.

Their own dilapidated coffee maker had finally died a sputtering death last week so he marched up the stairs to the break room two floors above. Consumed with his own thoughts he nearly stumbled into the door of the break room which was open only a crack. Catching himself just in time he was about to open the door when he overheard it.

"...Agent Mulder? I couldn't believe it!"

"What? Did you hear something new?"

Mulder debated the dangers of returning to Scully without the promised caffeine. As he hesitated he heard far more than he wanted.

"Well, Kim from Skinner's office...she let it slip that Agent Mulder 'knew' his attacker. Really knew him, I mean." The gossip was just too juicy for the teller not to embellish with a bit of melodrama. Mulder decided to just go ahead and get his damn coffee. But he could wait for an appropriate opening...the moment when one of them decided to choose some random man as his new boyfriend-of-the-week. Step in and fluster the hell out of them.

"...Well, Kim said that Mulder had moved and that the man that was arrested was living at the same address. It was his own boyfriend, can you believe it?"

"Oh, my god...that's terrible. Not a random gay bashing then? I can't believe it..."

"I know...I couldn't believe it either. I mean...he dropped the charges. And I think he's still living with him. Can you believe it? You know that black eye he had a month ago?"

"A battered - wow... I thought he was a psychologist, though. Why would he..."

Mulder abruptly turned away from the door and returned to the basement. Entering, he dumped Scully's empty mug on her desk and sat back down to his own work. Scully picked up the cup without looking at it and took a cautious sip.

"Uh, Mulder...?"

XXX

--One Week Later.--

Friday
7:15 p.m.

Mulder set the bar down for Alex as his friend let out a long breath and wiped his face with a towel. They were working out in the gym after hours. Jack was on a stakeout all night so when Alex had asked him to spot him on the weights Mulder had agreed, somewhat reluctantly.

"Whew. That's enough for now. If you're done we can go wash up and maybe grab some dinner?" Alex grabbed his water bottle and looked up at Mulder who had yet to respond. "Mulder?"

"Hmm? Oh, sure." Mulder headed towards the locker room as Alex trailed behind him, wondering what was bothering him. These days it was better to let Mulder get around to saying what was bothering him on his own. Any questioning by Alex and it would turn into a confrontation about Jack. Whether it was about him or not.

They quickly cleaned up and changed. Neither said a word though Mulder seemed to be glancing at him occasionally with a thoughtful look. They headed towards Mulder's favorite Chinese restaurant.

As they waited for their meals, Alex sipped his coke and watched Mulder silently. The other man noticed and set his own drink down with a sigh. Raising his eyebrows Alex waited.

"Do you think of me as a battered wife?"

Alex sputtered slightly but managed to swallow most of the soda, wiping the drop on his chin that had escaped. "Uh, what?" he managed.

"Do you think of me as having battered-spouse-syndrome? Someone that is abused but enables their abuser by making excuses."

Alex stared at him for a stunned moment before he took a deep breath and let it out with a gusty sigh. "You never go in half measures, do you Mulder?"

Their food arrived at that moment and Alex nodded their thanks to the waiter while Mulder stared at his sweet and sour shrimp without looking up.

The tension was uncomfortable but Alex knew this was a very important moment. A significant step...but if he handled it wrong...

"May I ask what brought this up?"

Mulder glanced up from his food finally and shrugged. "I overheard something... You haven't answered."

Alex glanced at his own plate of Mongolian beef and wished it had the answer. It didn't. Steeling himself he looked back up and looked right into Mulder's eyes. They were a murky green-gray.

"Yes."

The word wasn't whispered nor was it overloud but it was cold and concrete.

The reaction was instantaneous. Mulder stood so fast that the chair he was sitting on flew out and hit the back of another of a person sitting behind him. Mulder didn't notice, however, as he strode out of the restaurant quickly but silently.

Several heads turned from the closing door to stare at Alex sitting at the table by himself. Mulder's plate had been upset by the hasty departure and half of the rice was strewn over the tablecloth. Alex stared at the mess as the waiter hurried over.

"Check, please."

XXX

Mulder drove himself home on automatic. Before he knew it he was pulling into the parking garage and into his parking space. Turning the engine off, he sat there in the dark, staring absently at the wall in front of him.

Battered. The word sickened him at the moment. Made him a victim. Pathetic. He was a 37-year-old man. An FBI agent.

And Jack... Jack was an abusive drunk. Possessive, with a short temper and controlling ways. He hit when angry. Used sex as a weapon.

Fuck. He was in an abusive relationship and he 'let' the bastard abuse him. He 'was' battered. The rumors were right. Fox Mulder was a battered spouse.

A car door slammed a few cars away and he glanced in that direction a woman got out of her car and walked past on her way to the elevator. As he watched her disappear, he noticed Jack's car in the space next to his for the first time.

Heading up to their apartment his mind raged within, trying to figure out what he was going to do. He put his key in the lock but the door was wrenched open before he could turn the key.

"About fucking time." Jack stepped aside and Mulder stepped past him without a word. "Out with Alex again?" It was said mildly but with the tone that Mulder had come to see as the warning not unlike a rattlesnake's.

"Yes." Mulder dropped his wallet and keys in the bowl by the coat rack walked past him and into the kitchen.

Jack followed him in, blocking the doorway casually. "Spending a lot of time with him lately, haven't you?"

Mulder grabbed a bottle of water from the refrigerator. "Not really. Thought you'd still be at work."

"Did you?" Jack snorted and leaned against the doorframe. "Got lucky, the shift before us caught the bastard..."

Mulder moved to exit the kitchen, Jack didn't move, forcing Mulder to push past him to get out.

"Smells like you celebrated already" Mulder commented dryly, he stepped toward the bedroom.

Jack didn't bother answering; he struck Mulder from behind, causing him to stumble before catching himself. He dropped the bottle of water as his hand went out to catch the wall. Turning back to face his lover he stared into the stormy face in front of him.

"God. You're a real son of a bitch, aren't you?" Mulder stared at him with widening eyes.

"Excuse me?" Jack's tone was threatening. Mulder stared at him. For once...he wasn't afraid. And he wasn't going to take anymore.

"You heard me. I can't 'believe' I've put up with your shit for so long."

Jack's face twisted in fury as he swung his fist.

XXX

10:13 p.m.

A loud banging on his front door woke Alex from the light doze on his couch. Scrubbing his face as he stood, he quickly opened the door to find Mulder waiting desperately on the other side.

"Mulder?! What's wrong?" Mulder's left eye was swollen and a large bruise was darkening on his cheekbone. The bastard had hit him again. Pulling his friend through the door Alex locked it before leading him to a chair.

"Sit down, Mulder. Tell me what happened." Mulder refused the chair and began pacing.

"I left him, Alex. He hit me because I told him I wouldn't put up with it any longer... I don't know what to do now, though...I forgot my wallet. I can't get a hotel room and I don't want to bother Scully at her mother's and..." Mulder shot the words out rapidly, barely pausing for breath as he paced furiously, avoiding Alex's gaze.

Immediate elation at the news that Mulder had left his lover was soon dampened again by the fact that Jack had dared lay a hand on Mulder again. "Stop! Stop! Sit down, Mulder. You're making me dizzy and you aren't making any sense. You don't need to go to a hotel room or 'bother' anyone. You can stay here, of course."

Mulder finally sat down on the couch and sat slumped, his elbows on his knees. Staring at his hands, he avoided looking at Alex. "Thanks."

Krycek nodded and went into his kitchen. He opened his freezer and pulled out some ice cubes for Mulder's face. 'What should I say? Tell him it's about time he left the son of a bitch? No, that would be gloating, rubbing it in his face...I'll just listen. For now. If I ever see that bastard again...'

Mulder was still contemplating his hands but looked up when Alex returned. He offered the bag to Mulder, noticing that the bruise was darkening. "For the swelling."

Instead of raising the bag to his face Mulder gave a half smile and pressed it to the knuckles of his right hand. "Thanks."

Krycek frowned and leaned in for a closer look. The knuckles were red and swollen, scraped raw. Looking up he saw Mulder's grin widen slightly, his tired eyes lightening a bit.

"Well, you didn't think I'd let him get the only one in, did you?"

XXX

Alex lay in his bed an hour later. Alone. Mulder had insisted on taking the couch and was currently surfing the channels of his TV at a rapid pace. The flickering light lit up Alex's room as he stared at the ceiling trying desperately to cease the thoughts spinning in his mind. Mulder had left Jack. He'd hit the son of a bitch back and then left the abusive bastard. Now he was here. In his apartment. In his living room...on his couch. So close. Yet ultimately very far away.

After all, the man had 'just' left a terrible relationship. The only long term relationship he'd ever had with a man. With anyone. Mulder wouldn't be ready for another relationship for a long time. If ever. It would take time before Mulder was even ready to go out with someone casually. And Alex knew one thing for sure. He didn't want something casual with Mulder.

No. He wanted far more.

But he couldn't pressure Mulder. Couldn't seduce the man in his most vulnerable state. He wouldn't make that mistake. Mulder needed a friend right now. Someone to be strong. Listen. Be there for him.

Turning onto his side, Alex closed his eyes and buried his face into the pillow.

He woke suddenly at the terrible cry from the living room. Grabbing his gun from the bedside table, Alex raced into the living room, scanning the area for the threat. Had Jack broken in? Another choked scream, this time louder. Alex looked at the couch and saw Mulder writhing, his eyes were open but by the light of the TV Alex could tell he wasn't seeing anything. Mulder thrashed again and called out, "No! Stop! Stop it! No! Please!"

"Shh! Fox, it's okay!" Alex fumbled with the lamp on the side table and finally turned the light on. Mulder snapped at the sound of his voice and sat up abruptly, clutching the blanket that had fallen to the floor.

"Jack-?"

Alex set the gun down on the coffee table and raised his hands in a peaceful gesture. "Just me. You had a nightmare...are you okay?"

Mulder blinked at him for a moment and then suddenly covered his face with a hand. "Oh...sorry."

Alex cautiously sat next to him but was careful not to touch him. "No, that's okay. Sounded pretty bad" Alex finished lamely. Bad? It had been awful. Mulder's skin shone with sweat and his breathing was still ragged.

"Yeah." Mulder dropped his hand and pulled the blanket up further. "I've been having them a lot lately. Drove Jack nu- It's just...I'm fine. Go back to bed" Mulder said firmly.

Alex wanted to protest but could see Mulder was determined to shake it off. "All right. Goodnight."

Returning to his room, Alex found it impossible to sleep as he listened for sounds of distress down the hall the rest of the night. But Mulder never went back to sleep either, the TV light flickered rapidly again as Mulder changed channels for the rest of the night.

XXX

Alex groaned as a small sound woke him up. Blinking at the light he glanced at his alarm clock. Damn good thing it was Saturday because it was already 11:15. There was another muffled sound and Alex realized that it was coming from the only bathroom which was connected to his room.

The door opened just then and Mulder strode out, hair and chest glistening slightly with water, a towel wrapped around his waist. "Oh! Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you up."

"Mm, no problem. I can't believe I slept this late." Mulder nodded and continued to stand there awkwardly. Oh. "Help yourself to any clothes you need."

Watching Mulder dig around in his chest of drawers was surreal. He quickly managed to avert his eyes in time when Mulder finished and turned around.

"Thanks..." He had selected a T-shirt, pair of jogging pants and socks. Mulder clutched the clothes in his hands but didn't move for a long moment. Alex sat up and began to slide out of the bed. Mulder hurried out of the room at his movement and shut the bedroom door behind him.

Walking into his still steamy bathroom, Alex looked into the foggy mirror. This was going to be tough. Mulder sleeping nearby and walking around nearly naked in his apartment was going to be an extremely difficult matter of will power...

Showered, shaved, and dressed, Alex was in firmer control of himself when he emerged from his room and found Mulder in the kitchen making coffee. "So, what would you like to do today?" Alex asked carefully as he stirred in sugar and cream.

Mulder fidgeted with his own coffee and didn't meet his eyes. "Get a motel room, I guess. I'll need to get my wallet and some clothes and-"

"Wallet and clothes I can understand. Motel room? Forget it. You can stay here as long as you want. I was thinking more along the lines of what you'd 'like' to do today...like a game?"

Mulder didn't look at him. "Alex..."

"Unless you're not feeling up to it. I guess you're kind of out of shape and we 'did' work out the other night. You're probably still sore..." Alex grinned when Mulder looked up at him finally with a mock glare.

"I'm feeling 'just' fine."

"Good. Then we're on. I'm going to mop the court up with you."

Mulder's eyes gleamed with anticipation. "Really?"

XXX

They decided to grab Mulder's things first before enjoying the rest of the day. Alex drove them to the apartment and wanted to come inside but Mulder insisted on going alone. Drumming his fingers on the steering wheel, Alex let out a relieved breath when Mulder returned ten minutes later with a bag and a jacket. "Let's go" he said quietly as he got into the car.

It wasn't until they reached the parking lot of the gym that Mulder finally broke the silence. "He was there. Accused me of sleeping with you. Again. He was drunk. He was drunk last night, too. I've been worried about him...but he won't listen."

Alex didn't know what to say so he stayed silent.

XXX

Somehow Jack had gotten Alex's phone number.

"Pick UP the fucking phone, Fox! I know you're there. Screwing the fucker already?! I'll kill you! Don't think I won't! Pick up the phone!"

Alex watched as Mulder ran a hand through his hair before erasing the message. Every day there was a series of messages to delete or listen to as they screened their calls. It was time to change the number...again.

The computerized voice toned again, 'Beep, Message Four, 1:13 p.m.....' "You fucker. I'm watching you... Fox. Fox, enough is enough. I want to talk to you. Just talk. Meet me at the apartment after work... You owe it to me to talk to me, damn it!"

Alex watched Mulder's face closely, sure he wouldn't...? Mulder glanced up from the machine and shook his head. "I said everything I had to say that night. He knows it."

Alex opened his mouth to say something but the next message had begun playing, it was for work. Jotting down the information, they listened to the rest of the messages quickly (all from Jack) and then deleted them.

That evening Mulder seemed nervous, jumping at every sound, checking the windows, but Jack didn't even call when Mulder didn't show at the apartment. Alex let out a sigh of relief as he settled into bed. He'd been worried that a messy confrontation would take place but apparently the man had finally gotten the point.

He woke to another one of Mulder's nightmares. They had never stopped. He usually had at least one a night, sometimes two. He got up quickly and went to the couch. The light of the TV flickered but gave him enough light to see Mulder's face twisted in a grimace as he moaned.

"Noooo....No, please, Jack! Stop."

Alex shook Mulder's shoulder, it took quite a bit to wake him but eventually Mulder froze and stopped moaning. Gasping, he struggled into a seating position. Alex reached over and handed him a nearly full glass of water.

"Thanks..." he rasped. Alex just nodded and left the hand that was still somehow on Mulder's shoulder. "Sorry. I'm going to get a motel room in the morning. I'm just disturbing your sleep every night."

"You think that's going to solve the problem? You're the psychologist here, Mulder. You need to talk about it. Besides, you'd just get kicked out for disturbing the other customers."

Mulder didn't smile, just looked off to the side. "You're right... I just don't know where to begin."

Alex shifted in his seat trying to get comfortable but the tangled blankets and couch cushions were in the way. "Well, maybe we should have the discussion somewhere more comfortable." He got up, tugging on Mulder's arm as he did so. He was glad when Mulder offered no resistance, simply followed him towards his room. It was only when he entered the bedroom and turned on a light that the other man halted.

Alex looked back to see Mulder standing in the doorway, uncertain. "Come on, Mulder. You can't be comfortable on the couch; I don't care what you say. Just come and sit down for now. You can always go back to the living room if you want." Alex wondered for a minute if Mulder would refuse. Did he think Alex was expecting something?

Mulder didn't respond, just stepped into the room and sat down at the foot. Alex sat down next to him. Waiting.

"I'm remembering...things. At the hospital, when I woke up and talked to the doctor...he told me about my injuries...you remember?"

How could he ever forget? Alex nodded and stayed silent.

"I remember the fight...or rather, the moment he first hit me. I hit my head pretty hard and the rest was kind of jumbled... I remembered bits and pieces, he hit me...strangled me a bit...he was in a rage. But...that was all I remembered..." Mulder looked into his eyes for a minute before shifting his eyes to stare at the alarm clock by the bed. "The rough sex? I told you I liked it like that...I don't...not particularly. And definitely not that night."

Alex reached out a hand towards Mulder but let it fall on the blanket between them, palm up in offering. Mulder looked down at it but didn't reach out to take it. "I didn't know...not until the doctor told me...that-...what Jack had done-" Mulder's voice broke and his face twisted, his eyes glistening. "He-"

Alex didn't think, he simply moved forward and pulled Mulder into his arms, holding him tight as his shoulders began to shake violently. Mulder spoke again, this time over his shoulder as he held him tightly. "He raped me, Alex. He raped me and I didn't remember. I couldn't...he kept banging my head on the floor...but at night...I remember parts of it. I kept blacking out during it...he kept-kept shoving into me and saying 'Mine! Mine!'"

Mulder shook and sobbed for several more minutes. Eventually he tired and his arms loosened from the vise-like grip he'd had on Alex. As he slowly relaxed, Alex gently pushed him down to lie on the bed. Pulling the covers up around Mulder he tucked him in. Turning off the light, Alex lay down again, on top of the covers close but not touching Mulder.

He lay there, staring at the ceiling...numb. He was sure Mulder had fallen asleep when his voice suddenly broke the silence. "I don't understand how I got into this mess... Was I that desperate? That lonely? Was subconsciously looking for a man that would do this to me?" Alex looked over at the dark form next to him but didn't speak.

"I wasn't afraid to come into your bedroom, Alex. You're one of the very few people I know I can trust completely. Thank you." Mulder then shifted a little, turning on his side to look at Alex. He lifted his hand and sought out Alex's. Holding it gently he smiled slightly and closed his eyes.

XXX

One Month later...

Mulder unpacked a box of clothes and shoved an assortment of T-shirts into a drawer. Alex would be back soon with food, hopefully. They had just finished moving the last of his boxes into his new apartment.

Glancing around, he decided that it would do for now. Besides the dresser and a few boxes, a brand new bed was all that stood in his bedroom right now. He'd probably end up sleeping on the couch but Scully had insisted he might want it someday. She'd said it with a lewd wink, too. Who knew what went on in that little red head of hers. Did she honestly think he'd find someone so soon?

Closing the bedroom door he walked down the hall to the kitchen. The fridge was full, courtesy of Scully once again. Grabbing some sodas he heard a rather odd muffled knock. With one hand on his gun, he checked the peephole. Alex stood, arms full and something clenched in his teeth.

"pn, ep, Mllr!" he growled.

He opened the door and Alex stumbled in, dumping his burden on the ground. He reached up and pulled a clear plastic bag from his teeth and held it up, triumphantly.

"House-warming gift!"

It was a bag full of water and two tropical fish; one neon blue and the other yellow with dark spots. Mulder took it and shook his head. "Thanks, but I don't have a tank or anything..."

"Yes, you do..." Alex tapped his foot against the box he'd set down; it was a large glass tank complete with filter, pebbles and an assortment of other fish supplies. "I got everything the guy in the store said you'd need. Why do you think I was so late getting the food?" He picked up the bag of McDonald's from inside and grinned at him.

Mulder stood there holding the bag of fish, staring at the tank and supplies.

"Did I get the wrong kind...?" Alex's smile began to fade at the lack of response and he began to babble apologetically, "I didn't know what kind to get and the kid said they were-"

Mulder looked up finally and held a hand up. "They're perfect. I just...I wasn't expecting it. I don't know what to say..."

Alex grinned in relief, "Well, you 'could' say thank you." He turned to sit down on the couch with the food but Mulder put out a hand and grabbed his wrist and stopped him.

Looking into Alex's eyes with a smile he kissed him. Nothing more than a small peck on the lips. "Thank you. I like them...a lot."

XXX

Alex stood in a long line for popcorn and sodas. Mulder was late and the movie was starting in five minutes. As he glanced around for any sign of him, he reflected on their life the last few months.

Life never works out like in fairy tales... Mulder hadn't just bounced back from the abusive relationship with Jack. There had been many troubling times...Jack had stalked him for a while before finally giving up on Mulder. Just a month ago they learned that Jack had died in a car accident, his fault: drunk driving. A mother and daughter were injured but survived. So the bastard was dead and Alex could breathe a little easier.

The news had hit Mulder fairly hard as he'd felt responsible for Jack's drinking problem and there had been many times that Mulder hadn't been able to sleep and called him on the phone late at night to talk...or even shown up at his door to borrow his couch. But over time...Mulder had healed. He cracked jokes again, trounced Alex at basketball, even went out for a beer occasionally.

As for he and Alex...well... Mulder had been slow to realize that Alex was interested in a bit more than a friendship. Even longer before he agreed to a date, thinking that Alex was out of his mind to want someone as messed up as Mulder. But Alex was nothing if not persistent and tonight was their official 'first date'. And as if Alex wasn't nervous enough, Mulder was late...he'd promised to take things slow...he wanted to take things slow, but what if Mulder had changed his mind?

"Boo."

Alex barely managed to not jump at the sudden low voice near his ear. Turning, he found Mulder smiling inanely at him.

"You're late..."

"Sorry, had to change and feed Buffy and Spike." Mulder had insisted on calling the fish after that stupid vampire show. Alex was just glad that the two fish were still alive.

"And then...I had to get this." Mulder pulled out a single red rose from inside his jacket and discretely handed it to Alex.

Alex tucked it aside before they could draw any stares but found himself grinning foolishly. "You romantic, you..."

Mulder grinned and leaned in a little closer to whisper. "I am now..."

XXX The End XXX

I used to think that love was just in fairy tales / Made for someone else and not for me / Love was out to get me / That was how it seemed / Disappointment haunted all my dreams...

Now I'm a Believer / Not a trace of doubt in my mind / I'm in love...

Lyrics from SmashMouth's version of I'm a Believer ruthlessly stolen and misused for my own purposes...


If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Nikita